Practice vs. practicing

With Bobbie heading down the crazy road that is Third Series, my ego is taking a bruising as she arm balances with one leg this way, back bends that and altogether makes my puny, mostly Primary practice, look pathetic.

Or, at least, pretty easy by comparison.

And so I haven’t been able to resist adding something a little more challenging in, usually at the end, and not every time. Pincha Mayurasana here, maybe, some Second Series-type headstands there.

Yes, it’s “officially wrong,” whatever “officially” means. But it’s also fun — and I think “fun” seems to get a little lost too often with so many people seemingly so serious about their practice, or sadhana. (And how often do I say something about Ashtanga is “fun”? Next to never.)

A challenging pose, especially I think near the end of practice, also is a nice microcosm or synecdoche for the full practice, which is a challenge and a task itself. Something that ought to feel like a bit of an undertaking. In that sense, the specific focus, the hard work, the thought (perhaps just 1% of what you’re doing, of course) involved mirrors how one ought to approach the full 75 or 90 minutes of practice.

It’s a nice little reinforcement of what you ought to be doing. A moment captured for greater use.

It also feels pretty good, on a purely physical level, to challenge your body in different ways. While Ashtanga’s asana sequence is wonderfully wide and varied, it still is limited somewhat (at least until one’s doing Second and Third, too). So an arm balance, for instance, is a nice counter — or maybe addition — to what’s going on.

On the downside, working on one pose repeatedly — one you haven’t “mastered,” so to speak — takes away from some fundamentals of the Ashtanga Vinyasa practice — i.e. breathing. It’s hard to keep that deep, even breathing going when the main thought in your head is, well, to make sure that head doesn’t slam into the floor. Drishti’s gone, of course.

But those can be recaptured the next time on the mat, and perhaps some of the focus and the “I managed to do that” — from “practicing” — can come along to help deepen the full Ashtanga practice.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

2 thoughts on “Practice vs. practicing”

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