A Travellerspoint blog

Thorn In My Side

Wednesdays Practice...

sunny 28 °C

I slept for hours and hours last night, from about 8pm onwards... Its boiling hot and so I've been staying out of the sun in the afternoon. Still getting bouts of dizziness but just drinking lots of water and trying to eat properly. I felt better this morning and was ok to practice. Forgot my towel though so was soon slipping and sliding around in a lake of sweat. Nice...

Its funny, because when I teach a class I bang on about how important it is to use the bandhas and relax everything else as much as possible, not to be results- hungry etc etc but just to experience the posture. And it seems that I spent the best part of 2 hours doing everything I know not to do- quite unconsciously. So its another new beginning. Ajay told me to widen my feet in Padangustasana which actually made it much deeper- and easier. And to approach Marichyasana C quite differently too. He pointed out that theres a lot of stiffness around my ribcage which I wasn't so aware of before. Thinking about it though, I usually feel/visualize my ribcage as just that- a cage, and not in a good way, like it has to be very hard to protect the centre. I think its a side effect of how defensive I am and how I quite like to hold things in, and to be in control ALWAYS. Such an archetypal Capricorn girlie in some ways.

Towards the end of the class he got us to sit up for a minute and gave us a little 'bhavana'. He said 'If you had a thorn in your foot you would want it out wouldn't you? Because it was hurting.' We all agreed this was true. Then he said 'And when you removed it, would that hurt too?' We all agreed that it would. And then he basically said that that is the aim of the asana practice- to remove these obstacles in the body. Obstacles that have all kinds of different origins. And to remove them will be painful. Then he grinned massively and said 'No Pain No Gain!!!'. Before on a more serious note just reminding us that the asana practice is not the Yoga, but just one rung on the ladder. And that each and every one of us has our own thorns, our own crosses to bear, that no one is perfect and if you ever think you are then there's a problem... It was a good practice, my baddha konasana was deeper than it ever had been, and I know my hips are going to feel quite, quite different tomorrow. He was gently but very skilfully pulling my chin forward whilst leaning his all weight on to my back but at the same time there was no pressure whatsoever on my knees, and there was no pain. Here we must draw the distinction between pain and discomfort. It was in no way comfortable but I could feel my body re-aligning and I can sense this is doing so much good. That was the last asana for me today after some prep work for kurmasana and approaching it from the core, from the centre. As I finished up he said 'Tomorrow... Backbending' . So that'll be interesting...

I met up with Eilis and her girls, and Dorothea, for a beautiful lunch. A local lady in Laxmipuram called Sunyta does home cooked lunches for 100 Rupees, all you can eat and we had this feast, spinach cooked with fenugreek, about 3 different kinds of veg curry, biryani, chapatis, chai, curd and syrupy jaggery. Beautiful. And stuffed afterwards so I'm just going to be reading again today, and being quiet. No the novelty of silence has not yet worn off....

Posted by victoria8 02:29 Archived in India Tagged women Comments (0)

First practice with Ajay Kumar

Yoga and Magic...

sunny 28 °C

So I made it successfully this morning to practice. It suddenly got uncomfortably hot again and so I was awake from about 4.20 am, milling around, showering, and sitting under the fan having coffee. I was at the Shala for 6.15 am ready for the 6.30 practice. Ajays very strict on people being on time or you don't go in. Simple as. Also no talking in the practice room. Which sets up a focussed vibe and make it easier to 'go within'. I'm glad I only live 2 minutes walk away- its pretty impossible for me to be late. Also the suns coming up and its warm enough to make getting out of bed very easy. It was also pointed out to me a couple of weeks ago that me not going to sleep before midnight isn't a problem here, its not like at home where I sleep for 4 hours, practice, and then have to go and work for hours. Here I can sleep for 4 hours, practice, eat, go back to sleep for another few hours, have a lovely walk, catch up on email, read, study. and soon its midnight again... I will get round to socializing a bit more but after months of customer services am still pretty blissed out just being in silence most of the time. I think I forgot everything I knew about mortgages on the plane on the way here, somewhere over Bratislava...

The practice was beautiful. I think its a combination of heat, rest, and Yin practice that made it more comfortable than it has felt in a long time. Nothing felt awkward though Ajay told me to take it easy around Mari D, being mindful of the knee thing, though that seemed a lot better. He's a fantastic and intuitive teacher, he kind of taps into your areas of tension and gets you to release much further into the postures and so experience them afresh. I really loved his approach to Utthita Hasta Padangustasana as he has taken the bending forward out of the equation in favour of bringing the leg towards your head/torso at 90 degrees which actually makes you more aware of the 'mudra' like quality of this posture- when you bend forward its all too easy to find the energy circulating round the periphery of tense shoulders and the Uddiyana Bandha just goes out the window if you're not careful. So that was great and I'm going to take it a little further every day. Kurmasana's still a work in progress and Eiliche was saying he'd taught her a new approach. So its all good. Theres an Italian girl in class called Chiara who does the most beautiful drop-backs I've ever seen... And she smiles on the way down... Its appropriate for an asana thats kind of like a smile..

Afterwards I sat in the cafe for a while and had fresh papaya juice with my iron supplement and then went home for breakfast and slept for a few hours. This evening, more Yin Yoga and Neil Gaiman. I've nearly finished 'American Gods' and it is wicked- it really makes you think about mythology and how we can create our own, in fact, how we do. The book jumps back and forwrsd in time taking you back to parts of human history where the mindset was very different, and I've been likening the different periods to Greg Maehle's writing about different levels of consciousness and how they go hand in hand with the different phases of literature in Yoga- from the Vedas to the Tantras, how people related to their Gods, with and without intermediaries. I practice Yoga because I want to journey back to Eden...

Posted by victoria8 06:06 Archived in India Tagged women Comments (0)

Sthalam8

Starting the practice here...

sunny 26 °C

I had a pretty quiet Sunday, went for a walk and as its a Moon day no class so I worked through the standing sequence slowly, being mindful of my knee, then played around with a Yin sequence. Oh, and I had the worlds most boring Thali for lunch, really bland and starchy so just felt really sluggish all afternoon. I've been reading 'Ashtanga Yoga' by Gregor Maehle which is amazing. There are too few Yoga books that I really get into- its a bit like books on Tarot cards- plenty of them but they tend to all say the same thing. Maehle gets right into the heart of the Ashtanga practice, binding the philosophy to the asanas and drawing our attention to how every asana is of a moment and once its done, its done, theres no point dwelling on the past or even aspiring to a better practice because you must be fully present and surrendered in the moment. Theres also some very useful stuff on alignment and anatomy which is not too dry either. Or too long thankfully. The only other book on Ashtanga I've really studied is Yoga Mala so this is good to read. It talks about scattered consciousness and the magic of the sages. It fired up my imagination and I lay there thinking of each asana as being like a 'little death'... And thought about meditations around it as I think that a 5 minute meditation at the beginning of the Ashtanga practice is very useful in terms of getting you out of the 'this is what i have to achieve physically' today.

Its so lovely having peace and quiet to study and no job to go to. Its like being a kid again, when I used to be able to read for hours without being distracted by constantly thinking about what needs to be done, where I have to be, who I have to meet etc... It makes it so much easier to really take books in, and my rooms such a nice cool and peaceful space. I bought 'Badam' powder from Nilghiris which is a blend of crushed almonds, cardamom, saffron and sugar and you mix it with ice cold milk and its gorgeus, like nectar, so I've been drinking that of an evening instead of wine while I read.

So this morning I got up at 5 to go round the corner to Sthalam8 to practice with Ajay. Except it wasn't 5 at all, my crappy cheap alarm clock wound up being over an hour slow so I was too late for class. Arse. I met Ajay though, and he was really nice about it. He's very likeable, glowy, very young and so I'm starting with him 6.30 am tomorrow instead. I sat around the little cafe for a bit and chatted to some of BNS Iyengars students who do a 6am practice with him then pranayama at 10. I may look at doing some pranayama but have to be careful with money as am on a very tight budget and its 6000INR for the month so we'll see. Also I do have a tendency to get a bit mad for it and I'm here 5 months so I'm taking it slow...Luckily there was a 4.30pm class run by one of his teachers so I got my practice in today. I have not sweated that much in months but the practice felt great. I could really feel the effects of all the practice I've been doing over the past eighteen months. And it occurred to me that the Ashtanga sequence is like a piece of art that needs to be constantly reworked. Its like someone gives you a lump of clay and you make something that pleases you. Then the teacher comes along and scrunches it up and you have to start again with the raw elements, but still remembering what has passed. Or if you do a sketch thats neat and beautiful it gets scawled over with charcoal to be more real, more spontaneous. You have to be that blank canvas everyday- to maintain the beginners mind...

My knee still tender so avoided anything to do with lotus. And sat around Sthalam8 for a while afterwards, watching the trees sway in the wind and feeling qquite blissed out. Its a beautiful Shala- kind of barn-like like Mysore Mandala, with dark red painted floors and aqua walls. There are dark wooden beams and its got a good feel to it. And I am so glad I came here. I was told Ajay sequences the Primary series a little differently. He puts Vrksasana (tree) in where I normally add it in my own practice because it feels right. I told him about my knee and he said we'd just modify it and see how we go- though I'm going to take some Marc Woolford advice too and hopefully it should all come together... Its 5 classes a week plus one self practice Mysore class plus a backbending class on Sunday evenings- also one of the classes is a Full Vinyasa one so its going to be quite intense...

I was pleased to come across a copy of Neil Gaiman's 'American Gods' in the shala. I've been meaning to read it for ages. It was recommended to me as 'Stone Junction' by Jim Dodge is my favourite book ever and this is sort of along the same lines. Thats my plan for this evening sorted- to read a non-Yoga book and drink Badam milk after I've been for some food....... Tomorrow... Yoga... and taking photos of trees, I might even do some sketching, its been a while. And the breeze heres giving everything a mythical animistic quality...

Posted by victoria8 06:08 Archived in India Tagged women Comments (1)

Settling into Mysore...

The Big Bazaar and wanderings...

sunny 22 °C

At the end of my first day after sorting my flat out i lay down to read a book and felt my eyes closing at six pm. So I decided not to set my alarm for practice on the Friday, reasoning that if i naturally slept beyond 5am I probably needed it... And I woke up 14 hours later... Feeling a million times better and brighter, and when I looked in the mirror I was back to my usual comparatively radiant self and the airplane lines had gone. Oh, and got my period so is just as well I slept.. Thats something that I need to keep an eye on this year, resting enough, getting enough protein, and letting my body go through its cycles as it pretty much shut down last year as I really overdid it. I think my reasoning was somewhere along the lines of 'If I do it constantly, all the time, somewhere, at some point, I am going to have to start feeling better...' And found out the hard way thats not how it works. If only it were.. Not a lot is written about 'Ashtanga Burnout' so maybe I should write some kind of pamphlet for women as a veteran myself.

So I made a lovely cup of chai and did a Yin practice for 90 minutes as still quite stiff from travel and emerged slowly from my flat into the sunlight.. Was very excited to find that there is a BIG BAZAAR in Mysore- this is a big supermarket with lots of bargains to be had and lots of excited people with microphones; I trawled round for a bit till i found an alarm clock for 59 Rupees so i can get up for practice, and stocked up on mineral water. Then I spent a very frustrating hour looking for an internet cafe until some little kids helped me find one. If you need something, or help with anything, the kids here are fantastic and speak perfect English if your Kannada is as limited as mine is, I do plan to extend it a bit though as I am in Mysore for 2 months... So I did the Facebook thing and then started to feel a bit sick and dizzy so headed back home for a lie down under the fan, my room looks pretty now and it has a nice feel to it- like a decompression chamber after the intensity of the past few months and the peace suits me fine.

I'm just round the corner from Mahesh Prahad which is a good place to eat and went for some dosas for tea, rice pancakes with coconut chutney and sambar, really good. Then I finished reading William Dalrymple's 'City of Dijinns' which is an AMAZING book about the history of Delhi and some of my Berni Clark book on Yin Yoga and some ideas started to emerge for a new posting on my website about balance in Yoga, how striking a balance is so very different for everyone and what may seem extreme for some, could in fact be balanced behavior. The ideas and thoughts flowed strongly for a bit and I drifted off much later.

Today (Saturday) has been more of the same really. I managed to do the standing sequence from the Primary Series quite comfortably although my knee has worryingly started to hurt, although its muscular, not in the joint, so I'm just avoiding half lotus for now. Then I drank chai and went for a walk. I met an Irish girl called Eiliche in a bookshop who's also studying with Ajay and we got chatting and I ended up going into the madness of central Mysore with her to Ashoka Books and I bought some Mysore Pak (oh yes, food of the Gods, rich buttery lushness) then we had dosas in the Mahesh and I met her daughters and got the low down on whats going on in Laksmipuram. Turns out theres a guy called Lawrence studying here who was the first person I met last year in Mysore!!! In fact I went to his birthday party and left my Yoga trousers in his shower... Maybe he still has them!? So I've started to make some buddies and find my feet a bit which is good.

Its been beautiful today- sunny but with a cool-ish breeze- it must be about 20 degrees so its T shirt weather but not at all too hot. Apparently there are winds on their way as we're coming into Mysore winter. Perfect. It won't be cold like at home, more like UK May/June weather, so just nice. The vibe here in the breeze is like walking round a Cezanne garden painting- lush, rich green-ness after the rains, with massive old trees that seem to incline down towards the streets and loom over all that goes on.

Its a full moon tomorrow so no practice.... A full moon in Aries as it happens, so it'll be another reading and walking day...

Posted by victoria8 00:08 Archived in India Tagged women Comments (1)

Returning to Mysore...

Second time around...

overcast 26 °C

I have had approximately 4 hours sleep in the past 2 days as I had a night in the airport before leaving and didn't get to my accommodation until 5 this morning and had to meet someone at 8 so a bit spaced...
My flight here was FABULOUS with a capital F and from now on I'll always come to India with Air France. I got moved to a window seat, fed champagne and baguettes with President butter and watched the scenery beneath me for so long- flying over the Apennines is beautiful, gazing down at glaciers and bluey green lakes high up in the mountains. There was space to walk around a bit so I didn't suffer too much. And I got into Bangalore International and Kiran, the guy who I was meeting to get a ride to Mysore with was there with my name on a sign and it all went so smoothly I was pretty surprised.
I have to admit I got a little emotional at the airport when the warm air hit me and it was all really happening. Except this time I arrived feeling calm and happy.
It took 4 hours to get to Mysore and we stopped for chai at a roadside stall and it was gorgeous. Because it was Dassara the other day there were lights up everywhere and it felt like Christmas and Kiran was laughing at me because I was all 'Look! An ATM! Look! A Cow! Wow! A cup of chai!...' You get the gist... And he got into the spirit too and every time I started to doze off was going 'Look! A train! Look! A river! Look! A car accident over there!'... Anyway after 4 hours of it I was pretty ready for my bed...
When I got into my flat my spirits sank a bit. As in the dim light it looked a lot like a squat or a room in the Chelsea Hotel after a late one.. and none too clean. So I went to the supermarket this morning and stocked up on bleach and disinfectant and have just spent 4 hours scrubbing it from top to bottom, boiling water to soak all the bedding in, all that kind of thing. And i found a load of artificial flowers in a cupboard and hung my dresses round the walls for Frida Kahlo style chic and actually it looks really lovely now. Its spotless and smells of lavender. Which is just as well as I have the strongest feeling I'm going to be ill tonight as feeling a bit wobbly and finding the humidity a little tough (oh and i look really shit but thats probably lack of sleep). So going to drink lots of mineral water and lie under the fan and sleep and sleep...
I've been hanging round Mysore Mandala and met one other guy who said theres only 4 people practising here at the moment as its off-season. I'm supposed to be starting classes with Ajay tomorrow but I'll see how I feel, I might give it till Sunday, after the full moon. Although I'm really looking forward to meeting Ajay, I've heard such good things about his teaching. I've had a hectic time of it the past year or so and last time I was in India I rushed around so much, doing every type of Yoga and detox going. So this time its about contemplation, being patient with my practice, going for lots of walks and avoiding extreme panchakarmas. And chilling out, reading books in my flat and drinking chai. Yeah. Lots of peace.
Shanthala at the Mandala took me for a ride on her motorbike today to show me how to get around and my flats literally round the corner from Ajay's shala and near a supermarket and a good veg restaurant and the Mandala for socializing so I'm pretty sorted and can walk everywhere. Though i noticed rickshaw prices seem lower. Funny..
Going to leave it there now, go home and rest. Listen to my Michael Gannon samavrtti breathing CD- another thing I now have time for! I am truly blessed to get this space...

Posted by victoria8 01:45 Archived in India Tagged women Comments (0)

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