I came across Bobbie's (@ The Confluence Countdown) reflections on her Intermediate Teacher Training with Tim Miller a few days ago. They were working through the series pose by pose--deconstructing them, analyzing, and learning the arts of adjustments. In a room where there were a handful of teachers with their own styles of adjusting certain postures already, the workshop became more of a "discussion" rather than a "lecture" where the teacher would just tell you what is right and what is wrong. In other words, there may be no right or wrong answers to adjusting. What works for one student may not work for another. As Bobbie notes:
Back in my training with Nancy Gilgoff, she made the point that in the early days of Mysore with Guruji, she felt that work on the series was ongoing. “We were the research,” she said, meaning the early students.
In that post, I mourned the fact that Guruji called his shala “The Ashtanga Research Institute,” and that word “research” had fallen out of the title, which I find…problematic.
Tim is emphasizing the need for research all throughout our training. “We’re not robots,” he says. We’re thinking, feeling practioners in a constantly changing world. He believes strongly in the continued improvement of the practice of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, and he is teaching a generation of new students to follow this path. Not only is he teaching us what is “correct,” but he is teaching us how to correctly research.
Some people think that the Ashtanga vinyasa yoga is a locked system. You must do A before you can do B, and B before C. It is true in the sense that the postures and series are built upon one another, but what happens between A and B, or B and C is another matter. Each student may need different approaches to achieve A, and then B, then C, and so on.
For example, my teacher back in Taiwan (actually, he's originally teaches here and will be returning the end of this year) loves to say this:
"Let's do some research..."
He'd deviate from the "traditional" method of practice. He'd propose I do variations of the posture to feel the different effects of the asana on the energetic and physical body.
"Stick to the practice, but always bear a curious mind. Explore a little."
My Ashtangi friends and I would always compare our teacher to a magician. His hat is a bottomless pit that encloses a universe of "tricks" to help us to get from A to B. His "tricks" are a result of his own research. While it may not follow the "traditional" practice by throwing in a few tricks here and there in between or during the postures, my teacher's method of teaching definitely has taught me to keep an open mind to the practice.