Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Lessons on the River

Well, I woke up pretty tired and sore today. Kelly and I went back down to San Marcos yesterday to play in the water in our kayaks and two days in a row, coupled with a strong Fourth of July Practice and my body is feeling it! Its all in a good way- no tweaks, strains or anything, just good old fashioned lactic acid and stiffness. Nothing a little yoga can't or won't help here in a few minutes.

I have had a busy weekend but I have actually managed to get two mornings of play time at the river, a lot of time on my mat and I got through a long list of to-do's so I am pretty psyched. I love being in my kayak on the river. It is the one thing I do in my life that really is just for fun. I will never teach other people kayaking, there is no where to get, no evaluations to receive, no fees charged and no opinions to debate. It is pure fun. Better yet, it's even called play boating which is a fun reminder.

And yet, even as a "fun thing" its also a constant reminder of the principles I live by. The cool thing about rivers is that they are a moving medium in which to play and explore. The level of the water is always changing, the speed of the current is always changing and so every day is really different. What "worked" yesterday to get a spin in the hole is not necessarily going to work today. So one has to be responsive, not habitual to kayak well.

I think that has some yoga lessons for us to ponder. I mean, really, our body/mind/spirit complex is also a bit of a moving river. We are always changing and growing and getting stuck and then unstuck. All kinds of things affect what is going to be possible on our mats on any given day- we may have had dietary lapses, indulgent evenings, emotional upheavals, stresses and strains physically and mentally and so forth. All of these factors and more work on us and create a different scenario we have to deal with when we step on our mat to "play". What worked yesterday to open us up for a certain pose, may not be what works today. The inner waters may have shifted too much to go after something in the same way as yesterday. So there is that.

The other thing about kayaking is that the boat works best in the water when it is travelling at the same speed as the water. In fact, we are most likely to get flipped over when our boat moves slower than the speed of the water. Now this seems pretty obvious when I say it like that. But when we are in a rapid that is moving very fast and we are getting a little freaked out, the tendency, when we are new to the sport, is to try to slow down, get a grip and think rationally. And additionally, what happens then is that our whole body goes into stiff-lock-down. But actually, the opposite approach is called for. We have to paddle faster, trust the speed and stay loose in the cock pit of the boat to allow our boat to move fluidly, like part of the water itself.

Obviously there are yoga and life lessons in that also. There is a speed of life- sometimes it is fast and we want it to slow down and some time that speed is slow and we want it to speed up.(And obviously sometimes that is appropriate and we can make a case for that another day.) For the purpose of this metaphor, the point I want to make is that there is a task of learning to respond to the speed of the river as it is, not trying dictating the speed of life according of our preference, ideals or preconceived notions about how things should be.

For instance, I have a friend in the spiritual community of which I am a part and he was feeling depressed. And in his depression he kept cutting things out of his life and taking responsibilities off his plate. And he grew more and more depressed. Finally he went to our teacher who looked at him and said, "You have got to do more. You will never be happy trying to slow down your flow." And my friend followed his advice, took on more work and responsibilities and found himself feeling much better. (Also less time for "navel gazing" helped but that is another story.)

Now the other thing about this particular aspect of kayaking worth considering is that if we do get flipped, so long as we know how to roll back up and , if worse comes to worse, we know how to exit our boat when we need to, it is not some big tragedy if we get tipped over. Staying upright in the boat at all times is hardly the point of play boating. (remember: PLAY is the point of play boating.) So often it is easy to find myself getting stiff, sacred and freaked out in the river trying not to get flipped only to get flipped anyway (Partly because the fear rigidifies me and my boat and sets me up to flip over. See previous explanation and also review concept of "fear as a self-fulfilling prophecy.") So after I flip over I realize EVERY SINGLE TIME that I know how to roll back up and its no big deal. So all that rigid response is for something I am perfectly capable of handling anyway!

Now there is a life lesson. I mean seriously, life is gonna flip us over. We are going to make mistakes and we are certainly going to lose our breath at times. So why grip, why freak ourselves out and rigidify our responses to life and hold ourselves back so much in order to avoid the inevitable? (I do know why, but that is another post.) Now I am not a believer in just shoving ourselves madly into rapids either. Before we learn how to surf a rapid in kayaking we learn how to roll and we learn some paddle strokes and so forth. We definitely get ourselves trained, let's be clear. But in the end, nothing trains us for the rapid like being in the rapid and sometimes, we just get in there, get flipped upside down, tossed around and even beat up a bit and realize that we not only lived to tell the tale but we just might have learned something about how to do it better in the future.

So like that. Have a great day.

OH! AND-- Carlos Pomeda is going to be teaching a one-day meditation intensive in San Marcos on Sunday, August 1 called The Wonder of Meditation.

The schedule is as follows:
8:30-9:45 Group Asana Practice with Christina
10:00-1:00 Sesion with Carlos
1:00-2:00 Lunch- bring a vegetarian dish to share
2:00-5:00 Session with Carlos

Tuition: $100

To register go online to www.shop.christinasellyoga.com and sign up there. You can pay through paypal which makes it all very easy for me. Email christinasell108@gmail.com or call me (512-665-3743) if you have questions.

We will have the intensive at my studio space in San Marcos:

The San Marcos School of Yoga
400 Center Street
San Marcos, TX 78666


Olga Rasmussen said...

Wow! Did I need to hear your insights on the river today! Thanks!

Christina Sell said...

Thanks, Olga. Love to know that you are tuning in! Love to you.

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