Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Glory Of A Modest Practice

By Vedran

In April this year (2008), I went to New York to see my good friend Neil and to enjoy 10 days of ├╝berurban living. Neil's flat, full of personality and style that comes only with people who master the artistry of balancing out camp kitch with dark underground faboulosity, was also filled with boxes he still did't unpack after he had moved in. So, rolling out my yoga mat to do a little bit of holiday practice turned out not to be an easy alternative. No space for yoga??? Not being the one to be stopped by clutter, I got a pair of those yoga paws you see in yoga magazines. Prior to getting them, I really was a huge sceptic. Yoga paws are basically glove and sock looking thingies you put on your hands and feet and that work as a mat fixed to your palms and to the soles of your feet. Ana Forrest always uses them on her hands and before having to resort to them in NY, I never understood why. Now I know. So that you can practice anywhere. And practice I did - in this relativelly small flat, amongst boxes and kitchen utensils, I did my Sun salutations and parts of the primary sequence. Primary is always my first choice when I am out of my element. It´s very grounding and I feel it realigns my body. But the point is this: I didn´t have the time or space to work any of those exhalting Ashtanga acrobatics. Some days, I did some of the standing postures, simple backbending and an inversion or two. And that was it. The first thing is that this was far better than just skipping practice. The second is that doing these very simple things did wonders for my body. We did insane amounts of walking in the city - you know hows urban holidays exhaust one. But I felt great, my body didn´t stiffen and I had none of those tourist aches that sometimes appear when we are out of our element. No achey back, no sore feet, no leg pains. Nothing. Don´t you just love yoga?
Usually, people say that they skip practice because they don´t have time to do much. My point here is that doing just a little, as little as 10 minutes if you don´t have more, sometimes really is completely fine.

So, we came back to good old Norway. It turned out that I had picked up some nasty bug while in the USA and I got something that resembled a very nasty cold, only that this was a Godzilla of very nasty colds and it stuck its claws into me for about two weeks. I felt weak, tired, constanstly sleepy and cranky. During the worst days, I didn´t do any asana practice. When I got better, I got back on the mat for, if nothing else, some Sun salutations. One day I did the salutations, padangusthasana, padahastasana and sirsasana and I felt that it was definitely enough. During those days, I used the postures to wake my body up, to warm it up, to lubricate my unhappy joints and to sort of remind myself that the sickness that seemed to have grabbed hold of me wasn´t everything. Those short practice sessions (David Swenson - I love you for your short forms!) gave me glimpses of the healthy me. And while I practiced, I actually felt good. The sessions also reminded me of the importance of healthy discipline. B.K.S. Iyengar apparently says something like "Take an action. Any action. Just take an action", meaning that you should do what you can, no matter how small. Practice a few asanas and decide that that was today´s practice. It will be more worth it than you can imagine. It will keep you agile through difficult and stressfull periods and it will help you keep in mind that you are far more than the stuff, good or bad, happening in your life. A bit of modest yoga practice somehow removes the sense of drama from our lives, if just for a moment. But those are precious moment. If you can´t do a lot, well, do a little.

These are not pieces of transcendental wisdom that in a swami-esque manner set your awareness ablaze. These are small glimpses of knowledge gained while living a very regular life, while very regular things happen and obstruct us. We need not be obstructed. Do a bit of your practice if you can´t do it all. It is all practice. Practice is NOT giving it up. So, with your mat or without, with or without those weird yoga paws, work those asanas and pull yourself back into the moment. That´s whats it is all about. While fresh blood surges through your muscles and organs and you listen to your breath becoming more stable, there just might come a small moment of you being exactly where you want to be, being who you want to be, for a moment on your mat, or on naked floor (Edward Clark apparently never uses a mat, by the way). Then the moment will go away and you will have practiced when you thought you didn´t have the time to or whatever it was that told you that you couldn´t. This is some of the stuff that makes you a yogi. So, get to it and be one. You don´t need a turban. Remembering this during those short moments of sweet simple sessions is the glory of a modest practice.