For those who don’t know, Ashtanga Yoga is comprised of several series of postures that are done in a very specific sequence. It is not uncommon to spend YEARS working through just one series. And anyone who practices will tell you there is always more to work on, no matter how long you have been doing that particular series. SO… then you ask, how (WHY?) do the “same” practice everyday?
After more than a decade of Ashtanga yoga, I have yet to find MYSELF to be the same one single time. The magic is in the repetition. Not the postures. Except for how the specificity of the postures and practice, creates the space for the myriad variations of ME. Richard Freeman has a mind-bendingly excellent book called “The Mirror of Yoga,” and I have yet to hear a better description of the Ashtanga Practice. It is a powerful mirror. More powerful than any magic mirror of a Disneyland princess or fable. I keep discovering new ways to wield it. Sometimes it is like the harsh discomfort of a poorly lit fitting room. Other times an ego boosting fun house view. Occasionally, I think it is just a frank and honest confrontation of things exactly as they are. It is fascinating (nearly) every time I remember to look.
I’ve been searching that reflection for answers. Lately I am more interested in my reaction to the poses and practice than my ability to DO the poses or practice. After several years, the flashy excitement of the intermediate series’ spine tingling back bends and fancy looking arm balances has become routine enough that I can finally notice HOW I’m doing, (a little) more than how WELL I’m doing it. Tuning in to my experience of my self as I flop and hop around on the mat yields a higher quality of attention that is not easy to maintain, but is exponentially more satisfying.
The Primary Series is like my reflection in a clear, quiet pool. The antidote, the promise, the sustenance, the comfort, and the reminder that I have enough, that I am enough. This is enough. Moving and breathing and dristi-ing. Mind quieting for a few glimpses of WHY this is everything and so am I.
I still can’t find that spaciousness in Intermediate series very often. But Primary (first, foundational, of greatest importance,) grants some reassurance that with practice makes progress. Glaciers carve mountains, continents become oceans. I am alive, so I might as well practice.