Beryl Bender Birch in the House!

Led Primary this morning, and BBB was there. She was super nice and friendly and approachable, and we chatted and took some photos, which I will post later, when Gina gets them emailed to me. Tina was there too, but she had to leave as soon as class was over (it was two Spice girls and one Ginger today, as Amy had parent-teacher conferences).

After having eaten like 15 Oreos after dinner, for some inexplicable reason (I don’t even love Oreos), I woke up with a weird and wonky tummy. It was growling for food and looked kind of bloated. I knew class would be a challenge today. And it was. And Stan went super super super slow, which should have made it easier. But instead, I was just kind of desperate to get out of each pose well before the fifth breath.

Of course, it’s all relative. I mean, I think back to my early Ashtanga days and the way I would not really feel like I could touch the floor in Utanasana until well after the fifth Sun Salutation, and the way I would be leaking my prana (i.e., life force/energy) all over the place by the time I got to Marychiasana A, in anticipation of Mari C and Mari D. I’d be panting and palpitating, which did me no favors at all. Now, I’m smooth all the way through, generally speaking. And I qualify that only because I was shaking by my fifth super-long-hold Navasana. SHAKING.

When I practice Mysore style, I’m done with Primary in an hour flat. And that includes Backbends AND dropbacks. Add another five minutes, and I’m done with the Closing Sequence. When we do led at Stan’s, it’s 90 minutes, including a 7 or 8 minute (by my estimate) Savasana. So…yeah…it’s a LOT of long holds. Holding my leg straight out in front of me and bending over to touch my knee while balancing on the other for five long breaths: challenging.

Anyway, yada yada yada, I couldn’t even get my legs straight in Kurmasana, let alone even attempt to get into Supta K. Whatever. Do I care? Kinda. But mostly, no. I really don’t. If I can’t even straighten out my legs in Kurmasana, I know (a) it’s a FLUKE because my hamstrings are very flexy, even if they weren’t today and (b) there’s no point in even thinking about Supta K, at least for me…I need my legs to be straight and my toes pointed and my legs lifted off of my shoulders. And thankfully, Stan didn’t even bother trying to assist me…it would have been a lost cause anyway. And I don’t really care. Except I kinda do. But I mostly don’t. Really mostly don’t.

On the other hand, I felt the flow in backbending. On the third one, I decided to really press my feet down – heels AND toes – while pressing up…and…BOING! I turned my toes in (it probably looked like parallel, but it “feels” like turned in) and … SPROING! I felt great. Couldn’t bear to be in a 10-breath paschimotannasana afterwards, as my yoga pants were brand new and they had that new clothing smell that I hate. I tried sticking my nose between my knees to bypass the pants, but nothing worked.

Imagine 10 breaths… a mere 10 breaths…being so unbearable? Had nothing to do with the physical yoga…but I suppose it speaks volumes about my chitta vrittis.

Anyway….for the first time in … maybe ever? I didn’t want to come out of Savasana when it was time. I consider that to be my biggest achievement today.

Tomorrow, no Ashtanga for me…instead, I will be doing what I’ve been doing every Saturday for the past few weeks: dragging myself to a painfully boring All Levels Anus-ara class at the Gym in Armonk. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the teacher. It’s just that I find Anus-ara not only horribly boring but horrible pretentious. I sit outside the classroom while the teacher sits upon her self-appointed pulpit and preaches about whatever it is that vinyasa teachers preach about these days, and I don’t come in until after the teacher leads the class in the prayer to Shiva. I’m simply not willing to sing a prayer to a Hindu god anymore. I used to put up with that crap. Now it just seems like crap.

What follows is about 75 minutes of lunging, peaceful warriors, half moon posses and workshopping of either backbends, inversions or arm balances. I’m making it sound better than it is. But I go. I go because what else am I going to use the (paid up) Gym membership for? Spin class? OVER it. Weights? OVER it. And Saturday is a non-yoga day on the “Ashtanga Calendar”. Finally, I consider it an exercise in discipline and self-control to be gracious and well-mannered while feeling vaguely annoyed by the unstoppable ego of the teacher.

Here’s an example of the kind of vague annoyance I experience in this particular class: Last Saturday, there was a 22 year old girl in the class, and when we were doing backbends, it became apparent that she was born without a spine. And I was instantly enamoured with her spine-free existence. I was literally droolng over her gorgeous, perfectly formed backbends. Unfortunately for her, teacher did not feel that she could allow this girl to enjoy her beautiful backbends without receiving a lashing for it.

Teacher pointed at this girl and said, “See how nicely her lower back bends? But she really needs to put some backbend into her upper back”.

I’m thinking, “Really? That’s how you’re going to play this, teacher? Down damned ego!!!” There was NOTHING wrong with that girl’s backbend – in fact, her back was perfectly rounded, top to bottom. Her arms were perfectly vertical, her elbows strong and straight, her shoulders like waterfalls, pouring her arms down to the mat. But the teacher felt the need to take the girl down a notch.

That’s what I’m talking about. That’s what’s wrong with vinyasa classes – not all of them, mind you. But too many of them. SO many of them, that you never know what you’re going to get when you walk into a vinyasa classroom. ESPECIALLY an anusara classroom, since those seem to be taught by particularly ego-driven teachers. Not sure why.

If anyone has a theory on why that would be, I would be grateful to hear it.

Anyway, wish me luck and pray that I (a) keep my damn mouth shut and (b) enjoy some Anusara Yoga tomorrow notwithstanding that it is, in my opinion, “Yoga-Lite” with a side order of Pretention.

YC

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One Response to Beryl Bender Birch in the House!

  1. Reposer says:

    Thank you so much for this! I am a new ashtangi wondering when I should go to the led class–the teachers who supervise mysore don’t teach it. When I do the primary i do a pose over if I fall out of it or the jump-through doesn’t work, etc. & don’t know the tradition for the led. Somehow it’s heartwarming to know how a seasoned practitioner like you processes her practice.
    Though I used to giggle at my friend’s imitation of an anusaura opening theme(“I was driving to class today & got stuck in a traffic jam. then it hit me…”)I’ve taken class with two so humble dedicated & down to earth anusauris that I kept going even though each class had less joy & breath than watching paint dry. Each was determined to get every student to do a handstand(in their first class, if possible), obsessed like grandmothers on trying to get challenged students to do their most hated pose(so groaning & cheerleading regularly interrupted the flow), and said “hug the muscles to the bone” a lot. I still don’t know if that means tense your muscles, do an isometric contraction or ? because like many anusara exhortations instructions it was never alternated/translated(“Puff up your kidney”).

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