Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Technique and Freedom in Practice

I enjoy seeing new students arrive at the studio and love watching them puzzle through their first Mysore class. I say as little as possible when they ask over the phone or by email. "How does it work?" I just encourage them to come and try it...because, really, what is there to say about Mysore class anyway? ...to borrow words from Pattabhi Jois, "You come. You do."

The Mysore style Ashtanga practice always reminds me of this quote from A Wrinkle in Time...

"Mrs Whatsit: A sonnet is a very strict form of poetry is it not? There are fourteen lines, I believe, all in iambic pentameter. That's a very strict rhythm or meter, yes? And each line has to end with a rigid rhyme pattern. And if the poet does not do it exactly this way, it is not a sonnet, is it?

Calvin: You mean you're comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form, but freedom within it?

Mrs Whatsit: Yes. You're given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you."

The practice also reminds me of childhood piano lessons. I spent what seemed like an interminable amount of time practicing technique, learning notes, counts, scales. I was taking piano lessons because I wanted to play music, to create that indescribable feeling when a great song hits you and changes you.
Years went by before I could see that underneath great music is technique and to create great music that is outside the framework of technique takes an incredible depth of understanding of the framework itself.
I never really looked for that kind of depth when it came to playing music and I remain a very mediocre pianist.

I think I'm only just beginning to appreciate the kind of freedom that can be created from surrender to the strict form that is Ashtanga yoga practice.

No comments:

Post a Comment