Archive for June, 2009

Nanny State

June 30, 2009

After practice last night I was watching the news, some NHS spokesman came on giving advice about how we should all be coping with the hot weather. It was as if they were trying to avoid people sueing the government for the sun coming out. Having sweated my way through 2 hours of Primary I had to laugh when he said we should all try not to exert ourselves and rest as much as we can.

The upstairs of my house was an oven, having been closed up all day, it wasn’t quite as hot as AYL on Sunday, but not far off. A nice practice where I accidentally found that I can now get my left leg behind my head! No I was doing Primary, but I usually bring my foot up to my chest before coaxing it into lotus for Marichyasana etc, but last night found I could get it higher. I presume its a result of all the Supta K work I have done over the last year.

It was nice to play around with dropbacks, the teachers were on me fast on Sunday so I didn’t get any experimenting time, but last night I played around with cross arms and bouncing off the door and trying to hang back, though that feels a bit dangerous home alone, there is a fine line between holding myself up and losing it and crashing backwards.



June 28, 2009

Just walking from the station to the Shala it was already stickily hot. I love the heat, practice is so much easier, but today the heat felt stifling. No chance of me nicking V’s special space, I saw the holy pink mat as soon as I walked in. I grabbed a space 2 along. It was a good spot because those on either side were already doing seated, so I could stretch out wide and up in the Surya Namaskars.

The heat felt sapping, there didn’t seem to be much airflow, despite the top windows being open, I was drenched, in UHP despite help, I had trouble keeping a hold of my toe, everything was slithery. When I got to seated the temperature at floor level seemed even more intense and draining, assist in Triang Mukha to keep me level, why can’t I sit on both sit bones at the same time? I could feel myself struggling for energy and it was hard to keep an ujayi breath, my knees liked the heat, I managed all the Mari’s up to 2nd side of D, I was too slithery to bind, luckily Louise came along and deftly managed to help my hands join. Some teachers seem to have a knack with Mari D, my knee was ok and my niggling QL didn’t blink. As I did the vinyasa I just felt wiped out. I lost the Supta K race to Louise, I thought I was slithery enough to get into before anyone spotted me, I was hanging out in Kurmasana, gradually moving my arms back when she arrived to easily bind me up, at least it doesn’t seem to take her any effort nowadays to get me there.

By the time closing came I was really tired, I had a dose of UD ADD, my first Urdva Dhanurasana was crap, but after that I managed 3 more reasonable ones, walking in a little to get more bend and get my hips more towards my ankles. No backdrop playtime on my own today, Ruth was waiting for me as soon as I stood up, she took me through 3, they felt ok, usually Louise does them with me. Ruth had me walking my hands in at the bottom, then coming up on the 3rd rock, though she said I still try and lead with my head, when I do consciously try not to. She said to put my brain in my ankle! So this pose requires me to look like a croquet hoop, with my brain in my ankle and not pass out or get dizzy, oh and I am sure I have to breathe at some point. No I enjoy the backdrops now, the fear has gone.

Closing in the finishing room, a long Sirsasana today, it just felt right to stay up there and a nice long Savasana, before peeling my yoga togs off and heading for home. Home via Pret, V was right about Pret having a better class of croissant.

Resistance is futile

June 27, 2009

I have just given in and started to demolish my last Caramel egg, scrummy yummmy. Its been that kind of day, this morning I walked past my therapy place and on the spur of the moment booked a massage with the brilliant Cristina for a couple of weeks time, she’s all booked up before then. This afternoon I gave in and booked my Eurostar trip to Paris, I am taking my sister with me to the Chocolate Fair, where hopefully I will meet up with U and Ed again,  2 ashtangis and 2 non ashtangis will perfom the choco stuff yourself vinyasa coco asana, just how many Lindt balls can you eat before Supta K disappears over the horizon?

Practice this week has been a bit disjointed, Monday was Moon day and after that I never seemed to get my head round it. I didn’t practice hardly at all on Wednesday or Friday. This morning I went shopping then after a cuppa got on my mat and contrived to spend a very slow 2 and a bit hours doing Primary and a load of backbends, which were surprisingly good, maybe my back needed a break, but I actually saw the end of my mat again when I played around with dropbacks.

I hope the train actually turns up tomorrow, they say the mercury is going to hit 28c in London, so what temperature the AYL oven will reach is anyones guess, but I am looking forward to it, practice is just so much better in the warm, my left QL doesn’t go into shock at the thought of Mari C & D when its warm and a slithery Supta K may let me win the race to bind my own hands and feet before Louise spots me 🙂

That egg was tasty, must find out when Easter 2010 is.

PS I promise not to nick V’s space!

A quick divert to AYL

June 21, 2009

I had intended to practice at YP today as Cary was there and for a change it wasn’t a Moon day. However the scumbags who run London Midland Trains managed to blow that idea apart as despite the 07:07 saying “On time” at 07:20, can’t these tossers tell the time, the train never actually materialised, which meant having to wait for the next one which stops everywhere, so by the time I got into London it was 08:20, way too late to get across to YP for a meaningful practice.

So it was round the corner to AYL, I got one of the last places up in the corner, spotted V in the same place as last week, I recognise her pink mat with the tell tale foot hole now! Standing felt a bit cramped, mainly I think because I couldnt stretch my arms laterally in the Surya’s due to the student mat density. Helped in Prasarita Padot C and in UHP, though the lack of space makes this hard for both student and teacher.

It was really hot in there again this week, which I like, I feel safe to stretch and go that extra millimetre, in Kurmasana I was squashed flat before being bound (teacher was real quick today, didnt get a chance to experiment on my own) in Supta K. I can do it on my own if given time. Louise adjusted me in Supta Padangusthasana today, can’t remember the last time any teacher did that, it allows a much deeper stretch when the opposite leg is being held in place. Also I think the deep stretch helped Ubhya. Though I am still no nearer coming up and over in Urdva Mukha, I am getting bored with writing that seemingly every week, I just cant seem to get it.

Did Dena’s warm up backbend lifts this morning before 4 x Urdva Dhanurasana, as usual they got better the more I did, then stood up to find Louise patiently waiting at the end of my mat for dropbacks. I am beginning to feel what should be happening, she emphasised again that its my upper back that needs to open. Louise takes me back, I walk my hands in then come back up, I think something, however miniscule is happening, as on the third it struck me that my hands hand landed much further away from the end of the mat than the first 2 attempts, presumably my croquet hoop is taking some shape. Its when things like that happen, helped by lovely teachers like Louise that it gives me the mental lift to keep persevering when I’m home alone.

So despite the abysmal transport system I got my practice.

Home via the Granola lady on my local farmers market, she makes this lovely wheat free granola, its all I can do, not to rip the packet open as I walk home, especially the Belgian chocolate one!

Faftanga Yoga

June 17, 2009

A practice today where my body was present on the mat, but my mind was completely elsewhere and it showed in my practice which could have been so much better and more satisfying, if I could have kept my mind on the mat as well. I actually did the practice I set out to do with regard to the asanas, standing, then up to Navasana, finishing with Kino’s backbend sequence.

Too much going on between my ears, usual work crap, preparing a 10 minute talk on Stockholm for next month and counting down the days until I go to Hamburg, where I will have a week of being present in my practice without distractions. I need a break, I have not had a day off yet this year, I’m starting to get stir crazy.

I can dream

June 16, 2009

I had the most vivid dream last night, where I got given a large redundancy cheque and ran home to book my flight to Mysore. I mentioned it to my direct Boss this morning, he laughed and said it aint gonna happen anytime soon!

When I did wake up, after nearly 10 hours sleep I had the crick from hell in my neck for some reason, which has lessened during the day but is still there. The crick didn’t stop me spending 80 minutes on my mat this evening, I practised up to Supta Kurmasana, then did lots of different backbends. It’s a sticky warm evening just right for a bit of backbending.

One day my dream has to come true!

My poor sore toes

June 15, 2009

After an intense weekend of practice, with all those vinyasas and rolling over my toes, I noticed that I actually  have skin missing from the tops of my toes as I started to do some practice this evening. My Yogitoes mat can’t be as soft as it once was, must remember to throw in some fabric softener the next time it goes in the machine.

Practice consisted of the standing sequence, some seated forward bends and some backbends beginning with Salabhasana, which is when I really noticed how sore my toes were, serves me right for sneaking into 2nd series I suppose!

I just needed to stretch today, having done about 10 hours yoga over the weekend I am a bit tired, especially after 8 hours of office boredom today. I hope there’s no camera in the works toilet as I went in there to stretch my back and did some dropbacks down the Loo door!

Dena day 2.

June 14, 2009

London Midland didn’t get out of bed early enough for me to get to Dena’s Mysore practice, so it had to be AYL this morning. AYL was packed and very hot and sticky, luckily I didn’t have to wait for a space, I found one behind V. in her vivid pink top! I had decided to do a slow full primary, but not push it, knowing I had a 3 hour workshop this afternoon to come. Turned out to be a steady, satisfying practice with nice adjustments from Louise and Ruth. No adjustments until seated, but then helped with Triang Mukha, Supta K and a lovely assist in Baddha Konasana. Dropbacks felt a bit laboured today, despite Louises efforts to help me, afterwards she was telling me I should come up in a “wave” initiated from the hips, one day…..

Closing followed by an indulgently long Savasana, knowing I didn’t have to clock watch for the train home. I was dripping from practice, wearing wet rags, good job I had brought a spare set with me.

A 4 hour rest followed, consisting of breakfast, lots of tea and reading the Sunday Times in the Sacred Cafe Another lovely sunny day in London

Back to Triyoga for the second day of Dena’s workshop at 2pm, surprisingly only 10 people there today, some who had just come for the day, what happened to all of yesterdays yogis and yoginis?? While we were waiting for Dena to come someone asked my name, she had read yesterdays blog entry, a lurker, not often I meet my readers, at least I know there are some now. Anyone who was there today feel free to leave a comment.

We started with breathing, doing the 3 minute breath count exercise, I am now down to 7 breaths in 3 minutes, I wish I could convert this level of control to when I am doing practice and rasping my way through another vinyasa. It was then a lovely 2 hour full Primary series, with occassional stops to explain something. Dena’s puts her ideas across in a very accessible way, one of the many reasons I enjoy doing practice with her. She adjusted my feet in Purvottanasana, telling me they were trying to rotate outwards. Again today she emphasized not collapsing the spine in postures like Dandasana. This afternoons practice was physically easier than I expected it to be having done a practice this morning. I suppose I am used to Dena’s pace, its steady but certainly not fast, so when we got to Supta Kurmasana this afternoon I was easily able to bind both ends on my own. Though it hasn’t been a good day for the second side of Marichyasana D for some reason, I can bind the first side, but couldn’t manage the second side either this morning or this afternoon.

Dena had us do the backbend warm ups again, peeling the back from the floor vertebra by vertebra, before doing full Urdva Dhanurasana’s, I only managed 2 good ones this afternoon, I need more time to set myself up both physically and mentally, which is why I am better in a mysore environment. Halasana is still easy, even on the 2nd practice of the day. Karnapidasana was interesting, Dena got me to flatten my feet to the floor, rather than just having the toes grounded, which dropped my knees lower around my ears. Sirsasana felt balanced and straight to me, then Dena came behind me and pointed out that in fact despite it being comfortable, that my neck was actually twisted. Yet another thing I am going to try and have to be aware of, because I have no doubt when I do the Mysore week in Germany with her next month she will be watching out for it! We finished with chanting and questions. As we sat with hands at prayer of the heart she said at this time this is our true nature. The practice had taken us there.The afternoon had just flown by. Doing practice with Dena is a joy, she brings a light to the practice. May her light keep shining on her students for years to come.

Workshop with Dena

June 13, 2009

Great to see Dena again, its been a long time since last August in Bali. Other familiar faces there too, Camilla who I last met 2 years ago at Dena’s mysore week in Stockholm, this proves Ashtanga is a small world, I seem to run into more and more of the same people wherever I practice on the planet.

The morning workshop was “Refining the fundamentals“, begining with engaging the breath into the front, back, sides etc. It was good to do the “Child on the chair” exercise again and the 3 minute breath count one. I have probably done this one 5 or 6 times with Dena now. The first time, probably back in 2003/4 sometime, then I was taking around 15+ plus breaths in the 3 minutes, today it was 8 1/2, I suppose it shows how my practice has evolved in that time, how I now appreciate how important the breath is to my practice and not just an optional extra. We did Primary up to Navasana, but stopped to look at jump throughs, Dena never names names, but when she talked about the jump throughs she had witnessed you knew when it was yours being referred to. Her reference to “struggling” not just plonking the butt down, but trying to keep the lift and wriggling the feet through. At one point she smiled and said “I got you working now Kevin“. At least now I try to smile through the discomfort, I will always remember her telling me to “Take the strain off my face” one Saturday morning in Clapham a few years ago.

Quite a long look at backbends too, beginning with lifting and lowering with the breath, then lifting higher and interlacing the fingers, then holding the butt to make it relax, which stops the feet heading outwards, while remembering to “Squeeze the Mango” keeping the inner thighs engaged. All this before we actually performed Urdva Dhanurasana. She made the point that going straight into Urdva Dhanurasana can be very extreme and it is good, especially in a Mysore environment to warm the back up with these little exercises first.

After 3 lovely hours it was time for a break, a sandwich in the sunshine, Carnaby Street was packed for a 60’s festival, including scooters and music. At one end was a green Piano which anyone could play.

The first part of the afternoon session was a discussion about the practice, emphasising that it should always be about the Integrity of the spine, not about the limbs. How we are all guilty of thinking we are in the pose, while in fact our lower back has collapsed (Oops must sit up straight while typing!).

How we shouldn’t keep using the flexible places (lower back & neck in backbends). We did Upward dog, first with exagerating the bend in the lower back and neck, we all agreed how uncomfortable it was, then by lifting and trying to bring the shoulders back and upper chest in front of the shoulders, while not engaging those flexible places. Dena said if we keep relying on the flexible areas, using them, deepening into them, then eventually we will damage them, its better to do an “honest posture”, even if we think it doesn’t look as good.

Someone asked about dropbacks, how they were experiencing discomfort in their lower back, Dena said the pain comes from compression, how the bend should not be in the lower back, but from finding length and space higher up in the body. She said that some shala’s insistence on students being able to dropback and stand up before progressing to 2nd series was perhaps the cause of pain in many backs. She said most people could eventually do the dropback, but at what cost to the integrity of the spine.

Someone asked Dena about the evolution of her own practice, in her 30’s Dena was doing 3 & 4th series, was mega fit and bendy (Not that she isn’t now). I think this must have been during the time I saw her do a demonstration at TLC and came away thinking is there any point me carrying on, I will never be able to do 5% of what I had seen. But 2 kids later I think she has mellowed, her practice has changed and she certainly doesn’t seem as intimidating to me as she did back then and thanks to her my practice has evolved way beyond my expectations. It is about accepting where you are and enjoying the practice, allowing it to evolve, what happens on the mat is all good.

We finished today with chanting, we chanted and chanted and eventually the mind shuts up and you reside without thought or a care in the world and just are. Though competing with the rock music from the 60’s street festival nearby was quite a challenge! 

Alas no early trains tomorrow, so I cannot do Dena’s Mysore practice in P-Hill, but I will go to AYL’s oven. Then 4 hours to rest before the workshop in the afternoon, just hope the sun and trains do their bit, today was glorious, let’s hope tomorrow is too.

What I needed

June 11, 2009

After a day off practice I know I need to do a Primary series, I need to re-aquaint my anatomy with the postures in a slow, careful way. This is opposed to what I want to do, which is to spend time playing around with all those fun backbends. I know I designated 2009 “The year of the dropback”, but here we are nearly half way through the year, despite the best efforts of myself and my teachers I have seen the floor just a couple of times on my own and seem to be no nearer doing it than I was on January 1st when Cat told me it was time I started to try.

So tonight I managed to spend 2 hours doing “just” Primary series, but as I sit here after with a mug of tea there is a quiet satisfaction that I got through all of it, despite the lack of heat and lack of a teacher. Doing practice outside of the Shala environment is much more of a mental game, the temtation to call it a day at Navasana is always there, that’s my first mental hillock, then getting past the UD ADD stage. All you folks who are lucky enough to have access to a shala, heat and teachers on a daily basis have it easy!

One more day of crap to go at Nepotism UK, then its the weekend, 2 full days of yoga.