Archive for July, 2009

Two practices this evening!

July 31, 2009

My energy level seems to go from one extreme to the other.Last night I had a slug like primary, though I think in part it was due to a wheat made pastry I had a couple of days ago, it usually takes a couple of days from having something I shouldn’t for it to show in my health and my practice.  Home early as usual on a Friday and straight on my mat for a no faffing, no criminality, one end to the other Primary series including a finger touch on the second side of Mari D, though I no longer get hung up on whether I do this or not, as I have other toys further on in the series to look forward to including a nicely fully bound Supta K, despite temperatures nowhere near a Shala’s. Nice practice

Three hours later I was listening to the brilliant second CD of Kate Bush’s Aerial album, it reminded me that I used to listen to it every Friday night on thew way to the L-Shaped room and I started to do a few slow sun salutations, which led to Pasasana and for a change I actually remembered Bekhasana on the way to my cheaters Ustrasana. I realised as I was slowly going back in Laghu Vajrasana that I had the feeling of engaging something extra in the front of my body and quite unexpectedly had more control as I went back.It was weird it was like I had found a new lever to pull, maybe one of the anatomists has a vague idea of what I am blathering on about. So as that went well I decided to do some dropback experiments, though I found it more difficult to find my new lever and use it to control my descent.

I sometimes feel that I need to do more at home for my practice to have the same value as one done at the Shala, with its adjustment, heat and energy. Its the intensity and focus that cannot be had in a  practice home alone and it feels like I have to make up for them in some way. I will get my shala practice on Sunday at AYL, hopefully with teachers who know me this week and who can help me, unlike the other week when I practised without much assistance at all. A year ago going to AYL felt such a big step, I was nervous about going through that door, now I know that so long as I don’t go in a certain spot once on my mat good things can happen.


Dipping my toe into 2nd

July 30, 2009

I wanted to do a shorter practice yesterday and try and give my wrist a break, as it is still playing up. So the plan was to do standing then do the 2nd series postures Melanie taught me in Goa at Christmas. I figured that less vinyasas etc would save my wrist not to mention my shoulder.  I think that the wrist niggle has happened because I am subconsciously putting more weight into the right side in Chaturanga etc to save my left shoulder, doing 6 long practices at the workshop last week has just built up the tension in my wrist until it said “enough”.

Practice may have been shorter in the posture count, but I still managed to spend 80 minutes on my mat. I can touch my fingers in Pasasana and by sitting on a block Krounchasana is a good hamstring stretch. I do the 2nd series poses for the backbends though, Salabhasana and Dhanurasana, though last night in Dhanurasana I felt what I can only describe as being like an electric shock in my upper right arm. Ustrasana is more upright these days, my body is getting the idea of the chest lifting and it not just being about the lower back and neck. Kapotasana against the door, before rejoining practice for Urdva Dhanurasana, where my wrist again made its feelings known. But all these backbends are good for my dropback experiments, I feel like I am getting further with control, before losing my nerve and coming back up.


July 28, 2009

Second day back at the Labour camp, now feels like I was never away, Hamburg a distant memory. Countdown, 31 working days to Byron Bay.

A better practice tonight though, well it seemed to have more energy, which equates to more heat and thus more bendyness. Went to Supta Kurmasana and then played around with backbends, which felt much better than yesterdays creaking efforts. My right wrist is still not very happy, so the vinyasas have been more like “walk throughs” rather than Jump throughs.

At least my electric is back on and it was down to their faulty equipment, so at least I didn’t have to pay.

Back to this reality

July 28, 2009

Last week was just so good, I was waking up at 6.30am raring to go, full of energy, walking to the shala in Hamburg, enjoying my practice, enjoying the teaching, the company, the breakfast after, just happy with where I was physically and mentally.

Now its back to a job I dislike more each day. You always hope when you have time off that something will have changed, be better, but no its same shit different week. I wake up only wishing to go back to sleep. Today I woke up to a power cut, grrrr and didnt get breakfast as I was busy calling the power company’s emergency number, you know “press1, press 2, all our staff are busy, we value your custom“. Ye right!

I got back on my mat last night, a very slow unbendy half primary. I tried to remember the things Dena told me, like lifting my chest in Marichyasana A. There just wasn’t the focus or energy. Usually when I come back from a week away doing practice I have a renewed focus, but not this time for some reason.

Was St Swithen a German?

July 25, 2009

I finished packing my bag, then went to a Bakery on Lange Reihe for breakfast, I ended up “trapped” in the Bakery as the heavens dumped another monsoonal deluge of rain for an hour, it has done this every day, its not just a sharp shower, but rain that bounces off the street. Everyone who came into the Bakery ended up staying, taking shelter, like me “forced” to eat Pain au Chocolate and drink tea!

Time to head for the airport, auf wiedersehen Hamburg.

Dena at Pantarhei Day 6 – Sanga

July 24, 2009
Buddha at Pantarhei

Buddha at Pantarhei









Dena started by saying that “Sanga” was to be the theme of todays practice, our last of the workshop. Sanga meaning community, a shared energy, a shared spirit, a shared joy of doing practice as a community of practitioners. That is the way it has felt, it has been a joy to practice here this week. Todays practice was a modified lead primary, performed silently, the object being to not be either the first or the last to move and with a full vinyasa between poses in seated and closing. Not quite as hot today, I enjoy this style of practice with Dene, it takes some getting used to, as she calls out the postures in a wisper,  but once into the rythm the standing poses begin to flow. I find seated a little broken up as she tends to omit the more difficult ones, such as Bhujapidasana, Supta K, Garbha Pindasana, then back with the programme at Baddha Konasana and Upavistha before going to closing. The backbends felt as if they came too early today, I didn’t feel mentally or physically ready for them and only did a couple of very lame Urdva Dhanurasanas. We finished as we always do on the last day, with some chanting, before making a circle to talk about what we had got from the week and to thank Dena and Jack for travelling such a long way to bring us teaching that is challenging, enlightening, but loving. 

My thanks also to Inga who said “yes”  when I asked if I could come over and who helped in my planning.











After practice we retired to the Bakery for a leisurely breakfast and to say our goodbyes, many of the practitioners were locals, but some came from Berlin, Hannover, Amsterdam as well as the UK, we were all made most welcome by Inga and Dana who runs Pantarhei. Dena and Jack then arrived with cakes, I think we deserved them!

Another biblical deluge, then the sun came out, so on the spur of the moment I dumped my bags and got on a train to Lübeck, 50 minutes on the train to this old city, full of some beatiful buildings like the magnificent Holstentor with the PetriKirche in the background.

HolstenTor Lübeck

HolstenTor Lübeck




So the week has flown by, its back to reality tomorrow as I fly back to piggy flu infested England. Yet again this week has shown me what an important and integral part of my life practice has become and with teachers like Dena to nurture my practice, long may it continue because the alternative does not bear contemplation.

Dena at Pantarhei Day 5 – Yoga im Sauna!

July 23, 2009
Peaberries - after practice ashtangi hangout

Peaberries - after practice ashtangi hangout









Miraculously my Yogi Toes mat was almost dry this morning, well it was dry enough considering that 2 asanas into sitting it would be getting wet again anyway. Another morning where the Shala heat and humidity were of Sauna intensity, as soon as you wiped some sweat off it had reappeared. There cannot be any toxins left in my body, I have to say apart from a few aches I feel really well from this week, yoga is beyond exercise for me, it brings me back to life.

Practice was great again today, left to our own devices after the Surya’s, only a couple of adjustments in standing, Prasarita Padot D and Dena encouraging me to straighten the body and lower my shoulders in Virabadrasana B. As I did Marichyasana A, I caught Dena watching me, I did both sides and was about to start Mari B when she stopped me to say that the forward bend in Mari A is not doing much for me, instead to first concentrate on re-lifting the chest after I bind my hands and do the same again on the exit and to lift the standing foot to stretch it more. After a bit of a struggle I again managed Marichyasana D on both sides on my own, the hot conditions are certainly helping with this pose this week, back to reality next week will be another matter. The rivers of perspiration are making Supta K stress free this week, my mind kind of goes “whooopeee play time” when its time for this pose, I am virtually in it when help arrives, which is now about lifting and getting my head further under my feet. The struggle of this asana has gone, its now about refining it. The bum balances however were crap today, don’t know why, I was definitley trying (Dena was adjusting next door), but they were not going to happen.

I was getting tired by closing, I presumed tomorrow will be a led practice, so today I put every ounce into practice, jumping back properly on all the vinyasas, so by the time for Urdva Dhanurasana my arms were weakening, I did 4 today, but only 2 felt strong after managing to walk my hands in. Lots of dropback playtime today, as there were lots of folk waiting ahead of me, so it was cross arms, using the wall, half ways, going back as far as I could, also Handstand with Jack before Dena arrived. She had me do 3, but it felt like getting to the floor wasn’t the objective today, instead it was about trying to fold inwards trying to inch my hands on landing ever closer to my feet, it was quite intense again, as I came up from the third she said they were good.

I realised that I had Forgot Sirsasana, so ended up going back and re-doing the end of closing before Savasana in my self flooded lake.

After practice we again found ourselves at Peaberries Bakery, very nice it is too, its seems to be the local ashtangi after practice hang out. Tea and a Brownie and time with like minded people, I wish I could afford to get used to this life.

As it was only drizzling I went on a Steamshio trip around the Alster Lakes, they are very nice, being using by Rowers and sailors, the trip did a big loop in just under an hour, when we got back the biblical deluge had begun again. I was trying to find shelter when I came across a Cafe  serving big bowls of potato soup with croutons and Wustchen, perfect, see below!

Delicious Potato soup

Delicious Potato soup









After the soup break the weather got worse, nothing left for it but to head to St Pauli and the Hamburg History Museum, Hamburg through the ages, well at least it was in the dry, though not as much fun as clambering around a Submarine had been yesterday.

7pm its stopped raing at last, though I am struggling for anything dry to wear, well apart from the day befores yoga togs which I retrieved from the Laundry this morning. This week took far too long to come around, 7 long months of wishing the days and weeks away and in a flash the week has almost passed. The practice has been some of the best and most consistent for a very long time, I have enjoyed it and at no time felt like I was just dragging myself through it. I am mentally nearer doing a dropback even if physically I am no nearer, I didn’t have high hopes for this week, I just wanted time for myself, which to me means doing my practice without time restrictions or outside distractions.

Herr Hummell

Herr Hummell









I found another Herr Hummell on the Banks of the Binnen Alster Lake.

Dena at Pantarhei – Day 4 Hot

July 22, 2009


Japanese Pavillion - Planten un Blomen

Japanese Pavillion - Planten un Blomen









A slightly different beginning to today’s practice, Dena led us through standing, but using 3 long breaths, that in theory took the same actual time as a 5 breath would normally. It felt quite fast to me. Thankfully from seated it was back to a normal Mysore practice. After yesterdays practice in the sun, today it was very dark in the shala as the rained poured down outside. No sun didn’t mean no heat, the heat we generated could have been measured in the rivers that ran down me and counted, as the workshop posters unattached themselves from the walls.  I love the heat, but at least there is good air circulation, so you don’t get that heavy feeling.

Mari D just about happened on my own today, I was thinking of giving up, as potential assistance had walked past, I decided to have a 3rd attempt and just about managed to get my fingers to find each other. The rivers of sweat certainly help Supta Kurmasana, I was virtually there when I heard Dena tell me to stay where I was, deeply bound and then raised for Titibhasana.

4 x Urdva Dhanurasana, I can’t see where I manage to find more energy on each attempt, the first one I get up on my head then push up and come down quite quickly, then I manage to push up and stay there, then I manage to push up and walk my hands in, getting more bend. I didn’t get much dropback experimentation time today, Dena was waiting for me for 5 dropbacks. Its a different game with her, back home the teachers let me go further on my own, making me take more responsibility, but Dena has me take a faster inhale, then exhale back, but she is really encouraging my “Croquet hoop” by almost pulling me up and telling me to aim my hands inwards, my hands are subsequently landing much nearer my feet. I am hoping that if/when I ever do this thing on my own, that the final bit where gravity takes over, I wont actually have far to go to land, as opposed to the go back and hope not to crack the head first approach I have seen some people employ.

A faster practice today, though I think it had more to do with the led standing. I needed armbands for Savasana, my mat was a lake. After practice I dropped my sodden yoga togs into a Laundry, it was either that or the bin, as there was no way I could pack them in my bag in that state. My Yogitoes mat is something else, when I got back to the hotel I hung it out the window to dry, alas we had a biblical monsoon downpour while I have been out today and it is now still wetter than when I put it out, I may have to use a shala mat tomorrow.

Tea and cakes with some of the others today after practice, which was really nice, wherever I seem to lay my yoga mat on this planet, the locals are always friendly and good for suggestions of things to do for us visitors.

U-Boat Museum

U-Boat Museum









This afternoon I took in the U-Boat Museum, its not a German one though, but a decommissioned Tiger class Russian one built in 1976. I was much more interesting than yesterdays Customs Museum. It was fun crawling through the hatches that separate the Sub’s compartments, though its probably easier to do for us yoga folk than how shall I put this, American tourists with no Bandhas who called into Mcdonalds first! I also managed to do a Geocache by the Sub, so well worth the walk. Though coming back to town the heavens opened and there was nowhere to take cover, I eventually ended up in a Bakery with a cup of tea and a cake for an hour reading my book waiting for the rain deluge to calm down.

Around 5pm the sun came out, I had to venture out to find something to eat, but  first decided to go to the Park, Planted un Blomen and visit the lovely Japanese Garden and make the most of the sun. Its a wonderful park.

I can’t believe tomorrow will be our penultinate practice, I hope its a good one.

Dena at Pantarhei – Day 3 A long practice

July 21, 2009
Pantarhei Shala

Pantarhei Shala









I didn’t come across a Herr Hummell today, so thought I would post a picture of the Shala here in Hamburg, it was lovely and warm this morning as it was actually sunny for a change. Just to prove how small this ashtanga world is, before practice Mariella, a dutch friend of Opening Slowly  came and said “hi”.

Practice began with Pranayama exercises and chanting, at least we are not getting cold sitting and the chanting and breathing do help to bring my monkey mind into a state of semi calm ready for the physical practice, though my mind never seems to shut up completely. On our own after the last Surya B today, this suits me as I do like to hang out for a few extra breaths in Padahastasana and the revolved Trikonasanas to stretch my hamstrings. Only adjustment in standing was in Trvikrmasana, which Dena has told us to add this week, she laughed when I grimaced as she took my right leg higher.

I was already into my own rythm by the time seated came around, I know I’m a very slow practitioner these days, some people I noticed were already into the Janu’s as I was doing Dandasana. Assisted in 2nd side of Mari D by Dena today, I had done side 1 as she watched me, but couldn’t seem to get round far enough in side 2, Dena arrived and with ease had me bound comfortably, why does my arm go that much further round my leg when someone helps? The daily race between me and Jack to see if I can get into Supta K before he spots me, I had my hands bound today and was in the process of crossing my feet when he arrived, its good to be lifted in this pose, so that I can get my head further under.

My percentage of good (in my eyes at least) Urdva Dhanurasanas is going up, they felt much stronger and stable today, despite these being extremely long practices, I had the energy to keep walking my hands in, which changes the whole structure of the pose. Alas the dropbacks were nowhere near as open as they felt yesterday, I had played around on my own, but when it came to doing them with Dena they felt intense and had lost the freedom. She only did 3 with me today, as I came up from the third she looked at me and said “Intense”, she wasn’t wrong. Handstand with Jack again, another 2 seconds of being up there on my own before the Udiyana Bandha heads west and my left arm wavers, but at least I know what it feels like to be up there now.

My mat was a lake for Savasana, but even so I just needed to stay there. When I looked at my watch we had been going 2 and a half hours. Its nice to be able to take this amount of time and not feel rushed. There is also the feeling that I can give everything to my practice, no need to save energy, I am here for my practice, anything else is a bonus. 

After my well deserved Pain au Chocolate and croissant breakfast I headed into the old town to go to the Customs Museum, which wasn’t as interesting as I had hoped. But on the way I passed the St Nikolai memorial, this former church was destroyed in WW2 and in the 1960’s was turned into a memorial. The tower has a Glockenspiel that plays at Noon and a lift to the top, with some great views over the city.

Town Hall & Alstar Lakes

Town Hall & Alstar Lakes









On the way back I stopped to read my book in the lovely park by the Cathedral, I had a little snooze, now I have a red head from the sun!

Pantarhei Day 2 – Loving it!

July 20, 2009









Mysore practice today, it felt like re-opening my body, letting it find its own limits, allowing the body to stay longer in a pose to find that freedom. We had begun with breathing exercises, including the 3 minute breath count, I am down to between 6 and 7 breaths in the 3 minutes, I need to bring this control to my practice. Dena said that the definition of a good yoga practice is to do asana while keeping the mind on the breath, then said that the definition of a good ashtanga yoga practice was keeping the mind on the breath and also engaging the bandhas while doing the asanas. She led us through the standing postures, then let us loose to continue with our own practice.

Pantarhei soon gets warm, seated were a little stiff to begin with, Paschimottanasana felt restricted until Dena squished me, gently adding pressure as I released. Good adjustment in Triang Mukha, levelling me up. I used the Janusirsasanas to undo my hamstrings, before getting a lovely adjustment in Marichyasana C from Dena. Mari D only happened on the first side, but the second wasn’t far off, I think it will happen tomorrow. My biggest problem is the tops of my toes, they are losing skin and becoming quite sore from the Vinyasas. I am being mindful of my shoulder too, but doing jump backs knowing I am being watched is making me take care with them.

Supta K rocked today, I already had my feet crossed and hands together when assistance arrived, Jack lifted me so that I could get my head much further under my feet before I lifted up into a not very good Titibhasana. Its on days like these that all that slog of practice at home becomes worthwhile, this is almost like the pay off. A hot sweaty practice where the conditions are right and good things happen, my practice has a smile rather than a grimace. I have absolutely no doubt that I am in the right place at the right time.

I did Dena’s backbend warm ups before Urdva Dhanurasana, this pose felt challenging today, I ended up doing 4, the last was easily the best, walking my hands in, straightening my arms and feeling stable. Dena is giving everyone (who wants to) dropbacks, you just have to wait at the front of the mat until she gets to you. Waiting suits me, I love playing around on my own now when I’m warm and open, cross arms, leaning back, trying to make the end of my mat come into view. While I was waiting Jack came along and said “Handstand“. This was one of those moments, memories of Bali last year and stress fracturing my foot as I fell out sideways on to the hard wooden floor, I havn’t done Handstand with a teacher since.  But Jack is a big guy, I trust him as I do Dena, I remembered to hop off both feet and suddenly I was up, Jack telling me to look forward and straighten my arms, batting my feet between his hands until for a couple of wonderful seconds his hands were no longer touching me and I was balanced and vertical all on my own, that was a lovely fleeting moment and came as somewhat of a surprise.

Dena then arrived as I was halfway into a dropback on my own, telling me to keep going. I am sure she can see how hard I have worked on this since last summer, she said I was doing it right, folding in, trying to land my hands near my feet. The 3rd and 4th ones she said that when I straighten my arms they were going the wrong way, kind of hard to explain, she got me to do another, straightening my arms towards my legs. I am definitley landing my hands further up my mat of late.

So a good practice, my mind was certainly absorbed within it and quite often my mind was on the breath and occassionally I remembered those Bandhas.

After practice I followed Inga’s suggestion of walking along Lange Reihe, where I found a nice Bakery doing croissants and Pain au Chocolate, I can see this being my regular after practice breakfast.

I decided to explore Hamburg harbour this afternoon, though the weather has not been helpful, while on a boat trip we had a thunderstorm. Its ranged from warm sunshine to big wet downpours. I had to take cover in a shopping arcade during one squal, I emerged from a different entry and came across another Herr Hummell!