Snails pace, स्नेल / स्नैल shabdkosh

May 21, 2018

Following the enforced Yoga hiatus after the cataract operation I finally walked back through the shala door yesterday, 2 weeks earlier than scheduled. Having initially been told 6 weeks, I had my post op check up during the week, everything is good, if still a little bit sore and the incision still needs another month or so to heal. But when I asked the $64 million question the Consultant said I can do anything that isn't a contact, ball or racket sport, i.e anything that has the potential for being whacked in the eye. He said raising blood pressure is ok again now, but no pressure on the head, which means missing out Setu B, most of closing and landing on my head doing dropbacks, but apart from that for a few weeks I'm good to go.

I did a couple of half primary's during the week, trying to decide if it was worth going back to the shala yet, as before stamina is woeful, especially after doing literally nothing for a few weeks, I emailed teacher Louise the night before and said I planned to return. As usual her reply was sensible advice, practice at snails pace, don't get carried along by the heat and energy in the room, don't try and do too much.

There's something about pressing the numbers in to the door code, the warmth hits you and my glasses steam up, it's good to be back, welcome home, someone said later. It feels like that, immediately comfortable, surrounded by friendly faces.

The practice was like slogging through a swamp, I kept having little rests, despite having been desperate to be back in that room, there was a feeling of heaviness and inertia. At Navasana I saw the clock and thought this time last week I was still asleep in bed! Just one more pose then I'll stop, but somehow with the odd little rest I resisted the temptation and got through to the end. Louise watched mostly, just letting me plod through, only the odd assist, Mari C, Baddha Konasana and backbends.

The Sanskrit word for snail is 🐌 🐌 🐌 स्नेल / स्नैल shabdkosh, despite not doing my full practice and only doing the last 3 of closing, grrr I've lost my recently acquired ability to bind Baddha Padmasana, it still took me over two hours, plus an extra long Savasana because I was now so tired, ok I probably did do more than I should have, I could quite easily have gone to sleep in the sunshine filled Finishing Room.

You have to start (again) somewhere, at least this time I'm not returning from a physical injury and all that entails, it's just a case of getting back the stamina and the odd bit of excess I've gained from weeks of sitting in front of the tv drinking tea and hitting the cookie jar.

Being able to read again has come just in time, Pushpam 3.5 is out this week, it's my teacher Louise's journey to India to find god. I'm waiting for my copy to arrive, so I don't know if she found him.


More Do nots than expected

April 26, 2018

Last Saturday I had the operation to remove the cataract from my left eye. Not the most comfortable or enjoyable 45 minutes I've ever spent laying flat on my back, covered in warm blankets. Savasana this wasn't.

This was also my first experience of surgery under a local anaesthetic, rather than a general one where you are asleep. The anaesthetist had a distraction technique all her own, distracting me by talking about the weekends soccer match as she then dropped the stinging anaesthetic drops in my eyes, they ***** sting I can tell you, though she eventually reached a point where I wasn't reacting to the sting, so she knew I was ready to be wheeled in for part 2.

Part 2 is the removal of the cataract and insertion of the new lens, a small incision, no pain but a lot of pressure and a weird sensation as the Phacoemulsification machine breaks up the cataract and sucks it out, then they post in the new lens and your done. No stitches. Well you're done apart from the fact you end up drenched, during the procedure as they continually pump in saline to wash the eye, in theory the liquid should run down the Shute in the drape and away, in practice it goes down your back, down your front, in your hair. So once they sit you up to take you back to Recovery a Nurse runs over with a fluffy towel to mop up, my t-shirt was wringing wet, you only get covered in blankets and not changed in to a gown. After a few checks, BP, temperature etc and a cup of tea and a biscuit it's time to go.

Cyborg shield

That said all the staff over the 2 days were fantastic and if my other eye ever needs doing I'll be down there again, so worth it and not just to avoid the 8 month waiting list round here. From diagnosis by the optician to surgery was 38 days.

Before I escaped there was one more surprise, I knew yoga would be banned for a while, but what I wasn't expecting was to not be able to return to work for 2 weeks. The pre op assessment Sister had quizzed me in detail about my job and hobbies and mentioned maybe a week off, but the Consultant had apparently insisted that I must take two weeks off. Two weeks off is ok, as my Boss said your only get one set of eyes, but what I wasn't expecting was the huge list of things I'm meant to avoid during that time including, lifting stuff, bending down too much, certainly no bending down and lifting, no reaching up/lifting, no lifting heavy shopping bags, no walking the dog, luckily I haven't got one, no gardening. Nothing inverted, basically anything that could potentially raise blood pressure is banned. I also get to wear the nifty eye shield at night to stop me rubbing my eye when I wake up, also wear it when I go out to avoid any dust or crap in the air.

So I'm left with going for unenergetic walks, watching tv and the one thing I haven't been able to do for months, read a book. Reading anything more than was absolutely necessary had become too hard over the last 3 months, leaving me with a headache and streaming eyes, so I had put my book to one side and stopped buying newspapers even before the extent of the cataract was diagnosed.

It's early days and I'm having quite a lot of trouble putting the eye drops in 4 times a day, but the early signs are good, there is a huge improvement in my vision, though now my glasses are unusable and I've had to go back to the glasses I had made in Mysore 7 years ago.

If anyone has a good technique for self administering eye drops please feel free to comment. I miss more than I hit.

So yoga and life are on hold as I rest and recover. As my teacher Louise told me this is a chance for healing for my whole body, not just the eye. She also suggested to help with the stir craziness of not being able to do asana to do a morning sitting and breathing practice.

The Vinyasa of compassion

April 16, 2018

It's going to be 6 very long weeks until I can get back on my mat at home or AYL. instead of being on my mat next Sunday I'll be waking up after having had this annoying cataract removed from my left eye the day before. No raising blood pressure, nothing dusty, no inversions, no dropbacks, no fun.

It felt like I had to make the most of yesterday's practice, wanting it to be a good one, enjoying each posture, well as much as one can enjoy Navasana! Ustrasana, my last posture twice, wonderfully supported dropbacks with Emma. Well wishes from my teachers.

AYL is the one place where I can leave behind the stress of home, Mum in hospital with a fractured pelvis, Dad at home with dementia, alas I can't escape the effects of the cataract. I'll miss the heat, energy and friendly smiles for the weeks I'm away, I'll really miss Louise and Emma's support.

It was a good last Sunday, instead of the usual croissant and head home, we had yogi breakfast before we returned for Conference with Hamish. As C said later it's as if this conference was for me, H talked about the difference between empathy and compassion. Compassion for others when it's difficult and compassion for yourself. Life at home is very difficult, finding compassion for my Dad when he nearly blew the house up leaving the gas on or flooding the place leaving the kitchen tap running all night. The enforced 6 week hiatus will be compassion for myself, despite potentially going stir crazy, or even "postal" as a certain kale loving New York yogini said. Hopefully in those weeks I'll be able to read books and newspapers again, which I haven't been able to do for a few months. Louise made us laugh when she said she didn't have compassion for the perpetrator of sausagegate!

H also talked about the no new postures on a Tuesday rule, how it's there to protect teachers and students from the powerful effects of Mars, though apparently it's ok to have new students on a Tuesday and give them a posture or two! Apparently according to Guruji there's a colour for each day, someone had actually asked.

Pret will no doubt notice the drop in income for the next 6 weeks, I'll be keeping a connection at the local shala by assisting on Saturdays, well holding up the odd leg in UHP and rescuing those beached in Gharba.

So here's to compassion for all and clear vision for me.

Now I have an excuse

March 19, 2018

Now I have an excuse, or a reason at least for not judging dropback landings, crashed one yesterday, and for walking in to glass doors.

I've been struggling reading small print, newspapers etc for quite a while, probably 6 months or more when I think about it, but I've got away with it by reading on my IPad where I can make the text MUCH BiGGER. I was due my bi annual eye test in January, but had put it off to let the concussion settle down. Well last week I had the test and found that the tiny, irrelevant cataract of two years ago now covers a much bigger proportion of my left eye. This explains the vision problems, depth perception, watering eyes and splitting headaches by the end of the day. The constant sensation I had started to have of a misty outlook, that I expected to be able to clear by blinking, but can't.

The deterioration measured by the test is massive, I've gone from -1.5 when i had the glasses made in Mysore in 2011, to -3.5 in 2015 to -7 , which my optician told me isn't really practical to correct with a lens and if she did the lens probably wouldn't last long against the deterioration.

So now I have to make a choice, a 6 month wait for the NHS to get around to treating me and my vision getting worse, or bite the bullet and pay to probably see the same NHS Consultant privately in weeks.

In the mean time I've abandoned buying newspapers, I've got a magnifier for reading the book I'm trying to get through and after that it will be back to the iPad to enlarge everything.

Frustrations and Miracles

March 3, 2018

Since I returned from Dena I've been forced to practice early mornings in the cold just to get a practice. My elderly parents are becoming a lot of work, Mum broke her pelvis while I was away and Dad's dimentia mean I'm running around between the 2 and going to work inbetween. I'm too tired to practice in the evenings which is my usual habit.

Practice happens, I force myself to get up at 5:30 and by 7:15 I'm on closing, although most of the postures come once I'm warmed a little, Urdva Dhanurasana at that time of day is torture, I've lost the ability and flexibility in my upper back to be able to walk my hands in, which in turn assists my dropback attempts. Anyone else have this backbend problem in the cold mornings, what do you do to help it?

On the plus side a miracle seems to have occurred with Baddha Padmasana. I've never ever never been anywhere near binding that, even after the 2011 Sepsis thing when I wasn't much more than a skeleton I couldn't bind that. While I was at Dena's I watched someone get in to Baddha Padmasana by twisting deeply and bending forward, grabbing one side, then bringing arm two around. So I gave it a try and after a few days of trying alternating the first side grab I have managed to bind, ok side one is a good grab and side two is hanging on to a couple of toes, but I was almost in shock when I had both sides.


February 22, 2018

The Ashtanga community is a global entity today that has evolved from tiny groups of practitioners coming together in small spaces when the pioneers first returned from India and the birth of cyberspace, from the days of the old Ezyboard with its basic green face, where we all had pseudonyms (KFCKEV in case you were wondering), through the start of the blogs on to the Facebook and Instagram world we inhabit now, practising in large corporate studios, but thankfully also the more homely Shala's like AYL and Dena's.

But for all that often distances us physically we are a growing community who share so much in common and just occasionally we manage to get together and meet on our mats far from home, for me I've met a lot of people in Mysore, Karen (aka Donutszenmom), Angela (Inside Owl), Katie (aspiring yogini) to name but a few. So here I am 10,000 miles and 11 time zones from AYL and I practised in a led class last Friday with friends from Germany, UK, Australia and the USA.

I've followed Ashtanga Dispatch virtually from its birth, exchanging occasional emails with Peg, reading physical and online copies of the magazine, the email newsletters and enjoying listening to the podcast interviews. You often, well I do anyway, wonder if people are really like "that" in real life or whether their online persona is an act. Well I can say Peg is just as fun, nice and engaging and great to be around in real life. She joked that she had just come from swimming in this photo, rather than just sweated through a 2 hour practice in an Aussie sauna! And her humbleness extends to delivering her teachers shoes 5000 miles across the Pacific.

The last two weeks have been a chance to just practice without aims, to be able to take my time, enjoy the heat, struggle with the humidity and not feel a pressure to perform while I'm actually at a shala every day, rather than that precious once or twice a week as is the norm where I want it to be a "good one". Coming here is definitely good for my soul, I just hope I don't have to wait another 7 years until I can come back, Mysore was something I loved and enjoyed, but coming to Dena's Shala feels nurturing in a way that Mysore never can be.

I remember 2006, that first 2 week intensive in Bali with Dena, on the last day it felt like being let out of school, freedom, but every time since then, be it Bali, Hamburg, Berlin, Stockholm or Byron Bay it feels like someone is forcing me out of a place that I want to stay in, that I know is both physically and mentally good for me. I may not have any plans to return to Mysore, but I can tell Peg that she isn't the only one already trying to make plans for a return to this beautiful place.

Byron Bay off the Mat

February 20, 2018

Practice has fluctuated, some days there's a fluidity in the body in this humidity, some days it's been like wading through treacle, asanas like the backbends I expected would be easier in the heat, but they haven't been, the twists Marichy D and Pasasana have been way better than they are in cold Europe. One day I shocked myself by managing to half bind myself in Baddha Padmasana, left fingers gripping, right fingers touching the toes, I've never been that near, ever! On days when there has been a breeze in the Shala practice has seemed physically easier, when there's no breeze the humid air saps the energy out of me. I also seem to be slower than most people at the 10am and have been last to finish quite often, today Annette was waiting to mop the floor when I dragged myself up from Savasana, though maybe being mopped wouldn't have been so bad.

Torakina beach Brunswick Heads

Off the mat I've really enjoyed being here, I met up with fellow blogger Susie GB and she took me exploring Brunswick Heads.

Can I fit one in my suitcase

I took a wildlife tour and met sleepy, cute Koala's, evil looking flying foxes and the many Kangaroos.

Wategose Beach

I've loved walking along the beaches, Wategose is beautiful, I'm staying near Main beach which has a view of the Lighthouse at sunrise. Finally today I made it to the top of the Lighthouse, stunning views and a really interesting tour, oh and we saw Dolphins.

Minyon Falls is pretty special after a hike through the forest

Sunset drumming circle

So it's not all been about Yoga, despite this being a Mecca for many Ashtanga's and the reason I chose to come here, it's also because it has a lot else going on, lots to see and it's easy to just "be" here. If I had the odd £5million laying around I could quite happily live here.

By Invitation

February 16, 2018

I knew before I arrived that Dena was teaching one of her "intensives" and that I would be practicing in the open to the public 10am class, taught by Emma and Jack. I also knew that it was pretty likely that Dena would be doing her own practice in the 10am, after the intensive students had gone home. And so it has been, so although technically Dena hasn't been the teacher I know she's been keeping an eye on my practice.

I have arrived each morning as the "intensives" have been coming out, sweat drenched from the sauna like heat inside the shala, by this time the sun is up and the outside temperature is in the 80's. it's a bit of a reunion, global Yoga friends, Andrea and Annette from Germany, Sophie, Helen and Ella from Dorset, Susi, Dena and Jack from this place, they come out, we go in.

And finally getting to meet Peg Mulqueen in the real world after years of chatting online via blogs and ashtanga dispatch, I'm now the proud owner of an ashtanga dispatch top. Thanks Peg.

I've found the heat not as helpful as I'd hoped, to be honest my dropbacks must have forgotten to get on the plane, but binding Pasasana is now easy, I think I've sweated away whatever was previously in the way! There's no need for spray bottles for Gharba, as Jack put it the other day "if you need the spray bottle in this heat you are doing something wrong!". Dena has had me using a stool device for Headstand after she heard about my concussion, I'm still being careful. It's not so much the heat, it's the humidity that's the killer, my t-shirt is 4 times heavier by the time I finish, I seem to run out of energy after Supta K, but cling on and keep going to Ustrasana. Despite all that's happened since last time I practised in Dena's Shala, surgery, illness and accidents my practice has come a long way, doing intermediate in this place feels a long way from then.

Shala dog Loki.

The "Intensive" is full, Dena has taken it off her website it's so over subscribed, but sometimes she lets other people lay their mat in that class. Yesterday she invited me to practice in today's 6:30am Led class. Being invited to join is special, a privilege, it's a gift, she said it was my birthday present! She knows when my birthday is, it's 2 weeks after hers, same month, born in the same year.

The class began with pranayama, before a counted on the breath full primary, the room has that energy and silent, powerful movement, a concentration and focus as we start in the darkness and finish with bright sunshine. It's a joy to be taken through the practice by Dena, after 20 years her words still resonate and speak to me like no other teachers ever have. Her words are not just about the physicality of the practice, but what this practice does for us off the mat, how we are, how we feel, how we are with others.

7 years later

February 12, 2018

It's 7 years since I walked through this gate down a suburban street on the outskirts of Byron Bay. Beyond the gate the stone path leads you to the wooden steps and through the sliding door in to the peace of Dena's Shala, though before I got more than a few steps along the path Dena was welcoming me back. There is no doubt that this place is special and it's thanks to randomly meeting Dena over 20 years ago that this practice has become integral to my existence.

This month Dena is running one of her month long "intensives" , so I'm in the 10am class with just a handful of people. The 10am is taught by Emma or Jack, so I'm not directly under Dena's teaching, however Dena does her own practice in this class and I know she had an eye on everyone, I suppose when you're that good you probably have dual drishte!

My first full practice since I swapped temperatures below freezing and snow as I left home, for the sweltering tropical heat of Australia. The heat in the Shala makes AYL feel temperate by comparison, though the "intensive" group had heated the shala up, so it wasn't just the ambient heat. The windows are open, the breeze ripples the curtains and the usual London din of drunks singing and sirens screaming is replaced by just the birds singing.

It's easy to practice when it's this warm, though energy sapping. There's a fluidity despite nearly a week off and some lingering jet lag, it's also like AYL in that you know whoever is teaching will be consistent and good, Emma is excellent, straightening my feet in some of the standing poses. A super squash in Kurmasana which made doing Supta K on my own easy. Gharba in the tropics does not involve scouring the room for a working spray bottle, there are rivers running from places I didn't know I had places.

I thought about stopping at the end of primary as I did on Saturday, fresh off the plane and tired, but thought ok I'll try Pasasana and see how it goes, Emma's Pasasana binding technique is very supportive and bound easily despite a week since the last one. The fun starts in Urdva Dhanurasana, my rug is a wet, slippery skate park, my dodgy left arm can't keep enough downward pressure before it slides out from under me, somehow I get vertical 3 times before standing and starting my hangbacks. After a couple Emma comes over and stops me, my upper back is too rigid and I'm feeling it all go in to my lower back, so she has me do the cross arm assisted deep hangs, as I come up from the 3rd one I realize Dena is standing behind us watching, she nods and walks off to get changed, then gives me a wave and see you tomorrow as she leaves us to do closing.

It's good to be back, I feel comfortable in this space, it's different to dropping in to random Shala's on vacation, I know where everything is, there's no pressure from within or without, oh and there's a new cafe on the walk back to town that does an excellent post practice chocolate croissant!

Mind the (glass) door

January 19, 2018

It's that time of year, there I was welcomed back to AYL a week early thinking I'm getting a head start with practice for 2018. Ho hum, then a week ago I went to grab my probiotics from the health food store, it was a really dark, wet morning and I remember putting my hand out to pull the door, then suddenly and this is all supposition, I thought the door was already open because of the bright yellow decor and light and wham, I literally walked head first, smack in to a glass door breaking it, I later discovered a push chair had already damaged it earlier that morning. I ended up on my knees on the floor of the shop before realizing people were trying to get me on to a chair. Let's do the concussionasana.

After a little while to recover I carried on my day, even if the day was a bit dizzy, nauseous and generally dazed accompanied by a dull headache and a lump on my forehead . I even went to Yoga at the local Shala and AYL in the following days, though missing out a chunk of the closing inversions. I was hoping this would quickly pass, after all I've crashed plenty of dropbacks on my head over the years and managed to avoid concussion.

This week I've walked in to things, misjudged things and still had dizziness and headache, so after some encouragement (nagging) from a friend who is a trauma nurse I went to see my GP. She checked me over, said I have concussion and it could last a couple of weeks, but otherwise I'm not showing any of the red flags in adult concussion that would get me a trip to A&E, vomiting, memory loss, though she said it's common not to be able to recall exactly what happened. Her parting shot, just to prove GP's do have a sense of humor, was to say it was my fault for going to a health food store, ha ha!!

The lump has gone down, but 8 days later I'm left with a continual dull ache and intermittent dizziness, my problem being that my stomach can't tolerate paracetamol, Nurofen or any other drug that my guts have to take part in processing, so if anyone has any ideas beyond ice cubes of something I can rub on my head to give this headache some help feel free to leave a comment.

Failing that I think I need one of these for dropbacks!