sweet awakenings…..

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i have been away for a while. and missing it. feeling the need for practice but being distant. not a discipline crisis though. just being tuned in with my body. in hindsight, on a wrong frequency i feel.

as i mentioned previously, i have made a conscious decision over christmas not to entertain a physical practice as i have been indulging -a little bit too much – in worldly pleasures. so after new year i tried to get myself going again. not with much success unfortunately. i felt my body was not at its full capacity. my knees were very tight so i backed off a little bit and then i started having neck pain and headaches that played with my mind and i lost all of the concentration needed to do my practice. so practice suffered…. i could not stop thinking about pain and discomfort despite a reassurance from the doctor that there were no alarming signs.

i think the root to this is reading all the stuff about practitioners pushing themselves and getting injured, not listening to their bodies. i guess i was so keen not to make the same mistake that i took it a bit too far. i read too much into it. i let fear set in. i lost faith…….. and that’s major.

for the last couple of days – as my practice has fallen down to 3 days a week- i was feeling the urge to get on the mat and to feel my body and all the muscles and mind engaged. i actually felt the crave. i think i let myself be a little bit too cautious – even afraid of going with it. after all, mild discomfort could (should) be a sign of my body waking up. being alert and working with it.

i feel good today – i mean mentally. physical discomfort is still there but i believe that practice will help me get over it. i want to embrace it and run with it. i have faith.

so, to all of you who doubt, have faith.

p.s. the new mind set was partly inspired by lovely Claudia and her faith and progress from her illness. i cannot claim i was anywhere near the condition she went through but the strength of her faith was awe-inspiring! thank you Claudia.

homemade videos

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this usually implies somewhat saucy videos… but i have to disappoint you here – just my practice ;-(

i have never seen myself practice so i thought it might be a good idea to film the practice and to see what my body does for real so i can work on the depth of the practice and really use the full potential of each and every asana. i can tell you watching myself was somewhat of a surprise (uncomfortable too)! my body looked kinda clumsy in quite a lot of poses and movements that i believed were properly accomplished! ah, what an illusion! 😉

i usually get adjusted in more-less the same poses every week at the shala – you know – the usual suspects like a push while in down dog, Prasarita Padottanasana C, Utthita Hasta Padangushthasana, squish in Paschimottanasana B and maybe a lift in Purvottanasana. but last practice i had before xmas, i was adjusted in poses like Utthita Parshvakonasana and Parivritta Parshvakonasana as well as Virabhadrasana A and Virabhadrasana B which made me curious to what was the teacher referring at. i also wanted to check my sun salutes.

so, a curtesy of my hubby, i set up the camera and had a go. as a little digression here, i dropped my practice during xmas due to overeating and a sore left knee (acquired from running rather than yoga i believe), getting back into it winter time is not an easy thing. so my first new year’s practice was only up to pachimottanasana as i did not want to push my knee bending it too much. anyway…. the video was an interesting tool, i have to say – quite an eye opener. my body was not quite as straight as i thought/ felt it to be while practicing. also my lunges (all asanas where there is a knee bending deep lunge) were not that deep. i also noticed i moved in certain parts way too quickly not taking my time to go fully into the pose.

so i went through the whole thing, remembered all the remarks i had and used them in my next day practice. and, my-oh-my, what a difference a day make 😉 all of a sudden i realised what people meant when they said that the standing sequence and the virabadrasanas where very good hip openers! i never really bent/ lunged deep enough to feel certain muscles engage. it turns out my Utkatasana used to be quite forward bent pose and it was a lot of effort to have myself straightened out, if you know what i mean…. and so on…

that next-day-practice felt good, i took my time in every step of every asana, brought my full attention to it and slowed down and aligned my breath to it. i took it easy over the next following days and i am now back to mary c but still not being able to bend my left knee in the first side of mary b. might need to skip my shala practice next week not to risk an unhappy knee.

enjoy your sunday – a very cloudy one in london ;-(

happy new year

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happy new 2012 year! hope it will be better than the last to all of us and hope we feel more happy with who and where we are in our time of life.

life here has been a bit less worthy reporting on. i have embraced the spirit of christmas fully in the last 10 days and have been pretty much not doing more than stuffing myself with nice food. quite a few of the all-mighty coca-colas (my-biggest-vice) as well !!!

the practice has stopped on 22nd Dec as i have abused my body and felt too stuffed to move. ;-( unfortunately… i have also been feeling like my knees are very tight which is never good.

i did however want to quickly recap last year which -in ashtanga terms – was very important for following reasons:

  • i took an ashtanga course at the beginning of last year
  • around may time, i had my first mysore class at astanga yoga london shala and started my home practice which from then on has varied from 3 to 4 even 5 days a week.
  • around the same time i started this blog in order to record my relationship with ashtanga
  • the early morning practice has been attempted but not for long and have slipped back into the early evening one
  • mysore classes have been consistent on once-a-week basis
  • in november attended david swenson workshop weekend which was very enjoyable and most informative too
  • and the last but not the least – i got an honorary mention in the 2011 round-up on claudia’s blog 😉

new year resolutions? i usually do not make any but i will try and make my practice steadier.

well, i better do a short practice now to start a warm up and to get back into the full practice before my first mysore class on the 10th January.

happy new year!

mysore class no. 22

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wohooo, did i get squashed tonight at my shala practice!!! there was a stand-in teacher instead of r and she seemed to hover around me as well as c, the assistant so i got lots of assistance and pushes/ squashes. and it felt great! by the time i got to the end, my arms and legs were jelly and kind of would not quite listen to me 😉 however, bound by myself in mary b and quite elegantly too if i may say so myself.

shala practices are so intense – i love it. i don’t know if it’s the heat and humidity? i wish i could afford going more often. i guess i will have to work harder when at home though…

came home and made a lovely dinner and now am allowing myself to chill. it is my birthday tomorrow and i expect to be spoiled 😉 happy bday to me

jump back saga

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another jump-through progress!

ever since david swenson’s workshop i have been trying to apply the same physics to my jump-backs attempts and today i saw a bit of progress. yey….

when jumping back i have been doing following: put my hands slightly ahead of hips, bring my legs crossed close to the chest and feet close to the hands and then using my feet lift up and move my upper body slightly forward so i can get the legs backwards. today, however, as per david’s tips i used the momentum of bringing my legs towards my chest to lift my bum off the floor. the main difference was that for this my hands had to be next to my hips rather than ahead. woohoo!

my body is still recovering (or still fighting the cold) so my practice was very slow and my hips just would not open so i decided to let go of the half-lotus poses and not insist in binding.

i love my mat…

my sore

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yesterday’s practice was by far the shortest i’ve ever had – i rolled out the mat, stepped on it and rolled it back up. short, no? 😉

i have been coming down with the cold for approx a week now but the cold has not caught me through and through. a bit of sore throat, a bit of blocked nose and lots of tiredness. and it was kind of ok until this weekend. i did a nice and full practice on both days but then yesterday i felt so unbelievably sore. specially my lower back. so stiff ;-( so i thought i might give it a miss. hence the shortness of practice.

i am not impressed with my immune system. i had quite a bad cold two months ago when it kept me two days in bed and to have one again was incredibly annoying. i am not the one to suffer from colds and i usually go around with maybe having a snotty nose once or twice a year. i certanly did not think this would bug me again so soon.

anyway, i am reading the signs and ignoring being annoyed. however, i’d like to be able to do at least a bit of my practice today. let’s see… ;-(

mysore class no. 21

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my 21st class. nice. a bit sore in my upper arms after the weekend but that was hardly a surprise. if anything, i was quite thrilled not to have felt totally broken after the weekend – hooray!

anyway, as i said, last week i managed to bind in mary b with teachers help in one of the sides. my class no. 21, i did it all by myself 😉 hooray! she did give me a little bit of help in mary c to bind a bit deeper and reach for my wrist as i could only catch fingers by myself.

and, oh my god, was i sweating tonight!?!? i know, to anyone in the outside world this sentence would be disgusting and i would have not dared writing it. but to all of you ashtangis it is a song for your ears, no? it is almost a measure of how much work it went into your daily practice. i say almost because we all don’t sweat the same amount. but it is a sweet sweat of hard core satisfying practice. i don’t personally usually sweat that much and find it very amusing sharing this information after every class with my husband to his misfortune. i also somehow think i judge my practice by the amount of sweat i produced. i mean, i reason it by: if i create lots of heat (sweat) i go deeper into asanas as my body is more adaptable and therefore i feel happier.

does this not go against – again – your practice should just BE and should not be measured in any way? am i being shallow here? i feel there are so many traps for us westerners here 😉

chanting

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i have just read a blog post by ellie – thank you – read here – and this has given me some thought…

i have personally never felt comfortable with chanting. and i don’t mean only with yoga. i was not raised religiously and growing up i came to a conclusion that all religions – if you are really hard core about it without using common sense and free interpretation – are really just a mean to control masses. some people out there thought that the fear of people towards the inexplicable things happening around them could be turned to their use by making them fearful and behaving in a controlled manner. that is my rational brain.

it is not that i don’t believe in anything. i do. but i do not believe in a particular deity. or two or three. i prefer to believe in the higher energy/ love and not make it a physical, concrete character or even a human being.

so, for that reason, i always felt uncomfortable with group praying and chanting of any sorts.

the blog above however does a very nice interpretation of the opening chant – one that i am very comfortable with. specially the following part:

‘The mantra doesn’t encourage regarding practice, or the “perfection” of asanas themselves as goals. Practice is not about achievement or acquisition. Thinking back to the idea of surrender, the mantra offers a possibility of what practice may bring us if we approach it with reverence, trust and humility.’

do you find me strange? are there any other yogis who feel the same? or even, can you be called a yogi if you do not embrace the full tradition and chanting as the spiritual part of the practice/ yoga?

david swenson: ashtanga’s greatest hits

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“David will take the group on a special guided tour of select asanas from the Primary, Intermediate and even from the Advanced Series. If you are not familiar with the more challenging asanas there is no need to be scared of this class because David has designed it for students of all levels to attend. David will offer various alternatives to each of the asanas so that the student may find the one most comfortable for their level. By breaking the asanas down into their basic components the most challenging asanas can become more accessible and less frightening. There will be partner work as well as individual flowing through sequences. David’s classes are always full of valuable information as well as plenty of laughter and joy.”

in david’s words the ashtanga’s greatest hits class is very much open to its participants. we were asked to mention all poses that needed clarification and breaking down into more accessible steps.

we started warming up with suryas and the first thing talked about was chaturanga – especially the movement from it into upward dog. it was broken down in great detail. david stressed that shoulders should always be above wrists.

there were all sorts of poses mentioned: mary a, c and d; bhujapidasana, setu bandhasana, bakasana, tittibhasana a, parighasana, urdhva dhanurasana, chakrasana and lots in between. he even threw the first pose of third series in the mix – vasisthasana and visvamitrasana.

that was the closing of the weekend workshops. i thoroughly enjoyed myself and had a wonderful time. david is very enjoyable teacher. his opinion is that ashtanga should be for everyone and that there is nothing wrong with using alternatives to allow your practice flow. he reasons it with the fact that some people that are more flexible and can fly through most of the poses do not necessarily have a more focused practice and that ashtanga should be enjoyed by everyone up to their abilities. i know this causes a big discussion always as the strict traditional teaching according to mysore allows progress only when the previous asana has been achieved. in this way, people are quite eager to get through to the next pose (teachers as well) so they push themselves (and being pushed by teachers) which inevitably leads to injuries. the alternatives that he offers should still have your body aligned as in the original pose to get all the benefits out of it and prepares the muscles needed to achieve the full pose eventually.

he said something that quite resonated with me and i did think about it a lot: he said ‘if somebody gave you an ashtanga crystal ball and you could see yourself 15-20 years down the line and you realize that you still can’t do a certain pose or jump-through – would you still keep doing your practice or would you just throw in the towel and go on to something else?’ i think this puts things into perspective and very clearly gives you the idea of the reason behind your practice. i have to be honest and say – i took my time on this one as i love the challenge and enjoy the progress. but i do love being on the mat and sweating my bum off (excuse the language) as well no matter where in the practice you are. working towards a goal and the discipline and concentration that goes into the practice achieving it is very rewarding though.

i loved his class, i loved his teaching. he is hilarious and fun to be with. he makes things easy and is clearly loving teaching. he does not like being filmed but does not mind signing his books 😉

anyway, just a note for all of you out there, if you do go for david’s class be prepared when he drops a bomb by saying that not all of the people will be able to do all of the poses no matter how much they try. so be prepared that maybe not all is coming 😉