Friday Mysore

Busy morning, this morning. We had a visit from someone who usually just comes to led class, a brand new guy, the usual Mysorians (me, The British Director, Sanskrit Scholar, Returning Guy and The Other Dave), and a newish person who practices with us occasionally, but seems to be revving up to become a full-time Mysorian. We’ll call her The Foot Grabber.

The brand new guy was a relief. The past two new people were one-time-only visitors who frustrated Volleyball Guy with their obliviousness. Did they want to learn Ashtanga? No. Did they understand that you pay your teacher for his troubles? Nope. The new guy today, though, actually was interested to learn Ashtanga (why did I imagine that would be the norm for people coming to Mysore practice for the first time?), and actually worked hard and paid attention.

I wonder if it’s fun for Volleyball Guy to have a brand new person to teach. I wonder how many people who start Ashtanga actually turn into Ashtangis? I guess my question is how high the addiction rate is. 😉 I imagine you have to be zen about the whole thing, as a teacher — you teach because someone asks to be taught. If you keep track of whether they actually use what you teach them, you’re probably on the road to not being a teacher any more.

Practice was good for me, the whole long haul of it. I saw Sanskrit Scholar as I came in and she mentioned how she’d thought of me earlier, as she had her coffee and ibuprofen. LOL! I am a pusher of bad habits, I guess. Really, the coffee and ibuprofen are the only bad things I do. Well, except for that eggplant sandwich a couple of nights ago. I guess if that’s the extent of my bad behavior, I should be trying to come up with more exciting vices.

The coffee habit I pay for, though. I’m fine right up to ustrasana, at which point, I deeply regret the habit. It’s less awful than it used to be, the barfiness, so I think I’ll just soldier through. The ustrasana/laghu vajrasana/kapotasana sequence makes my mind and my heart and my breathing race, and it’s going to be a project to become mindful and put it all into (calm) perspective. I remember when the whole sequence from marichyasana D through supta kurmasana would make me anxious. Not horribly anxious, but enough to speed up my breathing and busy my mind and knock me out of the meditative state. That’s fine, though. Now I have another project of smoothing the physical and mental responses to a few new and challenging poses. I suspect this is really what it’s all about, anyhow, so I might as well pay attention.

Volleyball Guy assisted me in kapotasana. As I was panting away in my stiff-shouldered semblance of the pose, he said, “You’re there, except for this,” as he poked my shoulders. Yeah, um, I know — because the screaming of my shoulders drowned out any sensation at all in my back or legs. Seriously. I was totally numb except for the shoulders. Weird.

It’s awkward and not at all subtle, but all I can do to adjust myself at this point is to pump more energy into my legs and try to relax the upper body. It does help, in terms of getting another half inch deeper into the bend, but basically, beyond that, I am totally insensible to the kinesthetics of the pose. Which is fine. Not like it’s a normal position I’m accustomed to being in. Kind of cool, too, to think that in a year’s time, I’m sure to have an entirely different understanding of it. I’m coming up on my two year Ashtanga anniversary at the beginning of July. On the third anniversary, I’ll make a point of seeing how kapotasana feels. Maybe I’ll even love it.

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3 Responses

  1. How high the addiction rate is and how many people turn into ashtangis? Fascinating questions. Our ashtanga director gave an interview to a local alternative newspaper in which she estimated that, of 100 people who take our 10 -week new beginner course, 1 becomes a committed ashtangi. A 1% rate. Since I am a member of the 1%, I wonder why. The Type A personality thing, I suppose. What is your experience?

  2. My personal experience was that I took a led class and immediately knew Ashtanga was for me. I’ve done sports for a long while, and I’ve had a meditation practice, so it all kind of fell together: I researched the physical requirements (6 x week practice, low cardio, medium resistance training) and worked out how to transition from my weight lifting/cardio gym routine. I was doing a four day a week gym routine, so I started with a three times a week Ashtanga practice for two weeks, then went to four times a week for two weeks, then five times a week, etc., until I was at 6 x week. I guess that sounds a little Type A, but mostly it was just me being interested in something new and trying to optimize my performance. And then after a while, it all transformed into a meditation practice. Which was great.
    I see new folks come to practice, generally led, pretty often. Few return. I think you really do have to practice at least three times a week to make the whole thing comfortable and feasible. At once a week, you’re like a weekend warrior, taking on too much and perhaps injuring yourself. And it’s a tough practice, psychologically, if you don’t practice rather frequently.

  3. Hi Karen
    I posted some thoughts on my blog as to what might make some people keep practicing. But my transition was like yours. I went from doing aerobics daily to finding that yoga was sufficient for exercise, to re-descovering meditation, etc. I started with 1 class per week, then 2 per week, then 3 and 4, then found mysore style, etc, and it goes from there. Beryl Bender Birch said, “Do you know what happens when you come to practice once a week? Nothing. You have to practice more.”

    Cheers
    Arturo

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