Day 21 – Finding my feet

18 January, 2012

Today practice was good, right up til Backbending, which for me is a great challenge. Moving into Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Facing Bow, or Wheel pose) itself isn’t so much the tricky bit, I’ve learned how to be patient and allow my shoulders and back to let me know when they’re ready for me to test them a little more each day, I’ve overcome the fear of falling and of the potential embarrassment (clearly resident only in my own mind, for every teacher I’ve encountered in learning this pose has shown me far more compassion and understanding than I’ve shown myself), what remains is the ability to stand up from this pose consistently.

A word before I go further, Ashtanga isn’t about any ONE asana, it’s not about doing the ones you like and avoiding the hard stuff, it’s about finding your deepest, truest self on and off the mat, patiently, quietly, breath by breath, posture by posture, dristi by dristi.

With that said, I’m now clearly aware of what Wheel Pose and standing up are trying to show me about myself, on and off the mat. For me, it’s about finding my foundation and seeing things through. Today when I did my first drop back and came up, Sharath was there, he said “very good”, I explained that I wasn’t getting the posture consistently, and he said “too much thinking, just focus on the asana”, then he watched me do the same thing and said “If you don’t have your legs, you can’t come up”. How true, other teachers have told me this “press into your legs, use the strength of your thighs and pelvis, feel as if you’re grounding through the earth. Perfect advice for airy-fairy me. It’s more than a physical thing. I find commitment a hard concept to process, even the idea of purchasing furniture is frightening for me, I try never to hold onto things or people, for that matter. But I need grounding and balance, or I will surely drift away on the first breeze to Never-Never land. I’m a good starter of things, always make a good impression, but I become easily bored, and don’t finish as strongly. This has hurt me, personally and professionally, and comes not from a fear of failing, but being completely completely frightened of my potential. Yes, strange, I’m working on it, letting myself truly shine. I’ll get there.

This is why I think Backbending comes where it does in the practice, it’s the last really strong outpouring of effort you make before you can ease up and relax a bit into the soothing flow of Finishing postures. It says “store your energy, finish strong, know where your feet are, commit and seal your practice”. I love that, I love that it took me 3 weeks to get it, to really get that message. I now find myself thinking “I want to be diligent in my practice, aware of my body, relax when my tendency is to panic, and above all, push into my foundations (physical, mental and spiritual) and as Sharath said “make your legs straight as you can and strong and PUSH with your hands”. I want to stand up on my own two feet and find the peace in the lesson this posture, and this mighty practice and lineage are here to teach me. And I believe if I just keep doing it, keep trying, keep committing, keep with faith and the 4Ds (dedication, devotion, discipline and determination, especially the last one) that I will.

Wow, that felt good to say out loud 🙂

Ever thankful
SWWW

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So…today is Saturday. That means rest day and an opportunity to do errands. It’s nice to go about my business, walking to the supermarket, shopping, getting my toes done…not unlike what I’d be doing at home in Kingston. There is a good feeling in just being a student, walking around, treasuring the little differences I see everyday, the drawings in chalk on the sidewalks that represent offerings to the householders’ deity of tradition, the completely-relaxed cow sauntering down the street, knowing no fear (because people would rather crash into into each other than hit a cow), the pushpamalas, floral garlands for puja (worship)…little things I might not have appreciated, had I just been a harried tourist, just looking for the “important things to see”.

And yesterday? Ooh, practice (led) was good once I decided to honour my shoulder and not lift up to jump back or try to float all my jump-throughs. Yoga is deeper than just exercise or poses you do, it begins to answer your unasked questions, if you simply listen. After another huge breakfast (dark chocolate pancakes, anyone?), there was chanting class, and then I met a friend from my YTT in Negril, went for lunch, book-shopping and then dinner – then had to hightail it in a rickshaw back to Gokulam to meet some friends to go for a lyme…it was great, ppl from Jamaica, South Korea, Costa Rica, Argentina, Poland, Australia, Mexico, Sweden…all in Mysore because of their love for yoga, good times…when we were leaving, my fellow countrymen got into a little tiff (you can always rely on a Jamaican man’s ego and a Jamaican woman’s mouth to start a riot – LOL), awkward…cold LONG rickshaw ride home, ad then the facety driver refuses to take us home, insisting “meter finished”…it was only when he realised that we were walking far farther than he’d dropped us (at midnight, no less) and he could have made some more from the fare, that he tried to catch up with us…at which point I was like “no, you trying to hustle us”…one of the dudes with us walked us girls home and that was that.

I’m off practice for the next two days to honour my womanly nature (subtle, aren’t I?) – it actually helps the body heal, and is a part of the greater practice to abstain from asana to observe and respect the body’s natural patterns. And before anyone works up a full-feminist-rant head of steam, try to understand that I’m thinking of me, my own rhythms, my own patterns, how to help heal my shoulder, and how to detach my sense of worth from the number of times per week that I practice dropping back into backbends or jumping back from crow pose. Again, yoga is more than the asanas you do, it’s about listening, surrendering, and trusting in your intrinsic, divine self. And this isn’t easy, my ego wants to, it whispers seductive “your shoulder doesn’t feel so bad, go practice anyway, no one will know”. But I will know, and the lesson for me today is discipline (in restraint as well as in action) and surrender to the potential power of this amazing practice, that I have only just scraped the surface of.

Ever grateful
SWWW

11 January, 2012

Day 14 – keeping this format for the people following my status updates on Facebook, hot and sweaty in the shala today,tremendous hip-opening help by one of thassistants in Baddha Konasana, my very LEAST favourite pose in Primary and then the same guy helped in Backbending and offered into why I’m hyperventilating in standing up from drop backs, he said “don’t hold your breath, inhale as you come back up, also there is a little tightness in your hips that challenges the grounding through the legs, you really want to feel your legs supporting you as you come up, I know how you feel, sometimes you just wantit over with” 🙂 I said “that and I’m favouring my right shoulder, which twinges a bit as I deepen the backbend and walk in towards my feet” he was like “ah” and he watched me do two on my own, they were better, and told me not to rush, and to feel my feet (tiny as they are, right? DWL) and it was good! Then chanting and then we went to Lahksmipuram for lunch, so yummy, but what bugged me a bit was a guy who tagged along with us, and then refused to eat, saying he had no money (at that point I was like “dude, we all came in a rickshaw, did you think that was free?) and then refusing even after we offered to cover his meal.  Maybe he wanted the company?  I dunno.  I wish he’d spoken up, though, that was the principle that niggled at me.  Was it male pride? Till I grow a pair of my own, I’ll probably never know. Every day of Primary Series feels good, except when I push my shoulder too hard, I’m practising restraint too – and I’ll remember to BREATHE in drop backs, after all, the whole point is the breath, to listen to it and find the peace it shows you. Each asana is a teacher and Baddha Konasana and drop backs are teaching my key lessons about myself, I’m so grateful I’m aware enough to listen

Have faith…then leap

1 December, 2011

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.  And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes insearch of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”     Paulo Coelho, “The Alchemist”

So goes my favourite line of one of my favourite books, and now I go even further in discovering myself and my Personal Legend – Ashtanga, India, teaching, writing, taking more responsibility for the adult I’d like to think I’m becoming.

I haven’t written in a while, hiding from my most honest way of expressing myself – no excuses, just write more

I will

i’m back

28 August, 2011

…not that I really went anywhere, but for a while I just couldn’t, or maybe didn’t want to write….hopefully I’m back for good

here’s a mix track to soothe you like Savasana, and here’s hoping you had a wonderful weekend and will have a great week – for the Ashtangis out there, new moon passes, back on the mat tomorrow

Deep  Sleep

 

she who weaves words

 

 

Each morning I go through a ritual of sorts to convince myself to get out of my comfortable bed and go practice on my mat….there are few things that make me feel more alive and aware than when I’m doing asana…but I won’t lie to you, I’m no morning person.

I practice in the morning because it is the best time for me to do so (aside from the fact that you get the clean, cool morning air, your body is stronger and you benefit from having to stretch muscles that have stiffened up during the inertia of sleep) – I work a full-time day job and teach most evenings – but for me, the biggest challenge is getting out of that perfect spot in the bed, when the room is the perfect temperature, and all is good and wonderful in the universe. I have often wondered what that means “Am I really an undisciplined person underneath?” “Do I truly love what I do?” Believe me, I LOVE to practice, and 15 minutes into it, no matter how groggy I was when I awake or how many time I think “my bed is calling me back right now”, I know for sure “This is where I’m meant to be, in this very moment”

I say all of this to say that we don’t always have the reason that we practice in sharp and clear focus, sometimes just to practice IS the reason. This is particularly true when you hit a point when a posture isn’t “working” for you; though the most immediate response may, borne of frustration, be “I don’t want to do this”, push through anyway, give it your best love and attention in that moment, but try not to tie your own worth as a human being to it. Making yoga a sustainable part of your life means two things and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (on of THE foremost treatises on the philosophy of yoga) says it best:

  1. Practice (abhyasa) – means having the attitude of persistence to find peace in the practice, practice must be done consistently and over a long period of time in order for the practitioner to reap its ripest fruit. This means you have to get up and try, even when the bed seems a better option but it also means that you should have a sustainable relationship with your practice, guilt and resentment have no place here. At the same time, your practice shouldn’t be, as Kino put it, “this all-or-nothing thing that you feel you have to do”. Assess who you are and what you feel like each day, do your very honest best and then let go of your expectation of what you think that practice should be, which leads me to:
  2. Non-attachment (vairagya) – the ability to let go of any attachments, fears, desires and delusions you might have about the practice and why you do it. This means that for however long you’re on the mat, make the effort to suspend you ego, certainly the part of it that says “I did this yesterday, why can’t I now?” or “I should be able to do this by now” and just enjoy what it is that you do. Come to your mat with no pre-conceived notions of yourself, begin with the breath and end with the breath.

I wanted to share these two principles because they underscore why I love yoga so much, and because I have dedicated my practice to a woman who gave her final breath on Wednesday night, having spent so much time in the service and love of others. She was sweet, giving and quite frankly, extraordinary. She will be missed. I will love and remember her always. RIP Aunty G.

We come into this life on an inhale and leave it on an exhale, but rarely do we pay attention to the breaths between. When we apply the discipline of practice with the ease of non-attachment, we find that our practice can soar to its highest height and plumb its greatest depth. On the days when you have doubt, fear and guilt, remember this, and let THAT be your purpose

with love

SWWW

Today I did Sun Salutations, all the Standing Postures all the way to Marichyasana A before my left knee requested a reprieve. Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana – (that’s ‘Half Lotus Standing Forward Bend’ for the uninitiated) on the left is still not ready to be safely manifested in this body of mine so I did Tree Pose and counted out the breath

And guess what, people? Something else changed in my practice. Sometimes that happens, you can go days, weeks, even months and you feel like “why am I even DOING this? I don’t FEEL any different, nor more enlightened than last Tuesday” and then all of a sudden, you’re seeing all these new things coming at you….I intentionally went slower in each asana, particularly the left side, to assess what was happening and how it impacted my hip and knee – I actually did Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimatanasana (the seated cousin of the posture I described above) TWICE, and by slowing down, was able to adjust the alignment just a little bit, and suddenly I felt the pose in my hip again (where it belongs, I might add) and significantly less in my knee…brilliant!

Another thing, I could jump through more smoothly and picking up to jump back, I could swing back and place my toe behind me the way my teacher taught me (if you’re wondering what that looks like, look for ‘Kino Macgregor jumping back from Padmasana’ on Youtube, the woman is simply all kinds of wonderful and amazing), suddenly the ‘impossible’ things that I had placed aside to ‘learn in my own time’ were easier to imagine in my body than ever before, and all because I slowed down.

Anyone who knows me knows that I move fast, I walk fast (well, with 44″ inches from hip to toe, I can’t help it 😉 , talk fast, type fast and I practise fast. I could finish Full Primary plus finishing AND Savasana in just under 90 minutes….I don’t say this to boast or vaunt myself, but practising quickly was both the result of a shorter breath (asthma-related) and the need to be done early in the mornings before work…even adding postures from Second Series and doing more back-bends took me to 1hr50 TOPS….so this practice was different, I made each moment stretch out, I paused, contemplated and noticed my breath in a new way….Amazing, all the fundamental, subtle little things that pop into your consciousness when you take your time…”Slow down, you move too fast, you got to make the moment last…” that’s what Simon and Garfunkel said, right?

There is a tendency in our world nowadays to move at lightning-speed, to get things done to get to the next ‘thing to do’…but listen, the yoga practice offers us an alternative, it says “Hey, slow down, and study yourself for a moment, what are you looking for?”

When you have an injury or a perhaps a setback in life, maybe there’s an opportunity to re-assess yourself, to see inside, to what’s real…and here’s the thing, the thesis of the evening, the point (maybe) to my meandering scribble of thoughts, the REAL is the breath, your soul, the animus inside you; the body is but a shell, a vehicle, a laboratory, it’s the part that IS ephemeral…we are more than the sum of our knees, hips, shoulders and lower backs. But we need the vehicle to have this life…like one of my teachers, Sharon says, we are “spiritual beings having a human experience”. So treat your body well, and listen to it.

When I got to Marichyasana A today and was able to ground myself through BOTH hips, I could FEEL the posture in a different way….it was deep, it was different and I know why…and I was “feeeelin’ groooovy”

more tomorrow!

SWWW

On the eve of Yoga Month

31 August, 2010

Here’s the truth, people…I haven’t done a full practice in AGES (like 3 weeks), just trying to heal my left knee, which I managed to torque somehow, overdoing something when my nutty (read “schizophrenic”) left hip wasn’t ready. The result?? SEARING pain when I bent my knee, that means sitting, standing, walking all were hurting…let ALONE lotus (lotus??? whatever is that?). My body cried “Stop” while my mind argued “you can do this, forget the pain, you KNOW the right techniques now”….guess what won? Guess what ALWAYS does and will?

They say that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again, whilst expecting a different result or rather…let’s spin that on its ear….maybe TRUE intelligence means applying the techniques that you KNOW in the safest way possible to your body AS IT IS…not AS YOU IMAGINE IT or IN A PERFECT WORLD…just as it is. Prosaic? Maybe. True? Absolutely.

So I listened, I rested my body when it asked for it, I took the yoga inside and remembered what my teacher Greg Nardi said to me when I was at a particularly low point during an Ashtanga intensive I did (remind me to share more about that)…”Remember, Shakira”, he said, patience in his voice like he’d NEVER said it before “it’s a breathing practice”. And somehow it stuck, I got it, I slowed down and honoured what was happening and why and what I needed to change.

All of this I recall now as we head in to September, which is Yoga Month!!! Yay! Even as I challenge myself physically for EVERY ONE of the next 30 days (yes, EVERY DAY!), I’ll keep the thought “BREATHE” first and foremost in my mind, and for me it’s much bigger than words like “pranayama”, “Ujjayi” and “mula bandha” (don’t get me wrong, they’re important)…it means “Just breathe, no matter what, be still IN your breath, everything else will come”

“Do your practice”, Pattabhi Jois said, “and all is coming…” and you know what? I think I’m beginning to really see what Guruji meant

See you on the mat tomorrow!

love
SWWW