You aren’t a hippie, you are a ham

We all love our teacher and have deep respect for him. And in morning practice, he gives us all adjustments to help our postures. We are grateful. Sometimes, you secretly wait for him to notice you in the beginning movements of a posture, so that he can help get you into the final expression. But sometimes, when you are struggling and you hear his footsteps get closer and closer, all you can think is “Sweet Shiva, help me now.”

Depending, of course, on which country you are in.

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A risky move

This may be a risky move. This post may not bode well with some who come across it. And that’s ok. It is more important for me to express myself than to keep silent when improvement can be made. Honestly and often, I am sharing my own battles and triumphs simply because it helps to write them down. It also seems to solidify the experience by sharing it with others. There are wonderful moments when, sometimes, others can learn valuable lessons the easy way, via “testimony”…
This is 2013, people! Get your mind right! Ain’t nobody got time for pacifism. We all must churn and wrestle around with old paradigms so we can come out of it better for the experience. In doing so, we can help the evolution of our creative and collective consciousness.

So. We have had yoga philosophy class everyday for two weeks now. We are studying Patanjali’s yoga sutras. Trying to summarize the vast knowledge contained in the sutras is like trying to cram your size 8 foot into a size 7 heel. It ain’t gunna happen. But a few doctors who wrote the book Super Science of Yoga did a fantastic job. First, they describe yoga as being a completely comprehensive process, rendering the entire human experience in terms of consciousness. (Taking note here that yoga is much much more than sweating out last nights hangover in your lululemon capris while Rihanna blasts that we are all diamonds in the sky).
Yoga has eight limbs: cleansing exercises, pranayama {breathing}, asana {poses in lululemon capris}, meditation, pratyahara {withdrawal from sensory organs; Catholics read as thou shalt not covet}, samadhi {ultimate goal of enlightenment, to see your true self, to transcend the physical world; Catholics read as gettin into Heaven}, yama {ethical principles, followed physically, orally, and mentally; Catholics read as 10 commandments}, and finally a continuation of yama, niyama {the rules and regulations to be followed by all}. Unlike almost every other process we have available (psychology, the modern medical field, various religions, etc.), yoga is the only completely comprehensive study. At no point does yoga have a “well, it’s now time for faith to kick in” moment. This was an issue I found very difficult to comprehend growing up, and it wasn’t limited to the teachings of the Catholic church, although that’s what bothered me the most.
As a child, I was surrounded by priests, nuns, and teachers who all responded the same way when I asked a question that didn’t have a clean, logical answer: “You have to have faith”. What that means is very simple: the wonderfully manicured sidewalks of these institutions eventually begin to crumble and then, ultimately, trail off into territory of BIG, DEEP ideas {like consciousness, the soul, why are we here, where do we go, and who is this god person, anyway?}. Yoga answers all of these on the grounds of consciousness; and I mean ALL of it. Physical health, life, death, creation, mental/physical illness/health… Ok, now we are all on the same page about yoga. Lets get back to the sutras:

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali succinctly outlines the art and science of Yoga meditation for Self-Realization. It is a process of systematically encountering, examining, and transcending each of the various gross and subtle levels of false identity in the mind field, until the jewel of the true Self comes shining through.

This text is similar to the Bible, but with a lot less ambiguous sonnet-like passages and more to the point revelations. The yoga sutras lay all the cards on the table and no one is left out. No question turned away or left unanswered. everything you ever wanted to know, ever wanted to improve about yourself, every bad habit you wanted to shake…it’s all there with an answer and a solution. Right. So, with that giant ball of knowledge being dropped everyday, for an hour, starting at 11AM, I react like this:

20130216-083930.jpg I ask every question I have because I don’t want to miss any detail or misinterpret anything. Mostly, everyone else sits quietly, patiently and I feel bad for holding up progress. But then, we break for lunch, and I feel confused. As we sit around for lunch, I can overhear, “Oh, the sutras are so easy.” Then in the same breath, I hear: “oh man, what I would do for a beer right now, or a massage right now, or {insert distraction}”. It appears that, for some, the sutras aren’t sinking in at all.
Maybe it is a lack of understanding the relevance of yoga philosophy. Teacher training is not about briefly learning the sutras in order to be tested on them, only to leave that knowledge behind here in Rishikesh. You cannot be a yoga teacher without a sound understanding of what these sutras are saying. Furthermore, imparting this knowledge to your students is essential.

Yoga isn’t about tight pants and vegan cookies. It’s a total way of life.

Being wretched

My body was not having any of the 6 A.M. yoga practice this morning. My hips were tight, my shoulder felt dislocated, and my mind was elsewhere, as I was all ready dreaming of breakfast by uthita trikonasana. I couldn’t twist and my fingertips were miles away from each other. By the time I arrived at ardha badha padmottasana, I felt defeated. My mind wandered off my mat and around the room, watching all my classmates. It reported back to me that everyone was moving succinctly from one perfect pose to the next, with perfect form and sound spiritual depth. It rounded out its report with “Just to recap, you can’t do any of the poses. You suck, Allyson, and you’ll be a terrible yoga teacher.” So there I sat, picking at my yoga mat and feeling a particular kind of wretched for the first time in weeks. a terrible yoga teacher.

I tried bringing my awareness back to my mat, where my beautiful body sat in a heap of self pity. My eyes scanned my sheet of poses and that’s when I saw it, my life drishti:

I can do anything

. I had scrawled this gem of a mantra across the side of my sheet a few days prior, after watching Jessica’s Daily Affirmations (see below). I CAN do anything! Clich√©. Of course it is! Because something that rings true gets passed down from generation to generation as a parent teaches it to their child, who knows in their pure little soul how true it is. That child then stands on their bathroom sink shouting

I can do anything!

I realized today that not being able to do a pose perfectly isn’t going to make me a lousy yoga teacher. However, not even trying to get into a pose WILL make me a terrible teacher, unable to relate to my students when, even at their best, their fingers seem miles apart.

I am already an amazing teacher, the yoga will come as it will.

I can do anything good!

Day one – Pranayama

Today has been a longlong day but jammed with basic yoga information.

The day started off with morning yoga practice from 6am until 9. The wind howled and tried its best to bring down the building during the few hours of sleep I caught between my arrival and morning practice, so climbing out of my warm bed and leaving sunny beach weather in my dreams was my first great challenge of the day. Having not practiced in some time, I was struggling with even the simplest poses. To be expected, I suppose. Breakfast was simple with fruit and toast followed by a break. Classes have been extremely informative and challenging and shift subject matter at the perfect intervals, as to not become boring. My room is all set up with homey things I brought, with a string of tiny lantern Christmas lights running the ceiling, a handcrafted wood painting from thailand propped next to the bed, and a big down comforter to nest in.

fun fact: I was the first of my classmates to be scolded.