Going the Distance…

Reluctantly crouched at the starting line
Engines pumping and thumping in time
The green light flashes, the flags go up
Churning and burning, they yearn for the cup
They deftly maneuver and muscle for rank
Fuel burning fast on an empty tank
Reckless and wild, they pour through the turns
Their prowess is potent and secretly stern

He’s going the distance
He’s going for speed
She’s all alone
In her time of need

– Cake

As my holiday season comes to a close, I am coming off an Ashtanga high.  Much like Cake’s “The Distance”, my engine was pumping in time as I rang in the New Year by  spending four glorious days in a Mysore intensive with my teacher- David Garrigues.  An intensive with David is just that… intense.  My practice is sorely lacking already, so I knew going in it was going to be a bumpy ride, but that was alright.  David has this way of pulling things out of you.  He asks more of you; constantly.  Even the littlest request could leave you going “Why am I sore here?” the next day (he’s the king of nuances). There were days where I had to really push through parts (mainly the beginning) because I was tight, sore, tired, etc.

Day one didn’t start off too well.  I woke up to discover that I had started my period; AWESOME.  :/  A few other things went wrong that morning too and by the time I made it to the shala, I was ready for a do-over.  LOL.  Luckily, things began to look up once I went into the Mysore room.  I found my spot by the wall and the heaters (yay warmth) and soon enough, my four days of bliss had begun! 😀

I have taken several classes/intensives with David and it is now at at point where he is getting to “know” my practice.  He knows that my shoulders are hella tight and he pokes fun at me and my horrendous shoulderstands.  In return, I get to make small jokes back.  One day, I was up in shoulderstand with my arms behind me in a belt (because otherwise they will run amok) and he comes over and squats down beside me “Ashley, this just won’t do! Get your hands down on your back behind your ribs.  You are on your sides.”  He fixes my hands, and the belt, and gives me some more pointers as he watches.  At this point, I’ve already been there somewhere around 7-10 minutes; I’m sore, tired and my arms are rebelling because they dispise this pose and he goes “You’re losing it…”.  I look at him and go “David… I’m tryyyyying….” in this pathetic voice and he starts laughing, and I start laughing and then half the room starts laughing.  There is just something sincere and honest about him that makes every encounter special and unique.

There were a lot of small things he asked me to work on, but a couple things he really asked me to work on were:

  • Full inhale/exhalations on my vinyasas

I hav a tendency to rush the vinyasa and not fully inhale after my chaturanga

  • Working on my backbends

I have really been working on opening up my chest and to do that, I have been sending my weight towards my chest.  Well, that is good as an exercise, but not for the asana itself.  He had me work on internally rotating my thighs towards the midline (because “Ashley is doing something funny with her legs”) and sending the weight back towards my legs and walking my hands in.  I was having a hard time getting my feet “heavy”.  I just-couldn’t-do-it.  At one point I asked “How do I do that?” and he said, “How do YOU do that?  Figure it out!  You have 40 years!”  Oh David….  The next day he said I looked much better, but that I now needed to work on lifting the chest.

If you ever attend a class/intensive with David, don’t be surprised if you hear any of the following:

  • “Better.”
  • “Go Back!”
  • “STAMP!”
  • “65% better”
  • “Ground.”
  • “What is he/she doing?”
  • “Again.”
  • “25% better”
  • “No, you’re not doing it. Try again.”
  • “Dynamism.”
  • ….. etc

From my experience, each of the above is said with love, conviction and with the best of intensions.  His expectation is that you try; and that you try 100% — even more!  He is very serious about each asana, and that it be done correctly, though he will modify for you if necessary.  Although David is not at the shala all the time due to his teaching schedule, I am blessed to have him as one of my teachers.  If you train with him regularly, he will get to know you, your flaws and recognize when you improve and/or open up.  Expect pranayama work, because that is something David is passionate about.  Personally, I really enjoy it so I enjoy the one hour sessions and it helps me wind down after the two hour practice.

I’m usually lost during the chanting, but I stumble my way through it to the best of my
yama_with_dandaability. HAH! David did make chai this time and it was pretty good.  He closed out the session with a lecture.  Usually with the intensives there are two conferences.  I am usually only able to make one because the other is at a time I am not able to attend.  This talk was all about Dharma.

It was actually quite fascinating.  The talk is on periscope if you want to go listen to it!  It’s about an hour long and he even weaves in some folklore too!

All in all, it was a great way to ring in the New Year!  I met some great people and I also got to reconnectwith some old shala pals I haven’t seen in a while.  It gave me inspiration to try to reconnect with my practice as often as possible and I’m already looking forward to seeing David again in the spring (if my schedule allows).



Check out these related blogs 👇
*  Slow and Steady
*
 Enjoy the Storm

 

Returning to the Mat: A Lesson in Ahimsa

MEEP, MEEP, MEEP— My blurry eyes open and I fumble for my phone by my head…  is it 5:45 already?  I lay there contemplating if I really want to “do this”.  I could roll over and pretend this never happened, like it was a dream.  Go back to sleep and wake up at 9… even 10!  I sigh, resisting the temptation, knowing that I would regret that decision, before dragging my ass out of bed.  As I slowly make my way through the darkness towards the bathroom, I begrudgingly look at my husband nestled warmly under the covers— I could go curl up again, for just a minute or two.  I stop at the threshold to the bathroom, take one final look and close the door on temptation.

I flick on the light, GAH!  The hostile lighting makes me squint.  My leggings and tank top are already laid out on the floor.  I’m still in a fog, but I smile when the heat kicks on.  I hurry up and grab my leggings and tent them over the vent, so they balloon up with warm air— now I’ll have toasty leggings to put on! I start getting ready and when the heat shuts off I quickly don my warm leggings, with a goofy grin on my face, as if I just got the last piece of chocolate cake or something. Once finished, I sneak out of the bedroom, let my shih tzu out (she’s a morning person) and head downstairs.

I’m short on time (sleep is more important), so I begin my morning ritual.  I quickly fix Meili’s (my shih tzu) hair, give her fresh water and then prepare to feed the starving hound.  If you didn’t know any better, you would think I feed her once a week instead of twice a day.  She goes bonkers for her “num nums”.  Anyway, now that she is hoovering up her food, I can go about my business.  I grab a granola bar, make some tea and begin to put everything I need into my bags.  Before I leave, my hubby comes downstairs and I give him a quick smooch before dashing out the door.

As I make the hour drive, I fall into a meditative state.  Driving on the weekend is nice because there is zero traffic.  It is hard to believe that is has been over two months since I have been at the shala; talk about pathetic.  I have been practicing bits and pieces of the sequence, but nothing in its entirety.  I’ve been doing more like half primary mostly, with bits of the second half thrown in as “project work”.  I’m beginning to worry that I won’t even remember the sequence.  Breathe Ashley, stop worrying so much about something that hasn’t even happened yet.  😀

When I arrive, I automatically feel at home.  Of course, I’ve had that feeling from the very beginning.  If you have ever had the luxury of finding a place to train that feels that way, then you know what I am talking about.  I had that when I did martial arts and I am lucky (and thankful) to have that again here.  I took my time and finally strolled into the Mysore room sometime between 7-7:30 to start my practice.

My practice was going alright.  Of course, I could tell I was out of practice, but I felt okay.  Elizabeth would come over periodically and give me feedback or assists.  She gave me one hell of a supta kurmasana assist that left me quite sore the next day.  It was quite yummy though and one that I actually needed.  I am unable to enter that deeply on my own, so I was very thankful for the assist.

At some point during my practice, a guy came in and placed his mat next to mine.  An odor of marijuana was emanating from him.  The scent of marijuana is a HUGE migraine trigger for me.  I dealt with it for a bit and finally, I went into fight of flight mode.  I began to look around for an escape— a way to flee.  The room was fairly full and I didn’t see a clear, empty spot.  The only place I saw that I could fit would have required two people to more in order to make room for me. So… I stayed, and fought.  I continued my practice and tried not to think about it.

Towards the end of my practice, I was feeling miserable.  I had a migraine.  I messed up the sequence of the last three poses because I found it hard to concentrate and I skipped headstand in closing because I knew it would just make my migraine worse.  Elizabeth, noticed I was in distress and came over to me.  She had me lay down with my feet up the wall, propped my head up and put an eye pillow over my eyes.  I hung out for a while and then decided that I should head home.  She asked if I was okay to drive or if I needed to go to her house and relax for a while.  She asked if I knew what caused my migraine, to which I felt uncomfortable responding since the guy was still right next to me.  She asked if it was asana based and I told her no.

As I sit here now, I have several things on my mind.  I am glad that I went, as it has been months and I needed to go.  Could I have handled the situation better— probably.  In yoga, we learn about ahimsa.  What I did to myself was absolutely self harm.  I should have been an advocate and either moved or left.  Or, I could have practiced the rest of the sequence in the other room (though it would have been cold).  The ultimate outcome of that migraine was completely my fault.  Sure, it is possible that even if I did any one of those things, that even that briefest encounter still could have caused a migraine, but I’m guessing the likelihood of that would have been significantly less.

I will take that as a lesson and I hope that I learn from this.


Other articles you might enjoy:
Chronic Pain: Lessons Learned
Dream, Dream, Dream

The Girl Who Quit Ashtanga

While doing some research on the web I stumbled across this article, in which this ashtangi goes into great length as to why she gave up her practice.  I read it, along with the infinite number of comments (she really struck a cord!) and though I read this months ago, it has stuck with me.  So much so, that I felt compelled to write my own thoughts about it.  I guess the easiest way is for me to post her points and then my views.  Here we go!

1.)  Exercising on more than four days a week is unhealthy
Studies like this one show that exercising on six days a week for a prolonged period of time is actually detrimental to your health. Every health professional, coach and personal trainer on the face of the earth would agree…”

My thoughts: Well, the link in the linked article doesn’t work anymore, so I cannot offer an opinion on THAT.  With that said, every health professional is a bit of a stretch.  If five professionals got together, even they probably wouldn’t all agree.  A cursory search on the web brings up articles showing disagrement as to how many days of exercise is ideal.  To make matters more complicated, each persons fitness level and health should be taken into consideration when considering exercise plans.

2.)  There is no wisdom in practicing through injuries
“No wisdom at all. When you are injured, you need to rest, and probably anti-inflammatories. Surely you can stretch your legs while dealing with a wrist injury, but you should definitely not put any weight on your hands. Again, any health professional would agree…”

My thoughts: On this I somewhat agree.  This depends on the injury and the severity of the injury.  That is what modifications are for.  If you have a wrist injury, maybe do things on the forearm or skip handwork altogether and do standing and sitting postures.  On crutches?  Maybe do forward bends and pranayama.  You may not be able to get in a full practice, but you can do something to get movement in your body.  Honor your body.  No one (and hopefully not a teacher!), is telling you to do a full primary practice through pain.

3.)  Ashtangarexia is alive and happening
“The definition of addiction, as I have recently learned… is: “A repeated behavior with a negative impact (causing distress of some sort or health problems), where you are unable to stop, require an increased frequency or dosage, and display symptoms of withdrawal avoidance.”
“Now, I don’t know about you guys, but after a certain point in my practice, I could check off all of these indicators. I had lower back problems, the pressure to maintain my daily practice caused distress, but I wasn’t able to stop, either, because I was too afraid of taking a day off and losing all the ‘progress’ I had made. The fact that my practice had turned me a into an ascetic hermit without a real social life wasn’t even something I worried about at the time…”

My thoughts:  Perhaps this person has an addictive personality.  Yes, people who are drawn to Ashtanga tend to have type A personalities, but if someone is having a hard time managing their life and cannot manage their lifestyle properly, perhaps a life coach or a therapist should be consulted.  If pressure from the instructor is forcing progression the student isn’t ready for, perhaps a new instructor (or shala) is in order.

4.)  If you know you have an issue Yoga cannot solve, seek help
“Very maybe, you are trying to work through some intense trauma. Perhaps your upbringing was terrible, or maybe you suffer from an eating disorder nobody knows of. Yoga can have amazing positive effects on our mental health, but there are certain situations in life that point you towards professional help. Both you and your teacher need to admit that while Supta Kurmasana might release day-to-day stress, it’s not at all an adequate treatment for PTSD.”

My thoughts:  People are brought to yoga for a myriad of reasons- fitness, mental/emotional wellbeing and rehabilitation from injury being the most popular.  The thing about yoga is it tends to drudge up a lot of history and baggage.  Yoga often helps you work through these internal struggles.  With that said, there are some things (of course!) where outside help may be needed.  That is up to the individual yogi to decide.

5.)  Authorization equals a frequent flyer reward
“…These days, it seems, what you have to do to get recognized as a teacher is go to Mysore often enough (read: pay enough money), and someone will bestow upon you the reward in form of authorization. This is irrespective, of course, of your level of experience or teaching skills. On average, if I’m not mistaken, authorization will be granted after four or five trips of several months each, at a monthly cost of €400 or so… Later, there’s the added cost of certification, and psssst, it’sexpensive. While I understand that everyone needs to make money, a hierarchical fee scheme seems pretty… unyogic.”

My thoughts:  Being as how I did a 200 YTT to teach vinyasa, I don’t see this as an oddity.  Sure, it would be great if he came to different countries for a couple months at a time, but India is his home.  Yes, it would be ideal if the teachers he certifies could then go on to authorize other teachers, but alas that isn’t the way it is.  This doesn’t mean that there aren’t great teachers out there who aren’t authorized or certified.  I myself train under one- though she recently went to Mysore.  Find a teacher you enjoy and stick with them.  As long as you feel you are getting good instruction and feel safe, that is what matters.  When it is time for you to teach (if you go that route), then it is up to you to decide will you go a non-certified teacher training route or take the Mysore trip.  People say making money is “unyogic”- it isn’t.  It is an exchange for a service.

6.)  The tradition isn’t evolving, it’s arbitrary
“Sunday as the new Saturday? Changes in the sequence just so that the student traffic in Mysore can be handled more efficiently? Come on! No problem with making changes to your own organization, but why does the whole world need to follow? If you are serious about your Yoga, you will not brag about what pose you’re on, how many trips to Mysore you have taken in the past, how many you will be taking in the future, or how many people came to take your class on any given day.”

My thoughts:  Why wouldn’t Sharath change things to handle the influx of students coming to Mysore?  It is the responsible thing to do.  Otherwise, there would be a lot of frustrated yogis, left outside, waiting to get in the shala! 🙂  As far as off days, I do not recall a mandate saying that all shalas are required to take off the same day they do.  My shala is open seven days a week (except for moon days) to allow for everyone’s busy schedule.
I think it is okay to be proud of where you are in a sequence; especially if you have finally achieved a breakthrough.  You do not know how hard they worked for that posture.  They could have been stuck at the previous one for months… years!  Maybe they saved for years to go to Mysore.  I myself have been saving for over a year and I just spent it all (see here), so I am starting from scratch again.  Lastly, I’m proud of my little yoga tribe that shows up when I teach my classes.  Why wouldn’t I?

7.)  Teaching Yoga isn’t a profession- it’s a side job
“I have been warned about this, and I will do my duty and warn you: Do. Not. Quit. Your. Occupation. For. An. Unlikely. Career. In. Yoga. Don’t do it! Yoga is like blogging. It is something that is best enjoyed in small, fun doses on the side. Unless you will be moving to a town where there is not a single Yoga teacher within a radius of at least 50 kilometers, do not open a Yoga studio. You will be losing all your money, and you will be left with no perspective after 35. Do yourself a favor and trust me on this one.”

My thoughts:  Well, I sort of have to agree here.  Making a full time career out of yoga is hard, but I know several people who are doing this and the market is flooded where I live.  If this is your plan, be smart and have a plan.  Don’t quite your job without being able to pay the bills.  Either have money saved or a spouse that can support you.  Or, better yet, line up the yoga jobs and then quit your regular job.  See if you can do workshops too, as those pay more.  The thing to keep in mind is that teaching is exhausting physically, emotionally and mentally.  If you are teaching several classes a day, you are going to get tired.  Don’t run yourself ragged and get sick!

Conclusion: My overall thoughts to this blog entry of hers is one of sadness.  It seems that she trained at a shala where her teacher made her feel as if she had to strive for progression and perfection constantly and perhaps even work through injuries instead of working around them and using modifications.  I cannot say if she felt inadequate or not, but it is clear that she does like comparisons to anyone or anything.  It is sad to see that she has a bad taste in her mouth and no longer sees any benefits of the Ashtanga yoga practice.  Of course, all these are my own thoughts and interpretations and I could be misinterpreting and misrepresenting her entirely.

Creating Sacred Space

Our lives are hectic and we often wish we could just “get away” from it all.  Have you ever perused vacation destinations, but couldn’t really afford it, or lacked for time?  What if I told you, you could “get away from it all” whenever you wanted?  The secret- creating a sacred space in the home.

A sacred space is somewhere we can escape to and sit in peace and quiet; one of bliss and tranquility.  Oftentimes, people use their sacred space as a place of meditation or prayer, but it doesn’t have to be used that way.  A sacred spaced is defined by the user/creator.

The great thing about a sacred space is that size isn’t an issue; they can be any size.  A little altar or shrine in a corner, an entire room, or even an outdoor garden are all acceptable!!  The area could be made up of crystals, incense and a meditation cushion.  Or, maybe it’s a cozy room with candles and a blanket to cuddle up in with a good book.  Perhaps, you want a simple shelf with a photo of someone you love, or maybe a photo honoring your religion?  (Need some ideas? Check out my pinterest board- here!)

The point is, the ideal “zen space” should be a place that is special; it needs to remain sacred.  No talking on the phone or texting when “vacationing”.  This is a stress free zone; drop the baggage at the door when entering.  Pick it up when leaving, if you must, but while here, there are no troubles and no to-do lists.

Where to create the sacred space is just as important as what type of sacred space is to be created.

  • The sacred space should be in a place where there is peace and quiet
    • A closet could be a good place, but a living room of a big household would probably not be the best place to consider
  • The location should be one of comfort
    • Are you physically comfortable sitting here
    • Does the temperature fluctuate
    • Is it okay here year round (i.e. is your location outdoors)
  • Does the location make you feel positive emotionally and spiritually
    • Do you feel happy or at peace here
  • Does the location have the vibe/lighting you seek
    • Are you seeking darkness or light

These are a few things to keep in mind while seeking out the location of a sacred space.

A couple years ago, I wanted to create a sacred space that would be used as a yoga room and meditation space.  At the time I was practicing yoga in my living room and it just wasn’t cutting it anymore.  It felt chaotic and the energy was all wrong.  I took to practicing when my husband wasn’t home, or went upstairs for the night, because at least it was quiet.  Yet, it still didn’t feel right.  It was if the room was still humming… buzzing with unseen noise and I still felt bombarded.

I begun to seek out a place in the house that I could carve out for myself.  A place that I could turn into my yoga room and meditation space.  After looking around, I found what I was looking for; the spare bedroom upstairs.  At the time, it was full of boxes and a bed frame; time to get to work.  I began to throw out junk that we carried with us from Delaware to Oregon (and back to Delaware again).  I sorted out clothes that I no longer needed.  I began to carry boxes down two flights of stairs to the basement.  I moved boxes from one side of the room to the other and organized them into neat little piles until finally it came together.

I then put a couple little shelf tables in the corner, covered them with crystals, statues and candles.  I have a few malas over there as well that I use for meditating.  I keep essential oils nearby to use when the mood strikes me, but most of the time, I smudge with palo santo, as I love the way the wood smells.  My sacred space is fluid and the altar has changed periodically, but the essence of the space remains the same.  I am adamant that it remains clutter free and that I’m able to go up there and practice or meditate.  I will not allow that space to become a storage space once more, as the sole purpose of me entering this space is to declutter my life.


Check out this related blog 👇
*  Aparigraha

Aparigraha

Before you become a yoga teacher, you go through this process called “Yoga Teacher Training”, in which you learn how to pass along the yoga asana lineage, how to give assists and modifications, finding your dharma, and you learn about yogic philosophy and the many tenets involved.  It’s all quite overwhelming and really, by the time you leave, you don’t REALLY understand a damned thing.  Okay, you understand a little.  🙂  I think most of the learning is done after you are left to your own devices.  Yes, I am running amok, making mistakes and learning life’s lessons— all the while I am teaching YOU about yoga; ironic… I know.

You see, as a teacher, it is my hope that I can pass along my journey and my mistakes and maybe you can learn from them.  You can take what you want and leave behind what doesn’t serve you.  Really, that is what life is all about; taking what you want/need and leaving behind what you don’t.  The problem with leaving behind what you don’t need, is that it requires this nasty little thing called “Aparigraha”.  Aparigraha is one of the five yamas in yoga and it means non-attachment.

Most of us are hoarders.  We may not be the old lady with 12 cats and a house full of magazines and boxes, but if you look closely at your life, I bet you too are a hoarder.  Do you have a closet full of clothes you NEVER wear?  Do you keep ties with “friends” that aren’t good for you?  Or, how about that Facebook friends list; do you actually talk to those 512 friends?  Do you have a basement or attic full of boxes that you aren’t even sure what’s in them?  Or maybe you know what’s in them, but just haven’t used them in years?  Do you have knickknacks or books lying around your house that really serve no purpose?  Maybe they used to bring you enjoyment, but now they don’t.  Do you have toys your kids have outgrown, but have failed to pass along to someone else?  How about your pantry or fridge?  Do you have food you bought and never ate?  Are there any cans past their expiration date?  Do you hold on to grudges when someone slights you or does you wrong?  Do you hold fast to routines and hate to modify your schedule?

These questions aren’t meant to pass judgement on anyone, just thoughts for you to ponder over.  As I mentioned before, we all hoard in one way or another.  Some hoarding habits are healthier than others and it is up to you to decide if your habits are “healthy” or not.  Maybe it is time to let go of something permanently, or perhaps a short break or detox is in order instead.  Sometimes, all that’s required is a mixing up of your schedule to spice up your life!  Life is all about decisions.  There are no good or bad decisions; there are just decisions.  The problem is, you have to be willing to live with the outcome that comes with it.

For me, the one thing I constantly struggle with is my physical wellbeing.  I have chronic migraines and I often feel like rubbish.  I often have a struggle as to whether I want to get on my mat or not.  More often that not, the pain and fatigue wins.  It doesn’t help that I am gone for 12 hours a day for work either.  With that said, I do practice mentally a lot and I do pranayama often.  There are times where I may often just do a couple poses.  Yoga is the one thing I refuse to give up.  I cannot give it up; it keeps me sane and healthy.  It helps relieve my stress and tension and helps manage my migraines.

So…. what about this whole hoarding thing?  Is this a bad habit?  Should I practice non attachment and let this go?  Absolutely not.  What aparigraha means is that I need to honor my body.  It means that when I need rest, I need to take it.  It means that when life comes up, I need to accept that life happens.  It means that when I don’t get on my mat, I shouldn’t beat myself up and feel like shit about it.  I’ve been there before.  I did that all through my YTT and it got me nowhere fast (except feeling like a shitty yogini).  There are times where I wish I had a more diligent practice and I wish I could progress faster than I am, but it is what it is.  THAT is non-attachment, my friend.  When you can look life in the face and accept the things that you cannot change, then you are practicing aparigraha.  That is when santosha (contentment) begins to envelope you and a whole new realm opens up.

Personally, I like the feeling of contentment, so I am going to keep this practice going.  It’s an attachment I can live with.  I enjoy my practice immensely, as it is a gateway drug to self discovery.  One which I learn more and more about myself, as well as the world around me.  I thoroughly enjoy teaching and I am fond of my tribe that shows up and I love the devotion they have for their practice.  Honestly, I can’t think of anything better than standing in front of a bunch of sweaty yogis, hearts all open, all divine beings.

pigeon

Check out these related blogs 👇
*  Creating Sacred Space
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Slow and Steady

It is hard for me to believe a month has passed me by since I had my intensive with David.  I got more out of that intensive than I bargained for.  I was surprised that he gave me two more ashtanga yoga poses (bhujapindasana -> kurmasana) to work on before he left.  In addition, he wants me to work shoulderstand at the wall.  I am to lay with my back at the wall, with my feet on the wall, and work on pushing my pelvis away and work on getting up more on my shoulders and maintaining a straight line and I also need to work on opening up my shoulders more.  They are nowhere near parallel with each other.

The one thing I went home with Sunday, that I didn’t expect, was ass chafe.  Imagine my surprise while showering Sunday when all the sudden my ass was on fire!  LOL!!!  I guess 4 days of ~90 degree temps, a two hour practice every day in a room with no air conditioning along with 24-50 people doesn’t make for an ideal situation. I never thought I would be using diaper rash cream in my 30’s…. My husband found it hilarious when I called him that afternoon and asked him to pick some up for me on his way home.  I now understand why babies with diaper rash are so miserable.

In the month since, I have used the time to digest what I have learned and I have even implimented some of what he has taught me in my own (non-ashtanga) classes that I teach.  What I have used has been well received.  YAY!  I am finding that verbalizing some of the theoretical concepts of what I am learning is helping me digest them quicker and… sharing is caring, right?  I have discovered that sometimes breakthroughs aren’t immediate and sometimes the concept or asana has to marinate a bit in order to really take hold.

I haven’t been able to make it to the shala nearly as often as I would like, as I have had issues at my job (overworked and under appreciated) and I finally decided to put in my two weeks notice.  Friday is my last day, and I am hoping to make more appearances at the shala.  Between being kept at work late constantly, and being down and out with migraines, my practice has not been as consistent as I would like.  If I hope to become an ashtanga teacher one day, I need to be more devoted to my practice and I am not doing that at the moment; shame on me.

Last time I was at the shala, Elizabeth was gracious enough to add a few new asanas to my practice.  The tittibhasana-crow transitions are kicking my ass.  David had me doing one of them already after bhujapidasana and now I have another one!  I am all the way up to kukkutasana now.  I’m really having fun laughing at myself during the learning process. For instance, the first time I lifted up out of supta kurmasana, I bowled over backwards.  😀  I just laid there laughing at myself and told her I was “Humpty Dumpty”.  I must admit, I am not fond of rolling around eight times in the circle either.  I am quite bony and it kills my poor hip bones!  😦  My poor cork mat doesn’t have much padding, but I adore the thing as it’s the only non-slip yoga mat I have ever owned, so I won’t be trading it in for ANYTHING.  Maybe I need to throw a blanket down for that portion though, because… OUCH.

Anyway, I am hoping to get a couple home practices in before this weekend.  David is returning and I want to be a little more fluid in the asana that I have.  I’m sure he will have something to offer on them!  He likes to milk out every bit of the Ashtanga yoga benefits from each of the Ashtanga yoga poses that are in your practice.  It will be refreshing to see him once more.  His enthusiasm is so contagious.  I wish he was at the shala more often.  I would like to do teacher training with him one day, I think.  With that said, I still want to go train in India and pursue certification that way.

Next weekend is my vacation and training with Kino MacGregor!!!  I can’t wait!!  Hopefully, I will be blogging more.  Sorry about the absence.


Check out these related blogs 👇
*  Going the Distance
*  Enjoy the Storm

Beating Back Laziness

Some days my time on my mat is effortless (more or less).  It is a pleasant time of solitude, in which time seems to fly.  The yoga poses are ones of ease and I am able to melt into them with each breath that I take.  It is an enjoyable practice and is the type of practice that I hope to repeat.  Of course, a perfect practice does not dwell within us every time; it’s not meant to be.  Growth does not occur when everything is easy and smooth.  Perfect.

Last week, I had the class where everything was difficult.  Instead of having a lightness to my practice, every time I jumped forward and back, it was as if I was flinging  a bag of cement from one end of my mat to the other.  You can imagine how exhausting it is throwing over 100 pounds of cement around!  While I was doing my sitting postures, I began to lose heart.  I just didn’t feel like doing it anymore.  I wanted to bail on the jump-throughs.  I had been half heartedly doing them for a bit and now I wanted to quit them altogether.  No one would notice, right?

As I sat there, looking around to see what my teacher was doing; “would they notice if I bailed the vinyasa between sides?”, I began to have second thoughts and I made the conscious decision that I would not bail.  I decided that this was my defining moment.  Not every practice was meant to be easy and today I would have to beat back the laziness.  I took a deep breath, planted my hands and heaved my heavy-ass body backwards and took my vinyasa and hopped back through and landed with a thump.  One vinyasa down.

As I took a deep breath and folded forward, I couldn’t help but lament at the fact that I was trying to bend steel.  What happened to my malleable muscles?  My muscles were warm, that wasn’t the problem.  It was as if my body just didn’t want to let go. It was holding on for dear life, refusing to release something.  I didn’t know what it was at the time, but now that a few days have passed, I now have some perspective.  What I didn’t know was that I had a migraine coming and my body was already building up tension and going into self defense mode.

I did learn a valuable lesson that day about my practice and I learned a lot about myself in the process.

  • Not all practices are going to be easy; THAT IS OKAY
  • Tough practices test your:
    • Physical endurance
    • Mental willpower/determination
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Learn to listen to your body (why is this practice so hard)

As I sit here on the couch, fighting back another migraine, I know that I will have many more good days than bad days on my mat.  When the bad days do come, I’ll be prepared to fight; beat back the laziness, fling around that heavy bag of cement and bend steel.

Reason #345 why I practice Ashtanga yoga 😀

I Will Survive…

image

I made it through my first week!  It was like my own personal hell week  with all the chaturangas I put my body through.  I was pretty sure I was going to collapse on my mat, but my body held strong (YES!) With that said, I’m pretty sure I rolled up an arm along with my mat at the end of class at least once (because it fell off).

Despite my struggle, I could feel my body getting strong as the week went by; having a yoga practice four days a week is paying off!  The vinyasa sequence got SLIGHTLY easier and by the second day of me doing utthita parsvasahita, I could actually hold my leg up without my hip flexor screaming for mercy.  It turns out that the first day I was using my flexors instead of activating my core muscles and keeping them engaged during the entire posture; basically I was overworking them.

I find it amazing that despite the fact that it is a mysore room and Elizabeth is watching everyone doing their own thing, she has the ability to see all.  I don’t get away with much- she is an amazing yoga instructor.  One day I was struggling and I happened to be breathing with my mouth open during my sun b series and she caught me (oops) and gave a reminder to keep the mouth closed.  She also seems to constantly remind me to keep my arm over my head during utthita paravakonasana b.  Each day I’ve been learning at least one new asana and I work to hone what I learned the days before.  I do a lot of repetition to help drill the series into my little brain.  This week I learned all the standing Ashtanga yoga postures of the primary series.  Next week we will be working on backbends.

Although the 84 mile round trip is not ideal and it makes for a long day, being gone from 7 in the morning until 8 at night, I have to admit that I am really loving this!!  I genuinely look forward to the end of my work day, and the drive on 95, though icky, is worth it to get to get to my yoga practice.  I use the drive time to attempt to decompress and by the time I roll out my mat and find myself standing on it, I can’t help but feel like I’m home.

The heat of the room is like a hug to my soul and the rhythmic breathing of those around me is like music that soon lulls me into my own practice, only broken by the occasional thump and direction by Elizabeth.  My inhales and exhales, though ragged at times, lets me know that I am alive.  As my muscles tire and my mind begins to wane, my willpower takes over. I smile, because now I know… I will survive.

I Am That

imageAfter an anxious day and a difficult time trying to not think about my “new path”, I finally was able to leave work today at quarter of five to head up to Philly. I had to make sure to get there no earlier than 5 or I’d get charged an arm and a leg for parking. Anytime after 5 is $12 unlimited and since I’m driving up there four days a week, I need to save the cash whenever possible.

Once there, I made the three block walk to the shala and climbed the three flights of stairs to find Elizabeth, the instructor, waiting for the 5:30 class to start. Since I’m so early, I could change, eat a small snack (bad yogi) and relax for a bit before our class started at 6. She said starting tomorrow, I could start early if I wanted, but today I had to wait to learn the beginning part.

Before we went into the Mysore room, we signed a waiver and and we were handed over a sheet of paper, which was to be our primary series cheat sheet. This was going to be our saving grace, but she told us not to rely on it, as we would be doing bits and pieces over and over again in order to help us memorize the sequence.  When you start Ashtanga, everyone begins with the Primary Series.  Some people say that it is the most physically demanding and many people never get past it!

primary_series_chart

When 6 o’clock came, I took my first step into the Mysore room as an official Ashtanga practitioner. The first thing I noticed was the heat; how could you not?  It smacked you in the face as soon as you walked in!  I found a spot along the back wall, which was reserved for Ashtanga beginners and I, along with two others, began the program that will set us off as fledglings in the Mysore room by months end; how exciting!

It was louder in the “quiet” room than I anticipated. Lots of thumping and jumping, along with some small talk thrown in. The energy in the room was almost tangible. I loved it! You could almost feed off of it. It was a totally different vibe than any vinyasa class I’ve been in.

We went over our sun salutations and some standing postures today- stopping at  utthita paravakonasana. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be dead tomorrow. I’m so sore from walking around all day yesterday in these heavy leather combat boots and my shins and hip flexors are practically screaming. Throw in a yoga practice and I’m as done as a turkey dinner!

I still stand by something I heard several years ago. The cure from being sore from yoga is… MORE YOGA! I know I’ll probably be sore and achy for a bit, but that means I am stretching and strengthening muscles, tendons and ligaments! That’s a good thing! I need to amp up my asana game.

I did receive a few good corrections/assists today. One I really want to try to pay more attention to is that I need to put more weight into the entire palm of my hands, especially during chaturangas. Evidently, I put more of my weight on the outer pinky edge. I can feel a big difference when I change it, so this is one of my first major hurdles.

Well, this is all for now. A journey begins with a single step and I took mine. ::sigh::  The first step is the hardest one to take. You have to create the momentum to get yourself going. Once you’re moving, it’s easier to keep moving in the direction you wish to move. I know where I wish to go. I know what I wish to become. I am already there. I am that.

The photo was taken from one of the rooms at the shala.