Sunday, June 27, 2010

Astanga

As I walked out of Shala North at the end of the adjustments workshop, I could actually feel the seams of my brain bulging dangerously from all of the information I had just taken in.

It’s still digesting. *burp*

I’m not sure how much of it I can realistically convey here, given that the material was so experiential. Even as I took notes, I realised that they were, at best, a descriptive summary. The real work of processing this stuff will begin when I start using it in my classes and in sessions with my private students. Giving strong, confident adjustments is just as reliant on muscle memory and repetition as practising asana is. I just need to DO it, lots of it, and the understanding will gradually come.

And just when I think I’ve *really* got it, I’ll probably discover that I’m doing some of it completely wrong. Or my understanding will change in a way that makes it all seem brand new again. Full circle. Over and over again. Sometimes I feel like a hamster on a wheel.

Here’s one: Today, I learned that I’ve been cueing Prasarita Padottanasana C incorrectly (and, by extension, adjusting it ineffectively; boy, I NEEDED this workshop!). I wasn’t doing it in a way that would hurt my students, but I certainly wasn’t helping them. So I asked lots of questions and took notes and futzed around with my arms and futzed around with someone else’s arms (Thanks, J). Next, I’ll apply this new understanding of the pose to my own practice and THEN I can begin the difficult work of learning to convey this to my students in a clear way. It will be trial and error - it always is.

And this isn’t new. There’s always something. Last year, I had a complete *facepalm* moment regarding how I teach Marichyasana C. I literally cringed when the gravity of What I Didn’t Know fully sunk in. So I spent hours on the mat experimenting and refining my understanding of the pose. I researched it in books and on the Internet. I had a chat with a senior teacher I trust. And I was SO relieved to finally have that one squared away! Phew!

C’mon...you KNOW what’s coming!

Today, I asked just a simple question and once again, everything I thought I knew about about Mari C has been effectively blown out of the water. There’s this deep rut in the floor leading to my metaphorical drawing board. It’s there because I spend so much time going back and forth, again and again.

I read and read and read and read some more. I study and practice and sink nearly every penny of my disposable income into conferences and workshops. I attend classes with teachers I admire so I can study them. I swap ideas with colleagues. I solicit feedback from my students. I devote hours to my own practice and analyze it looking for new clues. And the more I learn, the more I realise how much I don’t know.

It’s equal parts frustrating and wonderful. I’m excited that there’s so much to learn. I despair that I can’t know everything. But that doesn’t keep me from trying!

This evening after the workshop, I squatted on the subway platform and rested my chin on top of my Manduka, trying to still my churning brain. And I sighed. And I then marvelled that I’ve been teaching this stuff for over 8 years. Seriously?! That really IS amazing because I feel like I hardly know ANYTHING!

And this, my friends, is why I try not to overthink this stuff. I’d literally drive myself crazy.

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One of the highlights of the workshop today had nothing to do with the workshop itself. In the last half-hour, as everyone was busy practising adjustments in Urdhva Dhanurasana, DR spirited me away to a corner and gave me a quick backbending tutorial. He helped me stand up twice! He also helped me dropback once - very slowly and with lots of control (exactly how I would like to do this on my own; I want to be a feather, not a tree!).

It gave me hope that I’m on the right track with all of the extracurricular work I’ve been doing outside my Shala practice.

The ease I experienced standing up from Urdhva Dhanurasana today absolutely blew my mind!!! The first try was disorienting, but the second was kind of fabulous! It wasn’t remotely scary or difficult! I didn’t have to rock. I didn’t even walk my hands in very far (although I did walk them in). It was all about bringing the weight into my legs (or more accurately, it was DR bringing my weight into my legs for me). But once that particular puzzle piece was in place, I peeled up pretty easily.

I’ve been practising this a LOT at home and I’m sure it helped. The mechanics of standing up are now somewhat familiar to me. But to feel it all come together in the context of actually DOING IT was a real trip! I’m still kind of gobsmacked.

It was generous of DR to to take the time to help me. I was really touched, particularly given how much he has on his mind right now.

Poor guy! When I arrived at the workshop and saw him at reception, he looked disoriented - like he’d been teleported to Planet Zorg against his will. The new baby is reportedly as cute as button and as big as a sumo wrestler! DR and S have their hands full - but in a very good way! I’m really happy for them. :-)

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A brief practice report:

When I signed in, I told the woman at reception that I was a ‘refugee’ and she laughed. At least I practised! I briefly considered practising at home, but I’m taking this whole six-day-shala-practice thing very seriously. I haven’t missed a single day of shala practice since I started going to Shala Central in March. We’ll see how long I can keep it up!

The Mysore room at Shala North was busy this morning and it was steamy-hot. I sweated buckets. Except for a brief Space Cadet Moment during the standing poses (why does this ALWAYS happen to me in an unfamiliar room? I get so disoriented!), I had a very good practice.

I received a terrific adjustment in Supta K. Also, one of the assistants offered to give me a squish after Urdhva Dhanurasana. My hamstring was feeling pretty good, so I gave him verbal feedback on how much pressure to use. I was able to move right into the edge of the sensation.

3 comments:

teacupdiaries said...

Congrats on standing up! It's always good when hard work pays off, yes? :) I'm sure you'll keep on building strength until everything clicks and you accomplish this without assistance.

Christine said...

This is exactly how I feel about teaching and adjusting students...there's just so much to learn! I've begun teaching one of my students to assist and now I really really know how much I don't know! Thanks for sharing!

Kaivalya said...

@Teacup
It's coming. Last night, I walked up the wall to standing and found that I was doing it with a much lighter touch of my fingers to the wall (I didn't feel like I was hauling myself up). There's still a mental leap to overcome and *that* feels no closer, though. Baby steps!

@Christine
I know what you mean. And teaching someone to teach...that's *really* hard!