Week 4 of Yoga Teacher Training

Day 22:

Sunday, October 21

No formal teacher training today. I went to Lindsey’s class nonetheless. What else am I going to do?

An ugly day in SoCal: cloudy and cold (for SoCal). Cloudy days have traditionally given me a lot of trouble, stirring feelings of lethargy, depression, and cold.

Not that there was even a split-second of doubt at showing up for class.

Last week I said that I underrated Lindsey’s ability to instruct. This week I am taking it back. It hit me like a sack of bricks: she never shuts up! She’s constantly instructing, talking, advising, yet not once — not once! — does she calm down and actually guide us through a deep inhale or exhale. She sacrificed the breath to rush through poses and tell us technical details about the pose.

Unfortunately for her, so much of her information is going through one ear and right out the other. Sure, now I know what she’s talking about, but only because I’ve taken her classes at least two dozen times. Now that I have a foundation of most of the poses in the sequence, it has largely become muscle memory. Which only opened up my awareness to just how little space I felt in my practice this morning because of her constant critique.

That is something I am going to be very mindful of as an instructor, because I know it is a habit of mine. When I do engage in conversation — and thank You Just Don’t Understand for pointing this out to me — I tend to take the “professor” intonation and lecture. It’s a very masculine trait, a way to “one-up” our status.

So in an authoritarian position it will be particularly easy to fall back into this habit. I must stay vigilant!

The sad thing is that when you focus on your breath, 95% of the critiques Lindsey is suggesting don’t exist. Okay, slight exaggeration: they do exist but almost as soon as you become aware of them — one prompting per class is all that’s needed, thanks — they dissipate.

It is always depressing for me the moment — and it’s always a moment — that a deep personality flaw of a friend becomes apparent. It comes tumbling like a stack of bricks. I’ve learned (or just now prefer, or both) not to tell them about it. The main reason is that I just don’t care; not that I do not care about their well-being, but that I do not care about attempting to impress my will over them. Ask and ye shall receive. If they ask, sure, I’ll tell ’em whatever they want, and try to do it tactfully. (Tact is not a strength of Sagittarius’, however. Blunt, brutal honesty is.) But if they don’t ask, who am I to interfere?

Most of the time palisades (that is to say, defensive walls) simply spruce up. Now I’ve to navigate their emotional sensitivity to my brute-force unveiling? Yawn. What’s the branch of yoga for this one again? That it is not enough just to be honest, but that your truth has to be pleasant to others?

I have not figured that one out (and believe me, I have tried, and continue to try), so I am suffice with saying nothing. No-thing is extremely underrated!

It makes me feel like Harriet the Spy. It crops forth bittersweet thoughts to imagine Lindsey one day stumbling upon this blog, reading these words, and feeling betrayed. I don’t feel remotely guilty or shameful about it; this is just my personality. I write for my own therapeutic reasons. It is a very selfish art, one I am “sharing” out of mere convenience. Yet I could empathize with how someone could feel like my matter-of-fact critique is selling them out.

And that touches on the unsaid rule of many of these fraternities we call friendships: loyalty. When it comes to yoga, I’ve felt it from Lindsey from the get-go. It’s like I’m the hot new prospect on the yoga mat. I am single-minded about my practice, and I feel like Lindsey and Polina would love to monopolize my talents. I am intentionally dramatizing to a degree, but wouldn’t Lindsey be hurt if I stopped going to her classes in favor of Polina? Lindsey has beef with Polina; she’s recounted many tales of what she perceived as Polina’s condescension and unprofessionalism. And that’s fine; I give you the benefit of the doubt, and thanks for telling me so I know potential pitfalls. But that’s not going to stop me from going where the gold is; all I care about is perfecting my craft. If Polina can help me do that more than you, so be it.

(That’s one thing I have noticed and do not like about women: when you are fully interested in something that is not them it really seems to bother them. They go out of their way to get your attention, to distract you, and if you still don’t care, they probably gossip about you.)

My loyalty lies with neither. I use them for what I can until I am ready to advance. And so on and so forth. It is not personal, yet the detachment and awareness of my actions makes it sound personal, doesn’t it?

This is a main reason I do not like to take anything from anyone. I hate to owe anything to anyone. To me friendships are unequal; I don’t get a lot out of them, and inevitably end up feeling they get out of it more than I do. Which is why I have so few of them. I just need enough social interaction to please the reptilian part of my brain.

When I walked into the studio today I did not say hi to Jazmine. Yes! I have never liked greetings. It is not my nature. When I was a kid I had one friend. I never went over to people’s houses, never had a slumber party. As an adolescent I never went to a party or a dance. The thought that I was missing out on something would vaguely arise, primarily because I thought that was what you were supposed to do. Pack instinct took over. After high school I had those experiences and inevitably found them shallow. Now that I am increasingly comfortable with my sense of self, largely thanks to yoga, which has catapulted my confidence and security, I just want to do my own thing. It hurts me to see other people hurt by my nature, but to thine own self be true.

So it was funny — when I say funny I really mean bittersweet — to feel Jazmine kind of squirm in my lack of attention. I was quite happy I got to come in, not look or say hi to anyone, sit down, change my clothes, and read my book while waiting for class without being beholden to conversation.  (I wasn’t being rude; she was in the middle of conversing with someone else.) You see, once it starts it’s hard to stop. So I don’t like to start. And then she asks me if I rode my bike here. Yes I did. Thank you for your effort to be polite, I suppose, but can’t you see I’m so much more comfortable when you just let me be?

This was the first day that I did not feel this ahhhh! of release after practice. This was certainly my most challenging day of practice heretofore. I even caught myself breathing shallowly in the first couple of poses of standing series. I’m just starting to feel, more and more, and particularly with some instructors, that I do not need to come to class. Class is sometimes holding me back. The even bigger challenge, and therefore the larger gains, now lie in me building up a personal practice. It feels intimidating to my mind to imagine me getting up in the wee hours of the morning (okay, not so much; I’m used to that) and busting out the 90-120 minutes of the sequence, without any guidance or cues. But now I am also beginning to look forward to it. At first I was scared when this teacher training would be over: what would I do without all this free yoga? But now I am looking forward to replacing it with the personal practice.

Day 23:

Monday, October 22:

Wow!

I was scared to go to Janus’ class today. Her class has been scaring the shit out of me for a while. I didn’t go at all last week due to extenuating circumstances / rationalizations / excuses, and my mind was resisting me every step of the way today.

Her class, like Polina’s, is 90 minutes, but unlike Polina’s we do almost every pose of the series, virtually eschewing Savasana. Most other Ashtanga classes are 60 or 75 minutes, and really 50 or 65 minutes since the last 10 minutes are Savasana. But Janus’ is a legitimate 90 minutes of non-stop work. Her class is also the hottest; unlike other instuctors, she blasts the heater as hot as it’ll go. I do prefer that, but make no mistake, it is draining.

You can never tell how pliable your body will be that day until you do it. I was still holding on to yesterday’s practice, where I felt like wet cement. But it was soon evident my body was pliant today! I was grateful for the intensity of the practice, since the night before I had a lot of sugar and did not go to bed until 12, a good four hours past my normal bedtime. I am really starting to prefer doing yoga on an empty stomach.

I was able to channel Janus’ vibrant mood into my practice, too. This was the most engaged I’ve seen her. My favorite thing about her is that she will not hesitate to praise good technique. Technique is definitely a strong suit of hers.

I decided I’m going to go to her Tuesday and Thursday evening classes, too. I have been craving more yoga, and although I don’t like the idea of driving, burning precious gas/money, I only have one month of unlimited yoga left, and I can mitigate most of the cost by taking the bus from Montclair. That leaves me with just a 12-13 mile drive, round trip, instead of a 40 mile drive.

Day 24:

Tuesday, October 23:

What goes up must come down…

The word for today’s practice: non-descript.

In reality, this has nothing to do with Bryan. This is about me. It’s all mental, man. This is a mental challenge.

Yoga kicks my ass, man. When I let my mind stray, and think about the future… “I love an effortful practice, but can you imagine doing that every day? Tomorrow… the day after… the day after. Never will you have a break!”

It seems so daunting. To think that I have to work this hard, when every good practice feels like the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life. To think that working that hard is the only way to earn the fruits of the labor…

You see the problem, don’t you? Thought! Thought will never be your friend!

I did not go to Janus’ Tuesday evening class. I told myself I was too tired. Was I really, though? Was I just making an excuse?

I won’t do that again. Just do it. From the perch of Wednesday my intellect notes that Thursday (two classes), Friday (two classes + weight lifting… ?), Saturday (Polina + teacher training) will be challenging. But when is it not challenging? Wasn’t I bitching about Bryan because his class isn’t challenging?

” ‘I don’t wanna grow up, I’m an immature kid!” And you should see the fucked up shit that I did. And I’m still doing it, doing it, doing it. And I’m still doing it, doing it, doing it… ‘” – Apathy

Remember, to gain the world, you have to be willing to give up the world. Intellectually I am. Now put it into practice. Ninety-nine percent practice, one percent theory.

Day 25:

Wednesday, October 24:

OFF

Day 26:

Thursday, October 25:

What took me so long to come to this conclusion?

No more Bryan. Janus’ evening class will be the replacement.

Ahhh. Now I can breathe easy. I was stressing myself with the thought of doing two classes a day. I almost fled before (and during) class this morning. It came from deep inside, and was not an urge easily dispatched. I ended up not even breaking a sweat in his class this Thursday. What?

It’s not worth harping on this. I learned my lesson and now it’s time to move on. There is a harmony present with good teachers that simply isn’t there with lesser ones. Words do it little justice. It is an energy, a serenity. Sri Aurobindo (I believe it was Sri Aurobindo, anyway) was right: you cannot judge a saint, or a yogi, by anything but how you feel in his presence.

I could still go to Janus’ class this evening. I’m feeling lazy, though. Right now I’m leaning towards no. I went to Bryan’s because I didn’t want to go almost the whole day without any yoga, but it only served to waste my time, like grazing at an irresistible itch instead of scratching it. It just incited me. My ego is telling me to be afraid of hard work, but the truth is, with right practice and right mind, hard work in yoga is rejuvenating, not exhausting.

Day 27:

Friday, October 26:

Janus’ class elicits fear in me. For whatever reason, right now her class has the biggest dichotomy between pre-class mood and post-class feeling. It seems to be taking me ~15 minutes, on average, to really get into a class. Come to think of it, that’s about how long it takes me to get focused when meditating, too. I’d wish that time would shorten.

Class was enjoyable. I warm up more quickly in Janus’ class because she keeps it very hot.

This evening is Derek’s class. Tomorrow is Polina’s, and then an hour-and-a-half layover until Dave conducts Teacher Training. They have Teacher Training at Chino (Saturdays) and Rancho (Sundays). I normally go to Rancho (even though Chino is closer than me). I’ve never been to one of Dave’s classes, either. If I like it more than Rhema’s I’ll just go to that one since Chino is a lot closer to me and it would give me two days of Polina’s class. She teaches Saturdays and Sundays, but the Sunday one is when I’m at teacher training for Rancho.

Day 28:

Saturday, October 27:

Friday evening yoga with Derek Black was, as always, awesome. How much more can I rant and rave about his class? It’s a blessing. There is an energy that stimulates me, unimaginably so, just knowing I’ll be going to his class. I was up at 4:30, had a strenuous practice with Janus in the morning, had a draining workout lifting weights with Nathaniel, and spent the afternoon cooking, yet I was still walking on air when it came time to go to Derek’s. I had no expectation of working my ass off in that class, but it just happened. Organically.

It’s magic, man. That’s the touch of love. The ineffable Creator. God. Whatever you wanna call it. I love yoga!

As for today, Polina’s class was legit as always. I am quite blessed she is sort of taking me under her wing. She likes me / sees potential in me / however you would like to phrase it, and I lap it up because she gives me a lot of nuanced tweaks. Today she pointed out my back is particularly flexible, which is good, but that it was costing me shouilder extension and rotation on my Upward Dog. How in the world would I ever fix something like that on my own?

She has also pointed out something with my chest inhale… “Something,” because I still don’t know what she’s talking about. Because it’s so foreign to me, the “right” pose is nowhere close to my muscle memory. I can’t do it and feel that it’s right, y’know? I just need to go to her classes more. Both of her classes are becoming mandatory. She does the full Primary series Sunday. On Saturday she stops at a pose or three and works on our technique. So today it was jumping back into Downward Dog, Chaturanga, headstands, and another inversion.

I participated in teacher training two hours after, with Dave and guest speaker Yogi Ramesh. Meeting Yogi Ramesh was definitely a unique experience. He’s quite a character! I don’t know what to think of him. It’s a dichotomy. On one hand he knows his shit. On the other he’s still human. I don’t know, I just had this superhuman expectation from a Yogi. I didn’t feel that “divine presence,” but that doesn’t mean he lacks it. It just means I didn’t feel it. -shrugs-

Day 29:

Sunday, October 28:

OFF; a previous engagement I can’t miss

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