“All is Coming”

“Halahala; toxic sludge — is coming en route to the nector. AWAKENING.” -Richard Freeman

Awakening? Well, maybe that is still yet to come. It was definitely toxic.

I’m talking about the news that hit the internet around December of last year. You know the stuff about the inappropriate adjustments by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. My heart sank when I read the numerous posts and viewed the photos. I was confused and disappointed. For although I have never met the man, I am grateful for his bringing the ashtanga yoga method to us, for his smile, and much more.

But this was NOT right. I put the framed photo of him into a drawer until I could sort things out in my mind. I figured that I would decide later what to do with it (throw it out or put it back up). The alter of sorts was modified further by adding a few non-yogic items including an old palm leaf folded into a cross, the ceramic dish which was given to my parents as a wedding gift (engraved with their wedding date), and my dear mother-in-law’s rosary. These things, although not related to yoga, speak to the heart (MY heart) so they now live on the outskirts of my home practice space and inspire me to be a better person.

It’s now a few months later and I return from the ashtanga yoga confluence (ayc) feeling healed from the hurt that I was feeling. During the ayc, a handful of the master teachers, certified by Pattabhi Jois, spoke openly on the topic. They did deny or not make excuses for his behavior; they acknowledged the reports and that they were wrong.

“If someone felt abused, they were.”-Mary Taylor

They shared their love for him as well. Sharing their favorite stories (because the audience asked to hear them), passing on the lessons he taught them. And all the while sent messages reinforcing the importance of not putting any teacher on a pedestal.

“The teacher is a servant to adhere to the students’ needs and inspire. Students should be allowed and encouraged to say ‘No!'” -David Swenson

Of course, the confluence was much more than that but this was an experience that I needed to have. This is what I am choosing to write about here.

The morning following my return home, I paused as I stepped onto my mat to begin a home practice. I went over to the drawer where I put the framed photo, pulled it out, and placed it back on the table with the newly added items. It being there was a little different than before. I don’t think I ever had him on a pedestal but I did have his photo placed somewhat alter-like. My primary teachers, who I adore, aren’t in frames beside him — although that may change soon. Anyway, it isn’t like that anymore and, to be perfectly honest, this feels a lot more real.

When I returned to my mat, I took one last look at the photo, as if to double check that it still felt right. Like before, Pattabhi Jois’ joyful smile brought a smile to my face. A much needed smile! So I left the photo there. At least for now.

Now back to my practice for “all is coming”.

Quality Time

A month or so ago, my yoga teacher asked the rhetorical question of why I would do subject my body to running.  Not being a runner herself, she could not appreciate the desire to run.  She is, however, a mother and, had I given her my primary reason WHY, she may have changed her tune.  Or perhaps not.  Anyway, while my running and fitness routine may not be conducive to a smooth yoga practice, my yoga practice does seem to be quite complimentary to mitigating to stress that my workout routine has on my body.

The driver for my return to working out (running and weight lifting) was to allow me to participate a the June Spartan Race with YaYa, my 19 year old son. If you have children around this age, you may know that opportunities to spend “quality time” with them are not something to take for granted. I am trying to take advantage of even the smallest of opportunities, such as watching the Super Bowl with BoBo, my firstborn (who may be moving  away in the next year or two).

The rope climbing aspect of the Obstacle Course Races (OCRs) has been an area of concern for me. One of MANY.  I have researching the topic by reading and studying YouTube videos on the various foot wrap techniques.  I even bought myself a rope to play with the wraps in my garage. Unfortunately, the only beam in the garage I trust to use for is not all that high.  Last night, I was thrilled to find that my gym had re-hung the climbing rope in the outdoor turf area.  I could see if from the parking lot as I drove in. In my excitement, I rushed inside to share the news with my son.  He was in the middle of a serious lifting session but immediately suggested that we go outside to check it out.

YaYa made the first climbing attempt. Although I subjected him to the foot wrap videos, he had not studied them as intently as I had for he figured he could use his upper body strength as needed. He made it to the top without any fuss and even did one of the foot wraps that we had seen.

Now, it was my turn…


success and failure

Last night, I knew that I should get up off the couch for some sort of training for the Spartan Obstacle Course Race (OCR) I’m now signed up for. Unfortunately, I did NOT convince my tired and achy body to rally. Instead, I watched a little television, practiced my guitar briefly, and went to bed early. Was it a failure? Perhaps. However, I was successful in resisting the urge to order dinner through doordash. Instead, I took the time to cut up a whole grass-fed chicken and bake it for my boys and me. I also resisted the strong urge to get the ice cream I was so badly craving.

The sluggishness persisted into the morning. This morning, I sat on my couch sipping my shot of espresso noticing the profound feeling of blah. I did NOT want to go to yoga; I wanted to go back to bed. But I could not let myself give in to the blah energy again. Somehow, I managed to drag myself to the studio for mysore. I didn’t know how much I had in me but I figured that I would just start my practice and see how far I could go.

Over and hour later, I was still at it. My teacher spotted me just as I was preparing for (kapotasana) my most demanding asana. Kneeling on my knees, I reached up towards the ceiling on the inhale. My teacher, who stood in front of me, placed her hands behind my upper back as I bent backward, reaching my hands back and down to the mat. She had me walk my hands toward my feet and then helped me touch my toes (albeit barely) before resting my elbows to the mat for the prescribed five breaths. Then I straightened my arms (or attempted to), took five more breaths, then lifted my body back upright. One time in this pose, especially when assisted into it so deeply, is enough for one day. I was ready to move on when my teacher asked if I had another one in me. I thought about it briefly, then answered, “Yes. I can do another.And I did!


Finger Yoga

Over the past couple of months, I have been trying to learn how to play guitar. Cortnee, my guitar teacher, is a friend and fellow yoga practitioner. So when I first complained about how difficult it was for me to get my fingers into the positions required for each of the chords I was to learn, she told me that I should view the attempts as a yoga-like practice for my fingers.

Later that week, I watched the episode of Friends where Phoebe teaches Joey to play guitar in a most unconventional way. I was most grateful that my teacher’s style of teaching guitar is very different. If you haven’t seen the episode in a while, THIS is what I’m talking about.

Ever since Cortnee’s initial juxtaposition of guitar and yoga, my mind has automatically found similarities in many of the teachings she has given me. Take chord changes: Initially she taught be to place down one finger and then place the subsequent fingers. Once I got that down, she advised me to try to make the chord shape in the air and place all of my fingers on the strings at the same time. She said that although it would be more difficult to do it in this way, once I mastered the change, I would be better able to keep up with the count. To this end, she insisted that it was of utmost importance to keep the set count throughout the song. I should slow down the count if I am unable to keep up the speed throughout the entire song being played. She also insisted that I should practice with a metronome as much as possible.

I thought about my ashtanga yoga practice and quickly drew parallels to the lessons. The chords are like the asanas. Initially, the yogi might need to breakdown getting in and out of the poses, but the ultimate goal would be to come out of the vinyasa and straight into the asana shape. Of course that is easier to do with simple poses like dandasana but not so easy with poses like marichyasana D. The vinyasas are the chord changes. And the count is… well… the count is the count.

Keeping up with the count, while playing with a metronome is like the attending the weekly led practice. You might fall behind, or get ahead, but the discipline of keeping up with the pace the teacher calls helps you to  stay focused. Ultimately, it helps you turn your daily mysore practice into more of the meditation that it is designed to be.

Whether it is yoga or guitar, it doesn’t come easy. But it’s definitely worth the effort if only for its meditative benefits.

a meeting-of-the-mysoreans

I woke up feeling groggy and looked over at the clock. “What day is it?” I mumbled to myself. Then, I realized that it was Friday — another work day in a long and exhausting week. Ugh!  To further shake me from my sleepiness, the realization that I was expected at the yoga studio for a meeting-of-the-mysoreans got me going. I sent a text message to my teacher to let her know that I’d be late and quickly began getting ready.

After putting the dogs outside to feast on their 1st meal of the day, I made myself a shot of espresso and threw some lunch in a bag. Then, I rushed upstairs to wash up, brush my teeth & hair, and get dressed to go.

Having developed this practice of evening preparation has helped me tremendously in getting my not-a-morning-personality OUT of BED each morning. And since I have recently needed to shift my daily practice to even earlier on these cimmerian mornings, it is even more important then ever for me to set myself up for success. Today, it helped me to get out the door in less than 20 minutes.

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible. -Saint Francis of Assisi

By the time I arrived at the studio, the mysore room was already filled with yogis. Everyone sat on bolsters in a large circle with an elaborate spread of food in the middle of it all. Mojdeh (my teacher) immediately greeted me and ushered me over to a place she had readied for me.

We all just sat, ate, and got to know each other. Talking is something that doesn’t happen much in the mysore room. Not the in depth sort of talking anyway. There is no place for deep conversation inside the room; the only thing remotely deep happening on my mat is my kapotasana (if I’m lucky). Personally, my morning practice is a time when I am sort of a introspective hermit. Trust me; it’s needed.

After the Sunday practice, is the only time where the regular mysoreans seem to have an opportunity to catch up on peoples’ life outside the room. There’s a lot that has been going on.  People have given birth to babies, lost loved ones, gotten into accidents, and much more.

So the use of the Moon Day for this meeting-of-the-mysoreans was a pretty cool thing. And…

Of course, the FOOD was AMAZING!!

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