“One of my goals in life is to do the slowest Primary Series anywhere… rather than the quickest”. Richard Freeman

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Saturday, 13 November 2010

Rebuilding the discipline. I'm struggling here!

For three years I didn't have much difficulty getting on the mat in the mornings, Summer or Winter. I begrudgingly took rest days and can probably count the moon days I've taken on one hand with fingers to spare. I've practiced while on holiday and usually when sick and a for lot of that period practiced twice a day, usually ashtanga in the morning and some kind of mini practice in the evenings whether working on particular tricky postures or later exploring Vinyasa Krama. I've written posts on discipline and techniques for getting on the mat but truth be told I've always found it pretty easy, try to practice at the same time and don't think further ahead than the Surys. So getting on the mat, no problem...

until now.

I'm struggling here.

I'm having to drag myself out of bed. I'm greedily lapping up moon days and rest days. When I do prise myself out of bed I'm delaying, putting off, avoiding my practice room, it's an effort, a struggle.

And when I do get on the mat I'm having to grind it out, not really enjoying it. I catch myself looking at the clock, find myself tempted to rush through the second half of the practice or think of excuses to skip poses. So far I've just about managed to stay on program, the breath, bandhas, the mantra I use throughout, have helped but it's all a bit tedious.

OK I'm being melodramatic, it's not as bad as that, I'm enjoying some parts of it and some days are better than others but overall.... it's a struggle.

I'm not sure how it's come about, I've switched my practice around before. Ashtanga was OK in the evening although I had to cut it short a few times, cut out most of finishing or done a VK practice because I was running late but that was kind of OK because I'd been practicing Vinyasa Krama in the morning. I've never stopped having a morning practice. No, it's going back to ashtanga in the mornings. I'd forgotten what a long hard practice it is. When I first started, of course, I built up to it and then it had become a routine that I just got on with, enjoyed it most of the time, ground it out when It felt hard work, no big deal but here I'm jumping back into full practice, getting up at five-thirty on six hours sleep to face that Sisyphean boulder every morning and it's an effort. More melodrama, indulge me this once.

Figured I shouldn't be keeping it to myself, 'bout time I hit a wall huh.

It'll pass right? It's just a case of rebuilding the discipline, getting back in the routine, becoming used to two hours of full on practice ( morning Vinyasa Krama was very relaxing, mellow, hard work at times but a much slower pace ). It'll be fun again, No?

Oh I worked it out. I didn't practice Ashtanga in July or August (except on Fridays, always kept Friday primary up) Eight times in September, Five x Primary, three x Intermediate. Eighteen times in October, Eleven x Primary, seven x Intermediate and so far Seven times in November, six x Primary and Intermediate just the once.

And tomorrow it's Intermediate, groan.

23 comments:

  1. What an honest post, thank you for sharing. Now, of course you realize it is just something that will definitely pass because the chinchilla cannot live without you having a practice, and you must let the chinchilla live...

    It will come back, I am sure. The closest I had was 10 days off when very sick in August, it took a couple of days but the flow did come back!

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  2. I too very much appreciate your honesty, Grim! Celebrating successes with others is great fun. But I think the common struggles are what bind us together.

    I laughed aloud the other day while reading the discussion about pushing through standing series with paschimottanasana as the "chance to sit down" carrot. :) I was so relieved to know I'm not the only one!!

    I'm working my way through "Guruji" right now and one passage comes to mind on this topic. I forget who, but one of the women talked about all the postures coming easily when she was young. Then she stopped to have a family and such, and came back to the practice later. The return trip was much more challenging, but also made her more compassionate and patient with her students.

    Hang in there!

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  3. Don't worry Grim, just a phase and I think good to have them as reminder as to why we practice.

    I had a mth in April when I was on total yoga strike but it was back to the 'grind' in May. I gave myself permission to be in recalcitrant mode for that mth.

    The joy will return.

    AC

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  4. Love the honesty. I too feel this way sometimes...what to do? Keep with the breath. This too shall pass.

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  5. I've gone through phases like that. You just have to push through - it will get better. I think it's partly a strength endurance thing, partly a focus thing.

    One tip that really helps me: I try to never 'think too far ahead' when I'm practising. I break it into manageable chunks and tell myself "Now, I'm just going to do the Suryas", and then "Now, just do the fundamental standing poses" and so on.

    It keeps it from being too overwhelming when it feels like such a *long* practice.

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  6. Grim, I'm a total newbie so my thoughts are not from my own practice but from watching my husband for the past 8 years. He is like you, usually very disciplined. But when he hit a huge wall the best thing he did was ... take a break. Just a thought. Each person is different. But perhaps your body (and psyche) are all telling you that they want some time off for a reason you can't know right now. I really believe that sometimes surrender is better than fighting exhaustion. Just my 2¢ ...

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  7. Thanks Claudia, sure your right it'll pass, just a case of getting the rhythm back. Still downstairs in the summer shala haven't moved upstairs to practice with Nietzsche (Chinchilla ) yet, perhaps it's time I did. All these outside injuries etc haven't helped I guess, more disruptive than I thought.
    Hi Mike, thanks and thanks for the Guruji reminder too, have you got to the Darby's chapter yet, they gave up the practice for years and then came back to it, i should read that bit again.

    Your right AC it is a good reminder, I'd forgotten how tough the practice is. Don't think it's a phase, I mean i still love my vinyasa krama practice just a struggle rebuilding a six day a week full ashtanga practice. the practice Diary is looking better though this morning, practice tomorrow and it's my first six day Ashtanga week for months.

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  8. Dear Grimmly
    Hmm, you or Kai slowing down? It may be the weather. You too are the most constistent practitioners. I could not practice for one week because something systemic was making me feel badly but I'm looking to starting again tomorrow. And I have not had a six day week of practice in over a year - that is hard to admit - in my case I wonder if it's because I'm older. Maybe it's that you're so super disciplined, beyond what other of us attain, that something a little more lax seems cause for you to be alarmed.
    Cheers,
    Arturo

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  9. Perhaps a kind of break where you don't do two practices a day and don't add all of the conscious thinking about breath/bandha/mantra in. Just make the shapes and feel the bliss and (as they would say in Anusara --LOL) ride the grace.

    You know an aesthetic experience when you feel it, so go for that instead of compliance to the regimen. :-)

    Good luck!

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  10. Thanks Shakti, pretty sure it will pass, I should look back through my blog surely there have been some dodgy weeks that I've perhaps forgotten about.

    Hi Kai, I tend to use the think no further ahead than the Surys trick too but doesn't seem to be working this time. I agree about the pushing through, usually the routine helps to give you the discipline to do that but here i'm trying to rebuild the routine and thus the discipline so bit of a effort. Guess it's just a case of grinding them out until the routine kicks in and makes it all easier hopefully then some of the passion and sheer joy of practice will come back.

    You might be right Loo feels like I've had a bit of a break from Ashtanga at least though, for two months I only practiced on friday's and really enjoyed it. Perhaps throwing myself right back in was a mistake another option might have been to do the Swenson short program for a few weeks and build up to it. Winging about it here but I kind of like the challenge of it too.

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  11. You have a tough job though Arturo and are running around a lot, plus you've had all these problems with the Shala and trying to practice in hotel rooms etc. Bound to make it hard for you to settle into a routine. I've been spoiled by living close to work and doing 9:30-5:30 helped me build a consistent practice and of course no kids or travel to a shala to worry about. I wonder if my practice will be so consistent when i'm back in Japan.

    Me, compliant to the regime, that's a first : ) I was thinking along similar lines this morning Karen KISS, (Keep It Simple Stupid), stripped my intermediate right down even as far as the shortened Standing sequence. Will do the same with my Primary for a few weeks 'till I'm settled, good advice, thank you.

    The mantra breath/bandha thing has been helping but I could try the just 'making shapes' for a bit. Think perhaps I should speed it up for a while, I tend to practice my Ashtanga quite slowly post VK but perhaps I should crank it up a little and let the energy carry me along, slow it back down once I'm settled into it again.

    This whole thing is starting to interest me now, that might help

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  12. I know this all too well.
    This is part of it.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Grimmly losing the discipline for his incredible practice? I fear a rift in the space time continuum.

    And I also wonder if there is some external pressure here, from others' expectations of you? Forgive the psychobabble, but I imagine that your practice is a major part of your sense of self - it is for me already, and I'm such a beginner.

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  14. Peoples expectations Ragdoll? Perhaps if your at a Shala and have a strong practice but I doubt it in the cybershala. That said I did feel a bit of an obligation to mention in a post that I'm struggling a bit.

    Hmmm, my sense of self, perhaps if I was younger I might take being an 'Ashtangi' more seriously but by my age I've probably constructed and dropped so many 'senses of self' that I don't take any of them that seriously anymore.

    Of course if losing the practice meant a loss of a sense of self (ie no longer an Ashtangi) then yogically speaking that would, ironically, be a good thing no?

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  15. Hi Grimmly , Thanks fo ur honest confession . Break in practice is a part of a Yogi's life and just allow things to go its own phase instead of fighting over it or worrying about it and I am sure you will get back your natural rhythm in due course .All the best in your ashtanga practice .

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  16. Thank you Krishna, it's coming along, not too worried about it just a bit of a slog getting back into the routine.

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  17. Bit late on this stream, but wow mistah! You always work so hard, it's a little comforting to know that you too struggle! I have an incredibly random work schedule and so my practice is also random, but it's been consistently random. I'm sometimes a tad envious of those who have stable fixed schedules.. but I wouldn't change. So you're coming to

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  18. Hi エスタ
    fashionably late : )

    I liked that 'consistently random'.

    I think I need that routine, helps me get on the mat. Managed to get back into it, two six morning a week practices now, drama over.

    Guess you we're about to say " so your coming to Japan...' Only thing keeping us here at the moment is my chinchilla, Nietzsche', once he's no longer with us I guess we'll be coming back, not sure where, I fancy Sapporo.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Here is my first comment as I go back through your blog, only 1.5 years later!

    I often wonder about the rigor of the Ashtanga tradition and the fear/guilt of breaking from it. Sometimes that does not feel very yogic to me: is it yogic, and healthy, to be constantly sleep-deprived and to have that sleep deprivation impact every other part of your life? (eg. work, relationship, friends).

    I am struggling with this, but that is because I believe there is a way to integrate a more regular yoga practice into my life without being constantly tired (my biggest hurdle to transitioning from a 2x/week evening class at studio practice to a morning Mysore style practice was the early mornings! I have wanted to do it for years. I don't think I was ready before). I am not very nice or patient or smart when I am tired. Everything suffers.

    So I think that though there is some motivation necessary to get on the mat, some more days than others, when the urge is this strong to rest, then one should rest. It probably would not be more than 2-3 days before you would be going mad with restlessness and loving the practice after a break.

    Maybe your blog will say this once I keep going forward in time!!

    As for me, for now, 4 days/week seems to be perfect. Moon days and ladies holidays are great. (and usually I schedule the 4 days around these occurrences).

    ReplyDelete
  20. arrgh I lost my comment!
    My first comment as I go forward through your blog, 1.5 years late!

    I often wonder about the rigor and tradition of Ashtanga, and the associated fear/guilt of breaking from it. Sometimes that does not seem very yogic to me...is it yogic to always be sleep deprived? For me, when I am tired, I am not very nice, or patient, or smart. Everything suffers.

    Of course sometimes we need motivation to get on the mat. It took me years to transition from an evening studio practice to a morning Mysore practice, even though I was really interested, only because of the early mornings! I have managed to find a schedule that works for me and for the rest of my life. It is very important to me and I don't want to miss my practice.

    So I have begun with a 4 day/week practice -- I would like to do more, but don't get too worried if I am not able. I observe moon days and ladies holidays (but can get the 4 days in during that time). I don't necessarily rest on Saturdays because I read somewhere that the only significant of Saturday is that Sri Pattabhi Jois needed a day off to spend with his family.

    So I wonder, when you hit this big of a wall, if it is a good idea to rest. Our bodies are smart and our cells hold memories. Probably after 2-3 days rest, you would be itching to practice and feeling stronger and happier than ever before!

    Of course I am almost certain as I continue to read forward in the posts that this will be addressed by you anyhow...

    It is that quote (from Nancy Gilgoff?), right? That "yoga should support your life", not that "your life should support your yoga"...

    ReplyDelete
  21. I should also mention that I have much less of a problem waking up to practice at home (though still at about 4 days a week, sleep in on Monday, have an easy and slow morning with my honey and coffee and the newspaper on the weekend). It is waking up an hour earlier to get in the car and drive to the shala that is difficult!! It will get much more difficult in the winter when it is dark and raining every single morning...

    ReplyDelete
  22. Hi Omiya
    I'm always amazed that people manage to get dressed and drive to a shall to practice so early in the morning. i just stumble downstairs in my PJ's, grab a coffee and then stumble into the home shala and stumble through the first couple of sury's until I wake up.

    It is tough in the the beginning, life changing, i ended up going to bed earlier and eating less in the evenings to accommodate my practice. But it's a routine that helps build the discipline and I'm thankful of it now.

    It's Sunday I was up at 5:30 and will practice for a couple of hours after replying to this comment and then go get the paper and take it and some cookies up to my own 'honey' where we'll spend the rest of the morning with the papers.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Well that sounds like an absolutely lovely morning :)

    I am getting better with the early mornings too, at least on weekdays, working on it for weekends..it is getting better!

    ReplyDelete

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A Reminder

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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