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:
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.
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!
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….