On Wednesday, I broke up with my Ashtanga teachers. Like most break ups, this one has been in the works for a while. As a friend once said (about her own break-up with her partner of many years), "That boat had sunk a long time ago".
I know some people like to cut and run at the first sign of unpleasantness but that is the opposite of me. I hang in there through thick and thin - a quality that is shared by most Ashtangi's, I imagine. I mean, if you are put off by a bit of adversity, you will not keep going with the practice. It is a very challenging practice and we tend to pride ourselves on being able to work with what is hard about it. I mean, that IS the practice in a lot of ways.
I train in a tradition that is related to but quite different from Ashtanga and it has been a juggling act to find ways of making it all fit together. There are times when everything seems to make perfect sense and there have been times when I wonder that I think I am getting at, dabbling in this and that, especially if by "dabbling" you mean six years of Ashtanga practice, 500+ hrs of Desikachar teacher training, a year of yoga therapy training and, hey, why not add in ten years of Zen practice. Honey, I am exhausted just writing all that out, so imagine what it is like to keep all those strands together together.
You know, a lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-you's. And, uh, lotta strands to keep in my head, man. Lotta strands in old Duder's head. Luckily I'm adhering to a pretty strict, uh, drug regimen to keep my mind, you know, limber.
Lost my train of thought there...
I am not 100% sold on Ashtanga as a complete system. It has some serious flaws, actually. For a good, long while, I was in sync with my teachers as they began to work through those flaws. They started modifying postures to suit people's individual needs. They stopped giving extreme adjustments and encouraged us to scale back and really focus on the basics. Glory days. At a certain point, however, my teachers began to move towards a solely physical practice - more like being personal trainers. And that's cool. But I actually like all that other stuff in yoga, all that mind/body/spirit stuff. I really believe it.
When I started to ask some questions about the direction we were headed, they replied, "well, everything you do can be yoga." Yes…but. But, we train in a very specific way for part of everyday so that everything we do can be yoga. It won't happen otherwise. Yes, you can do squats and work with weights with the mind of yoga, just like you can eat or do laundry or sit on the toilet with a mind of yoga. But there is a difference between practice and training: I train so I can practice better.
So, the paths that crossed over six years ago uncrossed on Wednesday. It is a sad thing but part of me already feels a lightness, a happiness to see what will happen next. There is more to learn. There is always more to learn.