How did I end up here? I'm wondering as we're doing the 100th jump back of this afternoon's class. I feel like a kindergartener in a fifth grade classroom. I also feel like I shouldn't have eaten so many french fries during the first few days of this trip. I look around the room, and it seems like everyone is able to hold themselves up with their hips off the ground in a cross-legged seat. I'm hot and humbled. My hips are firmly rooted on the mat.
One of the main reasons I came to Sydney was to participate in an Ashtanga Mysore yoga intensive. It was an interesting choice considering I've hardly taken any Ashtanga classes in my ten year stint as a yogi. I've checked it out a few times, but never really got hooked or felt like I could figure out what I was doing enough to feel comfortable. I've recently become more curious and have been feeling like my usual practice could benefit from the consistency and discipline of the Ashtanga method.
If you're reading this saying, “What the heck is Mysore/Ashtanga and how is that different from any 'normal' yoga class?” I would say that Ashtanga yoga is a very traditional sequence of postures and the practice can be pretty intense. There are three series or levels of poses, so you always start and end with the same opening and closing sequence, but what you do in between depends on your level of ability. Mysore means that you're basically conducting your own solo practice in a community room, and the teacher will come around to offer one-on-one advice. Usually, you won't add variations or more difficult poses until you 've mastered the ones earlier in the series. The style of yoga that I practice is more varied, flowing, and (I think) forgiving. But it can be easier to develop bad alignment habits when you're not getting the same strict level of individualized attention. In Ashtanga, I'm learning that there can be a bit of an ego check when you realize you can't just fake it and slip through the cracks, even though, like in any yoga class, you're meant to be accountable only to yourself.
I was relieved to hear that the first day of class would be led by our teacher, Maty, the famed instructor I've heard so much about. That didn't make practicing any easier, but at least it wasn't so apparent that I don't know the correct order of the sequence. I've realized that by only attending classes with familiar teachers and in teaching my own classes, I've managed to avoid a lot of the poses that are hard for me or that I don't like. I realize this while I'm attempting to hold my leg out in front of me and, impossibly, trying to reach my forehead towards my shin. I try to find the silver lining in the struggle. A new experience with an amazing teacher! I'd better get some sleep so I can survive the rest of this thing.