Posted tagged ‘ashtanga yoga’

The Pain You’re Not Supposed To Have If You Do Yoga Regularly

January 29, 2010

The Non-Multitasking Yogi

Pain.  I have all kinds of handwritten posts about Obama and trust in government that I was going to type up today.  But I wake up (that’s not actually correct since I don’t think I  slept), I get up with a figurative stake of ache in the middle of my upper back, which  precludes me from doing anything but looking absolutely straight in front of me.  (This means I  can’t type anything pre-jotted.)

People who do yoga everyday are not supposed to have back pain.  I do yoga everyday.

The catch is that people who also multi-task nonstop really do not do yoga all that well.  Real yoga involves taking the time to breathe, sustain, to focus.  Multi-tasking yoga is a bit of a whipstitch physically—it may hold body and soul together, but just barely.

I practice ashtanga yoga (a great form for home practice, developed primarily by Shri K. Patabhi Jois).  And yesterday evening, because I had skipped my normal rushed morning’s practice,  I took the time to do it well.   I not only did it well, in my guilt over skipping, I did twice as much as normal.

(Guilt and yoga are not a great combination.)

Ashtanga yoga is done as a series of pre-set exercises.  When you have done a couple of the series for some years, they are pretty much imprinted on your brain and body.  In other words, once you start one, you just kind of go through it like a dance routine or a song.

The power of a routine is incredibly strong.   A routine, in this case, the yoga series can, amazingly, carry you through all kinds of physical or mental failings.   I have done ashtanga with colds, hangovers, pulled muscles, torn cartilege.

The routine, like a memorized song, must be stored in a different part of the brain than the part involved with decision-making, fear, tentativeness, even perhaps common sense.    (I always think of victims of strokes who cannot speak but who can speak or recite poetry.)

While you are in the middle of the routine, you are simply swept along.  But once you are out of the routine’s anesthesizing groove….


After Multi-tasking Yoga

How To Do Ashtanga Yoga In One Short Breath

October 20, 2009

I am a longtime and very proud devotee of Ashtanga Yoga. This is a form of yoga pioneered by Shri T. Krishnamacharya and the much beloved Shri K. Patabhi Jois. It involves six fairly long series of poses (though most practitioners stick to the first “Primary” series), which are intended to energize the body, clarify the mind, and purify just about everything.   Ashtanga is supposed to be practiced six days a week, preferably in the morning.  (An empty stomach is recommended; a non-empty stomach is regretted.)

It is a great form of yoga, especially for people, like me, who have a hectic schedule, as it is designed for self-practice.  Not only does Ashtanga provide a  series of pre-set poses, it includes certain transitional movements between each pose. This takes decision-making out of home practice, an immense benefit for those who already have too many other things to think about.

Breathing in Ashtanga, as in all yoga, is super important: each transitional movement corresponds to a specific inhalation or exhalation, and each pose is ideally held for eight steady breaths.  This means that Primary series, if done right, should take between an hour and an hour and a half, to complete.

Some of us, however, have managed to shorten the required time span to approximately fifteen minutes.

Here’s how:

1. First, practice for years. It’s important to know the poses in your bones so that when you whiz through them you don’t need to spend a single extra second thinking about what comes next.

2. Second, be Manic.

3. And slightly depressed.

4. Start a daily blog.

5. But keep your day job.

6. Most importantly, fuel the flames of family and personal drama with long drawn-out conversations or email each morning, so that you really don’t have more than fifteen minutes to do yoga. (Ignore possible effects of yoga’s calming influence, if done correctly.)

7. Don’t mind if you wrench your knee or shoulder throwing yourself into convoluted positions. (Alignment always felt kind of boring anyway.)

8.  Who said you had to do the complete pose?   At least, your bending that wrenched knee.

10. Try not to mind that a practice that is supposed cultivate deep breathing and energetic stillness is whipping by in panting exhaustion

11. Congratulate yourself on the fact that you are practicing yoga at all.

12. (If you can call that practicing . Or Yoga.)

13. But keep practicing anyway. (As that great sage Scarlett O’Hara said, tomorrow is another day.)