We Ashtangis do not generally practice in rooms with full wall to wall mirrors, except if your community has a nomadic existence and you all have to rely on the kindness of strangers and accept practice spaces in other studios with mirrors or like where I first met Ashtanga, my local YMCA. But who needs a mirror when Ashtanga will give you plenty of opportunities to observe yourself, your reactions both physical and mental to this practice? I also wonder if the absence of mirrors reflects in any way or correlates with the copious amounts of youtube clips and selfies of Ashtangis (hehehe) that I for one click on and examine for tips and hints to approach challenging asanas. But that is neither here nor there. I want to talk about why we think that any meditative practice, a moving one or a sitting one should be safe and free of harm. I am not an adventurous person. I marvel at people who thrive on rock climbing El Capitan in Yosemite, spelunking in caves in Central America, deep sea diving in the Sechyelles, and so forth. No one except for maybe their moms say to them try an adventure which guarantees you will at no time be in danger. I snort as I notice what I demand of my husband when I say have a safe trip when he leaves for the office or the many construction sites he visits daily. How can he control or guarantee that? Ah but we do demand that our yoga and our meditative method be safe and free of harm. We are all in the room breathing and trying to avail ourselves of Dristhi and Bandhas, but how quiet and stable is it really inside those heads day in and day out? I hear people say if you are breathing and using your bandhas you will not get hurt. Well duh, if you step carefully and don’t stumble you won’t fall of that cliff as you climb Machu Pichu either. One of my closest friends came back from silent retreat (definitely not his first or his last) and he mentioned how loud and unruly his mind was this time around. Again, his fellow retreat participants chuckled at how screaming loud and crazy that hall would sound if all those collective thoughts had volume. And that is what we are doing folks, when we are in the Mysore room or on the cushion, trying to make peace with how loud and disruptive we still are without getting too judgy. Oh, and also, everyone wants a superb teacher, I know. Teachers make terrible mistakes while teaching. The good ones and the bad ones. I think that is why nobody comes right out and says so and so snapped my femur or broke my knee. Adventure is complicated.
To all of those people who stayed up and chanted during Mahashivaratri last night because for the first time in months, I slept through the night. Like a baby. Or maybe it is the accumulated almost 90 days of ashwaganda, no sugar, and booze only four times so far that is doing the trick. all I can tell you is that I started playing the chants Grim shared of Ramaswami on youtube in a loop around 4 PM plus some other Om Nama Shivayas that appeared on the feed. I feel asleep with that japa in my head and woke up so refreshed that I decided that maybe the moon day was in fact tomorrow Saturday and not today and I would go to Led. Once there a friend shared with me that astrologically this particular February really does not have a new moon which very seldom happens (28 days? that makes sense). Before we started, teacher did mention that today was considered a moon day, and that all these people who chanted during the night were looking forward to it. She also shared that when Guruji was alive he would always decide on the side of allowing two days of rest if the moon day fell close to a Fri/Sat. in other words if the moonday could go either way, lets say Friday late or very early Saturday, he would close the shala on Friday so students and families could enjoy two days rest in a row. if the same happened between a Saturday and a Sunday, he would close the shala on Sunday so there could also be two days of rest. I am paraphrasing her description so any inaccuracies fall on ME okay? Long story short we took it easy and it was a lovely practice with nice heat because crap it is cold outside. Today is my first anniversary as a mother in law. Why am I making it all about me? because nobody else cares, particularly the newlyweds. They are coming into JFK tomorrow for a few weeks because the son in law has a new book out with his illustrations and is doing a book tour. I asked if I could make an anniversary dinner and they said they would like some lox/bagels/cream cheese/onions and capers and a dirty martini. I don’t think any of you have rugrats (or even know what that is) but here is the clip for the book:
Is what happens when the combination of cabin fever, lack of sleep, and over idealizing an event choke any trace of compassion or equanimity you had to begin with. I might have mentioned how much I enjoyed the one other restorative yoga session I have ever been to. That one was like a combination spa facial, foot rub, and being held by your mommy or Oprah for 90 minutes and only 25 bucks. Lets say I could not wait for today. I even gave up a bachelorette party last night so I would not be foggy for this afternoon. The limit is 14 people and 3 of these people today were gentlemen. Well wouldn’t you know that minutes after the session begins with a very soothing guided relaxation, 2 of these good sirs start snoring loudly. Like in the cartoons. One of these good human beings is right next to me, and my mind begins screaming bloody murder the same way it happens in sitcoms. At this point I would like to share the fact that besides being menopausal, the other reason for my lack of good sleep is that the man I love most on this earth has began snoring like a rhino. some nights I have ended up leaving the premises for another room, and this past week I received the heart melting gift of noise cancelling headphones. I am not proud to say that I had nothing but anger towards my fellow yogis for the first minute or two, then I developed nervous inner laughter followed by self inner yelling to hold my shit together. Thankfully we began moving after that. It ended up being just as lovely as the last time but I almost blew it. And did I mention that the mantra or intention/inspiration for the session was “I believe, I trust, I surrender” ? I love the confessional powers of this blog. thanks for listening, feeling pardoned and refreshed.
You probably know we all have been reading David Garrigues’ post on perfection. Maybe you also happen to read Chris Courtney’s Yoga for Perfectionists over at yoganonymous.com. They appeared on my FB news feed on the same day. Maybe you should not be reading the opinions on perfection from someone who started her practice around 10:45 AM today, but here are my two cents. Desire for perfection (or any other damn thing/situation) comes from unmet needs. Why do you want perfection (in this particular instance)?? Be careful how you answer that because I have recently discovered that as soon as we give ourselves permission to go after what we want most of us realize we don’t actually know exactly what we want. Maybe you do so in that case proceed. Perfection becomes a non issue when there is a foundation of self trust. Trusting your impulses without judgement determines whether any learning or improvement project is going to be approached as war against the faulty self or as a discovery that transforms the already pretty good self. Notice how much practice it takes to use the term pretty good on yourself honestly. In public. Anyway, I just noticed that one post was approaching desire as benign and the other was noticing desire as compulsion. Perfection can be sought through war against the self, or through peace with the self. My guess is both get it done. Only one way with less carnage.
I suggest that you check to see how I filched everything here from Charles Eisenstein’s chapter on Struggle from his book The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible.
I have left the house exactly once this week and it was on foot. And only because I did not want the tax collector to charge us for a car we sold last October. I feel less isolated today because I know a lot of us are using the home runways today. I for one, am feeling the confluence of very low barometric pressure and an invisible full moon tomorrow, so I used my runway in very unconventional ways today. After some very unpleasant forward folds, I did some standing and decided to play with blocks. I used them for Lolasana, I used them to avoid face planting in Bekasana, I used them to jump to and back from seated without toe dragging like the big girls, and I used them to hold my back during back bending. before that I also put some weights on my hands while I laid on my back at the edge of the bed as per the advice of a fellow blogger a long time ago. It feels like a Spanish inquisition technique, but it does make a difference. After no inversions because of the sinus thing a took a long cozy nap. I so look forward to a little fun tomorrow with my old college room mate. We are going to enjoy Cibbo Matto at The Poisson Rouge followed by a little sake at someplace with no Valentine hard sell. Enjoy your Friday moon day
A perfect day:
1. Watch a movie too close to your bedtime the night before. The Butler in this particular instance.
2. Fret about Mariah Carey’s character, and Oprah’s character while you toss and turn most of the night.
3. Turn off the alarm and think I’ll go to J’s 11:AM because in the fog you think it’s Friday not Sunday.
4. Wake up to the smell of fresh croissants & coffee because your hon has gone to get the NYT paper edition.
5. digest the dough and coffee while you talk to daughter for over an hour on the phone while you plan what to do/eat/go when she visits for the entire month of March.
6. Go upstairs to commit to at least 5 As & 5B’s and make it all the way to 1/2 primary.
7. Have a 2PM lunch while husband reads you articles from the Economist and you take sips of HIS glass of Cabernet.
8. Finish a leftover carton of Jeni’s Whiskey and Pecan ice cream because even though it is over a month old it is too expensive to throw and you freshen it up with a dash of Talisker.
9. Read a couple of motivational ashtanga blogs ( Sadhana in the city & The Journey of My Practice) because tomorrow is Monday and you need to get over the fear of driving in the snow to get to practice.
10. Inhaling your freshly laundered towels and realizing you finally figured out the right amount of baking soda to add in order to get that sesame oil smell out of your towels because that is what ends up happening when you do abhyanga daily.
11. It is one minute to 4 PM and you find no fault in the way your day has gone.
There is a lot of “no like” swirling around the ether along with these darn snowflakes. As good time as any to do a theoretical study on patience, because who is really qualified to do a demonstration?? Hahahahahaha! Impatience is really a manifested dislike of the present moment. I have told two people today that I saved the ideal poster/quote/saying on Pinterest on this subject and could not find it until I decided to patiently and slowly go through each and every board or “like” until I did.
Fed up with the snow? Like how it feels being fed up. Or, like the snow.
Fed up with your blog? Like ditching your blog. Or like that you want a better one.
Fed up with not liking somebody? That is actually hard. But maybe like NOT liking sources of pain, until you build a tolerance for that source of pain. Remember when hearing that Downward dog was a resting pose caused a mental (or audible) snort? So we build a tolerance even to human sources of discomfort- with practice. Practice, right.
Fed up with your practice? Well that one is actually dangerous. But, if you do not accept and make peace with it not being as enjoyable as you remember or as IT SHOULD be then you stop. AND we know we are not going to like that. I committed to liking whatever feeble squat I came up with on Surya B, and to liking the plop on the floor instead of Chaturanga. and to being okay with pre planning only 3 Navsanas while I am still on the second side of Mari A. Am I afraid that I might digress into that kind of sloppy practice? Yes. But I am even more afraid of digressing into a potential I won’t do Asthanga anymore because it’s been a month since I don’t practice and it is going to hurt a lot if I start again. So I do sloppy until it is ready to leave.
Okay, I got lost there at the end, but I I found the Pinterest thing!!
For any Videographer, or Documentary film maker who thinks Ashtanga is an interesting topic: How about making a gorgeous documentary about the mothers of Ashtanga yoga who brought it to the west? I was having dinner with friends in NYC and I mentioned how much I learn and enjoy from what Kiki Flynn shares. Anecdotally I understand that she can handle Kannada, Sanskrit, and who knows what other Mysore magic tricks. Plus I understand that she is a master connector, and gets this teacher in touch with that artist and this student in contact with that teacher in the middle of nowhere. plus she knows a truckload about health, nutrition and balanced living. My friend Kristen who attended the MLK retreat as well, introduced me to the story of her teacher, Louise Ellis. Probably one of the most humble under the radar most knowledgeable and experienced Asthanga teachers around -male or female. How is it possible that so many of us don’t even know how much she knows? Every time I see a picture of Annie Pace I just know she has access to currents of power flowing through her. You all know how much admiration I feel for Nancy Gilgoff’s compassionate but firm teaching. There are others, and of course there are the young ones, But I find a woman who has lived a lifetime as an ashtangi an absolutely fascinating subject matter for a beautiful piece of filmography. What say you all? I bet this would be just an awesome project for someone who knows what they’re doing.
For me obviously! I am constantly discovering how to make warm water, so in no particular order:
1. Chant vibration is no joke. It is a real palpable energy and that is probably one of the reasons why practicing in that space feels so powerful and steady.
2.The only reason for having shown up at this particular episode or stage of the story is to figure out a set up to remind us we came to get liberated. If you picked yoga as part of that plan, very good move.
3. Deities are really good at giving form to what we cannot figure out and do not mind showing the way to where the divine resides. Turns out it is everywhere. even inside us.
4. 100 plus people doing pranayama at the same time sounds like steady traffic swooshing by on wet pavement.
5. Trying to explain Vedanta in one afternoon is crazy. I should repeat that.
6 After learning that Jiva Mukti means realized being, I now find that it might be a bit much to name your yoga studio or yoga method that.
7. One very good reason for maintaining drishti is there is scientific evidence of brain cells that link directly to the eyes and to the nose, without first traveling throughout the nervous system, they go directly form the eyes and the nose to the brain.
8. If you ever go to India and simply cannot commit to a dip in the Ganges in Varanasi because of self preservation, take a dip in Haridwar where it is cleaner.
9. Watching a slide show (not powerpoint, but a slideshow with beautiful photos) with someone like Robert Moses providing commentary, becomes an intimate family like gathering of people who love and respect their practice.
10. I have to man up an find me some Alain Danielou to read if I ever want to figure out Hindu Philosophy, and maybe address my very nagging concern which is that maybe the age of the guru is really over, and now what.
11. Don’t be shy like me and ask for the recipe for the Broome Street Temple’s chai.
It is a slippery slope having favorites of anything to perform any daily ritual. All of a sudden your favorites become talismans, and lucky this and thats, and then you realize that you gradually painted yourself into a corner of ideal conditions that are very far from the basic ones described in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. I already described my little joy when it is time to wear my only pair of those disgraced Lulus. I also have 2 tops that I swear make a difference in the way my practice goes that day. There are also lucky people. I have my favorites to do harmonic breathing with. And of course spots. All four corners of the room are auspicious, but the ones at the front best the ones near the door in the back, unless it is led primary and you already planned to bolt after Navasana, then the back is preferred and polite at the same time. There is also a correct way to pack and unpack your mat, your blankie, and your eye pillow; both activities if done carefully, as calming and centering as the opening and closing mantras. Oh, and I must wear my moonstone earrings. Forgetting them ruins everything. And a parking spot, there is a luck parking spot, but that’s a secret.