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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.”

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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.

Taking Back Sunday: Eckhart Tolle Video, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

4 Nov

I have a love/hate relationship with Sundays. Growing up Catholic, this day will be forever linked with church whether I like it or not. I have not been to mass since somewhere around 1992. I used to always just feel ooky and weird on Sundays in the decades after I escaped Catholic Church. The entire day felt like a miserable black hole– like a psychic funeral where there was no corpse, but there should have been. I was usually hideously hung over and remorseful and desperately seeking not Susan, but Smirnoff and Advil. My roommate and I used to refer to the “metaphysical hangover” (thank you, Kingsley and Martin Amis)–the feeling of utterly hopeless sucking dark doom that would come over us some mornings after a particularly insane drinking rampage.

These days I’ve realized that I can take back Sunday. I can explore new, spiritual ideas and practices—no one is going to force me to go to Church ever again. On Sundays, I engage in other spiritual activities. I read spiritual books, I go to my afternoon meditation 12 step group, I practice yoga and sometimes I watch spiritual videos or attend a virtual satsang with Mooji (more on another Sunday about that).

I love Eckhart Tolle—he’s like a magical library gnome. There’s something so lovely, spiritual and impish about him—almost mischievous while simultaneously kind. These are qualities I always look for in spiritual teachers. I did not want to love The Power of Now or A New Earth (ewww, Oprah!), but I did. Many people in my 12 step programs of recovery highly recommended The Power of Now, and I’ve read it several times. I always find something new upon re-reading it. Today’s little gem that I received when I just randomly opened the book is:

“Emotion arises at the place where mind and body meet…if you cannot feel your emotions, if you are cut off from them, you will eventually experience them on a purely physical level as a physical problem or symptom…a strong unconsious emotional pattern may manifest as an external event that appears to just happen to you…if you have difficulty feeling your emotions, start by focusing attention on the inner energy field of your body. Feel the body from within. This will also put you in touch with your emotions.”  (pages 25-26, The Power of Now).

This is something I have directly experienced because of the powerful practice of Ashtanga yoga. All of my injuries and stiff, painful areas are linked to strong emotions that I was not consciously aware of. Many of the “accidents” that have “happened” to me took place during times of great unconscious emotional turmoil. My hips are an emotional battlefield—I am still clearing the debris of decades of repressed emotions. This has been brought up during practice over and over again, and I have begun to experience this in a completely new way as a result of Ashtanga practice. Drishti, bandhas and breath make so much sense—go within and focus on the inner energy field. That is where healing takes place.

Today’s Taking Back Sunday post is a lovely video courtesy of the miracle of youtube. I got so much out of it, especially the gem that takes place around 27:00:

“Love nothing but what comes to you woven in the pattern of your destiny, for what could more actually fit your needs?” —Marcus Aurelius

Eckhart Tolle on this: “The pattern of your destiny is the totality in which you move, and whatever you encounter…in this moment, the only moment that there is, must be part of this web of the pattern of your destiny where everything is connected with everything else…I speak of the inevitability of the form of the present moment…the entire history of the world has brought about the form of this moment obviously…it has produced the form that this moment takes and that is the web, that is the pattern, that is part…and to go against that is insane, to not accept it…so one theme that runs through it (the book) is to live in a state of non-resistance of what is.”

I immediately thought of my resistance to the difficult asanas, to the pain and stiffness and injuries, to the surrender of where I am today in the asana as opposed to where my ego thinks I should be, to the humbling nature of Asthanga practice itself.

Kino MacGregor: The Promise of Yoga

14 Oct

“There’s a certain lesson that each movement, each posture contains. The yoga practice makes a promise to you, and the promise is that you won’t be allowed to move on from your lesson until you really get it. There’s no way that you can fake that, there’s no way you can get a pass.” Ain’t that the freaking truth!

Metta, Movement, Dedication

12 Oct

 

From the website, mrtwsg.com. “Metta Round the World”, subtitle is “The World Needs Your 15 Minutes.”

 

I’ve really been struggling to get up early to practice lately. I find my natural night owl tendencies to be extremely difficult to combat. The early morning cold stiffness can also be disconcerting, sometimes even scary. I get worried I am going to tear the crap out of something! I do like the peacefulness of the morning, and I enjoy the moment when I am on my mat in my little Slayer Shala all alone as the sun starts to just barely rise. But man, some days it is just brutal. I also have no social life since I go to bed at like 8:30 during the week! I even joined an online Ashtanga group for practitioners who need support for their early morning practice. I jokingly call it Ashtangi Fight Club since it’s closed to everyone but group members and we don’t talk about it except on the anonymous level. The first rule of Ashtanga Fight Club is…you don’t talk about Ashtanga Fight Club AND you have to get up at 4:45am.

I came up with an idea to motivate me in the morning. I’m dedicating each practice to a different friend or family member who is either struggling with a health problem or is having some sort of difficulty in their life. I make a special playlist for them and then post a song and a dedication to them on my Facebook page. I do some Metta meditation for them both before, during and after my practice. During the times I want to give up, I remind myself that this is for Albert or Cassandra or Denise or Chris–then I don’t want to give up because it’s for them! It’s been an interesting shift in my Ashtanga practice; I find the whole practice session is almost like moving Metta meditation. I also don’t get as angry with my body and its injuries; I’m more forgiving and peaceful.

Update: I realized the youtube video that I had linked to in this post was not working. I was digging around for something else to post and I came across this website, Metta Round the World: http://www.mrtwsg.com/about/what-is-mrtw/

MRTW does a global metta practice on Full and new Moon days—how convenient for Ashtangis! This Monday is a Moon Day, so I am going to contribute my metta meditation that day from afar, since I can’t teleport to Singapore. I love the idea of other people from all over the world meditating at the same time.

October is here, and I have been practicing Ashtanga since the end of March. Obviously, the Ashtanga experiment is no longer an experiment; I’m 100% hooked! I did drag myself to some yin yoga classes here and there, but otherwise I have been plugging away at learning the Primary series. It feels good to no longer be a yoga refugee; I don’t have to hop around from teacher to teacher or style to style anymore. I have a plan and an entire system to study. And it’s a loooooong haul plan—this business is going to take some time. Like the-rest-of-my-life kind of time…surprisingly, I feel just fine with that. Considering what a die-hard commitment-phobe I am, that’s shocking. I look forward to the day when I can study with Kino MacGregor or go to the Confluence. I look forward to the day when I can finish an entire led Primary series class without relying on an arsenal of props. I look forward to my next ass-kicking Ashtanga workshop with Jen Knox. I look forward to tomorrow morning’s practice. I look forward to being changed from the inside out.

From the Great White North: Mysore Video from Yoga Shala Calgary

11 Oct

 

I don’t know what it is about this video, but I just love it. It makes me grateful to have this practice. It makes me want to get up in the wee hours. From the LUCAS Media blog…enjoy!

Heavy Metta Link Round Up: “I Am More Than Numbers On A Scale”

5 Oct

 

 

I just spent the weekend at a recovery event for people with food addiction issues. It was an absolutely amazing weekend that brought me to tears on more than several occasions. I have great appreciation for the process of recovery and for the days and sometimes even weeks where I don’t think about my size, appearance, weight, food or dieting.

I also have a new found, great appreciation for my plus-sized body and the things it can do. In spite of the many ways I have abused it over the years, I can now do these things: I can walk long distances (with a limp!), hold myself up in chaturanga, get my ass an inch off of the floor in tolasana, actually do navasana (!! this just happened recently) and finish an Ashtanga Primary Series workshop without dying. The strength, endurance and forgiveness of my body amazes me.

 

picture courtesy of yogapaws.com

 

I am grateful for the gift of being able to eat healthy, balanced, plant-based meals that are nourishing as well as tasty and aesthetically pleasing. I did not have this ability two years ago, and I spent my time lurching from fast food drive through to crazy workout regimen to insane diet plan and then always back to the binge followed by the starve.

Life is too short to eat ugly food. I spent the majority of my life bolting down ugly, greasy, brown and extremely unnaturally colored food from bags and boxes in secret; sometimes purging it, most times not.

Life is too short to restrict my food unreasonably, to be scared of carbs and fat grams and calories, to demonize some foods while forcing myself to choke down others that I can’t stand.

Life is too short to spend it living a lie; drinking and drugging myself into oblivion because I couldn’t tolerate the body I live in or the thoughts in my head, spending so much energy putting on a false front of “fuck it” and “I don’t care”.

Life is also too short to spend it chained to a treadmill, barbell or exercise bike; I spent endless hours, sometimes most of my waking hours, choking down “legal” speed and “energy” drinks and exercising like a maniac.

Life is ultimately too short to live it without purpose, appreciation, love and service. I don’t get to embody or enact those things when I am caught up in my addictions.

I came across this video on my Facebook feed this week and I found it to be really moving. The only bully worse than the ones I faced as a fat kid growing up in uber-weight-conscious 80’s South Florida is the voice of the Eating Disorder Bully that still rents space in my head. I need to evict that bitch, stat. Kudos to Jennifer Livingston for eloquently speaking about against bullying and fat-shaming:

A  link from Huffington Post on Yoga and an amazing recovery from anorexia by Chelsea Roff. Her plus-sized power yoga teacher was an integral part of her recovery story> I really want to buy this book just so I can finish her story!  Very, very moving stuff:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/intent/anorexia_b_1928891.html

An article I really related to by Erica Cheung: “Fat for an Asian, Flat for a Latina”. Ether cultural standard is oppressive; if you’re not svelte like Lucy Liu or “bootylicious” like J Lo, well then—you’re just fat:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/erica-cheung/fat-for-an-asian-flat-for-a-latina-body-image_b_1910972.html?utm_hp_ref=eating-disorders

From the Curvy Yoga blog (gotta give them a shout out!)–what happens when more curvy peeps practice yoga? “Body diversity becomes the norm in yoga classes, not the exception.”:

http://www.curvyyoga.com/yoga/when-more-curvy-people-practice-yoga/

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