Settling back in after India; it’s now officially been long enough for me to have come through both the India-was-amaaaazing phase and the WOW-it’s-awesome-to-be-home phase. Now, I’m just back. Back to life, back to reality and back to the realization that having a 5-6 day yoga practice at 6am is… well, it’s hard. Or, let me rephrase, having a life AND an extremely intense, early morning practice, that’s hard.
Before I left for our trip, most of my life was wrapped up in preparing for the month away. I was working overtime to finish up things at work, pay my bills in advance, gather my supplies and let everyone know I was leaving. My schedule had become a monster, all of the hours between 4:30am and 7pm were scheduled down to the half-hour, 6 days a week. But it was okay. I had been running like this for months already, and hey, I was about to have a WHOLE month away from it all, so I just kept on chugging.
Now the month is over. The quiet time and unstructured days are behind me, and the 14 hour days are back. For the first few days, it wasn’t so bad. Again, I was fueled mostly by that happy-to-be-home bliss, and the days just drifted by. I was riding high by the time I got back into the Mysore room a few days after arrival back in Boston. That first practice was intense. I, regretfully, went all out and did Full Primary and up through Eka Pada Sirsana in Intermediate. This is where I left off pre-India; I was feeling light and energized with the steadiness and intensity of Mysore still guiding my movements. The twists, folds, and bends came with ease.
Then, I got home. Thankfully, I had taken that day and the next off from work, because as soon as I sat down on my couch, I could tell I had WAY overdone. Everything between my neck and ankles felt bruised and achey. The next day, I did only Primary. That turned into a week of Primary – and my body thanked me for it.
But that was just the Practice. Those aches and challenges were similar to ones I had faced in Mysore, albeit a bit more intense. Things didn’t really start getting tricky until everything else came back into focus, as well. The job, the business, the commute; responding to emails, returning phone calls, checking in with family… the familiar list of to-dos that goes on for so long that finding time for a shower becomes difficult. On top of the usual stuff, I was now playing a game of catch up, especially at work. Many assignments simply waited for my return, and once I walked back into the office, everything needed to be done, yesterday. I’ve worked overtime every day since going back to work. Weekends, late afternoons, and even some regretful early mornings which have interfered with my practice. The fatigue is returning and the balancing act has begun.
In Mysore, I told myself many times: Don’t get used to this, it isn’t normal. But, in the end, I had forgotten the actual scope of demands that I was getting a break from. Of course, the challenge of balancing life is a reality everyone deals with, not just me or just Ashtangis; everyone, everywhere has their own struggles, and tries to cope accordingly. Practicing is one of my coping mechanisms, but it is also my gauge to see how well I am dealing with everything else. I’ve noticed as life has started taking over again that my practice is becoming more distracted. I think about emails I need to write and places I need to be; deadlines and decisions encroach on my breathing and break my drishti. In short: it feels the same as it did before I left. The temptation to fly through primary and give up on Backbends is there, but now I realize that it these are only temptations. Going to Mysore showed me what a practice can feel like without the stresses of life, and I bring whatever I can of that into the practice room now. However, being home has taught me that life will always get in the way, and that I shouldn’t try to take on everything all at once, or I’m going to end up in a heap of pain. It’s not only about moderating my efforts on the mat, but also finding a maintainable schedule, saying no to a few things, and being okay with the reality of things around me. In the end, ashtanga4life acknowledges more than just a life-long commitment to the yoga (and all that entails), but also the yoga’s ability to support the many facets of its practitioner’s lives. As my teacher has said, “You take care of the practice, and the practice will take care of you.”