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

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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.

Vienna Day 2

May 25, 2019

Angela Jamison day 2

Vienna 25 May 2019

Samasthitihi and in to a full led primary. My first traditional led primary since I was in Mysore with Angela 4 years ago. No space for playing, fidgeting, extra stuff, it’s the rat tat tat of counting, breathing and moving. Angela looks for different things to the usual, technical points like noticing people who move their feet around in Down Dog, people who Close their eyes in poses, drishte, Angela’s big on drishte.

We did get time to get in to “those” poses Marichi D, Supta K and Barbara coming round with the spray bottle for Gharba. We did 6 Urdva Dhanurasana, later Angela told us this was so she could get round the room and see where people put their drishte, should be nose, but with most people it’s either ceiling or floor. Though she said in dropbacks it should be the floor.

After breakfast Angela gave another philosophy discourse which began with her telling us about her recent knee surgery, which she had while awake and watching a monitor as the surgeon sliced and diced. She used the beep beep of the heart monitor and her breath to stop from “freaking out” as she put it.

She talked about drishte, how every pose has a correct drishte point, but the gaze should be soft with some awareness of the peripheral vision of the visual field. Back to last nights Concentration – Clarity – Equanimity, where the element of Clarity is sight, i.e. drishte

We went over the exercise of trying to recall our day before sleeping at night, a few of us had tried it, it’s MUCH HARDER than it initially seems. This is about consciousness to experience. It’s being completely present, not going through practice on auto pilot while thinking about breakfast, it’s moving consciously, with choice in to the next posture.

Having this type of mental practice can aid neural plasticity – it can rebuild patterns.

Philosophy in Vienna

May 24, 2019

I’m in Vienna for a weekend with Angela Jamison. This evening Angela talked philosophy, 90 minutes of having to have your brain plugged in in order to follow her conscious stream of thought and not knowing when a question will be directed at you, you concentrate not in order to be able to answer the question, but in order not to miss some priceless nugget of wisdom.

During the talk I among many took notes, mine are below for what they are worth, I put them here for my own record.

Angela Jamison

Vienna 24 May 2019

Yoga is not about quietening the mind- Yoga is a way of being.

Vinyasa – Method

Tristana – Breath, Bandha, Drishte

Spiritual Heart

Calming the mind is not the goal of Yoga, instead the object is to quietening the mind enough in order to better use the brain and make better decisions and reactions.

The practice needs support – Teacher you trust, Method , Community

Sutra 2.1 Tapah svadhyaya Ishvara Pranidhana

Where “Tapah” is Fire, the get up and go to get on the mat.

Svadhyaya is self study, learning to read the book of yourself.

Ishvara Pranidhana – Surrender to god, or god can also be the cosmos or equanimity

C C E – Concentration, Clarity, Equanimity

Beware of false identification- we are not our body, practice, job, car , nationality etc

Exercises before sleep

Angela was talking about the stage between laying down at night and going to sleep, she encouraged us to either read a short passage from the sutra, Gita etc so that our mind closes down in a better place or do a Steiner exercise where you literally go through your day, reviewing from when you woke up, ending where you are and consciously go to sleep.

84th

May 4, 2019

84th

I sometimes look at the “Stats” for this blog, looking at where my readers come from and seeing the links of how they find it. A couple of weeks ago I found a link that had found me from a list of the top 100 UK yoga blogs, scrolling through the list I discovered I am apparently the 84th best Uk yoga blog.

I was quite surprised, as the amount of posts I write has diminished over the last few years and recent posts have been more about life off the mat, turgid rants about coping with Mum’s death and being left with a Dad with dementia.

So maybe it’s time to get back to the yoga. Through all the shit it’s been the practice and the community that have kept my wheels on, but injury has been an issue this year.

Some injuries just go on forever. Take my right shoulder, not the left that I actually fractured a few years ago. Last summer during that heady period of being able to drop back and stand up again, I ****ed one up and wrenched my right shoulder as I crash landed, narrowly avoiding the chest of draws. It was a bit sore and stiff, but nothing too bad. During the period of shit before Christmas and just after I managed to pass out 4 times, my GP said it was stress related. I didn’t actually tell her that one of the passing out episodes involved almost standing up from a dropback, the world going dark and a crash landing, where I just about must of had the presence to stick my arms out to save my head. Cue heavy landing on same right shoulder.

It’s so frustrating and it’s taken a long time to start to heal, not to mention expensive appointments with the Physio, K Tape and Miss Steelthumbs. I’m back to dropping back again but it feels like a massive step back. Last summer I thought I’d finally nailed it when I stood up that Sunday at AYL, oh well….

I have finally though got a cat again, she’s called Greml, we adopted her from Yorkshire. The Admiral Nurse who visits said pets are good for dementia patients and Greml and Dad seem to enjoy snoozing together.

In a different moment

March 27, 2019

Being truly in the moment, i.e. Not doing something while thinking about something else, like doing dropbacks, truly present with concentration in order to not land on your head, as opposed to doing a forward bend and thinking about what you are going to have for breakfast. In my formative yoga years I always seem to be in that place, with my only external thought being how long is she going to make us stay in this position or doesn’t she know what comes after 3? As the years have gone on and some poses have become (relatively) easy my mind does seem to take a while to get in the “zone”, breath, bandha & Drishte. It also depends where I’m practising, at the Shala it’s much easier to focus and find that place, at home it’s much harder, too many potential external interruptions.

Sometimes it’s good to do something off the mat and completely out of your comfort zone, where you are forced to find that place of one pointed focus where there are no mental interruptions. We had a work day out last week, it was a spying mission but we won’t go there. The day involved an indoor assault course, archery and an escape room, little did I know that the day would finish with a 65ft high adult climbing frame, known as “High Ropes”, there’s nothing like standing on a 3inch wide metal beam 50feet up over a car park in Birmingham. It was challenging both mentally and physically and I ached in different places to the usual yoga places when I woke up the next morning

Still here, just…

January 12, 2019

I don’t know how or even why I’m still here, I really didn’t want to be. Life is still in a cul-de-sac of despair, but somehow I’ve managed not to take the ultimate action. A few people at AYL who know who they are, have kept me going by email, text and What’s App and some yogis further away across a Pond and one who lives quite near and is often my mat neighbour at the local shala. It’s ironic that I don’t actually have much family, one sister and a distant cousin, so without the Yoga community I would of lacked any support and most likely wouldn’t be here.

The Yoga community shows it true value, worth and meaning at times like these. At difficult times in the past it’s been my practice that’s kept me going, but since Mum’s funeral I’ve had chronic IBS, rubbish, interrupted sleep, dizzy spells and have passed out twice and just feel permanently wrecked and tired. The shala being shut over Christmas didn’t help, I could have benefited from having that place and that space, both mental and physical.

It’s taken a bit of kicking off with Adult care services to get any help for my Dad with his dementia, after I told them how I felt about life and what my preferred option was with regard to not wanting it to carry on, they sent an Emergency assessor the next day, but the sheer level of lowness and desperation you have to get to before help comes is terrifying.

Finally they are putting Dad in respite care next month and are going to do some practical things so that we can survive, he still at times thinks Mum is alive, I truly can’t cope with all his needs, at this time I can hardly cope with my own and the Assessor reported my state to my GP. I didn’t know they had the “power” to do that.

Annoyingly my practice has turned to crap, not surprising considering I’ve gone from 5-6 days a week to maybe 2 and dealing with all this shit, a few half practices which started off with good intentions but have seen me collapse on the floor unable to force myself up from an Upward Dog, too tired, so I just stay there and eventually drag myself to bed.

Now the Shala’s have started to reopen I’m starting to practice at some level again, it’s easier when there’s heat, help and no distractions, but my practices feel heavy and it’s a fight to the finish before I run out of energy, practice doesn’t have the satisfaction and joy that I want, let alone need.

My GP told me I need a proper break as well as some other actions, it’s been a year without one now and she has signed off on Dad’s respite care with the proviso that I get away at the same time and get a proper rest.

It’s all over

December 21, 2018

Its been the day to say goodbye to Mum, a sense of loss, but no sense of closure, though now being left to care for Dad alone it’s the sense that my life is over, my life’s not been worth living for over a year anyway, so no change, no feeling of moving on, just being stuck where I’ve been stuck for so long with no chance of change or reason to wake in the morning. Now stuck alone with Dad’s dementia,no chance of a break until one of us dies, I don’t care which one of us ,no escape,no peace no life until life itself becomes extinct.

2018 What a crap year

December 8, 2018

This year, 2018, began on a high of being in Byron Bay for a couple of weeks in February, practicing in one of my favorite Shala’s on the planet, seeing friends , being warm and paddling in the sea.

I landed back in the U.K. at the end of February to the start of a nightmare year and since then life and my wish to even live at times to the point of going to bed hoping not to wake up and giving serious thought to jumping in front of the train on a Sunday rather than get on it. This still seems a more than viable option, well it would if London NorthWestern Railways weren’t so fucking abysmal.

I returned from Downunder to my mother having fallen and broken her Pelvis in 4 places, screaming the house down in pain, screaming at my Dad for not doing what he was told, a feeling of total inadequacy until finally they re admitted Mum to hospital, where she spent the following 5 months.

Then in March to be diagnosed with a cataract at 53 and suddenly needing surgery again, I’ve spent far too much time in hospitals since the Sepsis and MRSA episode in 2011. Two days before the surgery I came home to find my Father sprawled across the Living room floor having broken his Femur, so instead of resting before my operation I was in A&E until 3am with him. He spent the next 4 months in hospital.

In July they both came home, but not before I’d had to “sell” or give away the complete contents of my Dining room, so a hospital bed could be installed. Then the stress really began, trying to look after their needs, work, my health which has no doubt deteriorated massively from the stress. I’ve lost weight, have dizzy spells in supermarkets after Yoga, have weeks of feeling shattered and I know I look like shit at times.

Though August did have the mini high of standing up from a backdrop for the first time in a couple of years, it hasn’t lasted.

And here we are in December, it’s now me screaming at Dad, his dementia and the stress of having to watch every little thing he does has sent me over the edge as he flooded the kitchen yet again. Worrying every day when I come home from work about whether he or the house will still be standing.

And where’s Mum in all this?, well she is in hospital with multiple organ failure waiting to be transferred to a local Hospice for her final few days.

For a year that started so well in sunny Australia it’s been nothing but shit and stress ever since, with a bit of luck I won’t wake up tomorrow.

Fun while it lasted

September 23, 2018

My practice seems to run in cycles, from knackered and just get to the end, do it all and don’t feel (too) knackered and rarely , flying with dropping back and standing up. The first two types are my defaults depending on outside factors a lot of the time, these first two have been how it is since returning from Mysore in 2015.

Type 3- Flying, has lasted just about a month after that first completely unintentional freak stand up, then being able to do it, then sporadically being able to do it. Now we seem to have returned to a combination of the defaults and not being able to do it. At least I know it’s possible.

A week ago I got in a bonus week day practice at AYL with L. A nice practice assisted by H who had stayed on I later found out because L had asked his thoughts on moving me on to Lhagu and Kapo. She wanted to know, bearing in mind age, physicality and all the surgery of the last few years if H thought Ustrasana, where I’m currently at, would be my final, last posture, or whether I could go on. I had wondered why H had stayed and done all my adjustments that morning, then left the Shala as I decamped to the Finishing Room. I’m glad I didn’t know it was a kind of audition. His advice being that I will move on at some point, but not just yet, in his words “too much pain”.

So until I get another cycle of Flying and nail the standing up game an Asana spurt isn’t on the cards anytime soon. To be honest Ustrasana feels like enough physically and mentally at this time. Someone asked me the other day if I’m going to be “split” soon as I have such a long practice, lol I wish!

I think this is another example of why many of us go to AYL, it’s not shiny, doesn’t have showers, only minuscule changing cubicles, BUT it has teachers who care and H supports his teachers by hanging around for an extra hour to watch their students practice. Not to mention L taking the trouble to ask him in the first place.

This is also the perfect example of Dena’s comment about the teacher who holds you at a pose cares about you, as opposed to the teacher who gives you poses because they want to keep you.