This week, we’ve had Peter Bertero visit us at Downtown Yoga Shala. I didn’t get to meet with him during his workshop on Saturday, so I booked a private session with him. When I was a new student of Ashtanga a couple of years ago, we had the great privilege to have him as our teacher for an extended period of time. Because I was new to this style of yoga, I was still struggling through everything, and trying to rush through the poses. I famously remember him telling me to start over once, and to do the standing sequence again, but more slowly, which, as you might imagine, was miserable. But, I never rushed those poses again.
Well, in my private session, I got the same advice, but for different reasons. As my practice has grown to about 90 minutes, without even meaning to, I would move through it like I was “mowing the lawn.” My intention hasn’t stayed with every pose with integrity. I’ve been putting my focus on the new things I’m trying to learn to master, and less on my foundation, from which all ability springs. So today, I did things differently. I didn’t worry about doing every single pose. I luxuriated through my sun salutations, breathed every moment of the standing postures, holding them for twice the length. I didn’t worry about my “goal” of busting through every single asana. In this way, my old practice became new again. In refining each of my foundational poses, it felt new. I went deeper, intentionally moving my body in new and challenging ways, building off of what I already knew. I wouldn’t have been capable of feeling these poses in this way before, because my abilities have deepened, but had I not revisited my foundation, I couldn’t really progress in the new poses either.
Recently, we received a bounty of acceptance letters for our two almost kindergarteners for their schooling. I’m kind of one of those people who prefers being hemmed in by decisions sometimes. “Oh well, I didn’t get xyz, I guess it’s up to fate!” Nothing sends me into a tailspin of anxiety like too many open doors. Well, we got a bunch of open doors, and ultimately, it came down to one school vs. another. Both are good choices, but I found myself wanting to go with the path of least resistance, picking the closer school, going where I know we have friends. Finally, I went and revisited my initial choice, and had a bit of a realization. I remembered my foundations for what I wanted for my children. What is my educational philosophy? Well, it’s this one! So, why was I getting so distracted with everything else?
It’s living in the “and then, and then, and then”. On the mat, I do this, then this, then this, and phew! I’m done! For schools, I was thinking in a fear-based way. Will it be hard to volunteer? Will the drive be too long? And darn it, our best friends aren’t going there! My children will be late and friendless…but then I remembered that everything changes anyway. Being locked in worry and anticipation doesn’t mean that you can avoid upheaval. It’s coming for you, no matter how much energy you expend trying not to let it happen.
Only by finding my foundation again could I progress in my yoga practice. And is “progress” what I am after? What does that mean to me? Do I want to do a bunch of show-offy things? Well, yes, but that’s not all I want. I want to be present. I want to live the moments that I am living, not thinking of the next thing. So for now, until it’s not right anymore, I am going to focus on my foundation. Today, that’s where I put my energy, and not only did it feel like something fresh, difficult, and spectacular, it also brought me to my best headstand yet.
Think about where you’ve gotten distracted. What is fundamentally true for you that you’ve let slip to the sidelines? Dig back down to the concrete, and then rebuild your house.