Yesterday evening I started training in parkour. Today I am sitting in front of a huge cup of very strong coffee taking stock (thankfully it’s a moon day). Why am I starting something new at 40? Because as a teacher of yoga, as my practice continues and as new practitioners enter my studio, the gap widens between myself and my understanding of what we yogis call ‘beginner’s mind’. Beginner’s mind is the ability to empathize with a beginner, their struggles in taking on something new not only in the body, but in the mind. It is a compassion and understanding of the road ahead of them, and the ability to stand with them as they take their first steps again, and again, and again. So why submit my body for more abuse in the name of being a good teacher? Ask me when I’m not weeping in my coffee.
Again, why? Because of my interest in AcroYoga I have been looking for adult gymnastics classes and frankly, Parkour seemed like a lot more fun. Pattabhi Jois always noted that yoga and gymnastics are very different. Yoga incorporates asana, pranayama, bandhas, drishti, and the eight limbs to realize a higher consciousness, not just of the body, but of the mind and spirit as well. Gymnastics incorporates none of these things, is it a sport designed to condition the body to a specific purpose. The visual results of both are beautiful, but it doesn’t make them the same.
Parkour and free-running, a related discipline, also incorporate some of the same principles as yoga, and from meeting some of the practitioners and reading about this predominantly urban activity I felt there was space for me to continue my yoga practice albeit in a slightly different setting (namely outside, with others, and not at 6am). One quote I found in particular by George Hebert, an early developer of the discipline, stated that the purpose of this training was ‘to be strong in order to be useful’. Once one has developed within this discipline, they are obligated to contribute to the community as a whole. He also employed a very natural method of training, using the individual’s own environment to build strength and conditioning, whether it be the forest, or the urban jungle. It reminds me of the old yogis in the forest, practicing their asana and meditation and naming their practices and postures after natural elements, trees, birds, insects, etc. Identifying that they were not separate from the environment, but part of it. I wonder how these acharyas would view parkour?
So this morning, as I review my beginner’s experience, I admit to a new awareness in my body, but I have to say my daily yoga practice has probably softened the blow considerably! The loudest voice this morning are my quads, all four of them. But it is distinctly different than if I had learned a new yoga posture. This is a tired, fatigued, stretchy hurt, not a specific, distinct pull. Rather than finding a particular new muscle or fascial connection I haven’t noticed before, I feel like I probably hiked a little bit more uphill than downhill yesterday. And in truth, I think I did. I always hated hiking.
People (namely B.K.S. Iyengar) joke that Ashtanga is all about the ‘jumping, jumping, jumping’. Yesterday I did a lot of jumping: onto things, over things, back and forth, up and down, side to side. It was fun being a kid again! I likened it to playing hopscotch, jumping from one piece of furniture to another, crawling after each other under the dining room table, we even did a bit of moguls skiing. I’m remembering now why I don’t ski anymore.
Has my mind changed yet? Am I more compassionate to beginners? I’m going to save that question for later.
Tonight, hot bath, more anti-inflammatories, a good night’s sleep and then up tomorrow for a long day, ending in more practice, practice, practice.