Happy Anniversary to AGY blog!
This week marks one year of blogging!!! I’ve published 50 whole posts. At first, I didn’t know if I’d keep up this blogging business, but it has turned out to be one of these self-imposed commitments that doesn’t have any element of struggle. It’s pure-good. I look forward to it, I love the conversations that I’ve had around posts I’m researching or comments people offer after I publish. I love organizing my thoughts around a subject enough to be able to put them into words. Blogging leads me to other blogs and I get to read and think and comment on other people’s thoughts and ideas. It has been great so far and I’m excited to do more.
Blogging is one of the very few things I do that is so uncomplicated…emotionally. It is a no pressure/ for the enjoyment/ for the experience/ see where this will take me kind of thing. There is an ease and a softness with myself when I blog that I don’t always allow myself to enjoy in other arenas in my life. With blogging, I’m not putting all that perfectionist-pressure on myself to make any masterpiece, I’m just doing it. I’d like to cultivate that approach with my yoga.
In a yoga class that I attended today, I unknowingly put my mat next to a yogini-asana-bad ass. I attend this class every Tuesday and my teacher, Jenn, makes it feel not only possible but right to do what we need to do depending on where we are and how we feel. We might take it easy or step it up, following our inner teacher within the structure of the class she provides. That might mean skipping a vinyasa and finding down dog a little sooner, or maybe it is kickin’ it with a couple extra chaturanga-to-plank push ups if we need to burn off a little energy. Thanks to Jenn’s guidance, I’ve gotten better at following my inner teacher and usually I’m pretty good at sinking into my practice. If you floated into the yoga studio and looked across the sea of bodies, mine is usually looking rather relaxed and it may even be the one stretched-on-back in child’s pose, taking it easy while others are doing something hard.
Now, I’d like you to come out of the yoga studio and think about tv for just a minute. Specifically, I’d like you to think about Wonder Woman with Linda Carter. My parents tell me I was obsessed with this show when I was 4 and that might explain why I remember one of the sound effects from that show really well. When Diana Prince was quickly spinning herself into Wonder Woman you’d hear a special sound. I think this sound effect also happened when WW was trying to get the truth out of someone. She’d use her lasso of truth and you knew it was working because there would be a brassy and throbbing sound, that took viewers to another dimension. I’m going to have to ask you to make the following sounds line by line and then, in your mind, overlay those sounds so that you get an idea of what I’m talking about. Just do your best.
Waaaah- Waaaah- Waaaah- Waaaah, and
Tchtch- Tchtch-Tchtch-Tchtch-, and
Then all together.
So now, still thinking about tv, picture one of those slow-motion nature show clips. Featured in this clip is a frog leaping away from a snake that’s about to eat it. You can see the rippling froggy-muscles and the strength and the ease with which he leaps. Picture all of this, and now play it slowly in your mind again, only in reverse. You see the legs shooting out behind the frog, back toward the snake, and you see the front arms hug on in toward the torso perfectly. Now replay the reverse frog jump but this time, overlay that Wonder Woman sound effect on top of this image. You notice how the frog’s body does this with such ease and grace AND power. It looks so amazing in slow motion and you wonder if a human body could ever do something like that…
Okay, back to yoga class and yogini-bad-ass next to me.
So this woman has a very strong practice (vigorous, precise, advanced versions of every asana). I notice this and also notice that my level of intensity begins to step up a little bit. No more taking it easy in child’s pose for me. We continue. I get a little tired, and I remind myself to stay connected to my practice, laughing a little in an attempt to quiet my ego and stay with what I know is good for me today—I’ll be teaching 4 classes, I’m still congested from last weekend’s cold, and really, I’m not an overachiever. I don’t have to keep up with her. This seems to work for the first 15 minutes of class. I’m thinking, “Wow, she’s busting out some really deep versions of those poses.” And I’m feeling, “yeah, I can totally do that, too.” But I’m doing a practice that nourishes me. So far, so good.
Then we get to this part of class and from uttanasana, a standing forward bend, we either step back to the back of the mat OR press down into the hands and jump back, taking toes to the back of the mat. Sounds kind of fun, right? I usually enjoy this challenge but I’m not to hard core about it. I’ve had a shoulder injury. I try to really enjoy my practice. But next to me… what do you think is going on? PERFECT JUMP BACKS TO CHATURANGA! This woman nails it every time and looks like that frog from the nature show leaping in reverse, in slow motion, and landing SILENTLY. The only sound I hear is that Wonder Woman sound effect happening in my head. My ego swells and no little chuckle is going to put that ego of mine back in line now, so BAM I do it, too. Channeling the slow-mo frog reverse leap. (I’d like to say I actually looked like the frog. I sure didn’t feel like the frog.) This continues for some time. Sweat is pouring off of me. My phlegm situation is getting critical. BAM. Jump back. BAM. Jump forward. BAM. Oh my goodness, I’m so tired and have to laugh. What am I DOING?
I’m tempted to discuss avidya—an element of which is asmita, the ego. I could start to dig on down through my psyche and pick apart why and how the ego takes over and I could reflect on how much duhkha or angst this causes me and what yoga has to say about all of that. But that’s not really the take home message, here. The message is patience and compassion. I feel my competitive self come up. I notice it, notice my reaction, accept it. I can try to do something different next time. I love that yoga is about being able to see and think and feel these things that we do (without loading them down with buckets of shame) and then, slowly, connect with and become something higher and something better. This process is yoga, which means the mistakes are yoga and the flaring up of the ego can be yoga when we notice it and use it to move to a higher place. Mr. Desikachar says it this way in The Heart of Yoga:
Yoga is the movement toward and the arrival at a point. The yoga that we are practicing and in which, through practice, we can make progress is called kriya yoga. The yoga Sutra defines kriya yoga as being made up of three components: tapas, svadyaya, isvarapranidhana.
Tapas does not mean penance or castigation, but is something we do in order to keep us physically and mentally healthy. It is a process of inner cleansing: we remove things that we do not need. Svadyaya is the process of gradually finding out where we are, who we are, what we are, and so forth. Our asana practice begins with precisely these questions. […] The meaning of isvarapranidhana in the context of kriya yoga relates […]to a special kind of attention to action: we place value on the quality of the action, not on the fruits that can develop out of it.
Isn’t that beautiful? There’s so much space to allow myself to be the lovely, sincere, sometimes competitive and ego-driven gal that I am and there is also lots of space to allow myself to slowly move closer to the kind of person I would like to be. (Queue the opening song for Mutual of Omahah’s Wild kingdom…another tv favorite when I was 4.) There’s no expectation that this kind of thing happens quickly, either. We know that in order to change habits and bring unconscious behavior to our awareness we need a lot of patience and persistence. We need tapas, the practice that gets us on the right track, and svadyaya, awareness and reflection of what, why and how we do things. It isn’t a quick fix, but it isn’t all work, either. There’s JOY. I already have this joy-filled and low-pressure blog experience, so I know it is possible. I can cultivate patience and persistence, and joy in my yoga practice and life. I wonder if it, too, can offer a no pressure/ for the enjoyment/ for the experience/ see where this will take me kind of thing.
watch this video to see a frog leap…and make sure volume is turned on.
watch this video to see a yoga-lady do a jump back (minute 1:06).