“A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new”
― Albert Einstein
Stepping out of a comfort zone is scary. I know there are adrenal junkies out there who live for that type of sensation or rush, but I’m pretty sure, I can confidently state, that I am not that person. However, I also know I can push myself, ideally with compassion, to find my edge, to work past fear, and try something new. Granted, it is also important to know your capabilities and limitations. For instance, though I love to sing, my debut on American Idol would only showcase a delusional mad woman with no musical talent what so ever. I always wonder why someone with a terrible voice auditions, do they not know? Are they attempting comedy? Their fifteen minutes of fame? I’d love to see a psychological study that helps me to understand this phenomenon of self harm.
In any case, I tried to push myself this last week by signing up for led intermediate series with Sharath. I’m by no means fully capable in intermediate. I have only just starting finding balance in pinchu, my latest asana. It is quite nice when it happens, especially in one try, like today, but yesterday, it took three and a half tries. In the Mysore room, I’ve got all the time in the world, just battling my own head as I try to get my body and breath to be steady. In led intermediate, it’s one try, no breaks, no extra breaths in down dog, no fidgeting or sitting, just go and do.
Nadi shodana, aka, intermediate series, is a nerve cleansing sequence. Even in the Mysore setting, it, at least for me, completely jacks up my nervous system. Fight or flight mode used to kick in every single time I tried kapotasana. Mercifully, it does slowly start to either diminish or you get used to it and learn to control your breath enough to stave off the urge to run off and curl in a ball in the corner rocking and sobbing. ( I’ve never actually done that, but I have been tempted! ) I don’t know how it feels for anyone else specifically, but in full disclosure I have PTSD and this sequence has brought many past demons to the surface. Learning to channel my energy in a positive and compassionate way through my breath has been immensely beneficial….but I will save that for another day.
So there I was, in led intermediate. The first day of it was intense and filled with unknowns. I was stopped before my end for a toe drag in bakasana b, at least that’s what I thought. The second day of it, I progressed further through the twists, but Eddie Stern came by me and gently touched my shoulder, and said, hey don’t over do it. I was barely breathing as the count was long and yet painfully consistent. I agreed with him and stopped soon after to watch the rest of the magic until joining back in at closing. My mind had not been as hijacked as the previous day and I was able to truly observe and appreciate the rest of the sequence. I grasped that the intensity of intermediate naturally picks up your own breath count so the hold lasts less time as my breath quickens, but alas Sharath’s count does not, so for instance, in bakasana, the hold in my breath count was probably ten, though the actual count was a slow five, this was true throughout. It made me realize I was stopped more because I just wasn’t grasping how to keep the postures steady and comfortable at such a relentless pace. Yoga Sutra 2:46 sthira-sukham asanam, the posture should be steady and comfortable.
I went home feeling good, regardless of how my practice looked on the outside, I was trying to the best of my capability. I was pushing beyond my slower fidgety Mysore pace and figuring out how to keep my stamina steady enough to persevere with my breathing and longer holds until my last asana on Sharath’s steady and slow count.
In returning on the last day of intermediate, I really just wanted to enjoy the experience. I ended up next to the same lovely Canadian woman from the day before. We had done Supta Vajrasana together. I hate that asana. Truly. One I dread more than most. I think it’s because, before I ever tried it, it looked somehow relaxing or soothing to me. I was completely wrong, and laugh now at the irony of how much I looked forward to finally getting it. Comically it was the one close up picture of me taken over the course of Sharath’s New York tour. photo curtesy of Sonia Jones
So, same bat time same bat channel, on my mat, prayers of gratitude before our opening chant, just thinking about trying my best without worrying about it. It was easier! It was no less dynamic or difficult, but my mind wasn’t freaking out saying what’s going to happen?! I had two days of it to get under my skin and into a perspective of concentrating on my breath while letting go and listening to Sharath. I finally made it up to and into Pinchu Mayurasana, my last asana. When I landed, Sharath was standing right in front of me smiling. I smiled too. He asked me if I go further, and I laughed and said not yet. He nodded and said, “good job, now rest and watch.”
Did I need that bit of encouragement? No, that’s not why I practice, but it felt really great to hear all the same. I wasn’t able to attend the last day back at led primary, I was abruptly awoken by a very sick puppy instead. My little Rocky boy had been fed treats by my children that greatly upset his delicate tummy and so taking care of him took precedence.
We never know where tomorrow leads and I’m just grateful I was able to do this now. I am trying to quicken my pace in the Mysore room, and yet not lose focus on working to improve everyday, one step at a time.