Nearly, but not quite

November 21, 2014

It’s the 21st November, aka Standupversary, the celebration of that day in Mysore 2011, now 3 years past, when I first stood up from a dropback, I remember it like it was yesterday, miraculously flying up and almost flattening Sharath, who had unbeknown to me taken a step down my mat to assist me.

It took until mid 2012 to get a degree of control and consistency, 2012 standupversary was the last time I repeated the feet on its birthday, before the Humerus fracture.

Standupversary 2013 was obviously a non event as I waited for more surgery, this day last year I couldn’t even lift my arm to shoulder height, let alone lift my giant tea mug!

Since the final surgery in April I’ve worked hard with physiotherapy to regain strength and range of motion in the shoulder, it took until mid September to be able to push up in to Urdva Dhanurasana. I had been “hanging back” and get weekly Shala help from Louise and Emma to dropback and come up, but doing it on my own felt miles away.

In the last month or so I’ve managed to get some consistency (less head landing first) in the dropping back, “STRAIGHT ARMS” as Cary and Susan used to say and now I’ve started to stand up first from the Bolster and since my purchase at The Yoga Show, from half thickness blocks, the mat is now just a tantalising 2cm away.

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So this years standupversary is a case of almost, but not quite, half a block has become relatively easy and I wonder how much of it is mental now, though the block gives me something to push in to, where as my hands tend to slide on just the mat.

I’m sure it’s going to come back and considering I only got back on my mat just over 4 months ago perhaps it was a bit much to expect to celebrate 21/11 from the mat.

All is coming (back)

Yoga Show

October 31, 2014

I thought I was never going to get there. Along with everyone else I got evacuated from the train after it got hit by some falling masonry in a tunnel, literally smashing a set of the trains doors of their hinges. Two hours and three tubes later I was on my mat at AYL for a rapid practice, I was in Savasana as Louise was blowing out the little candles, I’ve never been in there at chucking out time before.

The yoga show is good for a few hours, though nothing new or exciting to report on, so here are a few photos.

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With Lucy and Sophia from Yogaclicks

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I would love one of these but have nowhere to hang one

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Sorry but nothing beats Tetley!

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Cat on a mat

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Wasn’t Halloween, but a few skeletons around

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Far too healthy!

A weekend with Eddie Stern in Dorset

October 20, 2014

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I was inspired to head to the seaside for Eddie’s weekend workshop by the wonderful Ashtanga NY video and the book he wrote about Guruji. Despite these, over here at least, he still has a lot lower profile than other teachers, so I was wondering what to expect.

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Well I found a teacher who is Knowledgable, compassionate, funny, self deprecating and quite happy to go off topic and with the flow. As I was setting up my mat on the first morning he came over, introduced himself and asked about the large scar on my left shoulder, explaining my limitations and what my practice is, there was no “don’t do this or that” he just said “go ahead and do your thing!”

Friday practice was primary only, after a day off and a long journey it was probably a good thing not to push it, apart from getting me to lower my hands in Tiriang Mukha and the odd prod he mostly left me to it.

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I was wondering if we were meant to do dropbacks, but then I saw someone else doing them, so I stood up and started playing around, he soon came over and did assisted cross arms then full drops and up, “very good” as I came up from the last one.

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Altogether about 40 people took part, quite a few more used to being led, so for the last two days we had a choice, either Mysore style or a later led class, about 15 people took that option. I was in the first start group for Mysore starting at a very civilised 9am, 12 of us, which was a nice amount to start with. Days 2-3 it was full practice, which for me meant two days of going a bit further than I would normally at the Shala to Kapotasana hang backs. All the block experiments and running for the bus have strengthened my quads a lot and doing the extra postures feels good, not depleting. It also helps open my back up, making walking the hands in on Urdva Dhanurasna possible now and being able to hang for longer in dropbacks. Eddie helped me in Bhekasana each day, he has a different technique pressing down near the elbows to help keep the hands in place while leaving the student to try and lift the chest, all help gratefully received before heading to the back of the hall for closing. I enjoyed every practice, Eddie is a very calm presence sitting on his chair in Lotus like a Buddha watching us, then jumping down to give an adjustment.

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Lunch view

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Beach cafe, a change from Pret

As the afternoon sessions didn’t begin until 2pm that left plenty of time for a drink and a slice of cake in the kitchen before heading down to the cafe on the beach to have lunch in the autumn sunshine looking across to the Isle of Wight.

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Puja

The afternoon class was billed as Chanting, pranayama and yoga philosophy, plus time for questions and answers. The first part of the afternoon session took place at Helen’s new Shala 2 minutes walk away, a converted Wesleyan chapel. It’s very new and to help wish the building, students and teachers well, Eddie held a puja to Ganesha on the second evening. A ceremony of chanting, invocations, offerings and flowers.

I would love to practice with Eddie again, he’s down to earth, at times irreverent, but amazingly knowledgable about our practice.

Q&A
About practising on moon days, Eddie said that if we have a 6 day/week practice then it’s good to take the moon days off, but if real life gets in the way and we can’t practice every day, but happen to be able to practice on a moon day then it’s ok ” nothing bad is gonna happen!” He went on to explain how taking rest on moon days came about. The Sanskrit college where Guruji taught only took Brahmin boys who had lots of rituals to perform on moon days, so didn’t get time to do their regular work, they also took off the day following the moon day. It was believed that if teachers taught on new moon their knowledge would decrease and on Full moon days a students knowledge would decrease. Guruji kept up the tradition with regard to practice. But Eddie explained it was far from being a hard and fast rule, Guruji’s daughter Saraswathi began teaching Monday to Friday, with Saturday and Sunday off, she still taught on a week day even if it was a moon day, but did not give new postures on the moon day.

Question on religion and yoga by a yoga teacher who had been stopped from hiring a church hall to teach yoga in. Eddie talked about the lawsuit in California by Christian fundamentalists aimed at stopping his yoga in schools program. He said although all kids call it “yoga” it is officially known as the “Wellness & Health program”. The exercise part is based on yoga, but there is also health and nutrition teaching, the lawsuit was thrown out, but is being appealed.

Question about the Urban Yogis program. I’ve seen the YouTube clips about this, but had no idea how involved and how much time, not to mention his own money Eddie has poured in to this. The idea is to get kids out of the cycle and control of the gangs that run the “Projects”, all of the kids who started the program have had friends, relatives killed and injured by gun crime. Eddie started the program with 6 kids who he trained 3 hours a week over a year to teach basic yoga to their peers in the schools. Once they passed his course he then got the schools to hire them as part of the staff to teach yoga and wellness. From those first 6 kids he now has many more in the program which is also now partly backed by a foundation. The idea being that the friends of the kids in the program see their friends getting a training and finding a route out of the spiral of drugs, crime and gun violence and are inspired to follow them.

Question about yoga and age. Eddie started by saying it’s a fact that eventually our body’s won’t be able to do what they once did and if after illness or injury we can’t do something to not to get frustrated, just do what we can do, but DONT stop doing a posture because we don’t like it! He said he has a lady at his NY Shala of over 80 years old who shows up every day at 6:30am and does her practice, over the years he’s taken poses away to accommodate her arthritis and fitness, but she still does her practice.

I tried to make some notes from the philosophy, but I always find when writing something down I miss whatever comes next.

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Group photo taken by Scott Johnson of SYL

States of mind concentration
Distraction
Obsession
Mind pays attention then wanders
One pointed focus
Cessation, stilling – Nirodaha or selective discrimination

The 3 questions
Who am I?
What am I doing here?
What do I do next?

5 reasons we suffer
Avidya – not knowing who we are.
Asmita – creating a false idea about who we are
Raga – desire
Dvesha – aversion
Abhinivesha – fear of death

Discharged

October 13, 2014

Today I had my 15th and final Fracture clinic appointment in the last two years. I still can’t believe how long it’s taken. Considering 1000′s of patients that must passed through that clinic in the last 2 years, the receptionist actually knows me by name and the little Indian Doctor recognises the Ganesh on my pendant, he was the one who told me a year ago if Ganesh couldn’t free my shoulder the arthroscopic surgery would!

After the usual mobility and strength tests, he asked what exercise I did, as there wasn’t much fat on me! When I told him, he said “ah YOGA is the best exercise possible”, he then niftily demonstrated Gomukhasana and said I should do that! Isn’t that third series? So I’m officially discharged by the NHS and the private physiotherapist.

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My copy of David Keil’s Functional yoga anatomy book came, so at least I can look up “shoulder”, though I’ve painfully learned quite a lot about it already.

Practice on Saturday at the local Shala and Sunday at AYL, to Kapo on Saturday and Bhekasana on Sunday.

Yoga holiday by the seaside this week, off to practice with Eddie Stern for a long weekend, I’ve wanted to meet him since I read his book Guruji and the brilliant Ashtanga NY documentary.

Rejoining the rat race

October 5, 2014

Finally after nearly two years of injury, surgery twice, injections, rehab and a lot of physio I’ve temporarily at least rejoined the world of work, working part time for a company supplying Christmas Santa Grottos! I get to talk to Santa’s Elves about sending them more supplies for the next batch of little darlings who get to sit on Santa’s knee. Anyone who knows how much I hate Christmas will probably find this hilarious, more than one person has asked if I’m an Elf! NO I’M NOT, though I think to get the elf gig you probably need to be nearer the size of the hidden ashtangi.

As usual I seem to have ended up in a job where I work mostly on my own, though I do have one 8 year old furry helper called Mol, the owners dog, she seems to be my friend now after helping me with my bag of BBQ Hula Hoops!

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Mol my co worker

My practice has suffered, coming home after being on my feet, running for the bus and then getting on my mat, my quads are not impressed and refuse to support me doing dropbacks. If it was summer and the mornings were warm and light practice before heading for work would be a better proposition, but dark and every morning feeling colder it’s not going to happen. I’ve not been able to go to the local Shala either.

Saturday I decided as I had to be in London anyway to return to YP and do Susan’s led primary, just 6 of us in the small room. A year ago I actually won a prize of a free class on the Shalas Facebook page, then I ended up needing the second surgery, so never collected it. having got the cash out to pay I remembered and asked the Receptionist if it was still there, she delved through a dusty pile and there it was.

It was a decent practice in a nice warm room, my first led class in a very long time, I figured I should do one before I head of to Eddie Stern in two weeks time. I learned I have rising ribs and a levitating left hand when I jump back and through, though I’ve only been jumping through for a couple of weeks since the shoulder finally stopped objecting. Little details that aren’t usually picked up in a Mysore environment, I always get something when I practice with Susan, some little detail, not saying she’s picky or anything!

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Levitating buildings in London

Today it was back to Louise at AYL after their building work break, once I thawed out from the freezing cold bus journey a surprising good practice through to Bhekasana with everything bound, I even managed to land two out of three dropbacks before Tom came to assist. It’s still a fine line of how many to try and do on my own before waiting for the cavalry to show up, Louise thought I’d banged my head, but my hand slipped on number three.

The philosophy group now seems to have a core, it’s nice to spend some time with the Shala community once a month after breakfast, rather than rushing off home, another 6 sutras done.

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A legal rest day this week.

So it’s back to the elves, hopefully my body will get with the program soon.

Mysore revolution in the sticks – week 2

September 28, 2014

With AYL closed for building work at least I’ve been able to get in another 3 consecutive mornings at the local Shala, as it continues to trial the early morning Mysore experiment. Over the 3 days we had nearly the same total of students come along this week, but the spread each day was more even, week 1 was 14, 5 & 1, week 2 has been 9, 5 & 5. Two of us did all 3 days this week.

The 9 body’s on Wednesday (moon days don’t count in the sticks!) warmed the space up nicely, and great to not be the last in there, with a couple of others doing a chunk of intermediate.

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Thursday morning was cold and I never really seemed to get warm, 5 people isn’t enough to steam the windows up on such a cold morning. My left knee was annoyed and didn’t want to play either, though the real surprise was the best ever attempt at (my illegal) Kapotasana, I landed a lot nearer my feet, but can’t work out how to then move the hands towards the feet, but it’s fun trying and really helps loosen my back up for Urdva Dhanurasana and dropbacks.

Friday 5 of us again, which pretty soon became two, me and L, as the others finished at half primary or ran off to work after 75 minutes. At least Friday morning was much warmer and L is another who adds the chunk of 2nd to Kapo, she started after me and was around 6 postures behind, this worked well as we both got assistance in Pasasana , Bhekasana , Dhanurasana and dropbacks.

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Growing an early morning Mysore program from scratch is hard enough in a city, but out in the countryside where the potential pool of ashtangi’s is a lot smaller, it’s really difficult and is probably going to take a long time to bear fruit. There is still a culture of yoga being something people attend once a week, even if they practice at home. And the cost to family budgets is another big consideration for many.

The 6:30am start is convenient for the majority who do half primary or a little more, they can practice and still be at work by 8:30-9:00am, but for the (very) few of us with longer practices going in to intermediate, it could do with starting earlier, when we don’t even finish until 8:30am, joining the rat race in time is impossible.

This is going to be the case for me for the next few months. After nearly two years of injury, surgery, recovery and unemployment I’m finally rejoining the rat race next week after seeing a random job advert last week on Facebook of all places. It’s only temporary and part time, but it’s a start on the road back to normality.

A Mysore revolution in the sticks

September 19, 2014

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Our local Shala is attempting an Ashtanga revolution this month by trying to start an early morning Mysore program, 6:30-8:30am. Since the Shala opened 4 years ago it’s Mysore classes have been 3 mid mornings and a couple of evenings, which are convenient for the towns Yummy Mummies and the leisured, but not great for for people who have to work.

This week was the first week of the three extra early practices. Wednesday morning at 6:30am 14 students unrolled their mats, wow for a small town what a start, however Thursday it was just 5 of us and today, well I was the only student, so Cathy the teacher practised with me. A really nice practice to Kapo.

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Wednesday 14 students

Yes I know I’m “legally” only up to Bhekasana, but with the arm problems I did Kapo hanging as soon as I could get back on my mat after the last surgery to give me a backbend without my arm taking part. Cathy uses a DG assist involving 6 bricks you attempt to walk the hands along towards the feet. I know Kapo officially will be a while, but hopefully it won’t be such a shock when the time does come.

For some people with a longer practice who work I think 6am would be better, my practice regularly hits two hours with the backbends, closing and Svasana, not to mention the local Shala offers the the chance of a bit of experimentation, trying Ustrasana and Kapotasana with blocks a la David Garrigues, Cathy has studied with David and often uses his adjustments and props.

Hopefully the masses will return to the revolution next Wednesday.

Denting the Floor

September 14, 2014

The private physiotherapy is almost over, it’s done it’s work in giving me back around 90% of my left shoulders range of motion. The strength is going to take a while longer. The last couple of weeks I’ve begun to feel it in my practice, primary feels (relatively) comfortable again for the first time in 18 months, I just need to find a bit more strength for the Bakhasana jump backs, but I can bind everything.

Strength is coming back in places, Bekhasana has gone from struggling to keep hold of the foot as Louise assists me to now being able to put downward pressure on the left foot as she lifts my chest. Urdva Dhanurasana on a dry surface I’m beginning to be able to walk my hands in, a combo or ROM and strength returning.

Dropbacks are still erratic, last week I crashed on my head, quite a bang, T next door stopped to see if I was conscious! This week I landed safely four times without denting the floor. At the Shala, in the heat and energy I’m a spent force by the time I get to backbends, so once I land I’m stuck, I can’t walk in and rock as I do at home, not to mention the saturated mat my hands are sliding on. I still live in hope of standing up by my Standupversary.

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Philosophy group lunch

Our monthly Yoga Philosophy group got through another 10 sutras, this is taking a while, Patanjali may have written a sequel by the time we get to the end!

The local Shala is running a trial the next two weeks, 3 mornings of early morning Mysore to see if there is enough demand, my only concern is the temperature, nothing compares to AYL in this country and at 6:30am as autumn feels like heading towards winter yoga in thermals doesn’t appeal.

No cake, no prana.

August 27, 2014

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The way I spent the half century day and some of the people who shared parts of it with me.

I hit the half century today, as usual on my birthday I practiced at the Shala. How many 50 year olds can even see their feet, let alone put them behind their head, yes I love doing Supta K.

Although I did regular led primary classes it wasn’t until I was 43 that I was forced to take the plunge into Mysore style, I couldn’t do Mari D, Supta K was for bendy people and backbends didn’t even enter my head, though I watched (bad drishte) people perform them. My practice as DK noted has come a long way, second series me? Well 7 years after my first Mysore class I can do Mari D and Supta K and am on Bhekasana in 2nd, I had no idea 7 years ago what second series even was.

I went to Mysore at 47 and stood up from a dropback for the first time, now we were in the realms of fantasy.

So back to my birthday practice, which was nicely punctuated by people wishing me Happy Birthday in various positions! Practice was followed by yogi breakfast, no shortage of chocolate croissants today.

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Home to a Battenburg birthday cake, “no cake no prana” as someone said!

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The cat cafe

My presents included last weeks outing to the cat cafe, a Bed of Nails mat as well as some yoga tops. Thanks to everyone who wished me happy birthday while I was on my mat, in the Shala at breakfast and closer to home, it’s been fun.

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Couldn’t get a ticket

Pinned, stretched and landed on my head

August 22, 2014

Back to physiotherapy this week seeing a different therapist, my usual one is on vacation. She turned out to be the Physio for the Norwegian women’s rugby team no less, so I was a little apprehensive. Her first words being ” you may find I push a little harder than R”! Eeek!

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This was the advice from my usual therapist!

It was good to do a different treatment, a new perspective , she started off giving me some new exercises, because she said part of the restriction I still have is caused by the thoracic spine being tight, the new exercises are really a warm up for the more intense new stretchy band exercises she’s given me to do at home, but despite being simple movements doing each of the 3 for 30 seconds is incredibly intense. She’s told me to only do them every other day, as I may seize up!

After the exercise lesson it was time to lay down and let her get to work, started with what she called “pinning & stretching”, pushing and pulling down hard on the muscle at the front of the shoulder to “pin” it, then stretching the arm/shoulder backwards against it, immediately beads of sweat form on my head. After this torture it was the usual pushing her palm in to the shoulder to break down any scar tissue and free the joint, but OMG she certainly pushes a LOT harder then R does, I thought R pushed hard, but from the cracks, pops and aching afterwards this was a different level of pushing!

12 hours or so later I flopped my mat down at AYL hoping all the previous evenings thoracic and shoulder opening would give me a super practice, how wrong that was. It was super warm, I had a nice spot near the opening, lots of help but it just didn’t get any easier and ended up being a slog, it’s amazing how much 30 minutes physio wipes me out, that’s the first time I’ve been to the Shala the day after physio, H had to help me do my UD’s, then time to test that thoracic, #1 landed ok, #2 landed just about, #3 Landed on my head! At which point H came over laughing to do assisted dropbacks.

At least I got a space in the Finishing Room this week, a good job I don’t snore as I think I dropped off in Savasana!


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