My teacher wrote a terrific blog post about dogma here. Go read it, then come back, because you don't want to miss the part about my drunken, party-crashing quadraceps.
Are you back? Good!
I was startled by how deeply those comments affected me. In hindsight, I totally get it because I was having a tender, touchy week. Intermediate Series is tough! I'm only practising roughly half the series and it still wrings me out, exhausts me physically and mentally (and I thought it would be *easier*! Ha,ha,ha! I'm still having a good laugh about that one, at my own expense). By the time I finish my practice, taking rest seems like too much work. I just want to curl up in a ball and pass out.
But I'm adjusting. This morning, after successfully binding both sides in Pasasana, I realised that I just have to *decide* to bind. If there's any question in my mind about the binding then it doesn't happen. I started to apply this new philosophy to each pose and I realised that up to this point, I've been approaching the Intermediate Series the same way Dobby the House Elf (of 'Harry Potter' fame) approached that all-important sock that set him free from slavery. "A SOCK, Master?! Really? FOR ME? You've given Dobby a SOCK!?"
Each and every pose was feeling like an all-encompassing event that I had to think about, double-check, and brace myself for. On some level, I couldn't believe I was actually doing these poses. Me! On my mat! Intermediate Series! I was worried that somebody (Anonymous? The Astanga Police?) would march into the Shala and take it all away from me. This morning, I let go of all that.
I also let go of any illusion of perfection. I practised each pose to the best of my ability, and then I let it go so I could move on to the next. And my practice flew by. I didn't have help with LBH poses this morning, so I wiggled into them myself. My exits from Eka Pada Sirsasana would have made fine comedy material, but I tried. Dwi Pada Sirsasana was a train wreck, but it was MY trainwreck and I'm kind of proud of the way I bungled through it. For the first time since I split, I feel like this practice belongs to me. I'm owning it, in all its rough imperfection.
I didn't really stop or slow down until I got to the backbending - and DT was waiting for me to get the party started. Today, instead of poking my own hamstrings, I poked hers, which only highlighted how uncooperative *mine* are. Another piece of this puzzle is my gluteus medius.
Let's take the horrible 'party' analogy to it's full expression, shall we?
Urdhva Dhanurasana is having a party! Yay! Invitiations have been sent out. The hamstrings RSVP'ed and they're supposed to be bringing a date, the glut medius. Everything is going fine. Most of the guests have arrived - my heels are grounded, my inner thighs are internally rotating and our hostess (DT) has nudged my errant right foot (the one that always splays out) back into place. The President's Choice hors d'oeuvres are circulating and the drinks are flowing freely. I press up into the backbend. And that's when the quadraceps arrive, loud and unruly. You can't even have a conversation over the din of their off-tune singing. They dance around the room clutching a bottle of whisky while the hamstrings look on despairingly. The hams shoot a meaningful glance at the glut medius and say: "Hey, this place is getting a bit crowded. What do you say we head to the martini bar down the street?"
This is around the time that DT is usually shaking her head and saying "Nope, they're not on, the hamstrings are not on" and I'm collapsing into a heap, bemoaning my burning quadraceps. We tried a few different things today. Some of these things helped, some made me feel like I was trying to speak Swahili. But it's a process. That's why it's called a 'practice' and I'm there every day, at 6 a.m., rain or shine.
Which, in a funny way, leads me right back to dogma. There's actually nothing wrong with dogma - as long as it lives within the confines of our own mats. Let's face it - everybody has a personal brand of batshit crazy that no one else can understand. My non-Astanga friends think I'm nuts. My more traditional Astanga friends suspect that I'm not quite nuts enough.
But at 6 a.m., it's just me and my crazy on my mat, with occasional input from my teacher. Dogma tells us that everyone is doing the same practice, but it's just not true. We're all doing our own version of Astanga. Each teacher out there is transmitting this practice as they were taught - and the variations are staggering (and so are the disagreements around who is 'correct').
How about this: We're all correct! Everyone has their own dogma, their own frame of reference for this practice. Each Mysore room has a culture, carefully cultivated by the teacher. It's when we start applying our own crazy to everyone around us that the conflict begins. When we stop respecting each other as practitioners, that's when we've lost the heart of Astanga, the very thing that brings us to the mat in the first place: Yoga-Yuj-Unity.
This is a value I'm holding on to, one that tells me I'm not alone and there's a deeper meaning to everything I'm doing, on the mat and off.
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad