Posted by Michelle Azar
As many of you know, I am (was?) a rigid Ashtanga Yoga practitioner. Never mind that I never got much past the beginning of second series (there are six) or that I have yet to travel to Mysore. It consumed my life, or at least my mornings, for a long time.
Yesterday during my practice, I felt that 12 year old deep pain in my lower back. Funny, the same age as my daughter is old… The teacher saw me wince and came over. Her suggestion was to modify by taking some of the second series back bends. This sounded perposterous to me. Not only did I think it was “prohibited” to be skipping about like that, making your practice a “best of’s” routine, but I figured if the postures were in a different series altogether they would be more difficult and thereby inappropriate for a day of pain.
She went on to site a well respected ashtanga teacher who used these postures as restoratives. He called them “research postures” which to my rigid or more orthodox ear sounded like a cop out. But I went with it for the rest of the practice; after all, another piece of being a “good ashtanga student” is to follow the rules set by that teacher in that room.
I cannot say I walked out in NO pain, but I certainly did not hobble out, as I sometimes do! The asanas she gave me were able to target and prepare the tighter spots for what is to come, and for the healing that we all deserve.
The bigger release, though, may have been from my attachment to structure. Sometimes, rules ARE truly MEANT to be broken. To be toyed and tooled and perhaps made more uniquely relevant. I am glad I went, and did not use my pain as a tool to remain safe, which sometimes only brings more pain, physical as well as mental. The psychological relief I feel today is just as important, if not more. My practice is my practice, regardless of the asanas I accomplish, or the order in which I accomplish them.
I think this might be the same in some other areas of our lives. Religion, or other ideals to which you attach wholeheartedly. I find a great comfort in practicing strictly, as long as that is accompanied by present mindfulness.
May your weekends be mindful, abundant and free,
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May 6, 2013 | 4:50 pm
Posted by Michelle Azar
I watched as my Torah portion flew out into the street. The pages were in the basket of my bicycle as I rode to Milky’s on Friday afternoon to study in advance of chanting this Shabbat. Milky’s boasts frozen yogurt with lots of choices for their special food needs clientage like myself, and since my need for exercise was in conflict with my need for sugar, I thought studying my portion there would be the happiest spot.
When I felt prepared enough, and too shy to go back to the trough for a second helping, I climbed on to my bicycle for the short ride home. The gust of wind caught me and my printed copies of Behar by surprise, and my parasha flew right out of my basket and on to Pico’s busy street.
I had a fleeting thought to follow the pages into the traffic. I grew up hearing what a sin it was to throw away ANY document with Hebrew written on it. I could see myself in the middle of the street, dodging cars to save the poor alphabet. I saved myself instead , and watched the dance between wind and cars and printed page of Torah in great despair.
I had great ambivalence riding away. I trusted that I would not be smote down for leaving the printed words on the street. I even tried to imagine that since it was in such a Jewish area, the pages might be retrieved by someone else who needed the lesson of this week’s portion. The reading was about Shmita, giving the land rest after 7 years of work. I am a big believer in rest. I really, really like doing nothing. I do get carried away with it sometimes and can’t get myself to do ANYTHING after a good long nothing. Then I get super mad at myself so it becomes not at all restful but fraught with all sorts of complications. I thought, how smart to set rest up as mandatory, a real-time for real appreciation for all that you already have.This way it is not a reaction to sheer exhaustion, and it builds in gratitude. The problem is knowing patience as well. Knowing how to identify the time in this day and age in our non-aggregrain village of Beverly Hills perhaps, when the metaphorically 7 years have passed. When it is time to again put in the toil to reap anew.