Being barefoot for almost the entire day over the last couple of weeks has seen a shift in asana practice. Better grip on the floor, better balance and a certain sinewy strength in my legs. Movements originate more from the proximal joints and there is more space through the legs. There is a slow but definite increase in padding on my soles although it is more visible on the right foot. My toes are better spread out and the soles are open. I feel my feet better and more fully when standing.
Somehow barefoot running doesn’t feel contradictory to an asana practice and the mental conflict about the same is absent. Perhaps it could be that I am just walking barefoot now and so the load is minimal. I guess even when I start to run, it would be very difficult to go against the body’s wisdom for too long. I was lucky to make that mistake early on.
Today’s class was very interesting as our teacher taught us how to begin a home practice. Last Wednesday she had asked us to get notebooks and most of us had our pens and books at the ready. We wrote in upavishta konasana, prasarita padottanasana and a few other asanas which was fun. She gave a few ideas on sequences to practise. As beginners, we just had to stick to the standing poses and practise sirsasana and Sarvangasana. If time was a constraint, we could reduce the variety of standing poses but do the inversions without fail. It’s a good way for me to practise when the weekly sequence seems overwhelming.
The two key takeouts from her suggestions were to
– Find one mistake in each pose and correct that fault.
– Try and increase the range of movement
Body fatigue is one thing which is unusual unless I am running a lot but it’s the mental rebelliousness and flightiness that I find hard to deal with. I missed a few days of asana practice by the book and it didn’t feel good. The few poses I did were not enriching as they were done as stretches. I did not chant the invocation and had no direction. It was more a fear that I did not want to miss doing something. It trickled into my everyday life and I found myself snappier and overwhelmed. The degree of unmanageability has lessened and perhaps it is not visible outside but I know it inside. Lesson learnt. Quality over quantity.
About a year back, I was chatting with my husband and mentioned that maybe over time my voice would improve if I continued practising. Recently, while reciting the invocation to Sage Patanjali, I could feel the change in my Omkara, a distinctive change in the quality of the syllable, more a steady vibration than the voice really. Perhaps it is the inversions, maybe it is the power of the Omkar, maybe it is grounding into the earth (a wild premise but I did notice it after the barefoot experiment, prithvi to akasha?), I do not know. My mind still wanders and I get caught up in the next line to recite and forget to be in the syllable being verbalised. Despite all my shortcomings, there is a different expanded sense of time during that brief chanting.
I’ve been contemplating a regular japa practise for sometime but haven’t been able to commit myself to it on an everyday basis. As of now, it is whenever I feel like it but that is not a practice and for change to take root, it needs the regularity of discipline. The Gayatri and Shiva mantras are familiar. There was a period in my life when I chanted the Mahamritunjaya mantra regularly. Some say it is a corollary to the Gayatri.
As a deity, Lord Shiva appeals to me with all his symbolism. Householder and ascetic. Terrible and Innocent. Supreme Yogi. Auspiciousness. Perhaps this Shivratri can be a day I commence my japa practice? It is an auspicious day for all spiritual sadhana and maybe just the little push to take that first step? If it be His will…
Om Namah Shivaya