Archive for December, 2011

2011 in review

December 31, 2011

On 1st January 2011 I returned from yoga in Sri Lanka able to bind Pasasana and with high hopes for my practice in the coming year. Three weeks later I was in Hospital attached to 2 IV drips, ending up with surgery. It then took me nearly 4 months to get my practice back. I learned it’s not flexibility that was lost, but strength and stamina.

While languishing in bed I read “Guruji” and decided that this would be the year to make the Ashtanga pilgrimage to Mysore. I needed something to work towards, a point to waking up. I wanted my practice to be “good enough”, though I needn’t have worried. 

I filled in the KPJAYI online form and on 20th June I got my Shala place confirmed.

In August I got to practice with Sharath in London, it was the final test to see if I really wanted to go to Mysore. The next week I gave in my notice at work, confirmed my flight and started final preparations.

Mysore turned out to be everything and more that I hoped it would be, practising in The Shala, the heat, humidity and the energy. Meeting old friends from home and abroad and meeting new ones, even meeting people who read this blog.

Mysore does have some kind of magic, obviously the truly magic moment was standing up from backbend with Sharath standing at the end of my mat, after a week of him telling me “You can do it, it’s possible for you, stand up. You can’t go home until you stand up”, as Anna said I had my own personal cheer leader. I think Sharath was as pleased as I was when it happened, though I only managed it once more. Then he told me to “take Pasasana “, giving legitimacy to my starting intermediate.

In March I barely had the strength to push up into Downward Dog, at the end of the year I stood up, complete transformation.

Mysore also served the purpose of giving me the mental and physical break I needed. I have just returned from India ready to start life again, but with the hope that I get to return to Mysore. Kino told me as we chatted at The Coconut stand that you either hate Mysore and leave early, or love it and vow to return.

It’s been quite a year with low lows but ending on a very high high.

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 41,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 15 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


The last Mysore in Mysore

December 27, 2011


On the Shala steps after my last practice.

Well today after nearly 3 months I did my last Mysore practice in Mysore at The Shala. I got my usual spot, surrounded by the usual people, the early birds all now seem to have a preferred spot, there isn’t the scrum to get in on a Mysore day that there is on the led days. Sharath seems to have the local lurgy, he croaked his was through the opening chant, then despite the warmth went back to his office to get a jacket. A really good last practice, everything bound and mostly left alone, until backbends, I did 8 dropbacks on my own then stood up to find Sharath waiting for me.


Waiting at the Shala gate for the last time.

After the assisted ones, I said “thanks, see you next year I hope”. As I arrived at the Shala later for the last chanting Sharath came out, “you still here!” he said, so I had to explain I leave this evening.


My Mat rolled out for the last time in it’s preferred spot, 4th row under the White ball.

Closing was interesting, I realised as I went up into Sirsasana that I had sun burned my head!


Prakash always on guard at the Shala gate.

After practice my last Chai poured by Bharat at Amruth, I tried the coconut thing, but could never work out what the fuss was about, but Chai after practice that rocks, especially at Amruth who always made a space for us and made us welcome.


Angelika and David from my own YP.

It’s been a wonderful three months, practice every day in heat and humidity, though I won’t miss the early alarm clock calls. My practice is much deeper, more fluid, less thinking, just doing and the obvious highlight has been standing up from backbend in the Shala with Sharath standing at the top of my mat, he believed I could do it and kept telling me, as Anna said it was like I had a personal cheer leader. I just wish I could repeat it with more frequency, but I’m sure it will come, I now at least believe it is possible, before I came to Mysore I never thought it would happen. Then to be told to “take Pasasana


Bye Scabs, you look so much better, hope they keep looking out for you.

Ive Been saying goodbye all day, some people I will see in London, some further afield like Kino and Tim. Some maybe not until next time I come, if I do ever get to come back and others probably i will never see again. But all have made this such a good three months. Don’t all rush now for my vacated spot in the morning!

So it’s all over now, back to reality.


The rumour about Gokulam being a one Horse town appear to be true!

Christmas day in Mysore

December 25, 2011


The first day I have woken this early on Christmas day since those long ago days of childhood when you crept out at 4am to see if Santa had been.

No shortage of Santa’s at the Shala gate this morning, it was quite a sight as I rounded the corner, everyone wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noele, Frohe Weihnachten or whatever other dozen languages are shared among the yoga folk or should that be Elves!

Managed to get my preferred spot today and surrounded by nice people who don’t encroach except when we all do in poses like Supta K or Upavistha.

Once we were settled Sharath emerged from his office wearing a Santa hat, everyone laughed, he said ” Merry Christmas, Samasthitihi !” and off we went.

Probably the best led practice I have done since I got here, nice flow, everything bound, energy for backbends and Uthpluthi.


The after practice Chai drinkers grew to around 15 of us today, so many we had to decamp on to the steps of a closed shop next door. A festive mood.


Scabs followed us to Chai

We drank quite a few, the man making it was struggling to keep up with our enlarged group plus all the locals.


Sunrise on Christmas morning

Home in time to see the sun come up, before going to back to bed until breakfast


After a long breakfast it was time for lunch at The Green Hotel, a lovely lunch in a lovely setting


After lunch we went for a walk around the Lake, a nice way to end the day.

Merry Christmas

Last Mysore Friday led

December 23, 2011


My last Friday led in Mysore, this is all going way too fast now, I didn’t think about it until we did the closing chant and i realised I won’t be here next Friday. It wasn’t a great last Friday led, I ended up on a ridged bit of rug and the guy in front had no sense of space, landing on my mat when he jumped back or did Chakorasana, which was annoying. We still have one more led on Sunday to go, but on Sundays it’s jam packed and I never have high expectations. At least there are still two more Mysore sessions to go, maybe a few more will depart and make some room.

Still pitch dark and pretty chilly when we emerged, the six regular Chai drinkers being joined by 2 Canadians and a few others at the Amruth chai stand for a glass or three of the hot sweet liquid. I laughed when one girl asked for hers without sugar, it doesn’t come like that, having watched the guy making it ladle at least 6 huge spoonfuls of sugar into the steaming vat! At home I don’t have sugar, but here it’s how it comes and it tastes damn good after practice.


Mr Snowman

The supermarket are already selling off their Christmas decorations, mini trees are down to 29 Rupees and little snowmen are down to just 15 Rupees! My one concession to Christmas is now the snowman on my doorknob!


Anokhi Garden


Flora and Jennie

This evening the social highlight of the week, the Anokhi Garden Christmas party in aid of a couple of local charity’s. Nice to meet a few more people who I usually only see in the dark in passing or miss altogether with the varying mysore start times. Nice nibbles including Potato burgers and chocolate cake washed down with home made lemonade and chai.


Chocolate cake

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas from Mysore.

Sharper drishte

December 22, 2011


Maybe there is something to this New Moon lowers energy business. After yesterday’s good, strong practice, today’s was a bit of a slog. I was pleased to be left alone by the Assistants and Sharath, until it was time for backbends. I had done 7 dropbacks, but despite my new backbend toy, today I just didn’t seem to have the openness in my back and i was dropping from higher up, I wasn’t able to control the decent for as long, but by the standards of a year or even six months ago, these dropbacks do have control. So all things are relative I suppose. Knocked in closing Sirsasana, which annoyed my neck, so I bailed out and finished the rest of closing. Savasana felt cold, so I didn’t stay prone for as long as usual and it was still dark when I left the Shala.

While playing the “hunt the sandals” game, Cara arrived to start her practice, looking at me enviously as I headed for home, all done, while she still had it all to do. After a chai at Amruth, I headed home, i made a drink then waited on the roof for sunrise, which didn’t happen thanks to a big bank of cloud suddenly appearing to obscure the lovely orange sun.


Hotel Xmas Tree

After breakfast I headed to the city, first to the Regaalis to pick up some fresh croissants, even if I did have to wait by a Christmas tree and listen to Jingle Bells, then to collect my new prescription glasses. Very good service, as soon as I walked in the girl went straight to the box and pulled mine out. Official Varilux paperwork with prism. I reckon the amount I have saved buying them here is equivalent to the flight to get here, or maybe next years flight back here. Having a new prescription can be dangerous in the thirdish world, as I misjudged the height of the pavement outside the shop and going up and down steps has been interesting. I havn’t quite worked out which part to look through to read either, but things more distant are much sharper and in focus. Better drishte !


Bag shop


Typewriter man.

I went for a wander to get my eye(s) in, around a different part of the city. I found a street where you could seemingly buy any university text book second hand, one shop did medical, another accountancy etc and in contrast the street had the men who sit outside with Typewriters to cater for those who won’t be worrying about university


Shiva, Gokulam Mr Fixit.

Once it cools down around 4:30 the Coconut stand comes alive again, locals and the yoga folk congregate for Coconuts or Chai. So many different countries represented in such a small space, Japan, Finland, Korea, lots from the US including Kino. The third time this year we have met, Edinburgh in March, London in September and now Mysore for Christmas. Where next I wonder?


With Kino at The Coconut Stand

All before Sunrise

December 21, 2011


It’s amazing what we fit in before the sun comes up here in Mysore and gladly the sun has reappeared today after a couple of very chilly days.


Quiet Contour Road, a four minute walk to the Shala.

There is virtually no traffic when I set off, it’s dark and for about the only time of the day it’s quiet too. I round the corner by the coconut stand and Scabs is trying out her Upward dog stretch, she’s just waking up, greeting each student.


Scabs is awake to greet us.

The Shala gate already has a few people waiting for Prakash, Sharath’s Nepalese Minder to open up. Everyone knows when, you hear the clang as he unlocks from inside, the Shala lights go on, then the outside light comes on and we all get up ready as the gate swings open and we swarm up the steps, discarding sandals and flip flops, we have all become very adept at stepping out of our footwear without breaking stride .


Students waiting for the gate to open.


Scattered sandals.

Practice was probably as good as it can be today without managing to stand up from backbend. Being a little warmer this morning helped all the binds, apart from UHP I was completely left alone, though you just know Sharath is watching you and everyone else. Nice Pasasana and decent drop backs, then Sharath came over to do the assisted ones, before calling “one more” and yet again it was Kino who took my spot, a cheery “good morning” as I rolled up my mat.


There is an equality in the Shala, no egos that I have noticed, everyone is equal and working as hard in their practice be they doing half primary, full, full primary with a bit of second, full intermediate or the truly bendy doing some amazing looking third series.

It’s still dark when we emerge, the search for Sandals, trying to remember where you stepped out of them two hours earlier, ah there they are!


“ah there they are!”


The coconut man outside selling at 12 Rupees a nut.


Too cold still, so it’s down to Amruth to join the Japanese for steaming hot Chai. The “boy” is called Barat, a glass of hot Chai is in my hands within 5 seconds of walking in. They gave us a table at the back, the locals are shy, eyeing us up, but usually they chat, asking, name, country and those with a bit more English talking, they love having their photos taken and seeing themselves on the digital camera.


Barat pours the Tea.

Watching them make the Chai is fascinating, it’s stirred in a giant Vat, then decanted from a great height into a small metal jug with a lid on that Barat pours from into the glasses.


Chai being made in the Vat


Poured from a great height into the jug

There is also a counter with jars of cookies and sweets. I am sure we are improving their takings no end, most of the Rickshaw and truck drivers drop in for a glass and are then gone, but the six yogis consume anything up to 4 glasses each at 10 Rupees a go before we head off.


Cookie jars


The locals

We are all back in bed as the sun is just about rising over the hills to the east of Mysore .

Freezing in Mysore

December 20, 2011


This evenings lovely Rainbow

Well I know the term “freezing” is relative, allegedly it was 26c today in Mysore, but with no sunshine and a breeze it sure as hell didn’t feel anywhere near that, everyone has dragged clothes from the bottom of their bags that they thought they wouldn’t be putting on until they got back to chilly Europe or North America.

Practice was good enough, it took a little while to start to generate heat and sweat, people who had later start times saying it was hot in there today , well only because us early risers had warmed it up for them! Sharath only had one Assistant today , so pretty much left alone, which is fine, my Primary has become very consistent here, even if it does take me longer now. Nice Pasasana bind today, so nice I did it again! Then after UD and 6 drop backs Sharat came over to do the assisted ones with me.

It was chilly when we had finished, so again down to Amruth with Julia and the Japanese quartet to drink hot, sweet Chai. They like us now, we don’t have to pay until we go, instead of by the glass. The Japanese hide in the back, while the rest of us sit on the step at the front. The “boy” walks past periodically picking up empties and taking ours back for a refill. You can barely hold the glasses when they first give them to you. The boy must have asbestos hands, as he carries 3 or 4 hot glasses at a time .

Another flatmate left today, Trisha left this evening for Canada. At least she had a nice Rainbow to send her on her way. Hopefully the rain means things are going to warm up again.

Since Friday

December 19, 2011


Sun on a Flower Stall

It’s been a couple of days of taking it slowly , when I woke up for Sundays led class my lower back was very stiff, the first few Upward Dogs were not great, Sharath keeps the Surya’s moving though. Sunday morning was also the coldest it’s been since I got here, with a breeze adding to the cool temperature, I was hardly breaking sweat, where as usually we are all drenched by Surya B. My back liked the forward bends in seated much better, then it’s closing and UD, first one was crap, but stayed up for the last two.

Home to sleep, followed by a chilly breakfast, then Sunday chanting where I finally ran into Kino, she came over when she spotted me to say “hi” with a hug.


Packed in for my last Conference.

Sunday was my last Conference,

Sharath talked for 20 minutes or so this week

Work hard in practice – sweat the toxins out.

Stamina builds up when toxins are removed.

Sweat should be rubbed back in, not wiped away,

72,000 nerves in the body which need to be clean for the energy

Inhale and exhale should be of equal length.

Most injuries occur when we are physically present but mentally our mind is elsewhere.

We are all equally connected to this practice whether we do 3rd series or are just up to Marichyasana A. Being advanced in Asana doesn’t make you a better yogi.

At the end he asked us as next Sunday is Christmas if we want a “holiday”, as many people had asked him. Out of a room of 200 people only a tiny few wanted the day off, but the rest of us will be there sweating it out as Santa delivers.


Hot Chillies

Back to Mysore practice this morning, not quite as cold today, but still chilly compared to how it’s been. The other week i bought one of the Shala shawls as a souvenir, but the last couple of days i have wrapped it around my shoulders. Quite a lot of space initially too, lots more must have departed over the weekend. I had a complete space on my left for 45 minutes and Manuel on my right doing second, so plenty of room. Also a new set of Assistants who left us alone apart from UHP, it was nice to do Supta K on my own, I enjoyed the assists when Isa was here, but I prefer to be left alone to play. Practice had a nice rhythm until Garbha, I got myself knotted up, then did my first rock just as flatmate Carol was on her way to the changing room, her foot and my head were in the same space at the same time, ouch! Second attempt bound for a complete 360 into Kukutasana. Garbha is now completely doable provided I have time and space, in led it’s too much of a race.

Better backbends today, the first UD I had to come down, but then I managed 4 more, walking in, a few cracks in my back. Up for dropbacks, though I didn’t push the standing up game, my lower back is still stiff, but nice controlled dropback backbends and walking in. Sharath again came to help me do assisted dropbacks, the usual “walk in, walk in more, it’s possible,walk more”, before I ping up and he says “very good” then squashes me in Paschimottanasana.

I knew Sharth had called “one more” for someone to take my place, I didn’t know who was waiting, after I took a couple of extra breaths I turned round to see who was there. It turned out to be Kino, waving a cheery good morning at me as she waited, she may be small but she lights the place up, she later sent me a FB message to say it was awesome to practice in my spot 🙂 I like that spot.


Hot Chai, much better than Coconuts.

It was still chilly outside when I had finished, I walked down to Amruth for a hot steaming glass of Chai, where I met another student who reckoned it’s too cold for a Coconut, she was from Miami and was feeling the cold too. The Chai stall is like a little village. You order your Chai on the left side, the boy, he’s about 12 I guess, sets up the clean glass, then the man pours out the Chai from a steaming metal jug. We sat on the step outside on our rolled up mats, hands warming on the glass. A local came and chatted to us, he seemed well educated and had good English, he told us it takes over 300 years to see everything in Karnataka , the state Mysore is in, and 5000 years to see everything in India. After we polished off some more glasses he asked how many cups of Tea we drink each day, suffice to say I won. Anyone who knows me knows I can happily do 15-20 cups a day!


Anu’s Cafe

In the evening we often seem to go to Anu’s for Chai or cake, the apostrophe being all important!

Different every day

December 16, 2011


Holy Elephant

I seem to be going through a phase of one good Mysore practice followed by a not so good one, Wednesday was good, but Thursday was a struggle, I don’t know what made it so different, I did everything, well except for stand up from backbend, I even got to play on my own in Pasasana before starting my backbends. At least laying on my backbender every morning before i leave has meant my upper back is a bit more open to start with. The dropbacks were safe enough, but I didn’t have as much control and only got 5 in before I found Sharath standing waiting to torture me at the top of my mat. Three half way then the mega deep full version with walking in, more walking in until I get to that point that the spring has to let go and I come up.

All this with Sharath while he was telling a girl waiting to start where to put her mat, “one more” he called and she came into the room, “over there” pointing at a vacated spot, she couldn’t see where, being still half asleep,”there, there”, pointing again, “you asleep, you should have coffee!”, “I had coffee!” replies the girl, “tomorrow you make stronger!” says Sharath.

This morning it was led, I was hoping it would be quiet knowing a lot of people have left in the last couple of days, but no such luck, Sharath has obviously been shifting peoples times earlier to make space for the next wave that will arrive this weekend. Led means no Pasasana or drop back playtime too, but after holding his three long counts of Urdva Dhanurasana everyone’s arms have turned to jelly anyway.


The Bangle man

Back in bed by 6:15, sound asleep until I was rudely awoken just after 8:30 by Klepto Cleaner and the Manager. Turns out the owner has arrived for Christmas from London and they had decided to clean properly for a change. Usually it’s a cursory sweep, but today they washed the floors, cleaned work surfaces, took the cooker apart, even scrubbed the Balcony’s. Bog Wallah never showed up, the Manager usually just gives orders, but today he had to literally roll up his sleeves and his trouser legs and clean the Bathrooms!

So it ended up being a very late Breakfast, you have to stay and supervise, otherwise stuff disappears, you can’t trust either of them.


The Opticians

I have tried a couple of Opticians while I have been here to get my new prescription made up, figuring it has to be cheaper here than back home. The places I had tried only seemed to want easy single lens jobs, not my varifocal with prism on one side more complicated set up with transitional colouring.They were cheap, but seemed too cheap, even for India and didn’t instill me with confidence that I wouldn’t need a White stick. Today I came across a large Opticians on Devaraja Urs, very professional, English speaking, so I thought I would run my prescription by them. Yes they understood my varifocal with prism prescription, they measured my current frames, found me a pair of Ray Ban frames that were almost identical to my current one. Essilor transition lenses, with Ray Ban frames for less than a third of what I would probably have to pay at home, ready next Thursday! Just hope this works out.


Man and Monkey

Wandering around I came across a guy asleep with his Monkey, I would be quite happy with another Cat! It didn’t have a yoga rug, so can’t be the Gokulam yoga rug bandit monkey!

Different altogether

December 14, 2011


Ganesh Temple

Luckily I woke up before the alarm was due, lucky because for some reason my iPhone reverted it’s clock back to UK time! This gave me time to stretch over my new Backbender before heading for the Shala. using the backbender I get extra opening cracks in my upper back and something else in my mid back feels like it undoes, in a nice way.

I counted only around 25 of us waiting at the Gate, though Sharath was telling everyone who came after to move up a half hour, as they arrived.

I felt better today, no sickness, more energy, more bendy. Nice practice , usual assists in UHP and Supta Kurmasana. Denise was waiting when I got to Pasasana , she assisted my bind with feet flat, then I try to stay bound and push into my legs and support myself. It’s nice to have Pasasana back, love the twists. 🙂

My Backbender is helping, much better drop backs today, though not as deep as they can be, good rocks, but alas no lift, but at least my lower back has stopped objecting. Stopped at 6 or maybe it was more, then Sharath sent help over.

I thought I must have been faster today as it was still dark when I came out. I then realised sunrise is actually getting later as we head for the shortest day of the year.


A festival passed under my Balcony this morning

This afternoon I tried to find the Silk Factory as mentioned by Lonely Planet, but couldn’t find it. Everyone I asked just wanted to take me to their friends Silk Shop. I gave up, it was too hot and i headed for afternoon Tea and cake at The Green Hotel instead.


Love the bill boards