The last time I was in that hot and sweaty room, I was frustrated. I felt like I was pushing shit up hill, but it was the kind of shit that lasted for way too long and wouldn’t shift. Something massive had to shift.
I had been doing my best to soften in the practice but I was struggling to navigate.
It’s a great sign of the practice, that something is working when you start to question the very practice you have been committed to for years. Ashtanga Yoga had turned into a love/hate relationship, and just like anything which turns into an addiction, you need to step away from it eventually if you want to flourish.
I’d started to dread going to practice. I started to have bad thoughts about that very room I practiced in. I had started to question that very practice that had changed my life. The reflection I saw in the room was one of ego and masculinity. Striving to climb an invisible ladder through third series was where I was at, when the conscious decision to drop that specific practice played out.
Well, I wasn’t actually planning on dropping it – it just started to fade away. Like good friends who grow apart because circumstances and feelings change. Nothing negative, although some people I told that I wasn’t practicing it, seemed to relish in the bad rap it can get.
My teacher is an Ashtanga Yoga Teacher. He is also a Zen Master. Thank god.
Thank god, because Zazen is what picked me up when I landed. Without Ashtanga, I know I wouldn’t have taken Zazen in my stride like I did.
I said see ya later to the handstands and legs behind head in exchange for long periods of sitting. Just sitting.
This timing was nothing less than perfect (of course). We had given up trying for a baby and in hindsight, I think part of the reason we conceived was because I had given up the masculinity of my current practice and started to soften in meditation. After my first silent retreat, I was hooked. 20 minutes sitting in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening was the minimum and it absolutely transformed my life. During this period, I also fell pregnant.
Fast forward to over 2 years and here I find myself, back in the room of grunts and groans (pleasure and pain), tears, laughter and a practice which my body fell into.
I was nervous and excited as I laid my mat down and I was welcomed back by many hugs: the beauty of Sanga, embracing me fully, enabling me to feel safe to explore this new body of mine through a practice I was once so devoted to.
Pregnancy and birth have the tendency to smash your body. Of course, it is all worthwhile but it does take some time to heal. It also takes time to become reacquainted.
Practicing in my new and transformed body has been a joyful ride. I no longer give a toss about where my practice is going or what my postures look like. What matters is how it feels, and let me tell you – any time I get to practice Asana these days feels fan-fucking-tastic. So, to have two hours of time carved out for me to hit my mat was unreal.
As soon as I stood at the front of my mat and heard my teacher’s voice, I felt at home. As we started the opening chant, tears of joy and resonance sprung to the corners of my eyes. I moved through the standing sequence and I couldn’t help but smile. As I moved through seated sequence, the usual boredom that I once felt reminded me that parts of me haven’t changed, and as Mark said to me ‘I think I want you to do second series’, I couldn’t have cared less what I was practicing. I told him to decide because I was relishing in the moment of having nothing to think about other than here and now.
Those moments I get to practice at home are usually no longer than 20 minutes at a time. I often have to pull myself away before I get to Savasana and I haven’t been able to burn up a good amount of heat in the body to feel the physical and mental detoxification process, which Ashtanga Yoga has gifted me in leaps and bounds. Plus, my mind is always elsewhere – on my beautiful boy who has taught me the epitome of practice. He is usually crawling around somewhere or more usually, on top of me. And I love every moment.
Of course, second series hit me like a (very loving) ton of bricks. Those backbends made me wary and as I came to Ustrasana, I wavered. My lower back has not been great. I entered it and navigated around discomfort and my breath became shallow. I felt that discomfort which arises, when you know your shit is bubbling to the surface. Backbends (and twists) have been hard for me since I fell pregnant.
When you are pregnant, your spine takes a bit of a hit. With a baby in the belly, twisting and any form of flexion or extension of the spine becomes challenging and doesn’t feel great. After you go through the birthing process, you need to rekindle the love. I used to love backbends. They came naturally to me. Drop backs were fun. Now – they scare me. Kapotasana scares me.
When I saw Laghu Vajrasana, I asked for help. I was navigating this posture like I had never done it before, and I really felt like I had never done it before. The truth is, I actually had never done it before – in this body, which is so so different now.
Trepidation hit when Kapotasana came. Even with the full, hands on support of my teacher, in Kapotasana A, with breathlessness, I was exclaiming “my back” and as we hit B, it was “my wrists”. A journeyed towards my breath and connected momentarily: enough to feel deeply: enough for those bubbles to just about reach the surface and pop.
It was after Mark assisted me with Supta Vajrasana that everything came to the surface. Feelings I had been holding onto, which were busting through the seams in snappy-ness and frustration. Feelings directed towards those I love and damaging feelings I was having towards myself.
As I let me spine relax forward, release all of the tension in my core, closed my eyes and witnesses sensation, I could not hold back the tears.
This is why I love Mysore with Mark. It’s a solid Sanga of surrender and letting go. A place of safety where we share the highs and lows and where true nature is encouraged to blossom.
So, I lay forward over crossed legs and let it flow freely: all the pent up shit that I was holding onto which had no particular name. At some stage, Mark popped a box of tissues next to me so I could wipe the snot off my face, dust myself off and get back to it.
…and wow. Even though I felt kind of chaotic, I felt held. I felt heavy externally but I could feel my channels opening and felt my mind and the frustrations dissolve. I had forgotten the way I can simply let go in this space, with my teacher. Something I don’t do fully, when practicing at home.
I walked out of that class with jelly legs, a bit wired, and a ‘what the hell just happened?’ feeling.
The day after, I woke up sore and with a feeling of deep gratitude. I remember clearly the day my teacher, Mark, took me under his wing. It would be a day that would change my life, forever.