The vinyasa sequence throughout primary and of course the salutations is a major characteristic of Ashtanga yoga. Until recently it had always seemed like this magical thing that only proper yogis could do (i.e. not me). I have spent hours searching youtube for the magic formula to achieve this most illusive of moves but to no avail. Maybe my toes aren’t made that way, maybe I just have the non rolling kind of toes. Even before I ventured into my first Ashtanga class just over three years ago, my Hatha teacher would use the vinyasa sequence occasionally and would laugh and say “of course you can always do that mad painful rolling thing that Ashtanga students do…..ha ha ha ha.”
Strength is an important part in any form of yoga, in fact the balance between flexibility and strength is what is needed. Some people have great strength which can limit their flexibility, some people can tie their legs in a plait but have reduced strength. Strength was never my err…….strength.
3 years ago chaturanga was out of my reach, my knees were on the floor and even then Cathy would say, elbows in Joanna, elbows in. I thought she was having a laugh. She wasn’t.
Over the years, i found that yes the strength in my upper body was increasing and sure enough my knees came off the floor but still my toes would not roll. I made my friend demonstrate in her living room how she did this magic but she couldn’t explain. It just happened. Well it wasn’t just happening to me that is for sure.
Obviously, yoga isn’t about the asana or what your body can or cannot do it is about the breath, alignment and not beating yourself up about your freak toes. I do know this although it sometimes slips to the back of my mind.
Then all of a sudden IT HAPPENED. I am not sure how, well actually i am and it won’t help any of you frustrated non toe rolling ashtangis as it is a particularly yogic way that it occurred. With time, with practice and in the words of Jois “breath and all is coming.”
Practice has increased my upper body strength, so when in chaturanga I can press into my hands to straighten my arms whilst rolling over my toes. It is hard and after Purvottanasana still impossible…….at the moment. There is still so much to think about whilst making the transition to upward dog, engage mula bhanda, shoulders back and down, engage quads thus ensuring the small of the back doesn’t pinch. But I tell you it is an ace feeling when it works. If you have no idea what I am talking about watch the wonderful kino in this youtube clip.
One thing is for sure, my arms are way to short to jump through to seated in primary, but you know another three years and maybe my arms will grow that added length.