Good Riddance 2015

December 31, 2015

This time last year I’d had the “you may come” email on Boxing Day and was suddenly in the midst of a crazy three weeks of getting an Indian visa, buying a flight and arranging accommodation. Practice was going much better after all the shoulder surgery, back to Bhekasana and sporadically able to drop back and stand up.

I thought my month with Saraswathi would nail the backbends again, but nope they became more erratic, but practice was consistent and I loved being back in Mysore, feeling comfortable immediately I arrived, already knowing where everything was, well except for Chakra House which had moved. Amruth was still there, even if chai had gone up 40% in 3 years, drinking that sweet nectar after practice every morning with friends was wonderful, even if the misery guts who owns the neighbouring pharmacy would no longer let us sit on the steps, even though he wasn’t even open.

I got back home on 1st March, immediately becoming sick, resulting in 3 trips to A&E and finally more surgery in June, followed by a long, uncomfortable 3 month recovery. Practice regressed dramatically, no energy, having to take breaks, but going to AYL still every Sunday to be part of the tribe.

As I was recovering my mum took over the hospital bed for 3 months in two hospitals, so I was left still recovering, cooking etc for my Dad and me, trying to practice, daily hospital visiting and back to working part time with Mol my crazy canine colleague, All tej time feeling more and more wrecked.

The start of the year seemed so promising, but February in Mysore has been the only 28 days of 2015 that have been worth the bother, I’m so glad this year is over, I haven’t got any hopes for 2016, hopes have a habit of turning in to disappointments , so good riddance 2015. 2016 will bring whatever it brings.

Lucy Scott in the sticks

November 1, 2015

A lot has happened since I last posted, which boiled down to the never ending cough lurgy that continues after waiting in the rain for two hours to see Florence + The Machine, a back problem and my mother seriously sick in hospital for 14 weeks. I’ve been tired with seemingly nothing good around the corner.

Flo was fun.

Then a few weeks ago I found out that Lucy Scott was coming back to the local Shala, I missed both her previous visits with shoulder surgery. This time she was coming for a whole week of Mysore practice, rather than just a flying weekend visit. But it was limited to only 10 students in each of the morning and evening sessions. I booked my place hoping the lurgy would be gone ( it isn’t) the back would feel better (it’s getting there) and that Mum would be home (she is).

Lucy Scott

Lucy seemed to suss everyone’s needs out on the first day,then spent 4 days giving us what we needed, not necessarily what we wanted. Working with such a small group she was able to spend time with each of us. After my first Surya she asked about my shoulder and among other “projects” she spent the week trying to give it more movement and comfort within the practice.

I learned much more from the week than I expected, especially as I’d never practised with Lucy before, so this post is partly a reminder for me of what she taught me and to make the scribbled daily post practice notes in to something useful.

I’ve written the notes/corrections in posture order to try and make some sense.

She started to make me work on getting my hands flat in Surya Namaskar to lengthen the hamstrings as opposed to just my fingers touching the floor in Trini. Then to point the feet in upward dog, rather than them doing their own thing, twisting and falling outwards. She demonstrated what I was doing and the detrimental effect it was having on my back. She also said when I (eventually officially) get to the kneeling intermediate postures the feet are the foundation for those and not the knees.

Ardha Baddha Padmotanasana my weight was heading to the left, to me it felt level, I had no idea I was so lopsided in that posture, over two years of compensating for my shoulder has built layers of mental and physical perceptions that need redressing. Lucy had me micro bend my leg so my knee was over the ankle, to start to relearn where my centre line actually is, as opposed to where my brain thinks it is.

Angle of bound hands in the seated forward bends, hands a third of the way down the feet, with the head (Drishte) looking at the feet rather than down. Shoulders back and going down, instead of round my neck.
Forward bend exits don’t come straight up, come through with the chest to help open upper back.

Mari A & C straight leg foot up vertical, bent leg toes press and push down the straight leg.

Garbha Pindasana she had me take a much tighter Lotus, before showing me the angle my hands need to take to get through the seemingly far too small gap, she also gave me homework exercises to help open my hips more.

Lucy Adjusting (Pic Credit Cathy H)

Lucy is “old school” and actually reminds me a lot of Dena in the way she teaches, she counts the vinyasas and is in the habit of asking students how many vinyasas a posture has (Thanks Karen Kelly for that photo of the 2S Vinyasas scores you posted on FB).

By the time I got to intermediate each morning there were usually only 2 or 3 of us still going, which meant Lucy did all my 2S postures with me, counting correct vinyasa as we went. 12 Pasasana, 20 Krounchasana, 8 Salabhasana, 7 Bhekasana.

Karen’s vinyasa crib

Salabhasana I need to work more on having the legs, toes pressing toward each other, my hands need to be nearer my hips in “B”, and as someone else once told me it’s not a neck bend!

Lucy had asked who my regular teacher is and where I practice to, so Bhekasana as at AYL was my last posture each morning. Each day I ended up doing it at least twice, her aim being to teach me the two ends, pressing down the feet and raising the chest more than it’s usual 4 inches off the ground. She had me try a new way of grabbing the feet to try and help my still weak left arm by taking the feet as if going in to Dhanurasana , but holding the insides of the calfs then moving the hands over the feet to push on the toes.

On the last day she added a surprise, as she walked away from assisting Bhekasana she told me to take Dhanurasana, first by doing it with the chest flat, then with the thighs pressing while lifting the chest and then the proper full 7 vinyasa version. Good to see what the future holds after three years of Bhekasana.

So by the time I got to backbends each day I was already tired.

My perception of straight!

Backbends are where my perception of normal is most warped. She took a photo to show me how twisted I am in Urdva Dhanurasana, I had no idea my hands were that wide either. After I had done 3 x UD on my own she would then adjust me in all kinds of ways, mostly it was aimed at trying to correct my perception of where was straight, to find my middle line again, sometimes the aim was to help my shoulder find more space and movement. Most days after UD she would have me put my left hand in the position for UD then manipulate it by pressing in to the front and back with the sensation of moving something across while gently loosening the whole scapula and neck. I certainly never expected this kind of help and adjustment.

Lucy straightening me up

Before dropbacks she had me do an exercise for my back, drawing the feet in to the point that I was on my toes, then pushing the palms forward in to the heals pushing the knees forward, while slightly lifting the back, then repeating Urdva Dhanurasana on a Bolster, the difference in the sensation of openness was marked.

Dropbacks with Lucy are done with a purpose and she does different versions, some days it was just the regular assisted down and up, though on every one she told me to wait for the breath before starting to go back again.

One morning she had her assistant holding me at the front, while Lucy went behind me and as I went back instead of grounding she had me pushing my hands in to her hands, trying to resist her as if pushing away from the floor. Then she did full drops, the assistant said my legs and Pelvis were engaged until the point when the weight was going for the ground, she said I then lost the connection.

It was good to be told at what point I lose the connection and engagement. Before Paschimottanasana Lucy has you hang in standing forward bend, then gives a great squash.

Still going while most have already finished.

At AYL I’m used to be being left alone in closing, but when there are just two yogis left standing Lucy takes you through the whole deal, counting properly, no chance of day dreaming about breakfast. She teaches headstand with the head on the wrists and not on the ground, I find the usual version hard enough, so this was a killer just getting vertical, then she spotted the tension I hold in my stomach and told me to relax it without losing the other connections holding me up.

No let up to the end Baddha Padmassana , Uth Plutihi, at least she can count to 10 quicker than Sharath does!

It’s been a while since I last did 6 in a row in a shala, the collective energy helps you get through, the little habits disappear, practice is tidier, that said with the short pranayama at the start and chanting at the end, every day was two and half hours, but well worth it.

All 10 made it to the end.

I certainly hope Lucy returns or that I get a chance to practice with her in a small group again.

The Squash

September 10, 2015

Two months post surgery things are starting to improve at long last. Energy is returning, practice isn’t quite such a slog to Bhekasana and I’ve stopped landing on my head doing dropbacks.

I’m managing a full practice 5 days a week, going to AYL on Sundays and the local Shala on a Friday or (whisper it quietly) on a Saturday. Though with the new week structure in Mysore I suppose it’s no longer a criminal offence to practice on a Saturday, so my practice week has become a bit mix and match depending on work, hospital visiting and how knackered I am.

Things were seemingly going well, that is until last weekend. I practised at the local Shala on Friday morning, time to explore my dropbacks, rising from the 1/2 thick blocks followed by three super assisted ones before an un squashed Paschimottanasana .

Friday afternoon I was working at the computer editing a talk I gave the next day, two hours later I went to get up and couldn’t, the left side of my back was rigid.

I’d planned not to practice Saturday anyway, busy giving the talk, but Sunday I took my spot in the corner at AYL, my Upward dogs had no “Up” in them, my back was so stiff I couldn’t bind Mari D, and I just allowed myself to go limp as I was adjusted in to Supta Kurmasana. Weirdly I could still bind Pasasana, the heat in there working it’s magic, but OMG Bhekasana was horrible, it’s my last (legal) pose and I always wait for the assist, but a good job Louise didn’t see my screwed up face.

I decided to try doing a Bridge before Urdva Dhanurasana, aaaahhhhh ******* nope that wasn’t happening, so I got up and left my spot for the next “one more”.

Louise stopped me to ask why I hadn’t done backbends and dropbacks. She thinks it’s a spasm, by not being squashed on Friday “things” hadn’t quite gone back to their correct places in my lower back, the Paschimottanasana squash equalises everything back out. Sitting in the Office chair had just exacerbated the situation and set my left lower back in stone. Doing Paschimottanasana on your own after backbends you don’t get that deep flattening of the lower back and I think that’s what’s done it.

Since Sunday I’ve only managed a couple of not very satisfying practices, I was hoping it would settle down by taking rest days and taking it easy, plus a bit of Feldenkreis .

It’s moon day this Sunday, so no AYL or local Shala unless a miracle occurs.

The talk I gave on Mysore in London I will be repeating in Chester on Saturday 19th September.


Another year older

August 28, 2015


Birthdays are no longer what they were, last year was a biggie, but this years was going to be just another day until Yogamama asked if I wanted to do the last day of Sharath’s London workshop, as she couldn’t go. Well that sounded much more interesting and fun.

Though when the alarm went off at 4:30am I was thinking is this such a good idea, but when I got to the station I found 2 more local ashtangi’s waiting on the platform for the 04:59. I haven’t been awake this early since Mysore in February.

The venue was the same as last time, The Camden Centre near Kings X, a huge public hall with space for around 200 mats and every space was filled as being the final day the mass of primary series students were joined by the ones who had been doing intermediate.

Mat to mat

Samasthitihi at 6:30 sharp and surprisingly I found it much easier than I expected, standing seemed to fly past with the usual mat shuffling to fit everyone’s legs in UHP, trying not to be distracted by a wobbler up the front.
Sharath seemed to like standing in the little vacant square two rows in front, I could feel him watching, just like being in Mysore, eyes everywhere, he sees everything, the thought that I need to do it right.

He seemed to count faster in seated, especially in postures that my left arm still needs extra time to get in to like Marichyasana D, he was already on “2” by the time my fingers bound. The final Navasana he held us at 4 for an eternity, I could hear his laugh as he counted 5 and the audible relief around the room. Garbha was fun as usual in such a confined space, but my neighbours and I managed to 360 without knocking any of us out, I noticed S rescue a couple of beached folk.

My shoulder was tested in Urdva Dhanurasana, I take my time Inbetween, but we hardly seemed to get any break before the “liiiiift up” instruction. Sirsasana was my main worry, I’m still not very steady and even getting vertical is still a bit hit and miss, I really didn’t want to take local ashtangi Jayne out who was in front of me. I managed ok, but had to come down and go back up for Ardha Sirsasana, my shoulder hates the transition and moving the weight distribution to counter the legs, I managed 5, which was more like 25 by my count!

After Uth Plutihi the room erupted in applause, Hamish and Anna said a few words and then Sharath spoke for a few minutes about the practice, he is so softly spoken and typically he was quite a way away now, unlike when his beady eyes had bored in to me during the practice itself, so I didn’t catch very much of what he said.

Sharath talking after practice.

Savasana was short and then everyone lined up for the photo. I’m amazed with the amount of students he sees in Mysore during the season and on tour in the summers that he seems to remember people and their practice, does he really remember shouting across the Shala exporting me to “stand up Kevin!” He laughed and said “only one day!” It’s like he mentally keeps count of everyone’s attendance.

Practice followed by birthday breakfast. Well my 51st turned out to be a much more enjoyable day than I expected before YogaMama sent that email, but OMG did I sleep well last night.

Birthday practice with Sharath.

The Peanut Galleries

August 8, 2015

Peanut Gallery 1

AYL is chock a block full on a Sunday when practice is going to be followed by Hamish doing Conference. I had done my Surya’s in the Finishing Room before Louise called my “one more”. By the time I had done backbends and headed back to the last spot in the Finishing Room to do closing, jammed in by the blackboard, there were so many students waiting to start there was a queue sitting patiently in the corridor. This “Peanut Gallery” watching those of us practising consisted of a few Authorised teachers waiting to start. Closing was proceeding along nicely until I came to Sirsasana, which with the shoulder is still a bit lopsided and getting vertical can be a bit hit n miss, it ended up being a “miss” day as I went up, failed to catch myself at the top and then aware of the wall on my right and my mat neighbour, whose mat was touching mine, avoiding both I went over the top, sideways crushing my toes painfully under me, eek ow ***%#^>* Ommmm. At least a member of the gallery was kind enough to check I was ok, my ego and toe were bruised but no serious damage done.

Post practice croissant and tea and back in there for a Conference in memory of Guruji who would have been 100 that weekend. Hamish talked about Guruji’s passion for yoga, his generosity towards his students, his house that some students had helped to buy which became the old Shala at Laxmipuram. Hamish then asked us to arrange ourselves in to lines before announcing that as part of the celebration one of the restaurants on Drumond Street would be delivering food for everyone.

Hamish giving conference


The conference and party were filmed and you can watch the short YouTube video here

Peanut Gallery 2.

Out here in the sticks at the local Shala things are different, no queue to start, a lot cooler and most students have quite a short practice, not many go beyond half primary and as for students doing intermediate, we are a very rare bread. By the time I’d done full primary there were just 3 of us still going and the other two were closing, so Olena was on me for Pasasana, Bhekasana and here I’m encouraged to practice through to my crappy Kapotasana, so I got assisted in Parsva Dhanurasana, Ustrasana and Laghu, as the local peanut gallery looked on from Savasana or through the glass partition to the Lobby.

I get more time to experiment with Dropbacks at the local Shala , no pressure to make space for the next person in the corridor queue, freedom to do the hanging exercises and shoulder openings before dropping back and standing up off the half thick blocks, trying not to be conscious of the peanut gallery that has grown outside the partition to include people waiting for their Pilates lesson. As I stood up from my 4th, S who I thought was asleep in Savasana next to me, said “can you stop doing that you are making me feel tired watching!” You just don’t get comments like that at AYL.

At AYL you also don’t get any adjustment, advice or assistance with closing once you have disappeared off in to the Finishing Room, but unbeknown to me Olena had returned and saw my dodgy kick up in to Headstand, cue a mini Sirsasana lesson on engaging my core, raising one leg, engaging and bringing the other leg up, then going in to Ardha Sirsasana, which I have to admit I haven’t practised doing much in the last couple of years with the shoulder issues, so instead of dreaming of croissants in Sirsasana as I usually do, that ended up being a testing end to practice, though she did give me a super squash in child’s pose.


July 16, 2015

Despite yoga’s more mainstream position these days it never ceases to amaze me how the “Muggles” still perceive us and what we do, a newspaper article last weekend actually described us as “bendy, glassy eyed, sun saluting farters”. Even the medical profession don’t get it, as was demonstrated by Nurse Jolly Hockey Sticks at my own health check last week.

After NJHS had weighed me (9 stones, 6lbs) and said “you’re a bit of a lightweight!” Though the BMI was at the bottom end of the scale, but not too light. She went on to ask if I ate healthily and if I did any exercise. I told her I do yoga 6 days a week, I could see it in her eyes before she even spoke, her idea of yoga clearly wasn’t Ashtanga, I couldn’t be bothered to enlighten her, so she gave me a small red book about healthy eating, having skimmed through it I think it’s aimed at people who live in McDonald’s and need to lose a few pounds, not a skinny yogi who has a post practice croissant habit and likes a regular dose of chocolate. (We won’t mention the books fruit section Miss Bysh).

The Book.

She clearly had her doubts about my health, ok I’ve had surgery lately and still have a way to go with recovering, but I’m getting there. Eek out of nowhere she produces a bloody great needle and some vials to test for Diabetes and Cholesterol and has the nerve to tell me not to be nervous, seeing her holding a needle is enough to send anyone’s blood pressure off the scale with good reason, she made 2 painful failed attempts to get blood out of my left arm before saying ” I think your lefts had enough, let me try the right, I usually get it first time“. I left with 2 sore arms covered in plasters, but a week later the scores are in and I don’t have diabetes or high cholesterol , so the chocolate and cake diet can continue.

Back on the mat I’ve managed a few more full practices, the stamina is returning, practice at AYL feels easy in the heat, with no distractions except for the odd friendly smile. I’m dropping back again on my own, though Louise is watchful enough to come and assist when they start looking dodgy.

Part 2 is online, link below.

Part two of the video interview I did for Ekaminhale in Mysore was published this week, I’m again amazed at the response, if you want to watch it clicke HERE.

Back to AYL

June 30, 2015

Practice back at AYL much sooner than expected. I was planning to go just for the monthly Conference and to catch up with everyone, but I’d been practising alternate days at home and thought I would just get on my mat and see how it went. As always it’s so much easier in that room, the yellow walls, heat and the quiet energy. I knew Louise would be keeping an eye on me, she mostly left me to slowly move through my practice.

As usual I don’t seem to have lost the flexibility, but I have lost stamina and strength. I read an article that said that when people of my age are forced to be inactive for periods after injury, surgery etc that the more muscle and stamina they had the more quickly they lose it and that for every week of inactivity it takes two weeks of being active again to regain what was lost. I can believe it, by Supta K I was getting tired and taking mini breaks. After Garbha I got a second wind and amazingly got through to Bhekasana, way further than I intended or expected.

Urdva Dhanurasana is slowly returning, the stretch on the front of the body is becoming more bearable, I stood up after doing 3 intending just to hang back, but L came along and supported me through the whole sequence of drops/stands, cross arm and drop and walk in, strangely UD from a dropback feels more comfortable on the front of the body than pushing up from the floor.

Savasana was needed after that, not to mention the croissant and tea.

Hamish’s conference

Conference was packed as always, H told us about the new AYL printed quarterly magazine that’s coming out later in the year, then read a chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, explaining the text in his own inimitable style!
You had to be there!

It was good to be back, hopefully the medical mishaps have come to an end and I can start to practice and improve as opposed to two years of constantly playing catch up.


Last night part one of the video interview I did in Mysore with Clint from Ekaminhale was published. This first part is the journey of my practice up to the day I snapped my Humerus in half. Here’s a link to the interview.

On the way back (again)

June 22, 2015

I’m two weeks post op, hopefully this is finally it after 4 years and 6 surgical procedures. The first week home I mostly slept, I’m sure they gave me enough anaesthetic to knock out a Horse, never mind nine and a half stone little me. Week two I’ve started to find my energy, going for a walk every day and gradually getting on my mat and trying to stretch.

The surgery looks to have been pretty successful, my pelvic muscles need to just get back with the program after having the work done for them for the last three months by plastic tubes. Though having continued to practice has certainly given me a good head start with the physical recovery compared to the majority of people who undergo this type of surgery.

I’ve been doing an hours practice every other day, standing and closing, standing and to Navasana, standing and a bit of second. Doing the second series postures Salabhasana , Bhekasana, Dhanurasna etc without being encumbered by medical tubes and plastic for the first time since January has been liberating.

This morning I managed my first post op full primary, as after all the previous surgery I havnt so much lost flexibility but have lost stamina and strength, 3 days in a hospital bed attached to drips and 2 weeks of R&R, and everything needs to wake up and engage again. Surprisingly I can do Pasasana but can’t quite bind Supta K!

Back to work tomorrow, though just a couple of days a week part time again to start with and hopefully back to AYL on Sunday, though what kind of a practice I’ll be doing I’m not sure, no doubt Louise will stop me getting carried away in the heat and energy of the Shala.

My niece is back from Uni and came to visit, she’s been doing yoga and was complaining that the teacher made them do stuff that was too advanced, so I asked her what she had them doing, J started to describe Astavakrasana and asked me if I could do it, two weeks post op with no warm up,her 50 year old uncle did it!

Resting- It’s done.

June 9, 2015

I had no idea when I said goodbye to Louise after practice last Sunday that I wouldn’t be back there this week.

The surgery is done.

I suddenly went from having another 6 weeks to wait down to 48 hours, after a call last Tuesday asking if I wanted it early after they had a cancellation. The sooner the better as far as I was concerned.

Hyper hydration

I went in on Friday, operation same day, properly conscious again Saturday morning attached to 2 huge fluid drips and a third IV drip pumping pain killers down my arm. The next two days were uncomfortable and at times painful to say the least, but luckily I had two wonderful Nurses, Jemma and Niamh, who took great care of me.

Discharged Sunday afternoon, home to rest, no yoga, no work, no lifting. I’m pretty sore still, especially as the effects of the anaesthetic and IV pain killers have worn off and I’m on my own with it.

That’s 4 lots of surgery in the last 4 years, I’m hoping that’s an end to it.


May 7, 2015

Its been a while since I posted, so since I’ve had a few readers ask why the silence, I figured it’s about time I wrote something.

As I mentioned previously I’ve not been too well since I got back from Mysore, I’m awaiting a date for surgery to clear the problem up, I’ve had my pre op assessment, swabbed, a gallon of blood taken from my arm and the new experience of having an ECG. Lots of little red lines proving there is prana still flowing through the body. A Prana graph.

It’s been good to get back to the heat of AYL, doing my full practice again, getting assistance and advice from Louise and Emma, but it wipes me out, my over all stamina and fitness are still way below what they were. I’m struggling with the backbends again, I even did a backbend workshop at “The Dark side” a couple of weeks ago. I’m back to dropping back, but unable to stand up from the mat, though I can stand up from a 1/2 thickness block. It’s more likely a mental block than a physical one as L once said, some row of dots not quite joining up.

The Backbend workshop

While I was sick I missed Hamish’s last Conference at AYL, so I was glad to be able to make this months after Sunday practice. Hamish talking about yoga and life, the importance of what yoga does for you being more important than what pose you are on, before opening it up for the usual Q&A.

Hamish getting Louise to demonstrate during Conference.

Hamish doesn’t do bulls***, he tells it like it is, a question about if you should do any “warming up” before practice elicited a response of “boll***”, the Surya Namaskars are the warm up.

Question about the length of Savasana, probably brought up because of the queue of people waiting to start in the Finishing Room and the length of time some people were spending in Savasana! His answer you should only lay for 5mins or so.

Question about the spaced out post practice state and making silly mistakes like getting on the wrong bus, in that hour or so after finishing practice. H said after Savasana it’s probably best to sit somewhere quietly for a few minutes before diving headlong back in to the busy real world.

Question about strengthening the knees after injury. H said that spending time in the Warrior postures helps to strengthen the knees.

Habits, Hamish said quite a lot of us have the same little habits between postures, such as wiggling hands/wrists in PPC, stepping back when preparing UHP, but he said ashtangi’s would automatically stand at front of yoga mat in Samasthitihi where as non yogis would stand in the middle of the mat. I realised I do the UHP step back, not sure about the wrist one, but one habit that won’t change is the post practice croissant.

The Ekaminhale editor has chopped my hour long Mysore interview in to a pair of short interviews, part one should be online soon. Part 1 is how it all started and my first trip to Mysore ending with the day I broke my Humerus. Part 2 is the rehab and how yoga and Louise were integral to my rehab and my return to Mysore this year.


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