A Travellerspoint blog

Ashtanga Vision......

from Samskara to Samskara and back again...

all seasons in one day 26 °C

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Its been such a busy two weeks. The teaching course with Ajay really took a lot of time and effort- and he has just taught us the adjustments for the Primary Series. But learning those was a lot of work and its only just scratching the surface really. I have to practice them and practice them- especially focussing on having my feet in the right place. Attention to detail is so very important- its easier than you might think to tip a practitioner over with a well-meaning nudge in trikonasana. Like a delinquent in the countryside who tips sleeping cows over for entertainment... Its interesting though, how when you get the alignment correct you can give someone an adjustment that looks as if it requires a huge amount of strength but really its how you do it, not how much. And then you discover how you can lift up big men in shoulder stand without breaking your back. Interesting. And this realization applies to the whole physical practice of Ashtanga. There is this Zen-like element to the practice, especially when learning the Vinyasas. That is, you practice, and practice, and practice, and practice and practice some more, just about every day. The same thing day in, day out, working through your limitations, your frustrations, your temper tantrums, bargaining with your spirit guides and the Gods for assistance, having hissy fits at home etc etc... Then you clear your mind just for a moment- and when you manage this, when you step outside of your habitual patterning for a fraction of a second, when you actually empty rather than just talking about it, this is when something changes. I have been standing on my hands this past couple of weeks, after not really having been able to for years, not since I used to walk on my hands when I was about 12. And then today I was able to stand on my hands and balance for a few breaths. And felt calm... So much of Ashtanga is about your interpretation of how the practice should be- the entire vision of it- of getting your head round putting weight in your hands, your forearms, and freeing your legs, freeing your midsection. Not always easy.

I had my assessment on Friday evening- that is, running a 90 minute class with one anothe student- Preedara, a beautiful girl from Bangkok who reminds me of one of the 'Kill Bill' girls. Cat like, sinuous and dressed in black... We did the opening and finishing prayers and then ran a class of 9 people, Mysore style. I did 85 adjustments according to Ajays's counting. Oh and I think I sweated more than any of the students. We got a long feedback from Ajay afterwards- all mistakes had been duly noted and we had to go through them all and then he emphasized the importance of practicing and practicing- and this certificate is validated by the Yoga Alliance too, which I hadn't realized. Ajays a perfectionist- he'll commend people for how hard they try but rarely tells you you're doing well. I guess that stops you from being lulled into a false sense of security as that would make you think the journeys over and its ok to stop there. Its never really ok to stop with Ashtanga, you keep going, keep going, keep going, ever changing, ever evolving, never slowing down to get rusty. And if your body hurts, you modify the practice until it gets better, and you have Pain as a teacher too. Actually you have to put up with discomfort sometimes and this is a practical application of pratyahara- it is possible to disassociate with pain if you concentrate. And if you can do it with physical pain, you can extend it too, to emotional pain. We are so often encouraged to go through the emotions over and over, sometimes its too much. You can learn from them, experience them fully, then let them go, because if you stay with them you stagnate. I think most self help books are bullshit...

So basically I've spent the past 2 weeks either in lessons or practicing the adjustments. Two of the girls from Bangkok, Preedara and Nuk, are staying in Ajays old shala in Laksmipuram and so I was going round there a lot. Also, one of Ajays long term students- a local guy called Nagaraj really helped us too. He's taken part in nearly all of Ajays courses and has a very advanced practice and knows the Primary Series, and the adjustments perfectly. So he would perform the Primary Series with us taking turns to adjust him, and it was a bit like that game 'Operation'- as in, if you put a hand, or foot, or anything wrong, he would go "NO! Is wrong!!", jump up, get you in the right spot, and make you do it again. And again. And he is amazing- he would do the full series 2 or 3 times in a row, effortlessly. We all have a lot to thank him for. Because its so much better to make mistakes when you're practicing, rather than out in the real world, where you could get sued... Anyway, the course is done and dusted- we got T-shirts and certificates with angel wings on them (!)- really sweet. And as I am here for another 4 weeks I will be doing some teaching in the afternoons to practice.

So I haven't had that much time to myself but I got out last week and went for a colonic with the acclaimed Sista Shree!!! I LOVE colonics and go for one every couple of months at home- I think I was definitely some kind of weird religious nut (maybe a Cathar?) in a past life, as I like to feel as clean as possible, inside and out. Sista Shree is a very interesting woman- charismatic, with a strong presence, but theres this deep stillness about her. When you're around her, because her waters are still, if that makes sense, you feel more conscious of how turbulent your own waters are. I was very conscious of my 'vata' tendencies, my butterfly mind... She is American by nationality, I think she would consider her home town New York although she has lived all over the world as her father was in the army. She was a student of Pattabhi Jois from 1990 onwards and also studied in Pune, at the Iyengar institute, and was very involved with Iyengar Yoga for 17 years. And meditation too, in Gujurat. Theres that opaque blue quality to her eyes you see in Yogis sometimes and her voice is gentle, her skin smooth. Oh, she's also a musician, and has family too. Multi talented. And the best colonic I ever had!!! Her equipment was the most up to date I've seen and her house is beautiful, serene and spotless. She was like 'Its so nice to meet someone that knows how to release!!!'. If you have never had a colonic, go for it. Put your prejeudices and cynicism on hold and give it a go. I guarantee that a day later- especially if you follow it up with fresh juice, you'll feel calmer, happier, more loving and content...

I've also met a local lady called Aparna who runs a shop in Gokulam and we've been having some interesting chats. She's lived in the UK and we agreed that Sheffield is a far better place to live than Brighton, in terms of how clean and relaxed it is. She wants to meet up in Rishikesh in March so that would be good, its nice to have a travel companion sometimes. I've also organized my travel next month. On the 2nd of January I'll be leaving Mysore, getting a plane from Bangalore to Mumbai and staying in Mumbai for 2 nights, checking out the art galleries and so on. The I'll be meeting Thea, a Swedish lady who was at the ashram with me last year and we will head to Nasik together to spend a month doing the Advance course at Yoga Vidya Gurukal, near Trimbak, a very sacred place. It was funny actually, I was in a cafe having a coffee last week and one of the guys from the ashram walked in!!! Michael from Italy- he's lovely and I was very happy to see him. Doubly odd because I'd been thinking about some of the things he had said just the day before, and the see him in the flesh nearly 2 years on, completely different part of India. Cosmic. Man. THEN after Nasik, to Delhi, plane to Thailand, new Indian Visa, New Zealand, then back to India in March to hear David Frawley speak on Tantra. I will be resting a lot in February. The ashram is quite hardcore- the days are long and regimented, but you learn a lot. I'm still reading a lot- I've nearly finished the story of the Buddha by Karen Armstrong, still reading "Yoga and the Sacred Fire' by Frawley (AMAZING) and 'My Friend Leonard' by James Frey which is another beautiful book I couldn't put down.

I had a rooftop party at my flat on Friday evening and loads of people came along, it was another wonderful night. Robbie and Brian came along with a guitar and we had a few beers and some food. Adolfo who's in Claire's old flat next to me, and his girlfriend made these amazing rotis and hoummous. They are nice neighbours to have, studying with Sheshadri. Adolfo's pretty advanced in his practice and funny, charming. There are some real characters here- Robbie and Brian are very interesting, very intelligent, very well travelled, articulate. If only I could remember which one is Robbie and which one is Brian. I keep getting it wrong but I think they're just toying with me now...! It was Beri and Dorothea's last night, so sad to see them go, but a great night. The next day we had a Thai lunch at the old Shala with Preedara and the others- my God if you think Indian food is spicey you should try home cooked Thai. It can make you cry but its gorgeus... I've also got quite into wearing salwar kameezes, North Indian style, with the long flouncy skirts- they're like dolls outfits, so pretty. I have 4- a pink and blue one, a deep blue one, a sexy vampy black one and a dark scarlet gypsy-looking one. I brought old clothes with me as you always end up buying stuff (a whole outfits usually about 7-15 quid) and so my rucksack will carry those instead...

How I love being here.

Posted by victoria8 03:36 Archived in India Tagged women

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