As many of you know, I practice at home, with rare exception. I have learned most of what I know from personal experience and books. Occasionally, I will practice with other ashtangis, and have worked with several different teachers over the years, but never for more than a few weeks or months at a time. This means that, most often, I have to be my own teacher, which requires a certain degree of separation from myself.
This isn't always easy. In fact, it can be downright awkward.
This morning, mid-way through a gritty second series, I observed me being hard on myself. I heard the tension in my throat and saw the tell-tale signs of self-flagellation on my face. So I stopped myself after Nakrasana, sat myself down, and we had a little chat.
"Listen," I, the teacher, said. "I know you're feeling discouraged and you're reluctant to add to your practice. I know that both your knees click, and your hip is tight, and your wrist is rallying for mutiny all the way up your right arm. But you're in a rut. It's time."
I, the student, shook my head and stared in disbelief. "But... Karandavasana?" I said. "It isn't even close. . . My knees and hips will never let it happen."
"Don't say never," I responded. "You don't know that."
"And Mayurasana? It's hardly ready. For Pete's sake, what about Dwi Pada? I can barely balance..."
"That's not important. You're doing well. There is a deceptively fine line between perfectionism and laziness, and you've been walking it for too long. Let's go. Vinysasa. Vatayanasana."
I obeyed with hesitation. The elaborate entry was awkward, and the posture itself was precarious with a few tumbles at first, but I struck the sweet spot eventually, and my knees were not as strained as I had feared. First side. Second side. Done and done.
I, the teacher, stood nearby and nodded with approval. "Good. Let's keep going. Parighasana is cake."
I was right. Parighasana is cake. Sweet, delicious, side stretching, thigh rotating cake. Right side. Left side. My body buzzed with a fresh rush of prana through the following vinyasa. "Next?"
Gomukhasana A was strange. I teetered there atop my snugly folded legs. But the B variation felt fantastic on my knotted shoulders, like a long awaited treasure at the bottom of a giant bag of Cap'n Crunch.
"One more. Supta Urdhva."
I struggled through it. Couldn't bind my foot on either side. But I did my best, enjoyed the twist, and chuckled at the rest. Emboldened, I asked, "Headstands?"
But I smiled to myself and shook my head. "Not today."