Saturday, April 6, 2013

Chapter 23: In which an experiment gets off to a rocky start

For all you smarty-pants literary type readers out there, the title of this post is in fact a nod to Thomas Pynchon's cryptic Beat masterwork, V.  That said...

I changed my schedule at the beginning of the year, going from teaching Mysore-style Ashtanga yoga from 630-9pm to a more standard time of 6-830am. [A quick digression: how about replacing the word "traditional," which seems to cause such consternation among skeptics, with "standard" when discussing Ashtanga Yoga?  This way we can retain the notion of a centralized authority, i.e. our beloved teacher R. Sharath Jois, as a reason for doing what it is we do, and sidestep the notion of authenticity and authority rooted in time.  Think about it....]  I quickly realized something that many other teachers probably already knew, and that is that it really sucks to practice after teaching.  It sucks bad.  The first few weeks I just dealt with it. Then I started making some changes.  Changes that seemed to me to be ingenious problem-solving but are actually just common sense.  Bear with me.  First, I started taking a half hour break between teaching and practicing.  Rest and a light snack made for a pleasant improvement.  Then, I brought another change of clothes.  Dry underwear and a dry shirt makes for a substantially more pleasant practice.  These changes helped, but not enough.  Practice still felt as if it were being started a step behind emotionally/mentally/physically.

Two weeks ago I decided to take the plunge and do what many teachers (Sharath and David Robson come to mind immediately, but there are so many more, I'm sure) who are levels above me do: bite the bullet and get up as early as is necessary to practice before teaching.  This means up at 3am and begin practicing at around 3:15 for me.  It also means home practice, another thing not necessarily in my comfort zone.

As with anything, this new system has its pros and cons.   First, it will come as no surprise to those who know me that I do get off on the Spartan, "hard core," if you will, nature of finishing practice before the sun has even risen.  I can practice in my underwear, and throw decorum to the wind, so to speak.  (Get it?  The wind....)  I like practicing in front of the altar I've made in my home shala and checking in with the picture of my late father which adorns it from time to time.  I've come to like practicing alone, I must admit.  Now when I've finished teaching I have time to do pranayama and sitting practice at Miami Life Center before I either go back home or teach my full primary class on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

That's all well and good, but the fact remains that it's very very hard to get up at 3 in the morning.  Hypothetically it shouldn't be too bad if you can get yourself to bed by 8, but that goal has remained elusive as of this writing.  My wife is seldom home from work before 7, and it's crucial that we eat together and have at least an hour together before going to bed.  Most nights I'm in bed by 9, giving me about 6 hours of sleep a night, which is just barely not quite enough.  The ever-so-slight sleep deficit has done a number on me emotionally.  I've been up and down and all around.  One morning the alarm went off and I didn't get up, having one of those most belittling body trumps the mind moments.  I wonder if this will be sustainable.  Will I be able to get myself to sleep earlier?  Will mid-day naps do the trick?  Lots of extra sleep on Saturday?  I'm open to encouragement and suggestions.....


  1. This is probably been my biggest challenge...getting enough sleep. I have a 4 year old, a husband, dog, part time job, teach 12 classes a week, and have a 6 day a week practice. My relationship has suffered from my schedule and its been a very challenging path at times to keep. What keeps me sane is being "flexible" with myself. There was a time when I'd get really twisted about missing my practice hour, and that negative process would permeate every other part of my day. It was stupid. Instead of my practice enhancing who I was, my rigid perspective about what was "standard" as you so eloquently put it just made me a miserable asshole. I would then resent all my "responsibilities" for keeping me from sleep, and practice. Yeah...pretty stupid huh. One day I realized that if I didn't get enough sleep, drink enough water, eat well...I wouldn't be the best teacher, spouse, mother I could be...and that I had to become more forgiving to myself about practice time and my priorities. Practice ahimsa to the "self". So now my schedule changes, and SO WHAT? There are months when I have the luxury of going to practice during "my time" with you at MLC...its wonderful. And I enjoy that time immensly. Then there are months when home practice happens and I find myself stepping on my mat at 2pm. SO WHAT...I showed up. That's all that matters. Find your sleep. Midday, mid-morning, nap...continue to give priority to your beautiful wife who supports your endeavors. And stop worrying so much about the "standard". Just show up each day and allow for you to be the best version of yourself by being "flexible" with your practice.

    Much love,

  2. hey Patrick, I definitely sympathize with your plight, though I can only imagine your conundrum. The balls I have in the air are different, but in the end they're all balls. The thought crossed my mind that maybe you could go to your shala early, before teaching, to do your practice. I've practiced a few times with David R, and the one time I was there at opening he was still finshing his practice. Because the teacher isn't needed much for the Sury Namaskars and standng poses, your practice could overlap a bit with your teaching. Having students see the teacher practice with them is really awesome actually. The bonding and trust and respect are brought out to the forefront. Not sure if this would go over where you teach but just thought I'd throw it out there.