Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Mundane Observations

I miss the post-Easter Hershey’s kisses that were on the table by the door.

The thermostat in the studio clicked off this morning, signaling that the desired level of heat had been achieved. It was set for 92 degrees. The room was full today, three rows of maybe 10 people per row. The result: much heat.

How I can tell if it’s warm enough in the studio: sweat rolls down my back and my eyebrows fail in one of their chief functions, which is to prevent sweat from pouring over my brow and into my eyes.

Part One: Remember when doing a forward bend was the most physically uncomfortable thing in the universe?

Part Two: Remember getting sore the day after a yoga class? Remember Epsom salt baths and Tiger Balm?

Why does that one guy smell bad every day? Doesn’t he know he smells bad? Can’t he change something in his diet or personal sanitary habits? It’s not the fact that he smells bad that gets me—we all flush things out—it’s the overall consistency. He’s like the US Mail—he smells bad rain or shine, through hail, sleet and snow.

A Lesson in How to Sack Up: There is a gaggle of ladies visiting from Montana. Apparently they rented a camping space down the road and are camping out for the entire month, all to practice with Tim. That’s hardcore.

Several of the above-mentioned visitors are very cute.

I admire that one girl’s devotion—she’s at practice every morning, and judging by her overall flexibility (or lack thereof), she just dove in headfirst to Mysore-style ashtanga with no prior yoga experience. And she’s been coming back for months and months! It’s so lovely.

Often mid-way through practice I experience full-on food fantasies, visualizing the post-practice banana I’m going to eat, or the tall, cool glass of water I’m going to drink.

In my first-ever yoga class, we were in savasana and the two teachers read aloud several graphic excerpts on animal mutilation from John Robbins’ Diet for a New America. What the fuck?

I’m too anxious to say anything about my Mysore plans for fear of gooching them. But everything is coming together in a very frightening way. More later.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

On good days, the universe’s subtle heartbeat is audible. My practice synchs up with it like a needle dropped on a record groove. Yesterday was a good day.

Bad days are like swimming through molasses. This morning I thought to myself, “There’s a point to why I practice. What was it again?”

Good days, bad days. Easy days and hard days, focused days and scattershot days, days of lightness and days of density: Through it all, “Abhyasa vairagyabhyum tan nirodha.” Steady, dispassionate practice, without attachment to the outcome.

Some days that line is so obvious. Some days that line is all that saves me.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Here’s a grumpy yoga observation for you: If you don’t practice next to the heater, and then one day practice next to a guy next to the heater, please don’t complain that it’s too hot, and then ask for the heater to be turned off. Just move your mat.

If you can’t stand the heat, etc.

Stood up from my backbends today. Not as gracefully as Tuesday, but anything’s better than Sunday’s and Wednesday’s performances. I was honestly worried that I’d lost it.

And finally, to cap off today’s entry: According to Cosmodemonic Shoe’s General Counsel, there is a greater than 95-percent chance the sale of the company will close May 1.

I’m already pricing tickets to India.

My Mysore trip looks like it’s really going to happen, although I refuse to get excited until I’m boarding the goddamn plane.

Okay, I lied. I am getting a little excited, although I’m doing my best to fight it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

I’ve been standing up from backbends every day for the last two weeks. Prior to that, I’d been rocking back and forth for the few weeks, but nothing had come of it.

Then suddenly, on a Friday, I widened my feet a little (to the edges of the mat) and simply stood up. Just like that. I was so surprised I sat back down and did it again, just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. A true watershed moment.

It’s worked every day since, although the grace and ease has varied wildly. Most notably: Sunday was difficult, yesterday was graceful and fluid, and this morning it took a ton of tries to make it upright. I even “slammed” once. What gives?

After practice, rather than dart to work with sweat drying, I headed home and showered. Now I’m at work, and I feel like taking the most savage of naps. All that backbending totally blew me out.

The process will only get better over time. Meanwhile, keep practicing.

Monday, April 5, 2004

I ventured out on the proverbial town on Saturday night, to see a shitty punk-rock band at a neighborhood bar, no less. Strange behavior, not least because I dislike both punk-rock bands and neighborhood bars. I got home at about 3:30—with the end of daylight savings time, it became 4:30.

Getting up at 8 for yoga wasn’t fun, but I couldn’t sleep any later if I tried. I made one concession to the previous night’s late hour, and that was to down a cup of coffee. It was only unleaded, with a few squirts of diesel thrown in to administer a jangly nervous-system jolt.

I was a wrung sponge during practice, water squirting forth from every pore. When everything works, it feels less like you’re performing a sequence of stretches. As Tim said after class, “It’s like the practice is doing you.”

It’s an un-spooling process, where these poses are pulled forth from within like thread unwinding, seemingly of its own accord. All you do is get out of the way.

I had post-practice smoothies with a few fellow students. It was Anne’s first time at the studio; she had practiced yoga before but didn’t have a regular practice.

“How did you like it?” I asked.

“It was ashtanga,” she shrugged. “I thought Tim Miller was arrogant, though. And he was so mean!”

My eyebrow lurched upwards in surprise. I’m surrounded by Tim’s longtime dedicated students, all of whom respect and revere him. Hell, I reckon I’m one of Tim’s dedicated students now. So I hadn’t encountered a reaction like that in a long time.

I see one thing from Tim, Anne sees another. Each of our views is colored by our perceptions, desires, wants, needs, personalities. She sees arrogance where I see playfulness; she sees Tim as mean, I see Tim as compassionate.

When I began to practice, I experienced frustration, pleasure, confusion, anger, joy, wellbeing, and more. It was a full range of emotions. In one fell swoop I’d faced all my physical strengths and weaknesses. My emotional and intellectual limitations became apparent in my reactions to my physical state.

Your teacher facilitates the experience—guiding you in and out of poses, adjusting you as needed, and if you’re lucky, tracking your progress. It’s entirely natural to ascribe the feelings that arise to your particular teacher, seeing them as responsible for the various mental, physical and emotional states achieved in a focused ashtanga practice.

So I think Anne had a difficult, frustrating practice, and projected it onto Tim.

Her needle swung to one end of the gauge. I’m cautious to not let my needle swing to the other end. I don’t want to deify Tim, and over-ascribe reactions and emotional and spiritual states to him. He's a man, albeit one who’s dedicated more than 25 years to ashtanga.

A yoga teacher acquaintance of mine once described himself as a mechanic. He’s there to make sure the engine, or body, runs properly. That’s it.

The spark-plug is inserted here, twisted like so, and connected to a specific wire. Therefore the engine runs. The foot is placed here, the eyes gaze at that point, and the hip opens like so. Therefore the practice is completed.

Tim exercises an assiduous, disciplined avoidance of any role greater than that of a mechanic. He refuses any hint or trapping of guru-dom.

Any sense of spirituality, connected-ness, or greater meaning is derived by you.