the practice of ‘holding steady’

the month of september is mine to do pretty much as i please. i’ll be attending a few meetings, interviewing when possible, (running a yoga retreat in Mozambique), but pretty much it’s going to be yoga and parkour all month long. and i’ve decided since i’m over 40 and can have anything i damn well please- i will have a 6-pack by the end of the month. because, like my saab, i’ve always wanted one and that’s all the reason i need.

so this is the month the true test begins, yoga practice and parkour training at the same time- is it possible? yoga practice will be 5x/week, traditional ashtanga primary and intermediate series. the parkour practice will be gym training 2x/week and outdoor sessions on the weekends. hectic. my shoulders started crying as i wrote this. i will probably also need a few massages and some physio. yeah, september is going to be awesome!

in the last 2 months both practices have started to plateau, well no, actually to slide. quickly. downhill, into a cesspool. the yoga practice has been crabbing at me like a lazy, co-dependant boy-friend (you never spend time with me anymore!), and the pk practice hasn’t been going anywhere at all. both practices are standing now at only 2 days/week. i was discussing training plans with another traceuse this weekend and we both agree: 1 day of pk gym training a week isn’t enough, and it’s all about the head space. leaving off any practice for even a short length of time allows gaps to form in your muscle memory, especially your brain muscle memory.

i recently blogged about pratyahara, withdrawal of the senses. the next limb of ashtanga is dharana: focus, concentration or ‘holding steady’. i like that…holding steady; allowing your brain to do just one thing at a time. and doing that one thing well. we’re often told that humans are the great multi-taskers and that this skill sets us apart from other life-forms on earth. silly egotistical humans! this morning i was pouring hot chai into a cup while driving to the airport…the tea spilled and i was weaving all over the N1 at 130kph. multi-tasking? yes. pouring tea and/or driving well? not so much. why do you think they create laws about cell phone use and driving? why do you think some companies don’t allow access to facebook, youtube, etc during work hours? yeah, humans aren’t such great multi-taskers after all.

can you imagine for a moment what the world would be like if everyone only did one thing at a time? think of how fast it would be to send mail or register your vehicle if that government employee focused on only you. think of how fewer accidents there would be. think of how much work would get done if you weren’t checking FB, twitter, etc to find out who had posted/tweeted/blogged about blah blah blah. and imagine the great conversations you would have over a meal if everyone wasn’t checking their phone for email/sms/bbm/fb posts. yeah. wow!

parkour is a discipline that demands total focus on what you are doing, holding absolutely steady to the task at hand. i was acutely reminded of this when pics of an epic faceplant by a fellow traceur were posted on FB this weekend. i thought my scraped and bruised knees and sprained wrist were bad. in yoga, the risk of injury is not high, but injuries occur when we are not focused in the present moment and what we’re doing right now.

this is what i hope will be a benefit of increased training this month. not just a withdrawal of the senses, but taking it to the next level: complete focus on the task at hand. and this is where parkour is going to start influencing my yoga practice in a good way. because in parkour the risk of injury is immediately tangible. that surface is hard, that gap is wide, that wall is…um…yeah…it’s vertical! the focus required to, say, cat that gap, will hopefully train my brain muscle to slip into this sort of concentration in my yoga practice too. because right now i’m pretty dispassionate about my yoga practice and that kind a focus can help to rekindle the passion!

and i’ll be testing out some new kicks so i’ll review them at the end of the month. when i started training i bought new sneakers for the first time in 8 years and they are now finished (after only 4 months) so they’ve been retired before i had to start duct-taping them. these new kicks are much sturdier and forward thinking. i can’t wait to get out and give them a try!

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