It depends on how much you want it.

At different stages of time as my practice has evolved, I have struggled with various asana. Some are the usual suspects of ashtanga like Mari D, any form of balance, and my ever changing back bending. I’m a bit more than halfway through the intermediate series and kapotasana has most certainly kept it’s reputation as difficult, both physically and emotionally. The first time I ever went into it, I not only felt like I was having a full blown anxiety attack, but released a kidney stone…seriously. On the comical side of it, I had no idea I even was experiencing a kidney stone, I thought I had hurt my back, so…by the end of the week as the stone was finally breaking up and causing me to pee burgundy, the doctors in the ER thought I was a freak because I was happy and relieved to have a stone as this meant my back was not injured. I’m pretty sure this shows just how certifiably crazy I am. I promise, I hate pain and injury, but with any demanding physical practice, at certain points, things sometimes happen, but by knowing my back was open enough, not torn, nothing tweaked beyond the horrible discomfort of the stone breaking up and working it’s way out of my body, I rationalized that kapo helped heal an underlying health issue. I admit, my husband likes to point out to me that sane, rational people who don’t practice ashtanga may not understand my perspective, but I’m fine with that. I’m pretty sure it’s more than ashtanga that makes me beat to my own drum.

Anyway, it’s now been a year and change since that lovely moment in time, and though I now have bigger fish to fry in learning new asana, the evolution of kapo has not always been smooth, far from it. Illness, sleeping funny, cold weather, my mindset, as well as a trip to India all caused minor setbacks, but nothing has been more detrimental than my sweaty hands. I really have had an almost impossible time creeping my hands back and up to my heels and ankles. Towels, wiping my hands, more wet, dryer, I had almost given up on the floor method and was really just attempting to go straight down from the air as I can in an adjustment…sigh, I’m lazy here too, because three or more attempts to “get it” is just so taxing. On the bright side of it, I have really had to get my breathing calm and stable, and much of the time, it is!

About three weeks ago, my teacher S told me he had the same issue with his hands and the only mat grippy enough was the lululemon the mat. ( though now, over time he can just do it with any mat) I groaned, because, I had tried that mat, and given it away because it smelled so strongly of rubber, and it also wasn’t all that grippy, at least the one I had had before. I love my mat, my space, my manduka…besides The Mat isn’t cheap and from a frugality mindset, there was nothing particularly wrong with my two plus year old manduka pro. I resisted, I decided buying the mat would be an ego based decision and that is not what yoga is about, until of course you start envisioning the easy crawl into your feet on The Mat! So, I did what any sane rational person would do, and caved and bought The Mat about a week ago….and it worked! My hands actually stick to it’s slightly sheened smooth black surface! Ease in kapotasana is almost the most rediculous statement I can make, but hey, it’s working.

It has caused me angst though, as I let my desire for grip guide me to make a mostly unneeded purchase. Desire and I go way back, my mom always laughed telling me even as a small child I would say, but mommy I don’t want it, I need it! Well, I guess I still cave to that ego, because I really wanted needed The Mat. IMG_0745.JPG

Accidents will Happen

“And will you succeed? Yes indeed, yes indeed! Ninety-eight and three-quarters percent guaranteed!”
— Dr. Seuss

Part of practice, of life, are those moments where you really are truly completely mortified. Human moments, I’ve had plenty. I think I sometimes envision my mat as this intimate private space where I’m protected, invisible from judgement, free to explore. Yet, most of the time even though I’m in my bubble, there is usually an instructor in the room guiding the process, as well as fellow practitioners working just as hard, around me. On any given day in the shala, there can be laughter, tears, sighs, moans, grunts, panic, fear, sweat, flexibility, stiffness, injury, pain, accomplishment, meditation, envy, awe, enlightenment, flailing, falls, farts, and smells….yeah, and that’s just in the confines of my own mat!

Embarrassment. Yes, I’ve had my moments all throughout every aspect of my life, why would my expectations of these moments occurring in yoga be any different, or less frequent? The physical aspects of attempting asana have taught me so much more than just how to figure out what muscles to use and how to put all the components together to find ease and stability. Non attachment to the outcome and trying your best everyday is a fabulous aspiration, however, it doesn’t stop the epic fails nor days when your best is just plain awful. A sense of humor helps, I just don’t always remember that during these foibles, though in retrospect, it’s been a great salve.

As Sharath is planning his next jaunt to the United States, I was reminiscing his last visit here, in April of 2013. A week of led with Sharath is exciting, crowded and challenging under the best of circumstances. Mat to mat next to strangers, acquaintances, and friends, all in the common mass of wanting to practice under Sharath’s guidance. My fear of such a tight space was always related to getting kicked, or kicking someone, but I learned a new lesson in personal space last time.

Oh, how I love the standing sequence! As it falls in the category of done first, therefore done with greatest frequency, it is the most rote and routine part of practice for me, not that there aren’t areas to go deeper or improve, but it gets me in a great meditative place of stillness in the movement, a safety net that guides me to where my strengths and weaknesses are for that day, showing me in how my body responds to the asana, where to be most mindful. For instance, I have been trying since forever to open my shoulders more, and prasarita padotanasa C is one of those spots I work on it. A week or so before his visit I over zealously tried to get my hands to the ground over my head in it and ended up doing a funky summersault instead. It was unexpected, comical, but no harm to me or anyone else, just my ego! It fell in that category, don’t worry nobody saw that, except everyone here;-)

So now here I was in led, trying to loosen up and relax my shoulders once again, but not yet releasing the mindfulness of falling, and not wanting to fall on anyone in such a crowded space! I happened to be next to an acquaintance that day. A very quiet and reserved gentleman who practiced occasionally at my shala. Though I didn’t know him well, his dedication to his practice and his kind if shy nature were both familiar and comforting…So there I was hands clasped behind my back, legs spread, exhaling my head down to the floor. Sharath’s count began and I tried to relax my shoulders open more to get that elusive touch to floor with my hands and not just my head, I did relax and stretch more forward, if the floor was touched, alas, at this point I don’t recall, because, I was so relaxed, for once, in a crowd, in count. It was time to come up and out, I was moving slowly appreciating my inhale, oddly, my hands came into contact with something soft. I wasn’t really thinking, in that meditative zone and all, but I guess in curiosity I groped slightly, trying to figure out what I was in contact with before rising completely. It was this poor innocent fellow’s testes. I was cupping his balls, seriously! Though I’m sure in the cosmos of the universe, this all took place, I’m hoping at least, in a split second of time. In my shock and horror, I flew back, away from his personal space and private parts, and promptly landed on my rear. I couldn’t look at him, and in the mercy of led pace, picked myself back up on the double to get into prasarita D.

There were no words spoken, neither of us ran away, we continued to practice, I was really at a loss for how to address it, and was grateful for the time and asana to diminish my transgression. As we finished up after our final rest, I gave this lovely man a contrite smile with a nod of my head, lowering my eyes in true regret. In it I was trying to convey, hey, it was an accident, I really really didn’t want to fondle you, I’m very sorry for the intrusion and over reach, literally…He very politely gave me a smile and nod back, I hope accepting my unspoken apology because words would just make it more awkward than it was….so yes, I still fail, I make mistakes, and I feel safe in my bubble on the mat, but now keep a little more awareness and though I’ve had my share of mishaps since then, I plan on stacking during prasarita this September with Sharath.

Snapshots

I was looking at some old photographs this morning with my youngest daughter. She was remarking that some of the pictures looked photoshopped, super imposing my face of now onto a small child. I laughed as I’m still me, still that child, just with more life experience and responsibilities.

The majority of the shots were candid, running around at the beach, Christmas with my grandparents, some were goofy, some I’m sure I wanted to tear up at some point. They are all lovingly, comically and, yes, even painfully part of my history. Why is it that we want to edit and revise our less than perfect snapshots? There is a sweet French expression, “Esprit de l’escalier.” It literally translates as “The spirit of the staircase”, which refers to all the things you realize you should or could have said after a conversation has ended. I laughed when I first learned this idiom, and thought of all the many times I felt that way. However, hindsight only offers help if we learn not just from the best of what we do, but from our not so pleasant moments as well. Beating ourselves up in self criticism won’t change anything.

Depending on the translation of the yoga sutras you may read, there are a plethora of different word choices coloring the meaning. I particularly like this version of Yoga sutra 3.52 or 3.53. By self-control over single moments and their succession there is wisdom born of discrimination.Let go of the ego, forgo the shame as well as the pride and learn to accept, positive change comes after acknowledgement and compassion. Can there be such a thing as picture perfect? Food for thought….

Who says ignorance is bliss?

I really am enjoying the country and culture of India. it is vibrant and beautiful, with hard working industrious people, adorable children and sacred cows that wander everywhere:-) Yet, still very much a developing nation, and the growing pains that exist with all that. As I most definitely am used to first world rich man problems like whether we lay a new pipe line for oil and the pollution it potentially causes. Here, they have almost daily blackouts, some days more than one. None have mercifully been terribly long. It’s just part of life here, overloading the grid in the heat of the mid day not just in a fluke or bad storm. One happened as I was sitting in the middle of a busy downtown restaurant, no one skipped a beat around me. It’s all in what you are used to.

I wrote a post a few days ago, called Welcome to India. I was really just trying to point out how little I know of India and that my street smarts are rusty from suburban living, not that they were ever great. My point was more that regardless of where you are; New York, London, Paris, Munich, Mysore…you should probably not walk up to a white van full of unknown young men as a woman alone, even if they are the friendliest people out there, because in this world we live in, that is not always the case, and better safe than sorry. However, the comments I made were misunderstood by an unknown stranger who chose anger and threats versus open dialogue.

I admit last night I was in fear going to bed, wondering if he really would come here to hurt me. He had briefly succeeded in creating terror in my body, I felt physically vulnerable as he had not just commented on my blog but a friends as well, explaining how easy it would be to find me here and use violence as a means of retaliation of his misinterpretation of my words.

As a favorite scientist and philosopher, Karl Popper, has so nicely put it, “It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood.” But alas, is rage ever the right choice of action? Where does rage arise and why? Avidya, Samskaras and Kleshas. Ignorance, past wounds, and the impediments we create in our desires, aversions, ego, and false knowledge. I have no idea what types of horrors or abuses this human being has faced, or whether anyone has shown them ahimsa, compassion, and if this person is even capable of acknowledging such acts of kindness. As we all can in moments is it just the lowest level of reptilian brain striking forth as protector of territory?

Yesterday in conference, Sharath spoke of being a young boy and seeing a group of either Japanese or Chinese tourists. He was young and naively ignorant of their purpose in his city. It was also rare to see someone so different visiting at that point, at least in the eyes of a child. I think he said one of his friends dared him to go up and say hello to them, but he said he said no, they know karate and might hurt him. It was a funny story of a child’s innocence and avidya bringing out false assumptions and fears.

As we differentiate ourselves more by culture, faiths, race, politics, sex, diet, how much you recycle, do you eat chocolate? at what point do we choose to decide animosity is ever the right option over debate or discourse? When do we allow fear or assumptions to be better choices than asking why? When did clarification questions get tossed aside? At what point do we allow broad ranged stereo types to override the fact that we are equal as human beings, deserving of compassion? There is a difference between being a mother bear protecting your threatened cub and an ornery bear. I would hope that mindfulness could exist to allow pause before reaction when accidentally coming across a mother bear..time to assess a true threat from false knowledge.

Does having compassion mean being friends? No. It means having respect, allowing privacy, natural compassionate consequences, kindness, or just leaving someone be if you don’t get along well. I know this anger and hatred has nothing to do with me personally. I truly wish they understood the word yoga, union, and grasped that there is room for knowledge and the veil of ignorance to be lifted without ever a violent action or thought.