For the record, I didn’t kick Tim Miller in the face, though whether that’s due to luck, my silent prayers of “DO NOT KICK TIM IN THE FACE” or Tim’s time-earned dodging abilities, I do not know.
I didn’t have a margarita the night before, either, like I did before Labor Day practice with David Keil (though there may have been a few sips of wine).
I’m getting ahead of myself.
I’m talking above about my exit from karandavasana, or should I say from the forearm stand that ideally follows that pose in that idyllic dream of correct kick-ass vinyasa (not kick teacher), and my entrance into Califnornia this Labor Day weekend (without margaritas).
I got here courtesy of “make the best of having family in town for almost two f*cking weeks” sanity planning, landing in San Diego at the tail end of the holiday weekend with no children, no dogs, no laundry, no lunches to pack, no dinners to make, no enthralling “just two more bites of broccoli and then you can have dessert” conversations, no top chef competition to get breakfast and the kid together for school, no barking but stinking cute puppy, no schedule and no dishes — but with my attractive husband and, it turns out, this unexpected opportunity to practice with none other than Tim Miller.
The margarita (and tacos) can wait. There’s a moon day coming.
I don’t know what to do with myself besides sleep like the dead and head to Mysore in the morning.
But I admit I thought twice, that is, back and forth neurotically about it. I’m accustomed to home self practice, so being in a Mysore room, particularly one I don’t know, is different, especially when I’ve been injured and/or had shit thrown in my face for the past six months and haven’t done both legs behind my head in almost a week (out of fear of injury though not actual injury). But I’m afraid. Not so much of my body, which truthfully feels alright, but of not belonging, not fitting in; but this unease is made worse by feeling like I might not be at my physical best. Oh, and ashtanga angst aside, let’s not forget that this weekend is a rare mini-escape and I don’t want to make my husband revolve his life around yoga.
But even he agrees:
I enter the room with nothing but a towel and a host of nerves. I needn’t have brought the latter, but as for the towel, I could have used three. I’m sweating Mysore, India style in this humidity so by Surya Namaskar I forget the Chitta entourage I walked in with. The room, alive with breath that I know, carries me away from the few days before, the stress of a job interview, my parents in town, the demands of a new school schedule and puppy, an anxiety bender of a week of life just a bit too “Lifey.” (thanks Ann Lamott for that word.) The forgiving, supportive energy radiating from everyone in this room floats hugs me along with the humidity: I’m in the real-life embrace of the words I’ve heard from Ashtangis all over who are prone to exclaiming, with a dreamy practice bliss look In their eyes, “oh I just love Tim!”
It’s gray outside but inside it’s ashtanga blue skies.
I do some primary but move into second. It’s typically the thing (even for me) to stick with primary in a new place after travel, but it was just a one-hour flight and goddamn it, arrest me: I need some freakin’ backbends.
The yoga police, it seems, take Labor Day off. Or maybe they don’t operate on Miller time. A Friendly neighbor confirms this as she jumps in for a Supra vadrasana assist. “Would you like some help?” she asks with a smile.
Speaking of help, enter my karandavasana moment. Enter Tim. Yes, it is this perilous, potential crazy landing sucky moment that Tim Miller first comes into my dance space. I recall my first led second with Sharath, the whisper scream of my teacher Sammy (“do it again, and stay there!”) which, by act of will I managed to do, on my forearms, until sharath lifted me back up into pincha (thankfully, I did not kick him in the face either).
“Should I try again?” I ask Tim like an idiot when I fail to balance in pincha after landing this freakin pose. You see-
I don’t know how to find the line unless I get there myself.
Indeed I’ve never held this Post- Karanda forearm balance, I confess with no small degree of embarrassment when again I can’t quite find it, though it feels closer. Tim gives me a “ya win some ya lose some” shrug. The inner perfectionist in me feels defeated for a minute, but then I remember:
It’s not failure; it’s part of the whole thing we do, which isn’t a thing, because it’s alive: it happens and then it doesn’t. And then it does, and maybe it happens in a different way for you, and among the benefits of the deceptively rigid, take no prisoners correct vinyasa system is this ample room for fluid, flawless imperfection — failure does not exist here — where landing Karanda or falling out of uttitha hasta padangustasana is the same so long as your mind is out of the game and your breath is in it. The room carries me through the rest of practice, that breath carries me, this feeling that I’m lovingly caught in a web of all time, of everyone who has ever taught me, everyone who has ever practiced with me. I feel that transition out of karandavasana in my future.
“Immersion, to be so present that for the moment, there’s nothing between us and life. I learned his from my father, who’s now gone, who was a master woodworker….when I was a little boy, he would make these incredibly detailed to-scale models of ships from the 1800s….I discovered by watching him, it felt that when he was that devoted he was in the moment of everyone who’d ever built a boat, and that is the reward for immersion, oneness.”
From the way the assistant reminds me of my time practicing with Mary Taylor and the Karanda assist takes me back to Sharath and when Tim does my final dips he takes me to the crown of my head in that same way Keith, my teacher in DC, did, and from the smile of the person offering me help in Supta vadrasana, and then there’s a rattle and hum in this room, the way Tim sits down and examines my headstand from every angle, declaring “you’re crooked!” that reminds me of the enthusiasm of David Garrigues and Sammy Brown and something about practicing with someone like Tim — who touches such a deep piece of this lineage —
I am in the moment of everyone who’s ever done a sun salutation, and for that matter everyone who’s ever been in that present moment of whatever it is that brings a person alive and “in conversation with the sanctity of life.”
It’s hard to believe, and man I should kick myself for even thinking I might not come, as Tim looks at me before my final backbend and says, almost with feigned sarcasm,
“so, knees? Or thighs?”
I can do this by myself but when he brings me there with both hands catching at the same time (something I cannot do): i feel it.
David Garrigues has written that true yoga is discovered alone. It strikes me: maybe that discovery
is this connection.
Even if it means kicking a teacher in the face.