For a while now practice has been happening on a level words can’t reach. So it’s been quiet here, and for a little time last week it got quiet inside my head too, while the body buzzed. Buzzed and hummed. Equally in my other life thought has been deadened by busyness: the hubbub of emails and scheduling and interview timetables. Admin is noisy.
I have of late wherefore I know not…
This then is an attempt. Here’s some words for you:
Laghu vajrasana: Blocked.
Kapotasana: What a breeze!
Supta vajrasana: Arms pinching.
Handstands: Because “You need some fun in your practice”, says my Teacher. (Apparently even in practice I have my melancholy face on. Here’s me thinking practice surfaces varying personas to the ones commonly performed outside. I’m melancholy through and through).
These words don’t reach too far. That’s not to look down upon the superficial. I can revel for hours in the banal yoga chat (it’s the social lubricant – nay glue – of daily life in Mysore). Something feels different though. I no longer feel the need to publicise my practice. I think this has come about from a) realising for most people in my life the ongoings of my ashtanga practice are of little consequence (read blank faces), b) I don’t need it anymore – it being affirmation, recognition. Sure sometimes I want it, a lot of it. But I can practice alone, I don’t need it.
This feels like a little big deal for me. Still I devoured avidly all the blogs and videos I could find on kapotasana after beginning to tackle it a couple weeks ago. It’s one of those steps in the practice that comes with its own fanfare, or perhaps that should be hauntings. But on the first few attempts after a few abbreviated breaths and before my lungs got used to the contortion, not a whole lot happened. No big deal.
What’s been the most noticeable aspect of my practice these days has been the non-happening of the practice. First this felt like boredom – normally at its peak around Janushirasana C. Yawn this practice is so long! But has since started to move away from the awarenessness of the emptiness of thought to what feels like a folding into quiet. (Removing resistance we could say, or surrender). At least until around Laghu when it gets all vritti again.
I keep thinking about the incompatibility of a regular practice to modern city life. A life that speaks in rhetoric of career, and doing more and being better and getting out there and linking in. When a daily contemplative practice brings quiet, everything else becomes such a din. The world we inhabit – say academia – might demand adeptness with noise while the practice contrarily demands adeptness to quiet.
Following two different desires the point of incompatibility arises. When the practice is no longer a refuge but a foundation and background the quiet starts to cloud out the noise, and where should the noise go? Do we quit our job? Do we complete the PhD and do nothing? And the language is deliberate – but wouldn’t that be a waste of time, when you could be spending time producing (reach for the Das Kapital here).
Hell, keeping up a daily habit like ashtanga has taken me away from lots of activities, like wine drinking on a weekday and heavy foods after 6pm and staying up writing in the early dark hours and probably too, from making new friends – I’m barely clinging to the few tolerant ones left. I used to say I would never date anyone who did yoga. I had a vision of men that did yoga and for some reason it wasn’t favourable. Just as well those feelings changed.
People don’t often get that it never felt like I was leaving anything behind. I knew what I discovered was so much more exciting than those other activities – which only ever felt like modes of getting by – could ever feel. People don’t get that its about exploring and expanding desires not prohibition. Life most of the time feels like denial, except when I practice. Veganism and daily yoga = boring as fuck right?? Some of my dear loved ones even feel that way. Maybe they got past the yoga stuff to realise I had a ‘personality’ or perhaps I do enough crazy poses for it to be ‘cool’ and after all surely I’m just in a phase.
We all make choices on how we live our lives, I mean the choices that we get left with after our lives are moulded by forces beyond our control. Rejecting normative fantasies and exploring alternative ideas of what is considered the ‘good life’ does not equate to abstinence and limits. I’ve certainly met many a self-confessed loudmouth rebel that bored me silly.
At weak moments, when I feel worn and threadlike, when I feel as though I am always on the precipice of a deep well terrified of what lies beneath, I have doubts about whether I am missing out on something. It can often feel as though I’m wandering the airless face of the moon alone, unable to share its fearful beauty with anyone. That’s why the interesting question for me is not what leads someone to start a yoga practice but why and how they maintained their practice. What sustenance is the practice giving them, what changes did they have to make in their lives to make room for it, what have they gained and what have we lost.
Maybe these thoughts don’t crop up in your typical Rocket Yoga class. Perhaps its the Lululemon-clad calorie obsessed yoga as fitness crowd that are giving yogis the boring reputation, or perhaps they’re making yoga more hip (read mainstream), I really couldn’t say.
Not sure I’m selling my practice too well by talking about non-happenings. So back to the buzzing.
I used to experience what I thought was sleep apnea, where I would stop breathing in my sleep and faint before waking gasping for air. My body would start to go numb and in my dream it felt as though I was falling without end. I was never sure why this happened. It might have been the large quantities of ibuprofen or the bottle of wine I used to consume each night. I stopped both and so too the dream fainting stopped.
The experience would always terrify me but afterwards the tingling sensation of my body, that first intake of breath, felt exciting. I felt my body paralysed and then revived again. I was numbing different types of pain with sedative causing substances: painkillers, alcohol, sleep. Yoga too began for me as another of these modes of getting by. The consolation prize at the end of the day was a yoga class instead of a bottle of wine. Difference being that instead of numbing me, the practice began to open me up. What this led to was all sorts of exposure to stuff. I can’t go into any more detail about what this means because its too personal, suffice to say, I learnt what it felt for the body to buzz and hum, in a very organic way. That’s where the drug kicks in. If someone asks me why I practice (and they do often, in curiosity, though now and again in accusation) I don’t know what to say. It feels like its beyond my control now.
If I were to attempt an answer I might say it feels like a homecoming. For me, love is feeling like you’re home. There’s no need to keep looking, there’s no further to travel, you’re home, you’re in love. Recently I learnt what this felt like when captured all inside one breathing moment.
And that’s about all I can say.