Monday, October 24, 2005

Lewis the Beagle introduces me to all the cool people...

I had no idea there was this whole dog community out there - like the yoga community, like the mom community. Lewis, Adam and I were out for a walk to Central Park yesterday, and Lewis got very excited to see a little Malti-poo walking down the street. Malti-poo's name turned out to be Poptart, and his mom turned out to be very cool AND an Ashtangi to boot AND a pretty accomplished travel writer.

Today, I bound Mari C on my good side with Sir watching over me, for the first time. I've bound before, as I have talked about ad nauseum. But never with Sir there to see it. Not that he seems impressed or even excited for me. You see, Sir and I talked today, in between Mari C sides. Turns out that Sir doesn't really even focus on the physical accomplishments of my practice - the fact that I jump through sometimes, the fact that my asanas and vinyasas are quite graceful (albeit usually not on the same days...I have my "vinyasa" days and my "asana" was more of an asana day) or that I have good posture or have memorized the series, blah blah blah. The thing with me, it seems, is that I am excessively "go go go" and my breath is excessively shallow. It seems that I can bend...but can I do yoga?

It was EXCEEDINGLY difficult for me to hear this from Sir. Yeah, I know, some of my readers here, many of you in fact, have pointed out this very thing to me, without ever having even seen my practice or heard my breathing. I don't know how it is that everyone can observe this about me, even those who have never ACTUALLY observed me in person, and yet I am completely unaware. I am struggling to open myself up to the notion that my Type-A-ness is messing with my yoga practice, so that I can do something about it.

I asked Sir, what, SPECIFICALLY, can I see I understand the concept, abstractly, but I don't know how to put changes into action on a concrete, real-life basis. Sir's suggestions: (1) Try to come to practice in a calm state (ha! right after I drop my kids off at school, finish walking Lewis, get my SUV from the garage, barrel down the FDR drive and hunt for a parking space on the Sir says, we all have our challenges), (2) Breathe trhough the nose, exclusively, all the time, not just in the shala, but all the time and (c) Talk less (now THAT is perhaps the most challenging, although I have to say, since I have been practicing Ashtanga, I am way LESS talkative, which may be due to sheer exhaustion) so that I can keep my breath moving in and out through the nose. I wonder if talking less would also help to calm the chitta vritti's...less "seeds" for mental action. I assume that the corollary is to write less as well, although we didn't discuss my blogging.

Sometimes when it is pointed out to me that my "go go go" tendency interferes with my yoga practice, I get defensive. I feel picked-on. I often blame it on externals like, "Well, that person KNOWS that I used to be a lawyer" or "I TOLD that person that I am Type A". But in this case, I have to admit: Sir knows nothing of me as a person outside of the shala. NOTHING. So everything he observes is purely based on everything he observes. No hearsay (that I know of). No history. Just me, my breath and the way I carry myself.

Sometimes I feel like Sir doesn't like me very much, particularly when he is struggling to get my tense muscles to relax (like in Prasarita Pado C, which now is no longer a problem, and in Parvritta Parsvakonasana, which Sir really had to struggle mightily in order to get me to loosen up so that I could do as he asked). But I have heard others say that about him as well. I can't decide if that matters. I know that my physical practice is improving. I will have to see what I can do about my meditative practice. And I suppose that for now, as long as I am continuing to get to the shala and do my practice, it really doesn't matter if I feel "liked".



Anonymous said...

Hey Chickie-If he didn't like you he wouldn't be going out of his way to help you see your challenges. It is all about the breath. IF you watch Sharat you can see that he isn'tdoing the western style beautiful yoga he is just continuously moving and moving and breathing and breathing. Of course he is a master, but so are you! I can tell from your writing that what Sir says is true. It is your challenge. Just think, I have chronic fatigue, I couldn't do half of what you do. Yet it is your challenge to do less! You are doing fantastic. I' m sure he is just being disciplined with you as he has to be to maintain boundaries. Otherwise he would just be praising you and that wouldn't help you where you need it! Keep up the good work and congrats on Mari C.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Your teacher has much compassion for you, and I think he taught you a very important lesson today. I think one of the main goals of this practice is to be able to confront anger, fear, and disappointment in a non detached way-- practcing this approach on the mat will carry well OFF of the mat. Thats what you should hope to get better at in this practice-- the postures are really secondary to all of that. If you don't cut yourself a liitle slack in the "asana perfection" department you may set yourself up for some very painful "learning experiences" that could damage the future of your devotion to this practice.
just my 2 cents.

Susan said...

Today I believe your teacher has given you your truth. That you need to mellow out! Ashtanga yoga is populated by TONS of type A's, because you can see progress in your asanas. But, if you aren't breathing you are only doing gymnastics, right? The breath is the key, it slows you down, gets you in your body and out of your head. My teacher says don't use your body to get into a pose, use the pose to get into your body. I love that. If I try to really concentrate on my breath, my accomplishment in an asana does'nt seem to matter as much. Like I could just do 1/2 primary forever and be happy...

suziecolumbus said...

Ha! Every teacher I have ever had has told me to relaxx my tense and stiff muscles. I try to, and I don't tell them that I AM relaxed for a Type A personality.

Vanessa said...

One very common misconception is that we will be liked once we achieved something. In your case, you seem to believe that Sir will like you once you master, say, Primary (I might be wrong, but it seems to be a deduction from your comment that you feel Sir doesn't like you because he struggles to get you to relax). Other common cases is to believe that our life will be perfect once we have reached a certain weight (ha! if only!) or that if we succeed at our job, we will get the love we ache for.

They are all illusions.

Anonymous said...

Vanessa couldn't have said it better. When we finally achieve these things, we might feel better about ourselves but it will never change the our lives or the way others feel about us.

Meanwhile, when can I borrow my nephew Lewis...I need to pick up some men.

Aunt Jill

yoga chickie said...

I agree...Vanessa's comment makes total sense to me. The seeking of approval - that's what drives me in my "go go go". BTW, you know Vanessa is not the Vanessa who is Yoga Chickie's sister, right? I don't know if that Vanessa even reads my blog!


P.S. You can borrow Lewis any time. He is sooooooo awesomely adorable.

Vanessa said...

I'm glad I made some sense (for once). I can tell it as it is because I'm so often of guilty of it myself. I used to think that if only I was thin, things would change for the better. Then I lost weight and things kept the same except that shopping for clothes was a bit easier. Big deal! The way to break out of this cycle is to realize that you are perfect right now. Yes, perfect. As you are. All the things you beat yourself up about (and I am not talking about you, YC, I am talking in general) are ok, you are where you need to be in this very right moment, and it all unfolds perfectly. Really, it does. If you don't believe me, look at everything in the past and tell me if nothing good came out of all the situations that made you despair at that moment.

As someone told me: if you were only half as kind to yourself as you are to other people...

Anonymous said...

think of your practice in new terms-- just take joy in the breath. let the breath move you, don't worry too much about the asana, though i have never seen your practice I am sure it is probably lovely. the breath will carry you through every up and down in your practice and every up and down in your life, being able to fold yourself into a pretzel only really feeds the ego.

and i say that as someone who is very devoted to my own practice. I forget these things too sometimes. Your teacher has given you a very important blessing. he sounds like a great teacher. Who is he?

Anonymous said...

I thought Vanessa was your sister Vanessa. In any case, whoever you are Vanessa, you make complete sense.

Aunt J

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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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