Wait up, slow your roll.

By on Dec 2, 2014 in The Unruly Ascetic

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Cheating in Bakasana!?

Oh dear lord, don’t ever imply to the greater world of the internets that people cheat in asana.  You will be vilified as vain and arrogant… and no one will actually read your article, they will just rage against the photo/caption.

In the latest Kino-gate YJ (such a well rounded, open hearted publication… ) published an article by the inspiring Ms. MacGregor on the ‘cheat’ verses ‘challenge’ version of Bakasana.

And the online yoga community spit their extra hot organic soy chai latte all over their macbook pro… and then proceeded to attack Kino and YJ for their poor use of language.

And I agree, they should be reprimanded for a poor use of language.  For not applying louder and bolder use of Ashtanga Yoga in the Jois method as taught in Mysore. Because in our method, the ‘cheat’ is a cheat.  and we’re not jerks for saying it.

(btw, I use the distinction ‘Jois method’ to protect my lineage from the hatha-vinyasa-raja-ashtanga practitioners who resent our commandeering of the label ‘ashtanga.’ I’m reasonably sure our teachers would discourage me from calling the practice Jois, even if the pretty shala’s can bear the name.)

Most of the online detractors of the YJ article seem incensed over one of two things:

-that cheat’ is a mean spirited word and that any and all yoga is perfect and valid (debatable).

-that Kakasana (the cheat) and Bakasana (the challenge) are two distinctly different postures.

Okay, sure.  If you’re a hatha teacher, or a vinyasa teacher, or an acrobatics teacher, you are totally right.

But from the perspective of the Jois method one can absolutely cheat in an asana and ‘kakasana’ is not a pose that we use or have any need to acknowledge. (calm down. not to say it’s not a thing. it’s just not a thing for Kino’s base for communication). The downess of the ‘cheat,’ the settling into balance of bent arms and wide knees, is counterproductive to the ongoing work of lifting the body.  Our goals tend to lean toward lifting the body up, finding internal strength and integration to create a lightness in the body that leads to the ‘challenge,’ (as the outraged internet peanut gallery would have realized if they’d read her tips). Sometimes the posture will look like the ‘cheat’, but with the right intention and activation the pose is a worthwhile effort, an effort that will eventually drag the body into the ‘challenge’ position. It is the settling downward into ‘Kakasana’ and calling that finished that is cheating, because in our method Bakasana is intended to train the body toward upness.

Look, I’m not trying to sound like a jerk.  and I realize that I probably do to any non-Ashtanga practitioners who feel threatened by the intensity of physicality and devotion required by our system (and displayed by the lovely Kino). I realize that maybe it’s too much for you, no problem. You do you. Nothing wrong with that and I certainly don’t judge you for not liking what works for me.

But at the end of the day, for us Ashtangis (and I hope I’m not misrepresenting this population) it is possible to cheat.  It is easier to cheat.  It is tempting to cheat.  and the power of our system comes from our willingness to face the fact that sometimes what we are capable of is not good enough.  That we have to become more, become better than what we are now.  The usefulness of the work is in the growth, on our mats (and in our postures) as well as in our lives (and in our hearts).  Ashtang yoga is not about making peace with what is, it is about expecting more.  More awareness, more knowledge, more compassion.

So, don’t hate on YJ, they make silly choices all the time (remember when Iyengar died and their cover story was about how they didn’t photoshop a beautiful woman?).

and don’t hate on Kino, all she wants is to help you try harder and expect more.