So, why is it a platform game?
As you work through the 3 series of ashtanga:-
- Chikitsa – primary, health and strength developing;
- Nadi Shadana – secondary, nerve cleansing; and
- Sthira Bhagga – third – (sometimes split into 4 parts – advanced A, B, C and D, to make up 6) – is divine stability. Guruji called this circus yoga…..
you develop the correct sensitivity (of body and mind) strength, stamina and suppleness from doing the practice in the right order repeatedly, for a long time, with devotion which enables you to pass to the next pose and then level. If you don’t collect all the right bits in the right order you get stuck later on, just as when you develop ‘sthira sukham asanam’ you know your practice is stable and good for what comes next.
This is (I feel) what Sharath looks for over a long period of continuous practice (Sutra 2:14) with him, he senses your energy and breath in the Shala to assesses the appropriate point of your bead on his mala. He awards the next asana/bead or series by reference to these indicators as set out by Patanjali. Don’t expect to progress, apply yourself to your dharma and follow the path humbly and without question using Tapas, Swadhyaya and Ishwara Pranidhana as your guide through the platform game (YS 2.1).
You find that the practice becomes part of your life and helps in subtle ways which others may (for me it has been regularly mentioned by friends and colleagues- in a good way) or may not notice, however they benefit from you being around them, which feels great. You will need to try it to find out.
Ashtanga is more than just a fitness class, it maps out a platform game for living well, based on Patanjali’s 8 limbs (Ashta, means 8 in Sanskrit and anga means limbs – hence Asht-anga, see post on Patanjali for more) which underpin it’s practice. The practice can be about what you wish, fitness, clearer mind or just being sociable; however the philosophy behind it is much deeper and to really practice you would need to observe and exercise all 8 limbs.
The principle is the mastery of your mind and body to enable you to achieve union with everything, a bit like Neo in the Matrix. At that point you reach the 8th and highest limb of Ashtanga ‘samadhi’ and if the yoga sutra is correct, you will be able to choose to cease to be re-born. Practicing yoga stills the fluctuations of the mind (Yogas Citta Vrtti Nirodah YS 1.2), removes impurities of the body and mind so that we can become one with everything – and that isn’t a pizza. BTW the pizza thing is explained in another post.
Anyone can play this game, some choose to and those that do are Ashtangi through and through.