Primary Friday: Be Good, Feel Good

No Primary today.  My Ashtanga week is all screwed up.  With the full school schedule on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I'm experimenting with a five-day practice week, with perhaps a light, minimal practice of the Surya and finishing and/or meditation on school-day evenings before I go out with the dogs.

Regrettably, the meditation practice has been sparse of late.  I really miss it, and know exactly why it's been set aside.  I've not been liking myself very much.  In many ways, I've watched myself repeatedly act against my better judgment, let my rituals, my practice, and my body unravel before my eyes.  I've allowed a harshness in my thoughts and actions and felt that pitta fire burn.  To sit would be to face and recognize these behaviors for what they are.  Meditation forced me to quit cigarettes.  Meditation forced me to quit coffee.  It made the physical and psychological effects of my choices crystal clear.  And, really, these are just the minor things.  The depth of awareness and the clarity of mind that comes with regular meditation is potent.

A daily morning practice would be ideal, and entirely doable.  I will start tomorrow.  First thing.

This evening's asana practice was not Primary, as I mentioned.  Not even Ashtanga.  I let loose with a fast-paced Vinyasa practice -- plenty of long holds, but also powerful dynamic movement.  Topped it off with lots of backbends, dropbacks, and handstands, and now I'm all jazzed up for the night.

I have reined in my diet and been practicing with more regularity the past couple of weeks.  Wednesday, after Intermediate, I walked away from practice feeling empty in the best possible way, as if every last bit of stale inertia had been squeezed out onto the mat.  Toward the end of practice, I had what now seems like an obvious realization, a truth I've known but not acted in accordance with in some time:  the practice feels good when I treat my body right.  The opposite is also true.  Eating heavily, sleeping erratically, and making sacrifices in the practice makes the practice hard.  Duh, right?

Duh, indeed.

Tomorrow is the full moon.  I have soared on the upswing of the cycle, and am looking forward to its culmination tomorrow night.  We are expecting heavy storms.  The dogs and I may not have our walk.


Primary Friday: Why fearing?

Photo credit?  Claim it if it's yours
If you've been reading this blog for long enough, you might have noticed a pattern.  Since I don't assume that anyone bothers to actually store the personal information I reveal here, I'll summarize:  Since I was first given Intermediate, and more dramatically since Shelley and David suggested I split, my practice has been subject to distinct surges from glorious ease in Intermediate to complete and total fear and aversion, wherein I scurry back to Primary and hide there for a while.

Primary is private.  Withdrawn.  Low to the ground and inward-facing.  The practice works and churns the belly to a soft and spacious place; it becomes a source of comfort, good feelings, and self-love.  The hips also, a dark and shadowy zone where sensation can be obscured by a lifetime of denial, are targeted in the first series, fired again and again until they crack.  Urdhva Padmasana... Pindasana... Padmasana.  You'll feel it there.

Intermediate is a different practice.  Where Primary peaks at Navasana and tumbles down a gentle slope to home, Intermediate is multi-climactic.  The first two postures are a not-so-mild reminder of Primary.  And then it begins.

With unrelenting backbends, I embark on an incremental climb up the spine.  But the sensation, if it's done right, is in the front of the body.  It exposes and stretches that beautiful belly so lovingly cared for and protected in the past.  And the heart -- my god, the heart!  It is driven to pound at the bars of its cage until it has no choice but to open.  Then, with Bakasana and the twists, there is a bit of that belly churning, just to aid the recovery.  Just a taste of that soft place, just to ease the nerves.

With Eka Pada, things get unfamiliar.  The root is flushed.  The upper body must work in a new way.  The front and back work harder than ever before to support the vulnerable spine.  As the sacrum downward shifts, Kapotasana makes more sense to the body in hindsight.  Dwi Pada and Yoganidrasana repeat the theme until the behavior of swinging the legs behind the head and keeping the chest cavity open and using that space in which to breathe becomes second nature.

Tittibhasana and its permutations takes this strong and open body and and turns it on itself.  With the torso firmly between the thighs, the legs become a vice, pressurizing the body while the hamstrings maximally stretch.  The walk is a strange journey, asking much of the legs and and demanding an unperturbed mind, but the next phase, Tittibhasana D, is perhaps the strangest insect of all, with its precarious duck feet and hidden face.  Some transit four phases;  I practice five, beginning and ending with an arm balance.

After the jump come the high flying acrobatics of Pincha and the impossibility of Karandavasana, and again the fire builds.  Mayurasana.  Nakrasana.  The heart is pliable and open but it must be strong.  I pound the ground.  I feel my chest.

And there I stop.  For now.

On to backbends and the familiar flow of the finishing sequence, though it is different, somehow, after an Intermediate practice.  Less seamless.  More like a cool down lap around the track after a set of interval training.

But none of this is the point.  There are times when I revel in the sacral, animalistic nature of Intermediate.  There are stretches when I salivate for practice.  The root stimulation is endorphin-inducing, and it seems to inspire exuberant, pleasure seeking behavior on and off the mat, but the recoil is harsh.  Without fail, I come to feel overexposed.  There is a frightening moment when the shame sets in, as if I see myself disrobed.

Then I withdraw -- shield the belly, cover the heart -- and turn inward.  I think often of Intermediate from this low, grey place -- I yearn for the extremes of light and shadow -- but feel somehow I'm not welcome... that it's not for me... that I'm not worthy.

Eventually, I snap out of it.  I stumble back to Intermediate with downcast eyes and fear the worst, but every time, my practice is right there waiting for me, right there where I left it, welcoming and perfect in every way.  Over and over again, I have shied away, forced myself to go back, and been made a fool for my irrational disinclination.  When will I find peace in this practice?  When will I learn to be not afraid?


A Letter

Dearest Readers,

Forgive me.

Forgive me for using this space as my own personal mirror and allowing my writing to devolve into little more than catharsis and journalistic blather.

Forgive me for the tired metaphors of wind and sea.

Forgive me for letting the Asana of the Week fall to the wayside.  I learn as much writing those posts as any of you might reading them, and it was self-serving on my part to sacrifice the asanas before something less pragmatic and informative.

On that same note, forgive me for insisting that the Asana of the Week would return with regularity and then failing to bring it back.

Forgive me for the advertisement that was in the sidebar for a stretch some months ago.  I don't know if any of you noticed it, but it's gone now and I'm sorry.

Forgive me for not reading your blogs, commenting, or sharing much of interest with you lately.

Forgive me for my occasional harshness and authoritative ranting.  I wish not to be self-righteous.

To my Ashtanga students, few though you may be:  Forgive me for stating my intention to keep my Monday night class -- my only Ashtanga class -- and then giving it away.  The commute was too much.  I am but a poor student with a big-wheeled SUV.

And, finally, forgive me for this post, for which I am truly sorry.

With love,



Primary Friday: Restoration

Ah, yes...  Here it comes.  Balance.  Integration.  Renewal.

After months of scrambling to stay afloat -- busy days, short nights, and abbreviated practice -- I can feel myself stilling, softening, and the settling into place.  The downpour of late summer muddied the path and the furious winds of change swept me off course.  I slipped and sunk repeatedly into long-discarded coping mechanisms and watched myself, as if from afar, struggle and fumble and fail to uphold my rather stringent standards of self-care as the insistent objections of body, my source of truth, grew louder and louder in my ear.

It is astonishing how quickly and unforgivingly the body will revolt against the idiocy of the mind.  After weeks of eating poorly, smoking casually, and sacrificing practice, I am heavier, tighter, and more resistant to the mat.  But facing this truth -- the actual, physical consequences of my behavior -- has forced me to revisit my intentions.  If I wish to carry on with this practice, I must face these repercussions.  There is no way around them.  I must go through.  I must deal with the mess.  I must get my house in order so that I may move and breathe.

And that is what I plan to do.  I have cleared my space of non-essentials and I am watching carefully the patterns of the mind.  I will not be pulled into the noise, the obfuscation and deception.  I will do my practice in the body I have created for myself.  I will acknowledge the state of the inner environment -- the exhausting heat, invasive darkness, and debris -- and, armed with appropriate provisions (breath, awareness, and compassion), I will head into the jungle brush that has grown up around the fertile fields of my heart and, patiently, persistently, I will hack away.

Practice has been more consistent this week and I am feeling slightly better having regained some precious ground.  Primary is the plan for this afternoon, it will be a nice respite from housework and homework.  I awoke this morning with clear eyes and a feeling of lightness and strength.  Energy levels are high.  I will make quick work of this overgrowth.