Monday, May 09, 2005

A month or so ago, my teacher told me that I should get an ashtanga reaffirmation going. After hitting a peak in November, my practice dropped off considerably in the following months. A variety of factors led to the decay. My wife was going thru treatment for breast cancer, a series of surgeries, then a couple of months of dealing with chemotherapy. I still practiced in that time but it seems like it was less often. I also managed to accumulate a collection of tweaks. First, I did something to my neck. I'm not sure what the actual event was. I think it was trying to slide back into my original position after coming down from a back bend. Whatever it was, some things that I previously wouldn't have given a second thought to became bothersome, painful or I became completely unable to do them. Chakrasana for example. I'm just now getting back to being able to do it for the first time since January. Next, I again had my left hamstring insertion start to go off. There was no instigating event at all. It just became very painful. Any forward bend became a shadow of its former self. Some where along the line I had also another minor quadratus pull. Those all slowed me down quite a bit as I tried to let stuff rest. Despite being stiffer than normal from inactivity, I went to an Improv class in the midst of all of this. The teacher was doing some prep work for Yogadandasana. I had always thought I could do this. Seeing some of the people around me being able to do it led me to go at it harder than I should have, given the minimal stretching I had been able to do in the preceding weeks. So, naturally I then added a knee tweak to my burgeoning collection of infirmities.

By the time my teacher spoke to me, my practice had regressed to its infancy. I'm not sure if he was encouraging me to commit myself to practicing more frequently, or with less laziness or to doing more than just bending. But, he was right, I did need to start over and recommit myself. I had reached the point where I was finding it easier to skip practice than to go. I would just sit a big lounge chair at home and play poker on line. Not even real poker, this was poker for play money. Can't get much lower than that.

One of my problems with getting in practices is that, at our studio, most of the classes occur at times that I can't make. I have never had enough discipline to make myself practice at home. To be honest, with the need to be at work at 7:30 AM, coming home to three kids and their soccer games, swimming practices, homework, etc, bedtimes not until 9:00, for me to practice at home, I would have to do it at 4:30 AM or at 9:30 PM. So I don't do it at home. I wholly respect those who can carve out the time to do it. I just haven't reached that plateau yet.

Since I needed to find more practice opportunities somewhere, I decided to push the envelope and ask my teacher if I could practice in the studio when he was doing his self practice. That time has traditionally been sancrosanct. It's the one time that he has to himself in the studio. I asked anyway and he graciously agreed to let me practice on those days when I have worked the night before and can't make it to a Mysore or an afternoon class. So, the extra opportunities and a renewed desire to try have led to me getting three to four classes in each week this month. I know that's laughable to most 'serious' ashtangis, but to me, it's pure gold. I'm getting back closer to my prior levels in almost everything, except endurance and strength. Hopefully that will get better with time.

Things are getting back to normal at home too. My wife is through with her chemo and is over half way done with the radiation therapy. She still has some swelling and discomfort in the arm that had the lymph nodes removed but her days are much, much better. She has resumed her asana practice as well. The loss of flexibility that has occurred for her and the weight that she regained while undergoing chemo have been big burdens on her psychologically but she is moving on, learning non-attachment and the value of keeping on keeping on.

I meant to put a lot more here, stuff about practice today, guruji's recent visit, changes in our studio location, family experiences, all kinds of stuff. I've already written a veritable tome though, about next to nothing. Somehow, I've got to develop the ability to be succinct.

While I started this as a journal of my practice, I have always intended it to be something that was read by others. As such, I only want to do it if I can make it interesting, both to myself and to others. With all the blogs available now, it will be hard to offer here anything that isn't being given many times over in other places. I haven't done here much the last half year because I didn't think I was passing the interesting test. Looking back over this posting, I have to say I'm still not. It was a starting point though. Like my practice, hopefully better things to come.

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