I’ll sleep when I’m…in bed.

September 26, 2009

A few weeks ago, I made plans to meet a friend at the CT Shala.  I made the plans in good faith, thinking how nice it would be to meet up with him (we went to college together although we only know each other through the cyber-shala world) and to see some real life friends who practice with Val regularly.  Ah, good intentions.  Apparently, they are exactly where the rubber meets the road: I woke up on the appointed morning and couldn’t get myself out of bed.  I tried, at first, to blame it on being tired.  I wasn’t used to waking up early to practice within someone else’s time frame.

It bothered me to think that I didn’t have the discipline to wake up and get out of bed for practice.  It bothered me so much that I couldn’t stop thinking about it…until I realized that not being able to get out of bed for shala practice was the symptom, not the problem.  The truth?  I just didn’t WANT to anymore.

I sent my apologies and noted, “My practice is just not shala-ready.”

But even as I wrote it, I knew that it wasn’t exactly true.  I mean, when I started my Mysore-style practice at Guy’s shala (actually, my very first practice ever was at Eddie’ Stern’s, but Guy’s shala was my first habitual place of practice), I was very much an Ashtanga beginner.  I could barely bind Marichyasna A or B and couldn’t bind C or D without help.  Supta Kurmasana was impossible without a towel between my hands.  I couldn’t really even get to Supta Kurmasana without getting winded.  I had no almost no backbend practice at all, and my Upward Facing Dog was nearly flat.  Yet every day, I went to practice.  Every day, I relished the experience, looked forward to it.  On the rare occasion when I couldn’t get to practice for the late morning session, I went early.  Or I came in the evening.  It didn’t matter that I was humbled by the practice.  I went anyway.  It didn’t matter that it was difficult for me, and that I didn’t know if I would ever be able to complete the Primary Series.  I went anyway.

So, not shala ready?  What did that even mean?

What it means is that I am no longer willing to put myself in the hands of a Mysore-style teacher.  Not that there is anything wrong with Val or Guy or Kimberly or any of them.  It’s me.  It’s my unwillingness to have my practice interrupted with assists I don’t want or need.  It’s my unwillingness to NOT add in a set or two of Jivamukti-style sun salutations between Surya Namaskar A and Surya Namaskar B, if I want to.  Or to add a set of Gomukhasana arms in before Parvotanasana.  Or to add in a set of pigeon poses and a Hanumanasana before the Warrior poses.  Or to do Pasasana after Marichyasana D instead of waiting until MILES later, after my body has long since forgotten twists.  Or to add in all the leg-behind-head poses either before OR after Supta Kurmasana, just because I feel noodley and want to explore.  Or to save all of the backbend poses for dead last so that I can warm up my back and my arms before having to press up into full wheel.

It’s my utter lack of receptivity to hearing that my breath should be louder.  Or that I might want to consider bending my elbows in Upward Dog.  Or to being treated to a midpractice jump-through workshop.

I just want to do what my body wants to do.

But truth be told, there is more than that.  There are things that make me cringe about shala practice, things that I never thought would make me cringe.  Things like American teachers pretending to speak like Indians (“you take”, “you do”).  Things like practicing before an altar with a photo of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.  Things like students bowing before the altar, putting their hands in prayer over their head.  Why?  Why the bowing, sure, but WHY the prayer over the head?  What does that even MEAN?  Things like that requisite “Namaste” and bowing to the teacher upon leaving the shala.  Things like being required to take Savasana.  I NEVER take Savasana.  I’ll sleep when I’m in BED.

And the worst thing of all: the impetus to perform.  I.  Just.  Can’t.  Anymore.  I just can’t.  I don’t wanna.  People who comment here sometimes ask me, what happened to me?  Who hurt me in the Ashtanga world?  Who insulted me?  Who made me feel  small?  Honestly?  Nothing and no one.  It’s all me.  I just started waking up to the fact that I don’t want my workout (and YES, I have never been anything but honest about the fact that this is my workout) to be under someone else’s scrutiny.  I want it to be for ME.  I don’t want to do it for YOU, or for YOU or for YOU or for Teacher.  I want to do it for me.

Yet…there I am on my mat, at home, but still imagining the audience.  I still imagine what Teacher would think, what Teacher might say.  When I practice Pasasana after Marichyasana D, I imagine the Hypothetical Teacher saying, “Yes, but it is EASY to do Pasasana when you’ve JUST done two deep twists before it.  Try doing it COLD.  Then you’ll REALLY be an Ashtangi.”   When I do all the backbends in a row, same thing.  And sometimes I become present enough on my mat to remember that there is no reason why it has to be done THAT way, instead of THIS way, except that someone said it.  One person said it.  And that person changed his mind quite often.

Until I can get to that place where I know I am doing this practice for me, until I get to the place where that Hypothetical Teacher is accepting of my body exactly as it is each day, and doesn’t mind when I give that body exactly what I know it needs, I won’t be comfortable doing my practice in a shala anymore.

In truth, I hope that someday I WILL be able to practice in a shala again.  I’d even like for that day to be tomorrow.  I just know that it isn’t.  For now, I’m in recovery.  Shala recovery.


For yogis only

September 6, 2009

I don’t keep up with many of the yoga blogs anymore, but among those that I do peruse regularly, I have noticed a dropoff in posting.  One, in particular, has had virtually no yoga posts at all in the past week or so.  Whenever someone posts like a lunatic about this pose, that pose, this strategy, that strategy, yoga yoga yoga, blah blah blah and then screeches to a halt, I gotta wonder: what’s going on?  Are they injured?  Disgruntled?  Oh, wait, that would be me.  But maybe I am not the only one who simply gets tired of writing about the same poses on and on and on and over and over and over.

I haven’t written about asana at all lately, so, I figure it’s time to set the record straight, in case anyone is wondering:  Yes, I am still practicing.  I was supposed to meet a Facebook friend at the CT Shala last week, but I couldn’t wake up, and I ultimately attributed it to the fact that I cannot stomach showing up at any Shala right now, where I would have to explain that I want no assists due to my still healing hand/wrist/thumb, that my jump throughs are kind of inconsistent for the same reason, that I have NO Urdhva Dhanurasana at all, for the same reason.  But it was more than that too:  I like to do my practice exactly as I need it on any given day.  Today, for example, I needed to do about 20 Surya Namaskar A’s to start out.  I just kept doing them until I felt as loose and sweaty as I wanted to be.  There always seem to be some variations thrown in to reflect what I feel that I need on any given day.  And I hate to give those up just to practice in a shala.

Is that rigid of me? Attached?  Maybe.  Or maybe, I just like the joy I get out of something that is incredibly harmless: moving my body the way I want to.  So, maybe rigid, maybe attached, but still, I had to be true to myself.

Where is my practice these days?  I have decided to put all of my focus on leg-behind-head poses.  Since I still can’t push up into a backbend without the wall for support due to my bum right hand, I have decided to give backbends a rest.  SO, what I do is, I frame my practice around Primary, and when I get to Mari D, I often add in a Pasasana for added shoulder flexibility.  Then I move straight onto Kurmasana, hold it for a loooong time, until I feel soft.  Then I work on Supta Kurmasana, which is quite painful to my hand unless I have someone to rotate my hands into the exact right position for me.  Lately, I have had someone.  Either the husband or one of the boys.  When I don’t have someone, I usually take Yoga Nidrasana and then go back to Supta K, hoping to have softened things up some more.  Then, no matter how things go in Supta K, I always do Eka Pada Sirsasana on both sides, along with some softening-up stretches beforehand.  I think I am making some progress in these, which is nice and contrasts with the backbend hell, where there never is any progress and each day holds its own (usually not good) surprises for me there.

After I am holding Eka Pada Sirsasana satisfactorily, I will get back to attending to backbends.

After the LBH sequence, I just finish up Primary, and I sometimes add some of Second Series’ backbends, or not.  Then a quick finishing.  It’s been good this week.  Practiced five times in total.

I would like to practice four or five times next week, and make sure to run at least once.

So, that’s where things are.  Yes, I’m still practicing.  But I am getting further and further away from anything resembling Ashtanga, and from anything you might consider “shala ready”.


Things seem to be picking up around here…

August 27, 2009

When I tell you that I have never been a slave to my stat counter, I am being totally honest. But right now, I am being totally slavish. Not for my ego, per se, but to ascertain whether all systems are go here: are my links working? are my meta tags (or whatever they’re calling them these days, those search terms embedded in the guts of a blog, where they can’t be seen) working propertly? So, imagine my pleasure at finding that YogaChickie v.2 has been “hit on” more than 300 times on its second day of life! Hoorah. Seems like all systems ARE go. And most people are accessing my blog either directly (meaning they know or have already bookmarked the address) or from a link from facebook or from my now-defunct blogger blog’s redirect. A FEW people, a very few people are finding me through Google (since apparently, Google has not yet done a full “crawl” of my content…they really should since they owe me $85 dollars for the ads I let them put on YC v.1….least they could do if they plan never on paying me back). And of those that do, here are the search terms used:

yoga chickie: chicken soup for the navel 3 (forget about gazing and soul)
marichyasana letter d 1 (a long-ago obsession of mine)
ashtanga bad for you 1 (poster girl that I am)
yoga chickie 1 (what is there to say about this?)

I wonder why no one has found me in a search for Supta Kurmasana, my longest-standing obsession of all? Or Kapotasana, my own personal Waterloo?

This is mildly fun.

Back to our previously scheduled programming soon.