By Vanessa Fleming, Summersalt Yoga teacher
“I’ve been cheating a lot in this pose,” I admitted to my new teacher, Tonći, as I came down with heaviness and a belt around my arms and a block between my thighs for wheel pose.
“Yes, most people do,” he said, with a smile.
Tonći does not know that I am a yoga instructor. I avoid answering him when he asks what I do. I came to Tonći after a friend recommended him. It was a wise choice.
Tonći is an Ashtanga teacher. I’ve only recently started practicing Ashtanga, and in Mysore, I still get lost on what’s next. But I’ve fallen for Ashtanga recently. The practice itself presents a whole new challenge for me. From alignment I’ve been missing from having a regular teacher (travel teaching does not afford one to have a regular teacher), to exploring new poses I’ve never done before, I feel like a beginner.
But that’s because, well, I am.
This is a whole new ballgame for me. It’s like playing basketball your whole life and then you walk onto the court to play handball. Totally different rules, different mindset, different strengths.
And there isn’t much room to bail when it gets hard. Today, I struggled bad with one pose. I didn’t want to do it. It was next in the sequence, and I had already decided I was going to skip it. Tonći had other plans. He didn’t know I was planning to skip, but I think he sensed my struggle. So he came over, sat with me, and helped me get into the pose. Strong, but careful. Smart and mindful.
This practice, as I go and get in trouble with the sequence or poses, I feel my ego just…dying. I said this to Tonći. With a laugh and his deep Croatian accent, he said, “This practice is built to burn up the ego.”
He’s right. I’m basically on fire right now.
But I’m starting to trust in it a little bit more. I am seeing the progress, even in the short time that I’ve been practicing. I’m connecting with new elements that I haven’t seen in my practice ever, and all those alignment cues that I’ve learned in my 10 years are taking a complete new form and meaning.