Tim Miller revisited Portland this weekend. At one point he said, "Ashtanga is an edgy practice." Tim maintains injury is not inevitable. I am a little more sanguine about it, and to paraphrase Ido Portal, if you have a dedicated (movement) practice, the chance of injury is 100%.
Ashtanga is also challenging in that it is very easy to confuse a difficult postural practice with sadhana. It is easy to get sweaty and jump around and really push ourselves to our physical limits, yet sweaty extremes do not automatically equal sadhana --- or even paradoxically tapas. In fact a sweaty, a challenging postural sequence can be the opposite of yoga practice because it can be a distraction. All flash and no thunder. All show and no go. Big hat, little horse.
One strategy to look at the confusion of physical difficulty and discomfort with sadhana is to take an Ashtanga practice out of the Mysore room and back into the house.
A few weeks or months (or years!) of a home practice seems to me to chill people way out and force a look at a lot of oft-ignored questions, such as, "Why am I doing this?" "Do I still do it in this way with no one watching?" "Will I do this if no one is around to give me approval?" "Is it cheating if I don't do all the jump-backs?"
I certainly don't do the practice in the same way at all when I'm at home, versus in a class, and the duration of home practice, done over time, can change the tenor quite a bit, and make it sweeter, lighter, certainly shorter in length, and often more of a yoga practice and less bodily mortification.
When done consistently, a home practice provides yatha tatha [yavata tatava], "as much, so much," as they say in Sanskrit. Just the right dose of practice!
Jason owns and directs Portland Ashtanga Yoga.