First I took “Detailing” with Baron Baptiste. It was kind of hard because he made us hold poses for what felt like an eternity. I liked the fact that he threw in “side plank” despite it being an all levels class. I got about a million adjustments from Baron and his amazing assistants. The highlight: when Baron instructed us into a graceful handstand without telling us what we were doing! I know how that sounds – impossible. But seriously. He had us in a shortish Down Dog, had us raise one leg up into a Down Dog Split and then rise up higher and higher onto the ball of the other foot. At some point, I realized that I was no longer on the ground anymore – an assistant had ever-so-quietly, ever-so- surreptitiously placed one flexed foot under the sole of my standing foot until I was basically floating supported only by his flexed foot and my own stength/bandhas.
At the end of class, Baron has us take Viparita Kurani (legs up the wall), but without a wall. Instead we had our hands under our butts, supporting the lower back and helping to lift the legs to vertical. Quite cool. As I was hanging out there, Baron came up to me and whispered in my ear: “You have wonderful potential. I mean that sincerely. But you need a new teacher.”
If I weren’t already on the floor, I probably would have fallen over. See, when he started in with “You have wonderful potential,” I thought that surely the next sentence would be, “But you need to focus, to stay in the moment, to stop being such a flibberdigibbit” or some version thereof….because this is what nearly every yoga teacher I have ever had has said to me at some point, often unsolicited. So, I was caught quite off guard when I realized that the gist of his message had nothing whatsoever to do with my eyes darting around the room.
I must say, I was perplexed. I had no idea what he actually meant, but as he stood up and started to walk away, my mind reached and grasped for possibilities. The only thing I could think of was that my form was different from the typical vinyasa student. Ashtangis are always obvious to me when I am teaching a class. First, there is the telltale truncated Downward Dog, chest pressing towards the thighs, heels pressed close to the ground. Then there are the twists – deeper, more assertive, usually armpit to knee with the hand flat (or close to flat) on the floor. Flat hands on the floor in Uttanasana, in Uttita Parsvakonasana. I could go on….but at any rate, as my mind spun the possibilities, my mouth opened to release the battle cry of confusion mixed with protest mixed with pride:
“But I’m an Ashtangi!”
“I don’t care what you are…you need a new teacher if you want to reach your full potential.”
Never one to just let something like that go, I found myself approaching him after the final “Namaste”. “Hi, Baron,” I said, “I wanted to ask you what you meant before when you said that I need a new teacher.” He repeated again that he could see that I have great potential. I asked if he meant “physical ability”. He said something to the effect of, “Well, yes, but not just that, I mean the yoga, the whole thing.” It still wasn’t making any sense. I guess I looked confused because he went on to say that it seemed to him that whomever was teaching me was not really opening me up to my full potential, or something like that.
I have to say, I was perplexed. But I had very little time to ruminate about it because I had less than 15 minutes to get to meet my cousin, Debpc, at another place, a place that Debpc and I have come to call…
Or as it was called in the Yoga Journal Conference Brochure: “Gravity Surfing with Ana Forrest of Forrest Yoga (TM)”. This class was on the “Advanced Track” and demanded “no wrist issues”. I figured it would be fun to do some arm balances. We were immediately introduced to her three assistants, Jonathan (a young hottie with big bulging weight-lifter muscles, who turned out to be her husband, although Ana did not say as much), a tall and very Meow Mix-looking girl whose name escapes me, and finally, a fairly non-descript girl whom Ana introduced as “Another Ana” (or, perhaps, “Another Anna”). And then without further ado, we were indoctinated into the Forrest (TM) way, by which I mean, we were made to do the most evil, scary version of crunches I have ever seen, let alone partaken of. Then there were about 10 minutes of forearm stands, another 10 minutes of handstands, all with “Twisted Root” legs. This was followed by jumping into Bakasana (aka “Bakasana B”), which both Debpc and I managed surprisingly competently. Who knew? This was followed by numerous variations on Bakasana, Eka Pada Bakasana, Koundinyasana, Twisted Bird of Paradise and others I’m sure I am blocking out. This all went surprisingly well. However at some point, maybe halfway through, a question popped into my head:
“Where is the yoga?”
And with that, my focus went out the window. I don’t know how many times I looked at my watch or came out of a pose to gape at the woman in the center of the front row, who I believe is none other than THIS woman:
Her bandhas were breathtaking. And besides, after executing three different versions of Eka Pada Koundinyasana, I just kind of lost interest in what I was doing.
And this apparently was not lost on Ana.
“You’re are all over the place, my dear,” she snarked as she brushed past me to adjust Debpc in some kind of wicked shoulder-shrugging torture she had us doing in preparation for Astavakrasana.
“Lots going on in that head!” she teased as she wiggled her fingers around the top of my head.
Caught out yet again.
Or perhaps Ana just notices things like that. At one point, she admonished the class to cut out the chatting, “And that means you too, [Another] Anna”. Clearly, Another Anna was not the favored disciple, at least that day.
Despite the dark scariness that Ana exudes, I have to say that she possesses the most astoundingly graceful physical strength I have ever beheld in a woman, or perhaps in any human. And her personal history is equally astonishing.
Restorative Yoga with Judith Lasater. Pure yogic Ambien it was. Even for a flibberdigibbit like me.
The take-away lesson: Because it takes a minimum of 15 minutes to enter a state of Pratyahara, according to Ms. Lasater at least, one must always remain in Savasana for a minimum of 15 minutes, even if practice is only an hour long.
Not sure if I can actually take that lesson home. But, okay, point well taken.
(Oh, by the way, did you know that in Colorado, at least in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Elk are currently migrating? We saw packs of them around the YMCA of the Rockies, where the Yoga Journal Conference was held. They look like big, giant fuzzy deer. The boy elk have these giant antlers that make them look like total badasses. As we drove by, I pointed through the car window to one with a particularly impressive set. As if on cue, he dipped his head toward me, as if to show me his stuff. It was downright flirtatious.)
Dinner on Saturday night was at Nepal’s, where “everybody knows your name”, as the song goes.
The next morning, while Debpc waved her arms around under the tutelage of Shiva Rea, I spent a luxurious two hours practicing all of Primary, plus a few of my own shoulder-opening, chest cracking, hip-rotating sequences thrown in for good measure.
And then it was off to the airport.
And that concludes my report on what I did this weekend.