Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Watch your thoughts


I don't mean that one shall get up every day in the morning and have an inner discussion if one shall practise yoga or not. In this case it's better to get up and to start the practise without long reflections.

Yet when thoughts come up again and again it's worth to have a closer look.

Two main thoughts came up during the last 2 years:
- I'll never learn these asanas like laghu vajrasana or kapotasana when I won't do extra sessions.
- And I got obsessed about my weight. One kilo less could help to perform the asanas was a repetitive thought.

Fact is I was in good shape.
I practiced daily 2 and a half hours for more than 2 years.
I was asked to practise full primary and then second series till kapotasana, the pose that I'm not able to do.

Isn't this enough?
Within such a time frame it should be possible to make remarkable progress.
It should have been possible to learn at least one new pose.
.

Why did I always blamed myself? 
Why did I always thought I should  practise more, an extra session?  I knew in order to perform a good back bending my body needs to be warm. Under 30 min a second practise wouldn't make sense. I couldn't convince myself to step on the mat and felt bad about it. I repeat, I got up at 5am six times a week and I practiced 2 and a half hours. I was the first in the shala and one of the last who went.

A lot of things go wrong these times in the Ashtanga community and how this style of yoga is taught. To explain this I want to go back in the past.

Krischnamacharya, when he finally was on his own and no more paid by the palace in Mysore he taught yoga very individually. His son described this in the book 'The Heart of yoga'.

P. Jois' goal was to spread the art of Ashtanga yoga. He wanted to teach as many yoginis as possible, even though not so many people were coming in the beginning. But this changed. In order to teach groups one needs to streamline the teaching. Nevertheless there was still a lot of room for individuality. One of his early students was told to practice one day primary, the other day second series. Others practiced both series every day....
Usually first and second series were taught rather quickly under one year. There was not much 'You stop here'. It's understandable, because P. Jois wanted to teach as much as possible.
So usually one learns one asana after the other till half of second series. Then the series are split and therefore shorter. This happened rather fast under the guidance of P. Jois.
When I watch the videos with P. Jois and his students I'm often amazed. Some are not able to put the legs behind the head without the forceful adjustment of P. Jois, yet they are deep into the advanced series.
However.
Sharath now has so many students that beginners, those who have not yet practiced Ashtanga yoga at all, are no more allowed in the shala. The best of the world pilgrimage to Mysore. The teaching becomes stricter and stricter. It seems to me that perfection of the asanas is the current goal.

Only the performance of the asanas are judged. It's neglected if someone has a regular practise for example. It seems to me as if there is only one criteria to move on in the series and this is that the asana must look perfectly. Some call this the Ashtanga circus. Inner work, attitude, discipline is difficult to be judged. I see....

This development might be one of the reasons why I should practise day in day out primary and then till kapotasana, 2 and a half hours daily for more than 2 years without reflecting anything.
The simpler the teaching, the more people will be able to teach.

No matter what I wanted to learn in my life there were 2 main questions.
- The first was about the contents and skills that I wanted to learn.
- The second was how to acquire this knowledge or skill. It should be fast, effective, fun......Information about how to learn something is available these days, often for free. Yet the Ashtanga yoga community seems to be a closed group not looking right, not looking left.

How I practiced the last 2 years prepared myself for this injury that I have now.
1. First the practise was too long.
2. Second huge weakness was that the difficult asanas came at the end when I was done. This is also why I always thought 'I don't give enough'. I was too exhausted to do enough repetitions. A second practise should compensate this.
What ever I want to learn I really look for time when I'm fit, rested, in a good mood.
Ashtanga yoga as it is taught these days neglects all knowledge about how one can learn something effectively. So many different sports have a lot of knowledge, why not learn from others, too?

Lately I listened to YoTube video with P. Jois. There he mentioned that one of the purposes of practicing yoga is to gain self-knowledge. This is indeed a very good aspect. I'm learning a lot these days about myself.

Why did I not rebel earlier? I was fed up to practise the next decade again primary, primary, primary only because I was not able to do these demanding back bending asanas.
When I was in Austria last year I went to a yoga class. This teacher gave me tips for all asanas. Yet what was even more useful was that he gave me a feed-back of my entire practise: Your practise is unbalanced. Your forward bending asanas are excellent, but there is a huge gap between your forward bending asanas and your back bending asanas. This was his feed-back.
In order to balance my body he recommended to focus on back bending, second series so to say.

I think this feed-back strengthened my own thoughts that something went wrong.

When I was in Austria I had already back pain.

I didn't rebel earlier because I thought it is disrespectful to discuss with a teacher what I want to practise. In India this thought seems impossible. But we are not in India. One shall trust a teacher was my opinion. But as said earlier the teaching as it is now is so because one has to teach the masses. There is no room for individuality anymore. Yet I'm an individual and my body needs to get exercised individually. A body with 56 is different to a body with 23. Some people have long arms and long legs, others not. People come from all walks of life. Some have a very sportive past, others not. This can be advantageous, but also not. Our ability to focus differs. Also our wishes regarding the practise differs.
It's nonsense and dangerous to force everyone into the same learning system without tiniest exceptions.
This egalitarianism injured my back.

This morning I woke up with back pain. I was not motivated to practise. Now I regret this. Instead I walked around a lot. This always helps and the pain fades away.
When I look at my pictures of  3 years ago I become sad. Most poses are not possible anymore. But I'll swear I'll get back to a healthy and balanced practise that is fun in addition and free of this ill ambition that is striving for perfection. With a useful didactic the asanas become easier. Additional exercises might be useful from time to time, too. It makes sense to analyze the strength and the weaknesses to develop a learning concept.
To be pressed forcefully in asanas that are difficult is not enough to learn them.

My consequences:
- I'll join yoga classes again, but I'll also cultivate a home practise to stay independant.
- I'll search a conversation with the teacher on a regular basis. I don't want to get stopped anymore when I think it's better to move on. Nobody knows my body as good as myself.
- Usually I went to a yoga class because of the teacher who was offering the classes. I don't want to get adjustments from assistants anymore. 90% of these adjustments  were redundant or wrong. I also got injured once in my shoulders. I got a wrong adjustment in kapotasana. The next day I couldn't lift my arms anymore. I prefer to do my own thing instead of getting a lousy adjustment.
- I want to alter legs in padmasana and in all other poses, too. Not to alter legs made my entire body unbalanced. Nobody has ever seen the nadis. They are just an esoteric concept, but they are the reason why all the yogis shall take the right leg first when they move into padmasana. Physio therapists recommend not to cross the legs to keep the body in balance. Padmasana is an advanced asana. It's good to alter legs so that the body stays balanced.

This might sound a bit harsh, it isn't. It only protects my health. I'm sure I can communicate this all in a friendly and understandable way. This list is also for myself. I know I cannot go on as usual. This led to this back pain and no end is in sight.

To follow rules as an end in itself is nonsense and dangerous. Rules shall guide, If they are not useful one must look for other rules. 

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