(1) In Supta Vajrasana, MS told me to do lotus the other way (left foot in first instead of right). That felt a bit weird, especially the bind (I had to bind the right foot first, and then left). I think his purpose behind this is to balance the right-foot-always-first-in-padmasana doctrine, which many people (including Norman Blair in his recently popular article) argue results in imbalances. In this way (in addition to many others), MS is not a traditional teacher.
(2) After dropbacks and standups, as I was decompressing my spine in Paschimottasana, MS came over and suggested that I should start working on handstands, in preparation for eventually being able to do the tick tocks (or is it tic-tacs?). I came out of Paschimottanasana, and kicked up into handstand. MS came over and assisted me, and told me to arch my back. I tried to do so, but felt this twinge down my left lower back, and just couldn't arch my back any further. (As I mentioned a couple of posts before, I have issues with going into a back bending action immediately after a forward bend). So we had to abort the handstanding today. Well, at least I'll be better prepared tomorrow.
(3) MS suggested that tomorrow, I should go into second immediately after the standing postures and the two balance postures (Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana and Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana). Ha! So I'm splitting after all... Well, we'll see what happens tomorrow.
Tomorrow is the last day with MS. I can already feel the ennui that is creeping up on me as I approach the end of my yoga vacation... ah, very soon, I will be leaving the City of Lakes, and heading back to my little corner of the midwest! All in all, I must say that MS is a very good teacher. He has this uncanny ability to see certain things with your body, and then get you to make a couple of seemingly small and innocuous adjustments that cause you to work harder than you ever did in a particular posture. Very powerful.
In addition, I have also made some good friends at this workshop. This morning, over breakfast with Ellie, Monica, and Bill, I gave both Monica and Bill a copy of Claudia's best-selling book, "21 Things to Know Before Starting an Ashtanga Yoga Practice" (I gave Ellie a copy a couple of months ago, when I first met her). I think this has been a most memorable few days, on the whole.
Well, here's the other shoe... Although this workshop has been quite wonderful on the whole, a couple of things have also happened over the last few days that have given me much food for thought:
(I) Yesterday evening, a few of us from the workshop went to dinner at this local restaurant. At one point, the conversation turned to something that is not so pleasant: Senior-teacher-bashing. Two people at the table related this experience they had of going to this particular senior teacher's studio in some big city. At one point, one of them got to Supta Vajrasana in Intermediate, and the other decided to help assist (For those of you who are not familiar with Supta Vajrasana, see this post). Just as they were doing the posture, the senior teacher in question stormed across the room, and yelled at them, "Who told you you can do this?" Quite understandably, these two individuals were very upset and traumatized by this senior teacher's behavior.
(II) The other incident was, in my opinion, not so understandable. On the morning of my first day at MS's workshop (Sunday morning), I stopped by the coffeeshop next to the studio to get some espresso before the first session began. As I sat down to drink my espresso, I couldn't help overhearing two workshop participants at the next table talking about Kino and her recent projects. They started by talking about her infamous yoga-girls-of-Miami-Beach video, and then turned to her recent instructional videos. Since they did not yet know that I was a fellow workshop participant at that time, I had the dubious advantage of being able to listen in on the conversation without interruption. The tone of the entire conversation was quite negative: In addition to the de rigeur expressions of outrage and scorn at the tackiness of the Miami-Beach-video, much scorn was also directed at the instructional videos ("Does she really expect people to work on those things at home by themselves?"). In addition, there were also a few attacks on her character, which are too unsavory to reproduce here.
Being somebody who has benefited much from Kino's instruction and who knows her personally, I felt (and still feel) very strongly about what they were saying. For a moment, I felt that I should open my mouth and speak up for her. But I decided that it was too early in the workshop to be making enemies (is there ever a good time to make enemies, anyway?). Besides, in my humble opinion, the fact that somebody is being attacked often means that that person is doing something of great value. There's a Chinese saying, "A great tree attracts gale-force winds." So I decided to swallow my feelings of outrage (along with my espresso) and just try to let things go. Besides, what have those people who attack her accomplished themselves?
But all this brings up a bigger issue. I could be wrong about this, but it seems to me that Ashtangis are particularly prone to talking shit about other Ashtangis (in case you think I'm getting on my high horse, I have found myself guilty of this too; in fact, I am probably doing this right now by writing this post...). A fellow Ashtangi once told me that the practice has the tendency to shine a flashlight on all the shit that is in your life and bring it all up to the surface, forcing you to confront and deal with it. I wonder if talking shit about other Ashtangis is also a manifestation of this phenomenon, so that in the course of becoming more self-realized or enlightened (or whatever), many Ashtangis have to go through a phase of talking shit about their fellow Ashtangis. But we seem to have a problem here: It can be argued that in talking shit about somebody, one commits violence against the person whom one talks shit about, and probably also commits violence against oneself, by poisoning one's words and thoughts with such shit. Thus, it can be argued that talking shit about others violates ahimsa, and also deepens certain already-deeply-entrenched samskaric patterns within one's life.
So, what to do? I don't know, I don't have the answers to many things (including this one). Just thinking (and venting) aloud here, as always.