Serious question. It involves prioritizing time and money. And I know the answer. I am fortunate to have the chance to partake from the following: Sharath in NYC during mid September. A week of led primary at $250 no day passes and more than one hundred people at the Chinatown YMCA. Louise Ellis Workshop at my dear friend Kristen Albertson’s Shala in Fayetteville, Arkansas also in mid September, and Tim Miller at my shala in Georgetown, CT in October. I am not one of those who has cash for all three, and as you can see you need special siddhis to simultaneously partake of the Sharath and Louise workshop. I have experienced the strong and lovely energy of practicing in the presence of Sharath and Saraswati. What you are attending is not a workshop or an opportunity to refine your asana practice. It is another thing that is definitely not about the $250 price and you either know what I mean or you disregard as you please. Ever since I found out about Louise, I have had this strong desire to study with her, in the same way that I wanted to study with Nancy and Dena. Having been in both their workshops at AYC, I hope to study with them again in a smaller venue which is what Ashtanga Yoga Fayetteville offers with Louise. Then there is Timji, my teacher’s teacher, the teacher of so many other teachers I respect. To me his visit is a vivid, vibrant expression of parampara. So, for now my available pennies are on Louise. My resolution is to save some more for Tim’s October visit, and pay my respects to Sharath and Saraswati when there are no scheduling conflicts.
This is probably not an interesting post for someone who is doing third series or has that as a pragmatic goal. I have been paying attention to the conversation over on facebook about avoiding and preventing yoga injury. Some of you already know that instead of learning both, I chose between learning the Sanskrit count & names of asana or the names and location of those pieces of raw flesh called muscles. Ekam!! I went that way maybe because if I hear or read about injuries to specific body parts, mine start hurting too. The disadvantages to being compassionate but not courageous. I also pretend to bless myself to remember left from right, so definitely a career in physical therapy was not in the cards for me. I am fortunate to be the student of a person who is a former Olympic athlete, has a college degree in Modern Dance, and has 20 years of ashtanga practice under her belt with both common sense and devotion towards parampara. Some of my fellow students, work in the field of massage therapy, and as far as I know, there is also an MD who comes occasionally and was fortunately practicing the day I broke O’s nose during headstand a couple of years ago. My teacher is currently traveling, and there are fellow students of hers who I’m pretty sure have 200 and 500 and whatever is next YA TT documents, assisting us and each other during Mysore practice. The feeling of warmth, support, belonging, and community is palpably spiritual in the room- to me at least. If a brand new student walked in at this time, they probably would do their Sury As and Bs in a gentle manner, close and go home uninjured. This is not a shala that has 50 people every morning, more like a steady 25 sometimes less sometimes more. We have all made hamstring mistakes, shoulder stupidities, and brought knee problems from a previous lifestyle. But we recover and remember what did us in and try not to rescind. Most areas of my life work more or less in that manner, with my family, my former job or my creative projects. I try something while I learn how to do it. I have burned food, broken and ripped things, offended people, given bad instructions, Some stuff I could not fix. I am not saying knowledge of anatomy is not important or desirable in teaching asana. I am saying that it is no more important than it’s role in other movement based activity whether it be for work, recreation, or therapeutic and spiritual goals. Sometimes I get the feeling that we tend to dampen a joyful and challenging activity they way some parents advise the correct use of the monkey bars, the slide, and the swings in the playground, or the correct way to build the sand castle.
I just figured out a way to jot down things that I am wondering about but do not feel like writing an entire post ( in my case 8 sentences or so) about.
I decided to ditch the India/Saraswati idea for October after reading about “How rape is sometimes right” courtesy of State Minister Babulal Gaur. I just don’t feel like encouraging the tourist/visitor industry to think that: -they will come anyway after this all blows off. I saw a photo of those two girls hanging from a tree. There, I said it. Yes, I understand that India is a huge country and Bangalore/Mysore is not the same as other places but this is the only way I can think of protesting the status quo and expressing solidarity.
#WAWADIA. In Canada there is an outgoing discussion about yoga and injury- What Are We Actually Doing In Asana. There is a clip on youtube with a fraction of the conversation. Matthew Remski shared a bit of it on Facebook. I know that having a body for a home requires some housekeeping/maintenance, but I never imagined that what I thought was the housekeeping part required maintenance too???!! This is definitely a first world problem, and yes I realize that I am not giving this topic the depth or width it deserves when we speak of practitioners whose life calling and livelihood are linked to the teaching and demonstration of asana.
Finally, quick question: I bought a travel rug to take on a long vacation. If any of you use one, how wet do you have to get this thing for it not to move around? I am assuming all shalas have spray bottles? Because if I have to carry my own, this purchase was pretty stupid, huh?
I engaged in disorderly conduct. I was signed up for Manju’s 7 AM primary but since Dena’s two hour led wiped me out yesterday, I decided to crash the 7 AM mysore just in case 1/2 primary was all I had left in me. I also saw that Shelley Washington had arrived and I just like to be in the same room she is ( I am a shameless Shelley and Mary groupie). All this of course predicated by availability. I was going to move to where I belong if it was mat to mat. Well, my guess is that Tim’s obstacle sermon fell on deaf ears on a Saturday night because there was lots and lots of room. Well don’t you know that I ended up doing the whole thing, inspired by my neighbor who did her whole practice on the floor because of her fractured leg (cast from above the knee to her ankle). Now enjoying my bloody mary & pancakes while my yogi neighbors enjoy their oatmeal ( they’re like 20 years old, definitely not celebrating mothers day).
Pranayama and Chanting with Manju.
He started by telling how pranayama helped him manage a heart attack in an airport until he got home and went straight right into quadruple bypass surgery. So he guided us through 4 pranayama exercises and told us to use that like we use dental floss as frequently as you take meals. That was followed by 40 minutes call and response chanting. He said chanting was pretty great when you are over 60 and your spouse and your kids don ‘t feel like dealing with you. He highlighted the benefits from the vibrations and for your memory skills. He was asked for personal anecdotes from both his parents which he very smartly kept general and not intimate.
That’s it. I leave early to go visit and cook with my friend Mary Jo in LA before continuing to Vancouver to party at my friend Andrea ‘s wedding.
Pretty awesome 8:30 start time. No more than 40 people in the Mysore room and every teacher/assistants except Richard Freeman and his assistants in the room. So lots of lovely adjustments. There was a lovely woman who practically gave me a full back massage after backbending.
The Evolution of Ashtanga
I was afraid this would be all blabla or retelling the same old same old. I was so very wrong. I hope they made share the video because there is no way I will do an 11:30-1:30 full of good stuff talk justice on this blog.
Some highlights for you all know I’m no Grimmly.
Manju started off by saying the first western invader was french speaking and not english and for a while there neither he or his dad had any idea of what he was saying.
He wrote about his experience in Life magazine and the full invasion started shortly after.
David Swenson told the Manju -I’m no swami we are here to break your backs story. Dena followed with a recent anecdote about her son Who was Saraswati’s student this past Christmas and how she told him “tomorrow- I kill you!” Richard shared how Amaji was so delighted with her first snow in Boulder that she started a snow ball fight. He mentioned Boulder’s connection to Shambhala Buddhism and how thrilled Guruji was to be a guest in the Dalai Lama’s sleeping quarters. Tim reminisced about the church basement where he started practice compared to this resort and the 2 bucks he paid compared to what we paid. He mentioned the double fear of being adjusted by Guruji and the fear of being ignored by Guruji.
Dominick asked Manju about adjusting to the USA in the begining and he joked about how every guy looked the same; long hair and a “weird” big smile. The conversation veered to “geriatric yoga” with Richard throwing in the monkey wrench of our cultures’ penchant for experimenting and I think he alluded to epigenetics and mumbled something about having to change how we practice if we end up “developing” extra limbs like maybe 4 arms instead of 2. Dena said that the practice has had to evolve from a full house being 12 students to a full house being 200+ . You cannot teach in the original traditional tiny room style. She also spoke about how when you start, you measure progress by pose accumulation like trophies. As your practice and your body matures, you change your measure of progress by the quality of your intentions and that definitively improves as you age. David added that even if you still use asana as currency and you measure your Ashtanga wealth in that manner, you get to a point where you engage in “philanthropy” and start giving stuff back. Tim very candidly shared the progression of his “philanthropy” and had us all chuckling. I am going to skip a chunk of talk about Ashtanga vs other styles of yoga and how every well known teacher was once an Ashtanga or Iyengar student and how going on and on about authenticity can sound like the yelling on a cable channel or a bad day at the UN security counsel. David said great asana teachers create thinking self regulating students to which
Manju added that Ashtanga was all about the geometries of life, about creating well built stable sound structures. He also said that yoga is very simple, it is everything else that is terribly complicated.
Richard and David talked about musical compositions and how inevitably every orchestra sounds different although the same music is being followed. They asked that students stop asking for tablets engraved in stone unaltered for eternity, or for the original authentic un changing formula. Yoga is life and life evolves. Dina said we Ashtangis are like a big family with strong bonds but that doesn’t mean that things do not get lively when our uniqueness and diversity shows up at the family reunion.
At 2:45 a charming gentleman called Dr. Manoj Chalam gave a lecture on Hindu deities and archetypes and I am now running out of steam but it was so illustrative and well delivered that he now has $300 of Ray’s dollars and I have 3 beautiful brass statues.
I chugged a protein shake before David’s “so you think you can balance” workshop which resulted after 40 minutes into “I’m pretty sure I might barf” so I left with a monster headache and my tail between my legs. This was the session I was most hopeful about in like I might hear/ learn something useful in solving my fear of abandonment issues in Sirsasana. I need to go to sleep. Furious about having to skip dinner in this foodie town because of my queasy stomach.
Please remember that the odds of my writing this long again are not in your favor.
I know a bunch of you who practice alone either because you prefer it so or you are a teacher who needs to get their practice in before you put the proverbial oxygen mask on others. I am today however going to go on and on about how group practice dissolves all excuses, and self limitations. I have been repeating to myself for a number of years that my excess weight prevents me from performing certain asanas without modifications. Last fall (more or less) a cute shalamate with similar build and shape started practicing and she now rocks everything. From her chaturanga to her backbend. I also repeat the I started at fifty litany frequently when I get frustrated or chicken out of taking things to the next level. well there is someone who has a few more years on her than I do and now that she is retired she has made all arm balances into an art form. And then there is my teacher, for those who say that beautiful advanced practices are for people who forgo any other profession and endeavor or for pampered suburban fraus. My teacher does her practice, runs her shala, manages her home and runs her own family restaurant/artisanal bakery. So there goes that. Gang support, as many levels of society can attest, is a potent source of power. Next time I jot something down will probably be from San Diego, I’m looking forward to AYC, but to be honest I am at this point way more excited about lounging and dipping into the hotel pool.
Gotta say, after ten days of fasting, you do not miss a bind (at least the ones you had and lost at some point). My first day at the shala was yesterday and it was one of those where you hiss:”yessss” in your head, plus a couple of “oh wows”. All in all very enjoyable. It sort of really is of the essence to create some space for asana with assistance from your eating routine. I don’t know how many times I’ll have to retake this lesson. As many as necessary. I guess. Needless to say I danced into led today looking forward to some more of the feels great but guess what: After UP B I was so dizzy, lightheaded, and shaky that I had to sit down. Some sort of electrolyte imbalance after resuming soup? Who knows. I did some sort of closing and laid down for rest, and promptly fell asleep. Asleep like I heard Janu A and I was startled to realize I was not home. Still, I did not get up, because I did not have the energy to do so and those few minutes were one of the best naps I’ve ever had. I sat up and watched a little and then packed my mess and headed home. More humble on Sunday.
Ashtanga, so famous for it’s ambitious type A practitioners. Infamous for causing strong sensations which may or not be labeled pain. Impressive when you watch an advanced practice, and even when you just watch a determined beginner. Most famous probably for *earning* or having to patiently wait to be given/taught/allowed another asana, or begin a new series. Most other classes might begin with the teacher asking “any requests?” Meaning any poses a student might like to include in the sequence. So, I think I am allowed to generalize by saying ashtangis have to be more vigilant than many other practices to stay in the present moment, because we are always committed to improving and refining. Thank goodness for dristhi and the sound of your breath because they are what keeps me and most of you in the now. There is nothing wrong with wishing to be better or being unsatisfied with the pace of progress, but it has taken me six years and a month to really understand that if I do not derive some pleasure and appreciation of what I can do now, today, this moment, what comes next gets either delayed, or it arrives when the conditions are unfavorable and you have to give it all back. I have done seven days of very very light practice. 15 minutes max. But I have enjoyed them in a fresh new way, experiencing contentment. A very unfamiliar feeling, which I can describe as satisfaction without the desire to critique or evaluate. I finish a ten day juice fast on Wednesday. I spaced out and scheduled a lunch tomorrow with a lovely friend that I have been looking forward to seeing. If you read this N, I hope you don’t mind that I sip herbal tea while you eat and we talk. “I don’t always finish a fast….” :D But when I do, sitting practice and sleep are beyond expectation!
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.