Mind Games

February 20, 2011 § 7 Comments

Haven’t posted much this week because of a busy off-mat life and practice hasn’t been much to write home about. Physically, the practice has been great; hamstrings are opening up, Supta K finger touch is there, headstands are coming along, etc. Mentally, however, it’s a totally different ballgame. I’ve been in my mental edge at every practice and it’s driving me nuts. Some possible reasons:

(1) Poses

My practice currently ends at Ubbaya Padangusthasana, as it has been for the past four months. I know, in the tradition, one is to accept what one has been given. To just do, without regard for the outcome, and definitely not ask for the next pose. Yet, I’m feeling super antsy about not being moved on, wondering whether my teacher, A, if he were still with us, would have moved me on by now, and feeling very tempted to just add the next pose to my practice and see what K says. Better to apologize for being out of line than staying in a ‘Should-I-Shouldn’t-I’ mental limbo, right? On the other hand, my rule-abiding conscience is struggling to help me stay in the moment and focus on refining the practice without regard for the next pose. Ego wars.

(2) Teacher

A was the teacher that got me hooked on Mysore-style Ashtanga over a year ago, and in November last year, moved to Taipei for two years on a teaching stint. As good as K is, I’m really missing the teacher-student connection I had with A, that went beyond your usual practice adjustments. I’m missing the post-practice conversations we had about yoga and other things in life, as well as the challenges he would set once he saw I had a basic grasp of a pose – like pushing me to do six Urdhva Dhanurasanas once he saw I could do three with ease. Because she is not A, and has a full-time job in addition to running the Shala, I can understand why the dynamic with K is different. But understanding it doesn’t mitigate the feeling of loneliness in the practice, the absence of a sense of community borne out of A’s outgoing personality and the fact that these days it’s all about turning up, practicing, and going off, with hardly a word spoken to anyone else. Perhaps this is a lesson in independence and self-reliance, to see that at the end of the day, all of us have our own life-path that we have to travel on. It doesn’t change the fact that the absence of a teacher-student connection makes the practice a little hollow, in a sense. I don’t know how you home practitioners do it to keep up with this practice consistently without a teacher’s guidance/feedback – I’ve a lot of respect for you!

(3) Swan-diving

The swan-diver I practiced next to a while back appears to be a permanent member of our shala now, to my (impolite) dismay. Not only are the big sweeping hand gestures getting to me, but also the additional flourishes – hands with fingers spread as wide as is physically possible, the arm movements on the inhales reminiscent of a ballet dancer, the roaming drishti. God, I could go on. Clearly, after overcoming the mental obstacle of practicing next to someone with an overpowering odor, this is my next shala practice challenge.

Lots of food for thought and ego edges to rub out in this week’s practice. It’s going to be quite the ride….


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§ 7 Responses to Mind Games

  • YYogini says:

    Student-teacher connection definitely makes a huge difference! Maybe you should talk to this new teacher about the next pose? Hint strongly that you’re ready for it?

    • D says:

      I’ve contemplated that option, but also hesitant because it feels like I’m breaking ‘the rules’, you know? Going to try adding it on to my next practice and se what she says πŸ˜‰

      When I read the Guruji book, teacher-student connection was one of the main themes across all the stories. But the beauty was that it didn’t stop these practitioners from going back home and practicing with other people too. Gotta learn to do that.

  • Floss says:

    Love your post ! Thought I’d share some personal experience

    1. I have been stuck on the same pose for just over 2 years now. Yes it was frustrating, especially I had a slight back injury during this time. But it really force me to think about why I practise. Also there is always more to learn from my existing poses. I always find something new to work on with trikonasana, for instance.

    2. My regular Mysore teacher for about 2 years left town for life reasons. A few students were a little put out, but I have always thought the beauty of ashtanga is that it is such an intensely personal practice that fosters independence. At the end of the day it is my practice. Teachers, like anyone from your life, come and go.

    3. Could you move your practice spot ?

    Good luck !

    • D says:

      Floss, thank you for sharing and giving me some perspective!! You are right that there is always something to learn from existing poses, that is the beauty and depth of this practice.

      Yes, Ashtanga does foster independence, and I’m honestly quite surprised to see how attached I am to my previous teacher, something that is probably accentuated by the differences in personality between teachers.

      Moving the practice spot is definitely a priority, but sometimes there aren’t a lot of choices (we have a small shala) πŸ˜‰

  • Nobel says:

    Hmm… maybe the swan diver is an ex-dancer :-)?

    See if you find this helpful: I once asked my teacher for a posture (Ekapda Sirsasana) in the following indirect way: “How open do your hips have to be in order to do ekapada sirsasana?” He probably got the hint right away, because he said almost immediately that I should try ekapada sirsasana! So maybe you can try this πŸ™‚ Except with Urdhva Mukha Paschimottasana, you probably wan to ask how open your hamstrings have to be πŸ™‚ The worse that can happen is for her to say you are not ready (or pretend not to understand your hint :-)).

    Actually, if you can do Ubhaya Pangusthasana, you should be able to do Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana and even Setubandhasana. At least, this is my opinion.

  • D says:

    @Nobel: I took your advice, but instead of hinting, flat out asked if I was ready for the next pose, and guess what? I was!! So now I’m making friends with Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana, I hope it plays nice πŸ˜‰

    Yes, the swan diver could quite possibly be an ex-dancer…still keeping my distance though hehe.

  • […] to be a practice journal of sorts, I guess the occasional report wouldn’t hurt. Following the last post about getting stuck at Ubhaya Padangusthasana, I asked K the next day about moving on to Urdhva […]

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