Today began like any other day. I got my kids to school relatively painlessly, took Lewis on a walk and got him into his doggie den rather painlessly and got my car from the garage. Unfortunately, someone who had driven down the FDR Drive before me did not do so painlessly. One of three Southbound lanes was completely closed to traffic, and what with the rubbernecking, my ride down to Shala X took more than 40 minutes, where it should take no more than 20. By the time I walked into the Shala, I realized that the gluteal stiffness from two hours of ice skating yesterday was starting to set in.
No matter. I set my mat down and set out to practice nice and slowly, nice and smoothly, since I knew I had no hope of any adjustments, save for maybe Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana, which I could have really used, and which I didn’t end up getting. There was no point in rushing. It was going to be the same as a home practice, only I was borrowing (paying for, really) the energy of the shala and the hope of maybe an adjustment or two before Sir left the room.
Practice wasn’t bad, really. It wasn’t the bendiest or the strongest. But it was fine. I took as long as I needed to get into each and every posture, and I like it that way.
It’s my practice, after all.
Can you guess where this is heading?
I should stress that I didn’t add any prep or R&D postures into the mix until Janu Sirsasana C – I just did my practice, albeit slowly. Then, the clock struck 10 a.m., and Sir was preparing to leave the room. I knew I had my work cut out for me in Supta Kurmasana, so I figured that it would be a good idea to get really deep into Janu Sirasana C – a nice Sacrum-opener. As such, I saw fit to take my leg up behind my shoulder in order to super-externally rotate my hip.
It’s my practice, after all, and I was about to face my hardest postures on my own, without assistance from a teacher, and knowing that everyone else in the room was settling into their finishing postures or already in savasana. That alone is a recipe for tossing in the towel. But I wasn’t going to toss in the towel. The plan was to plug along.
That is, until Sir came up to me and mocked me: “You think that putting your leg behind your head is going to make Supta Kuramasana easier?”
I was mortified.
I stammered something about the knee in Janu Sirasana, but I managed to censor myelf from making the excuse that the medications I am taking (Arimidex, in particular) can make me arthritically stiff, and so sometimes I need that extra stretch. I’ve been thinking about that all day too. Is my body simply not cut out for Ashtanga, with its rigid requirements of NO PREP poses and strict adherance to a specific sequence that does not leave room for the possibility that maybe, just MAYBE, someone in the room is on a lifelong prescription for medication that is KNOWN TO CAUSE JOINT PAIN, and oh, by the way, it was like 11 degrees Farenheit today with no humidity?
Sounds like I am making a big deal out of a little dig, right? Sounds like a chord was hit, and I vibrated to it. Right? Well, no, actually, because it didn’t stop there. Sir went on to say that I should be able to get through Supta Kuramasana in 45 minutes (which was all I had today after the traffic debacle, which he knows nothing about, and which isn’t his problem, and which I had no intention of making his problem; hence, my relaxed approach to practice today, with no expectation of assistance in the tough poses).
Forty-five minutes to Supta Kurmasana?!!!!!!!!!!!!!
FORTY. FIVE. MINUTES. TO. SUPTA KURMASANA?!
Not this body. Not at this point, at least. Not in the dead of winter, with a bottle of Arimidex on my dresser, turning my joints into concrete since the summer of 2003. That’s nearly four years of joint damage at this point, damage that I have been trying to alleviate through yoga. Maybe the young, or the middle aged with no health issues or even the elderly with no health issues can plow through Primary with nary a hesitation. But not me. My body is not the same as the 41-year old next to me, even if it LOOKS the same.
“You need to go to your backbends now,” I was told.
And so, I wasn’t even permitted (permitted?! whose body is it anyway? whose practice?) to finish my practice in the remaining half hour. I resisted the urge to give all of my reasons for my difficulties in practicing “quickly” enough – the meds, the cold, the ice skating – because Sir had already made up his mind that I spend too much time “playing”.
And so, I did three awful, painful backbends, one horrible forward bend, a pathetic set of finishing poses and high-tailed it out of there.
I went home, curled up on the sofa, shoes and jacket still on, and passed out for the rest of the morning.
This isn’t supposed to happen. It isn’t supposed to be this way. My practice was not only ruined, but so was my day.
I have no insights about this. I don’t know how to go back to the shala tomorrow. I don’t know how to practice with any teacher if this is what it is going to be like for me – with my body being different INSIDE than it LOOKS on the outside, with a practice that seems to require adherence to a set of rules that my body does not adhere to exactly according to plan. I’ve been a good student. I’ve been diligent in my practice. I don’t want to turn to Viniyoga, or the disciples of Desikachar for a “personalized practice” because it’s never athletic or vigorous enough for me.
Like I said, I’m the opposite of not demoralized.
Advice, gently given, is welcome.