Guru parampara 

“Why so serious?”it’s one of my favorite Guruji quotes.  I never heard Gurugi say this, nor did I ever get the pleasure of meeting him, I started right after he had given his last breath in this life, but most certainly his teachings live on. I feel in many ways, by those I’ve studied with, who knew him, and loved him, that they have shared so much more than just his methodology, but his spirit, his joy, his devotion to studying, most famously, in his simple yet wise message- “Do your practice and all is coming.”

Yet, what I can’t answer is, when is all coming? Is it when you finally get a bind in marichasana D or supta kormasana? Perhaps kapotasana or karanvandasana? Maybe, maybe not, because as Guruji so wisely said, “Yoga is an internal practice. the rest is just a circus.” In other words whatever satisfaction you get or the physical struggles you may overcome to master an asana physically, as great as it may feel to get there, it’s just a tool, though potentially a powerful one, to initiate the inner workings of what yoga can bring to you, if you let it. 

Ideally, with the guidance of a teacher, this journey unfolds. And though the methods are all laid out, structured, set sequences timed to breath, passed down from teacher to student, as taken from Sharath’s Ashtanga Yoga Anusthana parampara is:

An uninterrupted succession, a direct and unbroken transmission of knowledge from a teacher to his or her student

The beauty and complexity of truly teaching and learning Ashtanga is the individualized approach. This is the trickiest part of parampara. The part where it potentially gets lost in translation, where students and even teachers can get confused, frustrated, compare, wonder what it’s all for, or ask the dreaded question, when will I be able to do ______?  Or why haven’t I lost weight, or I’m sore all the time, I used to feel good, but now I can’t sleep, or a million other issues that have come up in practice or just in the happenstance of living. The part where we learn another famous quote, “its 99 percent practice, 1 percent theory.”

The crap shoot is the unique nature of each person. Just as in parenting my three kids, I’m the same, but they are not. I chuckle thinking about each saying to me, that isn’t fair or you let them do xyz,  or some other comparison in the grayer areas of parenting unlike hard fast rules like seat belts, but nothing is one size fits all. They have unique personalities, different strengths and weaknesses, temperaments, and all that goes along with that. In taking that a step further, I can offer each the same basic guidelines, securities and structure, but they will only understand and grow, each to their own capability. So one might be a math tutor and one might need a math tutor, one may be gifted at music another at writing. My raising them, exposing them to similar stimulus, sending them to the same schools, did not make them cookie cuts of each other or me with the same hopes and aspirations beyond the basic foundation of knowing I love them, teaching them to be compassionate in life and passionate about what they do and trying their best. Though I wish I could, ultimately I can’t make them happy or fulfilled, only they can do that for themselves, but I promise to be there number one mentor, fan, and disciplinarian and love them unconditionally. 

This perspective also holds in parampara. We learn the structure, the breath count, the asana, and potentially much more, but like anything, there are pieces that teachers will place more or less importance upon based on their own personality. As an example, some will hold you at Mari D until you can get it on your own, others may move you forward once you can get the bind with an assist and someone else may let you move forward regardless of the bind. None are wrong, that distinction is important. Honestly, all those instances could even happen under the tutelage of the same teacher, because the practice is individualized, each person has different capabilities.  “Body is not stiff. Mind is stiff.”

So yes it can seem confusing or frustrating, and teachers like parents are flawed humans making mistakes along the way. It’s easy to get caught up in the attachment, in ego, in wanting, because we are human. The danger arises when we no longer question our motives, and forget to take decent assessments of the nobility of our objectives. The wisdom comes when we can recognize it when we go off track, because at some point we all screw up, and when we do, to  have compassion instead of self loathing or worse denial. Forgiveness of ourselves, our teachers, our students, for everyone. So, yes, why so serious, when you can be light to find the light inside. 

There is no perfection, not with Guruji, now with Sharath or any other master teacher, just ideally a purity of intention to do no harm and like a parent need to grasp a teacher is only there to facilitate.  Ultimately the choices made are up to the individual. Some come to this as excellent parrots able to perform asana or recite Sanskrit seemingly without effort, but it’s never about the natural physical or intellectual capability, it’s the ability to see and work through the struggles, the doubts, the effort, the intentions all without judgement, without comparison, without attachment to the outcome, instead to try it with a loving heart and humor,  just trying your best.  Remember, as Guruji said, “Yoga is possible for anybody who really wants it. Yoga is universal…. But don’t approach yoga with a business mind looking for worldly gain.” Approach it with devotion and light. 

Just Breathe


“What could he have done or said differently? What change would have altered the course of events? In the big picture, nothing. In the small picture, so much.” ― Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake

So I’m injured right now. It’s not the first time something has happened, nor most likely the last sadly, though it sure would be nice! It wasn’t because of anything in practice, but other times, yes, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit practice has been a crystalline snap in me being hurt. Ahimsa, do no harm, has many facets, and sometimes it’s just not beating yourself up on mistakes of the past, but learning from them. I’m in the midst of dealing with/recovering from bilateral acute Achilles tendinitis, yet in many ways, my practice couldn’t be better. How is this possible? By giving up any expectations beyond the gratitude of just being on my mat again, by not caring how deep, what it looks like, by just trying to see what’s possible. Granted, either having experience yourself and/or guidance from a long term instructor can enhance and help, I would not recommend working through this alone as a novice, as David Keil so beautifully put it in his fantastic book on anatomy

If you have practiced asana consistently for ten years or more for at least one hour each day, it is certain that you know the workings of your body quite well. You may not have the technical anatomical names or understandings, but your kinesthetic knowledge is a very real and powerful way to know the body. This is knowledge that can not be learned from a book.

I’ve been lucky enough to have guidance of a fabulous long term teacher and practitioner telling me to trust myself and the knowledge I’ve gained in practice and just start moving to see what works. She, as well, has been giving me ideas to add movements to work the bones of practice I’m not able to do in a conventional approach. The beauty of a long term practice, in grasping that asana come and go, is having the wisdom in appreciating where you are right now, and knowing what your body is capable of attempting. Certainly by no means am I happy that I can’t bear weight standing, it really sucks quite frankly.  However, instead of dwelling on what wasn’t possible, I decided to creatively figure out just what I could do, without exacerbating the tendinitis, if my legs were cut off below my knees. My first week my practice was just reading, meditation, and breathing, it was perfect and the best I could do. 

So I got the courage to come to my mat. At first I just sat and silently gave my intentions and opening prayers. I chose to start sitting and breathing through a sun salutation in my head. Comically the holds in down dog were harder to breathe through, even though the movements weren’t really happening, the chatter of idea of movement was easier than the stillness. It was worth noticing, worth trying to gain a quiet surrender to the count without the action being necessary. I tried again, without expectation but awareness, and let my bundhas help out this time, and magically the experience became easier. I tried to envision just how I could create this with my limited ability and took the advice to trust myself, to just start moving if it felt right. 

So as an example, Sun A from my knees, inhale arms up, exhale deep fold with arms stretched into child’s pose, inhale look up with my hands still outstretched on the ground, exhale bringing my hands more inline with a chaturanga sliding my legs flat and down more like a cobra, inhale into updog, keeping my feet relaxed, exhale into a tabletop, arching into a cat for the down dog hold of five breaths, inhale child’s pose outstretched looking up, exhale head down, inhale back up on knees, arms up, exhale standing on knees, samasthiti. 

It was awkward at first, I was slow, and using too much shoulder in the first day back, not giving myself enough exhale in my cobra/plank, as I was intuitively just trying to figure out what could work to maintain the integrity not just of the movements but the fluid nature of the breath count as my guide for stability. I needed to just let go of trying for more of anything.  It took me three days of practice to figure out Sun B with any continuity of warrior 1. The first day I just pulled each leg back out behind my tabletop, holding it up to keep it straight, the second day I added bringing my knee forward to my chest before bringing it back down, on the third day I did both actions and added a passive pigeon with my front leg pulled in next to me and stayed low in my squared hips but lifted my arms. The key was not trying to rush it, the key was just seeing with discernment and curiosity versus critism of what could give me the best floor version of a warrior 1, while maintaining my breath. It was surprising just how much work it was, by the time in finished all ten that third day and went straight to dandasana, I was not just covered in a sheen, but had a few drips of sweat equity running down my arms, yet felt steady, calm and relaxed. 

The beauty of trying to figure all this out was in getting there was no need for more. As dynamic as each asana can be, there is something to be said for giving up on any muscular contraction, I was finally figuring out how to surrender, how to balance effort and ease. As I incorporated what I could of the seated sequence of primary, I noticed just how relaxed and deep I was able to go in asana when my only concerns were not hurting my Achilles, so keeping any tension from my legs, combined with breath, bundhas, and dristhi. Purvotansana while in lotus, to protect my ankles, feels really good by the way! A friend tipped me off to that one. 🙂  

There is always more to learn. Seriously, triangamukapada paschimottanasa felt better and more even than ever before. I can’t say how it looked,  but I felt aligned in my hips, folded forward straight out, with ease, clasping my wrists without even a smidgeon of lift in either hip instead of that elusive hair width of extra force needed to balance out what touches the floor. I only did janu A as it didn’t want to mess with my heels but again I felt completely stabile. Mari A and C though not perfect, had so much more twist from the right areas in my obliques and thoratic spine but not pressing my foot into the ground, but just having it gently upright in the right location letting my breath guide the movement much more than I usually allow, so much for muscling into things, ha. 

I only did a few more asana after that piece as accessibility became more difficult,cherry picking around my in ability to use my ankles, but next week, who knows?  I did manage a decent backbending sequence of shalabhasana, first one legged, than a few in full expression, a single gentle danurasana, and ending with three half backs held smoothly with breaths in modified ustrasana, finally ending it with reaching down for a final deeper hold. The only part of the rest of closing I left out was headstand. I can’t pop up into a headstand because I push up from my feet and for fear of landing on my feet wrong, but maybe I could with an assist or a block. I know I’ve explained quite a bit in the technicalities, and practice is so much more than that, but just as in the beginning of learning anything, that piece is integral to find a stabile seat. Whatever takes place, as long as I’m breathing, I’m practicing. As a sweet friend asked me after practice how it went, I smiled and said, it was creative. It’s just getting to the mat, it’s not how much you can do, or how well, but not deciding anything is impossible, not giving in or giving up. Life doesn’t get easier, but how we choose to handle it and the choices we make, make all the difference. 

The Undiscovered Country

I don’t know if other countries allow medicines to be advertised as freely as they are in the USA, but it seems every time the tv is on there is some ad for something that cures or treats some terrible affliction, like restless leg syndrome. What I find most remarkable is the list of side effects, read quickly so that maybe you might not think much of these bizarre complications like uncontrollable gambling or sexual urges. The fact that these potential oddities are included, makes me wonder, just how many poor hapless souls lost their fortunes or morals before the correlation was figured out? Just how many test subjects count, to make the warning? 

I thankfully don’t have restless leg syndrome, but I did have the flu, and some minor complications from it, the walk in clinic prescribed me an antibiotic. Four little pills changed my life last week. Four doses of levaquin. Here’s the FDA’s warning box about it.

Tendon rupture or swelling of the tendon (tendinitis).
• Tendon problems can happen in people of all ages who take LEVAQUIN. Tendons are tough cords of tissue that connect muscles to bones.
Some tendon problems include pain, swelling, tears, and inflammation of tendons including the back of the ankle (Achilles), shoulder, hand, or other tendon sites.

So, that happened, rather abruptly, painfully, unexpectedly, to me. I haven’t been able to walk in over a week. It is still unknown what my recovery will be, from a stand point of can the tendons regenerate and heal, or was four pills enough to cause permanent damage. Regardless, I have 5-6 weeks of extremely limited movement based on my hospital stay last weekend, and follow up with an orthopedist and amazing infectious disease antibiotic expert. I let the pity party last a week, no shame, I needed to cry, let my frustrations and fears get out instead of fester. Practice has taught me more than anything else, to accept myself when I’m vulnerable, when I need help, because nothing makes you stronger or more capable of compassion, than allowing compassion for yourself. That knowledge has been a a great gift. 

So I’m no longer wondering if I’ll be able to come back up on my own in karanvandasana when Sharath is in New York next month. I don’t know if I will even go, except to watch, if I’m allowed 🙂 I’m not quite sure when I’ll be standing in samasthiti or holding a down dog again…it depends on when and how I heal, if my tendons rupture, if they unravel. I sure hope not, I hope they are mending.  But what I do know is this, I will be at my son’s high school graduation cheering him no matter if I’m in a wheel chair or crutches and I will get on my mat again. I will try. I don’t know what my practice will look like. What does that even mean? I obviously work at my asana, that’s just my wiring, I want to figure them out finding stability and ease though alignment synchronized to breathe. Quite frankly I never know how I look. Is my correct, correct, and what is correct exactly? I just know how I feel, when it’s aligned,  tristhana, breath, bundhas, and gazing point, making magic. 

So I plan on trying to make some magic, modifying creatively, with some advice from sports medicine experts, with mindful intent that this is a practice for life, done to enhance my life, not to live for practice, much less a picture perfect one.  I may cry, I may laugh, I may get scared,  I may heal, one breath at a time. I just know that I will try, with compassion. The possibilities are endless. 

Heart murmurs. 

So the saying goes, the only people who can’t do yoga are lazy people…yet there are exceptions. One such exception, is sick with a fever. Building heat with a high temperature is dangerous, and I have been layed up with the flu all week. The high fever, not only technically meant no practice, I truly didn’t have the energy to do more than lift a mug of tea or cup of water to my feverishly parched lips. My family enjoys making fun of my dramatic flare, like when they ask how I’m feeling. I guess most people might respond, “achy and weak”, but I sigh and moan, saying it feels as if someone has stragically placed ten pound sacks of sharp, cold and dirty gravel all over my body, is that not the same thing? I honestly didn’t think of that first, brief, accurate synopsis, until suggested to me, by my husband, as he was chuckling at my words, and yes, I laugh, but still those bags are heavy, moving is tricky. 🙂 

I thought today might be the day of getting a few sun salutations on the mat, as my fever broke yesterday, but alas, my body told me differently after I got out of the shower. The effort to do more than put on a fresh pair of pajamas and climb into bed, was too much. Anyone who knows me well, knows this is not my normal modus operandi, considering I usually have to tone myself back a notch. I haven’t felt  so completely exhausted with a flu bug, ever. 

A few friends have kindly checked on me, and comically about half asked me point blank about the flu shot, had I gotten one? The answer is no, I didn’t. I swear I don’t understand why asking that helps, if I did get the shot, well, then what? It didn’t work? Bummer. But if I didn’t get the flu shot, do I deserve the flu? Is there less empathy for my lack of conformity? Do I have to defend my choices and the validity? Will my allergy to the ingredients to the shot make that ok again? Why do I feel so annoyed by this? Am I over reacting? We may all be human, but the medical aspects or choices are not one size fits all, nor is anything else except for being human, flawed and all. Where oh where is the tolerance and compassion over the dogma? 

Dogma is defined by the Oxford dictionary as such: 

dog·ma

ˈdôɡmə/

noun

a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.

Interestingly enough, the origin of dogma, from Ancient Greek and Latin,  came to use in the mid 16th century: via late Latin from Greek dogma ‘opinion,’ from dokein ‘seem good, think.’ Seem good, think. Just look at it, ‘seem good, think,’ also regarded as opinion. I’m too sick to really go off on the tangents I’d normally explore without getting lost or sidetracked. However, I think the concept, in line with Plato’s quote of Socrates,  “I know that I know nothing” or “I know one thing: that I know nothing,” are much better starting points for life, for practice, for asana, for everything, than a perspective of black and white irrefutable dogma. The more we judge,assume we know, claim to be wise or elevate ourselves against the differences or choices anyone else has made the more we open ourselves up to sensations of different than, anger, distain, fear, disgust, and detest, instead of love. I recently read a speech given by a favorite author and poet, Sherman Alexie, something he said in it, resonated with me. “I’m going to approach everything I do with as much love as possible. I fail impossibly like most of us, but I still try.” I think that’s the secret when we don’t get to caught up in ego, start with love, it really does make everything easier, maybe even kapotasana. 


Art work by Rachel Giannascoli, I love this drawing, it’s from an album cover, for Alex G. Beach Music, take a listen! 

The only thing to fear, is fear itself. 

Long ago, when my first baby, was still learning to walk without a wobble, I was semi sleeping resting on the couch after a very long day alone with my sweet baby. I hadn’t yet fully taken in the lesson that day’s can be long, but time in those innocent moments is so short, I should savor it, regardless of the sleep deprivation. My husband was away on business and I was missing him, longing for, not just his companionship, but teamwork with the young one. Single parenting is hard, especially when you’re a young novice. 

So there I was, eyes closing, letting go of conscious thoughts as I was too spent to shift to my bed, when suddenly I heard a loud electronic BAA right behind me. I startled awake wondering as I glanced around if I really heard anything. The couch was in a curved shape, big and cozy for a New York City apartment. I liked the curve as I could store things behind it, the clutter of large plastic brightly colored toddler gadgets had become my latest decorating style, but I hadn’t fully adapted the look, so I liked to pretend it wasn’t there, hence behind the curvy couch for my feigned feng shui. I decided I had dreamt the noise, my baby was quietly sleeping ( so shocking at that stage!) as was my dog, it was just a nightmare of weird sounds, so I shook my head, repositioned and closed my eyes, again, a loud BAA! Oh. My. God. My heart almost lept right out of my chest with fear, how could this be happening? It was coming from right behind me, as was the hallway to my front door. My imagination had completely taken over, as I envisioned a psychotic 6’4″ killer standing right behind me, machete raised overhead to strike while he pressed on the sheep button at the kiddie play table hidden by the curve in the couch. 

I have no idea, how I didn’t have a heart attack, or how long it took me to get the courage to look behind me and peak behind the couch. There was nothing there except the big plastic garden containing the farm play table. I’m pretty sure, in looking at the buttons, my realization that the table had a a moo, quack, oink, but no BAA, helped me reach around and grab it. I turned it upside down to the on/off buttons, where in small print, it clearly said, when the batteries need replacing, a curtesy sound of sheep will play randomly. I closed my eyes in relief while manically laughing over the fact Mr. Clean hadn’t broken in to torture me with inane eclectric animal sounds before hacking me to pieces. 

Why do I share this insanity? What is the significance? Well it’s ridiculous and funny, but it also shows just how potent fear can become. Fear can paralyze and take away all rational thought, fear can be stored from past moments and be triggered as if it’s happening again. Fear can make us believe we shouldn’t try, fear takes our breath away if we let it. Fear sucks big time. 

I did turn around though. I did get the courage to look,(though in that time lapse perspective of fear, it could have been a ten second pause or two hours, I’m fascinated how time gets warped with adrenaline) and see it was all just smoke and mirrors of one too many Steven King or Dean Koontz novels in my youth. My chicken little moment of panic had passed. I still see that same fear rise in me, at times. A blessing of my yoga practice, is that my body and breath awareness lets me feel it more mindfully now. No, I haven’t found a magic switch to make it just disappear,nor should it,  but I can at least pause more now, even when my body still physically reacts, I can take a compassionate approach and grasp better choices, with more realistic odds of truth.

This past winter, I walked in on a couple of guys robbing my house at 10 in the morning. It was shocking, it was scary, but they ran off without hurting me or my dogs. They broke a cabinet and my feeling of safety briefly. The police were wonderful, I was surprisingly calm. It was a Thursday and I thought a nice Friday led Ashtanga primary would be just the ticket to soothe my rattled soul. I was mistaken.  Don’t get me wrong, I went through all the right motions, it was right to be there, to try, but my breathing was on high alert, stability was an elusive joke and savassana was a torturous attempt to be still and relax… My body couldn’t release the fear yet, I had used up all its coping mechanisms the day before. 

Because we are all human and have bad days, my teacher, a dear friend, stopped me as I was leaving and  yelled at me for not even trying to surrender my breath during rest. I don’t think yelling at someone to rest is beneficial.   I was so stunned by his anger, I couldn’t explain what had transpired the day before. I just simply stated, I did try, I tried really hard. I’d love to say we recovered from this horrid moment in time, but alas, with a culmination of closeness breeding contempt, I left a few weeks later midway through my practice, realizing I had lost trust and faith. There was more to it, as it’s never just one reason, but it was the right decision even though it hurt to do it. I knew I was hurting myself more by staying. I don’t blame either of us, just the circumstances of where we each had been in on our own bullshit, I didn’t even like to practice anymore. 

Communication isn’t always easy when fear is part of the equation, but we can always communicate with prayer, especially the Buddhist Prayer of Forgiveness.

“If I have harmed any one in any way,

either knowingly or unknowingly

through my own confusions,

I ask their forgiveness.

If any one has harmed me in any way,

either knowingly or unknowingly

through their own confusions,

I forgive them.

And if there is a situation

I am not yet ready to forgive,

I forgive myself for that.

For all the ways that I harm myself,

negate, doubt, belittle myself,

judge or be unkind to myself,

through my own confusions,

I forgive myself.” 

 The practice of yoga transcends individual frailties. I realized I had to put things into perspective and move on. 

I’m back home again, at least that’s how it feels, back where I first started practicing Ashtanga. I’m very lucky to have my first teacher take me in and advise me to just learn to enjoy it again.  It has been very healing, for both my body and mind, like comfort food for the soul. I’m smiling during practice again, enjoying chuckling when I screw something up, knowing the practice will take all the time it needs to find the steadiness, and hopefully now, I will have a bit more patience, and let go of the fear, and take rest. 

These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

Perception and preconceived ideas can be beneficial, like knowing fire is hot, however, there are times we take past knowledge or fears and make assumptions that are not true, creating a false narrative in the psyche. Just as the placebo effect can do wonders in helping, the nocebo effect can do just as much damage. The mind can lead us down dark paths and dead ends. Just this morning, I heard more than one student say,” I can’t do it.” It doesn’t matter if it is a third backbend, lotus, Mari D, or something else. Trusting errant thoughts of frustration or fear only creates tension and a sure set up for failure. The only failure is in not trying. Its never about the can not, or the final aspects of fulling getting into the asana, it’s about trying, giving it a shot, seeing if today anything works better than yesterday. 

I’ve been figuring this out in my own mind lately as well. I have been bemoaning what I thought was a flare of RA since I came back from India over a year ago. I came home sick, and was treated by a great infectious disease specialist, but I failed to really follow up on my aches and exhaustion, because I thought it was my rheumatoid arthritis.  My hands have been pretty bad, so I thought why bother, just keep up all my usual routine. I avoided going to the rheumotologist because I didn’t want to know how bad it was, but finally relented about a month ago, figuring it’s better to have an idea of what is going on as I was dealing with such terrible pain in my hands. Tests, X-rays, blood work, hurry up and wait ten days for all the results…

The good news was this was not RA. I am quite happily still in full remission, to the point that if my X-rays and past tests didn’t show it, the doctor wouldn’t believe that I have had an auto immune disorder. The bad news was the illness I had in India could take up to 18 months to fully work out of my system, and most of the symptoms were tied to that. Quite exciting to know its not permanent and just some lasting repercussions that will go away, except for my hands. My hands are a different beast, from my own creation, yes I have residual damage in some joints, yes I have some pain from the illness last year, but as well, somewhere in this point of pushing past the aches, I gave myself avulsion fractures in my knuckles of both middle fingers which snowballed into hurting other parts of my hands as I was unaware but physically avoiding putting any weight of length in my middle fingers. The X-rays show the breaks happened, most likely last summer from over gripping somewhere. In this as well, was the mindset, that this was how my hands were, and what I don’t know, is by compensating for the nocebo effect going on in my head, I made it worse and created the tension and restrictions in my body because my mind told me that was how it had to be. 

So, I’ve been pondering my assumptions of thinking I had a flare, versus a pain level of fractured fingers that I ignored because my preconceived thoughts deduced the worst case scenario instead of the possibility of something else entirely.  Far less frightening to me, though still screwed up, because who breaks their own fingers and doesn’t know it?!? I’m hoping for no long term repercussions, beyond bone chips. I am seeing a hand specialist just to make sure I won’t do more harm as it continues to resolve. 

In any case, I was wrong. I keep thinking about it, because of how much my mind had led me to believe everything was a symptom of RA. If I was tired, if my stamina was off, if anything hurt, my stomach, my eyes, you name it, it was RA, not even a remote possibility of anything else. Yes, everything I felt was real, but was it as dramatic and helpless as I rigidly made it into in my mindset of trying to persevere to the point of fracturing my fingers? I, in retrospect, had needed to follow up with my infectious disease specialist further and also taken it more easy in my initial recovery. But hey hindsight is always 20/20. Though I still trust myself, I have made a conscientious decision not to self diagnose and create limits, especially ones that lead me to injury!  Might I have been easier on myself gripping, I’m guessing my mat trying to creep into kapo, if I felt it was weakness from my illness, and had more patience than I obviously do for a flare. How much extra tension had the simmering fear created? How much excessive muscle tension went into my movements instead of the reverse relaxing to explore the possibilities of today being unique, of each day just getting to the mat and seeing what could be stabile and calm instead of feared, whether on a conscious level or nor, the mind stores our Samskaras and feeds us a narrative that does not always match the truth. 

It comes and goes

What’s your motivation? Like most people I vacillate between various states, I’d say there are really just two underlying everything, love and fear. When love is in charge, all is good, even when it’s not, because there is empathy, compassion, clarity, understanding, among other positive points, however, fear, though at times helpful, brings out worry, anger, irrational thoughts, impulsive choices, and stress. Firefighters are helpful when needed but they break doors and windows to get the job done…in other words you don’t need to pull out the cannons to get rid of the anthill, keep perspective! 

About three weeks ago, I started noticing a new pain in the top of my hands. It came on suddenly one morning, so badly I couldn’t put any weight into them, especially the right. I couldn’t do a sun salutation at all, and I panicked. I knew aging and my Rheumotoid arthritis could alter my practice, but I never thought I’d lose a basic down dog. It scared me, badly. I mean, seriously, yoga helped me through my worst, first starting out, what could I do without being able to put any weight in my hands? I freaked out inside because if a flare could take away this, I just wanted to give up…..( fear negating rational and compassionate thought!) 

I went into denial on the outside. I wrapped my right hand for support, went back to practice and teaching the next day popping a couple of Advil. But I wasn’t ok, I was afraid. Afraid of losing control, and as a recovering control freak, this was unpleasant at best. I haven’t always been so kind to myself, everyone is their own worst critic usually, and I can admit, my self loathing had been a consistent piece of who I was, until I found peace on the mat and forgiveness in my failures. I clearly remember the first moment that sensation of compassion filled my heart, ( yet even as I write that statement, I hear Arnold Schwarzenegger in my head from The Terminator talking about skynet becoming self aware..lol) it was overwhelming in the best way…yet as a human being, I forgot to remember it’s ok to still fail at times in things we don’t usually fail. Oh the joys of a monkey brain! 

The most remarkable part of this is I didn’t figure out why I was being such a crazed impatient psycho until I was quietly suffering from a massive panic attack during intense turbulence on a flight down to the Caribbean for a family vacation last week. I was breathing through it, knowing the competence of the pilot, knowing the logic of the safety of air travel, when it dawned on me, I wasn’t in control of the plane, just like I felt I wasn’t in control of my illness.  I had forgotten to have faith because I had let fear be my motivator for the past few weeks in just about everything, instead of love. 

What’s funny is about a month prior I had reached out to anatomy guru, David Keil, for insight on how to keep my grips with a crappy pincher grasp due to this on going flare, his response was awesome, but at the time I wanted something more concrete: 

I think you know the answer to your own questions. But just in case you need to hear it from someone else…. Modify as necessary when you’re flaring. More importantly, work on the inner judge who is having a problem with the modifications when they’re necessary. Look at the frustration, which of course is anger. Be compassionate to yourself.

The asanas themselves are not that important, but how you relate to doing them is critical for growth.

Om shanti,

David

Yes, how I relate to doing them. In other words, motivation through love of trying not fear of failing. Thank you David! 

The week away of vitamin D did me well to soothe my soul, relax and let go of the fear…the view didn’t hurt either!  

 

As for practice on vacation? Everyday, nice and smooth, I’m happy to say, with the toughest part in picking where…the tile floor of the hotel room or the “sanctuary” room off the gym, that had the uncanny ability to blast Party Rock Anthem while attempting kapotasana:) I went for the music distractions over the cement floor.