Monday, October 13, 2008

Practice Makes....More Practice

The yoga teacher training I am taking follows the yoga tradition as it has been shaped by Krishnamacharya and his students, especially his son and student, T.K.V. Desikachar and his two most well-known students, Sri B.K.S. Iyengar (creator of Iyengar yoga) and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (creator of Ashtanga yoga). One requirement of our training is that we must take a minimum of three classes in Iyengar and Ashtanga style (as well as ten classes in Vinyasa style, which is a kind of very Americanized version of what Krishnamacharya taught).

The process is reminding me of exploring the traditions within Buddhism. If, at first, a person gains an interest in "Buddhism", it isn't too long before they realize that they need to follow a tradition and find a teacher. If they are serious about it, they can't keep shopping around: they have to commit to one tradition. And that the traditions don't always agree or get along with each other. It becomes a little bit of a personality match-up test.

Yesterday, I went in early to practice Mysore style Ashtanga (a self-led series of asanas done independently but with assistance from a teacher who goes around the room helping each student where ever they may be in the series). I am just a beginner so I am slowly working my way through the primary series, each time memorizing a few more asanas and improving on the ones that I have already memorized. It is a very challenging tradition, both physically and mentally, and I imagine spiritually too, although I am such a beginner that I don't have much time for any moments of enlightenment in between trying to remember to breathe and trying to remember what my hands and legs and eyes are supposed to be doing as I flow through the movements. It is quite a workout of the whole self, which is why I really like it.

Later that day, as part of our training, we had a 2.5 hour Iyengar workshop. Iyengar could not be more different from Ashtanga. Deliberate and slow, there is almost no flowing movement. It is all about get good alignment and holding it. Although I see how it greatly improves my understanding of the asanas, it doesn't quite speak to me like the Ashtanga tradition. And vinyasa, well, it is starting to seem like neither here nor there (although fun).

But it is all a practice. We get to a place only to find there is another place waiting for us, and so it goes.

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