Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thursday Morning

Last night's class was really fun. We worked on getting some mobility and opening in the shoulders and took that all the way to scorpion work with the chairs. It was pretty fun. I like that class a lot. We have a broad range of levels in that class so I give a lot of options for the poses that are along the way to the the more advanced poses- like we had three stages of handstand being taught yesterday and when we got to scorpion pose some people were working on pinca mayurasana and not adding in the back bend work so I think everybody worked on something and in general, the mood of the people who come to that class is so focused and people are so willing to go for it and yet underneath it all is a very good sense of humor and play. All in a ll it was quite delightful.

I said it last night but I learned a lot about how to approach advanced postures from Desiree Rumbaugh over ten years ago. She, at that time, was just beginning to travel and teach and she still taught a lot at her studio. She had a Friday morning Level 2 class. (that was back in that day that Level One meant "feet on the floor" and Level Two meant "feet in the air" and there was no Level 3 or 4. Anyway- she had this 2-hour class that she taught every week and one time she told the group about her thoughts behind the class. She said that when she was learning yoga the only time she would work on advanced poses, the only time they got taught, was at workshops. She wanted to have a place on the weekly schedule where people could learn those poses- where it wasn't only a workshop thing. So that was the Friday class for many years.

Anyway, I used to leave Prescott at 6:00 in the morning- many times with a van load full of friends and students in tow- and go down to her advanced class. Then I would stay for her gentle class that followed. Keep in mind she taught gentle kind of like how I teach gentle but it was definitely where I learned to teach Anusara Yoga to lower levels in a more basic presentation and broken down into manageable chunks. But I digress. By the time I worked a lot more with John, the basics of these advanced poses were familiar to me and I new how to approach them intelligently since she had taught us so well. Although in those days he did a lot more "how to" with the advanced poses than he does now. But that is because he has more people out in the field giving the "how to." But I digress.

So my thinking is that we have a similar kind of scenario in a lot of ways on Wednesday nights. We have lots of strong people, who are experienced practitioners who come to class and who are ready to get off the basic standing pose flow and learn how to do some other poses. We used to call them "the poses at the back of the book". So the thing is that all the poses in the back of the book are built from the basic poses. So in a level 2-4 class, there are always, preliminary stages to practice that the less experienced or the stiffer or not-as-strong student (level 2-2.5)can do to prepare. And then there are always expressions of the pose that are intermediate (level 2.5-3) and there are expressions of the pose that are more advanced (level 4). The key to benefiting from a class like that is to know which level you are where to work and also to validate and honor yourself for whatever expression of the posture is authentic to you.

It was kind of funny last night because I was working with a theme of sensitivity and strong action and I got off on a whole rant about how if we are beating ourselves us about what we can not do we should really ask ourselves how much we are working on it. For instance, if you cannot kick to the wall in handstand and you feel terrible about it but you are only working on it when it comes up in class, you should let that go. Chances are that is not going to be enough effort to actually learn that pose. If, you are making 10 sincere, focused attempts to kick up every day and after a year, you still have not made any progress, then you are allowed to bitch about it for a moment. However, once that moment passes, pick yourself up, go to class, show your teacher what is going on and get some pointers. And then get back to work!

Sounds harsh, huh? My point is that the habit of beating ourselves up about what we cannot do sometimes is so seductive and insidious that we end of spending our valuable energy on feeling bad rather than spending it on how to get better. It is a nasty little habit of the mind, feeling bad about ourselves. Vow to overcome it.

Oh and Anne told me a story she heard at a recent Iyengar Yoga workshop about how Patricia Walden. Evidently, the story goes that when she first started could drop back to urdhva danurasana but could not push up from the floor. Those of you suffering that pose should take courage and inspiration from that because seriously she is a back bending bad ass now and to think when she got started she was not strong enough to push up to that pose is somewhat mind blowing. Talk about a testimony to longstanding efforts done repeatedly with devotion! Wow.

Okay then, time to practice asana and make my own efforts towards some poses! Deep forward bends and inversions today for me.

Okay, enough for now!


jan said...

Love this's easy to leave our yoga in the studio, left to the confines of a supporting kula and helpful teacher. It is truly a next step to bring it home, daily, as a practice: to support ourselves and be our own teacher!

namacuix said...

I'm so sad I missed class - got stuck at stinkin' work! I totally agree with what you're saying and I don't think it's harsh at all. For most of us, practising a posture once every 3 months won't get us anywhere near unless more preparatory work will get you closer.

On the flip side I know how hard it is to want to practise a posture with more instruction, cause going it alone is not cutting it, but in most classes, the instruction is if you know this asana, go into it now. Still bitching about it is never productive long term.

Sheldon (forgot to sign)

Jenifer said...

Thank you Christina for this post, you words ring true and crystal clear for me-- you are a ROCKSTAR!!!

yogainthegarden said...

Hey Christina -- I find so much inspiration in every post you offer up. I was also really excited to see you've added Olga Rasmussen's blog to your blog list, but there's a little hitch in the link. I thought you would want to know.

Once again, thank you for your wonderful insights into the greater practice.