Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Santosha anuttamah sukha labha

That is yoga sutra 2.42 and it means that ...from an attitude of CONTENTMENT (santosha) you will obtain unexcelled happiness, mental comfort, joy and satisfaction.

Ah, contentment. So difficult for us to experience! It means being happy with what you've got. With where you are. With who you are. Today. Right now. No matter if it's different than it was yesterday or different from how it may be in the future. Even in the face of loss or perceived 'disaster'.

When we are content, we never feel like we need more. Or need something different. Or need to be somewhere different. Or need to be better. We are simply content as we are.

This is a very hard observance. One of the toughest Yama/Niyamas (10 yoga commandments, more of less, to live in harmony with yourself and with the world).

Yesterday I had the most opposite mindset than that of contentment! I was so dissatisfied with myself. My shoulder was killing. My asana practice was 'terrible'. I practiced in the changeroom so that I wouldn't be under Sharath's constant eye. I felt like I could 'hide' and just sort of flop easily through the series, babying my injury. I skipped 3 out of 4 chakrasanas (backwards roll transition). I did little chatturangas, half chatturangas, knees down chatturangas, whole body down chatturangas, knees down upward dogs. I don't think I lifted up once for a jump back, just sort of stepped back. Even downward dog was hurting. Backbending was hurting. It was a royal disaster!

I was even thinking - boy, the people beside me must think I'm really new, or really lazy, or just a weak terrible yoga practitioner. Or let's take it one step further, I'll bet they just think I'm a really bad, awful person. HAHA!

After practice I decided that maybe yoga wasn't for me. I wasn't cut out for Ashtanga. Maybe I'll just do pilates from now on. I won't leave a trunk of belongings here this time because I'm never coming back to Mysore. 3 trips to India is enough. I QUIT!

What am I going to do for two more weeks here? I guess I'll still practice and just ride it out and deal with the pain and the fact that I'm the worst yogi in the world. How embarrassing... etc etc

Oh the mind. So silly. So easily gets swished around and around the toilet bowl of dumb thoughts.

I obviously realized I was being totally dramatic and ridiculous. I KNOW that the asana practice goes up and down all the time. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. Sometimes body open, sometimes body closed. Sometimes strong, sometimes weak. Sometimes energetic, sometimes drained. This is how it goes. And I'm constantly explaining this to others and reassuring my students after their "disaster" practice that it's OK! It's a roller coaster. And despite what the body does or doesn't do from day to day, you strive to keep the mental equanimity and continue to do your practice. All is coming.

WELL. I guess sometimes I should take my own advice!

After less than an hour of moping and feeling sorry for myself I decided I needed to do something to turn my head around. I knew just the place. There is this one little corner of Mysore, a "block" of housing, as they would call it, that I just LOVE. It's like never never land to me. It always makes me happy and brightens my day. I thought it was called Vijayanagar, but it turns out it's actually called Vinayakanagar.

It's this little out of the way 'community' sort of away from tourists, not near any attractions, so it seems unspoilt and untouched by the outside world. I've walked around there a handful of times on my two other visits to Mysore. I remember the colours being so vibrant and the people so warm and curious, and the streets just being so full of life - more than other parts of the city for some reason. It feels secret, like only I know about it. And maybe it doesn't even really exist!

It's funny though - sometimes you really pump up a place or a person and in your memory and remember it as so much better than it really is. BUT. I went there yesterday and it DID NOT disappoint. Maybe it was even better than I remembered it!

I took a rickshaw and it let me off on the corner. The driver kind of looked around and wondered where I was going. There was a restaurant and he said - Miss, it's closed. I said, I know, I'm not going there! He asked me when I wanted to get picked up and I said I didn't know so don't worry about it.

I brought my real camera (not just iPhone!) and a tripod. I started off taking photos of some sleeping street dogs. The men on the corner drinking Chai looked at me like I was nuts. Then they pointed to some other street dogs for me to go photograph. Their eyes followed me as I wandered past them down the street. There was a cute little mama dog who had clearly been nursing and I gave her a dog treat (brought some from home) so she of course followed me for a while. The men chuckled at my newfound furry little escort.

I zigged and zagged through the streets. I looked down each alley and just turned whenever I saw something interesting. I think I went in a few circles. The sun was rising and casting long shadows. There were some fires burning and some stoves going so there was some haze and smoky smell in the air. People were outside washing dishes and clothes. They were burning incense and setting out flowers as offerings to their God(s). They were washing and sweeping the fronts of their homes and drawing new rangoli (drawings on the ground that ward off negative energy). Kids were prancing around in their school uniforms waiting for the little school busses that would soon pick them up. There was a cat and two kittens bouncing around a few yards and people were throwing them food. There was a teenage girl scowling as she got tangles combed out of her long knotted hair. There was a man fixing some bicycles. There was another man sitting on the ground fixing some shoes that people were bringing to him. A few young men in dress shirts and trousers were hopping on their motorbikes and whizzing off to work. There were a few men going up and down the streets with vegetable carts, yelling out about their wares. Cows were being fed. And then there was me.

The thing that gets me about this place is, that news of an 'outsider' spreads like wildfire! Somehow everyone knows there's a weird white girl with a camera winding through the streets. Heads pop over balconies, curious eyes peek out of dark doorways, and slowly a gaggle of kids start to follow me, calling me "auntie".

Everyone wants to practice their English with me. I get asked, "What is your good name? Which country you are from? How long in Mysore? Hello! What you doing? Where you staying? Thank you very much! Hi!..." I answer each question, however I never know if they understand me. And the conversation unfortunately never gets past a few sentences.

I found one really pretty spot, to them probably a crappy run down house front. But I love the colour. I decide I want to take a few yoga photos here. I know you're really not supposed to be seen in a tank top in public but I just can't resist the opportunity and do my best to ask everyone in the vicinity if it's ok, if they mind. They all seem to bobble their heads and say OK. I set up my tripod and everyone gathers around to see what the weird Canada girl is doing. Some ask. Some just look. While I was setting up, two very old lovely ladies, with super limited English, want to know what I'm up to. I show them the screen and take a shot and they kind of nod with understanding. Then they point at themselves, like they want to be in a photo! OK! I set them up and take one of just them and one with me. So sweet! I show them and they love it. I wish it was a polaroid so I could give them a copy!! I am thinking of doing some prints and going back to hand some out- but who knows if I'd ever find the same people.

Am I a giant?!
I did my little yoga photoshoot and I think they are pretty cool. Mostly because of the colours!!

Pasasana - a noose, with which I strangle my feelings of discontent

Ustrasana - a camel. I will get over this little hump!

Tittibhasana - a dragonfly.
SO many dragonflies everywhere here in Mysore.
Beautiful little flying dragons which remind me to soar above silly mental fluctuations and fleeting feelings.

Here are a bunch of photos from the morning walk. Everything is silver and gold and magic to me! Animals from storybooks and colours from only dreams. I just can't explain the love and joy and life and mystery and beauty in these people in this small hidden away place. I can't help but feel CONTENT and happy and special and magical when I walk amongst them. They don't have a ton, in this little community. (They're not poor, but they're certainly not well off) But I know and feel that they are all so content. So happy. So alive and grateful. And it rubs off on me. I knew it would. Just look at their faces! Thank you - most special humans! True yogis. Thank you for allowing me to float through your world and feel like I am part of it for a little while. I'll take that feeling with me for a long time... I hope you can see what I see??

Needless to say, after all of my citta vrittis (mental fluctuations) as a response to an injury and a bad yoga practice, today I had a very good practice. My shoulder was hurting a lot less and the few days of rest along with my oil bath, helped my muscles to relax and my body opened up again. I felt energetic and strong. I caught my heels in kapotasana, not easily, but got there and could breathe. Sharath dropped me back and for the first time, grabbed my wrists in the air before my hands even touched the ground and I grabbed my ankles. Whoa - didn't see that coming.

And tomorrow...!? Who knows! Hopefully whatever happens I can remain content. If not... At least I know where to go.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Trying to exorcise a ghost with castor oil

Today is a rest day. THANK GOD! My body desperately needs a day off. No practice. No asana. Just relaxation and some healing.

I came here with the intent to do my yoga practice, and to ensure that I really listened to my body this time and didn't push beyond my limits so to avoid injury. The last two visits I had to Mysore I ended up going home with a very sore, most likely actually injured back. Especially the second time. I believe that my core wasn't strong enough to support a deep back bend and I allowed myself to be pushed too far. My sacrum (very lowest back) was KILLING me and it lasted for nearly a YEAR! I could barely teach, let alone do a proper yoga practice on my own. Each upward dog was so painful, like my bones were crushing against each other. It was suggested that maybe I had a small crack or chip in my vertebrates from them being pushed against each other with force, repeatedly.

This is one of the reasons I backed off my yoga practice for a while and got so involved in pilates. To come at my body and my yoga practice from a new angle. One that incorporates more abdominal strength, more recruitment of the back body muscles to open the front of the body (GLUTES!) I tried to "work through it" and take the "practice and all is coming" approach - but it wasn't working. So I had to reassess. My body healed (as they do) and I learned a LOT about the human body and more about practical anatomy than I ever learned through yoga trainings, how the body works, what is safe, what is not, how to get stronger and more open at the same time. I slowly started back into my yoga practice with a new mindset and a new connection with my body. It felt really good and really right. I may be doing a few things that are not super traditional in the yoga world, but it's right for me. And I know that in the past, past past, yoga was very tailored to each individual. So I feel ok about my personal modifications. Sharath doesn't like one of them, and I'm not going to argue with him. But I'll be honest, when I go home I'm going to do it my way again!!

I'll try to take a picture or a video of what I've been doing in my drop backs and in my entrance into kapotasana. I know it looks super weird but I have my reasons... Stay tuned!!! :)

Here's the funny thing. I've been really conscious of and careful of my back. Since that is where I have had the most obvious problems before.

But this visit (OF COURSE!) I have a whole new problem. Ugh. Surprise surprise, the universe always keeps you guessing!

A few weeks before I came to India, my left shoulder slowly started to hurt a little, then a little more, a little more, during my practice. It felt like chatturanga was the culprit. I stopped practicing for maybe one week to let it heal. It healed. I felt totally fine.

I feel like I know my shoulders pretty well, having been a swimmer, and going through a LOT of shoulder pain, injuries and problems during my swim career. I probably iced my shoulders at least a thousand times! I've had many instances of tendinitis in both shoulders and rotator cuff issues, simply from overuse. Swimming 20 hours a week can have that effect!

My shoulders are also very flexible, and generally unstable because of that. I knew that the pain I was feeling a while ago was just some inflammation, overuse, maybe tendititis, and I needed to back off. So I did. And it went away. Yay.

Then, just a few days before I came to India, my right shoulder had the same pain! What the?! I know I needed to practice daily and properly before showing up in India, so not to get my butt handed to me after the first few days here so I chugged along. Maybe I did half the jump backs for one or two days. BUT in retrospect I think I should have totally stopped practicing for a few days to let whatever aggravation was there, subside. I didn't.

I had a few days off maybe, during my travel and while I settled in to my new home in Mysore. When I began to practice here again though, I felt that little nagging pain still in my right shoulder. I practiced properly, lifting up to jump back, etc... for a few days. And, the pain grew more intense. I really tried to adjust my chatturanga, up dog and down dog transitions to lessen the pain. The pain was in the front and side of my shoulder - the anterior and lateral deltoid. They were doing too much work and maybe overstretching a bit. I started really recruiting the muscles in the back of the shoulder (posterior deltoid) and also the muscles in the upper back and those that support the shoulder blade (rhomboids, erector spinae, levator scap, trapezius, etc) so that my weight was more supported from the back body and less from the front shoulder. I also started not lowering as low in chatturanga and doing a little bend to go from updog to downdog which seemed to help. There was less pain while practicing.

But then, there seemed to be more pain after practice! Argh! I was back to icing my old shoulder injury again. I feel like it was the same thing I dealt with when I was 13, 14, 15, 16 yrs old, coming back to haunt me!!! Advil to take away inflammation. Pain oils and liniments gently massaged in, I was doing it all. Sigh. I know what I need at this point is probably a good week off. Or even two. Which is so against the ashtanga mindset of working through it all.

The old Ice Pack on the shoulder routine!

My housemate Lucy said she had the same shoulder pains and she kept practicing (like youre supposed to) and it went away in a year. A YEAR?! I do not plan on having the pain for one year! HA! Even then two weeks it's been going on is too long.

The unfortunate thing is that I am only here for one month. I'm halfway through now. I am not going to stop practicing. So I'm doing everything I can to minimize the pain and the damage. I don't think there's anything major going on. No tear or displacement of anything. Just plain inflammation. A learning experience??

Sharath talked a lot about pain in the past conference. And his main suggestion was OIL BATH. (he also said in conference not to take notes or post anywhere on social media what he was saying. He said if people want to know what he has to say, they can come here to India. I hope I'm not disobeying by sharing this!!)

I tried a few oil baths the last few times I was here but never really followed up on it or made it a weekly ritual, like it's supposed to be for an ashtanga yogi. I always found it kind of yucky and boring and cold and never felt like it did anything. Personally.

But, I was feeling worse and worse each day this week. More stiff and more stiff from one day to the next. Sharath helped me with my backbends almost every day (which I'm grateful for, as most people only get help from the assistants) and it was obvious to me and him that I was getting worse. He seemed a little perplexed and he asked if I was "fearing?" I said to him that I was feeling very tired and very stiff. The first time he dropped me back, I walked easily my hands to my feet and then he easily attached my hands to my ankles in backbending. The next day I walked all the way in and touched my heels. And he said "That's my foot" and laughed. Oops! I moved my hand and grabbed my own foot. But it was hard to get there. The next day he said walk, walk, walk, and I only made it 3 inches from my foot. Struggle! Back felt stiff and shoulders felt tight. Very bad lady!! He looked me in the face (literally one inch from my face) and said "Take oil bath!". I think he said it three times. He really meant it. OK OK I'll do an oil bath! At this point I'm ready to try anything and personal advice from my guru is much appreciated.

CASTOR OIL, ready to be heated and slathered on!

He talked about it also in conference. In our practice and in our lives we build up a lot of heat. Too much heat can lead to pain and inflammation. HA! YES! ME! So an oil bath can release the excess heat. Traditionally castor oil is used. But other kinds of oil work too.

It's not an actual bath, in oil, which sounds kinda nice. But rather, you heat up a bottle of oil (otherwise it's too sticky) and then you slather it all over your body. You rub it into your skin, massaging, especially at the joints or any sore spots. It draws out the heat and the pain, absorbs into your skin and your muslces and joints, and can make you more flexible as well.

You are supposed to build up to a longer oil bath. You can catch a cold or get sick if you leave it on for too long on your first few tries. In the beginning you might just leave it on 10 minutes, but eventually maybe 1hr or more. This is where I always just felt cold and gross and bored! Standing in a shower, sort of wet, maybe a few mosquitoes buzzing around, doing nothing! Yuck! Then to get the oil off is a feat in itself. Sharath talked about some powders that you can mix together and make a paste, to get it off more easily. I didn't understand what they were called. I used my Indian sandalwood soap and after tons of lathering it all seemed to wash off. Using really hot water is also key to getting to oil to absorb into you.

The one thing I didn't do is the oil on the head and scalp. I'm so scared my hair will be oily for weeks! HAHA! I will do it next week because I know the head is key to getting the heat out. I think I can be a little hot headed sometimes (haha) so I probably need it!

I'm doing a little prayer that this rest day, along with the oil bath, will get rid of some of the inflammation (OR ALL OF IT?! ...wishful thinking...).

Back to practice tomorrow. My alarm is set for 245am. I'll be leaving my house to walk to the shala at 330am. Ew. Mondays are rough! I'll see how the practice feels, it's a led primary. Then I think I'll probably go and talk to Sharath personally in the afternoon during his office hours to see what he has to say and if he has any other suggestions.

Quite the alarm schedule.
Funny thing is that today (Sunday) I woke up by 4am and was wide awake and raring to go by 5!!!

Anyways - I'll let you all know the 'results' of my oil bath! And I promise to do it properly and for longer next weekend. Hair and brain included.

A delicious lunch that I had at "Three Sisters" with a few new friends. LOVE their cooking! You sit in a little hallway room thing, on rattan rugs, and eat with your hand... But it is made with such love and skill! Healthy, tasty, vegetarian yogi food. My fave when I come here!!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

YOGA is about internal transformation

During this trip to India, I have practiced my asana here at KPJAYI in Mysore India 7 times now. Each time has been a very different experience. How is this so? I am practicing the exact same postures in the exact same order with the exact same body in the exact same shala. That is ashtanga yoga.

People always ask me when I come to India  - So, are you going to learn something new? Are you taking a course? Are you getting a higher level of training? Some certificate? And it's always met with a slightly dumbfounded look when my response is  - No. I'm just going to practice. Same practice. With my teacher.

What happens though, is that you DO learn. You learn through practice and through experience. Not by being told something new, or trying something new. By doing. And doing. And doing. Doing when you don't want to do. Doing when it hurts. Doing when you are tired. Doing when the sun doesn't come up for 2 more hours. Doing when there is no space. Doing when other people's sweat is dripping on you. Doing when your teacher yells at you for being late, being too early, having the wrong towel, forgetting your ID card.

In our conference today, which usually happens every Saturday, Sharath talked about how YOGA isn't about the postures. Or how many you can do. Or how well you can do them. Or if you have a piece of paper that says you're authorized. Or if you can do a handstand. Or how popular you are by posting yoga pictures on Instagram.

He reminded us that it is about INNER TRANSFORMATION. And that it is experiential. That you can only know yoga, and have yoga inside of you, when you experience it for yourself. You can't read about it and understand it. Or take a 200 hour course and understand it. But by daily practice and devotion, and then one day, eventually, you will understand yoga.

The asana is just a tool to heal the body. The breath is equally important. The yamas and niyamas (10 practices to live in harmony with yourself and others in the world) are equally as important. Asana alone is just the circus.

So when I come to do the same practice every day. Year after year. I am learning. I am learning inside of my own body. I am learning to control my breathing and therefore my mind and my nervous system. I am healing injuries and imbalances in my body in a conscientious and methodical way. And I don't need to learn any new postures or techniques for this healing and learning. The less you do, the more you have to extrapolate from each posture, each practice, each breath, each visit to Mysore.

Maybe I will be 'given' some new postures to do this year beyond what I was doing last time. Maybe not. Maybe he will have me do LESS!? I am older after all and I have backed off my practice somewhat to avoid injury. Time will tell. I am not attached to doing all of 'my' postures and certainly not counting on getting more. If Sharath thinks I am ready, then he will give me more. I trust his judgment.

Each day my body feels different. Some days I have more energy. Some days my mind is more still while others it's more monkey like. Jump! Jump! Jump! Some days I sweat a lot, some days I sweat a little (today). Some days I feel calm and happy afterwards, some days exhilarated, some days sore and cranky.

I strive for more equanimity. Eventually. I certainly have more than I used to have. Less extremes. Less mood swings. Less doubt. Less worry. Less imbalance. Less weakness. Less insecurity. Less feeling of lack. Less reactions. More... yoga inside of me I suppose.

But I still have a long way to go. A lot of transformation is still yet to come.

As it is said in the yoga world... 'Practice. All is coming.' (~Sri K. Pattabhi Jois)

That's me in my hammock! On the roof!
"And on the 7th day, God rested. Oh wait that's not God, it's me.
But, same thing. Sort of. In a yogic sense. Not an egotistical sense."

Sharath leading the first conference of the season. The shala is packed. All eyes and ears are open. We soak up his knowledge and advice. His cute little son works hard for attention, as usual! (Photo credit - Xavier)

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Too early or too late

I've been in Mysore now for one week. I once again feel so comfortable here, like I live here. I've met more new friends, been to lunch with some of them, taken rickshaws, ubers and gone shopping with them. I even baked banana bread in my little counter top oven and shared it with my housemates and neighbour. Feels pretty home like.

chocolate banana bread... HELLO!

new toe rings from Meena at Silver Nest

We have had three led classes to start off the season. Each one more jam packed than the previous. I kept showing up earlier and earlier to get a decent spot in line, so I'd get a decent spot to practice in the shala, but each time by the time I arrived, I was lined up outside the gates, while inside the gates every foot of space was filled with people and the stairs were packed as well! Holy Cow!

Moo! One of many holy cows here in India!

My second practice I got a weird sideways facing spot in the very back where I had to negotiate my arms and legs with a guy who was facing the front. Poor him. Poor me. Poor us! Somehow it worked. My third practice I decided I was going to make myself a spot! All of the mats were a little too far apart and I know eventually everyone would have to move closer, so I just did it myself and I stuffed my mat between two other mats, moving each of them farther apart. It worked out ok because I was under a little low ceiling overhang that wouldn't fit most people. When I took my arms overhead I had a one inch clearance while the guy beside me would not have fit. However, the universe decided to punish me for moving the mats and all I kept thinking my whole practice was "this is gross, this is gross" HAHA! I had two VERY stinky VERY sweaty guys on either side of me. Sweat FLYING everywhere. Dripping on me and my mat and my towel. Hands and legs all over my mat, bumping into me. GROSS! I kept reminding myself that I was going to go home and do laundry and take a shower so who cares. Get over it!

Each practice also seemed hotter and sweatier than the prior one. Maybe more bodies stuffed into the space? Maybe it was warmer outside? I normally only need a little towel but I definitely needed to lay out my long mat towel. Good thing I brought two of them!

I've also had two mysore style practices now. Self led, where we all start at different times. My original mysore start time was 730. On the first day when I showed up for mysore practice, I expected again the stairs to be packed, the little foyer to be packed, and for us to slowly get called in one by one when a spot became available. However... When I showed up the foyer was empty and the shala was only half full! What!? Sharath called me in right away. "What is your time?" I said "7:30". Two other people came in the door. They also both said 7:30. He sent one girl away to wait outside, he said "Too early". It was her first trip to Mysore. The other guy he asked how many times he's been to Mysore. He said 2nd time. Sharath said "change your time to 7am tomorrow". Then he asked me how many trips to Mysore. I said 3rd time. He said "Change your time to 630am tomorrow". Ok, so it seems the more times you come here, the more preferential treatment you recieve. Since starting earlier is more desirable (for most).

I enjoyed the practice, although I was rushing. A lot. For no reason. I was there relatively early and I was only doing the primary series, since that's all everyone does the first week. My shoulder, which had bugged me on and off for a few weeks, was really hurting. I think maybe I was excited about the practice, or had too much caffeine in my body, and wasn't being very mindful as I practiced. Even though I told myself to slow down my breathing and my movements, it didn't happen! My shoulder was really killing by the end of practice and all morning afterwards in fact. I put on ice, took advil and used tiger balm. It feels like tendinitis, an imflammation of the tendon where the muscle attaches to the bone. I used to have a lot of that when I was a competitive swimmer. It's generally just an overuse issue and best healed with rest. WELL, there will be no rest here!

In that first practice I had a bit of a disaster adjustment from an assistant in the shala. Supta kurmasana. A bit of a nemesis pose for me, since I have a long body and short legs. I can cross both of my legs behind my head - but the assistant needs to do it just right! This assistant did it totally wrong (for me) and had no success. LOL. Oh well. I was kind of annoyed, since I wanted to do the full posture properly and didn't get the help to do so... But I let it go.

Sharath was sitting up on the stage in his chair when I came to backbending. I didn't know until I stood up after my third one that he was watching me like a hawk. I did my three drop backs and stand ups and they felt pretty light and easy and floaty. However. Apparently they were too easy! He said that I needed to walk in each time I dropped back, before coming up again. He said "It's too easy". well, yes! I mean, no! It's not easy, but I've worked for years to make it possible and to make it safe and maybe it looks easy? Trust me it's not! Am I in a bit of a comfort zone? YES! Because the last two times when I came to Mysore and went way beyond my comfort zone I ended up really injured and having to back off my practice for a long time when I returned home.

I have worked hard on strengthening my core to protect my low back. On strengthening my glutes to open the fronts of my hips. And on strenghtening my upper back muscles to get more of my backbend in my thoracic spine so that the low back doesn't take all of the stress. In engineering terms, I'm trying to make my "bridge" have an even curvature all the way through, so no one point is more bent and takes more stress. An even sharing of stress = more steady and strong as a whole. DO I get as deep in my backbends as I used to? Nope. Do I care? NOPE! Because they feel a lot better. So it will be interesting navigating backbends this trip without messing up all of my hard work! Maybe if I grunt and groan Sharath won't think it's so easy for me?!

This morning I showed up again for Mysore. A few more people in the shala, but still some open spots. Only 2 people waiting in the lobby. I asked them their time, they both said 630. I didn't want to go in if I was too early. Sharath poked his head in and asked our times. I said 630. He said go wait outside. OK! I shuffled out and sat on the steps. 60 seconds later a girl from the lobby said Sharath told me to come back in. LOL! I came back in. He came and got me and said my new time starting tomorrow is 6am. And he sent me in to a spot in the front row.

My wake up schedule

Regular start time... 730... to 630... to 6am!

I very consciously went a LOT slower through my practice. Making sure my shoulder blades were completely retracted each time I went into chatturanga, so the effort was held by the muscles in the back of my shoulders, and around the shoulder blades and in my upper back, rather than my the muscles in the front of my shoulders - they ones that hurt and that I need to rest. It seemed to work well and I wasn't feeling much discomfort. I have also been doing a little elbow bend going back from updog to downdog which seems to be taking the stress out of the muscles that are sore and dispersing the work elsewhere. Experiments experiments! Nothing ever stays the same in the body, that's for sure.

All practice I kept hearing Sharath asking everyone what their time was. his answer was always either "You're too early, go back outside!" or "Why are you so late? Come in now!" Haha... I guess none of us could get it jusssttttt right! I think he's also trying to just break everyone down a bit. Breaking us in. Showing he's the boss. Follow the rules or else. Kind of funny and appropriate since most of us are spoiled entitled brats in one way or another and need a good spanking. HA!

I felt very emotional today during and after practice. Not sure why. I'm, in general, not a very outwardly emotional person so I guess sometimes it just needs to come out. I felt teary eyed in my first few sun salutations. Maybe I was just feeling happy and blessed to be practicing in the shala. And lucky to have my time moved earlier. And was thinking that maybe Sharath liked me because I was quite obedient, yes sir i'll go back outside, yes sir I'll come in now, yes sir I'll change my time... Which is so funny to me because in general, I'm not really an obedient person! I like to be in charge and make the rules! But it is nice to actually give up control and be subservient to another, when you trust and respect them. Role change. Teacher student. Vande guru... Bowing down, I am.

Sharath did not see me as he was busy with others, but each time I dropped back I walked in a bit, just like he told me to yesterday when he was watching. My back felt fine with it, so OK, I will continue to do that. On my last one I stumbled a bit coming up. Andrew Hillam (lead teacher at Jois Yoga Encinitas) assisted me with drop backs and well, nearly dropped me on the way up at the end, but luckily didn't. We laughed. He also assisted me in supta kurmasana and did a MUCH better job! He got my ankles crossed behind my head. Thank you!

Better assists. Slower practice. Happier shoulders. Yay.

Walking home I felt another small wave of tears. Let it flow.

And then my favourite street puppy came to escort me from the shala to my house like he always does. He's my security guard. I remembered to bring him a treat. His tail said thank you.


Another dog came out from it's owners' house to greet me and was loving the snuggles and was jumping up all over me. The man said "He likes you very much". Obvi! He said he was 3 yrs old and I said that's how old my dog is too. I sure miss my puppy!!! Luckily my boyfriend Bill is taking really great care of him back at home and has been sending me pics and videos and updates, so that I don't DIE of separation!

One more day of Mysore tomorrow then a led practice again to finish the week. Next week when we restart I'll be doing intermediate series again, up to kapotasana which is the last asana that Sharath gave me last trip. Oy.

Tata for now. Next blog I'll tell you about the extra philosophy, chanting and Sanskrit classes that I'm taking at the Anantha Research Foundation. Bet you can't wait?!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

India Time Again!

I see that it has been two years and one month since my last post. I was in Mexico teaching a yoga training, which went exceptionally well! I miss that place and those lovely yoginis who I grew quite close to.

I am blogging again as I am back in Mysore, India. I feel like it's a nice way for my friends, family and yoga students to see what I am up to and why I am away from them for so long!

I am practicing at KPJAYI again with Sharath from Oct 1-31. It's a one month minimum stay and a three month maximum. When I registered a few days ago in Sharath's office he asked me how long. I said one month, and he let out a disappointed "hmm." My sentiments exactly! I would LOVE to stay for two or three months but it's just not possible. Dog, cats, ferret, work, bills, life! All of these things need me to come back home as soon as possible. He asked me if I had been to KPJAYI 5 times... HAHA! I wish! Only third time. But at least he remembers me and apparently now thinks of me as quite familiar. I don't think he remembered me last time I was here. Progress! Memorability! Teacher-Student relationship growing!

Yesterday was the first day of practice. For me and for everyone. Oct 1 was the first day Sharath is teaching at the Shala this season. I didn't recognize anyone, which is odd. There seemed to be a lot of brand new students, coming to Mysore for the very first time.

The floor is new, the giant rugs are gone, so there is less of a mad rush to get through the doors to avoid a lumpy spot (LOL!). My Saturday led class time was 6am, which means 545am (shala time). So I arrived at 530am to get in line. And I was literally one of the last people to arrive! People are super keen and early this year! I ended up in a spot at the very back of the shala next to the wall. I don't mind! Then I only have to negotiate with one person on one side of me, instead of two!

As I looked around I noticed a lot more man buns than usual!! And unfortunately smelled the same lack of underarm deodorant, as usual.

Everyone was in so early... We sat down... waited... Sharath came out and said "SAMASTHITI" (which means stand up in the ready position) and everyone stood up. Then he looked at the clock and said "Oh nevermind." and went back into his office! There were still 10 minutes to go. Haha we all laughed and sat back down! He came out again later for a real Samasthiti call.

My practice felt very easy which is always a bonus. Maybe my body and mind are getting so used to the primary series that it is just enjoyable these days. I know though, as I say that, there will surely be a day or seven where it's a struggle to get through the practice! However I felt strong and light(ish) and not one posture gave me any problem. Even the last pose - ut pluthi, which went on FOREVER, was doable. He even forgot about counting to ten and started talking to people, telling them not to cheat, not to put their feet behind their arms, etc. I decided the body can do anything the mind believes it can do, so I held my entire body off the ground out of sheer mental determination. And it worked. I let out a big "PHEW!" afterwards!

Today is a day off (Sunday) and again I am up in the middle of the night because of jet lag (it's 3:51am). Later today I will be going for a home cooked lunch at Sandhya's house, who feeds, houses and teaches yoga students how to cook, Mysore style! I have collected up a few people and we are going as a group of new yoga friends. Happens so easily here in Mysore.

I'll post a few pics too... There are the usual dogs everywhere. And cows. The one in the picture walked up to me, got one foot from my face and let out a huge loud MOOOO! Haha. Ok, Hi!

Delhi Airport. I love seeing what Indian McDonalds serves! The Maharaj Mac!!! Notice there is no beef. No hamburgers. Only chicken and paneer options.

A cheat sheet I made for my friends & family to see the time difference and best times to call/text!!

It was Sharath's bday the day I registered so there was a nice little celebration! He is here with his son, mother Sarawswati, and daughter and wife are hidden behind.

Laundry time! I left a trunk of clothes, sheets, etc - but there was some mouse doo-doo in my trunk so everything needed a good cleaning! The house has a washing machine but no dryer (very typical here).

DOSA for breakfast! Sadly I don't like any of the chutneys that are served with it so I just put butter, sugar and lime on my dosa. I got very strange looks from the restaurant staff. As usual!

MOOOO!! This is the gate to the house I am living in. It's called "Blue House" and it's at the very end of shala road.

I am trying to teach myself Kannada - the language spoken here in the state of Karnataka. A little bit similar to Sanskrit which I know well. But really not at all! All new alphabet symbols. Wish me luck! My brain already hurts. I have a paper book and found this version on kindle.

Some of the street dogs on shala road. The frontmost two look SO MUCH like my Raaji! For sure they must be related. They are cute and lazy but MAN do they have a wild beast temper! They are very territorial and they have serious Growl-Offs!!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Xinalani Retreat - the arrival

I flew yesterday from Toronto to Houston to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - where I was greeted by a friendly car service who took me to the marina and then on a boat to my final destination. I know it's rainy season, so I was surprised that it was partly sunny and a beautiful day. Two lovely guys loaded my bags on to the boat, threw an oldschool ugly orange pfd around my neck and off we went! It was super wavy and bouncy and I was pretty sure my bags were going to be on the bottom of the ocean but luckily they stayed out.

We passed a pirate ship and plenty of pelicans (yay wildlife!) and even some butterflies fluttered by as we weren't too far off shore. The destination? Xinalani (she-nah-lah-knee) eco yoga retreat. We plonked across the bay and there was one rain cloud on the other side, with rain shooting out of it. We *seemed* to be heading straight for this one rain cloud. Closer... closer... He asked me how to say rain in english - he played charades and held his fingers in the air and did jazz hand fingers in a downwards motion. "Rain" I said. They both repeated it. Then he pointed to the raincloud... "RAIN!" He said. I asked if we were going there, he said "Si".

It started to rain as we approached the cloud (obviously) so one guy covered my bags with a padded seat thing. Gracias - I thought it my head! At this point, I was wishing I had studied up a bit on Spanish. Oops.

We start approaching the resort, there are HUGE waves crashing in to the shore. Surfing waves - I'm thinking! Give me a board and I'll just ride to shore! Alas, no board on board. He changes his mind, we can go to the shore. We go around a rocky protrusion to the next beachy area and there are two more xinalani guys waiting... The boat rides a big wave to shore and I'm pretty sure did a nose dive into the sand, one guy tosses one of my suitcases off the boat into the other guys hands and nearly kills him in doing so... They run up the beach and disappear. The boat backs up and the guys seem apprehensive. We keep going... I see we are headed to a dock.

I get off the dock, one guy carries my other suitcase (smaller, but heavier - it's full of books - poor guy!) I say 'sorry' - I don't know how to apolgize in Spanish. I carry my small bag. We walk in the pouring rain across the beach, down a cobblestone street, past street dogs (HELLO PUPS!) I may have patted a few while he was clearly thinking 'come on loco lady!', we went past make shift restaurants, crumbling houses, one guy in a house with no roof, just a tarp, sitting inside on a bucket - watching TV! Anyways... Across a river. YES a river... ankle depth.... knee depth... WHOA! CROTCH depth! Hahaha, I'm laughing and he's laughing at me. Up a bunch of stairs, hair dripping, bags drenched, mascara running, giddy out of breath giggling... We made it.

They hand me a big fluffy orange towel that smells nice and a freshly squeezed lemonade. "HOLA!"

I check in and go over some details for my Yoga Teacher Training retreat that I am running at their resort over the next three weeks. My guests/students arrive the next day so I take my time unpacking, settling in, checking out the grounds, meeting the few guests who are already there, eating some scrumptious food and so on.

It's really humid so my hair stayed soaking wet right to the point where I went to bed. With earplugs. And I could still hear the crashing waves (awesome) and squeaking, chirping, buzzing, lunatic bugs (not as awesome!) I managed to sleep ok but woke up pretty early.

This morning I took my flashlight at 6am and walked up many stairs via many different winding paths, through MANY creepy spider webs, and past quickly out of the way scooting crabs, and scared myself half to death with the shadows my flashlight was making with the bushes!!

Then I remembered my mom's parting the words to me on the phone. "Don't walk through the jungle alone." Uh... I'm totally doing that! Well I did't get attacked my rabid monkeys or abducted by hidden pirates. Luckily. I meditated overlooking the ocean as the sun came up.

They blew the "meal time" conch and I came down for tea and fruit.

Then I went all the way back up and beyond, to the jungle studio, where most of my teaching and classes will be happening... Practiced, shot a video for my youtube channel (!!) then took a COLD refreshing shower (while looking at and listening to the crashing ocean - it's all open concept!) which I highly recommend.

I had lunch with the lovely Rosa (new friend) who taught me some Spanish and then I sprawled on the beach for an hour, browsing through Sharath's new book for inspiration to start this journey. I walked down the beach and tried to feed an apple to a horse, but he rejected my moist delicious treat which I thought was weird?! I patted his nose instead which he accepted.

Now I'm waiting for my first students to arrive. It's sunny and the ocean is green. It's hot but they will adjust as I did - and take many cold showers over the next three weeks! This afternoon we begin. They will look deep inside of themselves and deeply into the tradition and practices of yoga. We will all leave this course more in tune with nature and ourselves - our TRUE selves, which is what yoga is all about. I can't wait!

Adios amigos!

Monday, July 14, 2014

The universe always keeps us humble

I have never cut dog nails before. I'm totally petrified because Raaji's claws are thick and black and you can't see where the 'quick' is (the super sensitive pulp of the nail with all of the nerves). I have made mistakes a few times with my cats and ferrets, cutting into the quick, and they jump and squeal and bleed like crazy. And every time I feel so bad. And sometimes cry and repeatedly tell them I'm sorry. While they sulk in the corner giving me the stink eye.

Up to this point Raaji has been going to the vet nearly every month for puppy shots, check ups, neutering, etc, so I keep asking them to trim his nails each time. But now that we aren't going to the vet as often I considered taking him to a groomer to do it. I'm sure it's only $20 or so, maybe once every 3-4 weeks.

This morning though, I got ballsy. I was in the pet store and there were the dog nail clippers. I thought, I can totally do this! I'll give it a try. The clippers were $10 so what is there to lose, that was cheaper probably than one grooming appointment.

I got home, ready to rock it. I rubbed Raaji's belly, gave him some kisses, massaged his feet and paws (he doesn't mind having his toes fondled) and grabbed the clippers and boom-boom-boom-boom, nail after nail I conquered his two front paws! 10 claws! Done! Yes! I only did tiny little clips to stay safe, but success! No bleeding or screaming or running away! I moved to the rear paws. He started to get wiggly. Hmm... I need to distract him. I got his favourite chewy toy and got him to go "down" (laying on the floor) and he started to nom the chewy and ignore me. Boom-boom-boom-boom (that's my successful clipping sound effect), all done! Every toenail clipped in one sitting, and the pup was calm as can be, despite my nerves being frayed! HURRAY! I can do this! No need to go to a groomer. YAY ME :) I'm awesome, I am the best dog owner ever! LOL

Then I thought, gee, I should totally conquer something else I don't think I can do today.

I've had a beautiful china mug sitting for months in 3 pieces waiting to get fixed. I CAN DO THIS! TODAY! I grabbed the krazy glue, put the pin in the tip to open it, checked how all of the pieces go together and then drop-drop-drop I loaded up one surface with glue and squeezed the other surface against it and wait.... And wait... It's not adhering, the pieces still come apart. Argh. I keep holding one piece in my left hand, I put down the other piece and put more glue on the piece I'm holding. I SOAK it. Then I press the other piece to it again and wait... wait... wait... longer... waiting... And they still come apart.

ARGH - OK, so not everything is easy and I'm clearly not rocking this. I sigh and put down the pieces. And then I realize that all of my left fingers are... Yes you are right... TOTALLY glued together! KRAZY glued together! Shut tight. Dry. Adhered. I have one human mitten hand. No spaces. Oh crap! It was funny but also worrisome. If I pull them apart will the skin rip off? I slowly slowly carefully pulled, waiting for the pain... But luckily eventually I peeled my fingers back to their original singular condition. Phew. But now I have that gross, dry, crinkly, thick glue coating on my fingers.

I think the universe put that annoying glue there to remind me that I'm not the queen of everything and that you win some and you lose some.

My head remains the size it should be today. Thanks to krazy glue.