Wednesday, September 19, 2012

All About Ashtanga: Finish to Week One, The Bandhas and the Moon Cycles

Original photo by Peter Lik

"Under every full moon lies a reflection of the stars,
and under every star lies a reflection of someone's soul."
-Ruthie Fer Shure

I finished week one of Mysore practice, right as my "women's holiday" was about to start, as David called it. During our session last week, I asked questions I've always been curious about.

First, it started with which breath corresponded precisely with which movement. As David clarified the inhales and exhales of the Vinyasa (breathing & movement system), he noticed where I would hold or not exhale completely.

"Always take an extra breath if you need," he encouraged. "More breath is never a bad thing." At his suggestion, I exhaled completely before moving into Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, then took an extra breath to move through the next series.

"Why are there moon days when Ashtangis don't practice yoga?" I asked, after a series of Surya Namaskar A & B.

David looked at me, smiled slyly, then responded in a Hindi accent, "Two planets, one place. Very dangerous."

I chuckled at his imitation of Pattabhi Jois, after which he explained in more seriousness that when asana is practiced daily, rest days are important. Ashtanga recommends at least one day of rest, and an extra biweekly 'moon day' gives another day for the body to rejuvenate.

"What about when a woman is on her cycle? She's not supposed to practice then, either?" I followed.

"Well, when a woman is menstruating, her body is going through a lot," David clarified. "And, since it is apana energy that is moving outward, you don't want to practice mula bandha to keep it in, and you don't want to practice asana without mula bandha. So, it's suggested that women take three days off when on one's cycle."

"Pattabhi Jois used to do everything around the house when his wife was on her cycle. That was the traditional way of doing it, because it was her time to rest. You have to have a really strong partnership and understand that you're both in it for the long haul, to be able to honor traditions like that. He understood that she needed to rest, so he did all the cooking and cleaning. And, even though it's recommended that we have days of rest, Pattabhi Jois was known to teach every day. His family kept encouraging him to rest, but he did not want to."

Part of our conversation was a nice break from the practice and as sweat dripped down my temples as he asked, "Do you want to know more?"

Ever a student of almost any type of learning, I nodded eagerly.

"The bandhas help to direct the prana along the nadis (energy channels). They stoke the internal fire," he said as he proceeded to remind me of where each of the bandhas are in the body. Mula Bandha is at the root of the body, Uddiyana Bandha is at the core, and Jalandhara Bandha is at the throat. "Without bandha control, the breathing will not be correct and the asanas will have no benefit."

I nodded and thanked him for the clarification, then we both got up for him to direct me through a series of standing poses, where I relied upon myself for keeping an accurate and even breath count. I found myself fumbling through what came next, which is likely why after class, he told me, "You must study."

"Yes, yes," I responded, acknowledging he was right. "And maybe come earlier, so there are more people."

Inwardly, I wanted to tell him that I liked the individualized attention — and was a little intimidated by it, too.

After four days of rest, which my elbows are grateful for too, I'm back at it tomorrow. We'll see what else unfolds!

No comments:

Post a Comment