My Monday practice, I’ll admit, was a 70%er.
Sunday night was a rough one; I didn’t sleep well. I think it will be a busy week at work, so I’m being mindful of that. And on Tuesdays, to honor and remember Hanuman, I try to go at 108% and really push things.
So Monday seemed a decent day to dial things back; I remember Annie Pace’s saying that you should have enough left to do your practice a second time, if need be.
So I don’t think there’s too much shame in this.
I was humming along pretty well; pushing some of the stretches — always with my hamstrings — but holding most of them for six breaths instead of eight. I received a nice, deep Janu A adjustment (more hamstrings) along the way.
When I got to Kurmasana, I thought I’d rigged the system. Jörgen Christiansson seemed to be out of the room for the moment. I settled into a decent, deep — but not too deep — pose. And then I moved on to a similarly intense Supta Kurmasana.
So I wouldn’t feel like I was trying to escape early, I figured a 10-breath count would be proper.
Eight would have been the right call.
Some time between seven and eight, Jörgen appeared. Farther around went my arms. Straighter went my legs. Up went my feet. And down, down, went my upper body.
Somewhere, someplace in my body was a nice focus of pain, for lack of a better word. But it wasn’t a scary, I’m about to die in Supta Kurmasana pain. It was maybe discomfort; it definitely said: “You are being stretched deeply.”
The thing is, I can’t tell precisely where the pain was. I knew it in the moment, as Jörgen sat on me, that I wasn’t sure where the sensation was coming from. Maybe my hip? Maybe my psoas? Maybe my lower back? All squished together, I couldn’t place it.
Such sensations are hallmarks of my 108% practices. They are those moments when the world does drop away, dissipate, in the sudden utterness of the “now.”
They are the moments I seek, but hate. And they are so intense, made of such complete agni, that I could never, ever claim that I love my yoga/Ashtanga practice.
Need it? Sure. Desire it? Ma- maybe. But love it? No.
And it is why I can’t quite trust anyone who says they “love” yoga. If they do, I can only assume they either aren’t experiencing such moments or they have a very disturbing relationship with their bodies, one that freaks me out. (It may not be a “bad” relationship, it’s just one that freaks me out. The onus of that judgement is on me.)
In the former case, I figure they just aren’t pushing themselves enough. This makes zero sense to me. I find the practice so difficult — I can make any pose sweat-inducingly intense — that is remains inconceivable that a Prasarita or a Marichyasana pose could be done with ease. I know that a certain Sukham is the goal, but I guess I think it is ease in the face of obstacle. Not ease in the face of easiness. Comfort, maybe is the word I’m searching for. It’s never comfortable.
I was at ease in that Supta Kurmasana, with Jörgen on my back, but I wasn’t languid or comfortable. It is an ease that also contains Sthira, which I take to mean the opposite of “hanging out in this pose, no problem, I’m comfortable here.”
If I’m comfortable, and at ease, and steady, I’m only going 70%. That’s good on occasion, but not all the time.
In the latter case, well, I don’t know what to make of that self-body relationship, anymore than I know what to make of feeling “love” for yoga. They are two concepts that I cannot place alongside each other. Love/yoga. Yoga/love. They are, for me, mutually exclusive — a dualism that no yoga can bridge.
And so I can’t help but look on it with skepticism, and maybe some wonder.
(Same goes for people who are practicing Bhakti or Jhana or some other type of yoga, because I’m obviously biased that you start with asana.)
Posted by Steve