Sunday, January 18, 2009

Turn, turn, turn

If you haven't already given up on regular updates from me on my practice, or on anything else, for that matter, I think that I am stating the obvious when I say: I haven't been writing much here lately. And less and less as time goes on.

It makes sense really, when you consider the reason why I blogged in the first place, which was to record my progress in the practice of Ashtanga. When I began my Ashtanga practice, I had so much work to do. I had to get cardiovascularly fit enough to not be passing out by the time I got to Marichyasana C. I had to get my twists flexible enough to bind in Marichyasana C, and then D. I had to my hips and chest open enough to bind in Supta Kurmasana. There were hands to get to the floor in Prasarita Padotannasana C. There were reverse prayers to wiggle into in Purvatanasana. There was the still-not-quite-readily available Parivritta Parsvakonasana. There was jumping through. There was jumping back. There were backbends. There was breathing through the nose, even. It was a new lover, and there was so much to explore.

But the Primary Series, including backbends, contains the whole of yoga practice within it. Everything else is just, in my opinion at least, taking that practice and multiplying it exponentially. Pasasana is just a combination of Mari A and Mari C, or at the very least, a twist on steroids. Supta Kurmasana is the seed for all leg behind head poses. Backbends are backbends, whether on the feet or on the knees. Arm balances are just bandhas and balance.

So, I'm bored.

At least for te most part. I mean, working on my backbends still holds my interest, but frankly, over time I have discovered a truth that I wish I did not know: that I can do a backbend by warming up my backbend. There is no need for all of the stuff that comes before in the Ashtanga practice. I could lay on my bed with weights in my hand and then do a bunch of progressively more challenging backbends and work up to the same Kapotasana that I would be able to do if I went from Surya Namaskar A all the way through Primary and halfway through Second.

I didn't set out to "crack the code" and find the shortcuts. But I did anyway. I discovered the shortcuts, and now I feel jaded. I no longer feel the urgency to practice with any sort of intensity. Heat - tapas - escapes me. I find myself going to Hot Vinyasa classes in order to practice in the heat generated outside of myself. When I go to the CT Shala, I feel the love of the practice again, but I only go once a week, partly because it is just so ridiculous to travel for a half hour each way when my practice is waiting for me on my own mat, and partly because when I practice in front of a teacher, I can't use my "narrow hallway" and straps and other nifty R&D methods that I have been actually having fun discovering here in my very own house. (That must be obvious to anyone reading this blog, since the only thing I have blogged about in the past week is exactly THAT - my Kapotasana bag of tricks.)

I've been fighting this feeling for a while now, but I think I'm no longer in love with the yoga. I like it very much. I respect it. I want to be friends with it. But I can no longer see it exclusively. I'm not looking for the next great love of my life, but I think that the reality is that I will probably find it, and then there will be a period of great struggle, as I attempt to keep the yoga in my life, but I find myself helpless as I watch it drift away. I don't want that to happen. But I know myself. I've seen myself do this before. It's practically inevitable.

To wit: I used to run long distances. And by run, I mean "run". Not jogging. I once did an 18.6 mile race in 8:10 pace. I loved it. I was kind of good at it. I never thought I would stop. And then gradually, over time, I lost the love for it. And I quit. And I have since then heard myself say, "I can't even imagine running a mile now". Then there was the figure skating. And then the long distance biking. Then Bikram. Then Jivamukti. Oh, and going way back to pre-running, there was step aerobics. All of these activities were intense loves of mine. I couldn't imagine life without them, and then one day, my life existed fully without them.

I can only surmise, based on history, my history, my very very consistent history, that one day, maybe not too long from now, my Ashtanga practice will go the way of marathon running and Bikram yoga and step aerobics.

Yesterday, I ran four miles in 15 degree weather, on the hilly roads of my Bedford neighborhood. The husband thought I was crazy as I layered on the clothing that would insulate me from the ridiculous Canadian cold fron that has settled in here. But as my feet connected with the ground and bounced back up again, I felt pure joy. As I meandered past antique farm houses that usually I drive by too quickly to notice, I felt a pull. I wanted to go farther and farther. But I contained myself because I didn't want to wake up hobbled today.

Of course, I came home and did some yoga poses to stretch out my quads and hamstrings. But I want to add running (jogging) to the mix again. I've already done it twice this week. And I am looking forward to going again. I also want to keep up with the yoga.

Wouldn't it be a miracle, a real show of character evolution, if I could manage somehow to keep up BOTH, rather than having to choose one over the other?



Anonymous said...

It is always good to take a break from practice or it might be time for you to consider going to India to practice...and not necessarily Ashtanga with Guruji...but seek out the experience on that level and you will be changed forever by yoga. You will be knocked down, lifted up, humbled and definitely will not be feeling jaded. I know it's hard to make the trip when you have family to think just an opinion for the future:)
I think it's great to mix it up and I wish I could run but alas my lungs are permanently damaged so there is never enough breath for that.
Hoping you won't stop blogging :)

cody said...

This a very good post, Lauren.

I don't think yoga is about conquering asana challenges. It's about settling your mind. The way to do that is to pull apart your personality and your habits - your subconscious - and figure out what you're doing and why. Self-study.

So you've identified that you like to overcome difficult challenges and once they're transcended you lose interest in them. There's nothing wrong with that. But the pressing question is why?

Practice whatever makes you happy and helps you to live a good life. You don't have to do yoga to do yoga!


elephantbeans said...

I love your honesty. Kudos!

Anonymous said...

Hey YC! I do both--running and yoga. You don't have to pick.

You may end up losing your yoga, and then again, maybe yoga is now becoming a part of your life rather than your life. I think some teachers talk about having yoga become your life is the worst thing that can happen. It should be like brushing teeth--just something you do.

Anyway--things come and go. That's the way of it. Whatever happens is good. And if not, you'll change this accordingly. Best!


Tracy said...

oh, how you remind me of ME!
too funny~ Change is Good!

Anonymous said...

I might add that over the summer and into fall I was majorly into running, and I got up to around 12 miles. I ended up injured (related to running) and ill (unrelated to running) and oddly enough, it was yoga that sustained me during this time. I had to return to full primary, and stick to it daily (I'd been lax about it for awhile, especially while on such a running kic.), and my illness (a life threatening one, actually) retreated, and I defied the doctor's predictions. Now did my recover relate to yoga--who knows. What I do know is that it made me feel sooooo much better, and it was there for me while running wasn't. So just my own story--doesn't necessarily apply to anyone else. I just thought I'd put that out there.


Anonymous said...

Of course you are bored. Your approach to this practice from the very start was going to cause that eventually( extreme over focus on asana).Your focus has to change if you really are interested in what this practice can really offer you. I don't think you are interested in that honestly, which is totally fine. You would be doing yourself and the yoga web community at large a nice favor by going onto something else that will allow you to again just focus on the physical. Your life lesson seems to be entrenched there, and there is nothing wrong with that, but it's not for everyone and it's personally not why i practice either.

Yoga Chickie said...

I would be doing the "yoga web community at large a nice favor by going onto something else that will allow you to again just focus on the physical." REALLY? WOW..

You give me a LOT of credit for my influence on the yoga web community at large. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

You are probably aware Beryl Bender Birch (influenced by her husband, an ex world class runner) is (or used to be) really into running, and both Power Yoga and Beyond Power Yoga interweave the 2 disciplines. I believe BBB at one time designed the official streching workout of the NY Road Runners club, based on Ashtanga.

Personally, I don't think running is a life-long sport for most people--all that impact. All the runners I know get sidelined by injuries eventually. But on the other hand, running outside is really one of the most joyous activities I can think of. I recently started biking to work, well first to Ashtanga practice, and then to work!


elise said...

I am so NOT a runner. I'll have to live vicariously through you.

lgr said...

Boo hoo. A very good, but sad post. You LOVED ashtanga. And you were a huge inspiration - and teacher - for me. All of your R&D poses and props and the insight into the progression of the poses - stuff you've showed me over the last 18 months or so - have been immenslely helpful.

I will miss your blog, if you stop. Can't you at least write a book or make a video of your R&D and prep stuff? You can help the rest of us "crack the code"

But I know there really isn't a code to crack. It really is 99% pactice and 1% theory.

But you made it fun and exciting, with a different way of looking at many of the asanas. Please stay with have the 2nd and 3rd series waiting for you

Anonymous said...

maybe when you started you needed a way to control, or at least re-invent your body after the uncontrollable trauma of cancer. Maybe now you need a different focus, physically and mentally. Not necessarily no yoga, but perhaps not a consuming ashtanga practice. Maybe the yoga was the boat you rode through the last few years of your life to this new spot, and now you will find another way to move on. You can still keep some yoga. It will just have a different place in your life and may give you different things.

Anonymous said...

You can still keep some yoga. It will just have a different place in your life and may give you different thingsretreat yoga

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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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