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Too busy living the dream…

November 25, 2010

Happy thanksgiving my little Dharmites! I see that there may or may not be some loyal/curious readers that occasionally visit the site even though I’ve been too busy living the dream to dream up any new posts.

This thanksgiving, amongst all of my other “general thanks” (friends, family, food, shelter, clean undies, public transportation and indoor plumbing) I am thankful to be deeper into yoga than ever before. Yes, shock me, shock me. It IS possible that even though the honeymoon period is over between me and my spouse, (in case you missed the fact, yoga and I exchanged vows in June) our love is stronger than ever.

Clearly, being a yoga teacher trainee I’ve had ample opportunity to learn many new yoga things (philosophy, vedic chanting, yoga sutras…you know, the good stuff) but part of what the Dharma Chameleon was all about was trying new things, and going new places. Well, arriving at a place (metaphorically) where you were not before is a major principle of a yoga practice, but in a literal sense…I’ve been remiss in my journey.

In the spare time I (do not) have I’ve been thinking of checking out a few new practices. Being pretty much a resident at a studio gives you an opportunity to hear what else is out there…even if you previously thought you’d seen it all. Even within my own studio there was  practice I hadn’t given fair audience to.

Recently I started a Mysore Ashtanga practice. I must say, as a bad student, I started this practice against recommendations due to concerns with injury. The Ashtanga style is extremely vigorous and requires short vinyasa sequences to connect each of the poses in the series, not to mention the 5 surya namaskar As and 5 surya namaskar Bs that open your practice. All this makes for a very demanding physical practice, and some of the poses require a high degree of strength and flexibility that definitely only a small percentage of the population have. That is the general dish on Ashtanga…people love and and fear it equally.

Most people who practice Ashtanga do not ever advance beyond the primary series (there are two more advanced series). As for the method of practice for Ashtanga, there are two: Led and Mysore. Led Ashtanga is the same principle as any vinyasa class, although it employs the series and theories of Patabbhi Jois. The Mysore style is a whole different ball of wax, and in my opinion is the reason one should practice Ashtanga (with the right teacher of course). It is the closest I have ever come to having a private yoga class since I’ve started practicing, yet I am always in a nearly full yoga studio.

About three weeks ago at Yoga Sutra, I began a Mysore practice with Constanza and Arthur Roldan. The first time I went, Constanza had me sit on my mat and observe for about 15 minutes. I felt awkward and slightly confused. It was hard to make out what was going on because everyone was at different points in the series. Some of the poses looked bizarre, hard and unfamiliar (even to me.) After some time had passed, they visited me on the mat, dished about the practice and general procedures and then set me up with the two opening sun salutations.  Easy as pie (pumpkin, sweet potato, apple…your choice! It’s Thanksgiving!). I knew those sun salutations — been doing them for years. In fact, all of the poses that I’ve learned so far have been relatively familiar and easy (except Marichyasana C and D- i will conquer you.) It has been more of a challenge to remember the series, the transitions, the gaze points and all that good stuff. You might encounter the poses in any class, but it isn’t just the poses that make the tradition.

As I’ve worked through these postures (I’ve been given about half of the primary series at this point including marichyasana, boat pose and up-bow) I’ve received SO much hands on guidance and correction. I imagine it is pretty fun for the teachers to find someone with hamstrings made of rubber bands. I imagine that Constanza and Arthur could probably river dance on my back  while I’m in a forward bend and I’d be fine.  Even though this is the case, I feel like they would never handle me with anything but the greatest of care; respecting my body’s limits. Marichyasana D has been a great stumbling block for me (short arms make this TONS of fun!) and I’ve required a lot of assistance –  never once did I feel endangered. This is a terribly twisty little beastie. I imagine someone could conceivably hurt themselves. Not to mention the craziness of supta kurmasana and “posture of the embryo in the womb” yet to come.I

I am really growing into this Mysore practice and its community, but I must offer some perspective that I’m gaining currently through training. The Ashtanga series was a tough practice that was taught to little Indian boys to encourage discipline. For that matter, most strenuous asana practices are for young people, and as we progress in lives,  our practice logically speaking should change to fit our life stage.  80 year olds stand to injure themselves far more seriously (and possibly irreparably) if they’re participating in asana craziness. Don’t bust your hip grandma, why don’t you try some lovely breathing exercises? The main point here is to know yourself, know your body and your limitations. Know what you need. If you don’t know, ask someone to help you figure it out – therapy, mom, yoga teacher. Whoever. I’m thankful I’ve got two out of three of those  outlets!

So, everyone, happy thanksgiving…and all that gobble-di-gook. I know what you’re thankful for, I don’t even need to ask. It’s the fact that I was able to revive the creepy Dharma Chameleon Marla-Turkey from last year. You’re welcome.

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