"This yoga is not for exercise. It is for looking at the soul. That is all". Sri K Pattahbi Jois
It's been a strange transition this past couple of weeks...from Gokulam, the 'Beverly Hills' of Mysore, to, well, 'Beverly Hills' Los Angeles!! One of the first things that hit me was the lack of noise, the hustle and bustle of the Mysore streets, the organic weaving of the traffic, manoeuvring through cows, the horns...oh the horns..!! This has been replaced by the vast silent suburbs of LA where the only real sounds are at night ... the sirens of police cars and the hovering helicopters. But I miss Mysore. Really miss it.
After a couple of days I found a yoga class which I could cycle to, it take 25 minutes there and 25 minutes back, I'm knackered by the time I get there because it's uphill but the cooling ride home is nice! The teacher there Maria Zavala (www.mariazavala.com) is a long time student of Tim Miller, having spent over 8 years studying and assisting with him and before that Derek Ireland. She's lovely and helpful and her adjustments are soft but firm, it's nice to have a woman's perspective on the practice too, after such a long time only studying with men. But the 50 minute cycle each day plus the 2 hours practice is taking its toll on my body now, shame I have to cycle there, because it's only that that's hurting me, not the practice itself, which is just getting better and better.
I am still following Vijay's advice and doing 3 days primary, 3 days second and my hips continue to open as the pain subsides. In fact there is no pain, (I'm still quick to jump to that false conclusion) just a little bit of fear left in there which continues to erode away during each practice. I'm back to grabbing the heels in kapo and Maria has got me catching my hells in chakra bandhasana again after a few weeks of rest due to a slight straining of the intercostals of my right ribcage. I also still have the injury to one of my left hamstrings which hurts sometimes in the standing forward bends and janu sirsasanas, but it's one of those injuries which teaches you things... I can now isolate the hamstring which hurt to stop the pain and use the others which is helping to engage the healthy hamstrings properly, which is helping with paschimottanasana and utthita hasta too, so I'm not too bothered about the injury because I can now see why people call them 'openings', I think it needed to happen to teach me another lesson :)
I am still amazed with the teachings of Vijay, he's really made me believe. After I finished my teacher training with him we spoke about my hips and he made the joke about practicing for 5 years - 'Why aren't they open? What have you been doing?!' Kind of made me wonder what HAVE I been doing for the past 5 years?!! Seems like just carving out deeper and deeper negative samskaras through not enough practice with a teacher. I asked can you open them for me? He replied, do you want the hard way or the painful way? Both will take 8 weeks!! I took the hard option, (I didn't fancy multiple torn hamstrings!) but it was still bloody painful every practice as my hips were pushed to their limits in baddha konasana, upavistha konasana and pashimottanasana. True to his word, 2 days before I left Mysore, 8 weeks after his promise, my hips opened and I had my chest to the floor in all the above poses! I left the next day...
This practice, it's transformational. Believe me, I've been transformed. I am not a naturally flexible or strong person. But I've overcome the fear that postures will kill me, now I know they won't! And I will meet each new posture, each new challenge on and off the mat with my heart, my soul wide open, all thanks to Mysore. The body can take a lot before it breaks, if the mind believes...and is still and focussed.
As Vijay says, 'Why so much fear when you are so flexible?' Cultivating flexibility of mind and body WILL overcome your fears... Now how do you want to do this...the painful way or the hard way?!