Should I really master surya namaskar A with correct breathing before I start adding SN B to my practice?
Here’s some background:
I’m not particularly flexible and about 30-40 lbs overweight, yet despite all rationality I feel compelled to start practicing ashtanga yoga. I’ve been reading a lot about it and practicing 6 days/week for 2 weeks now. That’s not a lot of time, I know. I’m not seeing results yet, but I do feel better when I do it. I’ve been following (name removed) advice and just doing Surya Namaskar A 5 times and the last 3 closing poses each morning. I tried a SN B this morning and my form is really bad… forget about breathing correctly.
thanks for the advice!
So I answered this pose specifically in an e-mail, but I will answer it non specifically here. Please note, I am answering from my experience and knowledge alone.
Even though Sharath has authorized many more teachers, there are still many ashtangis out there who don’t have a teacher nearby. If they are fortunate, they can get to a workshop or two with an authorized or certified teacher every now and then. Traditionally, you would wait for your teacher to give you the next pose but if you only see a teacher once every few years or you practice alone, what are you supposed to do? What if the teacher comes to town but does not do any Mysore during the workshop? Then what?
I absolutely believe in the traditional route and If you are regularly working with a teacher, then trust their wisdom. Try your best to go and see an Ashtanga teacher before adding on. Look up yoga studios in the surrounding area or neighboring states and save your money for a visit. However, here is some advice for those lone home practitioners.
You can do the previous poses with full deep breaths and correct vinyasas-you should not be taking breaks, out of breath or exhausted. If you are constantly fidgeting, distracted or frequently taking extra breaths, then stay with your current practice.
You can do the previous poses-You should be able to do the full variations of the poses on count. If you modify for structural issues, I recommend going to see a certified or authorized teacher to see if they can give you tips on the pose that will make it accessible for your body. I have worked with students who were told or believed their bodies could not do something so they were modifying and changing everything. After working with them, they actually could do the poses, they just didn’t know how to approach it for their body.
Even though students have moved on in Mysore or with certified and authorized teachers when they could not do the full pose, the reasoning was understood by the teacher and it was not done on the whims of the student. I really caution against moving on from a pose, if deep down, you have given up on ever being able to do it. If you are modifying poses, and you chose to move on, be very honest with yourself about why.
There are poses in the series that are really hard to get into by yourself like Supta Kurmasana in Primary or dropping back in Supta Vajrasana in Intermediate. Usually when the student can bind with a teacher, they can move on. You will have to use your own judgement and honestly ask yourself if you could possibly bind in these with help.
If you find yourself modifying alot of poses in a series, do not move on to the next series without consulting with a certified authorized teacher.
If you can do the full poses but it takes you a long time to get into each one, spend more time with the poses and establish more ease.
You Practice Regularly-A huge component of Ashtanga is discipline. Many teachers will not give additional poses to students who are not disciplined. If you cannot regularly practice the poses you do have, it is going to be even more difficult to be disciplined with a longer sequence with harder poses. If your practice is sporadic, it is best to do a few poses really well than to do a bunch of poses mediocre.
Ashtanga is also about the mind. An undisciplined mind is not ready for more advanced yoga.
Do you have a question about moving on? Submit it to email@example.com. I will answer it or find someone who can!
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Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail email@example.com.