I ended 2012 at a workshop with Bruce. Jason joined me in the experience and we had a great time. It was a wonderful thing for us to do together. Jason's parents spent time with Liam and Lila while we went off to practice and play and then made our way home slowly.
Over this past weekend, I attended my first all-day, two-day workshop with Darren and Christina at Yoga Oasis. It's been over two years since I've spent a long day practicing and learning. It was great to see so many familiar faces and to be in such good company. And, of course, Darren and Christina are such great, skilled teachers. I came away with a lot of new knowledge and a clearer understanding of the alignment needed in certain poses. I love that part, the alignment and clearer understanding part.
For me, the reason that I wanted to do this particular workshop was because it was a way for me to step back into the stream of things and see if this is in fact the direction I want to go as student. Also, the title "Asana Fundamentals" along with the description led me to believe that this would be a less intense experience and a good starting point.
At the end of day one, I felt pretty good about how things went as I felt better than I anticipated physically. Since having Lila a year and a half ago, it's been a time of slowly healing and bringing my body back together after some serious trauma. I have not really practiced for more than an hour and 30 minutes. My practice is usually about 30-45 minutes as that is what I can consistently do at this time. I always leave my practice feeling balanced and connected and happy and that is enough. So yes, I was glad that day one was doable albeit challenging.
On day two, I woke up sore Everywhere. I knew that as we got moving that morning, I would feel much better and the sore would shift. It did, for a while. As the morning session got progressively harder and we did 10 or more ( I lost count) Urdhva Dhanurasanas (a.k.a. Upward facing bow pose), I noticed my nervous system was starting to get overworked and I felt overwhelmed. I decided to just do bridge pose and take it down a notch. I didn't leave for lunch feeling good, centered or connected. In fact, I left sort of confused by my experience and what came up for me. So what arose for me were a lot of questions and a need for some grounding. I really wanted to spend time alone but said yes to lunch with a couple of lovely ladies. The food, conversation and company was good, and, at the same time, not really what I wanted or needed. As a mama of two, time by myself is a rare thing. And I crave those moments and need that time to be without chatter or explanation. Lesson learned. I'll move on.
So what I discovered or what is even more clear to me now is that I do not practice to push myself to my physical edge. I am just not after that anymore, and I cannot help but wonder if it's even beneficial. I guess I don't quite understand the necessity of intensity. Or better worded, I just don't know that intensity yields a positive opening, outcome, or transformation of any sort for me anymore. It's one thing to be challenged and pushed and another to just simply be overworked. When you don't know what's coming, it's hard to gage how much to give. And even though I took my time to practice in a way that honored where I was at, I still walked away feeling unsettled and ungrounded. Of course, back bends can do that. If I do too many back bends, it jars my nervous system. And what I've learned is that having my nervous system taxed is a sign of harm. It doesn't feel right or good, and feeling good after practice matters to me. For me, my practice is the way in which I regain my balance and make space for myself to breathe and connect when I feel overwhelmed and out of whack due to the demands of life. It's the antidote to the anxiety and stress in the world around me. So I guess my point is that working harder is not necessarily the smartest way to go.
Further along those lines, I feel like what is encouraged in our society and in every other area of our lives is that we must work hard to achieve anything or to be respected or noticed in any way. So we push ourselves into to stress, anxiety, depression, illness, injury, poor health, you name it. If we aren't working ourselves into the ground, we are lazy and unworthy of happiness or peace in our lives. I feel that practice should be the opposite. I do not feel that it should be yet another place where we push ourselves to work harder or do more than is really needed. Unfortunately, most people don't know how not to push themselves especially in the company of others, so people try to keep up. I see it all the time in class no matter how many times I remind folks to work within their means. Maybe it just takes time to notice our tendencies towards overdoing it. That place of balance is a very fine line to walk because there is always the other side. Laziness or lack of motivation, movement or desire can also lead to the same things: imbalance, unhappiness, poor health and the like. What we forget is that there is a middle place, a middle way. I choose that route. I choose that route because I see the power and usefulness of that way of living and being. Life is full of extremes. Duality is present all the time and yet it doesn't have to be so black and white. There are, as they say, varying shades of grey.
I think the way to incorporating these 'varying shades of grey' is to actually do a little of what you wouldn't normally do. Here's an example: if you tend to be hard on yourself or your extremely flexible or you always go for the intense fast, hard practice, something more mellow like Iyengar yoga or restorative might be a good thing once or twice a week in lieu of the thing your simply comfortable with, used to or that you get noticed for (i.e. flexibility). If you find yourself lacking energy or motivation, maybe a flow class would be a good kick in the pants once in a while. Think about it. Become aware of the way you are, and figure out if it's serving you or hurting you. You'll know the answer by the way you feel when you ask that question. You'll either feel good and empowered or a little sad and emotional.
Phew! I sure do have a lot on my mind! It's been that way for a while. Ever since Anusara broke apart and basically disappeared, I've been in this place of contemplation and unfamiliarity. It's a curiously, wonderful place to be. The good news is that I am finding my way. I am getting clear on what it is I want to offer as a teacher, what I feel is most needed as far as service is concerned, and what really works for the greater good. And most importantly, I am trusting what I know to be true and important. I am trusting myself and realizing that I may indeed be headed in another direction. And that may mean, I have less company, and I may have to create my own path. We'll see.
I'll just keep putting one foot in front of the other and continue to pay attention to what I am drawn to that makes me feel good, alive and aligned. Yup, that will work.
Om shanti, shanti, shanthi,