Day 48 of Ashtanga Practice (Last Day)

Mysore_electricity

My last day of practicing yoga with Saraswathi Jois was on Tuesday, but I am very happy to continue moving. I am very happy with how the trip and Saraswathi have added to my practice, though it definitely evolved much differently than I expected.

Ashtanga can be grueling at time. I think this is one of the reasons that it is so liberating; challenge makes us feel comfortable where we might not have before. I missed one morning practice because I was late (I drank beer…) and practiced myself in my room. This was one of the times when I really started to realize that I am ready to teach and am not just a student anymore. Even my arrival in Saraswathi’s class was a bit weird because my practice is very unique.

A few poses have developed significantly since I arrived; I now have a full lotus pose (always working deeper into my hips with careful attention to my overused knees), the Maricyasanas, Supta Kurmasana and I can jump through with crossed legs now. In some ways, I am very happy to progress, but at the same time I realize how unimportant my physical progress is. After all, my body will one day die and decay and no longer exist. At the same time, its fun to move through new poses, deeper variations, and I will tell you that Kurmasana and Supta Kurmasana have made permanent changes to the way that I practice.

In modern yoga, there is too much emphasis placed on the sequencing of postures rather than focusing on cueing people deeper into postures. Even Ashtanga yoga can be too focused on the sequences (getting it done, rather than enjoying it) instead of the feeling of the breath moving through your body. This, in my opinion, is why yoga was invented; to increase your sensitivity to the life-force energy of breath so that you can better regulate the fluctuations of your mind. The first time I went into Supta Kurmasana, I felt like I had just placed in a prison cell full of water with barely any air to breath. It was a dark, lonely, and crushing place; if you have ever seen someone do the stretch, you can probably imagine why, but I think this first one was particularly crushing, therefore liberating for me. I won’t forget what I gleaned from those eight breaths or so in the posture; it all passes, it all changes, no matter how shitty it might be. It will change. No matter how good it can be, it will change. Just be cool and go with the flow.

I am now in Kathmandu and am so happy to have experienced India in the way that I did. Saraswathi was amazingly accommodating, very genial, and a little flexible to my unique yoga practice. I will miss practicing with her and in the shala with all of the other incredible Ashtanga yogis that wake up at the break of dawn to feel their breath coming and going.

I am thinner, lighter, and happier than when I came. Things are good, even though I was sick for a little while with food poisoning. I guess we can call the trip a success! I am very excited to come back and continue teaching and looking forward to teaching when I get back.

Day 18 of Practice

temple in Gokulam

Today’s practice was very rewarding. Not for any particular reason, the Maricyasana postures, mostly C and D were as challenging as ever to get the bind, and supta kurmasana is always a lot like being put underwater, then resurfacing in a different world. A powerful pose, one of my new favorites. I also am enjoying working on the jump back from budjapidasana, which is a transition out of the arm-balance, into titibasana, then into crow and a jump back. I am also really getting the hang of jump-throughs, quite fun to execute with control.

Saraswathi is really fun to practice with. She has a strict demeanor but is really quite flexible with everything, kind of puts her foot down when necessary, but mostly stays aloof and asks about binds, which poses you did, and focuses on assisting and cueing individuals. The room is a powerful place, when you walk in you can feel the intensity of the energy. I can see myself learning all of the sequences with her, I like the way she sings sometimes and has a balance of intensity and detachment. indian streets

I’ve had a couple of rough patches with my knees, but its taught me a lot about how to open my hips safely. It’s pretty easy for me to overdo it on the knees, especially because I think I have a pretty high tolerance for pain. So it’s been a challenge in patience, because of course, I want to move on to the next poses, which are the hardest in the series. And I don’t love waiting for lotus, Padmasana. Setu Bandhasana and Garba Pindasana are the only two poses left in the series that I haven’t done before, mostly because I don’t quite have lotus pose yet. I think it’s just a question of time, it will happen when my body is ready. And it’s pretty great to watch unfold, because it is really such a challenge in patience for me.

The lesson I am really learning is to be where I am. I spent extra time in most of the poses, especially the twists to get my spine mobile for the Maricyasana series. I enjoy spending extra time in Urdhva Danurasana, Sirsasana, and Sarvangasana, all three make my mornings pretty unbeatable. The intensity of the practice lends itself to a blissful day, especially when I have no obligation. I get to practice existing. It’s that simple.

I have spending more and more time in meditation, letting thoughts simply pass through, not attaching to anything. It’s getting easier and easier to drop in, like a stream I am becoming more and more familiar with. Thoughts still don’t really stop, but sometimes they do. I think it’s a question of letting my brain run out of fuel and its hard with all of the stimulation I am getting. The stream changes in countless small ways each time I drop in so it takes time to re-adjust and melt back in. It is getting to be quite the reward in and of itself. I have also been spending an inordinate amount of time listening to talks about eastern religion, mostly Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism by Alan Watts, Osho, and a few more random dudes. I find Jainism to be absolutely fascinating, same with Sikkhism, but they aren’t quite as well-known in the west so I don’t concentrate on them. I might have to do more digging into Indian culture to find more of the different practices within the spiritual traditions.

Hinduism is alive and thriving in Mysore, especially Gokulam.

Mysore_Streets
Mysore

Temples are everywhere and the gods are visible in the lives of the people. The philosophy behind Hinduism is ingenious, it really allows the people to live together harmoniously. There’s always talk about Shakti, or the movement of energy working itself out. You could probably stand in the middle of most streets during rush hour and be avoided by the cars, they are really mindful of everything around them when they drive around here. You have to be, everyone is on a scooter. India has a certain type of organized chaos that I have never experienced anywhere else and that I am really going to miss when I leave.

I am mentally preparing myself for a vipasana, I think I’ll start at the beginning of April when I arrive in Kathmandu. 10 days, only silence,Gokulam meditation, no human contact. I am really expecting that to change the way I talk and think.

Tonight, I am going to be loud and make tons of noise. I get to DJ at a resort in the outskirts of the city, for a club that wants EDM mostly electro house. I have really been getting heavy into music ever since I began teaching yoga, so this is a great opportunity for me. I think of the two professions as completely complimentary, representing the yin/yang relationship of silence and meaning to letting go and simply being. I could see myself teaching a couple of classes in the morning, practicing before, then doing a set in the evening at a club. I think that lifestyle would suite me well, I enjoy a thorough change in pace quite often.street_corner

My set is already created, I used Ableton to create the mix and transitions beforehand, so I can focus on effects and managing the crowd. Should have some great pictures and hopefully a couple of videos afterwards. I will also release my set (if I can find the bandwidth) on my music site: alienmusique.wordpress.com. I’ll also release all the song names.

Wish me luck, it’s a moon day (day off for new moon) so I can just focus on music all day.