Thursday, October 21, 2010

yoga yoga

Credit: Lou Gaccione
Before I embarked on my trip to India, I was nervous about ending the consistent yoga routine I'd established, which left me feeling centered, thankful and physically strong. I sat down with my teacher, and she told me to try, every day, to do two surya namaskar A, two B and  final seated breathing poses from the Ashtanga sequence. Look at any additional poses that happen as a gift, she said.

I have done my yoga some days. But more often than not, I haven't, sometimes because I haven't had time or space, sometimes because I'm lazy. I definitely feel different without a steady, dedicated practice--more fragmented and more prone to back and neck pain. I've also uncharacteristically gained some weight in the past month and a half with so much amazing Indian food around and no consistent exercise, a change that makes me way uncomfortable.

But I've been thinking about yoga all the time, both because in India, it's hard not to and because Prati is preparing to enter a two-month yoga teacher training near Bangalore. This means she's been talking about yoga a lot--what it is, what it isn't, and how it should be. I find myself getting defensive of my practice when I disagree with her, and then I feel ashamed of that reaction, since shouldn't yoga be all about encompassing everything rather than creating divisions? I've been trying to think through my take on yoga and explore why I'm not currently as open to hearing about the great big world outside the Ashtanga tradition as I feel I (or anyone who presumes to call herself a yogi) should be.

I did have a little bit of a practice, though not a philosophical, background when a friend who is also a yoga teacher first introduced me to the Ashtanga series. I started to go with another friend to a studio in Rhode Island. Then, when I moved across the state, I happened to move minutes from what was then the only studio in Connecticut, as far as I know. Slowly, I turned into someone who was there so often that a teacher there mistook me for an instructor. The thing with Ashtanga is that it  introduces asanas first, and everything else follows. That worked for me better than any other approaches I'd encountered. I started doing yoga as physical exercise. Now, I'm slowly learning about the practice's philosophies, reading its classic texts. This urge to learn stemmed from my physical practice, feeling like a natural next step.

Lots of people will say, though, that asanas are the least important part of what yoga is--that brain comes before body. This makes me cringe, because asana practice worked so perfectly for me as an entry point for all else, but I don't feel like I have a strong enough philosophical grounding to argue that I disagree, especially since what works for me is not necessarily what works for everyone else. And I could make the "Pattabhi Jois just based the system on tradition and the sutras so it's a solid approach" argument, but the truth is that Ashtanga is also supposedly based on a long-lost book that may or may not have been discovered, once, hidden away in Calcutta with crucial pages missing. And I may love the practice, but that doesn't mean I can completely overcome my natural skepticism (it doesn't matter to me where it all came from, just that it works, but that's often no basis for debate).

So this past week when Prati took private lessons from our Bangalore hostess' teacher, I didn't join her. I said I was just too lazy, but the truth is more that I didn't feel that I could be fully open to accepting other perspectives while feeling like I'd have to defend what I feel passionate about in my head. That sentiment may be my immaturity or lack of yogic growth talking, but I'm OK with that.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you again for sharing the conflicting thoughts and struggles that your travels bring. I love you you stay open to differing opinions and the possibility that you're wrong, or still in flux.

    And Prati! Congratulations on your decision to be a yoga instructor!