Sunday, January 24, 2010

Teacher Says So

Sundays are supposed to be my FULL primary till Parsva Dhanurasanas, remember?

But... I don't think my teacher is in with me on my plan.

While I was in the middle of Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (bringing the leg back to centre from the side, and holding it there), she came to give me a leg-lift boost, and then told me AGAIN - "You don't need to be doing this now. After UHP, just go straight to Paschimottanasana. Next time, after Parsvottanasana, go straight to Paschimottanasana. Shorten your practice."

Erm... I almost wanted to say "BUT IT'S SUNDAY!! I WANT TO PRACTICE FOR LONGER!!" then found myself torn between what I wanted to do versus what my teacher told me to do. I just shut up and did as she said (secretly a little bit thankful too, coz it's my first practice in days since I've been in this moving-wormhole and my body's struggling to keep up!)

OK. As any Ashtangi knows, a large part of this practice is submitting to your teacher coz... well... "teacher knows best" and all.

But... what if I DO wanna push myself a bit more on Sundays? A large part of this is also coz I'm thinking ahead coz... well y'know... when I'm back in Singapore next week and Cape Town afterwards, my teachers there are probably gonna make me practice the full primary before getting to my intermediate poses and I'm afraid I'm gonna collapse from exhaustion coz my body's not been up to speed.

HAHAHAHA. Sorry, that just sounds so chronic.

I watched the "Ashtanga, NY" documentary last night. My twitter pal, @innerspaceyoga mailed it to me all the way from North Carolina. I think I must be like the last Ashtangi in the village to have heard of or watched this film. IT IS AWESOME! (Oh, and Guruji is wearing a tank top with my Teacher's old shala logo on it for most of the film. Heh.)

(Buy it here. Oh yeah, you also see Willem Dafoe grab his ankles in Chakrabandhasana. Woah, the Green Goblin is pretty advanced! And Gwyneth Paltrow in Dwipada Sirsasana. They look like normal yogis, not celebs!)

It follows Guruji on his final tour of NY in 2001 (the Twin Towers went down in the middle of his month-long workshop there too, making that trip even more poignant). In it, it mentions this teacher-student relationship... where you just submit, unquestioningly, to what your teacher tells you to do. The Sharath-Guruji relationship is a great example of this teacher-devotion.

It made me think today... maybe this is teaching me something about letting go of my notion of "the right and wrong way" of doing things. I mean... I've read all your comments on this weird split, and I also think it's a weird split... and coz it's not currently the way its practised in Mysore now, some part of me reckons it's not "the right way", or the "authentic" way... much as I highly respect my teacher and know that she's super close to the source. That's part of my struggle with doing this weird split.

Maybe the "right" thing for me to do now is just shut up and listen? No, sorry... that should be: shut up and just DO. Bahahaha! Another reason to bring 2010's "joyful surrender" into play, perhaps.


  1. hi Skippety
    i saw a film set in the middle ages and William Dafoe was in it. in one segment, although this was the middle ages, in the section on magic he did urdvha danurasanas, then walked around a stage while in it. it was supposed to mean something magical. i think he was just practicing that in his real life and convinced the movie director that historically a medieval character could have known about yoga and did it while visiting an ancient village in some military excursion. i don't know, it was surreal. but now that we know he practices yoga, we can see why it was in the movie.

  2. BAHAHAHAHAHA! That has got to be one of the funniest Hollywood yoga stories ever!! Now I wanna know which movie it was and see if it's on Youtube. It sounds like it'll be too funny to watch! Here's his IMDB filmography. Which flick do you think it is? :)

  3. I love our Internet community, but can't help wondering if all the help & suggestions & ideas we share don't make for a lot of chaos (vrttis!). Just listening to your teacher seems like a good idea...

  4. Hi Skippetty,

    I am practising the first section of second on top of Friday also. It can be tiring and I know you have found this to be too, it's nice for me to hear about someone going through similar things to me.

    You obviously have a great teacher who knows your practice much better than we do. If she wants you to do the split, then I think you should. Working that way will help you work on your new poses, and they will tire you less. I think then when you move it won't be such a big deal to add them back. Enjoy the time have left with your teacher.

  5. Oooh we are completely on the same page today Jamie...not with intermediate of course but with the whole teacher conflict right way/wrong way. For me it's the case of what my very advanced teacher on retreat told me vs. what my regular teacher told me not matching up, but as you say I think you have to go with what your everyday teacher says (she said he was "unorthodox"!!!!). I think you're right Karen, we all think too much - don't think, just do!
    LOVE the Willem Dafoe medieval movie story too...I am a huge fan of Ashtanga NY, glad you got to see it even if you're the last yogi in the village to do so ;)!

  6. Ashtanga NY was really important to me. I saw it shortly after it was released - just happened to catch it on some cable channel, and was mesmerized. I'd never heard of Ashtanga, never really done yoga, but I watched and everything in me shouted "I WANT TO DO THAT". No Ashtanga around here so, clueless, I bought David Swenson's DVD and tried to follow along. It didn't take long for me to decide it was impossible and I'd never be able to do Ashtanga. I gave up.

    A few years passed, and I end up dating an Ashtangi. He said "you need a teacher." He sent me to workshops, took me to Mysore... The relationship didn't last but the Ashtanga did. I am so grateful to be doing "impossible" every day.

    and let us know if you find the Dafoe/UD clip!

  7. I haven't been keeping up with the chitchat about your weird split, but as long as it's *consistently* the same weird split, I think it's nothing to worry about. Yeah, different teachers have different ideas about what one "should do." Have no fear if you're only leaving out 2-3 poses of Primary in the weird split, that won't affect your endurance unless you're also leaving out a stack of vinyasas (imho).

  8. Fran- that is a fascinating story! How incredible that you eventually ended up dating an Ashtangi!

    Karen, you know who is VERY against getting info from the internet... har har! My teacher! I think it definitely can be confusing, but it's so much fun!

    Jaime, sorry I'm responding to comments on your blog. Can't help it. I think the movie Arturo saw was The Reckoning ( I remember not liking the movie AT ALL, but being totally blown away when I saw Willem Defoe doing all the crazy yoga stuff. When I saw the movie, I had no idea he was an Ashtangi. I was thrilled to see him in Ashtanga NY and have tried to find more clips (mildly obsessed). No luck!

  9. HAHAHA! Thanks Liz, you're doing a better job than me of keeping up with the comments here. BUT! This means I can tell everybody: Yeah, what she said! :)

    Do you know someone has uploaded that same flick on youtube in 14 parts? Does anyone care to watch thru all 14 parts and let us know where Master Yogi appears? Here's part 1: scroll thru the other videos by the same person to find all the other parts. I'll embed the final clip on this site. :) (I'm not only too lazy to do this, I also have a ton of work to do so can't watch thru all of it now in the office. Plus, I don't like medieval films. Hehe)

    PS. Good points from all re: SHUT UP & JUST DO. I will just do as my teacher says. Thanks! :)

  10. STOP THE PRESS! I found the clip.

    It is as BIZARRE as Arturo says it is.

    I loaded up a few at a time and scrolled through them really quickly and ta dah! ... Coming through in today's post. ;p

  11. Wasn't Ashtanga intended to be a home practice, essentially? Or is that just something I grabbed onto having no choice? I try to work with the same teachers, consistently, as I can, but it's still only a few weeks total a year. And yes, they give me lots of conflicting guidance, and I have to sort it out myself at home, on my mat, in daily practice. But the conflicts really don't seem that deep in a way. I know they are each teaching me the way they were taught, and that Guruji taught different people differently, partly over time, and partly because they were different. And then: it's my practice, my work to find my way within the form. Of course this may all just be sour grapes, and wouldn't i love to live near a Shala and have a regular teacher...

    In the meantime, I am so grateful for my cyber shala for daily inspiration, encouragement and yup - information. It's still up to me what I do with it all.

  12. There's wisdom in your words, Fran. And no, you're not being sour grapes at all! I think it's amazing that you still keep a regular practice ON YOUR OWN coz that's even harder work than going to a shala. That in itself already says something about you and your dedication to your practice.

    If I didn't have a teacher to go to, I would find it really easy to slack off and find excuses - when we first moved to Sydney, I was doing a home practice for a few months partly coz I was still looking for a job and wanted to save cash and partly coz I was in a headspace where I wanted to practice on my own... but er... that didn't last too long! After a few months of battling to get on the mat by myself I was like "screw this, it's too hard!" and found a teacher here who would give me the kick up the bum I needed. So... hats off to you, I salute your dedication!

  13. You're sweet, Jaime. I developed the discipline when my kids were little and I was a single mom working at home: time was precious. Rather than using it up driving back & forth somewhere, I worked out in my den for a decade. So it wasn't hard to transfer that to the yoga mat. Plus I've been self-employed for 30 years, and a solo health practitioner for 17 so I'm used to doing things by myself. Sometimes I wonder what my practice would be like if I had regular help, but what's the point of going there? Hey, I'm just glad to have this practice.


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