Sunday, 19 June 2011

Sthira sukham asanam...Asana is a steady, comfortable posture....


Now, I've been practicing yoga for 5 years now, and in the last 1.5 years practicing 4-5 times a week. I would say that I am dedicated to my practice, and if you asked any of my friends and family, well they would say the same (as they have to make an appointment to see me based around my yoga practice)!

OK, so I don't get out of bed at 5:30am and hit the mat; Sometimes if I feel tired, I'll make my excuses (to myself of all people??!) and bail out of my home practice; I'll sometimes begin my practice with the intention of a full primary series with full vinyasa and maybe, sometimes, half way through the seated sequence start to miss out the jump backs between sides and then the odd posture (normally post-supta kurmasana) and possibly just hit the finishing sequence. But in my mind, I'm dedicated to my self-practice.

11.46 of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras states that asana is a steady, comfortable posture. Maehle (2006) describes the meaning of the sutra as a posture must have the two qualities of firmness and ease. After describing the effects of the yamas (restraints) and niyamas (observances) he goes on to mention asana, posture practice. However, his description of the third limb he describes in just 3 stanzas, where others have a longer address. Patanjali, according to Maehle, uses two qualities that are diametrically opposed to describe posture: firmness and ease. If the posture is to be firm, effort will be required-contraction of muscles that will arrest the body in space without wavering. Ease on the other hand implies relaxation, softness, and no effort. Maehle contends that Patanjali shows that that posture cannot be achieved unless we simultaneously reach into these opposing directions. These directions are firmness; inner strength, and the direction of ease, which brings relaxation.

Now, my ashtanga vinyasa practice is, in my opinion, quite firm; as my body is gaining in strength, I am able to hold postures in correct alignment, I have become more flexible (although flexibility seems to be taking a longer time to build than strength); little by little my practice and my body is improving; little by little the first two limbs (yamas/niyamas) of ashtanga yoga are making more sense and establishing themselves into my life;  I feel healthier in body and mind and less susceptible to negativity and fluctuations of mood, God, I'm even teaching yoga to others!

So why, if I am living my yoga practice, the restraints and observances, and the asanas, do I feel further away from 'ease' in a simple seated position, than I ever have before?! I've given up my free time for my yoga asana practice, I've given up meat, wheat, alcohol (there's a caveat to this one) even fat goddam it, but for what?!!!

I sat for hours this weekend at my yoga course... I've finished now, I'm home and I can hardly even sit in a damn chair without my hips aching! If I tried half lotus or even siddhasana now, I wouldn't last a minute! Some members of my family laugh at me as they did tonight when I got round my mum's for dinner, walking like John Wayne, and say 'Yeah looks like I really need to take up that yoga you're doing!' (I do find that funny btw - I haven't yet lost my sense of humour!)

However, I can't help but think that sometimes I should've skipped the asana practice and maybe gone straight for samadhi.....!

2 Ibuprofen and a glass of wine please.....! x

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The Zen Dog...

..He knows not where he's going for the ocean will's not the destination but the glory of the ride!

It's been a while since I last blogged, in fact 18th April was the last post, scary how time passes... Since then I have done so much, done soooo much yoga and my practice has changed its form a zillion times in the meantime!

I could go on about my recent yoga holiday to the mountains of Portugal, and how good my teachers P & S were. I could go on about how they pulled me back from brink of yoga injury (AGAIN!), and how much they're simple but beautiful life in the mountains taught me so much about how I want to live my life; but I wanted my first post back on the blog to be simple and to just keep it in the moment, because as we all know, it's not about the past or the future but about the NOW.

So yesterday and today's teaching practice was lovely (I'm helping at 2 classes now), seeing how the students are coming along so well, especially the ones who have begun their journeys whilst I've been helping in the room. Still, it makes me smile and remember where I have come from since I began my practice, to see the struggle in attaining certain postures, losing the rhythm of the breath in the hope they will reach their toes...or what they believe is their utlimate destination... I must admit that I hate being "reigned in" by my teachers. And to be honest all of them I have practiced with have done it! Portugal was an experience, P reigned me in so much; stopped me from even attempting any "knee crushers" or any postures which put any ounce of strain on my still very delicate joints. I kept this up for a few weeks after, but such is the cycle of life I am pushing myself once again, because my knees feel good...for the moment anyhow.

How long it took me to realise I should be like the Zen Dog... to realise that the destination is actually non-existent (unless you're set on reaching samadhi or ultimate freedom from the restraints of our physical lives) and that for most of us it's about the glory of the ride, the experience of each day of the journey towards it which should be our objective. I think it was the experience of profound pain which allowed me to realise this truth, but obviously I wouldn't wish that on anyone, but I just hope that the students who I've seen grow within such a small amount of time will realise sooner than I did, to be able to truly enjoy the experience of each single yoga practice...