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.

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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.

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Ekaminhale.com

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.

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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.

Practising

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.

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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.

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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.

Ekaminhale

March 23, 2015

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While I was in Mysore Clint from Ekaminhale got in touch to ask if I would film a little interview with him about how yoga was so important in my recovery from the shoulder surgery and rehab.

Clint is back in Canada now and his editor Derek is busy with editing all the films he made while he was in Mysore. As a taster of the films to come from an amazing cast of yogi’s he published this short film on the Ekaminhale blog

I can’t wait to see all the finished films and still amazed to be asked in such exalted company.

Back in the real world

March 21, 2015

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We leave Mysore bendy and happy thinking this is how our practice is meant to be and will continue to be from this day forth. But whether it’s the long journey home that begins with that bumpy 4 hour taxi ride or landing back in to a cold north European winter the reality is pretty soon something rather different. We probably don’t get back on our mat for a couple of days and when we do we are cranky and stiff.

You begin to wonder what’s gone wrong, you return to the comfortable familiarity of your home Shala space and the responsibilities of work and home, although you want your practice to remain the priority, the reality is life takes over again and it seems to take even more dedication to crawl out from under the duvet every morning.

Post Mysore Ashtangi’s would benefit from a “half way house” for a week or so, somewhere not too cold so they can acclimatise to being back in the real world.

As I’ve discovered there are things beyond our control than can put paid to our good intentions of continuing the work. The sudden illness that hit me so soon after I landed back in reality has not improved, three times to hospital and now on a 3 month waiting list for surgery. It seems being cooped up in that uncomfortable aircraft seat for 9 hours was the final straw. I can’t be sure it was the flight, but at least my body waited until I landed back home before it caved in.

I am back on my mat and doing the practice I can, trying to get as fit as I can for the surgery and yet another period of recovery.

Returned

March 10, 2015

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Sa Tu Dirgha Kala….

I returned from Mysore without either of Sharath’s suggestions, the Indian IC was a bit impractical and no idea where I would install one if I had and the Bandha meter he talked about in conference has yet to be invented, though rumour has it there are Japanese and Korean yogis on the case designing the App.

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Kurmasana addition to my pendant

I did return with happy memories of a wonderful month practising with Saraswathi, along with a lovely addition to my pendant and an embroidered Mysore rug.

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Saraswathi

Alas I seem to have returned with something else, the day after I got home I became very unwell and two days later ended up in Hospital. The upshot being no practice since Mysore and not being able to return to work either. Things looked to be improving until last Friday when I ended up back in A&E for 4 hours. I’m now stuck at home unable to do anything as I wait for a referral.

So no Sunday croissants at AYL for a while it seems.

People you meet in Mysore

February 23, 2015

This trip to Mysore has been different in so many ways. A different teacher in a different space, except for led of course. A different place to live without so many facilities, no TV, no washing machine, no proper kitchen, intermittent Internet, but less than a 10 minute walk to the Shala and quieter at night which is why I chose it.

I haven’t been running around seeing things, I saw the ones worth seeing three years ago. This trip seems to have been about relaxing, settling in to the rhythm of life and meeting people. Some of the people are friends I practice with at AYL, some I’ve met in various places or last time I was here, others over the years I’ve been in touch with through cyberspace via this blog or their blog or in one case the old Yuku Ashtanga message board where we all had aliases. I seemed to have got to know them quite well despite never having met in person until this month in Mysore and in real life they are sweet people.

Nico Cooper an Aussie who lived in Mexico, has commented and emailed on this blog for a few years, I had no idea what he looked like, but luckily he recognised me in a small shop in Gokulam and came and said “hello”.

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Karla Balani

Karla Balani was a real surprise, a Californian with whom I have one mutual friend on Facebook, Shari our friend, had emailed us both to say to look out for each other. There must be over 400 students here with different start times and the chances of randomly running in to someone is pretty slim. So what a surprise on a communal table at Santosha as we both ordered breakfast and gave our names to Magda the Waitress, looked at each other and had the same thought, “are you?”. Our random meeting has led to a trip to Bylekupe and the Banyan Tree.

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Razieh delivering my cinnamon buns

I didn’t know Razieh Sarmad before I got here. She’s an Iranian living with her husband in Gokulam, who does baking on the side. When she bakes she posts on the Ashtanga community in Mysore Facebook page and anyone who wants some of whatever she is baking gets in touch to order. The first time I ordered she was making sweet breads, at which point I was hooked. I like the cafes here, but by and large they all offer the same menu, so the opportunity to be able to have something tasty and different is too good to miss. The sweet breads were delicious, but a couple of days later she was making cinnamon buns, I ordered four in case they weren’t very big, we met at 9am outside Tina’s. They were still warm from the oven, the smell was incredible, two were gone by the time I had walked the few minutes back home. I now have a standing order, 4 buns every couple of days. If anyone wants great bakery in Gokulam get in touch with Razieh.

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Angela

Angela Jamison and I have “known” each other a good few years without realising, first on the old Yuku Ashtanga message board, where we were all mostly posting anonymously, then via her blog inside owl and lately by email and Facebook. I knew she would be in Mysore at the same time and hoped we would finally get to meet. Yesterday at 8:15 after led class I’m quietly quaffing my third chai at Amruth when a motorbike pulls up and off jumps Angela and introduces herself. She was exactly what I expected her to be like and this morning we had breakfast and got to chat.

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Clint Griffiths

Clint Griffiths runs Ekaminhale.com blogs, makes videos, sells cute t-shirts and sporadically sends out a newsletter, which is how we first got in touch a few months ago after he wrote a post about coming back from injury. I replied to the post about my last two years and how the practice has been an integral part of my recovery. We had arranged to get in touch once we both got to Mysore, to meet and have a chai. Clint got in touch and not only did we meet, he’s a really nice guy, he asked me if I would do an interview, as he found my recovery from injury through the practice inspiring. I was surprised, but delighted to be asked as he usually makes videos with people like Kino and Laruga. So last Friday we spent two hours filming and recording an interview, which will be edited when he gets back to Canada and online sometime there after.

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Ani

I’ve saved the most special person I’ve finally met for last. Ani Semtan is an American Buddhist Nun who works at the Tibetan settlement at Bylekupe. Her duties at the settlement don’t allow her to get out much, it’s full time with teaching the monks, performing puja, domestic jobs and being PA to Rinpoche when he visits, as he is at the minute. Three years ago Ani had a few days off from her duties, it was her birthday and she decided to visit Mysore. She had not visited the city before and was googling for information when she came across my blog and the link to the ebook map I had just published at the time. Ani was one of the first people to download my book, it was to be the start of a very special friendship. Ani got in touch to ask for more specific information and we have had an email conversation in progress ever since. I’ve learnt so much about her life at the settlement. She amazing and has also been a great support over the last two years, sending me get well emails and sending good thoughts.

When I went to Bylekupe last week Ani was too heavily involved in all the preparations for Lhosar, it would have been a fleeting meeting at best, but luckily she had a couple of free(ish) days after Lhosar and made a trip to Mysore so we could meet properly. We met for lunch at The Green Hotel and spent nearly 4 delightful hours getting to know each other in person. Meeting Ani will be the highlight of this trip to Mysore.

Last Conference, buy an IC!

February 21, 2015

Today was my last conference of the trip, this time next week I’ll be on my way home. This year I seem to have managed to get a good spot near the front each Saturday , so I can really hear what Sharath says. It feels almost like a press conference, there are a line of phones and recording devices placed along the edge of the stage. I think he comes with a theme in mind he wants to talk about, but goes off at tangents as thoughts occur to him, he talks often about Guruji, reminiscences about teaching in the old Shala in Laxmipuram.

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Prakash guards the door

The Q&A was better this week, more pertinent questions, someone asked about backbends, his reply was along the lines that in normal life we spend so much time bending forward, picking things up etc, it’s important to equalise the body. He said Guruji always sat up straight, where as others his age would be hunched forward, backbends give you a better body for longer. He said he returned to Guruji’s funeral pyre the following day, the whole body was gone except for his Pelvis. Sharath said there’s no feeling like you get in backbends, you can’t buy that feeling even with 10 million. If you haven’t experienced the elation of “catching” or standing up you won’t know. He likened it to Masala Dosa, you have to taste it to know. I think he must like masala Dosa, he often mentions it! He asked the girl who asked the question if she got that feeling in backbends, I think like many of us she’s still at the stage of finding backbends a trial,

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Sharath

Someone asked about doing two practices a day, he said once is enough, come to the mat, be fully focused for the two hours or however long your practice takes, tame the monkey, be present, enjoy the practice.

I asked about Pasasana, whether it’s more important to bind or to get the heals down, being as his mother seems to be on a mission to kill my legs doing it every morning! He said catching is first, he said the best training for getting the heals down is an IC. (Quizzical look from me) he was talking about an Indian commode, squat toilet, he said everyone does that asana in India between 6:30-7:30 in the morning. He said I should get one sent home.

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My last conference

Another question was about doing full vinyasa between postures, he said you shouldn’t do it as it takes too much energy and the body loses heat.

I really enjoyed this weeks conference, Sharath’s enthusiasm and humour shone out and good questions made it the best one I’ve been to. Conference is such an integral part of being here. People who are leaving line up to have their picture taken with him. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a picture with Saraswathi before I go as I’ve been practising with her this time.

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I presume they are making another documentary, filming outside the Shala

The Kettle saga

February 15, 2015

Outside of the practice here in Mysore you still need to do stuff, Laundry mostly, along with eating and shopping. Things break and need replacing, but in India it’s not quite so easy as it is back home.

In the last two days the strap on my yoga mat bag gave up on me, but by far the biggest disaster was that my little travel kettle, that has been to every country I have in the last 30 years died spectacularly, it made a sizzling noise then flames started coming out of the base. Luckily I was nearby and pulled the plug before it could trip out anything else.

Rest day Saturday turned in to expedition Saturday afternoon to get replacements.

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My new mat bag with pocket for my Shala pass and morning shawl

Getting the mat bag replaced was pretty simple, as you would expect in the world Ashtanga capital. I knew that my AYL bag had been made by Rashinkar down in the city, so I walked in there with my old mat bag and said “I know you made these a couple of years ago, have you got any more?” Well in just a couple of minutes I had a new one, the same design, size and strong straps with a slightly bigger pocket on the front, 300Rp. The problem with Rashinkar is they have nice stuff, so it’s hard to just get what you came for, you end up browsing. Despite the increasing daytime temperatures the mornings, though not cold, have a crispness to them that requires something extra over the shoulders while walking to practice at 4:30am and sitting at Amruth drinking my chai later. Another 20 minutes later and another 300Rp lighter I have a simple shawl to help keep the morning chill out.

Finding a new Kettle was obviously a much higher priority, no way can I exist on any part of this planet without tea on tap. Loyal World seemed a likely place to get one. Most of the goods in Loyal World are spread out on the floors over the three levels, but “expensive” electrical items like Kettles, Toasters, mixers and microwaves are held securely behind the counter, you have to tell the person what you want and they bring it to you. “I need a small kettle with a two pin European plug to fit the socket in my apartment please”, “for making coffee?” He replies grabbing one from the shelf. “For tea actually” I reply, at which point he puts the first one back and takes another one, “for making tea” he says. What the difference was I have no idea,only in India do you seem to need a special kettle for making tea. The 1745Rp kettle is metal and quite heavy for its size and comes with a 3 pin plug. Umm not quite what I was looking for, so I ask him to get the first one down, the one for making coffee. I ask him if this second one is ok for boiling water? “Yes for water and coffee” he replies enthusiastically. This one is plastic, only 900Rp and much lighter, but again comes with a 3 round pin plug, which I can’t use.

Nothing seems to be standard in India, power sockets are any combo of 3 pin Indian, 2 pin European or the fat South African pins, they all emit 240 volts luckily.

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New Kettle with its adaptor

So back to the plastic kettle which is basically what I want , but can’t plug in. “You need adaptor?” He asks. “Well yes obviously”. “70 Rupees” he replies. Off he goes ferreting in a huge plastic tub full of hundreds of little boxes, he emerges after some time with a small box “adaptor” he announces triumphantly, we get it out, the outlet is 3 pins, which kind of defeats the object, 3 pin plug into an adaptor that has 3 pins the same coming out. “It won’t work” I tell him. “2 pin don’t have!” He says emphatically. So I tell him I’ll try Easy Day. I’m just about to walk away when he calls someone over, this person looks at me and says “we have two pin adaptor“, he disappears in to the same plastic bin of little boxes and quite some time later emerges with a smile and a different shaped little box. We all stare as he carefully opens the box, we have developed an audience by now for this kettle saga, and Lo and behold it’s a 3 pin in, two pin out, yay.

All three of us then transfer to the cash counter where the money gets taken, the receipt and guarantee card get official stamps. It’s taken nearly 45 minutes to buy a kettle in India with a plug on the end that will fit an Indian domestic socket.

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Because I can’t do without it

Nothing in India is ever simple, you need to allot the amount of time you think something will take and then quadruple it. India is however a “can do” type of place and 9 times out of 10 you will get what you wanted, it just takes a lot more patience and perseverance than it does in Tesco.


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