I had a rough practice this morning on the last day with Sweeney.

 Everything was hard. The body was stiff. The mind agitated. Nothing unfolded as planned.

Before practice, Sweeney declared Thursday "research day" and granted us leeway to explore a few postures beyond our usual stopping point. I was delighted because I had hoped to get some help with my new postures, which I had chosen not to include until today. But instead of soaring through to Nakrasana, I crashed into Pincha like a bird into a spotless pane of glass.

I tried. And I fell. And I tried and fell again. And again. And again, until it really started to tick me off. Matthew took pity on me and came over to help. I stayed for five breaths while he stood on my hands, then I botched the exit -- per usual -- and moved on. Or so I thought.

After practice, I thanked Mr. Sweeney and drove home in silence. I moped in a hot shower and melted into the upholstery on the loveseat in the living room until it became clear that I would get nothing done if I didn't shake off this funk. With the help of an old-fashioned To Do list, I managed to avoid spending the entire day on the sofa, but -- I am embarrassed to admit this -- that battle with Pincha bothered me for the rest of the day.

The incident with what is typically a steady pose in practice gave a focal point to the agitation that I brought with me to the mat. It zeroed in on the source of my frustration and fed and grew to occupy my mind for hours to come. It sent me down a dramatic shame spiral of inadequacy (for my inability to execute the pose) and self-disgust (for my inability to let it go).

Later this evening while out with the dogs, my mind still barreling down a muddy slope of anxiety which only steepened with my reluctance to acknowledge its source, I noticed a lanky, red-headed, mustachioed type in a safari hat and unbuttoned hawaiian shirt coming my way.  Our eyes met.  A genuine smile broke across his face and as we passed, he said emphatically, "God bless you."

Charmed and caught off guard, I replied, "Oh.  Thanks!"  And I meant it.  

We each continued on our way, but this simple exchange was enough to lift the fog. My own face lit up with a smile for the first time since this morning and, a few steps down the sidewalk, I remembered something Sweeney said that struck me over the weekend:
"If your practice is not deeply psychological, there's something wrong."
It occurred to me that the agitation I experienced while practicing with Sweeney and the subsequent fixation might very well be a good sign.  After all, he has given me a thick pile of homework.  I have not struggled like this in some time.  It's only natural that I encounter intellectual resistance to the heavier load.  It's only right that I experience fluctuations of emotion as a response to change.  If the practice did not challenge me on these levels, I wouldn't bother with it. 


  1. Homework? I sense this is not asana homework but other stuff....

    BTW (meant to say this on prior post), I usually will blog about whatever I've taken from a teacher that clarified my own ideas. For example, when Tim Miller was talking about the ways that the inhale moves physically "down" (diaphragm lowers) but energetically "up" (energy into chest, even head), that set off a whole stack of realizations in me and that became my blog post. It would have felt strange to try to "summarize" Tim entirely, so I only wrote about the bits that struck me in places I was already thinking about. If that's of any assistance in how to blog about the Sweeney week.

    1. Hey patrick,

      Actually, the homework is indeed asana. I think my practice grew by 20-30 minutes. He's got me doing Pasasana twice, Yoganidrasana twice, and added handstands to my backbending sequence. In fact, he encouraged everyone to start spending up to 30 minutes on backbending a day.

      As long as the teachings are given time to process and then shared in one's own words, it's fine to pass along. I do my best to share experiences with my teachers in this way.

  2. Wow, thirty minutes on backbending? Not in my world, I"m afraid. That would be a special occasion.

  3. So well written. I respect your stance on sharing Sweeneys work but do find I long for more. Wish I could have stayed for the whole workshop. As far as psychological, I couldn't agree more. I actually find the sutras to be extremely pysch based and find that my practice is both a demonstration of my particular brand of crazy as well as that which keeps me sane. It's all a great mirror. Thanks for the post.

    1. Love the idea of the practice as a display of one's own unique set of neuroses. I certainly feel that way sometimes. Thanks for the comment. :)

  4. Thirty minutes backbending? Awesome. Would that be practitioner specific, so someone would just work on hella long holds in Urdhva Dhanurasana while someone else would work long hangbacks and someone else would work tic-tocs with/without wall, etc etc? I'll ask Matthew about this, ummmm, next week :D

    1. Yes, practitioner specific, and of course he said "up to" 30 minutes, so one would build up to it over time. And even then, perhaps not 30 minutes every day. He's not a rigid kind of guy, but he definitely emphasizes the backbending.

      Interestingly, since you brought up it up: He calls them "tic-tacs," like the breath mint, instead of tic-tocs. I remember this coming up at Grimmly's place a while back. Maybe it's an Australian thing.

  5. I read about your experience with Pincha Mayurasana with a great deal of compassion, having had a similar experience recently in my own practice. Pincha is a rock-solid pose for me now. One day last week, I held it over over two minutes in a morning led class. In the afternoon, I went to a colleagues class and couldn't stick the pose at all - I flipped it about three times. It was frustrating and embarrassing, but worse yet, I descended into a 'shame spiral' afterward, questioning myself, my practice and my ability to keep a calm head and confidence in my practice. It was a real lesson for me.