All dogs go to heaven.

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This Gary Larson Far Side cartoon is an old favorite, and there are many times I envision it during asana practice. As I was in down dog today, taking an extra breath before jumping forward into kapotasana, my mind had that momentary hijack of fear, dread and then this comic, before finally settling on the words whispered to me almost two years ago, ” don’t think about it, you’ve done this before.” The monkey brain never fully goes away, but it all depends on just how much power we give it.

I had practiced at home for the last few days thanks to winter bringing snow and ice as well as school cancellations. I find it so much harder to shut off the negotiations my mind tries to persuade me with, all percolating, trying to convince me to just take a day off…It’s so cold! Sinus headache! Cranky! Stiff joints, and just how cozy and warm staying in bed seems….Yet, I do negotiate, and roll out my mat, let’s just see how some Sun Salutations go, then, hmm, standing sequence, and all of a sudden I’m in the midst of my breath and dristhi, I admit yesterday was tough to get going, but as much as I started off with so much resistance, I was quite content after finishing. I find though, that my commitment to practice, to myself, is like so many long term relationships, sometimes we are just going through the motions, in a self made rut of sorts, but then, in just the next moment, when you least expect it, you catch your breath in awe of what you feel.

Practicing at home can have other issues as well, like living in a household with other people and dogs. I love my pups, but they just won’t leave me alone to practice. (Locking them out of the room leads to howling, crying, and intense door scratching) though I have found over time, they are less curious to be directly involved, I’m learning how to keep focus when one of my dogs starts to lick inside my nostrils while I transition through a vinyasa in down dog, who needs a tissue when you’ve got a dog to assist? I’m debating which of my helpers is working hardest to get me to that next level, is it the golden doodle, Luna, laying next to me, oblivious to her flatulence? The papillon puppy, Rocky, licking my toes and managing to figure out that I can’t transition out of an inversion because he’s standing, tail wagging on the mat, right where I need to bring my feet down, thinking this is a fabulous game? Or contestant number three, the cockapoo, Bella, that finds me irresistible the more sweaty or snotty I get? She likes to sit in my lap during padmasana and gets upset if I don’t let her stay for utpluthih. I’ve learned that everyday, I can only strive to do the best I can, there is no other best, no picture perfect moment, just yoga, the stilling of the changing states of the mind.Sutra I.2

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This was last week with Bella and Rocky, Luna was right out of view on the window seatūüźĺ

Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring-it was peace

Milan Kundera

Cleaning up your practice.

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Home practice in a snow storm. My mind wasn’t on the snow, the cold, the dogs trying to join in, but on trying to just be there, on not losing focus, not fidgeting, psyching myself with the mantra that tomorrow is a full moon and I won’t be on the mat. I used background music too. Blasphemy, I know, haha. A YouTube link of the XX Intro put into a four hour loop. No worries, I’m comfortable enough at this stage to use an extra boost at home to block out the house noises, when I need it, and today I did. How do you decide when it’s okay to break the rules?

A few years ago, I used to do this little “cheat” in the second to last asana of primary, urdhva muckha paschimottanasana. Instead of keeping hold of my arches or heels on the way up, I’d let my hands slip off slightly and reconnect once I was balanced on my sit bones. The momentum was hard for me to master in keeping hold of my heels, I was my usual overzealous self and went too far, therefore crashing, if I kept my feet. My teacher was annoyed I wasn’t really making much of an effort to fix it beyond where I was and finally said in exasperation to me, ” it’s your practice, you have to decide what that means”.

About a week later I was away in Washington DC with my family, there are a plethora of great Ashtanga teachers there, and I was recommended to Astanga yoga studio DC. Keith Moore runs the program beautifully and was quite welcoming in his charming and bustling studio during those wee morning hours. As I came up in my cheat and then pulled myself in towards my legs, Keith came by and whispered to me, ” don’t worry, no one saw that”, with a chuckle. I laughed too, but kept going…I hadn’t reached the split yet in intermediate so my mind was on more frightening prospects like kapo and my not always there yet, coming up properly from drop backs.

In any case, though I enjoyed my spring time weekend in DC, my mind was ruminating these two thoughts, the comedy of my obvious incorrect method, and the mindset that this was my practice, for better or worse, mine, no one else was going to do it for me regardless of my marionette fantasies where I’m on strings while some other guiding force brings me into an asana. Those moments when I’ve forgotten that the journey there, is what matters most. I had to crash to find my balance, so I did, crash that is.

I came home with a new determination and decided who cares how noisy it is, or if I fail, I’m going to figure this out. I had done it before, but not with consistency, so that was the goal, work to find the sweet spot of balance and proper breath in timing my inhale. I knew I shouldn’t make myself crazy over it, so I gave it the three times a charm rule, try it three times, if you don’t succeed, tomorrow is another day, another opportunity. The funny part was that though I still can occasionally have that day of primary where it just doesn’t work, it only took about a week or so to get it, because it was really already there, I just hadn’t been willing to believe it yet, or be willing to deal with a few more bumps on the path.

Patience, time, breath, trust and sweat equals magic.

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I’m right behind Sharath…a few weeks later, correct method:)