Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The annual Ashtanga Intensive, nee "Teacher Training" has begun. Each year around this time, we're joined in our daily classes by roughly 40-45 workshop students taking a two week workshop with Tim. This year I joined them in the workshop. I've been to the one week course he gives along the same lines in Tulum. We've actually made it a kind of annual winter vacation getaway, having gone three different times now. We didn't get to go this year because my wife was in mid-chemotherapy at that time. I like to meet the people who will go out and be teachers in various places around the country and around the world. I also learn new stuff every time I go, even though the areas being covered are essentially the same. At any rate, even with the newer larger studio we're using right now, with the increased number of students, it was jam packed. And it was hot, India hot. I was tooling along thinking things were going good, doing pretty okay in most of the stuff. Even without doing my full arsenal of research stuff, I felt like I was doing acceptable second series work. Right about my first attempt at Dwi Pada Sirsasana though, I hit the heat/sweat wall. I just felt out of energy, like I hadn't eaten or hadn't slept in a long while. I felt too hot, like I wasn't dissipating the heat. I haven't felt that way in a long while. I felt really puny when I was sitting there wasting time, "cooling down" a bit between poses and watched some of my fellow trainees follow doing the first series by also doing at least as much of the second series as I had done.

I've been very lucky this spring and early summer in that I've had a lot of chances to practice. I wanted to be as good as I could when I got to this workshop. I've been thinking back over the times that have come before. I can't think of a time when I've been able to practice every day, or at least six days a week, for two straight weeks. I wanted that kind of a stretch to be a chance to move ahead in something instead of being a catch up opportunity. I have fantasies of actually touching my groin to the ground in Samakonasana after my 13th day of grunting and groaning and suffering my way lower, or landing and holding a Karandavasana descent, or some other such dream. While I know a dream when I dream it, I am hoping for at least some realistic improvements in my practice. I just have to avoid getting hurt.

I hope to also get more facile at using the Sanskrit counts for the asanas. I have a friend who teaches a class at a nearby company during their lunch break twice a week. I have assisted her in the class a couple of times and have subbed for her twice as well. The times I led the class, I was distracted enough by trying to maintain a reasonable pace, not forgetting any poses, keeping to the very limited time frame available to me, keeping up a greater than normal amount of verbal direction ( because many of them are newer to the practice and needed some guidance but mainly because when people are in anxiety provoking situations, they often compensate by talking too much, and that's what I did), trying to assist where I could, there was just more going on than I was able to process smoothly. So, I started out using the Sanskrit counting but soon degenerated into skipping the counting altogether and just using the inhale/exhale verbal cues along with the descriptions of what I thought would be helpful. It works but it's less than elegant. When we break down into twos and threes in the workshop, I've paid more attention to getting the counting correct than I did in the Tulum workshops.

This workshop group is unusual in that a large number of the attendees are from our area. I think I came up with about fifteen out of the 45 students. Most of the rest are from the US and most of them seem to be from the western US. We do have a couple of people from Europe, one guy originally from Brazil, a guy who just made it out of the governmental changeover in Bolivia. It's a fairly diverse group. It was so crowded today, our first real day of practice together, that I didn't get to look around much and see how everybody did. I was too busy trying to keep my own head above the water anyway. I was so wasted by the end that, after coming up from my last standup, I walked over towards the bathroom to catch my breath before going back to face Viparita Chakrasana. I spotted on of our group doing what I thought was Supta Vajrasana. He was all the way down by himself with no one assisting him. "Aha!" I said to myself, "Here's a great chance to help out and also get a chance to cool down and catch my breath a bit." So I went over and put my legs down on his knees to give him the leverage to come back up when he was ready. He kind of gave me a curious look, like "Uh, okay. Thanks for helping, I guess." Then I noticed that his arms and hands were not crossed behind his back, like in Supta Vajrasana. They were coming straight down his sides, because he wasn't doing Supta Vajrasana, he was doing Matsyasana, part of his closing sequence. It's not really possible to do something more embarrassing than that, unless maybe if I had farted while sitting on him, I guess. I apologized and tried to stammer a quick but useless explanation for my mental deficiency and then slunk back to my mat. God I hate it when I do dufus stuff like that. I felt sorry for the guy later in the teacher training session. He volunteered to demo the first posture we worked on today, Surya Namaskara B, while Tim counted him though it and then used him to guide us in what to look for and how to correct things. He had to hold each step of the sequence for at least three or four minutes, listening to us ask questions and make critiques on the most minor of things. He was in it for probably at least 30 minutes. It was the first thing we did and he was drenched with sweat when he went back to his place. Then he had to do it all over again with his working partner. That was an impressive display, he was tough.

In our first day of class, we spent most of the time going over some of the Yoga Sutras. I had worked the night before and only got a few hours of sleep. I never nodded off in class, but I wasn't doing a very good job of learning. Despite having heard some of the same sutras reviewed by Tim many times before, I retain so little that each time is like the first time. Old Timer's Disease.

Unfortunately, tomorrow is a moon day. I'm in "I get to practice!!" overdrive, so having to pull back and not do so is a big let down. We still get to have class for the workshop though, so at least I'll get that in. Hopefully, I won't get beat up too bad tonight at work and will have all of my few mental faculties with me tomorrow.

Hah!! I just realized, just a second before trying to post this, that this is the computer that causes me to lose my post if I hit the Publish Post button. Maybe there's something in the corporate surveillance system (Websense) that prevents uploads. I'm going to e-mail it to myself and try to post it tomorrow when I get home.

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