For the past 26 weeks, I’ve been participating in an Instagram (IG) challenge that my home yoga studio was hosting. In this Asana Alphabet challenge, one letter of the alphabet was featured each week. During the weeks where the featured letter of the alphabet did not have a corresponding letter in the sanskrit language (such as F, Q, X and Z), our host came up with an alternative. For example, there isn’t a letter Q in the sanskrit language so our posts, revolving around “Quick”, were stop drop and yoga posts. We tagged others, prompting them to stop what they were doing, bust a move/pose, and quickly post it.
The challenge was good fun in which each of us emerged with a few lessons learned (be it a new sanskrit word, the history behind an asana, or something about ourselves). The challenge also provided a nice community connection among the participants.
And now that we are at the letter Zzz…
It’s time to take rest.
The morning after election night, I awoke feeling a bit numb from the trauma of watching the map of the nation turn red before my eyes. By the time my head hit the pillow on election day, I was feeling significantly ill (lightheaded and nauseated from the emotional aftermath). Now, it was a new day and I wanted to believe that much of my ill feelings from the previous night were nothing more than a bad dream. Per my usual morning routine, I went to my son’s room to let the dogs outside. To my surprise, my son awoke from his sleep to say good morning. “Who won?” I asked hopefully. He just shook his head and returned to his slumbers.
It was still dark outside. I fed the dogs and returned to the warmth of my bed with my little shot of espresso. The day before, I’d contemplated taking the day off to observe my would-be 25th wedding anniversary but the culmination of emotions left me feeling like it wouldn’t matter either way. At that moment, nothing much mattered. It hardly seemed right. I was alive, wasn’t I? That was good. Nonetheless, I decided to save the vacation day for a happier time – for I still had hope that happier would come…someday.
I packed up an outfit for work, changed into my yoga apparel, and left for the yoga studio. I was somewhat later than usual but the room was unusually empty. Those who had made it to practice yoga seemed to be moving in slow motion. I rolled out my mat and began to move through my own sun salutations feeling deep down that by doing so I was acknowledging that life would go on.
A short while later, our teacher called us all to stand at the front of our mats for the morning chant. Standing in samasthitihi, I put my hands in prayer in front of my heart, took a big breath in, and began to OM with my fellow ashtangis. My OM however got caught in my throat and exited with more of a stifled cry. Tears began streaming down my cheeks and I soon hear other distressed sounding voices in the room. The Chant continued; visions of hope for peace on earth and compassion for all floated to the heavens. I remained standing for a moment after the final OM and said another little prayer to the god I’d known growing up. Then I wiped away my tears, adjusted my ponytail, and returned to my practice.
On this day, the practice felt more important than ever. We cannot afford to crawl under our covers and pretend that everything is paradise. We must be mindful, compassionate, and strong. Rather than being the affect of the change that we fear, we must *be* the change that we wish to see.
This past week, the mysore room attendance has been a little on the lighter side. My teacher noted that many thought that she was not in the room this week. Apparently, they’d been emailing her with their excuses/reasons for being away. Although, those of us in the room to hear her ask the question, “who’s practice is this?” were not necessarily the ones needing to hear it, I did acknowledge that the pull to show up is not as strong with she is away.
Showing up in my teacher’s absence was my way of owning the practice during a time when there were many commitments that kept me for making it to the room. The result was powerful. It paved the way for me to create some space and still meet my parenting and work commitments.
I’m not saying that I am always able to rise up against the forces that want to keep me away. In fact, just this past Sunday, after a late night team building/family bonding event at the SJSU football game, and the alarm not getting set, Larry and I woke up tired, sore, and late. Arguing that our late entry would be rude and disruptive, it was Larry who insisted that he was going anyway. I followed his lead and, in the end, was very happy to have made it to class.
Today, being the first day of the Fall season, I know the struggles will continue for me. As the days become darker and colder, it has always been increasingly harder for me to rally. As if I am solar-powered, I drag myself out of bed – often later than I’d like. I then try to motivate my teenage son to do the same before leaving for the studio. My boy is generally more reluctant than I – especially in the darker months of the year. And just like he is motivated to see his friends at school, I too am motivated by knowing that I will be greeted by a room full of ashtangis. So please, show up.
If not for you, than for me.
Just prior to our trip into the backcountry, Larry (aka theMAN) and I visited another local yoga studio for one last practice before we hit the road. Our home mysore program was honoring the New Moon and was, therefore, closed but this other bay area studio (YiY) makes a point not to close up on Sunday (their busiest day of the week). We were honored that they would have us and I was especially excited to attend practice there as the room is currently being run by, Kirsten and Mitchell, two amazing visiting teachers — one who has been doing some structural integration bodywork on me for the past couple of weeks. I would go into that more but it’s really a topic for a whole other post. Suffice to say, he’s excellent and this type of bodywork is immensely helpful.
Although YiY isn’t our home studio, we’ve been there for many ashtanga workshops and the community there is always welcoming. It was my first time to visit their mysore program. Kirsten and Mitchell worked the room with an admirable efficiency — somehow seeming to attend to everyone’s needs fully. Repeatedly, the message I heard from them was in regards to my breath: extend the inhalation, bring the breath into the low back, begin the inhale more gradually and without as much force, hush the sound by moving it out of the throat and into the chest and abdomen, and harness it to the movements. It was a lot to take in but I knew they were right. I’ve heard it before just not as intensely.
While we were away on our trip, I took up practice on the majority of our days out in the backcountry. The change in elevation coupled with my red blood cell count being low made catching my breath all the more challenging — especially when we were up over 11,000 feet of elevation.Read More...
As soon as I heard the rumor that Paramaguru R. Sharath Jois was coming to the Bay Area, I was on the KPJYI website daily waiting for details on the registration. Since I don’t know when I will be afforded the opportunity to travel to practice in Mysore, India where this tradition originated, Sharath’s US tour was truly a god-send.
Beginning on Sunday, 23rd of May until Friday, 27th – me and a hundred or so of my friends met in the gym at Stanford University for morning practice. It was an amazing experience that I will always remember. Although the practice was the same set of sequences that we ashtangis know, the subtleties of the vinyasa flow (e.g. where the inhale starts and ends, where you should be lifting the head ONLY, etc.)
Sharath’s count was consistent for the most part, guiding us towards the steadiness and ease it is designed to cultivate but also pointing out the areas where more work is needed. You could often hear him say “why shaking?” to someone during navasana, the reminder to go up and “don’t come down” in sirsasana, or his insistence on “more UP” on breath nine or ten of uplutihi. Of course, in contrast to marichyasana D, these are the poses where Sharath’s slower breath count is not as welcome. He knew this, of course — which is why there was sometimes a “nine and a half” inserted before the much-anticipated “ten” was called out.
We all loved it, of course. For the six straight days, we all managed to get up 30+ minutes earlier than our usual early so that we could get to the event with enough time to park, walk to the venue, empty our bladder one last time, and be on our mats ready to go on time. Surprisingly, everyone seemed to be a good spirits in spite of the lost sleep. Our bodies acclimated. Even when I forgot to set my alarm on the eve of the last practice, I still managed to wake up on time.
I know that we all are so thankful to Sharath for carrying on the linage and traveling to the US to share this practice with us. We are also very thankful to everyone whose efforts made it possible for the event to be held at Stanford. — Namaste
Photos from the SONIMA FB page taken by the amazing photographers: Danielle Tsi & Jesse Gordon. If you look closely, you might be able to spot me in them. Also, check out this cool video they produced of the event.