Off the Mat

In our daily practice, we learn to deal with discomfort and dis-ease, we attempt to find balance, and we cultivate dedication… among other things. All of it is practice for the real deal: when we roll up our mats and go out into the world to be all that we are (including parents).


Yoga is not simply the shapes we form with our bodies while we are on our mats. It is a way of life.

Something to Embrace

They say that there is beauty lurking just under the surface of what appears to be nothing more than muddy waters. One need only turn to the lotus flower as it emerges from the mirky waters to appreciate this idea.

I am still in search of the beauty lurking beneath the painful insides and bulging exterior of my body.  As I enter into menopause, with my last lady’s holiday in November 2016, I notice that I am having a harder and harder time finding the good amid the bad. The only thing that I see emerging are pimples and an ever expanding waistline. All I feel is pain and immense stiffness.

Rolling out my mat for my daily yoga practice has never been more important. The practice does not make the pain completely go away. It does not melt away the extra pounds or clear the facial completion.

What is does do, is allow me to shift my attention on the areas that feels good, so that I am able to notice that the pain is not as widespread as it often feels.

It may not sound like much but it is. I am grateful that I have the practice. It’s something to embrace.

Therefore, I do just that.

overcoming obstacles

I am a little surprised that my home mysore program is not jazzed about Paramaguru Sharath Jois’ US Tour.  While discussing who was going, the idea that being taught in a group as large as the expected turn-out at the Stanford event was perceived as too impersonal to be useful. While I may have once worried about that, I was certainly surprised to have experienced Sharath’s direct eye contact and instruction “head up ONLY”. These little subtle distinctions in the practice may seem trivial and unimportant, however, I did notice that the change contributed to an easier transition from pose to pose.

I described the cool energy of practicing from the source of the lineage in addition to being with the Ashtangis from all the nearby yoga studios. Soon after, someone mentioned that they preferred to practice with the old-school teachers rather than those of the new school of Ashtanga-related thinking. I couldn’t help but wonder why anyone would think that Sharath was somehow not as Ashtanga-authentic as Richard Freeman or one of the other “old-school” Ashtanga teachers? As the grandson of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, he certainly was exposed to the same teachings as the older teachers of the practice. And even now, the group of teachers they deem more authentic return to KPJAYI for Sharath’s guidance for their own practice.

Meanwhile, I’ve got my own mat work (unrelated to Sharath or any other teacher) to attend to. I had a chiropractic adjustment not too long ago. Once again, my L5 vertebrae has found its way out of alignment (rotating around and pulling my pelvis around on one side as well). As you may imagine, it’s rather uncomfortable and, more recently, the discomfort has trended up to the mid-thoracic region as well. Sadly, it tends to be a relatively new pattern (approx. 6 months) that I am having to contend with. I need to figure out what I am doing to encourage the misalignment pattern and break from it.

While I must break the tendency from only my L5 vertebrae to get stuck in rotation, I must also relearn Pasasana (Noose Pose) so that I can teach it for my teacher training test out.  It’s ironic that I have been asked specifically to teach this pose — which has been known to be an obstacle to moving forward in the practice. Like Lord Ganesha, who shows us the obstacles that we have tried to steer clear of, Pasasana does the same. We must go within to find equanimity and approach the pose with just the right balance of effort and ease, twist and length. I suspect that the physical pattern (or obstacle), that I am seeking to free myself of, requires the same level of balance and exploration. For this, I must become my own teacher and possibly explore both old-school and innovative approaches to the practice to find my way out of discomfort in the noose which I have created for myself.

Self Love vs. Self Destruction

When your body cries out to you, how do you react? Do you curse it for always hurting?  Ignore it?  Or turn to “comfort foods” – like sweet, salty, fattening foods — which in reality only lead to further discomfort? When the binge fails to silence the body’s cries for help, do you switch to starving it with hopes that you’ll lose weight and will magically look and feel better?

Your body hears everything your mind says. ~ Naomi Judd

After months of self destructive thoughts and actions regarding my body’s complaints, I finally gave my body a little love in the way of 90 glorious minutes of therapeutic massage. It wasn’t a magic fix but it was a start (a step in the right direction).  The thing I love most about Jana (my massage therapist, fellow yogini, and friend) is that along with the work she does on your muscles, she also gives you valuable information on what she is observing. In my case, she advises me to relax a little, rather than continually working to “hold it all together” — especially in my hips and pelvis (where I have been known to have joint instability).  This information is valuable as I have been responding to the pain in my right hip and back as a signal to tighten my glutes (etc.) more.  With the same intention of finding some ease and relaxation, Jana also urged me to take time out each morning & evening to sit quietly and just breathe. 


The Process of Change

There has been a shift in the energies flowing through my body, mind and space.  I cannot put it into words, nor do I really want to.  All I can do is acknowledge my awareness of it.  It is change. Initially, it feels good but, after some time, it doesn’t feel so good anymore.

My teacher refers to the changes we make via our yoga practice as the process of breaking patterns. These patterns, or habits, develop over time and are often our way of adapting to past hurts. In a sense, this is often a way we bury the pain and move on. What is once thought of as healing may in actuality be the process of hardening — much like forming scar tissue. It is not complete healing but serves us for the time…until we are more capable of fully letting it go. And like when one has graston or rolfing done to break up adhesions, there is an integration/adjustment period that follows.

Similarly, the practice of breaking patterns is often a painful process to which there is a period of assimilation.


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