Something about my relationship to change had been incomplete.
Something about what I expected from all this was lacking.
I’m not going to go so far as to say that I think I have found any of these (some)things. But I will risk the arrogance to say that I’ve realized a thing or two in the last few weeks. Some big idea that I was passing by obliviously, as ships do in the night (or so I am told), not realizing that the idea was even there to be missed.
This is a bit funny, this missing of the point (or a point, at the very least), since I have been just as interested in this process of poses as the next aspiring ashtanga yogi(ni).
Okay, let’s stop with the subtleties. Getting poses. BAM. that’s what this is about. I only got one last year and I was fine with it. I patted myself on the back for being okay with my slow, barely moving practice. A year passed, I worked hard. I came back to Mysore and I had the coveted and vainglorious experience of being doled out pose after pose, at times so quickly that I was overwhelmed and claimed that he must have made a mistake. but I trust his judgement. I am a perfect example of that kool-aid drinking dolt who is sure that he knows everything that happens on my mat. (except not really, thinking vaguely every day that if he really knew what I was up to in my little corner of the shala, he’d take all my poses away)
I had set myself the goal of catching up to what my practice once was. For all the poses I had ever regularly practice to have been given me, not only by Kino, but by the Boss. I had even hoped for him to give me one more. My “wall,” I had called it. I had hoped to hit what I perceived to be something of a dead end. That seemed like a good goal, if somewhat (by my own secret admission) quixotic.
What I did not anticipate (mistake #1) is that I might actually succeed in this, that (mistake #2) I would have 2 months of practice left upon reaching the dead end, AND that (mistake #3 – here’s the kicker) I would be expected to IMPROVE upon what I had actually visualized as a chimerical goal to begin with.
I can honestly say that I never really thought about the next stages of this asana practice.
I mean, sure, I knew that if you kept practicing you would move on to second (and third and forth…) series and have to let go of the previous one (for the most part). I knew that you would have to try to do poses that you’ve never done (or never been able to do). But I did not plan to apply those ideas to myself. Not for some time, at least. I didn’t realize that I would (have to) improve at things I see as impossible and that I would be given (right NOW. today.) more to work on beyond what I ever considered possible .
I guess I had given too much to the future.
But, funny thing, Sharath doesn’t actually ask you what your goal is. He doesn’t check in and make sure he’s not giving more than you want to face (although I’m pretty sure he can tell if he’s giving you more than you can face). He just tells you to do it. And if you, saaaay, don’t do it (and just ignore him when he gives you a new pose) eventually he will make you do it while he stands and watches (and laughs merrily at your vain attempt).
You don’t get to stop moving forward because you are comfortable where you are.
But that’s the whole point. That’s why there are so many series, such a long uphill battle. Kino says “Yoga is a process where the impossible becomes possible and the possible eventually becomes easy.” This practice is about embracing change. In the beginning it feels like a lesson in accepting things as they are, letting yourself just be here, now. To do your practice, same-same, every day and to learn the lessons that come from repetition. But gradually (and sometimes not so gradually) the practice evolves. We have the breakthrough moments of change that we hoped for, or feared, or never really expected. Sometimes we see those moments for ourselves and sometimes our teacher sees them for us.
But either way, the lesson is in the change. Whether it comes from a lack of change, facing the ego (you catching?) and facing your own fears (just stand up already, you know you can do it!), or whether it comes from letting go of the known, the comfortable, and facing the unknown and the uncomfortable with grace and indomitability. either way, opening is there.