Sunday, September 11, 2011

First public duck landing, Mangala Mantra

I am writing this post from Minneapolis. Yes, I made a trip down to the Twin Cities again this weekend. The ostensible reason was because my fiancee's birthday is coming up (on Tuesday), and it would be nice to leave town to celebrate. But really, I'm just looking for an excuse to go to a place that is more, uh, metropolitan and densely populated than my little corner of the upper midwest. So here I am, sitting in a coffeeshop and blogging.

These last couple of days, I have been going to morning practice at the Yoga House. Which is always a treat, as I get to practice with other people, and am reminded that there are other real people out there who, like me, also get up at stupid o-clock to put their bodies into funny shapes and sweat like animals :-)

Yesterday (Saturday) morning, I went to led primary at the Yoga House. I think there is this misconception out there among some Ashtangis that if you do second series (or beyond), primary is supposed to easy-peasy, a walk in the park. Well, whoever thinks this ought to have been at yesterday morning's led primary here. The teacher leading the class made us do three Utkatasanas (instead of the usual, perfunctory one), and I could have sworn that Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana felt way longer than it usually does when I do my own practice. By the end of standing, I was totally drenched in sweat. Makes my own primary practice seem like a walk in the park :-)

During mysore this morning, I did second only up to Karandavasana. Got a good assist from the teacher in Supta Vajrasana, which was wonderful, because practicing by myself at home, I rarely get an assist in this posture. Made three Karandavasana attempts:

(i) The first attempt was absolutely embarrassing: I kicked up into Pincha, and then almost immediately fell over! I rarely fall out of Pincha; to think that one of these rare occasions had to happen in "public" :-)  Yeah, I know, if I'm truly a self-realized Ashtangic saint, I'm supposed to be beyond embarrassment; well, I'm not.

(ii) I got up from the ground as nonchalantly as I could after the not-so-graceful fall (the "fall from grace", if you will :-)), and then made my second attempt. This one was slightly better. I got into pincha, got my legs into lotus. But I couldn't land the duck, and crashed rather unceremoniously onto the mat.

(iii) Urrgh.... how can I fail to land the duck in public? So embarrassing! So I made a third attempt, and finally landed the duck. No, magic flowers did not rain down from the heavens; nor did the statue of Ganesha at the front of the room wink at me, as far as I could tell :-) I didn't realize this at the time, but this was actually the first time I had landed the duck by myself in public (i.e. as opposed to during my solitary home practice). Not that anybody seemed to care, or even noticed. But still, it was quite an event for me. I still couldn't come back up. But I'll keep working on this.

After practice, the woman who was practicing to my left came up to me, introduced herself, and told me that I have a beautiful practice, and that I was practically defying gravity. I almost responded by asking, "Well, is falling over from Pincha Mayurasana and crashing onto the mat in lotus posture part of 'defying gravity'?", but stopped myself at the last moment. Nor did I muster the presence of mind/panache/guts/whatever to reply with my outlandish response :-) I basically just gave my usual default response ("Thank you"). We chatted for a couple more minutes, and the conversation turned to how long we have been practicing. I suggested that if one does the practice everyday, six days a week, the practice will get into one's bones sooner or later, and wonderful things will happen. (Hey, I'm not just saying this, I actually believe it... You know, "Do your practice, and all is coming...")


As we all know, today is the 10th anniversary of September 11th. It's also been slightly more than 10 years since I came to this country (I arrived in Florida to begin grad school on August 3rd, 2001). I feel that so much has changed in both my personal life and in the life of this country; at the same time, so many things have remained the same. Although I have not gone through the heart-rending experiences and events that so many have gone through as a result of September 11th, 2001, I can't help feeling that my having being here all this time and trying to live my life as best as I can has somehow caused the trajectory of my personal life to become inextricably linked in some inscrutable way with the destiny of this great land.

Perhaps nothing is a better reminder of what this date can mean for us than our daily practice. In particular, on this particular day, the Mangala Mantra that we chant everyday at the close of our practice symbolizes the hope of all Ashtangis and all human beings in general for everlasting peace, and our shared aspiration to make the world a slightly better place through our practices. Here's the Mangala Mantra, in translation:

May all be well with mankind.
May leaders of the earth protect in every way by keeping to the right path.
May there be goodness for those who know the earth to be sacred.
May people everywhere be happy.

And here's Sharath chanting it:

Namaste, and May the Force be with You.


  1. Poor, sheltered Nobel. You said "Urrgh.... how can I fail to land the duck in public? So embarrassing!"

    Most people fail to land this pose. Many times. For months. And then they land it. But then they lose it. And months later, they finally start landing it again. But perhaps inconsistently. That how the pose works. That how it's supposed to work. You should fail to land it many times, and for anyt people, they only do it (and thus only fail at it) in "public". To some extent, your self-practice is a luxury that's sheltering you from having to go through the learning process with other people around. It's as if your expectation is that you will only do in public what you have mastered, when in reality the opportunity to fail in public and/or with a teacher can be the greatest learning experience--and for some, an everyday occurrence.

    Time for an ego check? :-)

  2. Thanks for the feedback, Frank. Yes, an ego check is in order. :-) I tend to forget that many people only get to do their practice in "public." But then again, I am aware at least on some level that ultimately, it really doesn't matter whether I fail to land in "private" or in "public". Landing the duck (or not) is landing the duck (or not). Public or private, practice is just practice. Strictly speaking, the private-public distinction shouldn't even exist.