Sunday, November 03, 2013

Ashtanga yoga: on led classes

1. Ashtanga yoga as it is taught in India: 
Ashtanga yoga is also a learning method. In India students go to Mysore classes. Every single pose is shown to the student one by one. Almost every time a new pose or poses is shown. Once a week the student goes to a led class. He/she practices till the shown pose. He/she waits then and he/she joins the show when the closing sequence starts. During the time when the yogi/yogini is not practicing he can learn while watching the others. In India rather quickly the student is allowed to go to the next pose, so rather soon he can do the full led class. 
The advantage of this method:
- each pose is shown
- the student is not overwhelmed as the practice develops bit by bit.

This learning method of the Ashtanga yoga series is by far the best I know. 

2. Led class till navasana
In many cities only led classes till navasana are offered. That's also how I learned Ashtanga yoga. The intention might be that every beginner of yoga can participate and practice from the beginning to the end of the class. 
The disadvantage of the method.
- Within a time frame of 90 min much less poses are practiced. This means that every pose is held much much longer. This is a huge challenge. Even for me, after 10 years of practice it's difficult to hold a pose i.e. hero poses as it shall be that long. In hero pose one must stand deeply. So most people start cheating because they are not able to hold the pose so long. They stand high i.e. in hero pose and never give up that habit. I even participated in led classes that were only counted till janu sirsasana. 
I couldn't follow the counted breath. Instead of 5 breaths I had to take 10 breaths or even more when practicing an asana. So instead of being led through the series, I had to listen to the voice that led me and I had to switch to my own rhythm again and again. 
- In order to learn the pose students look to the neighbor student, how he/she is doing it. Yet this is a superficial method. Only after years I realized that in marichyasana A and C the rim of the foot is in line with the outer body and not next to the other leg.
- For those practitioners who practice the full series, it's not a balanced practice.  

These led classes till navasana or even less attracts mainly bloody beginners. 
It's not the traditional method how Ashtanga yoga shall be taught. 

3. Led class - full primary, with variations
My last teacher offered led classes, full primary. As a very caring person he showed asanas that could be done instead of the difficult ones of the series for the beginners. I.e. a twist could be substituted. Some asanas were omitted. The beginners in the class got a lot of adjustments. It was possible for everybody to practice from the beginning to the end.
The advanced students always were helped in urdhva dhanurasana, yet during the middle part the beginners needed help.
My teacher offered also Mysore classes. So this method was rather close to the method how it's taught in India.
The advantage of this method:
- Also advanced yogis/yoginis have a nice led primary once a week.
The disadvantage of this method:
- The beginners need much more attention than those who practice longer.
- It's difficult to get to know the correct series as asanas are omitted,  others were substituted.

4. Led class, comme il faut
Last Friday I participated in a led class comme il faut. No pose was omitted. No variations were suggested. The beginners practiced till the pose they were able to perform. Then they stopped and joined again when possible. This was for some upavishta konasana. What I could see, also those who stopped at a point in the series, weren't bored. They needed this break.
The advantage of  this method:
- Everybody practices what is possible for him/her. Also the beginners are not overwhelmed.
- The advanced students get also some attention because there is a time where the beginners watch or relax. In my case I must say I got adjustments in supta kurmasana. I know now that I will be able to hold the wrist one day. I also appreciated the adjustment in garbha pindasana. Also my poses can improve a lot when I got the correct adjustments.
- Students learn the correct order of the asanas

I'm more than happy that a led class is offered here now, a led class like in India, a led class comme il faut.

All the variation might be invented in best intention, yet they are not better. Ashtanga yoga cannot be compared with other yoga styles. it makes no sense to adjust them to other yoga styles. Ashtanga yoga is something special.

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