Life is like US foreign policy

January 5, 2020

When the US and others decided to invade Iraq, remove Saddam and save the world they obviously had no plan for what would come after they had achieved those goals. I’m sure the anarchy and chaos of ISIS wasn’t what they had in mind.

My plan to retire from a job I wasn’t enjoying and live happily ever after with a cat on my lap seemed like a pipe dream this time last year when I was dealing with my mothers death and caring for my Dad. Well as we all know Dad died, I retired and when she’s not out killing the local wildlife the cat sits on my lap occasionally.

The first few months of retirement passed easily, the time filled by turning the big bedroom in to a yoga studio and clearing out the house of my parents stuff. There is still stuff to clear in the house and the big shed outside is still a bomb site worthy of a US Baghdad drone strike, but I’m down to the stuff that will take time to shift.

Although retiring was definitely a great decision, Like the US I hadn’t given enough thought to what would come after achieving my supposedly impossible dream. That’s the stage I’m at now with a lot of spare time, I practice in the mornings, help at the kids gym three times a week and spend too much time on the internet. I’m not that much of a tv viewer, if it wasn’t for Match of the Day and Emily Maitliss I’d get rid of the thing in the corner.

I’m loathe to jump in and commit to too much, I still help run the travel club every month, but there is now a void opening up in the afternoons and evenings, I need something new to engage me mentally, I need a project. I’m still looking in to yoga TT’s, there’re are so many, they cost so much and I do wonder if it’s worth the time and effort. I did find one in London that ticked all my boxes, but alas it’s not being run this year, a pity as some of the elements were taught by AYL teachers.

There’s always the shed….

AYL workshop

December 28, 2019

Technically AYL is closed for three weeks for the holidays and for repairs, decorating the shala, but this weekend it’s been open, for practice and a couple of workshops.

It’s the first time I’ve, A) been in there on a Saturday to practice and B) First ever workshop in the 10 years I’ve been going.

I have been known to practice on Saturdays, so my body wasn’t too averse to the idea and the heat and energy in that room make it (relatively) easy to get on with it.

Asanas Workshop

I tried to write some notes as Hamish talked and Louise occasionally demonstrated. He only got through standing and a pick and mix from the seated postures.

Surya A – Look up as you bring the hands together, don’t lean back, be aware of the feet. Use the front of the legs. Think about the upper back. Make sure the heals don’t turn out in Upward dog.

Surya B – Hips forward in Virabadhrasana. Feet can and possibly get wider as people get older, helps to protect the hip joint.

Padangusthasana – feet should be turned in slightly. Think of bringing the arms back and down.

Trikonasana – Do not have the feet too far apart. There should be width between the shoulders.

Utita Hasta P – Feel the floor through your feet. Squeeze the waist.

Utkatasana – Bum out, weight in heals. It’s a squat, good for knee pain.

Hamish talked about Padmasana as we do it a lot in Ashtanga, he said Virabadhrasana helps Padmasana as it helps fluidity of movement in the hip joint. When entering Padmasana keep the knee closed, don’t twist the ankle. The heal in the abdomen is good for digestion.

H said people often do a lot of “warm ups” before moving the foot to Padmasana for Marichys etc. ” WARM UPS ARE JUST PROCRASTINATING “

Tiriang Mukha – Use of blocks should be minimal and if used the block should only go under one side, the out stretched leg side. The bent knee side can go out to the side to get better stability.

Marichyasana A – This helps Kurmasana.

Louise asked about jump backs and people who jump through with straight legs. Hamish said it’s better to jump through with crossed feet as it keeps you present.

Hamish “being able to jump back won’t get you to Samadhi

Uth Plutihi – Once in Lotus lift the knees upward before pushing in to hands/arms.

Sirsasana – Work towards staying in Sirsasana for 3 minutes. The older you get the longer you should aim to spend in Sirsasana.

Louise asked what advice he had for students who are either going to be stuck at a posture for a very long time or have reached a point where they aren’t going to add postures, so that the student doesn’t get bored, disheartened , frustrated with their practice?

Hamish quoted from the BG. “What you believe is what you are“. He said every practice is a new day, accept what is on that day.

……………………………………….

There was another workshop after, which was for teachers. My friend N asked why I wasn’t staying for it. I replied I’m not a teacher. We had never talked about me teaching before, but she is another who told me I should give it serious consideration. As like others she said I have the experience of 10+ years of practice, I have the time to study now I’m mostly retired and recommended Yoga Campus. As I left she gave me a beautiful little Ganesh for my home shala to remove my obstacles, perhaps my mental obstacles to teaching, not being good enough, not for me, I’m not a teacher etc. She’s made me think about it.

Now the weirdest thing about today was on the way home, I checked my email and the first one was from Yoga Campus about teacher training, how spooky is that, or are the rumours true about Apple phones listening in on our conversations?

Last 2019 conference

December 15, 2019

If it wasn’t for a couple of the people above and some others who took the time during that dire period between last December and July this year to offer support, advice and space, I doubt very much that I would be here now to write this post. Life was very dark and I’d go to bed hoping not to wake up.

After Mum died last December, a dire Christmas period, being made redundant in May and my Dad died in July I knew it was suddenly the time to work out what I wanted, i was suddenly and very unexpectedly free of all responsibility, I was no longer the Carer of two very dependent pensioners, my life was my own again and no longer on hold and out of my control. I mulled over retiring, it seemed a huge step, I’d taken a job that wasn’t “me”, the job itself was ok, but the corporateness (is that a word?) drove me nuts! So I took the leap, quit the job and took the pension I’ve paid in to for 25 years and what a good decision it was.

AYL and the community there has been my anchor, keeping the wheels on and going round. At breakfast today after practice someone said I looked happy, not something she would have been able to say this time last year. Life is worth living again.

Christmas will be strange this year, no family, just me and the cat home alone fighting over the last of the sausage rolls, she will probably win, she’s quicker than me. After breakfast we all went back to the Shala for Hamish’s last Conference before Christmas, he had some advice about Christmas as well as the usual other random thoughts and insights. Below is what I can remember, not verbatim, but you’ll get the gist.

Conference 15-12-19

Ganesha fat bloke with a stick is the greatest yogi, if you’re fat and disabled you can still do yoga, no excuse.

Make some time for practice during Christmas. It’s about quality not quantity, a couple of sun salutations is enough if done with care while being present. Perhaps add something extra, maybe some pranayama before practice or some chanting afterwards. And if the family is pressing buttons by 3pm do a handstand against a wall if you want!

If things are becoming fraught, think before reacting. We all have anger, don’t let it take over.

For Teachers be present physically and mentally in a class, not physically present, but with the mind elsewhere. Don’t rush between students trying to get to everyone. Observe.

I said I would never do it, but I’m writing another Book about yoga philosophy, just the word “philosophy” is enough to make many people switch off, so it will hopefully be an easy to understand relatable book.

Don’t let perceived pain take over, don’t go in to a posture with the thought that “this is going to hurt” because it will. It’s all about the breath, control the breath and control the mind.

His last words “I’m happy for all my friends who voted conservative, though I’m not sure I have any!”

Happy Christmas.”

Teaching??

October 8, 2019

Life has had more downs than ups in the last year, but life is now beginning to settle in to a more livable enjoyable pattern, practice, sleep, eat and hours and hours playing silly games with Greml or both of us falling asleep with her sprawled across my lap. Technically I have retired, and although I am getting a pension I’m also doing a few hours a week helping the local Gymnastics club out.

I’ve had a first holiday in years without the worry of what was happening or what I was coming back home to. New York was fun.

When I first stopped working my time was filled with legal stuff of my parents death and sorting the house out to some extent, but now that’s progressing it’s a question of “what else” is going to fill my time, especially as we are coming in to the cold wet winter months. AYL is the bedrock of my life, the people in it who represent the extended family I don’t have.

At home I have my Yoga room, a long held dream that has become a reality. It feels like a huge space compared to the space I previously practiced in, I’ve oriented it so that it feels like AYL with the yellow walls and windows on my right as I practice, though as Emma said it lacks the sweat running down the walls.

You could easily get 4 or 5 mats in there and 4 people have now said maybe I should teach, as I have the time and a space, that still feels like a huge step, even though my teacher Louise has twice now said I should think about it. It’s a seed I’d put to the back of my mind, but V at breakfast on Sunday became the 4th person to voice the idea and I’ve actually started to think about it, so where do I go from here? TT’s are expensive and from what I’ve read and witnessed over the years many aren’t that great, I well remember being on the periphery of a 200 hour TT in Goa a few years ago that seemed to be more about filling in the 200 hours than learning what you need to have some competence as a teacher. There are so many TT’s out there when you ask google.

A new life chapter

August 30, 2019

The AYL birthday photo

Earlier this week I hit the age of 55, not in itself significant, but the day on which I officially retired and can take a pension income.

The day I turned 54 was tedious, AYL was closed, the trains weren’t running thanks to the abortion that is HS2 and I was stuck at home with two needy parents bored out of my mind on a bank holiday Monday . I vowed that my 55th would be better. Little did I know that a year later both parents would no longer be here.

To celebrate what felt like a quite momentous day I went to AYL, that’s my “happy place”, the place that’s quite frankly kept me going over the last 18 months. Practice with Louise and Emma, perfect. I just knew it was the right place to be. After practice as I paid, Nik wished me a nice day and asked what I was doing, I was delighted to be able to say “actually I’m retiring today” and he became the first to congratulate me and speak to me, I’d nodded and waved a couple of hello’s, but not actually spoken to anyone so far.

Although I am taking a pension I have decided, as i wade through my parents affairs, that I need some structure in life. Practice is 2 hours a day, usually 5 days, that leaves a lot of time. Lately and for some time to come a lot of the time is filled with turning out rooms, the Attic of my parents stuff, old crap that I look at and think wtf did they keep this, always I guess “just in case”, but at some point that will be done. So I’ve taken a job with the local Gymnastics club, helping to set up their equipment and take it apart later 3 days a week.

Practice is becoming more consistent, though my right shoulder is a never ending pain lately, if I rest it it aches, if I exercise it it aches and if I sleep on it wrong it can be bloody painful the next morning. Massage and Rumalaya help, but aren’t a permanent solution.

Let the new chapter begin.

From dark to light

August 1, 2019

Since making the decision to retire, a decision I’m so glad I made, I seem to have been working harder than when I was actually working. I’ve ended up with two spare bedrooms and decided that rather than leave the big one as an unused bedroom full of junk and an old bed, I would instead toss out the old stuff and the bed and convert it in to a Yoga room.

The room always seemed dark to me, blue walls and a sense of heaviness, changing the color to what turns out to be almost AYL yellow has brought a lightness and brightness.

It’s taken me as a novice decorator a few weeks to get the project almost to completion, painting the walls and ceiling and getting a new laminate floor to replace the carpet and floorboards.

So I will no longer get jammed under the bed as I roll in to Parsva Dhanurasana or have to avoid crashing in to the tv stand as I come up from Supta Padangusthasana.

I have a corner for the Yoga toy cupboard of blocks, wheels and Backbenders and a shelf for all the Yoga books and a space on top for Ganesh and his mates.

It’s a place to “go” to Yoga, rather than practicing surrounded by clutter and potential distractions and after showing my teacher Louise, not for the first time she said I should teach, maybe one day…. but not now, she obviously has more faith in my ability to teach than I do.

Life Events

July 15, 2019

This has been a week of what Facebook would call “Life events”.

On Monday we had Dad’s funeral, a difficult day for me and my sister. We have lost both our parents in the last 6 months. If I’m honest Dad’s passing was to some extent a relief, his dementia and disability had become more than I could deal with at home on my own, mentally and physically I was deteriorating caring for him. At least he got his wish to live at home until the end.

Then to hear of the sudden passing of Maty Ezraty, founder of YogaWorks at only 55. She was the same age as me, I don’t think I ever met her, but when I listened to interviews with her I immediately understood, she didn’t waffle, she spoke plainly and freely and made sense of the practice.

Life is so fleeting, 55 is far too young to die.

So on Thursday I finally did it, I retired from work. As someone at Dad’s funeral said to me, it’s ok to regret having taken a chance and done something, but don’t spend years regretting what your heart told you to do, but your head told you not to.

Retirement was something I’d had in my mind for a while, I’ve seen too many people work until they drop or retire and die within a year or two. I’m fit and reasonably healthy, but so seemingly was Maty, so I went with my heart and did the deed. Luckily I’m mortgage free with just a cake and yoga habit to pay for as well as the cats Dreamies addiction.

A neighbour told me that “I’d got my life back now” and that’s how it feels, I’m no longer governed by Dads needs, his Carers, Doctors and social services dictating what I can do when or for that matter an employer. Spontaneous decisions like playing in the yoga pub quiz team last night at two hours notice or sitting in the park after yoga are freedoms I’ve not had in a few years.

My mind has space, extra terrabites of capacity that used to be constantly absorbed by Dad’s needs, appointments, etc etc. That said there is an awful lot of sorting out to be done, which is going to occupy a good few months. There’s no rush to do it, as Louise said “don’t try and do it all by Tuesday” , but I don’t want it hanging around either, the limbo I’ve been in for the last 18 months is over and I want to feel like life is moving forward worth the effort again.

I’ve got no definite plans, I’m loathe to commit to anything until things settle, I can do my practice without it having to fit around life and other people’s needs. I’d like to become more involved in the local yoga community and perhaps get to AYL more often, we will see.

I did plant my Pushpam seeds, I don’t have green fingers, so if any thing shoots, let alone flowers I’ll be amazed, but it felt like the right time to plant new life.

So it’s been quite a week.

The relief and guilt of passing.

June 25, 2019

Dad and Greml.

Practice can be both draining and energizing, so many factors both mental and physical influence what happens on the mat. The secret is to practice without expectation, to be ok with what happens, acceptance of how it is, to be equanimous.

Yesterday I practiced because I knew it was the right thing to do, AYL was the place I needed to be. My Dad died from a heart attack the day before, that’s both parents passing inside 6 months. His passing was a shock and very unexpected. Instead of staying at home unable to do much I knew being surrounded by the love and support of my teachers Louise and Emma was what I needed. I could barely chant the opening Mantra, I just kind of joined in with Catherine on the next mat, I couldn’t find my breath and my drishte was obscured by tears.

At points my mind told me to roll up my mat and find a corner to curl up in, but each time E or L would lightly adjust me or a friend would send a smile across the shala, I can’t imagine life without the shala and the people, they seemed to know when I needed them. I can’t remember much about the practice, apart from binding Pasasana and thinking I hadn’t eaten much.

L and E wouldn’t let me leave until they were sure I was ok, instructions to eat, sleep, look after myself, come and practice when I wanted and to find the light, be out in the sun and avoid the dark, both physical and mental, oh and don’t try and do everything by Tuesday.

AYL really feels like the extended family I don’t really have, with my Dad’s passing it’s just me and my sister left now with our cats Greml and Darwin and a couple of distant cousins. Greml loved Dad, they would sit for hours, both asleep.

There’s a relief that my Dad didn’t suffer and that he is at last free from the dementia that has ruined his last years on earth, the guilty thoughts that without the 24/7 responsibility of caring for him any longer, that I can have a life again, it’s like someone has turned the light of life and it being worth living back on again.

The Genie

June 12, 2019

Yoga land almost seems to be trying to put the Genie back in the bottle. Since I started to dabble in the mid 90’s Yoga’s profile has exploded, back in the day, even in London classes were quite small, workshops, even with the Kino’s of the time had maybe 25 people in them. I used to do a lot of workshops back then, it was like being a kid in sweet shop, trying anything and everything, it was all just Yoga back then, it wasn’t sub divided in to Hatha, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Forest, Power etc etc.

At some point I ended up accidentally with Ashtanga. Classes got bigger, workshops became ridiculously over priced and over populated, for example, I did one of Kino’s first London workshops, maybe there were 35, 40 at most, I still think that’s a lot for a teacher on their own, but the last time I practiced with Kino there must have been 80+.

Rumour has it there are even more “students” in her workshops now, she’s become a brand, rooms full of her Instagram followers. I just can’t see the point and over the last few years I’ve stopped doing mass workshops with “names”.

I’m beginning to see a trend towards teachers who try to stay below the (Instagram, Facebook, twitter) radar, small scale intimate classes where the teacher knows everyone’s name. Shala’s like AYL that has dare I say , the best teachers in the city, but has no social media feed, only a basic website, but has a community, it has a vibrant life and soul that the mega studios can never capture.

AYL is my home shala and will be for however long Hamish keeps it open or this HS2 crap stops me getting there. The only external teaching I get is by periodically visiting Dena in Byron, again small scale, no social media, basic website and also now when Angela comes to Europe, I got more from Angela in a couple of days than I ever have from almost anyone except Dena. Insightful, student specific workshop, not some planned program that a traveling teacher brings out in 10 cities.

With all that’s happened in Yoga world of late, abuse, authorization and who has the authority to authorize, lineage power plays and dogma, I feel like it’s the teachers who continue to stay below the radar who are the ones showing the way, whether they are on “The List”, or been removed from “The List” by choice or otherwise , they are there for their students.

The cat, aka Greml has decided downward facing cat isn’t for her and instead has taken to performing gymnastics on the clothes airer

Vienna Day 3

May 29, 2019

Vienna day 3 – Mysore practice

Our last morning with Angela, back in my relative, comfort zone of mysore self practice, plodding through at my own speed, to my own breath. Back to hearing my internal ramblings rather than the external instructions.

It always takes me a while to synchronize my breath and for it to become the ujayi sound and sensation, at one point early on I realized Angela was next to me, not adjusting me, but listening to my breath, which made me even more conscious of having one. She’s a bit like Dena, she stands there not because you are necessarily doing it wrong, but to make sure you are doing it right.

Making notes in philosophy

Also after her two discourses about consciousnesses and choice I was making an effort to be more present in my practice, I know sometimes I somehow get to around Baddha Konasana and suddenly realize I’ve nearly finished primary, it almost comes as a shock, I sometimes can’t remember having done some of the postures even though I know I have. I’ve done this practice for so long now it’s very easy for it to be automatic, my various body parts just know what comes next and where they should be without me having to tell them.

Angela’s assists when they do come are gentle, even asking how my shoulder was doing in Prasarita C. Binding my fingers higher up in Supta K before crossing my ankles. Sometimes it’s an instruction like telling me where my elbows should be in Baddha Konasana. I get a “nice kevin” as I’m in Urdva Dhanurasana trying to find nose drishte, but when I do find it it seems to make my elbows bend.

Angela has certainly made me think about how I go about doing my practice, given me something new , well perhaps something I should have already been doing after all these years, conscious movement, making a choice, but sometimes it takes someone different, to notice, to put the words in another order for it to be like a little light bulb shining a new light.

The bedtime experiment of consciously going through my day isn’t becoming easier, I’m getting further through the day before I either fall asleep or my mind goes off to something else. And I can’t really remember how Angela said it helps her, something about appreciating life.

It’s been a wonderful weekend, full of so much more than asana. The welcome I received from everyone at Mysore Vienna , being included in breakfasts and being part of the Vienna Yoga community. This Shala reminds me very much of AYL, it’s about the same size, it’s warm and cozy and has a vibrant community, so much nicer than doing a workshop with a 100 people in some giant impersonal hanger of a studio.