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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

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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.

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!

Ashtanga Report, November Edition

30 Dec

 

NOTE: It’s the end of 2012 and I just realized that I left this in drafts and never published it! Man, the move to Austin really scrambled my brains.

Something cool happened in November, month 8 of my burgeoning Ashtanga practice. I suddenly was able to hold myself up and hover over my mat in chaturanga. I have no idea how this happened. It was like my body suddenly realized that I could do it and it just did with no conscious thought involved. Hmmm…I hope this happens with jump backs and jump throughs! I am now doing what I think is a half primary—up through Navasana, although many postures are pretty adjusted and prop-involved. Whenever I find myself “guarding” or stiffening up and feeling fear in certain postures (hello, Trianga) I try to just go blank and relax. Lately, the phrase “hot taffy” keeps popping into my head in certain asanas. And then I start laughing, because it makes me think of John Waters and the character Taffy from the movie Female Trouble. So wrong. I love how certain words and phrases have become part of my practice. It’s all a very interesting process.

Leaving Las Vegas

7 Dec

In a surprise move, I am relocating to Austin, TX next week! Honestly, I have no idea how this happened. Definitely not my intention to leave Las Vegas and this all happened very suddenly. However, I am beyond thrilled to move back to Austin—it has always been my favorite place out of all of the places I’ve lived…la ciudad de mi corazon. And there’s a hell of a lot of Ashtanga and heavy metal in Austin! I found two Mysore programs already—the idea of actually being able to practice Mysore-style with a teacher is so thrilling to me.

There’s something utterly wonderful about getting rid of almost everything I own and leaving with only what fits in the back of my truck. I’m calling it Operation Lose My Shit.

With that being said, it is tough to leave Las Vegas and my family and friends here. Although Vegas has sort of been a trial by fire for me, it is also the city of my heart in a strange way. This city has been part of my transformation: catalyst, midwife, swift kick in the ass. I love this dusty, glittery, ghost-filled mystery town. Las Vegas, you are beautiful–no matter what they say.

Ghost Body

9 Nov

“In ancient times, bears were considered equal with men…”

Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai  is one of my favorite movies of all time. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and I stumbled across the clip on youtube. As I watched it I realized, “wow, I used to way more than a bear!”. No wonder they are my totem animal! I’ve had the phrase “Ghost Body” pop into my head frequently during practice for the last two weeks. At first I was like, “WTF?”. Then i realized that sometimes I still think I am carrying around my former 320 pound body. I will think that I can’t fold forward in certain positions when I actually can. It’s as if there is a “Ghost Body” surrounding me and I can still “feel” her, like people who can feel an amputated limb. Interestingly, I never stayed in my starved, thinner body long enough to develop a skinny “ghost body”.  She’s more like a whispering voice, a feeling, than a physical thing I lug around with me. When I am truly present in my current body and not divorced from it, I spend a lot of time trying to find the “edges”—how big am I, actually? Where do I stop and start? How far can I bend or reach? Where does my arm or leg go, really? Somewhat like moving to a new city and learning how to navigate the streets…you get lost a lot at first.

I also have begun to notice how much I “guard” certain areas of my body during practice. I clocked this after a conversation with my sponsor about how emotionally guarded I still am with certain people and at certain times. I find in Ashtanga that I seriously guard my left elbow (broken when I was skateboarding and drunk and 25), my right hip (could write a novel about this), my knees, my left ankle (surgery), my right hand (two surgeries). There’s a geographic area of my body that I feel like I need to protect, to keep it from further pain and trauma. But my guarding and vigilance is actually preventing the healing from happening! I realized this today during Ardha Baddha and burst into tears on my mat, which is happening again frequently. I felt a bizarre wash of warmth down my injured right side…so strange. And now my hip is feeling much better, go figure. Maybe my inner Samurai needs to find a new occupation instead of guarding my injuries. I have been throwing around the idea of learning Kendo lately…

I am trying notice my Ghost Body and just acknowledge her without fighting her. I carry her with me, and I don’t have to hate her. I am still a “fat” Ashtangi, and I will probably never be a skinny, bendy yoga chick–I  honestly don’t give a sh$t anymore. My weight is no longer my business, and I have no idea where this practice will take me physically.  I’ve spent so many years trying to artificially manipulate my body and my consciousness that I have no idea who I am or what the f*ck a “healthy me” looks or feels like physically. I have a sneaking suspicion that through dedication to this practice (practicing these principles in all my affairs for you 12 steppers out there), I will eventually regard my current body as yet another “Ghost Body”—with kindness and compassion. Everything changes. Bring it, Universe! I am f*cking stoked for transformation.

Ashtanga Report, Month Seven

5 Nov

The Ashtanga Report…like the Colbert Report, only not as funny and apolitical and without ironic eagle screams. Maybe that would jazz my blog up, eagle screams…

October was a weird month. I am working on Mari A, B and C and I was having a LOT of frustration and pain at the end of the month. I really appreciated all of the helpful feedback and comments I’ve gotten on this blog, especially after my “Dark Entry” at the end of October. I am always so amazed and grateful that anyone takes the time to read this mess! I also got sick at the end of the month which derailed me a little bit. In any case, I’ve realized that I do not function well without Ashtanga. I need it. It makes me a much nicer human being, period. Even when I am cranky and sore and experiencing crazy talk from my ego, I need to be on my mat. I have to embrace the dark parts of practice just like I embrace the dark parts of myself. The more I focus on breath and bandhas, the less jibber jabber goes on between my ears and that is a wonderful thing indeed.

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