You may not know this, but the Primary series of Ashtanga Yoga is called “Yoga Chikitsa” in Sanskrit which means, “Yoga Therapy.”
It is given this name because it has a purifying, cleansing and healing action on the body. During Primary series we perform asanas which not only strengthen the body, and improve flexibility, but help us look inward, and deepen our concentration and equanimity.
For those of us with a daily practice, under the guidance of a qualified teacher, we can attest to its many benefits and healing qualities. There is no doubt that this practice is healing in so many ways.
But it gets a little tricky when done incorrectly, and without the supervision of a teacher for a couple of reasons.
3 reasons practicing the correct method, with a qualified teacher is so important:
1. If done incorrectly, some of these asanas MAY cause injury
This is perhaps the most important reason to study under the guidance of a teacher. Primary series is healing and cleansing, but it can also be quite difficult physically. If you are someone like me, who has tight hips and a “go-getter” personality, it can be really easy to ignore the warning signs of injury, and push through pain.
Studying the correct method with a qualified teacher is a great way to ensure that you are not only doing the poses properly, but to ensure that you don’t push yourself too hard too soon which can result in injury.
2. When we follow the guidance of several teachers we may get lost on our spiritual journey
When embarking on any spiritual journey, it’s important to pick one path, and ideally one teacher. David is fond of quoting something Sharath says:
If you ask two people for directions to Bangalore, you might get two similar, but slightly different sets of directions. Both will get you to Bangalore, but if you take pieces from each of these, you might get lost.
This is so important. We can get caught up in semantics about whos version of Ashtanga Yoga is the most authentic and traditional, but really, it doesn’t matter as much as sticking to one method, and one teacher. Following one set of instructions, from one teacher will create more depth in your practice than cutting and pasting pieces from several teachers.
3. When we do what we feel like, we rob ourselves of the experience of sitting with discomfort.
This is so, so important. If we show up each day and “do what we feel like,” 9 times out of 10 we will choose comfort over discomfort. And why wouldn’t we?! It’s human nature. No one wants to feel uncomfortable.
But growth – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – does not come from staying in our comfort zone. It comes from moving slowly, but surely into the discomfort that affords us the opportunity to practice equanimity.
When we stick to the method of Ashtanga, we commit to showing up daily, and have the opportunity so sit with, and work through our discomfort. And as David says, “Learning to sit with discomfort will take you very far, not only in asana, but in life as well.”
If you’re looking to deepen your understanding of Primary Series, we have a week long intensive coming up at AYCT in July. That’s 1-week with David and Jelena, learning the correct count, vinyasa, and how to sit with the discomfort that inevitably arises out of daily practice.
Sounds fun, right!?
Have you already studied with them? We’d love to hear about your experience! Share in the comments below, or tag us on instagram @ashtangatoronto and tell us about your experience!