The Bittersweetness of Finishing the Intermediate Series

4/8/14 — I finished the Second Series today, and I suppose that I should celebrate, but instead I came into and out of practice somewhat humbled. Finishing the Second Series feels like a milestone and I wish that I could write about just postures themselves; but to leave out the other context of my experience would feel disingenuine and incomplete.

So, I have been concerned with health (GI) issues over the past couple of months, and had gone so far as to have a colonoscopy done yesterday (Monday). It was not the worst case scenario, like seeing a stage 4 tumor in your large intestine; but the doctor still took a biopsy of a very small bump which — she assured me — didn’t look cancerous. So why take a biopsy? I asked. She told me that it was just to be doubly sure that I was OK. She was almost 100% sure that everything is normal, but given my family history of cancer, just wanted to go the extra step. I won’t know the results of the biopsy until next Tuesday, when I see her for a follow-up appointment.

To prepare for this procedure, I had to fast the entire day before the procedure (Sunday), drinking only clear liquids…so I decided to make it juice/raw food cleanse for Sunday and at least a couple more days. I missed eating my regular foods, which, unfortunately, have not been very yogic. I have been a total foodie for many years and would often enjoy a nice plate of cheese, pate, and glass of merlot with friends and family. But, there really is something to be said about seeing the interior of your digestive system to think twice about what you put into your body. I wondered if all those 2 decades of decadence (red wine, and all sorts of rich food) have finally caught up to me.

Despite these misgivings, I suppose even the very recent change in my diet (drinking either green tea, fresh pressed juices, or coconut water) and raw fruits and salads made a difference in how I felt when I woke up today. The initial two days were awful — I was fatigued, lethargic, and moody. But today my mind and body felt crystal clear, bright, and full of energy. (It helps to take an extra day off work, though!)

In practice, things flowed with an unnaturally good rhythm. I was distracted by people coming in and out of the shala at first, but that faded when I put extra focus on the sound of the breath and the drishtis. There was a sense of contentment. I felt happy in my poses, even the difficult ones. And I haven’t wondered very much about getting the next posture anymore, especially now. I’d rather be healthy above anything else. Advancing to the next pose or Series won’t matter too much if one had cancer.

Still, it was a sweet surprise when Andrew came by when I finished Mukta Hasta Sirsasana C. “Baddha Hasta Sirsasana,” Andrew said, and began to demonstrate the first bound-hands headstand. A, B, and C were not so bad; D felt rather scary, trying to maintain balance on the elbow points and the head without toppling over. When I finished, Andrew gave a nod and smile, and said, “You’ve finished the Second Series, and on Rama’s birthday, a very auspicious day.”

I sat with David a little later, and he explained that Nadi Shodhana is not just nerve cleansing. “It’s channel cleansing,” he said. “Guruji used to say that there are three channels, not just the nerves…there are small channels, medium channels, and large channels, like your digestive system.” It seemed like synchronicity (as Jung would like to say) after David mentioned this; after all, I really had been cleaning out the large channels in my body in the past couple of days, along with the practice of cleansing the nerve channels, and everything else. I am hoping that to conclude the Second Series on Rama’s birthday would indeed bring some good luck. There was a bittersweet feeling: there was a sense of “I did it!” and there was also the sense of impermanence, the faint worry of my health. More than anything, I just want to be healthy. And I suppose that begins by the simplest thing — what I put into my body.

UPDATE (4/15/14): I went to see my GI doc for a follow up appointment today, after a week of anxiety. Well. good news. Biopsy was negative, and everything was normal. Still, it was a good wake up call to think more about what to feed oneself, especially as one gets older. Diet has been said to be the last frontier in yoga practice (by David Garrigues, I believe) but for me it has become the focal point now.

3 thoughts on “The Bittersweetness of Finishing the Intermediate Series

  1. How many years of practice did it take you to complete Intermediate series? I know that everyone learns at a different pace but it would be helpful to have some general idea on how long it takes. Thanks so much! Any advice would be helpful. I’m currently up to yoga nidrasana.

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