Monday, May 03, 2004

It was hot today. India hot. I drove home from work at about 10:45 in the morning. The car thermometer read 100 degrees. I know they're not the most accurate things in the world but, really. 100 degrees? That occurs on the planet Mercury and in Uganda and places like that, not here. We've got this huge ocean right next to us with a current water temperature of 63 degrees F. Despite that refrigerating influence, the air temp along the coast today was in the 90's. Inland a few more miles it was in the 100's. Hades reborn. It was only in the 70's in Galveston and that's the whole state of Texas further south than we are. Curious weather. Hopefully not a portent of the summer to come.

I was worried about the studio being too hot but the room stayed temperate. It got warm enough for good tapas but not so hot that we lost it in the heat. I did have a loose back bending day though. I was able to come up to standing twice with negligible futzing around. I almost felt confident enough to try dropping back. I did go down one time using the wall. Such a puss.

One of my first teachers has been coming to class recently. She had moved away for a while, had a child, etc. Seeing her back in class made me think about the various teachers I've seen through the four years I've practiced at Tim's studio. I guess there's been two cycles of turnover among Tim's assistants in that time.

When I first started, back in mid-2000, the main teacher, other than Tim, that I can remember was Dominic Corigliano. He had worked with Tim for many years. A couple of years ago, he left for an almost two year long stint in Mysore with Guruji, culminating with his being certified last year. He now travels about teaching internationally. I didn't go to Tim's studio much that first year, I did mostly gym classes, so if there were other steady teachers, I didn't get to know them well.

After Dom left, the next group of teachers that I remember were Dennis Dean, Mark Linksman, Kim Toledo and Matias Flury. At various times over the last two years, all have moved on. Dennis has his own studio up the coast a ways. Kim moved to Hawaii for a while. Mark just recently moved up to the great north woods somewhere, Wyoming or Montana. Matias moved to Costa Rica and will also be in India a lot.

Now, Tim has a different cadre. They have all been teaching with him for many years, overlapping with the other teachers who have moved on. As the others have gone on to other things, these current teachers have become the 'big kids' in my mind. And then there's the even newer folks, like my wife. Since Tim has been doing this teaching Ashtanga stuff for about 25 years, if there's typically a turnover rate of about three years, I figure he's had about seven or eight generations of teachers and assistants come through. It would be neat to see a sort of genealogic tree of Tim's teaching line constructed. Maybe Krishnamacharya on top, with Guruji next level down, Tim below that, then all of Tim's various students who have become teachers in their own right. With each person would be a short bit on their life and what they're doing now. Equally interesting would be to see how many of that lineage are still practicing yoga in some form.

In my comments section, a guy named Rod Mcalister posted the following:
"I wonder if you have any thoughts on your frequency of practice and your lack of injuries, atypical of most astangis. You lament your inability to practice as often as you like but maybe in the long run it works. "

Very interesting area to me. I really don't practice as one should. Ideally, I would be doing something everyday. I don't. I choose to practice almost exclusively in a class setting. I could do more at home. I know a guy who does. He will even practice late at night, even after midnight, to get it in. I admire that commitment and drive and admit that I don't have it. I can't even truthfully say if I would like doing that kind of thing or if it's workable because I've never really tried it. I don't think I have ever done a practice at home. I've done it at work more than a few times, but never at home, that I can remember. So, when I moan and complain about missing out and being deprived of chances to practice by the demands of the real world, it's partly my choice.

I have had some injuries. For the most part, they have been muscle strains of one sort or another, all trifling when looking back through the retrospectoscope. When I first started, I took a David Swenson video to work. I was trying to practice along with it. Somewhere in the video, he talks about jumping through. He made a comment about floating through, or something along those lines. I tried to float my feet up to my hands and immediately felt a significant pain in what I think was the quadratus muscle in the lower back. That slowed me down for several weeks. Later, still in the first few months of doing ashtanga, I strained or pulled a pectoral muscle doing Supta Pada Angustasana. When I tried to let my leg go out to the side, the leg just overpowered the pec and hurt something. These both got better mainly by resting and then starting back slowly. There was an important lesson or two. If you do get hurt, if you let it heal, it will. If you keep trying and are patient, you will regain any lost ground and will eventually be better than you were when you got injured.

After I had been doing stuff for about a year, I decided to go to a backbending workshop given by one of Tim's assistants. I wasn't very warm but I still tried to push my limit in what we were doing. I didn't have any pain at all when doing the poses. Later that night, while at work, my lumbar back steadily got more stiff and more painful. I got to where I could barely stand up straight. I ended up stopping practice for several weeks. In fact, I started doing some other stuff while recuperating that I kept doing rather than practice, even after I had recovered. After a few months of slacking around, I started back and it felt like I was stiffer and more incapable in backbending than I had been in my very first class. I probably was. Another lesson learned. You can take time to heal, but if you take too much time off, the resulting stiffness will result in you going through more pain than you need or want. Aversive training I think they called it in Psyche 101.

After that, I had a pretty long stretch without any problems. Then one day, I had problems folding forward. Each time I practiced, my left hamstring, which had always been my "good" side, got worse and worse. Somewhere, I must have done a careless forward bend that strained or tore it. It took me quite a while to get rid of the pain and to get the full range of motion back, probably five or six months at least. I still hesitate when folding forward in Parsvottanasana, even though it's been almost two years since I hurt it. I've had a couple more minor tweakages of my back that came from trying to do too much in one sitting, but they were the "rest it for two days and it will get better" kind of problems.

But real injuries? No, I haven't had any. And I do think it has been because I haven't felt impelled to push things. I've been satisfied to progress as I will. It has worked for me. If I hadn't seen steady progress, perhaps I would have gotten impatient and pushed and gotten hurt. Or, I might have gotten frustrated and quit. Instead, I've moved past so many postures that were once perceived as, "I'll never be able to do that" kinds of things. I think, somehow, from day one I got lucky enough to have adopted a non-attached perspective with regards to my asana practice, without really knowing what non-attachment was. I have an advantage in that I'm 46. I honestly don't expect to be real flexible or real strong or anything.

I've gone on too long for such a simple question. But one other comment Rod made was interesting. He noted that my lack of injuries seemed atypical for an ashtangi. I don't know the people in my studio well enough to comment on that. I've never seen a bad injury occur in class. Well, my wife did whack a guy in the head by accident once, bad enough to send him to the ER for stitches, but that doesn't count. He was back in class the next day. I can't think of any stories about, "So and so, who used to come all the time but had to quit when they blew out their ________ (fill in the blank)" I know people can and do get hurt, but I don't see it as a ubiquitous thing. Is it?

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