Sunday, June 29, 2003

As health club or gym setting Ashtanga classes go, today's class was a mixed bag. On the good side, we did get in just about all of the first series, including postures that are typically omitted, like Janu sirsasana C and Marichasana D. On the "could have been done better" side, the teacher made a few mistakes, or at least did things differently than is normally done in Ashtanga. I didn't get to talk with the teacher after class, but from the style of teaching, I got the impression that he had a primary background in some form of yoga other than Ashtanga. I could be wrong on that. One thing that was very different from most Ashtanga classes is that he talked almost the whole time. Some of it was verbal cues for alignment, some of it was encouragement type stuff ("When you're falling down, you're learning"), some of it was blabby spiritual-speak. Whatever, it was more than was necessary. One of my biggest peeves in when instructors will carry on in savasana about how you're supposed to relax, let go of things etc. Who can let go and fully relax when they're having to listen to someone lecturing them?

Despite the ongoing verbiage during the class, he did almost no adjusting. When I did see him adjust, it was never the bigger or deeper adjustments that are commonly given in Ashtanga. They were usually slight movements of an arm or foot. He did do some demonstration of postures but not that much really. Certainly not enough for me to get a sense of where his practice was at. Most teachers I'm familiar with who give led classes will usually either be adjustors or demonstrators. He didn't really fall into either camp. That's really neither here nor there from where I'm concerned. I knew what to do. In these kind of classes though, there's enough people who are new to the practice or maybe who haven't ever seen some of the postures that occur later in the series, that something more than talking is needed to help them not feel lost.

His pronunciation of the Sanskrit names was kind of different. Most people mispronounce a lot of them, myself included, so that wasn't that big of a deal either. What did bug me a bit was him getting postures out of order and having the class do the wrong side first on several of them. Everything was pretty much kosher up until the marichasanas. As an interesting time saving maneuver, instead of doing them one at a time, first on the right side then the left, with vinyasas between each, he had us do all four back to back on one side, then a vinyasa, then all four on the other side. That was fine, but he had us do the left side first, then the right. Not a catastrophic miscue, but it would make someone who knew Ashtanga question if the teacher knew what they were doing. For most of the people taking the class, it was probably not even noticed.

After Navasana, he went right to Garbha Pindasana. I figured he must have been running out of time and had decided to skip the next three postures. After Garbha though, we went back to Bhujapidasana then Kurmasana. Then, he said we would do Supta Kurmasana, but he had everybody do Upavishta instead. We never did do Baddha Konasana, a major omission in my opinion. After Supta Konasana, we did Ubhaya Padangustasana and Urdhva Mukha Pascimottanasana. Then we came back with Supta Padangustasana, but he did the left side first. I don't know if he thinks that's how the first series is really done or if he just got a little disconbobulated or what, but I was really getting the impression he didn't know the correct sequence to the first series.

As I said, it probably worked fine for most people, it was just a gym class after all, but I think it should be done correctly if you're going to do it. At the beginning of the class he did make the point that we were going to be doing the whole first series, so that's what we should be able to expect. I'll have to find out if he just had a few slip ups, maybe he's new to teaching, or if instead he just doesn't know the correct way to do Ashtanga. Hopefully, it's the former.

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