I can barely drag myself onto my yoga mat most days. After 15 years of yoga practice, I’m terrified of losing one of two mainstays in my life: my yoga.
Then, in a workshop Saturday, March 19, in Los Angeles, Manouso Manos offered up two hours of poses for when your practice is falling apart and followed it up Sunday morning with advice to reconnect practice with the intent of yoga.
We attack our practices; we do our breathing. We lose track of what it’s like to be in our yoga.
My most beloved pose, salamba sirsasana, produces a strong shudder after only three minutes. I can no longer kick up into handstand. In one recent workshop, I fell into helpless crying after failing to lift up into urdhva dhanurasana even from the seat of a chair.
But practice AND detachment are the means of accomplishing yoga, Patañjali wrote. Could I detach from my need to “do” my practice? Uncharacteristically, I arrived each day last weekend at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of Los Angeles for Manouso’s workshops without the sense of nervousness I usually feel. Nor did I carry any intention to achieve anything. I was there and content to be so.
The two-hour session on Friday night involved harder physical work than usual for the time slot. Saturday morning’s session usually involved the toughest work in a weekend with Manouso.
This time, though, the tough work on Saturday was mental. The first poses ranged from a prone savasana, a prone, one-leg pavana muktasana, a seated version of child’s pose on two chairs, head supported on a bolster, and a seated parsva pavana muktasana. All might be considered “restorative”, but Manouso urged us to focus inward to the minutest details of what we were experiencing. Restful? No. Restorative? Not at the moment.
Next came a standing Maricyasana. For what seemed like an eternity, we balanced on one leg, the other foot on a bolster on a chair seat, facing a partner doing the same pose whose forearms we clasped. Technically not physical work at all. The discipline it took to stay there called to mind the fiery aspect of tapas.
In savasana, our partners sat on a bolster across the top of our thighs. Accepting this grounding took complete surrender. Last time we did this in class, I quivered and resisted the whole time. This time, I found the will to let go.
During Sunday’s four-hour workshop, Manouso suggested that if we “attack” our practice, planning and executing our poses, we miss the experience. Instead, he invited us to take time in asana and pranayama to ask the big questions, what is it like to be alive, to be a seer?
Manouso returns to IYILA June 10-12, July 15-17 and August 5-7. Friday sessions are 6-8 p.m. and Saturday's are 9-11 a.m. and 12-2; these require 6 months' experience in Iyengar Yoga. Sunday sessions are 8 a.m.-noon and require a year's experience.