26 May 2009

Discipline or Sensitivity

Saturday 23rd May

A quieter non-Ashtanga practice today. Pre-menstrual aches distracted me and sapped my energy a bit.
5As and only 3Bs, standing poses to Utkatasana then I HAD to do a Headstand, the physical urge to invert was strong, a complete reversal of gravity the only remedy available to counter attack the standing pose drain.
Headstand 60 breaths: 8 minutes, then I followed intuitive promptings through a labyrinth of poses.

Which brings up an often pondered issue: when to stick with the sequence and when to deviate…maintain discipline or allow sensitivity?

Ashtanga has a set sequence that is followed without variation (in theory). It is ra elatively rigid and disciplined practice requiring dedication, faith and tenacity. One develops a depth of engagement and intimacy by following the same sequence daily, sometimes for years, and only dedicated Ashtangis get to experience this – nobody else can possibly understand. The practice becomes richer and deeper with time. The backdrop of the sequence forms an expansive arena for endless discoveries.
The Iyengar system is more flexible. Outside of the class sequences directed by a teacher, one practices poses that the body asks for.
Menstruating? Do these pelvic opening poses to bring ease to the organs.
Tired? Do these restorative and inverted poses.
Stressed? Do forward bends to calm the mind.
Depressed? Do a backbend sequence to stimulate the adrenals.
There’s a sequence for every mood and a pose for every ailment. Mix and match according to your body and mind’s needs…all designed to restore balance.

So why do I prefer the intense and fiery Ashtanga system? Because it humbles the ego, and that’s what all authentic spiritual practice should be training us to do – humble the ego and show up its false dominance in our lives.
The ego sits upon a throne and rules our lives, but not with the authority of a true leader. We must expose it as a weak tyrant, humiliate it out of office so the noble and gentle king (our heart) can resume its rightful position and guide our lives in the direction of Truth.
Yes, that’s why I prefer Ashtanga. It demands submission and devotion but through the heat of tapas it purifies the mind and heart.

Still...on those days when my body is not able to comply, I submit to my limitations.
Then I am grateful to have the Iyengar methodology to draw on. I abandon the Ashtanga sequence for the day, release all expectations and choose from the vast smorgasbord of poses in my ‘other repertoire’.
It’s all yoga.

For the final half hour of my 2 hour practice, I sat in meditation today, not something I’d normally do in a Saturday practice at Kosta’s studio.
The sitting re-centred me in my heart and power. Scattered thoughts subside, energy is freed up and channelled into the epicentre, I reconnect with the Divine.
The vibrational charge suffusing my body, though weak, is immediate and I'm glad my body has been prepared for it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Regarding your retreat notes and the conclusion “that Ashtanga, with its fiery heat-building ujjiya pranayama and sun salutes just doesn’t gel with the delicate mental states sustained in long hours of meditation.”… try to sit 60 minutes before yoga practice. In that “first” sitting try to see from where you know yourself: is it from your head or your presence? (I am sense comes from your presence but you have to catch that clearly)… after sitting move to ashtanga practice. Keep the presence “active”, it is not “you” who is doing asansa but your body… Observe the poses, don’t do them. :-) In each standing posture try to be out of body… observing… it is easily done if you identify yourself with the presence (that you caught glimpse in your first sitting practice)…