Yes, I realize I listen to Richard Freeman too much. And refer to him in my blog too much. And tell everyone else to listen to him too much.


But seriously, you should check out his podcast: Deep Avoidance and Fear of Yoga.

He talks about the kleshas, and really hones in on abhinivesha. Ah, abhinivesha! What an interesting torment. The wikipedia definition is pretty lacking. How about: clinging to life — that seems more accurate. I can’t help but think that my karma, the part that makes me Irish in this lifetime, and that connects me to an Irish literature of loss and death and melancholy, is just another way for the Universe to manifest abhinivesha.

I am a sensitive carrier, and have been all my life.

Enough so that I keep this little Buddhist poem close to my heart (and physically on my desk):

I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.

I am of the nature to have ill health. There is not want to escape ill health.

I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.

All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.

I’ve always wondered why I am so attuned to this awareness — I really did figure it had something to do with the Irish ancestry.

Okay, enough of that. What the podcast starts to get at is that fear of change, and more specifically, fear of losing one’s self, is what not-wanting-to-practice is all about. That disinclination. Even though you know it is a good idea, that it will feel great afterwards, etc. There is that kind of resistance to zazen practice, too, by the way.

So listen to RF! He says MUCH more than I can express here. When I was driving to work this morning, thinking about listening to him yesterday, I realized that I have a very high tolerance for ambiguity and obliquity — it’s the poet in me. On the other hand, the instructional designer in me would LOVE to spend an afternoon designing one of his talks — really honing in on the objectives in order to make a super-focused delivery. I guess that might take away from the homespun quality, though. If I ever DO get such a chance, I promise I won’t ask him to use PowerPoint.


Practice this morning: I wanted to do some of my old second series poses. I have no idea why. So I did up to ustrasana. I was tempted to do laghu vajrasana, too, since I can do it easily — but I think laghu v is meant to balance kapotasana, which I do not want to mess with right now. So LV is off the menu.

Interestingly, just as I crouched into pasasana, I heard myself say “abhinivesha” to myself. I wonder what that meant?

Urdhva dhanurasana felt gorgeous (said in Steve Irwin voice) after the intermediate backbends. Of course, now I am in a huge quandary, because I have given myself poses. Of course, they are poses I was given before, by a teacher. But I took them away in October and am now giving them back. I can’t tell if this is criminal behavior because it is exercise of free will, or if it was criminal behavior to have taken them away. And maybe double criminal to reinstate them now. And a little more criminal sprinkled on top for taking some back but not all.

I need a consultation with the Ashtanga Police.


19 Responses

  1. don’t worry..we got all freeman-y the other day on the BBY blog…it’s a common affliction! 🙂


  2. Hey, this is a great blog! Thanks for linking it!

    Will you please do a layman’s write-up of abhinivesha, Cody? I know you could do a much better job than wikipedia…

  3. Don’t inform The Cop of too many of the rules or he might start regulating you. (It might not be apparent to you given your history, but in most practitioners laghu develops the quads. Good to have those primed for any backbending.)

    My dad is extremely Irish, and has only become (a slight bit) melancholy in his old age, after decades of happy exuberance. I feel like it has something to do with finally admitting into his life and religious faith a sense of the unknown. Christianity is less good on impermanence (cf Ecclesiastes), but maybe there’s a similar sensibility here.

    I am excited to listen to this RF soon–thanks for the exhortation. I was thinking on my own drive this am about a comment he made in a workshop three years ago. Something that seemed shallow at the time, but now makes better sense. On which more elsewhere.

  4. Says the home practitioner while on a streak of SERIOUS job search bitterness:

    bugger the Ashtanga Police sideways. Take the poses, don’t take the poses. Walk into someone’s Mysore room, do Primary until they ask you about more. 🙂

  5. Says the home practitioner while on a streak of SERIOUS Crap I Hate Mondays At My Job bitterness:

    bugger the Job Search sideways. Take the poses, don’t take the poses. Walk into someone’s Mysore room, do Primary until they ask you about more.

    Hey, look at that! It’s advice that makes sense in all contexts! 🙂

    Sending job-finding energy your way, though!

    And yes, Owl, do listen to him! You’ll hear SO much.

    The Cop knows the rules. He is curious about rules and keeps abreast of all rule-systems. And yes, Laghu V is where I get to be pleased about ONE thing I took away from all the weight lifting! But the ego-boost of laghu is best set aside, perhaps, in my case? At least for a while. Otherwise, it functions as a ridiculous celebration at the edge of a not-attempted kapotasana. It’s kind of a “no work, no food” system — unless I do the dirty work of kapo, I shouldn’t indulge the gratification of laghu?

  6. I may allow it … as soon as we perfect those kick-ass jumpbacks DZM showed me via the magic of Internet video.

  7. That’s funny.

    But then there is the possibility of finding something unexpected there given your strong base of support (shoulder rotation, thoracic bend of a special sort, unique absurdity….)

    Why do a posture when there is nothing to develop in the posture? Uh oh….

  8. Are you giving me laghu vajrasana, Owl? Yay!

    I remember being in the Mysore room, with the bendy gals who could float into heel-grabbing kapos, but who struggled mightily with laghu v. Made me feel like a lumberjack with my overdeveloped quads and Tim Miller back. Sigh.

    Link to the video The Cop loved upcoming (as soon as I can find it again…). And yes, I noticed you catching some air this morning, dear.

  9. Yes. But I will refrain from giving you the super-hard version of it (hands to ankles with forearms in external rotation). You have to go to a certified teacher for that.

    Once the kickass jumpbacks are discovered, maniacal love of ashtanga reaches a new level. Beware Cop… you will be absorbed into the cult if you’re not very careful.

  10. In all the shalas I have practiced in, there were people who were given Ustrasana, but nor further, or Laghu but no further. I am on Dhaurasana, but I have not yet been given Parsva Dhanurasa. I must have missed why you no longer practice Kapo, but a couple of thoughts come to mind:

    1. If you were GIVE certain poses, why are you taking them away from yourself? That seems kind of mean. Why be mean and withholding to yourself?

    2. If you were NOT given the poses, but you can do them and enjoy doing them, why NOT include them in your home practice? Who is stopping you? And why? Why is there a rewards system with regard to Laghu and Kapo? Seems like you’re being kind of mean to yourself.

    Frankly, you sound a bit like ME, and I have no Irish in me that I know of – just Eastern European Jew. Russian peasant stock all the way.


  11. Hi Lauren, I was given the poses by my teacher but I took away some of them because I needed some time to work more on primary. I was having a hard time setting aside the sense of acquistion. I had always practiced to get to the next place, and I needed to take a break from that.

    The laghu/kapo thing is a little bit a joke — I can easily do laghu, and I really struggle with kapo. So I was kind of goofing around about not deserving the laghu without the kapo. That said, I was taught that they balance each other, and was a little concerned about increasing the imbalance by just practicing the one I am good at.

    I’m sure it’ll all come clear in time.

    Mostly, I am delighted by Patrick’s guerrilla approach and Owl’s reinstatement of something I like to do. 🙂

  12. Hahaha! Guerrilla approach…yes, yes, that’s me, the Che Guevara of Ashtanga 🙂

    Anyway, I had a question for the Flexibility Police: flexy women who have, now let me get this straight, NO trouble in floaty kapo, but a LOT of trouble in Laghu??? How in anatomy’s name is THAT possible? What kind of Martian flexibility allows that?

    Sign me up for the Karen backbending school: tonight I finally rediscovered my nice big Laghu, but my Kapo remains a bent-arm quads-maxing, abs-straining push up, with hands walking in, but no toes yet. I can drop peacefully back, but no way, none at all, to my feet.

    Luckily, because I’m so Ash-Che-nga, I march right on into fun stuff like the jump into Bakasana, the foot behind the head, and the Tittibhasana walk.

  13. no one could ever talk about richard too much. he rocks.

  14. Oh yes, I saw lots of bendy kapo gals who suffer immensely in laghu. They could essentially backbend into a laghu approximation, with pretty much no arm-strength involvement, and then not be able to coordinate the return. Lots of back flexibility and little leg strength. It was definitely the norm in the shala I attended.

    And yes, Lax, RF is my hero. Gosh, I’d love one day to study with him. Wanna come along? I believe one has to complete intermediate in order to qualify for his intensive program. It really is the main impetus for my wish to “progress” in practice…

  15. Actually, it’s not a strict requirement. I believe that if you have a very established practice and a recommendation from a senior teacher, you can go. I know someone from my shala who did.

    As for people who can easily do Kapo but not Laghy, I rise my hand. I could get INTO Laghu, but not out of it. It’s funny how Primary took all the muscle in my legs away in order to elongate it and then when I started Second I had to build that muscle again!

    Lastly, a question for Lauren: why is having more poses “good” and choosing to do less “bad”?

  16. It’s not. I am simply getting a feeling from what karen wrote, that she is being a bit punitive with herself, not allowing herself to practice a pose she enjoys and that a teacher who knows what he is doing taught her for reasons that I certainly am in no place to question. My teacher, guy, kept people like me (read: ambitious) going slowly for his own reasons. I did my best to accept his method. My teacher, val, is more giving with the poses, again for her own reasons. I can’t honestly and with any crediblity claim a right to question either method. I just do what they tell me to do, or maybe when I am home, I don’t. But either way, I don’t take it upon myself to teach myself lessons about patience or what have you. I leave that to my teachers. Hope that clears things up, vanessa.

  17. Choosing to do less poses than you have doesn’t necessarily need to be punitive or mean or anything. And I yet have to meet the teacher who would disagree if a student wants to do less than their “given” poses for any reason other than laziness, which I hope we concur Karen is not precisely engaging in.

    As for the thing about your teacher knowing best, and you don’t taking it upon yourself to teach yourself lessons in patience, I’m not entirely sure if you are being snarky or not, so I’m going to leave it there.

  18. […] Abhinivesha, translated usually as ‘fear of death,’ but translating something more like ‘clinging to life,’ is one of Patañjali’s kleshas, the mental afflictions which are obstacles to a state of Yoga. It keeps company with egoism, ignorance, desire, and aversion, but is more deeply seated than any of these: it’s the basic concern for one’s own survival, the desire for self-preservation, and lives, the commentators say, in the very back of your brain. It  dogs the heels of even the wisest: svarasavahi vidusah api tatha arudhah abhinivesha. ‘Self-preservation or attachment to life is the subtlest of all afflictions. It is found even in wise men’ (Yogasutra II.9). Its current engulfs everyone. […]

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