Sunday, 15 August 2010

Keep on keeping on.

At the moment I am going through a period of adjustment. Having been given a couple of new asanas in the past six months (kurmasa/supta kurmasana and most recently garbha pindasana) I am noticing some patterns in the way I react with a new posture - so maybe it will be ever thus...
First stage is of course excitement. Yippeeee!! I got the next one!! Pride in my own achievement is characterised by being unable to tell my shala-mates about it after practice (them: "how was your practice today?" me: "oh yes, fine...") as I feel like a total div jumping up and down and saying GUESS WHAT?!! even if that's how I feel. It works best when one of your friends happens to see it happening, and that way you don't need to brag. So yes, day 1 is definitely characterised by elation. This also manifests in the desire to tell my work colleagues all about it - point 1: they don't understand what it all means and why being given a new asana is so exciting and point 2: they really couldn't care less.
The next stage seems to follow very quickly afterwards and is somewhere between shock and bewilderment. Hang on, I start to realise, you mean I have to do this every day now? And after today I'm not going to have my teacher hold my hand and guide me though it? And it probably means I need to start getting up earlier? I'm sorry, can somebody remind me why exactly I wanted this day to come? Day 2 with garbha was where I  gave myself ginormous bruises which I saw fit to photograph and post on facebook (see part 1: the desire to tell people who don't care). 
Simultaneously occurring in the world outside of my practice is the continued need to talk to people who don't care (namely the long suffering work colleagues), preferably including showing them pictures/videos (against their will) whilst explaining to them how very incredibly difficult this asana is. I'm not sure what I want - a medal?
The next thing that happens is I begin to convince myself that this asana is actually both dangerous and bad for me, and that I am giving myself serious injuries by attempting it. With supta kurmasana I had a very painful injury in my collar bone from being adjusted which did mean I had to completely back off the pose for a good few weeks on more than one occasion. With garba I am now experiencing pain in my bones - mainly in my forearms, and also in my hands. I find it impossible to turn my hands to lift up into kukkutasana and any attempts feel likely to break my arms (yes, I am a drama queen).
This is where I have got to with garbha pindasana - after the elation, the posting on facebook and telling colleagues about my new asana, the slight bewilderment and disbelief that I had to keep trying this and the fear of the injury came actual declarations of hatred. I walked out of the practice room a few days after being given it and C said to me "Meeeel, it's getting better every day" and before she could finish I answered "No it's not, it's terrible - and I HATE IT!" Haha. Drama queens are us (and notice how I know best...). I told her that after I had wrestled my arms through and sat for 5 breaths, I took my fingers to my forehead and preparing to rock back I just cried instead. "Crying is GOOD, it's going to make it so much better!" says C but I'm not entirely convinced. I started to analyse it and decided that my problem with the rocking is that I feel STUPID. I rock all the way back onto my head (which is too far, I lose contact between my hands and my forehead) then struggle to right myself. In short, I feel like some sort of beached whale. Who can't even rock in a circle (I'm doing on the spot - rocking for beginners). Anyway after my psychoanalysis I decided to tell myself that it doesn't matter if I feel like I look silly, probably nobody else thinks that I do (a good lesson for life too of course) and that I just need to keep on trying. And trying, and trying, and trying. 
And of course this is the key - practice, practice, all is coming (I think the big man may have been onto something with this). I fully remember not so long ago feeling like supta kurmasana has completely flummoxed me, that I would never in a million years be able to do it without serious effort and assistance, but over time something changed, or more correctly lots of somethings changed, ever so gradually, and a little piece more of the puzzle fell into place each week until I can now (somedays) bind my hands by myself. And I just need to remember that there is no quick fix, that I just have to keep going with garbha pindasana, and slowly but surely one day the pieces will fall into place and I will be able to practice it with more ease.

Of course it is the same with life – in some respects I think you often only get given what you can handle. Changes which seem huge and overwhelming more often than not happen in stages so that from A to Z might be a huge change, but from X to Y to Z is oh so much more gradual. I was talking with an old friend of mine a while ago about the idea of me leaving London – I always said that London wasn’t my forever home, but as I have now reached the 10 year mark living here it seems like it would be more of a wrench to leave. But as my friend so wisely pointed out, I’d be unlikely to just up sticks one day. More likely is that a series of life changes, whether that’s related to work, or a partner, or something else entirely, would evolve over time so that leaving London became the natural next step.
And it’s the same with ashtanga - if you went suddenly from doing nothing to doing the full primary series 6 days a week with dropbacks & all the whistles and bells, it would be completely overwhelming (not to mention crazy). Instead, with the guidance of a teacher you learn at a pace which suits you, and as and when you are ready you learn a little more. And for me, I gradually added another day to my practice week, one day at a time, to build what is (hopefully) a sustainable practice.
But as I work through the stages with my new asana, and I currently reside in the "am I ever going to get this??" stage of bamboozlement, I just need to remind myself how impossible all that came before seemed at first (including - to begin with - having a morning practice at all) and just keep practicing with the faith and belief that it will just takes time. And there endeth the sermon...Amen :)


  1. hi Mel!
    I've been going through the trauma of learning garbha pindasana too! I can relate very well to what you're going through. I started learning it a little over a month ago, and while I'm far from proficient at it, it's actually starting to become tolerable (if not -- dare I admit -- a bit fun?...)

    For the first week I went through a crying phase, too. I felt so humiliated, frustrated, bewildered in this pose, that the tears would just spring up, usually after being stranded in the rollbacks. (The Reluctant Ashtangi calls it 'capsizing!' So true.)

    I had HUGE deep purple bruises on both elbows. The pose made my elbows feel like they were caught in a vice. I too was paranoid that I was causing permanent nerve damage in my arms... They would have pangs of pain throughout the day.

    Eventually the bruises went away (they've faded, anyway) in place of calluses. Now I can get my arms through without too much ado, but the rollbacks are tricky -- I still get beached, or capsized, but now I can roll myself back up from there, so it's not as frustrating. My rocks are so minimal and incremental that it takes 20 or 30 to get all the way around back to the front. I can now lift into kukkutasana, which, the first time that happened, I cried out "I did it!" which was somewhat embarrassing...

    Anyway it's slowly coming together. The good news for me, in my practice, is that I'm also learning how to drop back, so the drama of garbha p has taken away some of the dropback drama, so dropbacks are in contrast no big deal! This pose has been one of the hardest of the primary series to learn, for some reason, but it's only a matter of time before you 'get' it. Boy was it bewildering at first, though...

    Good luck, and know that you're not alone! The crying phase will pass and eventually (so I'm told) the pose becomes a delight :)

  2. Aww, Mel! I love this post! Obviously, not your frustration..i don't love that hehe, but i love how you express EVERYTHING.

    Your practice is beautiful lady.. IT WILL COME x

  3. Wow Stephanie thank you SO much for your comment!! IT's so wonderful to hear that somebody else has been through the same thing and I am not alone - really, thank you thank you for helping give me a little more faith. But garbha pindasana AND dropbacks? Goodness me lady, rather you than me, straight after my rocking I am into backbends (of the floor-bound variety) - but I like the idea that one drama can detract from another...there's only so much drama we can manage in one practice eh? :)

    and lovely Jen, thank you too (blushing furiously). Although I have to say blogger did a number on me and cut out a whole paragraph (why does it do that??) so this didn't make total sense. And I didn't even write it in word first so now I just had to make the missing but up from scratch. Never mind eh? It was the last paragraph by the way- just making my excuses for weird semantics! ;) xx