Humbling by Nature
It has been a continuous journey of curvy streets, hills, flat plains, road blocks, hurricanes, beautiful beaches, landslides, sunrises, construction zones, celebrations, and some detours… but there was just enough light peaking through that I found my way home. With all that said, I hope I haven’t scared you away!
Trust me, nothing this rewarding is easy to accomplish! All the sweat, tears, laughter, and love that I have put into this practice – and into myself – has given me something more than I can ever ask for: passion and compassion. It has also given me clarity, focus, discipline, vulnerability, and self-love.
When I first started this journey, I only knew about asana (postures). I didn’t really understand the purpose of moving my body into all these different shapes, nor did I understand the breathing aspect of it. The breath is a whole topic unto itself (next edition!). I didn’t even know that there was a specific system, or way of learning the Ashtanga Primary Series. It’s called “Mysore” style, by the way. All I knew was it made me feel good and I wanted more!
So I practiced almost every day. I was obsessed! I could go into the whole history of that first step on the curvy road to where I am now, but that would take a very long time. Let’s just say that obsession led to multiple injuries that put me out of practice on several accounts because my ego was fully in charge at the time.
You want to talk about some humbling experiences! At the time, I was beside myself at how I ended up in these situations. As I sat in stillness, frustrated with tears running down my face, I asked the infamous questions, “Why me? What did I do to deserve this kind of pain?” I wanted to point the finger to Ashtanga. How easy would that be? To blame something or someone for your pain.
The reality was that I needed to take responsibility fo r me, for my actions, non-actions, and therefore, lack of awareness. Those moments of feeling pain was my body telling me to slow down! It was saying, “Hey if you don’t come off auto-pilot and wake the fuck up, I’m going to bring you to your knees and you’ll be forced to check in!”
So instead of fighting like I usually do, I surrendered. Hmm… surrender. An unpleasant way of looking at things. I find that the word “surrender” can come off quite distasteful. It’s regarded as giving up “control!”
Now, why would anyone want to do that? That would mean to let go, give in, throw your hands up, concede, back down, climb down, throw the towel in. After all the years of hard work, struggles, and breakthroughs, to finally get to that place where I can breathe freely… to let it all go?! It feels like defeat.
Well, it’s not! To surrender is a huge life lesson in vulnerability. I allowed myself to let go of what I thought was methodically right and opened up to the idea of exploring spaciousness – the place where healing begins. If you haven’t been here yet, I assure you that it’s pretty empowering!
So the journey continues and takes a different turn. I was forced to look at myself, my behavior, to hear my thoughts, and listen closely. It was in this place where the truth of compassion left its residue. S o I returned to my mat, to the practice that I love so much. Starting from ground zero I had to relearn my body and the practice all over again, but this time with patience, an open heart, and softness.
You see, Ashtanga is a practice that makes you go inside (pratyahara). Like no other yoga practice that I’ve experienced before, when we do “self-practice” we have to rely upon ourselves to guide us through from beginning to end. There’s no music, no one to tell you what the next move is, how long you should stay in the pose, no adjustments or direction, nobody there to count the breaths out loud… just you and your thoughts (citta vrttis pys 1.2). That’s some humbling shit right there, if you ask me!