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Retrograde Return

Retrogrades have a bad reputation. In the world of linear progression, no rest, and productivity over anything else, it’s easy to see why they got this notoriety. But it’s not the universe’s intention to ruin your life. Instead, retrogrades are an invitation to slow down, revisit, reflect, remember, return, realize, and realign. When you give a retrograde some space to breathe, the magic creeps in.

Currently, we have 6 planets stationed retrograde (all but Venus and Mars). These planets touch on nearly every area of life and are huge speed bumps from the universe, asking us to really truly prepare for this next chapter that is approaching for all of us.

This retrograde season has brought me many unexpected challenges. My practice, which used to honestly feel much lighter and easeful, now feels heavy and slow. After Bali, I have been plugging away at my shortened practice, stopping at my challenge pose of Garbha Pindasana. My intention when I moved to Mysore was to continue working on my practice as a self-practice up until I begin my studies with Sharath in October.

My self-practice became unbearable much more quickly than I anticipated. I began bargaining with myself, cutting the practice even further, until one morning I woke up and only completed 5 Surya Namaskar A before telling myself I had done enough. My self talk was not kind, and I was becoming more and more frustrated with myself. It was in this moment that I realized I’m in the Ashtanga capital of the world and there are literally 100 teachers within 2km of my apartment. I texted a teacher near me and started classes the next day.

But things did not get easier for me. This teacher has his own particulars of the practice that he prefers his students focus on. He took one look at my Surya Namaskar and told me that I was not properly using my leg or core strength while standing or jumping back/through. Because of this, he told me I was not ready to practice any further than half primary with him. Had I not just had half my practice trimmed away in Bali, I would have probably had a different reaction. But half primary is just 4 poses shorter than my already shortened practice, so I accepted it.

It brought out this deep sadness that is quite familiar. I have been revisiting this feeling that I have had for most of my life quite a lot lately. I have never quite felt I belonged in the place I was born or with the family I was born into. This has always given me an uneasy feeling that I have missed out on something big in life. Now that I am also without a home to return to, this sense of not belonging anywhere and missing out has been amplified. But this new experience of realizing that I have never had a long term yoga teacher and the benefit of dedicated study with one teacher has made me revisit this feeling of loss and disconnect I have felt in so many areas.

It’s not until today, with the advantage of some hindsight, that I’m seeing that my practice, like the energy of the universe, is currently stationed retrograde. There is much to be learned from revisiting, redefining, and reviving stagnant and foundational parts of the practice. What has continued to surprise me is how the practice can often feel *more* challenging even as I continue to do less and less. What this tells me and continues to remind me is that the practice is and never was purely physical. It is working on an energetic level far beyond our scientific and logical understanding of the human body and mind.

After 10 days on my own in Mysore, I felt the loneliness and unfamiliarity of being in a foreign country completely solo creep up to a point that I knew I needed to get myself some breathing space. I bought a sleeper bus ticket to Goa, knowing that taking this time to revisit the one place that has felt like home this year would give me many rewards. I arrived at Purple Valley on Sunday, after spending 18 hours horizontal on a neon lit bus through the Karnataka countryside.

Arriving at Purple Valley was like a reunion with a self that I was only just getting acquainted with before I left. It was here that I turned a 6 day stay into 6 weeks. Here, I transitioned from yoga vacation to yoga-as-life. I fell in love with the jungle and found myself in 10km long monsoon walks. Upon Re-arriving, I felt a calmness in my body that I have not felt in years. The high frequency buzzing that I’ve gotten accustomed to due to the anxiety of constantly navigating unfamiliarity seemed to completely retreat. I was home.

Sometimes I feel like things in my life are too synchronous to be believable. As I work to write down my experiences more, I recognize that many of my stories of alignment have tight little bows tied onto stories that all seem to create resolutions and purposes and morals. It goes against everything I was taught in my creative writing degree, but I still sit here feeling compelled to convey the seemingly perfect message the universe always seems to channel for me.

As the planets all spin in reverse, and my practice slides backwards to half primary, where I began my journey as an ashtangi, I return to a space where I feel revived, realigned, and reconnected. I remember where I started and where I’m headed. I’m reprioritizing my practice. I’m recognizing the importance of the process. I’m reevaluating where I will focus my energy. I’m rewatching videos of where my practice was when I was here a month ago. I’m repurposed.

Going backwards isn’t losing anything, as long as you don’t view progress linearly. 🌀

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