Last year, before I reluctantly started fooling around with the Primary Series, I had a pretty solid home practice (Hatha and Anusara) and I went to classes whenever I could. I regularly attended Teacher M's Anusara classes on Fridays. Teacher H saw me less often because our teaching schedules are nearly identical; when she has classes, I'm teaching classes.
My schedule lightened for a few weeks last Spring and I dropped by one of Teacher H's advanced classes. It was a challenging class and I recall that I greatly enjoyed it. I've been studying with H for many years and the class highlighted the areas where my practice had deepened and the places I still struggled.
Near the end of the class, I had a moment of epiphany when H taught Sirsasana. I clearly remember dragging my mat to the wall that day. Even then, I had a solid, strong headstand, but I felt irrevocably tied to the wall. And I knew what was causing it: fear. I was too afraid to work in the middle of the room. Even though I could do the pose, I felt a sense of humiliation about it. I felt like my yoga practice was going nowhere.
On the subway home that day, I made a pact with myself: the next time I attended H's class, I would do Sirsasana in the middle of the room, unassisted. In retrospect, it seems silly and a tad vain. It just bothered me that I was afraid. I felt like I had something to prove because I'm a yoga teacher. Yes, ego definitely played a role.
But I also think I was on to something important.
Life went on. My schedule didn't allow me time to attend classes. I started doing Ashtanga in my home practice over the summer and Sirsasana became a daily routine for me. I became stronger in the pose, conquered half-bend, learned to come up with straight legs. And yes, I finally left the wall behind, doing the pose in the middle of my small apartment and holding it for longer and longer intervals (My main tool for this has been 'Musical Sirsasana': holding the pose for the length of one song, usually around 4 minutes).
Fast forward to this week.
My thoughts have been percolating about my experience in Teacher H's class this week and last. I knew, without a doubt, that these classes would be an awesome measure of how far I've come, and they were. My practice is simply unrecognisable from what it was just 9 months ago. Familiar poses were deeper. Poses that I had always avoided, I had mysteriously mastered. It was a surprise to me that the skills and strength I had developed in Ashtanga were transferable!
Without a doubt, I owe this to Ashtanga and my hard work in the practice. The Primary Series has given me new strength in my standing poses, flexible hamstrings and the ability to do backbends with greater ease. This last item is huge with me. I was floored at how easily and joyfully I came into Ustrasana last night. I did the pose with a depth and ease that was inaccessible to me last year. Backbending is not my forte, but it's finally entered the realm of 'the possible'.
But if I were to offer a 'defining moment' from the classes, it would be this:
At the end of class last night, I calmly and strongly came into a headstand in the middle of the room and held the pose for three minutes. Then I calmly came down, no muss, no fuss. The *feeling* of doing this was profound: I had complete and total confidence in myself and my abilities. Given my history with the pose and the class, it was unbelievably empowering.
My practice has deepened in so many ways that I don't feel like the same person who walked into that room 9 months ago. In many ways I'm not. I'm stronger, I'm lighter, I'm more certain. But the confidence I've gained is the most priceless gift. I'm still floating on that high.
I had a good, fun, early practice this morning. I didn't rush it and enjoyed a long Savasana, followed by a big breakfast and a long walk with the dog. It was a good yoga week over all. I believe that the classes gave me the support and inspiration I needed to climb out of my 'yoga slump.' Getting back to my early schedule was also helpful.
Tomorrow is my day off. I'll be back on Sunday. This week, I'll be writing some interesting posts in response to questions my five readers have raised in the comments or sent via email (I'm documenting this to keep myself accountable more than anything):
Modified Closing: I'll be sharing some of my thoughts about closing sequence and offering a description of how I modify it when my back/neck/hamstrings or entire body (!) is cranky.
Staying on top of things: Thoughts and tips on keeping organised. I'll describe some of the tools and strategies I use to organise my time and living space.