Lessons from Tim Feldmann

Tim Feldmann, world-renowned and respected Ashtanga yoga instructor came to visit our Shala in March of this year.  He came at a very pivotal moment in my life.  I had just had my rib re-section surgery 3 weeks prior and had just started a slow yoga practice again after 2 weeks off.

Tim giving me a Supta Kurmasana adjustment in my Primary Series practice.

Tim giving me a Supta Kurmasana adjustment in my Primary Series practice.

For anyone who knows me personally or has been following my journey on Instagram @clarissa_mae_ you may have seen my December posts when I was in the hospital with a blood clot.  The clot occurred it turns out because my 1st rib and my clavicle were too close together blocking the main vein to my right arm, the rib re-section removed about 2 inches of bone from my 1st rib, hopefully fixing the problem for the future.

My rib re-section incision post surgery.

My rib re-section incision post surgery.

When Tim came to our Shala I had just spent the last 3.5 months  doing gentle practices and being concerned I would never be able to regain my strength or my practice as it was.  When Tim left he had managed to shift my perspective in his kind and generous manner. Tim presented workshops on the Breath & Bandhas, Armbalances, Backbending, and taught Mysore.  Because I was still in recovery I didn’t get to practice all the physical tips and tricks, but I got to observe and take it all in.  I also had the great honor of being Tim’s personal Quad City tour guide and driver while he was here. I got to take him for lunch and we strolled through a local antique shop, picking up relics and laughing.  I talked to him about my practice, my surgery, my anxiety about any possible limitations, my dream of going to Mysore.  He listened and responded with deep kindness,  wisdom, & encouragement.

Tim was a delight to host in the QC

Tim was a delight to host in the QC

During his workshops he would keep reminding us about Mula Bandha (root lock at the base of the pelvis) and Uddiyana Bandha (abdominal lock).  He explained it like this:  Mula Bandha is the effort and Uddiyana Bandha is the letting go, and we must engage both at all times. The first day he taught Mysore I essentially acted as the room monitor, checking students in, giving them ok to go in to the Mysore room, making sure Tim didn’t need anything while he was teaching, and of course taking pictures.  After class Saturday I asked my teacher Evan & Tim if they thought I could try Mysore the next day, they both agreed.  So Sunday I unrolled my mat in the Mysore room and started a very slow and careful practice.  Throughout my practice I was aware of my friends around me completing feats of strength and flexibility, Tim giving adjustments to get my yogi friends into the best version of the Kapotasana or whatever their peak poses were.  I hummed quietly along, still doing vinyasas from Matthew Sweeney’s Moon Series as my shoulders were not ready for a normal Ashtanga vinyasa. During my practice Tim would come check on me, giving me gentle adjustments for encouragement, in my Supta Kurmasana he worked carefully to help me into a less intense variation of the posture.

Final rest adjustment from Tim after my Mysore practice.

Final rest adjustment from Tim after my Mysore practice.

Near the end of my practice he came over and squatted near me, looked me in the eye and asked me how I thought my practice had gone and how I was feeling.  I responded with something like, “well given my surgery I think it went ok.”  His next sentence continues to resonate with me, still looking at me with a warm smile on his face he said

“Good, now you know where your practice is and you go one-eighth more next time, and take it slow, but you do not go back to your old practice, you have a new practice.”

This simple statement shifted my whole interpretation of my situation.  I went from feeling sorry for myself to being grateful that I had the chance to have a new practice and the adventure of discovering what it would be.  During my final rest Tim gave me a final adjustment and beneath the towel I had covering my eyes I wept. I received a big hug after practice and felt such gratitude to this mentor who appeared in my life in a moment I truly was in need of guidance.  There are many people I hope to study and learn from in the future and I am hoping beyond hope to be able to study in India very soon, but I will make every effort to learn from Tim as often as I can.  He will be back at our Shala next March and I am so excited to once again have the privilege of being a student in the presence of his wisdom and generosity. Thank you Tim, I hope you know how much you you have impacted my practice and thus my life, I hold you in high regard and look upon as a mentor and friend.

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