The Role of Practice

Hello, my darlings.  I hope you've been well.

I've been busy with schoolwork and practice and all manner of life, all of which are in auspicious states.  I have perched at my desk and tried to write here many times, but nothing has seemed relevant or appropriate for this space.

My practice has changed, as sometimes it must.  Many days, I have time for only a minimal Ashtanga practice.  I practice the Surya Namaskara, Paschimottanasana, Purvottanasana, Sirsasana, Baddha Padmasana, Padmasana, and Tolasana, and I savor every moment.  Sometimes, this basic practice stretches to forty-five minutes with long, full breaths throughout, my body pouring through the motions like molasses.  Other days, I do an hour or ninety minutes of strong, intuitive Vinyasa, taking cues directly from the daily body condition.  Full Ashtanga practices are rare.

I am teaching just two classes a week, neither of which are Ashtanga.  The yoga has morphed  suddenly from this expansive, life-enveloping thing to a bit of karmic work a couple times a week and a compact but necessary daily endeavor.  It has become harder and harder to keep the mind space sacred during practice as my delightfully simple life has grown wound with complications.  However, I have matured into acceptance of these changes and now survey the unfamiliar landscape with bright and curious eyes.

Even with the reduction in practice, I have kept my strength.  Flexibility suffers.  My hips ache at night and my back will sometimes twitch after a day of school, carrying my heavy pack.  My ankles and feet are stiff, but though the sensations may be harsh, years of daily practice make the ritual so easy.  Somehow, a thirty minute practice is as full and satisfying as two hours.  The skill of relaxation is established.

It seems the role of yoga in my life has shifted, at least for the time being, but my appreciation for the practice only grows.  In a way, teaching so little and writing here less, I feel as though I have my practice back.  This change is healthy, and it is time for me to develop other areas of my potential with the diligence and passion with which I've delved into the yoga.  This is not to say that I won't be writing here much longer.  I will keep writing, and teaching, and practicing, but I will do it from a different place and with a different force.  This is the tool of yoga, to be used as it best serves.


Primary Friday: We Get Back On

Had a good week of practice.  Took a couple of days off midweek to catch up on schoolwork, but enjoyed full practices otherwise.  Practice has been hard, but so necessary and good.  I have been suffering through Intermediate, paying for the last two months of scant practice and full living.  My body is heavier, and not as flexible or strong --  a difficult set of truths to accept.  But I must practice in the body I inhabit today, however brutal it may be.

All will return with regular practice, but it occurs to me more and more lately that the older I get, the less true this will be.  I need to remain firm in my commitment now if I'm going to navigate the progressive difficulties of aging with ease when the time comes.  But I'm also trying not to be too hard on myself, even in the face of blatant neglect.  Take it from a long-time equestrian:  we all get bucked off once in a while.  The important thing is to know how to fall, brush off the dirt, and get back on.  This is important not just for the rider; it is essential for the horse, too, to know the rider can't be shaken.

A horse can be ruined by a rider who quits.  To be honest, I'm not totally sure how the extension of this metaphor applies to the practice of yoga.  Maybe the horse is samskara, or the dharma.  Or maybe the horse is one's personal concept of the practice, with all its cumbersome associations.  If we indulge the horse, then it will rear its head with aversion when we approach.  We must remain firm but gentle to quiet the animal and gain its respect.  And we must work harder, with even more presence and diligence if we cannot work with it every day.

So, yeah...  Back on the horse.  Riding out the rough spots.  Feeling more in tune with it every day.