Archive for August, 2011

Sharath Day 6 The final countdown.

August 26, 2011

An amazing experience to be in a room with around 120 others for the final led Primary, we were joined by all the Intermediate people who have been getting a lay in all week, so the room was pretty jam packed. I thought I would just feel relief at having survived 6 very intense practices, but it wasn’t relief I felt at the end it was a sense of satisfaction and achievement tinged with disappointment that it was over. As far as practice goes it wasn’t the best one of the week, my mind was a bit in and out and I failed to get to the end of Ardha Sirsasana, coming down at 3. I did get a last assist in Paschimottanasana after the backbends. Sirsasana seemed much longer today, we speculated after that it was because there was no class following unlike the rest of the week

Sharath made the last Uth Plutihi an extra long one, or so it seemed, then he gave the usual instruction to “take rest”, but before anyone could settle down a spontaneous round of applause filled the room. He thanked us and told us I think, to just keep practising.

We are all small cogs, but we make an incredibly powerful whole, it’s been a wonderful experience of the Sangha coming together from London, the UK and further afield, the energy and shared joy in that room was something I didn’t expect, the Ashtanga community shares something which unless you are part of it is very hard to describe to “Muggles”. They can’t possibly know how the abdomen cries for relief in Navasana or the arms shake in Uth Plutihi or the sheer release of lying on your back in Savasana.

Thanks to everyone who took part this week, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did, even though I am so going to enjoy not setting the alarm tonight!

After a little Savasana we got up and joined the queue to thank Sharath and have the traditional post workshop photo taken, thanks to Mel for mine, but thanks to Hamish and Anna for organising this week and of course to Sharath.

After such a bad to start to this year, the end of the year, touch wood, will be the complete opposite, I had no intention of doing this week with Sharath but am so glad I have. It certainly hasn’t put me off the journey to Mysore I am going to make in 7 weeks time. When I started this Mysore practice business with Cary two and a half years ago I had no desire to go to Mysore, but the seed was sown and events beyond my control made me think it was possible and once I realised that I wanted it circumstances seemed to arrange themselves so that with a little effort and belief on my part it’s going to happen.

See you in October Mr Sharathji.

Sharath Day 5 – staying up longer in Ardha

August 25, 2011

My god the penultimate practice with Sharath, it’s gone so fast. A few more familiar faces from our Shala there dropping in to experience the led with Sharath, though overall it seemed quieter.

I think all this work in Uth Plutihi and backbends that is killing my arms is resulting in my arms getting bigger or it could be that my T shirt has shrunk in the rain, but it’s certainly tighter!

It’s still hard work, even if I am getting used to it, UHP was vertical and I had a sense of my arms coming further over in Prasarita C. I am surviving Navasana better,but today I had tall yoginis on both sides, which meant my Supta K was somewhat squashed. I was more conscious of trying to lengthen my breath in Urdva Dhanurasana, as well as walking my hands in, I hope all this new found strength, both of mind to not faff before UD and power to push straight up and walk in translates into better backbends once I’m back to being home alone next week.

Sirsasana is incrementally improving, 15 upright and I then survived until 6 and a bit in Ardha,will I get to 10 on the last day?

No adjustments as such today, but Sharath had called Urdva Padmassana, for some unknown reason instead of putting my hands on my knees with straight arms I had bound my hands round my knees for the next one and was quite happily listening to the count, until Sharath stood above me, tapped my leg and said “Like her” pointing to my neighbour!

I like his humour, I have certainly warmed to him as the week has gone on, in Uth Plutihi he had stood in front of me, so I had no choice but to stay up, he called 9 then seemed to wait an eternity, he gave me a big grin then called 9 and a half, before 10 as everyone collapsed down to the floor.

Tomorrow the room will be rammed as all the intermediate folk forsake the lay in they have been getting all week to join us for the traditional Friday primary practice. 

Sharath Day 4 – Getting used to it now!

August 24, 2011

My arms still turn to Jelly, but somehow my body is getting more used to being led to Sharath’s breath count, that is rarely in sync with my own. I had the sensation in Chaturanga of my body finding structure and support in places where it is more used to just sinking down. Have Bandhas appeared? Familiarity with the room is making it become more internal, though my mind still wanders, but at least it no longer runs off and is brought back to the breath and if I remember the Drishte.

For all that it is still HARD! Sharath adjusted me in Parsvakonasana, well my arm at least, he said something too, but I didn’t catch it. That was the only assist today. To be honest it’s challenging enough without having someone taking it even further with deep adjustments.

I think he counted faster in Navasana and thankfully stopped after 5. A few poses today seemed quicker, I had managed to bind Mari D, but didn’t have time to get my head further under my feet in Supta K, leading to a faff crap exit, hey ho!

After 4 days it’s less of a battle to push myself up into Urdva Dhanurasana, even though as i lay there i get to look at the wonderful ceiling and Disco Ball. though once i am up my arms start to protest and I was told by my mat neighbour over breakfast that my breath in UD is very short and shallow, compared to Janu A where I only seem to get may 3 or 4 breaths at most before Sharath gets to 5, in UD I probably take 10 shallow, short inhales and exhales in the same time. I have consciously tried to walk the hands in on all 3 backbends to make them more stable, usually the first one is an up and down job, but only doing 3 I need to make the most of all of them.

Sirsasana improves day by day, not only did I survive the full 15 count vertical, but actually got to 5 in Ardha Sirsasana, before caving in, I wonder if I will make the whole thing by Friday.

Uth Plutihi is a killer, Sharath was standing nearby, i just about stayed up, though was rapidly sinking, but at least knowing his “lift up” comment wasn’t directed at me :-)

I am getting into this now, beginning to appreciate where I am supposed to inhale and exhale, learning not to waste energy, finding more strength and resolve in poses I find (particularly) difficult. It’s good to share this journey with so many Shala friends and others I know from the Cybershala 

This afternoon I decided I deserved some R&R, I cut my finger on a toe nail in Mari B this morning, I was going to wait until Saturday and have some treatments on my Birthday, but I needed a treat, so i had a Pedicure and then a neck and shoulder massage, I now have happy toes and less aching shoulders, but my arms still feel like lead!

Sharath Day 3 My arms ache

August 23, 2011

Well it was better than yesterday, I realise that there are 3 points in the practice with Sharath that are both mental and physical hurdles I have to get through and my mind has developed a habit of jumping forward to them a couple of asanas early. The first is Navasana, well who looks forward to that one at the best of times? Surprisingly the last couple seem better than the first 3. Urdva Dhanurasana has been hard this week, going straight up, no faffing, no checking out the beautiful ornate ceiling, no warm up bridges, just DO IT! I am surprising myself by managing to go straight up and survive Sharath’s count to 5, but my arms are a cross between jelly and lead. The last hill to overcome is Sirsasana, day 1 not knowing what his count was going to be made it a bit of a challenge to say the least, Day 2 I knew it was to 15 then Ardha for 10, but I only made it to one of Ardha before the superstructure caved in. Today I did the first 15 and got to about two and a half of Ardha before my arms sank under the weight and I had to come down. Maybe tomorrow I will get a little further.

As someone said it’s just practice, in the scheme of things it doesn’t matter, but we all know how good those days seem when we perceive practice to be good.

I did bind Mari D and Supta K again today and stayed vertical throughout UHP. The humidity helped make it a much sweatier practice, it was dry at 6:15, but when we came out just after 8 the heavens had well and truly opened.

I am starting to be able to catch on to Sharath’s ways,his little bits of humour and am warming to him as a Teacher.

Sharath day 2

August 22, 2011

When the alarm went off at 5:30am I wished I was doing intermediate and could have another 90 minutes under the Duvet. Tea and a biscuit before the 15 minute walk to this weeks Shala. Each day the Staff tick the day off our Pass as we enter, but the staff are getting younger,Hamish and Anna’s beautiful little 6 year old daughter Talia with her “staff” T-shirt on that comes down to her knees, asked if I had my pass and she carefully ticked off “Monday”, she is bright as a button and brings a smile to everyone’s face as they enter.

There is a general hubbub in the room as people chat and greet each other, some people are stretching, some are lying on their mats,but at 6:30 there is a sudden quiet as Sharath walks to the front of the room, everyone comes to Samasthitihi without being told. There is no preamble we call and respond the chant, then it’s “ekam” and off we go.

Practice felt harder today, I think yesterday the general excitement and adrenalin helped to take us through the practice, but day 2 when we are more settled it felt harder, even though we only did 5 Navasanas today instead of yesterday’s 6! There was a space of about 3 feet in front of my mat and Sharath stood in it quite often, probably how I came to get 3 assists today from him, first in Parsvakonasana as he pushed my hip down. UHP was better today, though concentrating was hard, a yogini in my eyeline in a lurid pink top got a wobble on, yes my Drishte failure, but watching a pink vision waving from one side to the other doesn’t help my prospects of staying upright. Second assist from Sharath in Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana as he used his finger to help me bind, not that I was anywhere near a toe grab, especially on the second side with my knee.

After his talk about being focussed I tried harder in seated not to let my mind wander (to breakfast), in asanas like Janusirsasnas my hamstring was more open today and unlike yesterday I didn’t have to back off. He seemed to do the Marichyasanas faster today, I didn’t manage to bind D in time. In a room so crowded poses like Kurmasana and Upavistha just have to be what they can,I havn’t given up on them this week, but I am not going to worry how deep or bound they are,that’s me trying to find non attachment to my favourite posture :-)

It’s the time I am missing in this no faffing style of practice, time to squidge myself into poses and time to warm my back up before Urdva Dhanurasana. My lack of doing led practice in the usual scheme of things means I seem to find myself inhaling when Sharath is telling us to exhale and his count particularly in the seated poses seems fast, I am only getting about 3 1/2 breaths by the time he has counted to 5. Obviously in Navasana he doesn’t count fast enough :-)

Backbends were hard, i am doing it, rising when told, staying up and coming down only on to my head in-between but it feels like it’s a survival test, my soon to be 47 years old back needs more of a warm up a la Kino!

A final assist in Shoulderstand,then we soon come to the final test, the long count to 15 in Sirsasana,I stayed up the whole way through and lowered to Ardha, but couldn’t hold it, but that’s a kind of improvement and in the next couple of months I will be trying to stay up longer.

The adrenalin may have gone but there is an amazing energy in the room still as Sharath says “Thank you” and we rise from Savasana.

Ashtanga Camp

August 21, 2011

Into the city last night ready for this mornings early start, Sharath has landed in London and I along with about 80 other yogis pitched up at 7am for the first of the daily practices with Sharath. I lost count of the people there who I know well from my own Shala, know from AYL and others I am on nodding “hello” terms with as well as others I was in Sri Lanka with at Christmas. It feels like all the London Ashtangi’s as well as many from further afield, Brighton, Bristol and Europe are all here in London.

Someone said it was almost like waking up on Christmas morning, there was certainly a level of excitement at the centre when I arrived. I woke up to a dream that someone had taken our mats and hidden them in a cupboard and we had to all go looking for our mat before we could begin.

I had heard scare stories about how slow he counts, but for most of the 90 minutes his pace was very even. Practice is practice after all, whether it’s with Cary, Kino or Sharath it’s the same asanas on the same mat, though slightly less space between the mats than I’m used to. Standing went quite quickly, though the cramped conditions made the Prasaritas interesting.

Although it certainly wasn’t cold, it wasn’t sweaty hot either, I noticed my hamstrings felt tight in the Triang Mukha forward bends and had to come back a bit, same in the Janusirsasnas, but the thing I enjoyed was that he seemed to wait until most people were in the pose before beginning his count, so I got properly bound in Mari D and Supta K which doesn’t often happen in a led class. I am sure we did 6 Navasanas, I can’t be sure, but I could feel the rooms relief when we all thought we had done the 5, then he said “last one” and then he seemed to get stuck on “4”!

The hardest part was not having my nice backbend warm up routine which happens at home and the Shala, going straight into Urdva Dhanurasana was HARD! But I found walking in on the first one made it easier and I actually remembered to only come down on to my head before doing the next 2. At least I had the strength to stay up, even if they were not as deep as they can be. Sirsasana was a bit of a mind game, H had told me to forget his count and just concentrate on my breath, but not knowing how many he was actually going to count to made it hard, he went to a very slow 15, which I managed, but Ardha flopped, oh well always tomorrow.
His final little ruse was taking an eternity to count 2 on Uth Plutihi, 10 of Sharath equates to about 30 of anyone else!

But I have to say I enjoyed the practice, the asanas may not have been what they can be, but the energy in the room was something else.

After a leisurely breakfast we returned for “Conference”, Sharath spoke for maybe 15 minutes about the Asanas being the foundation for a spiritual practice, how our mind becomes deluded when it is not fully focussed on the practice (was he talking about me as I thought about Croissants during Uth Plutihi). He said if we don’t experience the practice we can’t know it and will be deluded, illustrating with a story Guruji had told him of I think an animal Trying to jump up to reach some fruit on a tree, when the animal couldn’t reach it, it turned around and said the fruit was sour anyway. How did the anaimal know if it hadn’t tasted it? After he spoke there was a Q & A session, a few questions from people with Baby’s about how soon to practice after giving birth and what poses to leave out in the months leading up. A question about if you can’t do the full 6 days is it worth doing perhaps just 3 or 4 practices or perhaps not doing a full practice. Sharath said just do it and don’t worry about it. Another question about doing practice when injured, Sharath said asana can heal injuries. I don’t really know what I expected from the conference and if I’m honest I don’t think I learnt anything new.

Sunday – Mysore & Hips

August 14, 2011

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A long Mysore practice this morning and all the better for having my regular teacher assisting Kino. Down dog squashes from both of them, though Cary does squash with a bit more force than Kino, probably because she knows me and knows how far to go! PPC from Kino twice as she got me to turn my hands over. Cary gave me one of her stronger UHP assists, eeek, but at least I knew what to expect, think some found C hard going.

Mostly left alone in seated, though I was just knotting myself into Mari D when Kino called us to Samasthitihi to chant, she looked down and saw me extricating myself and gave a knowing smile :-) Supta K on my own, then a mega squashing from C in Baddha Konasana.

Decided to do extra backbends after I hearing Kino tell the girl next to me that 3 isn’t enough, to do at least 6. My first couple are usually ropey, so I did 6 trying to walk in and rock. They do get progressively stronger and stabler the more I do. Left to play dropbacks for quite a while, managed 6 before I got the prod in my back, knew who it was before Cary appeared in front of me grinning. Drop back on my own, but today she had a new game, rapidly pushing and then pulling my hips which had the effect of me almost pinging back up to standing, I felt like an elastic band that had suddenly been let go, it took a couple to get the hang if it, but 3rd and 4th I was suddenly standing and Cary was obviously pleased with the result as her arm pumped “yeah!” she is usually so serious with her impassive face, but just occasionally she makes me laugh with her almost child like joy at getting a student to do something.

A great practice with 2 great teachers.

This afternoon it was the Hips and Hamstrings, well at least I now know what the Trocanther is and that it’s what should rotate in UHP. We did UHP in pairs and also Mari A, pulling the knee back and pushing the torso forward, with the effect of separating the shoulder and hip away. We also did Lotus and how to get into it safely, someone asked why it’s always right leg first, Kino said it’s because doing the right first sends energy up the spine, doing the left first would send it down.

It’s been a good weekend, the seminar on Friday was interesting, it’s good to learn some of the philosophy behind the practice. I was able to enjoy the led class this time, not just survive it and this mornings Mysore was super, if only more could be like that.

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Kino led primary

August 13, 2011

A really nice led primary with Kino this morning. So much better than the last one I did with her in March which nearly killed me. She seemed to count quicker this time and not forget what comes after “three” quite so often! Time to get into Mari D and Supta K, which can be a struggle in a led class, I was already bound in Supta K before she said “one”. A lovely assist in Baddha Konasana, my knee must be improving to take that much weight & get my head to the floor.

She had us do Chakorasana, I got stuck on the first attempt, having not given it enough oomph, Kino flipped me over the rest of the way.

Decent backbends, no time in-between to study the ceiling, down to the head, walk and crawl the hands, then push up again. No dropbacks alas, oh well there’s always tomorrow’s Mysore class for that.

A very long Sirsasana,seemed to take an age and I couldn’t stay up for her full count, but I was probably vertical for longer than at any time since Sri Lanka 

This afternoon we repeat the “Agni”
Workshop we did in Edinburgh, or as I blogged at the time “Agony”, hopefully this time it won’t be.

Yoga Friday

August 12, 2011

Yoga Friday has been great, up early into the city, though not early enough to get to my usual Shala, instead it had to be TY with it’s elongated Mysore opening hours and the fact that it has showers. A long 2 hour practice with very little intervention, a Teacher I have never practised with subbing for one I have. A regulation plod through, help in PPC, then nothing until I was already bound in Supta Kurmasana, she got me to duck my head further under my feet before Titibhasana.

After a day off, backbends were a struggle then 4 dropbacks, but the rocking experiments were not a patch on Sundays and again no help until she squished me in Paschimottanasana  and again in Balasana after Sirsasana. In some ways it’s nice to be left alone, as I know I’m sure to feel the burn tomorrow with Kino.

A leisurely breakfast before a visit to the Indian tourist information place, it may be a shiny office in one of London’s nicer streets but it was rather lacking in information, when I said I was going to Mysore, I could see the “why?” on his face, though he did find a couple of leaflets on Kerala.

Accommodation this weekend is courtesy of Stelios, a cupboard of a room with no window, but it’s cheap and clean.

And finally back to TY for part one one the weekend with Kino, a talk on the Yoga Sutras and some of their meanings. A few of her thoughts;

Yoga is a spiritual practice that seeks to open the mind

Citta is the stream of conscious thoughts.
Vittri being the fluctuations in that stream of thought
Nirodaha cessation or stopping of the fluctuations.

Yoga is about stopping and finding equanimity, to stop running from pain and running towards pleasure

At this point Kino moved faster than I have ever seen her move as a Mouse ran onto her mat!

Yoga YOU do the work, but you should not be attached to the outcome of this work and measure it in terms of success in the fruits of this labour.

Samskaras can be a good thing, when good habit patterns are formed, such as that strange feeling you get when you have missed practice for some reason and it feels like something is missing.

Dirga Kala – long time

She said much more, but I suppose these are the points that resonated with me and where my practice is.

After Kino asked me how I am,if i have recovered, as I was still far from well the last time I saw her, she sees hundreds of students all over the world but still remembers. It’s not just as a yoga teacher that I love her, but as a person too for her humanity.

She also talked about the Mysore practice on Sunday and wodya know she is going to be assisted by our very own Cary, so no chance of cranking out anything beyond Pasasana :-)

Double sided Pasasana

August 7, 2011

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After being annoyed by a very late arrival into the city, I ended up having a really good practice at AYL. left alone in standing apart from the usual Prasarita C and UHP assists. Second day running my dodgy left knee has played ball and done Mari B, but D is still too intense on the knees outside edge. And managed to get into a proper Padmassana for the Garbha roll. Not sure when I’m going to resume trying to get my hands and arms through the too small gaps. Alas I lost the Supta K race, so not as deep as I can do on my own.

Super adjustment from Louise in Supta Padangusthasana, standing on my hip and stretching me out, felt nice, the last time someone did that years ago they hurt my hamstring.

Pasasana Yay! My fingers well one and a half of them,managed to at last find each other on the first side and managed the 2nd side which L came an tightened for me and adjusted my Drishte:-) Such a buzz to bind both sides.

I had the wall behind me so was able to indulge my UD with hands against the wall warm up, made the usual UD’s much stronger and played rocking, H told me later that my hands had actually lifted, didn’t realise at the time this had happened. Managed 4 dropbacks on my own before Louise came to assist. They are much better at the moment, they seem to go through phases. Standing were good, Louise saying that mechanically I am doing what I need to do to stand, but it’s my breath which is either not synchronised with the movements or is too shallow to give me that initial momentum to lift, she also said my legs could be straighter so the weight is initially more forward. She said I felt so light she was hardly doing anything, C said this a while back but I need to find some way of getting the lift

A 2 hour practice again, but it felt like I had more control and I didn’t run out of steam, if I gad gone to YP it would have been rushed, but by going to AYL I had the time and that makes the difference.

Next Shala practice will be Friday morning, a good way to start the weekend with Kino.


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