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Work from the present...

March 08, 2017

As men we are programmed to push ourselves. We often go through adrenaline stoked moments and push through pain.  It is this kind of thinking that Yoga teaches us is not necessarily good for us.  We must use mindfulness in our approach to the practice of asana and in our daily lives.

The Ego must be deconstructed in order to appreciate it: take it apart and look at what makes it tick. Examine the parts of the Ego: the why's and what for's separated into pieces yet interconnected. The Ego is a beast that can slowly but surely be tamed.

What I've learned about Ego summed up

Ego is a real son-of-a-biscuit. Ego will make you do things that you should not do; things that are harmful to yourself or others. When channeled properly Ego can be used to push yourself a little further and force you to step out of your comfort zone..maybe play with your 'edge'…tip-toeing on your edge a bit. See what I just did? Ego is positive (good) and negative (bad): it, too, depends upon how you use it that determines its quality.

Speaking from the perspective of asana practice only: check your Ego at the door.

I've heard it time and time again as I'm sure you have: work from where you're at or what you've got. In other words, as the title implies, work from the present. Working from the present necessarily means you must answer a few questions:

  • Is this harmful to my present condition?
  • Can I modify this particular position to accommodate my present condition?
  • Should I focus on another physical aspect of my practice?

IF the pose, posture (asana) may cause harm to your present condition: do not do it in the manner you are accustomed to (period).

IF you can modify that particular pose, posture (asana) to alleviate any unnecessary harm: modify it.

IF it is harmful and you can not modify that particular pose, posture (asana): change direction.

Sounds simple enough, right? Yes. And no.

Yes because it seemingly makes sense. No because whether you're aware of it or not - your practice may not be focused properly.  I'll explain below:

Recently, I awoke early only to find my hand was inexplicably swollen.  I did not injure myself the day prior, nor did I sleep on it.  I noticed it swell more and more to the point I felt like it looked like  Hellboy's™right hand. A few hours later (at the Doc) I learned that it boiled down to an allergic reaction. A shot in the keester and some Benadryl later the swelling began to subside.

Knowing I had to teach that I had to figure out a way to show examples of what I was looking for in a pose…yet not use my right hand for anything more than a balance point (no pressure placed on that hand).  To accentuate that fact and as a reminder to myself, that I didn't want any pressure on the hand I wrapped it.

And so the class began.  I explained that I would not be performing all of the poses that I would be describing the poses that I couldn't do due to my hand.  As one could surmise, I didn't perform any Surya Namaskar's as included in the Namaskar is Ado Mukha Svanasana (Downward-facing-dog), and a plank or two.

And Ego reared its ugly head at me. Knowing what it was attempting to do (control me and allow me to bring myself into a potential harmful situation) I declined.  This was a scene that played out in my mind throughout class.  Then it hit me: those three questions I posted above. As the teacher I had to search through my memory banks to figure out exactly how I could do many of the poses without harming my hand. In that way I would be able to demonstrate the principle of ahimsa (non-harm) and how it could be done while still getting a good stretch.

What resulted was mainly standing postures (Virahbhadrasana I, II, III, Trikonasana, Parsvo kanasana, Ardha Chandrasana) were all in the realm of what I could do standing. That meant no pressure on the right hand whatsoever.

As I instructed I learned.  These poses require only minimal contact on the mat by either right or left hand! The core does all the work. In other words, when in Trikonasana the hand closest to the mat can be used for balance purposes only (the work is in the core).  In Ardha Chandrasana (half-moon balance) it is the same.

By purposely going through these postures I was able to demonstrate to the students and myself the application of ahimsa.  While in Trikonasana and Ardha Chandrasana I lifted my base hand and let if swing freely in order to demonstrate that the hand was only for balance and not for support.

Now, of course, this is just one possible example of ahimsa in practice on the mat. I certainly do not recommend anyone with a broken arm or leg try these kinds of things. I suggest that everyone work within their present limitations - and make the most of it. Don't let your Ego go unchecked either.


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