The invitation to offer up the benefits of your practice to someone else is not uncommon. When you are going through your own personal struggles, this invitation may feel like an unreasonable request. It is just an invitation. There is no judgment on whether or not you choose to do so. Furthermore, the “offering” is one of sharing rather than a complete relinquishing of benefit.
On Tuesday morning, my head was filled with worry as I stepped onto my mat. Later that day, I would undergo a mammography-assisted needle biopsy (stereotactic needle biopsy) to determine if the abnormal clustering of micro-calcifications in my right breast were cancerous or of any other worrisome finding. While the probability of cancer was 20%, I was not reassured. My mind had already leaped to preparing for the worse — with the positive aspect lying in the fact that most of these cases are early stage (0 stage) cancer with a very good survival rate. If cancer, treatment would likely consist of a mastectomy and radiation. As you may imagine, I had not been sleeping well since being told that the radiologist reading my serial mammograms recommended a biopsy be scheduled as soon as possible.
I brought my hands to prayer and, instead of the opening chant, I simply began praying that I would be able to face both the procedure and the outcome with a clear, focused, and positive mindset and be able to utilize the abilities I have gained from my daily practice to do so. I thought about a few women who’s battle with cancer had not been going smoothly. Then, I thought about the women who were sitting with the same unknown (outcome-yet-to-be-determined) as me. I prayed for them as well. Then, before I began the first sun salutation, I dedicated my practice these women — praying that whatever benefits I gained would also be shared with them.
I have been actively working on my goal to complete my certification. However, my progress is akin to a herd of turtles leaving the start of a race. Nonetheless, I *am* moving in the right direction.
Last Friday, I made my 1st attempt at leading a student through the half primary series. My student for the day was well versed in the series and it was difficult for me to simplify my teaching cues for her as I wanted the practice to be beneficial for her as well as me. My accumulated knowledge of the practice, compounded by the lessons I have learned from the various injuries experienced over the years, spewed forth a multitude of possible cues to choose from during this teaching session. This was much like the swirling of thoughts one sometimes experiences during their practice. I had to remind myself to return to the breath: my own, and that of my student.
Meanwhile, my beginner student and I were having some difficulty in setting a practice time. I kept reminding myself to stay neutral and put the invitation out for him to accept when he is ready. But I couldn’t help but sense apprehension/fear which I did not comprehend but wanted to respect. While I was pretty sure this energy I was sensing was his, I was also aware that it, in fact, could’ve been my own fear and apprehension. Once again, I return to my breath.
My progress might be slow, like the herd of turtles, but I will get to the finish as long as I keep going.
During this morning’s practice, I asked my teacher if it was better to keep both of my hips grounded in Marichyasana D –OR- let the back hip float but ground the knee instead. Reaffirming that the primary goal is the twist and the bind that are the priority. Having no issues there, yet not able to ground both the knee and the hips simultaneously, I asked her my question again. She responded again, saying that in all of Primary Series the objective healing comes from the concentrated abdominal squeezing action more than anything else. “Bandhas”, she said, “You don’t find them. They find you.”
Thinking back to a recent conversation around Garbha Pindasana, I asked if that is why we are encouraged to thread our arms through our lotus. She smiled, and walked away.
A few poses later in my practice, I retrieved the water bottle and worked on the pose as best as I am currently able. Although the water did a nice job of allowing me to thread, the tighter ball I was in made it challenging to stay on my mat while rolling around in the circle before trying to lift up into Kukkutasana. I struggled but stuck with it trying to keep my mind on the moment instead of where it has been for the past week: Stuck in a conversation about using water to thread the arms.
This is my extended ashtanga family from the bay area and beyond. It has been a pleasure to practice with everyone once again.
Photo by Danielle Tsi Photography
My youngest son has been in hot pursuit of his certification to become a personal trainer. Juggling school, a full-time work schedule, among other demands has meant that his 1 year time limit was here before he was ready to take the certification exam. Very astutely, he decided to sit for the exam anyway. This would allow him to learn from it rather than simply letting the deadline pass without even trying. As much as he benefitted from seeing the test and identifying the areas where he needs to deepen his knowledge, his action also set an example for me to follow. You see, I have been quietly regaining my enthusiasm (read: courage) to complete my own certification process over the past 6 months. Ryan’s willingness to brave the test, has me seriously thinking that it is time to finish what I started nearly 7 years ago.
Reigniting my efforts to finish my yoga teacher certification has led me to examine where I would like to take my teaching – in an ideal world. The answer could not be any more clear today than it has been over the past 4-5 years. Ashtanga yoga has been the focus of the 500+ hours of teacher training that I have logged over the past years. It is what I do and, in many ways, how I identify myself. So, naturally, it is where I would want to teach if the opportunity were to present itself.
What better training than to go to the source, where the lineage of resides: Sharath Jois
We are fortunate to live in one of three places where Sharath visits on his yearly US Tour. For the past 3 years, I have been blessed to be able to roll out my mat in the gym at Stanford and follow along to his led count with my extended ashtanga yoga family (from the bay area and beyond).
Although, his verbal cues fall short of what I assume will be expected of me in order to pass my certification, his command of the room and perfectly measured count is exactly what I need to cultivate into my repertoire of tools. And since we are not accustomed to hearing much instruction with a mysore style practice, any verbal cueing is good for me to experience.
Additionally, I have been reviewing my books and videos, ordered a few more, and begun looking for individuals willing to allow me to practice my teaching with them. The goal is to submit my video by son’s birthday and be certified by mine. There is no telling if my certification will lead to anything beyond the satisfaction of finishing what I started.
Photo by Danielle Tsi Photography