This morning I practiced at the shala. It was the right way to start the week.
It felt nice to sweat a little, get some all natural chiropractic action, and practice focusing my scattered mind.
Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for awhile know that for the past 6 months ever since we returned from India, I mostly do a home practice. This occasionally consists of my full practice (Primary Series, then 2nd up through ardha matsyendrasana with lots of dropbacks), but many days it’s just Primary (full or modified) or some Vinyasa play and Kundalini. There were a few months when I was really super modifying everything because of a knee injury, but I’m back to lotus and all that jazz now. Yay! I love lotus.
Because of these 6 months of self-practice and struggling with motivation, it’s quite a treat to go to a shala. I always relish the opportunity when we travel to DC, NY or Philly to practice with a qualified teacher in the quietly intense environment of Mysore.
One remarkable thing that I’ve noticed during this time of less-consistent Ashtanga practice is that the openness of my body follows no real rhyme or reason.
When I’m only doing my full practice with a teacher once a week, it’s quite easy for me to grab my ankles in kapo and dropbacks. It’s almost as if not doing the poses actually makes them better. Weird. And the opposite is true as well, the more I do them, the harder they get!
Of course, there are some poses such as pasana or krounchasana that don’t follow this model – these guys really need the daily action.
FY and I chatted about this a bit during breakfast. I was looking at this phenomenon rather superficially. I claimed that the regular practice aggravated my chronic shoulder inflammation and that’s why it was harder for me to “catch” after a few days of consistent effort.
He agreed that this might be true, there’s no denying that my shoulders hurt more the more I practice (at least they have for the past year), and that fatigue inevitably plays a role too. But he brought up another perspective…
Perhaps this relative “easiness” achieved with less consistency is just one of the trappings of Ashtanga. It tricks me into thinking, “well, I’m better if I do it less, so I should do it less”.
But really, the quality of my practice has very little to do with the funny shapes I’m making with my body. The quality of my practice is the depth to which I connect with myself, how I stay focused on my breath, how I rein in my mind’s wanderings, bringing my awareness back to center with ease – not grasping.
A good practice means it’s a practice that gives me pause to think, to self-reflect, to be curious and to learn.
The foundation of yoga practice is consistency and dedication. Without this solid base, the internal dimensions of the practice have very little on which to build. There’s a reason Ashtanga is a 6 day a week practice. There’s a reason it’s challenging. It’s not just for the body; it’s really for the mind.
So just doing my practice occasionally, when it feels “good” or makes me feel like I’m a back-bending rock star, is really besides the point. That’s not actually going to help me advance and evolve.
I actually feel kind of grateful for those days when I can’t do all the cool stuff, when I can’t land in bakasana or catch my ankles. It’s a good thing to not be the “best”.
Those humbling practices can be some of the most profound, offering you a perfect opportunity to remember the purpose of practice, your intentions, dedications and when it comes down to it, what really matters.
To paraphrase Radhanath Mararaj, “When you’re in a plane that you think is about to crash, you don’t start doing asana, do you?”
Blessings on this Monday morning!
PS – Don’t forget to enter into the Giveaway! Just 2 more days.
image – that’s not me, btw!