I sit, nervously, in front of Sharath at his office today, explaining that I have a question about Sunday led class.
"You stop at your pose," says Sharath, a.k.a. Man of Little Words.
"Of course!" I think to myself. But I still can't grasp the information. It's slippery. My mind asks for definite confirmation. It's somehow not enough having him tell me to just do intermediate this past Thursday. The concept won't stick.
"But which class do I come to on Sunday?"
"Come 7:30," says the Boss, ending another less than 15-second conversation with him.
But who cares! That's it. It's really real. I've really been split, and on Sunday I will be attending my first led intermediate class.
Part of me wants to play it all cool and just be ok, it's just another day. (I just want to say here that everyone's practice is different. That in the end, it doesn't matter where you are, primary, intermediate, whatever. It's not the postures that are important, but the process. Right now, however, in my process, this is where I'm at.)
So there's another part of me and that girl, she's doing cartwheels! I'm--and I really have to sigh with relief when I say this because it's been a rough 3 weeks--happy! It's a landmark.
The practice of ashtanga is one with little fanfare, at least not in this shala. You come, you do. There's no hand-holding. It's tough love between Sharath and most of his students. He doesn't give hugs. He sparsely gives validation. He's watching all the time, but sometimes it feels like he looks straight through you. An occasional "very good" is golden. I actually got a look of total disgust a couple weeks ago, with matching sigh/grunt after a tight backbend with him--which oddly enough is one step higher than no feedback at all.
There's little to feed the ego here. It's all about us and our individual practice. Sharath quite skillfully stays out of the way, appearing only at the most crucial moments. He lets us do the hard work. In fact, we have no choice but to do it, this work that is really ours to do. It's a special sort of guidance. He's present but not. He understands where we are in our practice, most of the time without knowing who we are. His energy is there zigzagging across the shala floor from 4:30 in the morning to past 11am, even if he pays us no mind. His way forces us to take responsibility for our practice and our bodies, for our routines, our rest times, and our self-study. And though he does his best to inject discipline by seeming severe, he doesn't baby us. He treats us like adults--even when we sometimes act a little like children.
For me, getting split by Sharath is a pat on the back, a serious form of validation for the energy and time I've put into my practice, the longest and most serious commitment I've ever made.
It's also like a dream. How in the world has this happened? Last year, I watched intermediate led from the lobby with awe. And while I'm still far from doing many of those awesome poses, I cannot help but feel the sweetness and gratitude for the opportunity to share in that energy. For me, this Sunday will be a testament to the powers of yoga and it's ability to change a person. I am so much stronger and so much more flexible than when I started. And not just in body. This practice has transformed me in ways I can hardly explain.
I can't help but feel like this is a new chapter in my yoga adventure/life. My experience in the shala is about to shift. My practice will get shorter as I drop primary series from my daily practice, but I will have more energy to devote to the intense intermediate postures I've already been given. Led primary on Friday takes on new significance. Sunday led is about to get really tough. There will be no room to dilly dally in intermediate, no means to procrastinate getting into a pose, no time to wipe the brow, or to squeeze in extra breaths. I'm totally freaked out and really looking forward to it at the same time.
Slowly, slowly the mysteries of second series will start to open. And so will I with them. I am happy to do so with Sharath's blessing. I will take comfort in knowing that despite my fears and self-doubt he believes I'm ready.