I refuse to believe the correlation!

June 18, 2017

I refuse to believe the correlation!

A couple of weeks ago I was munching my Gluten, sugar and salt free Aldi breakfast granola, when I crunched down on a harder than usual cluster and shattered one front tooth completely and broke 25% off the side of it’s neighbour! a clusterfuck if ever I felt one. This has resulted in a massive dental bill and multiple painful visits to Dorota the nice polish Dentist.

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Since the dental clusterfuck I’ve desisted, it’s been a struggle, from my favourite cookies and the slabs of white chocolate that usually help get me through the working week, as Dorota said the temporary crown is ” for smiling, not for eating!”, which has resulted in a soft diet, so glad croissants are soft, this healthy eating business is clearly over rated, not to mention bloody expensive.

The upshot of this suddenly enforced diet is a sudden realization that the first side of Pasasana has got much easier to bind, I’ve always been able to bind the 2nd side, so was I carrying extra pounds on the first side, is a cookie and chocolate free diet the secret to Pasasana? It hasn’t made backbends any easier of late, now if it had I would almost be tempted to give up chocolate a while longer, but I won’t be giving up chocolate in the pursuit of Pasasana, that’s for sure!

Along with the teeth issue I stepped back off a step stool while cutting the hedge in the front garden last week and did “something” to my left knee, I couldn’t walk the next day, I actually fell over when I got up and tried to bend it. Slathered in a combo of Rumalaya and Tiger Balm it’s improved, I can walk and do most of practice , though Tiriang Mukha and Krounchasana are impossible and lotus poses are non binding.

Hopefully by the end of this week I’ll have a new tooth crown and a functioning left knee, just in time for my week in Cornwall with Lucy Scott.

AYL conference

June 4, 2017

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Today’s conference at AYL came just 12 hours or so after the previous evenings terrorist outrage that took 7 innocent lives and injured many more. London seemed to have a quietness to it this morning and a very understandable underlying tension with the heavy police presence at the nearby station.

It was a good day for the AYL community to come together.

To begin with Hamish asked us to sit in silence for a few minutes, to think of those caught up in last nights events and those further north 10 days ago. He then talked about the Buddhist story of Angulimala, who went around killing people to chop their fingers off to wear as a Mala. The point being that it’s usually impossible to fight fire with fire and that there has to be some kind of alternative engagement, as the Buddha engaged Angulimala and led him away from the road of violence, as H also added he wouldn’t advocate running up to a terrorist ourselves.

Hamish then talked about 3 parts that yoga is about, Intentions, technique and love.

Intentions– you get out as much as you are prepared to put in. Yoga is always on our minds, we arrange our lives around it, we bore our non yoga friends to death about it.

Technique– refinement of your practice, subtle changes you notice and make over years of repeating the same postures day after day.

Love-your natural state. Neither be lazy or push too hard in your practice , find the balance, be happy with where you are. It’s about the connections we have with the yoga community and family beyond.

Part of finding this balance and love is to be able to fill the void in your heart he termed the “hole of unhappiness”. We all have this hole, as he has begun to notice in his own daughter it begins around the age of 10, when children start to understand more about the world around them and see that the world isn’t perfect and start to ask questions about life.

Hamish talked about the visitors who come to AYL for a week, a few days or even a day, how they go away saying they had a great time, enjoyed the energy and being within. He wants them to have something simple to take away to remember the shala by, not a sticker, he laughingly said! Instead he has written Yoga Karunå
Karunå means compassion, this should guide how we practice, how we live and how we teach and he’s planning to make it available. He read it out to us, part if it said

Yoga is a gift

Have compassion
Breath well
Keep it simple

Hamish has a way of lightening the atmosphere, he often tells it like it is with a sense of humour, so when someone asked in the Q&A about how being a yogi may affect our political views he told us he didn’t used to vote, but now feels it’s important to do so, though he puts his “x” where Anna tells him to!

Hiding Ganesh, unexpected poses

April 23, 2017

A few weeks ago I lost my tiny Ganesh from my Pendant, it’s of no monetary value, but had huge sentimental value, as I got it in Mysore on my first trip after finally standing up from a dropback in front of The Boss, an obstacle removed. Since then Ganesh has helped clear a few obstacles, I think I lost him in the Shala and his presence is still there. A week after I lost him I was given Parsva Dhanurasana.

Parsva Dhanurasana feels like a lot of extra work, though to some degree it felt like a justification or reward for all the hard work to get back to this point. It’s not a static posture, it has the added out to each side element and the extra hang on for grim death on the final 5 when your arms are screaming.

As I was walking to the Shala this morning I had the thought that Parsva Dhanurasana is currently physically enough, it’s hard, it’s far from a “gimme” posture like Navasana, only joking 🙂

After 4 years of being frustratingly stuck at Bhekasana L has added on 2 poses in the last few months, Dhanurasana was good, I admit to doing a “happy dance” on the way to Pret after practice that morning, the joy at finally moving forward after all that had preceded it.

A couple of night ago I had this weird dream where L gave me the next pose, not Ustrasana, but Pincha, ye right in my dreams ha ha. But yoga dreams have a weird habit of coming true. As I was leaving this morning L asks about my practice with Hamish last week, asking if he stopped me in intermediate? L had only come back in to assist as I was doing backbends that day. No, far from stopping me H had assisted me, so L says ” great, start doing Ustrasana “. That was a bit of a shock, my mind was thinking do I really want another one, my heart was saying yes bring it on.

L has given me poses a couple of times now after I’ve finished practice for the day, I think because she’s been busy elsewhere and hasn’t got back to me in time during practice, or maybe she likes to give me a week to get my head round it and get some practice in. But doing the poses for real, officially suddenly feels very different to doing them home alone because I can when nobody is watching. I need to get the Kino 2nd series DVD out to see what I’m actually supposed to do.

So the intermediate obstacles are being broken down. Ganesh hasn’t reappeared, but I’m sure he’s hiding in the shala somewhere.

Parsva Dhanurasana to the peanut gallery in under a week!

March 24, 2017

Parsva Dhanurasana to the peanut gallery in under a week!

Back to AYL after all the Sunday moon days, 6 “one mores” until I got a space. Weirdly I get the usual spot in the corner under the window, how does that happen.

Practice is a steady plod through, super Bhekasana assist from Louise, this is feeling easier after Lucy Scott’s advice about it being the Glute that’s tight and not lack of strength in my left arm/shoulder.

After Dhanurasana I flipped my mat over as usual to the dry side for Backbends and closing, what I didn’t realise was that Louise had come back. “do Parsva Dhanurasana”, she had to repeat the instruction, once it realised she meant me, she talked me through the posture, “ankles have to stay together” then she assisted the last 5 breaths back in Dhanurasana.

That’s 2 new postures in 9 months and this one came as a bit of a (nice) surprise. As Dena once said “it never gets easier, just longer”.

I only had to wait 3 days to get back to AYL with a mid week, vacation day practice. On a week day the shala is even busier and even hotter, if that’s possible. My glasses had steamed up before I could even punch in the door code. Again had to start in the Finishing Room and 5 “one mores” until I got a space in the main room. And guess what spot I got, yep in the corner under the window.

With official promotion to Parsva Dhanurasana that spot isn’t great, the radiator is a serious head hazard in Gharba and the second side of Parsva. Luckily my neighbour was finishing so I moved over before the dangerous radiator poses.

Although I went on a Wednesday primarily because it’s Louise’s teaching day, Hamish was there too, it’s been a while since I practised with him, he was about to intervene on Mari D, until my fingers bound and he said “that’s ok” and walked away. Hamish did give me a lovely supporting adjustment in Krounchasana.

The sauna conditions take their toll, I love the heat in there, but at times it’s a bit too much, so by the time I got to my new pose I was knackered. I wasn’t assisted, but think I was being watched. Hopefully I’ll get the hang of it, rolling on to the second side is much harder than the first.

After practice and my croissant, I had intended to head to the south bank and have a wander, but the weather gods had other ideas, sideways, freezing cold rain, as I watched umbrellas taking off I decided to abandon the plan and head home. I got home just as the first news of the Westminster attack was coming through.

I also took Friday off and decided to practice at the local shala with the old crew. A lot more people,including a bunch of cyclists, but lots of friends. I was pretty much left alone, which suits me, that is until I got to Supta Kurmasana, I was in it, but Cathy came along and deepened it, Dwi Pada style, what I didn’t know until the exit was that the whole peanut gallery had stopped to watch! This isn’t a phenomenon I’m used to AYL.

Friday at the local shala is a very social experience, ending with tea in the cafe below.

Lucy Scott in the sticks again – day 5 – best practice

February 24, 2017

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Thanks to those who have been following along, Laura, Martin, Jayne, our last morning with Lucy, it’s been an amazing week, a great group of yogis sharing the energy.

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The 6am crew

Back with the (my) program today. We began with pranayama , breath extension and alternate nostril breathing, though a slightly different pattern to the way H taught us at AYL, so my brain was getting confused at 6am about which nostril to plug.

Nice to just be on our own, without being led, but still with plenty of help. I wasn’t quite as stiff as yesterday, but my back/hip still needs to find a more permanent degree of comfort. Surya’s and vinyasas Lucy was on me for my feet’s propensity to turn inwards, “they should be flat” so it doesn’t go in to my back. Wider stance in Parsvakonasana and hand on hip to help turn the chest.

Purvottanasana flat feet, big toes together, that bloody posture is torture, I’d rather do Navasana with Sharath. Again knees, ie adductor muscles in Tiriang, I like the strong assist in that, it helps my left hip settle.

Supta K on my own again, Lucy was elsewhere, so I thought I’d try at least Eka Pada , I got spotted “and what Re you doing Kevin?” 🙂 over she comes and says right foot first and push the foot so the knee goes diagonally away from the head, before she leans me forward and hooks the foot behind the head. This definitely feels more doable, even if it’s years since I actually thought about doing it.

Pasasana on my own, but help in Krounchasana, I need to stop leaning back so much on the second side, hamstring killer. Bhekasana limbers and the final posture assisted by Cathy, before Lucy arrives for Dhanurasana, no Bolster today, but a super deep assist, lifting the chest and the feet without any pain.

I played around with Bridge, then got assisted in various versions of Urdva Dhanurasana , on the mat, on blocks and stretched over the wheel by Lucy, I’m glad I’ve got one at home as I knew what to expect, but rolling over it with mega deep assistance is a different ball game to rolling over it home alone.

The wheel definitely helped to open my upper back, I stood up and just started to hang back to see how it was, lovely no pressure in my back, so L has me go back with straight arms to the wall and stay , then we do full dropbacks, back on the bike without any discomfort. Closing chant, then Lucy comes back to squash me before I do the rest of closing.

At the start Lucy had said day 5 is the downhill, take it easy (er) day, but it felt like the strongest, most consistent, flowing, joined up practice of the week. A good one to finish on. I’ll take a lot from this week, it’s been hard work, I hope I can take at least some of it in to my usual practice.

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The 9am crew, we warmed the room up for them.

I’ll sleep well tonight, massage tomorrow and moon day on Sunday. Phew I need a rest

Lucy Scott in the sticks again – day 4 – better than expected with a Dwi Pada bonus

February 23, 2017

Day 4 went better than expected after painful Dhanurasana disaster Wednesday.i was so stiff when I got up I seriously wondered about going. Lucy started with simple hip type openers, which also seemed to get in to the lower back and warm us up.

Starting to practice was torturous , I was still really stiff after yesterday’s issue in my lower back, I could barely touch the floor in Surya A, but after a few I got my hands flat and it started to feel better. Super assist in Padangusthasana , it’s like she suddenly creates space for the body to move in to. In Prasarita D L showed me where to align my leg, apparently it gets in to a weird place by itself!

Paschimottanasana was hard even with a light assist. I stepped forward on most of the vinyasas so I didn’t jar my back, though jumping back was ok. No way was I getting in to Mari D on the first side without help or reverting to my usual lift up and around method, help was elsewhere so back to the usual method, think I just about got away with it 😉

Supta K took a little while to get in to, it’s a deep forward bend and my back needed time, I got bound and as I was exiting Lucy arrives and after Titibhasana completely surprises me by getting me in to sitting up Dwi Pada, showing me where to hold the foot to get it in place. Years ago a teacher “put” me in to it, but this was completely different, it actually felt comfortable, Lucy was supporting me as my hands went in to prayer. I’ve never thought to try it, but I’ll try to add it in now. It’s fun surprises like that which give the joy to practice.

I had to slow down a lot today to keep my back comfortable, Lucy reminding me about Bandha to support the back. I thought about stopping after primary and heading for closing, but it’s a bit like falling off a bike and needing to get back on ASAP so I did my bit of intermediate, glad I did, nice assists in Pasasana and Bhekasana seems to be the theme of the week, especially the great assists in that and a way of accessing it in a new way.

I was a bit apprehensive about Urdva Dhanurasana, scared of jamming my back, not to mention with my slow pace today time was getting on, eventually after playing around in Bridge I managed some ok UD’s, even managing to walk the hands in. I thought I was done but there was Lucy getting me up again with a fab assist, I’m amazed at her ability to make me relax and just do it, to divert my brain from the potential pain and find a degree of comfort in a challenging posture. I decided to abandon dropbacks, I didn’t want to push it, but that’s another Bike I need to get back on ASAP. Tomorrow is another day

No work today, so a no rush Savasana, it’s nice to be able to take time.

Lucy Scott in the sticks again – day 3- just when it was going well!

February 22, 2017

Slightly different format today, we began with pranayama and some warm up stretches for the shoulders, before Lucy led us through the standing postures to Parsvottanasana . I find led mentally challenging, I prefer to be in my own little world plodding through,rather than moving to an external instruction. Super assists again as we went through, she has a habit of putting pressure in exactly the right places so you feel supported and safe. In the first Prasarita she had us put our hands flat further forward than usual and then come right up on to the toes in the preparation for Handstand, putting weight through the hands and arms.

It’s nice to be let loose, though it takes me a while to find my space and rhythm, it’s a great environment to learn but it can be distracting at times as the external overwhelms the internal.

At Mari D Lucy has me hugging my knee, my usual first side entry method of lift up and force the left arm around the knee, which compensates for the left side shoulder tightness needs to be changed, with her help I manage to stay flat and get the bind, but without the assistance my shoulder is way too tight to get far enough around the knee. Though I’m really surprised when she says the left side is more muscly.

The next section is my favourite part of primary, Bhuja though I screwed up the exit, Supta K is playtime, I love squirming in to that, Gharba isn’t the torture it used to be and Baddha Konasana has become easy, especially when you get adjusted in it twice 🙂

Lucy seemed to be on a straight leg mission, I can’t remember the last time anyone assisted Supta Padang, though it felt good.

Tag team Pasasana , then a super assist in both the Bhekasana limber and the proper posture from Cathy, this “Lucy limber” has made Bhekasana feel more comfortable and doable.

It was going so well, I had done Dhanurasana on my own and was about to vinyasa to Parsva D, but assistance arrives complete with a Bolster, L has the Bolster under my hips as I go again, this time with her telling me to push the legs and point the feet upwards, but I can’t, there’s nowhere to go, I feel stuck and then suddenly the wheels painfully come off as L pushes down a little the %#^%# thing in my back goes! Shit that hurt.

No blame, I’ve never had a problem in that posture and was more than happy going with the adjustment, usually I’m aware if it starts to be there, but this was sudden, it just let go. I’m aware of the “thing” but it’s never an issue in the intermediate postures, in fact if it is tight, they are the postures that really help. So I explain about last years trapped nerve, she says I should have mentioned it before, but since the Physio it’s not been an issue, I manage it pretty well when I feel my side getting tight. And to be honest I don’t like to start listing a litany of injury as I hear others do.

Lucy’s magic hands release the pain after a couple of minutes and we do Dhanurasana again, it feels ok. She tells me to then leave it and go in to shoulderstand, reappearing with blankets, I lay down with a Bolster under my knees as Lucy uses her hand to “listen” to my back. T12 where the Rib attaches seems to be slightly skew wif and after a while it feels like bubbles popping as everything releases.

She knows her stuff, she’s an amazing teacher with a deep understanding of how the body works or doesn’t in my case.

The left side catalogue of nuisance emanates from the 4 shoulder surgeries which have made everything tight the whole way down that side of my back. Also not helped by the operation on the left side of the Pelvis to harvest the bone to fill in the gap in my shoulder fracture.

The other issue is L says I strive too much, I want it too much and I plough headlong through my practice when I should take it more gently and not be forcing, grasping to get the bind or the backbend. Well it’s true, I’ve worked bloody hard since the last surgery in 2014 to get my practice back, the surgeon said my left arm wouldn’t be able to lift high enough to comb my hair let alone bind Marichy D. Without the striving I wouldn’t have got back 50% of the mobility I now have, I wouldn’t be working again, all be it part time.

Lucy said yoga should be enjoyable, I agree, but for me the unbounded joy comes from the fun stuff, Supta K and backbends, the first one I’ve cracked, but the 2nd I’m definitely striving and working hard for, but perhaps too hard. Part of the practice for me is feeling like I’m working towards something, for something. Last year when I was just going to Bhekasana, just doing the practice and going home I told Louise that I wasn’t enjoying it and felt I wasn’t getting anything out of my practice, I could just do it on auto pilot. She started me working the legs so much harder in backbends and eventually promoted me to Dhanurasana. Working towards something, however trivial it may seem made me engage again, I don’t want to go back to just doing it.

Lucy Scott back in the sticks again- Day 2- more intense

February 21, 2017

Well Lucy must have just been seeing where everyone was up to yesterday, today was physically much harder. We started with pranayama before it really started with stretching me out in Trikonasana. Mega Louise level squashings in Paschimottanasana and Ardha Badha, before getting me to bind at the wrist in Mari C. It’s a little thing, but it’s all extra work that takes energy. Lucy hasn’t given me (so far) handstands like last time or Ustrasana. Unlike the other students who are doing some intermediate I’m not “split” to some extent, so with doing full primary plus second I’m last to finish and practising with this intensity it’s pretty tiring.

Pasasana, then the adjustments in Bhekasana again,so I asked Lucy what I can do for Bhekasana when I’m home alone, so she showed me a kind of half Bhekasana where you twist over, a kind of cross between Bhekasana and Parsva Dhan.

All that and backbends still to go, Urdva Dhanurasana tag team adjustments, Lucy wouldn’t let me hold C’s ankles, she said I don’t work hard enough like that, so she made C place her feet just to stop my hands sliding backwards, then had me pushing up while she pulled from the front. Those were very intense backbends. It’s case of going with it, no choice but to submit.

The UD’s annoyed that thing in my side that goes round to the front of the top of the hip. Lucy said it’s the Psoas and it needs releasing, so she starts pressing in to it. I’ll ask the massage therapist about it on Saturday.

By the time I got to dropbacks I was almost toast , I did manage two dropbacks on my own before Lucy comes over and does all the half ways and dropbacks. Lucy’s dropback assist is really good, you feel totally safe and able to let go as you go back, even if she is demanding your legs do the work.

She let me get through closing before we did the closing chant. Having a half hour break before the second bunch arrive means there’s no rush and I can get a 10 minute Savasana.

It took 2 croissants and a bacon sandwich to refuel !

Lucy Scott back in the sticks again – day 1- Technicalities

February 20, 2017

LM asked me if I’d blogging this week, so for her and anyone else who may be interested I’ll try and write some thoughts each day.

Third time I’ve practiced with Lucy and so glad I took Saturday off and practised in the heat at AYL yesterday. Lucy is like Ganesh, she doesn’t forget, or rather she remembers where I’m up to and what I was and still am struggling with, she gave me Parsva Dhanurasana last time. She didn’t have me doing handstands on day 1 unlike last time, maybe she’s saving that for later in the week.

I like her adjustments and little bits of wisdom, they started in the Surya’s, making me have flat hands and dragging them backwards to facilitate a deeper forward bend. Parsvakonasana hand on the back of the Hip rather than straight out in front.

I ended up doing Mari C and D twice as I’d already done them, then L says she wants to see them, so I repeat them again with her adjusting it. Managed to do Supta K on my own. Lucy sat in front of me as I bent forward in to Baddha Konasana, nod of approval as I can get my knees and head on the floor pretty easily.

Left alone until I got to Pasasana, Salabhasana with a block to make me rotate my thighs in, then Bhekasana, she knows her anatomy, she said the reason my left hand is finding it hard to push down on the foot is because the Glute isn’t loose enough and not the weakness of the previously fractured left shoulder, Lucy manipulated it in some way and suddenly my hand could stay put on the left foot as she told me to lift the chest.

Assisted dropbacks are fun with Lucy, down and up and then the half way thing done really fast, then half way and down on to the top of the head making you engage the legs, that is hard, my legs were shaking, then another deeply assisted dropback and keep walking the hands in before pinging back up.

By now only a couple of us still going, so assisted in closing as well, pushing down on my knees and changing the balance point in Urdva Padmasana, then lowering the legs in Utana. Before she adjusts Sirsasana she makes L do a dropback on her own, before she comes back and tortures my headstand before giving me a nice squash in child’s pose.

A pause in practice as Lucy leads the closing chant so people can get on with their day, I know I wouldn’t get away with short cutting to Savasana, so after the chant I do the rest of the closing postures, the small Paranayama and a blanket has appeared for a 15min Savasana

How Muggle Nurse doesn’t think this counts as exercise is beyond me.

I can’t wait to go to bed and it’s only day 1, but it was definitely a good plan getting a warm AYL practice yesterday. I had two breakfast, one in the cafe as I waited for the Bus to work, then another pain au chocolate and some granola when I got to work, so much for “eat for what you are going to do and not for what you done!”.

Muggle Nurse

February 11, 2017

IMG_3448.JPGIt’s that time of year when the GP Nurse calls me in for the health check, usual questions;
Alcohol – None
Smoking – Never
Height and weight, BMI of 21.

Height, ok she can’t change that, but weight, yet again I see her peering at the scales, giving them a tap and wondering if she needs to send them off for re calibration. 5ft 7″ and under 9 1/2 stone (61kg) despite wearing jeans for work and a thick sweater.

So she asks with a withering look if I eat a healthy diet, well ok I don’t do fruit and there’s only so much veg, the odd bit of cake and chocolate do feature, but I have 3 meals a day and a hot chocolate before I go to bed.

So her next gambit is to get her syringe out and poke my arm to do a cholesterol test, she seems determined to find something, she is getting better, she hit the vein on the first go for a change, though I’m still bruised 4 days later, but she loses that one too, she says even skinny people can have cholesterol, it needs to be under 5 and I score 4.6 ha ha bring on the chocolate croissants.

So then she starts quizzing me about exercise, so I tell her I do Ashtanga yoga, she replies she does yoga, I ask her what she does, I would describe what she does as “very gentle”, good for her, each to their own, but then she says what I do doesn’t count as exercise! Two hours a day, sweating like a pig sometimes, but on her scoreboard I don’t do any exercise! The only way to get these “professionals” to understand what we do 6 days a week is for them to be made to do it, instead of considering yoga as ommming naval gazing!

I can’t wait for the GP to review it, “he’s skinny, has a crap diet, does no exercise, but has a healthy BMI and a good cholesterol score”.