Archive for May, 2011

No longer about the backbends

May 30, 2011

Back to my home Shala today after week of being an Ashtanga tourist in Estonia. Nice to be back in familiar surroundings,surrounded by familiar faces and comfortable back in my favourite spot.

Practice was good,usual tweak to the arm rotation in Parsvakonasana, I don’t really get the point of that one, but if it makes C happy I’ll go along with it. The usual very intense PPC without the hands grounding, she keeps it just this side of excruciating!

My left knee is gradually improving, though I’m conscious of not doing anything to annoy it and stop it’s recovery, so no half Lotus in Ardha Baddha or Mari B & D, though did at least manage to bind Mari D on the second side, so the right knee must be coming back as well. All the extracurricular “Turbo Dogs” seem to be helping with the Titibhasana exit out of Supta K, though I need to work out the Bakhasana part, rather than collapse backwards on my bum. Now my energy has returned I seem to have a lot of work to get back to doing some of the movements I could do when I came back from Sri Lanka, but lost in the Hospital.

Pasasana is back to being a finger touch on both sides, so I’m hoping it won’t be too long until the fingers find each other again.

Backbends were good, Urdva Dhanurasana against the wall to start with, then off the mat, though C is now on me for my left heal turning in instead of out and the angle of my left hand, pushing up is not the mental battle anymore.

Dropbacks are not so much a mind game either, Susan’s hands in prayer at forehead plan, now I’m used to it, is giving me a deeper bend in the upper back and control for much longer. I dropped back not realising C had done her trick of appearing in front of me without me realising and the next thing I know my hips are coming forward and I’m coming back up to standing. Ruth’s “No thinking” comment of a while back has been taken on by Cary, she stops the thinking, once back up she just points at the floor, no time to think, just do it. I’m no longer nervous of doing dropback with her in front of me now, I’m landing safely with more control, though I think I probably bend my knees too early, but the fear factor has been replaced by initial apprehension, but once I’ve done the first one a kind of semi confidence replaces the apprehension. I do need my little towel to aim at, I know if I land in front of it my head will not suffer concussion. Remembering to land with straight arms is helping as well.

My brain doesn’t now spend seated thinking about the backbends to come, practice seemed to go through a long period of it being all about the backbends, so my mind wasn’t in the pose I was actually doing. I have more confidence in safe landings thanks to stronger arms from the Turbo Dogs and the new found extra notches of control in the upper back.

I don’t think I do closing fast, but others do, I don’t spend 10 minutes in Sirsasana, but I don’t fly through the rest either. Cary was on me to the last with adjustment in the breathing sequence. She’s always on me for the drishtes ! But at least she’s back to giving that nice mini massage in Balasana :-)

All followed by Yogi breakfast, the perfect Bank holiday Monday.

Meeting the President

May 26, 2011

I didn’t really have a plan for today, so just went into the city to wander and take photos on another sunny day. I was wandering along and came across a crowd waiting opposite a building next to the Swedish Embassy, I then realised the Police had blocked off the street, there were soldiers guarding the entrance and any tour group that came along was quickly being moved on by the Cops. I thought there must be someone coming as a few minutes later a van full of secret service type people with things in their ears emerged from blacked out vehicles. I asked a lady who told me that the President of Croatia was visiting, Mr Ivo Josipovic, OK. I admit I googled him while we were waiting as I wanted to know what he looked like, having already taken a photo of someone else in error. A few minutes later the cops moved everyone on to the pavement as a cavalcade of Limo’s turned into the narrow, cobbled street and out of the second car Mr President emerged, waved to us, then turned and was shepherded into the building by the Goon squad, luckily my camera was ready to go and I hit the button in the hope of getting the picture above.

After that bit of excitement and a cup of tea I went back to the main square to climb the Church Tower, it’s a steep climb up big steep stone steps, with just a rope to help you, but the view from the top was worth the climb, only myself and a German tourist at the top. Great view of the square below, as you can see.

So a busy morning for one that had no plans beyond doing practice and having a wander. I found another Marzipan place, love this example of a “Full English” made out of Marzipan. I don’t know where the time goes when I’m wandering in places like this, though my calves are aching from all the cobbles.

Tallinn has been a lovely place to spend the best part of a week, but long enough, it’s small and compact, and completely over run when a Cruise Ship docks in the Port, to the point that I ended up under the Golden Arches for a late lunch as everywhere else was rammed, well I did sit at a table at one Restaurant in the square, but 20 minutes later no service, so I left. But the good thing about McD’s is the free wifi and it was while slurping my strawberry milkshake that the reply email arrived from the Shala in Mysore saying as long as I fill the form in, then there is a place available for me in October. A good way to end another nice day of a lovely week.

Where I’m glad I went

May 26, 2011

I was up late (for me) last night, down on the Baltic beach watching one of the most spectacular sunsets I can remember seeing in Europe.

So late to bed and then woken early by the alarm for yoga. I seriously considered turning over and going back to sleep, but even at that hour this far north the sun was streaming through the curtains, so I got up and jumped on the bus to practice. Slight problem as I had got on the wrong Bus and it suddenly turned left when I was expecting it to carry on, then didn’t seem to stop for ages, when it eventually did stop I was nearer the Shala than the other bus usually delivers me.

The Shala was quieter today, only 12 people, certainly no danger of having to queue to practice here. I had a bit of a stomach ache as well this morning, so took it really slowly. Jocke told me to make it about the breath and the flow today and not look for perfection in the asanas. I asked him why in PPC he does the more advanced hands the other way up, he said his teacher teaches it from the start to help open the shoulders.

Seated were much steadier today, usual assists in Mari C and Supta K. Also a great assist in Supta Padangusthasana, I certainly didn’t need to add in E’s Trivikrmasana to prepare my hamstrings for Ubhya.

My back was more open today, assisted UD’s after a couple on my own, then a couple of dropbacks before assisted half way ones and full drops. So after waking up and thinking it may be a good idea to pull the duvet over my head practice was a decent one.

Jocke had a chat with me afterwards, really nice guy, if any Ashtangi’s find themselves in Tallinn I can recommend him and his Shala, it also has nice showers and serves post practice breakfast.

Well this is the life, blogging on my iPad while I enjoy the Hotel breakfast, before going out to spend my last day exploring this lovely Baltic city. Yesterday I found the new KGB Museum, which was fascinating, including the booby trapped purse below, very James Bond!

The Shala in Tallinn

May 25, 2011

I took a couple of photos in the Shala to show you what a nice place it is, from the glass entry door to the large practice room. All yesterday’s sightseeing and walking on cobbles left me with a stiff back this morning. It seemed much harder today, plenty of help too again from Jocke, interesting to have adjustments done in a different way, Prasarita C with the hands turned over and Mari C done from the front. Urdva Dhanurasana was a struggle, I managed 3 ok ones out of 5 attempts, walking in, but my back wasn’t bendy. I tried a couple of hang backs, but my back didn’t want to play, so i abandoned dropping back to the floor. but all practice is good.

There is always tomorrow, Ashtanga tourism is the way to go, but I will try not to walk quite so far today, off to visit the KGB Museum if I can find it.

Ashtanga tourist

May 24, 2011

A pretty uneventful journey to Tallinn, incredibly efficient Immigration and baggage delivery,buses that come when they say they will to deliver me to a nice Hotel located 300 meters from the Baltic Beach. The first thing I noticed last night was how late it stayed light, it was way past 11pm and still light and was light when I woke at 4am.

It’s a 2 hour time difference from home, but surprisingly when I woke at 5:30 to go to practice it didn’t feel like 3am as I expected, the bright sunlight must have helped. Jocke,The Teacher was expecting me when I turned up at the Shala at 6am, he told me to take it easy after a day off and travelling, I was a bit stiff. The Shala is beautiful, located on the 4th floor of what I presume is an office building. A nice spacious studio, well organised with green dots on the floor. You place the top right hand corner of your mat on the dot, everyone gets plenty of room even in poses like Upavistha and Supta Konasana, no danger of crashing on anyone else. It took a while to get going, the room was warm but not hot and Jocke didn’t push the assists very hard. Tallinn seems to be an Ashtanga city, by 7am when we chanted the room had filled up. Jocke seems to get round the room he seems to get to
everyone with “those” poses, UHP, Supta Kurmasana etc, also a nice assist in Mari D second side, first side still off limits thanks to my left knee.

I forgot Pasasana, “bad man”, never mind there is always tomorrow and went into Backbends, even managed 2 safe dropbacks, then got assisted ones as well. So much for taking it easy today! 

I was back at the Hotel in time for breakfast, a surprisingly good spread, served by a hatchet faced Russian waitress, so that’s where Rosa Kleb went after the James Bond film, I wonder if she still has the knife in the front of her shoe?

Time to then explore this small city. It wasn’t really “sovietized” in the communist days, no concrete edifices scaring the skyline, but a beautifully picturesque Old Town, windy streets, Castle Walls, Towers, one of which goes by the name of ” Fat Margarets Tower”. After 6 hours of walking and exploring, the cobbles have made my legs ache and it’s started to rain. 

Tallinn has one of the most developed wifi networks in Europe, getting online here is a doddle, just turn your device of choice on and you are online, so this post was written on my iPad , sitting on Hotel Balcony with a mug of Tea or 2 and a rather nice bar of the local White chocolate, Ashtanga fuel for the morning.

Deja vu Volcano

May 22, 2011

Well here I am a year after all the Volcano stress that led up to our Thai retreat with Kino. I got home from practice to find the news describing how the volcano is again throwing clouds of ash into the atmosphere, potentially screwing up tomorrow’s flight to Tallinn. As I type the cloud is heading for Norway, so I need you to all keep your fingers crossed for the next 24 hours in the hope that I get away for a bit of Ashtanga tourism.

A strange practice today in the sunshine, it started really well, left alone apart from PPC in standing and stopping to chant at 8:30 after Parsvakonasana. But Cary was after me in seated, makes me realise how easy I have had it the last few months while she has been away! After last week I was careful to slow down a little and do proper jump backs, then wham bam she’s squishing me in Mari A as the sweat pours in rivers. Bhuja nose splat exit, have not quite remastered the bhakasana jump back thing. At this point I hit the energy wall, no warning, no sense of getting tired, just an empty tank. Supta Kurmasana was an easy bind in that heat and I realised I was resting, I must have been there for about 20 breaths, before a prod from a passing Cary made me move my hands and lift up into Dwi Pada and Titibhasana before I sunk with a thud back on my bum before I could think about jumping back. I was a spent force. No rest for the wicked as i got a deep squishing in Baddha Konasana.The rest of seated was a bit of a trial. I had done Ubhya while C was next door, and was just about to vinyasa when she stopped me to give me an Ubhya lesson about what my feet and wrists should be doing, that’s as opposed to hanging on for grim death for the allotted count of 5!

I almost missed Pasasana I was so tired, but managed a finger touch almost on side one and fingers overlapping but not able to bind on side 2. But it’s not over is it, there’s the backbends and OMG were they hard today, it took me 3 attempts at Urdva Dhanurasana to get a good one, mainly because Cary wanted my hands in an alien position to push up which felt wrong and lopsided. I prefer to get up and then realign everything. Somehow I ended up doing 5, before standing for dropbacks. Worst dropbacks of the week, mainly because I didn’t get much time to play around hanging back. Cary stood there and told me to go for it, though I landed them all, it was a near thing with the head as I hadn’t got the bend in the upper back, so I was landing further back than I have been. There’s no let up with Cary, cross arms then another dropback, walking the hands in etc, but as usual she seems to do hardly anything to instigate the coming back up. Was I glad of the Paschimottanasana assist and the little massage, I considered calling it a day at that point, but managed to get to the end. A Pain au Chocolat and pot of tea yogi breakfast perked me up! The restorative effects of pastries must be worth a post on their own.

Definitely time for a rest day, enforced tomorrow hopefully by sitting at the airport then on a plane, then Volcano permitting I get to be an Ashtanga tourist again.

Scratching about

May 20, 2011

I seem to be spending time scratching off and counting down to things that may or may not happen. The Company are trying to force people into saying if they are going to move with them or not. I refused to answer, though we all know my preferred option is to start the countdown to a flight to Bangalore. I seem to be more and more going through the motions, doing what I need to without feeling or enthusiasm, marking time, hoping my dreams work out.

Practice since Sunday has been ok, well if we don’t count Monday which was a rubbish practice that hit the wall at Janu A, at which point I gave up on it. Tuesday was moon day, but after a day of going through the motions I needed to stretch that niggling sciatic thing, so ended up doing Standing and closing. Back to it Wednesday and Thursday, full practice with a bit of extra curricular second series to help my UD’s and dropbacks. Dropbacks are much improved, they are nothing like as dangerous and uncontrolled since Super Susan gave me a few tips. Friday was my usual hour of Ashtanga playtime, which I make up as I go along depending how I feel, so today this consisted of all of standing, a few forward bends and Marichi A and C, some vinyasa style LBH via Warrior and Turbo Dogs, then all the 2S backbends before Urdva Dhanurasana. UD came as a shock, I had started off against the wall trying to push my chest over my shoulders . Once back in the middle of the mat instead of the usual mental laying there game getting cold, I just pushed straight up, Bang  straight up straight arms, surprising myself. Followed by 4 nice dropbacks, just in time for the pie to come out of the oven.

So back to scratching. My niece bought me a world map for Christmas. The idea is that when you visit a country you scratch off that country off the map to reveal a more detailed map underneath in a different colour. Having been to nearly 80 countries that’s a lot of scratching. I have decided that despite having visited India a few times, that i am not going to scratch it off until my dream of Mysore has been realised. Next week I will be able to scratch off another new one when I visit Estonia for a bit of sightseeing and Ashtanga tourism in Tallinn.

But really I want to stop scratching at surfaces and dive in to life, I constantly seem to be waiting for something, before something else can happen. The company relocation has been going on 3 years now, then there has been the 3 months of waiting for my body to recover from the illness in January or now my injured knee. At some point I have to make the plunge in to a life worth living.

She’s back, yay

May 15, 2011

Hooray Cary is back from her maternity leave, back from bringing the next generation of Paschimottanasana squishers into the world. It’s been 10 weeks of train strikes and taking my practice wherever I could since my last practice with her. I have practised in the interim with other Teachers in various Shalas, but I have missed the consistency of one teacher in one Shala.

By the time i arrived all the shady places had been taken, so i took my usual place at the front. The sun isn’t a problem in standing until the UHP balance. I had forgotten about the arm rotation adjustment in Parsvakonasana, though it was the Assistant who reminded me of this one, but mostly left alone in standing, apart from the shoulder aching Prasarita C assist, which surprisingly wasn’t as excruciating as the last time Cary did it back in January. When I came back up she was waiting to ask if my arm was ok now!

My left knee is still cranky from the Garbha experiments, so seated are still a bit modified. Triang Mukha assist followed by a Reminder not to be lazy about lifting and jumping back! That’s what I have missed a Teacher who knows my practice and it’s foibles and is on my case! She is still picky on my feet not being lazy in the forward bends too, their days of dossing on the end of my legs are over again! Nice Supta K bind today, helped by the heat. Also managed to do a Bakasana jump back from Bhujapidasana today for the first time in ages. A nice Urdva Mukha P assist, been a while since I had one of those.

Pasasana fingers touching second side and not far away on the first, but I was tired by this point. Somehow Cary brings an intensity and focus to my practice like no other, I know she will pick me up on the little things, I work so much harder for some reason.

Urdva Dhanurasana was a struggle, I was struggling but this didn’t stop her adjusting my feet, my knees and telling me to push up, but it did the job as I managed 3 OK ones afternthat walking in under the shoulders. This has been my project this week since Susan suggested a way forward, which has shown results in UD and in dropbacks. Dropbacks were safe today, well the first one was a bit iffy, my hands only just getting there, but after that near miss they got the control that allows me to choose when to go for the floor and not gravity, putting hands in prayer to forehead, taking an extra breath gives a deeper bend in the upper back and my hands land nearer my feet. I had done 6 on my own and as help hadn’t come, I saw her watching from her perch, I thought 6 enough and sat down for a little back rub and forward bend relief, but oh no, over she comes, “so how are your dropbacks?” she asks and we proceed to do 3 more where she assists me up, the cross arm half way thing, then another dropback, walk in, intense, intense, then up we come. Somehow I found the energy to control all these extra dropbacks, but we are back to the point that she seems to do so little to instigate the standing up that my mind is asking why the hell I can’t instigate it for myself?

Reminders to the end, “K look at the tip of your nose!” as I do Matsyasana and then “lift your chest, head down” in the final breathing sequence. Practice isn’t allowed to drift to it’s conclusion, she makes sure the focus and intensity stay right to the end. Cary it’s good to have you back.

An after practice croissant breakfast with K and J at The Gallery.

This may interest people in London who fancy yoga with more conventional music

Future Sound of Yoga

One week later

May 11, 2011

Well one week after the Garbha experiment that went a bit amiss and injured my left knee I am still struggling. For non yoga activities like walking to work and running for the tube my knee is ok, its a bit stiff in the mornings or after sitting at my desk for long periods, but in the general scheme of things its ok. Yoga is however another matter, Lotus with either knee isnt great, I think I may have tweaked the right knee at the same time, but not to the same degree. Either that or it has RMT sympathy and has come out in support of the left.

So practice is still a case of either missing out the Lotus poses altogether or doing something different in Mari B & D. It has made me work on the things I can still do, particularly the backbends. My arms are getting stronger thanks to doing the Turbo dogs we did in the Vinyasa class the other week, I do them most days now and I can feel the difference in my upper arms. Super Susan was also good enough to give me some good pointers a couple of days ago which made quite a difference when I put them into action last night.

Once up in Urdva Dhanurasana she advised pushing with the legs so that the hands come more under the shoulders, relax a little then walk the hands in, then repeat until I get as far as I can. This was very intense on my mid back, but it did result in my hands getting about a hand span nearer my feet than usual. I found it works even better in dropbacks where I have a much better curve in my upper back. The other advice was about the hands position in drop back, to try having them in prayer at the forehead which induces a deeper bend in the upper back. I could see what she means, but it seemed to increase the momentum of the dropback, though not to the point of a crash landing, but this all about the mission to land the hands nearer the feet, so that at some point in the very distant, next lifetime future, I manage to stand up.

It took me a couple of days to get around to trying this all out as I had been contacted by a Journalist doing research for an article she was writing on travellling to dangerous places and why people do it. I have been to quite a few places that get the “You’re going where!” retort. Though ironically I may have been to places like Tehran, Beirut and Damascus, but the closest to real danger I have been was walking past a bomb in a trash bin in Bangkok that exploded 30 minutes later killing someone else. I think she found me because I wrote a piece a few years ago about the resort of Dahab, I felt an unease there that was hard to describe, but i felt and later wrote that its proximity to Saudi Arabia, lots of foreingers and lack of security made it vulnerable, within a year the Restaurant I had eaten my New years eve meal in was blown to pieces, call it gut instinct or whatever but it wasnt a nice feeling when I was proved right. We did the interview last night, it was an interesting experience and I look forward to seeing the result, though it may not appear in an english language newspaper. If you happen to live in a city that has a version of “Metro” being given out at train or subway station you may come across it, if you do let me know.

Back to my Shala

May 8, 2011

YP may have had a paint job in the 10 weeks since I last made it through the orange door, but apart from that it’s the same friendly place, familiar faces including a delightful nearly 2 year old toddler! I am immediately comfortable in that place, It’s been too long, I have practised elsewhere, but it’s not the same.

And how nice to have Susan teaching today. After taking my usual spot I decided that I would see if I could do standing without having the strap on my knee. The knee has improved quite a lot but the foot still barely comes above the opposite knee, so another Lotus free practice. 

Standing, tweaks to the arms in Parsvakonasana and a different take on PPC, S firstly realigning me to the right, which felt wrong, before taking my hands nearer the ground, she told me later that my hands were nearer the ground than they felt, but I need to ground the feet  more. UHP was better being at the front, it’s about being able to focus on something instead of the blur in larger Shalas.

Seated were the same as yesterday, modified Mari B and D and Garbha off the menu completely. The sun came out and blinded my bum balances, I ended up doing them with my eyes closed!

Nice help from Susan in Urdva Dhanurasana before doing a few more on my own to try and walk my hands in and intensify the backbend. 
Dropback time :-) , thanks Susan for not being on me right away, instead she gave me the time to play hangbacks and do 4 drops on my own, though she reckoned my hands were only just making it before my head. Then assisted ones, deepening the bend in the upper back, halfway and full ones with help to stand up. I need to land nearer my feet.

It’s worth practising at YP just for the lovely little massage manipulation in Childs pose after Sirsasana that all the teachers and assistants there give :-)

A nice practice even if it was a bit restricted, some lovely assists from Susan. And you will all be pleased to know that after practice I got my “How to get into Padmasana lesson”. So hopefully when my knee recovers the Garbha experiments can resume in a safer way. Followed by Yogi breakfast. People on surrounding tables must wonder what on earth we are talking about.

I don’t think I have done real damage to my knee, it seems likely to be just a strained tendon, it just doesn’t like immobility, so no reason not to practice.


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