Archive for February, 2018


February 22, 2018

The Ashtanga community is a global entity today that has evolved from tiny groups of practitioners coming together in small spaces when the pioneers first returned from India and the birth of cyberspace, from the days of the old Ezyboard with its basic green face, where we all had pseudonyms (KFCKEV in case you were wondering), through the start of the blogs on to the Facebook and Instagram world we inhabit now, practising in large corporate studios, but thankfully also the more homely Shala's like AYL and Dena's.

But for all that often distances us physically we are a growing community who share so much in common and just occasionally we manage to get together and meet on our mats far from home, for me I've met a lot of people in Mysore, Karen (aka Donutszenmom), Angela (Inside Owl), Katie (aspiring yogini) to name but a few. So here I am 10,000 miles and 11 time zones from AYL and I practised in a led class last Friday with friends from Germany, UK, Australia and the USA.

I've followed Ashtanga Dispatch virtually from its birth, exchanging occasional emails with Peg, reading physical and online copies of the magazine, the email newsletters and enjoying listening to the podcast interviews. You often, well I do anyway, wonder if people are really like "that" in real life or whether their online persona is an act. Well I can say Peg is just as fun, nice and engaging and great to be around in real life. She joked that she had just come from swimming in this photo, rather than just sweated through a 2 hour practice in an Aussie sauna! And her humbleness extends to delivering her teachers shoes 5000 miles across the Pacific.

The last two weeks have been a chance to just practice without aims, to be able to take my time, enjoy the heat, struggle with the humidity and not feel a pressure to perform while I'm actually at a shala every day, rather than that precious once or twice a week as is the norm where I want it to be a "good one". Coming here is definitely good for my soul, I just hope I don't have to wait another 7 years until I can come back, Mysore was something I loved and enjoyed, but coming to Dena's Shala feels nurturing in a way that Mysore never can be.

I remember 2006, that first 2 week intensive in Bali with Dena, on the last day it felt like being let out of school, freedom, but every time since then, be it Bali, Hamburg, Berlin, Stockholm or Byron Bay it feels like someone is forcing me out of a place that I want to stay in, that I know is both physically and mentally good for me. I may not have any plans to return to Mysore, but I can tell Peg that she isn't the only one already trying to make plans for a return to this beautiful place.


Byron Bay off the Mat

February 20, 2018

Practice has fluctuated, some days there's a fluidity in the body in this humidity, some days it's been like wading through treacle, asanas like the backbends I expected would be easier in the heat, but they haven't been, the twists Marichy D and Pasasana have been way better than they are in cold Europe. One day I shocked myself by managing to half bind myself in Baddha Padmasana, left fingers gripping, right fingers touching the toes, I've never been that near, ever! On days when there has been a breeze in the Shala practice has seemed physically easier, when there's no breeze the humid air saps the energy out of me. I also seem to be slower than most people at the 10am and have been last to finish quite often, today Annette was waiting to mop the floor when I dragged myself up from Savasana, though maybe being mopped wouldn't have been so bad.

Torakina beach Brunswick Heads

Off the mat I've really enjoyed being here, I met up with fellow blogger Susie GB and she took me exploring Brunswick Heads.

Can I fit one in my suitcase

I took a wildlife tour and met sleepy, cute Koala's, evil looking flying foxes and the many Kangaroos.

Wategose Beach

I've loved walking along the beaches, Wategose is beautiful, I'm staying near Main beach which has a view of the Lighthouse at sunrise. Finally today I made it to the top of the Lighthouse, stunning views and a really interesting tour, oh and we saw Dolphins.

Minyon Falls is pretty special after a hike through the forest

Sunset drumming circle

So it's not all been about Yoga, despite this being a Mecca for many Ashtanga's and the reason I chose to come here, it's also because it has a lot else going on, lots to see and it's easy to just "be" here. If I had the odd £5million laying around I could quite happily live here.

By Invitation

February 16, 2018

I knew before I arrived that Dena was teaching one of her "intensives" and that I would be practicing in the open to the public 10am class, taught by Emma and Jack. I also knew that it was pretty likely that Dena would be doing her own practice in the 10am, after the intensive students had gone home. And so it has been, so although technically Dena hasn't been the teacher I know she's been keeping an eye on my practice.

I have arrived each morning as the "intensives" have been coming out, sweat drenched from the sauna like heat inside the shala, by this time the sun is up and the outside temperature is in the 80's. it's a bit of a reunion, global Yoga friends, Andrea and Annette from Germany, Sophie, Helen and Ella from Dorset, Susi, Dena and Jack from this place, they come out, we go in.

And finally getting to meet Peg Mulqueen in the real world after years of chatting online via blogs and ashtanga dispatch, I'm now the proud owner of an ashtanga dispatch top. Thanks Peg.

I've found the heat not as helpful as I'd hoped, to be honest my dropbacks must have forgotten to get on the plane, but binding Pasasana is now easy, I think I've sweated away whatever was previously in the way! There's no need for spray bottles for Gharba, as Jack put it the other day "if you need the spray bottle in this heat you are doing something wrong!". Dena has had me using a stool device for Headstand after she heard about my concussion, I'm still being careful. It's not so much the heat, it's the humidity that's the killer, my t-shirt is 4 times heavier by the time I finish, I seem to run out of energy after Supta K, but cling on and keep going to Ustrasana. Despite all that's happened since last time I practised in Dena's Shala, surgery, illness and accidents my practice has come a long way, doing intermediate in this place feels a long way from then.

Shala dog Loki.

The "Intensive" is full, Dena has taken it off her website it's so over subscribed, but sometimes she lets other people lay their mat in that class. Yesterday she invited me to practice in today's 6:30am Led class. Being invited to join is special, a privilege, it's a gift, she said it was my birthday present! She knows when my birthday is, it's 2 weeks after hers, same month, born in the same year.

The class began with pranayama, before a counted on the breath full primary, the room has that energy and silent, powerful movement, a concentration and focus as we start in the darkness and finish with bright sunshine. It's a joy to be taken through the practice by Dena, after 20 years her words still resonate and speak to me like no other teachers ever have. Her words are not just about the physicality of the practice, but what this practice does for us off the mat, how we are, how we feel, how we are with others.

7 years later

February 12, 2018

It's 7 years since I walked through this gate down a suburban street on the outskirts of Byron Bay. Beyond the gate the stone path leads you to the wooden steps and through the sliding door in to the peace of Dena's Shala, though before I got more than a few steps along the path Dena was welcoming me back. There is no doubt that this place is special and it's thanks to randomly meeting Dena over 20 years ago that this practice has become integral to my existence.

This month Dena is running one of her month long "intensives" , so I'm in the 10am class with just a handful of people. The 10am is taught by Emma or Jack, so I'm not directly under Dena's teaching, however Dena does her own practice in this class and I know she had an eye on everyone, I suppose when you're that good you probably have dual drishte!

My first full practice since I swapped temperatures below freezing and snow as I left home, for the sweltering tropical heat of Australia. The heat in the Shala makes AYL feel temperate by comparison, though the "intensive" group had heated the shala up, so it wasn't just the ambient heat. The windows are open, the breeze ripples the curtains and the usual London din of drunks singing and sirens screaming is replaced by just the birds singing.

It's easy to practice when it's this warm, though energy sapping. There's a fluidity despite nearly a week off and some lingering jet lag, it's also like AYL in that you know whoever is teaching will be consistent and good, Emma is excellent, straightening my feet in some of the standing poses. A super squash in Kurmasana which made doing Supta K on my own easy. Gharba in the tropics does not involve scouring the room for a working spray bottle, there are rivers running from places I didn't know I had places.

I thought about stopping at the end of primary as I did on Saturday, fresh off the plane and tired, but thought ok I'll try Pasasana and see how it goes, Emma's Pasasana binding technique is very supportive and bound easily despite a week since the last one. The fun starts in Urdva Dhanurasana, my rug is a wet, slippery skate park, my dodgy left arm can't keep enough downward pressure before it slides out from under me, somehow I get vertical 3 times before standing and starting my hangbacks. After a couple Emma comes over and stops me, my upper back is too rigid and I'm feeling it all go in to my lower back, so she has me do the cross arm assisted deep hangs, as I come up from the 3rd one I realize Dena is standing behind us watching, she nods and walks off to get changed, then gives me a wave and see you tomorrow as she leaves us to do closing.

It's good to be back, I feel comfortable in this space, it's different to dropping in to random Shala's on vacation, I know where everything is, there's no pressure from within or without, oh and there's a new cafe on the walk back to town that does an excellent post practice chocolate croissant!