Tuesday, August 25, 2009

From Liz: Confessions of a Cross Trainer.

In response to your quandry: is this one of those "mat as microcosm" moments? I find resistance to my practice is actually resistance to something else in my life (if you'll forgive the facile insertion of the idea of "tranference" into our wee dialogue).

For instance, I've just come off a nightmarish first family vacation with Humble Husband and Terrible Toddler. I packed my mat, but was so caught up in the drama of difficult travel that I only ended up using it as a changing pad. I was too scattered, pulled by my inherent vatta tendencies to focus and step onto mat/into practice mode. I think this is where the yamas and niyamas would come in handy, if I were to apply them dutifully and consistently. I know they are referred to as "constraints" and "observances." But I think the whole set acts more as an energetic funnel, harnessing prana, rather than a barrier. The ritual act of tidying my kitchen becomes an offering, etc. Maybe set up new rituals related to the yamas and niyamas in your new home??

Anyway, I am back to my routine now. First practice was predictably leaden, but it has gotten better since. In my ashtanga practice, I'm learning to trust my hands. I realized recently that a big part of my problem with jumping back has been that I don't trust my hands and arms to hold my weight, so I never really shift it completely into them as I try to transition. The more faith I've put in the palms of my hands, the smoother it has become. Still a lot of work to do, but "practice, practice..."

And I took an amazing Iygengar class where the teacher focused on having us lengthen our psoas muscles, all while broadening and wrapping our quadratus lumborum (deep back muscle) as we did a bunch of forward bending, and eka padas. For example: in eka pada sirsasana (the version of headstand where you lower one leg parallel to the floor, not this one), he had us lengthen the psoas on the lifted leg side, while wrapping the quadratus on the descended leg side, in order to stabilize. But I noticed that this action has the effect of creating a little uddiyana bandha. Which I got really way too excited about. This must be what Mark Whitwell means when he says, "asana creates bandha."

At any rate, the realization also kind of made me feel vindicated. I've heard a lot of people say that you can't mix styles of yoga, that you really should pick one thing and stick to it. But I really believe that some styles are complementary. I walked away from that Iyengar class feeling like it nourished my private ashtanga practice.

Now I just have to figure out a way to justify my love of cardio, and we'll be all set....

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

From Anna: The flip side of freedom

It strikes me that we are on two vastly different sides of the spectrum. You have a young child and are, as you said, tethered to your home. Securing childcare to take an hour and a half class is unrealistic at best and so you are left utilizing books and dvd's, and making the best of the space available in your home. I have deep respect, admiration, and even a touch of envy towards your dedication and flourishing home practice.

Meanwhile, I find myself in quite the opposite predicament, although predicament is far too strong a word. After moving cross-country for the second time in 16 months (but who's counting?... ) I'm in a new city with all the time in the world, studios to explore, teachers to meet, and so much flexibility in my schedule that I don't know where to begin. One would think that this would be a dream for me - that finances permitting, I would scamper around town from class to class, pausing only for nourishment and caffeine. But I'm not, and I have to wonder why.

Back in the days when I worked multiple jobs and ran around commuting, my scheduling constraints would leave me with one or maybe two do-able class options. It was a simple non-decision and incredibly easy to get myself onto the mat. But now, as I settle into a new city and life, my lack of schedule overwhelms and engulfs my intention to practice. Despite an agenda of my own accord and responsibility for no one but myself- many days I don't go to class at all. My freedom has become too much of a good thing.

I know that we all go through phases of more and less practice and that this doesn't make me negligent. I also know that throughout my transition, yoga has served me off the mat in plentiful helpings, and perhaps that accounts for some of the divide. But hearing about your home practice and the clarity it has brought you, gives me the perspective that I sorely needed. I have always inserted my practice into available slots of a busy life. But for the first time, I can organize my life around my practice. Even writing it feels luxurious to the point of indulgent. But I know I should seize the opportunity while I can, since it's only a matter of time before life gets hectic and I'm right back where I started. In that overly-scheduled but cozy place, where I can only make it to the 7:30 class.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

From Liz: Where's my drishti?

I won't overthink my own intentions with regards to this blog (since they are always shifting anyway, darned vrittis). I know that I want to hold myself accountable for my yoga practice and teaching. And I want an excuse to geek out over yoga with you, my dear Anna, in a structured setting. You've been my sister yogini since we met, and this pranic exchange is just a continuation of that relationship.

So... The state of my home practice. It feels like a huge accomplishment to say that I have a home practice. I never understood why senior teachers insisted that we cultivate one. And right out of the gate, after teacher training, I just turned my practice over to the studio. I absolved myself of all responsibilty (save showing up) and followed the leader. And I took on way too many classes. I was teaching between ten and twelve classes a week (small potatoes to come people, but too much for me). So I kind of burned out. Then I had a baby. And I found myself tethered to my home, needing a teacher, or at least, a point of focus for this practice.

And what do you know, one did appear. I (re)discovered the Ashtanga Primary series, and I finally got what a jillion ashtangis already know: "practice, and all is coming." Really... While motherhood is a sometimes haphazard and improvisational art, the consistency of this series keeps me grounded and renewed day after day. I just keep coming back to the same point, and it keeps unfolding incrementally. At least it has so far, because let's be honest: I've only been playing with about half of the series, using Richard Freeman's dvds for about a month now. But the month's end has marked a radical change in my practice, and it has been all about reclaiming my original love of yoga, the thing that drew me to teach. Now it feels personal again. The series is my meta-drishti, the point around which everything else organizes itself. It is paradoxically both structuring and liberating.