Confessions of an Ex-Yoga Assist Whore

I used to be an assist whore.

Symptoms

Waiting around for my teacher to put me in poses without trying to do it myself a few times first-I mean really trying. Not just putting my arms and legs in place and waiting

Being pissed when I don’t get any assists

Thinking that the teacher is bad or the class was bad if I don’t get any assists

Expecting to be assisted in all poses that I find difficult

Doing the bare minimum until the teacher comes around and “deepens” me

Thinking that if my teacher can put me in it, I have arrived

 

Negative Side Effects

No understanding of what it really takes to do a pose

It is kind of like using GPS everywhere you go so you can mentally check out when you drive.  I have to force myself to stop using my GPS to go to places more then a few times. With GPS, I am not aware of my surroundings. I don’t understand how I got somewhere and how to come back.

The same is true for asana. Waiting for someone to assist me kept me from learning my body and what it takes to really execute the asana.  If I lost a pose or injured myself, I had no clue how I hurt myself or what to do to get the pose back.

No understanding of how one pose leads to the next

Because I never developed the understanding of what muscles were working and resting to get me into and out of a pose, I had no understanding of how my poses built on each other.  When I got to the next difficult pose or transition, I was not prepared.

A reliance on a teacher to progress

My practice came to a stand still. Until recently, Charlotte had no authorized teacher and the Mysore programs would last a few months and vanish.  I would have to travel to find a teacher.  Most of my practice journey has been at home. During my home practice, I would not progress. I had no clue what it took to advance in a pose. I would take a step forward at a workshop.  Go home and stop progressing.  Progress again when someone started a program. Program would go away. I would stop progressing. Mother Nature has probably formed islands faster then I was progressing.

Injuries

I had no clue what I was doing.

No understanding of correct Vinyasa

I was too busy waiting for help, wanting help, getting help or getting frustrated because I was not being helped to focus on Vinyasas or transitions.

Long practice

Every time I stopped to wait for an assist or get an assist, my practice got longer.

Lose of energy

The flow keeps the energy up. Stopping makes the energy dissipate.

Not taking responsibility for my practice 

I was expecting my teachers to make my practice “good”.

Missing Tapas

Tapas is a fire that we light from within that burns away mental and physical impurities. I would light my own fire but I needed my teachers to stoke it. That is my job. Not theirs.

 

A few events happened that shifted me out of assist whoredom.

I was in a workshop with Michael Gannon. I was struggling to do Eka Pada Sirsasana. I was waiting for him to come put me in it. He just stood back and watched. After I got thoroughly frustrated and gave up, he walked over and said, “I was waiting to see what you do when I am not here.” Wow.  I don’t know if he was referring to me giving up or the fact that I was not really working the leg down my back and keeping my head up. Either way, burn.

I had a major injury. Like one that was so bad I had to start my practice over. I went from Third Series back to trying to do Sun A. Trying and failing.  Like, I got to the point where I couldn’t even do a modified Sun A.  My practice no longer even looked like Ashtanga. To come back from that, I had to learn my body.

I got tired of waiting. I am not getting any younger. I wanted to figure out Kapo and Eka Pada before my kid put me in a nursing home.

I experienced the magic of correct Vinyasa by being given the gift of a traditional Led Ashtanga class. I started with Ashtanga Guided before Mysore but the classes were not traditional. The teachers did not count and there was a lot of extra-ness.

The first two times, I was made to stick to the count, I almost died.  Literally…okay, not really.   The first time was with David Keil and I was terrified to come back for the rest of his workshop. I am glad I did because he is fricking awesome. Thank you, David.  The second time  was with Larry Hobbs and I almost passed out during the closing chant.  Those first two times let me know that, after practicing Ashtanga for over a decade, I was still clueless. However, I knew that it could be done.  And you know how it goes in Ashtanga, once you do something once, its yours.

After taking rest, I felt amazing. I was exhilarated. Energy vibrated through my body. I was able to do all the poses without thought!!!! Ding! Ding! Ding! According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Yoga is the cessations of the fluctuations of the mind. What? I had cessated!!! What? You mean Pattabhi Jois actually did know what he was talking about and I did not need a whole bunch of extra ish? I didn’t need a block, 2 straps, 3 bolsters, WD-40, 10 extra breaths, Pigeon, Handstand and 3 hail Mary’s to do my practice? I did not need an advanced degree in anatomy and physiology? I could just breathe free and have all come to me? Fancy that.

P.S I am not saying that every time I do Guided I cessate but I am definitely closer then when I get all caught up in my mind overthinking stuff and waiting for teachers to come assist me.

I am now on the opposite end of the spectrum. I will give someone the side eye if they touch me and I absolutely don’t need it.  I know. That is the opposite of cessating. I am working on it.  If I am bound in Mari D, I don’t need my twist “deepened”.  I don’t need my hands to come all the up the back of my skull in Parsvotanasana.

I enjoy figuring things out for myself and moving with my breath. I am not dependent on anyone to advance my practice or for my practice to be “good”.

If I tweak something, I know how to modify my practice and fix it…quickly. Guided is nothing but a thang. I don’t think twice about it. I don’t faint during the closing mantra.  What? Sharath’s doing a week of guided full Primary? Cool. Sounds like fun.

My practice is quick…most days.  It surprises me sometimes. Like I got through all of Second the other day in like an hour 10/ hour 15 minutes. I added Third all the way to Urdvha Kukkatasana B,  did backbends, dropbacks, tics ( I don’t toc), and catching in under two hours.

Now my practice makes me feel empowered.

 

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3 thoughts on “Confessions of an Ex-Yoga Assist Whore

  1. Very nice, but I think there are probably two exceptions to this……How are you supposed to properly do supta vajrasana without an assist? And your “half-bends” at the end of backbending are almost always done with an assist.

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