On my way to class this morning (some yoga multi-tasking!) I listened to the recent YogaLand podcast with Kino MacGregor. She’s not someone I come across very often, which I’m sure makes me quite exceptional, given how visible she is in some channels. But I’m not a big fan of either IG or YouTube. She was talking about four conditions for the traditional practice: student, teacher, satsang and time, and there was some discussion about how these played out in modern times with our western tendency to crave fast results and to shop around for variety and the distraction of novelty.
I was struck by her describing her relationship with Pattabhi Jois, how she used to see him once a year, for as long as she could manage — a month or 6 months. What kind of experience is that? How does it work? I simply can’t imagine! But it kind of reminded me of my teacher telling me of the period in his life when he would fly to the US to spend time with a yoga friend and that was his time to explore and discuss with someone, and then spend months assimilating back at home until the next time. It kind of makes me feel spoiled that he will meet with me every month regularly. Sure, money changes hands and all that, but I still view this as a privilege not a right. And right now I feel I need some hand-holding as I steady myself and learn to stand on my own two feet.
So out of Kino’s four, I’m currently blessed with a teacher who offers so much and I try to be a good student of yoga as best I know how. And the regularity of meeting my teacher privately and the current trajectory of my practice, with a lot of deep exploring and big questions, makes me feel — if anything — as though I’d like time to slow down rather than being impatient for more progress (which I think was Kino’s observation of the western mindset). So 3/4 feel quite good! Lucky me 🙂
The one that I find more difficult currently is satsang. I make myself go to class even when I don’t feel like it; I think it’s important to practise in company. I can easily be a hermit and it does me no good. At the local studio there are a small number of regular students who light me up and I love knowing they’re in the room with me. When the going gets tough on my mat, I think of them and move with them, for them. If I can’t do it for myself, I can usually do it for someone else! But a few of my best yoga buddies have recently moved on and I’m missing them quite badly. It means the balance of the room has changed for me until I assimilate new people into my world view somehow.
And class today totally got the better of me and I’m feeling irritated with myself for letting that happen. It was the first time I’ve ever felt resentful of the other students around me. The room is always busy and I always try to accommodate later-comers with good grace and help them find mat-space by moving up. And so today, even though I seemed to be the only one making this effort (to the point that I had to cross to the opposite end of the room and ask someone to move a little, rather than simply watching the difficulties and doing nothing..!). OK, I had helped someone fit in and she was grateful I’m sure, but the other effect was that I was super-squashed and felt I had no room for my practice. A long-limbed body on either side, the wall in front, and someone right on my tail. At the top of the mat each Uttanāsana transition was cramped and awkward, at the back of the mat I got distracted by someone breathing on the soles of my feet in all the prone backbends, to either side supine twists were a jigsaw of bodies in which mine didn’t seem to fit. It seemed that every pose was constrained in some way. Ah, those glorious final seated forward folds where everything was peaceful and contained and I could stop worrying about the hands and feet and heads and hips and whatever else moving around me…
So back to trying to be a good student. What do I learn from this? Maybe it wasn’t really so bad? Maybe it’s just that I’m exploring ‘outer space’ in my practice, learning to feel my way into the full extent of shapes, find my biggest expansion, no holding back, no acting small. But if I feel bigger, the space is going to feel smaller, right? So maybe I need to allow my heart to expand in proportion to my extended shapes?? I don’t expect everyone to orbit around me in space but I’d just like to feel we’re all part of the same constellation. A starry satsang of yogis all shining together.