Chapter Nine: The Training
Once I had produced the practice sheet, I had to memorize it. I have never been good at memorization, but I set my mind to it and accomplished it by visualizing I was leading a led class. I created one for Led Primary and another for Led Intermediate. Besides being able to know the count and the names of all the asanas we had to be able to give adjustments or assistance in all the asanas. I did not have much experience at this. I had received a few assists from Sharath, Guruji, and Saraswathi over the years but I really did not know how to provide a proper one.
There were probably forty-five people in the course, which Guruji and Sharath had been planning on giving for years, but it did not materialize until Guruji died. This would be the second such course. At the time Sharath gave a led class on Sunday and Friday. We did the same thing in the course. Each morning three different people would be given the responsibility of giving assists in the Mysore class and on Sunday and Friday three different people would be given responsibility for giving the led class. They would not do the led class at the same time but be told when it was their turn to take over by Sharath, which was totally random. When it came my turn, I went on auto pilot and completely amazed myself. A lot of people would imitate Guruji’s voice while presenting it and just wing it, with having not prepared. I did it in my own voice and my musical talent kicked in and gave me the sense of rhythm and tempo. It was like conducting an orchestra as I had to keep an eye on everyone in the room and try and hold them all together. It was very much like when I played bass in a band and had the control over all the dancers on the floor. When I was finished a yoga teacher taking the course asked me if I were from California! I told him I was from Montana; he was amazed!
When I first met Shankara, the man who had introduced me to yoga and astrology, I had a dream that he was sitting at the kitchen table eating a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast and studying my astrological chart with an ephemeris. He told me in the dream for someone like me to get ahead I needed to go to New York. I told him the dream, and he said he would never advise anyone to go to New York as he was from Chicago and escaping the city out west. Intuitively I felt I was being told in the dream I should go there because of my sexual orientation as in New York I would be more accepted, but here in Montana I would not. This was the early 80’s, had already bought my apartments and the real estate market had gone flat and I could not flip them.
When it came my turn to assist, I do not have much recall. We did not have a led Intermediate but were allowed to practice it in the Mysore classes. The main assist I can remember working on was for Marichyasana B, C & D. Marichyasana A is simple for everyone. It is where you first have the left leg extended and the right bent with the foot flat on the floor and you reach around with the right arm and bind your arm with the opposite hand, hold for five breaths, and repeat on the opposite side with a vinyasa between. The vinyasa is essentially a truncated version of Suryanamaskara or Sun Salutation. In B you put the left leg in half lotus and fold the right leg up and again reach around with the right arm and bind with the left hand and repeat on the left side. In C you leave the left leg out straight as in A but instead of reaching around the folded right leg with the right arm you twist and reach around with the left arm and grasp with the right hand behind your back and repeat on the left side. This is much more difficult than A or B. D is the most difficult of all and is considered a gateway pose and you are not allowed to go on to the next posture until you are able to complete it. As in B you put the left leg in half lotus and bend the right leg up with the foot on the floor. Then you twist and reach the left arm around and grab the wrist from behind with the right hand. This is most difficult because you have the added distance created by the addition of the leg in half lotus.
The assist for these four poses is still rather foreign to me as I have gotten little practice in giving them. Because of the gossip, no one trusted me to teach a Mysore Class and put hands on students. The experience I did get was from doing Led Primary with small groups and taking the time to give assistance to whoever needed it. I loved doing this, but really did not get much opportunity to put it into practice.
I am still aghast everyone so willingly accepted I was sleeping with young boys without even confronting me. I guess it was because I had dropped the H-Bomb, which was so alien to everyone that they assumed if I said I that I must also be sleeping with young boys. The reason I said it was because I knew I could not have sexual relations with woman, and I thought by coming out it would no longer be an issue. What I did not realize was that saying this was an entirely different problem. People would assume I meant I slept with men. I would have been better off blurting out I was a Yoga Masturbator. Which is closer to the truth! When I had sexual fantasies, they were heterosexual, and I had not had sexual relations with men. Thus, I threw myself into the abyss. There was no way I could explain this to anyone, and I was completely misguided to assume everyone would understand. Thus, my coming out was a complete debacle, but once I was out, there was no way to put the cat back in the bag. As my friend Nirija, a devotee of Ammachi pointed out, there is no reason why one needs to explain why they are not sleeping with someone. Thus, what I had done was completely out in left field and made no sense whatsoever. Everyone in the community had their own take on why I had done it and what it meant, and the gossip just snowballed beyond anything I had intended into an avalanche which completely buried me. I would have been better off having jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge.
The Yoga Teacher from California told me I was in the wrong tribe. I thought she meant the local yoga studio was wrong for me, but what she meant was I should not be hanging out with heterosexuals, but with gays. When I stopped practicing there, I did my practice at home. I had a gas fireplace installed in my practice space to raise the heat. It is naturally hot in India, and it is not required to heat a room or add humidity. The room would be cool in the morning, but with so many bodies it would soon warm up. The heat was supposed to be generated internally. I am not a sweater, but in the room in India I would perspire. This is good because one sweats out toxins. Sharath told that one should rub the sweat back into the skin as it contained minerals that could be reabsorbed. It was important to take a shower before and after practice. I only showered before since I did not normally sweat.
A woman who lived in town who had practiced at Eddy Sterns studio in New York asked me to come practice with her at a studio where she was practicing in a room another woman rented in an old building that had been a warehouse. It was on May eighteenth, 2009, I was going to go practice there for the first time. While I was in the shower getting ready the Kirtan Woman called to tell me Guruji had just died. It is curious that Guruji’s death and my decision to practice in this space occurred on the same date. I took this as an auspicious sign. I liked the space so much when I got to India, I wished I was home practicing in the privacy of the Warehouse Studio.
I tried to get students to come practice with me, but nobody would. Occasionally the woman who was renting the space would come. I was the only regular participant. Then the wife of an emergency room doctor started to come and practice. That was good because she was doing intermediate also. By this time, I was doing full intermediate, and the first two poses of Advanced A on Sunday through Thursday and Primary on Friday and Saturday was the day off. That was good because I liked to garage sale on Saturday mornings. Occasionally the woman who initially invited me to practice at the warehouse would come but she had developed a fear of coming in the building early in the morning because of homeless people in the parking lot. She started having me come to her house on Saturday mornings and give her a led primary. This was great and I gained a lot of experience. The woman was a trained dancer, but I could not get her to follow my instructions. It was frustrating!
I could tell people were uncomfortable with me, but I still thought it was because I had come out. I still didn’t realize it was because of the gossip that I was sleeping with young boys. It was about this time a woman who taught yoga at the other yoga studio approached me about teaching her how to play harmonium. We had a group which played kirtans at the other yoga studio. Nirija also wanted to learn to play, so we started having a harmonium class on Friday nights from seven to nine. Which was late for me because I liked to go to bed at eight so I could get up at four and have coffee and take a shower so I could be at the studio to practice from six to eight. I liked to stop at the gas station convenient store on the way to the studio and get another cup of coffee so I was primed when I got on the mat. Sharath always said, “No coffee, no shakti.” Even though I was practicing alone I developed a relationship with the clerks at the convenient store for social interaction.