Stripping Things Down, or, the Yoga of Hell No

15 Jan

I went to Mysore at a new studio in town this morning at 6am. Ironically, the teacher did not come because he has school that morning. The gym did not mention this on the schedule. So I bumbled through practice on my own, and was able to go very slowly and very carefully. It was interesting, and I had to laugh at myself once I realized the teacher was not coming. I was so nervous about meeting a new teacher, and he wasn’t even there! Just like life– I get myself all worked up over nothing in the end. Once I relaxed and realized that it was Ashtanga business as usual, I was able to drop more deeply into my body than I have been able to in a long time.

On the way there, I was thinking about how long the journey has been between being over 300 pounds and a drunk cocaine addict to standing on the front of my mat at 6am in Austin, Texas in very sober samasthiti. To get to this point, there has been a lot of subtraction. Subtracting the drugs and alcohol, subtracting over 100 pounds, subtracting excess material possessions, distractions and unhealthy relationships; ultimately, subtracting a whole lot of thoughts and closely held beliefs that did not serve me. I’ve heard Ashtanga repeatedly described as “The Yoga of No” and in my case, it seems to be the Yoga of hell no. Hell no I don’t want to stay up late. Hell no, I don’t want to go to a bar with you and get totally f*cked up. Hell no, I don’t want to eat that junk food and hell no, I don’t want lots of distracting noise and chaos in my life. These things just don’t do it for my anymore. I realized that I was yogastoned after practice this morning—very similar to accustomed (the high you get after accupuncture), but a lot sweatier. I’ll take the yogastoned over really being stoned any day.

I belong to the World Wide Metta meditation mailing list, and I received their newsletter this morning. There was a piece by Thanissaro Bhikkhu called “Stripping Things Down” that made a lot of sense to me:

We can think of renunciation as a process of simplification. That’s a word with a nicer ring to it nowadays: You want to simplify your life, to cut away the unnecessary clutter. But either way, whether you call it simplification or renunciation, there are hard choices you have to make. And so it’s best to look at it as a tradeoff. You can spend your time on activities that give immediate results that don’t last very long, or on activities that give more long-lasting results but take more effort, more time, more patience, require more precision. Ultimately you realize that the best trade is the one where you give up lesser forms of happiness for more long-lasting ones, ones that speak to the really deep issues in life.

Yes, and yes.

Tomorrow is a Moon Day, which is a perfect day to connect with others in loving kindness and do a practice of metta meditation. Well, every day is a perfect day for this, but I really like knowing that somewhere out there on New and Full Moons, there are other people metta-ing.

Link to the original article here: http:///gallery.mailchimp.com/ea2e5620a6396a3fc34db91d5/files/D_Stripping_Things_Down_Part_One.htm

Kino MacGregor Led Primary Series in Vegas, December 2013

2 Jan

Yes, my pretties: I did it, and I lived to blog about it! My lovely sister-in-law gave me the Xmas gift that keeps on giving: a led primary series with my Miami Yoga Goddess of All Things Ashtanga and Hawaiian print, Kino MacGregor. I really wish that we could have done more of the rest of the workshop, but funds were very tight as I had to move unexpectedly at the end of the year. The most surprising things, other than the fact that I did not die or perish in flames? How incredibly tiny she is! And also how much she channels Jois in the way she teaches. She came over and said to me, “You do!” and believe me, I did. She kinda scared the crap out of me! It’s odd to hear the voice of a 90-year-old Indian man coming out of a tiny, very young woman.

As always, I enjoyed her very clear instruction and the way that she helps you to understand the asana from the inside out. Kino is just an amazing teacher, and I can’t wait to do more workshops in the future with her!

Another surprising thing about this workshop: I didn’t spend most of it body-checking everyone and obsessing about whether or not I was the fattest person in the room or not. I was too busy praying to the Dark Gods of Ashtanga, Heavy Metal and Whatever–desperate pleas that I would not embarrass myself and/or not be able to finish! My practice has been non-existent over the last 4 months, and I was dreading the ass kicking that I was sure was going to happen. I felt very proud that I finished, as I have only ever done the full primary three times. It made me realize that fear and my own doubt are my worst enemies in this practice. Kino did, in fact, say to another student, “Why fearing?”. I felt like she really meant it for me!

The benefit of having to move unexpectedly is that I now have a practice space, hell yeah! I practiced this morning, and while it was short and kind of not the greatest—it was practice. It feels good to be back in the AM Ashtanga groove again.

 

 

Matthew Sweeney: “The Body Is Crooked For a Reason…”

25 Oct

matthew sweeney

I stumbled across a great Ashtanga podcast called Lonely Guru on Itunes. There was a lovely interview with Matthew Sweeney. I sure would love to study with him someday! The take away message for me was:

“The body is crooked for a reason…to force it into alignment, if this is going to cause you pain…I don’t think this is good alignment…accepting your experience, loving your body.”

I am quite good at not accepting my experience or loving my body. Lately, I have been wanting someone to just beat the stiffness and pain out of me (yeah, that makes NO sense at all!). I met with a trainer at my new gym and he gave me a regimen of specific, therapeutic stretches and god-awful foam rolling that is killing me. I thought I was going to throw up the first time we worked together. I know that this, coupled with a regular yoga practice, will move things along for me. But boy howdy, does it hurt. He told me that I am the stiffest, least flexible female client he has ever worked with! He said that my hips are just literally locked up.  Sigh. I know it will get better, but right now, it just hurts. A lot.

Ooops I Did It Again: Prodigal Ashtangis and Brad Ramsey on Pain

23 Oct

Here’s an older post from May that I did not quite finish:

I rearranged all of my furniture and formed a mini-shala in one half of my bedroom. I now have a nice, albeit small, practice space for morning Ashtanga. And so I got up and did it, starting this past Monday. The difference in just a few days was unbelievable. A sense of peaceful calm after I get off of the mat. And on the mat? It’s a shitstorm, folks. Stiff body, stiff mind, craaaaazy thoughts. Even though I have been practicing several times a week in a class setting, it has not been Ashtanga and it has not been at 6:30 am.

Lately, I have been feeling like I will *never* get back to the way I was practicing in Las Vegas. I have been feeling hopeless, unmotivated and I’ve been in a lot of physical pain. Still, the desire is there. I’ve been reading a little bit of Guruji every night before I go to bed as motivation/inspiration. The chapter with Brad Ramsey was unexpected and incredibly moving. He was a strong and stiff practitioner (sound familiar?) and much of the interview was about pain. Here is his commentary on going to Mysore to study with Pattabhi Jois:

“I felt like I was being dismembered, My body was changed…when it hurts, put your mind on God instead of your pain, whatever your concept of God is–whether he is the great architect or the basic element of the universe, which everything is made out of…the series is just a mold toward a body that meets the requirements for spiritual advancement, I believe. I don’t think you can get there without pain. I never met anyone who did. For me, it hurt from the first day to the last, at least something. There’s always something…sometimes even to make the effort is painful…it’s the nature of the beast. It’s a birth process, really.” 

I don’t know whether I feel validated and comforted by that, or terrified and ready to run away.

Guruji has been a great read so far. I have been reading it very, very slowly. Usually I gobble up books like I gobble up food. The discipline of reading something slowly is good for me. It also mirrors my practice–very, very slooooow. As they say in the rooms, “sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.”

Mysore, Finally

21 Oct

I am excavating all of the saved drafts I have lingering. I have been writing, but not posting and not finishing a lot of what I write. So here’s one from August that I started after my first Mysore class at Yoga Yoga here in Austin:

YY_stacked-logo_bigger

Yes, it only took my seven months of waffling, but I finally attended the magical, mysterioso Mysore class. And it was fucking scary. I think the anxiety about what to expect was more scary than anything else—having no idea what the teacher would do or what would even be going on. I sat in my car for quite some time, sweating. Afraid to go in, but afraid to go home.

I loved the teacher—she was gentle and helpful. I felt (as per usual) like a graceless elephant surrounded by very twisty gazelles. The lack of noise in the room was simultaneously peaceful and terrifying. I found myself losing focus far more than I do during home practice. There’s also something odd about the teacher having to whisper instructions to you while everyone else around you is practicing. I am not sure that I like it!

One of the other brutal realities of my life here in Austin is the fact that my allergies are out. of. control. At certain times of the year, I should NOT be in a room with other people early in the morning because it is, quite frankly, a Kaphic phlegm fest. Ugh. Yet again, I am having to renegotiate what practice means and how it will look for me. The perfectionist in me does not like the idea of deviating from “traditional” early morning Mysore or self-practice. However, that rigidity is translating to NO practice. And that is not cool. Jury is still out on Mysore…

On Being a Bad Lady

15 Aug

 

Yes, I have been lifting weights again. And I know–David Garrigues would have my head on a platter. With some macrobiotic food on the side…

I conducted a little “experiment”, and went to a boot camp through my job for four months. I also started doing Crossfit. I even ran (!!!) which I haven’t done in any sort of serious way since my tendon repair surgery in 2008.

And I loved it. Not gonna lie…it’s so much easier for me to stay in the comfort zone of really physically rough exercise. It feels good, and it’s not confusing or weird or “internally challenging” like Ashtanga. It doesn’t cause me to need to rearrange my mental landscape. And in the end, it also doesn’t necessitate a total physical rearrangement, either. It’s more of the same. My body is like, “Oh yeah, this. I know this.” With Ashtanga, my body is like, “Oh my f*cking GOD, not THIS! Anything but this!”

In the end, I decided to stop bootcamp after almost 5 months. My hip is killing me again, and my knees may soon join my hip in united protest. This time, though, there’s something different going on. I feel very mentally and spiritually “stagnant”. I am craving the “internal rearrangement” of Ashtanga, even though I am scared shitless of starting a serious morning Mysore practice with a teacher. I am coming up with every excuse known to humankind to not do it. I’ve also been letting my new job and lots and lots of socializing get in the way of dedication to practice. I have been dabbling with Ashtanga Fundamentals classes here and there, with erratic home practice, with hot yoga and with classes through my job (which happen to be taught by an Ashtanga teacher, hmmm…). For the same reasons that I stopped lifting weights and started Ashtanga in 2012, I am stopping now. It looks like pain, both physical and emotional, remains my best teacher. Surprise!

Forget

25 Apr

I am still here in the land of wildflowers and way too much good vegan food and *distractions*. Home Ashtanga practice totally derailed. Having lots of struggles in many areas of my life, and some progress in others. Life on life’s terms?  Sometimes I just forget all about that sh*t. I was doing some reading this morning during my AM quiet/meditation time that had nothing to do with yoga. It was a twelve step recovery book, and I came across this sentence: “the yoga principle of non-attachment to the fruits of labors”. What? How could I have just thrown that proverbial baby out with my bath water?

I was in Half Priced books the day before yesterday and I looked up at the Hindu section and there it was, shining like a beacon: a half-priced, used copy of Guruji! Let me tell you, that is not an easy find.

Thanks for the nudge, Universe.

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