In Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga there are 6 Series of asana, commonly referred to as Primary Series, Intermediate Series and Advanced A-D. Each Series provides a foundation for the asanas of the subsequent series. Everybody starts with the Primary Series (called Yoga Chikitsa – Yoga Therapy) and works through these poses one-by-one until some level of proficiently is maintained.
This occurs slowly and at its own pace. It is never rushed. Maybe in time, after many years of practice, you will move forward onto more advanced poses… or maybe you won’t, it really doesn’t matter.
When Guruji was asked what the ‘most important’ series was his answer would always be the same. “Primary Series most important. Intermediate Series, little bit important”
When asked about the advanced series usually laugh and say, “oh, this is just circus tricks!”
His answer often surprised people, especially those of with the linear modality common to the west. We might expect advanced asanas to be more important than the relatively basic ones of the Primary Series, but this is not the case. The therapy gained from the Primary Series is most important for our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. Once this series of poses is grounded and we have experienced the rebalancing of our delicate system that the Primary Series brings, attempting more complex asanas becomes merely fine-tuning.
And besides there really is nowhere to go in the Ashtanga practice. There is nothing to be achieved. Being happy with where you are is true mastery, not being able to tie yourself into a pretzel and having the body of a Greek God!!
It is this that the Primary Series offers us - a chance to develop a relationship with our essential self, through the medium of our physical shell. As we bend it, kneed it and twist it we glimpse remarkable insights into our true-being. It is this awakening that is the most valuable stage of yoga, because it offers us back the power over our health, happiness and well-being.
The Ashtanga Vinyasa system of asana really is a remarkable practice, which continues to amaze, astound, frustrate and challenge me in equal measure.
I feel blessed to have discovered it and be able to offer it as a gift to others.
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