A couple of things: No newspaper article or online article will tell you exactly how to go about taking care of your body and understanding how to move it and keep it free of harm.
Take for example Gretchen Reynold’s Well Blog in the NYT who tried to answer the question of whether yoga increased strength in practitioners. How easy it is to ignore that she started the answer by saying “In general…” followed by “The FEW available experiments…”Which kind of implies that this fact has been kind of poorly researched and given spotty attention maybe? So why pay so much attention to the answer? Does it apply to you if instead of the one hour of ashtanga (half primary?) three times a week participants, you do an hour and a half 6 times a week? Don’t think so. What matters is knowing that after pretty regular practice for more than a few months, you observe in the mirror that you now have what some lady ashtangis refer to man arms even if you still have a huge butt and a big happy tummy because sattvic eating is still a mystery to you. What matters is knowing that while you were out of town you were invited to yoga class where they did Vashistasana and you find out that you now can do it when a couple of years back you could only do six seconds without putting down one foot. That is tangible research, not what Gretchen or I say.
Another example is the online post entitled 6 Reasons to Stop Obsessing About Alignment in Yoga which is making the rounds on Facebook. In this instance the blogger reveals what takes us all way to long to realize: everybody’s limbs are pretty unique, weird, and unpredictable. What your limbs agree to do one day they might totally refuse to do the next, as we all know from personal experience. This weekend I had to convince my husband that I could not climb or disembark from my new longer kayak the way he was instructed to and insists is the safest and correct way to do it. Yeah, for someone who is not five foot two, a 34 DD already, without the bulky life vest and with legs which are way shorter than her torso. I had to find an alternative way, and it required patience and getting wet. We have to modify in yoga without expectation, though I have found that through practice and perseverance the capacity to reach, sustain, balance, and bend, do improve without necessarily having BA in anatomical engineering with a minor in trigonometry.
Finally, could someone tell me if it should be worrisome that I received like 700 hits all from Great Britain on this blog yesterday? Not that I pay much attention to stats, but my average is around 75 a day.
At 7:00 AM I attended the best led class I have ever been to. Dena Kingsberg settles you in with a guided meditation which is a combination pep rally and motivational therapy session. Then she proceeds to give the best play by play verbal cues, AND count through the entire primary series including each and every vinyasa. I swear it felt like a private even though there must have been a hundred of us there. The bad news is that I continue to have an upset stomach. Adding to that, I seem to be allergic to the carpeting or the cleaning fumes in this fine ballroom and I literally want to scratch my eyes out. I would also like to add some etiquette advice here. Please leave your shoes outside like the rest of us. Please don’t put them in front of my mat , especially if you have a potent foot odor problem and i have to smell it during every forward bend and chaturanga.
So for two hours each teacher talks about the Sutras. Yes they do. They are tired. I am tired. Dena has been using her voice non- stop since 7 AM this morning and towards the end an adoring student asked her to chant
some sutras on that beautiful lilt of hers. For a minute there I thought she might cry. But all these teachers are nothing but gracious and humble so she led us all in chant.
So, back to the very condensed version of affairs that is the usual around here:
Dena: Guruji always said that we do Patanjali yoga. If you need clarification/ answers, read them. Often. Of course they will only make sense if you experience the limbs in your Sadhana. The first 4 sutras are key because it is the first real clue that what your mind blathers about is not the only reality. Big hints for success in sutras 1-12 a d 1-14. Do this a loooooong time with no interruption and your chances for success are quite good.
Tim: he decides to go with the obstacles to yoga with vivid and candid examples from his own life. In his words, “what makes chitt hit the fan”.1) dullness- ill health along with a detailed description of the physical symptoms of hepatitis in your bodily functions.
2)Stagnation: lack of flow and movement. Breath synchronized with movement fixes that.
3) self Doubt- ashtanga empowers if you trust the method.
4)impatience/sloppiness- what happens if you leave the present moment. the sound of breath brings you back. Vinyasa keeps you in the now.
5) laziness. If you haven’t quit yet you know what fixes that.
6) excess/overindulgence- this was quite good but you kind of had to be here.”after a perhaps problematic mysore practice in the am with no adjustments followed by boring lectures you decide to reward yourself with a nice dinner and because you feel sorry for yourself you order something fried plus dessert, and a nightcap at the bar where you meet someone interesting and end up getting very little sleep that night.” Yeah, that’s an obstacle. I did not do this justice by the way.
7 )cloudy perspective and not receiving wisdom. Here he started making fun of Richard because of the crazy amounts of knowledge he has accumulated and at this point I am laughing to hard to take notes.
8)disconnection/not well grounded- the most fertile ground for back sliding.
9) mental instability- lack of Tristana and the source of all the previous obstacles.
Here I Fell Asleep and just woke up. Richard’s presentation “mulabandha Is not what you think” started 25 minutes ago.
Maybe it is time to do shorter less packed conferences? I turn 56 next Sunday. You know you are run down when you have charmed the concierge with your foodie mania but you cannot take advantage of the special treatment he is so kindly giving you. I am canceling reservations for the second night in a row.
Okay. Back to the sutras. Sorry to give Richard David and Manju the short end of the stick here.
Richard: the sutras give Ashtanga context. We don’t just do the 3rd limb. He talked about how some ancient yogis got sidetracked by the siddhis and forgot about Kaivalya and Moksha. Pretty similar to todays yogi who gets sidetracked by the admiration of their abs/pecs/ youtube hits (uh-oh :D). The sutras are helpful reference for when you start waking up and you might misinterpret some of your realizations. Right here he gave an epic comparison to how the Vayrajana path should be followed without skipping over the Mahayana path that was worth the price of the 3 day workshop, so this is where you all wish you had come because I just don’t have the skills for a fair share.
David: you can quote the sutras with perfect pronunciation and your life can still be a mess. Most people don’t come to yoga looking for Patanjali they come looking for the yoga butt and then find Patanjali. This is when Richard’s prophecy ” yoga ruins your life” occurs. The sutras cause you to ask questions, they create the desire for self study. Be content to accumulate questions, people who accumulate and flaunt answers are an annoying pain in the butt.
Manju: having Guruji be both parent and teacher meant that learning the sutras was equivalent to living the sutras. No room for doubting no room for laziness. He also spoke of Indian practitioners not flaunting their yoga practice or their knowledge of yoga texts. He gave an example of being often asked why women in India don’t do yoga to which he responds: how do you know that? Because you don’t see them in a leotard?? People do their practice but don’t talk endlessly about it ( note to self here) he asked us to try practicing with no expectation of admiration attention clapping or astonishing results. If you focus you know where you are. If you do not notice progress it is probably because you are not there to notice it. Before being asked to chant both Dena and David added that the famous quote “all is coming” means all. Like be ready. All sorts of good things, hard things, weird things, and if you do your practice you can handle them all. Here a student asked Richard to explain the difference between no self and true self. I’ll stop to let you contemplate the scope of that request. He graciously gave a general non condescending answer and very tactfully mentioned how many pages and pages of references you would get if you typed Atman or Anatta in a search engine.
That’s all folks. Sorry about Mulabandha.
1. The pools and hot tubs in this darned hotel are going to be nothing but distractions. I am already scheming on how to play hooky if the conference/ lectures are shall we say “spontaneous/free association/unplanned”.
2. The swag bag or whatever you call it is a recyclers nightmare. A bunch of coupons you don’t need plus a bunch of squirty type snack/baby food and 3 magazines full of adds featuring teacher trainings and nutrition supplements.
3. Unreasonable me has already decided that it’s not the same without Eddie Stern. I might and hope to take that back in two and a half hours.
4. I have the impression that the folks from The Confluence Countdown are skipping this year. Is that auspicious? I don’t think so :D
5. Next workshop I attend better be catered and self contained. It cannot be a block from Nobu, Taco trucks, Mozza, Roy’s, and all the hard to get west coast oysters you cannot find back home. I don’t have this problem, but if you like craft beers you might be joining me in WTF?
6. I am going to have to comply to the internet hotel shakedown. The ” free” internet in the public spaces is a joke and my AT&T plan is not going to last the weekend. If there was ever a metaphor for “Merica” being left behind in technology it is the hotel wi-fi shakedown.
7. If there is a place in the Universe where the gods or the rewarded dwell, it has San Diego weather.
8. The 5 people I have met so far are all from Texas and they are here because of David Swenson. He should get comission.
9. As you can see nothing has really happened yet, I was just itching to blog.
My friend Michelle Ryan shared this yesterday and it covers pretty much everything you need to know to keep practicing without deluding yourself. It is one of the best things I have ever read about yoga. Her other posts are not too shabby either.
I read this article this morning http://www.everydayayurveda.org/live/ayurveda-political-practice-part-one-economic-justice which is day four of a self prescribed Ayurvedic cleanse based on an evaluation I was given a couple of years ago, so reading this piece was nothing but timely. Matthew writes long and hard, but if you quit reading, it would be because it starts to feel a bit uncomfortable to see that like me, we might be acquiring knowledge of our dosha, our blood type, our body shape, our astrological sign, and our ethnic ancestry to hoard/shop for permanent, constant, unchanging, optimal health and well being. That is not the only point, or even the most important point he makes here. I could not do this cleanse, commute for 2 and a half ours, teach for 7 hours, and come back to cook and do laundry. Heck, I’ve had to do my practice at home because of the unexpected dashes to the loo. So I guess that you have to schedule your health tune ups to replace your already scarce leisure time if you are a working stiff.
You might know I really admire this young whippersnapper named Jason Silva. He has a show somewhere in TV land that I don’t watch, but he shares amazing stuff on his twitter feed. In case you thought I only moan about asana and the consequences of overeating and overboozing, I do sometimes take a minute to consider the why of existence. I am also considering re reading JPS’ B&N but this time I am not 19 just trying impress someone handsome. That’s how I ended up reading Atlas Shrugged, But that’s neither here nor there.
This is part two of a very fast paced but fascinating series. I have a strong hunch that this will not be one of my most viewed posts, but I really loved this. Must thank Nobel over at Yoga in the Dragon’s den for planting some interest in checking out Jason’s recommendation today.