Monday, September 3, 2012

Saucha, Brahmacharya, and the Asshole-meter; some thoughts about (possibly) teaching again

A very interesting thing happened to me after practice this morning. After savasana, I got up from my Mysore rug, and was floating around the house in my post-practice lightness/glow. I really love that post-practice almost-unbearable lightness of being. For me, this almost-unbearable lightness typically lasts for about 20 to 30 minutes. After I take a shower, the lightness mellows somewhat, to be replaced by a feeling of contentment. And then I step into the hustle and bustle of the "real" world. And then the dust--both physical and mental--of the "real" world settles over this feeling of lightness-contentment, and the rest of the day becomes a battle to retain and remember this feeling as much as I can.

But I digress. As I was saying, after practice this morning, I was moving around in my post-practice lightness/glow. While I was enveloped in this glow, my fiancee came up to me, and asked me what my plans were. I replied that I was going to take a shower, and then go downstairs to the coffeeshop to have an espresso (I have my own special interpretation of Sharath's famous "No Coffee, No Prana" dictum: For me, this means that if you practice and then drink coffee, the ability of the caffeine to circulate prana throughout the system is greatly enhanced. But I understand that many Ashtangis--and probably Sharath himself too--differ. But it's okay. Whatever works for you :-)...).

And then my fiancee said, "How about vacuuming the house?" I smiled sheepishly, hemmed and hawed a little, and then... I agreed! Now this may not strike you as anything out of the ordinary or even interesting. After all, Saucha (cleanliness) is one of the niyamas. So cleaning the house ought to be something that comes naturally to an Ashtangi, right? Well, yes, probably. Except that I have always disliked cleaning, and basically try to get away with cleaning as little as possible. Which means I probably don't score very high in the Saucha department... actually, here's an idea: Maybe this is something that Yoga Teacher Training Programs out there can implement. You know, have the teacher trainees live in some kind of residential setting for a certain period of time, and have the trainer rate each trainee on how he or she performs in each of the yamas and niyamas. But then how would you assess somebody's performance in Brahmacharya? Maybe have a fairly attractive fellow trainee of the opposite sex (or same sex, if the trainee is homosexual) parade naked in front of the trainee who is being assessed, and see how well he or she holds up under temptation? But then the stakes are probably too high here; who would want to volunteer himself or herself to be the "temptation"? And this is probably sexual harassment, anyway; the studio or yoga school holding the training will probably get their pants sued off (talk about Brahmacharya...) and be forced to shut down.

But I didn't mean to go on this tangent about Brahmacharya. Can't seem to keep my thoughts straight today. As I was saying, I've always disliked cleaning, and probably don't score high in the saucha department. But my fiancee picked the right time to ask me to clean; if she had asked me later in the day, I probably would have found some excuse or other and put it off indefinitely. But, as things stood, she asked me when I was in that post-practice blissed-out state, when the reading on my Asshole-meter is at its daily lowest. What Asshole-meter? You may be thinking. Well, some years ago, at a workshop in Florida, David Williams said something along these lines, "Everyday, you get on your mat and do whatever practice you can do. And then you go into savasana. When you come out of savasana, you are in this blissed-out state. Today, you may be able to stay in this state for 10 minutes after savasana. And then you go back to being the asshole you are. Maybe tomorrow you will be able to stay in this state for 11 minutes before lapsing back into being an asshole. And so and so forth."

These weren't the exact words that Williams used. But I think they are pretty close; I'm very sure he actually used the word "asshole." The idea is that, over a period of time (10 years, 20 years, maybe one lifetime, or even two) of consistent practice, the amount of time in the day when you are blissed out will slowly equal and maybe even surpass the amount of time you are an asshole. Finally, you will get to the state when your "asshole time" is very short, even negligible to the point of being, for all intents and purposes, non-existent. And maybe this is when you will finally achieve Self-realization. I don't know for sure, but I think this is the idea.

But all this is just me. Maybe none of this really applies to you. Perhaps you love cleaning and score very high in the Saucha department. If so, more power to you, and please ignore everything I've said above. But maybe you will still find all this entertaining, in some way, in which case you would still have gotten something good out of reading all this. :-)


In other news: Several Ashtanga bloggers have written a few wonderful posts on how to start an Ashtanga practice (at home or at a shala): Check out these posts by Grimmly, Maya Lassiter, and New York Yogini. Maybe I will also write a post about this in the next couple of days: I'm too blogged out right now, and also have a few other things to get done today.

Speaking of home practice... As you will know if you read this blog regularly, I practice mostly at home. Sometime last year, a studio near my home started a once-a-week Mysore program on Saturdays. For a while, it was quite well-attended. I also attended whenever I could (see this post). But since the beginning of the summer, the owners of the studio have suspended the Mysore program due to personal things going on in their lives. And as far as I can see, there are no plans to restart the program.

None of this really affects me; I still happily do my daily home practice. But in some corner of my mind, I feel this urge to do something to get some semblance of the Ashtanga flame burning again in my part of the world. And recently, a friend also remarked to me half in jest, "What good is having a beautiful practice if you don't do anything with it?" Hmm... are you supposed to do anything with a beautiful practice? But maybe he has a point. And besides, as I mentioned, I do feel this urge to contribute in some tangible way to spreading the Ashtanga practice, beyond blogging about it.

But due to my present circumstances, actually starting an official Mysore program myself is not feasible. I live in an apartment, which means opening my house is not an option, as there simply isn't enough space. My finances are limited now, which makes renting a space unfeasible. And besides, I am also trying to devote more time to getting more research done, with the aim of eventually landing that thing called a tenure-track position. All of which makes taking extra time out beyond my daily practice to teach not a very viable option.

I have toyed with some ideas here and there. For instance, I have thought about going out to a park nearby on some mornings to do my practice, and maybe, in this way, attracting interest in the practice in an organic fashion and teaching whoever wants to learn it. But I wonder if people will just look at me and think I'm some kind of a Chinese Yogic Freakshow ("Welcome! Welcome to the one and only Chinese Yoga Freakshow in the Upper Midwest! Featuring the One and Only Ashtanga Fundamentalist in these parts..."), and then just walk on. Then again, maybe this is what David Swenson and his brother Doug had to contend with in their early yoga days, when they practiced in a park in Texas...

Anyway, I'm just thinking aloud here. If you have any thoughts and/or suggestions, I'll love to hear them.


  1. hi nobel,

    your post had me laughing out loud at the brahmacharya test :)

    thanks so much for linking to my post..i love hearing how people found this practice. hint. hint.

    1. I'm happy to hear that you get my rather off-color sense of humor :-)

      Actually, I wrote a post about the journey of my Ashtanga practice more than a year ago:

      But maybe I'll also write an updated version soon.

  2. This is nice that you got that feeling and this is the result of your yoga practice.
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