Notes from Nancy’s Workshop
Practitioners Clinic at BeFit Body & Mind Yoga August 1-4, 2008
Nancy on Fear
A big part of this practice is overcoming fear.
There are two types of fear; fear that protects us (like be fearful of driving down the highway at 100 mph) and fears that hold us back. Fears that hold us back will come up frequently on your mat, for example staying in the beginner classes because of being fearful of full primary where you might feel inadequate, or fearful of trying 2nd series because it is new and different, or more advanced. If you let these fears keep you in primary or the beginner class you will not move forward in your practice. Just as in life, if you let those little fears keep you “stuck” you will not move forward in your life. When you feel the fear of a pose, focus internally, breathe right through the fear and into the pose . . .
By learning to recognize those fears on your mat—and going right through them to the other side—will help you take that experience off the mat and recognize when in your life you need to go right through the fear and come out on the other side.
On the little changes and updates to the Ashtanga Practice
Ashtanga Yoga RESEARCH Institute is the name given to the school in Mysore India that teaches this form of yoga. Research Institute signifies continuing research. This is a good thing 🙂 Notice though through all the little changes we continue to honor the integrity of the framework of this practice. Most of the “changes” that are coming out these days are minor changes, for example, just inhale in prasarita instead of inhaling with a backbend; in actuality these little changes are not changes in many cases but a return to the original form. Over the years a back bend may have been added for a particular person who had rounded shoulders (individualizing the practice without changing the framework!), this person then takes this change home and begins teaching it as “the method”, and for the most part a little extra backbending is good for most people so it is left in as the correct vinyasa . . . but over some time there is a desire to return to the original un-altered form—and thus the reason for what we think are many of the changes.
Also, the founder Pattabhi Jois is now 93 years old and not teaching much, his grandson Sharath is taking over the AYRI, many of the changes reflect in his different mannerisms in teaching. The practice is so popular these days that Sharath is overwhelmed with the numbers (rumor has it there are 400 people registered to take classes this January in Mysore!), and in order to protect individuals from progressing too fast and hurting themselves he has made some rules that have not been there in the past; for example you need to stand up from Urdhva Dhanurasana before you progress to 2nd series. “Back in the day” when this practice was much smaller and you had more individual attention these type of rules were not only not necessary but also not beneficial! Making one black and white rule for many people is not beneficial as we all have individual needs and modifications. But I must say in Sharath’s defense, he is doing this in a very caring manner, he does not want someone to hurt themselves by progressing before their body is ready. We are fortunate to train under Nancy with her individual attention and guidance we have the benefit of moving forward with more individual attention and adjustments while not being held back “with the masses” for protection. Again we honor the integrity of the framework of Ashtanga practice even as we make modifications for individuals needs.
Trust in the practice I have found it to be very healing and beneficial for body, heart, and mind.
Nancy’s main points
- Even breathing
- Stay with the breath as you move in and out of poses, if you stop the breath your pose will stick or get stuck where you stopped the breath.
- Get rid of extra movements—no drama! It messes up the moving/breathing synchronicity
- Pace, keep steady pace in your practice. Self practice should only take about 1 hour.
- Use your breath to sense energy blockages and energy flow in your body.
- Quote: “As long as you are breathing you are doing correct practice”
- Quote: “This practice is based on breath, it is the most important part of it.”
- Sloppy Yoga
- Don’t spend too much time aligning! This is not yoga. Get in the pose and breathe.
- Don’t overextend in the poses, ashtanga yoga connects you with your bandhas and inner strength, overextending in the poses pulls you out of your center.
- Quote: “The blessing of the practice is in the practice itself. If you start with an attitude of gratitude then your practice becomes a prayer, very different than practicing for a better pose.”
- Quote: “It doesn’t matter what it looks like, what does matter is how it feels.”
- Quote: “Words don’t do it;”
- Quote: “Ashtanga works internally, Iyengar works externally.”
- Consistent Practice
- 5-6x / week! Can do short practice of 5 Sun Salutes and three lotus flowers and in busy times even just one sun salute is good practice.
- Quote: “The true learning comes from self practice.”
- Quote: “Self practice is the key to internal change.”
- Follow the method/sequence
- Individualize each asana to suit your body/mind but don’t mess with the framework of the practice.
- Quote: Ashtanga is a “10 year course” – if practiced daily, you will have made it through the series in about 10 years, now you can begin practicing yoga.
- Quote: “Ten years we are beginners.”
- Take the struggle out of your practice.
- No struggling into poses.
- Quote: “The most flexible body that comes to yoga won’t be doing yoga for years – the flexibility that most people think they are coming to yoga for…isn’t yoga.”
- Quote: “Yoga is not attaining a flexible body, it is controlling things on the inside!”
- Quote: “A lot of the practice is about what is going on in our heads.”