If you don’t keep up with Linda’s Second Trip to Mysore Blog (the First Trip to Mysore was completed, and upon Linda’s return, took on a really fun and flip Sex and the Shala kind of vibe before Linda decided to pull it out of syndication in the interest of not alienating one of the topics of her fun and flip blog entries), well, let me give you a quick rundown: Linda is still practicing like the adorable Meg Ryan-looking madwoman that she is, is still rocking her way through Second, is still living the Sex and the Shala lifestyle (Yogarella does go out, but she might go home early sometimes) but has now settled into a relationship with a fellow yogi, fellow Ashtangi, in fact. Let’s call this Ashtangi, “A”, as that is what Linda calls him.
A is a Jivamukti-trained yoga teacher. As many of you may already know, Jivamukti is an Ashtanga-based vinyasa practice. There are always sun salutations, there is always a shoulder-stand-centered finishing sequence that follows at least three Urdvha Dhanurasanas. In between the Sun and the Final Fish are sequences of postures drawn from Ashtanga. But not just Primary Series. In a Jivamukti class, you may be struggling with Uttitha Parsvakonasana (from the Ashtanga Standing Series), but you still may have the opportunity to float up into Mayurasana (which appears about halfway through the Ashtanga Second Series). And nearly every Jivamukti class includes Ardha Matsyandrasana (which is bound in Jivamukti classes by anyone who can do it), another Second Series posture. Mari A and Mari C sometimes appear, but not many people can bind in C. Mari B and D are never included. Kurmasana is unlikely to appear in a Jivamukti class; however Badha Konasana and Upavishta Konasana are often included. Side plank – or Vasistasana – will usually appear in a Jivamukti class. And Pincha Mayurasana is as likely to be included as Headstand or Handstand.
Jivamukti is a FUN place to practice if you can get beyond the intense vegan dogma and the loooooong dharma talks and sometimes silly pranayama that takes up the first 20 minutes or so of a Jivamukti class. You get to warm up deeply, with lunges often thrown into Sun Salutations. You get to bind in postures that don’t have binds in Ashtanga – Uttitha Parsvakonasana and Parivritta Parsvakonasana. You often get to explore a variety of versions of one-legged king pigeon (Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana). The music is rollicking, which dovetails nicely with my musical sensibilities.
In a Jivamukti class, strength matters just as much as flexibility, which is kind of refreshing, given Ashtanga’s intense focus on flexibility (remember – in Ashtanga, no one “cares” how you jump back, but they DO care if you can bind in ….Supta K….what else did you think I was going to say?!). In a Jivamukti class, there is a playfulness that simply cannot exist in a quiet Mysore session.
So, with all of that in mind, I urge you to read THIS spirited, spontaneous and fascinating discussion/debate over what IS Mysore practice. Is it about the tradition handed down by Guruji? And if so, which tradition, exactly? Guruji taught different groups of senior teachers differently. While I know that my teacher, Sir, teaches his shala students in the same manner in which he was taught, I also know that the way he was taught is not the way every other teacher was taught. Swenson and Williams were definitely not taught in the same way that Sir was, and as a result of the way they were taught, they have certain biases and ideas about how things SHOULD be taught, with all due respect to Guruji. Tim Miller, Chuck and Maty, Nancy Gilgoff: all different. NOT “California Style”, which implies a free-wheeling, rules-breaking, laissaiz faire approach (when I use the term “California Style”, I use it to refer specifically to the practice of adding Samakonasana and Hanumanasana into the Standing Sequence). But different.
The blog entry that sparked the debate was Linda’s description of A’s approach to teaching a brand new student what seemed like essentially, too much of Second to be absorbed in one go. A few of us, via comments or via emails (to me, actually, since I have such a loud mouth on Linda’s blog) basically eviscerated A for not doing it the way our teachers do it. I went so far as to say that I wouldn’t want to be taught by someone who was teaching in the way A was teaching because I WANT the tradition. Then K spoke up, and it made me go…Hmmmmm.
K made me stop and think: what is tradition? what does it mean to practice in the Mysore style? Are the rules we follow really “rules” or did we just make them up to go along with our idea of what Mysore style SHOULD be? Are we just trying to make up reasons for why our teachers give us or don’t give us poses? Who is to even say what the effect of giving or withholding poses may be in the case of one student versus another? I mean, in my case, I love to bitch and moan about how slow Sir is taking me through Primary. But on the other hand, it wouldn’t feel right to me to go on to the next pose without mastering the one I am working on. Did Sir’s way work its way into my construct? Or did I find Sir because I needed that sort of discipline?
It’s interesting stuff. Worth a read. And Linda loves the attention!!!