Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Superstars, Pashasana, and modifications
In the end, Sharath didn’t seem to have even noticed that we missed class. So, this is our confession: Sharath, we’re sorry!
The fact that he didn’t say anything seems to imply that he has things on his mind OTHER than OUR practices, start times, wishes and wants, general well-being, and what we are doing each day. Ha! Unlikely.
Surely you are wondering what kind of yoga skills we’ve seen around the practice space. Yes, yes we should have our eyes on our own mats, but come on now. For you, reader, we’ve compromised our morals and looked around.
One student we’ve noticed is David, who teaches at the Ashtanga Yoga Center of Toronto in Canada. David practices all of the Intermediate series. His strength and equanimity make what he is doing quite distinct because it is clean, precise, and refined. Practicing in the same room, you can’t help but take note as each Sun Salutation begins with a pike handstand press before lowering down to chatvari, similar to the embedded video, though he doesn't bring his legs all the way to vertical. There is a similar press from kneeling after each of the kneeling backbends in the sequence (Ustrasana, Laghu Vajrasana, etc), lifting/pulling/pressing the bent legs up the chest, belly, and hips and then a controlled lower into chatvari (most students hop or step rather than lift). It is inspiring.
While every student does some version of backbending, David is one of the few students working on “advanced” backbending, which consists of: 3 press-ups (Urdhva Dhanurasana), after the last one, stand up. Then 3 dropback/stand up. At least three “tic-tacs”—downdog/handstand/upward bow/handstand/downdog and then three Scorpions, dropping over from handstand while pulling the feet as close to the head as possible, and then stand up. Finally, Sharath comes over and assists with one final Scorpion, pressing the feet to the head as David holds handstand, and then the regular ashtanga assisted backbending routine.
Ok, ok, “David this” and “David that.” But what about our heros?
K was given Pashasana on Tuesday, only one week into practice here. Sharath said “Last time Primary only? Tomorrow Pashasana.” This was nice to hear for two reasons. One, because K is being moved on and will have almost the whole time on this trip to work into the beginning of Intermediate with Sharath’s instruction. She had a little bit of backbending weirdness (nauseous, feeling faint, etc) during the first couple of practices, but since then she “is catching” and has received a “Very good” each day from Sharath.
The second reason it’s nice to hear from Sharath “Last time Primary only?” is that it implies that Sharath at least remembers enough about us to know we’ve been here before. That is something with so many students. There are still many arriving. We have been both early and lucky and have parlayed our way up to a 730 start time (we originally began with 830). This bodes well as we are only a week into it and we hope to keep movin’ on up.
I (E) am discovering something else about practice at the shala: they do allow for modification. In short, my knee is $%&*ed up for the time being. Closed knee + lateral hip rotation is not happening currently. So far it seems like the kind of thing that will heal up eventually. In short, it’s not the injury but the timing that is bad. Anyway, Sharath has ok’d me to practice all of Primary, but modify as needed. This is nice, as it allows for all the jumps and backbending without re-aggravating and gives me plenty to work on so I won’t be tempted to push too far. There are a few students doing something similar. It must have been apparent to Sharath when my postures were so different between L and R sides that it was an injury rather than an imbalance.
Speaking of injuries, one more funny thing. During our timeslot it is common to see students who are still learning how to dropback/stand up. Yesterday a female student really ate it during her (unassisted) dropback attempt. There was much preparation and pomp and circumstance. She was standing, leaning back, leaning back, extending her arms, leaning back, extending, balancing, leaning…CRACK! and her head hit the tile floor (through her rug and mat, but it was still damn loud). Saraswathi, who didn’t see it but knew it was not a good sound, said “Oooooh.” It was the most epic failure we’ve yet seen in mid-class. The student in question was fine and decided that that was enough on her own and instead collected herself, stood and waited for Sharath’s help. When he made it over to her he was laughing pretty hard, so we didn’t feel so bad about laughing (though on our previous trip K was scolded for laughing at her own dropback wipeout).
New product idea: Dropback crash helmet?