Your Asana is in the way
The asana that we stop at in our daily Ashtanga practice can be looked at as a metaphor for a samskara, or issue that we are dealing with in our life outside of the practice space. Each day we get up to that asana, that samskara, and each day we work at it. Some days we do better than others. Some days we believe it is possible to move past the samskara or asana. Somedays it feels impossible.
I remember being stuck at Marichyasana D for some time. For me it wasn’t the leg in padmasana it was the twist. My stomach was too fat, my arms were too short, shoulders too tight. Any number of excuses.
A couple of times I told myself that this is where I was going to be stuck. I contemplated quitting since I couldn’t get any further. This was my lot in life. What was the point of practicing if I could never get past this asana?
I wasn’t able to see the connection that the asana where I was stuck was a metaphor for a holding pattern in my life where I was also stuck. I wasn’t looking at it that way. The asana was simply another posture, another thing. Something that I was up against. Something that was holding me back.
It was like my finances. My lack of money that prevented me from going on vacation, that prevented me from heating the apartment in Chicago above 72 because I couldn’t afford the bill. A samskara is an idea, a thought or a belier that we hold on to. We box it up and neatly tuck it away convincing ourselves that we have felt with the problem.
For some time I would show up to practice and ho hum along, not really trying. I would show up and tell myself that it was enough to show up. That showing up was doing the work. BUT my heart wasn’t in it. My heart wasn’t doing the work.
I was physically there, but there was no other part of me practicing. No other part of me was really doing the work.
The teacher shows us that it is possible to overcome the samsara, and to find the breath in the asana by moving us. I would get an adjustment pulling my arm across my bent knee, twisting and sucking in. I learned to not fight, not to ‘help’ the adjustment. It ‘hurt’ less when I relaxed. And so this is how it was.
Almost daily I would get an adjustment and then go back and do the work again on my own. Half-heartedly, or almost angrily I would do the work on my own. “I’m never going to get past this” and “What’s the point” kept repeating in my head. On angry days it was “F$%k this!”
But there must have been a point because I kept showing up to class. Something was getting through. Something was touching a layer that I wasn’t yet aware of. There was a samskara that was working it’s way to the surface and working it’s way out.
We show up each day working through our mess. Even if it feels like we aren’t there. Even if it feels like we are just pissing away time in the room. Each day we learn a lesson from this asana that we come against. A lesson that plays out in our daily lives.
Eventually I worked more, took a second job, got a raise at the first job and I was able to heat the apartment above 72. When it’s minus 12 in Chicago and you bike 5 miles home from work in the dark with numb fingers and toes it is a delight to sit in front of the heater and actually get warm. It was a luxury.
If we don’t show up fully present, we miss the opportunity to move beyond our issue. If I continued working the one job, ho humming, I would be freezing. Literally and figuratively. I put more effort into my first job and got a raise. I got a second job and was able to visit my Pops in Miami over the Christmas / New Year holiday time.
I took the practice more seriously. (probably because I was going to visit Kino who was still teaching at Miami Life Center at the time) and I was present in the room. Emotionally I was in the game. If this is my fate, if this is my asana, I will know it, every detail. I wanted to understand all of the components that made up this asana. I hired a private teacher to work with on my hamstrings, and shoulders. Both areas of my body that had years of muscle abuse from swimming and running. Areas that I didn’t fully understand and took their strength for granted.
I was able to accept my fate of Marichyasana D. I worked out foot placement, hip placement, shoulder rotation. My physical body was there. I gave attention to what I was eating, what fueled my practice. I paid attention to the asana that preceded it. What secrets did they hold about this area of my life that trapped me.
All 4 of my bodies were playing the game; physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. And the story has a happy ending because I got to Miami and was thrown another samskara to work through, a new asana.
But did that mean I had overcome the samskara of Marichyasana D?
I wouldn’t find out that answer until about 2 years later when I fractured and dislocated my left clavicle.
Ashtanga Nurse RX:
If we keep at it then we have done the work to clear ourselves. If we quit then we will certainly face that same issue later on down the road in a much louder and much more difficult way. It is ok to be at an asana for the rest of this life. Maybe next life it will be possible to move past this samskara? But running away from it won’t make it easier . . . ever.
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