The Path To Bodhichitta

You start where you are, the practice will meet you there.

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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Truly, Madly, Deeply

Two weeks.

Two solid weeks of practicing the same sequence over and over again.

Just two weeks, and my new ashtanga practice had me counting the hours to my first samasthitti of the day. A gob-smacking revelation for someone who has spent all four years of her practice avoiding Mr. Jois' cheoreography.

Seriously, I never thought I would connect so deeply with ashtanga. For years - and I confess this with deep humility - I always viewed it as an inferior practice, in that it focused solely on the body. Being brought up in the hatha way of life, I couldn't stomach that myopic vision. And being a Vata-type, the rigid sequence made me shudder. Two years ago, I took my first public ashtanga class with The Elder and it underlined my dislike for the style.

So why did I do an about-turn two months ago?

My home practice was flagging. I would dutifully turn up on my mat every evening and spend half my practice clawing through magazines and books for inspiration. By the time the hour was up, I felt that I hadn't even scratched the surface of a proper practice. I tried planning my sequence for the day or selecting one from Yoga Journal, but either it didn't fit with my mood or I lost interest half-way.

Ashtanga put a stop to all that. Despite my distaste for routines, I discovered that my body responded better when it knew exactly what was expected of it from the word 'Om'. (I later discovered that the sequence - although flowing - created a form of structure which was needed to keep my dosha in balance.) The ujjayi breathing kept my focus completely on my breath and body. And after watching John Scott's Primary Series DVD, I learnt the meaning of moving in powerful grace.

Each practice rewarded my body with an internal spring-clean. I would begin with my mind still filled with the day's events, but by the time I reached trikonasana, all that I was aware of was my Darth-Vader-breath and my body alignment. That inner quiet was soon followed by a wonderful sense of groundedness. In reaching savasana, I literally felt more alive. The beads of perspiration running down my spine and cooling on my skin, my muscles tingling and my breath softly bellowing a steady rhythm. The physical sensations pave an avenue for me to tap deeper into my mental and emotional sensations. And I have fallen in love with that feeling.

Ashtanga has also instilled a sense of discipline in me, that I once despaired I would never possess. For the first time in a long, long time, I have practiced every single day (bar the new moon, full moon and ladies' holiday). Even better, this disipline has also spilled over into my work life.

It has taken me four years to give ashtanga a chance, and even now I'm sharing only half of what I feel, because certain things have to be experienced to be understood.

But it has been and still is a struggle. I have had days when I'm almost in tears, when I am mad at Pattabhi Jois for making unreasonable demands on my body, when the movements are just too fast too furious...and I will share every single one of those struggles in this blog. Yet, like a repentant lover, I return to ashtanga the next day because I know that beneath its apparent brutality lies a benovelent soul. And also because I believe Pattabhi Jois when he says, "Practice and all will come."


Blogger David Byck said...

I am so glad you are enjoying your Ashtanga practice. Reading your words of discontent and annoyance is wonderful. It reminds all of us of the early years of the practice. Don’t worry, when you’re all done with that the practice has other things in store for you. I look forward to reading about them.



12:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ahhh the joys of love.... I agree with you, it's a love hate relationship, and I have constantly accused Guruji of being a masochist, and chauvinist - because it is NOT possible for women to do the stuff he demands in his sequences. but, everyday, and especially in times of great stress and grief, i will stand at the top of my mat, grateful that i have one constant thing in my life, ie my practice, which no one, nothing, no power on earth bar the Divine Himself, can take away. at end of each practice, drained and yet replenished, i can only drop my forehead to the floor in gratefulness for my ability to practice. you are therefore blessed to be in love with the practice too. i have been so for more than 7 years and counting, and it hasn't abated. look forward to a life long beloved. I am so happy for you. Practice practice practice and all is coming :-)

8:46 PM  
Blogger starlight said...

Mr.Cover-Model Byck - Your book has been so encouraging. Reading it for the second time is so different and I'm going yes! yes! yes! more often. I so look forward when I'm able to do navasana with such ease, but in the meantime, I'll sit back and enjoy the journey!

Anon - beautifully said! I love the bit about the one constant thing in life and the gratefulness for the ability to practice. Thank you so much for your support.

2:55 AM  

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