Looks like we might be spending some time together this winter, me and Richard. I got up this morning, did my morning chores, and then at 9:30 a.m., I did the unthinkable…I got out my mat. I am hardly every motivated to practice at home so early, but I think a few days of non-practice had finally gotten to me (I had a ragingly awful UTI this weekend that sent me to the emergency room at 3 a.m. on Saturday night. I got my antibiotics and felt gradually better over the course of Sunday and Monday. But I wasn’t feeling well enough to practice. The thought of stretching my abdomen gave me nausea. And just the thought of jumping in and out of poses made me exhausted. I did end up taking a walk in the woods late yesterday afternoon, which kind of marked my crossing over into feeling well again. But I digress….)
I really enjoy my Kundalini DVDs lately, but I kind of wanted some Ashtanga. And I knew that I would be much better served by following the vinyasas, rather than allowing myself to do research whereever I wanted. In short, I needed discipline. And then I saw my Richard DVD. Last year, I bought his Second Series DVD, and I think I watched it once, maybe even tried to practice along once. But it was so out of my grasp, I just couldn’t really feel it.
Happily, today, I did the whole thing. I had to stop it at Pasasana because that was essentially the first time I ever Pasas’ed without having done ANY twisting first. And so, I needed to take time to get into it. I also had to stop at Yoga Nidrasana because I looooove that pose, and for some reason, I just wasn’t getting into it as deeply as I normally do. I suspect it has to do with side effects of the antibiotics (a bit of nausea and stomach bloating, plus a bit of water retention) because it can’t have anything to do with my diet, which has been remarkably clean for the past few week or so (I guess I wasn’t feeling well but didn’t realize it until the infection became acute).
Then no more stopping at all. Of course, I don’t even bother to try to Karandavasana myself up. I just stay in Pincha Mayurasana. My assumption, for better or for worse, for righter or for wronger, is that if I make a habit of doing this DVD, I will eventually get better at everything, and will even be able to attempt the Karanda.
See, all this time, I’ve been drinking the Ashtanga Kool-Aid. You know, the stuff that makes you think you don’t “deserve” a pose because you can’t do some other pose. The stuff that makes you think that there are no “spirals” and “loops” involved in the practice – just place your hand and all is coming. The stuff that makes you think that you need a teacher to babysit your practice every friggin day. The stuff that makes you think that you dare not mix types of yoga. The stuff that makes you think that only Ashtanga is real yoga and the rest is some pathetic approximation. The stuff that makes you think that Ashtanga is all you need to stay healthy and fit. The stuff that makes you think that Ashtanga is appropriate for every body at every age, no matter what the individual has been through physicaly, no matter how long an individuals arms, legs, fingers, torso, no matter what the individual does for a living, no matter what the individual’s life circumstances. The stuff that makes you think that the word “criminal” isn’t an oxymoron when used in the context of discussing yoga. The stuff that makes you believe that you don’t have the right to do whatever poses you want whenever you want.
But it’s not working for me. I’m being present, and I’m being mindful. And one of the first things I learned as a newbie yogi was that the reason we suffer is that we try to peg ourselves. We try to create an identity, and when we don’t live up to that identity, we suffer. The identifier,
“I am an Ashtangi” has the potential to make me suffer because it won’t allow me to practice poses that make me feel good, that make me feel accomplished, that make sense to my body on any given day. I can practice Ashtanga without identifying with all of that though, and that is what I set out to do, henceforth.
I am going to stop practicing Primary and Second on the same day. It is just too fucking much. TOO MUCH. And if and when it isn’t too much, I will do it again. Mindful. Present. Reality testing. For the forseeable future, or until it no longer makes sense, I am going to practice Primary, plus maybe Pasasana after Marichyasana D – because it feels so damn good to do so RIGHT NOW on some days – and feel really FUCKING good about myself on those days. And on other days, I will practice Second with the Richard DVD unless and until I no longer feel that I need the rhythm of his teaching to get me through it without a lot of research and bullshit thrown in.
No one is paying me to practice a certain way. There is no prize for following the rules of some Indian men who will never know me and the people who follow their teachings. I respect that they believe in the teachings. But I am not much of a joiner – never have been. I try to be a joiner, but it never sticks for very long.
I won’t say I’m a maverick because that’s too gross. But I definitely find my own way when I find that the other way no longer makes sense. And something clearly isn’t making sense here for me. So, I’m over it. And I’m proud.
From here on in, when it comes to yoga, and particularly, Ashtanga, I am opening up my world to allow other possibilities in. And right now, that means practicing all of Primary sometimes, and all of Second sometimes, even if….shock upon shock, I can’t bind in Kapotasana without being painfully physically wrenched into it….and even if….oh dear god, say it isn’t so…I have to hold my leg behind my head with one hand in Eka Pada. Because you know what? THAT will change. In time. And in the meantime, I loooooove those Seven Headstands. And everything that goes before them. Whether I can do them skillfully or not.
And I won’t be ashamed to go to the occasional Bikram class. Or to pop in my Mantra Girl or Ana Brett DVDs. Because those are damned good fun and really really hard work too.
Bottom line: I am smart enough to not need to be boxed in by some set of rules that don’t really have anything to do with me.
And I know, absolutely, as an absolute matter of fact, that this method of practice WILL be to my benefit. Physically, spiritually, emotionally, even monetarily.