Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ashtanga practice lights my way...

Natarajasana on Musselman arch, Canyonlands, Moab UT
I've been rockin my Ashtanga practice hard lately.  I've flirted with the practice off and on for a long time now, with varying degrees of commitment.  But I've recently come back to a place where I feel so dedicated to it that it is the highest priority for me every day.  I'm practicing 6 days a week (I have to even convince myself to take a day off) and look forward to it with more excitement than I look forward to breakfast!  I go to bed at night thinking about the next day's practice.  I get up and have my coffee ("No coffee, no prana," as Guruji would say) and then step on the mat.

I recently listened to one of Kino MacGregor's old podcasts, and she talked about in the old days when people used oil lamps for light, they'd have to clean the soot off the glass every day to be able to see the light from the lamp.  She describes the Ashtanga practice in similar ways.  The heat we generate in the practice cleans our body (not just physical, but mental, emotional, spiritual bodies) so that our light can shine clearly, brightly.  This metaphor really resonates with me, and I've been using that visualization to guide my practice.

Yesterday's practice was tough for me.  I'm currently on a green juice fast and have, in general, been feeling absolutely terrific.  But yesterday I was tired, weak, unfocused, unbalanced, hungry, easily distracted.  And I practiced anyways.  It was a struggle, I encountered a lot of internal resistance and excuses as to why I should just skip practice.  But I didn't.  I hit the mat and did the entire primary series anyways.  And when I got to navasana, I bargained with myself that I'd just do three instead of all five.  But I did all five anyway.  No short cuts, even on off days.  And I think it's off days that are most important to step on the mat.  And it's those days you get to see what you're really made of.

The practice is a reflection of my own inner state of things.  And this is the thing I love about Ashtanga.  It's the same sequence of asanas every time.  The thing that changes is me, and so it is a great gauge and reflection of my own awareness, lack of awareness, conflict, harmony, laziness, excitement, etc.  Some days I'm resistant until I start the first sun salutation, the hardest part is stepping to the top of the mat.  Some days are a struggle all the way through, and I give myself a hundred million justifications to let myself out of my commitment.  And it's important, crucial!, that I never capitalize on those justifications.  I do the practice with everything I've got on those days, even if I don't have much.  Some days are fun, easy, energetic, just plain joyful.  The harder I work, the more joy it brings.  Most days are like that for me, actually.  It is becoming more and more rare that I have a major off day like I did yesterday, which to me indicates the practice is really working for me.  And so I am able to tune in to the subtle nuances that shift day to day, and this provides valuable insights into the practice and into myself.  And this is how it illuminates my way.

1 comment:

  1. I am inspired!

    I have a yoga 'block', it's been there since I was pregnant with Enzo...I've returned to yoga some, but there are definitely cluttered nodes, mentally, that impede my flow...Your post here reminds me to examine my resistance to the essence of yoga - as such things as fluidity, surrender, strength and follow-through - as they manifest outside of an asana, or series. Life can be pretty scary in all of its powerful fluidity - surrendering to that vital force within, requires a joyful mind toward universal forces. I find that my attitude is much more prone to talk smack to the gods of change, rather than sit and dine with them, and mind my manners. ..I like the way you acknowledge that in the same series of poses, it is you that changes. That is a comfort. ..To learn here from you, that Ashtanga practice specifically calls you to the mat to study your own mind as it makes the same attempts each day. I suppose I do this now in much less beneficial, mundane aspects of life.

    I'm so happy for you, reading this, and about your upcoming journey to India. Blessed be. Ivory