I am not a runner and admire people who can get into a flow when running. In October when I visited Arizona, I was in that flow and ran farther than I usually do. After the run I noticed I was limping and after several days of it I visited a podiatrist to learn I had a dropped arch and bruised my foot. After physical therapy was complete, I decided not to return to my Crossfit schedule but to find something that would increase my body awareness while I continued to care for my foot. In January, I started a Mysore Ashtanga Yoga practice. Mysore is a self-led set of poses, using the breath to flow from one pose to another. Walking into a Mysore class is unlike any other yoga experience as there is no teacher leading the class and every person follows their own sequence. The teacher serves as a guide assisting each student by providing adjustments and instruction when needed.
To me the room is a beautiful flow of practice and humanity. There is a sense of community, even though each person is alone in their practice. Over the last months, I’ve come to learn that the yoga mat is a world in itself. Coming to yoga each time is a practice, not just in yoga but in being and cultivating self-correction. It can be what ever I bring to it and what ever I’m willing to see.
As a beginner how do you begin?
“The most profound way to learn skills, culture, and value is directly from other human beings who already possess these qualities”, Frederic Hudson. What Hudson said is true. This is the first way we learn as children, by mimicking our caregivers. We learn from them how to behave and what is acceptable for the system we are in. Fortunately, many of the students I have met at the studio have been practicing for years and are worthy teachers.
When I first stepped into the studio my goal was to learn the primary series and finish it, with some grace, by the end of the year. Between videos, practice, and watching others; I have progressed but am still far from that goal. For now, I do what I can. Which usually means I can do what I have memorized. Each time I want to go beyond, I’m reminded of a piece of advice my first coach gave me. You don’t give calculus to a first grader. This isn’t always easy when I really just want to do calculus.
I recently re-learned this lesson during a teacher led Mysore class. After completing half of the series, I could no longer keep up with the other students. I quietly picked up my mat, lowered my head in respect to the teacher and found a corner to finish in a closing sequence and shavasana. Shavasana, is corpse pose and is perhaps the most important part of yoga practice. During shavasana all control of the breath, the mind, and the body is released.
It’s the practice of doing nothing, which isn’t that easy. While resting in shavasana, my mind struggled. I could hear the other students- moving and breathing. The teacher calling the breath. Than in my mind above my head popped up a sign “I am here”. I could hear the sarcastic conversation that started. “Thanks. Yes, I know I am here. I am not there. Yes, I know many of them have been practicing yoga for years…” You can imagine how this conversation continues. Than the conversation stopped. “I am here” popped up again and without the judgment I realized this is where I need to be. I can’t get there, without being here. The difference is practice and time. I am capable. I am determined and I am a first grader. The measurement of my success isn’t how far I made it or how graceful my practice was. The measurement of success was being here, knowing where I was going, and knowing that I needed to show up and practice today- to be here. Here is not where I was a week ago or where I will be tomorrow. This gave me joy, my mind quieted and shavasana took over.
Where are you and does it bring you joy? Do you know where you are going?
Some parting advice, running in minimalist shoes with a dropped arch is not a good idea.