Yesterday was Sunday and we had practice in the morning and the rest of the day free to roam. I went and practiced Tim’s Second Series led class at 8:00am. There were just over fifty of us in the room going all the way through Second together. It truly was a remarkable class. Tim practiced it with us which made it extra special. It is really like a combination of a led class and a Mysore stye class. Tim will announce the name of the pose and then we all just move through the vinyasas together and arrive in the state of the pose. We would hold the pose until he said five which obviously indicated the end of the five breath count and then we moved through the next vinyasa and continued like this throughout the series. So there was no sanskrit counting and there were very little words spoken. Just a few good natured jokes were thrown in classic Tim style. We also did a few “research” poses which means we would do a few preparations for the more challenging poses. These were kept to a minimum however to maintain the continuity of the series. When questioned as to how much “researching” is allowable, his response is that it needs to be kept to a minimum and the the pose you end up using as your asana needs to be as close to the pose you are actually trying to achieve. Moral of the story, don’t stay to long on the “scenic route.” What really struck me as fantastic about this class was that there was a group of us tightly packed in to the room and the vibe was just so light hearted and serious at the same time. There is such an incredible focus in the practice yet each of us seemed so happy to be there that the camaraderie felt palpable.
When class was finished I came home and cleaned up. Tamara’s other grandma lives up in Laguna Hills so I drove up to see her. The traffic was horrendous on the I-5 heading north which was a good reminder for me as to the reality of driving on Southern California freeways. I picked up some flowers and went and saw Oma. We were able to have lunch at one of her favorite restaurants and after that we snuck into See’s Candies but we’ll keep that part a secret. After getting Oma home safely I drove a bit further north to visit Tamara’s Aunt in Costa Mesa. It was so great to catch up with her family and have some time to sit with them and relax.
Today is Monday and we are back into Teacher Training mode. This morning I arrived at the shala for 6:00am Pranayama. I have to say that the pranayama routine is something else. It is hard to describe how challenging it is to keep up with “Big Tim.” I swear his lung capacity must be about 3 times the size of mine. He can inhale for such a long time that I find I am trying to narrow my epiglottis to the smallest pin sized hole to insure it will take a long time to suck in a lung full of air. The trick is that if you breath in to fast your lungs are full and now holding it even longer then the time that Tim is. So part of my mental coaching component is that I need to be inhaling for as long as he does. What is so much even more unbelievably challenging is to then exhale really slowly the air out which always seems faster than Tim’s. At this point you are so out of breath and then you have to hold the breath again with no air inside and wait for the next inhale. By this time when I suck that next breath in it sounds like someone just released a balloon that noisily flaps across the room. I have already figured out how to cheat but Tim just said “no cheating.” All I can say is I just try the best I can, squeeze the heck out of some Moola Bandha let the sweat come up to the edge of my skin and fall over the edge.
Immediately following we unrolled our mats and began our Mysore practice. There are two ninety minute Mysore classes on Monday so the room had a little extra space. Still a good forty of us were making our way through our routine. The energy in the room felt a bit more settled today that it did last Monday. I think last Monday it was our first day and we were all so unbelievably pumped about it that it was just amazing. One week later and there seemed to be a little less wind in our sails. I am speaking from my own point of view yet when I asked others it seemed they all agreed. This felt really positive because it had an aura of us sinking in. I feel like I am more comfortable. I have gotten to know a lot of the trainees and for lack of a better analogy, “the dust is settling.” I got some great adjustments today. Tim approved me adding a new posture today at the end of my routine which is always fun for me. I also asked for some assistance in Viparita Chakrasana which typically in English is called ‘tick-tocks.’ You go up into a handstand and slowly drop your feet over your head and land them on the floor and then immediately push as hard as you can with your legs and lift them back over your head and return into a handstand then land the feet again on the floor. I haven’t had assistance in this in I can’t tell you how long. Of course a few jokes were made about my ability(actually lack of) in this and I am so glad to have Tim’s assistance again. One of my most favorite poses is Vrschikasana which is Scorpion pose. This is done after the the whole tick-tock and handstand drop over routine. It is performed by going up into handstand and progressively a deep back bend and touching your toes to your head while you balance on your hands. Tim had to give a strong adjustment for me to get me toes to touch my head and right when he did I got the best crack in my back and it felt amazing. I swear that right after that my energy increased. Tim said, “ohh, back getting stiff.” That made me think about the realty of how much things change in 10 plus years. All the more reason to get my butt back in Tim’s shala. It felt so good though to have my toes touch even though a little more pushing was necessary. Kind of like resetting a clock.
After class we had some time to refresh and I found this killer juice bar close by and settled on a liquid breakfast. There are so many amazing healthy food options here in Encinitas and Southern California in general. One thing that I am so happy about is that Florida is starting to catch up, at least in the Juno Beach area, with the west coast. In my opinion though, Cali is King in this department.
Teacher Training was pretty stellar today. We covered some unimaginable postures in our session. We started off with Astavakrasana A and continued in order through Astavakrasana B, Purna Matsyendrasana, Viranchyasana A and Viranchyasana B. I feel I could write a novel about each of these yet the one that sticks out most clearly in my mind is Purna Matsyendrasana which means Full or Complete Lord of the Fishes Pose. It is by far the deepest knee flexion pose I have tried and also the most serious twist on top of that. I was working with a partner and dialing it in a bit and making some progress. Tim came over and adjusted me in it and, oh my heavens. He got me way deeper than I have ever gotten it that before. It is such an edgy pose. The knee element is off the charts and the twist is so intense. In about three seconds I had sweat just pouring out of me. He adjusted both sides but what was really phenomenal was the feeling I had after it. My hips and knees felt so good and I got the best energy rush up through my torso. I like this one so much now. I was so apprehensive of it but I think I have made a new friend. Also, because I had some assistance I was able to make it through Viranchyasana A. There are three parts to this one. The main essence is that you put one foot in half lotus and then put the other leg behind the head and try to balance sitting upright. I love this pose as well. It makes me think that the designer of this pose must of thought, “how could I combine the most challenging elements of strength and flexibility and put it into one package?’ The originator did a great job of succeeding at this. The next pose though, Viranchyasana B, is another story all together. It makes Janusirsasana C seem like a walk in the park. I have had to work so hard to get my Janu C somewhat comfortable. This pose definitely takes me out of my comfort zone. I took it real easy because I am determined to leave this training with all my limbs attached and in working order.
Another highlight of todays session was singing some songs to Shiva and story time with Tim. Tim read a passage from the Mahabharata and I just kicked back and enjoyed the tale. I love the Indian stories so much. Tim called the Mahabharata the first and original Game of Thrones. They are such fantastical tales that weave in deep spiritual concepts. The stories are so rich in metaphor and colorful in their rendition of human and celestial drama. It was the perfect compliment to the challenge of our asana investigation.
Tim threw out a couple of statements today that I really enjoyed. Someone brought up the fact that sometimes the practice brings them to tears. Tim told us Guruji would say, “Why crying? That’s a $25 dollar fine.” In good humor of course. Tim responded with, “There is no crying in Ashtanga yoga, actually, there is lots of crying in Ashtanga yoga.” This made me smile. The gist I feel is be strong and let emotion move through you at the same time. Another favorite was in relation to a comment he made that the Third Series is an “edgy series.” He asked if we ever heard the saying, “If you are not on the edge you are taking up to much space.” I had heard him say that before, but now I think I get what he means.
To top it all off I ended the day with a surf down at San Elijo State Beach. The waves were small but as the wind dropped off the water became as slick as oil. The sunset would catch the angles of refraction on the water which created a mosaic of color and beauty. I found myself just laying on my board and becoming mesmerized by the tranquility of it all. There is something about just waiting for a wave and floating on the surface and looking out into the great open ocean that puts me into a meditative state. It got me thinking about how our ancestors at one time thought that if we sailed to the horizon we would drop over the edge of the Earth. Low and behold, and quite luckily they did not. Instead of going over the edge, they brought us to where we are now, full circle.