The Beauty of Primary Series
One of the many things I love about Ashtanga Yoga is the beautiful design of the sequences. The science of the practice is phenomenal in weeding the unnecessary out which frees the natural essence to shine through. We do not need to “figure out” how it works. We know that it does because our tangible experience shows us that it does over and over again. Stay true to your path and the rest will unfold.
As time goes on, you can look through the lens of practitioner and teacher and watch the myriad of transformation the practice brings about within yourself and others. I appreciate lending myself over to a vaster flow of wisdom and understanding than I myself as an individual might have. I have, however, observed through time the ways it works so I can help guide my students.
When doing the same sequence every day, it is natural that you might experience moments of boredom or crave some novelty. Therefore, as a teacher, I try to help keep my students minds engaged in their practice. For some that might mean pointing out a dark corner they were not paying attention to. For others, offering a “project” or helping them work towards taking a posture or sequence to the next level. To me, the bottom line is to help keep the students’ minds engaged and interested in the present moment and trying to understand what the next step may be for their healing and growth process.
When you have experience with the sequences beyond Primary Series, it gives you a broader perspective of it. You can see it and know it from different angles because there is something to compare it to. In the last couple of years and in contrast to practicing Intermediate and Advanced, I have come to appreciate Primary Series even more.
Primary Series is incredibly grounding. If your practice ever makes you feel too jacked up energetically or panicky in any way, it is recommended you practice Primary Series for a while. If you are traveling or going through a huge life change, practice Primary Series.
Primary Series will help you stay grounded through transitional times. If you are an advanced practitioner, know that it is just a phase, a very short time in the broader scheme of things. Once your energy integrates, slowly work back into Advanced.
The reality is you cannot always have your foot on the gas pedal. There are times to accelerate and times to slow down and integrate. Be wise about it. Is it worth risking harm or injury to yourself? What is most important is to be on the mat day after day. Through thick and thin you continue to show up and give it your best effort in the moment. That is what is true. “Consistent practice over time will stop the mind from fluctuating” is what Patanjali says.
For those of you who do not love Ashtanga Yoga because there are too many chaturanga dandasanas or because you get bored with doing the same practice every day, I would like to share a perspective I have on this…
I do not think it is true that this practice is more beneficial for males. I believe it hits on the universality of the human Soul. Furthermore, I have found in myself and working with several women of different ages and ability levels that the repetitive motion of lifting up, taking the legs back, chaturanga, upward dog, downward dog is the most beneficial aspect. The repetitive motion of this sequence works very hard to get the practitioner to feel, experience, and come from their core and discover their bandhas.
The problem lies with improper technique. It is important to make sure you are not trying to do it all in the shoulders and upper body. Good technique which can be developed from a healthy plank position and use of the bandhas in synchrony with the breathe will help the practitioner learn to utilize their core. Chatauranga should be happening in the core. When the practitioner learns to use the core, physical stress will be relieved from the wrists and shoulders, there will be more ease, and a healthy core usually supports a healthier back. Your belly cannot be lazy in this posture.
The inhale and picking up the body should also be done using the core, and the constant repetitive motion of this helps to develop an experience of bandhas. If you stay true to this path and honestly try to do it correctly every time, you are bound at some point to have an experience of your bandhas.
As you look deeper into the connection of waking up your core, there is a mental and emotional benefit to this also. This area of the body falls under the Manipura Chakra, which is the solar plexus. On a physical level, it aids digestion. On an emotional level, this literally is your power center. This is where lessons surrounding your personal will, validity, and self support are governed. There is so much value to exercising your strength. Start with the physical motion. The mind and the body are not separate. To move the body, it starts with a thought or intention in the mind.
The constant practice and development Primary Series offers the practitioner is infinitely valuable. I have found it to be the most effective therapy. In terms of empowerment, healing issues surrounding self worth, and overcoming any possible “victim” mentalities, this is a potent medicine!
With this being said, perhaps women can benefit from this the most. Society has and still is in some areas of the world structured in a way that can leave women feeling less valuable and less powerful in society than men.
Therefore, as a woman, I encourage you to go for it! This practice is not for men alone. Strength comes from within. Don’t be afraid to exercise it. Find your power in a healthy way. That way everybody wins.
Love to All Beings.
Owner, Director, Teacher – Ashtanga Yoga Center, Outer Banks, NC