Monday, December 7, 2009

One More Sleep...!

So you guys were RIGHT! No new poses are given on a Tuesday! I guess you learn something new everyday... (even if you're not supposed to learn something new on a Tuesday. HAHA.)

After dropbacks, Teacher came round to assist me with... whatchamacallit - y'know, it's done after dropbacks, but your arms are crossed in front of your chest and you get "dropped back" 3 times (kinda like hangbacks), and on the last one you place your hands down on the floor, walk them in as close as you can and hold 5 counts. Almost looks like Chakrabandasana prep. What's this sequence called again?

Yeah so anyways, after those whatchamacallitasanas, Teacher said "No new poses on Tuesday. So, tomorrow you get Intermediate."


I almost said "But why?" ...not that I was being petulant or spoilt or anything like that, I was just curious - why not on a Tuesday? What's the significance or thinking behind that? I'd never come across it before.

Interestingly, Caroline mentioned earlier on Twitter that nothing new is done on a Tuesday in India. It's bad luck.


Is that really it? Superstition and nothing deeper than that? That's pretty cute. So are there any other days that poses aren't given? Calling all Ashtangadorks, this is your time to shine! (I would guess none are given on Friday, since that's Primary day, and probably none on Sunday either, since that's when everyone does the led class in Mysore. Right?)

[UPDATE! So I've had an email from a friend explaining the above in more detail. This friend would prefer to remain anonymous, so here goes:

"In regards to no new asanas on Tuesday - As you may or may not know, yoga, the vedas and astrology all sort of co-mingle. They are all part of the same underlying reality that guides the Indian understanding of the universe around us. This is in conjunction with spirituality, religious beliefs, etc. It's all connected. Saying that, there are auspicious times to either start new things in one's life and there are times when you wouldn't start a new undertaking.

Tuesday and Saturday are the 2 days where (if you're a believer) you wouldn't start something new. Tuesday is ruled by Mangal (Mars) and Saturday by Shani (Saturn). In Indian astrology, Mangal can impact you with added turmoil or accidents and Shani creates obstacles in one's path.

As you know, Krishnamacharya, Guruji and Sharath are all very accomplished Sanskrit and Vedic scholars and as such treat these with a high level of respect. Given that, no new asanas on Tuesdays and Saturdays are rest days. Not all teachers either understand or respect that, but Eileen is one who definitely does."

Gulp. Sorry, didn't mean to trivialize this then. Sounds a lot deeper than I gave it credit for!]

At the end of class, Teacher called out across the room to me as I was leaving and said "Intermediate. Don't miss tomorrow's class!" Haha. AS! IF!

I yelled back "I WON'T!" (What's that Barbra Streisand song again about wild horses couldn't pull me away? Yeah, that one. Susan Boyle sang it too. HAHAHA.)

Speaking of the intermediate series, Ashtanga & Mysore traditions... a friend of mine sent me this really great article - someone had written about a workshop and conference Nancy Gilgoff had given in Munich aaaaaaaages ago (2002, to be exact). But there's an interesting paragraph in there "On Second Series" I quote wholesale:

"Nancy believes students who know primary series should start intermediate quite early. Says just doing primary for years can be unhealthy: lower back is always geting stretched out by all the forward bending without enough strengthening to compensate; hips don't get opened enough to really keep the knees safe. Early part of second series – at least to ustrasana, or to leg-behind-head – is very important for knee and back safety. Opens the hips & quads, strengthens the lumbar. She and David Williams learned both primary and intermediate at the same time on their first visit to Mysore, and had completed both in four months (practicing twice a day)

Says she asked Guruji a couple of years ago if she should carry on teaching as she first learned – move students on to second series quickly; or as he is teaching now – students stay on primary series for a long time until they are very proficient at it and can stand up from urdhva dhanurasana. He said she should carry on as she originally learned. She recommends, once you can get through primary reasonably well (knee on the floor in marichy b & d is important), starting to learn some of intermediate. Either do all of primary, and intermediate to ustrasana; or if you don't have time for that, do half of primary to navasana, then first half of intermediate & second half of primary alternate days. (Don't stop doing second half of primary though, it's important)"

I think it's an interesting take on it. "It" being the whole never-ending argument of when to start the second series - do you follow the old school of thought, the current school of thought... dogma, dogma, dogma, etc.

I say: Whatever works for YOU, man.

For someone like me, who started out with Ashtanga, then turned into a yoga-whore, practising all kinds of different styles with different teachers and in different countries coz of all the moves we've made, and now finally settling back into the arms of Ashtanga all over again... I see the validity in her way of thinking.

Of course I haven't practised this way at all, since I'm following what my current Teacher believes (get all binds & gateway poses first)... but it's good food-for-thought anyway as I sit here on the cusp of Intermediate.

One more sleep... :)

(Photo credit here)


  1. Superstition, eh? That is cute. I did a quick search last night about why no new poses on Tuesday, but didn't find anything. Now I know!

    I wasn't doing that crossed arm thing until after I got eka pada and split my practice; wish I'd had it sooner - I need all the opening I can get. I totally agree with Nancy Gilgoff about primary, too - I think we've all noticed how light on backbending primary is - it seems very skewed.And frankly, UD is a really full-on difficult backbend. Why the big deal about standing up from it before being allowed to do all the easier backbends in intermediate? I'd also read that the old timers learned first and second series simultaneously, and it does make a great deal of sense, from a balance perspective.

    I just wrote an essay over on KMB's blog about how my teacher wasn't going to let me do intermediate at all, because of the intensity of it ("It takes up a lot of space") - the nerve cleansing aspect, and such, I guess. Sometimes I wonder what all the brouhaha is about!

    Well, I'm going back to my old school in the holidays, but my teacher has left, so I'll be starting over. Back to primary for me, I suspect. It'll only be for the school holidays, since there are no plans to extend the morning Mysore hours. Wah!

    Congrats again - looking forward to reading about your second series sojourn!

  2. Hi Skippetty,

    Congrats on the Intermediate -very exciting. And thanks for the call to Yogadorks – guess I’m aspiring!!

    I went to Bali for Eileens retreat in 2008 and Rami (he performed the ceremonies at the opening of the school) provided talks about some of the systems that are followed - including the 'days'. I remember him saying that each day has a god/planet/colour/jewel and various other qualities or astrological influences associated with it.

    Don't quote me - I would need to check the notes - but I think Tuesday is Mars/War/Red. And I think they explained that new positions are a bad bad bad thing on a tuesday - something about an increased risk of injury and conflict? A teacher that is following traditional practices wouldn't expose you to that kind of risk….

    Whatever you want to call it: superstition or belief or tradition - I think I kind of like it... 'Cos I remember feeling vaguely anxious when Eileen said she would give me a new posture (for the first time EVER after 18 months of practicing with her!)

    And I remember thinking - GREAT but NOT TODAY, IT'S TUESDAY!! But of course she reminded me she was waiting until Wednesday : ) friends say Yoga is doing funny things to my brain...there may be some truth in that!
    x Kat

  3. Hey Lew, I wonder if you can just keep practising your 2nd series even in the shala. I mean, if you don't get stopped then all's good, right? I guess it's up to you where you want to practice up to (unless your teacher stops you). Starting with a new teacher is usually a bit of a jolt from what you've been used to, but change is good. I just have blind-belief in my teacher and respect what she has to say... even if I don't understand why some things are done a certain way now, I reckon in time to come I'll probably get to understand it. Kinda like how I didn't really "get" the depth to ashtanga until I stepped away from it for about 5 years. And even now, I "get" a little bit more of it than before and it's still only the tip of the iceberg.

    Kat! I've updated the post itself with more info, it's in the blockquote... it basically expands on what you've just said. I had a friend email me a deeper explanation than just "plain superstition". Haha, see, I've still got so much more to learn!

  4. Oh, that's a really nice explanation.

    And it is Mars!! I was paying attention in class after all (big tick).

    Actually - Rami's classes were great. Particularly since he has already spotted the concepts and ideas that are going to throw the western brain into confusion and he usually has an explanation that we can comprehend.

    Hmm. Chocolate time for me. Cheers Kat

  5. Thanks for posting the Gilgoff / Alan Little link, interesting. So much good stuff buried in that blog, keep meaning to go back through it page by page.

    So Astrology huh, fair enough. When I lived in japan we Mother-in-law made us wait weeks for an auspicious day for moving to a new flat (most frustrating), at least you only have to wait a couple more days.

    Looking forward to hearing how it goes tomorrow.

  6. Hey Kat, didn't Eileen mention that someone would be teaching Sanskrit & philosophy classes at some point? I wonder if it will be Rami? I'd be very interested in attending. :)

    Grim, that sounds an awful lot like the Chinese tradition too. They'll look at your stars vs. your partner's stars, see how the planets have aligned (or not), then consult the almanac for everything from what date to get married, move house, have babies, open a new business, etc. (actually maybe it's a form of chinese taoism/ buddhism. Or something. I dunno, my family doesn't practice that so I never went through something like that first-hand!)

  7. Hey Jaime, so excited to hear about your start with intermediate (i get to be a cool kid by default)! Was talking with a friend last week about the Nancy/2nd thing, she took a workshop with her in Vienna friend lives in belgium where she teaches vinyasa classes and has been practicing ashtanga for 8 years, but as she doesn't have a regular teacher just primary (no dropping back!) and has major problems with her knees. So nancy told her this about adding in 2nd too, makes a lot of sense in this context and also she does say you have to be able to get knee to the ground in Mari B&D to be 'allowed' to go to 2nd, it's not just a free for all! interesting stuff though.

  8. Yeah, good point Mel! Thanx for reminding what she said about the knees in B & D. :)


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