Continuing Work with Ashtanga

Waking up early in 2020

Krishnamacharya

The new year has brought a new wave of inspiration for my yoga practice and working on the Ashtanga Primary series early in the morning. I’ve been waking up at 5:30, 6, and sometimes even earlier to ensure that I can do most of the series before I have to leave for work.

The entire series usually takes me a couple of hours, because I mediate for 10 minutes before and do some easy yin stretches if I need to before starting the series. Often I don’t finish, but about half of the time, I do. I’ve also practiced the intermediate series a few times, but I am working on getting my flexibility back so the primary series is what my body needs right now.

Adjustments

Patthabhi Jois

With that said, I am taking a long time to get warmed back up in the series. My shoulder are requiring a good amount of patience and stretching to re-align the ligamentation underneath my shoulder-blades and there’s no point in rushing. Rushing leads to loose ligaments that need to be re-tightened and stabilized.

Things are going great in the series, but I’ve had to back off a lot. I am also landscaping full-time right now. My wrists and hands have also needed a lot of care and slow stretching and supporting the series with yin has been the theme so far.

Performance Improvements

I think that on Saturday I held a handstand for a full minute really easily. My sinuses have improved and so has my digestion. My skin is also clearing up and I’m finding that I have a ton of energy during the day, but I am still adjusting to doing yoga every day. Ashtanga requires a lot of time and energy output, focus.

The First Ashtanga Workshop of 2020!

Saturday at 1 we had an awesome practicing the series! We only got through about half because of the orientation and making sure that people had adjustments available, but we did a lot! The opening chant was fun and we got a good chance to chat before the workshop began.

What an awesome group of people! A lot were fairly advanced and a few were probably close to the finishing postures of the series. I’m super excited to see what week 2 will bring.

Growing from Surya Namaskar

I’ll conclude with my biggest takeaway of practicing so often this year and that is self compassion. Some days, its okay to not finish. Some days, finish everything you can, especially if you wake up early and have time. A little amount of yoga and stretching goes a long way with the body and mind.

The two sun salutations are special in this way. You can wake up and practice them anywhere. And they are special movements for the spine, the nervous system, and the mind. I always feel soothed and more connected, clearer of mind and more focused after moving in unison with my breathing. The discipline of waking up early to unify the mind and the body are extremely rewarding in terms of mood and my ability to stay positive and not succumb to stress.

Its the little things that add up to something great. I’m excited for the second workshop this week. If you are going, practice a little every day and see how your body feels during the sequence!

Ashtanga with Elliot 2020 Yoga Workshop Series

This year I have decided to do something deeper and more durable for my yoga students.

Ever since India, I’ve wanted to share the daily Mysore style of yoga practice with my community and this dream is finally coming to fruition! Get into the best shape of your life with yoga!

Date and Times

Saturday, February 1st, I will be leading the Primary Series of Ashtanga from 1PM to 3pm. I will host this every Saturday at 1PM leading up to June 13th, which will be our 20th and final workshop for the series.

I will also be coaching and mentoring each student that wants to start a daily yoga practice from the Primary Series. I want to help YOU!

It’s time to transform your life! It will be A LOT of hard work, but the reward of better mental and physical health is extraordinarily valuable. This will also get your body into shape, lean, toned, and thin if you eat properly as well.

The coolest part about this workshop is that you can take it with you. This series isn’t going anywhere and is great for decompressing after traveling, or being cooped up in a desk or small space. There are so many benefits from a yoga practice.

Remaining Workshop Dates:

  1. 2/1
  2. 2/8
  3. 2/15
  4. 2/22
  5. 2/29
  6. 3/6
  7. 3/13
  8. 3/20
  9. 3/27
  10. 4/4
  11. 4/11
  12. 4/18
  13. 4/25
  14. 5/2
  15. 5/9
  16. 5/16
  17. 5/23
  18. 5/30
  19. 6/6
  20. 6/13

Pricing

The entire Series will be donation based. This DOES NOT mean free. It just means that you pay what you feel is right. Single Workshop sessions are $20 (if you only attend one).

FAQs

Q. What is the primary series?

A. The primary series is a specific sequence of yoga postures taught in Mysore India by the Jois family. It is widely regarded as the most advanced practice of physical yoga.

Q. Is it beginner friendly?

A. Yes, absolutely. This workshop is perfect for people new to yoga. Everyone from the experience teacher to the brand new yogi can learn the primary series. The series gets longer as you get more advanced, but the warm up is perfect for someone who has never practiced yoga before.

Q. Can I come to the workshop for free?

A. No. If you have circumstances preventing you from paying 5$ for a 2 hour class, we can talk about it, but the exchange of energy needs to be mutual. I have starved enough.

Q. Can I bring friends?

A. Of course! Please have them contact me to sign-up, or share this page with them.

Q. Do I have to attend every workshop? Can I choose a few to attend?

A. Yes, I understand that people are busy and that you may not be able to attend every workshop. I only ask that you let me know your plans when we start.

Q. How are you going to help me to practice every day?

A. I will be supplying large amounts of resources and information at the workshop dates. I will also be posting online about my own practice and will be enabling my students to practice as much as possible.

Adjusting Ashtanga

Ashtanga_Advanced_Series

I am a huge fan of the Ashtanga practice. The intensity, the discipline, the mindlessness, and the routine of the sequential practice makes it like a second home for me. I always know that there are mornings where I can wake up and work without thinking, push myself without thinking of how, breathing without having to plan for a destination. But there are some problems with practicing the Ashtanga practice exclusively.

The Ashtanga series were a prescription for Krishnamacharya’s Indian students, namely his most famous student Pattabhi Jois. Krishnamacharya made them specifically for 15-year-old Indian men that were training for hours each day and that didn’t have previous injuries, or probably a lot of other sports and exercise experience.

This means that Krishnamacharya had a specific purpose in creating this sequences for young and fit Indian men and that the sequence is optimized for the Indian skeleton and definitely not for the other types of human skeletons. This becomes especially apparent when westerners begin trying lotus pose, Kukkutasana, and the Marichyasanas.

So there comes a point when one starts to realize that certain poses simply aren’t good for their body. This is half-bound lotus pose for me. The reason is that my knees are simply not strong enough to stretch my hips as deeply as the stretch requires, even though my hips are very open and I have good alignment. At a certain point, we have to realize that the body is mechanical; it has very real limitations that you will sooner or later be coming into increased contact with.

In my first two weeks, I was injured in the Ashtanga sequence. Marichyasana B, I can remember the stress of feeling injured like it was yesterday, my lateral collateral ligament snapped and I heard a very audible pop while I was in the full pose with the bind. I quickly got out of the pose and finished my sequence, then went home to look up some rehab exercises for my knee. It took a couple of days of exercises and taking it easy to let my knee heal. Not a fun few days while I was healing.

I continued my full practice for the rest of the time in India, making adjustments and skipping poses when it felt right. I did some extra work to make sure my knee was stable and working properly and avoided walking too much to make sure that the joint was getting less stress. Slowly full lotus opened up for me while I was rehabilitating my knee, though there is still quite a bit of space left to create in my hips. The injury forced me to be more conscious of what I was doing, to not accept things as they were explained, in black and white.

What is the point of that story? Every body is unique, so how can one series work for everyone’s skeleton? It can’t.

I think that there are parts of the Ashtanga sequence that are almost perfect in their ideal succession, mainly the standing series of the primary series. There is something especially cleansing about doing the poses in that order, and the inversions at the end are simply magical.

Sunday, I taught my first class back in the states. It was great, it was easy to forget how much I love teaching yoga until I was in the room again with all the wheels turning. It was a hybrid style so we warmed up slowly, with a bit of flow including some low lunges complete with back-bends, and even an extended child’s pose. Then we moved into standing postures and the full Sun Salutation B sequence, holding warrior 1 for less and less time and getting into the full back-bend in upward dog. Then we moved into the entirety of the Ashtanga practice. Instead of doing floor stretches, we did a bunch of ab work and then moved into some final yin-type stretches. I loved teaching the sequence and it felt right for the class; music was slow and complimentary more than anything else.

So if you come to my classes, except a little flair of Ashtanga. It’s evolving into something pretty cool and I think that someday soon I might help to develop a new series based on the Primary Series. It’s all an evolution 🙂

Day 3 of Practicing Ashtanga in India

I woke up late this morning, but got to the shala at about 5:15. Saraswathi asked me to be there at 4:30, but she doesn’t care as long as I can find a space to practice.

I always start in child’s pose. Today I made a dedication, something I don’t normally do in my own practice. When I walk in to the Shala, this kind of trance comes over me, the breathing and ambient sounds are so soothing, so powerfully hypnotic. It’s hard not to find devotion amidst all of the hard work each yogi is putting into their practice and body.

I love the way that the practice moves inside. Every time I do the 10 Surya Namaskars (5 A, 5 B), I am exhausted afterwords. Every time, triangle poses feel like freedom. I can see why the primary series is structured the way that it is. Though it is definitely not a suitable practice for someone brand new to yoga. Even a few years could be rendered meaningless in the face of the sequence. Putting both feet behind your head is no easy task.

I only messed up one part before I came to the end of what Saraswathi has taught me. She allows me to practice on my own, make mistakes, then do it over with her guidance. It’s not that explicit, but that’s what is happening. She understands that I know a lot of yoga, but she respects the series enough to tell me to stop at certain points and I’m happy to do so. Today I received Ardha Bandha Paschimottanasana and Trianga Mukha Ekapada Paschimottanasana. Loved it. Half lotus is still very difficult for me, as I have extremely tight hips from football, rugby, and especially basketball. The lateral movement of defense really tightens hips to be able to move very quickly side to side and I am pretty sure this is the major culprit behind why it has taken so long for them to open up into external rotation. Plus, my ankles are weak from lots of sprains, which compounds the difficulty of moving into lotus postures.

I can grab my toe, but the pain in my ankle is just a bit much right now, so I do half-lotus without the bind. I finished trianga Mukha, then Saraswathi told me to go do Sirsasana.

For those of you who don’t know, I am passionate about being inverted and the mental effects of being upside down. I’m always a bit wary of head-stand, but it is time for me to step in and take the activation and full extension in the back of my neck and learn how my body wants to do Sirsasana. In other words, no more avoiding the pose for handstand. 10 breathes without Saraswathi, then she came and assisted me afterwards. I did the closing sequence, and called it a day.

I walked outside to the rising sun. It was beautiful and made me very happy. I had a coconut from the vendor outside of the Shala and enjoyed a 10 minute walk back to my room. Now I’m off to find some more Ayurvedic oils and maybe check out the zoo this afternoon. Maybe tomorrow. I have already bought oil that I want to talk about with you all, so make sure to look out for a post on Ayurveda in the near future.