Da Balm

Here’s the quandry. I want to practice ONLY Primary. But if I practice ONLY Primary, then I think it is quite likely that my backbends will suffer. I have made lots of progress in opening my chest and learning to squeeze the vertical back muscles around my spine to create a semblance of a backbend. But practicing Second up to Supta Vajrasana in addition to all of Primary takes an intimidatingly long time. An a-motivationally long time. I think about it and cringe the way I used to cringe about running 18 miles on a Sunday. On days when I can’t make it to the shala because of home or school obligations, I spend half the day thinking about my practice and the other half slogging through it, stopping every few poses to water a plant or move a stone in the garden.

But I can’t give up any portion of Primary. Primary is the balm, or da bomb; either one is accurate. It’s the panacaea. It seems to me that Primary put me back together. Not that it did much for my backbending. But everything else. Ever since I’ve been practicing all of Primary (about a year now), as opposed to half of it, and the two thirds of it, I have felt positively vibrational. I radiate energy. I feel like a beacon of health. I can’t give that up. My balm. My panacaea.

If you don’t count backbending.

And there’s the rub. Today, I had an amazing backbending practice, despite practicing only Primary. But I really don’t think that would be the case if I blew off Second Series on a regular basis.

I just HATE Kapotasana. It’s not like how I felt about Supta Kurmasana, which I looked forward to, with hope, each and every day. I think. Every day, I dread Kapotasana. Cos gets one hand at a time to my toes, and I feel like screaming, even though it doesn’t hurt. The hand that she isn’t putting on my foot, is flailing around, probably smacking her. I can’t be sure because I’m practically unconcious while it’s happening. Shock and fear have a way of doing that.

And it’s kind of funny because I always thought I wanted to practice Kapotasana. But I have to say, I could definitely do without it. And I really don’t care if I ever get to practice anything past Kapotasana either.

Bottom line, I think I am really not “over” Primary. I feel like I’m just getting started. Just getting my Primary groove on. I’m finally keeping the heels of my hands down when I jump forward. I’m finally learning to jump straight into Buja Pidasana.

Oh, woe is me. What a stupid problem to have, don’t you think? Too many poses? Too much asana to choose from? Wah wah wah.

I love Ashtanga. I love how it makes me a little bit braver. A little bit stronger. A little bit more fearful even as it makes me a little it more fearless.

But it’s kind of a drag talking about it. I have to say. I am losing steam on the Ashtanga blogging. As if that weren’t obvious. What is there to say anymore? “My chest cracked open just a little bit today.” Blah blah blah. There is nothing to really say. Well, that’s not completely true. I AM learning to find a backbend in Mari C and D. But it’s too boring to tell.

So there you have it. My perfunctory posting.

Coming soon: my review of a music CD sent to me by Cyndi Lee’s publicist, of all people. She must not read my blog. But honestly, I really like the music on the CD. After listening to it a few times, I decided that I actually CAN write something positive about it, as long as I ignore the stick figure drawing of an Om Yoga asana sequence that comes with it, which is pretty easy to do considering that there is nothing at all about the CD that would really lend itself to an asana practice. But it does happen to be really good, mellow ambient music. And Michael Hewett features prominently, and I am a huge fan of his. So. Stay tuned.

Oh, and Lost ROCKS.



8 Responses to Da Balm

  1. Diana says:

    Points to ponder:
    Is it the ashtanga primary series or the discipline of a daily practice (a daily CHALLENGING practice) da balm?
    The fear and dread is all too familiar to me: the cure to it is familiarity–not avoidance.
    Primary series IS healing– but consider your gardening tools. Once you use a strong tool to cut down an overgrown tree–do you still need the same tool to clip other plants? Perhaps some tools are no longer useful on a daily basis? Or not…..

  2. DebPC says:

    I think that in fact avoidance may be the cure.

    Lately I have not been feeling like training for a marathon AT ALL, despite the fact that Portland (Oregon) is on my schedule in October. So maybe I won’t do it, because, as you alluded to, I have been dreading the long runs. Not dreading in a good way, just plain not wanting to do them. Knowing that I’d be fitter in some ways, but also more tired and worn down and possibly even injured.

    Does that mean I will never do a marathon again? No. I may even decide in August that I’m ready to ramp up the mileage for Portland.

    But again, like you, I’ve been enjoying an “easier practice” lately. Which, by the way, includes the 14 mile round trip run/hike up and back from 7,000 to 10,4000 feet that I did yesterday in preparation for the Mt. Evans Ascent in 3 weeks. So it’s not like I’m getting out of shape, as you wouldn’t if you only practiced primary.

    Will your backbends suffer? Maybe, as will my ability to run longer than 14-15 miles. Does it matter? I don’t know. Probably not. Especially since the ability is always there to pick up where you left off. Sure it’s a little harder again. So what.

    Yoga is supposed to release tension, not create it (Baron). So if second is creating tension for you, let it go. As you know well, life is too short to force yourself to do something that makes you unhappy.

  3. Al says:

    how about this: practice primary only and then at another time of day spend 20 minutes or so working on backbends. this is working for me as I don’t have the long practice to dread and I’m even progressing more than when they were attached to primary. my plan is that, when the backbends don’t feel quite so onerous, I can add them back into the regular practice.

  4. Diana says:

    I did in no way intend to say you should practice a pose if it hurts. Please forgive any of my ponderng points if I implied that:)
    I do not practice ashtanga as taught by CH (my first teacher) anymore…..the sequencing of the poses did not make sense to me after many years of dedicated practice.
    I do however practice many of asana’s-including kapotasana- Most of my sequencing is derived from an extensive Iyengar background.
    There is NO RULE that says you have to practice kapotasana within the second series of ashtanga yoga as taught by Pattabhi Jois. Perhaps that is one of many tools available to examine ourselves:)

  5. ashtangi says:

    sorry to be amused at your expense but I do believe you are the ashtanga poster child for the “grass isn’t always greener” Remember how you used to whine whine whine about not getting enough poses, attention from sir? You even divided your time between teachers so that you could get the most benefit in gain.

    I think you should just suck it up and keep moving forward. I also think you are right about closing up the blog shop. You have already done more than enough service to the yoga community at large, even if some folks in the past have not seen it that way. It’s been nice to see that the snarkiness and gossipy items that so informed your early
    blogging, and banned you from other group blogs (sorry, has evolved in a more positive direction.

    wishing you only the best.

  6. festerwolf says:


    I’ve read your blog off and on for awhile, and felt I had to respond to this one since I’m going through exactly the same thing. Based on what you’ve said your challenges are, I’d say we’re physically similar, though, as an ex-bodybuilder, I have been practicing full primary since 2003 (!!!!) 6 days a week and I am just now at the same place you are just about exactly. Backbends are the worst for me, and doing second up to supta vajrasana, as I’ve been doing since last November, sometimes makes me want to cry or not practice at all. As you say, it’s just so long. Often I did that 3 days and then full primary the other days. Last week an ashtangi friend of mine was in town, so we did fully primary with second up to supta v every day. I’ll tell you, that was enough to make me never want to do it again. I was tired, and so sore and over-stretched that when I rode my mountain bike up some hills it really hurt my left hip. So this week I didn’t practice for 2 days. I felt awful. Then I did just primary today and it felt blissful. Like you, I’m worried about not doing second because of backbends, but I think I’m just going to do primary until I feel like doing primary plus again. I know from your posts you have no trouble with will, so I’ll bet if you don’t do full primary plus for a few days you’ll want to again. And congratulations on coming along as quickly as you have–it’s taken me SO much longer. And it feels right now like I will dread kapotasana, and be agonizing in it with it still looking awful, for another five years!!

    all best,


  7. Yoga Chickie says:

    Five years of full primary????!!!! ARGH!!!!! But think of how much that taught you about patience! On the other hand, I wonder if all of those years of full primary without Second made your backbends more difficult…

    I often wonder if my backbends have backslid in the past few years, since I have been practicing only Primary, and not even all of it, at that.

    Well, bygones. I can’t NOT practice Second. I feel compelled. Even when I tell myself I only have to practice Primary. I still end up practicing Second. But I do like your idea of some days only Primary, and some days adding in Second. I think that’s kind of what I did when I was learning Supta Kurmasana – even though I practiced every day, I honestly don’t think that I was going all the way up to Supta Kurmasana with assistance every day. Maybe a couple of days a week. I think that my body knows that I have to ease into these things…

  8. V says:

    Body not weak, mind is weak.

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