"First series, most important."
Ashtanga yoga is believed to be a linear practice, but I'm not so sure.
Let me explain ...
The first time a student learns a series, only a certain amount of juice, nectar, or knowledge can be extracted. And this will be true no matter how hard you or anyone tries.
So it is sensible and less frustrating to do the work to the best of your ability the first time around, extract the sap from your work and move on ... knowing that on the next round, you will extract something different that you couldn't have accessed the time before.
That's why I fully expect students to circle back around again,
return to the basics to rework postures and build on their foundation.
And in this repetition, discover the more subtle applications of the core techniques breathing, bandhas, vinyasa, concentration, dristi and such to their practice they missed the first time around.
In fact, the possible discoveries are limitless!
Using a basic sequence like the Primary is the perfect place to refine the subtlety in your breathing, movement patterns and all the actions that you apply in the asanas. The adjustments and choices that you make based on this more subtle internal awareness more readily available to the more mature student.
And by attaining more subtle knowledge of how you practice, you come even closer to the few essential techniques that form the fundemental elements of an Ashtanga practice. By carefully sifting and re-sifting your awareness as you practice primary series you win knowledge of bandhas, pranyama, and the interior mental limbs of 6) dharana, 7) dhyana and 8) samadhi.
Subtlety helps you learn how to render each and any asana into a 'dharana mudra', a meditation seal. Having access and making use of these subtle steps in the asana progressions is one of the main reasons that the veteran student decides to periodically return to a study of first series.
Additionally this first series offers the perfect balance of 'challenge versus ease' for this work to happen. The poses in the sequence are difficult and require tremendous effort and skill to perform. And yet, relaxation of that effort is also possible.
Yet, it is through the primary series you come to understand that Ashtanga is about meditation - even if it takes a long while to get directly around to it.
You come to understand that the ability to be completely awake to the immediate moment requires you to be accepting, receptive, but also dynamic, pointedly and fiercely active, full of bodily and mental vigor.
And returning to our most fundamental postures and series actually helps make all these dynamic qualities more accessible.
To really tap the ashtanga system and extract the sap of wisdom from its core, there is no other route than to return to the beginning - again and again. You need to search over the same ground in nearly endless repetition moving from grosser to subtler to find the new, the deep, the secret, the magic, the true. Samadhi!
Ashtanga Yoga primary series Ki Jai!
Guruji Sri K Pattabhi Jois ki Jai!
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