Breathing Beyond It.

                                          (matt willey, artist – found here)

Sometimes the practice brings up stuff – stuck emotions, frustrations, anger, sadness and joy too.  Sometimes these emotions are identifiable and can be linked to a source or a cause and other times they seem to well up out of nowhere, as if that last twist just wrung out something deep down inside you that you weren’t even aware of before.

This has been a year of great transitions for me – lots of beautiful and new things but also some painful events that have been taking their toll on me.  My Ashtanga practice has been a huge gift this year.  I feel strong, grounded and empowered by my practice.  Sometimes I feel a little obsessed by it too – it has shaped my life and given me (a Scorpio gypsy wild-child) much greater discipline.  Sometimes this feels too much for me to handle…I get scared and want to toss it to the side, run away from the of the seriousness of my life and partnership and go hide out in a little ski town to be a bum, to party and escape.

But each morning I am called again to practice and to face myself in the experience.  It’s humbling and real.  It gives me grit and clarity and this is what I need most as I move through these life transitions.  I need to stay calm, focused and balanced.

The other morning as I began my Mysore practice, all the pain, the fear and confusion that I’ve been processing and handling with considerable ease and equanimity recently just exploded in my brain, knocking me off my feet.  I wasn’t even done with Standing Postures when tears were already welling up, much to my frustration.  I went to the bathroom and cried a bit for no singular identifiable reason. Then I pulled myself together and returned to my mat like a good tough little soldier.  To no avail…

It became clear that practice was just not going to happen as planned so I collapsed in a little pile on my mat.  My dear and loving teacher came over to me and asked if I wanted to step outside for a minute.  Out in the quiet and cool morning air I was able to give her the 8 word version of what was dragging me under.  With such compassion and practicality she asked (after giving me a big hug), “So what do you need now?  What’s going to be the best thing for you this morning?”  I told her I wanted to practice but it seemed impossible.

She related to me that sometimes when her mind seems to be taking over and running the show she just plays with the rhythm of the practice, moving quickly through the postures with exaggerated big breath – moving faster and deeper so that the mind doesn’t have the chance to catch up to her.  She told me to drop the 5 breath count for now and just move, burn through it, breathe through it – Kundalini style – just BREATHE.

So I went back in, good soldier that I am, but this time with better artillery and a more appropriate strategy.  My teacher immediately gave me a strong assist in Utthita Hasta Padangustasana; she breathed like an angry horse.  I followed her lead and breathed into the whole room with gusto. Loud and full and fierce.

I sweat and purified and I moved fast.  It worked.  It worked wonders in fact.
Thank you Pavan Guru – Oh Breath! the great teacher –  for now and always…

With Gratitude and LOVE.

Frances

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