26 September, 2010
Tonight, I practiced jumping into handstand. Kicking up is one thing (and that’s not even the way you’re to approach the posture, known in Sanskrit as Adho Mukha Vrksasana – Downward Facing Tree Pose – thank you very much! – but I think I’m still a few moons from lifting into it – the subtle layering of the mula and uddiyana bandhas required for ‘floating’ are definitely a work in progress). It’s not easy work: you must place your hands and build a strong foundation in your shoulder girdle, over which you spring the hips with just enough momentum that you catch your balance, but not too much or you topple over, you have to not be afraid TO topple over – you have to find BALANCE, and you have to be OK with FALLING…these are truths, you want balance? Learn to fall, and learn to like it 😉
- We have a head, the storage space for the brain, the origins of the spinal cord and most of our sense organs (save the integumentary system a.k.a. the skin) – believe it or not, this is the smallest of the three sections (though ALL of us know people that make us wonder…)
- The ribcage (or “thorax” for the entomologically-minded) – an armor of bone that surrounds and protects the heart, lungs and the beginning of the gastro-intestinal tract – bigger than the head, and;
- the pelvis (or “abdomen”, if you’re still with me on the insect trip) which contains more critical organs that I can even remember (the liver, kidneys, pancreas, gall bladder, reproductive organs – not to mention 8 metres of gut).
26 September, 2010
…to practice, to find energy, but I still try….prayer, teaching and asana and the angels I call friends are my medicine…but at night, I cannot sleep…I mean I CANNOT sleep, it doesn’t matter how exhausted or drained I am (and I have been recently)…the silence of night crawls into my skull and taps away at me “what’s up?? whatcha thinkin’? whatcha doin’? “….and I start to process: the day, the asana I did, what’s happening with one of my yoga groups that I teach, am I too old to essentially start my life over the way I want to (more on this thought later)….I remember “vairagya”….I meditate sometimes, but sometimes I forget to keeping plugging away at the little steps I think I need to find peace…I’m bleary-eyed, tired and rambling (I hope I’m still eloquent though 🙂 )
maybe a haiku before i try to turn my savant-genius brain to the “Off” position, if only for a moment
“i turn the lights off
in my head, the bulb still burns
20 September, 2010
So many things have happened in the last few days, friends, I needed to come here and share (in summary, because I KNOW, I just KNOW I’ve been naughty)
- One of the most beautiful funerals I’ve ever been to
- A sailing course (Yes!!! I learned to sail a boat! “why?” you may ask, “because it’s OUT there!” – plus I really love being on the water and I wanted to learn a sustainable way to enjoy it)
- A minor fender-bender (coming home from aforementioned sailing course) and the weird feeling coming from that
- Hearing that a dear friend who’s been battling metastatic cancer is going through a bad patch – I’m thinking of love, the breath and yellow (lemon) Skittles – don’t ask – to get me through THAT one
- Challenges at the office – not just for me – but no man is an island, not matter WHAT Simon and Garfunkel say – so it’s been rough
- Not enough sleep
- The weird ability to demonstrate every pose I teach really well, and then have those very same asanas whoop my behind in daily practise (who HASN’T gone through this?)
- Being afraid to stand up from a backbend – I can drop back and am working to control it better, but coming up? Oy vey!
- Confusion over whether I can really given my heart to someone.
- Performance anxiety (not what YOU’RE thinking, it’s innocent) – I was asked to do a yoga demonstration at an event and aside from being sick (tonsillitis) and injured (knee), I was terrified and panicked and RAN. More on this, don’t let me forget it, please!
Right through the whole thing, the practice has been there, a constant, the lighthouse gleaming at times brightly, at times faintly, during the tempest, the calm in the midst of a whirlwind in 5 days. I’m tired, sore, emotional, distracted, a bit blurry….but ever more grateful that this practice has found me, a moving meditation, a place to talk with God, a physical unlocking of doors when I don’t always have the key, a laboratory in a 71″x 24″ x 3/16″ space. For this I am, as always, thankful with all my heart
So the practice is work….that’s OK…after all, it is the Prophet who says “Work is love made visible”
15 September, 2010
Readers, I’m so sorry I haven’t been as consistent as I promised I’d be….I’m still practising, but for a number of reason ranging from powercuts to writer’s block, I haven’t been able to share my thoughts with you, and for that I’m sorry.
Lately I’ve been pondering how we handle difficult situations – death, bad relationships, troubles with your job or finances – and what we DO when these things happen. What I know is that we should practice without ceasing, and for an extended period of time. Why, I’m not sure – certainly there’s a moment where you arrive at such clarity in the breath – where the tristhana (the Ashtanga method of uniting the three element of breath, posture and gaze) comes to life within you and you just KNOW you can touch all the wisdom in the universe. Unfortunately, these moments all all too brief, leaving us to often founder in the dark of our anger, grief, confusion and most often, fear. When I practise these days, even with bad thoughts swirling in my head and no clue of how to make it mentally to the next posture, I think “is this a choice from fear or from love”….Really, when you think about it, 99% of the choices we makes come down to those two things.
My challenge to you, count how often you decide from love today, and tell me about it!
6 September, 2010
What do you do on the days that you just don’t wanna talk about it? Today, I’m sad for a family member of a very close friend (a tremendous soul) and my yoga is to breath for her, to breath in hope and acceptance, and to breathe out anger, denial and fear…this is more important to me than any asana…so tomorrow’s practice is for her, for peace, for miracles… I leave you tonight with a chant I’m saying for her, added to my prayers.
this for for you, G., you are loved
Om asato maa sadgamaya, tamaso maa jyotir gamaya, Mrityormam ritam gamaya
Om shanti shanti shantihi
From untruth, lead us to truth. From ignorance, lead us to wisdom. From death, lead us to immortality.
Om peace peace peace.”
5 September, 2010
Today I did Sun Salutations, all the Standing Postures all the way to Marichyasana A before my left knee requested a reprieve. Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana – (that’s ‘Half Lotus Standing Forward Bend’ for the uninitiated) on the left is still not ready to be safely manifested in this body of mine so I did Tree Pose and counted out the breath
And guess what, people? Something else changed in my practice. Sometimes that happens, you can go days, weeks, even months and you feel like “why am I even DOING this? I don’t FEEL any different, nor more enlightened than last Tuesday” and then all of a sudden, you’re seeing all these new things coming at you….I intentionally went slower in each asana, particularly the left side, to assess what was happening and how it impacted my hip and knee – I actually did Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimatanasana (the seated cousin of the posture I described above) TWICE, and by slowing down, was able to adjust the alignment just a little bit, and suddenly I felt the pose in my hip again (where it belongs, I might add) and significantly less in my knee…brilliant!
Another thing, I could jump through more smoothly and picking up to jump back, I could swing back and place my toe behind me the way my teacher taught me (if you’re wondering what that looks like, look for ‘Kino Macgregor jumping back from Padmasana’ on Youtube, the woman is simply all kinds of wonderful and amazing), suddenly the ‘impossible’ things that I had placed aside to ‘learn in my own time’ were easier to imagine in my body than ever before, and all because I slowed down.
Anyone who knows me knows that I move fast, I walk fast (well, with 44″ inches from hip to toe, I can’t help it 😉 , talk fast, type fast and I practise fast. I could finish Full Primary plus finishing AND Savasana in just under 90 minutes….I don’t say this to boast or vaunt myself, but practising quickly was both the result of a shorter breath (asthma-related) and the need to be done early in the mornings before work…even adding postures from Second Series and doing more back-bends took me to 1hr50 TOPS….so this practice was different, I made each moment stretch out, I paused, contemplated and noticed my breath in a new way….Amazing, all the fundamental, subtle little things that pop into your consciousness when you take your time…”Slow down, you move too fast, you got to make the moment last…” that’s what Simon and Garfunkel said, right?
There is a tendency in our world nowadays to move at lightning-speed, to get things done to get to the next ‘thing to do’…but listen, the yoga practice offers us an alternative, it says “Hey, slow down, and study yourself for a moment, what are you looking for?”
When you have an injury or a perhaps a setback in life, maybe there’s an opportunity to re-assess yourself, to see inside, to what’s real…and here’s the thing, the thesis of the evening, the point (maybe) to my meandering scribble of thoughts, the REAL is the breath, your soul, the animus inside you; the body is but a shell, a vehicle, a laboratory, it’s the part that IS ephemeral…we are more than the sum of our knees, hips, shoulders and lower backs. But we need the vehicle to have this life…like one of my teachers, Sharon says, we are “spiritual beings having a human experience”. So treat your body well, and listen to it.
When I got to Marichyasana A today and was able to ground myself through BOTH hips, I could FEEL the posture in a different way….it was deep, it was different and I know why…and I was “feeeelin’ groooovy”
4 September, 2010
I didn’t do much today….some seated hip openers. Pigeon and Double Pigeon, both ouches for my left hip. When oh when will my knee stop hurting so?
Forgive me for being pithy, I’m processing a disappointment and I’m not even quite sure WHY I’m disappointed in the first place. Ponder ponder….
I PROMISE to be more wordy (and practice-y) tomorrow!!
3 September, 2010
SWWW here, did you guys think I wasn’t going to blog today, or even worse, that I wasn’t going to practise today (gasp!)? Well, here i am! (fanfare)
OK, typically Ashtangis would do their practice as far as they are taught from Sunday through Thursday (I was given the first five postures of Second or Intermediate series – don’t let that term ‘intermediate’ fool you – by my teacher Kino) and then on Fridays we do Primary Series only. It’s a way to wind the body down before the rest day on Saturday. I think it’s brilliant, and so do my very sore muscles on a Friday morning.
BUT, since I managed to injure myself by pushing too hard (Type-A much?), I’ve wanted to transition back into ‘full-on’ mode slowly, patiently testing my hip and knee for what is possible right and what simply is not. It is a humbling thing, pain, particularly when you SAW it coming…I knew my knee was twinging, but pushed right past it anyway…tough pill for my ego to swallow BUT I know coming out of this injury I will have some greater understanding of the whole hip-knee-ankle connection and how subtle yet powerful it all is. And it is.
So….I took a Guided Vinyasa class tonight – that’s why my entry today is so late, but you know what they say… 🙂 – with Donovan, a powerful Ashtanga/Vinyasa teacher whom I sometimes sub for and who’s filled with such faith and power, it’s staggering. So Donovan knows I had a wonky left hip and, God love him, gave us an amazing mélange of twists and hip openers that were SO deep, I almost fainted from the joy of it.
Let me just say this, if yoga is FOOD, then hip openers are that favourite comforting dish when you’ve had simply the worst day, they’re NOT easy, they take TIME, but they give you SO much in the end. After Sun Salutations (with a twist, of course, if you know Donovan, you’ll understand me perfectly) and standing forward bends, he gave us Lizard Pose (I’ve never know the Sanskrit to this, or if there IS a Sanskrit name for it) and yummy Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana) and Mermaid Pose (see Lizard Pose)…and then Supta Hasta Padangusthasana (reclining hand-to-big-toe pose)…and then, oh my gosh people, and then….wait for it….Happy Baby pose!!!
If you’ve never done happy baby pose, I weep for you (well, not really). But get on the floor and try it now, go, lie on your backs and bend your knees, grabbing your big toes and drawing your knees down to the floor while trying to keep your lower back still on the floor. Go on, try, I promise, no one’s watching, or if they are, they’re jealous of you right now. Ever seen an infant do it (usually just before they stuff their toes into their mouths – babies are too cool)? Don’t they look…HAPPY?
And it made me think “child-like”, this practice brings you back to a state of innocence almost, using the breath to calm you, to let go of what you think and surrender to what you feel. Surrender, and goodness, did it feel good!
On the mat, it pays to be like a child, always exploring and questioning, but always true about how it makes you FEEL. Yoga should always leave you feeling good, and tonight, it did just that.
2 September, 2010
OK, today I made it through the Sun Salutations, the Standing Postures, and stopped at Paschimatanasana B…I’m deliberately starting back slowly, and it’s amazing to me how quickly the body responds to what you give it…the body is tremendously honest, isn’t it?
Our minds certainly can lie to us, but you can’t put one over on your knee, or back or tight left hip. You can tell yourself “I NEED that pair of skyscraper heels” or even “I can’t live without (insert your latest obsession here)” (mine is “True Blood”), but when my left knee screamed “STOP!!!” when I tried to do a deeper Pigeon pose on my left side before my practice, I got the message clearly.
Another thing I noticed was how much easier practice today was than yesterday, somehow my breath seemed fuller, deeper; my gaze at each dristi felt sharper, the postures almost seemed to drift away (except Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana – my left knee cried – I did Vrkasana -Tree Pose – instead), there was a joyful ache in my left hip as I moved into Parsvakonasana – Side Angle Pose – on that side. I thought “Connection! maybe this is the way to get into my hip deeper so that I can free my knee of pain”
The deep lesson of this practice, and, I think, yoga on a greater scale, is to be very present in each moment, measure your practice and your life with the breath, but don’t be measured BY it.