Reconstruction

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Sometimes, we break down. We wear out our bodies with habitual misuse and patterns of misbehavior, which more often than not sneaks into even the most-mindful of asana practices.

I arrived in India all set to dig deep into my personal practice but also incredibly worn out. My back spasmed, an early warning sign, I feel now, asking me to reassess my approach to my body’s habits amd movements. And since then, practice here in Mysore, India has been about slow and steady healing, rebuilding and reconstructing a practice–so that it might be better than before, more sustainable, more long-lasting.

The great lesson of this time has been about the healing properties of practice, particularly primary series, which is apply named “yoga chikitsa” or “yoga therapy,” the space that the breath creates, the heat that slowly allows the body to mend. It has been a great exercise in patience and acceptance, an amazing opportunity to observe the pull of the ego and my own attachment to the physical aspect of practice.

There has been pain of all sorts: body, heart and mind–though what remains is this: a great sense of reconciliation and harmony between the three. Of course, there are all sorts of pains and varying degrees of injury, but this recent experience is a reminder for me that each difficulty, each challenge is a gift, that we are called to have courage¬†enough to unwrap it.

PHOTO: Tower on Kukkarahalli Lake, taken nearly 2 months ago. Today, scaffolding is already off the renewed structure. My back is also very well now, after 7 weeks of practicing only primary series, I returned to practicing intermediate poses pain free . Everything changes with time–so long as we give it space enough to do so.

Yoga Chikitsa, Yoga Therapy

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I’ve had a good reminder recently why Primary Series is called Yoga Chikitsa. Pattabhi Jois used it as such, individualizing the practice as a tool for helping people through their ailments.

As ashtanga becomes more and more popular and as the shala in Mysore, India fills with more and more people, the teaching can’t be the same as when Pattabhi Jois was working with12 students at a time in his Lakshmipuram home.

Sometimes, we get the impression that even Ashtanga is becoming more and more a cookie-cutter practice–and perhaps this is true with led classes emphasizing pace and count and with just a few emphasized adjustments to work with the large numbers shuffling in and out of the KPJAYI shala.

But look carefully at the mysore space and you’ll see the spirit of self practice is still alive, still strikingly independent, still very personal. Peek into the afternoon classes with just a handful of people. Or observe the individuals working through specific issues.

But during my visit to Barcelona, this spirit, I recognize, comes to life in the more intimate satellite spaces around the world where the practice is taught–where teachers have time and space to get to know their students, to take into consideration their personalities and lifestyles, injuries, physical, mental and emotional states. It’s exciting to see. It’s inspiring. And, for a teacher, incredibly instructional.

Photo: Pazzifica Ashtanga Yoga (Gracia, Barcelona), a space where the tenets of yoga therapy are in practice. Honored and excited to sub for Paz in January.