Wednesday, October 27, 2010

More thoughts from David Keil's adjustment workshop...

David's workshops are very much hands-on and the adjustment workshop was no exception. Interestingly though, some of the thoughts that have been swirling around since the workshop actually came out of the first 45 minutes or so of general discussion about adjustments.

When you put the obvious physical stuff aside, the workshop group seemed to come to a conclusion that an effective adjustment (verbal, physical, or energetic) came down to student-teacher relationship. There needs to be both a willingness on the part of the teacher to communicate in a way that the student can understand and a willingness on the part of the student to listen for the adjustment to be effective.

It’s interesting to me that after all the fuss in recent years over whether to use physical adjustments (people usually love them or hate them) that it all really seems to come down to relationships…probably the most complicated, yet rewarding, part of life that we navigate. No wonder we have such strong feelings about adjustments!

As a teacher asking students (and I do think it is always asking, never demanding) to go somewhere physically vulnerable or uncomfortable is a big deal (supta kurmasana adjustment anyone!?!). …and then to see students willingly go where they’re asked is humbling. To hear David’s thoughts echo my own on the mutual surrender of ego in this process gave me lots more to ponder on.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Savannah Adjustment Workshop with David Keil

I'm just back from a weekend workshop on adjustments for yoga teachers by my Mysore teacher David Keil. I now have a head full of thoughts on all manner of teacher, student, and practice related subjects....and a sore body. We were either doing poses while being adjusted or adjusting poses for most of a day and a half straight...whew!!

I follow David all over south Georgia and Florida to catch his workshops, but Savannah is definitely one of my favorite locations to catch one of his workshops. The resident Ashtangis from the hosting studio are such warm, fun people. If you're in the area drop in to a class here or here.

In fact, one of the coolest bits of the weekend was spending both some "downtime" as well as some "practice time" with other Ashtangis who live on the same crazy schedule as mine...nothing like a 9 pm bedtime on Saturday night to get your non-yoga friends rolling their eyes! Ah...I may still be crazy, but so nice to be reminded that I'm not the only one.

More posts on the workshop and the thoughts that have come out of it this week!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"Not Exactly Comfortable"

One of my students used the phrase "not exactly comfortable" to describe some assisted deep backbends in practice yesterday.
I love this phrase! It's so descriptive of the backbending experience for many people...and if you're super comfortable then there are more backbends!

Deep backbends could be a metaphor for life off the mat. The practice of staying with what is "not exactly comfortable" is slowly making it possible for me to stay with any number of experiences that I might have missed out on otherwise. The best parts of my life are often "not exactly comfortable". The most inspiring life stuff is often more intense and more uncomfortable that I might like, but also more amazing than I thought possible.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Paradox and Contradiction

One of my students noticed a seeming paradox in the way the physical practice works with the mind. If the body is very uncomfortable, you can't seem to work on quieting the mind. On the other hand, if the body is very comfortable in a pose, the mind tends to wander off and start doing its own thing. Both are definitely true in my practice. If there are lots of little irritations in the body and it does not want to quiet down, then the mind doesn't seem to want to quiet down either. On the other hand, if the body is quiet and the mind is busy chattering, then I can be fairly sure that my most challenging poses will bring my attention back to the moment.

Practice is actually full of paradox and contradiction. In that way, it is a true mirror for life.

I've been thinking a bit about why we are able to "do" or "not do" certain poses....I put those in quotes as we all have our own definition of what "do" looks like. :)

I think there's both a physical and mental answer to that question. After 9 years of practice, I still do not lift up and jumpback...why?
The physical answer is that my upper body and core strength develop very sloooooowly. The mental answer is that I just don't want that transition very badly. I'm not all that fussed about it actually.

...but even with slow development of upper body and core strength, handstand drop-overs are really coming along...again why?

I've started to think that in order for poses to happen physically there are 2 things that need to happen in my mental practice. First of all I have to want to do the pose. If I don't actually want to do it, then I won't do the work....but paradoxically, I also have to be ok with the idea that even if I do the work, the pose may never happen. I have to be willing to do the work without expectation of results. There has to be non-attachment, but not apathy. Only then do I really pay attention to each breath and each moment. Only then is this yoga.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For...

Yoga Sutras 2:7-10

"Pleasure leads to desire and emotional attachment. Unhappiness leads to hatred. Self-preservation or attachment to life is the subtlest of all afflictions. It is found even in wise men. Subtle afflictions are to be minimized and eradicated by a process of involution."
-translation by B.K.S. Iyengar

Backbends have returned to my body after a few months of being mia. For the moment the tug-of-war between comfortable leg-behind-head and comfortable backbends has reached a truce. Backbends are deep and the feeling of being in need the the tin man's oil can for my hip flexors has receded. Physically, practice feels good...but along with the physical practice comes the mental and emotional layers of practice.

In my body, the return of deep backbends has brought the return of backbend "stuff"....all the stuff that you hope you might not have to look at...until you open the body and there it all is, waiting for you. When my physical practice is comfortable, the challenges appear elsewhere.

The 4 sutras above from Yoga Sutra book 2 are a good summary of my week; I've been oscillating between attachment to pleasure, irritation, impatience, and feelings of self-preservation. It's nice to think that if Patanjali felt that these sutras were important enough to include, that I likely have lots of company here.
I like that the sutra that follows these suggests that moving beyond this "stuff" is a process. The word process suggests to me that this too will take time.