Doing Asanas For the First Time Again

26 June, 2008

I must have been a bit of a curiosity when I started practicing at the shala, dropping in out of nowhere like I did. I just showed up at Mysore one morning four weeks ago and kept coming.

Whereas, I gather that most of the yogis ‘grow’ into their practice at the place – for example, they might start off with an ‘Intro to Yoga’ workshop, take a few ‘Yoga Prep’ classes before migrating to led classes (levels 1, 2 and 3). Eventually they could take the ‘Intro to Mysore’ workshop and then ease themselves into the Mysore class.

And there’s me…practicing in my basement like a hermit…and then showing up at DDQW out of the clear blue sky to stake my spot.

Now almost four weeks later I look at how my practice has changed. Most significant is a further realization of how deep, multifaceted and complex each asana is. I am rediscovering and subtly relearning poses that I ‘ticked off’ long ago – small adjustments in placement, emphasis, or nuance. On the other hand, I’m also learning that I’m not as far off in closing the gaps in my practice as I once thought; occasionally during the past week I’ve gotten a quick adjustment or remark from an instructor that ended up advancing an aspect of my practice – bringing me, for example, close to straight-legged jump-throughs, or hand-stand vinyasas; I also ease my way through poses that I once thought gruelling (Mari D) and now routinely get smoothly adjusted into that one pose I once considered beyond me (Supta Kurmasana)…

I have a Shala

3 June, 2008

I’ll get back to talking about the Yoga Show later, but today marked something of a landmark in my physical practice – the first significant change since I started it three years ago: I took it out of my ‘basement’ and into a shala full-time. I did the Mysore practice at Downward Dog this morning after signing up for an introductory one week; I’ll be extending that into a monthly pass next week.

It’s just a feeling but while I’m still making good progress in some places (backbending for example), in others I’ve reached a plateau. Basically I think I now really need both the subtle tweaks and the firm adjustments that only a regular Shala practice provides.

The practice was phenomenal. Afterwards, I was absolutely drenched. I felt like a rag that had had the dirty water rung hard – twisted and banged – out of it and I felt immense. I couldn’t stop grinning. It reminded me of my first Ashtanga class in 2003.

I’ve gotten used to practicing in my basement or more recently in the gym at my current customer engagement. They’ve at least given me a (more or less) quiet comfortable place to practice. But these are cool places; I’m sure the basement is frequently down in the range of 10 degrees on some practice days, and of course the gym, they purposefully try to keep cool.

The main room at Downward Dog, on the other hand, has plenty of windows facing east and north and the room was intensely warm this morning as Toronto was hot today…even at 6:30 am. I was sweating after the third Surya A and later on would sweat so much that the moisture actually impeded some of my poses; I kept slipping out of Mari D for example and then counter-intuitively the sweat made my thighs and calves ‘grippy’ and made Garbha Pindasana a bit harder to get into. I hadn’t brought a towel as I’d never needed one before.

I got some good robust adjustment in Supta Kurmasana and a few more subtle ones elsewhere. Walking out of the place, I felt they way you do when you leave home. It already felt that good and right. I felt like I belonged to the place. Later, as I drove up Jarvis to Bloor (I should have taken Spadina) with the sun to my back, and the windows and sun roof all the way open, the wind drying my still-sweating brow, I wondered why I hadn’t joined the Shala sooner.