I went to my first Ashtanga Primary Series class the other day – it was tough, although my friend told me there were a lot of deviations and I got off easy =P I don’t know what it is about Ashtanga – I don’t love the style and I’m not that interested in half the poses – but for some reason, I’m completely fascinated by it. So I decided to look up the official series and give it a go. Here’s how it went:
1. Like I said, I don’t love the poses, but the sequence really works for me. There’s some serious vinyasa krama going on in Ashtanga.
2. Somewhere in the last three months, parivritta trikonasana became easy. I used to struggle through it with blocks and sweat and tears, and then one day I could just do it. I’m going to go ahead and credit my teacher, Jean, with this miracle – she gave me a tip about freeing up my hips in the pose and it’s been totally different ever since.
3. Cheats: I picked up my back heel in parivritta parsvakonasana. I know it’s supposed to be down, but if you’ve ever tried it, it’s incredibly awkward. If some Ashtangi out there can convince me that there’s some benefit, maybe I’ll work on it. Similarly, I do not bring my hands together in utkatasana. Utkatasana is another one that’s already uncomfortable enough on its own and you don’t need to go and make it more uncomfortable by forcing your shoulders do things they don’t want to do.
4. Skips: I thought for sure I could do every pose up through kurmasana (which is why I initially planned to stop there), but it turns out that pretty much every joint in my leg is incapable of twisting itself into janu sirsasana C and marichyasana b and d. I spent a few minutes looking at the picture, trying to persuade my knees and ankles to cooperate, wondering if the pose was even humanly possible and then finally giving up.
5. Vinyasa: Speaking of skips. I think my dear friend and Ashtangi, Laurie, told me that you’re supposed to do a vinyasa between every seated pose on every side (so, side A, vinyasa, side B, vinyasa). There was none of that today. I did both sides and then a vinyasa. This is one area of the sequence that I’m not on board with. I’m not saying eliminate vinyasa from the entire rest of the series – some of them are very well placed – but it’s hard on the wrists and I feel like all those jump throughs/backs (and let’s face it, these are more like ass-plants and crumble backs for me) are fluffing my rajas and I’m not getting into the juiciness of the poses. Although, it’s probably fair to point out that while I’m winding down during these seated poses, real Ashtangis are only halfway through the Primary Series and technically have like four or five other series after that (not really sure anyone actually does all six series), so they’re not as concerned with preparing for savasana at this point.
6. Ass-plants and crumble backs: Am I ever going to be able to do these? Ever? Today I was able to drop myself (literally, drop) into a cross-legged seated position on the jump through (slightly concerned about my tailbone) and the jump back was more of a press back to my knees, followed by a face plant, followed by me extricating my limbs out from under me and into plank, much in the way a cat does when it falls (“Me? Ungraceful? I have no idea what you’re talking about.”)
End verdict: Still fascinated, but I’m not sure I’ll stick with it in its purest form. If any ashtangis out there have some tips or stories to share, I’d love to hear them!