All winter, I've been mentally toying with the idea of quitting. Not quitting yoga entirely, but quitting Astanga. But while I was thinking about it, I kept practising. It often felt like I was just going through the motions, but until I came up with a better option, I just continued doing my practice.
To say that the new shala opened in the nick of time isn't an exageration. I was a heartbeat away from signing up for another 30 days at that Bikram studio (they're having a '30-day challenge' this month and that tickled my competition bone). A senior Anusara teacher I used to study with opened his own studio, so I was investigating a monthly option there too. I was just fed up with my home practice, weary of struggling along on my own, feeling uninspired and disheartened.
The first few days at Shala Local, I felt cautious. Nearly everyone else in that room had some connection with Shala South and I've had some negative experiences there (to be clear, my feelings of caution had nothing to do with the other *people* in the room; I just needed to shrug off the patina of my own past experiences). By day two, I was warming up to my shalamates and by day three, I started to feel genuinely comfortable. My new shalamates are awesome people, every last one - friendly and welcoming. There's a supportive, nurturing energy in that room.
During my first days, DT offered a few adjustments, but mostly she stepped back and observed my practice. This was fine because I was orienting myself and getting my head wrapped around the idea that I'm actually allowed to TALK and ask questions. DT must have wondered if I was mute the first day or two, because I barely spoke in the Mysore room, even if spoken to (this is an old habit from Shala Central, where we were discouraged from speaking).
By day three, I was interacting more fully in adjustments and even asking questions if something confused me. One of the awesome things about DT is that she has a strong background in anatomy because she's an RMT. She speaks my favourite language: 'Anatomy Geek'!
The first time she told me to engage my gluteus medius, my jaw dropped a little bit. I've never had a Mysore teacher (apart from D & J) be SO specific (And it totally worked, too!). The next time she adjusted me in Marichyasana C, instructing me to move from the side body, I asked her which muscle group was involved. The paraspinals! Hurrah! Everything started making sense. Now if something is unclear, I just ask. Easy!
By day four, I wasn't going limp like road kill whenever she approached me for an adjustment. Once I'd figured out that she wasn't just going to 'balloon-animal' me into a posture, I became more involved in the process. It feels like a team effort with DT, and since I understand what's going on, I'm more likely to try to replicate it on my own the next time I do the pose.
After just a few days of observing me, she totally zeroed in on the weak areas of my practice and was offering specific instruction and adjustments. *cough*backbending*cough* She gave me a mini-tutorial on Upward Dog that has totally changed the way I approach the posture.
I'm *finally* connecting with the actions needed to open up my upper back. I notice it everywhere now, from hangbacks to Matsyasana. I'm learning so much! It sometimes feels like I'm getting my own personal workshop! My Chaturanga needs some serious help too and I have a feeling DT will be the one to finally fix it.
She also recognises my strengths and has been helping me move deeper in a few specific postures. Supta K is now the *highlight* of my practice. After a couple days of epic adjustments that felt AWESOME, she asked me if I had ever tried coming into the pose from Dwi Pada (Inspired by my friend Boodiba, I played around with that last year, but gave up because I wasn't getting help).
I pulled my left leg behind my head and she helped me deepen that, then supported me while I got the other leg behind. When I cross my ankles behind my head it was the *weirdest* feeling!!! Then I lowered down and was able to get a good bind right away.
I'm still shaking my head over this. It was amazing! This is what I've been missing - the feeling that Astanga is just the *coolest thing ever* because the impossible becomes possible. In that moment, as I lifted myself out of Supta K for the exit, every cell of my body was grinning.
And this pretty much sums up my week!
Last week, I was flying through my practice, trying to break new speed records ("Hey! I clocked in under 60 minutes in the Primary Series! WHOOSH!"). By the end of THIS week, I had slowed WAY down. My practices now take up to 2-and-a-half hours because I'm spending more time in Up Dog in vinyasas, repeating some of the second series backbends and taking more time for Urdhva Dhanurasana and hangbacks. I've added a preparation pose for Kapotasana. I can feel my body responding to the work I'm doing.
But to be honest, it's also taking longer because I'm loving my practice again and I don't want to leave the room. I'd much rather practise than surf the web, or sit in the window seat reading a magazine, or watch DVDs. This is a huge shift!
I realise that this flush of enthusiasm will likely fade with routine and repetition, but for now, I'll take it. Because right now, I'm about as far away from quitting my Astanga practice as I could possibly be. I'm back in the cult! ;-)
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