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The Peanut Galleries

August 8, 2015

Peanut Gallery 1

AYL is chock a block full on a Sunday when practice is going to be followed by Hamish doing Conference. I had done my Surya’s in the Finishing Room before Louise called my “one more”. By the time I had done backbends and headed back to the last spot in the Finishing Room to do closing, jammed in by the blackboard, there were so many students waiting to start there was a queue sitting patiently in the corridor. This “Peanut Gallery” watching those of us practising consisted of a few Authorised teachers waiting to start. Closing was proceeding along nicely until I came to Sirsasana, which with the shoulder is still a bit lopsided and getting vertical can be a bit hit n miss, it ended up being a “miss” day as I went up, failed to catch myself at the top and then aware of the wall on my right and my mat neighbour, whose mat was touching mine, avoiding both I went over the top, sideways crushing my toes painfully under me, eek ow ***%#^>* Ommmm. At least a member of the gallery was kind enough to check I was ok, my ego and toe were bruised but no serious damage done.

Post practice croissant and tea and back in there for a Conference in memory of Guruji who would have been 100 that weekend. Hamish talked about Guruji’s passion for yoga, his generosity towards his students, his house that some students had helped to buy which became the old Shala at Laxmipuram. Hamish then asked us to arrange ourselves in to lines before announcing that as part of the celebration one of the restaurants on Drumond Street would be delivering food for everyone.

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Hamish giving conference

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Food

The conference and party were filmed and you can watch the short YouTube video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJkJB4MlzLI&sns=em

Peanut Gallery 2.

Out here in the sticks at the local Shala things are different, no queue to start, a lot cooler and most students have quite a short practice, not many go beyond half primary and as for students doing intermediate, we are a very rare bread. By the time I’d done full primary there were just 3 of us still going and the other two were closing, so Olena was on me for Pasasana, Bhekasana and here I’m encouraged to practice through to my crappy Kapotasana, so I got assisted in Parsva Dhanurasana, Ustrasana and Laghu, as the local peanut gallery looked on from Savasana or through the glass partition to the Lobby.

I get more time to experiment with Dropbacks at the local Shala , no pressure to make space for the next person in the corridor queue, freedom to do the hanging exercises and shoulder openings before dropping back and standing up off the half thick blocks, trying not to be conscious of the peanut gallery that has grown outside the partition to include people waiting for their Pilates lesson. As I stood up from my 4th, S who I thought was asleep in Savasana next to me, said “can you stop doing that you are making me feel tired watching!” You just don’t get comments like that at AYL.

At AYL you also don’t get any adjustment, advice or assistance with closing once you have disappeared off in to the Finishing Room, but unbeknown to me Olena had returned and saw my dodgy kick up in to Headstand, cue a mini Sirsasana lesson on engaging my core, raising one leg, engaging and bringing the other leg up, then going in to Ardha Sirsasana, which I have to admit I haven’t practised doing much in the last couple of years with the shoulder issues, so instead of dreaming of croissants in Sirsasana as I usually do, that ended up being a testing end to practice, though she did give me a super squash in child’s pose.

Lightweight!

July 16, 2015

Despite yoga’s more mainstream position these days it never ceases to amaze me how the “Muggles” still perceive us and what we do, a newspaper article last weekend actually described us as “bendy, glassy eyed, sun saluting farters”. Even the medical profession don’t get it, as was demonstrated by Nurse Jolly Hockey Sticks at my own health check last week.

After NJHS had weighed me (9 stones, 6lbs) and said “you’re a bit of a lightweight!” Though the BMI was at the bottom end of the scale, but not too light. She went on to ask if I ate healthily and if I did any exercise. I told her I do yoga 6 days a week, I could see it in her eyes before she even spoke, her idea of yoga clearly wasn’t Ashtanga, I couldn’t be bothered to enlighten her, so she gave me a small red book about healthy eating, having skimmed through it I think it’s aimed at people who live in McDonald’s and need to lose a few pounds, not a skinny yogi who has a post practice croissant habit and likes a regular dose of chocolate. (We won’t mention the books fruit section Miss Bysh).

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The Book.

She clearly had her doubts about my health, ok I’ve had surgery lately and still have a way to go with recovering, but I’m getting there. Eek out of nowhere she produces a bloody great needle and some vials to test for Diabetes and Cholesterol and has the nerve to tell me not to be nervous, seeing her holding a needle is enough to send anyone’s blood pressure off the scale with good reason, she made 2 painful failed attempts to get blood out of my left arm before saying ” I think your lefts had enough, let me try the right, I usually get it first time“. I left with 2 sore arms covered in plasters, but a week later the scores are in and I don’t have diabetes or high cholesterol , so the chocolate and cake diet can continue.

Back on the mat I’ve managed a few more full practices, the stamina is returning, practice at AYL feels easy in the heat, with no distractions except for the odd friendly smile. I’m dropping back again on my own, though Louise is watchful enough to come and assist when they start looking dodgy.

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Part 2 is online, link below.

Part two of the video interview I did for Ekaminhale in Mysore was published this week, I’m again amazed at the response, if you want to watch it clicke HERE.

Back to AYL

June 30, 2015

Practice back at AYL much sooner than expected. I was planning to go just for the monthly Conference and to catch up with everyone, but I’d been practising alternate days at home and thought I would just get on my mat and see how it went. As always it’s so much easier in that room, the yellow walls, heat and the quiet energy. I knew Louise would be keeping an eye on me, she mostly left me to slowly move through my practice.

As usual I don’t seem to have lost the flexibility, but I have lost stamina and strength. I read an article that said that when people of my age are forced to be inactive for periods after injury, surgery etc that the more muscle and stamina they had the more quickly they lose it and that for every week of inactivity it takes two weeks of being active again to regain what was lost. I can believe it, by Supta K I was getting tired and taking mini breaks. After Garbha I got a second wind and amazingly got through to Bhekasana, way further than I intended or expected.

Urdva Dhanurasana is slowly returning, the stretch on the front of the body is becoming more bearable, I stood up after doing 3 intending just to hang back, but L came along and supported me through the whole sequence of drops/stands, cross arm and drop and walk in, strangely UD from a dropback feels more comfortable on the front of the body than pushing up from the floor.

Savasana was needed after that, not to mention the croissant and tea.

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Hamish’s conference

Conference was packed as always, H told us about the new AYL printed quarterly magazine that’s coming out later in the year, then read a chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, explaining the text in his own inimitable style!
You had to be there!

It was good to be back, hopefully the medical mishaps have come to an end and I can start to practice and improve as opposed to two years of constantly playing catch up.

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Ekaminhale.com

Last night part one of the video interview I did in Mysore with Clint from Ekaminhale was published. This first part is the journey of my practice up to the day I snapped my Humerus in half. Here’s a link to the interview.

On the way back (again)

June 22, 2015

I’m two weeks post op, hopefully this is finally it after 4 years and 6 surgical procedures. The first week home I mostly slept, I’m sure they gave me enough anaesthetic to knock out a Horse, never mind nine and a half stone little me. Week two I’ve started to find my energy, going for a walk every day and gradually getting on my mat and trying to stretch.

The surgery looks to have been pretty successful, my pelvic muscles need to just get back with the program after having the work done for them for the last three months by plastic tubes. Though having continued to practice has certainly given me a good head start with the physical recovery compared to the majority of people who undergo this type of surgery.

I’ve been doing an hours practice every other day, standing and closing, standing and to Navasana, standing and a bit of second. Doing the second series postures Salabhasana , Bhekasana, Dhanurasna etc without being encumbered by medical tubes and plastic for the first time since January has been liberating.

This morning I managed my first post op full primary, as after all the previous surgery I havnt so much lost flexibility but have lost stamina and strength, 3 days in a hospital bed attached to drips and 2 weeks of R&R, and everything needs to wake up and engage again. Surprisingly I can do Pasasana but can’t quite bind Supta K!

Back to work tomorrow, though just a couple of days a week part time again to start with and hopefully back to AYL on Sunday, though what kind of a practice I’ll be doing I’m not sure, no doubt Louise will stop me getting carried away in the heat and energy of the Shala.

My niece is back from Uni and came to visit, she’s been doing yoga and was complaining that the teacher made them do stuff that was too advanced, so I asked her what she had them doing, J started to describe Astavakrasana and asked me if I could do it, two weeks post op with no warm up,her 50 year old uncle did it!

Resting- It’s done.

June 9, 2015

I had no idea when I said goodbye to Louise after practice last Sunday that I wouldn’t be back there this week.

The surgery is done.

I suddenly went from having another 6 weeks to wait down to 48 hours, after a call last Tuesday asking if I wanted it early after they had a cancellation. The sooner the better as far as I was concerned.

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Hyper hydration

I went in on Friday, operation same day, properly conscious again Saturday morning attached to 2 huge fluid drips and a third IV drip pumping pain killers down my arm. The next two days were uncomfortable and at times painful to say the least, but luckily I had two wonderful Nurses, Jemma and Niamh, who took great care of me.

Discharged Sunday afternoon, home to rest, no yoga, no work, no lifting. I’m pretty sore still, especially as the effects of the anaesthetic and IV pain killers have worn off and I’m on my own with it.

That’s 4 lots of surgery in the last 4 years, I’m hoping that’s an end to it.

Practising

May 7, 2015

Its been a while since I posted, so since I’ve had a few readers ask why the silence, I figured it’s about time I wrote something.

As I mentioned previously I’ve not been too well since I got back from Mysore, I’m awaiting a date for surgery to clear the problem up, I’ve had my pre op assessment, swabbed, a gallon of blood taken from my arm and the new experience of having an ECG. Lots of little red lines proving there is prana still flowing through the body. A Prana graph.

It’s been good to get back to the heat of AYL, doing my full practice again, getting assistance and advice from Louise and Emma, but it wipes me out, my over all stamina and fitness are still way below what they were. I’m struggling with the backbends again, I even did a backbend workshop at “The Dark side” a couple of weeks ago. I’m back to dropping back, but unable to stand up from the mat, though I can stand up from a 1/2 thickness block. It’s more likely a mental block than a physical one as L once said, some row of dots not quite joining up.

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The Backbend workshop

While I was sick I missed Hamish’s last Conference at AYL, so I was glad to be able to make this months after Sunday practice. Hamish talking about yoga and life, the importance of what yoga does for you being more important than what pose you are on, before opening it up for the usual Q&A.

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Hamish getting Louise to demonstrate during Conference.

Hamish doesn’t do bulls***, he tells it like it is, a question about if you should do any “warming up” before practice elicited a response of “boll***”, the Surya Namaskars are the warm up.

Question about the length of Savasana, probably brought up because of the queue of people waiting to start in the Finishing Room and the length of time some people were spending in Savasana! His answer you should only lay for 5mins or so.

Question about the spaced out post practice state and making silly mistakes like getting on the wrong bus, in that hour or so after finishing practice. H said after Savasana it’s probably best to sit somewhere quietly for a few minutes before diving headlong back in to the busy real world.

Question about strengthening the knees after injury. H said that spending time in the Warrior postures helps to strengthen the knees.

Habits, Hamish said quite a lot of us have the same little habits between postures, such as wiggling hands/wrists in PPC, stepping back when preparing UHP, but he said ashtangi’s would automatically stand at front of yoga mat in Samasthitihi where as non yogis would stand in the middle of the mat. I realised I do the UHP step back, not sure about the wrist one, but one habit that won’t change is the post practice croissant.

The Ekaminhale editor has chopped my hour long Mysore interview in to a pair of short interviews, part one should be online soon. Part 1 is how it all started and my first trip to Mysore ending with the day I broke my Humerus. Part 2 is the rehab and how yoga and Louise were integral to my rehab and my return to Mysore this year.

Ekaminhale

March 23, 2015

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While I was in Mysore Clint from Ekaminhale got in touch to ask if I would film a little interview with him about how yoga was so important in my recovery from the shoulder surgery and rehab.

Clint is back in Canada now and his editor Derek is busy with editing all the films he made while he was in Mysore. As a taster of the films to come from an amazing cast of yogi’s he published this short film on the Ekaminhale blog

I can’t wait to see all the finished films and still amazed to be asked in such exalted company.

Back in the real world

March 21, 2015

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We leave Mysore bendy and happy thinking this is how our practice is meant to be and will continue to be from this day forth. But whether it’s the long journey home that begins with that bumpy 4 hour taxi ride or landing back in to a cold north European winter the reality is pretty soon something rather different. We probably don’t get back on our mat for a couple of days and when we do we are cranky and stiff.

You begin to wonder what’s gone wrong, you return to the comfortable familiarity of your home Shala space and the responsibilities of work and home, although you want your practice to remain the priority, the reality is life takes over again and it seems to take even more dedication to crawl out from under the duvet every morning.

Post Mysore Ashtangi’s would benefit from a “half way house” for a week or so, somewhere not too cold so they can acclimatise to being back in the real world.

As I’ve discovered there are things beyond our control than can put paid to our good intentions of continuing the work. The sudden illness that hit me so soon after I landed back in reality has not improved, three times to hospital and now on a 3 month waiting list for surgery. It seems being cooped up in that uncomfortable aircraft seat for 9 hours was the final straw. I can’t be sure it was the flight, but at least my body waited until I landed back home before it caved in.

I am back on my mat and doing the practice I can, trying to get as fit as I can for the surgery and yet another period of recovery.

Returned

March 10, 2015

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Sa Tu Dirgha Kala….

I returned from Mysore without either of Sharath’s suggestions, the Indian IC was a bit impractical and no idea where I would install one if I had and the Bandha meter he talked about in conference has yet to be invented, though rumour has it there are Japanese and Korean yogis on the case designing the App.

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Kurmasana addition to my pendant

I did return with happy memories of a wonderful month practising with Saraswathi, along with a lovely addition to my pendant and an embroidered Mysore rug.

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Saraswathi

Alas I seem to have returned with something else, the day after I got home I became very unwell and two days later ended up in Hospital. The upshot being no practice since Mysore and not being able to return to work either. Things looked to be improving until last Friday when I ended up back in A&E for 4 hours. I’m now stuck at home unable to do anything as I wait for a referral.

So no Sunday croissants at AYL for a while it seems.

People you meet in Mysore

February 23, 2015

This trip to Mysore has been different in so many ways. A different teacher in a different space, except for led of course. A different place to live without so many facilities, no TV, no washing machine, no proper kitchen, intermittent Internet, but less than a 10 minute walk to the Shala and quieter at night which is why I chose it.

I haven’t been running around seeing things, I saw the ones worth seeing three years ago. This trip seems to have been about relaxing, settling in to the rhythm of life and meeting people. Some of the people are friends I practice with at AYL, some I’ve met in various places or last time I was here, others over the years I’ve been in touch with through cyberspace via this blog or their blog or in one case the old Yuku Ashtanga message board where we all had aliases. I seemed to have got to know them quite well despite never having met in person until this month in Mysore and in real life they are sweet people.

Nico Cooper an Aussie who lived in Mexico, has commented and emailed on this blog for a few years, I had no idea what he looked like, but luckily he recognised me in a small shop in Gokulam and came and said “hello”.

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Karla Balani

Karla Balani was a real surprise, a Californian with whom I have one mutual friend on Facebook, Shari our friend, had emailed us both to say to look out for each other. There must be over 400 students here with different start times and the chances of randomly running in to someone is pretty slim. So what a surprise on a communal table at Santosha as we both ordered breakfast and gave our names to Magda the Waitress, looked at each other and had the same thought, “are you?”. Our random meeting has led to a trip to Bylekupe and the Banyan Tree.

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Razieh delivering my cinnamon buns

I didn’t know Razieh Sarmad before I got here. She’s an Iranian living with her husband in Gokulam, who does baking on the side. When she bakes she posts on the Ashtanga community in Mysore Facebook page and anyone who wants some of whatever she is baking gets in touch to order. The first time I ordered she was making sweet breads, at which point I was hooked. I like the cafes here, but by and large they all offer the same menu, so the opportunity to be able to have something tasty and different is too good to miss. The sweet breads were delicious, but a couple of days later she was making cinnamon buns, I ordered four in case they weren’t very big, we met at 9am outside Tina’s. They were still warm from the oven, the smell was incredible, two were gone by the time I had walked the few minutes back home. I now have a standing order, 4 buns every couple of days. If anyone wants great bakery in Gokulam get in touch with Razieh.

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Angela

Angela Jamison and I have “known” each other a good few years without realising, first on the old Yuku Ashtanga message board, where we were all mostly posting anonymously, then via her blog inside owl and lately by email and Facebook. I knew she would be in Mysore at the same time and hoped we would finally get to meet. Yesterday at 8:15 after led class I’m quietly quaffing my third chai at Amruth when a motorbike pulls up and off jumps Angela and introduces herself. She was exactly what I expected her to be like and this morning we had breakfast and got to chat.

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Clint Griffiths

Clint Griffiths runs Ekaminhale.com blogs, makes videos, sells cute t-shirts and sporadically sends out a newsletter, which is how we first got in touch a few months ago after he wrote a post about coming back from injury. I replied to the post about my last two years and how the practice has been an integral part of my recovery. We had arranged to get in touch once we both got to Mysore, to meet and have a chai. Clint got in touch and not only did we meet, he’s a really nice guy, he asked me if I would do an interview, as he found my recovery from injury through the practice inspiring. I was surprised, but delighted to be asked as he usually makes videos with people like Kino and Laruga. So last Friday we spent two hours filming and recording an interview, which will be edited when he gets back to Canada and online sometime there after.

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Ani

I’ve saved the most special person I’ve finally met for last. Ani Semtan is an American Buddhist Nun who works at the Tibetan settlement at Bylekupe. Her duties at the settlement don’t allow her to get out much, it’s full time with teaching the monks, performing puja, domestic jobs and being PA to Rinpoche when he visits, as he is at the minute. Three years ago Ani had a few days off from her duties, it was her birthday and she decided to visit Mysore. She had not visited the city before and was googling for information when she came across my blog and the link to the ebook map I had just published at the time. Ani was one of the first people to download my book, it was to be the start of a very special friendship. Ani got in touch to ask for more specific information and we have had an email conversation in progress ever since. I’ve learnt so much about her life at the settlement. She amazing and has also been a great support over the last two years, sending me get well emails and sending good thoughts.

When I went to Bylekupe last week Ani was too heavily involved in all the preparations for Lhosar, it would have been a fleeting meeting at best, but luckily she had a couple of free(ish) days after Lhosar and made a trip to Mysore so we could meet properly. We met for lunch at The Green Hotel and spent nearly 4 delightful hours getting to know each other in person. Meeting Ani will be the highlight of this trip to Mysore.


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