Thursday, December 04, 2003

This Winter 

Warmer today. We may actually hit the freezing mark. I am a hero, waking up before 5 and taking the subway at 96th Street to Times Square to Chinatown or SoHo, depending on whether I grab the Express or take the Local; either way, it’s about an equidistant walk to the Eddie’s. Mari B attempts. Eddie was right there, I was THIS close, again, but no beef as far as getting it on my own. And of course, once Eddie gets me to bind, there’s miles of room to really clasp hands and not just fingers. Eddie says, “Marichyasana B much better today”, as I grudgingly concede: a bit. Eddie responds, “A bit? Miiiles better!”, which was nice but not very helpful. Although I did leave smiling, conceding that yeah, compared to how the last month has been, it IS much better, even though I’m still nowhere near getting head to floor like I was managing to do back in early days of early December. It’s not like I have a fun asana to look forward to, anyway. Mari D is hardly what I’d call a crowd-pleaser.

It’s been a good practice-week. Feeling consistent, sensing the pattern developing form Sunday to today (Thursday), where each practice evolves from the one preceding it, and prepares you for the next one.

At the threshold of a long weekend. Saturday another Moonday, then Sunday off, for some weird reason. Moon rising late? Groundhog Day? We’re commemorating the Chinese New Year? To someone as attached to the practice and Eddie as I am, there’s surely no apparent need for two whole days off, although that may be precisely why I stand to benefit from this kind of enforced rest from the practice. Plus, I’ll go practice vinyasa both days, anyway, probably. We’ll see how the energy levels are at, with this new moon, though. ‘course if I do both days we’re looking at 13 days straight, without rest. I’ve only been sleeping about 7 hours all week, and have still not been in class once for class start and chanting. It matters to me.

My spot (not chosen spot, just the 1 spot that happened to be available when I came in this morning; long gone are the days when I’d get in with plenty of spots left to choose from.… “hmmm, am I in a front row kind of mood today? Middle of the room? How do I feel today about being next to the radiator…?”) was in the back row corner, right next to where Eddie’s observing station is. He was there as I wretchedly attempted to get my entire palm down for parivritta parsvakonasana. I stop, mid-asana, face Eddie, make the appeal: hey, what do I do since/if I cannot get my palm flat? Response was, “Guruji never taught it to me.”. So, does this mean I don’t have to do it? “You don’t have to do it.” Absolved! From my least-liked pose! Neither Eddie nor Richard teach it (to beginners). Maybe worth asking in the far-off future (when I’m less of a beginner myself, when it’ll no doubt be effortless and yummy and I’ll have no gut getting in the way of proper rotation), if Guruji taught it to them later, as they progressed into the Series. For now, will be quite happily unorthodox and skip the damn thing. And if I had any doubts, it just happened that there was a beginner next to me who was being talked through early standing- Eddie did not teach the parivritta.

Alarm got unplugged overnight, woke up worried that I’d slept through class. It was only 5:10 so took my time getting ready, chilling with cat and indulging in a long hot shower. I hate the damn commute. Determined to give it at least a few months, rather than just giving up at the first sign of strife or adversity, as I’ve been known to do in a relationship or ten. Amazing how the practice/Eddie relationships so closely mirror how I react to other/all relationships. I know for a fact that I’m learning to be more open, saw that on last week’s “non-date” with the ex. Can I also learn to commit more? Or at least, some?

I guess the answer to everything is proper finishing, coupled with a longer (twenty minutes-plus) savasana. Now I remember, this was what it’s about. Not having to rush for anything, pre, post or during practice. Got in at 5:55 this morning, it had been too long since I’d been there for class starting. This was where I belong. Taking five looong breaths for everything. I must’ve spent about 10 minutes on B. I hate struggling to bind; so I don’t do it too much. Instead, I hold the knee in, let the half-lotus leg release, loosen the hip and the foot, create a more compact shape. The citta vrittis are down to nothing and I can do the work. All this makes the extra 45 minutes of sleep just not worth all the extra drama and rushing. I’m going back to getting to class at six or shortly thereafter. That’s my slot. It was so wonderful to spend an hour upstairs, taking my time with finishing.

Today at practice got to class minutes after starting. Knees were saying hello, went carefully and slowly. Took forty minute-long rest, which was rather nice if a little extravagant.

Skipped practice yesterday. It’s amazing, how much pressure I put myself under sometimes. Ate too many sweets and had no intention of getting to bed early enough to make practice- went to the movies, instead. Exploring the possibility of going to Columbus, OH for a workshop with Tim. Hey, if we’re too busy for me to take the first week in March off work to go see Richard, I can take most of the 2nd week in April. And do the retreat with him in June, instead. I can live with that, but it all needs to be addressed, and soon. I can’t have work overshadow (swallow up) what’s really important to me, and it’s been dangerously close to doing just that.

Knee’s acting up; learning to be more tentative than I have been. In other words, not just “do what you can without causing pain”, but doing what I can while keeping what I’ve glibly termed “sensation” to the absolute minimum. That’s how it’s got to be. Reign in the ego, stay away from anything padmasana-ish, ardha or maha (!) for the next few days, weeks, whatever it takes to make this go away. And yes, it’s pretty demoralizing seeing someone who started at the school about a month ago working Mari D already. But not, really, since I’ve had an injury setback and am still nowhere near where I was (or thought I was) back in my first week of practice here. Surprised Eddie hasn’t had me drop Mari B, again- ‘cause it certainly is not coming, at the moment.

Where I belong, in the early-morning class. So, I got the anticipated “yes, you’re owed a week’s vacation but we can’t have you out for a whole week” at work yesterday. Would be wretchedly heart-broken I can’t go to Utah in 2 weeks except that I couldn’t really afford to anyway, and I know how busy we’ve been. Got an “OK, maybe 3 days off in April are doable” so I can go see Tim in Ohio. I’m consoled. As long as my deposit can be applied to the other retreat with Richard in June, I can live with this. Taking the time off work, well, we can cross those bridges. Practice ok today despite (or perhaps because of?) low expectations = low frustration levels, and gratitude- the fact that my half-lotus knee-bend is currently at about a seventy-degree angle, at best. Half-dandelion, more like.

Had a full practice today. Breathing was excellent, if I-may-say-so-myself. Funny, how the majority of these entries have come to be on the Express uptown train from 42nd to 96th Streets. Kinda miss having more time to spend on Post-Practice Pages, which at this point have almost entirely eclipsed Morning Pages. Knee a little better than yesterday, a little worse than last week. Am reigning in the impulse to just slap myself into a mindless and scary-looking padmasana. Have refrained entirely, last couple of days- not easy to do surrounded by ubers like I tend to be at that early hour- from doing most padmasanastuff in finishing. So it’s urdhva badha konasana, crossed-legged pindasana, half utthi plutthi and crossed-legged lotus until further notice. Or until the ego takes over again.

At the Old School in Vermont, one-day five-hour trip up for part of a weekend retreat with Russell-Govinda Kai. It’s amazing how much stuff gets stirred up in these environments, stuff I strain to suppress and repress that’s so delicious in its raw emotion. Also nice to take a led class, good to check in- especially if the person doing the leading is speaking in Guruji’s vocabulary and exquisitely true to the proper way to vinyasa our way through the Primary Series. A lot of talk about teachers and gurus. Host also kind of had/has two teachers. It’s weird how I’m isolating myself a little form what’s going on. A lot to process. Learning how I’d like to be, how I do not want to be. Where I am, right now.

Doing laundry on what was to be my second week-long retreat with Richard; I paid the deposit and everything. Instead, I’m making do with a tape from The Yoga Matrix. Nothing can stop me from going to Utah in June for the next week-long; not work, nor lack of money- which were obstacles, this time around. I’m pretty devastated, This was to be my reprieve, my chance to check in, to check out. Instead, week upon week of unpleasant craziness at work as we transition and, hopefully, grow, and an un-stabilized practice. I desperately miss checking in via a daily morning practice and rushed subway journal entries.

It’s been almost two weeks since the fire at the shala and, except for a couple of led classes, I’ve not practiced at all. Part of me is happy to (be lazy) let the knee rest up a little. Part of me is entirely disgusted, appalled that the holiday weight-gain, which was not insignificant, has not been shed yet. Not jumping ship and sticking to shala and teacher are my exercise in sticking with a relationship when it is not perfect(ly satisfying). Not something I’ve really worked on in the past. It’s hard to listen, when I can’t determine what it is I’m saying.

So good to be back.
Interesting times. Trying, dare I say. Today would’ve marked my first full day at the retreat in Utah with Richard. Instead, it marked my first day back at practice with Eddie. Breathing through the smoke and freshly-painted walls, I was there, just where I’d left off two weeks ago. No worse, no better. Just, there. Knee, though rested, about the same. Except I am relishing a newly-regained appreciation for what it is I’m doing here.

A realization, in a tactile, measurable way, of how big a part of the practice consistency is. Showing up every day at the same for (always-but-never) the same practice. With the same teacher. I ignored the path of least resistance (jumping ship and shala-hopping to the next best thing when things got challenging, as I’ve been known to do), and will stick with this, and that. Words to Eddie: Good to be back. Marichyasana B not coming; next week we start backbending? “Intermediate!” Ahh, practicehumour- not funny to anyone but me. And Eddie, apparently.

Knee doing much better and, I like to think, I’m being much more careful with it. Today was the first time in a long time I felt the ardha badha padma stuff more in the hip region than on the outside of my right knee. That’s gotta be good. Eddie’s little girl visited the practice room for a few minutes, bringing a lovely energy and a few assists of her own. After seeing the dire state of my ardha badha padma pascimattanasana (“do what you can without pain”), Eddie stayed away from me for Mari B. Yet asked, “Did you finish B?”, as I was in the finishing room adjacent to what was once, and will be again soon, the main finishing room. Did I just get an admonishment for doing too much research? What else is one to do as one waits for teacher? How am I supposed to know he doesn’t plan to assist me on a given day? Do I just sit there and wait? I’ll ask some other time… In the meantime, it’s good to be on my way back.

Yesterday feels like last year. We’ve been plunged head-first into more of the same unbearably cold winter weather we’ve come to know and loathe, over the last five months. Hard to believe we cracked 50 degrees yesterday, that must be at least 9 or 10 degrees Celsius! And it felt positively tropical. And practice was more yummy than usual. It looks like Saturday’s three-hour Iyengar hip opening / forward bending workshop did some good to these hips of stone. I am working on/towards padmasana, both ardha and full (maha?!), much more intelligently and, I hope, carefully than I once did- calf rather than bull in the china shop- amazingly, feel like I am only just approaching being close to where I was when I embarked on a daily practice, just over three months ago. Happy anniversary, by the way. Truth be told, I’m quite liking the smaller class size this limited thrice weekly schedule has imposed. Eddie keeps a close eye on us and, it seems, is more apt to correct minor elements in our practice than he’s been. Like the angle of (what I thought was 85 degrees) my knee in Janu B, which was much less, it seems.

Did the no-alarm wake-up today, emerging from a work-related dream at 5:15 wondering if it was time to get up yet. So grateful that, although late, I made it to practice. We’ve had a new assistant in town, while Sharmilla is in Mysore. Peter is from New Zealand and, so far, his assists have been firm and intelligent, of the Mmm-hmmnngood variety. Lent a hand in Mari C and got me pretty deep into it; very different approach from Eddie, who waits for me to bind and then opens up my chest/shoulders/sternum and deepens the twist. Peter took the extended arm and pulled and got me into the pose- and I promptly popped right out, evoking a very Guruji-like “Yey” (as in, hey) from him. That was pretty funny. Slippy, I say, and make sure I stay put, second side. Didn’t even attempt B today, as the familiar pulling sensation is revisiting the outside of my left knee.

Slowly learning not to push, but every day, every asana, it’s such a struggle, so hard to check myself (“before ya wreck yaself”, as Chuck D of Public Enemy once put it). Practice at the school makes me happy. It’s not a chore or something I have to make myself do- rather, it’s the best part of my day, bar none, and what gets me out of bed in the mornings.

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