Primary learner

So Sharath’s enigmatic comment on Friday was apparently a false alarm – no pasasana today. I tried to remain equanimous, in the spirit of losing attachment, but I confess I lingered after setu bandasana, rearranging my mat a bit, tidying my hair up etc, just to give him more of a chance to get to me and issue a new posture before I moved onto finishing sequence. What can I say? This yoga thing is a life work… 😉

But actually I’m pretty content with how things are. It’s a treat to remain in the comfortable familiarity of primary series, without having to deal with the high emotions and aches and pains that come my way with intermediate series. My only reservations are that I feel my body needs intermediate series now, to balance out all the forward bending and strength-building of primary – I sense my chest muscles tightening again without all the front-opening postures of intermediate. Although I’m aware that this is probably just a story I tell myself. But also I would like to see how the shala’s magic touches my attempts at kapotasana – but then I also acknowledge that that’s definitely evidence of me being attached to a posture. I reiterate – it’s a life work…!

From my observations, I suspect Sharath has everyone do primary series in their first week, regardless of what series they’re working on. Then from the second week onwards they’re allowed to pick up from where they left off the year before. And if you’re a first-timer like me, you just have to build up the postures from scratch, when Sharath decides you’re ready. It doesn’t matter that I practise second series at home – here I’m a relative beginner. It’s so humbling being here, practising amongst so many dedicated practitioners who’ve been coming for decades. And being put back to the start is certainly a good lesson for the ego… 😉

Anyway, the energy had shifted up another notch in the shala today, with probably around 50% of the students doing intermediate series and a handful doing third and even fourth series. Certainly, one guy was tying himself up into all kinds of knots I’d never seen before. Seriously, the standard of asana practice in there is unbelievable – as a friend of a friend commented, it’s like being in a room full of premium, world-class athletes.

One thing puzzles me though. Where are all the beginners? In my led class only around three out of the sixty-ish people are stopped at supta kurmasana. Everyone else seems to sail through full primary with grace and ease. I wasn’t aware that the application form filters out beginners, although it does ask how many years you’ve been practising ashtanga. I’ve heard the beginners study with Saraswati, Pattabhi’s daughter, who has a separate shala nearby. In some ways it seems a shame to differentiate between levels as, in theory, the Mysore style should mean anyone can practise in the same room, regardless of ability. But I can understand why it’s necessary, given the huge number of students attending each month and the nightmare logistics this must generate, not to mention the need for a low student to teacher ratio for beginners (or high, whichever it is – I’ve never fully understood ratios!) – anyway, I’ve heard students numbers are much lower in Saraswati’s shala.

So  to sum up – I’m into the second week and still feeling good. Loving the Mysore classes, my practice feels great and I’m so enjoying the privilege of being here – it feels like being part of history, albeit an almost subliminal, blink-and-you-miss-it bit part!

2 thoughts on “Primary learner

  1. Love your blog Becky! I wish I could practice ashtanga but my knees are just too shot at the moment. Patiently waiting for your next post 🙂

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