Tuesday, January 3, 2017

...and it happened...I had a more challenging practice today after 2 days of feeling light, soft, and strong.

BUT I practiced.  And though it was a little less than the usual, it still felt good to get on my mat and do the work.

Starting to really appreciate the closing postures...interesting.


Monday, January 2, 2017

January 2nd and just completed my second practice of the year!  One at home, one at the shala...

So...decided to change the focus of this blog to ashtanga in your 50's because I'm now moving into my 50's.  No denying it; I'll be 53 this year.

Also, I was inspired by a great podcast from Ashtanga Dispatch featuring Cathy Louse Broda.  She and Peg discussed the issues that women face in the practice when they are experiencing, amongst other things: menstruation, pregnancy, post-partum, post caesarian section, peri-menopause, and menopause.  It was a fabulous podcast that affirmed a lot of what I have been experiencing on my mat over the past year and a half.

I started Ashtanga yoga when I was about 42 yrs old.  I learned all of primary at once and my practice was mostly done in led classes with the occasional home practice sprinkled in.  I got injured...a lot.  I also began to suffer from the pretty debilitating GI and pelvic pain issues due to endometriosis.  BUT I persevered, though taking breaks-long breaks at times-from the practice.  The longest break I took was for almost four years after injuring both shoulders, being hospitalized, and then finally at the age of 50, having a total hysterectomy.  And then menopause-surgical menopause-instantaneous and intense.

I then decided it was time to return to Ashtanga but this time I had decided to do mysore-style.  And I was now 51 and things were/are VERY different.

But surprisingly to me, not quite in the way I had expected.  I'm stronger, still flexible, still able to complete the series.  However, there are differences.  I need more time to recover.  I need more food. I need oil baths, desperately.  I need warmth, though I feel warmer generally.  Though, I hardly ever sweat, except in hot humid weather.  But I can still do it and I can still 'progress'.  I'm also beginning to respect the voice and teacher inside of me and letting go of the other voice that lives inside of me; the one that tells me to do more, push more, extend more, jump more, higher, try a handstand, do 5 drop backs, etc.  Because that voice won't help me find santosha.

So as I age and my body changes physically so must I change emotionally/psychologically so that I can keep practicing after 50...yikes!  


Sunday, December 4, 2016

So it's becoming more and more challenging to practice at KPJAYI.

Now, full disclosure, I haven't tried to enroll there for this season because I'm still debating whether or not this is something I want/need to do for my self, my practice, my whatever...

BUT, I do know people who want/need to go there because they want/need to become ashtanga instructors and they respect/follow the rules that KPJAYI has created which state that in order to become authorized to teach Ashtanga yoga one must travel to Mysore and study with Sharath for at least one month every 18 months or less.  Oh yeah, and you don't become authorized to teach until you've made a few trips.

Now, I understand and actually agree, at least theoretically, with the desire to consolidate the instruction to a specific place and/or person.  I like to think that this is being done to make sure that all teachers of Ashtanga are approaching the practice similarly.  I also think that it is an effective way of weeding out those who are not necessarily as dedicated to the lineage and or tradition.

BUT and this is a big but, if the place that one has to go to get authorized to teach can no longer accommodate the number of students seeking authorization then what is a person who wants to become authorized to do?  Because I do think there are a fair number of students who go to Mysore and who have absolutely no intention of ever teaching, but are interested in experiencing the practice at 'the source' so to speak.  So I think that it is important that KPJAYI remain open and available to ALL students regardless of their motives for attending the shala and learning with Sharath.

Ok...back to those who want to become authorized...legitimately (sorry) but can't go because the KPJAYI is full.  What are they to do?  Just wait?  Try again next year?  Have faith?  Fine, yes, and some can do this but is it right?  Just this year people got confirmed to go in November only to have their confirmations rescinded because there were too many people enrolled for November.  What happened to those people?  Now many of them were able to enroll for other later months, the shala offered them this alternative, but what if they don't have that sort of flexibility?  What if they could ONLY get November off?  What if they had booked airfare, hotels, pet sitting, sublets, etc.?  What are they to do?

KPJAYI must remain accessible to all but what about those whose primary purpose is to acquire authorization and/or maintain it?  Should they automatically get priority when applying?  My answer to that is a resounding: NO.  That would essentially make KPJAYI a place for only those interested in teaching or who already are teachers and that isn't good for the practice, the Shala, Sharath, anyone.

I have a suggestion:  Why not have teachers who are certified to teach Ashtanga Yoga, be able and authorized to award Authorization Level 1 to students who come and study with them for at least a month every year.  How long it takes to be awarded Authorization 1 will be determined by the certified teacher with Sharath consulting.  There are amazing certified teachers all over the world who have spent most of their adult lives committed to the practice and teaching of this tradition.  The majority of them return to Mysore yearly for 1-3 months.  The majority of them practiced with Shri K. Pattabhi Jois.  Now those who are already Authorized Level 1 teachers and who are working toward Level 2 will need to practice in Mysore with Sharath.

Just a thought....

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

I haven't written in a long time...

I started to feel that writing about this, this practice, wasn't helpful and could possibly be looked at as a little narcissistic, perhaps, egotistical. Me: Judging.

I judge a lot.

I judge my family, my friends, my life, my practice...

I judge strangers, other drivers, people whom I have never said a word to...and yet I judge them.

I judge myself...all the time.

I get on my mat to let go of that judgey dialogue going on in my head and sometimes it actually does go away.  Bliss, for a second, a minute, five breaths, but then I jump back and I judge the fact that my feet hit the floor midway; I can't jump all the way back, and I judge myself for that.

I don't think I'm alone.  I think all of us who step onto our mats everyday judge the how, why, what of this practice and most especially the who we are while we are doing it and especially, while we are not doing it.

Am I carrying my yoga off my yoga mat?

It's hard for me to judge...

Monday, November 23, 2015

So, have you ever been so focused on an asana that while your so focused on it, other asanas get better and you don't even notice or seem to care?

That has been me, for the past 6-8 weeks, which, by the way, is a nano second in Ashtanga time. But for the past 6-8 weeks I have been obsessed with dropping back and for the past 3-4 weeks, standing back up.

There are so many things wrong with that:  I'm judging myself, my practice, and I'm planning, thinking, anticipating, trying, trying so hard.  I used be able to do it.  Shouldn't I be able to do it again?  Or is that being too attached to once was and not being in the moment?

Then I remember:  "Practice and all is coming."

BUT, I don't think that 'practice all is coming' necessarily means that if I practice enough I will be able to drop back and then stand up...well, maybe, eventually, but that's not the point.  I think it means ALL is coming: finding peace, quiet, stillness, breath, while on the mat and especially while off the mat.  Being in the moment.  I get that and have started to experience it in a really tangible way.  This is what is keeping me practicing despite hitting some walls and being constantly sore.

But this is the weird thing, like I said before, while I've been focusing on urdhva dhanurasana with the drop back and stand up thing, I've become stronger.  My old hamstring tear is slowly starting to ease, my shoulders don't hurt AT ALL, ANY MORE! I can almost put my chin down in bhujipidasana...I have NEVER been able to do that...EVER!  My jump backs and throughs are returning...

So, while I fetishize my drop backs etc., I am finding ease, comfort, and openness in the other parts of my practice.

Interesting....maybe I need to let go of dropping back and standing up for a bit?  Or maybe just drop back, which I don't mind, but not get too caught up in the standing up thing?  Or should we give attention to the asanas that we are struggling with?  Work on it?  Wrestle with it?  Maybe, but with a focus on non-attachment and an acceptance that it may not be today, it may not be next week, month, year...and that is ok?  It's just practice and with practice all is coming, eh?

All right, I'm going to try that while I continue to try to stand up...just stand up.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Have you ever gone to bed and said to yourself, "I'm not going to practice tomorrow."

Then, the alarm, or should I say, your partner's alarm goes off, and your awake...

And then you start thinking, "I should go to practice, but I don't want to.  I ate a lot last night, and late. I drank wine last night.  I got into a 'thing' with my partner and didn't fall asleep till like 11..."

Practice will suck today.  It will be awful.  I'll smell like wine, food...

Ok, ok, I'll go, but I'll only do half of the practice.  No dropbacks.  No vinyasas between sides.  The minimum...

And you go...

You get on your mat and inhale...

And it's one of the nicest practices you've had!  It's soft, gentle, comfortable.  You do the whole thing, even drop backs (assisted, but still) and you feel amazing, energized, tranquil.

So, what is it?  Do I go to my mat with preconceived notions of how it will go instead of just allowing it to happen?

I don't know, maybe, probably.  But what I am learning is that every day on my mat is different.  And for me, what happens the night before, what I eat or drink, what time I go to bed, whether I have a salt bath or not, really doesn't inform my practice the next day....at least not so far.

The thing is I just need to get on my mat and except what ever it is...that day because the next day it will be different.

That's what I love about it!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Once I could do it...

Another practice, this time at 530am thanks to my husband's alarm and a nice juicy thunderstorm.

It was pretty good.  Oops, no judgement.  It was time on my mat.  The chatter in my head was a little quieter, perhaps because I was there earlier and there were fewer people in the shala.

Well, I'm working on my back bending, my drop backs, and my get back ups.  I need my teacher A LOT.  She practically pulls me back up to standing.  I feel bad for her...what a work out she's getting!

I used to be able to do this drop back/stand up thing.

That was about 5 years ago (ignore the 80's music, please!) before I injured both shoulders in a yoga/crossfit hybrid class, before I had a total hysterectomy, before I started working as an hospice nurse.

Can I do it again?  I'm not so sure.  I'm over 50 now and spend a good part of my days hunched over patients or charts.  

I want to do it again.  But after my surgery, back bending felt weird.  I mean really weird, inside, like things were pulling in ways that they shouldn't.  I didn't even attempt any sort of back bend until I was 6 months post-op, but when I did...wow, things had changed.  After a couple of months of gentle passive bends over balls, pillows and such, I attempted my first urhva dhanurasana it felt awful.  I mean really bad, tight, weak, awful.  But I persevered and slowly, slowly it started to feel strong again.  But still kinda tight.

Then I started my mysore-style practice. I discussed my 'medical' history with my new teacher and she was understanding and said patience, perseverance were in order.  She watched me for a few weeks or so then asked "Are you ready to try dropping back?"  I said, yes!  And we did.  And it was great.  And then I started to really concentrate on deepening my back bends.  Then I got a back spasm which dissipated quickly.  Now we were back to assisted drop backs.  She assists with half drop backs X3, then to the floor, walk in, hold 5 breaths, and come up.  That is intense, but good intense. 

So will I ever be able to do what I did 5 years ago?  Don't know.

But I think the bigger question is: should I want to?  Should I be striving for that?  Trying for that 'goal'?  Isn't that exactly what we are not supposed to do?  Aren't we supposed to just do the practice and 'all is coming', no goals, no aims, it's not about the results, it's about the journey?

I think, for me there is a sweet spot between the aspirational aspects of the practice: the working towards/wanting to do a certain asana, like drop backs and the surrender to the process, the experience of the journey without a clear or specific end place.  It's a razors edge for one side can lead to injury, frustration, pain, discouragement.  The other, ennui, passivity, complacency.  

I think that one day I will be able to drop back and stand up on my own...that is my goal, but in the mean time, I'm going to work really hard at staying in the present and enjoy the process of re-learning that asana.