Yes, I will have another Diet Slut!

"On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree"

"On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, two turtle doves and a partridge in  a pear tree"

I try not to use the word hate, but I really loathe this particular Christmas Carole.  Personally, I find it to be the Holiday equivalent to "99 bottles of beer on the wall" and the purposeful repetition and overly dramaturgical "counting down" in the lyrics leaves me slightly nauseated and uninspired.

With that said (haha), the Holidays are upon us and despite your religious affiliation, one can appreciate this time of year because it marks an incredible feat in human generosity and compassion which often times lends itself to an exploration of gathering, discussion, and in my opinion, a deeper propensity for open-mindedness.  

This past Friday, I was blessed to be able to spend some quality time with a few friends, so the exploration of gathering and discussion was not the issue.  In fact, in pure ABC Cooper Chou fashion, quality time with friends actually meant overbooking and agreeing to multiple get togethers on the same day.  It started with a late lunch with a yoga teacher at Grey Dog's (a place in my opinion has the hottest wait staff…..check it out and uou're welcome), followed by an early dinner with a friend who was going through a terrible loss, and ended with a late dinner with another yoga colleague and friend.  Late dinner followed by a night cap and 3am later, I found myself in my apartment ordering tofu stir fry and lomein (this yogi craves Chinese food at obscene times of the night) from the only Chinese restaurant that was open.

Needless to say, the late dinner with my friend sparked a conversation that left me pondering the idea of open mindedness and whether or not I struggle with it, and in particular, in its relation to the art form of yoga.

…….it started when I convinced my friend to have dinner in Hell's Kitchen, at a place called 44 1/2.  Not sure why, but I often times find myself taking friends to this place for dinner.  Maybe because I know the menu, enjoy their creative drinks…plus, the ambience is perfect for me - warm, quiet, and sterile (lol).  We were greeted by my friend who owns the establishment, Scott, and were seated.  I opened the food and beverage menu and in a overly dramatic form of hysteria, my eyes bulged in disbelief as I realized that the entire menu has changed.    

As my eyes glued to the menu of new beginnings, the waiter came over and asked if we wanted anything to drink.  As my friend ordered his red wine, I turned to the waiter and asked if they still made a drink that I often times would order at this place because it was festive, silly and doltish.  Additionally, the name for the drink was absurdly comedic with ingredients for the drink, upon reading, would result in an immediate exclamation of "What the Fuck!?!?!"

I can never remember the name, but distinctly recall the drink having Crystal Light Pink Lemonade, Sprite, and Tequila.  This ridiculousness was served in a sugar rimmed frosted martini glass (which I often times conjecture if it was intended to appease the wretched since ordering a drink with Crystal Light Pink Lemonade can only be a slippery slope to thinking Sliders at White Castle are iconic).

I mentioned the ingredients to the waiter and said, "OHH, and I think there was the word 'Slut' in the drink title", to which he replied, "Yup, we can still make that for you"…..Ahhhhhhh, Namaste

But alas, the drink actually gets better.  Because I am a fitness professional, I went ahead and amended the drink order to omit the sugar rim and replaced the Sprite with Club Soda, the Tequila with Vodka.  I turned to the waiter and said, "so pretty much, a Diet Slut, please".

Over dinner, a casual conversation between friends manifested into a dialogue very much similar to the parody on Youtube, "Shit Yogi's Say" and all of a sudden, I was obsessing over the brilliance of B.K.S Iyengar and his dialogue revolving rooting the big toe into the ground and its relation to feeling the sternum lifting.  Oppositional forces in yoga exists, and it can even be felt through the big toe and sternum relationship.  AMAZING!

The conversation deepened (i.e., my Diet Slut nurtured the desire to ponder the wonders in life, why we are on this Earth, etc) and the topic shifted towards teachers who teach the same thing in each class versus the teachers who enjoy the creative aspect and offer something different each time.  

Nothing of precipitance, but I fall under the coterie that each class should be distinct and contrasting, and I started to ask myself why.  In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and in particular, the Portion on Practice Sutra 46 talks about Sthira Sukhamasanam, which literally means "Asana is a steady, comfortable posture".  For some reason, this Sutra kept on surfacing as I started to explore the idea of Asana and Sequencing shapes in class.  I never gravitated towards a teacher who offered the same thing repeatedly, and I blindly assumed it had everything to do with the inability or desire to be creative.  But I realized it takes a strong willed and "flexible" person to be able to offer the same thing recurrently.

Let's take a look at this a bit more closely, shall we...

Looking at Sthira Sukhamasanam in more depth, the philosophy goes beyond a comfortable posture.  The intention is to utilize postures in Yoga Asana to help expel toxins from the body that exists.  Hatha Yoga was essentially created to aid in the betterment of the human body and mind.  For example, forward bending, like Pascimottasana, can be used to help cleanse the liver, spleen and our intestines.  The shapes, as a result, are finite, but like the Yoga Sutras, despite the finite teachings, the permutations and application of the teachings can seem infinite.  Hence, the yearning for each of my yoga classes to be dissimilar is a naive way of thinking that the asana shapes are limitless, when in fact, they not.  

The desire for divergence has nothing to do with the shapes, but ones ability to creatively put together something that allows for me to experience something different each time.  That is a true mark of a great teacher because quite frankly, Warrior 1 will never change anatomically, but how I feel about Warrior 1 can refashion daily, so to effectively capture the shift in feeling and bring about the notion that the structure of it can offer a plethora of possibilities makes a seemingly static shape into one that is explosively dynamic.  THAT IS WHAT I CRAVE!.

Can my teachers offer that to me?  More importantly, can I offer and reckon that of myself.

To better answer that question, I decided to start on a 40 day journey, what a yogi will refer to as a 40 day sadhana and all sadhana means is spiritual PRACTICE.  The 40 day practice originates from the concept that our habits can either be broken or sealed into our core values if 40 days of committed ritual is engaged.  At a certain point along the 40 day journey, a steady commitment of exploration (regardless of the task at hand) can bring about a better sense of ease and understanding.

The understanding I needed to explore is whether or not I can feel something different and paramount each time I practiced an asana sequence that does not change.  Sthira Sukhamasanam to me can mean just that and Patanjali says it best - "Although Hatha Yoga is several thousands of years old, it never becomes outdated.  The truths of it are always current".  

Overall, the conversation opened up my mind to the possibility that I can begin to appreciate a teacher who teaches the same things over and over again.  The challenge, however, is whether or not he/she (including myself) can offer it up in a way to allow for the student to have a transcendent experience every time.

So next time you take a yoga class and start to say to yourself, "this teacher is teaching the same thing again", I encourage all of us to take a step back and assess why.  Is the teacher lackluster and apathetic?  Or is he/she intending to facilitate a dialogue of infinite possibilities through Sthira Sukhamasanam - Asana is a steady, comfortable posture??  Heck, it may be the case that the teacher is lackluster…if that is the case, our practice of yoga needs to take shape and we have our own fiduciary responsibility to ensure that our asana practice serves a greater purpose in bringing us to Sthira Sukhamasanam and it can start with leaving expectation and judgement at the door with our shoes :)

Dinner with my yoga friend was pretty amazing and I am glad that it got me thinking about repetition and how the unchanging world of yoga can still be brilliant and evolutionary.

Our waiter came over and asked me if I wanted another drink…

I sat there, looking at my empty martini glass, raised my eyebrow and realized that repetition and unchange can happen now, so I smiled at the waiter and said:

"Yes, I'll have another Diet Slut"

And boy did I feel something different after….

Namaste.