Ohmygoodness, it was an intense week. It was so much information that I have been putting off writing this blog post because I still feel like I am trying to process it all. He has changed my practice in a good way. I am really working on the roots of the poses and trying to remember the alignment as I come into each pose. There is just so much to remember, but I find as I use it more there really is a simplicity to it and one thing leads to the next and this adjustment is just like another pose and so on til it all links together. I thought the best way to sum up the week of practice, teacher intensive and workshops would be to take Chuck’s favorite phrases (that he drilled into us over and over) and talk about what they mean to me.
“Find the sama (c0ming from samasthiti or the initial standing posture of the series) in each pose.” Sama refers to the the ease and balance that each pose has to offer. The student is always looking to find this “sama” no matter what the pose may be. In some poses it is working with your body to bring it back to its natural alignment as opposed to letting gravity and age take over. To be expansive in your poses and in life instead of curling down and in.
“Are you ready to be a beginner?”
This was one of Chuck’s most repeated phrases. I think it speaks really to the heart of something that where Ashtangis have trouble. We are “triple type A” people. We like to go somewhere and accomplish many things. We want to get to the next pose, get our head to our knees and our heels to the ground. We are strivers. In short we all want to do advanced. We want to do the crazy leg behind your head lift up and jump back. As such, the most difficult thing for us to do is to be beginners at anything, to admit that we have work yet to do in a pose.
“Wherever you go, there you are.”
Isn’t it funny, how you have the same problem in one pose as you do in another? My hamstrings are tight. They are so tight that Alex has suggested many a time that I need hamstring extensions. So I face the tight hamstrings in almost every pose I do in the primary series. The issue pops up in different ways, but it is still there. So in my practice, the work I need to do is in my hamstrings.
“If the bird and the book disagree go with the bird.” John James Audubon and Chuck
This quote is originally from John James Audubon, but Chuck was quite fond of it also. He simply means that if your experience of the practice differs from what the teacher says, then go with your experience. If working a pose in a particular way is painful, then don’t do it silly!
“A teacher’s job is to point to the moon.”
A teacher needs to show the student where they are headed. That one pose leads to another and within a pose you start here, but eventually you are going here. It helps to give the student perspective of what is to come (even if that eventual outcome is as far away as the moon!).
“Why you rush ahead, you go back!” Guruji and Chuck
I like this one especially. I feel like I am always rushing ahead, whether it is to the next pose or the next task. I want maximum efficiency in my life and this reminds me that I if I am honest with myself, I really don’t have anywhere that I HAVE to go or be. I even decided to wake up 15 minutes earlier in the morning so I have enough time to actually slow down my practice and not constantly feel like I am rushing through it in order to finish before Alex and Walter show up.
It also means that it might be a good idea to consider your motivation in whatever you are rushing into. Is it your ego driving you? If so you might want to just step back and consider whether that is really a good idea or not.
“Work smarter, not harder.” Coach Talley and Chuck
Every time Chuck said this it was all I could do not to laugh. I had a tennis coach in high school who loved this quote also. The part that was especially funny is that the tennis coach was a chaw spitting redneck: nice guy and decent tennis coach, but contrast that with hippie, long haired, very peaceful yoga teacher and you might understand why I was chuckling to myself. It amuses me that every once in awhile we all really do think alike.