Thursday, December 04, 2003

More from the Puck 

Mhhhmmm, I could get used to this. The move to the ground floor was an adjustment. The changing/leave stuff room serves multiple duty as our Ganesha Tea Stall prep area and changing room / coat rack. Except there is no rack, and no changing room- the floor serves rather well, cold muddy tiles be damned. Week three will see us back in the relative luxury of the 2nd floor.

But the room. Aaah, the room. And so toasty-warm, from the get-go. Although impractical (read: veeery wide and less rows), aesthetically it warms this chickadee's heart. Floor to ceiling windows all around, with white gauzy curtains shading us from the dumpsters right outside, with pillars shrouded in white Christmas lights of the non-twinkly variety. For those of us who care, so nice, especially when filled wall-to-wall with fellow ashtangis and ashtanginis.

No subway serendipity for me, first day: I beat the trains at their own game and arrived at the Puck around 5:15 on Monday. Some familiar faces, but not as many second-weekers as one might think. The first row hadn't even begun filling up (from the center out- no-one, it seemed, was too eager to snap up the spots on either end, about 2 miles from where Guruji would presumably be standing). Guilty as charged: I waited, and put my mat down dead-center, second row. Would not dare the first row, but wayyy closer than I'd ever been.

We started right on time, with Guruji and entourage coming in, all business. I never know how many As and Bs we do (5 plus 3, I think); once I get into the groove I’m happy to just let each one wash over me… We got only one "BAD lady"; front row woman stuck mid-roll in garba pindasana. He of course went right over and rolled her the unsuspecting lass all the way around and up into kukkutasana.

The most interesting thing I took away from my stay amidst all the inspiring long-timers was- so many of them in my peripheral view are cheaters!! Sorry, but it’s true. You read it here folks: several people I'd noted/noticed over the previous days float around and hardly touch the ground were going into their urdhva mukha svanasasnas with knees on the floor, and easing off asanas as Guruji turned his back!! The funniest part was in Utth Plutti, which, it seems, offers a plethora of cheating options. One guy got caught not lifting anything at all, but most just domino down as teacher walks by them. Hey, I'm the first to admit I can never stay up for the entire "ten" breath count (yet!), but I have few qualms plopping onto my sorry butt in full view of the teacher!!

Love the view in my peripheral from the back, love the energy. Having said that, I kinda miss practicing amidst the ubers. They are all coming in late practicing Second Series at 8 after we’ve been ushered out. Tim has been here all week,; Nancy also swept in for a day (or two). No spectators this year.

Kinda miss being one of the ones that get tons of adjustments, being that compared to the people who inhabited the first three rows weeks one and two, I AM a stiff one. Now, I get nothing. Guruji always find 2 or 3 burly guys, Sharath and Saraswati are running around correcting beginners, and I am truly one of the middle path, making my way through the series. With just a glance or a smile.

But aaah, what a treat it's been to go through the whole Series like we have been. Being of the "stop at Marichy D" variety myself- and that's on a good day- it's been delightful to experience the cumulative effects of the series as a whole. Plus, most of the fun stuff (all that rocking up, down, back!) is after aforementioned gatekeeper. I get it now. Again, likely not IT, but bits, here and there...

On the fatigue factor:
It hit me REAL hard first week. Now, I'm a strong girl (as evidenced by my kick-ass chakrasana, no momentum needed) [ok, DOWN ego, DOWN! It's just, I work so goshdurned hard for it/ on getting it...], but I was still exhausted and sore by day three or four, though among the last to emerge from savasana, still probably only a few minutes and not nearly enough. That changed after a trip to my local drugstore and $1.49 later: earplugs. Now, I am warm and relaxed as the sensation of feet THUDding by my head softly lulls me into relaxation, and the sound of 200 people speaking is a buzzzzzz. I emerge refreshed and, more often than not, surrounded by Intermediators angling to take my spot. Translation: at least 10-15 minutes' rest. Nice. No more sore shoulders, no more stirred-up stuff. Just, nice.

On rest:
By the way, last week (when I was still going for the "a question a day" thing) , when asked what the ideal amount of rest is, Guruji said "30 minutes". As I laughed and indicated how people jump up and speed away, he said, "you go home, you take [proper] rest". Of course, I joked, "I go to work, I take rest there- zzzz!" That was good for a giggle.

On watching the late crowd:
Everyone, and I mean every one (story going around about a 3rd Series woman who's been going to Mysore forever who was not allowed to watch- kinda makes me feel good that there's no distinctions/favoritism, as there easily coulda been.) is unceremoniously removed from the room , pretty swiftly; being one of the perpetual [mal]lingerers, trying to suck every last bit of marrow from this, I often, out of courtesy to those-who-wish-not-be-watched, often pack my bag/get shoes on at the chai stand outside. Apparently (I asked "why"), the no-gawkers policy enforced this year is because a few [couple of? two? dozen?] requested that there be no spectators. I definitely feel ambivalent about that, but certainly respect and understand the sentiments behind it.

On the end looming:
Hey, remember how by the end of the summer, maybe last day of camp or holiday, you had finally gotten that cute boy/girl to look in your direction, the popular group had just said "hi" to you for the first time, you were THIS close to feeling good in that one item of clothing you bought "for when I lose those 5 lbs/ 2 kgs.", your tan just getting to where you want it to be, those endless sweet summer afternoons bore no hint of autumn- and it was time for goodbye? That's kinda how today feels.

Today was as it should have been. We grabbed a cab that whisked us to the Puck by 5:20something, a very respectable fourth row about to start filling up. I took my spot smack bang in the center- love having a bit of a view and catching Guruji's eye with a smile. The usual (from first 2 weeks) suspects populated the front rows and the whole place buzzzzed with anticipation and excitement. The room filled up in a hurry. Guesstimating about 300 people. Too excited to do the usual (hmm, fix hair/quiet mind/fix hair/ stretch hips/look around/wake up spine/fix hair). Guruji made practically no adjustments during standing poses. It felt more like, ok, this is the showcase session. This is were we are filmed moving like honey being poured into a jar, like waves on a beach, synchronized, fluid, together, strong. All of us. Guruji just sits back and enjoys us.

Which he does. Enjoy us, that is. My last question to him (was it just yesterday?!?) was, "what do you like most about New York?" After a few attempts at paraphrasing, he conceded, "the people... the people who study, very good people... they work very hard all the time, good people." I'll second that. Today just blew my mind, and I loved every second of it. A few days ago, I think I was vaguely complaining/commenting on the fact that I get no attention in session anymore; I didn't attribute any credit to the fact that hey, ya know what? Maybe my practice is shaping up more than I allow. Like, those thrilling-fun jump-throughs where I land all ready for tiriang-mukhah. I certainly didn't do that last month. Or, a half-decent lift-off after virabhadrasana B (one leg hooked). Or, consistently getting my chin down in utthita hasta padangustasana. And, was it just 2 weeks ago that I'd never attempted full setu bandasana, which I now plunge into fearlessly (but carefully)? Etc. So nice. And I'm looking forward to going back and finessing, refining, learning, coping. Bit by bit.

I flew through the Series. Breathless, but happy, strong, and in the moment. Post Uth-Plutthi, as Guruji boomed, "jump through. Stand UP!", a big well of emotion bubbled up inside me. I'd missed the one other occasion he did the extra surya namaskar & closing mantra last Friday. Now I know it was to make this one extra special. I got misty eyed as "Ekam" rang out, "trini" had me hold back tears and pretty much sobbed, "Sapta" through "Swasti, praja bhya, pari pala yantam...". If I could bottle the emotion in that room at that moment, I would need no other memory-preservers.

I was among the first to say hello to KPJ, pre-savasana. Tears that I didn't bother to conceal still drying on my cheeks, as I went up he was wiping his own eyes. It was dusty, he was tired, but I like to think he was as touched by so much love as we were. I did my thing, gave the man a big hug and joked I'd be back for pictures. I have a ton of them, and each will be a moment frozen for me. Unforgettable days and lessons, always lessons.

The transition to the other world where moments like these are not always viable possiblity makes for an interesting one. But also increases the value of all that I've so gratefully received.

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