Well, its a glorious morning and I am here enjoying a great sense of soreness along with my tasty soy beverage (pretty much decided to stay off the dairy since my spring cleanse... better breathing in pranayama and well, less harm does come to a soy bean than to a retired dairy cow...) and posting some pictures from yesterday's practice.
I have been thinking about group practice a lot lately. I even talked to my friend Noah about it recently who pointed out very clearly that there are differences between classes, workshops, practicing alone and group practice. For me, there are even differences between leading a group practice and attending one, but more on that another time. The thing about group practice for me- more than any other format- is that it is not an ordinary time for me. For me I always treat them as a chance to go to a new level, to make a breakthrough, to try harder, to go deeper, to engage more fully.
There you are, in a group practice, with 10-20 of your closest yoga buds and the opportunity to shift. Maybe the shift for some is not "pose oriented" but for me, asana practice is largely about the poses. (Eeek, gasp, oh God, she actually said it!) Yes, I said it because you know what? I do pranayama, I meditate, I write in a journal, I have a practice of karma yoga and seva, I have fantastic friends across the globe and a handful here that I like to hang out with for satsang and community, when I need it I go to therapy for my emotions, I go to philosophy talks for education and inspiration, I am an avid reader, I see my guru regularly for a blast of his transmission, I have a great health care practitioner to help me with my body's equilibrium, I practice mantra and devotional chanting and so asana for me is really about asana. I mean I when I roll out my mat, I want to work on my poses. I really do.
Now I know that the work on asana is not limited to the domain of asana. Believe me I have been at this a while and I know that once you go to work on asana, well asana goes to work on you and in my experience it leaves no stone unturned in your life. And as my friend Timothy once told me, the arrows of causation run both ways when we are talking about yoga and its therapeutic effects. Like you do yoga, you feel better, once you feel better you want to do more yoga. But really, when I have the opportunity to go for it in asana, I do not want to chant or just hang out with people no matter how much I like their company. I figure, let's rock out in practice and then go for dinner. Or if we are not going to really practice, we are just going to "be together" then let's dispense with the formality and just go to dinner.
So I started the practice yesterday talking about how we really can use this time to go to a new level and that I have no interest in deciding for people what that is for them but I did want to encourage everyone to know for themselves why they were there and what they wanted out of the time. What was their "next level?"
The truth is that we are just fine without changing at all. On one level. But we are also constantly being invited to increase our capacity, to expand our limits, to plumb our depths and to be more aware of the ever present truth within us. Really, this yoga is not just about acceptance and staying the same, it about a radical path of transformation of taking the risk to aim high and to continually fall short of our oh-so-high-intentions.
I mean really, what would be worse? Succeeding in meeting your low expectations or failing in meeting your highest aim. Chances are if you aim high and don't make it you are still going to end up higher than just aiming low or not even taking the risk to aim at all. And it is entirely within our own power not to turn on ourselves when we fail to meet a high aim. We DO NOT have to engage the downward spiral if we fall short of a goal! We really don't.
And for me, I am pretty much tired of apologizing about this view. Here it is. I am that kind of practitioner. I am that kind of teacher. Call it ambitious, call it pitta-deranged, call it what you will but I am into change, progress and THE POSES! I do know that not everyone agrees with me and that this point of view is not popular in all yoga circles and that is what is so cool- we all get to be who we are, teach who we are and what's important to us and to grow and change and create a unified garden of diversity that brings delight to ourselves and to one another. Talk about a high aim for community!
All that being said, I had a great practice. I got my heels in kapotasana which is part of my goal for the year. One side I got by myself, the other side I needed help (but not as much as a few months ago) and I was able to stay there, breath and explore which is new for me. So progress. Love it. Lots of folks had breakthroughs and also if not"getting the pose" getting some clarity about the path to the pose which is more than half of the work anyway.
Here are some scenes.