Once a month, the Shala has a led Primary class followed by a discussion. Today was led class day. I’ve been looking forward to it all week!
I go through phases in my attitude towards led classes. Before I started practising regularly at the Shala, I really enjoyed them. But after a month of Mysore Style practice, I started dreading Sunday led classes (they used to happen every Sunday). Everything was so overwhelming to me at that point, I think the led classes were a ‘sensory overload’.
Then my teachers started offering them only once a month. This has worked out really well for me because I’ve come to look forward to them as a special ‘event’ and a break in routine. I can honestly say that I enjoyed every single minute of the led class this morning. It was so much fun!
R made sure that I got a Prasarita C adjustment and my hands made it to the floor! I didn’t have any help at all in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, which was a bonus because I had the opportunity to balance on my own. I didn’t botch it up too badly, but I’m perplexed about one thing: it seems impossible to gaze over my opposite shoulder on the first side of the ‘B variation’ (without falling over) but I’m fine doing it on the second side. Weird!
Recently, Navasana has become much easier. I no longer struggle in the pose; It feels comfortable. I’m guessing that this new ease is due to a combination of leg strength and bandhas. It was nice to feel confident in the pose today, though I was feeling tired by the fifth repetition of it.
Backends felt stiff and uncomfortable. On the third Urdhva Dhanurasana, R came over and pushed my arms inward (I’m guessing they weren’t straight). My shoulders probably tightened up over the Saturday break.
Led finishing is the BEST! I was in a Happy Headstand Blissout state for hours after I left the shala. :-)
I baked vegan Blueberry Walnut Muffins to share during the discussion afterward. Fresh blueberries! Look how pretty:
I wasn’t even sure I would get around to doing it today, but I made some time after I walked the dog. I kept it short: 30 minutes, same stuff I always do.
I’m raising the bar this week. I can drop back, now I want to stand up! I was thinking about it a lot yesterday. How can I get my brain and body to co-operate with one another? I developed a theory: if it’s easier to drop back with a wider stance (because of my looooong legs), it might be easier to stand up with a wider stance.
Sounds plausible, doesn’t it? I tried it today. No dice. After my second dropback and unsuccessful rocking ‘up’, I collapsed into laughter. It’s FUNNY! Because it feels so IMPOSSIBLE! Standing up from a backbend feels about as ‘doable’ as standing on the ceiling.
But I’ll keep trying this approach because I think I’m more likely to stand up from a dropback (rather than Urdhva Dhanurasana, coming up from the floor). I’m doing all the right things in my dropbacks that *should* be ‘transferable skills’ to standing: strong legs, rooting through the feet, a good arch in my back.
When I was in grade six, our teacher used to let us watch films backwards. We thought it was hilarious! This is exactly what I need to do: Dropbacks, backwards!
At least dropbacks are not a drama anymore. Today, I was fearless! I need to move my feet closer together though. That’s another project for this week.
I didn’t write about this yesterday because I needed a chance to calm down, think about it and also hear from my teachers. My initial reaction to this announcement was distaste and deep sadness.
I find it incredibly disturbing that Guruji's name and image is being turned into a 'brand'. I don't think Guruji dedicated his life to teaching this practice in order to create an ‘apparel collection’. During his lifetime of teaching, his single goal was to share the healing powers of this practice with as many people as he could. He expanded his shala to accommodate more students - not to make the quick buck. He risked losing students in order to teach lepers. I’m almost certain ‘Jois Yoga’ is not a 'legacy' he would have appreciated.
When I asked my teachers for their thoughts this morning, they didn't seem very concerned about the project or its impact on the practice itself. They said: “This is separate from the practice”. As I moved through the Primary Series, I felt reassured. It’s just as powerful and meaningful to me now as it was before I learned of these changes. Nothing has really ‘changed’. per se.
In his last years, Guruji work tirelessly to bring Astanga to the west, emphasizing the practice itself as the core value of the Astanga system; ’99% practice’. It has a strong foundation because it was built on people! There’s a HUGE community of teachers and practitioners out there who are passionate about traditional Astanga and have experienced the benefits of the practice.
What we bring to the mat every day as a community is the *real* legacy of Guruji and ultimately, I think it’s bigger and more powerful than any amount of marketing hype, ‘boutique shalas’ or $100 yoga pants.
I’m also guessing we’re not such an ‘easy sell’.
I’ve said it before: Traditional Ashtangis are a quirky lot. The practice seems to lend itself towards a certain level of simplicity and minimalism in daily routines and diet. It makes us a tricky ‘marketing demographic’ to pin down. We buy clothes that are durable and adaptable to the practice. We pick our teachers carefully and loyally follow them for years. Relationships and community are as important as the practice itself - they’re *part* of the practice.
I didn’t pick my shala based on a ‘dynamic shopping experience’ and I don’t choose my practice clothing because it expresses ‘the joy that is Jois’ (Oh, *cringe*!!!!). I’m pretty sure I’m not going to find ‘physical, mental and spiritual happiness’ by purchasing a piece of clothing at a ‘shala boutique’ just because it has the name ‘Jois’ stitched on the label.
Astanga is my spiritual practice, it’s not a 'lifestyle'. If there’s one positive outcome from all of this, perhaps it’s the opportunity to connect with the deeper reasons that we do the practice, the tangible benefits it brings us and the importance and power of the community that supports it.
And to put it bluntly, I hope this whole ‘Jois Yoga’ thing falls flat and fades away into failure because frankly, it pisses me off.