Saturday, February 20, 2016

Ashtanga yoga is not a strength training

Ashtanga yoga is not a strength training neither, even though I got stronger.

There are asanas and vinyasas that require strength a lot of strength. If one has not built enough strength the asanas or the vinyasa becomes impossible.

I mention only two examples:
Laghu vajrasana and karandavasana are such poses.
- To come up from laghu vajrasana the legs must be very strong. Of course technique and flexibility complement the skills that are required.
- Also karandavasana is only possible if a yogini has enough strength in the arms and core strength.
- Jumping backwards is a vinyasa that requires strength in the arms and core strength, too.

Classic Ashtanga yoga only knows one method to learn/teach something:
One practices the full series till the asanas that is difficult to perform. It's the last post, when the yogini is exhausted already. Then one exercises this asana, the teacher  adjusts it. Perhaps one repeats this asana or one holds it a bit longer, but this is it.
In classic Mysore classes not more is even allowed:
- Props are a taboo.
- Explanations are not part of the teaching.
- Extra strength training or flexibility training are a taboo and not allowed.
- No preparation exercises are foreseen.

Yet to get an adjustment is not enough. 
A pose like laghu vajrasana is within reach for me. I exercise this asana now since more than 6 years minimum with no success. My best result was to get down in the pose and to get up. I never could hold the pose for 5 breaths and was able then to come up. Most of the time (98%) I got down, I held this pose for 5 breaths then I 'collapsed.
The solution: Extra strength training for the legs.
I also learned split pose that increased my flexibility around the hips and made this pose easier.

In classes these extra exercises that might be necessary are unknown.
In the meantime I know that those who are able to perform these difficult asanas do strenth training.

- Kino MacGregor describes in her book on second series that she practiced pincha mayurasana against the wall. She held the pose for many many breaths to develop the necessary strength that she needed to perform the asana.
- When I watch YouTube videos I realize that those who are able to do the challenging poses learn them with additional exercises: strength training, flexibility training.
- I also remember that Gregor Maehle recommended additional exercises but he added one shall do them not during the regular practice. (Because it's a tabu in the community that only performing an asana is not enough to learn it.)

Whenever I'll be back on the mat I'll surely analyse much more the necessary skills of an asana. I'll add strength training or flexibility training if this helps. This is one reason why I'll surely will practice more often at home again.


Yesterday it was not even possible to be in baby pose. It took me ages to get in that pose to relax. To get out of it was painful. My back hurt like hell. It was time for an Aspirin. It helped and it made me happy. At night I slept well. That's great, too, I need energy to stay optimistic.

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