I think it’s good for me to have a ‘blah’ practice every now and again. It reminds me that the quality of my practice is almost 99% rooted in the attitude I bring to it. Although there are certainly days when my body doesn’t want to join the party for reasons of illness or injury, I’m finding more and more that my brain is usually the culprit.
Yesterday, I was all ‘Poor little me! Owie my toe!’. Today: Same toe, more bandaids, different attitude. And I had a really great practice! Attitude is everything!
During the years that I practised solo, it was very easy to cut my practice short or skip the poses I didn’t like when I was feeling ‘low energy’. I’d find myself caught up in a thought spirals, leading me to abandon effort and just go through the motions. It probably didn’t hurt me, but in the end, I wasn’t growing my practice.
My friends who practised Mysore style would try to explain the magic of the ‘energy of the room’ to me. I didn’t understand. My first few weeks at the Shala were so incredibly disorienting and overwhelming, I still didn’t understand.
Here’s a weak analogy - it’s the only one I can think of: Restoring hearing to a deaf person. When the hearing is turned ‘on’, there are not really ‘sounds’, just ‘noise’. It takes a while for the brain to understand how to filter everything and sort it into categories.
During my first few weeks at the Shala, it was a full-on cacophony: the other students, the teachers, the room, the smells, the heat and the energy. I clearly remember one particularly busy morning, with lots of sound (breathing, jumps) lots of activity (people arriving, leaving) and R was working with me (cleaning up my standing poses). Mentally, I felt pulled in a thousand directions all at once. By the time I left, I barely knew my own name!
Now, I’m far less distracted by all the ‘stuff’ that goes on around me. Earlier this week, I left the room after my practice and realised that I had no idea who else was in there (I’m usually pretty aware of who is coming and going). I was so focused on my practise, I didn’t pay attention!
While I still don’t enjoy practising in a *packed* room, I genuinely enjoy the energy of people around me. I now understand what my friends were trying to convey about the ‘energy of the room’ in Mysore style. I’m definitely affected by that energy, I find myself buoyed and supported by it. When I feel my attitude slipping, the presence of my shala-mates helps to inspire me.
The Shala was empty when I arrived this morning so I had the room to myself for the Surya Namaskaras. Surrounded by silence, I found myself VERY focused on the sound my breathing and I was able to set a steady rhythm for my Ujjayi that carried me through the rest of my practice. I really noticed the instances where I *stopped* Ujjayi breathing (I tend to do this when I’m binding the Marichyasanas).
I also noticed that my breathing becomes very shallow in Marichyasana D. I tried to maintain deeper breathing when I repeated the other side. No wrist bind in that pose today - that one really comes and goes! My body is a bit poofy this week because lady’s holiday is looming, so that could be affecting the depth of my twists. Yuck.
I know I often give my poor, distracted brain a pretty hard time, but today, my brain had a Hero Moment!
I was already through the second side of Marichyasana A when I found myself spontaneously taking Janu Sirsasana C without even thinking about it. Then, without skipping a beat, I proceeded on to Marichyasana B. Then I paused and wondered what the hell I was doing! But I wasn’t inadvertently repeating the pose. I had skipped it and my brain helpfully added it back in while I was on ‘auto-pilot’.
It was a neat moment, kind of like dropping the reins and letting the old grey mare take you back to the stable. I lost the pose, my brain found it for me! Thank you, brain! *pats own head*
Backbending was interesting. After yesterday’s lackadaisical Urdhva Dhanurasanas, I was determined to work harder today. As I did my three warm-up backbends, I reminded myself of Susan’s advice: push all the air out on the exhalation and let the inhalation come. This was helpful! I was definitely breathing more deeply and with bigger sound.
I followed those up with two more backbends in a row, walking my hands in. After that, I did just one backbend at a time, working each to the limit of my endurance, and then coming down to rest. I’m still working with Maehle’s advice: swiping the hands toward the back of the mat and engaging the quads. I definitely feel a deeper stretch in the front of my hips when I do this.
Today, I did nine. P said that my backbends are looking good.
Outside of my Shala practice, I’ve been doing a variety of hip openers, particularly targeting the hip flexors, in order to develop more openness in my backbends. I don’t know if it’s working, but I understand that this is all a process. Hopefully, I’ll get around to capturing a photograph this weekend to measure my progress.
Tomorrow is the Moon Day at my home Shala, but it doesn’t seem to be a Moon Day anywhere else (my calendar says Saturday). So I fully intend to practice without guilt! Since my ‘lady’s’ is coming up, I don’t want to waste a day!
I’m pretty sure the Mysore room at Shala North is open tomorrow. I’ve been wanting to visit their room for a while, so I’m thinking about making an excursion, just a bit later in the morning so I can sleep in. I’m not sure if DR will even be there (he’s about to become a dad to a new baby any moment now), but it would be great fun to experience another room and admire those cork floors!