In Hindu mythology, Indra is a major player -- God of War and Thunder. Stories attributed to him feature bravery, confidence, and steadfastness. He defends against evil, provides and nurtures, and embodies timelessness. As supreme ruler of the sacred Mount Meru, he cast a vast protective net around his kingdom. The net reached infinitely in all directions, and was held together at each intersecting knot by a radiant jewel -- infinite knots, infinite jewels. Each jewel sparkled with its own unique luster, and also reflected the brilliance of every other jewel in the net. Inside each reflection was every other reflection. Ad infinitum. Each jewel in Indra's net is both itself individually, and also the whole net. Each one is vital in its uniqueness and equally vital as a component of the bigger picture.
Our work on the mat is analogous. Each asana is vital for its own individual characteristics -- the way it strengthens or stretches or balances or grounds or stimulates, etc. Each asana is also vital for its contribution to the whole picture. Within each asana we find the reflections of all the other asana. That idea can be interpreted in a couple of ways, but what I mean to highlight here is the way in which each asana is simply a preparation for the next asana. Of course, basic hip-openers prepare the body for advanced hip-openers and basic backbends prepare the body for advanced backbends, and the rest. But it isn't about basic or advanced. It's about a continuous net of form and flow. Each pose provides a direct gateway into the next. For example, Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Brige pose) is direct preparation for Salamba Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand). Bridge pose is Shoulderstand with the feet on the floor! Anjaneyasana (Low lunge) is direct preparation for Ekapada Raja Kapotasana II (One-legged King Pigeon II). Low lunge is EPRK II without clasping the foot! Moreover, 'Runners Lunge' preps for Warrior I. Warrior I preps for Warrior III. Warrior III preps for Standing Splits. Standing Splits preps for Handstand Splits. And so on. Lunge is, of course, really important all by itself -- it strengthens the legs, opens the hips, tones the shoulders. And, in any particular practice, may not have anything to do with Vira I per se. Even if you never get into Vira I, lunge is still really important. But is has a whole new kind of importance and value when it's used as a preparatory stage to Vira I. Likewise, Vira I is really important all by itself. And it also contributes a whole new kind of value when it's done as directly preliminary to Vira III. And so on.
Part of our practice is about constantly challenging ourselves into new areas of experience and awareness. That's what new poses provide. Asana are building blocks in which foundations come first, and height and depth stack subsequently. But they are not only a linear growth straight up from the ground. Asana are also each intricately woven together like the knots of a net, reaching up and out and around and back again. The further we go into practice, the more apparent this becomes and the more necessary it is to understand.
Week Seven is a kind of pause in the DK sequence. Notice that it doesn't list any asana specifically. Instead, it says "Consolidate the asanas and increase the length of stay in all of them." This doesn't mean that nothing new is learned. And it definitely doesn't mean to not practice at all, or to skip ahead into the next sequence. The point is to pause. Reflect. Observe. Assess. And make sure you are on the right track. These 'pauses' in the series happen two more times -- at Weeks Thirteen and Eighteen. Each time the difficulty of the practice increases immediately after. That is noteworthy. This is a reminder that yoga is an entirely customizable affair. Some people will be fully ready to move on, and others may need more time where they are. That is not always easy to discern, but it is one of the skills we are working toward cultivating. We, as a class, will use Week Seven to continue working on all the poses that were introduced in the first six weeks.
Then Week Eight incorporates several new asana -- Virabhadrasana III (Warrior pose third variation), Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon pose), and Prasarita Padottanasana II (Wide-angle Forward bend second variation). If we have been practicing skillfully, steadily, and continuously (Sutra I.14) up to now, then we should be ready for these new poses with only minimal effort. Warrior III is simply Warrior I with the back leg lifted. Half Moon is just Triangle pose with the back leg lifted. Wide-angle II is only Wide-angle I with the hands on the hips instead of on the floor. Not only that, but Warrior III is only Half Moon with the torso facing the floor rather than turned sideways. They only seem like brand new poses. We have actually been working on their key components for weeks already. If you can do one, you have what is necessary to do the other because they are all reflections of each other.
Don't reinvent yoga for every new pose that comes into your practice. Look for the foundations and the reflections. Cast your net wide. And shine brilliantly like the jewel that you are.