‘Ashtanga Vinyasa and the Power of Repetition! ’
When you start out on your journey as an ashtanga vinyasa practitioner you typically begin with the Primary Series which is a fixed set of postures practiced in a particular order that you do over and over and over again until your guru believes you have mastered each of them and are ready to move on to the next series. This may take as long as two years. In a world that demands quick fixes, instant solutions, variety and ‘something new’ almost every day – this is often a bitter pill to swallow! Two years? Doing the same practice, upto two hours a day, six days an week?
But ask Ashtanga Vinyasa practitioners who have actually gone through the grind if it was worth it and chances are, the answer will be an unequivocal and heartfelt ‘Yes’. Because, through their practice, they would have experienced( among many other things) the power and irrefutable benefits of Repetition!
When I reflect on this aspect of Ashtanga Vinyasa I am always reminded of something I read in Malcolm Blackwell’s book ‘Outliers’.
The book explores the factors that go into creating the success of high achievers in a wide spectrum of activities – from business to sport to dance, music and art. In it he says that achieving excellence in any activity typically requires 10,000 hours devoted to its practice! 10,000 hours! Sounds incredible but I have found this corroborated in almost every autobiography of ‘successful’ people that I have read since. From actors to musicians to businessmen and sport stars – every one of them has talked about putting in hours and hours and hours of repeated, consistent practice honing the skills they wanted to perfect. I guess that is why they say ‘an amateur practices until he gets it right but a professional practices until he never gets it wrong’! ( I wonder how may times Sachin Tendulkar would have practiced each of his legendary shots?)
Now we may not all want to become the Sachin Tendulkars of Ashtanga, but I believe the benefits of the practice are well worth pursuing. On a personal level, I know that the years I devoted to Ashtanga have given me a rock solid foundation that I build on to this day regardless of whether I am doing hatha yoga or power or yin or simply going on a trek, rowing a boat or belly dancing!
What is amazing is that this decades old ( some say thousands of years old) style of practice systematically takes you through what modern 21st century science now calls the Four Stages of Learning. Namely:
- Unconscious incompetence: Where you don’t know what you don’t know
- Conscious incompetence: Where you know what you don’t know
- Conscious competence: Where you know what you know and consciously apply the knowledge
- 4. Unconscious competence: Where you know and it happens automatically
Or to put it simply: Effortlessness
American author Robert Greene writes in his book Mastery :
“When it comes to mastering a skill, time is the magic ingredient. Assuming your practice proceeds at a steady level, over days and weeks certain elements of the skill become hardwired. Slowly, the entire skill becomes internalized, part of your nervous system. The mind is no longer mired in the details, but can see the larger picture. It is a miraculous sensation and practice will lead you to that point, no matter the talent level you are born with.”
Those among us who have read the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali may find the above resonating with sutra 47 of Chapter 2:
Interpreted by BKS Iyengar as “ Perfection in an asana is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless and the infinite being within is reached”
One can almost hear Shri Pattabhi Jois saying: ‘practice and all is coming’.
‘By Indira Vasanth, a yoga practitioner for more than 15 years. Yoga teacher – RYT 200 & 500’