This morning was our first self-practice room over at the westside space. Wood floor, great light, dedicated yoga-and-dance space with a small mirror on one side that you can avoid if you really want to.
I had a difficult and heavy practice with a lot of modifications and I gave up after Supta K, but some days one has those practices. Three others in the room this time (and two more, I expect, next week, when they're back from vacation), and total silence, just practice.
This is on the one hand sort of "nothing," in that we just practiced in a room, but it is also a very big "something" as it's ashtanga yoga going totally studio-independent, REALLY and truly stepping outside of the "teacher/taught" dynamic where only the studio space is important. By turning it "down" we turn it "up," or if you like, we set up a room where the inner teacher has to step up and take personal charge. Over time, we learn more, become maybe not "better" at poses, but certainly better at practice. This sort of thing is the answer to every cheap-and-easy yoga question ever posted at Elephant Journal or on someone's Facebook feed.
I have retaken up my climbing habit, but with changes. Back in 2003-2005, I was almost entirely toprope guy, climbing with partners, ascending and trying to hit the hard move, with the fear of falling off (but on toprope you never REALLY fall, not like in lead climbing or bouldering).
In 2005 I started setting toprope, which meant most of my "work" on the wall was pulling my own moves, and most of my "work" in the climbing community was giving beta for those routes (telling people what the move was, either explicitly or with movement hints).
By 2008 I was too far away (Indy to Bloomington, 75 minutes) and too infrequent and the type of body-mind-movement problems I was setting, weren't popular. I never set "training" routes in the physical sense of "learn to climb," I set "mind-body problem" routes, where you had to get that flow state and get out of the ego-possible in order to hit the magic zone of step-acrosses and crossed-hands and off-balance high-steps and mind-game puzzles that can only be resolved through dance.
Mind-body training, just in the form of a climbing route. My art history room is not dissimilar.
But now (and "now" is as of June 4) I'm doing exclusively bouldering; I haven't been on a toprope in almost ten days where I've gone to climb three times. Bouldering is more confrontational and dangerous than toprope climbing; your hand at the top of a problem is 13-16 feet above the floor, so your drop (or fall) can be as much as ten feet. Even with a crash pad, that's spooooooooky.
I used to be a solid V2 boulderer; that means problems where you have to crank hard on holds but not generally do a lot of dynamic leaping or swinging the feet off the wall and over to the other side or crazy stuff like that.
The gym now (which is the Indianapolis incarnation of Bloomington's Hoosier Heights franchise, where I worked out a HELL OF A LOT of negative energy from my marriage/divorce, or as another guy who teaches yoga put it last week, "You left a lot of anger on those walls") is very training-centered. All of the routes and problems are set in way where the next hold appears if you can pull the move. It's not to bend your head, it's to train your body, or ideally, body-mind.
But by and large, the boulder problems are set on overhanging walls, and the holds are crimpy. There are exceptions, but in the V2-3 range, it's a crimpfest. Overhanging walls make crimpy holds even crimpier. Let me give you an example. Hold a wood clothespin, long way between your thumb and three fingers. Now crank down with your fingers, press into that thing. That's crimping. Now imagine that the clothespin is on a wall that leans out toward you, twenty degrees, and you have to find a way to hang off that thing with all the weight of your hips falling back toward earth. See?
I have two sore knuckles today; one that I think will be all better tomorrow, and one that seems a bit more persistent. These are old injuries, overuse injuries, that I didn't (couldn't, in a fashion) let heal all the way, because climbing used to be the doorway FROM one life TO another one, the problem being that I never set a "finish line" as to when the new life would be achieved. What level or rating of problem would indicate that I had ARRIVED? An impossible question. "Well take some time off." No, no, what if I SLIDE BACK into old habits, what if I can't stay NEW, my new life, my new me, my new...?
More simply, mistrust of change, treating the present like a slippery deck on a ship (what if I slide into the sea?). More interestingly, a new desperation like the old desperation. A new life that never considers itself launched from the cannon. Still fears, hates, wants distance from, the old days. An addictive behavior (far from my first, likely not my last). To GET FAR FROM THAT. A need that can never be met (hmmmmm, wonder if I have any OTHER BUSINESS that works like that, eh?).
When I climb for an hour, sustained effort, I get a massive endorphin rush, and my core muscles melt into jelly, and I often take some pressup backbends when I decide that I'm done with the climbing. They are inevitably easy. I've been dropping back and standing up after climbing ever since I could do those movements (which isn't often, since I learned those in 2009 and haven't had much chance to climb since then), and those are also the biggest ever, much bigger than in any yoga class or practice. But this is the same "get there, don't be patient" mechanism that keeps me climbing into overuse injuries and (in part) waiting to see when my relationship will "turn back on." It's all future tense, so much weight on the future, NEEDING IT to be what I want it to be.
How else could this be done?
Skills turn into service. WHY do I climb? Ok, because I love it, easy answer. It's fun as hell and often creates flow states. On toprope that's easier, because you're "up" longer, but on a bouldering problem, you often have to move; you can't hang or you'll pump out and have to drop. So the mind and body move FASTER. I was doing a hard problem, with a lot of fear (one had to lean out and dynamically catch a hold, or else fall), and I felt my inner voice guide the movements, sort of simultaneous with the movements: observer and actor, one body. "Put the foot up here first; foot first, hand second." Then the shaky move up, panic about falling. "Put your hand on that thing. PUT IT THERE!" Hand comes up, finds purchase. Panic eases off. Two moves later, in about four seconds, it's over.
What or whom can I SERVE with this bodymind dynamism? Well, when we ask this question about the yoga, we don't look for whom we can serve with Navasana, that's dumb. We look for whom we can serve once we've done morning practice and we're temporarily all mellowed out, or as Swenson related about Williams, "You do the yoga, and then you see how long it takes for you to turn back into an asshole!"
Perhaps that's where this comes in:
The yoga creates an opportunity for a state which biking, lifting, and so forth, do not. Now, I see this point, but I also disagree with it. Remember Jason's Crossfit colleague who said, "You think you only get kundalini when you have a white turban on?" Think of long-distance runners or bikers who get wisdom from the road. Long-term climbers, too. But yes, I see how a sort of LAYPERSON'S exercise regimen, doesn't provide those things easily, yes. Perhaps exercise too has a laity and a mysticism.
I don't like at all how the author here refers to "Sanskrit nonsense" or uses Singleton to basically disembowel the eight limbs and turn asana into "exercise" and FROM THERE goes back toward (but not as far as) meditation and integrative movement. He gets there, but without taking the "eight-limbed path." I guess maybe it's fair: abandon the Eastern "nonsense," turn it Western, then use Western vocabulary and concepts to try to talk about bodymind integration. Although the great weakness of this, as I said a number of posts ago, is that if you REALLY FEEL emotional stuff and confrontation coming out of your bodymind movements (in asana, pranayama, meditation or elsewhere) it's DAMN USEFUL to be able to put those in Eastern terms, to talk about samskaras, koshas, pain, samsara, all of that. I find the West woefully lacking in concepts that could serve a philosophy of the bodymind. To me it tends toward New-Age crap about holistic mindful blah-blah-blah or else strict anatomy-body answers. And then we're not far from Mars and Venus and Cosmopolitan. The other way to do it in the West is to imbibe a huge amount of theory (as I have about AFFECT) and then try to make French theory into mindbody practice. Or I suppose another way to do it is to take a book like Arno Ilgner's THE ROCK WARRIOR'S WAY and make Castaneda into mindbody practice and mysticism-ize your movement. And that's not far, for my money, from the Sutras and the proper eight-limbed path.
I believe that tossing the Eastern philosophy and keeping the asana practice, no matter how clued in about alignment and mindfulness and presence and confrontation with our energy we are, is never a good idea. At the very least, be able to put your stuff in BOTH Western and Eastern conceptual terms.
So whom or what can I serve with the climbing, or maybe the same question is, whom or what can I serve with hands that I can actually USE? I used to have four separate knuckles so swollen that I couldn't type without pain, and at one time, I couldn't properly pick up a pint glass with the one hand.
A desire in the mind to "be a climber who does that" overrides my sense of my own safety, as if the wish to be atop that problem overrides physics. The immediate cure for that in the moment, is to pull on the hold and see if it's pain-free; if and when it's not, off you come. Secondary: I cannot do that, not right now, maybe not with this body as it is, and how it is, is how it is. Tertiary: either change the body (hangboard training for finger ligaments, for example) or accept this body's limits as they are.
Old habits come with old conditioning: something that our Eastern concept of the samskara proves so well. I still believe I have to GET THERE, to be SOMEONE, to make a footprint in that gym, leave a handprint on the ceiling or something. Not now from fear of slipping into the past, but a disembodied wish for the same presence, dominance, to be spotlit. Like a computer virus, pre-programmed: the behavior remains, even without the psychology that once spawned it.
The thing to do here is to change the psychology in the site where it was spawned, what better fun is there than this? Broadly speaking, you change your life FROM WITHIN, you can't change it from without, even if you do as Vasistha once said, "The man of true determination has no destiny." Even if you can change your karmic destiny, makeup of your gunas and so on.
You change your life from within, so I think the answer is not "do not climb," but rather "climb in a way to change this psychology, change it ITSELF on the very walls where it was forged." Sauron Ring territory.
This is what's happening with my asana practice: suprising hip tightness in December 2011, which has been fairly persistent ever since. There are exceptions. I've redesigned practice around it, not a "new" or "temporary" practice from which I will later RETURN TO NORMAL, but simply How Practice Now Is.
It's key to remember that the ego isn't really the problem, the Samskaric Patterns are the problem. They provide the tree the ego climbs; they give the ego its climbing training. Knock off the ego and you still have the tree, and some invisible, intangible energy which climbs it. But change the TREE, and the ego has to reckon with that.