Importance of a soft practice

I guess today's topic stems from an article from EJ the other day (which I also posted a couple of days ago) about the majority of Ashtangis being pitta-dominant. Whether Ashtangis tend to be pitta-dominant, those of type-A personalities, overachievers, or any combination thereof, there is one truth: yes, we enjoy the sensations of sweat, strength, and super-human flexibility. I used to be quite pitta-dominant in regards to my practice. I was young(er), flexible, and the teachers' encouragements flamed the fire of my ego. After several injuries I learned to back off a bit. And now that I've started teaching, I find that on the busier days I really need to adjust my level of practice so that I would have energy, both mentally and physically, later on to transfer into my classes.

I remember the first and the only time I ever met Sharath, one student asked whether we should give 100% of ourselves to the practice everyday. Sharath smiled and replied that unless you are suffering from injury or illness, you should be practicing to 100% of your capacity everyday. He then added that the practice is like the ocean--on the surface you just see flat, blue water, but dive down deep, and you'll see another realm of beauty.

Today, I was totally wiped out. I usually assist first at the shala, then practice, and all this time I was yawning, and yawning, and yawning. My brain was a fog. I had a swirling sensation in my head as I stepped onto the mat at about 7 o'clock. The first five sun salutes started off pretty strong. And then all of a sudden, during my first surya namaskara B, all my energy seemed to have drained from me in a matter of a few seconds. I got so distracted by this sensation that I forgot about my padangusthasana and padahastasana and skipped directly to Trikonasana (oops).

You know those days when you just kind of dread the "fillings" of the practice and just want to skip to savasana? Yup, that was me throughout my standing sequences. I thought about just stopping, do my finishing, then savasana. I'm glad I didn't though. Gradually, I found my rhythm as I started to "soften" my practice. Instead of hopping around like a maniac, I stepped into asanas. Instead of full lifts from sitting, then (attempted) swings to caturanga, I let go of the lifts. Instead of demanding myself to be "perfect" in every asana, I did what my breath and body told me to do. Even eka pada sirsasana was somewhat comfortable today (gasp!). Before I knew it, I was in savasana.

I still gave 100% today, no doubt about it. I gave 100% in my breath, my dristhi, and my bandhas. Isn't that the tripod foundation of Ashtanga? If the tristanas and my vinyasas are in place, then it must be good enough for Sharath and Pattabhi Jois.

A soft practice and some chai tea afterwards--I am good to go!