02/24/08 Lead Intermediate Class
In case you were wondering, which I don’t expect you were, but thanks anyways- I got Chakrasana. I can now take just below the knee (with help because my shoulders just can’t make the journey in alone) and stand on my own in the backbend. The key was getting the hands up high enough. Once I became comfortable with the idea (I crack way up high in the thoracic now, not sure exactly where, but its in the center near my neck) I can relax enough to get the hands up there and then find strength. It’s the strength and sweetness together that make it possible, as always, with everything. If we are afraid, neither of these qualities is coming. So much trust of the teacher is required. It is wonderful- and somewhat rare in the American way of life to let someone hold your body in a vulnerable position, encouraging you to breath. Every day.
When I started teaching Ashtanga yoga, I was assisting Nancy Gilgoff in her room on Maui. It was like family members, this crowd. I participated in an “adjustment clinic” and I remember crying, overwhelmed by the beauty of it, that students would allow me to touch them, move them, help them. That this could be my JOB. Even if it means getting up early, forfeiting dinner and evening events of all sorts, the natural rhythm of the city I live in. When it comes down to it, nothing is more important to me than practicing and sharing this yoga, which has brought me so much.
Back to Mysore, yesterday was the Sunday morning lead intermediate series class. Sharath teaches the 4AM primary, Saraswati the 5:45, and Sharath again at 7:15 Intermediate. It only happens once a week, and its invitation only, obviously. My first trip, I remember him telling me to come Sunday intermediate starting that week. I had made it to Supta Vajrasana (outside of Mysore I had been practicing full intermediate for 2 years). How it works here: everybody takes primary first month, or as much of it as you are able. After one month, you will receive one posture at a time, to finish primary or to start second. Some people move slowly, more flexy folks faster. It seems like once Sharath gets you to the back bending sequence of intermediate, he will get you through that part (about half way) within a few weeks. At some point, not the same for everyone, you “split” it, which means you stop practicing full primary before intermediate and jump into Pasasana from Parsvottanasana. This is scary for most, as it means you get less warm up, and within half an hour you are doing some intense backbending. Before you know it sticking that log of a leg behind your head. Yikes! Usually the “split” comes after your first Sunday morning intermediate class.
The class is much smaller. Right now it’s at the biggest, because its busy here (though I think more advanced students are starting to come in the quieter summer months) maybe 40? They start dropping like flies after karandavasana (forearm balance, legs in lotus, lower down and lift up), which is a big cut-off point. When your pose comes (I like to say “nemesis”) you take your mat to the back and finish on your own while the rest of the class forges ahead. Less than half of us make it through. I noticed this week; I was one of three women at the end.