Saturday, January 26, 2013

Quiet Refuge & Peaceful Solitude

I completed my Life is Short World Tour 2012 almost 2 months ago, when I returned from Mysore last December.  I knew Mysore would be a different experience, even before I left.  I almost cancelled my trip a week before I left Singapore due to a setback with my already bad shoulder.  Many people questioned why I was even considering going in the first place.  What they don’t realise is that Mysore (and  Sharath) is the best environment for practice with an injury.  Sharath doesn’t push you - he supports you and encourages you.  People usually get injured under his watch because they push themselves too far.  So I maintained my faith that Sharath and the Shala energy would be just what I needed in order to build up my practice and got on that plane.

I started with uncertainty and trepidation.  I didn’t want anyone to touch me (even Sharath in the beginning).  Not only was I unable to practice freely … I was full of fear.  That mental anxiety translated into a lot of physical tension, in my neck and shoulders especially.  But over the first week, the familiar comfort of being in the Shala allowed me to Breathe and dissolved a lot of the demons in my head.  Sharath didn’t adjust me for a while, but he was definitely watching the first few days.  That was comfort in itself, somehow I felt safe.

The challenge of practicing in Mysore is battling your own ego.  If you get caught up in the whole ‘’What pose are you doing, how many new poses did you get, are you grabbing your ankles in backbends etc’’ conversations and it makes you competitive, then you’re in trouble.  There is nothing wrong with the desire to practice to the best of your ability.  Unfortunately most of the time, people evaluate ability in terms of what pose you’re doing.  Sharath has said this a lot in the last few years – Yoga is a spiritual practice, it is for self-transformation.

My practice did get stronger in Mysore but my shoulder didn’t end up getting better.  I went to see Sharath in his office and asked jokingly, ‘’So, is it time for me to retire?”  He laughed, “Just do what you can”.  When I asked him, "What should I practice?", he replied,"Up to you."  Having him understand what I was going through (even though there was nothing he could do to help me) made my trip worthwhile. 
When I got back to Singapore, I went to see an Orthopedic surgeon.  The good news is that I don’t have to do surgery, the bad news is that the instability of my shoulder is a difficult condition to treat.  I have now shifted my focus to trying to control and strengthen the muscles that I need to stablise my shoulder.  My approach towards my practice has changed.  I still get onto my mat 6 days a week but it is no longer important what I can achieve physically (although I really miss my regular practice).  I go there to seek quiet refuge and peaceful solitude.  But then, isn’t that ultimately what Yoga is all about.

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