These four words were, and perhaps still are, a regular to hear from K. Pattabhi Jois. Alan Little, over here , in his first trip to Mysore, describes hearing them with his own ears for the first time.
There is maybe a certain militant flavor to this, as if it means "do the pose anyway, your lack of flexibility is all in your head." And perhaps you read that and think, well obviously that's why all you crazy ashtangis have all those overstretched muscles and injuries and so forth.
But I was thinking about this after yesterday's double practice: first, I did what I called a "70 percent" practice in the morning, and didn't bother with binding anything that didn't feel good, or stretching "all the way" for a wrist-bind in forward bends, or any of that. I left my upper body off the floor in Kurmasana and didn't cross feet in the Supta version of that pose. And sure, I have a more familiar practice, in which I lie out flat in Kurmasana and can bind my hands and feet in the Supta version, something like this .
Yesterday morning felt to me like my "base practice" for the fall, with all of its emotional challenges: the job market, money, debt, blah blah blah, all of that. And last fall/winter in my pre-dawn practices, poses did develop. The whole marvelous world of practice-at-dawn, which is TOTALLY different psychologically, emotionally, energetically (specifically the last one) from a led class in the late afternoon, with people and a dedicated "leave the world behind" space. So my 70 percent practice seemed, yesterday morning, to be the "start peg" for my fall practices to come.
And I felt that later, in the Intro to Second class that happens on Monday night, maybe I would have a different practice, first because it's later in the day (and we're all more flexible then; also less attuned, perhaps, to our limits, but more flexible, after moving around all day), second because the space is dedicated in a way that my house is not (less emotional wandering, less panic, better overall focus) and third because there have been more people (and for an extrovert like moi, more people is more power, more energy).
And so it was. Last night we had seven, SEVEN!! people in class. That may be a small number if you practice in Chicago or Encinitas, but in Indy for an ashtanga class? That is HUGE!!
And because some of those folks are our returning brave souls from IUPUI (the near university where I teach art history classes), we decided to do Primary rather than Intermediate (although I did my bit of Intermediate, about which see below). I broke a nice big sweat by the end of the Surya Namaskara A's and I knew the energy would be good. Took the toes in Trikonasana , head to floor in all four Prasaritas , nearly touchless jumpbacks throughout the seated series, same with jump throughs, bound both sides of Marichyasana D , did handstands after each round of Navasana , did the Tittibhasana-Bakasana "showy" exit from Supta Kurmasana, stuck Kukkutasana after the rolls in Garbha Pindasana, and then went to Intermediate after Baddha Konasana .
Pasasana was par for the course: feet flat turning right, on toes turning left. I was tired for the backbends, including Dhanurasana (the bow), Ustrasana (the camel) and the two more intense ones that follow. I did the dropback into Kapotasana but then just walked my hands in once and took five breaths and came out. Twists were good (including right foot up in half-lotus with no pain, hurrah!) and I jumped into Bakasana with no trouble and then stuck Eka Pada Sirsasana A (foot behind head), B (forward bend) and C (sit upright, press up with hands) on the right side, but lost C on the left side (last time, the left stuck and I lost the right).
From there I went to closing, and did 3 tentative pressups into the wheel from the floor, and then three wall-assisted dropbacks. Here is where we return to "body flexible, mind stiff": The floor pressups were all arms-bent; less bent with each pressup, but bent all the same. And that was fine, my lower back was feeling tentative so I went with it. BUT, the dropbacks, once I did some "finger-tap" half-descents down the wall, allowed me to walk my hands down to the floor moulding, and almost with my chest and armpits against the wall; that is a TIGHT wheel! And it felt fine, which, given my recent backbends, is totally inexplicable.
And so there it is: my mind was less focused that morning, more anxious about life stuff, and that, combined with the solitude and my own limited ability to "dedicate" my living room as a yoga space, brings "stiffer" energy.
I find asana practice to be more about energy and less about sheer anatomical muscle flexibility. Sure, my flexibility has developed. Strength and endurance too. But to account for differences between yesterday's two practices takes more than simply "I'm flexier later in the day." The whole psychology and energetics were different, and energy is where it's at for asana practice, eventually, once you get strong and flexy enough to handle Primary. Arturo has a great post about energetics, written yesterday. Check it out.
So now, and for the fall, asana practice will be for the mind: that's where flexibility must be achieved. In a very literal way, THAT is what I need to stretch right now.