I want to thank those of you who attented the “Introduction” class on Saturday and my gratitude for the ongoing dedication that so many of you embody by showing up for your practice every morning. I promised to publish these “Milestones” so you may have a guideline for learning Ashtanga in the Mysore Style.
When beginning any journey it is helpful to know where you are heading and be able to observe landmarks along the way. This way we know we are on the right track. The practice of Ashtanga Yoga is a journey like this.
1. Surya Namaskar A The first “milestone” we encounter is learning the sun salutation. This establishes the rhythm in which the whole of Ashtanga is based.
2. Surya Namaskar B
3. Six Essential Standing Postures: Padangushtasana, Padahastasana, Trikonasana A,B, Parshvakonasana A,B, Prasaritta Padottanasana A-D, Parshvottanasa
4. Virabhadrasana: Finishing the standing series through the “warrior sequence” is a key point in learning. Initially the vinyasa sequencing is confusing but by the time we complete the Standing Postures there is a good understanding of how the breath should flow in the practice session. The ujjayi breath (breathing with sound), bandhas (core actions) and drishti (gazing) points become familiar and the student is prepared for the more challenging Seated Postures.
5. Paschimottanasana (back stretch) and Purvottanasana (front stretch) with vinyasa including lolasana (jump back/through). The core actions of Surya Namaskar (upward and downward facing dog poses) are inserted between each seated posture. These will help to “clean the slate” between postures as well as keep the heart rate up.
6. Marichyasana A,B,C,D. Here we reach a place to slow down and enjoy the journey. The articulations of hip and knee will provide many students with enough to tend to for years to come.
The Half Primary Series comprises the practice of Surya Namaskar, standing series, and seated series through Navasana (boat pose). This is a common stopping place for many along the way. It takes time to work out many of the nuances of the preceding postures. We are at our best when we can enjoy making it this far and slowly refine the series we have completed thus far.
7. Kurmasana and Supta Kurmasana
8. Baddha Konasana. One of the most beneficial postures found, however this position requires a refined action of mula bandha to perform safely.
9. Backbends. Sometimes these are introduced before completing the Full Primary Series. Drop Backs and Assisted Back Bending are gradually introduced after completing the Primary Series.
The Full Primary Series comprises the half primary with the addition of Bhujapidasana (arm pressure pose) through Setu Bandhasana (bridge pose).
10. Finishing Series: Shoulderstand, Headstand and Lotus cycles.
How long will it take to learn the full series? It can take years to learn the Full Primary Series. The length of time required to learn the Primary Series will depend on the dedication and aptitude of the student.
With regularity, dedication, and proficiency in practice, the standing postures, finishing series and seated series will be learned. Over time postures will be added to the series requiring longer practice sessions. 1.5 hours is a typical time frame for the full primary series.
Students new to Mysore class will typically begin learning sun salutations and finish with the corpse pose. The first Sun Salutation takes about a week to gain moderate proficiency. What I mean by moderate is that the basic flow of postures and breath is memorized, but it may take years before the internal practice of bandhas and concentration is grasped.