Practice And All is Coming
I never did it with piano, clarinet, or guitar. I didn’t do it with ballet, baton twirling, or swimming.My parents and teachers tried to convince me it was important. Sometimes I pretended to do it, but I was only pretending. Years passed. Jobs, apartments, musical tastes, bang lengths, and boyfriends all changed, but I STILL wasn’t doing it. It took me a few straggly decades, but I finally began to do it.
I began to practice. Yoga. The practice of yoga.
I started taking yoga during my first year at Fresno City College. It was a Hatha yoga class. Since then, I’ve taken classes in each city I’ve lived in and tried lots of different styles of yoga. But, during one of my bar shifts at the Chicago music club Beat Kitchen, I met a woman named Lisa who told me she was traveling all over the world studying and teaching yoga — Ashtanga yoga.
I had never heard of that style and was curious. She had just returned from India, and she mentioned that she did trades for private yoga lessons. She liked my husband’s paintings, so we worked out a deal to trade a large painting for private Ashtanga lessons. She did tell me this style is very rigorous, based on repetition, and rarely taught correctly in the United States. But, that’s all I knew.
Lisa trained me as she had been trained in India by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. She told me I was going to learn Ashtanga’s Primary Series and that it takes regular practice to make progress.
She started me with a few poses at a time, drew diagrams so I could see sequencing, and she called the poses by their Sanskrit names and counted breaths. She told me I MUST PRACTICE DAILY. (Well, six days a week.) Same poses, same sequence – no modifications.
And I did it! I practiced on my own, and she came over to teach me every other day. Lisa continued teaching me in our home for three years – no yoga studio, no other students, this very specific practice of yoga and a very tough, disciplined teacher. After that, it was up to me to practice on my own. Lisa left me with the first Pattabhi Jois quote she ever shared with me:
After the trade with Lisa was over, I still woke up six days a week, no matter how late I was out the night before, to practice Ashtanga yoga for 90 minutes. When I travelled, I brought my mat and practiced yoga wherever I was staying. Some days it felt good; other days it felt like pure torture. But, through all of that practice I had finally learned that the practicing itself is what it is all about. That is how I learn, that is how I push through hard days: I get up and I practice.
Now, I also naturally turn to practice even off the yoga mat. I have been practicing Kadampa Buddhist Meditation for four years now. Daily meditation practice is a part of my life (being patient, kind, and loving to myself and everyone I encounter), along with a daily Ashtanga practice. (Well, six days a week.)
Practicing both has helped me build a daily studio practice so I can create my leather goods. Some days I get into my home studio and ideas aren’t flowing, so I may just burn incense, listen to music, and rearrange my leather tools. But I’m in my studio every day, practicing being an artist. Some days are a breeze; most days not. But I practice, and I truly do believe all is coming.
Julie Whaley was born and raised in Fresno, California. She graduated from California State University with a bachelor's in Education and English Literature and went on to earn her second bachelor's degree in Fashion Design at The Art Institute of Chicago. She now is the owner/creator of bask leather. Julie resides in Chicago, Illinois, with her husband and her dog, Ebbolina the cockapoo. Follow her @baskleather
Words: Julie Whaley