Monday, July 18, 2011

Guru Purnima (Huh?)

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
This past Friday was Guru Purnima. If you know what that is, without Googling it on Bing, you win the yet-to-be-determined lavish prize package, second only to those handed out to Oscar nominees. I didn’t have a clue what it was until Doc. B. got me into Mysore yoga classes 6 weeks ago. And if you know what Mysore is, without Googling it on Yahoo, you win the other yet-to-be-determined lavish prize package, second only to the one handed out to those who know what Guru Purnima is.

“Guru” means remover of darkness and ignorance – or teacher. “Purnima” means full moon. So no, Guru Purnima is not an occasion to moon your yoga teacher. It’s actually a specific day each year that coincides with a full moon in June or July, on which students give thanks to their teacher(s).

“Mysore” is a type of Ashtanga yoga, taught in the style of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois from Mysore, India. It’s a group yoga class, but students show up when they want and practice their own postures at their own pace. The teacher is there to help students, individually, by showing them new postures, providing verbal instructions and giving physical adjustments. And let’s just get the pun out of the way; when people are done with the practice, it’s not uncommon for them to proclaim “boy am Mysore.”

Doc. B. has been doing this practice every morning at 6:00 am for over two years. She loves it and kept insisting that I would too…that it would appeal to my sense of routine (OCD) and that I would love the individual attention (in other yoga classes, I hated it when the instructor couldn’t remember my name after I’d been attending classes for months).

But here's the thing, I just wasn’t sure I was ready to give up my beloved gym membership. I mean really, what would I do if I couldn’t hop on the elliptical trainer at 5:30 am sharp, set it at level 6, and let CNN blare into my ear buds for at least a 30 minute workout with a few sips of coffee in between wipes of my brow. I’d been doing that, among other slightly varied workouts, since my favorite Decatur gym opened over 5 years ago. I was there with my people; the same faces every morning for years. We knew who was going to which machine, how long they’d be on it, and where they were headed next. And we knew that certain gym employees would open the building before 5:30 and others would wait until exactly opening time to unlock the front doors.

Well, the gym membership is on hold. After much Temple Grandin livestock nudging, not to be confused with slaughterhouse cattle prodding, Doc. B. talked me into it. She got the okay from her teachers (Todd Roderick and Stephanie Kohler of Ashtanga Yoga Atlanta) to let me show up for class on Memorial Day 2011.  This was predicted to be a day on which there might be a lighter turn out of students, and is now a day that will forever be etch-a-sketched by Picasso on my brain.

Doc. B and I arrived at 6:00 am with my bike on the back of the Subaru. I learned my first few postures, laid down into savasana (corpse pose), and peddled the 4 miles home. Meanwhile, Doc. B. finished her own practice and drove home like always – no disruption to her practice - except for my incessant questions like: Where do I put my mat? Am I going to be in somebody’s spot? Where do I sign in? Where do I put my purse? Do I need a towel? You always take a towel so I bet I need a towel? Should I have coffee before I practice or wait until after?

So after all that hoopla and angst, six weeks later I’m still a Mysore newbie and loving it. And after six weeks, I have some Guru Purnima to be celebrating. Thanks to my new teachers, Todd and Stephanie, for:

• Remembering my name as of day one.

• Still adjusting my postures even when I’m perspiring so much that my pretty purple Manduka yoga mat and my off-brand/non-Lululemon fake yoga clothes are completely soaked from the sweat dripping out of my second chin, third eye, third arm and third leg.

• Encouraging five-count ujjayi breathing (Darth Vader breathing) so much so that I find myself doing it as I walk to MARTA, while I’m on MARTA, as I sit at my desk at work, while I'm in the bathtub and when checking status updates on Facebook.

• Making me realize that Kiran Carrie Chetry and Robin Meade still go on with their lives even without me tuning in all of the TVs at the gym to CNN. Did you know that Kiran means “ray of light” in Sanskrit?

• Telling me things like “you’d look great in that posture if you were an 80 year old with arthritis” (shout out to Stephanie on this one!). It puts things in perspective for this chunky soon to be 47 year old with love handles – it’s all relative.

• Not judging me as I reinforce the new postures you taught me by watching Mysore videos on YouTube while drinking wine. Oh wait, you don’t know that I do that.

• Not chastising me if I cheat on a posture when I think you’re not looking. Oh wait, you don’t know that I do that either - well, yes, you probably do. And yes, I know, I’m only hurting my own practice by doing that – I’m working on it!

• Giving me so much encouragement, correction, smiles, support and no-no-no’s before 7:30 am that anything crappy that happens at work just really doesn’t even matter. NOTE: I still reserve the right to complain about the crap at work though or it wouldn’t be any fun.

To my new teachers Todd and Stephanie, and the many I’ve had throughout my life (Sealpops included if you’re out there), may you be uplifted spiritually as you have uplifted me.

P.S. Thank God for moon days and Epsom salts!

P.P.S. The person doing savasana in the background of this photo is doing a really good job!


Baby Sis said...

I love that you are doing this. I'm grateful too for good teachers that make the effort to know your name and best of all, I love the Temple Grandin shout out.

Care said...

Baby sis and HGTV movie star! Thanks to you for always supporting me in my crazy endeavors! xxxxooo

Anonymous said...

I love your blog entries...always entertaining and thought provoking. But I have to admit that this entry caught me off guard...I mean...really?... you have a 5:30am on your clock? I didn't know they made those. I think I might have a 7am, but definitely nothing before that. :)Also, it's my dad's b-day today (75). Colleen :)

Anonymous said...

Can you still stand on your head? That's something I've never been able to do! xoxoxo Mom

Care said...

Anonymous Colleen - Happy birthday to your dad! And by the way, because you live on the left coast, you can set your alarm for 8:30 and it will really be like 5:30 here! I have a feeling a copy of your book is on its way to me!

Care said...

Anonymous Mom - I haven't tried standing on my head since I started this new practice but I'm told that posture is in my future! Hope I can still do it! Miss you!

Katrina said...

Of course you know how much I LOVE this post already, (little) BFF. But really I just wanted to see if I showed up as anonymous too!

Anonymous said...

there - thats better - I wanted to be anonymous : )

Care said...

Anonymous Doc B! You could never "show up" as anonymous :)

shakti kali said...

Carrie, I still love reading this. Thanks so much for sharing your humor and insights. I'm grateful that you're part of the Ashtanga Yoga Atlanta community!

Care said...

To Shakti Kali - thank you for the wonderful way you have welcomed me into the Ashtanga Yoga Atlanta community!