Thoughts on first led primary practice after a year

Last weekend I was down in Vancouver staying with a friend, and on Sunday morning we went to a led Primary practice at a lovely independent little shala. The practice leader had just returned from 3 months in Mysore where he was assisting Sharath, so I'm assuming we were doing Sharath's count, for those Ashtangeeks out there who are interested in those sorts of details. :)

It was my first full Primary (led or home) since I "broke up" with my Ashtanga practice nearly a year ago, so I have been reflecting on how it felt. Here's a rundown:

  • Sweaty: In a good way! The studio was heated and fairly full, and once I got into the twists (which always generate heat for me), the sweat really started to flow. Compared to my chilly morning practices at home, it felt great!
  • Long: I'm not sure how long actually, a bit under 2 hours I think, but given that I spend most of my waking hours bouncing down a mountain these days, I don't usually practice for more than an hour or 90 minutes. At one distinct point towards the end, my concentration flew out the window and the leader called me out for being a breath a head on the vinyasas. Whoops!
  • Smooth: I thought I would find the practice hard, given how long it had been, but it felt smooth and I had enough energy to carry the practice all the way through. I have to say I would have been hard-pressed to do it all the next day, though.
  • Unconstrained: I didn't do the rolls in Garbha Pindasana (I never liked those), and I didn't even attempt cakrasana (never could do that without pinching my neck... "one day, gurunam" as my first teacher used to say), and I didn't feel "un-Ashtangic" about it, because I have made my peace with being un-Ashtangic, if that makes sense!
  • Same-old, same-old: By which I mean the same old irritations flared up, that led me to stop doing exclusively Ashtanga in the first place: wrist pain, and rotator cuff (shoulder) pain, both on my right side (I'm positive my cakrasana issues are connected to these too, and it's all rooted in my precious curvy spine). My vinyasas are a lot smoother and more controlled as a result of the work I've been doing over the last year, but doing every vinyasa, even carefully, was hard on those weak spots. I'm pretty terrified of injuring my wrist again so I've renewed my efforts to work on those problems with targeted movements in my home practice. 
  • Different: My first Ashtanga teachers learned the practice in the early 90's, so there were some small differences in the practice that took me by surprise. The practice leader, Geoff, emphasised the inner aspect of the practice as opposed to what the body can do, which was great. He also told us that Sharath is teaching a different version of the tristana these days, which is breath, drishti and alignment of the body, with the bandhas being rolled into "breath". My injury-wary inner teacher approves of the latest addition, although I think the young man next to me, sweating, grunting and twisting himself into postures, could perhaps have used some more explanation. ;)
At the end of the practice, the practice leader asked me how it felt, having been away from the practice for so long. I told him it felt great, but mentioned it was hard on my wrists.

Thinking about it afterwards, it felt like going back to a house you used to live in after some time away. It feels familiar, maybe even nostalgic, but it's no longer home and you have a new reality.

NB: The cover image was sourced from Ryan Spielman.