On the first and third Sundays of each month at Ashtanga Yoga: Ann Arbor, Mysore is replaced by an 8 a.m. full led primary series class and a 9:30 a.m. half led primary class. Sometimes Angela starts out by going over a specific topic or theme, and the other week, the message at the start of the half-led primary class was:
Surrender to the count.
We’ve all been there — wanting to spend a few more breaths in this pose, or wanting to quicken the breath in that pose to have it over with sooner. Interesting what happens when you let the rhythm take you through the practice.
Surrender to the count: I’ve sort of used this phrase as a mantra in the weeks since. I’ve been trying, in other words, to surrender to all the counts of life, not just the counts I like.
A week after those led classes, I totaled my car in an accident and, just six months after finishing paying off my last used car, faced having to buy a new car just before going on four weeks of unpaid leave to travel to India. Can’t I have just another year without car payments?
It will all work itself out, my husband keeps reminding me. Surrender to the count.
As part of surrendering, I dropped my usual resistance to dealing with everything that I typically have such aversions to: Financing paperwork, calls with insurance companies, hospital bills. Because every so often in my life (I think my last big car accident was roughly a decade ago), this is the count I have to deal with. And you know what? I haven’t been nearly as stressed out or as annoyed as I usually am by all the hoops. That is not to say that it’s been 100 percent smooth sailing either, because I’ve had my moments, but the journey has been better than normal.
This morning was supposed to be the last time I assisted at the shala until mid-February; I was really looking forward to it. But an ice storm — or Icepocalyse, depending on who you ask — rained down overnight over the greater Lansing area, and it would have been an extremely bad idea for me to try to make the drive to Ann Arbor.
So I practiced at home. That was the count for my practice today — samastitihi on my mat in my home shala instead of at AY:A2. While I missed the breath and energy of my fellow AY:A2 practitioners, and while I missed assisted dropbacks with my teacher, my overall experience with the practice itself didn’t feel dependent on external conditions such as who is practicing around me and how well is the room heated?
There was a time not too long ago when practicing at home would have meant a practice with less intensity, less (subjective experience of) internal heat, less seeming potential for wringing out. Things started to change when I surrendered to the count of practicing six days a week. Can’t I take today off? I have an early-morning news conference and, oh right, a wedding to plan after I get home from work. OK then, how about taking today? I’m traveling for the holidays.
Surrender to the count.
Speaking of self-practice, I know many practitioners who have been very grateful for this recent AY:A2 blog post on practicing alone that includes this advice:
Create a tight container. In the words of Iyengar teacher Paul Cabanis, the mind loves to be bound. Give yourself 90% of the time you think you need, and 90% of the space you think you need. Use these constraints to press your energy into a more concentrated stream.
Now, do not faff around. You don’t have the time and you don’t have the space. If you’re noticing the dry skin on your toes, you still have too much time and too much space. Also, do abhyanga later.
Ask companions or family to respect the bounded time-space of your practice.
Here’s the entire “How to practice by yourself” piece.
There was a time — again, not too long ago –when the entire season of winter was a total bummer for me. Resistance to the cold, to the snow, to the dreary skies and to the dark started around the beginning of fall and lasted through early spring. I’ve made a concerted effort this winter to try to see the silver lining of the season.
Ayurveda, with its emphasis on flowing with the seasons, has helped. I’ve started to look forward to my cooked root vegetables in the fall and winter, and while I still cannot bring myself to enjoy driving in wintry conditions, I am at least more calm about it because I don’t resist it so damn much.
Being receptive to lunar cycles has helped. (For a radiant piece on that, check out OvO’s “Moon Swings.”)
There are at least three more topics I’d like to write about just today, but the various digital clocks that rule my life have a thing or two to say about that. I’ve got to pack for our holiday trip to visit my in-laws (low of -1 degree tomorrow night in the Upper Peninsula!), and immediately after that, for my trip to Mysore (88 degrees next weekend!).
Surrender. To. The. Count.
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