Debating whether to return to Tulum with Tim Miller

Bobbie and I have been talking all weekend about Maya Tulum.

Should we go next year? Why didn’t we go this year. Could we really go both to Mt. Shasta and Tulum during the same year?

We don’t know yet.

Tim Miller
Tim at a recent teacher training.

I’ve been trying to nail down what, precisely, the difference is between the two. In Shasta, one of the attractions is that Tim is, also, on vacation — more or less. He still leads practice in the morning and runs “Asana Doctor” in the afternoon, and he’s the de facto leader of hikes.

It’s definitely more relaxed.

Well, sort of. Because it may be impossible to get more relaxed than Tulum. If you want, you never have to put on shoes, you never have to go much more than a few hundred feet and you’ll have your yoga room, your palapa, the beach, the water, food. Everything you need.

I don’t know if it says more about me than about either trip, but what really is standing out is: I still have my car in Shasta. That seems to represent that as isolated as the Shasta trip is, you’re still here. With Tulum, you are gone, gone, gone.

My argument for Shasta has been all the friends we’ve made. The argument for Tulum: It’s something new. (Well, new for both us together.)

In short, we don’t know. At one point, we were for sure going to Tulum. (Well, unless some trip to India materialized.) Shasta? Well…

I know it made me look back at my photos from Tulum. This Facebook album should be viewable. If not… umm… I don’t know what to tell you! Maybe: Go yourself!

Posted by Steve

Sunday conversation: How do you like your opening chant?

This past week, we talked a little bit about Ashtanga’s opening chant.

Bobbie’s found where and when she needs to speak it loud and proud. Me, not so much.

And so a question.

Do you prefer the call-and-response style of the opening chant or the “all together now” way of doing things? Does one way trigger a different response or attitude in your subsequent practice?

Posted by Steve

If it’s Saturday, we must be in Maya Tulum

Today, Saturday, Jan. 28, is the first day of Tim Miller’s teacher training retreat in Maya Tulum, Mexico.

A year ago, it was me getting on a plane, yoga mat in tow, and heading for Cancun.

The beach out front of Maya Tulum

Today, it’s me asking: Why aren’t I on a plane to Tulum again? The answer may range from “I’m stupid” to “I’m really stupid.”

Bobbie and I have talked about our both going together — we’ve gone separately, she in 2008 and I in 2011. For both of us, the trips were amazing.

I won’t try to wax too poetic about it. I’m not sure words do it justice.

Instead, then, a quick list of what I remember, what still stands out:

  • The people. The group of 25 or 30 was full of some wonderful and amazing people, several of whom I’ve kept in touch with — and it’s been a year. I know a few, at least, are coming to the Confluence. I hope we repeat the night out drinking tequila.
  • The water. One of the best Savasanas ever was a “continued” one — done in the practice room and out straight onto the sand for another while and then into the water. (I also realized toward the end of the week that there was better bodysurfing down the beach. Some fun shore pound.)
  • Being barefoot. I wore shoes twice all week. Once to go to the ruins and the other time when we went out to a nearby bar. And the latter of those I was overdressed with shoes on. (And by shoes I mean sandals.)
  • Wearing not much else, either. Shorts, bathing suits, T-shirts. Simple.
  • The food. I have to throw a plug in for the awesome, mostly vegetarian and always fresh cuisine. I was even able to stay mostly raw.
  • The total change of pace. Tulum for this beats even Mt. Shasta. Everything slows down. You’re thinking about your practice, you’re open to the experience, you’re aware of your surroundings. Or at least I was.
  • The Mahabharata. I finished reading Ramesh Menon’s version while there. Bhisma’s death scene was enthralling and deeply moving.
  • And, of course, Tim. All those reasons why would be another blog post — or even another blog!

OK. Hold on. I think I need to run and catch a plane.

Posted by Steve

Prepare yourself: That book on yoga’s dangers is coming

New York Times writer William Broad’s book, The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards, will be out in less than two weeks.

And you know what that means, right?

If an excerpt can cause all the craziness that his in the Times did a few weeks back, imagine what a whole book might do.

Normally I’d tell you to wait and see. But you don’t have to.

Yoga Dork has a first set of “reviews” of the book, from a cast familiar from the reaction to the Broad article in the Times magazine.

This is only going to pick up steam from here. (Broad’s agent sure got that article timed right. Just as we all had moved on to the next thing, his book is back!)

We could ignore it, I suppose. But that strikes me as too much of a head-in-the-sand approach. And what is it that Tim Miller says, quoting I imagine Guruji?

“Avoidance is not the answer.”

So in that vein, I’ll hope that there are meaningful and constructive conversations generated by the book’s release. And I’ll try to keep my hysteria about them all in check.

Posted by Steve

This week’s Ashtanga lesson: Wow, my practice sucks

Before anyone gets on me for judging my practice, a quick primer:

I don’t believe that the lesson of yoga is to learn that I’m perfect the way I am or to accept my place in the world or anything of the kind.

It’s a modern form of Tapasya, an attempt to burn away “the bad fat,” as we read in Guruji’s Yoga Mala, in both its literal and figurative forms. It’s hard. It’s rough. It’s grueling.

And, apparently, I still suck at it.

Good reminder, especially with the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence just a bit more than a month off. I won’t be setting my mat down directly in front of Richard Freeman, I can tell you that.

The funny thing is, I have Bobbie to thank for the lesson.

During her Intro class last night, she joined the 10 students in the room in practicing. It’s something Tim Miller does regularly, and Bobbie’s Led class is designed to move students along so they can begin a Mysore practice.

With her just calling out the names of the poses and then the fifth breath, it was a good “baby step” that way.

It was that fifth breath that was the real teacher.

Her five breaths were anywhere from seven to 11 of mine, and I think I probably missed a few poses where the count went even higher than that.

Medium breath, indeed! I’m apparently closer to a hyperventilating hyena than an Ujayii expert. And this is supposed to be the year of the breath.

Which is good to know. You know, before I go getting too cocky about being able to pick up and pull back.

I’ve got a to learn and a long way to go. Which isn’t a surprise, but it was a timely — if slightly roughand tough — lesson.

Rough? There’s that word again. Perhaps it’s all just part of the Tapasya.

I did, at least, seem to be having an easier time of it than all the “newbies” in the class. Perhaps surprisingly, despite Bobbie’s really stepping up the “Ashtanga’s hard” lesson, the response from the students was pretty positive.

I wonder how they’re feeling this morning, though.

Posted by Steve

Lip-syncing Ashtanga’s opening chant

Earlier this week, Bobbie posted about having to teach the opening chant to new Ashtanga students.

These lines, in particular, struck me:

So I learned pretty quickly that I was going to have to break line integrity (something that infuriates me no end) and say it slow, say it loud, and say it proud.

They struck me because I know the chant, but still I’m always just a little uncomfortable saying it “loud.”

Usually, it’s not an issue. Most Led classes have at least 20 students in them, and they all know the words, so to speak.

It’s a different matter when going to Bobbie’s intro classes. Instead of 20 strong voices, you might have three or four. And because I’ve got a little emotional investment in the teacher, I want to make sure she feels like the students are responding to her lead. (I’m a giver that way.)

And so I have to boom it out. “Vande gurunam …”

In all its beautiful forms, the opening mantra.

I realize there are a few good, and not so good, reasons for my feelings.

The first is just simple shyness, the same characteristic that kept me from trying out my middle school and high school Spanish at Mexican restaurants when I was a kid. “What if I don’t have it quite right? They’re going to laugh at me.”

That’s a not-s0-good reason.

A perhaps better one is that I would put myself into the group of Ashtangis who find the practice lonely (or did we settle on “solitary” as a better term). I want to thank the teachers who have come before me in a personal way and not in a way that calls attention to myself. (I want to call attention to myself and put on a show when I’ve got my pull backs going on!) It’s not a matter of erasing the ego, but it is a moment of putting the ego in the right context, as I understand it. Or am struggling to understand it.

Maybe when I feel I’ve understood where the ego should be as I stand at the top of the mat, I’ll be a bit louder in my pronunciation.

Posted by Steve

Images from India’s Republic Day

India celebrated its 63rd Republic Day on Thursday. The day marks when the country’s constitution came into force, a separate moment from when India gained its independence.

The New York Times has a collection of images from the celebrations, which are centered in New Delhi.

Here’s the link and a taste:

Posted by Steve