Monday, 13 July 2009

Video review : Ashtanga Yoga Encinitas California 3rd and part of 4th Series

From the cover
Sri K. Pattabhi Jois conducted an Ashtanga Yoga Workshop in Encinitas, California. During this workshop he instructed his advanced students in the 3rd and part of the 4th series. This DVD includes early footage of Guruji instructing many of today's top teachers, Richard Freeman, Chuck Miller, Maty Ezraty and Tim Miller, asanas of the advanced series.

They're calling this a workshop on the cover although I would hesitate to call it that. One might call it a Demonstration, and there are a group of people, sitting around the walls watching, but it really feels like a small led 3rd and part of 4th class. Sri K. Pattabhi Jois is calling out the asana and conducting the count and assisting more and more, as the class goes on.

I actually found it quite moving watching this so soon after Guruji's passing. This was filmed in 1989 making him, what, in his seventies? He's strong, fit, vital, with this big booming voice calling out the count. He shares a little joke here and there, the famous smile breaks out and there's a pat on the shoulder, the back , the hip when someone does well.

I was struck by the intimacy that seemed to grow as this long demanding series progressed, the physicality and demanding nature of the assists. There was a moment near the end of the finishing sequence where Guruji is sitting crossed legged beside Richard Freeman, knees almost touching leading his breathing. The camera zoomed in, the shot blurry at first but finally clearing to a close up and for a moment I swear I could see that intense young yogi that stares out at us from Yoga Mala.

The Ashtangi's credited on the DVD are Tim Miller, Chuck Miller, Matty Ezraty, Richard Freeman, the other two are thought to be Dominic Corigliano and John Norris. Most had been practicing Ashtanga for ten years or so and according to their websites below still seem to be practicing and teaching, what, twenty years later. They begin with Standing sequence and it's great to watch these experienced practitioners running through Standing in a real class environment rather than on a polished, and edited, video. They move into 3rd series after which there seems to be a moments pause before they move on to the first half of 4th series. Was 4th planned, I wondered.

They practice 4th series up until Tadasana and then moved on to the full Mysore back bend sequence, drop backs, tic tocks, Guruji moving from one to the other to assist them through the sequence that included Setu and Chakra bandhasana. Quite something to see this, not so tall, septuagenarian flipping the 6ft odd Tim Miller back and forth. They move on to the full finishing sequence and the video ends following the moment I've described above of Guruji leading Richard Freeman through a little pranayama just previous to UtPluthih.

Should you buy this DVD? Perhaps your still learning Primary and can't imagine moving on to Intermediate let alone 3rd. Why buy this if your never going to practice this series?

Well, buy it because it a presents senior practitioners struggling with an advanced series. If you've seen any of the top teacher DVD's, then don't they seem effortless, thanks I'm sure to a lot of editing. Here everyone is hot, sweaty, occasionally falling out of asanas as well as needing to be helped into them. They're struggling at times to stay on breath and hold a pose for Guruji's count. They are just like us in fact when we're struggling through the second half of our own Primary and/or Intermediate. Or buy it for the intensity of the practice as revealed in Chuck Miller's drishti or to see the subtle differences in everyone's asana's and transitions.

I bought it because here was a chance to experience Sri K. Pattabhi Jois teaching and assisting in a small intimate setting, something I'll sadly no longer have the chance of experiencing.

If I was serious about my practice before watching this DVD, and I thought that I was, I feel even more so now. Watching it seemed to confirm something I had suspected, that the Practice is about the practice. Not about anything else surrounding it, the politics, perfecting asanas, or even about the Student/Teacher relationship. Although there appears to be an intimate relationship in this class, Guruji came across, to me at least, as a facilitator rather than a teacher, here's this gift of a practice, this is how you can practice it...... now you practice it and see where it takes you.

I should say that the picture quality and camera work isn't great but somehow that all adds to the intimacy of the thing.

Here's a taster from youtube.
I found my copy on Amazon

There are some screenshots from the DVD on my previous post
http://grimmly2007.blogspot.com/2009/07/skpj-ashtanga-encinitas-dvd-3rd-series.html

While we're on the subject, does anyone know if the DVD is available, and if and where it can be purchased, of SKPJ leading a small intermediate class seen here on YouTube ?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsiUzRct_gQ

Where are they now

Tim Miller,
http://www.ashtangayogacenter.com/

Chuck Miller, Matty Ezraty,
http://www.chuckandmaty.com/bios.htm

Richard Freeman,
http://www.yogaworkshop.com/

Dominic Corigliano
http://aumboy.com/dominic

John Norris
Can't find anything on what he's doing now, anyone know?

10 comments:

  1. Freakin' sweet and inspiring review. Well done.

    Not that I need to buy yet MORE stuff from Amazon, but on the list this goes.

    word veri: stallso

    ReplyDelete
  2. Noah Williams is not in this video; he would've been 14 when this was filmed, and had not yet begun the practice of ashtanga.

    regards,
    jason

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have the second series vid on VHS. Not sure if it's been released (yet) on DVD.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hey Grimmly- that was definitely a nice review. I've seen a lot of the DVD, but not the whole thing. It's very interesting to watch them! The one I can't take my eyes off of is Richard Freeman. Of course, it's fun to also see muscle man Tim Miller do what the skinny guys are doing...

    Your last post was hilarious! Good job on the posture at the end- love the pj's (and your first attempt that ended with "no way"- I'm a commenter on my own asanas too and have uttered those very words).

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks, and have changed it form Noah to John Norris Jason. Where did you get the VHS CK, would settle for that. It was Chuck Miller i couldn't take my eyes off Liz, so so intense...he's telling me now to get on the mat.

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  6. Another vote for Freeman as most watchable on this DVD. My favorite part is when they do urdhva dhanurasana -- the difference between RF and Muscle Man Miller is quite instructive.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I remember when I knew nothing of Ashtanga, and some teachers at Om Yoga in NYC were talking about how adorable Richard Freeman was...he seems to have that certain something for some ladies, I guess!

    So...curious, since I have yet to watch the video, what does the video tell us about the diff between mesos and ectos in Ashtanga practice? Can someone elaborate?

    ReplyDelete
  8. hi Grimmly
    my Christmas wish list keeps growing from your suggestions. i actually added that DVD to my Amazonian River list maybe 2 years ago, and through the wonders of their programming, it's probably still there. maybe now i need to put it in the final shopping basket.
    cheers,
    Arturo
    word verif: condear (that's funny)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Liz, Karen, RF most watchable in what sense? He was/is very good but as I said Chuck for me. Funny you'd think them doing 3rd or 4th would be the most interesting but i keep going back to watching them do Standing, finishing and the backbends. Especially great to see Guruji assisting them through the tic tocks

    I wouldn't have said any of them are really mesomorp's YC. They're all slim and lean no (there's a clip of the video on the post from Youtube)?, ( Is Tim that much more more muscular than Richard?). I remember seeing that huge ex pro-football player doing the Rocket and being impressed with his flexibility.

    And what am I meso or ecto, not sure where one ends and the other begins? I'd have thought somewhere in between. Sometimes I wish I had a narrower chest and shoulders especially for Tittibhasana B, a little more ecto would be nice, but hey as i said before somewhere, you work with what you've got.

    You should get it Arturo, especially as your playing with 3rd these days, you'll like how unpolished they are at the series. I loved how Tim Miller was still using a blanket for Salabhasana and how it took Chuck three goes to flip back over from UD.

    ReplyDelete
  10. well... Grimmly, this is going off my (very bad) memory, so I could be missing something:
    I think Richard catches my eye because he's got that bendy back so his upward dogs are like nothing I'd ever accomplish in my life (maybe after death someone can set me up in it). Plus, there's a floaty-ness about him that's nice. That thin, thin body and broad shoulders allows for some things my body will never do with such grace.

    I've seen a clip from the Mysore shala way, way back when it was like 5 people. Richard Freeman is in the corner, floating through some serious asana while SKPJ helps people stumble through some pretty awkward primary. Such a funny juxtaposition.

    Tim looks a lot more muscular than the rest of the noodles in there! He's not a football player, but he has some meat on him. Too bad about the mullet.

    I might have to order the DVD soon- I'll watch it with Chuck in mind! (have only seen bits of it, mind you- not the tick tocking- can't wait to see that)

    ReplyDelete

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A Reminder

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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