I learned about this Sharath's led class on livestream through Claudia's blog post . I wasn't gun-ho on doing the class but I did set the alarm clock just for the heck of it (you have no idea how many mornings I have unconsciously switched off the alarm, went on sleeping and ended up late for school). I didn't think I'd wake up for it but turned out I did (3:30am west coast time!) Being somewhat lazy (understandable at this ungodly hour of the night), I just wanted to turn on the computer to see a bit of the streaming video then head back to bed.
I got to the website at around 3:27am. The screen was still just a Jois Yoga logo but the audio was on already. I was hearing excited background chattering in the NYC yoga room. Somehow this got me really excited too. I felt like I was participating in some epic event. Knowing that there must be some other hardcore Ashtangis in other parts of the world following this streaming video in their own homes at the exact same time made it feel special too.
Then at 3:30am, the visual came online. There was the smiley Sharath, sitting in padmasana on a high chair, addressing a roomful of eager looking yogis. I just realized I've never taken a Primary series class with anyone other than my teacher! Can I even follow this class? Will there be technical difficulties with the streaming? Turned out I was way too much of a worrywart. There was zero technical problems with the streaming; multiple-cameras provided different views of the yoga room, which was awesome. Sharath counts way slower than my teacher (which made this led class tough at times) and offered almost no instructions on how to get into any of the poses, but I was fine most of the way through, besides the stuff I can't do yet of course. Overall it was a super cool experience and I have learned a lot, which made it an experience well-worth the suffering from lack of sleep the rest of Friday.
In my class I'm always staring at people's backs or staring at the wall if I'm at the front row. This was the first time I got a front view of a primary series practice. Also, my observation of Ashtanga practice have been restricted to either beginner practices (most people in my class have been practicing for less than 2 years) or expert practices (demos from my teacher, plus Richard Freeman and Kino McGregor DVDs, who are all super bendy and nearly perfect in all their poses). I didn't have a reference point of what intermediate level practices looked like until today. I was amazed that almost the entire room could bind in Mari D and get into supta kurmasana (or at least people in the first few rows whom the camera focused on). I really enjoyed watching different variations of vinyasas: how most people, or at least ppl in the front rows, had no trouble with the jump throughs. It was also cool to see some of the super strong people who could hold a high utplutih through the slowest counting I've ever experienced, but were not able to do all the poses perfectly (again, I had no reference point until now).
Here are a few things I have learned from participation in this led class:
1. It's not necessary to tie my hair up and pin them back with 50 bobby pins, or wear body-squeezing Lululemon yoga-wear to prevent all the jiggly parts from hanging out while doing yoga. I was in my loose pajamas and was still able do the practice, albeit having uncombed bed hair in my eyes the whole time. Now I'm not going to show up to class looking like I just rolled out of bed, but it's cool to know that technical sweat-wicking clothing is not absolutely necessary for yoga (sweaty t-shirt still interfered with some of the binding poses though, but I couldn't really bind for most poses at this hour anyways).
2. If I don't put 100% effort into it, the primary series is, surprisingly, not an insanely tiring practice, especially if I skipped all the arm balancing poses, hooray! (I was too sleepy to pull them off). No wonder I always walk out of my yoga classes feeling utterly exhausted while some fellow yogis look like they've barely broke a sweat. While I do think I need to ease up a bit, I'm happy with the quick progress I've made in this practice. I figure once I get over the initial muscle-building pains, chaturagas, navasanas and utplutih will eventually feel less like self-torturing moves right?
3. I was surprised how much people fidget during savasana. One woman even refused to do it at all. She just rolled up her mat and sat cross-legged instead. My teacher always says, "Resist the urge to fidget around during savasana". I took it to mean that we shouldn't even wiggle into a more comfortable flat back lying pose, which is kind of tough, but now I see that people actually roll around and do all sorts of major limb movements, very obviously not emptying their minds in this pose.
4. I have so much respect for Sharath and all the Ashtanga teachers. I can't believe Sharath's been doing this almost all of his life. Takes a lot of commitment to just count for people day in and day out. I originally had the plan to just watch the video instead of doing the class but I ended up doing the series because it was so boring to do nothing and watch, at least for the first half of the series. The second half was more interesting because starting at Bhujapidasana I began to see a lot of variations in how people got into the poses and the poses themselves. I also noticed how Sharath kept on scanning the room with his eyes the whole time, even while he was supporting someone in a pose.
5. There was a petit young women in blue pants who didn't seem to have as much strength as everyone else in the room to do all the poses, but eagerly kept up anyways, which I found admirable. In a roomful of yogis who all seemed to be able to pull off sirsasana, she stood out as the only person who kept kicking up with one leg to get up to a headstand. Now, if I were a beginner (I still have trouble with consistent headstands actually, but I've been taught never to kick up), I'd be pretty intimidated about getting Sharath's assistance, especially among a roomful of advanced yogis. However, this girl seemed to be totally ready for Sharath when he finally walked over to bring her into a headstand. After the practice, the girl walked up the front and cuddled up to Sharath while he was giving his closing lecture; that was when I finally saw her face and realized who she was and how young she was.. Sharath's cute little girl is perhaps only about 10 years old? Kudos to her for completing the 90 minute practice!
Anyways, I probably wouldn't do it again next Friday, but I'm glad I woke up and tried out yoga with the guidance of the head of the Ashtanga Institute in the middle of the night :) Oh, one more little thing for my personal reference: karnapidasana felt especially difficult at what was it, 4:30am? Maybe I was too sleepy to command my body to move properly, LOL. Maybe this means I'm not ready for Mysore, India yet :P