Diwali is just around the corner and it’s my favourite time of the year. I like scrubbing my walls and floors clean, throwing out things that have just been sitting around, making small hampers for my neighbours and friends and enjoying the pleasant evenings. I took a day off work to clean up and it got me back on track.
I find cleaning up very therapeutic. It helps me gather myself when I get scattered. The last couple of weeks were quite hectic and I had a slump in my home practice. It began with class a couple of weeks ago.
It was that time of the month and the class was hard work. After that I just didn’t want to exert myself. I did a few restorative asanas on my bed when I needed some relief but just didn’t get on the mat. Neither did I do any reading nor any journalling. Generally found myself sliding in all areas of my life, in short unmanageable and overwhelmed.
I finally shook the lethargy and got to practice a few days ago when I swatted a mosquito that was hovering around me. I felt terrible, snuffing out that life especially when I was practising. Generally, I don’t kill bugs but pick them up and put them away or shoo them. I think of how I would feel if a giant had to crush me. This was unthinking and it felt like a big violation. It probably sounds like a lot of hue and cry about a mosquito but that was a life.
This Wednesday, my teacher mentioned ahimsa using the nature of execution of asana as an example and it brought a lump to my throat when I thought of that tiny insect.
Yama niyama definitions keep changing for me, what was acceptable once does not work now. There is no choice but to continue and at times I wonder if I should continue to blog about my experiences. I feel it is an inside job and part of that means to stay with the pains and pleasures. At the same time, I also like to read experiences of others on the same journey as it gives me hope and a different perspective. It doesn’t seem fair to take and not give back in whatever way I can.
There is a sort of plateau and also an eagerness to continue exploring because after every plateau there is a climb. I’ve continued to stick to the basic sequences in the Preliminary course and it is manageable within the chaos of my daily life.
“God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can and Wisdom to know the difference.” This is part of a longer prayer but it has sufficed as thought for contemplation for many years.
Yesterday, it struck me that it was a perfect prayer to be in the moment. Abhyasa and Vairagyam at work, an easy reminder to bring myself to the present moment and let go.
As of today, asana practice is like this for me. There are many poses I cannot do and that is a reality. What I can do is practice sincerely which is the small change I can bring in my life. Between these two spaces there is a natural sensibility which is accessible to me if I let go.
In my head, I call my class, Wednesdays with Abhijata, sort of like “Tuesdays with Morrie”. It is the highlight of my week as I come back with new things to try out at home and also look up. Last Wednesday, I got into Sirsasana for the first time. We were learning to kick up when my teacher nudged one leg up the wall and the other went up. It was a happy moment and very unlike what I imagined I might feel. I thought that the blood would rush to my head and I would feel heavy and shaky. None of that happened. I could have stayed there for a while. Maybe it was all the adho mukha Svanasana, Uttanasana, prasarita paddotanasana and ardha sirsasana that familiarised the head down position. However Sarvangasana was another challenge altogether. I just felt very heavy and couldn’t get my balance. The interesting thing about not getting stuff is that it is not a reason to despair but an opportunity to enquire, to chip away at it until something happens.
I am beginning to see how the work with the arms, legs, trunk and spine help in getting ready for sirsasana. The illustrations in the Preliminary Course talk to me now, revealing a little more with each reading and looking at them.
I took a couple of days off full fledged asana practice at home and got back to it today. Blame it on my vata tendencies or the season being one that aggravates my flightiness, I was feeling quite ungrounded. I was starting to fret about practising at home and running and that took the joy out of two things that make me happy. Before I realised it, I had a few late nights in a row, excess coffee in me and very light sleep. The speeded up mind, fast speech and feeling of being overwhelmed were all indicators of not being in sync. Sure enough, my neck started to ache. The whining pain before it could turn into a nasty snarl. It made me wonder if it was such a smart idea to think that my cervical spondylosis was sorted. Thankfully, there was the sense to pause and see what I was doing to myself. So, I slowed down and stopped all the hyperactivity and did things to nourish myself.
Abhyanga with a heavy sesame oil, liberal use of ghee in my food and warm clothing and teas. I also took a few days off running since there was a fair bit of stiffness and soreness in my knee and IT band. I used the time to work with my little balcony garden and read and write. The ache disappeared in a day and I felt in balance again. It is amazing how much insight Ayurveda and yoga have about the human body and mind. A few adjustments and one can actually heal oneself. All this with just a rudimentary understanding of the principles. Hope to study both in detail. Someday.
In gratitude to all teachers.
While driving to class a couple of days ago, I remembered a line I’ve heard and used many times, “Take the body, the mind will follow” and all of a sudden 20 odd years of that line was realized.
Later that night, I was reading Light on the Yog Sutras where Guruji writes, “Asanas act as bridges to unite the body with the mind, and the mind with the soul. They lift the sadhaka from the clutches of afflictions and lead him towards disciplined freedom.” and it seemed like something to consider deeply. The last two words have been food for thought since.
Running is similar to asana practice in that one has to get out and keep at it. Most runs are difficult and in the early days, the discipline of being regular is wrenchingly hard. Breakthroughs are few and far between and it can seem like a pointless endeavour to get out and run. It gets even harder if there is no specific event to train for except to see how far your body can go.
The discipline of getting out regularly trains the body and mind to move until it becomes natural and without too much of a fight. And slowly, one day you realize that there has been a transformation. The struggle of the early days has been replaced with a calm expansiveness. The goal is no longer that important, the journey has become enough in itself.
My mistakes in running have allowed me to embrace my Yog sadhana at its pace. The single most important thing running has taught me is the value of a sound base, a tadasana mastery in all I do.
In gratitude to my teachers.