It’s a quote from Pattabhi Jois, the guru of what has become ashtanga yoga in the west. I think this to myself every day. Today is Friday, and this week I have practiced four times already, beating my previous record of three, where I was stuck for a few weeks. I practiced on Monday when I had Columbus Day off, and then I began my commitment to a 10 p.m. bedtime, 6 a.m. alarm and morning practice, in the dark and the cold and the quiet.
I didn’t practice on Wednesday- had to be up even earlier for an MRI and was too tired to face it in the afternoon when I got back home. I switched my practice this week from the full primary series, which clocks in at 75 minutes if you’re fast and more like 90 if you’re not, to a 60-minute abbreviated sequence on one of my new dvds, Ease Into Ashtanga, which I love right now. Having a dvd I like is making all the difference for me right now, for a few reasons.
I don’t know the sequence by heart yet. It feels a bit like a dance- breathe, move, hold, inhale, exhale, and I love that, but I still need to be told what’s next, and having the guide of a dvd is exactly what I need early in the morning. I don’t self-motivate well, and when I was in yoga school and designing my own morning practice, I wouldn’t challenge myself first thing in the morning. Committing to the primary series doesn’t let me off the hook like I would, and having the dvd teachers to coach just takes the need for impetus away from me. All I have to do is put on some clothes, roll out the mat, and press play.
I’m also really liking the 60-minute sequence. It has several poses I can barely-sort-of-not-quite do, which for the next few weeks or months, is really plenty. Traditionally, ashtanga is taught one pose at a time. Students learn one, and are not permitted to learn the next one until the current one is mastered. Once I’m a little more passable at some of my challenge poses now, I’ll move to the entire sequence and work on some new challenge poses.
I’ve been reading other ashtanga bloggers’ great advice about morning practice, and I wanted to try to make morning practice work. After work, I’m usually too hungry or mentally worn out, and then I eat something and feel too full, and then it’s later in the evening and I can’t face it anymore. So this week I started, and it’s been just delicious. I set up the coffeepot in the evening so I can just hit the button when I wake up, and I dress, light my candles (I have a thing about candlelight. It always makes me feel special.) and turn on my teachers. I wear a sweater until I’m warmed up. It’s full dark until a little after 7 a.m. where I am this time of year, and I like the quiet of beginning practice in the dark and finishing in the morning light.
My cats like it too. They get up with me and lay on the rug beside my mat while I practice. I think it relaxes them. Ruthie stays with me the whole time every day.
Morning practice also frees up my evenings, which I hadn’t really thought about. When I practice in the morning, I don’t leave work thinking about having to fit yoga in or do it before or after dinner, etc. Now I go home, crack open a beer, and peruse the fridge in peace. Last night I tried a new recipe for vegan pumpkin bread. It was ho-hum, so I’m not going to post it.
I’m noticing that even in the few weeks I’ve been practicing with regularity, the poses are coming back to me. My hips and my back are loosening up, and while all binds are pretty far off for me, I am noticing incremental change, which is motivating. The difference between daily, or mostly-daily practice and weekly practice is just huge.
That’s the other reason I downgraded from the full sequence- I get discouraged. I fall behind, I can’t balance on my hands, arms, or sitz bones, I can’t do somersaults, shoulder inversions squash my belly rolls together uncomfortably, and you should see me trying to do boat pose.
But then I look at the dvd. Sure, the people on the video are doing all kinds of binds and every posture is fully expressed, but some of those people are my parents’ age. It reminds me of one of Patanjali’s yoga sutras, 1-14: “Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time without break and in all earnestness.” This guy was writing about 2500 years ago. His idea of a long time is not our idea of a long time. I remind myself of that every day now. It’s supposed to take years. That’s the idea. And if I do this for years, when I’m as old as my parents are now, maybe I’ll be able to do what those white-haired people on the video can do. It isn’t easy, but it is as it should be.
Yesterday, I went out for lunch and I ate too much. Today I ate potato chips at work. I’ve been thinking about whether to make a real effort to drink less, and how much I want to cut back. My inclination is to self-flagellate about these questionable behaviors, but I’m reminding myself of what I’m reading from other ashtangis- these things will resolve themselves. Give it time. Practice and all is coming.