It took me two years to complete the Primary Series.
As many of us my first obstacle was Marichyasana D. On January 2016 I started practicing at the BNS Iyengar Shala in Mysore under the guidance of Ramesh Shetty. At that time I was not able to do Parshvakonasana B properly, I used to cheat by lifiting my back heel from the floor, therefore I did not realise that I was not making any favor to myself as the more I was practicing this “variation” the less I was hopening my hip the way it was supposed to be. Ramesh Shetty has been the first teacher who tried, actually insisted (or forced me) to do it correctly. I thought it would not be possible for me as my knee was painful. I had knee surgery when I was in my teenage and my meniscus has been completely removed from my left knee. On my right knee my patella is moving, therefore I was 200% sure at that time that practicing the variation was a “Must” for me. But Ramesh had other plans for me and then each morning he was adjusted me, each morning I was practicing it against my will… and one day I was able to twist without cheating and without any pain…..
It was my first hint…. what if the Ashtanga Yoga was healing my body after all…. ?
On April 2016 I went to Purple Yoga Valley in Goa to practice with John Scott. I signed for the 4 weeks full intensive pratice. At that time and “because of my knees” problem I was not practicing Marichyasana D completely but doing the variation. I was happy with it, still I was practicing the full series, so why bother with this asana? There is a variation, I can do it, I’m happy and the teacher is happy, so everything is fine !
John Scott does not stop during the practice, he let you do whatever you want. He was also teaching the Full Vinyasa sequence, instead of doing half vinyasa for the sitting postures we were doing the full vinyasa so back to Tadasana each time. It was great, I really loved it, it was so good for my stamina, I really enjoyed it. No one really bothered me with Marichyasana D so everything was perfect.
I then applied at KPJAYI to practice with Sarawasthi from June to the end of July. I started the practice at the shala and David Roche was also there. When Marichyasana D came during the practice David asked me why I was doing the variation, I told him that I had a knee surgery and could not bind at all, he agreed as well Sarawasthi did not bother me with Marichyasana D. I thought after all the Primary Series is not that bad, I can still practice with variation.
Then I took the decision to enter in the big Yogic Chamber and applied for Sharat from November to end of December. And actually this is where it all really started.
The first class was a led class and Sharat did stop my practice at Marichyasana D.
And there I was with some others students, sitting on my mat and watching everyone else practicing while my body was getting colder of not moving. When Urdhva Dhanurasana came Sharat asked everyone to prepare…. I was surprised…. It has been 20 minutes or so that we are not moving at all and now we are all expected to do back bends? What a funny things to do…. Anyway I followed the flow and it was the worst Urdhva Dhanurasana I ever done.
The next day was Mysore Style. I have been adjusted in Marichyasana D. I remember it was a blond lady who did it, I really loved her adjustment, she sit on my mat, then put her legs on my folding knee and make me twist so easily that I was surprised. I could not bind on the right side but was able to bind on the left side. Still my practice was stopped there and I was required to go in the changing room to complete the closing series.
I was fortunate enough to receive that same adjustment with her for almost the first week. On the second week Sharat came to my mat and adjusted me, it was a very soft and gentle adjustment. In the middle of the third week I was only in need of adjustment for the right side but could manage the left side without any pain. At the end of the third week I was doing Marichyasana D on my own…. to my big surprise! Without any pain in the knee and even I used to stay more than 5 breaths to really allow my body to save this new information. When it happens Sharat was sitting on his chair, he looked at me and said “You see, you should learn it from the Source… then he said “Navasana”.
My second obstacle came with Supta Kurmasana. And this is where my practice stopped for the next 6 months. I was not able to bind, Sharat did adjust me a couple of time and then one day after my practice when I was showing him respect before leaving the Shala he asked me if I grabbed today in Supta Kurmasana, I told him no and he said “after the practice you should not walk, your thighs are too big that is why you can not bind in Supta Kurmasana…..” I was not very happy about it.
Beginning of 2017 I took the decision to travel for 7 months only for my practice.
My first stop was Ubud. I was following Iain Grysak blog for the last 2 years and when I met him in Mysore on November 2016 I took it as a sign, I had to practice with him. As Joy will say, one of Iain’s student “Iain is a Man of few words”.
For the full month of practice he stopped me at Supta Kurmasana, I was completely down, I thought that’s it, that the end of my practice. The first day he watched me struggling in the asana, the next day he adjusted me and I was able to bind and hold for about 2 secondes….
On the next week he did not adjust me, I used to see his feet toward my mat but he was not helping me, on the contrary he told me “You are giving up”…. I was pissed off…. because then I started watching others practictioners and could not understand why some of them could not bind and still were “allowed” to practice the full series and why some of them could not even do Marichyasana D and stil he was not stopping them! Basically I was telling my teacher “These Students are not good enough because they can not catch and you are not even notice it”??? Of course I did not express it loudly but I was litterally boiling from the inside.
Realising what I was thinking I came back to my accommodation and cried, I was completely down. In the same day I started developing fever and ear pain, went to the doctor and he told me I had an ear infection. On the top of it I was getting sick! One of the student told me “It is funny that you are having an ear infection as Supta Kurmasana is the withdrawing of the sense”…… I was stunned… was it really related?
Related or not this full month with Iain Grysak completely changed my approach toward the Ashtanga Yoga Practice. I was not applying Ahimsa or Santosha, I had to rethink my practice from scratch. I left Ubud for Thailand and Sweden and then came back 2 times to practice the same year with Iain Grysak. The day I did Supta Kurmasana on my own I was in Sweden, I sent him a message to let him know. After it Iain let me practice the full series under his guidance.
Ashtanga Yoga practice taught me that my obstacles are “personal”, they are not real.
This is why I am hooked to it.
This is why I am unfolding my Yoga mat every morning.