I don't remember getting on the mat being that difficult in the first couple of months. I'd always got up early. And in Japan, a couple of years before, I used to get up in the morning and go and practice playing my saxophone beside the Kamo Gawa, the river that runs through Kyoto and was just outside my house. When I came back to the UK and lived in Oxford, I used to go down to the Ring Road in the morning to play. When I was burgled I pretty much stopped playing saxophone, it was if it was sullied somehow, didn't feel the same.
Still, playing everyday for the last five years or so had developed some self-discipline, it wasn't so hard to transfer that to practicing Ashtanga in the morning. The trick was to make it a routine that was pretty much nonnegotiable. With the saxophone, I would go down to the river whatever the weather, take out my Sax and practice. If it rained I would play under the bridge. In Winter I would cut the fingers off a pair of gloves. I might not play for as long, and I might not practice as many scales as I should have done, but I would always go down to that river and play.
With Ashtanga it was almost easier, I didn't have to leave the house. I just went into the next room and unrolled my mat, six days a week, nonnegotiable.I've managed to keep to that. The only problem for me being that you practice six days a week rather than seven. It's OK if you have a fixed day off, but my day off practice tends to float about a bit. There are mornings when I really don't feel like practicing but I know that once I get past the first couple of Sury's I'll get into it and be fine.
The problem for me, at that time, wasn't so much getting on the mat, but rather what to practice, how to practice. The Darby DVD was too long for me for days when I was working. I would do most of standing, a couple of seated, a bit of finishing, but there was no structure and it became a bit frustrating. Some mornings I would be flicking through the book trying to decide which poses to practice and just end up wasting time.
I'd come across mention of David Swenson's practice manual and managed to win it on eBay in May 2007. http://www.amazon.com/Ashtanga-Yoga-Practice-Illustrated-Personal/dp/1891252089 This book made a huge difference to my practice and I really can't recommend it enough. Up until I got that book I think I was doing a 'bit of yoga' in the mornings, though the books and DVD's were Ashtanga style. With the Swenson book I began to think of my practice as an Ashtanga practice. I began to take it all much more seriously. You open the cover and there's K pattabhi Jois smiling at you. On the next page there are some early pictures from 1975 of the guys who first practiced Ashtanga in the west and a little box called A Living Tradition. Cool.And he's an old guy! Well, around my age anyway. And the book contained not just the Primary series but the Intermediate as well. Strange, wonderful poses, Kapotasana, both legs behind the head in Dwi pada Sirasana, Titibhasana...this stuff was insane. I'd never be able to do any of that, I'd probably never manage to bind in Marichiyasana C let alone Supta vajrasana, but that didn't matter it was all just wonderful.
Best of all there is a section in the back called Short forms. 15 minutes, 30 minutes and 45 minutes as well as the full practice. You don't have enough time for the full practice, that's OK how long have you got? Thirty minutes, no problem, only fifteen, that's OK too, a couple of Sury A's and B's a couple of seated and a little finishing, there it ,was all laid out and in this 'serious' book. You could practice for just half an hour and that was OK. Love David Swenson for that.
Next : John Scott and practicing in Paris and Japan