7/31/09

ashtangi rainbow celebration


i did half of primary series this morning. woo-hoo! i'm an ashtangi. i'm validated. paraphrasing a 1950s postcard my artist friend Phillip found in a garage sale in Austin once, "no matter what they said about you, i always thought you were the best pi gamma mu ashtangi."

there is joy in little things, yesterday there was a storm all day. around 5:30pm, the sun came out and people saw a rainbow in the window. my whole studio got excited and we ran like children to the rooftop to catch a glimpse of it. i ran excitedly with them as well.

this photo is of colleagues celebrating life on the roof some time ago.

7/29/09

section of Jinci Temple near pond

another section of the Jinci Temple park borders a lake and has a majestic pagoda. ancient buildings, in my estimate from the Song dynasty, surround large courtyards. many beautiful clay statues that have been meticulously preserved are displayed. these have lifelike expressions and clothing of ancient eras.

7/28/09

more musings

i researched Kasyapasana and Chakorasana this morning, although my practice was mainly yin. i had some feelings that are just that, feelings, that if i'm not an ashtangi then i'm liberated. i don't know if that is true. i can do yoga poses i need to do. the practice doesn't have to resemble ashtanga. it's still yoga.

praise or criticism, as i wrote last year, is just information. i'm human, so if a teacher offers challenging information, i feel sad. or when the thought of having to relive experiences from the past frustrate me, such as the possibility of having an entire practice taken away from me, my tendency is to stay home and practice. in the past i have done this and a teacher has emailed and asked me why i wasn't showing up for practice. i explained i wanted to do something, but felt it would not be appropriate in the room, or that i would not be allowed to do so. sometimes, i have gotten a response such as, "why don't you come back and we'll see if we can device a practice that works for you." i can't say if the same would happen here.

because i don't speak the language here, i've developed a keen sense of intuition. as we were practicing on Sunday and I was at about Kapotasana, Teacher took the giant framed poster with pictures of S. doing Primary and Second Series poses, turned it backwards and put it on the floor. at the end of everyone's practice, he turned it facing forward and placed it again on the counter. is there a non verbal message in that action? the behavior could say, "yes, this is the system of ashtanga, but don't do it, unless i okay it." one could add, "and don't do it like someone in the room is doing it."

i work about 12 hours a day and still wake up early to practice yoga. my practices are not as strong or intense as they would be when i go to a shala. in the past, when my Sunday teacher would ask me, "why are you so stiff? where is your breath? your central nervous energy is not calm." i could trace the problem to not having strong practices at home that week. when practice during the week was strong, or when i was able to go to the shala during the week, my practice on Sundays would be specially strong, focused, with the nervous system calm. so Teacher's observation of my breath not being present last Sunday is an honest one, and the reasons for my problem are physiological - not enough strong practice during the week.

distance to the center of town isolates me from going to the shala during the week. i may need to practice by myself and maybe reach out to see if there is a community of self practitioners nearby. the gym in my community has an Indian who teaches hatha yoga. i could go take his lead classes and ask him if he knows of anyone getting together to practice in community nearby.

on more brighter thoughts, i have completed editing the last pictures from the park of temples. at work, using the skills i have learned writing here and in creating a website, i have created a tool to share my knowledge on green design with my colleagues.

7/26/09

challenges to the practice

i got to the shala early today. my energy was good. i gave an effort to the breath but it was not entirely there (not until about the middle of the practice). i practiced intermediate. i may not remember the step by step sequence of my story today, but here it goes. around Supta Vajrasana, Teacher asked me if i practiced intermediate at home. i said yes and that i had done so this week. he said that i come to the shala on Sundays, but time after time, there is struggle in my poses; my face is reddened and i'm not breathing in particular in the chest opening poses. he does not know where to help me. a few weeks ago he asked me the same question, if i practiced intermediate at home, i said, not i was practicing third series and smiled while saying so. that's because that week my practice involved poses of third series.

i explained that my practice is about an hour and a half and i do a running group of poses, half of the practice. one day i might do the first half of the series, the next day i might do the next half of the series. i don't remember if at that point he said, "that is not ashtanga". but this would certainly be a reasonable time to say so. he said other teachers would have me doing primary. i continued practicing my wobbly, imperfect practice, including my wuz Pincha Mayurasana at the wall, my cheating Karandavasana on a 3 point headstand, my 45 second aloft Mayurasana, my inexistent headstand with the Pincha base, which confuses me. my Urdvha Danurasana where, honestly, the breath was not strong.

what does this mean? it makes me reflect that if don't do ashtanga, therefore i am not an ashtangi. i use the poses i learned from ashtanga to create a garland of poses when practicing yoga at home. i have been writing here maybe for 2 years. about a year ago, i stopped labeling my posts ashtanga because of an internal controversy i felt of whether i was following an orthodox ashtanga method or a liberal ashtanga method. i must be a liberal. i prefer to do my wobbly, imperfect intermediate than injure myself with a perfect primary. after class i mentioned that my practice is stronger if i practice in the shala more often and that maybe on Fridays i could come and do primary, but it tends to injure me. he asked me to think about what he said, that my breath is not present in chest opening asanas. i promised to concentrate more on the breath this week. this week is my turn to do 3rd series poses.

i hope i'm not sounding whiny writing about this. this is not a rant. i'm trying to be like a detached reporter journaling on my experience with yoga today. but my mind is trying to comprehend the implication of the message and why it was given. on the base level, it was given because it is true that my practice reflects where i am after 8 or 9 years of practice. a teacher new to me is looking at me where i am at the moment. he is not aware of how i was 3 years ago or 7 years ago doing the same poses. he cannot see the context that would show that i had improved in some of those poses from the point in which i began. he has the unfortunate challenge of having a student that is working about 12 hours per day, having to carry good nutrition practices, challenged by difficulties with practicing at home - whether it is sleepiness, eating too close to practice time, not eating before practice time and thus not having energy, having a distracted mind, etc. i think all of these things need to be taken into consideration - the whole person, and why a person is at their level in their practice at the moment. i tried to ask myself, is there something wrong with my body? does it not have the strength to do this practice. but if i didn't practice, it would not be healthy.

my observation of the other students in the group is that they are younger than me by about 15 to 20 years, and mostly doing primary, with one of them advancing to intermediate. from their perspective, they must be asking him why am i allowed to do intermediate, considering also that i don't do certain elemental ones correctly. so i'm not a poster child for yoga for them. i also see that there is a lot of emphasis here on getting dropbacks and coming to standing from Urdhva Danurasana. i must be really liberal from an orthodox perspective, that my obsession is not with coming to standing in UD and dropping back to the floor, then coming up. it would be nice if i could do that, but it's more important for me in my life to start Third Series now. if it took me four years to do full lotus, and after eight years i can almost get into Dwi Pada by myself, but need help to get the right leg behind the head, it might be another 4 years before i can do Dwi Pada by myself. an i'm not even talking about when i will get to my toes in Kapotasana. that is a project in itself. but i don't want to obsess about it. i want to have started Third series now, so that 12 years from now i'm actually doing it correctly or as wobbly as my intermediate practice is now. and i guess it would be very difficult to do a single third series pose in this shala, given the message i received today.

i think another cybershalamate faced issues like this in his shala, besides that he had physical reasons why he could not do certain poses. he did not want to disrupt his teacher's stance. he enventually went to do a different type of yoga, then practicing at home his own set of poses. so what are my choices in a city where there are few teachers of the system i learned? i could choose to practice primary when i am at the shala. i could attempt to go once during the week to do primary and then on Sunday to do intermediate. going during the week will have to wait until the new shala location is established. it will not be easy - bike to metro, fold bike, take train, change to other train, arrive, bike to shala, practice, repeat in reverse, go to work a full day. that is three hours of traveling to go do yoga. it's tiring to think about that. this all feels like when my teacher in San Francisco told me i was doing intermediate wrong and asked me to go back to primary and she would add an intermediate pose each week. it sounded like a plan, but it didn't work exactly like that, since a lot of changes took place in the ashtanga scene then that sent us practitioners in a diaspora around town, and she left for India for three months then. i sincerely cannot say today what i will do. i either shuck it, eat humble pie and go do primary when i'm at the shala, maybe doing a few poses of intermediate following that, practice at home only, find a different type of yoga to practice here. i'm not sure. i don't know if it will offend Teacher and his students if i continue to do my intermediate there. but i certainly do not plan to practice primary daily. i would only do that on a yoga holiday where i would be obligated to do so by a teacher.

interesting lunch

my lunch experience was unusual. my financial adviser introduced me to a restaurant chain from Australia called Wagas. i found one located next to where i reached an ATM of my bank. so i went in and ordered a Mediterranean vegetarian plate, a lemonade and a carrot cake, which i had read was very good at this cafe. i would not normally eat carrot cake, but i am still sort of celebrating my birthday. i sat down next to a group of Chinese speaking English like mine. i think they were all Chinese Americans from California. one was working for a startup company and had an apartment in the Bay area. another worked for the mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom. when i heard that, i stopped eating and asked excitedly, "do you work for Gavin?" yes, she responded, smiling. i mentioned i moved here from San Francisco. "oh, welcome" they cheered. as i was leaving i told them i enjoyed listening to their conversations and that for 15 minutes i felt i was in California. seeing my yoga bag, one of them asked me if i did yoga. i said yes and mentioned my teacher's name. "oh, that's at (name) place and it's ashtanga". "yes, i do ashtanga."

7/24/09

martial arts academy at Jinci Temple

in 1532AD, during the Ming Dynasty, Wang Quiong resided in what was called Jinxi Garden. after his death, it was renamed Jinxi academy. literature and martial arts where taught there. this section of the Jinci Temple complex has been restored and there is a statue of Prince Jin, Zi Qiao, an ancestor of the Wang clan, whose roots are in this city. it is surrounded by the Never Aging Spring and by ancient Ginko and Cypress trees, some 18 meters high. one tree is about 3,000 years old.

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