getting back to the root of it


urdhva dhanurasana (wheel pose). ashtanga on location in brooklyn bridge park.

Sometimes the Universe calls you back to your roots so loudly, with so much obviousness and conviction, that ignoring it would be like denying your own thirst. This past summer my yoga practice wavered, thanks in part to an erratic teaching schedule and a life-changing new venture. I often felt depleted and low in energy. Like a sleepy teenager ignoring her mother’s calls to “Get dressed! You’ll be late for school!,” I ignored my once disciplined routine of waking early and trekking to the Broome Street Temple to do my daily Ashtanga practice. Instead, I hit the snooze on my iPhone, over and over and over.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not feeling guilty about it, and I don’t think I’m supposed to feel guilty about my absence. A lifelong practice of Ashtanga, like any lifelong commitment — playing piano, painting, running — changes and evolves and deepens with other life experiences. Sometimes we’re strong and consistent and disciplined. Other times we’re weak or wandering or distracted. And sometimes (as in my case), we’re just plain tired.

But the amazing thing about this practice of yoga? When you show up (which, I’m starting to believe, just showing up is about 85% of the effort in any situation), it’s right there, and you can slip right back into it, at any point. My hamstrings might be tighter and my jump-throughs clumsier, but coming back to my practice after a season of non-practice? It’s like fitness, stress-relief, a therapy session, and a prayer group all meet up with me for two hours every morning in downtown Manhattan. I believe in it.

While I’m waxing poetic the joy of Ashtanga yoga, three things happened, as a result, I believe, of re-committing to the practice. First, my teacher gave me a new pose in the Intermediate Series to work on, which is a little bit like getting a surprise gift on a random Tuesday (in the Mysore Ashtanga tradition, you don’t “progress” through the series of poses until your teacher is ready for you to receive a new pose). I’m not gloating (that would be so un-yogic!), nor am I attached to advancing, since the practice is plenty hard without new poses. It’s simply that the new pose was unexpected and awesome, and reinvigorated my enthusiasm for Ashtanga.

Secondly, a private client I’ve worked with for years suddenly (coincidentally?) expressed her interest in the Ashtanga lineage and asked me to teach her the Primary Series. I realized that I love the Primary Series and am excited to share it with her.

Finally, Yoga High, a studio where I teach, asked me to begin teaching a Led Ashtanga class on Friday afternoons, beginning with an introductory workshop on October 30. Teaching the Primary Series to a group of people every week? Neat.

It appears that teaching Ashtanga is a natural evolution, bound to arise out of my own practice. This thought has drifted in and out of my consciousness more than once over the past few years that I’ve been teaching. But what happens when you commit to teaching Ashtanga? You commit to practicing Ashtanga. Consistently. And that’s what intimidates me. Does that then make me…an Ashtangi? Now do I have to uphold the practice and own it and represent it out in the world?

I’ve heard “practice” defined as seeking perfection through repetition. Perfection is a scary word, sure, but repetition? Repetition sounds hard and daunting. Especially for someone who dabbles. Throughout my life, I’ve dabbled in ballet, gymnastics, basketball, volleyball, rollerblading, watercolor, paleontology (seriously), Traditional Chinese Medicine (seriously), baking, cross-stitching, and amateur tight-rope walking (seriously).

I’m just a dabbler. And the practice that’s calling me demands so much more than dabbling. It demands that I be present, full, committed. So now, I commit to being committed. Pray for me.

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One response to “getting back to the root of it

  1. Pingback: february spotlight on: for the love of backbends | here / there / everywhere.

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