My practice on Sunday was one of those practices.
Stiff. Achy. Unusually tight. Lots of things hurting a little.
We’ve written a bunch about pain and injury in Ashtanga (and often, so have readers). We all know that no two people have the same definition or understanding of what pain is, of what “good pain” is versus “bad pain,” of whether all pain is inherently bad, or whether Ashtanga should be pain-free.
On Sunday, the experience wasn’t so much one of a single, major moment of pain. It was little hurts and discomforts, lesser than normal but more frequent, more consistent. My hip in this pose, my shoulder in that, and, hey, I don’t remember my shin hurting like that lately.
It was, in a word, distracting.
And because of those constant distractions, my practice was also one of those practices: with tons of dinking and pausing, too much looking around and lack of focus.
We’ve all had those practices, right?
So, question for you: Do you beat yourself up for it?
I suppose I tend to. After all, all I’m asking of myself is 75 to 90 minutes of focus, of controlled breath, of effort. To dink around, and think about this and that, to muddle things, I mean — c’mon on.
As I was going through that process (is there a Five Stages of Ashtanga Remorse?), something Eddie Stern said during the Moksha workshop last night came to mind. He was talking about gurus (and we’ll get more to that in future posts). It went something like this:
The guru relationship isn’t supposed to be easy. (Think about all the stories you ever heard or about your own relationship to your guru). And the yoga practice isn’t, either. Why? Because without challenges, there’s no progress. (For our Blakean readers, I’ll remind you: “Without Contraries is no progression.”) Nothing grows without struggle, without resistance.
My practice on Sunday was full of little challenges, minor resistances. And thus it was full of little opportunities for progress. (I assume that coming to this realization was that progress.)
On a larger front, more significant challenges during our practices — more difficult moments of pain or injury than I experience (on Sunday, anyway) — offer us greater opportunities for progress. And, the contrary, I suppose, is true: Yoga practices that are easy don’t provide the challenges we need, the lessons that help us peel away our self-misperceptions, our lacks of understanding — avidya — that keep us from liberation.
So, I realize (again, or for the millionth time), yoga practice should be hard. That’s the point.
Posted by Steve