Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Kamottejak Halasana

On Thursday I attended my last class of the 30-Day Yoga challenge. The three of us applauded ourselves at the end. It was, logically, exhilarating to have made it through, but I didn't really feel like I had just survived a trial by fire. June has been quite a month, and the 30-Day challenge was only one small part of the excitement. On the train ride home, I pulled out my notebook to put into words my response to this adventure, and what to consider the greatest mystery: What would I do next?

1.) Take an Asana Break
2.) Be back again tomorrow
3.) Start a 30-Day Meditation Challenge

The thought of embarking on another challenge so soon exhausted me before I had even begun. I quickly decided that I shouldn't start such a challenge until July 2nd, allowing me to finish on the last day of the (31 days long) month. The twenty-four hour reprieve allowed me to relax a bit, and then my time for reflection was over, with an aerial class at 7, and an aerial show at 9. I got back homel ate, and fell into bed with no solid plan in place for the days to come.

On Friday I taught my noon class, and then met my husband in Union Square, where we took a trip around the Farmer's Market and then the clearance racks at H&M. All the while in the back of my mind, a neon schedule of yoga classes remaining that day seared my consciousness. Was there still time to take the L back to Namaste for the 3:00 Restorative? Not for long. Could we still make it home in time for the 5:30 Restorative at Jaya Yoga East? Not quite.

But later, with my husband absorbed by the internet and no plans on the horizon, I found myself unrolling my yoga mat in my living room almost against my will. I just..couldn't...quite...fathom Not Practicing. Of course, I only did a couple moon salutations, some hamstring stretches, a few handstand attempts, and then a more thorough inversion. It wasn't a 90-minute class, but it was a complete practice.

On Saturday I had a chunk of time to kill, with my husband fighting weekend service changes to get out to Bushwick for a hair-cut. I nice, long practice in the park occurred to me, but I was sorely tempted by the Exotic Dance Workout dvd I had picked up from a free box on my block. Finally the question that had been nibbling at my brain since the day before came to a head. What constitutes an Asana practice?

There are, first of all, countless styles of Asana practice, some strictly defined as a specific sequence of poses that never changes, some that are completely un-sequenced, just students in a room doing what they feel like doing with their bodies moment to moment, on a yoga mat with the supervision of an instructor for safety and adjustments. And of course, everything in between.
Ever hear of laughter yoga? It is, literally, mostly vocal exercises designed to stimulate natural laughter. Movements, some recognizable as classic Asanas, some not so much, are used to the same effect, and to free the body and encourage the participants to release their inhibitions and feel light, open, and free. Personally, I think it sound absolutely amazing.
From mommy and me yoga (and I can't imagine doing Down-Dog while holding onto an infant) to chair yoga for the elderly and/or infirm, there seems to be no shortage of different takes on yoga that simplify, complicate, make gentler, make tougher, open up, and pare down what constitutes an Asana practice. Is this like the question, "What is art?" Does it depend strictly on what style you're practicing, and thus whose definition you're using?

While it would probably be very interesting to do research, poll practitioners and teachers, make lists, free-write, consider common threads and disparate conditions, perhaps prepare some charts and graphs...I'm not going to do any of that. But do let me know if someone else has!

I am going to use (exploit, even) the incredibly open arena of what has been called an Asana practice up to this point to give myself license to open my own definition way, way up!

And that's how I found myself lying on the floor trying to do sexy plow pose with a chair to a cheesy video from the 90's. It. Was. Awesome.
Interestingly enough, the biggest thing doing an Asana practice every day for thirty days taught me is something that, in theory, I already knew: our Asana practice isn't actually all that important. It's only 1/8th of what it is to practice yoga, after all. Asana practice gives us an arena in which to work on those other 7/8ths, and it also keeps our bodies fit and limber. If you plan to sit in meditation for any length of time, you'll manage it much easier if you're fit and limber! If you want your body to pipe down so you can tune into your mind and soul, you'd best keep it healthy and so relatively free of disease. With that taken into account, any movement practice that increases awareness, and works and stretches my body constitutes an Asana practice as far as I'm concerned.

I don't know when or where I'll practice tomorrow. I don't really know that I will practice tomorrow, but by being comfortable with any form my practice happens to take, by not worrying about wearing yoga clothes, staying on the mat for a certain amount of time, or doing so many Chaturangas and/or Warriors, I'm fairly certain it'll blossom out of nowhere in its own time. Just like me...

Live Omily, and define your practice, but be sure to give that definition a regular stretching practice of its own!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the long post, Emily. I had wondered how the 31 day yoga asana challenge went, especially as it coincided with 3 eclipses. I am amazed that you made it through so well (with wisdom teeth extraction in the middle no less). You never cease to amaze me! I enjoyed the peek into your life with Skip too of course!

    I am feeling amazingly well! I have my own set of practices I do and find that they evolve also if I listen to my intuition. I must be doing something right thank heavens because I am pain free! So now I am challenging myself to do more free form dance and more yoga positions that I have not been able to do for awhile. I am finding that being outdoors at sunset as the heat of the day eases really helps me on all levels.

    There is a great deal of helpful planetary energy right now too so take advantage of it! Jupiter trines Pluto in a week or so and that will really help boost efforts at transformation, expansion and relaxation into a new phase of life after the chaos of the triple eclipses.