This shala is one of the more “strict” where I ever practiced.
Without any discrimination, it is from my personal point of view that people from Asia, wether Korea, China, Thaïland, Japan, are extremely dedicated practitioners, very precise and demanding. To me they are the best yoga practitioners.
As a matter of fact, I can see the dedication while practicing at the Ashtanga Yoga Center of Bangkok. The level is higher than anywhere, pretty closed to what we see at the main Shala in Mysore.
That is my first time here, and I do acknowledge, even thought I am not really fond of Bangkok, I might reconsider another visit there, just to practice for one full month.
Teachers are very stricts, but not mean. They correct vinyasas when they see student not doing them perfectly.
As a general rule, each practitioner will be on their mat for at least 2 hours minimum or 2h30.
I am starting at 6.45 AM and by 8.55 AM I am done.
Repeat the Asana
One of the thing I noticed is, students are repeating, redoing the asana a significant number of time. This morning one practitioner fell from a hanstand to Urdha Dhanurasana. She did not complain. She came back on her mat and did the same thing at least 10 times.
Each time you are repeating, doing again, the breathing will be moved from one point to another one. The breathing is the key, wherever you bring it, it will change the posture and the manner of entering it.
Right now, I am working breathing toward my legs instead keeping it only in my chest, as I am still struggling for standing up back from Urdhva Dhanurasana.
Yesterday, I was watching one practitioner while she was dropping back.
I noticed her feet were slightly opened outside of the mat, which allowing her to bring the body weight toward the inner feet. I decided to do the same, even thought I am fully aware that for all backbends, femur bone should be in internal rotation. By doing so, femur bone were toward an external rotation.
Obviously it was much easier, I started feeling my legs taking the body weight and as I was about to finally standing up from down, the teacher came on my mat, realigned my feet inward….. I was desperate…..
She then help me to stand up. I looked at her, she said “your feet, in not out, your knees in, not out. Do it again“…..
I was slightly down….. I threw a glance at the practitioner dropping back with her feet in Charle’s Chaplin mode. The teacher followed my gaze, smile at me and said “YOU can do it, do it again“….
Came back on my mat. Lift on Urdhva Dhanurasana, walked toward my feet, as I was about to lift my heels, teacher bring them down. At that level of backbend I was able to see the back of my heel. I thought every thing was perfectly fine and under controle, as much closer you get from your heel, the much easier is become for standing up.
Then the teacher press down on my illiac bone, asking me to push against it, in order to bring my pelvis higher and my knees down.
Even thought I fully understood the concept, it was physically and mentally impossible to realise. I first tried to understand the proprioception, where was I in the space, keeping the gaze to my heels, then understanding the movement….. which I could not…. How can I bring knees down, if I can not move my feet slightly inward? I do not have that flexibility, the intelligence of my body is not yet at that level.
After struggling for a long time (it was long to me but it seems not even one minute), the teacher brought me back and said : “tomorrow, now paschimottanasana“…… at that particular moment I just wanted to cry. But I did not.
This morning it was very hot.
In Bangkok on May temperatures are very high, around 35°, and it does not really go down. I do believe that in the shala, it was about 36°. The practice was sweaty like hell and I was thankful toward all the Bikram Yoga practices I attended. I really believe it helped me to understand how to manage the heat while being physically active.
To practice safely in such condition, the breathing is the key, everything will be relying on the inhalation, absolutely EVERY movement has to be done consciously with proper breathing.
Which means all transitions has to be done as its own pace, slowly but very precise. Everything has to be done with the intention of lengthening without any compression.
If we start shortening movement, the supply of oxygen toward the limbs will not be sufficient enough. Therefore the head will become red, breath too short and the body will come to a point of passing out.
It is important to use all inter costal muscles for each breath we are taking while performing one vinyasa toward the next asana.
There is no need of attending any anatomy classes to understand that concept, only the practice will teach you how to move conscientiously.
I have counted absolutely all Vinyasas until I reached Navasana.
From that moment, I was already practicing for one hour. My breathing was pretty deep.
Finally I was about to start backbending. Trying not to nourish any expectation.
I started with the three Urdhva Dhanurasana, walking toward my heels. At the third one the teacher was already on my mat.
The first thing she did: realigned my feet (honestly speaking, I was about to cheat), and squeeze my knees in (did not expect that), then instruct to backbend again.
Once in the asana, she brought space between the illiacs and my lower ribs. My body understand the movement, however my brain can not translate it to my pelvis.
She makes me stay in that pose for five breathes, that seemed to me 10 breathes.
I noticed the veines of my arms getting bigger and pumping all the blood. There is absolutely no pain in my body, just witnessing what is going on in my body.
She stood me up. And of course she asked me to re do it again.
Which I did.
She told me I need to work FROM my legs, I know she is right, my knees have always been my weakest part in my body.
She then blocked my feet with hers. Therefore there was absolutely no way for me to go in outward rotation, only inward is the way to go. Suddenly I felt muscles in my legs, all around knees working like they never did before since the last decade.
It was so powerful, when I came back up I had the feeling that my legs were gone.
She then said: “Your flexibility is good, rib cage is good, spine is good, arms are good, knees not good, need more muscles“…..
She asked me to do it again. Which I complied. While standing up I worshipped all the Saints that I know, “Jesus, Marie-Joseph holly f***ing Christ“. The sensation was so strong I was about to pass out.
She then looked at me and brought her arms to her chest, I understood that now she wants me to do the three drops back without going down, then three going down AND swing, then one where I will stay for 5 breathes, while trying to grab my heels….. as for now, physically that is not possible for me.
I diligently looked at her, hands in Namaste and said “finish?”…. she laughed. Then Paschimotanasana toward the closing Series.
From Asana toward Pranayama
This is not Yoga you might think.
To which I will reply: “Blablablabla“…..
Once your mind and mental is stabilised, body open, after such a practice, I can assure you that for 99.999999% it will be possible to seat in Padmasana, without moving one hair, for about 10, 20 or 30 minutes. The breathing will be calm, steady and comfortable.
Then meditation will be happening.
Tomorrow is the new moon, no practice.
However, looking forward to Sunday morning!