There is, as you no doubt know, a LOT of chitchat in the ashtangasphere (the digital one anyway) about rest, "what yoga is," and processings of "doing the yoga" in not just an 8-limbed way, but in a sort of wholistic (sic), perhaps even non-systemic, grander than that, way.
This is all very cool and I make certain to read up on all of it.
I'm sticking to asana porn, because that's currently where my focus on my own practice is. A quick comment about exercise: well, couldn't one say that attention to asana is just about exercise (I got the pose, I didn't)? Of course one can say this, but attention to asana doesn't mean that one's practice is necessarily JUST asana or, extending that, just exercise. This, of course, depends on the practitioner.
I don't divide my asana practice into strictly asana; as I think about it, how do I know what is "simply" asana? If I "wake up" in Janu Sirsasana B, where have I been? Did a moment of samadhi occur? Was there moving meditation? On a certain level, who cares? A game of "I am meditating" is like the surrealist painting which reads "This is not a Pipe." Am I processing or somehow "developing" or working on, my attempts to reduce anger at the world, in asana? Not most of the time, no. Am I somehow "growing" my mostly-vegetarianism? Nope.
What is the "point" of asana, then? Again, practitioner specific. I think we need to accept all answers to this question, at least if we're going to ask it. I do asana primarily because it has always been a fantasy of mine to have utter fluidity in all things. This came in part from the beautiful choreography of ninja movies in the 1980s, and then later from managing crowded frat-party environments; I used to pride myself on making no physical contact, and being able to get 3 full beer cups back to my company, intact. I would duck and move and lay on the "excuse me, thank you" over and over; it was to move and to move people.
Climbing has the same thing; fluidity without a jam, and you intensify the jam-test in order to learn greater fluidity. Asana practice adapts easily to such a model. So does (although I didn't intend it to) dissertation writing or handling bureaucracy. Zen lessons about "put it down" fit in here too. How FLUID can I be, how much flexibility, how many ways into, out of, around, through, a situation, can I manifest? Hell, it even works as a business model.
We are dancers, Satchidananda writes in his Sutras translation; we are master swimmers. Indeed, indeed!
Anyway, I promised some asana porn, yea?
Today, in procrastination and a scheduling kerfuffle, found me doing Intermediate to Karandavasana, 5 wheels, 3 dropbacks, and closing. 63 degrees in the house, me in 2 t-shirts and shorts.
Pasasana, bound both sides; one feet flat, one toes up. Krounchasana, face to shin. Shalabhasana, long breaths. Chill. I want more thoracic bend in Bhekasana, but I'll need an adjustment. The back ache from yesterday in the Dhanurasanas subsided. Ustrasana saw me with big internal thigh rotation and long breaths. Laghuvajrasana was a bit easier than usual; yes, as they say, NEVER STOP LOOKING AT YOUR NOSE.
Kapotasana: again, as recently, I have walked in, sunk down, and bumped my left toes. I couldn't maintain toe contact, but I could inhale, stretch, and bump them. It's coming. Five breaths striving for Kapo B, all of which happened in the hip flexors, particularly the right ones. Par for the course.
Supta Vajrasana: knees under futon. Another toe grab that did not come free; this is beginning to acquire me (or the other way around?). This time I concentrated on the arch, taking the elbows OFF the floor if I felt them contact it, and I was happier, but not totally content, with the pose.
I could NOT, today, land Bakasana B. That NEVER happens. The twists were deep; I find that Bharadvajasana can be intensified by pushing the backwards-facing hand palm DOWN. That's the anchor. The more pressure you put on the anchor, the more twist comes. In Ardha Matsyendrasana, my thigh-grab has been deepening (I've been able to grab the foot-arch in that pose for EVER).
I jump clumsily into Eka Pada, but I do it, and I've abandoned my compass pose development posture. Take it up, tuck it back, sit for five (to develop the stretch and the spinal flexors). Fold for five. Lose the LBH on the exit. Currently, this is par for the course, both sides.
Dwi Pada is coming along; I put lefty back first, and then take righty over with the right hand, and as I come over, the left foot slips, and I wind up sort of binding the front of both feet, over my head, and then cranking back on the shoulders to keep the half-bind up there. If I can make it a FIRM ankle lock, like in my Supta K exit of late, it'll all improve. I even got my hands off the floor for about a breath and a half today. Dwi Pada approacheth.
I'm too round in Yoga Nidrasana, but the pose itself is fairly easy to get into. When I was half into it, I did Susan's fun one-foot-to-each-hand sort of bent-knee Kasyapasana grab, and it was cool.
The Tittibhasana sequence is still smoking me to pieces right in the exchange from C (the walk) to D (the come-around-front bind). I can hold D (mostly with willpower) but there's about a 2-breath lag while I organize the feet and hands from C. I wonder if that's par for the course in that pose.
Pincha remains friendly. One leg up, one back, kick, hold. My partner was in and out of the room today, so I came down gentle in forearm stand, not timbering. Also, timbering scares the cats. Let's call it ahimsa.
Karanda: I Pincha'd up, made the half-lotus, and about lost the balance making the full lotus, so I put my head on the floor, crown right to the rug. This allowed me to make lotus, and I tried lowering, with head down, but that resulted in a pitching down of the heavy lotus and an attendant, loud, BUMP onto the buttocks. Hah! So much for THAT! Must press head back up, if lowering to headstand becomes necessary for lotus-binding.
5 Wheels, and no wrist wedge: this ALL happened in the right hip flexors. They stretched and complained at me for all twenty-five breaths. So be it; this is when they transform. They're allowed to complain.
3 dropbacks: well-earned ones, too, and because I was interested in being less ballistic, I took the heels up on each one. All of the landings were soft. On the second one, I came down on my knees and then sort of kipped back and up to a wheel. On the third one, I froze the pose in mid-air, arms extended and on tiptoes, for about a whole breath. That was freakin' cool. Again, straightening the legs reduces the depth, but puts the bend right in the hip flexors. This will be a game I play ALL SUMMER LONG.
A 15-8 closing made it a practice. It was brilliant; made me feel like Intermediate really IS my sequence.
Kapo, for my money, is STILL my hardest pose in Intermediate. It's harder than Karanda, but then, Karanda asks things of my strengths, while Kapo, obviously, works my weak links. Let us see if I still believe this when I try to heft the duck sometime soon.