Changes & Feedback

June 6, 2011 § 3 Comments

Yesterday I finally pushed myself to act on the dissatisfaction I feel towards the practice and the teacher-student relationship with K. We’re trying out classes this week at another studio closer to home. I’ve been thinking about making the switch for a while now, but, as I am prone to be, let ideas sit far longer than they need to before acting on them. Part of it is an antidote to impulsivity, but there’s a whole load of procrastination going too. A chronic aversion to change, of being comfortable where I am, despite the dissatisfaction.

A bigger reason though, is that the teacher listed for this studio’s Mysore classes is a good friend of someone I’ve been hurt by and am not on talking terms with anymore. As dismal as it sounds, I’m happy to have this person out of my life, and want to keep it that way. Of course, there’s no guarantee that the teacher remembers my connection to her friend, but the prospect of recognition – and with it, having to face the awkwardness of explaining the situation – was enough to deter me from acting.

Fortunately, the yoga is working (somehow!) and this being the start of a new month, I bit the mental bullet and went off to register as a new student. I owe it to my practice, and my own happiness, to explore the options out there, especially one so much closer to home. Theoretical fears will be dealt with in due course.

I was apprehensive about turning up for Mysore this morning, and was very grateful to the husband for coming along, making for two newbies on a Monday. Apart from the nervousness about bumping into the good friend of an ex-friend, there was also the anxiety of starting in a new place. A bit like the first day at a new school. Figuring out what the ‘protocols’ are, where to keep your stuff, which spot to practice. Everything has been reset and needs to be figured out.

The beautiful part about Ashtanga is that the differences between yoga studios end from the moment you step through the threshold into the practice room. There were about 12 yogis at various stages of their practice when we entered. The space is a lot bigger than our usual shala (where 12 yogis would make for a real squeeze), meaning that I now have a much bigger radius of personal practice space. The light is warm and ambient, and they have a row of windows to one side allowing the early morning light to stream in. The floors are pine, a little more slippery but also softer, than concrete, and the heating system is cranked way up. It’s so hot that I’m dripping onto my mat by the end of Surya A. My only critique though, was stopping everyone at 7:10 am for studio announcements and the opening chant. It was hard to get my groove back after that.

My theoretical fear? Turned out to be unfounded – it was a different teacher than who I had expected and it sounds like she’s going to be running the Mysore classes for the next few months at least.

Perhaps it’s the new environment and/or the increase in spaciousness that enabled me to keep a strong focus on the tip of my nose this morning. Holding onto the familiar within the unfamiliar. I did my usual practice, up to Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana, feeling strong, staying focused and tuning in. I’m leaving out the vinyasas between sides for now as I’ve found that they really really exhaust me, making for half-hearted jumpback attempts after Bhujapidasana.

After my fourth Navasana, the teacher, Ms. A*, sat herself down next to my mat and, in what I thought was a roundabout way, essentially told me to take it easy. I was surprised – was I really pushing myself? And, if I was, am I really that obvious?

I had told her about the auto accident last September, and that my back is still creaky and cranky, especially on the left side. Apart from correcting the alignment of my feet in Downward Dog, placing her fingers on my lower back in Padangusthasana and help in UHP, practice was adjustment-free for the most part.

She said that this was supposed to be a healing practice, that we often think it’s muscular when it’s really energetic, and all about breathing. And then she shared a quip she’d heard from a senior teacher: “Yogis can be divided into two groups – the Pushers and the Centrists. When you’re a Pusher, you need to work towards being a Centrist.”

I love feedback like this. It takes you out of the nuts and bolts of asana practice and gives you perspective. It’s like fresh air for the brain you didn’t even know you needed.

After class, we chatted for a while where she reinforced the message. It got me thinking about how I’m a Pusher not just on the mat, but in life too. I plan my days to accomplish four or five different things, but usually only succeed with two, at best, and then berate myself for being not good enough to do All. Five. Things. that needed to be completed yesterday. When I mentioned this exchange to the husband, he smiled and said, “That’s who you are (meaning = ‘you’re always pushing yourself’).”

And then I come home to read this post by Bindy (another reminder to take it easy) and these words from Matthew Sweeney:

“The idea that asana practice will eventually bring about a perfect state of health is problematic. Asana practice may make you stronger and more flexible, but in some areas it might not. Some change will always be there, but the form that change takes is beyond your control. To keep hoping that the future will bring perfection of even a moment of happiness is a problem which only self-acceptance can resolve.” ~Astanga Yoga As It Is.

I’m constantly questioning my motivations for this practice. Today’s insights are fleshing them out, bit by bit.

*As opposed to the teacher I started with, whose name also starts with A.

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