Although I have tried to separate my yoga blog posts from the rest of my blog posts, the division is a façade. Because of this, there is often a tug-o-war between my two blogs over many of the posts. For example, I recently published a piece about learning to play guitar on my yoga blog. If you read it, you will know why I chose to post it on the yoga blog. However, if I’d written a little differently, it could very easily have landed here. Similarly, I am noticing some parallels on my yoga mat which translate to some of the struggles now surfacing as I try to pick up running again. There are lessons on the mat that mimic the work that must be done in developing the physical and mental strength required to build up my “obstacle immunity” for the Spartan Race. For this reason, over the next 6 months, I urge you to take a peek at the writing on Keeping Balance once in a while for there may be posts of interest to you there (even if you aren’t a yoga practitioner).
It’s been a couple years since I’ve taken my yoga off the mat and onto the water. Back then, I was fairly new to yoga. Standing up to move into Warrior I pose was huge.
Two years later, after developing a more regular yoga practice, a comparison of myself in this same pose shows little difference. Mostly, I see a difference in practice rather than more perfected alignment. My putting my hands together and forward of body is due to my current practice in ashtanga. It’s not better; it’s just different.
What you don’t see pictured, is the fact that we actually flowed through a sequence of poses, including Sun Salutations, with a nice build up of poses peaking at multiple points including tree, Warrior I and II, triangle, wheel, shoulder stand, plow, fish, etc. After savansana, we got a bit more time for free play.
Not so surprising, the poses which trouble me on land (namely tree pose), are exponentially more challenging afloat a stand up paddleboard. The difference is that you cannot fake it on the water. There are no walls to hold onto and even your dristi moves as you do.
As we fell back into savasana, our final resting pose of the practice, the lyrics from James Taylor’s “You’ve Got a Friend” played on…
Hey, ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend? People can be so cold.
They’ll hurt you and desert you. Well, they’ll take your soul if you let them,
oh yeah, but don’t you let them.
The final thoughts just before settling in fully revolved around the awareness of being spirit and therefore best friend to my body. The words played in the background as I sent this friendly message to the areas of my body, noticing the areas that could soften and the areas which remained so tight the breath had difficulty penetrating.
You just call out my name, and you know where ever I am
I’ll come running to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call, Lord, I’ll be there, yeah, yeah,
you’ve got a friend. You’ve got a friend.
Ain’t it good to know you’ve got a friend. Ain’t it good to know you’ve got a friend.
Oh, yeah, yeah, you’ve got a friend.
A short time later, after the OMs, I rolled up my mat and left the studio filled with a satisfying sense of peace in knowing that I had made friends with myself. Oh, yeah, yeah, I’ve got a friend.
I attempted my first mysore asana practice this morning. Unlike an instructor lead ashtanga practice, mysore is self-paced and therefore the focus is directed inward. While everyone takes on the same sequence, in this case the primary series, each yogis’ journey is vastly different.
The instructor circulates the room, offering assistance in helping each yogi achieve the posture to the best of their body’s ability. For me, this was much further than I ever imagined my body could go. It was transformative and very encouraging for it gives me hope of what is possible — albeit far from easy.
As I practiced, I observed my body go from waking-up during the initial phase to becoming somewhat beaten down in the middle of my practice. I kept on moving through the sequence, noting how my body was so fatigued that my upward dogs had become cobra and my hop forward had dwindled to nearly a crawl. Then, midway through the seated poses, something amazing happened. My hop gained height and I was able to return to upward dog without shaking. I was still tired, but at the same time I was also energized by the practice.
The whole mysore experience was quite a process which is obviously much more than just the physical. Erika, our instructor describes the practice as a “mirror for the mind.” I think she’s right.
It’s been a week since I completed my second hundred hours towards my 200 hour yoga teacher certification. The week was intense in a way vastly different from the intenseness of last year’s training in India. I learned all sorts of therapeutic approaches to yoga, anatomy as it relates to injuries and restoration, and a ton of information on yogic tradition. All fascinating.
…in an overwhelming sort of way.
The idea that I will teach yoga to others now feels possible. Yet, I still feel like I have more to learn before I am ready to take this on — not just about the practice, but also about myself.