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.

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.