Tim Miller was here in East Podunk, actually the Connecticut side thereof, teaching a workshop on Monday and Tuesday. I went. It was really really nice to practice in a room with mat-to-mat matheads. It was hot as hell, and I loved it. I was touched by Tim once on Monday – in Bhekasana. And once on Tuesday – he straightened out my leg in Marichyasana C.
Monday was Mysore practice with Pranayama following. Hated the pranayama. Wanted to kill myself during the pranayama.
Why do we practice Pranayama? Because it feels so good when we stop, maybe?
Tuesday was a double-long led Primary. He held each pose for “five” breaths, and by “five”, I mean “TEN”. ARGH. Not my favorite way to practice Primary, although I enjoy having the extra time in Marichyasana C and D and Supta Kurmasana. Other than that, I just want to blow through the poses. After that, we talked. I asked a question about religion and yoga and whether you have to believe in God to practice yoga, even though what I really wanted to ask was, how can one whose religion forbids the worshipping of idols and the bowing at the feet of humans reconcile the practice of yoga, with its inherent Hindu references, the chanting of the invocation, the bowing at the foot of the teacher, etc. Since I didn’t ask the question I wanted to ask, I didn’t get the answer I was looking for, whatever that answer might have been. When I think about it myself, the answer seems to be that we can pick and choose what parts of the yoga practice in which we can participate. And that’s fine by me.
BUT, I am not sure that it is fine by everyone. I recall reading more than once that there are those who resent the “picking and choosing” of which parts of yoga to practice; such people feel that it is a mockery of their spiritual practice. I suppose the complaint is akin to an Orthodox Jew (a Jew who, theoretically, adheres to all Jewish tradition and rules) resenting Reform Jews, who take from the Jewish tradition that which makes sense for them in their lives. Reform Judaism is not a dumbed down version of Judaism, at least in my opinion (although some others would beg to differ); it is merely following the intention, but not the letter, of the tradition. To wade into another metaphor, it’s akin to strict adherents to the US Constitution, who don’t believe in the right to an abortion because abortion wasn’t mentioned in the Constitution, and abortion would thus appear to violate the Right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, minus the Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness. A different construction of the US Constitution allows room for that which did not exist in the 1700’s and imagines “what would the Framers do?”
Anyway. What I liked about the talk after the led was Tim’s telling the story of Hanuman, who I must emphasize, is not a god to me. It is a story. A metaphor. A fable, like a really long Aesop’s Fable. I didn’t chant to the Hanuman Chaleesa afterwards because I have decided that it violates my religious beliefs. It IS a devotional song, and it’s one thing for me to sing along to it on a Krishna Das or David Newman CD; it’s quite another for me to chant it AS a devotional song. In the former case, I could just as well be singing along to Sarah Brightman. In the latter case, I might as well be in church.
I also liked Tim’s talking about the good old days at the shala in Mysore and how he came to the practice (he taught first, practiced later. Yes, Tim was the original yoga “CRIMINAL”, oh how it pains me to use that word).
Wednesday, I went to see the Good Doctor, not to be confused with the Jungle Physician or Neil Simon or Chekhov. Damn, but I love practicing in his presence. And although the five-on-one assist he orchestrated for my Kapotasana served only to freak me out, not once but twice, it was a noble experiment, and afterwards, all that adrenalin made for a really awesome Kapotasana B. Maybe my best ever.
Today, I went back to Val’s place. She gave me the most awesomest Marichyasana D assist – not to get me into the pose – since I can do that quite handily and take the wrist of my non-grabbing arm, while the non-grabbing hand takes strong hold of one of my lotus leg. I feel like I could fit into a bowling bag when I get that tight. But anyway, Val came up to me AFTER I had bound, and twisted me deeper and got my back shoulder back, back, back, in effect giving me a bit of a backbend in my twist. Yum!
THEN….I took my first horseback riding less in like 25 years! And it all came back to me!!! I could post! I could trot and post! I even got into a canter for like two seconds. Three more free lessons (well, not totally free because I did bid money at an auction in order to win them), and then I am going to have to decide…should I go to yoga class only once or twice a week and spend my money on riding?
Nothing like a new obsession to get my juices flowing!