The glorious 12th

April 13, 2021

Monday April 12th 2021, the partial ending of Lockdown number 3 in England.

But more important than shops, pubs and Hairdressers opening up (Yogi Natalie is chopping mine on the 15th), was the reopening of the Shala, aka AYL.

The train to London was the busiest I’ve seen it in nearly a year, but feeling like I have a degree of protection from the vaccine now and the way people tried their best to distance themselves from one another.

Welcome home” Louise had written on the notice board and that’s exactly what it felt like. Saying “hi” and waving to friends across the room, getting adjustments in UHP and Supta K and Hamish’s comment as my fingers couldn’t quite bridge the gap in Pasasana, that perhaps my fingers had shrunk during the last 4 months! Actual proper sweat and that feeling of freedom of movement in the body that I can’t find at home.

And dropbacks, or rather the ability to stand up again was still there, though I fluffed the first attempt, being conscious of Louise assisting my neighbour and her watching out the corner of her eye, knowing she never misses a thing.

Closing in the sunshine by the window of the main room, no need to move next door. And a lovely comment from Ruby as I was leaving.

It was so nice to be back, the world is definitely a better place for AYL’s existence, Louise and Hamish teaching and all the people who make that small room the community it is.

After breakfast a first. Despite living near London all my life, I made my first ever visit to London Zoo, where I also met Sally the ITV weather lady, she’s a lot taller than she looks on the Telly!

This week kind of feels like the week of Christmas that we didn’t have, that BoJo cruelly snatched away, Yoga, the zoo, haircut and finally a new battery for my watch, next week will feel like a let down after all that.

One sharp scratch

February 27, 2021

After “Then what” now what, when and how soon?

After reasonably expecting I wouldn’t get offered the Covid vaccination before April at the earliest and the end of April at that and wondering if it would be worth the bother, I turned my phone on on Thursday morning to find a text from my GP telling me to follow a link to book my jab. I actually thought it was a phishing SMS and pressing the link would result in god knows what. So after googling the link to check it was genuine I logged on and found appointments for the next day. No choice of venue though, our town doesn’t have a centre, so we have to go to an industrial estate outside the next town, which is a pain to get to, they assume everyone has a car. It was 2 buses and a walk for me.

The whole process was amazingly well organized and painless, well apart from the “sharp scratch” moment, fill in the form, take a number, called forward in 5 minutes, consultation with the Nurse, needle in arm, go. Well not quite go, with my anaphylactic history they made me sit for 15 minutes in case I reacted. I left with a sore arm and became one of the 452,777 people vaccinated in England on 26 February 2021.

The reaction came about 6 hours later, with a splitting headache, nausea and my arm no longer sore, but aching and I couldn’t bear to lift it high enough to shut the bathroom window. Having spoken to other Pfizer vaccine people and a medical friend who was good enough to call, warning me I may get a reaction later, it seems to be pretty common reaction in “younger” people and especially those who have actually had Covid 19, which I haven’t.

So what happens now? The world is still in a shit state. Emotionally and mentally I’m still struggling, home alone without any family, I’m still anxious about what the state of things will be, even after everyone has had a needle or two stuck in their arm. I’m noticing stores in my town have been cleared and “To Let” signs stuck on the windows, will my part time job come back, yes the money is handy, but for me it’s the people I work with, the laughs and conversations over tea and a biscuit (cookie if you’re an American reading this), when will the shala open, it would be nice to go somewhere, anywhere, further than I’ve been in nearly 18 months now, since I came back from New York in September 2019, the two trips to hospital in that time don’t count.

Jab 2 in 10-12 weeks, Bill Gates now probably knows I drink tea, love Battenburg and support Ipswich Town

Then what

February 17, 2021

Then what?

I’ve cracked, I’m done with this lockdown. Our town has only 1 case per 200 population, we (me), after 3 months need a life worth bothering with.

I came to this conclusion today, I was so totally fucked off with life after a crappy practice, I had breakfast and went back to bed, I’ve slept all day and haven’t bothered eating, it just seems a pointless exercise in futility.

It will be months before I ever get offered vaccination, but even after that happens, what then? The way it’s going there will be fuck all improvement in life, the town will be a wasteland of tumbleweed rolling down the high street with everything apart from Tesco and a pharmacy left, I wish I had shares in the Co-op, supermarkets and Undertakers will be the only businesses to come through this unscathed making huge profits.

Ok I accept I can’t stand in a soccer stadium with 60,000 other people, go to a concert or go on holiday, but normal stuff that is every day should be open, normal shops, gyms, Yoga studios, massage therapists, hairdressers like my friend Natalie who has so much PPE I would feel far safer getting my hair cut than pushing my trolley round Tesco.

I’m not an anti Vaxer, far from it, I had the flu jab, but I’m beginning to wonder if it’s actually going to be worth the bother when/if that call comes asking me to roll up my sleeve, what’s the point if there still won’t be a life worth living. I’ve existed for a year now, I actually really want to live again, but it needs to be worth living.

My hope has expired , though with the incompetent way a lot of this has been handled, government false promises of world beating this that and the other I’m prepared to take my chances, I’d rather die from Covid than give up and find another way out.

Still not counting

January 31, 2021

Happy new year, well if you can call still locked down on furlough, stuck at home in the middle of winter bored shitless being happy. I don’t think last March as Lockdown #1 began any of us thought we would still be in this situation, it’s now lockdown #3 in the U.K. The vaccine may come eventually, but by the time we are allowed out there won’t be anything worth being allowed out for.

Practice remains the one consistent thing, apart from snoozing with the cat. Today I completed, along with a few others WOYOPRACMO, aka World Yoga Practice Month, yep I’ve done a practice of some kind for 31 days in a row. We have been doing WOYO over 10 years now.

During this month , actually on day 14, still not counting though, I recorded my 200th practice in a row of standing up from a dropback , that’s 600 “ups” at the requisite 3 per practice. But every day I still wonder if today’s the day I won’t manage it and will break the sequence.

Some days are touch and go, I’ve crashed a few because I get dizzy spells as I’m dropping back, the world goes dark and it’s an innate desperation that gets me vertical or it’s a crash, resulting in “are you ok’s?” from the Zoom shala. After a Zoom consultation with pilates Emma it seems to be a tightness , lack of bend in my thoracic spine on those days, which goes into the neck, cutting off vital supplies of blood and oxygen to whatever inhabits the space between my ears. I can feel the tightness, but with Becki the massage therapist unable to stick her thumbs and elbows in to the relevant areas at this time, I’m stuck with self help, the roller and spiky ball of pain. Acupuncture was another suggestion, but usually BJ’s thumbs fix whatever I manage to break.

I need a sunny holiday, 2020 was the first year since 1980 that I haven’t been abroad and first since 1981 that I haven’t flown anywhere. Counting the days until it happens.

Oh and we had some snow, down our street we made snow pets and somehow my effort made it on to the ITV London Weather .

The walls are closing in

October 10, 2020

It’s beginning to feel like the Covid walls are closing in. We can now only visit Germany and Sweden without having to go in to isolation when we return. Here in the UK anywhere and everywhere north of Birmingham seems to have some form of lockdown and restrictions, Scotland is basically closed, I hear a rumour Sturgeon is putting barbed wire and watch towers on the top of Hadrians Wall and Wales don’t want the “Ingerlish” crossing the border.

In the south more restrictions around and in London are looking imminent, will the Shala have to close again, will they stop us getting on the train for non essential journeys, i.e. going to the Shala if it is open.

In March we were at least heading towards summer as lockdown happened, warmer weather and socially distanced Cul-de-Sac BBQ’s, but a lockdown heading in to winter, crap, cold wet weather, dark at 4pm and bugger all to do is not a prospect I can deal with.

For me the hardest part in summer, but more so with a winter lockdown, is the isolation and loneliness that will inevitably ensue. The Shala is the only proper social interaction I get most weeks and if that’s taken away by Boris or that nutcase Khan I’ll be spending far too much time home alone, bored with no income after the furlough scheme ends.

Technically as I’m over 50, I’m classified as “At Risk” , but personally I’m coming to the conclusion that we need to be allowed to decide what level of risk we are satisfied with taking, as Sweden continues to do, giving their people a choice and responsibility for their own health and keeping businesses open. I don’t want to emerge in months time out of a lockdown to find a wasteland, because everything has finally gone bust and closed. I had my hair cut this week, yogi Natalie cut it pretty short, as she said “just in case”.

I was going to see the Enigma concert , obviously now cancelled, but playing their greatest hits CD this morning made me think their music could easily be the anthems to this year and next, “Loneliness” and “Sadness” are poignant, piercing, pounding anthems that sum up life at this time.

Dvesa

October 4, 2020

I’ve been having feelings of aversion about going to the shala, it’s strange.

After all those months in lockdown, dreaming about returning to the Shala, the initial euphoria of walking back through that door seems to have worn off. My practice has solidified and become very consistent during lockdown. I finally seem to have recracked the standing up game and I’m done Surya A to Savasana via a bit of intermediate in a smidge under 2 hours.

A little over a year ago the Shala was keeping me physically and mentally alive, it was the most important part of my week and the escape from all the crap going on at home, but now, apart from still being furloughed, there is no longer any crap at home to escape from and I’m left thinking about what I actually get by going.

To get to the shala today, I got drenched by this incessant rain deluge just getting to the station, then the train was very late and then delayed and the temptation to just go home and forget it was so tempting. A year ago it wouldn’t ha e crossed my mind to abandon the plan.

But I got on the train anyway. I seem to have reached my end at Ustrasana, so I’m not going there to get new poses. I don’t need/receive that much in the way of adjustment or teaching. So why go?

Well the heat helps, practice feels more comfortable, it’s easier to focus knowing there won’t be any feline or other interruptions, but above it all it’s the community I share my practice with, people I’ve known now in some cases over 10 years, the “hello’s” , the chats and feeling like you are part of something special. After I’d finished today, as usual I was so glad I’d made that effort

17 weeks later AYL is open.

July 27, 2020

New blue paint job.

Finally, at last, after 17 weeks the shala is open again. Dear Reader you can only imagine the joy as I punched in the door code and walked through the door to see my teacher Louise on the other side welcoming us “Home”. I’d woken early, it was like being a kid at Christmas, we’ve waited so long for the shala to emerge from hibernation.

Mat map

This is the new normal for now, hand sanitiser on entry, a quick health Q&A, a question asking if we want to be adjusted, then get changed. All clothing worn outside to get there has to be stored inside a bag. Luckily there were still 3 spaces free of the now socially distanced 10 mat spaces, so no need to wait in the new waiting room, aka what was the Finishing Room which has room for 7 waitees.

View from my mat

Picked my spot in the back corner by the window, I didn’t really care where Louise put me, but it was nice to have a wall behind me as there’s no moving around like we used to as spots are sanitised when a student finishes. The whole practice is done in that one spot, from Surya A to Savasana, which when it gets busier will necessarily get shorter.

I’ve practiced every day through lockdown, I haven’t been sick, so for me it was like every day for the last 17 weeks, unroll the same old mat and goooooooooooooooooo.

Being adjusted again didn’t feel strange and being asked where’s Greml today when being squashed was just funny! That cat has developed quite a yogi fan club.

The main change for me in 17 weeks has been redeveloping my ability to not only drop back, but to regain the holy grail of being able to stand up again, it’s become fairly consistent now, I’d managed it the last 69 practices, that’s “up” 207 times, not that I’m counting! Louise has given me advice about it while in Lockdown, no thinking about it until at least Upavistha and just do 3 and forget it.

Dropbacks are a bit of a mind fuck, I really wanted to do it first day back in the shala. I stood up , sorted my breath out, Louise was adjusting across the room, but as there were only 3 others still going I was hoping she wouldn’t rush over to help, I wanted the satisfaction of doing it. I did the first one and L had disappeared, I stood up from the third one on the bounce, resisted doing the happy dance and L was nowhere to be seen and I’m thinking, all that mental and physical effort and she never even saw it. Then I heard “Well Done!” As Louise appeared from the corridor, she told me she hid so as not to put me off, but had watched the whole performance. Some teachers just no what a student needs! She then came and did the 3 assisted half drops with her mask on and one more deeply assisted dropback followed by her wonder squash, now that I’ve missed.

As nobody was waiting I could take my time with closing, though more conscious of doing it “right” than I usually would be out of view in the Finishing Room. Savasana without a blanket with the window above open meant that wasn’t long, I soon cool down when I stop.

A whole carriage to myself

Hamish and Louise have done everything they can to make the shala as Covid safe, yet still welcoming as they can. At the minute its still not very busy and people can take their time. For me I guess the bigger issue is taking the train to get there, though on the way home at noon I had a whole carriage to myself.

Weekend books

July 19, 2020

I feel like I need to stop taking stuff in and just process and make sense of what’s already in there. The last 17 weeks have felt very internal, too much time at home, in my own head with just my own thoughts.

Not that lockdown has been all bad, grateful for the connection to my AYL teacher Louise and the Yoga tribe via the power of Zoom, a practice that hasn’t been this consistent in years, but also a feeling of disconnection along with at times boredom and loneliness.

Not just my teacher on Zoom who judges my UHP.

This weekend I was invited by my friend Ellie to take part in Angela Jamison’s Minneapolis workshop, obviously via Zoom. Like everything Angela does very small scale and almost private. We had a meditation class on Friday where Angela talked about Satva and what it means, harmony, balance, awakening the soul to name but a few, and as by the time we finished with the time difference, it was nearly 2am here (uk) the power of meditation had my eyes closing.

Saturday we did a led Primary, which was followed by conference, nominally for an hour but ended up being 2.5hrs, based on replies to an email Angela sent us all in the week. In answer to a question about Surya Namaskars she described how they can bring us luminous intelligence and radiant vitality.

We all share as she said the devotion to being on a path. I always take away so much from these intense short periods with Angela, I always feel like there’s stuff aimed at me, like mentioning how I’d told her I can only seem to “Sit” after practice when my mind has finally shut up, she encouraged us (me) to try and sit for 5 minutes before we start the physical practice each day.

Last year Angela had us doing the exercise of trying to remember our day before going to sleep, this year she said the next level is remembering our dreams when we wake up and getting in to the habit of keeping a dream journal, so that will be a new project.

My little notebook has pages of notes and thoughts from Angela’s workshops, I have to write it down in order to process it and see where it sits within my own reality.

The new normal for now.

Doing the workshop felt like coming up for air, like the lid on my world lifting again and suddenly seeing a blue sky. Next weekend the Shala reopens, more blue sky and the new normal of spaced mats, open windows and probably a longer wait to start. Along with opening Hamish finally published his new little booked titled 15, based on 15 questions and answers in the Gita between Arjuna and Krishna. Hamish has his own style with little sketches and comments. This LINK to buy direct.

Covid – NEGATIVE

June 10, 2020

The Covid 19 test kit arrived, the courier virtually lobbed it through the door as I opened it and ran back down the path as fast as he could, though I suppose if I was delivering test kits all day to potential virus sufferers I’d be a bit paranoid as well. As my niece, who is doing hospital Covid testing said, I’d done the test right, as it made me gag, ye I know TMI. It was collected by another courier from my doorstep and 3 days later I got the message, as expected, I’m negative and can go back to work. Ye right, I’m still furloughed until who knows when.

Practice is the only constant these days, it really has turned in to the only reason I bother getting out of bed. As well as daily practice, H has been doing Conference via Zoom and for the last few weeks Louise has been doing our Sunday philosophy class, Upanishads at Bedtime, we are doing the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad which includes this wonderful phrase, “You are what your deep driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny”

Off the mat I don’t really have any worthwhile deep driving desires, well apart from to get my haircut and go back to work. But on the mat my driving desire is well known, to crack the standing up thing. During lockdown I’ve worked really hard, certainly it’s taken a lot of “will” and every day I’ve done the “deed” or thing as Angela describes it, but at last I seemed to have reached my “destiny” and have started to be able to drop back and stand up the required 3 times. It’s gone from taking anywhere between 5 and 15 attempts to get 3, to now being able to do 3 on the bounce. It got to a point that although I was standing up, it was no longer a happy dance moment, it felt no longer good enough to just get up, I wanted the nice floaty controlled ones, instead of impersonating a catapult and trying to stop my forward momentum before I hit the wall opposite.

This week from somewhere I’ve suddenly got the control in the drop and composure at the bottom and I’m coming up 3 times without huge steps and my head is staying back (HEAD LAST) . Being able to do it in 3, has shortened practice by about 20 minutes, not taking x amount of attempts and the mental dialogue and coaxing myself in to yet another attempt.

I haven’t had this consistency since before the shoulder fracture 8 years ago , those heady days in Berlin when Dena was having me do very assisted Tik Tocs.

C19 Arrogant

June 3, 2020

C19 Arrogant, not a phrase coined by me. Despite being male, nearly 56 and allegedly in a slightly higher risk group I don’t feel in any danger at all. I would return to the Shala tomorrow if it opened, sweat, breath and adjustments, not to mention the “risk” of getting on a train to get there in the first place. I don’t know anyone who has had it, let alone died from it. I’m more than happy for a return to the new normal of queues and distancing and being able to get my hair cut for the first time since 7th February.

For the last few months I’ve taken part daily in the online Covid 19 Symptoms study being run by Kings College, my symptoms have largely remained the same, a cough and chesty thing I’ve had for months, plus odd days of headaches and mouth ulcers. Suddenly today I get an email from them saying I’ve hit the jackpot, as my combination of “symptoms” mean they would like me to be tested, though the email goes on to say they are also randomly asking people to be tested who they think don’t have the virus, so maybe I have, maybe I don’t, but at least I will have a definitive answer to whether I have it now, today, this minute when the thing arrives and I stick it up my nose. It won’t tell me if I’ve had the virus and recovered.

Today was also 100 day. On Friday 10th April I managed to drop back and stand up 3 times just from Primary, no nice 2nd series backbends to help open me up, since then I’ve only had 2 failure days. Today was the 34th day, not that I’m counting, ha ha, when I’ve managed to drop and stand the requisite 3 times, so that’s 102. Despite that amount it still feels very much like a work in progress