Thursday, May 27, 2010


“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”


Over the past 24 hours-and-a-bit, my emotions and thoughts have meandered all over the map.

I really value the support, the wisdom and the encouragement in the comments. I don’t say it enough, but I appreciate all of you who read this. My blog started as more of a personal journal. I never thought anyone would pay much attention to a skeptics journey through Astanga, especially other Ashtanga practitioners. I never imagined how many dear friends I would find doing this. And I didn’t think I would ever come to love the practice this much.

But I do. And today I realised that my practice has been the glue holding me together over these past few months. I’ve gone through some major upheaval in my personal life, but I never felt shattered because there was always a chance to renew myself and feel whole again on my Manduka. Every morning. I need my practice.

Last night, I did something I rarely do: I took a sleeping aid so I could get some deep rest, 10 hours worth. In the morning, my head was clear and I felt better but I was on a rollercoaster. By lunchtime, I was feeling depressed and despairing again. In the late afternoon, I actually checked the price for drop-ins at Shala North. The thought of going to Shala Central in the morning made me desperately anxious.

After I taught my last class of the day, I unrolled my mat and did a cursory Moon Day practice, just the sun salutations and the standing poses to keep the joints lubricated. As I moved through them, I could literally recount every careful instruction, adjustment and vinyasa clarification that had shaped each pose. Even in the standing poses, not a single one has been untouched by my teachers. I may have come into their Shala with a nearly complete Primary Series, but thanks to them, I have an entirely different practice now than the one I arrived with; it’s immeasurably better.

I owe it to them to stick this out and find a compromise.

This is what I know:

- I’m *not* ready to stand up from a backbend yet. My Urdhva Dhanurasana isn’t deep enough and I haven’t yet developed the physical co-ordination necessary to come up by myself or even with determined assistance.

- I work very, VERY hard in my practice. I have a dedicated six-day practice and I literally *never* miss a day. I’m NOT a lazy student.

- I enjoy practising the Primary Series. My Primary is far from perfect - there’s lots of work to do! This could keep me busy for awhile. It’s not urgent that I move on to Intermediate Series right away.

- Many aspects of the practice come very naturally to me. Backbending isn’t one of them. If I’m going to learn to stand up and drop back, I need lots of help and guidance from my teachers.

- I don’t respond well to negative pressure and disapproval. I respond *very* well to patience and encouragement.

- I need to love my practice again. I need to find a way to trust my teachers again.

So here’s the plan: Tomorrow, I’m putting on my Big Girl Ashtangi Pants and going to the Shala, early. Hopefully, I’ll be able to talk to one or both teachers before I start my practice. I’ll request that my backbending be limited to Urdhva Dhanurasana from the floor for now (walking the hands in to develop a deeper backbend and rocking to prepare for standing up). As soon as I’m able to rock forward into my feet and lift my hands off the floor, I’ll be ready for some assistance in coming up to standing. But not before.

I don’t want to rush this because it’s really freaking me out.

I’ll stick it out at Shala Central until the end of June. If I’m still feeling weird about being there, I can explore my options: returning to a home practice (Not my first choice. Yes, Susan and Patrick, you were right: it’s far better to practise with authorised teachers) or making the epic schlep to Shala North (It’s a long commute, but I know people who travel further and longer to study with their teachers).

I’m in this thing for the long haul, I just need to figure out where and how.


susananda said...

Good for you, that's the attitude.. put on your Big Girl pants and go :) I bet you'll come to an understanding with your teachers. Good luck, fingers croosed for you today x

Grimmly said...

Sounds like a plan. I found with these things that you focus on them for a while then give it a rest, regroup, consolidate while you focus on something else and then come back for another assault later. Often the ruddy thing happens while your focussing on something else anyway. I still prefer coming up after dropping back rather than from UD. I learned to do it that way first, in fac,t come to think of it, I learned kapo and coming up from that before I learned to come up from UD. Isn't that's the way it used to be too.
Also I imagine it's harder in the Shala because they're probably trying to make you come up with good form,IE no splayed feet or raised heels. I can come up but it so ain't pretty.

Helen said...

Good for you, hope it goes well.

Tara said...

Ok, I don't know how well received this comment is going to be among dedicated Ashtangis, but here it is anyways: try adding in another class of a different style. I know that traditionally it's supposed to only be Ashtanga, but I've found that other styles can actually be used to SUPPORT your Ashtanga practice.

For example: the majority of the primary series comes pretty naturally for except for one thing--it started hurting my knees. The left knee started hurting within the first couple of weeks of starting my Mysore practice. The right one joined in and pretty soon I couldn't put either one of my legs in a lotus position, half or full! I believe it was a fellow Ashtangi who said that tight hips usually lead to knee pain when trying to get lotus positions, which makes complete sense because mine are super tight. In addition, I finally had enough friends and teachers tell me that the way I was practicing was hurting me and that it needed to change before I did serious damage. So, I started adding in other classes. For me, adding more Forrest classes was what I needed because almost every single one of them puts a lot of emphasis on hip opening. I also started easing up on the number of days spent doing my Mysore practice. My body is feeling better and so is my practice, which, to me, is the whole point. The right knee is loads better and feels ok to have in the lotus position, the left one is starting to come along.

Luckily, I also have a really good Mysore teacher who also sees the benefit of sometimes adding in a different class when your body needs it. I like to think of it as cross training. As a former runner, I remember not liking cross training at first either. I saw it as something you only did when you were injured and couldn't do "the real thing." But it actually makes "the real thing" stronger because you get to use and strengthen a different set of muscles...usually the supporting side. In all, it makes your whole body stronger.

So, that's just a little suggestion: try adding in a class of another style and see what happens. You can take or leave what the teacher says about alignment or whatnot...after all, it's still YOUR practice :-)

Anonymous said...

I was waiting for this post! I knew you'd figure things out and stay positive. :)

Good luck with it all! I think you're on the right track.

Christine said...

Good Luck! We'll all be cheering for you! :)

Kaivalya said...

Thanks for your 'good luck' energy and encouragement, everyone. It did go well. In fact, it was so easy to address that I now feel kind of silly about the whole thing.

You won't get any flack from me! If there was a prison for criminal Ashtangis, I'd be serving 5 life sentences! ;-)

I think many of us engage in a fair amount of 'criminal behaviour' outside of our Shala practices. I certainly do! I often target a certain skill or area of my practice and do short evening sessions that focus on it.

I'm also a yoga teacher, so I get a lot of 'yoga' in during the day. I'm don't demo in my classes a whole lot, but with 20 classes per week, it does add up! I also tend to goof around on my mat between classes, usually hip openers and that sort of thing.

This summer, I think I'll be able to do some 'yoga tourism' and visit a few of my old teachers (who teach other styles), which will be fun.

Arturo said...

Hi Kai

thanks for doing my thinking for me. i don't have to do any. we've got a plan here on the coming up to standing front.


wordverif "woriven" (are we doing too much worrying?)

Arturo said...

oh, can i self edit? i don't think my teacher wants to push me to do the coming to standing. he's just observing me getting up higher each time, doing what you are doing - walking the hands a bit, rocking a little. he's wise in that way because he's concerned about lack of flexibility in the shoulders. i find that i have the time now for experimenting with what you're doing in preparation for the eventual comuppance :)

word verif: "ingsta" - there's just no ingsta gratification for us in terms of this comuppance.