Exorcism

The visit to My Gift’s soon-to-be new home went really well. “Well” in the sense that she is happy and excited and that the kids at the college seem just terrific. My Gift, having spent four years in high school in Scottsdale, happily reported to me that she did not see a single Coach purse or Louis Vuitton accessory during the entire orientation period. Yup, it’s a hippie school. My Gift will have such fun.

That being said, it is not all fun for me. Obviously there is sadness in the realization that My Gift will no longer live with me. Yes, I will be happy for her to go off on her independent life, and yes, yoga will help me process this change. But it’d be much easier if yoga would process it FOR me, and I didn’t have to think about it/feel it. Do they make that kind of yoga?

First night, My Gift and I stayed at a hotel in town. A small place–functional but not particularly roomy. And carpeted. No readily available source of coffee. Which meant practice did not involve my waking up and having coffee and reading. Nope, it was wake up, leave off the lights so as not to disturb My Gift, step onto the mat, try not to breathe too loudly–and…ow! Yeah, so apparently the 45 minutes I spend reading and drinking coffee before practice actually has a small, but significant, warm-up effect. I’m a homebody introvert, so new (dark) environment, new schedule, My Gift leaving me forever, no coffee–it all added up to one crappy practice. It would appear that I am unable to bend at the waist without a little caffeine.

Oh, I soldiered through, but just the standing poses. Then I cut my loses.

Day two involved spending the night at one of the dorms. I was on the second floor, My Gift was on the seventh. Why don’t they put grates over the windows? How will My Gift get enough rest when it is so loud around here? What if she feels sick? Who will look after her? Yeah, that’s a pretty good approximation of my night. Plus the beds are these things that you can stack into bunk beds, and I was on one that was about five feet off the floor. And about half as wide as a single bed. After I worried about My Gift, I thought about how I might fall out of the bed. After I moved the mattress to the floor, I worried about fires in high-rise buildings. Might as well spend some time worrying about The Cop’s job. I haven’t done that for a while. Hey, what if I oversleep and don’t practice tomorrow? What if My Gift is falling out of a window right now? Ah, what a lovely night.

I woke right at 4:30 and did another practice through standing, then called it quits. Who was I kidding? The dampness in the air was killing my hamstrings and my mind was pretty much berserk. Honestly, I think the practice really helped, at least as much as possible under the circumstances.

Needless to say, I was thrilled to get to Mysore this morning. Volleyball Guy, with his usual, rather uncanny ESP abilities, snagged me for two early (and very intense) adjustments: trikonasana and parivritta trikonasana. I know, those are so simple and who adjusts in them, right? Well, he was dead on: for some reason, the hip/hamstring thing I have has been at its absolute worst in those two poses. Like, killer pain.

So, like I said, Volleyball Guy adjusted me in trikonasana. “Exorcist” adjustments, where your body is turned backwards from normal human. It hurt like a mother, and then it felt great. And as he was walking away, apparently he intuited that the only thing hurting worse than trikonasana these days is parivritta trikonasana. Yeah, hurts worse as in exponentially worse. So he came back in for another super-adjustment. There is something really special about the amount of pain your teacher can inflict on you, and how good that can make you feel. Yes, I know that sounds like masochism. And perhaps it is. The rest of practice absolutely rocked, though. It was like he wrung the pain out of me in one fell swoop. Even the My Gift pain felt better.

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Best things ever

Well, right now the best thing ever is “Matcha Green Tea Mist” from Jamba Juice. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I’m not a huge smoothie fan, but this stuff rocks. I just googled matcha tea, and it’s a powdered green tea–the same stuff used for tea ceremonies. Yes, tea ceremony. The beautiful, centuries old art. The exquisite zen practice. Or you can mix the powdered tea with soymilk and dairy base (whatever that is) in loud blenders in a brightly painted Jamba Juice establishment with blaring background music and pour it into styrofoam cups and call it Matcha Green Tea Mist. Same same. Artful and chock full of cultural significance 🙂

What also rocks is doing a little afternoon errand-running with My Gift. Oil change for her car, and then a look through the Victoria’s Secret super-sale. Where I found great cotton capris for $9.99. Is it wrong that I find yogawear in Victoria’s Secret? And then a turn through Barnes and Noble, where I found a book called “Getting Stoned with Savages.” I love travel adventure books like this! And My Gift got “Kafka on the Shore,” by Haruki Murakami, who is my very favorite contemporary writer. It’s so cool that My Gift is old enough to read and enjoy the same books that I love. We can share clothes and books.

Okay, last “best thing” for today: led practice this morning. Great to hang out and chat with everyone. And the class was less full–apparently other people were as put off by the heat and the crowd as I’ve been. I went back today, though, and thank goodness, we were a reasonably sized group. I got to practice near the door (ah, cool air!), between Sanskrit Scholar and Returning Guy. The British Director was there, and Crim Girl. Who had chai with her again. Apparently she has such an amusing life these days that she needs extra hydration and perhaps a little caffeine to keep her awake after all the late nights 😉

Most fun pose of the day: garbha pindasana. I don’t bother trying to push my arms through in Mysore or self-practice, because I am not usually sweaty enough, and I’m too lazy to keep track of a spray bottle. Led class, though, is the perfect opportunity to try out the pose. At this point, there’s no problem getting my arms all the way through and my chin in my hands. The rolling part is a little lame (my control isn’t great), but good enough, and the roll up into kukkutasana is a-okay. Fun to do–in part because I don’t do the full pose on a day to day basis.

Tomorrow, a day off. My Gift and I travel together to her college orientation in the evening. Monday and Tuesday, we’ll be in Flagstaff. Should be fun. My Gift’s a pleasure to spend time with. Another “best thing ever”!

Friday

First thing as I go into practice, Volleyball Guy silently hands me an index card. On it, info about how Mysore practice will not be happening from July 3-11. We’ll be back at it on the 12th.

What? No practice?! My mind was all busy trying to process this information as I unrolled my mat. No practice?! LOL! My mind is very used to Mysore practice at the studio on Monday/Wednesday/Friday. This new information was quite disconcerting. I had to figure out what the current date was, think about the fact that I’ll miss a practice next Monday because I’m going with My Gift up to Flagstaff for her incoming freshman orientation. So when does the no-Mysore thing begin? What day does it end? Ah, such a busy mind! 🙂

Of course, as soon as I started the suryas, things kind of relaxed. Geez, it’s not like I’m gonna die without Mysore practice. I practice at home, no problem. Blah blah blah. I’m a creature of habit, I guess.

Practice was good, though the left hip/hamstring was pretty painful. I think, though, that I am just getting used to it. I expect it, and there it is. The only time it really messes with me is in upavishta konasana, when the crinky place makes me not able to get all the way down on one exhale. I have to kind of slowly work my way to the floor. All the other forward bends hurt, but in a way that I can just move through. Not so much the upavishta k.

Bhujapidasana has a new twist lately: I can descend slowly enough that I’m willing to attempt landing on something other than the top of my head. Apparently, though, my good intentions for extending my chin are a bit overly ambitious: I can land on my forehead gently, but I can’t figure out how I would extend my neck the right way to actually get my chin out enough to land on it. Fine. I can wait for this to sort itself out. It wasn’t very long ago that I was using a towel to try to cushion the blow to my head as I flipped over, so at this point, I can’t complain.

What I also couldn’t complain about was the music this morning. Usually Volleyball Guy plays chants at a low volume as we practice. Lots of Krishna Das, that sort of thing. On Fridays, though, at around 7 AM, he likes to put on some oldies, generally of the Motown variety, at a slightly higher volume. It’s great fun: everyone in the shala gets very happy and it’s just a cool Friday thing to do. Today, though, he started early, and he had some great songs: “San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair),” “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season),” “Aquarius ,” “Everybody’s Talkin’,” “Joy to the World,” “Stoned Love,” “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.” Blast from the past! Everyone was very cheerful and seemed to enjoy the change.

I think I may try Saturday led tomorrow. Word is, the class has been less packed. I’d like to check in with the posse. Friday is music day, but Saturday is hang-out-afterwards-and-talk-to-each-other day. Don’t want to miss that.

Sad day

It was a sad day for The Cop. He got home from work after 3AM and fell into bed asking me to please wake him at 7AM. Why? To watch the World Cup. When I left for work, the US was down 2-1. And that turned out to be the final score. Sigh. Sorry, Cop.

This morning I slept in. No kidding. ‘Til 6:30. I just felt run down last night, so I figured I’d get some sleep. The Cop grilled me when he got up. Kept asking me if I was okay. When I asked why, he said, “Something’s up, if you didn’t practice.” LOL! Nah, I just had a moment of non-obsessiveness, where I could look at my situation and realize the best thing to do was to get some sleep. Geez, that doesn’t sound like me!! 😉 I enjoyed it, knowing I won’t suffer too many moments of such clarity.

So my one year anniversary of Ashtanga practice is quickly approaching. In just a couple of weeks. I’m pleased with where I’m at. It’s tempting to think in terms of poses, but the real good news here is that I love practicing and love how I feel re-aligned (even though parts of the process are still kinda painful) and Ashtanga is a terrific practice that makes my life so much fuller and more calm than I ever could have imagined. It makes me grateful and mindful and content.

I imagined, when I started out, that I’d have a pretty good grasp on primary by the end of a year. And I feel like that’s played out pretty much as I’d figured. I was thinking about Marichy D the other day, and I suppose that pose has been the real challenge, along with Supta K. The thing that’s kind of interesting is that Volleyball Guy has always left me to wrestle with Marichy D on my own. Psychologically, it’s like untangling a ball of string: a long process with much potential for frustration. Supta K, on the other hand, is just simply more about physical opening and the subsequent physical ability. Once my hips open more, the pose will be easier. Oh, and there’s a little fear about having my leg behind my head and my head falling off. That theory will be easy enough to disprove, though. Eventually.

Anyhow, Marichy D has taught me most about patience and persistence. Actually, it’s taught me about my own impatience and greed. Seriously. I look back and think: gosh, a year goes by so quickly, and then I realize that I was frustrated with Marichy D after just a few days and weeks. Silly.

At this point, I can always bind my fingers, but the resulting pose is pretty ugly and squished. So these days, I’m grabbing my fingers and then moving on (even to the point of letting go of the bind) to work for a longer spine and more general extension. Why do I have to grab my fingers first? Ego. Ego. Ego. Ego. Okay, fine. I suppose the practice has brought me to a point where I can see that I have ego issues and then I can go on to actually look for the grace in the pose. Dorky, I know, to hang on to the ego. But there you have it. I can’t transcend myself in one fell swoop.

You know, though, it rocks. I’m sure Volleyball Guy knows why I do my weird ugly pose with a bind and then move on to the more graceful version. I’m sure Sanskrit Scholar and Crim Girl would know why, too, if they were watching. And I like being accepted as the ego-driven obsessive person that I am. ‘Cause all of us are looking for the same thing. Freedom. It’s pretty sweet.

State of the state

Yay, my parents are back in their own state: Florida. Golf courses. Ocean. Hurricanes. And I am in my state: Arizona. Mysore practice. Quiet time with The Cop and My Gift. Sigh. Life is good again.

Practice was busy this morning. More and more, the new faces are becoming regulars. Add in the diehards, and we have a considerable shala.

Today I had my usual left hip/hamstring glitch, with the added entertainment of some twinges in my shoulder. Left over from a rotator cuff tear a couple of years ago. I know there is some stiffness and probably adhesions in there, and it’s scary to try to work through it. Is the ache a result of my loosening scars of an old injury (essentially “digesting” and being done with the injury) or am I just hurting myself all over again? Ah, so many questions that will only come clear with time 😉

What I can definitely count on these days, though, are my Mysore adjustments. Which pretty much inevitably include: a spot on handstands between navasanas and adjustments in supta kurmasana and baddha konasana. At this point I am madly in love with baddha konasana, probably because it is such a difficult pose for me, and each time I touch my head to the ground, it is just thrilling. Also, the adjustment is scary, which introduces a nice sense of adventure and surrender. And the cracking sound is fascinating. I guess because I am surprised I can hear it and not feel freaked out.

Supta kurmasana is the other challenge at this point, but I am not as invested in it as I am in baddha konasana. Mostly, I think, because the kinesthetics of supta k are kind of unfathomable, and the pose is only going to come clear with time and practice. I’m not going to be able to figure it out in my head. The idea of supta kurmasana being yoga nidrasana upside down is interesting to me, and I can’t help but think that yoga nidrasana seems like it’d be easier to pull off than supta kurmasana. LOL! No doubt this is one of those cases where something seems so obvious in my head, and then when I try it, I am astounded by the depth of my cluelessness. Kinda like when I read Richard Freeman’s explanation of Marichy C when I was learning the pose, and thought “Oh, gee, now that he’s explained it like that, surely I can do the pose.” Yeah, that was a disappointing morning 😉

Okay, back at work, back to practice, back to normal everyday life. Nice.

On and off the mat

Practice with Sharath’s CD this morning. I am progressively more stressed with the family visiting, and found myself waiting for Sharath to catch up to me during practice. Gosh, how stressed do you have to be to go faster than Sharath?!

I was actually going to go to Saturday led today, just to get a break from my parents, but my Dad is going to meet with a realtor and I need to give him a ride to the other side of the valley for the appointment. Hence the home practice.

Haha! Practice totally felt like a refuge this morning. I was so happy to hear Sharath’s voice and just start the familiar postures. I’ve been working on jump-throughs lately, and they’re coming along nicely (hovering with straight legs just before sitting). Jumpbacks are a work in progress–I still have to push off a bit with my feet, but eventually they’ll get squared away.

It’s been interesting, these past few days. I’ve been feeling irritable, which is something I don’t often experience. It’s rather uncomfortable, and quite tiring. My mom has a childish quality that really bothers me. And she loves to make judgments: everything in the world is good or bad–people, places, objects, events. Yikes! It’s exhausting! I feel bad about the fact that I feel so irritated, but I can’t seem to get past it. I suppose it just is what it is.

I think it bothers me from a feminist perspective: she expects my dad to take care of her, and she also expects to always get her way and have lots of attention. Sigh. I’m gonna have to simply give myself points for being mindful, experiencing this, and not reacting to it overtly (i.e., not acting outwardly irritated). Sort of like a practice that kind of sucks, but at least you got on the mat.

Happy Bloomsday!

In the full practice the practitioner must bring to the engagement the three necessities of the Great Root of Faith, the Great Ball of Doubt, and the Great Overpowering Will…

At first, one’s efforts and attentions are focused on the [posture]. When it cannot be solved (one soon learns that there is no simple “right answer”), doubt sets in. Ordinary doubt is directed at some external object such as the [posture] itself or the teacher, but when it has been directed back to oneself, it is transformed into Great Doubt. To carry on relentlessly this act of self-doubt, one needs the Great Root of Faith. Ordinarily, faith and doubt are related to one another in inverse proportion: where faith is strong, doubt is weak; and vice versa. But in [asana] practice, the greater the doubt, the greater the faith. Great Faith and Great Doubt are two aspects of the same mind of awakening. The Great Overpowering Will is needed to surmount all obstacles along the way. Since doubt is focused on oneself, no matter how strong, wily, and resourceful one is in facing the opponent, that opponent (oneself) is always just as strong, wily, and resourceful in resisting. When self-doubt has grown to the point that one is totally consumed by it, the usual operations of the mind cease. The mind of total self-doubt no longer classifies intellectually, no longer arises in anger or sorrow, no longer exerts itself as will and ego.

Sitting with Koans, John Daido Loori

I substituted some yoga terms for the original zen terms in this text, because I was struck with how much this teaching relates to asana practice: [posture] was substituted for the term koan; [asana] was substituted for the word zen.

How amusing is this: Doubt is directed at some external object such as the [posture] itself or the teacher. Or the system, I guess 😉

And how cool is this: The greater the doubt, the greater the faith. Great Faith and Great Doubt are two aspects of the same mind of awakening.

We assume self-doubt to be a negative state, but that’s not how it’s meant in this text. It is considered an essential feature of spiritual inquiry–and implies not the usual pity-party of “I doubt myself/I feel bad about myself/I will never get this posture,” but, rather a state of…I guess I’ll call it disorientation, or openness, that is so profound that all notions of a stable self, or a stable universe, or a stable reality pretty much go out the window. Only to open up a whole world of possibility.

Mysore practice this morning. A huge, delightful crack as I was being adjusted in baddha konasana. I wonder how long it takes, as a teacher, not to kind of jump back when students are cracking under your adjustment. Volleyball Guy didn’t flinch. He left all the doubt for me 😉