Monday, December 9, 2013

First day of Mysore practice and Conference Notes

So I was here for 2 days before I practiced, then had Friday led class, the Saturday off, then Sunday led class. It still didn't really feel like I was here in Mysore. (Maybe because I have done led classes with Sharath a lot in California). But then, Sunday afternoon was conference, which was really amazing, and this morning was my first Mysore style (self) practice which made it all feel real. I'm here.

My start time Monday through Thursday is 930am, but I'm making myself wake up between 5-6am to make sure I stay adjusted the the early mornings, otherwise my 6am and 430am start times would be terrible on the other days. I diddled around this morning, peed the dog, showered, made tea, internetted (new word - how is this not a word yet!?) etc etc. I headed to the shala around 9am. It was already hot and sunny and the streets were bustling. I waited for a few 915 start times to go, which took around 10 minutes, then I think I was the 2nd or 3rd 930am start time to get through the door. A big Russian guy wearing all red tried to jump ahead but I blocked him. Back up Russia!! I was first! I think he was surprised teehee. Fair is fair. Canada is not a pushover. Wait a minute... Yoga. Not hockey. Back on track...

I got a spot in the front row, second from left, in front of Sharath's office. I checked on my first surya namaskar if my hands would hit the ceiling overhang, and nope, all clear! Great spot. It was much hotter and more humid than the led classes, which I really like. I started perspiring after only a few sun salutations. Me likey. My body felt ok except for a bit of a nag in my back, muscular I think, which is better than bonular (also a new word) so I took each upward facing dog very slowly and put my bandhas to work big time.

I realized that I was rushing a bit, which was the opposite of what I wanted to do. It was in the back of my mind though, that my practice is about 90 minutes long, I started at 930, and chanting was at 11am. how was that going to work??? I tried to slow down a bit but once you are in a rhythm... My heart was beating fast as I took vinyasa after vinyasa. Nobody helped me until I got to supta kurmasana. I think last year my blog was spotted with stories of terrible s.k. assists. So, I was hoping for the best but not expecting much. I actually watched this guy do one or two of these assists while I was waiting, and I was noting his technique so I knew how to match it, if he helped me. He did. He actually did a great job to my surprise. Albeit, my head and neck were super crooked, but he got my feet crossed well behind my head and was able to walk away. I felt secure and lifted up and jumped back no problem. Yay team. I think partly I am better at it than last year, but he definitely gets some credit too. I'll try to find out who he is. He was also there when it was time for me to drop back, and he did well with that too. Of course he wanted me to walk... walk... walk more... just a leetle more... lol.

By the time I got to closing, the room was 1/3 empty so I didn't have to go to the changerooms for closing, I just moved to the back of the room. I rested for about 2 minutes after I finished, looked at the clock and it was 10:40. Oops. My practice should take longer than 70 minutes! On a good note though, I could rush home and shower and be back for chanting. I did that and was a few minutes late, but no biggie. Next time I'll practice slower and just stay there for chanting, and not go home.

Conference notes: (I ran into LA James there and chatted a bit, which was nice too!)
Sunday December 7th, 2013.

Sharath recited a few lines from the Hatha Yoga Pradipika then explained that we should not waste the sweat that we create in our yoga practice. You should rub it back into your skin with opens the pores and lets the toxins out. (I laugh, thinking off all of the drippy men in my classes who towel themselves off every 2 poses). This makes you light and strong.

He then bashes hot yoga. He says when you walk into a pre-heated room you sweat right away and this is not good. the shastras say that your sweat must come from the inside, from effort.

He talks about the importance of effort, in building strength and stamina. Everyone should get tired when you do more than you are used to. Flexibility is not enough. The primary series of ashtanga is important for that reason. This is why beginners just do surya namaskar, and then add one pose at a time, letting their body adjust and get stronger. Vinyasa helps with this.

Sharath said when he started practicing with Guruji at 330am in Lakshmipuram, he would go home and need to take a nap in the afternoon, and then couldn't get up he was so tired. His body needed time to change. It's important to practice patience. Asana first, then comes knowledge and clarity.

He says this is not a gym or a workout or bending bodies. We are here to do a practice which brings us peace.

Your name and your external self is temporary. Who you are inside is what matters. You are both everything and capable of anything, and also nothing. Everyone is capable of realizing their true self. We all have that potential. When you are doing yoga asana, you should be thinking of this. Yoga is not just doing asana, drinking coconuts and going home.

Socializing is good, but too much is bad. He made a joke that yoga students are always updating their facebook status. Busted!

He says students always ask him how much to practice, how much to eat, how much to sleep...

There should be limits to all of these.

If you practice too much you are hurting your body, overexercising.

 If you eat too much food you will be dull and depressed. He recently went to a wedding and HAD to eat everything that was put in front of him so not to insult anyone and afterwards when people were talking to him he just wanted to sleep. He went outside and slept in the car.

If you sleep too long you will be very dull. We need 6.5-7 hours. Younger than 20 years needs 8-9 hours, and older people even less. He said a recent newspaper survey agreed with this.

He talked again about how important vinaysa is, and how it circulates heat throughout the body to all parts, and creates sweat, keeping prana circulating inside.

Breathing should be DEEP. "Free breathing" means it goes smoothly all the way inside. Not panting like a dog. His example is breathing through a straw, it goes smoothly. But if you pinch the straw the air is forced. When you pinch it - that is like ujjayi breathing, which is incorrect during asana, it's a special pranayama technique. 20 years ago some student asked Guruji if ujjayi breathing was correct, and he brushed him off and said "yeah yeah". Since then this common mistake/misunderstanding has been floating around.

When you breathe with sound you can hear the rhythm of your own breath, but it should not be like a mic! You should not squeeze your throat or force the air.

Q: Are the inhales and exhales even?
A: Yes.

Q: Is the sound from the throat?
A: No. No squeezing the throat, that is ujjayi, and then you are not relaxing. You must relax in the posture, your body and your breath. When you relax and do the posture again and again you get better at it.

Q: How do bandhas tie in with breathing?
A: Uddiyana and Mula bandha all the time. Jalandhara bandha only in specific pranayama techniques, usually.

We use different kinds of pranayama to gain higher consciousness. This directs prana to the anahata (heart region). There are different sounds in the heart. After proper pranayama only divine sound is in the heart. Dhyana and Dharana start in the heart. This only occurs when the fundamentals are there, like proper breathing in asana. He made an analogy of a university - how you have to go through the levels, one step at a time, you can't jump to a PhD right away. Bandhas must be perfected before practicing pranayama. That is what asana develops. You can't know how long it will take to develop bandhas, they do not 'mature in 2 years' etc, like a life insurance policy ;)

If mula bandha is correct, the mind is in control.

Q: The yamas and niyamas are hard to follow. What do you suggest doing, if you do something wrong? How do you right it?
A: Depends on culture. Sharath makes a crack at the church, how you go in and ask father to forgive you and say a few prayers. People chuckle. More seriously he says though, you right your wrongs, by your actions. Be a good person. Do some good work. Sin happens, everywhere in the world. The past is the past. Be a better person in the future. Be nice to people. Do some social work. It's not as simple as just dipping into the ganges and washing away your sins. Yoga is a good tool for this. It's not just for making a bendy body or trying to prove something. It's for becoming a better person.

Sharath says you can be doing yoga for 30 years, but you have to realize WHY you are doing it.

He analogizes again: You can sail the sea for years and years but until you dive INTO the ocean, you only know it from the surface. It's just water. Don't stay on the surface. Go deeper. "I want you to do that. Go deeper." He says to all of us.

He says you must have the THIRST to know yoga. Another analogy: A swami stuffed his students head in the bathwater until he was fighting to come up deseperately for a breath. He released him and said you must want knowledge THAT badly.

Why go to a teacher if you think you know everything? You must want to learn what you don't know. Admitting "I don't know" is learning. "I know" is the end. Sharath says he is still a student. He knows more than 15 years ago but he doesn't know everything. He sometimes thinks he should stop teaching and just be a student to advance his own practice.

Q: Can you please address doubts?
A: Many will come along when you are on the spiritual path. Once you are totally immersed in it, the answers to your doubts will come. A guru takes you from ajnana (ignorance) to jnana (wisdom) and makes you realize. Sharath tells us a prayer he says "I pray to that guru who opens my eyes and takes me from ajnana to jnana".

Q: Do you plug your ears in garbha pindasana?
A: Yes. (he shows his hands over his ears)

Q: What are your thoughts on music during asana?
A: Music is a distraction. During asana we are trying to focus. Music is for another time. It is possible to hurt your body, lose your breath, because your attention is elsewhere.

Q: Tips on how to get motivated for self practice when you are away from your teacher?
A: It must come from within. Put a picture of Guruji on the wall. When Sharath travels, he does his practice daily. His mat is with him. It is his life and his breath.

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