Yoga of Climbing

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Yoga of Climbing

For a moment there is only the mountain and me.
No, not even the mountain, not even Montserrat, epic as she is.

Just the rock. And me.
There is no hard place.

Just deep concerted presence,
the sensation of hanging by the edge,
and the complete absence of all else.

Nothing is important. Not the distance below,
not the incredible expansive landscape behind me,
not the meters above to the top, reaching the end of the line.

There is no space or time for thoughts,
or assessments or judgements.
There is no room for fear.

There is only the rock. And me.
There is no hard place.

These are the moments in which yoga happens.


Practice on and off the mat. IN-studio classes still ongoing. Will continue to cover for Paz Muñoz of Pazzifica Ashtanga Yoga until March 7, Friday, this week. 

Photo: Taken by my friend and first-ever climbing coach Joan de Arcanye. So grateful to him and his friend Micki for taking me to Montserrat two Saturdays ago (went up a 6a+, up to 22 meters, yikes!). Gracias, Muchas Gracias! Me encantada!

Letting Go

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P1230587Letting Go

I am walking down from one of the short walks (Camino de San Miguel) right off the monastery in Montserrat, at the top of which is a crucifix overlooking the Basilica and Monastery, when I see the embellished trash bin. It makes me smile, this bit of graffiti.

Practice is like this. We all have our crosses. We bear these things, carrying it laboriously up the mountain. And then we mount them, making them into monuments of our suffering, reminders of our sacrifice–which is, to a point, fine, when it’s all part of a process.

Because we must eventually come down from these peaks and return to where we and others live. And when we do, we must ask ourselves, is there more to leave behind, what subtle energy or feeling is piggyback riding its way down with me?

Up or down, this road of surrender is not easy, but it is also littered with opportunities to let go, to throw away that which is no longer necessary, and to lighten the load on the long walk home.

Snakes & Ladders, The Game of Practice

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Surely as we develop strength and flexibility, both in the body and in the mind, the practice should get easier. Right?

Practice doesn’t always work that way; it isn’t black and white; it isn’t so straightforward.

Since last week, for example, I’ve been struggling with kapotasana (pidgeon pose), a posture that I had thought I’d gotten to know, gotten comfortable with. Kapo and I made friends, I thought…

But between deepening my relationship with my leg behind the head and the winter weather here in Barcelona (it’s mild I know, but I am have been living many many many years in the tropics), what was once manageable has gotten a whole lot harder. In fact, backbending in general, which I really love, has changed so dramatically over the last two weeks, it’s been startlingly humbling.

I realize, however, that I have a choice: I could despair, I could get frustrated or angry, I could give up this crazy leg behind the head business and preserve the postures that I’d worked so hard  for, that I was admittedly very attached to–the later of which may be one of the reasons, along with tight hips, why it’s taken me so log to get here, this awkward place–

Or I could just practice; practice with acceptance that my body is adapting and that it’s not always easy; practice with patience that these openings take time; practice with understanding that moving forward sometimes comes with its share of backsliding–that practice is an interesting game of snakes and ladders; practice with trust, with faith in this system which has just about turned around every limited thought I have even had about the bounds of my own physical body; practice with love, showing up everyday with an open heart and mind…

Guruji, Pattabhi Jois, said it best: “Practice, practice, all is coming…”

PHOTO: This photo–like practice, like life–taken in “black and white” is full of subtleties in tone and shades. We will be talking more about the struggles that come with practice on the Sunday, March 1 workshop on the Bhagavad Gita, Pazzifica Ashtanga Yoga, Barcelona. More details on www.pazzifica.com.

Full-ness

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Full-ness

This is a time to fill your cup and drink.
Drink as much as you want,
feel free to quench your thirst.
Like the moon, this cup is
is always full,
is never empty.
PHOTO: 14 Febrero 2014, Full Moon & Valentine’s Day. Fitting for a day of fullness to come during a celebration of love. Full on, full power Mysore-class schedule this week. Mornings are Monday-Friday 7am-9:30am. Evenings Monday/Wednesday 6-8pm; Tuesday/Thursday 6:30-8:30pm.

Practice: The Lonesome Road

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Practice: The Lonesome Road

Yesterday, Full Moon Day/Valentine’s Day, I took a day trip to nearby Montserrat, famed mountain of Catalan dotted with sacred sites, hermitages and churches, as well as the beautiful Basilica of Santa Maria de Montserrat. I got up the easy way, taking the Aeri, which just zipped a cable car full of us tourists up the mountain.

In the late afternoon, an hour and half before sunset, I decided to walk down to the pueblo of Montserrat, where I could take my train back to Barcelona. Easy enough, I thought.

It’s interesting how I little understood the hugeness of Montserrat, the height of it, until I took the time to walk it.

Not even a quarter of the way down on a narrow, zig-zagging dirt path on edge of the cliffside of the venerable mountain, looking at the dot-like municipality of Montserrat far far down below, I start to freak out just a little bit. I start to wonder: can I get there before sunset? What if something happens to me, what if I trip and twist my ankle? I am out here on my own and have not seen another soul on this little road.

I debate whether I should scale back up the path, take the Aeri or the furnicular down, like the rest of the reasonable tourists–none of whom seemed to hatch up the same plan as myself.

This is when the yoga kicked in for me. This is when I start to breathe slowly, when I start to bring mindfulness back into every step. I reason with myself: isn’t this, after all, what I wanted when I set out that morning, to spend time with myself, myself and the mountain?

Like yoga practice, some paths are meant to be walked alone. There are times when we have companions and times when we have guidance. Then there are the other times: when practice is a lonely road. It is useless to panic and counterproductive to back track. We simply need to move forward and enjoy the gift of isolation.

Had I not moved forward, I would not have seen the view from the side of the mountain, not seen the beauty of the world below, not understood the scale and grandeur of Montserrat or have developed the reverence I have for it now. And then, there’s the relationship with myself, with my self-belief and trust in my own abilities…

Practice can be a wonderful community experience, one connected to the collective. But it can also be a lonesome road. When that time comes–and it is a sacred and precious time–we must be brave to walk that path alone.

PHOTO: Spectacular view from Montserrat, as I start to make my way down this awesome mountain.

Poco a Poco

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Poco a Poco

“Poco a poco” is a Spanish phrase that I’ve used noticeably a lot in class here in Barcelona. Translated in English it means “little by little.”

I’ve used it in all sorts of contexts, referencing the pace that we learn to practice, the depth in which the postures are taken, the time it takes for the body to open, the steps one takes as we move forward in practice.

The essence of the words, however, are the same. With practice, we want to go slowly, take a little at a time, savoring each soulful step. This is a sound way to practice.

PHOTO: Panoramic view of the Espacio Vacio, the daily setting for Pazzifica Ashtanga Yoga mysore classes here in Gracia, Barcelona. I take time with Marta in the end. After a month of practice, she is learning janu sirsasana. It’s a joy to teach the series in this way. It feels really right to be able to help someone grow their practice slowly with a lot of care and love over a period of time.