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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.

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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.”

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:

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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…

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.

Kino MacGregor: Extra Stretches for Hips and, On Having Bratitude

7 Jan

Oh buddy—jackpot. Just watching this made me hurt, but sort of in a good way. While my room is warming up, I decided to check youtube for any new Kino videos to inspire me to ACTUALLY FUCKING PRACTICE in my bedroom. I have been sulking and missing my yoga room in Las Vegas. Well, welcome to reality, Sunshine. There’s no yoga room anymore! Do I want to give up my Ashtanga practice simply because I am having bratitude (Bratty Attitude) about my smaller, pared down new life? I keep mentally whining that my room’s too small, it’s too cold, I can’t breathe, I’m too tired, blah blah blah. I haven’t even tried yet.

The take home message? I have been kind of a wreck without practice. I keep waiting for the Mysore sessions to resume at the studio close to my house and they seem to have entirely disappeared. And I’m broke anyway, so it’s not like I could immediately buy a pass. I keep reading all of the Ashtanga blogs I follow with sighs of longing…just do it already!

 

A Hot Mess

5 Jan

I decided to try “hot yoga” again after almost a decade of not doing it. I went to Black Swan (a donation-based yoga studio) in Austin. I loved the whole look and feel of the studio and enjoyed the class quite a bit. I was really scared to take a hot class since I haven’t done Bikram in probably close to a decade. Interestingly, it felt a like a restorative class to me! I barely broke a sweat. I kept waiting for the endless vinyasas and there were none. Man, Ashtanga really kicks your ass. I can’t wait until I can go to some classes here in town. The schedules are still a little wonky due to the holiday. I will be glad when things get back to normal. I will definitely go to Black Swan again…very relaxing and great music.

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.

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