The Path To Bodhichitta

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

My Photo
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Brush-Your-Teeth-Practice

The Elder and I had our long overdue lunch today. We chatted about this and that and of course, yoga.

She asked about my practice and I unloaded my triumphs and frustrations. I told her how I had finally been able to do the seated sequence in one go, instead of breaking it up into two parts, because the energy it absorbed left me beyond exhaustion. I grumbled about how my navasana resembles not the Titanic but a sinking sampan (a typical Malaysian fishing boat). I fretted over my urdhva dhanurasana , which would sooner earn a spot in The Reject Shop than in William Tell's hand.

The Elder laughed and laughed and laughed. Somehow she finds my yogic maladies more Mr. Bean than MacBeth.

Then I mused over the fact that Ashtanga is still very much under my skin and how a daily practice has woven itseld seamlessly into my life. She nodded and smiled.

"If you want to truly enjoy ashtanga you must have a brush-your-teeth style of practice. One that has become a part of your life. One where the question of whether you should do it or not never arises. Only then will you build flexibility, strength and stamina."

A brush-your-teeth style of practice. I like that!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Addicted To Love

A very dear friend, who also happens to be a very pregnant yoga teacher, called me today. “I almost gave birth last night. Had my first contraction.”

The announcement was accompanied by giggles. Considering that her belly is only five-months-large, I didn’t see the humour.

She has a very demanding yoga teaching schedule, which at times entails hightailing from one end of the city to the other in snarling traffic. Throw in a couple of Ashtanga classes and you’ve got yourself a recipe for wild bursts of energy. No small surprise then that it’s being channelled into her womb.

“This pregnancy has really changed my classes,” she gushed. “So many students come up to me after class to tell me how much they loved the class and how happy they that I’m going to be a mother.”

Then I heard myself ask a question that surprised even me.

“Are you addicted to that response?”

There was a pause. “Well, it’s always nice to feel loved.”

“Of course. But there’s a subtle difference between gratitude and addiction. Between teaching for the simple joy of yoga and teaching for the standing ovation at the end.”

“I think I push myself because their expectations are so high,” she admitted. “And because they show me so much gratitude.”

And with that, I knew she would slow down in her own time.

But this question should tug at the heart of every student and teacher – why do I practice? Why do I teach?

For the love of yoga?


To feed the ego?

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Joy of Order

Despite The Teacher’s explanation and reassurance, the non-existent focus on alignment in Ashtanga continue to gnaw at me. So at a recent chai session with The Seer, I voiced my frustration once again.

The Seer looked at me thoughtfully and remarked, “Well, perhaps you like the order that alignment offers.”

The Seer has recently embarked on a Montessori course and is in the midst of understanding how preferences are imprinted on an infant’s mind. One of these preferences is for order. For structure. For a framework that makes sense. For a place for each and each in its place.

It sounds terrible boring, I realise, to know the next move every time and have no room for spontaneity. But I also realise that it is when I know how each line fits together to form a picture that I know which lines to erase, lengthen or reshape.

So yes, I have a deep fondness for the comfort of order that alignment offers in Iyengar which Ashtanga unfortunately lacks. However, I love the power of breath and flow in Ashtanga, of which Iyengar falls short.

In that case, I think I’ll move those lines of tradition a little and place an order for the best of both worlds.