I got swept in the whirlwind of life, school exams and concert rehearsals for my little one, increased work, family and social commitments etc. In the midst of the fullness of life, I had another small miracle moment. During practice one morning, there was a cracking sound in my neck and I gingerly moved it. There was increased range of motion in the stiffer side. I had a similar experience with my shoulders a few months ago and that allowed me freedom to rotate my shoulders.
I don’t have the achy neck and debilitating days after now. It is scary to mention it out loud, what if I jinx myself. But that’s my truth. For a few years, I lived with pain and the rounds of tractions, medication, heat therapy and a screeching stop to my activities. It was not just my body but my mind that would despair.
Another gift of yoga. It happened on the day of Guruji’s punyathithi (death anniversary) and I like to think of this as a blessing from beyond.
Until yoga happened to me, I never felt the sense of bhakti or shraddha. My mother-in-law has always been blessed with devotional faith and is a Krishna bhakt. She always finds solace in her faith and I used to wish I could have that unquestioning faith and emotional connect. I thought it was the way of knowledge or work that suited my inclination.
The invocation I chant in class or at home was perhaps my first glimpse into the possibility of shraddha and bhakti. As I bow my head at the end of the prayer, I mentally put my practice as my offering, the results not mine but that of my teachers. It has helped me to keep my perspective and focus on the effort and not the result. I have a lot to learn just sitting in a simple cross legged pose for the invocation. The instructions are simple enough but I am not alert and relaxed. There is too much “I” ness in my head. Something my teacher reminisced during the memorial program (that’s a separate post) about Guruji is my ideal now. She mentioned how Guruji told her to stop giving so many instructions for Uttanasana and just say, “fall like a flower from a tree”. Just like that. The flower doesn’t think, neither does the tree. It happens in the naturalness of time when the time is ripe.
It’s been an interesting few days of practice at home. One day of practice with a DVD by Geetaji, another day of supta padangushtasana and variations and a split practice between morning and evening.
Lately, I’ve just been focusing on the standing asanas since I am learning but perhaps I also need to add what my body needs. Supta padangushtasana was one of the first asanas that I learnt when I started and it helped when my running load had increased. Surya namaskars and backbends gave me strength and I have slowly introduced them in my regular practice albeit intermittently. These days they feel like effort, it seems like I could do more, especially in Supta padangushtasana which feels very gross despite using the belt. It is only after a few repetitions that my legs calm a bit to be able to get the actions required.
I’ve taken on a project to become a faster runner and that brings all my structural imbalances to the surface. Shin splints, sore knees and lower back have made a comeback. I’m tempted to give up on this endeavour since it is just a personal quest to see how far I can go. From a sane perspective, it seems foolish to push the body but I feel that learning through my experiences, injuries and remedies will help me understand how yoga can enhance running. Although, if it comes to a choice between the two, there is really no question. Then why do I still run?
Running taught me the niyamas although I saw it as such much later.
sauca– through sweat
santosha– through the calm after a run
tapah– through showing up on the road
swadhyaya– through journalling my experience
ishvara pranidana– through trusting the process
It seems very simplistic to put it all in the context of running but that was my start. Today, the niyamas are a little differently understood but that base of building a habit translated into a state of receptiveness to a new way of living.
For instance, Sauca has translated into something that includes some of the traditional practices of Ayurveda regarding food and lifestyle, having a regular practice, getting rid of clutter, reading that which enriches and chanting the sutras/shlokas. Some days I cannot do everything, family and work require me to be part of social activities and I go along. At times, these days slide into a week or more and then the call from inside becomes a loud cry. So, I come back and get back one step at a time.
Overall though, it has been a shift in the way I live my life and maybe some of it has rubbed off on my family too.
In gratitude for the blessings of yoga.
A very different class today with lots of jumping and little tidbits of Guruji’s early life thrown in. I wait for Wednesdays and wish I could have another class during the week. Perhaps next year.
Since I reach atleast 15 minutes before time, I watch another class that is in progress. It’s beautiful to watch a hall full of asanas in progress and listen to the teacher as she guides them into a state of quietude while in an asana. Her words flow clear and she brings the attention to the mind and body together. I find it fascinating to study the forms each asana takes with different bodies. A fundamental difference is the way in which the poses are entered. Some go through the steps while the others seem sort of keen to reach the final pose.
I am guilty of the same things and when I watch and see the common pitfalls, it reminds me to be mindful. The instructions are drilled into us in every class, turn the right foot out, left foot in, etc., yet with familiarity, the basics of the poses sometimes get lost.
All the vigorous movement today left me with a springy step after class. I truly believe yoga gives me the energy to pack in long days and difficult situations. So much has changed in less than a year since yoga happened in my life. I find more courage within to do things I would normally shy away from. It has connected me to people around me with more openness and without fear.
Maitri, Karuna, Mudita, Upeksha- these four attitudes are all I need to be in harmony with the people in my life.
I recorded my practice today and watched myself to see where I was going off.
To my inexperienced eye, my spine was the biggest eye opener. I thought my back was concave but it was most definitely not. In retrospect, I think I need to work on my shoulder blades and extend my sides to get that action. In class, the teacher’s instructions are pointed and the collective energy makes a whole lot of movement easier to access. At home, I lose those adjustments while thinking I am on track. Avidya and asmita at play.
A while ago, I would either be in despair or frustrated with my seeming lack of progress. Today, I can get up again and again. There is a sentence from Light on Life by Guruji that keeps me inspired to keep going.
“The presence of truth can make us feel naked, but compassion takes all our shame away.”
Yoga has helped to take away a lot of my inhibitions and self judgements to be able to keep striving. This attitude has also spilled into my life away from the mat. Every time I strip down to my bloomers, it is getting naked and baring my flaws. Some days I am not able to get out of my head and then it doesn’t feel complete. At other times, the surrender is total and I am led by the practice. Those moments are light but it happens so infrequently that I wonder if it is real.
Sometimes, a teacher touches a certain spot and that opens up a new awareness.
Today’s class was about completing the circuit of the outer thigh, inner knee and outer knee. The usual standing asanas and an introduction to urdhvamukhasvanasana. While I know the names and appearance of these asanas, having them broken down into segments helps to pay attention to the parts and see how they come together. Inevitably, one action comes and the other is lost.
I struggle with my left side. I think I may have found the problem area but don’t know how to correct it and am too tongue tied to ask. Today, we had to move the turned leg outwards and that action helped me to sense the root of the thigh and the outer thigh. A touch from the teacher actually lit up that action and hopefully that is an imprint I can access again.
Today our poses seemed to last longer. Veerbhadrasana 2 was better today and I tried the slightly elevated arms as mentioned by yogibattle in his recent post and it was indeed a far less tiring experience.
On a completely unrelated note, I met someone at a workshop/seminar who turned out to be a yoga teacher and student at RIMYI although in a different class. Also found out that one of the assistant teachers is also a runner. It is uncanny how the universe connects people on the same road.
Out of town for a day and didn’t think I would get a chance to do my practice. But time and space made themselves available for a quick round of standing asanas.
The last couple of times, I felt mechanical and I missed the energy of a connected practice. So back to the core basics, tadasana and the basic standing poses and some twistings. At the end of it, I feel connected to the earth and grounded. The days when tadasana is my focus, I feel my feet through the day.