Looks like it’ll be a long, rough month to the Confluence

I’ve attended three “big” Ashtanga events that have required a little extra thought, effort and preparation.

The first trip to Mt. Shasta with Tim Miller. Going to Maya Tulum with Tim, a year ago. Last summer’s return to Shasta.

Yes, yes, very Tim heavy. I know.

But the point is for each I prepped myself, Tulum especially. Six-day-a-week practice, no exceptions. Extra focused, extra careful, extra tough so I’d be ready for practice every day plus the added teacher training parts.

I’d planned to do the same for the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence, which now is just a month off.

Ain’t gonna happen.

I’ve just looked at my February, and it involves at least two — and maybe three — overnight trips. I’ve got six and possible more early morning calls lining up that will not enable a full practice, unless I started earlier than I’m capable of doing — and then, doing it at home.

In fact, looking at the calendar and the schedule, it may be a month where I’m forced to practice at home. (Still trying to determine this over the next week.)

Anyway I slice it, February isn’t lending itself to lots of focused Ashtanga.

Now, this isn’t my whining. It’s not supposed to be, anyway. It’s thinking out loud and seeking wisdom and advice.

The basic question: How best can I get myself prepared for the first weekend of March? Despite my jokes about avoiding Richard Freeman, I do want to “get my money’s worth.”

I’ve done home practice before. I know I can do it. And I’ve practiced in the tight spaces of a hotel room. But I’ve also found that the deeper — especially physically — practices haven’t come at home. They’ve come in a heated space with plenty of room to stretch out.

Home practices, typically, have been placeholders. But I’m thinking for the next month (at the least) they are going to have to be moments to propel my practice forward.

I ask this knowing that there are a lot of folks for whom home practices are all they have. And they may have smaller, colder, less Ashtanga-friendly spots in their homes than I do. (It isn’t sympathy I’m seeking, on other words.)

I also ask it while recognizing the inherent push-pull of seeking to “advance” the practice; but I’m going to assume you know what I mean. I want to feel at my best, physically and … however else, in order to take the most advantage of the Confluence.

It looks like it’s going to be a bit tougher than I’d expected. Which I suppose I ought to accept as a first step.

Posted by Steve


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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

7 thoughts on “Looks like it’ll be a long, rough month to the Confluence”

  1. Steve, I know how you feel. I remember my first Nancy Gilgoff adjustment clinic 8 years ago. I walked into Christine Hoar’s lovely shala in Bristol, VT, and the heat was so intense, the room so packed with folks who were clearly way beyond me in terms of asana practice that I felt insignificant – like a complete neophyte. It was intimidating and humbling.

    But, being in that room that week with those folks inspired me so much – it bought home the depths of this practice, the commitment required, the dedication to just rolling the mat out every day, even if it’s just for 3 Suryanamaskar A’s, 3 B’s, and the last three padmasanas (Nancy’s minimum daily practice suggestion). And, it made me keep going back to Bristol every summer, too, to be with Nancy and Christine and experience that feeling once again.

    I am sure you have had the same experience with Tim on the three retreats you’ve been on with him.

    So, in terms of practicing at home, which I have done often in my Ashtanga life, my suggestion is to wake up earlier than usual. Heat things up as much as possible in the space, get it free of dust bunnies and distractions. Don’t think about what you “should” be doing. Shut off the phone, wear some layers, and just roll out the mat. Sing out the opening chant loud and proud. Breathe and begin.

    Focus on just being in the moment with your practice when you practice at home – less linear thinking about getting through the sequence and more vertical thinking about being in the space of breath with every posture.

    It will not be as hot or as intense as a shala practice with a room full of sweating, breathing folks sharing the space with you, although you will sweat. It will be quieter. More meditative. Try not to get distracted and start playing with other postures that aren’t part of the sequence you are practicing! Just keep going when your mind pulls you out of the asana you are on.

    You’ll hear your own breath more, which is good. Observe it and let your mind rest in that. I try to focus mainly on my breath vs. on “getting” the asana as deeply as I do in the shala. Focus on the internal energetic movement vs. the external form of the asanas. Savor the vinyasas. If you are working on drop backs with a teacher, find a wall and work on them alone a la David Garrigues (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVPN07wVF0g) Enjoy a very long, long closing sequence, and a longer sirsasana if possible, too. Sit for longer in padmasana and work on sama vritti with your breath.

    Take a nice long rest with a heavy blanket.

    Home/self practice a good and even necessary way to practice. It adds depth and confidence in many ways. You’ll discover things about yourself you can’t/won’t discover in the shala. You’ll feel more able to release emotions that might come up. Let them come up and stop and let it out if it happens.

    In some ways, shala practice buoys one up and we get energy from the group. It’s harder to practice at home because you must generate that same energy by yourself. It’s possible though to do this – and it can be a very sweet and illuminating way of practicing. Change is good.

    And, don’t worry about the Confluence. Everyone is going to be so chill and yet fired up to be together – it’ll be awesome.

    OK, gotta get the kids to school, and then go practice – alone, but grateful 🙂

    1. Thanks Michelle. That’s helpful, especially the reminder to focus on the breath vs. the depth of the pose. (I think Bobbie and I have finally gotten a regular stretching routine started, so I may feel a little less like my practice has to be also my stretching.)

      I practiced last night, and it went OK. I’m hoping I can make it to the shala for the afternoon Mysore today — otherwise it’s on to Bobbie’s class later.

      I’ll take a look at the D-Garr (as he’s apparently called?) video — sounds exactly like what I’ve started doing.


  2. I have been doing a home practice for almost 5 years now and it is not so bad. I actually find that there is no ego involved when it is just me in a room by myself. I may not push myself as much, but I also find that I am not as injured as much too 🙂

    1. The injury issue is one blessing — before all three of my “retreats” it always has been in the back of my head: You’re going to hurt your knee/back/hamstring the day before you go.

      Not that that for sure won’t happen, but hopefully I can be mindful of it, at least.

  3. Hello Steve,
    I’m guessing you probably don’t want to hear this, but there is really no way to prepare for the Confluence. The only thing to do is to do whatever practice you can do in the coming weeks, given your very full life, and then just surrender and show up as you are.

    “Home practices, typically, have been placeholders. But I’m thinking for the next month (at the least) they are going to have to be moments to propel my practice forward.”

    What would count as “propelling your practice forward”, anyway? Being able to float up into handstand after each navasana, and then float effortlessly into the next navasana ala Lino Miele? Do you really think Richard Freeman would be wowed by that, anyway? I’m guessing he’s probably seen, like, a million people do that by now.

    I understand the drive to want to be your best/impress senior teachers (been there, done that). But really–and I know you’ve heard this a thousand times, but I’m going to say it anyway–it doesn’t matter. Your practice is your practice, it doesn’t make any difference whether you are doing it at home by yourself, in a shala, or in front of Richard Freeman or Tim Miller. Just show up, do your practice, and all is coming.

    1. Of course it’s to float effortless during navasana! (Isn’t it?) 🙂

      Seriously, my home practices have tended to come when I was suddenly bereft of a place to practice, and the focus was on maintaining. Heading into the Confluence, I’d hope to “propel things forward” a bit so perhaps I could take advantage of something “new.” If my backbends are a bit deeper (which is all I’m asking, and only “a bit”) then I’d expect to get something different (not necessarily more or even better) out of Freeman’s workshop on backbends.

      Same goes for deepening my breathing, improving the focus on dristis, etc.

  4. I’m a rookie to Ashtanga, but are you maybe putting too much emphasis on ‘being ready’? Whatever state you are in when you arrive, you will grow through your practice there. If you feel disappointment, it’s just your ego. Let it go.

    ‘just do’

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