The Answer Is Closer Than You Think
“Progress is man’s ability to complicate simplicity.”
This quote from Thor Heyerdahl seems quite relevant regarding the progress through the sequence of asanas in the Ashtanga system.
Ashtanga makes the track of progress fairly easy. The carefully laid structure of the practice and the way it’s learnt, posture by posture, make comparison possible.
Yoga poses can be healing, but they can also create confusion. When it comes to progress in yoga, we might question what progress means at all.
Patanjali Yoga Sutras, 1.2.
Yogas citta vrtti nirodah.
Yoga is stilling the mind.
“Yoga is sadhana, not performance. Asanas make your mind very stable, that’s why we do them. Otherwise, they are not important.”
-Sharathji in the last conference of the season at KPJAYI.
The asana practice, far from being the end, is only the start.
If asana is a tool for peace of mind, it’s worthwhile reconsidering how we practice, so we allow the necessary space for good qualities to flourish while keeping the ego in check.
When we encounter limitation, instead of compulsively repeating the same movement over and over, I have come to believe in going back to the basics.
Sharath constantly says he is not impressed by fancy asana and reminds us not to disregard first series. In this third trip to Mysore studying with him, once again, I have done lots of Primary. It was annoying at the start, but on the second month I realized that the answer to some of my second series prayers lied in the first series jump backs, long held Navasanas and Uth Plutihs.
For instance, the answer to a dysfunctional relationship with Bakasana might be in how you do Chaturanga. If this is the case, a good way to improve your Bakasana lies in perfecting Chaturanga, rather than in repeating Bakasana over and over, dragging the inefficient movement patterns and potentially causing harm to the body. Conscious, humble work versus what sharp Ashtanga teacher Adam Keen would probably describe as "The Yoga Wasteland."
Following this train of thought, if Kapotasana seems like a far away dream, it makes sense to reconsider your Upward Dog. You don't need to wait to second series to open the front of your body. If we compare the amount of Upward Dog in first and in second series, we can conclude that first series can do wonders for your backbending too.
We all enjoy new challenges. They keep us motivated. However, being obsessed over handstanding and neglecting the jump back is not a good place to be. That doesn´t mean you can´t give the handstand a go, but one should reassess priorities.
This, to me, is what an honest, solid practice means: acknowledging your limitations while putting the work in the right places. If you have to go less fancy, then less fancy it is.
Take care of the simple things and the complex ones will flow with time.
As with most things in life, the answer is closer than you think.
CARMEN YAGUE - MADRID, SPAIN
Carmen has been practicing yoga since 2004, Ashtanga since 2010, and has been teaching since 2012. She has taught in Dublin, London and Madrid, where she currently lives.
Over the years, Carmen has studied regularly with some of the best Ashtanga teachers in the world, such as Tim Miller, Hamish Hendry, Adam Keen and Sharath Jois. Each teacher has influenced her practice and teaching in a specific way.
She continues her regular studies with Hamish Hendry (Ashtanga Yoga London) and at the KPJAYI in Mysore (India) under yoga guru Sharath Jois, with whom she has just completed her third trip.