“Yesterday I was clever and tried to change the world. Today I am wise and try to change myself.”
The Mysore Style of Teaching - Explained
Take a glimpse into my daily yoga practice here in Mysore and KPJAYI via Kino MacGregor.
“Quite simply, every growth process unfolds according to a natural rhythm, just like the growing seasons of a tree, or the life cycle of a flower. Think of yourself like one of those plants. If, for example, you considered the fruit the “ultimate” life stage of a plant — and therefore looked upon new shoots and buds and flowers as failures, as signs of incompletion — you’d be mistaken.
All stages are necessary, whole, and perfect within themselves. Just because you don’t see the fruit right now, it does not mean that the plant is doing a bad job... Or that you are.” ~ (Laura Rosell)
Why am I here? Why am I choosing to practice Ashtanga Yoga at the Sri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore, India? A place that is so many miles from home. A place where my language isn't the first language and it's almost impossible to find an American product... or a cheeseburger. (Mmm... cheeseburger... doesn't that sound lovely for you carnivores out there? I'm a mostly veggie eating carnivore living off a yummy, but strictly vegetarian diet now, so being surrounded by all these holy cows is, well... an interesting experience.) So back to the question. Why am I here?
I'd like to be honest here and admit that I'm at KPJAYI because I'd like to do cool poses and this is where you come to learn how to float into handstand and put your feet behind your head and the like. Why do I want to learn to do these things? Why not?! I've received a great deal of education in the world of the Yoga Sutras, yoga spirituality, Ayurveda, the Bhagavad Gita, etc... and I'm so grateful to my teachers. So now, I'd like to master asanas, particularly the ones I can already do and then work towards learning the ones that I've found difficult, like turtle pose and floating up into handstand. So... imagine how my ego feels. It's lying here dormant throughout each asana, but it's ready to pounce at any moment!!! At any sign of failure or success! It's such an interesting battle keeping it in check lol ... And so it waits.... I wake up each morning wanting to learn funky, awesome looking poses in sequential order without losing my breath....
And I'm 'failing'.
Seriously... I'm totally clueless (temporarily). I realize I am only 4 days into my training, but still!!! Do you have any idea how hard it is to memorize almost 60 poses in order? And all by yourself since you are your own teacher in this course (there's no one leading the class). Or, as I learned this morning, how hard it is to get into a handstand with the right leg on the ground and the left one floating up, when you've been practicing it the opposite way for the last 10 years... with your left foot on the ground and the right one leading both of the legs up? I'm like a newb! I am literally not able to do it; YET. ;)
Here's the best part about temporarily "failing" at my handstand this morning... I laughed. It just came out of me... I actually laughed out loud at myself. "How ridiculous is this!?" And I smiled. I'm learning so much outside of just cool poses. I'm receiving a lesson in: Patience. Persistence. Diligence. Discipline. Ahimsa. Satya. I'm learning to be equanimous and present and open hearted!
If you had seen me years and years ago in my first yoga class (and some of you probably did), my reaction would have been totally different. You would have known me as 'the perfectionist'. You would have seen me frowning. You would have probably seen my cheeks red with embarrassment and my mind obviously running around like a crazy monkey, mentally beating myself up because I couldn't do a pose. There would be no practice of Ahimsa here. No way. No open hearted patience. But yoga has taught me a few things...
There seems to be a theme in my blog lately. Ahimsa. Without a sense of humor in my life I could easily be hard on myself during this intense training. However, I think that because I've developed a pretty solid foundation in this particular Yoga Sutra, I am more easily able to laugh at my current hiccups and hurdles. And because of the second Yama, Satya, I am more willing to be honest with myself and with others about my reality, my intentions, desires, hopes and dreams. I want to learn cool poses. Okay. I am not perfect and I am not a master yet. Okay. *siiiigggghhh... Wow, getting that off of my chest feels so much better! Now I just need to keep practicing!
"Practice, Practice, Practice."
Did you know that there are japamalas, made up of sacred beads strung on a thread which are used in prayer for counting and keeping focused on the repetition of a mantra? In Christianity, it's better known as a rosary and used for repeating prayers. Did you know that here in India, there are pushpamalas, which are garlands of vivid flowers, smelling of jasmine and other scents, that are strung in the form of wreaths and offered in worship to deities in homes and temples?
Pattabhi Jois offers another kind of mala, which is ancient in tradition, as sacred as a prayer, and as beautiful as flowers. His mala is a garland of yoga, in which each vinyasa, is like a sacred bead to be counted and focused on, and each asana, is like a fragrant flower strung on the thread of the breath. Just as a japamala adorns the neck and a pushpamala adorns the gods, so too does this garland of yoga, when diligently practice, adorn our entire being with peace, health, radiance, and ultimately, self-knowledge.
So... I may not be able to do turtle pose yet... or a handstand with the opposite leg up first and then with both legs coming up at the same time, yet... or remember which pose in the sequences comes next, yet... but with practice I will be able to do it someday. And with more and more practice of each asana within Ashtanga yoga, or ANY yoga for that fact... I believe I can expect to learn more and more about myself... and continue to develop into an equanimous and strong yogi. And so can you!
Now check out these turtle poses and transitions to chaturanga and handstands. Crazy huh? It's hilarious.
Today was my last day of guided sadhana... it might also be the last sadhana led by my teacher Zaz Occhiline, which makes me sad, because I adore his guidance... but I'm also happy for him. He'll get to practice sadhana on his own now and it's been a long time for him, since he's always guiding students... He deserves a nice long break from holding space for others.
Still... I felt sadness as soon as he told me this was it... I felt a sense of separation and heartbreak and a little fear... he has been my teacher for so long and now I am basically on my own. The thought originally scared me... and so I thought about it some more... and meditated on it... and came up with the following idea which has helped me deal with the heartbreak and sense of separation and fear of losing my yoga practice or taking steps back without his yearly guidance... instead of moving forward. I've often practiced sadhana with him as a way of "checking in", "resetting" etc... I guess I worried that I would forget how to do that... or to even remember to do it without a schedule set in stone by him.
Anyways, I think the following moment of clarity is also fitting for February... since February is also the month of love and many of you have probably experienced heartbreak and a sense of separation as well, although probably not exactly in the way I just did. I hope this thought of mine helps you feel more comfortable with it...
I've developed the idea that I/You can't really experience connection if I/You don't also have the sense of separation... Heartbreak is part of the human condition - if it comes off the table, so does love itself. Vulnerability is what makes life worth living; without it we'd lack meaning and purpose.
*sigh.... 30 days of rising before the sun rises... practicing yoga, pranayama, mediation for hours and hours... Will I continue this daily practice? I don't know. I think so... for a while longer at least. I hope to continue on this trajectory throughout the year; throughout my life. You never know though. Everything changes. Throughout the years of my yoga practice... sometimes I might go months without one downward dog in my life... and then I come back to my mat and I think, "Wow... why did I ever leave you?" Lately, those moments and lulls in my practice have come further and further apart, so I think that maybe this time, I might just stay with it... forever. But who knows, right? I guess the point is that everything is temporary and it's important to not feel guilt or attachment for ending my sadhana, when I do, but to instead feel present and grateful for every second I have on this planet. Every moment is sacred. No matter how I spend it.
I've learned so much from this years sadhana. I wish I could explain or share everything that I have learned and experienced. This time it was so different. Every single blessed moment sank into my pores and into my heart. I feel so nourished and loved and loving. It's amazing really... what 30 days of self love, nourishing and yoga discipline can do. I feel stronger than I've ever felt. Happier. Whole. Loving. Content. Peaceful. Grateful. SO GRATEFUL. I feel like I'm definitely still walking down my dharmic path... living my destiny... with presence and grace.
I applied for a vipassana mediation course today at the Dhamma Maṇḍa, also known as the Northern California Vipassana Center, and means "the essence of Dhamma" in Pali. I'm on the wait list... I'm very excited. Why am I doing it? Like I said... to continue with this trajectory... to learn and experience and share. :) It makes me happy just thinking about it.
I want to share a passage with you that a student at 7 Centers (David) shared with me today. It's so beautiful. I am grateful to him for bringing it into my life:
Love is the essence of our life. I have written this blog with love, and I offer it to you, dear reader, with the hope that the suggestions offered here will become a vital part of your self-healing and continued well-being.
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