I got back into the 6-day practice last 8 November. I just woke up one day and thought–darn it, I feel like practicing! So I did.

My “ashtanga” practice (putting it in quotes for now) now consists of 3 Surya As, 3 Surya Bs; standing poses until parsvottanasana; seated poses until navasana (except triang mukhaekapada paschimottanasana–hips are still too tight, only one sitting bone touches the floor); bridge pose (instead of urdhva dhanurasana); second paschimottanasana; salamba sarvangasana, halasana, uttana padasana; dolphin (not strong enough for headstand yet); modified baddha padasana, modified yoga mudra; utpluthi; then savasana.

I came done with a pretty bad cold this Wednesday, and I decided–exercise compassion to myself! So no practice until I feel better.

For some reason, I feel more authentic (in the existentialist sense) about my practice now than when I started this blog. It’s a real choice, a day-by-day choice I make.

 

Yesterday’s practice was again a short sequence, this time based on Swenson’s 30 minute form again. I find that I like this sequene better than the YogaToday.com one (well, why am I not surprised) but sometimes there are days when I feel like following another person’s cues and breathing count.

Since I’m not very open in the hips (I think it’s because of how fast I walk when I commute), I try to focus more on the breath, bandhas, and not to pressure myself with the asanas that need more flexibility in the hips. It will come!

Today I woke up more than an hour late, and because of the paked day, I haven’t yet practiced. I’m planning to do a restorative class or slow flow later this evening. For now, I must write my thesis!

I woke up a bit late, and did the 30 minute shortened sequence (“Primary Express”) from YogaToday.com that I mentioned two weeks back. I felt happy just to be able to get on the mat and get to the closing asanas.

After savasana, I received a text message from a friend who lives in Zamboanga City (an hour and a half away from Manila by aeroplane, in the island of Mindanao). It was about one of our friends, D., who was our batchmate from JVP.

D. had been diagnosed with lung cancer this May–a rare and aggressive form of the disease. D., the text message read, feels like she’s going soon. Two courses of chemo and the tumor is still growing, says her doctor.

D. is just 27, a year older than me.

I’m very frustrated because I feel like there’s not much I can do (save for pray and send good thoughts and feelings her way), and it’s that sense of helplessness that gets me.

On the other hand, I look at D.’s life and how full it is, how well-lived, how much she gave of herself to her family, friends, the people she worked with as a development worker–and I find I am so inspired too. That despite her 27 years she’s touched and continues to touch so many people’s lives.

It inspires me to live my life to the full, to touch as many lives as I can, to serve as well as I can.

Because we never know when we leave this earth–we have ultimately no control over that–but we know and are in control of what kind of world we can leave behind with our passing.

I used to blog–a personal journal really–and I called my blog The Eternal Beginner. I’ve felt that way a lot with my life–like every day, every week, every month, every year was a new beginning.
Teaching is a lot like that. Despite teaching the same course and the same themes (with a little variation in the readings I give to my students), I always feel as if I was teaching again for the first time. I used to think of it as an affliction–that it meant something was wrong with me as a teacher–but now I’ve grown to see it as a real gift. Being able to take each new teaching day as a beginning has helped me be more open to the reality of my students, that it’s always a new set of people that I encounter with each term at the university.
I think this has helped me a great deal with my practice of ashtanga as well. This week has been a breakdown in the sense that I only hit the mat for four days out of six. That’s certainly not according to my original promise for myself that I would practice ashtanga everyday with the traditional break once a week for rest.
In the past, I would have been extremely hard on myself. I would have considered this an utter failure and have sworn off the practice completely.
There are things that I’ve been resisting in my life at the moment, particularly with my relationship with my parents and our living situation (I still live with them), and part of that resistance has translated into my resistance to the practice as well.
So, it’s time to move forward, move one, and begin, again.
πŸ™‚

From the “cybershala.”

One of the two practice blogs I read regularly (almost everyday!) is Reluctantashtangi.com. I find Kaivlaya’s accounts of her journey in yoga inspirational, and in fact was one of the reasons why I began my own practice blog.

Reading her blog today, I found these two links to another yoga blogger, who posted her accounts of a 3-day workshop with Nancy Gilgoff, one of the first Westerners who brought ashtanga to the US. I’m sharing the links as well, in the off-chance that others may read it. They were very helpful! I especially love the part where Nancy Gilgoff talks about her own struggles with getting on the mat to practice. πŸ˜€ I hope Nancy Gilgoff comes to the Philippines in the near future.

(Day 1 and Days 2-3 of Nancy Gilgoff’s workshop.)

-Hey, self! I thought you were going to blog everyday?

-I know! I’m sorry! I promise to be more regular in my posts!

-You’d better be! I thought this was going to be a long-term commitment, not just a ningas cogon* thing.

That is my present internal dialogue. I’m not beating myself up about it–if there’s something that ashtanga and the past couple of years of my life have taught me, it is compassion for the self–but I’m also practicing/habituating myself Β in keeping promises. So this is just me, gently reminding myself about my promises. Hehe. On to the practice accounts!

Day 9, Wednesday

Practiced the full standing and seated sequence, with modifications (still) for the poses I can’t yet do the full expression of. I found that if I just focus on my breath, I can work up a very intense sweat. By the time navasana came around, my entire body was covered with a thin sheen of sweat. Times like these make me happy. πŸ™‚

Day 10, Thursday

Practice followed David Swenson’s 30 minute short form, which I’ve decided to copy down here to help me memorize the sequence–I had to interrupt my flow at some points because I forgot the next asana. Hehe.

3 Surya Namaskara A

3 Surya Namaskara B

Padangusthasana

Utthita Trikonasana

Utthita Parsvakonasana

Utthita Hasta Padangustasana

Virabdrasana A & B

Dandasana

Paschimottanasana A

Janu Sirsasana A

Marichyasana A & C

Navasana

Urdvha Dharunasana

Padmasana

Savasana

Day 11, Friday

I love Fridays. I get to practice full standing and seated on Fridays. Yay.

One thing that I’ve noticed out of doing this daily is how I need to build strength in certain areas of my body over others. In vinyasas/surya namaskaras, I’m reminded how much of my upper body needs to build up strength, mainly in my arms and in the bandhas. In navasana and some of the standing poses, in the meantime, I feel muscles in my inner thighs that I never knew I had.

Day 12, Saturday

Got home late Friday night. Saturday morning was hectic. No time even for vinyasa or stretching. Got home late.

Day 13, Sunday

No energy! I woke up at 11am, three full hours later than I usually wake up on Sundays. I decided to respect my body, and took Sunday easy. No practice, but took a walk and a lovely nap πŸ™‚

*ningas cogon: a Filipino idiom, literally “bush/grass fire.” The idiom describes people/passions/interests that begin burning brightly but burn out quickly.

Tuesdays are teaching days at the university, so Tuesday mornings can get manic sometimes. Today was one of those times. I powered through a thirty minute led “primary express” class I had found on YogaToday.com, which went reasonably well. Following the vinyasa count of the teacher helps me get through Surya B–having to focus on the breath and listen to the teacher cue you to the next transition takes my mind away from the complaining and helps direct attention to the breath and the movement from one asana to another.

The class itself draw from the standing and seated sequence from ashtanga, and was similar to (but not exactly the same as) David Swenson’s 30 min short form. I’m planning to alternate between these two on hectic mornings. I’d rather have a short practice rather than none at all.