A Travellerspoint blog

Slowly, Slowly

all will follow...

sunny 30 °C


I had the most amazing massage 2 nights ago, from Lekhan. He is a guy who teaches Ayurvedic massage here and a very skilled and intuitive masseur. I was bitching about my knee but after looking at it he ascertained there was no damage in the knee joint, but more a collection of tension further up, mid thigh. Maybe the very last vestiges of the hamstring thing I had a year and a half ago. Anyway, he concluded I needed a hip/thigh deep massage to release it. So I had an hour of hot stones and intense pain/pleasure, and he advised me to totally avoid half lotus for a few days, even though its not hurting, just to let the tissue rest. Its frustrating though because I'm here partly to be doing a lot of practice and last time I came to India I had a horrible hamstring thing- I'd strained it at the insertion point whilst kickboxing and so there was a lot i struggled with last year. The good thing that came out of it was that my left hand side got a chance to come into its own rather than being bullied by my uber supple right hand side. And things that involved twisting got a lot more attention as the forward bends I used to find so effortless were off limits for a while. And now I've worked through and over that injury, my forward bends are deeper than they ever were before, and do what they are supposed to do whereas previously they were almost 'superficial'. Its the opposite now, but I think I'll be ok to do more stuff using the knees in a week or so again. Its a holiday this weekend so I'm just going to rest it. I remember Marc Woolford saying in a Yoga class in Brighton a couple of years ago that injuries were 'great' and I remember thinking "Weirdo" (sorry Marc!) but now I really see what he meant. As they challenge all parts of your practice, not just the physical. You have to slow down and think about what you are doing and lighten up your approach to whatever it is you are trying to achieve.

Its Divali on Monday and a Moon Day Sunday so we have 3 days off with the option of practicing Monday if we want to. I went to the Big Bazaar last night to go buy milk and water supplies and there was a man with a microphone reading all the Divali specials- it was like "YES Dear Customers, we have 2 for 1 on all Pista rich tea biscuits, and YES Dear customers, family sized crisps at Good Price for the Holiday, YES Dear customers" etc etc.... And when you're in Big Bazaar, if you're a Western fair-ish woman, its important to stay away from the Cosmetics counters because you get all these teenage assistants following you around going "Madam I have something that can help you with your skin problems" whilst staring gravely at your face... And then try and sell you a tub of bleach for your freckles! Eilis told me one of them once said to her "Oh No Madam you have had a terrible allergic reaction to the Sun!!!". And so she ran to the mirror... only to find...yup.. freckles.. I guess its a Celtic thing. I wouldn't mind, but my skins pretty good, with barely any freckles. Anyway, the Big Bazaar was like Safeway on a Christmas eve and I wished I'd gone another day.

Practice this morning was good, I skipped all half lotus asanas and Ajay has got me doing more backbends, basically using the breath far more to come up than I was previously. I used to panic and lose it. But I was going up and down the wall like Spiderman. I had a moment where I felt like I was going to pass out and then he went 'Good. Just twice more.' So I forced myself and it got easier. He does exercises with you where you retain the inhale as you go up steps, and the energy seems to circulate more freely in the upper mid section. Also I have become awre that sometimes I need to modify my breathing so it is more concentrated around the ribs rather than sending it all the way down. I have the opposite problem to a lot of people in that sometimes I breathe too much- years of singing in the choir at school started that habit I think. Anyway today was quite intense. We had a collection afterwards to get some fireworks for Divali on Monday, we're going to have a party at Sthalam8 and get dressed up! Should be good, I'm going to town with Claire this afternoon to buy glittery bindhis and ribbons from the market. And Mysore Pak from Guru Sweets :) And we're going to have something to eat in town, get out of Laksmipuram for a change.

Its warm again today but continues to rain at night. Glad I had the foresight to bring torches as the Power cuts have been pretty frequent too.

Posted by victoria8 21:31 Archived in India Comments (0)

Building up the strength

for more backbending...

rain 28 °C

The past couple of days have been pretty blissful, and hard work. The rain has been pouring down hard in the afternoons and I've spent happy hours curled up with books listening to it beating down on the roof under a pewter sky. When you are completely clear headed and you also don't have the annoying nusicance of work to go to its amazing what you can work through. I read 'A Thousand Little Pieces' by James Frey within 2 days. What an amazing book. Its a tale of alcohol and drug addiction by some guy that spent a long time in rehab and totally rejected the principles of AA and its brilliant, so darkly funny. And there was a recommendation by Brett Easton Ellis on the front cover and so that sold it for me (when it comes to alcohol abuse that man knew his stuff God rest his soul)... I also read 'Like Water for Chocolate' in about 3 hours yesterday which was a great read too. And for study I'm still working through Maehle.

I've also started to sleep all the way through the night which hasn't happened for a good six months. Usually I wake up restless with too many thoughts and I end up wandering around, reading etc and not sleeping enough but childlike deep sleep is back. Nice. After getting up at 5 I normally go back to bed for a couple of hours after breakfast. This isn't just to sleep, its because I often feel slightly traumatized by the deep adjustments. I'm not in pain or injured, its just I've never gone so deeply into postures before. Basically everyone gets adjusted in Baddha Konasana till they start to whimper a bit after feeling like a pressed flower. And the twists are challenging. My knee was ok to go into Marichyasana D today and Ajay got me much further into it after I'd got into it comfortably alone. Then as he walked off he said "Tomorrow I'll show you another way. Then you'll stay there forver. I tell you". And I got this little cartoon image in my head of being in Hell, in a Yoga studio in the midst of acrid sulphurous flames with Satan himself shouting "And now- Marichyasana D- and we are going to stay here for ALL ETERNITY RA-HA-HA-HA!!!!!....." Still, its all progress. And I'm doing lots of variations with backbending working towards drop backs again, utilizing blocks and the stairs to work up. Ajay pointed out that I was losing the space and lightness in the top half and the strength in the thighs. The sthira and sukha, strength and softness goes through different stages in backbending and you have to be focussed all the way through. In fact thats true of Ashtanga generally- if you can focus completely on what you are doing and get on with the multitasking of it in the precise moment of execution then I think 85% of the work is done, and being flexible and strong is just a detail.

So the past three practices have been hard, but I continue to learn and grow. And I'm making a lot of notes too, writing a lot. I haven't ventured out beyond the neighbourhood much although I went for a long walk in the rain yesterday afternoon, conscious that I'm not doing as much cardiovascular exercise as normal, I think a long walk every day along with the practice will suffice. I also had a really nice long breakfast in the Mahesh yesterday, set dosas, and then Chiara showed up and we ended up having the most wicked conversation for an hour or so. This is one thing I really love about this place, it happened last year too: meeting women the same age as me who also to an extent have rejected the whole nuclear family ideal because the world is just so big and so exciting they've taken off instead. Some people call it escapism, but I don't think so. Different things bring happiness to different people. For some its a family and a car. And for some its having someone lie on top of you whilst in Pascimatanasana. In a little room in India with wooden beams while the rain plays sweet music on the roof...

Posted by victoria8 21:25 Archived in India Tagged women Comments (0)

Extreme Backbending...

and this years astrology...

sunny 34 °C

Yesterday was horribly, unbearably hot- I've been promised we're coming into winter but its not happening yet... Still, theres respite after 4pm when the sun eases off. I spent most of the day reading about Ashtanga and learning about psoas muscles and the origin of hamstring tension then I had a little sleep, and went for a walk and was so happy to find a guy selling cheikku fruit. These are the most beautiful, sweet fudgy little fruits that look like potatoes but are just divine. So I was sitting around eating them when I found a note from Isis to meet up with her, Eilis and Liza to go see the astrologer as recommended by Dorothea...

His name is Balu and he's based in Laksmipuram too. He was a computer engineer for years before he took himself off to Kerala for a while to study astrology and do readings for people instead. He does a combination of numerology, asrology and divination with shells and crystals. He did some sums and went quiet for a while, then looked at my palm. He said 'Theres a lot of learning here, a lot of study, you are writing a book?'. That was quite weird because actually I am- I had an idea a couple of months ago and am working on it in its preliminary stages at the moment. And he got that I'd studied Art etc. And made some interesting predictions. We'll see about those.. It was short and sweet and all good, so I was happy. I'm just living in the present at the moment- being fully engaged what I'm doing in the here and now and not worrying about the future but he did confirm a couple of possibilities for next years plans. And he saw I'd been a little sad recently. Only a little. But thats changing too. I spoke to Eilis this morning and she said he was spot on for her daughters. I liked him, he's a nice, friendly type. He invited me to go hang out at his house and talk about astrology sometime so I may. I'd be interested in learning more abut Vedic astrology.

I didn't sleep so well last night as it was roasting, even with the fan going full blast. Practice this morning was just self-practice in the shala and only 4 of us showed up. I guess everyone was feeling the heat... Then at 3pm came the famous *BACK BENDING* class...
OH . MY . GOD .
It was very very intense. And I will feel it tomorrow. I learned so much from it. It really hammered home the importance of lightness and creating space in asana. And we were doing drop backs using the wall but it was broken down into stages. I had to stop more than once as I was convinced I was about to puke and lose control of all my bodily functions and pass out. I managed a better hand stand than I've done in months. Then I ended the class not so brilliantly, Ajay pointed out my spine needs to be built up and worked on and for some reason it really upset me. Maybe because I do more exercise than anyone I know and I thought my back was strong. Maybe its a pride thing. Or maybe its because being or feeling strong and healthy and robust is so important to me- something I can rely on even when the rest of my life has gone to Hell in a handcart. Even in the eye of the storm I still go and pound lengths in the swimming pool, still run and run, still do full on boy push-ups. So I didn't hang around after class, I went home and cried my eyes out for a while. And as soon as I was done I had a shower and a nice cold can of coke and put clean clothes on. And the Heavens have just opened as I write this. Its thundering, lightening and absolutely pissing it down. Talk about a release of tension.

I feel better now. Improving and changing and accepting where you are is all part of Yoga. And so I'm not going to throw in the towel after my hissy fit of screaming 'Oh WHY do I bother?' at the wall. As Cerys Matthews sings 'Martyrdom does not become me...'

And finally, thankfully, the air is cool.

Posted by victoria8 05:43 Archived in India Tagged women Comments (0)

Friday's Practice

Resetting the boundaries and shifting the goal posts

sunny 30 °C

Again its really hot today and there was a power cut for 4 hours this afternoon so the fan didn't work and I lay around for a bit feeling like Oscar the Grouch. This was not helped by the fact that someone had locked me in to my flat when I tried to go out to buy water. Yes, because all the doors here have bolts on both sides and some cleaner locked it automatically. So I screamed and yelled and swore and kicked the door really really hard until a lady in the house below heard me and sent her daughter Lakshmi up to rescue me. She was really nice and I was all red in the face and stressed out... I went and got a cold drink and regained my composure gradually.

Practice this morning was intense. Despite the slightly gippy knee I got into kurmasana without too much difficulty (!) and Ajay did his trademark adjustment when I was in baddha konasana and its starting to get deeper and deeper very quickly. Its like a magical pulling together of the groundwork thats been done and I'm having to constantly refine, refine and iron out bad habits over and over again. And its great having someone there who has no qualms about going 'Come on you're being lazy, do you want to progress or not?' as there are things I skirt around because they're hard or uncomfortable, and you always want to keep repeating what you enjoy and finding excuses not to approach the rest but keep it as an abstract idea, something you'll get round to some day. Oh how the practice of Yoga is symbolic of life generally!!! Yeah yeah I'll get round to doing supta kurmasana like I'll get round to having a mortgage- I mean, I can see the benefits of both but they're not without stress and pain... Still, I feel like I've progressed more in the past week than I have in the past six months. When you are with a teacher who just tells you to do something you would normally be scared to, the fact that they take the possibility of it for granted means that its not so scary and you explore all the postures you thought you would never do and feel the new locks, new fireworks exploding within you- your body re-aligns and your mind follows. I also think the heat has a lot to do with it though, as you do feel a lot more bendy when you are constantly warm. And its a natural heat, from the weather, and from the internal heat you create. If you do an intense Ashtanga practice you sweat so much that there is really no need for the whole Bikram hot yoga stylee class with the artificially heated rooms. I've never been a fan of that, there's something slightly scary about it. And it removes the feeling of creating your own fire. Its also, I think, a creepy desire to be back in the womb, being in a completely sweaty and cloying space. Or maybe I'm just a Northerner who approves of the cold...

Its Saturday tomorrow which is rest day- no class. Its important to take this seriously and let your body recover one day a week. And it also means you can eat a big fat meal late at night! So Eilis invited me round to her house for supper and to be an Ayurvedic massage guinea pig as her and her daughter Isis have been studying with a local guy here. So I went around with some Soan Papdi and took my Tarot cards so we did a swap. isis gave me the best head and shoulder massage with coconut oil so I smelled like a bounty bar for hours afterwards but my shoulders and neck had eased off, I carry a lot of tension in my shoulders. They had made some lovely food and we had different salads, ratatouille, omelettes and chapatis and sat around talking for ages. Theres a girl called Dorothea here who highly recommends this local astrologer who does readings for 200 INR. She said he was really spot on accurate so I'm going to get a reading soon because I just cannot resist. I'll be a bit more moderate than last year, when I think every astrologer in India endured having to hear about my problems... In fact, I remember asking one guy about my love life and his advice was 'Get a dog, Madam'... Thinking about it I perhaps should have taken that advice... Anyway that'll keep me out of trouble for an hour or two. Then I've got an article to work on for my website. It amazes me with all the stuff I find to do, that just a few weeks ago I was fitting in a full-time job as well. No wonder I've been having so many naps.

Claire's moved in in the flat next door to me so I have a nice new neighbour and she's coming round for chai and the Yin Yoga sequence tomorrow night- to counteract all the 'sthira' effect of Ashtanga, an hour and a half of cool static asana, with some sitali breathing exercises to calm everything down. Its good having a neighbour, sometimes when I'm on my own I get freaked out by the noises. As well as all the usual noises of the Mysore evening- traffic, rickshaws, music, people shouting, dogs howling, and my rattly fan, theres this really horrible sweepy 'dragging' sound that I hear and I don't know what it is but when its dark my imagination goes into overdrive...

Posted by victoria8 21:23 Archived in India Tagged women Comments (0)

Pure Gold...

and how the jump back began...

sunny 30 °C

I've had such an amazing day today. I went for practice and it was hard, hard, hard. My Down Dog was roundly criticized till I changed it completely. Repeatedly... After we had finished the standing postures Ajay took us through the most amazing jump back workshop and using lots of different demo techniques he got us all to attempt the proper Vinyasas- what I've been trying and failing at for the past four years, I've had hints of it but nothing much. But its like all the raw ingredients were there and through all the practice I do the strength was there as well, but then I found it wasn't even really about strength either. Its about breath, bandha, angle, having your palms flat and strong, the confidence to lean forward, forward, forward, and this amazing sensation rises and I started to float- well, for a millisecond anyway, I got a sense of how it should be and then this afternoon I was playing with it on my own and it was still there. You break a barrier in your practice and something changes in your mind- as above so below and all that... Ajay was emphasizing that aspect of it too, how learning a new habit, a new possibility in where your body will go has a knock on effect throughout the rest of your life, and spreads, and spreads..... We were practicing for two hours and I was completely exhilarated by the end.

Afterwards I eschewed hippy porridge at Sthalam8 in favour of an Indian breakfast at the Mahesh with Chiara- Idli Vada, fermented steamed rice cakes, one deep fried in batter like a doughnut (MMMMMMMMM) with coconut chutney and sambar and a great coffee. Chiara's going out with Lawrence, who was the first person I met in Mysore last year, and he came along, it was really lovely to see him again, and we had such a laugh, telling stories etc over great food. Theres another new student this week called Claire, from Perth, and I spent some time with her too. We got a rickshaw out to this big book emporium she wanted to see. I love going round big department stores in India, they have such great stuff- like musical Birthday cards that play 'Simply the Best' and doorbells that play the Gayatri Mantra. Excellent. I must pick up a doorbell before I leave. I'm not really into shopping this time round though so was happy to look- I still have loads of books I bought last trip to read.

When we got back I spent the next 2 hours cleaning- sweeping all the floors and mopping out the flat with disinfectant, As its been so hot the slightest thing attracts the ants. Theres nothing to put you off eating ghee sweets in bed like seeing an army of ants marching purposefully across the stone floor towards you. I killed a satisfying amount in the kitchen. And anything that isn't in an airtight jar is in the fridge as the slightest hint of ANYTHING food like, even a few stray grains of coffee on the counter attracts them. I'm not normally that domesticated but you really have to be in this climate. Just spent the rest of the day quietly- went shopping for milk, I seem to be getting through gallons. Lawrence was saying he hasn't drank this much milk since he was a kid and nor have I. You sweat out so much energy and minerals in practice you need to watch it. I take iron in the mornings and drink a pint of milk at night as well as a magnesium supplement, lots of brazil nuts etc. I also found Nilghiris sell cheese, eggs and tuna so I get more protein too. You have to eat a lot early on though, as a very early practice means you ideally should have an empty stomach. Its hard to engage the Uddiyana Bandha when Ajays prodding it on a stomach full of half-digested chapatis...

Everyones saying the weather should be cooling soon but it is still so very hot... Going to lie down under the fan and chill with my books... Its been a golden day. What I learned was gold. Chiara said this morning that she had been reading a story- some kind of myth, about how we are all living on a mountain of pure gold, and wealthy beyond our wildest desires, but all we tend to see is the dirt that covers it... And today I also finished reading 'American Gods' by Neil Gaiman and there was a part in that that referred to all the secrets of life, death, and the universe, anything could be overcome through the medium of this one gold coin...

Oh dear. Vicky's been in India one week and is making all kinds of cosmic analogies already... Where else is this magical mystery Yoga tour going to take me I wonder???

Posted by victoria8 06:05 Archived in India Comments (0)

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