About that prop…
The Danda or staff- the prop of all props. The danda aptly gave dandasana (sitting with legs straight out in front of you, your spine and arms straight like arrows with the palms all the way down on the floor next to your hips) it’s name. It’s an oddly rigorous and sweat inducing pose. It also refers to the walking stick that many holy men or sadhus carry in India. However, it is not unique to sadhus. We all know wizards use them too. Gandalf crashes his staff down on the cave floor in a climactic moment in the Lord of the Rings trilogy yelling, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PASS!’ before plundering down the abyss to his possible death. And even here, in the real world, we are no strangers to the danda, though we don’t call it that. We see our elders with canes, walking sticks, walkers and other aides as they weave through the winter years.
The Danda as a symbol demands a certain reverence and respect. It represents prajña (wisdom); someone who, either through their age or their studies or their feet has garnered a little more understanding so we’d be remiss not to pay attention.
I’ve always been a prop person, myself. When I was 11 I was scheduled to train as a horseback rider with the US Olympic Team’s coach, a sassy Cuban by the name of Raul De Leon. I was to spend the whole summer in an amazing ranch in West Virginia along with a select group of Colombians, training every day. I was the youngest person ever invited to do this.
Packing for the trip was an all out challenge even though I’ve always been a light packer. There were riding boots, helmets, saddles, jodhpurs, gloves, harnesses, spurs, whips, and all the other odds and ends that come with riding that had to be brought all the way from Colombia. Fortunately, these were the plush airline years, when you could check, wait for it… two bags for free.
As we loaded up the car to go to the airport, my dad picked up my saddle bag (and yes, for those wondering, it’s shaped like a saddle) and looked at me, eyebrows in a knot, ‘bug, what did you pack in here?’
* * * * *
The Americans were a little nervous that at 11 I wouldn’t be able to handle the work of being at the stables all summer. My recommendation letters were somehow convincing enough and my parents promised to stay nearby and come grab me immediately if it was too much.
I was to be solely responsible for two horses. Horses here are much bigger than Colombian horses. I had to brush them, bathe them, feed them, muck their stalls, suit them up and train them. Plus, there were stable chores shared by all: raking the floors, keeping the food wagons full, stocking the hay… It was a blazing hot summer, and everything got sweaty every ride. Which meant horses needed to be bathed every day, and tackle cleaned and scrubbed. Everything had to be impeccable. It’s not the queen’s sport for nothin’.
All the while, I was a tiny thing. I had to learn fast to lean way back to counter-lever the wheelbarrow while dumping manure into the manure pit only after being projectiled down into it myself a handful of times, much to my embarrassment and everyone’s outpouring glee. At which point the only solution was to hose off along with my horses. I was so small, I had to throw the saddle onto the horse’s back then run from side to side pulling it, trying to straighten it. Once in place, I’d have to fasten the girdle in an instant, otherwise, the horse would get itchy and quiver, knocking the saddle out of place, and everything would start all over again.
On the first day at the arena, I got into serious trouble and was sent back to the stables because my horse had a dimple full of dust on his rump which could only be spotted if I was sitting on him. From then on, I would finish brushing him mounted.
I didn’t care. I loved being there. It was such an honor. Hard work was part of it. It was great fun. A total adventure. But I digress…
* * * * *
‘Bug, what did you pack in here?’ I smiled weakly at him. He pulled the zipper to find, amidst all my riding stuff, a pair of heavy skates (not inline, but the old school kind), a camera, five books, my knife, goggles, a flashlight and my stuffed pound puppy. ‘Honey, where are you going to skate?!?! You will be on a farm.’ I looked at him with a tiny smile, ‘I didn’t want to miss any good opportunities.’ It took some convincing, but he got me to leave the skates behind…
* * * * *
We all have things we rely on. Our props. Things that get us through the hard times. It is said that when a sadhu gets to a certain point where they feel like they no longer are attached to material things, as a symbolic gesture, they break their danda. They get rid of the last thing that is meaningful and has been propping them up in acceptance that what they are needing or seeking is inside of them.
After these last few months of mammoth family transitions, and having had a surgery around the same time to boot, I’ve not been able to practice asana. I also didn’t have any instruments with me or couldn’t play them for a while. Two of my go-to’s. It felt like my danda broke. Like everything I knew and used as a coping mechanism, was not an option. I was forced to realize and appreciate that I am the yoga. The yoga is inside of me. That like Luke Skywalker, I don’t need a lightsaber in order to have the force. I know how hokey it sounds but how great would it be if we could feel this more often. We are enough. It is all here. “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” as the Hopi elders say.
Right now it feels like I have practiced for so long that you can’t separate me from my practice or vice versa. It’s an unexpected though obvious progression. I guess you can’t cheat maturation. It definitely feels like I’ve moved into a different space with it. Subtle but significant. It has reminded me that things are simple yet profound.
That said, I get to start moving again this week, and honestly, I am very grateful and can hardly wait!
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*** Wide Awake Episode 2: Consent From a Somatic Perspective– A Conversations With Jeff Corckett
is now available for the listening as well as Episode 1 With Milard Roper, if you missed it.
This month I spoke with Jeff Crockett. Jeff is a somatic therapist and breath and movement teacher in private practice in Los Angeles. He also teaches workshops in New York and Rome, Italy.
He has developed his work from over 30 years of teaching breath, movement and voice. His training began at The Central School of Speech and Drama in London where he received an advanced diploma in voice studies (distinction). It was there that he began studying the Alexander Technique and other forms of movement and breath work. He received his certification to teach the FM Alexander Technique from the Alexander Training Institute of Los Angeles in 1995. He began studying the work of Ilse Middendorf over 20 years ago and is a certified practitioner of Middendorf Breathwork. He is also influenced by the work of Kesha Fikes, a certified therapist of the Danis Bois Method and a somatic therapist specializing in trauma and attachment-centered manual therapy.
He was the head of voice at The American Conservatory Theater for over 20 years, and for over 10 years he has been a regular guest faculty member at the Accademia Nazionale Silvio d’Amico in Rome, Italy.
In both group and private work, he is interested in helping people access their innate resources of power, creativity, insight and equilibrium. His focus is helping people meet themselves deeply, and to grow from the experience of being truly seen and met by another.
***If you have topics or things you are curious about or want me to discuss on here, let me know.
The Jam (Master Class with music)
All Sunday’s from 12:30 to 2:30
Pure Yoga East
$30 walk in
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Heart Over Head: Backbend Master Class
February 11 from 9-11am
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With Miles, Caroline and Doyal
March 2, 2018 7-9pm
Pure Yoga East
$45 All are welcome
Bring your kiddos. It’s a family affair.
The Jam: Back Bending and Hips
Fair Haven, NJ
Synergy Hot Yoga
March 17 from 1-3
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The Art of Touch: A Deeper Look At Hands On Assists
Long Island, NY
March 18 from 2-4
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Shape Vs. Space 100 Hr. TT
With Miles Borrero and Rebecca Sandlin
At Pure Yoga East
Shape- March 22-25/Space May 31-June 3
Thursdays & Fridays 5-9
Saturdays and Sundays 9-7
For more info or to REGISTER CLICK HERE
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