Friday, May 13, 2011

Yoga with Glenn Black - Day #4

Today marks the half way point.  Hump day.  And despite the large presence of both, so far I have only been bitten by one mosquito and no ticks have found there way into my flesh. At one point, I was sharing my yoga mat with a beetle, and on the way home from dinner tonight, I stopped to watch a squirrel eat blossoms and discard the leaves and twigs onto the path below.
Yesterday I was wondering if I was going to be able to make it through the week. I wasn’t sure my body or my mind was going to be strong enough to endure the torture. I entertained thoughts of escape. But he broke me down, and now I guess I’m prepared for my enlightenment and ascension, so I’ll see all you suckers later!
Hahaha, just kidding.  I didn’t even really come here for enlightenment, I came to see what Glenn was doing because I know he’s beyond yoga and that’s the direction I want to head. 
Glenn confessed to us today that his goal is to break us down.  He’s literally doing that, physically and mentally.  I can feel it.  I’ve surrendered to the sensations of discomfort and have really reduced my struggles to get out of uncomfortable poses. I have stopped looking at the clock (it was too discouraging, anyway, to realize I was dying ten minutes into a three hour session). Now I can find the relaxation and endure.
Today we did more human movement stuff a few yoga poses and some work with the kettlebells. But since so many of the students were in pain, he decided we needed to do a lot of Body Tuning today. So, I got my neck and shoulders worked on.  Then, after class I had my second session with Matt Gorman, a Body Tuning student of Glenn’s, who does great work.  He is a true Body Tuner. Very attuned and efficient. Both Glenn and Shmuel would be proud.
Today a bird flew directly into the glass door of the pavilion and probably ended up dying from it,  The last I saw, it was sitting on the ground next to the door with its beak wide open as if it were in great discomfort.  Even when people walked right near to go in and out of the door, it didn’t move.  After class, it wasn’t there anymore.  It was a pretty bird, too; small, and kind of a greenish yellow.
Last night there was a concert at Omega and tonight there is a talent show.  I don’t attend these things, which I’m sure are great fun.  But I came here for a yoga immersion, and for the opportunity to spend a lot of time with myself in quiet contemplation, so when we’re not in session, I’m meditating, walking around slowly, sometimes reading and sometimes writing a little bit.  I have used the sauna a couple of times, and once I just sat in the cafe drinking water and sitting alone quietly soaking in the energy of the people around. 
I find myself really conserving my words this week. I’m actually trying to speak as little as possible. In a place like this, no one thinks twice about someone doing something as crazy as not speaking.
A big lesson for today is that yoga has no boundaries. It is not as clean and simple as many people (including myself) had thought. Asana practice is certainly not yoga.  It is part of yoga, a very small part, actually, but it is not yoga.  Yoga is a connecting of yourself with the source of everything. Asana was originally intended only to prepare the physical body and make it possible to find that connection.
And another big lesson is that doing asana will not likely correct imbalances or repair damage.  In fact, it is more likely to cause imbalance and damage than it is to help.  And if there are any imbalances pre-existing, doing asana practice is more likely to exacerbate them than improve them. I’ve been discovering this first hand through my experience of my injured shoulder. If I were just to do standard yoga asanas, I would continue to emphasize using my strong, uninjured left side and it would get stronger and stronger, while I continued to favor my weaker right side.  Not because it’s still injured but because it is already weaker and my body’s instinct is to protect it.  Only by fashioning my own, very specific exercises do I find that I can regain my body’s symmetry. 
Hanuman
Hindu Monkey God
Here at Omega, I see lots of evidence of what I call the faux-spirituality of yoga. There are statues of Buddha everywhere, there’s even a really big one right outside the Ram Dass library.  (But if you go into the library there’s a statue of Hanuman, a Hindu god.) So, what do Buddha and Hanuman have to do with each other, you may ask? Good question.  I don't know. And if they’re honoring religions, why aren’t there any statues of Montezuma or crucifixes or stars of David? Last night I walked past the Main Hall and heard all the Jivamukti Yoga Teacher Training students chanting Hare Krishna!  I wondered how many of those passionately chanting people were actually Hare Krishna followers. Also, I’ve been noticing lots of people wearing mala beads as jewelry. Mala beads are intended to be a spiritual tool for meditation, not adornment of the ego. When I was taught about mala beads, I was told they are sacred and private, and that no one should see them.  I keep mine hidden in a pouch and only take them out when I’m using them. 

My Mala Beads - Don't Look!!
But really, modern yoga is no more of a mind-body endeavor than say, golf, for example. Sure you can be focused on the mind-body connection while doing yoga, but it isn’t inherent.  One could be just as mind-body conscious while golfing, doing needlepoint or driving your kids to school. Just rolling out your mat and doing some pre-designated poses, (or even worse, following along as a teacher tells you what to do) isn’t a mind-body practice unless you make it one. And a large number of people who practice yoga every day have very little mind-body connection. 
Ganesh
Hindu Elephant God
Still there is something that’s very attractive about it. Even I was tempted to buy a t-shirt today with a picture of Ganesh on it.  I liked it because I have an elephant thing (we all have our things, right?) and because it was sort of yoga-esque.  But I haven't decided whether or not to get it because its basically an icon from a religion I don’t practice, nor really know anything about. So I think it might be a pretentious gesture to wear it. But who knows. I still might get it anyway.
To paraphrase what Glenn said today as we stood for two minutes with one foot on the floor and one foot on the wall, higher than our hips, with our leg externally rotated and both arms held overhead (can you say painful?), You may be wondering just about now, ‘Why did I ever start this crazy practice called yoga!? What have I gotten myself into?’  But the thing is, once someone starts along the path of yoga, they don’t tend to leave it.  Even if they get away from it for a period of time, when they start up again, they’re starting right where they left off.  Perhaps not on a physical level, but on the level and depth of understanding and devotion they had achieved before walking away.
He’s not only shaking us down but he’s also shaking us up.  Making especially the more experienced and devoted yogis really think about what they thought YOGA was. 
I’m fortunate in that my exposure to yoga about 15 years ago was brief, so that most of my experience (until two years ago) was through my own exploration.  I was never part of the ‘scene.’   When I met Jill Miller and took her Yoga Tune Up® Teacher training, I was finally truly exposed to the world of yoga and yet I was simultaneously introduced to the need for looking and reaching beyond the limitations of classical yoga.
I realize now that I was struggling with angst when I got here. I knew that I had some, but didn’t realize how much I had until now that I can feel its absence. I had been struggling with issues of perfectionism and self-doubt. Through the experience of this week, I am now able to see the reality and have come to the conclusion that I’m OK just how I am. I’m happy. And there’s no need to struggle to improve because I will continue to grow and improve in my natural time, just as I have done my whole life. 
Whew!  Big sigh of relief. 

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