The Birthday weekend

August 30, 2021

Battenburg cat cake

Friday was fun, practice and birthday breakfast at the local shala, some lovely cards and a black cat birthday cake made by my sister, followed by a first trip to the cinema in nearly 2 years.

After thinking I wasn’t going to be able to get to AYL on Sunday, suddenly there were trains listed and one actually turned up, it must be getting on 10 years since we last had a train on a bank holiday Sunday. As expected the shala was much busier with Conference to follow, the first live in person in the shala conference since February 2020. I like it when the shala is busy, there’s a different energy, heat and focus. 2nd week of Laghu, after E’s super Bhekasana assist.

In Conference Hamish talked about ageing & injuries. How as we get older we have to be more careful about how much effort and energy we put in to practice. When he was 17 he said he could do all 3 series each day! But now at 54 (still a youngster compared to some of us!) his practice is less but more focussed. We all get injured at some time or another doing this practice, H said most of his yoga induced injuries have been when he has been pushing too much, as he gets older it takes longer to recover. But he did say that injury has never stopped him getting on his mat, he may not have been able to do the practice he wanted to do, but he could always find something his body could do. Some being better than none.

A few of us have been quite envious when the teachers and assistants have returned to the shala on a Sunday morning after breakfast for their yoga study/philosophy group, what about one for us we cried? During Lockdown #1 Louise ran a Zoom philosophy group for students, which was excellent. And the good news is Louise announced they plan to start a study group for students, monthly in 5 month blocks, I already have my name down.

Hamish also talked about our accumulation of “stuff”, did he read my previous post I wonder? As we age we need and want less. What I need more of is quality time like this, conversations, Conference, community.

What I need without accumulating stuff

August 22, 2021

I turn 57 next Friday, Birthdays seem to be less special as we get older, but I always think I should do something to celebrate, as you don’t know how many more there are going to be.

My sister keeps asking what I want for my birthday and also usually I buy myself something, but if I’m honest I can’t think of anything I want or need for that matter. I’ve spent the last 2 years clearing the house of all my parents stuff, so why do I want to clutter it back up with more stuff, which my nieces will eventually have to sort out after I croak and they put me in the green recycling bin for the council to dispose of.

Things seem less important as I age, me and the cat have a comfortable house, warm beds, my bed is her bed, but not vice versa and we have food, I have cake, she has Dreamies. Ive started to notice now that people are selling things they have accumulated over the last 18 months during lockdowns, Ninja fryers and coffee machines seem popular, buying stuff online became something to do and a competitive sport. Im not saying I haven’t bought stuff, books, a kitchen clock and the space heater for the yoga room, but nothing frivolous.

I don’t need things, what I need are experiences, to create memories and not recycling, do things, generally have fun again, which hasn’t actually been possible. Last weeks London walking tour is a prime example, it’s probably the best and most enjoyable thing I’ve done in the last 16 months and made me realise how much it’s not only what I , we’ve all been missing, but also the type of thing I want going forward, an enjoyable experience that creates good memories. Alas they are sold out until October now, so I can’t “buy” myself another one for my birthday, oh well there must be something on Amazon…..I fear it will be socks again from my sister or a toy for the cat!

After 4 years it’s Laghu Vajrasana

August 17, 2021

Last Saturday I finally managed to get on LookUp London’s Secret Gardens of the the city walking tour, Katie Wignall is an excellent guide and as well as gardens I knew about like St Dunstans and Postmans Park, she showed us hidden green spaces that you would never realise were there, like Clery gardens, One Tree park and St Pancras garden with its church bench carved pews style seats.

We walked miles on a warm day, I got home with tired legs, but no regrets, having done something different for the first time in 16 months.

Sunday dawns, I wake up tired and achy, I’m in two minds about going to AYL, I’ve mentally decided if the first train is cancelled I’m going home to bed. The first train actually arrives early, I kind of knew it would and I’m on my mat by the window in a very quiet shala before 8am. Louise doesn’t need an Assistant, there’s only 4 of us and at one point it was just two of us.

I took it easy, not that Ashtanga is ever easy, conscious of still being tired and a bit dehydrated from the walking tour. More assists with the lack of students in primary but left alone in intermediate until Bhekasana. L is in front of me as I do Ustrasana, my mind already thinking about the backbends, just for the hell of it I repeat Ustrasana but instead of coming straight up I sink back into my quads before rising.

As I rise, 4 years after Ustrasana L says “let’s try Laghu Vajrasana, you need something new to work on”, I can do it, my legs are pretty strong, not to mention a few months of C at the local Shala having me do it, though nobody can say I haven’t done the work, I think L could see it wasn’t exactly my first attempt at Laghu Vajrasana.

It finally seems like I am being seen again, though at this rate I’ll be 61 by the time I get to Kapotasana!

Where to practice

June 19, 2021

As train fares are up and furlough for me is at an end I’m having to make a decision about where I practice, as I’m back to living on a pension and just one day a week working. The week day morning mysore Zoom group is still going after 15 months and provides the motivation to get out of bed and get on my mat.

I’ve been back at AYL since April and for the last couple of weeks at our local studio as well, but with the financial situation that’s not sustainable. This isn’t just a question about money, it’s also made me think about why I go and what I get from going to practice. AYL and Louise provide a community along with a place to lay my mat, for me going to AYL has always been about the community as much as the practice. But with covid there isn’t much community, apart from the odd wave across the shala, long gone are the days of shared breakfast after practice.

It’s also about the practice itself, if I’m being honest I don’t need much help, I can bind everything on my own and having cracked the dropback game, I don’t even get assistance with that, so it’s the occasional random assist, but mostly just a case of plodding through on my own. Also I’ve been on Ustrasana 4 years now, so I think it’s safe to say as far as AYL are concerned I’ve reached my “last” posture. So with the physical practice I’m beginning to feel like my practice isn’t progressing or benefitting from making the expensive replacement bus trek into the city on a Sunday morning, but AYL feels like home and I’m loathe to stop going completely, but the urgency and need to go has waned.

The local shala is a different thing and is only just coming back to life after the enforced hiatus. It’s woken up to a different feeling, quite a few people haven’t come back and probably won’t, they have lost the habit, particularly the older people for whom it was more a social event in their weekly calendar and some who have moved away in the last year or no longer want to make the journey from further away. It seems to have left a smaller group, consisting of the more dedicated practitioners, we have all returned to our socially distanced preferred spots in the room.

The local studio has luckily retained Caroline to teach us, she’s an AYL student as well, so her teaching etc is very consistent with AYL’s. Post opening I’ve been 3 times now, the classes cost more than AYL, but getting there is a 15 minute walk, rather than the expensive train or 2 hours some weeks, on a rail replacement bus.

But as I said it’s not just about cost or the crap journey, it’s also about the practice and community. The local studio has a growing community. But the difference for me is the practice, at AYL I feel unseen sometimes, left mostly to my own devices, apart from an instruction a few weeks ago by Louise to put my heels together in Dhanurasana, I can’t remember the last time I got any actual teaching input. Caroline on the other hand makes sure we get what we need, she leaves me to bind Mari D and Supta K on my own, but she’s right behind me and on me when Bhekasana and Ustrasana come round. She doesn’t allow me to just plod through to my last posture, she’s actually had me trying Laghu Vajrasana and a very assisted Kapotasana. I can actually do Laghu, my legs are pretty strong. But it’s her teaching in Ustrasana and Dhanurasana, making me think about the tail bone and opening the chest and making space between the vertebrae that’s allowed the Kapo experiments to happen and not feel uncomfortable and the marked improvement in my dropbacks after her teaching in intermediate.

For now I’ve decided to alternate between AYL and the local studio, it’s doable until hopefully the work situation improves. Although I love AYL, I’m actually getting more of what I need at the local studio, at AYL I’m just another student passing through, one who can do it on their own and can be left alone with little or no intervention or teaching. At the local studio I’m the same student, but I think I’m seen by the teacher as a work (still) in progress as opposed to AYL where I’m a student who has got to where they are going and isn’t destined to progress any further.

The glorious 12th

April 13, 2021

Monday April 12th 2021, the partial ending of Lockdown number 3 in England.

But more important than shops, pubs and Hairdressers opening up (Yogi Natalie is chopping mine on the 15th), was the reopening of the Shala, aka AYL.

The train to London was the busiest I’ve seen it in nearly a year, but feeling like I have a degree of protection from the vaccine now and the way people tried their best to distance themselves from one another.

Welcome home” Louise had written on the notice board and that’s exactly what it felt like. Saying “hi” and waving to friends across the room, getting adjustments in UHP and Supta K and Hamish’s comment as my fingers couldn’t quite bridge the gap in Pasasana, that perhaps my fingers had shrunk during the last 4 months! Actual proper sweat and that feeling of freedom of movement in the body that I can’t find at home.

And dropbacks, or rather the ability to stand up again was still there, though I fluffed the first attempt, being conscious of Louise assisting my neighbour and her watching out the corner of her eye, knowing she never misses a thing.

Closing in the sunshine by the window of the main room, no need to move next door. And a lovely comment from Ruby as I was leaving.

It was so nice to be back, the world is definitely a better place for AYL’s existence, Louise and Hamish teaching and all the people who make that small room the community it is.

After breakfast a first. Despite living near London all my life, I made my first ever visit to London Zoo, where I also met Sally the ITV weather lady, she’s a lot taller than she looks on the Telly!

This week kind of feels like the week of Christmas that we didn’t have, that BoJo cruelly snatched away, Yoga, the zoo, haircut and finally a new battery for my watch, next week will feel like a let down after all that.

One sharp scratch

February 27, 2021

After “Then what” now what, when and how soon?

After reasonably expecting I wouldn’t get offered the Covid vaccination before April at the earliest and the end of April at that and wondering if it would be worth the bother, I turned my phone on on Thursday morning to find a text from my GP telling me to follow a link to book my jab. I actually thought it was a phishing SMS and pressing the link would result in god knows what. So after googling the link to check it was genuine I logged on and found appointments for the next day. No choice of venue though, our town doesn’t have a centre, so we have to go to an industrial estate outside the next town, which is a pain to get to, they assume everyone has a car. It was 2 buses and a walk for me.

The whole process was amazingly well organized and painless, well apart from the “sharp scratch” moment, fill in the form, take a number, called forward in 5 minutes, consultation with the Nurse, needle in arm, go. Well not quite go, with my anaphylactic history they made me sit for 15 minutes in case I reacted. I left with a sore arm and became one of the 452,777 people vaccinated in England on 26 February 2021.

The reaction came about 6 hours later, with a splitting headache, nausea and my arm no longer sore, but aching and I couldn’t bear to lift it high enough to shut the bathroom window. Having spoken to other Pfizer vaccine people and a medical friend who was good enough to call, warning me I may get a reaction later, it seems to be pretty common reaction in “younger” people and especially those who have actually had Covid 19, which I haven’t.

So what happens now? The world is still in a shit state. Emotionally and mentally I’m still struggling, home alone without any family, I’m still anxious about what the state of things will be, even after everyone has had a needle or two stuck in their arm. I’m noticing stores in my town have been cleared and “To Let” signs stuck on the windows, will my part time job come back, yes the money is handy, but for me it’s the people I work with, the laughs and conversations over tea and a biscuit (cookie if you’re an American reading this), when will the shala open, it would be nice to go somewhere, anywhere, further than I’ve been in nearly 18 months now, since I came back from New York in September 2019, the two trips to hospital in that time don’t count.

Jab 2 in 10-12 weeks, Bill Gates now probably knows I drink tea, love Battenburg and support Ipswich Town

Then what

February 17, 2021

Then what?

I’ve cracked, I’m done with this lockdown. Our town has only 1 case per 200 population, we (me), after 3 months need a life worth bothering with.

I came to this conclusion today, I was so totally fucked off with life after a crappy practice, I had breakfast and went back to bed, I’ve slept all day and haven’t bothered eating, it just seems a pointless exercise in futility.

It will be months before I ever get offered vaccination, but even after that happens, what then? The way it’s going there will be fuck all improvement in life, the town will be a wasteland of tumbleweed rolling down the high street with everything apart from Tesco and a pharmacy left, I wish I had shares in the Co-op, supermarkets and Undertakers will be the only businesses to come through this unscathed making huge profits.

Ok I accept I can’t stand in a soccer stadium with 60,000 other people, go to a concert or go on holiday, but normal stuff that is every day should be open, normal shops, gyms, Yoga studios, massage therapists, hairdressers like my friend Natalie who has so much PPE I would feel far safer getting my hair cut than pushing my trolley round Tesco.

I’m not an anti Vaxer, far from it, I had the flu jab, but I’m beginning to wonder if it’s actually going to be worth the bother when/if that call comes asking me to roll up my sleeve, what’s the point if there still won’t be a life worth living. I’ve existed for a year now, I actually really want to live again, but it needs to be worth living.

My hope has expired , though with the incompetent way a lot of this has been handled, government false promises of world beating this that and the other I’m prepared to take my chances, I’d rather die from Covid than give up and find another way out.

Still not counting

January 31, 2021

Happy new year, well if you can call still locked down on furlough, stuck at home in the middle of winter bored shitless being happy. I don’t think last March as Lockdown #1 began any of us thought we would still be in this situation, it’s now lockdown #3 in the U.K. The vaccine may come eventually, but by the time we are allowed out there won’t be anything worth being allowed out for.

Practice remains the one consistent thing, apart from snoozing with the cat. Today I completed, along with a few others WOYOPRACMO, aka World Yoga Practice Month, yep I’ve done a practice of some kind for 31 days in a row. We have been doing WOYO over 10 years now.

During this month , actually on day 14, still not counting though, I recorded my 200th practice in a row of standing up from a dropback , that’s 600 “ups” at the requisite 3 per practice. But every day I still wonder if today’s the day I won’t manage it and will break the sequence.

Some days are touch and go, I’ve crashed a few because I get dizzy spells as I’m dropping back, the world goes dark and it’s an innate desperation that gets me vertical or it’s a crash, resulting in “are you ok’s?” from the Zoom shala. After a Zoom consultation with pilates Emma it seems to be a tightness , lack of bend in my thoracic spine on those days, which goes into the neck, cutting off vital supplies of blood and oxygen to whatever inhabits the space between my ears. I can feel the tightness, but with Becki the massage therapist unable to stick her thumbs and elbows in to the relevant areas at this time, I’m stuck with self help, the roller and spiky ball of pain. Acupuncture was another suggestion, but usually BJ’s thumbs fix whatever I manage to break.

I need a sunny holiday, 2020 was the first year since 1980 that I haven’t been abroad and first since 1981 that I haven’t flown anywhere. Counting the days until it happens.

Oh and we had some snow, down our street we made snow pets and somehow my effort made it on to the ITV London Weather .

The walls are closing in

October 10, 2020

It’s beginning to feel like the Covid walls are closing in. We can now only visit Germany and Sweden without having to go in to isolation when we return. Here in the UK anywhere and everywhere north of Birmingham seems to have some form of lockdown and restrictions, Scotland is basically closed, I hear a rumour Sturgeon is putting barbed wire and watch towers on the top of Hadrians Wall and Wales don’t want the “Ingerlish” crossing the border.

In the south more restrictions around and in London are looking imminent, will the Shala have to close again, will they stop us getting on the train for non essential journeys, i.e. going to the Shala if it is open.

In March we were at least heading towards summer as lockdown happened, warmer weather and socially distanced Cul-de-Sac BBQ’s, but a lockdown heading in to winter, crap, cold wet weather, dark at 4pm and bugger all to do is not a prospect I can deal with.

For me the hardest part in summer, but more so with a winter lockdown, is the isolation and loneliness that will inevitably ensue. The Shala is the only proper social interaction I get most weeks and if that’s taken away by Boris or that nutcase Khan I’ll be spending far too much time home alone, bored with no income after the furlough scheme ends.

Technically as I’m over 50, I’m classified as “At Risk” , but personally I’m coming to the conclusion that we need to be allowed to decide what level of risk we are satisfied with taking, as Sweden continues to do, giving their people a choice and responsibility for their own health and keeping businesses open. I don’t want to emerge in months time out of a lockdown to find a wasteland, because everything has finally gone bust and closed. I had my hair cut this week, yogi Natalie cut it pretty short, as she said “just in case”.

I was going to see the Enigma concert , obviously now cancelled, but playing their greatest hits CD this morning made me think their music could easily be the anthems to this year and next, “Loneliness” and “Sadness” are poignant, piercing, pounding anthems that sum up life at this time.

Dvesa

October 4, 2020

I’ve been having feelings of aversion about going to the shala, it’s strange.

After all those months in lockdown, dreaming about returning to the Shala, the initial euphoria of walking back through that door seems to have worn off. My practice has solidified and become very consistent during lockdown. I finally seem to have recracked the standing up game and I’m done Surya A to Savasana via a bit of intermediate in a smidge under 2 hours.

A little over a year ago the Shala was keeping me physically and mentally alive, it was the most important part of my week and the escape from all the crap going on at home, but now, apart from still being furloughed, there is no longer any crap at home to escape from and I’m left thinking about what I actually get by going.

To get to the shala today, I got drenched by this incessant rain deluge just getting to the station, then the train was very late and then delayed and the temptation to just go home and forget it was so tempting. A year ago it wouldn’t ha e crossed my mind to abandon the plan.

But I got on the train anyway. I seem to have reached my end at Ustrasana, so I’m not going there to get new poses. I don’t need/receive that much in the way of adjustment or teaching. So why go?

Well the heat helps, practice feels more comfortable, it’s easier to focus knowing there won’t be any feline or other interruptions, but above it all it’s the community I share my practice with, people I’ve known now in some cases over 10 years, the “hello’s” , the chats and feeling like you are part of something special. After I’d finished today, as usual I was so glad I’d made that effort