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!!

Just Different

Ashtangis are often told to refrain from judging their practice. It is neither good OR bad; it just is. So today, when my son asked me how my yoga practice was, I told him that it was different.

Quite naturally, he asked me to elaborate. How was it different? Was it fun? Did you feel good or do something exceptionally well? The answer was yes AND no. Like any day, there were times when I felt good…but times when I didn’t. There were parts that were fun and other parts that were downright hard.

It was different.


Child’s Play


Today, make time to play. -Na’ama Yehudi

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