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Lucy Scott in the sticks again – day 4 – better than expected with a Dwi Pada bonus

February 23, 2017

Day 4 went better than expected after painful Dhanurasana disaster Wednesday.i was so stiff when I got up I seriously wondered about going. Lucy started with simple hip type openers, which also seemed to get in to the lower back and warm us up.

Starting to practice was torturous , I was still really stiff after yesterday’s issue in my lower back, I could barely touch the floor in Surya A, but after a few I got my hands flat and it started to feel better. Super assist in Padangusthasana , it’s like she suddenly creates space for the body to move in to. In Prasarita D L showed me where to align my leg, apparently it gets in to a weird place by itself!

Paschimottanasana was hard even with a light assist. I stepped forward on most of the vinyasas so I didn’t jar my back, though jumping back was ok. No way was I getting in to Mari D on the first side without help or reverting to my usual lift up and around method, help was elsewhere so back to the usual method, think I just about got away with it 😉

Supta K took a little while to get in to, it’s a deep forward bend and my back needed time, I got bound and as I was exiting Lucy arrives and after Titibhasana completely surprises me by getting me in to sitting up Dwi Pada, showing me where to hold the foot to get it in place. Years ago a teacher “put” me in to it, but this was completely different, it actually felt comfortable, Lucy was supporting me as my hands went in to prayer. I’ve never thought to try it, but I’ll try to add it in now. It’s fun surprises like that which give the joy to practice.

I had to slow down a lot today to keep my back comfortable, Lucy reminding me about Bandha to support the back. I thought about stopping after primary and heading for closing, but it’s a bit like falling off a bike and needing to get back on ASAP so I did my bit of intermediate, glad I did, nice assists in Pasasana and Bhekasana seems to be the theme of the week, especially the great assists in that and a way of accessing it in a new way.

I was a bit apprehensive about Urdva Dhanurasana, scared of jamming my back, not to mention with my slow pace today time was getting on, eventually after playing around in Bridge I managed some ok UD’s, even managing to walk the hands in. I thought I was done but there was Lucy getting me up again with a fab assist, I’m amazed at her ability to make me relax and just do it, to divert my brain from the potential pain and find a degree of comfort in a challenging posture. I decided to abandon dropbacks, I didn’t want to push it, but that’s another Bike I need to get back on ASAP. Tomorrow is another day

No work today, so a no rush Savasana, it’s nice to be able to take time.

Lucy Scott in the sticks again – day 3- just when it was going well!

February 22, 2017

Slightly different format today, we began with pranayama and some warm up stretches for the shoulders, before Lucy led us through the standing postures to Parsvottanasana . I find led mentally challenging, I prefer to be in my own little world plodding through,rather than moving to an external instruction. Super assists again as we went through, she has a habit of putting pressure in exactly the right places so you feel supported and safe. In the first Prasarita she had us put our hands flat further forward than usual and then come right up on to the toes in the preparation for Handstand, putting weight through the hands and arms.

It’s nice to be let loose, though it takes me a while to find my space and rhythm, it’s a great environment to learn but it can be distracting at times as the external overwhelms the internal.

At Mari D Lucy has me hugging my knee, my usual first side entry method of lift up and force the left arm around the knee, which compensates for the left side shoulder tightness needs to be changed, with her help I manage to stay flat and get the bind, but without the assistance my shoulder is way too tight to get far enough around the knee. Though I’m really surprised when she says the left side is more muscly.

The next section is my favourite part of primary, Bhuja though I screwed up the exit, Supta K is playtime, I love squirming in to that, Gharba isn’t the torture it used to be and Baddha Konasana has become easy, especially when you get adjusted in it twice 🙂

Lucy seemed to be on a straight leg mission, I can’t remember the last time anyone assisted Supta Padang, though it felt good.

Tag team Pasasana , then a super assist in both the Bhekasana limber and the proper posture from Cathy, this “Lucy limber” has made Bhekasana feel more comfortable and doable.

It was going so well, I had done Dhanurasana on my own and was about to vinyasa to Parsva D, but assistance arrives complete with a Bolster, L has the Bolster under my hips as I go again, this time with her telling me to push the legs and point the feet upwards, but I can’t, there’s nowhere to go, I feel stuck and then suddenly the wheels painfully come off as L pushes down a little the %#^%# thing in my back goes! Shit that hurt.

No blame, I’ve never had a problem in that posture and was more than happy going with the adjustment, usually I’m aware if it starts to be there, but this was sudden, it just let go. I’m aware of the “thing” but it’s never an issue in the intermediate postures, in fact if it is tight, they are the postures that really help. So I explain about last years trapped nerve, she says I should have mentioned it before, but since the Physio it’s not been an issue, I manage it pretty well when I feel my side getting tight. And to be honest I don’t like to start listing a litany of injury as I hear others do.

Lucy’s magic hands release the pain after a couple of minutes and we do Dhanurasana again, it feels ok. She tells me to then leave it and go in to shoulderstand, reappearing with blankets, I lay down with a Bolster under my knees as Lucy uses her hand to “listen” to my back. T12 where the Rib attaches seems to be slightly skew wif and after a while it feels like bubbles popping as everything releases.

She knows her stuff, she’s an amazing teacher with a deep understanding of how the body works or doesn’t in my case.

The left side catalogue of nuisance emanates from the 4 shoulder surgeries which have made everything tight the whole way down that side of my back. Also not helped by the operation on the left side of the Pelvis to harvest the bone to fill in the gap in my shoulder fracture.

The other issue is L says I strive too much, I want it too much and I plough headlong through my practice when I should take it more gently and not be forcing, grasping to get the bind or the backbend. Well it’s true, I’ve worked bloody hard since the last surgery in 2014 to get my practice back, the surgeon said my left arm wouldn’t be able to lift high enough to comb my hair let alone bind Marichy D. Without the striving I wouldn’t have got back 50% of the mobility I now have, I wouldn’t be working again, all be it part time.

Lucy said yoga should be enjoyable, I agree, but for me the unbounded joy comes from the fun stuff, Supta K and backbends, the first one I’ve cracked, but the 2nd I’m definitely striving and working hard for, but perhaps too hard. Part of the practice for me is feeling like I’m working towards something, for something. Last year when I was just going to Bhekasana, just doing the practice and going home I told Louise that I wasn’t enjoying it and felt I wasn’t getting anything out of my practice, I could just do it on auto pilot. She started me working the legs so much harder in backbends and eventually promoted me to Dhanurasana. Working towards something, however trivial it may seem made me engage again, I don’t want to go back to just doing it.

Lucy Scott back in the sticks again- Day 2- more intense

February 21, 2017

Well Lucy must have just been seeing where everyone was up to yesterday, today was physically much harder. We started with pranayama before it really started with stretching me out in Trikonasana. Mega Louise level squashings in Paschimottanasana and Ardha Badha, before getting me to bind at the wrist in Mari C. It’s a little thing, but it’s all extra work that takes energy. Lucy hasn’t given me (so far) handstands like last time or Ustrasana. Unlike the other students who are doing some intermediate I’m not “split” to some extent, so with doing full primary plus second I’m last to finish and practising with this intensity it’s pretty tiring.

Pasasana, then the adjustments in Bhekasana again,so I asked Lucy what I can do for Bhekasana when I’m home alone, so she showed me a kind of half Bhekasana where you twist over, a kind of cross between Bhekasana and Parsva Dhan.

All that and backbends still to go, Urdva Dhanurasana tag team adjustments, Lucy wouldn’t let me hold C’s ankles, she said I don’t work hard enough like that, so she made C place her feet just to stop my hands sliding backwards, then had me pushing up while she pulled from the front. Those were very intense backbends. It’s case of going with it, no choice but to submit.

The UD’s annoyed that thing in my side that goes round to the front of the top of the hip. Lucy said it’s the Psoas and it needs releasing, so she starts pressing in to it. I’ll ask the massage therapist about it on Saturday.

By the time I got to dropbacks I was almost toast , I did manage two dropbacks on my own before Lucy comes over and does all the half ways and dropbacks. Lucy’s dropback assist is really good, you feel totally safe and able to let go as you go back, even if she is demanding your legs do the work.

She let me get through closing before we did the closing chant. Having a half hour break before the second bunch arrive means there’s no rush and I can get a 10 minute Savasana.

It took 2 croissants and a bacon sandwich to refuel !

Lucy Scott back in the sticks again – day 1- Technicalities

February 20, 2017

LM asked me if I’d blogging this week, so for her and anyone else who may be interested I’ll try and write some thoughts each day.

Third time I’ve practiced with Lucy and so glad I took Saturday off and practised in the heat at AYL yesterday. Lucy is like Ganesh, she doesn’t forget, or rather she remembers where I’m up to and what I was and still am struggling with, she gave me Parsva Dhanurasana last time. She didn’t have me doing handstands on day 1 unlike last time, maybe she’s saving that for later in the week.

I like her adjustments and little bits of wisdom, they started in the Surya’s, making me have flat hands and dragging them backwards to facilitate a deeper forward bend. Parsvakonasana hand on the back of the Hip rather than straight out in front.

I ended up doing Mari C and D twice as I’d already done them, then L says she wants to see them, so I repeat them again with her adjusting it. Managed to do Supta K on my own. Lucy sat in front of me as I bent forward in to Baddha Konasana, nod of approval as I can get my knees and head on the floor pretty easily.

Left alone until I got to Pasasana, Salabhasana with a block to make me rotate my thighs in, then Bhekasana, she knows her anatomy, she said the reason my left hand is finding it hard to push down on the foot is because the Glute isn’t loose enough and not the weakness of the previously fractured left shoulder, Lucy manipulated it in some way and suddenly my hand could stay put on the left foot as she told me to lift the chest.

Assisted dropbacks are fun with Lucy, down and up and then the half way thing done really fast, then half way and down on to the top of the head making you engage the legs, that is hard, my legs were shaking, then another deeply assisted dropback and keep walking the hands in before pinging back up.

By now only a couple of us still going, so assisted in closing as well, pushing down on my knees and changing the balance point in Urdva Padmasana, then lowering the legs in Utana. Before she adjusts Sirsasana she makes L do a dropback on her own, before she comes back and tortures my headstand before giving me a nice squash in child’s pose.

A pause in practice as Lucy leads the closing chant so people can get on with their day, I know I wouldn’t get away with short cutting to Savasana, so after the chant I do the rest of the closing postures, the small Paranayama and a blanket has appeared for a 15min Savasana

How Muggle Nurse doesn’t think this counts as exercise is beyond me.

I can’t wait to go to bed and it’s only day 1, but it was definitely a good plan getting a warm AYL practice yesterday. I had two breakfast, one in the cafe as I waited for the Bus to work, then another pain au chocolate and some granola when I got to work, so much for “eat for what you are going to do and not for what you done!”.

Muggle Nurse

February 11, 2017

IMG_3448.JPGIt’s that time of year when the GP Nurse calls me in for the health check, usual questions;
Alcohol – None
Smoking – Never
Height and weight, BMI of 21.

Height, ok she can’t change that, but weight, yet again I see her peering at the scales, giving them a tap and wondering if she needs to send them off for re calibration. 5ft 7″ and under 9 1/2 stone (61kg) despite wearing jeans for work and a thick sweater.

So she asks with a withering look if I eat a healthy diet, well ok I don’t do fruit and there’s only so much veg, the odd bit of cake and chocolate do feature, but I have 3 meals a day and a hot chocolate before I go to bed.

So her next gambit is to get her syringe out and poke my arm to do a cholesterol test, she seems determined to find something, she is getting better, she hit the vein on the first go for a change, though I’m still bruised 4 days later, but she loses that one too, she says even skinny people can have cholesterol, it needs to be under 5 and I score 4.6 ha ha bring on the chocolate croissants.

So then she starts quizzing me about exercise, so I tell her I do Ashtanga yoga, she replies she does yoga, I ask her what she does, I would describe what she does as “very gentle”, good for her, each to their own, but then she says what I do doesn’t count as exercise! Two hours a day, sweating like a pig sometimes, but on her scoreboard I don’t do any exercise! The only way to get these “professionals” to understand what we do 6 days a week is for them to be made to do it, instead of considering yoga as ommming naval gazing!

I can’t wait for the GP to review it, “he’s skinny, has a crap diet, does no exercise, but has a healthy BMI and a good cholesterol score”.

In training for Lucy

January 28, 2017

Ganesh agogo at AYL.

You know you shouldn’t have gone to practice on a moon day when you feel wrecked to start with and then in Prasarita you suddenly realise your shirt is on back to front and your shorts are actually inside out and back to front, is that what my mat neighbour J was laughing for.

I show up on my mat every day, but my practice is so erratic. This freezing cold weather doesn’t help, everything is tighter and it’s all a struggle. C at the local Shala was on me today, it felt like she was trying to get us ready for Lucy Scott at the end of February. I just didn’t have the energy for doing Salabhasana and Dhanurasana twice, then after I had done 6 Urdva Dhanurasana on my own she has me do a load more with a block between my knees to try and get my thighs to inwardly rotate more.

I wonder if I’m sickening for something, I had no energy left to control the dropbacks let alone inwardly rotate anything on the way down. On days like today it feels as far away as ever, yet a couple of days last week I was having controlled drop backs and rocking and easily coming up off 1/2 thickness blocks.

When time allows I’ve added in the alternative nostril breathing Hamish recommended, then Angela’s “Sitting” practice for a few minutes before Savasana, but this is time not to mention space dependent, at the local Shala I often run out of time and at AYL there is often a premium on space in the Finishing Room.

Today I had space and time, but feeling pretty tired I was conscious of needing to eat so as not to have another “Tesco moment”.

Harmony Lichty @AshtangaBristol

October 23, 2016

A weekend away with like minded people who understand “why”, unlike my Muggle GP last week who seemed unable to get her head around it, but that’s another story.

Steamy led Primary (Picture credit Caroline)

Friday morning, day 1 for me, Led Primary with around 30 others. I haven’t done much led in the last few years, my shoulder takes too long to coerce in to postures like Mari D, Despite being able to do it and bind it Harmony had already passed “2” by the time I got there. She has an interesting assist in UHP, standing on the foot,,I’ve not had that one before. For me led primary is about tidying up the practice, I find it almost impossible to synchronise my breath with somebody else’s count, my shoulder has forced me to slow down too much. At least I can get myself in to Supta Kurmasana, that’s just fun, though I know others wouldn’t agree. My Urdva Dhanurasana are rubbish in led, I just have to take my time. Sirsasana has been hit and miss after all the surgery, Harmony was kind enough to help me up, but once I’m up I’m stable enough.

Saturday, day 2. A different location down in the city which actually has it’s own “Banksy” on the wall outside. Mysore practice, which I’m much better at, in my time to my breath, I’m quite comfortable plodding through, but conscious of my relative slowness. Mostly left alone, which is fine. A sudden realisation that I was the only one doing intermediate, before realising that despite yesterday’s led primary maybe the locals knew the plan that some Shalas follow, of Saturday being a primary day, confused or what, but doing Salabhasana A & B helps what comes after. I didn’t do the rest of my 2nd up to Dhanurasana, that will have to be done tomorrow instead. Urdva Dhanurasana with my little back warm ups was much better, walking in more on each one, repeating the process again before standing for dropbacks. Tom from AYL was assisting, I’d sensed him watching and wondered why he hadn’t come over, turns out he thought I was waiting for Harmony as I’d come all the way to Bristol to practice with her. But he knows the plan, not to mention the history and I didn’t want to get cold, lovely assisted dropbacks. Hopefully Harmony will do them tomorrow instead.

So glad I didn’t ask that question

Saturday afternoon was an interesting Q&A preceded by Pranayama ,as expected backbends featured , that’s where I learned my more than 3 Urdva Dhanurasana and walking the hands in more experiments were the right thing to be doing, Harmony said maybe do 9 x UD walking the hands in before starting dropbacks or hanging back, this sends the message to the legs and front of the Pelvis. I, just glad I hadn’t asked the question, as whoever asked an asana question go to go the front and be demonstrated on, they only cared about standing up apparently!

Eka Pada reading exercise

A top tip secret that the “D” in Marichyasana D stand for “Diet” ha ha.

There were questions about Kapotasana, Eka and Dwi Pada and handstands, less relevant to me as I’m unlikely to need to worry about them in this lifetime!

Harmony talking Ayurveda and Philosophy

It felt strange to be at a weekend yoga workshop and not practice today, it always feels wrong not to practice on a Sunday. After a lazy morning Harmony gave 2 interesting talks in the afternoon. First one was on Ayurveda, the Doshas and their differences. I’d always assumed from the way people talk that you have one type of Dosha, but found we are made up of some of all of them, but one or two predominate, in my case Vata won, followed closely by Kapha with Pita lagging miles behind after ticking the boxes in her Dosha finder quiz.

I think Donald Trump must be Pita as some of their qualities were listed as oily , cutting and charismatic.

After a break for tea and vegan chocolate cake Harmony’s second talk was on Sadhana- Spiritual Discipline and Vairagya or non attachment. The practice of yoga having 3 parts;
Tapas – Heat, discipline, difficulty
Swadyaya – self study, seeing ourselves more clearly, studying texts.
Ishvara Pranidhana– Surrender to God or a higher power than ourselves

The Kleshas or 5 obstacles we need to overcome to reach enlightenment.
Avidya or Ignorance – our confusion about what is real
Asmita or Ego – our sense of a separate self, not being part of the whole.
Raga or Desire – our need to keep repeating experiences that are enjoyable.
Dvesha or Aversion – the desire to avoid things that bring pain or suffering.
Abhinivesha or Fear of death – which manifests as clinging on to things, not wanting change.

The practice of Ashtanga yoga over time will weaken our Kleshas and we will be less controlled by them. Though the Ashtangi’s coffee habit desire seems to be one Klesha that will never be broken, if Harmony needs her coffee what chance the rest of them, I say them as someone who doesn’t like coffee, I’m quite happy with my own tea and chocolate Klesha and aversion to anything green and leafy.


September 14, 2016

Hamish and my teacher Louise

A few people have asked me to post about the Conference at AYL last Sunday, it was a long conference and these are the parts that resonated for me, there was a lot more.

Hamish has just returned from Sharath’s TT in Mysore, a holiday as he described it, getting up 3 hours later than usual! H talked about the days in Gokulam and the time he spent drinking coffee with Sharath and discussing the practice.

He began by talking about Digestion, as Sharath had been asked about diet, we are just a food processor with legs and arms. Every “diet” aims to achieve something different, so there is no “right diet”, it’s an individual choice. Making ethical choices doesn’t just apply to food, Using less of everything means less stuff ending up in the sea.

Sharath had the students making sure they know primary and intermediate Posture names, reciting them forward and backwards and also learning the Sanskrit numbers from 1-30. We should all do this.

H talked about how many TT students decided to take a break from being on social media, though H acknowledged that it’s something of a necessary evil in order to advertise yoga classes.

If we practice in the mornings he said it’s good to do something aligned to the practice in the afternoon, while in Mysore small groups would get together to discuss yoga and bounce ideas and thoughts around with their peers. AYL is a community and he encouraged those who live near each other to occasionally form these groups. If that’s not possible then he encouraged to study the texts like the Gita or the Mahabarata, do meditation or just “Sit”. All of this makes us better able to deal with life off the mat.

Sharath also taught the TT students pranayama. This has usually only been formally taught to students who have finished intermediate , although he seemed to make an exception for long time practitioners who haven’t yet finished second. I asked H if there is any appropriate pranayama for those of us who who will never finish second, he said alternate nostril breathing is ok.

H gave a small whoop of joy at Sharath saying that once students hit 50 (H gets there soon) , that asana practice should be less intense. I’m now 52 and seem to be working harder than ever!

Hamish said he once asked Guruji the meaning of Dharma, his answer was it means “giving”. We may not all be teachers, but in our own way we are all teachers and end up sharing the practice, with family, friends or work colleagues, telling people about our practice and answering the inevitable “why” question, sharing is giving.

Lucy Scott Day 5- The Uth Plutihi countdown

August 27, 2016

Yoga Frog

The last day and despite it being Friday Lucy told us to do our full practice, though she told me to stop at Dhanurasana as a nod to tradition. The Pranayama with the retentions at both ends and alternate nostril breathing before it’s time for Samasthitihi .

Reminders to close the fingers in Trikonasana, I still have Starfish fingers, a habit that’s hard to change after all these years. Lucy assisted Prasarita A, rare to get assisted in that one.

Not so much adjustment on the last day, so it felt like it flowed more and my Hamstrings were tortured less 🙂 Mari D entry assisted on the first side, I still have a problem with that side because of my shoulder. Lucy had me sit taller and reach, with assistance it feels ok and easy to bind, I need to experiment and see if it is possible on my own, is my dodgy entry an engrained habit that doesn’t need to be there.

Getting help with the backbends every day has helped a lot and also the different ways it’s been done from what I’m used to at AYL. The dropping back and pushing the arms straight in to the hands of a second adjuster standing behind me, giving a much deeper bend and making my legs work more. I heard Lucy say to C “his arm has lost the kink,it’s straight“, it’s taken 5 days but it’s changing. Cathy needs to train up some Assistants of her own now to be able to carry on Lucy’s work.

Best handstand experiments of the week, she left me to play on my own, while supervising from L’s mat next door, “shoulders forward, look at the spot on the floor“. This has been the highlight of the week in many ways, I wouldn’t have dared try on my own for fear of killing off my left shoulder altogether, but Lucy knew it was strong enough and stable enough and knowing she had me doing it to help rediscover my centre and make dropbacks easier in the long run gave it a purpose. It feels like a breakthrough in confidence in my shoulder, it’s safe to do anything with it provided I take care, the last barrier broken down and to be honest its the first time my fear has been challenged in the last 4 years, but Lucy exudes such a confidence, it’s (relatively) easy to try. It’s one advantage of a mostly at home practice that I will be able to keep playing handstands, though whether the IKEA book case can take another hit if it goes wrong is doubtful.

Each day Lucy has chanted with the few of us left at the end, day 5 was no different, I was just finishing closing, in Uth Plutihi, I had counted 5, Lucy says “we will just wait for Kevin” then instead of waiting she starts to count me through for another count of 20, as the rest watched, I HAD to stay up, at least she counts quicker than Sharath!

I’ve got far more out of this week than I ever expected, lots of little things I hope I manage to remember when I’m on my mat and the bigger things like being introduced to Parsva Dhanurasana and facing the fear of handstands.

Today is my Birthday, I got a Yoga Frog, how cool is that.

Lucy Scott Day 4 – Parsva Dhanurasana

August 25, 2016

Warming up

After being out last night it was a struggle to force my eyes open and crawl out of bed at stupid o’clock, the first morning the alarm has shocked me in to life.

It was less humid today, lack of sleep meant I was tired but not as stiff. Lucy began with pranayama adding in the retention.

Another intense practice, Supta K instructed not adjusted as Lucy told me to stretch the legs longer, try and lift the feet, get the shoulders lower before binding. Then instructed through the proper exit via Titibhasana . She did rescue me in Gharba as I got beached.

I’m getting a LOT of help with my small bit of intermediate, Pasasana, especially the first side which is the harder side for me is getting easier with help every day. After Krounchasana Lucy had me doing full vinyasas and assisting each pose to Dhanurasana . Then another full vinyasa and rather than being on my back for Urdva Dhanurasana, suddenly I’m on my front and she’s talking and adjusting me through Parsva Dhanurasana.

Parsva D counted through is a whole new ball game, I’ve often seen people at AYL and in Mysore roll from one side straight to the other, but no, apparently it’s take Dhanurasana, roll right, come back to centre, then roll left before coming back to centre for 5, and Lucy is adjusting between my calves and wrists deepening the bend. That was seriously hard work. Why do new postures appear when a) you are knackered, b) not expecting them?

As Dena told me once, it never gets easier, just longer. This was a loooong practice as I still had the backbends, dropbacks and handstand experiments to come and a no doss closing with instructed Sirsasana, though it tweaked my lower back so I had to come down. Lucy laughed that I don’t like inversions, before doing a brilliant manipulation on my back, apparently my QL is too solid.

By the time I finished the next group were starting to arrive, that was the longest, hardest practice of the week and we still have one more to go. Bring it on, it’s been a brilliant week so far.