This past weekend, at the Guru’s urging, I got some body work. I won’t bore — or, alternately, amuse — you with a story of the grapefruit-sized knots between my shoulder blades or the golf ball-sized center of pain in my right hamstring.
I was talking with the body worker — a student of Tim Miller’s who is into the third series — about the effort of doing those advanced poses all the time. (It probably is what leads to the back and knee injuries we all seem to hear about resulting from Ashtanga. The simple solution to that, from the perspective of someone with no business telling advanced practitioners what to do? Be more mindful. I know how nearly impossible that is. But if you are there, in the pose, you know when you are going over the edge. Unless you come to the edge and fly over it really fast.)
It sounds to me — from my conversation this weekend and others I’ve had — that more Ashtangis are recognizing that some degree of variation is healthy. I mean that really for advanced people, although I did try to cope out on the “back nine” of the primary in my discussion with the body worker. She would have none of it, though. (If you’re in Los Angeles, I’m happy to pass her name on to you if you want some serious loosening of the muscles.)
But, if you’re working on the second series, or even third, surely you vary your practice some? (At the least, you just do primary on Fridays, right?) There might be one day when you go right from Navasana to second series and other days when you first finish first.
It makes sense, right? Except…
We all know that the earliest Western practitioners advanced speedily through the series and in at least some cases were practicing twice a day, with pranayama in there as well. They provide a model — a very, very tough to follow one — for us all.
I feel like I know Tim Miller’s perspective on how much to practice and which poses to do how often. I’ll be interested at the Confluence to hear the other quartet’s thoughts on how much wear and tear we should be putting our bodies through each day. We’ll probably even hear how it changes, depending on our age.
And perhaps one day I’ll have enough of a second series practice that it will apply to me. Until then…