On Sunday I practiced Led Primary out at the Barn. It was not my normal setting nor my normal teacher. It was cold in there and even before we started I felt a little cranky. I was hungry and I totally get the “hangries” bad (in Boyfriend Yogi’s lingo). But I was there to practice, to control my body, control my breath and control my mind (the super tricky part!) so I put the cranky me to the side and tried to focus on why I was there. I knew that my body wasn’t going to be as warm and flexy as normal, it being Sunday and cold, so I approached my practice with the intention to really focus on dristi (eye focus) and bandhas (body/energy locks) rather than making it about pushing deep into postures. I love regularly practicing Primary Series because the repetition offers me a chance to examine my body and mind fluctuations daily. Every day is a little bit different, but the practice is the same in form. As a result, I am forced to adapt and transform each time I step on my mat. It’s hard. No doubt about that. Ashtanga is a practice that pushes, prods and provokes personal growth and self-discovery. You can’t keep up with it, unless you work with it and work with yourself. There is so much packed into that hour and a half. I am a total novice, constantly getting my mind blown by the nuances and energetics of the practice. Because there is so much to learn and understand, sometimes I like to make a specific focus for my practice that day as I did this Sunday. It helps me to break it down a bit, you see.
Anyways, I began my practice, getting all meditative with my dristis and then a girl walked in late. We stopped between our Surya Namaskars and moved mats around to make more room, then we go again…ekam…dve…trini…. Back at Samastithi and another girl walks in late and we have to play the shuffle game again. Ugh! No respect! This pissed me off way more than it should have, but I let it go and went back to my focus and breath. Early in the Standing Sequence I lost it again. My mind started snarling mean little comments about anything and everything. My inner mean girl was set loose and she’s a fierce little bitch. There was a new student practicing near to me and she was totally spazzing out. I caught myself becoming distracted by her, I reminded myself to be compassionate and then draw my attention back inwards. This worked for a minute but my mean girl prevailed, jabbering in my head…”god what a spazz..chill out…what are you doing here? go to a prep class…they have those, you know?! ugh! just try to breathe, you tweaker…oh look you have a manduka mat…what the hell! you have a $75 mat and you can’t touch your freaking toes… and you kept your manduka sticker on it! poser…lame… what pretentious shit… ” You get the gist of it… NOT NICE! During Prasarita Padottanasana sequence, my eyes wandered to the other row of mats and this little hard-body soccer mom blonde in serious spandex shorts was practicing Tripod Headstand. WOW – mean girl freaks out again ….”F-ing show-off. Be a student for Christ’s Sake. Follow the sequence! There’s a reason we do it like this!! Thousands of years of practice in the making of this whole thing and you think you can just go ahead and change it! You just make shit up and do it your own way! Yuck! No respect. No respect at all, you…!!!” Again, WOW – not kind, compassionate thoughts! And later, oh my goodness, you wouldn’t believe the biting little quips my mean girl started spouting when the same perky blonde starting doing Sit-ups in Ubhaya Padangustasana! Seriously! Yikes!
Well, I started confronting my mean girl, but instead of just yelling at her and telling her to shut up, I asked her what she was doing there, why was she up in arms, bothering me in my yoga practice? She calmed down a bit, so I let her stay (in relative silence) and I went on with finishing my practice. My mean girl and well, me, we expect a lot from the world. We have this expectation that people should be good, right, smart, truthful, respectful, tasteful, intelligent, etc. etc. etc. We expect that people should be “good”, “right”, “smart” etc., as we define “good”, “right”, “smart” etc… And that’s just totally CRAAAZY. Expecting all of that in my own terms from the world! That inevitably creates a whole lot of suffering for me! So as I finished my practice and made my way to Savasana, I asked “Why do I expect so much from everyone? Where did I get the idea that people should act the way that I see fit?” Well, I expect a lot from myself. Not just a lot, but EVERYTHING. I’ve always been a bit of a perfectionist. I have yet to do ANYTHING to my full satisfaction in life. So, obviously if I “fail” myself routinely, then of course the rest of the world fails me too! I have this silly notion that I need to be “perfect” (what does that even mean??) and then I project it onto friends, family and absolute strangers! What a mess! So that’s where my mean girl gets her juice from! People say that “a person is mean because they don’t like themselves”. Yes, that’s true but my meanness that emerged in practice the other day didn’t have to do with me not liking me at that moment. In fact, I was feeling pretty good about myself, my body, my progression etc., that day. It was really about my rigid, undeviating obsessions with “perfection” and my expectation of perfection from others. I’m routinely disapointed by the world. For those of you who know me, that might sound odd and out-of-character, but it’s true. I am an optimistic, hopeful, lover of life who has a fiercely competitive, caustic, cruel cynic lodged within! Perhaps we all are, but the one who flourishes, as the fable goes, is “the one you feed”.
As I surrendered into Savasana, our teacher said something to the likes of “Whatever you dug up in your practice today, release it”. It was so clear to me as he spoke those words that I “dug up” my mean girl, I learned from her and it was time to then let her go, offer her up with all the rest. Wisps spiraled off my supine body and floated away. Sure, my practice was a bit messy. My mind got the better of me. I lost my focus repeatedly. I forgot my bandhas in certain postures. But, it was a great practice because it was a productive practice. I confronted a part of myself that lingers deep. I didn’t push her away or pretend that she does not exist. I let her be and I learned from her. And for a moment, a brief moment of surrender, I let her go. She released her hold on me and I was able to fill that void with love. Learning to love unconditionally, to accept fully those parts of ourselves that we are prone to hate, yes, that is indeed work…but a step in the right direction for a love-centered life.