Monday, March 23, 2009

More Thoughts On Ashtanga (or "that other thing I do besides cooking")

How long have I been at this Ashtanga thing? One of these days I’ll catalogue the scars Ashtanga has ravaged along my body; mat burn along my thighs from jump backs and jump throughs, a crescent-moon-shaped scab at the edge of my right wrist where my toenail scrapes against my skin (again, jump backs/throughs); the “friction cysts” on my left ankle, right knee, right rib, and left backbone.

And I’m just getting serious.

The “beginners group” who started Mysore at the same time I did in July are all of us now stuck on Marichyasana D in some form or another; our yoga teacher (now returned from her yearly trip to the real Mysore) goes around the room and adjusts us, one at a time.

My practice takes about 75 minutes to complete now that I’ve started doing backbends, which were killing my wrists for a while until I figured out how to do them correctly, and I still do it every morning except rest days and “ladies’ holiday,” going in to Mysore class twice a week for adjustments and spending the rest of time at home on my mat trying to figure it out.

Sometimes I think/wish/plan to go to Mysore more than twice a week, but I think I need the “figuring it out” time too. Despite the fact that I know that it isn’t, Mysore still feels like a piano lesson: a performance for a teacher to prove that you’ve been practicing, and then a series of adjustments.

For a while I felt guilty about not going to Mysore more often, for economic reasons: we’re in a recession, my yoga teacher runs a small business, and every month I buy the 10-class pass instead of the Unlimited Monthly pass. If I bought the Unlimited Monthly, my yoga teacher would get $30 more from me each month, which would only be about $12 after taxes because self-employed people pay both sides of Social Security, but it would still be something.

Then I realized that my only going twice a week opens up mat space for other students to only go twice a week, and that she had the potential to get more money by splitting the same rectangle of space up among several students than she would if one student used it exclusively. So I stopped feeling bad about that.

(Then I was online looking for yoga retreats and I saw that this other Ashtanga school in Virginia requires students to go to Mysore at least 4x/week. So then I started feeling badly again.)

They say that the hamstrings hold the body’s anger. I wonder sometimes if either A. my hamstrings are tight because they’re full of unreleased anger, or B. my hamstrings are tight because I’m not a particularly angry person.

I guess I’m at the start of the place where—if we’re still comparing things to piano lessons—I can play Ode to Joy and people can recognize the tune, and I know how to find middle C and my five-finger positions, and now I have so much work ahead of me.

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