Monday, March 26, 2012

Day 23, 24, 25: RWWWWOOOAAARRR!

David Garrigues, ex-punk & skateboarder, current phenomenal teacher.

Friday, March 23 — Sunday, March 25, 2012
David Garrigues Workshop
Ashtanga Yoga Victoria

I had the opportunity to attend a 3-day Primary Series workshop with Guruji-certified Ashtanga ambassador David Garrigues in Victoria this weekend, so I packed up the Westfalia with a brand-spanking-new yoga mat (this one), some coffee and oats, my guitar, and our pup Kingston (enlisted primarily to provide company and warmth at night), and headed on down for a weekend of urban camping and yoga. For me, it was an opportunity to get some one-on-one time with a very experienced teacher early on in my Ashtanga practice which will help me build a solid foundation and correct any bad habits before they set (I hope).

A few unexpected rewards surfaced as well. I found it very inspiring and encouraging to receive instruction from a male teacher, especially so because I can relate to David in a bunch of ways. We are both former skateboarders (although I never got too serious or good at it), punks (again, never too serious about punk either, but I was/am serious about metal which is like punk's trailer park cousin) and musicians. I appreciated his way of explaining the intricacies and inner workings of poses using very colourfully visual analogies, and his tendency to eschew words altogether in favour of a well-timed "RWWWWOOOOAAARRR!" sound (to describe something like the drawing in of energy before a jump back) really resonated with me. Sometimes words fail where a heavy metal growl is more appropriate.

I realized later when telling my parents about the weekend that I haven't had a male teacher since my first yoga teacher, Burt Peeters, way back in St. Catharines, Ontario some 15 years ago. Memories of his strong yet mindful adjustments came flooding back like it was yesterday as David helped twist my shoulders back for Marichyasana C, showing me that I could get there with a little (okay, a lot) of help. It turns out that I love that kind of adjustment and sometimes it's exactly, and only, what I need to get a sense of where I can go, first with help, then on my own.

The kind of positive, athletic male energy that was present in the shala all weekend was something else that I found I've missed. Coming from a very female-dominant valley, this was something I've definitely been lacking, and didn't even realize I needed until I was back in it. It's a different energy, and one that fills me with the, well, RWWWWWOOOOOAAAARRR! feeling that I used to get from Muay Thai practice. I'm going to make it a priority to head down to Victoria and Vancouver to get a regular dose.

Here's a taste of David's light-hearted, illuminating, energetic teaching style:

If you're in Philly, or he comes to your town on tour, I highly recommend spending some time with him.


In addition to some really inspiring Sutra and mantra chanting, we also had some lively discussion about a wide range of topics, including the concept of Ahimsa, the first of the five Yamas, which are the code of ethics in classical Hatha yoga (read more). Ahimsa roughly means "to do no harm", which can be applied to many different aspects of our lives and practice. In this case, someone had brought up the idea of "bullying" yourself in practice. This is something I had expected to come up for myself this weekend, as I knew I'd be surrounded by a lot of that "RWWWWWOOOOOAAAARRR!" energy (okay I'll stop doing that), both from the guys and the girls.

At this stage of my practice, it's very important that I recognize when I'm pushing myself too far. Whether it's out of enthusiasm or impatience, it's an unhealthy (read: harmful) tendency and could — and probably will — lead to injury, which would assuredly derail my steady (read: healthy) progress. I found that by keeping this desire to overextend myself in check, I could accept where I'm at in my own Ashtanga practice and still admire and appreciate the more advanced students — soaking it all in and learning as much as I could by watching them practice and receive adjustments and corrections. It was also encouraging to see that even very experienced practitioners still go to workshops looking for adjustments and tuneups. This just illustrated to me that everyone, regardless of experience and ability, always has further to go, and that it's pointless and counterproductive to strive for the next posture. It'll come. As Guruji said, "Practice and all is coming".

Outside of practice, the concept of Ahimsa touches every aspect of my life, from being mindful about the food we eat (mostly vegetarian), to the food we feed our dogs (we make our own using local meat and vegetables), to watching my tongue and measuring my words, so as to avoid misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Trying to "do no harm" to everyone and everything — my partner, my dogs, friends and neighbours, and the earth. Of course, it's very difficult to abide by this Yama wholly and completely, but I think that if you are sincerely trying your best in all areas of your daily life, you're doing pretty good.

The second Yama that we're currently reflecting on in teacher training is Satya, which is considered, along with Ahimsa, as being the "main" Yamas (the idea being that if you can live by these two guidelines, the rest are inherent). Satya is defined as "truth", but is open to many interpretations. I take it to mean not only speaking "honestly", but also attempting to only speak with only the highest "truth" in mind, which is love. I read somewhere that "nothing could be true if it is harmful to others", which gives some insight as to why Satya is paired with Ahimsa, and gives weight to my idea that truth=love. So when we speak only with love in mind, we greatly reduce the possibility of doing harm to others with our words, and when we act out of love we can truly begin to achieve a state of Ahimsa.

It always amazes and delights me when different paths in my life come together. During a recent shamanic ceremony, I received the lesson that I should strive to make every act, no matter how small or trivial it may seem, an act of love. Imagine the positive impact this concept could have on your life! It will colour and affect every interaction you have with the world — and I think this is exactly what Patanjali is getting at with Satya. It once again shows me that two truthful paths, no matter how unrelated they may seem on the exterior, will always converge at a singular point: love.



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