Optimistic hopping

Spring is in the air — I’ve even opened the window during home practice today. I’m feeling a bit uplifted. I had a wonderful one to one with my teacher this week and it’s perked me up as always and inspired me.

I had optimistically hoped to be handstanding like a pro after some dedicated attention, but in reality I know I’m not there yet. And he subtly indicated this to me by his choice of where we started (and ended! — for that day at least). He’s a master of breaking stuff down into the smallest meaningful unit. A great complement to my over-complicating brain that runs off to the furthest point, spots a difficulty way ahead in some future time, and then refuses to move on one iota…

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So we started with learning how to hop forward from Adho Mukha Svanāsana to Uttanāsana, using blocks under my hands because (you guess it!) I’m not really there yet. How to keep arms straight and weight evenly distributed when I pick up a foot to step back into a lunge? Wow, humbling stuff. But also strangely exciting. I don’t mind if this is where the work is for now. It feels honest and valuable. By slowing right down I can feel so much going on and the relationship of one part of the body to another. It’s some mini enlightenment, waking up the body, but also practising greater clarity of mind, as I am forced to see what actions I’ve been avoiding all this time. And there was me thinking I’d been a good, attentive student! Ha, not so much after all.

Underlying this bit of physical work, so much else is transmitted during this time together. My teacher taking me seriously for an hour, giving me all his attention, doesn’t feel as self-indulgent as I always fear. It is a great thing to imitate, as I start to cultivate this one-pointed focus, practising this level of care and attention myself. Under his gaze I don’t feel the need to try any harder than I can, to try to prove anything, just to do my best. He encourages and reassures me, but is gently demanding and I’m ever so subtly chided, I think, for not putting my soul into it (“don’t just do what the teacher says”), so I close my eyes and draw inside, feeling each shift in weight, muscles negotiating unfamiliar demands with tiny reflexes and corrections, and I allow my nervous tension to ease a little and draw the breath in where I need it. I wonder if I can ever offer such loving attention to my own students? I try my best. I practise. Circles of compassion, spheres of attention.

Nataraja.jpgSo home practice today was a return to this place of beginning to hop. Engaging hands, arms, shoulders more and feeling for the magic lightness generated from this. Yes, spring is in the air. I can feel it in my bones!

And since today is Maha Shivaratri I ended my practice with 108 repetitions of a chant to Śiva and some contemplation of the magic of transformation. Today everything feels just a small hop away.

Jaya Jaya Shiva Shambo
Maha Deva Shambo

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