A cool girl that comes to the yoga studio had been buried in a gigantic book for a few weeks right up until class time. It was one of those books that you knew had to suck you in because it's a commitment just to lug the thing around. I asked her what it was and she started to describe a fascinating story about a man that had escaped from prison, fled to Bombay and lived in a slum where he provided medical aid to the residents. She said she had never been to India but the author's use of language took her there. Interesting. Next thing I know she finished the book and passed it off to me. Oh no! This book has almost a thousand pages, what if I start it and I hate it? I'll feel bad reporting back. I felt like I had made a huge commitment accepting her gift, but I had some travel coming up and it would be something to do on all the flights. It had a place in my life now.
Shantaram gripped me from the beginning. I've passed on in-flight movies, friend-making while gathered around waiting in line for the bathroom, and the ultimate in-flight time killer, Sudoku - a game I try to keep a safe amount of distance from my addictive personality. Gregory David Roberts has a great trick that keeps the pages turning. He leaves you dangling at the end of a chapter mid-story and introduces something else that is interesting in the next. When you've forgotten that you might have been frustrated from hanging on two chapters earlier, he sweetly rounds you back. Shantaram reads like a meditation.
When your mind is calm all the good stuff has room to show up.
There are many styles and philosophies of yoga accompanied with many ways to practice. Some styles focus on each pose. They dissect and perfect alignment in one pose, and then drop it and move on to the next. The perfect pose is the goal with no attention given to the in-between. Great amounts of time and preciousness are taken for poses that are decidedly difficult. Classes are stopped and people moved to the wall to attempt a handstand. That's one way to go about it.
I've always been a fan of the in-between. You know, the stuff in between the stuff. That's stuff too, right? The way we practice yoga is the way we live our life. This is such a good tool that we all have available to us. I started practicing yoga when I was a teenager, studying classical dance. My body and mind were very open, but not very strong. I was trusting, excited, passionate, and receptive. All good qualities when balanced with the proper amount of strength and awareness. My teachers taught me how to practice. Practice taught me how to become aware. Awareness taught me that I needed strength in my life. I needed to be able to discern what was right for me and what I could offer the world. I wanted to gain these qualities physically and mentally while keeping my passionate, open, and excited natural qualities. Yoga teaches me constantly that everything is a practice. There is no "here" or "there." Ram Dass so eloquently tells us to Be Here Now. There is no pose. The whole damn thing is a pose.
When this concept clicked for me, that the whole thing is a pose, I felt a physical and psychological weight lifted. Each thing that happened, good or bad, wasn't the whole world. It is just a thing that happened, good or bad. Things happen your whole life, every day, until you die. And then things will still happen.
At Strala we practice moving and breathing. Use what you need. Relax what you don't. We don't make a big deal out of "difficult" poses, but we do move through them. We pay attention to alignment, but then bring focus back to the breath, where we can be in the moment. Thankfully my husband teaches and practices this. He can do all the crazy tricks and cool poses, but it's just breathing to him. It's nice to be able to share these ideas with someone and not think that I am an isolated bubble going crazy.
Practicing this way has helped me tremendously with life. I still get stressed quite a bit, but I know what to do about it. I still care if I get that thing that I have been hoping for, whatever it is, but I know better. It's all practice and the kicker is your life becomes broader and you actually get more of the "poses" and "things" you want when you stop obsessing over them. Interesting.
This is a 4 week chill-out series that I made to help chill you and me out. Part one focuses on shoulders and upper back, where a lot of us carry tension and need constant maintenance. Enjoy!