That statement is probably the most important thing I remember Louise Ellis saying to us during last weekend’s workshop. Whatever intention, resolution or promise you made to yourself in regard to your practice, you must sustain it not with force but with conviction, faith, and time. Everyone knows I try to ditch Intro to second series whenever I remember which Friday it is, because it leaves me rattled and sometimes frankly hostile. Today was not one of those days when I remembered, and even though this time I thought I was not emotionally taxed I did manage to annoy me knee enough to not want to bend it at all. How did I do that? By being aggressive. Aggressive how? By applying force against the wall to stretch my quads in preparation for Bhekasana even though I had already felt discomfort during Krounchasana. Now I have a swollen knee that I am icing hoping it is good enough to dance a bit at a wedding tomorrow, and strong enough for the Climate March on Sunday. Another important thing that Louise said was that Ashtanga is not a self improvement project. It is a spiritual practice with beneficial side effects, but it is not a fix-transform-version 2.0 more powerful improved body mind project. It is also not an escape, she said. If you subtract aggressive discipline/enforcement, self improvement delusions, and other external motivations for practice, it is no wonder that as Richard Freeman says, that when you get really good is when you quit.
I’ll make this short because I’m hungry and exhausted, but what else is new?? It is cold as you know what here in Arkansas. I packed for 88 degree weather, which is how I found the best thrift shop I’ve ever been to. God bless college towns. If you are ever in Fayetteville visit Cheap Thrills. I saw Leonard dresses from the 70’s (those are Emilio Pucci inspired prints) for 30 bucks. Not my size and I don’t wear prints but still. Okay, about the yoga. If you know Kristen Albertson who owns and runs Ashtanga Yoga Fayetteville you already know she is a delight. Calm, steady, and ready to laugh after getting off a plane after a grueling business trip and ready to greet everyone with coconut water fresh juice and good for you fancy snacks. Feel so lucky to have made friends with this one. Louise Ellis is beautiful. I need to mention that because it is distracting and because it is the testament to the benefits of many decades of Ashtanga practice. She doesn’t just glow, she sort of vibrates. So. Mysore practice in a small room 12 students, pretty darn wonderful. Yin practice in the afternoon? I have done restorative yoga in the past which I love. This Yin yoga makes a liar out of you if you have ever dared to say you can stay in the present moment. Which brings me to the title of this post. This is my second day of driving having no idea where I’m going. I eventually arrive but it feels pretty awful to be lost driving a car that is not yours. I got a traffic ticket already, but I am doing better with the feeling of having no idea of when I will arrive. Which is sort of like Yin yoga, you have no idea when the pose will end. Fortunately Louise has the most melodious voice, AND she imparts such valuable information/1% theory while you are holding the pose that it helps focus the mind, but darn do I wish I had pen and paper to write down everything she said. More of that tomorrow because I have to jot things down while I remember and I am starving. Tomorrow old school led with full vinyasa.
I don’t know when I decided that “correct method” was arriving, unpack/set up quickly, stand up straight, dedicate, chant, go! I considered any variation of that was”faffing”. While at home with no audience to behave in front of, I developed a sort of sitting practice where I told myself that starting was all that was required, that I could go as slow or as fast as I wanted to, that I could stop at any point that I wanted to, Or just sit and breathe in front of the candle the whole time if that is what I wanted. Don’t you know that I got up and practiced more consistently than during any other time since I started half a dozen years ago. Yesterday was my first day back at the shala, and it was like the first day of school, very enthusiastic and good. So enthusiastic that I messed up my problem left knee during a simple vinyasa. Today, Three different vehicles of varying sizes tried to cut me off in the scant 20 minutes it takes to get to Georgetown. I arrived with my heart in my throat. So I sat down and did the sitting thing until my heart went back to my chest. I think I am going to sit down and breathe for a little bit before standing up from now on.
Like communing with community, not the catholic sacrament. I really wish I could attend the festivities at The Broome Street Temple today. I have been practicing by myself for two months and really miss the silent presence of my fellow ashtangis. It kills me that I will be just a few blocks away celebrating one of my niece’s birthday, and as a family we are circling the wagons for the long haul. Any opportunity to huddle together is now precious. I bet that this evening’s puja is nicely attended but not elbow to elbow because labor day weekend. Gotta say that those lonely 108 Om Gam Ganapatayeh Namaha’s did put quite a strong wind on my sails this morning. Below is maybe my favorite Illustration.
Happy Ganesh Chaturthi
This question always rolls around my brain like a marble whenever my practice is not making me pant (with a closed mouth of course) and the sweat is not stinging my eyes for whatever reason. How come I was given additional poses when still after 6 years of practice I cannot bind in Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana? On either side. Same with Ardha Baddha PP, which I sort of had but it went away sometime around the end of 2012. Anyway, I always hear that when you go to Mysore you get stopped at the asana you cannot perform in it’s full expression. Doesn’t that mean that I should be doing just standing until I somehow get my act together? I want to make it clear that I am in no way second guessing my teacher, who probably knows my practice better than I do, since she can be more objective and has no whacky inner voice agenda whining away (about me anyway). It’s just that some days, today being one, I feel stupid from the minute I jump into the modified Bhuja, to the non existent Kurmasana & Supta K. I regain some dignity during rolling through Garbha P and manage to keep it going all the way until the who the hell knows how it’s going to go today in Setu Bandhasana. Closing is closing and I no longer fret about whether Sirsasana will ever materialize unassisted. I just want to say that the rolling marble in my head would like to know what type of practice would I be doing in a very traditional by the book mysore room. Maybe the marble is also rolling because Grimmly recently wrote about what Yoga Mala says on what asanas to practice when you are middle aged, which at 56 is somewhere past the middle.
It might be seeing evidence of progress in reaching out for patience when things get stuck or malfunction. Maybe it takes six years of the yoga. Also, and feel free to laugh, this internet connection sometimes provides free good advice therapy and inspiration all in one tweet some days. For instance today, I read a tweet from cyber acquaintance fellow ashtangi Tony which said that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. I read this before reclaiming my tiny go cart that my daughter had been borrowing to go shopping for her own ride. It turns out she and her husband pulled on the emergency brake so hard this time, that I can’t push it back down and it is completely stuck. If I had done this before surfing the cybernets and finding that quote, my story for this would be- this is a symbol of what is happening to my life right now and the emergency brakes are always on and there is no emergency. Instead ,I remembered the twitter oracle and decided to wait until later to try again, or wait for Ray to give me some alternatives, or call Scion for my free 24 months roadside assistance if I decide it is necessary. I have also began exercising some patience with that extra breath I have to take before Astau in Sury B which I always feel embarrassed and guilty for taking, until I realized I was alone and it was not like I could do it without taking it and was not doing it on purpose. Which curiously enough, the person over at Cultfit wrote today about how we sometimes ruin our experiences by wanting to be in sync with the “crowd”. Yes, even when they are not in the same room. Stopping or slowing down do not equate to incorrect or bad. It is what it is.