Since last week, some of the highlights have been:
A week ago in the Tuesday night vinyasa show, I nearly hit a full front split (Hanumanasana) with the right leg forward; I could feel the back of the knee sinking down and the left hip about to open enough to permit it.
This was the same class where, during "do some inversions," I hit the seven deadlies, all of them, no wall contact, straight legs up, straight legs down (I folded at the hip, didn't do chaturanga exits).
I also floated (really floated, way moreso than in my regular Ashtanga attempts) a forearm stand (Pincha Mayurasana) and hit a wall-less handstand. Magic little day.
In last night's Intermediate:
I'd laid off asana practice almost entirely for a week. Bad emotional states, no future promises, soreness, tiredness, better payoff by attending to work. But it was a shockingly good practice!
Smoothness and ease in Pasasana, through the baby backbends, a smooth drop into Kapo but again, no feet. About three breaths between each pose, but that's where my Intermediate is right now; it's super hard if I try to crank it on breath pace. MUCH greater ease in putting leg behind head, both sides; the shin fits so snugly behind the neck! I almost, ALMOST, hit Dwi Pada with the right leg back first. I hooked the ankles and rolled backwards.
Tittibhasana sequence was a burner, too burnt for a stable Pincha, and I totally half-assed an attempt at Karandavasana. Sore wrist would NOT have Mayurasana, and I skipped Nakrasana too, but did all of the rest of Intermediate, seven deadlies included. The whole damn thing (that's not the first time: long-term readers will remember a day in November that I did Primary and Intermediate, in toto, back to back).
It has nothing to do with claiming that I "can do" that series; I'm pretty sure that a Mysore-style instructor would send me back to "stand up from a backbend" but who cares, it's not like I have access to one.
I got into Ashtanga for the sweat of it, totally the anamaya kosha rush. Pouring sweat, just like in mosh pits, in summer sex, in crowds of psychedelic dance. Some say that breath unites all life; for me, sweat is the contact substance, the great uniter. There is something tribal, primitive, hunterly, about it. Jane's Addiction touches this for me; that's why I keep their CD's around the house. All of the rhetoric about "purifying sweat" is in there too, and all of the more spiritual, "mind" holiness and such, all of that, is incarnate for me in sweat, in a sort of transformation, a shedding, a gaining, sweat as the proof of time, of the fourth dimension.
Mind-altering: I had substantial experience with mind-altering WAAAYYYY before I got into climbing and Ashtanga yoga. There was plenty of sweat in that too, running around big fields under the moon and such. That was about ten years before my climbing and Ashtanga days, and it's all the same. A ritual, however arbitrary, a search for holiness, the simultaneous wonderful/terrifying discovery that holiness IS UPON THEE! The incommunicability of it all, and the absolute LUST for that state in day-to-day life. It's all there, totally all the same.
Body, or more aptly, anamaya kosha, remains the center of the transformative seesaw. It's the most easily accessible thing, and of course it's all simultaneous with the others, but I feel that the other mirrors "clear themselves" by means of this one; if you like, this is the first door. This is why Arjuna (the German doctor and Ashtangi, not the character from the Gita) says that "Ashtanga yoga is not just Hindu aerobics! You will get a beautiful body, but this is not the point!" Indeed, this is not the point. It's not that I NEED sweat for holiness (anchoring all of it to the anamaya) but much more that sweat REVEALS the whole truth of the thing to me, re-awakens me to what it is to NOT be ASLEEP to it all.
In a less comfortable way, the same way that INJURY does, the same way that long FEVER does. Awareness of the body, really, awareness of ANY ONE THING (as Jason had recently posted) is ENOUGH, it brings it ALL.