Rolling out the Mat and Finding Tapas
Gone Camping Style
As I mentioned in my previous post about the first Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) weekend, a main part of that first weekend was to design a personal practice and committing to this practice – every day – for 40 days –
This particular practice wasn’t just a practice that we made with all our favourite poses – you know the ones you love to do – often times because you have become comfortable with them or accustomed to practicing them (or maybe they just feel GREAT).
This was a practice that was designed based on an analysis of body alignment we (YTT’s) did on each other and on ourself.
We all have minor (or major) mis-alignments in our bodies that we may or may not be aware of. These mis-alignments could be things such as, one hip or shoulder tilted slightly higher than another, feet turned in, knees knocked in, lower back over curved, shoulders hunched or head tilted to one side. Sometimes we are aware of these little kinks because we can feel them or plainly see them, and sometimes we aren’t. Often times we need someone to notice in order for us to recognize.
I could identify only that “something” was going on with my knees. Laura and Chris had similar experience identifying their own mis-alignments. However, when we analyzed one another we were able to see a lot more and Denise was able (as she has a keen and trained eye) to identify several minor and major things for all of us. After she identified them, they were obvious (which caused problems later on because I couldn’t look at anyone at home that night without analyzing their posture ).
The second part of the personal practice design used the Joint Freeing Series (from Mukunda Styles – Structural Yoga Therapy book) – this is a sequence you may be familiar with if you frequent the twisted fish, I have done it several times in Gentle Yoga.
As we moved through this series working muscles from head to toe, we identified the areas where we felt tight, loose, ease, discomfort, exhileration or even pain. Using these tools we could identify where we need to work to build strength and where we need to stretch it out. These tools, Denise’s wisdom and some knowledge of the Ashtanga yoga practice enabled us to design a sequence – a daily practice, just for us. The idea being that the practice of this sequence on a daily basis would allow us to observe how bodies change in response to a targeted practice – or “how yoga WORKS”
I will provide a detailed run through of my body works and mis-alignments and how that translated into my particular sequence in an upcoming post – where I will discuss how it has affected my physical body thus far.
Quickly, my practice is around 45 minutes long, includes some Surya Namaskar A, B (the Sun Salutations), Trikonasana variations (triangle pose), some Warrior I, II and variations, Navasana and a a few other equally important postures and the all important, and adminitedly usually skimped on by me, SAVASANA.
There is a secondary, very important piece to this personal practice (which is the topic of this post… I’m getting to it ) – and that is the discipline it takes to maintain a daily commitment to a practice. And moreover commitment to working the same sequence every day for a reasonably lengthy period of time (40 days is a relatively long time, I think!).
In the yoga teachings, this commitment is referred to as “TAPAS”.
We began to explore this teaching of TAPAS in discussion, but more-so would learn this teaching by DOING.
Yoga Journal can explain it better than I, and has this to say about “Tapas”:
“Tapas is one of the most powerful concepts in the Yoga Sutra. The word “tapas” comes from the Sanskrit verb “tap” which means “to burn.” The traditional interpretation of tapas is “fiery discipline,” the fiercely focused, constant, intense commitment necessary to burn off the impediments that keep us from being in the true state of yoga (union with the universe).
A better way to understand tapas is to think of it as consistency in striving toward your goals: getting on the yoga mat every day, sitting on the meditation cushion every day—or forgiving your mate or your child for the 10,000th time. If you think of tapas in this vein, it becomes a more subtle but more constant practice, a practice concerned with the quality of life and relationships rather than focused on whether you can grit your teeth through another few seconds in a difficult asana.”
(Read more: http://www.yogajournal.com/wisdom/455)
Prior to yoga teacher training, I practiced most every day, probably most consistently 6 days a week anyways. But, I am a bit of a spoiled yogi – I do whichever sequence or practice I choose, for whatever amount of time I can. For example, I use the website YOGA GLO (a lot) – so I can go on select the difficulty level I want, the duration, the teacher, the body part that is focused on, etc. And usually I aim for 30-60 minutes and an Intermediate to Advanced level with either Kathryn Budig, Jo Tastula (Faves) – or I hit up my downloaded Meghan Currie classes (if you aren’t familiar with her – you should become!). I like to mix it up.
To do the SAME practice every single day – was the most daunting part for me. Like, Ah man, I’m not going to get my 20 minute core work, or my side plank flow, or my Meghan Currie fix… sort of a bummer – BUT I will have to MAKE TIME for them on top if I really need and want them.
I also would have to remind myself – in the grand scheme of things I will have my whole life to do any yoga I choose– this is 40 days to be commited out of the rest of my life – In that light – not so bad at all (Change up the Perspective).
I found my first real TAPAS CHALLENGE only four days after the training weekend (the 5 of July weekend). My boys (Nash & ‘The Dad’) and I were heading north up to River Valley ( ~ 8 hours away) for a bluegrass festival and camping trip.
Friday morning we left at 330am- figuring that way we would be driving while Nash slept and he would wake up a happy camper – so to speak (wink wink).
The morning began a little rough – as most days that begin at 330 am would – ‘The Dad’ and I both tired and coffee deprived – me totally misguiding us through Toronto – but we got on the right track and all was well in the world.
Now is when I began to think about when and where I would practice later today and tomorrow. I didn’t really have any idea what the grounds we were camping at would be like – but I was thinking it will probably be awesome to sneak away and practice outside amidst all the northern forest beauty. I had to let ‘The Dad’ know that doing this practice while we were camping was a priority – so I needed his help (it’s important to ask for help!)
Nash woke up around North Bay, which was pretty perfect as we were going to stop for breakfast and a few other errands.
PS. We stopped at an AWESOME spot called GD2GO – a fast health food stop – no refined sugar, no GMO’s (my main squeeze is really against those ones). They had an awesome selection of smoothies, salads, wraps, burritos – so much. I got a wrap with peanut butter, banana, strawberries, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds pressed on a grill – and ‘The Dad’ got a wrap with vegan chili, refried beans and quinoa (not my kind of 9 in the morning thing, but the bite I had was awesome). We both were impressed and went through the “we should open one of these in Dover – it is missing a spot like this!”
Back to the point. The Tapas – the added challenge of the weekend.
We arrived at the River Valley Bluegrass Park – it was in a beautiful spot- but when we pulled in to the park, it was PACKED – and I mean PACKED bumper to bumper with big RV’s – like the fancy live in kind with A/C and satellite television. We have a tent and the van –
First thought- I didn’t realize how many people were going to be here and in how close of proximity to one another. Now I wondered, where are we going to fit amidst all this?
We situated amidst the RV’s next to a nice couple who also had a few tents set up. We landed in a really nice spot backing onto the Temagami river – the view and the placement amidst it all, couldn’t have been better – and it was close to the outhouse – BONUS.
*Beauty sites of Temagami River from our site*
We settled by noon – and now I was really thinking OK – when and where is this practice going to happen today- because, it IS happening.
After a stroll around I realized that there was no where secluded to go, unless I crossed the river and the current was a little too stiff and the water a little too deep for that. Then the worry of people seeing and/or watching and judging me came into play – and I tried to just tell myself that was silly and really didn’t matter what anyone thought (but regardless it was still in my mind). I was starting to go down the … “I really could just not do this today” road, the “No” road….. so I just thought to myself –firmly-, “YES.”
Finally, after all this chattering on to myself in my head, I decided on a plan of action (actually a plan of practice). I would just roll out my mat right behind our van, under the shade of the tree and practice there while Nash and ‘The Dad’ napped in the back of the van. I casually let the couple beside us know what I was about to do, they were all, “OH yeah, do whatever, that’s great, don’t mind us at all.” – see WHY was I worried.
So, Nash napped, ‘The Dad’ had a beer and I rolled out my mat. I finished the whole practice!!! WOooHooo!
And YES, I was distracted several times by noises, by people walking closely by, by thoughts of people watching me – but I tried my best to come back to the breath, to focus on what I was doing and you know what it was not my most wonderful practice, and it was not the most focused, but I DID it. I kept the commitment, I found the discipline – the TAPAS – and you know I felt really good and happy with myself afterwards!
*Wide seated — tree variation I suppose *
Nash woke from his nap and we hung out in the back of the van under the shade tree and I read him some Threads of Yoga (by. Matthew Remski). The day was lovely.
Day 1 – Check!
*Opening page of “Threads of Yoga” by. M. Remski*
Now that was Friday – and Friday evening the rest of the 5 band members would arrive to camp with us. Saturday was going to be a little more hectic and would really be the test – but I knew I would just have to figure it out. I did it once, I could do it again. I thought maybe I could get up really early, before Nash, before anyone else and do my practice in the early early morning in the dim sky light by the river. The only foil in that plan would be that Nash does not have a predictable wake time, especially when camping.
Saturday AM came along, and Nash woke me at 6. Damn. Oh well, no early AM practice –but early morning hanging out alone with Nash by the river – no one else awake. I boiled water and made coffee and bottles and Nash grabbed at and gnawed on leaves. Probably one of my favourite times. Total peace and a good time for calling up some deep gratitude.
The day rolled on, everyone woke up and bustled about. Then the fretting started to arise again, when and where is this going to happen today. I felt stranger about practicing around and in front of these people I know very well than I did about passers by glancing at me. I also knew that I would be much less alone and amidst along more distraction. It was 2 and ‘the Dad’s’ band was playing on the stage. Nash fell asleep in the stroller and I thought this might be the time – no one at the site, a lot of campers at the stage, Nash asleep – and I’ve seen these guys play a hundred times and would be able to hear them from the site anyways. My friend Carrie was there and told me to just leave Nash with her and go go go (bless her!!) – so I went went went.
I rolled out my mat – and I did my practice. I did my practice to bluegrass music – this was a first and it was pretty cool, a whole new soundtrack to my flow.
And look at that, I had done it again. Some distraction, not the most focused practice, but a full 45 minute practice, and again I felt great.
*Wheel (Urdhva Dhanurasana) & Extended Side Angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana) & by the Tent from Saturday Practice*
The band and the baby arrived back moments after I finished. Impecible timing. And now, maybe I could have a refreshing slightly alcoholic beverage in the hot sun with all our friends, all for the better of doing my practice, sticking to the commitment- coming back to the Tapas.
The night rolled, the mosquitos got nasty, we woke up in the morning and set off back down south through the crazy cottage country traffic and all that noise back to our quiet home.
It was a wonderful trip with my boys and our friends, a great test of my commitment to this practice and a great way to prove to myself that if I can do this here, I can do this anywhere. I can always find a way, find the time, find the will . I’m beginning to understand and learn this teaching of Tapas. And I can apply this to anything that is important, anything that I am committed to. It is easier to just not do something, it is more difficult to find the will – but so much more rewarding.
I say this with exclamation, not with angst, “YOGA EVERY DAMN DAY”
Live it & Love it.
What do you think of 40 days of the same practice? Does this jive with you – or turn you off?
If you have tested yourself in this way with a yoga challenge (personally or with a group) what do you do to find that discipline when it would be easier to just NOT do it?
What does TAPAS mean to you?
Until Next Time,
Sending out Peace,