Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Missing Link

I overslept (again) on Friday morning. Set my alarm for Sherman's class every day last week, and missed every single one. Not all of them due to oversleeping. I'm working on a bunch of projects and sometimes I want to sit and work first thing rather than fight the sidewalks of New York. I practiced in the afternoons instead, and it was nice, for a change of pace.

For months now, I've been toying with the idea of returning to my ashtanga practice. Not replacing Sherman's power yoga class, but supplementing. When I looked at the Pure schedule for Friday afternoon, in search of a class, there it was: 90 minute Led Ashtanga at 5 pm.

I used to practice Mysore-style ashtanga -- a self-practice in a group setting. It's hard and extremely personal. Ideally, you can't fudge anything, because you are alone with your practice, working your way through the series, asana by asana, counting your breaths. I find it deeply centering in the way I find lap swimming centering. As I swim laps, I inevitably find myself counting with each stroke: one, one, one, one. Then two on the second length, and so on. It quiets the noise in my brain. Ashtanga does this, too, as I count one through five breaths in every asana.

My teacher, Christopher Hildebrandt, left Yoga Sutra soon after I farted like a vuvuzuela when he gave me a superhero assist in Marichyasana B. In order to fully grasp the experience as I lived it, you should know that the room was dead silent but for the sound of ujjayi breathing. I crumpled and capitulated: "Oh my God."

"That's what it's for!" Christopher crowed, as if announcing a winning goal.

Never, ever, ever eat sauerkraut at midnight before a 7 a.m. yoga practice.

Needless to say, I have post-traumatic gas issues with finding a new studio for my practice. With the added worry of not remembering the sequence (as if no one else in the room will be doing the same asanas in the same order) -- I hadn't gotten around to trying ashtanga at Pure.

I made it there Friday at five, and the moment the teacher began counting in Sanskrit, it was as if I could here the voices of all my previous teachers calling out "chatwari," and, as if by muscle memory alone, I was in chaturanga, just as I had been thousands of times before. My body and my breath remembered everything. I had missed this practice.

After the practice, in savasana, I felt like my body was more compact -- hugging the midline -- burning away the things I didn't need. I'm sure the extravagant number of twists in the primary series creates this phenomenon. After power yoga, I feel awesome, but because, with Sherman, we do a lot of backbends and arm balances, I feel spent in a different, looser way.

Yesterday, Saturday, I went to Sherman's 11:15 class at Yogaworks -- and I felt strong, still and centered, like I hadn't for a long time, despite the classroom being overcrowded and steamy -- too crowded to work on my forearm stands with confidence, for lack of falling room.

This morning, my quadriceps woke up before I did, then demanded to be heard. Ouch. But it was good to feel them still there, still strong. Between Sherman and ashtanga, I feel balanced -- and stiff -- but as if I've found the missing link in my practice.

Life evolves. Practice evolves. Thank goodness.

I've been feeling a bit lost without my weekly script deadlines to mark the passage of my days, so this week, I've got 7 yoga practices in the book. I'm going to let the daily mat milestone pull me through, and remind me which way is forward, when I get turned around.

But right now, it's time for some more Advil. Lots of Advil.

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