Sunday, July 13, 2014

A Practice Trajectory: Ordinary, Extraordinary, Everyday... Pt. 11

Now if I’m good to my bodyMy body she’ll point the wayNow if I’m good to my bodyMy body she’ll point the wayAll these days they are numbered
I might not have too long to stay

"It's not so much about adjustments anymore," I told to a yogi friend about practicing Mysore-style Ashtanga with a group over practicing alone, "it's about community."
Regular yoga practice is kind of like flossing and brushing: you know it makes all the difference to your health, but it's easy for boredom to set in after you've been doing it for years. In the case of Ashtanga, the steep learning curve/quick succession of new asanas stage of practice eventually slows down or tapers off altogether. And like any activity (or job or relationship), it's easier to quit when things aren't seeming to progress in a discernible way, especially after that first burst of exciting discovery. It's easier still to get stuck if you don't have support.  When it comes down to it, accountability in the form of a community of practitioners and a teacher who breeds discipline is key to staying the course.
I lived a couple of blocks away from Yoga Studio Mill Valley (now Yoga Works) when I first got turned onto the wonders of Mysore practice. That and a dedicated room of other yogis sustained me through my first four years of practice and helped propel me to India. Practicing in Mysore itself, at the source, amplified the importance of a committed teacher and a dedicated community tenfold. Moving to San Francisco after that first trip, I had a lot of options to keep practice going. I could either walk or ride my bike to Yoga Tree (where Clayton Horton ran a program for a while), or Ashtanga Yoga SF when it opened (the beautiful studio is now-closed) or Mission Yoga or Yoga Garden. And when I first moved to the East Bay, I was within cycling distance of Berkeley Ashtanga.
Having enjoyed such close proximity to yoga studios with Mysore programs for more than 10 years, it was a bit of a shock to move to Alameda three-plus years ago and have to get into a car to get near a studio. Sure, it's not that far to Berkely, but traffic can be one big buzz kill and time suck, and I found myself practicing at home more and more.  
My first tack to make sure the support was there when my discipline faltered at home was to start an open practice a couple of days a week at a studio close to home. While I didn't find many ashtangis here, I did attract a few folks with self-practices who greatly helped sustain my practice. The act of
facilitating an open practice two days a week also increased my appreciation for Mysore teachers who show up 5-6 days a week. It takes a huge amount of dedication to run a program full time! Thank your teachers if you haven't already!
While I found I was maintaining my practice OK on my own, I wasn't really growing. So a few months ago, I decided to pause the open practice at the local studio and put in more often at the nearest official Mysore room. Last month, a visiting senior teacher taught in the East Bay, helping me back on the horse that much more. (I almost laughed when she called me on being bored with my practice —yep, you really can't hide in Mysore —and prescribed a few simple fixes to fire me back up.) This July, I've ramped back up on making a drive to a studio a couple of times a week or finding one while traveling and signing up for several upcoming workshops with a few more visiting senior teachers (lucky us who live in the Bay Area and enjoy a lot of teacher tour stops). The change in my practice and attitude has been marked: my practice, after several years of feeling stalled, has yielded some new discoveries and I feel my enthusiasm returning. 

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