I was looking at my David Williams poster this afternoon ( This is supposedly the 'Complete syllabus' as Sri K. Pattabhi Jois taught it to him back in the 70's The long Advanced A and B later got split up into 3rd, 4th, 5th and I assume part of 6th (?) series get one here, but be warned, it's huge), I'd just broken the back of a particularly troublesome posture, Padangustha Dhanurasana, still a long way to go with it but finally managed the awkward grip, the same as in natajarasana and Eka pada raja Kapotasana but both slippery feet at the same time.
This moves it in to the doable, needs improvement category, got me wondering about what's left in the (surely) impossible asana box.
Nine postures, only nine. What am I going to do then, What happens to the asana madness when they finally fall.
Here they are on the left.
Now of course this isn't really Ashtanga. I do practice Primary and 2nd series once a week but Advanced A, as a series, probably only once a month. I worked through Advanced B a couple of times a while back but had to leave out almost a third, perhaps it's time to give it another go. I like the postures in Advanced B though, many of them don't appear in the Vinyasa Krama bible.
I tend to include the tricky postures as part of my Vinyasa Krama practice, adding a couple on at the end of a VK subroutine, using the other postures as prep, adds spice.
Here's the current state of play,
Rajakapotasana : well it's getting closer, some minor breakthroughs but I'll keep it on the list for a while, at least 'till I'm my feet are an inch away from my head, long slow uphill battle this one.
Mulhabandasana : I can kind of do it, the feet roll back but it's not pretty, it can stay in the box.
Kandapindasana A and B ( or Kandasana ) : was getting close, was expecting it to pop in any time but the 108 with turned out feet seems to have closed my hips up a bit, few steps backwards I'm afraid.
Yoga Dandasana : coming along nicely,
Bhuja Dandasana A and B : had a go the other week, it's close, should come now I'm back doing leg behind head postures.
Chakra Bandhasana / Trianga Mukkha Uttanasana : feels like it should be doable now the backbends are back, touched my heels the other day, a maybe but difficult on your own.
Kroukachasana : I know it's doable, didn't work on Hanumanasana for a while but it's coming back and my Eka pada raja kapotasana is kinda nice.
Supta Kandasana and Kandasana : Hmmm, after getting Yoga Dandasana I thought this was a sure thing, tried it but it felt a million miles away, think I need to get deeper into and more comfortable with Yoga dandasana to stand a chance, next year perhaps.
Yogapitha : Looking at it I can't figure out why it's so hard, of all the others in the picture above it looks perhaps the easiest. think I it must be my approach.
There's one more, I had to drop one to have them all fit on one sheet, Samakonasana, the side splits. Still years away from that and besides I can't say I work towards it.
So is this Asana Madness? Curiously I don't think it is. I remember being pretty much obsessed with the jump back and through, with Mari D and Kapo and Karandavasana, that was Asana Madness but recently I just take pleasure in working at the tricky ones, exploring them a little, seeing what happens. It feels healthy and I tend to be more amused than triumphant when I get into them. They're fun to work on. Being a home ashtangi I'm not held back at a pose so don't get the angst and frustrations of being stuck on a pose. I'll work on one, towards one, for a couple of weeks and then just let it simmer for a bit while I work on something else before coming back to it later.
I made the mistake of using the expression 'just asana' in a previous post. A commenter I'm particularly fond of thought I was being dismissive, belittling, seeing asana as 'just bending'. I guess this post is an attempt to make up for that a little. Of course seeing these asana taken out of the context of the Ashtanga series' you may be saying it's 'just asana' in your own heads. This was and is my feeling if we separate asana out from the other seven limbs as laid out in Patanjali's yoga Sutra's. Integrated yoga practice, that's all I'm saying.
Clearly I love asana, for all my talk of pranayama and meditation, the other limbs, for me it begins with asana. I love the challenge of them, working them out, the seemingly straight forward ones as well as the monsters (Advanced B should have a subtitle ' This way be dragons'). Ramaswami said that Krishanamacharya would always teach him something new, whether, an asana, a chant, a new way of looking at a scripture, lessons were always interesting. Asana works like that for me, keeps the practice interesting, alive as David Swenson says, messy but alive.
I like the working towards a posture even though it might seem years away, seeing how the postures your doing prepare you for those to come, hard to see that in Ashtanga sometimes but very clear in Vinyasa Krama, where they are grouped together more. Easier too just tacking a monster on the end of the appropriate Vinyasa Krama sub routine. In Ashtanga they come at you like the monstrous warriors from Infinity blade ( cool game on the ipad) one after another, relentless. That can be fun too, a different kind of challenge, but I don't find it as enjoyable as having the time to build up to and savour a particular asana
Is it an ego thing, conceit? Wondered about this but I don't think the dominant reaction is pride, more amazement, a little bit or awe, that this aging, battered body will do this stuff and amusement too and delight. Besides I might be able to do some of this crazy stuff but it's rarely pretty or elegant, more clumsy and awkward, though they brush up a little over time.
... and besides, for all the fancy stuff, my utthita hasta padangusthasana still sucks.
But of course the nine asana left in the picture above are just those from the David Williams poster. The long Advanced A and B series found there were later divided up into Advanced A to C and later still the into 3rd, 4th, 5th and supposedly 6th series in the revised Ashtanga system we have now. We can find most of the postures in 3rd to 5th but that doesn't leave that many over for a full 6th series ( some speculation can be found here).
And that's just Ashtanga. The shastras tell us of 84 lakhs asanas. A lakh being equal to 100000, this brings the number of yoga postures to 8,400,000, plenty to be going on with, Supposedly Krishnamacharya would have his students scouring temples for any old depictions of asana.
This morning I was practicing Vinyasa Krama, a backbend focus of Bow and Meditative sequences. While in Eka pada raja kapotasana I was reminded of a video I'd seen recently of somebody, Russian I think, practicing beside a lake. There was a posture I found fascinating and beautiful, a classic. I managed to get pretty much into it but which way to look forward or twisting to look behind, the latter seemed more intuitive.
But how to find the name of the pose, how would you even begin to google that. As it happens it's in Iyengar's Light on Yoga ( of course), he refers to it as Vamadevasana II, one foot in padmasana the other in Bhekasana.
I might not be running off to India to scour temple walls for postures like Krishnamacharya's students, but if I come across something classic and that seems to fit the end of a sequence........
Who doesn't love asana.