I have fifteen minutes to write this.
Other things, dear, other things call.
The other day I was practicing yoga and all the voices of all the teachers I’ve had or read were inside my head. I turned them into a river.
But it was not enough. I had to give it up—my husband and children’s bodies and faces floated up in my mind and I could not help but grieve over time. Over that moment that I was not with them.
And isn’t it nice there is such a gorgeous metaphor available for me to steal—Kali, come on over here and sit with me awhile.
Since that interrupted practice, I’ve been busy.
There’s a start…you like that? Who isn’t busy, inside and out?
Again…since that interrupted practice I’ve been angry.
I have, as I’ve said, hard nut of anger. Sometimes it is (to extend the metaphor to beyond its natural range) cracked and the anger comes out and wraps all over me.
Luckily, I am better at not letting it swallow me, as much as bathe me, so I am able to move about some.
Not very “yoga” of you.
I want to practice a great generosity of spirit.
I want to move with grace on every level, instead of with this physical and emotional clumsiness. I want to use fewer words, not more.
But I cannot help myself.
I do not know of any other practice that allows me to balance myself physically, cognitively and emotionally (as well as other ways…). I thought for a little while that I’d give it up, start training for ultra marathons again—and maybe I will. But probably not. That kind of training doesn’t cut it, fabulous as it is in many ways, doesn’t get at what I need.
And this pisses me off.
Here is a specific: reading a recently acquired text on yoga practice I stumbled upon yet another list of things that a woman should not do when menstruating—no vigorous practice for 3 days, no practice at all for the first day. (The other suggestions: no inversions, no backbends….) And of course, sequester yourself in the menstrual hut so that the menfolk in your life do not risk coming in contact with you. You are unclean.
Perhaps this is unfair—underlying much of the talk about yoga during menstruation is based on the idea of the direction of energy: of apana. During one’s flow, one wants the energy going down (based upon Ayurvedic theoretical considerations) and inversions, for example, impede this.
I suppose I am not knowledgeable enough to really debate this—but reading this in yet another text written by a man made me put the book down. I feel as though things like this are said, recommended, become part of the discussion about yoga because people are unwilling to really dig and ask, where did this come from? What we receive from teachers and text are culturally inscribed and originated out of some form of cultural context, and honestly, I suspect the ideas about menstruation were inscribed by men speaking theoretically rather than by women speaking experientially. Whether or not the theory was emerging out of menstrual taboos or simply out of the Ayurvedic schematic of energy flow, I am loathe to accept any rules in this area. I want to make my own discoveries.
(I should admit that added to this basic experiential versus theoretical concern arises my cursory readings of academic texts about tantra—including David Gordon White’s somewhat controversial suggestion that the fluids of the yogini were the ultimate goal of tantric practice—)
But really, what am I resisting here? It is not these discussions about menstruation. In fact, it might be obvious to you that that little bit above is a diversion.
For me all sorts of things are laid bare.
It is easy for me to create diversions because I read a lot. And I overthink things. If I go back and read seminal texts—The Yoga Sutras, The Bhagavad Gita—all of the other elements slip away. I miss much, I am sure, in these readings—my cultural context is different, I am reading translations, I am missing all of those things that at the time were weaving through these texts. But I suppose, this is the same thing that happens when I read anyone’s work, Emily Dickinson for one, living in a context very different than my own.
That doesn’t mean Dickinson’s work is out of my reach, it just means that I will read it in a different way. I will also discover different things as I read her work after reading about her, about her context and the texts she read.
So, I suppose with the Sutras and the Gita.
Yoga is a way for me to move the deep. Dig into upwellings. Burn through…burn through what? Burning is what I visualize during meditation. Burning to ash, then wind, then integration, and nothing.
Move the deep
What does it mean to lay bare in a communal space? What is necessary for safe passage?
I began with the voices of my teachers–and that is where I’ll end, because that is part of what I’m trying to understand. I am not ready to practice entirely upon my own, but I have become a little bit afraid of the space between teacher and student. I am arrogant and resistant and uncomfortable (STILL) in my own skin and this is part of the problem.
Whatever. I am out of time, or more than that.