Archive for July, 2012

Bears in Berlin

July 31, 2012

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Sirsasana Bear
Practice is becoming pretty consistent, everything bound, Garbha round and round, Pasasana coming along nicely, I was actually bound in Pasasana, but help arrived to get my heals down. Dena seemed to be watching my standing postures today, a slight hip adjustment in Trikonasana and a verticalising of my arm and hand, a reminder about Udiyana Bandha in Vira A, prod prod! Dena rarely speaks, to me at least, when she adjusts, though I suppose I’m used to her and know what she is trying to do, move or engage. I seem to get a smile or nod when my body has done what she wanted to see.

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Tauzienstrasse sculpture
The room seemed cooler today, my mat not quite so slippery wet when I got to backbends. Again i could feel her watching, she was assisting the person next to me in Urdva Dhanurasana as I was doing mine, she caught my eye as I was thinking about pushing up for the next one, not quite like E accusing me of taking tea breaks in-between, but the eyes were saying “go on then”. I knew she wouldn’t move until I did so up I went! I’m trying to get the rock from the last Urdva Dhanurasana, though my legs and feet are not as grounded and engaged, but doing the rock seems to set up the movement for standing up from the first dropback. Stood up again with no messing, though Jack said the way my feet splay out coming up is a bit of a cheat, but at least my feet stay put so I come up almost level. I had done just the 4 on my own today before getting assisted for half a dozen more. Then for the first time in a couple of years I got called out to wait for handstand, think I need to get some practice in!

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Bundestag

Back at the B&B Breakfasts seem to be taking longer with the after practice yoga and potential sightseeing chat. I didn’t have Potsdam on my list, but after chatting with yogi Nina from Munich, i may well go visit the end of the S1 line over the infamous Glienicke Bridge and see the Palaces. I have been trying to do new things this time, like Potsdamer Platz yesterday and the river trip today. Some places I have revisited like Alexanderplatz to see how they have changed.

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Cathedral
The river trip was a great way to see the city from a different angle and like yesterday to appreciate what they have done with all the land they gained in 1989 when the Wall came down, the river used to be a gloomy area, with lights and mines to deter potential escapees swimming to freedom, now it’s a vibrant area, on the western side the previously derelict scrubland that was once Leheter Bahnhof is now the snazzy ultra modern Berlin Hauptbahnhof, on the east are new government building, ARD (German tv) new studios and vibrant Cafes and swish Hotels.

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New buildings in the East.

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Ultra modern new Hauptbahnhof

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Ease

July 30, 2012

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TV Tower, aka the Popes Revenge, as a cross appears from the sun around noon.
Now i can drop back and stand up, not only is the whole process becoming faster by 15 minutes or so at least without all the playing around, it’s also become mentally easier. Three years of learning first to drop back without getting concussion and then learning to stand up, has usually meant my mind jumping forward to what comes after Urdva Dhanurasana. Now I can do it my mind is no longer playing monkey, it’s more focussed on what I’m doing, not thinking, wondering how that section will be today.

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Pretzels on Unter Den Linden.
Day 2 here in Berlin, 7am start, as usual with Dena we started with some Pranayama and chanting before she led us through the sun salutations, then told us to carry on and do our own practice in our own time. Feels like the shackles have been taken off, back to listening to my instructions and citta vritti . Left alone in standing, not even Prasarita C, though knew I was being watched. Dena has that presence in her room, you just do it all correctly because you just know the moment you don’t will be when she is watching.

By the time I sat down the room was a Sauna, great for the twisting binds and Supta K was as easy I imagined it would be, though I actually got assisted by Jack. With the German students they are both careful in how they phrase instructions in Aussie English, but with me they just say it, so as Jack sat on me in Supta K I heard ” you orright down there mate?”. Though I was so slithery I fell off my knees in the Titibhasana exit.

Before I left for the Shala this morning I did the Pasasana opening wall stretches, I’m not sure if it was that or the heat in the room that gave me such an open twist that I finger grabbed side one of Pasasana and easily bound the second.

So time for the place my mind had avoided going for the most part over the previous 75 minutes or so. I was more worried about slippage as my mat was saturated. An extra couple of UD’s to walk in and rock and test the traction before standing up and dropping back. I was determined to come up, no crashes, I walked in as far as I could and just did it, committing to it is the difference, no thinking, just do it. I did 3, but by this time there was a bit of a back bend assistance queue, so rather than just stand cooling down waiting I did three more, not to prove I can do it, but the more I do the better they get, more confident in leaving my head back. Eventually Dena is in front of me and tells me to drop back, she only touches my hips and up I come. “your feet are too wide and your legs need to do more” she goes on to describe it like the frothy bit of a wave coming up the beach, before it’s pulled back into the sea. Vanessa was right about Dena nailing my feet to the floor, not nails, but on the second one she stood on my feet, pinning them as I went back, she reckons my drop backs are pretty good though. Well another 6 followed, alls good, I have the action and she is trying to refine it, so that to launch back up is less arm power and more leg power.

I realised after that although I had still done a lot of backbends I wasn’t as tired as I can usually be with that level of physicality. There is a lot less mental effort suddenly as well. From Surya A to Savasana seems to have suddenly got a whole lot easier.

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Where the Wall once stood.

Being less knackered and the sun coming out meant I could go and explore a bit today. So much has changed since I first came to Berlin in the 80’s. No wall, no checkpoint, I just walked down Friedrichstrasse on to Unter Den Linden, the last time I bought a Pretzel on UDL I paid in Ost Marks, the Boulevard then was quiet and traffic free all the way up to the wall at the Brandenburg Gate. I see the Russian Embassy is still there, but now the road is full of traffic, the buildings now house western stores and the cafe wants Euro’s.

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Russian Embassy still in it’s prime location.
I turned left at the Brandenburg Gate to walk down to Potsdamer Platz, back then it had a viewing platform where you could peer over the wall into the east, seeing the death strip, machine gun watch towers and hear the guard dogs howling. The western side at that time was just overgrown and uncared for. Wow I’m just stunned by the transformation that has taken place. The Kolhoff Tower looks like NY’s Flat Iron building, DB has a glistening glass tower, the architecture on the roof of Sony can only really be appreciated from the viewing platform high above Potsdamer Platz, €5 for the fastest lift in Europe, just 8 seconds, probably the most expensive 8 seconds in Europe too! But the views are stunning.

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Potsdamer Platz S-Bahn open again, I remember trundling through this ghost station where armed east German border guards stood on the platforms.

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New Kolhoff Tower.

Most of the people viewing were young, they were reading the excellent historical information, I was thinking am I the only person up here who doesn’t need photos, who can remember exactly how it was, who went through Checkpoint Charlie, through the rusty, squeaking turn gate that allowed you into East Germany for 24 hours?

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Sony Building.

Intensive simplicity

July 29, 2012

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The rain in Berlin

A relative Sunday lie in this morning, day one of the workshop was 10am start, so time for some tea and cereal as I watched the rain deluge outside the B&B Breakfast room. Turns out there are at least two more students staying here. The B&B is in a quiet street, so unlike Mysore, no problem sleeping. The breakfast is literally available all day, they leave a plate in the Fridge with your name on and you help yourself to cereal, fab bread and tea whenever you decide you want it, so at 2pm this afternoon three hungry Ashtangi’s had their breakfast after a very long practice.

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Die Yoga-praxis

Die Yoga-praxis Shala is on the 5th floor of a building with views into the east towards the TV tower, aka The Popes revenge. There were around 25 of us including a few unexpected familiar faces from Shalas i have practised at with Dena in the past few years, Maria from Stockholm and Annika from Hamburg.

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Views to the east

As usual Dena went round the room making notes of where everyone practices to, their injuries etc. There is quite a range, from relative beginners to people doing third, so for today’s led class she kept it so that everyone could cope, but this included Salabhasana to help us realise to open the mid back and not just the flexible bits at the neck and base of the spine. She told us the practice should be done with “intensive simplicity”.

We practised through to Navasana this morning before backbends, though no drop backs, but it was very slow and intense with the intention to be correct in the postures, to engage in them and try and get something out of every movement. In the Surya’s she made sure we engaged the legs in Virabadrasana in B, too many people fly through the Surya’s, me included, to get to the actual postures, Dena said the postures should be a natural, progressive extension of the Surya’s. The Shala turned into a Sauna, even on my Yogitoes my hands were sliding. Can’t wait to play Supta K tomorrow, in that heat it should be easy!

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Practice wasn’t flowing this morning, unlike the sweat, we stopped to break down postures, lots of reminders of things that get lost when we are doing the usual Mysore practice. Dena talked about wrists and how many of us develop pain in them, she talked about keeping the fingers straight in bound postures as the other hand grabs,stretching the joints to try and keep them free. It’s little details like that which can make so much difference both on and off the mat

We finished with chanting, much more Rhythmic than in Mysore, Dena has a fabulous singing voice.

After the late breakfast I went to Alexanderplatz, but the heavens really opened in torrents, so back to base for R&R, it’s 7am tomorrow, at least that 3 hours later than in Mysore!

Berlin here we come

July 28, 2012

Well 6 days of practice and i have stood up from backbend at least 3 times every day. Some days have been better than others, it seems to depend on how engaged my legs are on the way down and how far I can walk my hands in sending my Hips that little further forward.

Practice times have come down by around 20 minutes, now I just do my UD’s and can then drop and stand without the need for Walls, blocks and psyching, I expect to come up now instead of hoping. I can’t work out why I can’t stand from the last Urdva Dhanurasana, something I’m told to do with being more “in” my legs from dropping.

A rest day today as I head to Die Yoga-Praxis in Berlin, a workshop week with Dena in one of my favourite cities. I havnt practiced with Dena since Stockholm in 2010. Since then I have been to Mysore, learned to drop and stand. My feet still do their own thing, so no doubt it will be assisted with her standing on my feet, nailing them to the floor as someone said!

7pm eating my picnic tea in my B&B. No queues at Tegel Airport Immigration, not much of a wait to claim my bag, no waiting for a tube into town, no Olympic crowds. Lovely B&B as recommended by Nicole at Die-yoga-praxis, literally a 2 minute walk to the Shala I just found, though couldn’t get in for a look around. Can’t wait to practice now.

Up unassisted

July 22, 2012

After the long day trip to the north I could have done without waking up to find that our line into London was closed for “Emergency engineering works” and that I had half an hour to catch the bus to a station a few stops up the line followed by another hour on a stopping everywhere train. Oh well at least next Sunday my commute will just be a 5 minute walk from the B&B to the Berlin Shala for day one of Dena’s workshop. Yes I’m escaping the Olympics!

Somehow by the time I got there my usual spot by the window was still free. After a day off and all the sitting around it took a while to get going and find the space, left to my self through standing until the usual Prasarita C then UHP assists.

Tiriang Mukha used to be a posture I didn’t like being assisted in, it was a torture, but now I don’t roll over so much, the assist is now more comfortable and I can get my chin much further down my leg. I lost the Supta K race again and with slithery legs I blew the exit. Baddha Konasana was another that I used to literally find incredibly painful on the feet when I got assisted but now my hips are more open I can go with the pressure and my head gets to the floor.

I added a few extra Urdva Dhanurasana’s, trying to walk in, open the back, feel the stretch in the front and get the rocking motion going before standing up. This week it was like being back in Mysore with V instead of Sharath cheering me on from the side, but not intervening as I dropped back. The first stand up I crashed back, but knew I had the action. Back on the Bike, stand up, engage legs, drop back, walk in, a couple of little rocks and go for it, up I came doing the three prescribed stand ups, even if they all had a stumble and were not exactly elegant, unlike H’s graceful ones next door. V has really got me engaging the legs and moving the weight forward on the way down, which means my hips are higher and more over my feet when i land, the centre of gravity further forward, just need to remember it’s forwards, not up, head last and inhale. I asked after why I stumble, it seems I lift or turn one foot as I come up, so that’s another thing I have to try and correct. At least the mental block is giving way to expecting to do it. That was the first time ever in a Shala I have done three completely unassisted without starting from a Block first, I don’t know about “all” but something is coming.

Spreading the Mysore word

July 21, 2012

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A trip to Chester in the north west today to give a talk on Mysore. Unlike the last time I visited the sun was out and it was warm. Great to meet blogger Rosey finally too

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Last time the audience in the museums auditorium was small, 2 years later around 60 people were there. A great reception and as it turned out more yogis were present than I suspected, going by the questions asked afterwards.

I gave them the history of why we feel the need to go to Mysore as well as showing them the city. At the end I was asked if I will go back, I hope that’s a question of when not if. It’s interesting that as it wasn’t a “yoga” audience, how many people wanted to know about the practice.

Up

July 17, 2012

Not Sunday, but Monday and Tuesday.

Not great technique, but here’s the state of it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pie86m3Clyk

Comes and goes

July 15, 2012

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The next day off

Louise told me it would come and go. At the local Shala I tend to get left alone to play backbends. Saturdays was a steady practice, C taking a photo to show me my rounded back in Janu A, but having had Friday off to finally meet Wayne, a US commenter on this blog for years, I’m never very open first day back after a day off. But still I got to backbends, decent UD’s, safe drop backs then started to rock, but couldn’t get the confidence to commit to trying to come up, so I ended up starting off on one block. It’s like I have to relearn the movement, it’s yet to come naturally. But then I could do it, dropped back and stood up 6 times.

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Great to finally meet you Wayne.

Sunday in what I regard as perfect conditions, with heat and help, bound Pasasana, strong UD’s walking in and rocking, then it went wrong. First drop back, i saw the floor, arms out, but for some reason I bounced and thudded down pretty heavily on my back, winding myself. From thinking I was going to do it, as I thudded down I lost it. Second drop under instruction from V, engage legs, safe landing, rock, rock, but the thud had taken away my confidence to commit and I only got up with her help. Third attempt I went for it, but she said I stopped committing to coming up. Partly it’s doing it with someone in front of you, at the local Shala I know there won’t be any intervention, consequently i commit totally mentally and physically, but at AYL having someone there, your mind doesn’t commit fully to the movement. I suppose there comes a point where they will just leave me to it. Last week I got a couple of goes in before assistance arrived, but by the time I got there today the Shala was quiet and they were waiting for me. At least I know my Adidas shorts are just about up to being hauled up!

Breaking the Duck

July 8, 2012

Two Shala practices this weekend, it makes such a difference, especially to the second one, where I start from a much looser, flexible, open place.

Just 3 of us at TLC on Saturday morning, which gave Philipa plenty of scope, lots of nice assists, Mari D and Supta K into Dwi Pada, Pasasana too, great to have help with that one occasionally as the first side still plays hide and seek. She pinged me up from the third Urdva Dhanurasana, straight in to assisted drop backs, after which I decided to play on my own at the standing up game before moving on, lots of rocking, but no rising. P then tries the sitting on my feet assist at the same time as pulling on my Hips, the combo of her pull and me putting too much oomph into coming up catapulted me over her shoulder, to much laughter and the other two students wondering what had happened.

Brunch at LPQ with Denise, I had practised with her in Singapore and she assisted Sharath in Mysore, she told me Sharath had told her and the other Assistant not to help me with standing from backbend, as he reckoned I could do it!

Saturday afternoon I ended up giving another photo talk on Mysore, I was actually only third reserve, but so many dropped out I ended up cobbling a talk together on my iPad. On 21st July I am giving a one hour photo talk on Mysore in Chester at The Grosvenor Museum, in the north of England. Anyone can come.

Sunday practice in the Oven that is AYL, Saturday had opened me up and I was dripping after just the Surya’s. TGF my Yogitoes mat, the black one would have been a skid pan. Apart from the usual Prasarita C and UHP, I got different assists today, Tiriang Mukha and Mari A among them, but managed to win the Supta K race 🙂

And so we come to where my mind had been doing it’s best to leap ahead to through the practice, backbends and specifically standing up. Dropback #1 I landed, rocked and got stuck. #2 I dropped, walked the hands in, rocked and finally broke my Shala Duck and managed to come up, even with a wobble and foot fault, but who cares. Alas #3 I dropped but crashed on my knee trying to come up, number 4 Louise was waiting for me when I landed, saying she would support only, so a bit of a fling, but I did most of it and up I came. But hopefully now having done it at the Shala I won’t have to wait another six months until I manage it again.

Epiphany week

July 5, 2012

Epiphany moments are few and years between in the practice , there’s the day your fingers suddenly find each other in Marichyasana D, binding Supta Kurmasana on your own without the Teacher wrenching you into position, then there are the moments where not only physicality has to be overcome but also fear, like learning to drop back, fear being most of that one, because physically gravity will take you down anyway, it’s just a case of making sure your hands hit the floor first with the arms relatively straight, you only crack your head a couple of times before you get with the program! I well remember the joy of doing my first unassisted dropback on a beach in Australia back in September 2009, though it took another year before I had any actual control over proceedings.

The day I first dropped back I got a text from one of my Teachers saying “Now stand up”. Ye right I thought, alright for you Miss Bendy to say that!

Since then I have got stronger and more flexible, walking my hands in, instead of them being glued to the mat wherever they landed, deepening the bend, trying but without any expectation or hope if truth be told of ever coming up. That was until last November in Mysore, when Sharath somehow managed to get me to stand up on my own, it was a freak, pure chance that the gods and everything else lined up that morning. Since that day I had repeated the trick only 4 times and apart from once more in Mysore the rest were by getting lower and lower on blocks and occasionally trying from the floor.

Since Mysore my usual teachers have kept saying you have the strength and the flexibility , there just seemed to be a connection in my head stopping me believing it was possible. This lack of belief translates in to fear of crashing on the head which translates into not committing to trying to come up, holding back, too much thinking as Louise, Ruth and a few others describe it.

Then last Saturday I managed it after playing on a 1/2 thickness block, not once but 5 times and it felt different, like I was suddenly ready mentally as well as physically. I didn’t get the chance to “play” on Sunday, but at breakfast Assistant V told me to ditch the blocks, that they were the crutch stopping me committing to doing it. Monday I was sick with a cold.

Tuesday was moon day, but after Monday off I started playing around, doing some of the exercises from the workshop, UD’s then a dropback, but instead of lowering down I walked my hands in and started to rock and suddenly I decided for some reason to go for it and I was up, no playing, no blocks, straight up from the Mat, I managed a couple more.

Since Tuesday I have managed to stand up another 15 times, I havnt used the blocks at all, though my right foot keeps taking a little step back. Apart from the need to keep the arms straight as I rock, it works better if I try and favour the weight into the left arm more than the right, but I now seem to sense when it’s the right time to commit to coming up. I need some teacher input now,to see me do it and give me some pointers, no doubt my technique is crap, but I’m coming up and that is a major hurdle starting to be overcome.

An Epiphany week if ever I saw one, the mentality has changed completely from not ever thinking it’s going to happen a week ago, to actually expecting it to happen, Louise’s missing connection seems to be joining up, I just hope I can do it on Sunday, a reward for her patience and my perseverance