Friday, July 22, 2005

Quiet after the storm....

Well, I've taken some bashing for my cheatin' ways, and I've also heard some really genuinely nice things from some of you, who basically are just telling me to practice, practice, practice, and all will be coming (or at least I think that's what you are saying). I've also gotten some really sage advice, starting with everything IVDP has ever written all the way through KJS, my ashtanga-blogging inspiration. I promise you guys, I have read carefully and listened carefully and I am basically just marinating for a while.

In the meantime, I hope you don't mind if I quote a little email on which I was copied that means more to me than ANYTHING relating to ANY of what was discussed yesterday, as it pertains to my Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors workshop at Yoga Sutra, which is what I learned to teach yoga in order to do (i.e., to bring yoga to other breast cancer survivors):

"Your Organizer, Camille, sent the following message to the members of The New York City Breast Cancer Survivors Meetup Group: I highly encourge everyone to consider attending Tuesday's yoga class. Lauren is very helpful, positive, and uplifting. You may walk out at the end of class more relaxed and refreshed-- I certainly did! See you soon, Camille"

Mich from EZBoard gave me props for humble responses to a certain not-so-Yogalisa's barbs, so I hope I haven't spoiled that with this little shout-out to myself....


I have to say, after everything that went down yesterday, I was downright shaking as I walked into Guy's this morning. Had he read everything? Does he know the whole debate? Was he going to read me the riot act? I sheepishly put my mat down in the first spot I saw and stood up to recite the invocation. Then, before I even had the chance to savor the "mmmm" in my "om"....there it was....a sharp tap on my shoulder....OH GOD NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"Lauren, or, perhaps I should call you, YogaChickie," said Guy Donahaye with a sneer as he pointed a long finger toward the door to the shala, "the door is that way, you polygamous, cheating, disloyal yoga slut."

Er, uh, NOT.

"Lauren, why don't you move your mat over here where there will be less people walking all around you," said Sri Guy Donahaye with a gentle smile.

Nice practice today. Got a fabulous adjustment in Prasarita Pado C from Katie and Guy got me very deeply into Janu A and Mari A and B. We worked slowly and carefully in Mari C and D, and I got deeper into D than ever before. We talked about it afterward, and he said that my mastectomies are what is likely causing my front shoulder to cave inward when I try to twist....

wait...more kiddies are demanding that I "be a horsie"....

OK, well done with horsing around for now. Anyway, Guy suggested that I try laying on a block - as in supported fish pose. I can do that. He also suggested that all would be easier if I could start the day with a really good...shit.

Yes, that's right. I knew that already though. Unfortunately, that has not been so easy for me of late, as I have been eating less (and losing weight). When I used to be a little piggie, my late night Teddy Grahams (damn kiddie food!) binges would help get things moving along in the morning....

arghh....husband needs me now....more later....

OK, back again, but not for long. I seem to have lost my train of thought with all the male neediness around these parts. Which somehow brings to mind a thought that actually KJS had already put into my head on her blog tonight - the concept of needing approval from the teacher, or wanting approval from the teacher, and what that means in terms of our progress in our practice. Is wanting to be told we are making progress proof that we are not making progress, at least on the spiritual front? Have we finally made "progress" when we no longer notice whether we have made progress?

Ashtanga is such an interesting system in that its progression tempts us constantly to be forward-looking, to step out of the here and now, and yet practicing Ashtanga helps us to be in the here and now somehow. But how? I suppose, the system draws our attention to our being progress-oriented (if we are, in fact progress-oriented), creates a mindfulness regarding our "samsara" (i.e., ignorance of the true self, a/k/a "conditioned existence", but you can think of them as "some scar-a", or the stuff that makes our mind twist and turn away from the stillness of the true self that lies within) and being mindful is a step in the right direction.

We are taught not to be competitive, and yet the practice tempts us to compare our bodies and what we can do with them to other bodies and what can be done with them. And again, we come to an awareness about it. There are those who would say that awareness and acceptance of who we are is, itself, the practice. But I don't know if those people would be Ashtangis, as opposed to Buddhist writers like Pema Chodron who believe that our journey is to discover our own "spiciness" and to revel in exactly who we are, as ugly, untalented and contemptuous as that may be.

And then there is the question: how does progress in the physical practice even correspond to our progress in the spiritual practice - which is the real journey, after all?

Lots and lots to think about....

And here's something else to think about...something I have been turning around in my mind, wanting to talk about it, not wanting to talk about it....but it keeps tempting me to open up my big mouth and talk about it in light of all of this talk (which is, as we know, officially over, right?)of "being shown the door" ................ Yoga studios need to stay afloat, or else the teachings will not be efficiently transmitted to future generations. The Ashtanga system cannot survive if there is no place for teachers to teach. The notion of a teacher kicking out a student for practicing with another teacher begs the question: is money really no object (and by object, I guess I really mean "obstacle")? Logic simply dictates: money is always a concern. I would have to assume that profit is not a major motivating factor for most people who open yoga studios. But breaking even - perhaps putting some money aside to pay for one's housing, clothing and children's food and schooling - has to figure in somewhere. It simply has to. Assuming that money must be made in order to keep the shala alive, then would it be wise for a teacher to make a regular practice of accepting into the shala only those students who do not practice elsewhere?

One might say that yes, it would be wise for the teacher to do so because the student who practices elsewhere is not a true student of Ashtanga and does not belong at the shala. But looking at it from THAT perspective, then isn't said student the student who needs the practice the MOST? And if that is the case, then wouldn't the teacher WANT to teach that student and hope to help bring Ashtanga to that student in its truest and purest form, ultimately helping to transform that student into a true student of Ashtanga?

Come on, guys, you have to admit...these are NOT easy questions.

And I have to wonder - when SKPJ wrote or said that statement about having two teachers being like having two wives - did he mean that one who practices Ashtanga CANNOT under any circumstances have more than one teacher?





Anonymous said...

(teddy grahams?) guy is absolutely right, i just wish that some guys at my shala did it at home...

yoga chickie said...

oh my!! is that what they're all doing when they stop mid-practice and go to the wc? i notice a LOT of the folks on broome street "stopping and going"...i just didn't realize it was twosies! .....Lauren

Kathy said...

I think you have to give up the notion that You can change people - help them see the light. You know the saying... "you can lead a horse to water...".

I think most teachers who have been doing this for some time have no desire to "ultimately (help) transform that student (the one who is not commited to the practice) into a true student of Ashtanga". At least my observation has been the reverse. Teachers seem to help the students who show a dedication to the practice consistently over time. I think the whole notion of wanting to change people or bring them around to the other side is something you just come to realize you can't do.

Again, people have to figure things out for themselves and once a student has, then the teacher is there for them but I don't think that the teacher leads them there on a leash - more just some directional arrows that you can choose to follow or disregard as you like.

As for more than one teacher - what do you expect to get from one that you can't from the other? your relationship with your teacher is just that... a relationship. it has its ups and downs. its moments of doubt. And if you have another teacher you can run off to whenever the going gets tough then are you really going to make progress on the lessons you really need to learn? It's one thing if circumstance forces a change in teachers but another to elect multiple teachers. I see it as one thing to be widowed and take another husband and another to have serial marriages and divorces. or polygamy. Hence the importance of finding a good teacher - one you can stick with in the first place. At least that's what I reckon SKPJ means by it.

And as for capitalism in yoga - needing to be profitable to stay afloat and therefore be able to bring more yoga to more people... I don't think this means that you have to be gimmicky - it might take you a while to build a following but I feel that's also why it may not be a good idea to rush into teaching. I guess I feel you should never teach because you need to for financial reasons. I think the yoga needs to mean more to you than profit... and if it does then it seems eventually the financial rewards like all rewards and life come once you've earned them.

Can "yoga" be a business? sure. But I don't think I would consider that yoga. If so, then it's your product that sell for making money. And I don't personally feel that's what it should be about. Now if your goal is to spread yoga to as many people as possible, then keep your teachings pure... otherwise you're not bringing yoga to anyone. You're bringing something that sounds a little like yoga and looks a little like yoga but what's there when you scratch the surface?

yoga chickie said...

Hi Kathy,

Lots of stuff to think about and respond to, but I am going to have to get to it later, as I am being rushed off the computer by hungry kids and an annoyed yoga-widower husband....

I will post later....Lauren

Kathy said...

Rereading my comment, it seems a bit pedantic and judgemental. I didn't mean it to be. I was just debating the questions you were posing. so, in light of that, I was thinking about whether or not I would have ever gotten into ashtanga had I been introduced to it in its purest form. could my ego have handled only being granted a few poses at a time... perhaps not. and I wanted to state again how glad I am that my teacher who I first started withh was teaching a the time.

I think a lot of us ashtanga devotees just start to feel that once you've committed yourself to an ashtanga practice and begin to experience just how amazing and deep of a practice it is, why would you want to do or teach anything else? and I would want to have that same depth of experience in this practice that my teachers have had before trying to teach it myself.

That being said, I think your wanting to introduce yoga to breast cancer survivors is wonderful.


Anonymous said...

Love your blog, the honest humanity and generousity.

I've always wondered why there are no senior Ashtanga teachers who post on the ez board you mention. I suspect they've heard about it or have viewed the postings and chuckle over toddlers sqabbling over a toy.

We're taught driste and breath with asana. We're taught to focus within. Yet on the ez board the focus is generally pointed at someone else. Why?

Talk to your teachers - they're walking the walk.

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About Me

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Northern Westchester, New York, United States
I live by a duck pond. I used to live by the East River. I don't work. I used to work a lot. Now, not so much. I used to teach a lot of yoga. Now not so much. I still practice a lot of yoga though. A LOT. I love my kids, being outdoors, taking photos, reading magazines, writing and stirring the pot. Enjoy responsibly.


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