I have often likened my mat as similar to the square of carpet my pre-school aged son worked his “jobs” during his Montessori-style education. Sitting on the floor with carpets side by side, the preschoolers learned in a kinesthetic way by manipulating beans, beads, little colored blocks and the latter to workout their problems within the confines of their little carpeted square. They weren’t just learning math and language skills; they were learning about personal space.
I do the same sort of exercise on my mat each morning. I roll out my mat in a straight line with the others, not too close and not to far away, and perfectly lined up with the grain of the wood floor beneath me. I line up my props along the front or back edge of my mat (not both) so as not to take up too much space. I am careful to keep my extremities within the confines of my designated space, and I am cautious to keep my moans, groans, and thoughts to myself as much as I am able. Cognizant of others so as not to collide in the empty space between the mats during transitions. I try.
All good. Right?
Well, here’s the rub. I expect the same of others — without ever telling them. I just expect them to know. Like the preschoolers, I expect that everyone is operating under the same rules. Which might make sense, except these are my rules (not the rules of the room).
When my one of my peers has placed their block off their mat so that it doesn’t interfere with their asana, yet it now interferes with mine, I’m a little annoyed. It’s that space in between, where arms reach around to bind in the Maris or clasped hands extend towards the floor in Prasarita Padottanasana C that were talking about. One might think of the space as unused space but is really a shared space that requires negotiation via staggering or timed entry and exit.
Of course, these are my guidelines — not theirs. Put another way: these are my samskaras. Therefore they are mine to work out, just like the rest of my practice is mine to work through.
And supposing these spacial samskaras stem from a bad case of middle-child-syndrome woe’d with hand-me-downs, the top-bunk, leftovers, and never being heard. That too is my problem; not my fellow ashtangis. If anything, it all adds texture to the exercise of me working through it. Every block in, sweat-soaked wash cloth, and foot in my way is a gift for me to work through it. For this, I should be grateful.
Since last March, I’ve been trying to attend to my body’s needs in the way of regular massages. In doing this, I have been able to see the chiropractor a lot less.
Jana, my amazing body worker has been away since December cooking amazing ayuvedic specialties to a bunch of her lovelies in Hawaii, then off to lead a retreat and attend to her own needs in Bali.
Thrilled to have her back in town, I nabbed the first spot I could get for some much needed moon day pampering.
It was a sweet surprise to climb up onto the heated table, put my head into the cradle and see this special little nicety that she left under the massage table.
The morning chant is a special time in Mysore when the Ashtanga practitioners, who have been practicing independent of each other, come together for a few magical moments just as the sun has begun to rise. Like a choir in a HUGE cathedral, we sing the chant from deep within.
Sometimes, I can almost see the chant traveling around the world – offering peace and good intentions to everyone. And, today, I could also see it giving my son a little nudge to wake up and get out of bed: a far nicer way to wake up than that of the loud and annoying beep which he somehow has the ability to ignore.
When David Garrigues came to visit our yoga studio, he added Bakasana A & B, Bharadvajasana, and Ardha Matsyendrasana to my daily practice. These additional poses pushed my practice over the 2 hour mark. And although I have the ability to make time for it, the length of my practice has started to wear on me.
Admittedly, I have been looking around the Mysore Room (on occasion) and noticed a few of my fellow ashtangis “splitting their practice.” Knowing that everyone’s practice is tailored, to a certain extent, to meet their needs, I figured that my teacher, Erika Abrahamian would let me know when I could also split off from primary before completing all of the poses and begin second.
Well, the desire to split my practice has been growing for some time now – and there has not been any indication from my teacher that a change would be coming. I began to wonder if there was a reason she wanted me to do all of the poses. I didn’t think it was to build endurance. I think I have shown that to her. Oh, but I AM tired. Perhaps I haven’t shown that outwardly, but indeed I am. Maybe, the reason she keeps me doing the entire primary plus all my given 2nd series poses has something to do with my hamstrings or my hypermobile joints. Whatever the reason: I didn’t know. To be honest, a part of me was afraid to ask. Yet, knowing the reason why would be helpful for me to continue on for from my perspective I have reached a point of “diminishing returns.”
I finally got up enough courage to ask about it. I told her that it was not that I didn’t have the time allotment, or the endurance. It was just that I am always sore and am often tired at the end of my practice. I told her that I tried easing up on the effort on alternating days by skipping vinyasas in the seated poses or not worrying about working the seemingly-impossible jump-back – without any change in my achiness. If anything, I was even more sore. I have since returned to working the jump-backs consistently. Now I am tired AND sore.
Well, guess what she said?
She said “okay.” I can move to Pasasana after Navasana, Supta Kurmasana, Baddha Konasana or after completing all of primary.
After reading through random pages in my practice journal from the past 12+ months, I have come to realize a few things about my practice:
- I am always sore.
- Alignment is first and foremost on my mind.
- I have less of a tendency to measure my own progress by watching those around me.
- I no longer feel unimportant if I don’t get assisted in my practice.
- One eye in; one eye out is not impossible.
- Laziness is in the eye of the critic; I work hard and then bash myself for not working harder.
- Although I still cannot jump through or jump back, I have indeed made progress.
- No matter how sore I am, yoga always makes me feel better.