There are two versions of the Simha Krama in Matthew's book: the more therapeutic (as he puts it) and the more firey and adventurous. Basically, the more advanced version moves more quickly, includes all of the moves of the therapeutic incarnation, and also adds on more advanced postures (for example, Kapo variations as well as the regular Ustrasana variations).
My favorite move (and one I can't pull yet) from the advanced Simha Krama is a kneeling dropback to a tiptoe Kapo, only as a transition to rolling ONTO the hands, into Urdhva Dhanurasana and thence even to standing up. I think that is freakin WILD.
So I did the advanced SK up to Kapo variations and then called it a practice. There was leg-behind-head prep stuff and inversions and twists, but MS recommends doing only sections of the SK anyway, so that's what I did.
Standing backbends and salutations, standing poses, lunges, a beautiful pigeon sphinx twist (mmmmmmmm), the deep feet-apart cobras (so intense, so yummy), lotus vinyasa, simhasana itself (mmmm, yummy), various backbends.
I cannot do anything more in Kapo than Kapo (for example, no one-leg Bhekasana, no one-leg Ardha Badda Padma), so in those variations, I dropped back into Kapo (four times, total) and then played with arm straightening, thigh engaging, shoulder-blades-down-backing and other bits and pieces of the backbends. Experiments.
Pressing one arm straight as possible, with the other one on the calf, in Kapo, was very fun for learning about the relationship between front body, lumbar spine, and armpit/tricep/shoulder. Sort of an Ardha Kapotasana B, maybe.
Kapotasana itself (I dropped into it, walked in twice, took five breaths in my modified A and then pressed upward (but not up) and took five more in a modified B) remains an earthquake for me, but that's par for the course, and to improve with practice. Less fear, the more I do it. Duh.
I wanted actual Urdhva Dhanurasana but after four Kapo's I just didn't have it in me and that was fine.
How long, again (remind me) have I had these SUPER CRANKY hip flexors? Since before July, I know. Every day, they are cranky. Morning, evening, you name it. So be it, I'm practically used to it. They help me want to practice (actually they only help me want to backbend; some days I have to FORCE Primary in order to get to my bit of Intermediate).
I realized today that I am, schedule-wise, teaching four academic classes, grading two large (~90 people each) lecture classes, doing research, and writing apps for the academic job market. I am also handling my student loan debt without too much panic. It's a lesson in how the long patience-building of dissertation and then of teaching-under-financial-strain has radically increased my inner strength. This workload would have crushed me without ANY question at ALL, three years ago.
They say that ashtanga yoga confronts one with one's fear. It's always seemed a bit of a refuge to me, a sort of chance to confront my power, to sort of "climb hard" on the yoga mat. This is probably because I started ashtanga around the time I was committing to dissertate, and at least for me, the dissertation was far spookier, more painful and more fear-chocked than any physical practice could ever POSSIBLY be. So ashtanga is really not confrontation for me--there's some patience in it, some stoking of desire to get on the mat now and then (that's more solitude than any aspect of the practice; when I'm in a community, I am THERE on the mat as much as I can be), but aside from specific fear like that of dropping back from standing, this is not where I "do" confrontation.
Because Indianapolis is a vinyasa town, its yoga focuses more on "being present" and flowing, and doing it "your way" than it does about the long-term "developing the pose" that ashtanga regularly demands. There is no comparison to be inferred here; it's simply that "working on one's yoga" here means being present, not trying to get the arms through in Garbha Pindasana (lotus, hands through, roll hither and yon).
I find in classes here that I have this truly uncommon reservoir of strength and flexibility and that I have for some time had the rep of being the guy who can pull any move in the room. This isn't native talent, people; it's not like I have a gymnast's or dancer's background, and I'm not a born contortionist. It's training. Ashtanga yoga; it's good for you.
I don't even think it's that I have greater tapas or anything like that; there are plenty of people here who are very hardcore about what they do. My partner likes to differentiate it by saying that for folks here, "working on the yoga" is not a big priority, and I think that's a fair way to put it. The whole idea of "you'll work on that pose" isn't really a major element here, whereas in Ashtanga (classically anyway) it's one of the primary (no pun intended) pieces. This isn't to say that there's less challenge here; it's simply of a different stripe.
So questions about my arm balances or my long hamstrings always, for me, go back to, pretty much, "having worked on the yoga." All of it: backbends, forward bends, whether I can bind a standing pose or not, all of that. It's all "having worked on the yoga." Jumping back and through. All of my dedication to Ashtanga in the early days was about wanting to know whether there would be some big spiritual breakthrough if I could just "do it right," could learn the full sequence, could smooth out the bumpy places. "Everywhere you look, you see God," Pattabhi Jois had said. Was it true? Can I, to paraphrase Ruben Carter, "make my body into a lens?" Long hamstrings are easy to acquire if you think they might crack your head open to the divine.
I guess I'm still on that trip, even as life events build my inner patience differently from how the yoga does. Dissertation was still harder than Kapo is, and also more rewarding. But I will have Kapo; I'm interested in doing a sequence which has Kapo in it (be it Intermediate or Simha Krama, which actually does NOT have classical Kapo in it).
And Kapo is the door, pretty much, in Intermediate. Sure, I can't pull a Dwi Pada by myself until I do it three times, and sure, I've never yet lowered in Karandavasana, nor have I done the classical exits from the seven deadly headstands, but those will come. I'm so, SO close to Dwi Pada-ing by myself, and Karanda is just a matter of proprioception. The seven deadlies are just a matter of confronting fear; I have plenty of strength for those.
So Kapo is the door, to whatever else awaits. It is a virtual certainty that I shake hands with Sthira Bhaga if I can do Kapo. That can come whenever; I'm willing to sit back here with my cup of Kapo for a while before knocking on that door. But it's there.
So be it. Saturday morning I return to the vinyasa show. I wonder what kind of stunts I'll pull there.