Saturday, July 02, 2005

We've wrapped up our two week long Ashtanga workshop. Now I have to leave behind practicing everyday and return to my more usual approach of practicing as and when I can. I didn't set any new milestones in any tough poses in this two week stretch. I almost landed Karandavasana a couple of times but each time one leg would slip off of an arm at the last second. At least I had progressed to a point where I was actually lowering into a landing. Previously it had been more of a case of trying to fall into place. I didn't do a whole lot in Samakonasana either. I was close, maybe two or three inches off of the ground, but still a mile in terms of what it was going to take to get that last measure of opening and lowering. Once I realized that I wasn't going to get all the way down, I decided to too see how it felt to roll back into a sitting position. In the past, I had tried to never sit back. Tim had once said, "Once you are sitting on the ground, the work of the pose is over." Well, I sat back and found a whole new world of intensity, difficult to breath for a few seconds kind of stuff. The angle of my legs was pretty wide, certainly not Samakona, but wider than they had ever been before. Took me forever to get back out of it too. I couldn't get my legs to swing back toward the middle. I think going to ground did help more than just hanging out balanced on my heels, perineum a few inches off of the ground. We'll see. Tim also got me pretty close to my heels a couple of times in Kapotasana. I could touch them with my extended index finger. So, I progressed in a lot of poses, in a lot of ways, but have further to go.

The practices most days were very, very warm. The large number of people in the room from the teacher training group ramped up the heat, a lot. A couple of days I tried to do my first series poses, then followed with my usual second series routine of poses and research poses. That was more than I was up to. Both times I ended up abbreviating my closing poses because I was out of energy. One of those days, I blew off my stand ups and Viparita Chakrasana stuff too. For most of my Mysore practices, I just did my second series stuff. Although I was on vacation for this course, I opted to take call overnight a few times to keep some moola coming in. When I practiced after call, it was usually during the overflow session at 9:00. Tim and his assistant used that time for their practice too. So, those of us who used that time block to practice were pretty much doing self-practice. In the second half of the workshop, there were usually some of the workshop students there to assist and adjust, but for the most part, they didn't do adjustments for people working on second series poses. The other people doing second series would help each other in poses like Kapotasana, Supta Vajrasana and Karandavasana.

The people doing the workshop were all very nice and fun to work with. That is not always the case. In other courses I've been to, there was usually a person or two, or more, that was rough edged or had an ax to grind. There was no one in this group who seemed to feel the need to show the teacher how much they knew or how little they thought of what the teacher knew. It was a fairly diverse group in terms of experience. Some people had a long ashtanga background, had been teachers for some time and had studios of their own. Others had practiced a lot but weren't teaching much yet. Some, like me, were mainly looking to get better at their daily practice. I think every one came away with a large measure of respect for Tim. No matter who people normally train with, they usually come away from these workshops inspired by him. It's kind of hard not to. His obvious physical talents, his willingness to patiently answer every question, no matter how far afield it may lead, his ability to segue from a demonstration of a pose into stories of his experiences with Guruji in "the old days" and then onto stories from hindu mythology, his intuitive ability to see what someone needs to accomplish in a pose and then the experience to know how to best help them get there, and especially his breadth of knowledge of so much more than just asana: pranayama, chanting and singing of mantras and slokas, exploring the sutras and other important Sanskrit texts, the history of yoga in general. For me, he's kind of like the Michael Jordan of yoga. You find yourself thinking, "I wish I could be like that."

Even though we spent seven hours a day in close association with each other, I didn't get to know the other people as well as I would have liked. Beyond getting to practice a lot more and learning more detail about how to practice, the draw for me was to get to know the people who do Ashtanga. There were fascinating people from quite far away and from the local area as well. I wish we had more social time together. I missed out on any of the usual end-of-course mixing. I had previously committed to spending that afternoon and evening with my daughter who was back from a week at camp. I missed out on the social finale, a beach party that evening. Since I left class early that afternoon, I wasn't even able to say goodbye to most people. Instead, I'll say it here. Hope every one has a safe trip home. Vaya con Dios.