Mysore class was crowded today. Usually the Thursday morning classes aren't too congested because a lot of folks, certainly most of the more advanced students, go to Tim's Improv class at 7:00 am. When I do get to go to Thursday mysore classes, there's usually only two rows of students. I used to joke with my wife that that particular class was the "housewive's class" since most of the people who I saw there were friends of ours who fell into that category. Today we had three full rows going. We could have squeezed in a few more people on each row, it wasn't mat to mat, but it was fuller than usual.
I guess most ashtanga studios will have one or two people who decide they are just going to do whatever they feel they want to do, rather than doing the traditional form of ashtanga, in which specific series of postures are followed. Today I was near a person who took that freelancing to the extreme. Seeing the kind of things that were being done, it was actually hard not to laugh out loud. I have a hard time describing the sequence other than to call it aberrant. There was no possible logic to the pattern of poses done. A few sun sals followed by inversions followed by some second series poses, then some standing poses, some third series stuff, some others that seemed to have been created on the spot, etc., etc. One pose in particular caught my eye. The person moved well to the back of the mat and entered Utthita Parsvakonasana. Then, in a fashion somewhat akin to what occurs in Nakrasana, the person sequentially hopped in Parsvakonasana to the front of the mat. But, as far as I could tell, they only did the one side. I don't know, I guess there has to be some logic to what people are doing, but to me it sometimes just comes across as being rude to the teacher. I doubt this person was intending any kind of insulting message like, "I don't care if you are a teacher with decades of experience and are someone who is respected throughout the ashtanga community for their ability to teach, I think I know what I need to do and I don't intend to listen to your gentle suggestions to follow the traditional ashtanga approach." I just sort of read those kind of things into people's actions sometimes. I have to admire the focus of the woman who ended up practicing next to this person. The creative person was all over the area around her mat, sticking limbs onto other people's mats with repeated Supta Konasana versions and other here-to-fore undiscovered poses, this again occurring when most everyone else is moving through the standing sequence. The process was so unusual that I had a hard time not watching just to see what would occur next. The woman in front of me, however, just kept right on with her practice and kept her drishtis. I'm not that good yet.
My practice was not an inspired one. I was stiff. I think there's no question that diet, especially carbs, affects flexibility. At work, I tend to eat even worse than I do at home. Fast, comfort food is usually the order of the day when I'm on call. If I'm not real busy, I tend to spend most of my time sitting at the computer surfing and stuff. I can usually shake the resulting tightness off if I can stretch out some before class. Today I had a slow commute, school is back in so the freeways are definitely slower now. I got to class a few minutes late, so I had no chance to stretch out. I had to just go with what I had. It wasn't horrendous but it was not what I wanted for my one chance at a mysore class in a while. My hamstrings and my up dogs felt sub par up through the Marichasanas, when I started to feel like I was loosening up. My groins never did get good and loose. I was able to touch my toes in Kapotasana but I could tell I wasn't going to be entering any new frontiers in that pose so I just moved on after one repetition.
In the game of golf, no matter how miserable the play is, every round will have at least one shot that brings you back. One thing that goes so well that you forget your ineptitude for the other 100 + shots. I think most practices are like that too. Even on days where you sometimes start wishing you could come up with a good excuse to sneak out early, ("Gee Tim, I hate to have to leave but I think I'm getting a menstrual migraine." "Well, okay John. I sure hope that gets better soon.") there's usually one thing that brightens your day. Some new edge that gets pushed, some new posture attained. Today, I did finally do a drop back into Urdhva Dhanurasana. I stood up after my third back bend. I wasn't tired. I was in a good mood. The woman practicing next to me had given me the nicest compliment about my practice that I think I've ever gotten. I haven't gotten many of course, but it was still a wonderful thing to hear, even if she was just being nice. She told me that she hadn't recognized me initially when we started practicing. She said when she realized it was me, she thought that I looked so much younger. I suggested that it was probably because my hair was growing long. She said, no, it was that my practice was changed, that that was what looked so young. I didn't know how to respond to that. I kind of blushed and gave it the old "aw, go on", but it was such a novel thing to hear. At any rate, fueled by that good will, I decided that today I would at least try to drop back. Tim walked over to do assisted drop backs after I stood up. Today I waved him off, telling him of my intention to push the fear envelope. Ever the considerate one, as I was beginning to get into that edgy part when you're going back, where you can feel it in your back but you're not sure of the balance over your feet, he tells me, "Just make sure your hands hit the floor before your head does." Right. Okay. Got it. Thanks for the tip. I tried several times to go for it but kept chickening out. I asked the kind woman to my side to watch me and tell me if I was at a place that would be safe to drop from. She told me go for it when I was arched. The hardest part for me was to extend my arms and then let go. I normally arch back with my hands at my chest. Something about extending them mentally represented the point of no return. After a couple of failed go-for-its, I finally quit with the melodramatics and went back. Of course, it was as anti-climactic as could be. Once I realized that I hadn't broken my neck, my first thought was what a pussy I've been for the last two years, being too scared to even try it. My next thought was, "Crap, now I have to do this again each time I practice." And so, another fear factor is semi-overcome.