"The hardest part of any practice is showing up. Everything else will come in due time."
|Ledo/Burma Road (Wikipedia)|
It's been a long and winding road to end up here (most recently a big chunk of that spent on the Trans-Canada Highway... more on that later) , but here I am.
Where is here exactly?
For starters, I'm a 37-year-old former graphic designer desk jockey turned Ashtanga yoga neophyte, who has just made a commitment to (at least) 4 months of 6 day-a-week, 6:30 a.m. intense Mysore-style practice. A sizable commitment (not by big city yoga studio standards, but definitely in respect to my current earnings, or lack thereof) in the form of the $1700 tuition fee for a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training program and an even deeper commitment to my Self. A commitment to see what kind of transformation I can undergo in four months of intense practice and study. A commitment to make a concerted effort to manifest what I know is the next step in my evolution: to share, to inspire, to be a student. For life.
Like I said, it's been a heck of a meandering cow path starting with the time I first studied Hatha yoga with Burt Peeters back in St. Catharines, Ontario some 15 years ago — as clear as I can remember, which isn't great as I've never been much for personal archiving — through the many years working as a graphic designer in Toronto and taking a few weeks or months of classes at different rec centers or yoga studios, to the physical revelations and healing I found in a daily Pilates practice (supported by the wonderful women at Mind the Body, now Synergy Sports Medicine), to the gentle and precise Hatha practice of Joanna Dela Cruz at Green Lavender (sadly, now defunct) that (re)awakened the yogi in me. I stress reawakened, because it is believed that one comes to yoga only when he has practiced it in a previous life (Baghavad Gita 6:44).
This idea of reawakening resonates with me, because it was only when I started to get back in touch with my Higher Self (see Jung)— through much introspection, therapy and trials — that I finally came back home to yoga and it really started to work for and transform me — physically and mentally. All of these things combined made it so that I was unable to continue the lifestyle I was leading in the big city. Unable to continue going through the paces of a career that I couldn't remember why I started in the first place. Unable to continue compromising my physical and mental health in order to live a life that I didn't want and wasn't even sure how I ended up with.
Which brings us to the present day.
Last summer my wife and I finally quit our jobs, sold the house, packed the dogs into our newly purchased (albeit well-used) Volkswagen camper van and set out across the country to wipe the slate clean and start writing the next chapter of our lives. The one in which we find our heroes living out their dreams of healthy living, creative expression without compromise, and unhindered personal growth. It's been a wild ride, but we've landed in a beautiful spot on Vancouver Island, in a little barn with a workshop, nestled in the giant cedars on 4 acres of untamed land, close to family and amongst a very special community of people. Some of the warmest, most inviting folks I've had the pleasure of meeting.
Discovering Asrael's heart-drenched Hatha practice soon after we moved here — held twice a week in a large room with ceiling to floor windows overlooking beautiful Cowichan Bay — has been a Godsend. Her classes have fanned the flames of yoga within me and led to my current pursuit: mastery of the Ashtanga Primary Series. The actual mastery is a long, long, long way away, but I'm confident that a focused, intense daily practice will act as a solid foundation for a lifetime of learning and a fantastic base to build my eventual teaching style on. If I'm not teaching Ashtanga in the traditional manner, I'm sure it will heavily inform whatever flavour of yoga that emerges.
The Mysore style of practice works really well for me right now, as it allows me to break apart and dissect each Asana to try and discover how it works, and how I can make it work for me and my own limitations. I come into this challenging practice with a 'tweaky' left knee that hates Padmasana — let alone any seated bent-leg pose — a right shoulder that suffered from too many years of being a mouse jockey, and the tight hips and hamstrings of a (former) daily bicycle commuter. The free-form, one-on-one instruction and plentiful adjustments (at the shockingly strong but gentle hands of Deborah Carruthers) of the Mysore practice allows me to work within the constraints of these injuries, at my own pace, safely, and with the goal of repairing and strengthening my joints and muscles over a number of months as I teach my body the 41 poses of the Primary Series (appropriately named Yoga Chikitsa, or Yoga Therapy, in Sanskrit).
It's been a long, winding road to get here — and I'm certain the road ahead will be equally long and not without it's twists, turns and potholes — but I'm supremely hopeful that it will be increasingly clearer, forever challenging, and full of discovery, wonder and light.
Over the coming weeks and months I plan to share my experiences with you through this journal — all of the ups and downs, twists and turns, forward bends and seemingly endless Chaturangas. I hope that it may serve to encourage and inspire other beginners, and occasionally offer a bit of relief in knowing that you are not alone in your challenges. I also hope that it may remind experienced teachers what it was like to be a beginner and perhaps encourage some reflection on their own methodology and practice.
Postscript: It has occurred to me, through the multiple re-reading and editing of this first post, that writing will be for me — as a first-time blogger — very much like practice. I'll make sure I do my duty and show up on the mat, with faith that the grace and elegance of the experienced yogi (and writer) will come in time.