Archive for September, 2014


The Lion…..

Tears splashed across my mat, crumpled tissue dissolving in my scrunched up, sweaty hand.  Matthew, kneeling just across from me- patient and kind.  I fell apart today.  It was ugly, and not how I envisaged my final week of the second month course to be.

“The lion sequence has kicked my arse…” I snuffled, really hoping the savasana bodies lying next to me couldn’t see me, couldn’t hear me….I didn’t really want Matthew to see me either, but my voice had piped up without any real control.  What was said, needed to be said.  Like releasing a pressure valve.

The Lion Sequence is the one up from the Moon sequence; and energetically sits between the Primary and Intermediate Series.  Having practiced Primary for three years now, Moon for two, and recently ventured into the first segment of Intermediate it makes sense that I learn it.  I was excited about it.  The standing sequence is long and tough on the thighs…and ahhhh – it feels good to work on the thighs again! About half way through you get to throw your head back, cross your eyes, stick your tongue out and roar.  There’s a spiderman pose, and super man pose (unofficial names….) and, well, it’s something new.  What a relief to inject something extraordinary into a, as much as I love it, regimented practice.

So why am I hating it so much, and feeling all of these negative emotions?  It began last Tuesday.  First session of self-practice learning of the new sequence, and I hit a wall.  Couldn’t get my legs into lotus (first stage of the pinnacle lion pose) and I felt this insane rush of frustration and rage pulsating through me, generating all of this heat in my face and behind the eyes.  I’m not warm enough; there’s not enough hip stuff; why can’t I do this?; I’m not good enough!  I was irrational, but it was so strong I was just grateful that I could take even the smallest step back to see that.  I carried on.  The dolphin section – working so deeply into the shoulders -hitting spots I’ve never noticed before.  I felt sick.  Rabbit section.  I couldn’t remember it.  Sent to back-bending.  Didn’t know that section either.  Can’t remember.  Not good enough. Want to go back to Primary.  Savasana.  Couldn’t stay there.  All of these intense feelings of inadequacy and frustration, it’s not fair….and….ahhhh….a revelation.  This isn’t about Matthew, or the sequence…this is a trigger.  This has hit something that’s making me feel like an angry, hyper-sensitive, misunderstood, pubescent kid again.

Next day.  A new day.  Try again.  URGGGGGHHHHHH!  Fucking sequence!  I’m not used to feeling angry.  I don’t want to vent and rant and throw things and think about all the things that have been unfair and hurt me.

Day three.  Another new day.  Try again.  Surrender.  Just for this week.  Go on.  You’ll get it.  Everyone says you’ll get it.  Grrrrr.  But I make light of it over dinner.  Daddy doesn’t love me issues rearing their ugly head – oh the unforgiving flashlight of yoga shining on my shadow-self.  We all laughed about it, but when I went to sleep that night my chest constricted and throat closed up.  Under the jokes, there’s so much sadness.

Day four.  Moon sequence.  Ahhhhh, the nurturing, lovely moon.  With bolsters and blankets, and eyes half-closed.  A cat licking her wounds, I settled back into Savasana with a smile, and danced my heart out later that night with all of these incredible people I get to practice with each day.

Monday.  Back to Lion.  I’m getting it I think.  Starting to find a fluidity.  Committed to memory, my body is starting to get hold of it…but the back bends.  Again I feel the  emotional wave, and self-doubt.  Another sleepless night.  Don’t want to go to practice.  Just want to stay here, eat chocolate biscuits and watch True Blood.

This morning I wanted to do moon, but something inside propelled my arms over my head for the first Surynamaskara A.  Really?  Are you sure???  Are you up to a two and a half hour practice, featuring all of your arch nemesis postures?  A masochist at heart perhaps…or perhaps deep inside I knew it was exactly what I needed to break the downward spiral and admit defeat.

I was afraid that if I spoke up and shared what I was feeling….that I would be perceived as weak, a failure.  That perhaps the opportunities I’ve been so excited about would be taken away from me because I’m not ready, or good enough…so very far away from perfection.  All of which are the accumulation of various strands of conditioning that hold me back, deplete my self-confidence, and make practicing with self-love so unbelievably difficult.

Matthew has told us time and time again that we are perfect just as we are.  How does it feel to hear those words?  Alien, hard to digest, unfathomable, but alongside that a flicker of warmth.  Inhale…breathe into it….fuel that flame.

When I finally spoke up, and was able to share my emotional “weakness” some of those fears began to fall away, and I could feel the tensions in my chest and throat begin to ease.   To hear the words, we are perfect – just as we are, doesn’t have to be so strange.  It doesn’t have to be such a difficult thing to believe.  We are conditioned to think otherwise.  We are conditioned to be hard on ourselves, be cruel to ourselves…It’s our responsibility to break that, to change that.

It’s why I’m here I guess.  In practicing self-acceptance I must confront the screaming, ugly voices in my head.  I must sit with them, and feel the discomfort as they writhe and stir.  Working through them isn’t easy, it isn’t pretty.  What must the other students think of me?  A snotty, puffy-eyed blob on a purple mat?  It was afterwards, when I returned home to find a note of kindness in the door from my housemate; received a group hug from the girls in the shala before the afternoon session; and heard words of encouragement from my yoga friends – that I could see what they see, and what I see in others when they surrender to their vulnerability: strength and humanity.

I left the shala that morning and the hate I’d been feeling for the Lion sequence had transformed into gratitude.  I may take a day off – and be super kind to myself with a gentle moon sequence – but I’m looking forward to rolling my eyes back and roaring up to the ceiling again soon, and seeing what else comes from it, what other triggers may be lurking about in those untouched places.

lion

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I’ve been in Bali for just over 6 weeks now.  Feeling a little bit guilty for not blogging nearly as much as I’d initially intended.  I have tried.  Just wasn’t happening…much like my attempts to bind into Marichyasana D on the left side without assistance.  DAMMIT!  Truth is…I’m not sure where to start.

It’s incredible to wake up here on a Saturday (rest day), sun already shining down on the Paddi fields, make a cup of green tea on our 70’s style stove and come out here onto the balcony to listen to the village gently stirring.  The chorus of birds and geckos would have started many hours ago, but for the first time since I’ve been here…I slept right through it.

In this moment, I feel very peaceful.  Like there’s something warm and steady anchored at the base of my belly.  Of course – that might just be the relief from an 8 hour (and counting) break from Bali Belly….(MAN alive – what a way to practice…), but I reckon it’s much more than that.

In terms of practice I’m clawing my way into the Intermediate Series, which is something I didn’t think I’d ever do.  As much as yoga isn’t meant to be about achievements and goals, of course it feels good!  It’s comparative to starting out on those sweaty, spluttering, clumsy 20 minute runs on the treadmill at the local gym, and a few years later finding yourself at the starting line of a marathon.  Although, having done both – my experience of yoga has been much harder.

I was introduced to Laghu Vajrasana yesterday – the pose just before Kapotasana.  Kapotasana is the pose that brings many ashtanga journeys to a close, and I’ve been sitting with that for a while and wondering how I feel about it.  Do I mind if my practice ends there, or has the Ashtanga series become something I’m deeply attached to?  For now, I feel great with what I’m doing.  With all the additional postures and drop-backs – I’m excited again.  Yeah, I’m exhausted by the end of the week, and spend at least half the time feeling like I’ve stuck my fingers into an electrical socket, but I’m being truly and deeply challenged by this mammoth sequence in an environment that is just so nurturing and kind.  I can cry to myself on the mat when a baddha konasana adjustment goes too deep; scream “BALLS” and laugh out loud when my arms get stuck, I lose momentum and roll onto my side in garbha pindasana, and have to wait for an assistant to put me up right and push me back into motion again; share knowing glances of despair and humility to my “Team Intermediate” comrades as our bodies shake, redden and clench trying to lever ourselves back up from Laghu Vajrasana to kneeling….an explosion of emotions expressed in a single glance.  Matthew always watching over us….even if you can’t see him, and you’re trying to get a difficult posture in discreetly, he’s always watching – with compassion, encouragement, and most importantly – humour.  Perhaps it isn’t the Ashtanga Series itself that I have an attachment to, but the mysore (self-practice) element of it.

It’s why practicing here with Matthew is such an inspiration.  In traditional ashtanga practice I couldn’t practice everyday.  I can’t run a marathon everyday.  Here, with the moon sequence as a part of it all, being allowed to meditate the whole time if I so choose, or put my legs up the wall for an hour if I’m not feeling so well, having alternative sequences to play with and explore.  It is my choice, and something that I can see myself doing for the rest of my life.  So when I think about Kapotasana potentially being the end of my ashtanga journey – it doesn’t feel so daunting, or challenging.  If it is, it is.  I have plenty to work with for now, and I feel in my body, my heart, everything else – that my yoga is the self-practice, not the sequence or series I so happen to be doing at the time.

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