Just Ashtanga Primary

“Just primary today”, or, “I’ll only do primary” I hear this all the time from students. Like, any seasoned teacher, you learn to hold your tongue, but want I want to say is primary series, IS the series. Later sequences are an elaboration on these fundamental essential openers. If you’re not bored with these, then, from my perspective, after 20 years of practice and chasing the advanced postures for so many of these, stick to this ‘Primary Series’ and keep tracing the threads of your experience in an ever more subtle and internal discourse.

Of course, most of us don’t come to yoga with a mind purely intent on Self-abidance, ‘Yuj’, to yoke, to be present and accept what is in the present. We get bored with the same stuff after a while, we need further challenges and complications, the old stuff doesn’t give us that buzz anymore, it’s just the same as normal life. So, then comes the main role of the ever more extravagant and extreme body contortions of the later series, to keep the mind’s attention until the deeper levels really interest. Before then, we’ve all needed the excitement of the show moves.

So, before you go to say this next time, maybe reconsider. Also, ask yourself honestly, if all the vinyasas have been done correctly. The postures are one thing, but the way they are linked, demands a whole other level of strength and skill. It’s OK that this is not complete, it takes a real strength to pull this off, I’m still working on primary and I’ll admit it.

We want the practice to give us life and energy, not to be so demanding that we’re completely wrung out every morning and good for nothing else. Yoga needs to be used skilfully depending on what we want out of life; most want a life outside yoga, not exclusively focused on it. Hence, primary series is again very appropriate, setting one’s body and mind up for a day of living the yoga, life lived with clarity, energy, and integrity. Of course, there are those that want to devote life exclusively to yoga and then, perhaps, later, more psycho-energetic postures are beneficial, but it then has to be understood that there are many sacrifices of normal life required.

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