Saturday, December 31, 2011

Come In

“If you are a dreamer,come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a hoper, a prayer, a magic-bean-buyer. If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire, for we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!”
Shel Silverstein

Friday, December 30, 2011

Scurvy prevention and some thoughts on assisting

In Mysore, there are many many options when it comes to food, whether your choices are restricted by budget, sensitivity of stomach, or an 'ism' (as in veganism, vegetarianism, etc...), and quite often, yoga students will wind up eating out for nearly every meal.  For the first few weeks, this is actually quite nice, seeing as how most yoga student apartments have fairly primitive kitchens, and the fact that it is actually fairly affordable is a bit of a novelty.  There does come a point though, at least for me, where the flavours and textures of Indian food begin to get a little bit blah, when you start to notice that everything you eat is mushy and seasoned with the same half dozen spices.  This is when the idea of home cooking starts to feel very alluring, single burner with one pot to cook with, no problem.  I reached this phase sometime last week, along with the realisation that my armpits are beginning to smell like idli, not a good thing.  Staying in for meals seems to reduce the social aspect of Mysore life, but that is something I can live with in the name of scurvy prevention.  Friday mornings seem to be the day for 'secret breakfast place' where you can get the best Indian breakfast in town, and that is a tradition I can live with, but the wholesomeness of home-made porridge and a spirulina drink for breakfast, and brown rice or millet with gently steamed, still crunchy veggies for lunch is getting more and more appealing by the day. 

Also, assisting in the shala has been a really cool experience so far.  There are some people who still give me a look of disgust, as in a 'who the hell are you and where is the guy I am paying so much to learn from' face when I come to give them an adjustment, and a few snide remarks have been tossed around on occasion about the assistants in general, but for the most part, the other students have been really supportive.  I am looking at this month of assisting as another way to be Sharath's student, and the bottom line is, he asked me, I didn't ask him.  It is something that I feel pretty fortunate to be doing, and getting to observe what goes on in the shala is nothing short of incredible.  Some fatigue is beginning to make itself known in my body, but the toll of dropping people back, tortoise wrestling (putting people into supta kurmasana), hoisting people out of karandavasana, and jumping up and down off the floor for supta vajrasana adjustments is not nearly so bad as I thought it might be.  And I never notice how tired I am until I leave the shala, usually it hits while drinking coconuts.  Big breakfast eating and napping ensue.  The lethargy that is usually present for the rest of the day leaves me with the perfect opportunity to catch up on the list of special order crocheted items that is growing constantly.  I think the guy who owns the yarn shop will be able to put his kids through college based on the money the Mysore crochet community spends, he must be loving this trend towards craftiness!

Time to get ready for Friday led class, which turns into quite a treat when you don't get to see primary series the rest of the week.  The only bummer?  The mosh pit at the gate when it opens and everyone swarms for the door.  Not correct method.  Happy Friday! 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Mysore Style Christmas

Being in India for Christmas is something I highly recommend, as long as you are not partial to obnoxious carols blaring from every shop, garish decorations and excessive consumerism.  Compared to other festivals and occasions, this one is extremely understated by Indian standards, with the odd shop carrying plastic trees that would suit Charlie Brown, and beautiful but simple stars adorning the fronts of some homes and businesses.  Jingle bells?  Haven't heard it yet.  However.... it has been such a nice experience watching the community pull together to form a giant extended family over the last few days, celebrating "Mysore style," beginning with a holiday fundraiser party for Operation Shanti and Ashadayaka Children's Home on the 23rd that raised about 80,000 rupees, a huge sum of money for these two worthy organizations.  There have been brunches and lunches over the last two days, where yoga students have opened their doors to welcome in friends from around the world, and at one, there were presents for the children who are here while their parents study at the shala.  Santa really does find the people on his "nice" list, no matter where they wind up on the big day.  Speaking of Santa, who made an appearance in a Santa hat this morning before the first group for led primary?  Sharath, who apparently had a good laugh about it and wished everyone a Merry Christmas before beginning the opening chant.  It seems like with all extravagances stripped away, Christmas in Mysore is what it is truly meant to be; a time to build ties within the community, and share laughs, love, and good food with friends.  Happy holidays to everyone!    

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Assisting Sharath

Last week Sharath came up to me as I stood up out of my first backbend and asked if I would like to assist in the shala, and I was surprised enough that I think I pointed to the person next to me.  He looked me in the eye and said it again, and I had a major 'Bambi' moment, looking at him in utter disbelief and blinking a few times before I could respond.  Seeing as how I am not authorized to teach, and that there are many more advanced practictioners, already authorized, and currently practicing here in Mysore, it totally caught me off guard.  Nerves and self doubt were eating away at me all last week, and by the time Monday rolled around, I most certainly had my knickers in a twist about it.  Fate intervened though, as I woke up Monday morning at stupid-o-clock feeling not the least bit 'tip-top' and by the time I made it through standing postures I had to go home ill, spending nearly the whole day sleeping in a little ball of feverish aching misery.  Tuesday things had turned the corner, so I made my way through my practice slowly and gently, and finished with enough time to nervously drink a coconut before heading back in to start my shift.  The first few minutes were mostly just watching, observing Sharath, the other assistants and the students as well, until I mustered up the courage to get into the swing of things and start adjusting.  After a few tentative minutes Sharath pointed me in the direction of an intermediate student waiting for supta vajrasana, and then the ball started rolling.  He gave me a few pointers for a supta kurmasana assist and then pointed me in the direction of some drop backs.  I was told to help a friend of mine, who incidentally is the one responsible for getting me started in ashtanga to begin with, and after assisting him in catching his ankles, Sharath looked over and said "exam passed."  After day one, things have been easier, knowing what I am allowed to do and how Sharath wants it done, but there is still a whole lot of nervousness lurking just below the surface in the moments leading up to the beginning of my shift.  The fear seems to disappear once I get going, but it is replaced by an acute awarness of how much I stand to learn from this month of helping the boss and observing all the different bodies in the room.  It is an incredible feeling, being a part of what happens every morning in the shala, and I am left awed, inspired, and full of gratitude for the opportunity.  What an experience this will be. (More related blog posts sure to come!)   

*Interesting what happens when you spell check after writing about yoga no? 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mysore musings

Sitting up this morning waiting to head off to the shala before the dreaded weekly led intermediate class leaves time ticking by at a painfully slow rate.  I have been thinking about how selective memory can be, and there are so many little things about being in India, or even in Asia, that had slipped back into the recesses of my mind, when I thought they would be stamped indelibly on my memory.  The first day back in town I watched how the shopkeepers are so careful to use only their right hand as they pass you whatever change you might be receiving, and your purchase, and I realised how quickly I had fallen out of that habit.  When I lived in Indo it was the same story... right hand for eating, greeting people, exchanging money etc, left hand is for all things 'dirty'.  Essentially it is the poo hand, when you are using the bucket of water system in the toilet as opposed to the roll of tissue system.  Enough about poo hands though, I just couldn't believe how easily I slipped out of the habit, and then immediately back into it as soon as I saw it happening.  Other things like being asked my 'good name', (as opposed to the bad one??) having a handful of lollies presented in lieu of a few rupees change, or the Hari Krishna parade that passes through Gokulam at about 5:30AM on Sunday mornings had also evaporated from my memory, but upon re-experiencing them, it is like the most normal thing in the world.  Watching Sarah see them for the first time is pretty fun though; the excitement and wonder are apparent on her face and even when we encounter something less pleasant, like the beggar with the deformed cow that was following us down the road yesterday, she keeps cool and carries on like it is nothing out of the ordinary.  As for this guided intermediate class, I had also forgotten how tortuous it is over the course of the year, but was certainly reminded the last two Sundays, and will be reminded again this morning.  The hard postures are held for what feels like years while the more comfortable ones come and go in a flash, and just when you think, ahhh thank goodness, closing postures, you realise he intends to hold those for ages as well.  It is a physical challenge to be sure, but the mental focus and discipline are perhaps even more difficult. 
Much learning is there (head wobble).   

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sunday Conference at the Shala

Every Sunday at 4PM (shala time), Sharath holds a conference, so all the students come together and listen while he speaks about some of the more philosophical aspects of Ashtanga and tells stories from his many years spent with Guruji.  When I first came to Mysore, Sharath seemed extremely uncomfortable talking in front of all of his students and said more or less the same thing each week, always beginning with "the human body has 72,000 nervous systems...." and then continuing on to speak of parampara, the idea of lineage and passing information from teacher to student.  He would speak for half an hour, and then wrap things up quite quickly, looking relieved to have gotten through it for another week.  Last time I was here, you could see his confidence growing, the range of topics diversified and you could begin to catch a glimpse of his personality as he spoke.  Conference this trip has been a completely different story all together, with the time running to about an hour and a quarter this week, with quips from some of the classical Indian stories, and some thoughts on what it means to utilise the eight limbs on a day to day basis outside the asana practice. 

Some of his main points....
Yoga, Ayurveda and grammar are the three things that Patanjali wrote great texts on, and they are three things to use in your life.  Yoga can cure many things, especially primary series, but when it can't (for things like hepatitis), Ayurveda is there with many remedies.  And grammar is important because without it our thoughts cannot be communicated with truth.  (I would have never put grammar in the same category as the other two, but I can see what he means.  After having taught ESL, I can tell you how many misunderstandings come out of misplaced punctuation and word order.)

You must enjoy your practice the way you enjoy your cup of coffee in the morning, it is something you should look forward to.  Whether you do primary or intermediate or advanced on any given day, it doesn't matter, you should be happy to get to your mat to do your practice.

If you don't practice the first two limbs, yama and niyama, there is not much point in doing asana, you are then only doing exercise. (He went through all the yamas and niyamas, but a his thoughts on shaucha (cleanliness ) were new for me.  There is physical cleanliness, with the body and the organs being pure, but also mental cleanliness, thinking pure thoughts, and having a clear mind.  It makes this aspect tie in more to the ideas of ahimsa (non-harming) and satya (truthfulness) to me.)

The number of postures a person can perform does not make them a yogi.  We are all students, and learning will happen until we die as long as we acknowledge how much we don't yet know.

Self study is a vital part of the process.  The postures will teach you many things, but you have to look at how they work and discover what makes them possible.  The teacher can put your body into a shape, but it is up to the student to learn how it can be repeated.

People who teach cannot go into it with an agenda; they can only teach the method as they have been taught it, and let the practice do the work.

Ashtanga yoga is a physically challenging practice, and sometimes people think that it forgets about the pranayama and meditation aspects, but this is meant to be part of the daily asana practice.  To do the most difficult asanas that your mind tells you are impossible, you must be in a meditative state, and you must be breathing.  Sharath spoke here about how Guruji used to come and assist him in back bending, making him catch very high up his legs, and he would get to the end of the practice thinking he couldn't possibly do it that day, but when Guruji stepped in front of his mat, ready to guide him backwards, he couldn't say no, and his mind went calm and he would be in a very focused, steady frame of mind all of a sudden.  That state of mind is what we need in the practice so we can't tell ourselves things are impossible.

Towards the end of the conference he got on to the topic of uthi pluthi, and said that he makes us hold it for so long in led class for two reasons.  One is so that we use our bandhas.  The other is to tease us.  HA!

There were many more points that he covered, but two days later, these are the ones that have really stuck with me.  It is quite a lot really, and I am surprised how much I remembered without having taken any notes.  I am left marvelling at the shift in Sharath's approach and confidence in these Sunday conferences, and I can't wait to hear what he has to say next week!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Mehendi Magic at Odanadi 2011

When we arrived at Odanadi we were greeted by a swarm of smiling children, but surprisingly, after all the yoga students had been treated to chai, they sat down quietly to watch when the older girls started to work on the Mehendi.

 I handed over my camera to the kids again, since they are proving to be great photographers, and these are some of the photos they took!
 Anna was well decorated, having both hands and feet covered in art
 Jo connected to Janthsi (bottom left) who is studing at an art college, as well as some of the other ladies while her feet were made beautiful.

Anna's feet were also beautified!  (Yes, two Annas were there!)


I had one lady work on each hand, lucky me!


 Bart got a bad-ass armband, completed with many giggles
The afternoon was a blast, everyone donated generously, and the kids had fun interacting with the yoga students.  There are three more friends who couldn't come along on Wednesday, so we will make another trip out there this afternoon for more Mehendi.  Watching my yoga friends get to know my Odanadi friends was the highlight of my day, and by the end of the afternoon, the kids certainly weren't sitting quietly anymore... there was dancing, singing, clapping games, you name it.  A memorable day for everyone! 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Not Only Mum

For a long time I assumed that it was pretty well only my family reading my blog, and fair enough.  I don't think that I am terribly interesting or clever, and realistically, it would be pretty reasonable to think that my readership would stop with people like my mum, who sort of has to be wondering about what I am up to.  The last few months though, the number of readers has been on a big increase, and for several weeks running, I've had a bigger audience from the US and Russia and Slovenia and a few other random places than I have from Canada.  Mum, you are not alone in reading what I write!  No one seems to leave comments, but the posts about India and Odanadi seem to be the most widely read, so I guess that is what people want to hear about?  Speaking of Odanadi, the Mehendi day was fantastic, and there will be photos posted very soon.   

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mysore matrix

Big few days here in Mysore, first Odanadi fundraising effort with a Mehendi Magic event is coming up tomorrow, so I have been running around trying to get people involved and organized.  Between practicing, chanting class, yoga sutra class, volunteering and time spent chatting at the coconut stand you would think I would be busy enough, but I have gotten back on the crochet bandwagon and have special requests coming in already.  Amazing how free time just disappears into the abyss of things to do and errands to run!  It is good though, a trip to Mysore wouldn't be the same otherwise. Pictures coming of Mehendi Magic part 2 after tomorrow, can't wait to see what beautiful designs the girls come up with! 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Gardening at Odanadi

There are a few volunteers at Odanadi who have helped the kids start an organic garden so that they can work towards being self sufficient, and today there was a big group of helpers that met up and went to pull weeds and plant seeds and line the veggie beds with rocks so that they are easier to see. Today`s actvities were filled with energy and chaos, and instead of standing around taking photos, I handed my camera over to the kids and let them photograph all the action. Check out some of their pics! 


  .


 About 10 westerners and all the kids were lending a hand, and progress was made very quickly!


 I was talking with the head gardener of the day about the experience I had with permaculture and bio-dynamics, and he was keen to learn more. I am going to try and contact the bio-dynamic association of India (it is SUPER popular here) and see if they can possibly come to Odanadi to teach the kids about some of the key principles.  It would be an amazing experience for the kids to get to learn so much about sustainable agriculture, and a skill they could take into their futures as well. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Mysore update

Another beautiful practice today, getting called in by name and then moved to a better spot after a few asanas.  Nearly half way through Sharath told me to come to the 4:30AM guided class tomorrow and then to the intermediate class on Sunday, but Monday is (as far as I know) back to a 9AM start.  That new shake up of start times left me searching for a bicycle to ride... not much fun walking 20 minutes to the Shala at stupid'o'clock in the dark.  I've also signed up for a yoga sutras class with Lakshmish and attended this afternoon for a chance to chant through the sutras and then he broke them down a bit, talking a lot about dharma and how to fulfill our dharma so that we can find liberation from our karma.  Interesting stuff.  The yoga sutras have been on my radar for a while now, and I have read through them, but it is nice to hear a more personal approach.  Tomorrow may also bring a trip to town to search for yarn in the market... crochet requests are rolling in already! 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Coming Home

Had my first practice in the Shala this morning and it felt amazing, like coming home after a very long journey.  Sitting in the lobby before being called in, I thought back to my first trip where I was nervous beyond belief, and last trip where I was feeling energetically overwhelmed in the room with so many people after practising alone for a year, and now a feeling of excitement, but complete calm as well.  As I was making my way through standing postures I was called to move up to a different spot.  By name.  After being away for a year, and literally thousands of students practicing with Sharath between now and then, I certainly didn't expect him to pull my name out of the memory banks on day one, especially since he didn't do my registration yesterday.  What a good feeling.  Physically I felt good, energetically strong and my muscles weren't complaining after the long plane/car ride here.  Getting to do the closing postures in the practice space was also something new for me; I have always had to do them in the change room, but it sure feels good to stay all the way to the end of the practice.  Breakfast didn't happen until about 11:45, after chanting with Lakshmish, but luckily I had time to drink a few coconuts in the few minutes in between.  My tummy was chanting louder than I was!  Primary series for the next few days will feel great, and then Sunday I have to go to the led intermediate class, which will undoubtedly be a bit of a rude awakening.  Tomorrow afternoon I will start a yoga sutras class and hopefully I can organise some volunteer work soon as well... my schedule will be hectic in no time.  More news coming soon as I plan to try and update more often while I have the opportunity.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mother India, please be nice to me!

Arrived in Mysore last night, exhilarated and exhausted, but more than anything it feels like coming home.  The trip went smoothly and other than struggling to find a vegetarian food option in the Kuala Lumpur airport, it was no problem.  No luggage hassles, no delays, and very little turbulence.  Upon arrival in Bangalore my wandering yogi friend and I hopped in our waiting taxi and headed straight out to Mysore, finally getting to our destination at about 9PM, a late night after getting up at 2:30AM to reach the airport  in time.  We were welcomed by two other friends at our flat, conveniently located next door to the ice cream parlour, and went to sleep on the hardest beds I have ever encountered.  This morning brought a breakfast date with an old friend, many greetings with familiar faces, and a list of errands that we managed to accomplish by the afternoon.  Registration at the shala happened this afternoon, and we were given a start time of  9AM.  9AM!!!!  That is currently the latest start time being handed out and it means we will be beginning to practice around the time that most people are sitting down to eat breakfast (after having practiced and gone home for a nap and a shower).  Our breakfast will happen more around lunch time.  At least we will be wide awake and the room will be toasty and warm.  Tomorrow will only bring more adventures...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Prepare for takeoff...

Countdown to Mysore: 5 more sleeps!

Finally got my passport back with a visa in it and I'm starting to pack up my room and my life in Australia.  The kiwi is hanging onto my little bit of stuff for me and it will be good to come back to him.  Me thinks he will miss having a certain someone around!  Over the weekend he and I got to spend some nice quality time together working in his garden and going for an adventure to this beautiful spot called Moses Rock.  It is on the 'Cape to Cape Trail' and there is a stunning beach as well as a path up to a waterfall.  In the pool at the bottom of the waterfall there are kajillions of little tadpoles just waiting to turn into frogs, and down near the beach we found some of the best seashells I have ever collected.  To top it off we stopped for ice cream at Samudra on the way back to my house.  Yum-o!


happy hikers
The farm is looking amazing, veggies sprouting up everywhere, and little seedlings taking root in their new homes.  After the weekend there were so many changes; tomato plants laden with tiny little fruits, beans climbing up the spokes of the bamboo trellis, greens that are pretty well ready to eat!  I have been busy weeding, mulching around citrus trees and making colour coded signs for on the sides of the veggie beds.  It's hard to believe there are only a few farm days left; the time has absolutely flown by!

My practice is going to be interesting in Mysore... rumour has it that the start times for new students are quite late, so sleeping in will be a change, as will not having to expend so much energy in a manual labour job!!!  I can only imagine it will feel fantastic to have so much time to rest and be at leisure.  That being said, I fully plan to go on another crocheting crusade and maybe hold another fundraiser for Odanadi if I can swing it, and ideally it would be great to get out to the center a few times a week as well just to hang out with the kids.  Maybe there won't be so much free time after all?  My fingers are crossed that if I take another level one Sanskrit class, a little more of it just might make sense this time.  The first attempt in 2009 was pretty bad.  I couldn't stop giggling when Lakshmish lectured on labial consonants.  That's right.  Labial consonants.  Want to know more, well, better study Sanskrit.  There are yoga sutra classes as well, so that will be on the agenda if possible too.  Learning learning learning.

Must go get organized.  Every other day this week involves working, so I had best get sorted now!  So much to do! 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Inspiration part 2


This guy is amazing.  Also, his jeans are amazing... how much lycra must skinny jeans have to stretch like that??  If you are not flabergasted when you watch this, we are no longer friends. 
Just kidding. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Inspiration

There are a few ladies here in Dunsborough who practice ashtanga yoga and are in their 70's.  Not born in the 1970's, but their age begins with the number seven and is followed by another digit.  They don't faff around doing geriatric yoga, they do ashtanga.  No skipping vinyasas, no taking away hard postures.  I'm talking full marichasana D, urdhva dhanurasana, sirsasana, padmasana, correct method primary series postures, no grandma yoga for these ladies.  They do it all with smiles on their faces and focus in their eyes, week after week.  I can only hope to be in the same state of health and energy and vitality that many decades from now.  It is making me re-think the whole idea of aging... maybe it isn't something to fear after all?  Watching them is nothing short of inspirational. 

Also, 10 more sleeps until Mysore, if I get my visa back in time... why does the whole process have to take so long???  I sent it off on the Nov. 1st.  Shouldn't that be long enough? My fingers are crossed that it will get sent out in the mail to come back to me tomorrow.  Please cross your fingers too :)   

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Gearing up

Looking back to this time last year leaves me reminiscing about dog bite recovery, diwali mayhem, the mysteries of pincha mayurasana, yoga friends from around the world and the experiences I had volunteering at Odanadi  .Now every full moon I still check myself for any signs of froth at the mouth or werewolf-style hairs sprouting up in unlikely areas, but I feel like I am on a big upwards arc of learning at the moment and I can't wait to see what comes up in the next while.  Gearing up to head back to Mysore leaves me a bit nostalgic, but helping a fellow yoga student plan her first Mysore adventure has provided an opportunity to think back to my first visit and it has been fun giving her some tips on what to expect/pack/etc.  Some things I have come up with:
~Do not, DO NOT bring black havianas.  Everyone will be wearing the same ones in different sizes and the chances of leaving the shala with your own, or even two of the same size can be next to impossible.
~Bring a camera.  The opportunities for amazing photographs are endless.
~As far as practice goes, get real with yourself before you go so that you are ready for either being stopped at the postures you don't really have yet, or ready to power through the longest navasana, sirsasana and uth pluthih you have ever experienced.
~Set your clock to Shala time, which is usually about 15 minutes ahead.  It catches people out every time, so be prepared when you go register to check the clock above the door. 
~Don't bring anything other than your mat and your registration card with you to the shala.  Sharath gets grumpy when people try and bring extra stuff in the room, and I don't blame him.  It is packed in there and the bodies are big enough obstacles without piles of stuff everywhere.
~Prepare your guts by taking pro-biotics before you leave to get the good bacteria pumped up and strong, and then take some with you.  Also purchase grapefruit seed extract to fend off hungry parasites. 
~Pack clothes that is appropriate for the culture.  If you want to be endlessly stared at, take lots of knee-revealing, shoulder-baring, cleavage displaying clothes.  Otherwise, be sensible and respectful and wear something more modest that you might normally go for in hot weather. 
~Two words:  EAR PLUGS
~Bring a big book, and be prepared to pass it on in the endless web of book exchanging that can happen among the yoga students.  It may not come back to you in the long run, but there is plenty of reading material available if you look hard enough.
~Know in advance that the Indian head wobble can mean yes, no, and maybe all at the same time.  You will develop the ability to decipher this after a while, and you will also start wobbling your own head at people much sooner than you would expect. 
~Enjoy the chai but don't look at the water the glasses get washed in. 

That is all I've got off the top of my head, but if I come up with more interesting items, I will edit the post or add to it... only 16 more sleeps till take-off!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Whirlwind

The home stretch until departure for Mysore is looking crazy.  I think I have 2 days off in the next 25.  Should be interesting. 

Things are starting to really take off at the farm, beans are growing like crazy and yesterday lots of tomatoes, eggplants and chillies went in the veggie beds.  Carrots need more love, the greens are taking their time, and the compost we used is looking not quite ideal, but life is there, and growth is there, so now it is a matter of waiting and watering and weeding.  Time will tell

I have a big list of things to do before I head to India, one of those things (at the top of the list) is to  apply for my visa.  Knowing the loopholes that can come up in Indian bureaucracy, I will try and get it sorted this afternoon so there is lots of time and no need to worry about it.  Other things to think on.... such as the degree of urgency of purchasing new yoga tights.  My tights are all a little baggy these days, as the combo of practicing and teaching and farming is a bit hard to keep up with calorically.  Is a wee bit of bum crack visibility in practice inappropriate?  YES.  Will the amount of sweat that I can produce in the Mysore shala keep them from slipping?  Not sure.  It's been cool in the yoga room here for the early bird special lately, so I haven't been able to test it out.    Enough about sweat and bum crack visibility. 

Also of importance:  popsicles.  A batch of fruity popsicles went in the freezer about an hour ago and I can't wait for them to freeze so I can sample one.  It would blow my mind if they were anything but delicious though.  They consist of fresh strawberries, the juice of one lemon, a medium sized sploosh of orange juice, and a small sploosh of creamy coconut milk.  Everything gets blended, sampled (YUM!) and then frozen in a popsicle making tray thingy.  Then the hardest part is waiting for them to actually freeze. 

I am rambling.  Perhaps a nap is in order? 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Random Acts of Kindess

Today while I was practising I left my bike parked outside the front door of the shala, not locked up because I am in possibly the safest town ever (and my bike cost $20 from a junk-seller at a market; it isn't exactly eye candy...), and as I wandered out to the front desk area and was chatting with some friends, one of the regular guys who comes to evening classes popped his head in the door to let me know that he had just returned my bike.  He'd gone past and saw it there in it's rather sorry state, and popped it in his van, took it to the shop where he works and gave it a full tune up.  Air in the tires, raised up the seat to a better height, oiled the chain, fixed up the gears, the whole works.  He had offered several times over the last few weeks for me to swing by his work and let him fix it, but every time I thought of it, something came up.  So he took it upon himself to sort me out.  A random act of kindness that totally made my day.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Grow little seeds, grow!

Yesterday was an epic day on the farm, 7:30AM to 6PM, but so much happened.  We finally, finally got to put some seeds in the veggie beds!  The morning started out with all the hardest work, forking the beds to mix the soil with the compost, raking it over to break up the lumps, but then planting began... cucumbers, rockmelon, watermelon, corn, carrots, pumpkins, zucchini, beans and more... yum-o!  We gave everything a big drink of water after it went into the earth and now it is a case of just wait and see.  In biodynamics, yesterday was an excellent day for planting based on the moon's relationship to the earth, and it was a good day to use one of the 'biodynamic preparations' as well, so that was spread over the whole farm too.  The weeds are almost completely gone from around the beds now, so until there is a bit of green popping up from the beds it looks pretty barren, but there are also trays upon trays of seedling tomatoes and eggplants and beetroot (the list could go on...) that will be planted soon.  So much new life happens in springtime! 

Due to my lack of veggie growing space/transience I have satisfied my urge to grow things at home in a few plant pots and also in a sprouting bag.  I am growing sprouts in the kitchen for the first time and it is fun to see the progress every time I run the sprout bag under water.  Fenugreek sprouts are the first project, and so far they are doing great, their little tails are growing like crazy!

46 more sleeps until I leave for Mysore (plus 23 hours, 34 minutes and about 30 seconds... I have a countdown going on my google page that tells me all this).  Can't wait to get back...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Giving thanks and weekend updates

This weekend marks thanksgiving in Canada, and it is one of the few holidays that I find nice to celebrate.  No real commercial push to buy more stuff to make people like you better, just an occasion to get together with friends and family and acknowledge the fact that it is good to be alive.  And it IS good to be alive!  I am in a beautiful place surrounded by beautiful people doing something that I love.  What more could I ask for?

Updates:
The ticket to Mysore has been purchased, so my trip is really happening; November 28th I go for a third encounter with Mother India. 

Another change of house will be happening on Thursday, the little Sumatran bungalow was almost too good to be true, and now it is already time to go. 

The kiwi is unpredictable.  Some days he is full of love and lets it all shine on out, other days he is a storm cloud of negativity.  Impossible to predict. 

The farm is about to swing into full gear with a big week of planting coming up.  The last week or two has involved me pulling an epic mountain of weeds from around the raised beds in preparation for transplanting the seedlings. 

My yoga practice has been feeling good, with a steady mind and surprisingly steady level of energy as well, considering all the other things I have going on.  After I wrote about the seven deadly headstands a few weeks back, I was instructed to start practicing them that very same day... and I didn't wobble or fall out of a single one.  My mind had prepared me for complete failure, and it wasn't the case.  Maybe I should stop doubting my strength?  Doing the intermediate series from start to finish feels good, and all the backbending is helping to keep my body balanced with all the hunching forward raking/forking/weeding movements that I am doing on the farm.  Farming and yoga go together quite well it seems!

My sister is having her baby quite soon, and as much as we don't have the closest relationship, I am already feeling an awful lot of love for this little person that has yet to come into the world.

Enough writing for today.  I am going to take a bubble bath and relax before another hard week of manual labour.  Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian friends and family! 

Friday, September 30, 2011

In Memorian: Wangaari Maathai (1940-2011)

I read this post the other day on a blog I quite often read called "Yoga in the Dragon's Den", written by an Ashtanga practicioner in the US.   I have copy/pasted it exactly as is because I thought it was a poignant account of an amazing woman.  Hope you enjoy reading about her as much as I did, and thanks to Nobel for writing such a great post to begin with. 

In Memoriam: Wangaari Maathai (1940--2011)



[Image taken from here]

“Every person who has ever achieved anything has been knocked down many times. But all of them picked themselves up and kept going, and that is what I have always tried to do.”

Wangaari Maathai

'Dr. Maathai... conceived of her Green Belt Movement out of compassion and concern for the future of her children and her homeland of Kenya. She applauds the noble, ordinary women who participate in the movement as "foresters without diplomas." Their committed solidarity and steadfast efforts in their communities are not only preventing the desertification of Africa but also raising consciousness of environmental issues in the minds of people the world over. Their service to humanity and the Earth far exceeds that of any national leader. Lawmakers should take note of this fact, recognizing the wisdom, spirit and actions of the people with the respect they deserve. Unfortunately, however, the elite who lead the world's nations--the politicians, the bureaucrats, the academics--tend to look down on such popular movements.'

Buddhist leader and poet Daisaku Ikeda on Wangaari Maathai's life and work


I just learnt earlier today that Wangaari Maathai, the Kenyan environmentalist and scientist who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, died Sunday from ovarian cancer. She was 71. Here's a description of her life and work, excerpted from the Green Belt Movement's website:

"In the 1970s Professor Maathai became active in a number of environmental and humanitarian organizations in Nairobi, including the National Council of Women of Kenya (NCWK). Through her work representing women academics in the NCWK, she spoke to rural women and learned from them about the deteriorating environmental and social conditions affecting poor, rural Kenyans—especially women. The women told her that they lacked firewood for cooking and heating, that clean water was scarce, and nutritious food was limited.

Professor Maathai suggested to them that planting trees might be an answer. The trees would provide wood for cooking, fodder for livestock, and material for fencing; they would protect watersheds and stabilize the soil, improving agriculture. This was the beginning of the Green Belt Movement (GBM), which was formally established in 1977. GBM has since mobilized hundreds of thousands of women and men to plant more than 47 million trees, restoring degraded environments and improving the quality of life for people in poverty.

As GBM’s work expanded, Professor Maathai realized that behind poverty and environmental destruction were deeper issues of disempowerment, bad governance, and a loss of the values that had enabled communities to sustain their land and livelihoods, and what was best in their cultures. The planting of trees became an entry-point for a larger social, economic, and environmental agenda.

In the 1980s and 1990s the Green Belt Movement joined with other pro-democracy advocates to press for an end to the abuses of the dictatorial regime of then Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi. Professor Maathai initiated campaigns that halted the construction of a skyscraper in Uhuru (“Freedom”) Park in downtown Nairobi, and stopped the grabbing of public land in Karura Forest, just north of the city center. She also helped lead a yearlong vigil with the mothers of political prisoners that resulted in freedom for 51 men held by the government.

As a consequence of these and other advocacy efforts, Professor Maathai and GBM staff and colleagues were repeatedly beaten, jailed, harassed, and publicly vilified by the Moi regime. Professor Maathai’s fearlessness and persistence resulted in her becoming one of the best-known and most respected women in Kenya. Internationally, she also gained recognition for her courageous stand for the rights of people and the environment."

Reading this description of Professor Maathai's life and work, I was really struck by her keen insight that poverty and environmental destruction are indicators of deep human problems such as "disempowerment, bad governance, and a loss of the values that had enabled communities to sustain their land and livelihoods, and what was best in their cultures". But rather than allow herself to be defeated by this observation, she came to the conclusion that if she could get people to work together to reverse the damage done to the environment, they could find a way to empower themselves, stand up to powerful and corrupt authorities, and build a sustainable livelihood for themselves and their families.

We have much to learn from her. Perhaps, in some way, our personal practices can also become "trees" of personal growth, allowing us to cultivate the strength and the insight to work together with others productively, empower ourselves and others, and stand up for what is right and good around us.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Is tree planting yogic?

Farming the last two weeks has been bloody. hard. work.  Something like 1400 native trees and shrubs had to go into the ground to create a windbreak, and in other areas to help rebalance the ecosystem by attracting bees and birds and possums and kangaroos.  That is a lot of trees.  We had some manly men digging the holes with "kangas," (something like a little mini tractor), thank goodness, but it still involved a lot of stooping and getting up and down to move from one tree to the next.  Good thing we were planting them too, the neighbours of the farm were spraying toxic chemicals of doom all over their fields, so hopefully the positive impact of so many new trees will help to cancel out the poisons the other guys were using.  Being on the farm doing so much manual labour makes it pretty tough some mornings to get up and do my practice before heading out to do hard work all day long, but I haven't missed a practice yet, and to be honest, other than the stupid-o-clock wake up, it seems to be what is keeping my body in check.  Last week I was a very naughty ashtangi and did my intermediate practice on Friday, but luckily, the yoga police didn't crack down on the infraction mid karandavasana or something.  I simply wanted to get into all those backbends after all the stooping forward motions of farming, and it felt good.  Today I followed the rules and did intermediate series the rest of the week but stuck with primary series as it is once again, Friday, and just shifted the focus to the upward dogs in all the vinyasas.   I also slept in until the slovenly hour of 6AM, and went into the shala when the room was empty between classes.  Are these the rebellious teenage years of my yoga practice?  Perhaps.  Keeping up with my practice through all the hard work has felt like quite an accomplishment lately, so I don't mind bending the rules a little bit from time to time, treating myself to a sleep in etc.  Something tells me I could probably justify an extra day off as well, in the thought that tree planting itself is a yogic, an active example of non-harming (ahimsa) towards the earth, or karma yoga or something like that, but so far, it hasn't been necessary. 

Also,  just started reading 'The Cider House Rules' by John Irving, one of my favorite authors. Found a copy at the second hand shop this morning and happily snatched it up for a mere $3.  Yahoo!  Irving's books are all compulsive reads and have an interconnectedness about the plots and locations, and best of all they all carry an underlying element of the bizarre.  If you have not read anything by him, I suggest you do.  'The World According to Garp,' 'A Prayer for Owen Meany,' and 'Until I Find You' are my three favorites of his. 

Happy weekend!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Nesting = cookie baking and housecleaning

Moving is all finished (has been since last weekend...) but the transition into the new place is still sort of ongoing.  I took a few hours this afternoon to nest a bit... washing windows and scrubbing walls free of smudges and cobwebs helped to make it feel more like a home.  The domesticity doesn't stop there... I also made some absolutely delicious cookies: super chewy ginger and molasses.  Yum-o!  After being so busy last weekend and a big week on the farm I was really ready for a treat today and these cookies absolutely hit the spot.  Just call me Suzy Homemaker. 
Here is the recipe for some fan-freaking-tastic cookies:
2 1/4 cups flour
2tsp baking soda
1/4tsp salt
1tsp cinnamon (I threw in extra)
1/4 tsp nutmeg (my personal addition to this recipe)
1tsp ground ginger (be brave like me, use extra, and grate it fresh!)
3/4 cup butter softened (vegan? try coconut oil!)
1cup dark brown sugar (I used about 2/3 cup instead)
1 big egg (don't like eating chicken periods?  try using a tbsp of chia soaked in 1/4 cup water)
1/4 cup molasses (I used an extra blurb to make up for less sugar)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Sift flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger together
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy, beat in egg/chia and molasses until smooth
Blend with dry ingredients
Roll into balls of desired size and place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Leave room for a bit of spreading to happen. 
Bake for 10-12 minutes until cookies are firm to touch. 
Eat as many as possible without getting a tummy ache, or share them with friends. 
*Don't be shy with substitutions in the ingredients.  It keeps things interesting, and adds an element of the unknown to your baking.  Live on the edge.   



In yoga news, I got a reply back from Mysore saying they have accepted my application and I have a spot to go and study there again this year.  YIPPEE!  Maybe there are very strong magnets that keep drawing me back, or maybe it is just the practice and the opportunity to study with my teacher?  One or the other.  I've had a fair few 'lightbulb moments' about my own practice lately, and it feels like a good time to put all my focus back onto being a student.  There is a little vacuum opening up in my brain that wants to suck up all the information it can about Ashtanga, and not just the asana, but the other limbs as well, and there is probably no better place in the world for that than Mother India.  The postures are going well too; my body seems to be revealing secret ninja powers I never knew I had... intermediate series is not so daunting as it once was, and all that is left to learn are the seven deadly headstands at the end.  There will be interesting tales of epic crashes I think, so stay posted. 

Now, time for a bubble bath. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Moving Day, and farm work is hard.

In the ten years (ten years!!!! I am getting old!) since I left the nest and moved out of my parents house I have moved many many times, think I am up to 14 different addresses now.  And this weekend is moving time again.  Sigh.  Luckily just moving around the corner this time, but it will be a big weekend with all the cleaning that has to be done when you end a tenancy.  Luckily, I have enlisted the help of the kiwi for taking care of the yard, with the promise of sending him some extra kitchen wares and baking some delicious treats for him.  The new place is beautiful and cozy, a Sumatran style house with a big jungle inspired yard that has heaps of character, and I can't wait to get settled in.  The next move will hopefully not be for a while, but there is a trip to Mysore in the works, so there might be a bit of a break from the new place while I am in India.   Just hope I'll be able to come back to it!

Farming has been hard work this week, definitely feeling a bit fatigued from a combination of the long day of pitch-forking (turning the soil in the veggie beds to mix the compost with the topsoil) and being caught out in the elements.  Some friends have lent me rain gear, but when it pours down it is tough to stay dry and warm.  Still loving being outside though, it is great on the sunny days and nature is pretty amazing as we head into springtime.  The little birds chasing each other around the farm sowing off their bright plumage and loop-deloop skills are a great source of entertainment!  My practice hasn't suffered too much from the hard work, and I think if anything it will be complimentary.  The big Popeye muscles will probably be good for the tough stretch of ninja postures in intermediate!

Suppose I should get busy packing and cleaning and get this moving day on the go...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Popeye and Green Smoothies

I think I might look something like this at the end of my stint on the farm...


Big muscles, check, squinty eye (for keeping out rogue sunbeams and dust), check, hat, check, penchant for spinach... check.  The only thing I can't imagine acquiring is the pipe.  There has been a lot of raking/landscaping and digging holes to transplant native trees and pitchfork using for mixing compost with topsoil in the veggie beds, so lots of work on the upper body muscles.  I'll keep an eye on my biceps, not so sure the Popeye look would be attractive on a lady?
With all the hard work that has been on the agenda I am trying to pay extra attention to making sure my diet is giving me the fuel I need.  My housemate Sage (lets call him Sagey to be affectionate) is a passionate raw foodist and superfood expert, so I have picked up lots of tips from him on things I can add into my diet to give me a reserve of energy, and also on how to have "the best day ever," everyday.  I have taken to borrowing his race car red vitamix every morning to make a big green smoothie that keeps me revved up all morning.  What is in this green smoothie you may wonder?  Here are the usual ingredients, but really, sometimes I just improvise.

2tbsp of chia seeds soaked in about 3/4 cup water
1-2 granny smith apples (depending on their size)*
handful of greens (I like spinach, kale, chard (called silverbeet in the land down under), or pak choy)
1 tsp(ish) of coconut oil
1 scoop honey to taste**
 small sploosh of apple juice (the cloudy unfiltered organic kind)

After blending and pouring into my favourite tall glass, I sprinkle a mountain of bee pollen on top and eat the whole thing with a spoon.  Yum-o!  And it keeps me full and energised for a good long while :)

*Green apples work well because they have less sugar than other apples or other fruits like bananas... to much sugar mixed with the greens causes a wee fermentation in the belly, and burping and farting will ensue.  Yikes!  Also, I like to use spray-free apples found at thee local farmers market, and they tend to be quite small, so that is where the pair comes in... 2 would be like one regular grocery store apple
**Honey is clearly a sugary substance, but for me it doesn't cause the burping and farting when mixed with the greens... there are enzymes in honey that can aid digestion, so that might be what makes the difference, but this one might be good to experiment with on your own body and see what happens.  Stevia powder is what Sagey recommends if honey doesn't work because it is a low-sugar sweetener and won't react with the greens.  Honey tastes nicer though.   

Would Popeye approve of the green smoothie?  I think he would, especially if Olive Oyl made it for him. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Farming: Week One

So I have started working at a biodynamic farm, partially to cover the visa requirements so that I can apply for another year of working-holiday in Australia, but also because I think it will be great to be outside and learning something new about how food can be grown.  Biodynamics is something I hadn't heard of before I arrived in Australia, so I am certainly not an expert, but it seems to look at the idea of food production from a very well rounded perspective.  Many factors come into play here: the quality of the soil, planting in accordance to the moon cycles, the memory of water, and keeping toxic chemicals away from anything that will be entering your body.  With the soil, especially in Western Australia, there is a lot of work to be done in terms of building up a level of healthy microbes and nutrients in the earth, as things are pretty depleted as it stands now.  That means that compost is an absolute necessity for anyone who is not interested in putting heaps of chemicals in the ground, that will then go up into the plants, which then wind up in our bellies.   Raised veggie beds are quite popular in the gardening/farming community around here as well, and I don't know much about this yet, but I imagine it is for two reasons: drainage (lots of clay/sand in the soil), and keeping all that compost concentrated to the areas where the plants are actually growing.  No need to work on soil quality where the footpaths are going to be.  Anyways, all this boring talk aside, I spent my week weeding asparagus, planting native trees, and raking compost and then topsoil over the veggie beds.  I luckily got mostly nice weather, although the first part of the week was cold and wet (ie:rain+ crazy  wind=horizontal rain), so thank yous are in order to the very nice friends who have lent me rain-gear.  There are many many complaining muscles in my arms/shoulders/between the shoulder blades/lower back, (what isn't sore would be a better question) but I think my practice will help to keep my body happy.  I am treating myself to a late practice today since I don't have to do anything until later this afternoon, I thought why get up at 3am, when I could let these weary muscles catch up on some rest.  Can I look at that as practicing ahimsa with myself?  And I have a free weekend too! Yahoo!       

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A day in the life of the Samudra Yogis

 
Sage, my housemate and the superfood specialist at Samudra filmed this video over the course of a few days to show the ultimate day for the yoga crew.  Well done Sagey!


***There is a shot of me in bikini bottoms, so you might need sunglasses to shield your eyes from the glaring white of my legs.  Proceed with caution.   

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Early morning thoughts on life

Only just past 6AM and I am home from practice, ready to crawl back into my bed and have a snooze.  I'd whip up a green smoothie but one housemate is still sleeping, so running the blender is probably not a very nice thing to do.  Breakfast will have to wait. 
Big changes happening all over the place in my life, and I am struggling to detach myself from some of them, but I guess that just means I have a little more self study to do.  There is an art to letting go I suppose, and I certainly haven't gotten there yet.  More practice needed; ouchie.  This might be easier if I were sleeping better, but too many thoughts are invading my brain to let me conk out at night... sleep deprivation project week three. 
Busy weekend coming up with teaching, market going, hopefully a little bit of resting, and then off to the farm on Monday morning.  I have a raincoat on lend from a fellow yogi-ninja, purchased some wellies and socks, so I guess I am about ready to go. It will be fantastic to get to be outside in the beautiful WA air, just hoping that spring is really here and there isn't too much cold/wet weather left in the season.  There has been a fantastic explosion of wildflowers around the neighbourhood lately, and little bees are back in action, so I think the end of winter is here but who knows. 
Plans for India are in the works.  A trip to Mysore would be beautiful right about now, and I am looking at flights for the first week of December.  It is good to have something to look forward to.  I would have to really work hard to save up enough $$$ for the three months I would like to stay, but it is possible.. maybe if I am feeling ballsy I will go ahead and book the flights.  Speaking of Mysore, my post about the Dasara festival last year is getting a lot of hits; I guess everyone wants to see elephant bums... who knew?  For my potential dates this year I would be around for the Holi festival when everyone throws paint at each other.  Good photo potential there. 
Enough writing.  Time for a siesta. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

thinking thinking

I will have to get back in the habit of writing more often.  Bad lady, not blogging for weeks at a time.  I have been on a bit of a roller coaster the last while; it seems as though the universe is trying to remind me of impermanence.  The only constant in this life is change.  As easy as it is to get comfortable with the people we surround ourselves with, it is important to weed out the ones who are not kind or respectful or supportive.  That being said, maybe there is a bit of learning to be done about forgiveness as well?  As a scorpio, I have a memory that simply won't forget what people say and do to hurt me, and I can hold a grudge like no other, but I am working on it.  This forgiveness thing is difficult, but seeing as how we are all flawed, it is something that is pretty crucial to embrace. 
Other upcoming changes:  in order to fulfill my visa requirements to apply for another year in Australia, I have to complete 3 months of agricultural work.  In a few weeks time I will be starting to work on a bio-dynamic farm, so that will be a big change too, but one that I will be glad to embark upon.  It will be good to be outside in the dirt, reconnecting to my roots of having grown up on a farm, and learning something completely new.  I may even invest in a big straw hat as the weather warms up :)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pardon???

It is cold enough to see my breath this morning, and it was yesterday as well.  When I moved to Australia, this is not what I bargained for!!!  Good thing I have plenty of yarn and crochet hooks, maybe I will make my self some long johns.  The bike ride down to Samudra is short, but painful in this weather, and I know I have no right to complain after surviving Canadian winters through my entire childhood, but holy doodle, not liking the cold mornings.  The afternoons are beautiful: crisp, clear, and sunshine beaming across the sky and dancing through the windows.  But 4AM?  Yeesh.

A short list of things I am grateful for on cold mornings:
~A pre-yoga cup of coffee
~Ugg boots
~The $2 space heater I picked up at a garage sale
~The under-floor heating in the yoga room
~My purple beanie/toque
~The hoodie that I am wearing right now, with extra cozy fuzziness on the inside

Happy summer to all my northern hemisphere friends, I am a wee bit envious right now!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Guru Purnima

Today is a special occasion, the full moon of this month marks the birthday of Pattabhi Jois, and is also an important day known as Guru Purnima for honoring gurus in hindu culture.  Guruji passed away over two years ago, but his legacy still shines brightly and continues to touch the lives of Ashtanga practitioners around the world.  I took a moment today in the shala at Samudra to pay my tributes, and around the world today many other people will have done the same.  When you hear of all the crazy, destructive things that people get up to in the world, it is nice to be a part of a movement that is encouraging love and peace and community instead.

"Yoga, as a way of life and a philosophy, can be practiced by anyone with inclination to undertake it, for yoga belongs to humanity as a whole. It is not the property of any one group or any one individual, but can be followed by any and all, in any corner of the globe, regardless of class, creed or religion."

- Sri K. Pattabhi Jois




Thursday, July 7, 2011

Beanies, Tapas, Pants. Interesting combo.

When it rains, it pours.  Not much time for blogging lately, but heaps has been going on.  Winter is in full swing here, complete with crazy storms and me turning into a popsicle the mintue I jump out of bed in the morning.  The weather isn't really all that cold, at least in comparison to a Canadian winter, but houses aren't really insulated the same way and being a little low on body fat insulation I don't retain heat for long on my own.  The upside about the cold weather is that everyone is getting rugged up and I am doing pretty well with selling toques/beanies and mittens at the local farmers markets.  and the good thing about living in a small town like Dunsborough is that word travels fast and I am the only crafty lady at the markets under the age of... 65ish.  I guess I stand out in the crowd. 

Things have been a little emotional in yoga lately, and it is a good test of tapas (discipline) to have a tough go of things sometimes.  When practice is effortless and light, getting on the mat in the morning is a pleasure, but when stuff comes up and the body is feeling lethargic/unresponsive/vulnerable/all of the above, it becomes a test of mind over matter and a question of commitment as well.  Learning how to keep going through the rough patches is all part of building up to a sustainable, lifelong practice, and I imagine it is something everyone goes through.  I mean, it would be much easier some days to roll over in bed, turn off the alarm, deem it a "ladies holiday" even if it isn't and burrow back under the covers until a more reasonable hour, but to get up and stare down whatever it is that has your knickers in a twist in the first place is going to be much more productive in the long run.  And for every time I get up when I really really really wanted to just stay in bed, I am sure to reward myself with a nap in the afternoon.  I also reward myself with naps on many other days the rare occasion, but nothing, NOTHING will keep me from a good long siesta on days where I contemplated not getting up at all or having a faux ladies holiday. 
As an optimist, when life wrings me out a bit, I still tend to see the bright side of things, even if it takes me a few days of blah to get there.  Things have been good with my kiwi; last weekend I turned lumberjack for the afternoon and we went on an epic firewood hunting adventure that involved me swinging an axe.  I am tougher than I look.  Haven't been able to see him this week though; he is working up in Perth to install a garden at a high school, super cool project.  The other thing I have noticed this week is how much love I get from my friends at work, the yoga students and a fair few strangers as well.    So moral of the story: when you see someone who looks like they need a hug, chances are good that they really do.  Hug them.  Share love, share kindness, and it will come back to you when you need it. 
Also, on a completely different note, I went to a second hand shop this afternoon to look for pants, as I have one pair of functional jeans at the moment, and things get dicey around laundry day if they haven't dried by the time I need them.  I saw a pair of skinny leg grey trouser style pants on the boys rack, that is little boys, age 10-14, as I headed over to the ladies section, and thought I would chance it, not hoping for much as I noticed they were a size 11-12years.  Tried them, buttoned them, looked at my bum in the mirror, bought them.  Didn't think it was possible, but scored new clothes for $2.  Not complaining.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"What you seek is seeking you."
~Rumi

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Mysore memories

This morning I woke up with a head cold.  Nothing major, nothing to complain too much about, but I felt pretty icky.  When my alarm went off I told myself that I clearly needed one more minute of cozy warm lying in bed time, and then I would get up and make coffee.  One minute turned into 30, so I sprung out of bed half an hour late, dove directly into the steaming hot shower, wriggled half dry into my yoga tights while brushing my teeth and sped off to work on my trusty bicycle.  This is all before 4AM, just for reference as to what it means to "sleep in" these days.  I arrived with a few spare moments and my friend and practice buddy kindly made me a coffee and sat down for a few minutes so we could both wake up a little bit.  No coffee no prana, right?  Getting into practice I had a pretty geriatric start, stiff, achy, too many boogers, but as I worked my way through the standing postures I could feel the snot cloud clearing and my joints softening.  I got to pasasana
 
and as I wobbled into it (dark room plus clogged sinuses equals no balance at all) I thought of Sharath on my last trip to Mysore.  He looked at my hands and said "good catching," but then moved in for the adjustment to take my weight backwards to shift my heels down to the floor.  The moment he stepped away, I tipped over, and he stood there with his hands on his hips, smiling, and said "use Indian toilet."  It made my practice a little easier to have that little mysore memory pop up when I needed to have laugh at myself.  Some days getting out of bed and getting going is hard work, but I can't think of a time that I regretted it, especially today.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Nesting, teaching kids to chant, and imaginary fish hooks.

These last few weekends I have been feeling the urge to putter around the house and be crafty.  I think my weekday schedule is crazy enough that I need a very quiet day to recover from it every now and then, and Saturdays have been my only opportunity of late.  This morning I made pancakes again (it is beginning to turn into a bit of a ritual!) and have spent my day being rather domestic indeed.  I baked a coconut pumpkin loaf this afternoon and have crocheted a toque/beanie and a half.  I am having a table at the local farmers market in two weeks time, and seeing as how the weather is cooling off and the mornings (especially the super early 4AM practice mornings) are feeling awfully winter-ish, I think hand crafted one of a kind toques will go over great!  There is a stash of about 20 tucked away at the moment, but I would love to get through at least another 10 or maybe even 15 before market day on June 11th.
In yoga land, things have been progressing.  I have taken on teaching the kids, the teens, and a beginners course all on my own, and so far it is going great.  Trying to reign the kids in to focus and actually learn some yoga on a Friday afternoon is probably the most challenging, but yesterday I made a discovery: chanting is the secret weapon to success.  We spent a solid 5 minutes at the end of class chanting different things, parts of the shanti mantra, oms, and then picked flowers from the garden for the Ganesha statue in the hallway.  It is pretty sweet to see them all tied up in padmasana (aka lotus for any readers not fluent in yoga talk), hands in prayer position chanting devotional hymns in Sanskrit and then hunting down flowers for a deity.    My own practice hasn't suffered from all the hours assisting and teaching classes, if anything it has been the opposite.  On the days when I am really exhausted and rolling up to the studio at a quarter to four in the morning to practice before assisting I have been able to rely on floating through on my breath and even if my limbs feel like lead, my bandhas have been there for me.  Some of the poses in second that I thought I would never be able to do are all of a sudden just happening, and when I stopped thinking of karandavasana being all about shoulder strength it all made sense.  Nothing to do with the extremities, all about the pelvis.  I am imagining someone with a fishing rod above me and they have hooked my tailbone and lower me down slowly so that I articulate through each vertebrae and get my padmasana resting on my arms with a fair bit of control.  Coming back up takes a bit of help, but I have a feeling that given a bit more time it might actually be possible.  When I first saw this I laughed and thought that there was absolutely NO WAY that my body would ever develop the power required to pull it off, and wasn't terribly worried about it, because that part of the intermediate series seemed ages away.  Even this past trip to Mysore when I ended my practice the posture before and got to watch I thought there was no chance..  At that point I was still face-planting when I tried to balance in pincha mayurasana, so the skepticism was pretty logical at the time.  Now it is here and it isn't nearly as bad as I thought.  Bambi has been one of my nicknames since I started yoga (think of the ice skating scene in the Disney movie), so that this is possible is pretty incredible.  Maybe when I can come back up on my own I will make a video.  I might need proof of this one.  Then the test will be to see if I can make it happen in the led intermediate class next time I end up back in Mysore.    
Better get back to crocheting, market day is coming soon.....


*Funny.  I spell checked this entry and the suggestion for padmasana was parmesan.  Not quite the same things.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Birthday Pancakes!

On the weekend I got the chance to celebrate my special Kiwi's birthday, and because he didn't want to do anything big or flashy (no birthday cake, no party...) I tried to make it a special day in my own little way.  We have gotten into the habit of making pancakes together most Saturdays anyways (the only morning I'm not waking up to an alarm at a shockingly early hour), but I upped the ante a little and made a huge batch: buckwheat, vegan, and heart shaped, with a sparkler candle on top.  I got this recipe from another blog that I don't really read, I just hunted down vegan pancakes on google a few weeks ago and this was the winner, just because it looked both yummy and easy.  It was a nice start to the birthday boy's day, and didn't make him feel silly... I know how much I hate a big hullabaloo on my birthday, so I didn't want to cross the line on that one for sure.   Got to love how making someone else feel special makes you feel good in return!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Parampara

This week marked two years since Pattabhi Jois passed away, and it got me to thinking about the idea of parampara, or the idea of transference of knowledge from guru to student.  Pattabhi Jois was known affectionately as Guruji to thousands of yoga practitioners around the world, and even after leaving this existence, his legacy of Ashtanga Vinyasa continues to touch people around the globe on a daily basis. Many modern yoga instructors take his teachings and put their own personal stamp on them, embellishing and modifying until the core of the method is a minor afterthought, but the global community of dedicated practitioners somehow continues to flourish. Homage is paid to Guruji every day that his students step onto their mats and practice this method in the correct way, with devotion and surrender, and the hopes of connecting to something greater than themselves.  The last few years of my life have been marked by this man, and although I didn't have to opportunity to be his student firsthand, I am filled with gratitude to be able to receive this knowledge from those he taught personally.

"If we practice the science of yoga, which is useful to the entire human community and which yields happiness both here and hereafter - if we practice it without fail, we will then attain physical, mental, and spiritual happiness, and our minds will flood towards the Self." 
K. Pattabhi Jois

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Blessed Unrest


"How is one to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherent in life, when one finds darkness not only in one's culture but within oneself?  If there is a stage at which an individual life becomes truly adult, it must be when one grasps the irony in its unfolding and accepts responsibility for a life lived in the midst of such paradox.  One must live in the middle of contradiction, because if all contradiction were eliminated at once life would collapse.  There are simply no answers to some of the great pressing questions.  You continue to live them out, making your life a worthy expression of leaning into the light."

Barry Lopez

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Long Weekend=Madness in Paradise

I have been really enjoying the mellow feel of Dunsborough, and every time a long weekend happens, this sleepy little town turns to absolute chaos.  The farmers market changed locations today to accommodate the crowds, and trying to weave my way through the swarming mob of visitors was reminiscent of the markets in India.  Madness!  The local newspaper reported that pretty much all accommodation is booked out for the weekend, and I don't doubt it... the population has at least tripled for the next few days.  Samudra has been pretty crazy too, lots of people doing drop-in classes which means lots of people who don't really know what they are doing and need lots of one-on-one attention.  This is when the apprentices such as myself come in very handy.  Next week will be just as hectic, apparently the mayhem doesn't end until after NEXT weekend.  Maybe if I am still around for Easter 2012 I will take a week off and go to Perth where it will be lovely and quiet.  Now there is a plan.

In other news, I have been crocheting up a storm trying to make a big stock of toques/beanies, mittens and who knows what else, so that I can set up a stall at the market one weekend soon, perfect timing seeing as how autumn is in the air, and winter is just around the corner.  How many crocheted items do I have to sell to pay for my next trip to India?  On that note, I suppose I should stop typing and get busy crafting.

Happy Easter! 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Some serious thoughts, but mostly octopus adventures

The cycle of life has been on my mind a lot lately, watching the seasons change, hearing about people leaving this world, and also announcements of new life coming into it.  I suppose it is all meant as a system of checks and balances, and as much as there is suffering in death, there is a renewed sense of light and hope when you discover that there is a new addition to the family expected in about 6 months time. 

(Disclaimer: Not me having the babies, my sister is!  I am going to be an auntie!)

The same sort of thoughts were highlighted for me a few days ago when I went for a long walk down a trail that cuts through some protected bush areas and then down to the beach and back up again.  There is evidence of a fire in the not so distant past in all the burnt back bits of wood and charred trees still poking out of the greenery, but the capacity of nature to rebuild itself is pretty amazing.  Heading down to the beach and looking in the tide pools amongst the rocks shows another excess of living things, and I was lucky enough to see a small octopus, not to mention a great variety of incredible creatures.  An octopus!!!!
I feel like a child all over again when I see stuff like that; a sense of wonder and awe at the incredible diversity of the natural world has never left me.  I do feel a little bad for whoever I happen to be with when I see things that are new, because inadvertently, I always revert back to my five-year-old self and start asking why this and why that, regardless of the fact that this person might not know any more than I do!  On the other end of the spectrum I saw a dead puffer fish, but it had been preserved by sun or salt or a combination of the two and was not rotting or decomposing, but in full flesh, dry, but still semi puffed out.  (There were whys to accompany this sighting as well.)   Dead things usually really scare me, but this one looked almost still alive.  No photos of the puffer, seemed disrespectful somehow. 

Kangaroos, possums, octopus, what next? 


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

 Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.
- Henry David Thoreau



Sunday, March 27, 2011

Time for an update

So I know I have been blogging largely about Odanadi and Yoga Stops Traffick lately, and it might be getting boring to read about for anyone who isn't as passionate about the issue as I am, so I will wrap it up for a while here.  YST 2011 was a great success at Samudra, we had over 40 participants milling through our event, and raised $427.  Many people were moved to tears at the event, and many brought their daughters along to participate or just to observe.  What a beautiful afternoon!  Samudra has generously offered to donate as well, all money collected from the weekly teen yoga classes is used towards charity and they have set aside $500 for the cause.  Big thanks and love to everyone who participated anywhere around the world.

Otherwise life in Dunsborough is pretty good.  I have settled into a routine, but now I have a big shift in housemates; the two lovely ladies that I am living with at present are moving on in another direction in their lives and two gentlemen will be taking their places.  Big changes keep things interesting I guess. 

Doing a teaching apprenticeship is proving to be a challenge, because I am realizing that although I know my own body and my own practice inside and out, it doesn't mean that I know how to communicate those learnings to someone else.  There is a lot of self doubt lurking around the corners of my mind these days, something I thought I had let go of, but the fact that it is still there just means that I have come to another phase of growth.  Plateauing is comfortable, but these upward stretches towards becoming a better person are really what the journey is all about.  My physical practice is feeling pretty great at the moment, and I have discovered a bit of strength that is coming in very handy; I feel like there might be a bit more balance developing between power and flexibility.  This yoga is a beautiful thing.  In our apprentice studies, we were asked to compile a list of what we thought would be the most important points to share over the duration of a beginners course, and it made me feel like writing a love letter to the practice.  I haven't actually produced a letter, but it was a great exercise in cultivating gratitude.   

Other highlights of life in sunny Dunsborough... swimming in the beautiful ocean almost every day, making connections with warm and caring people, and having organic veggies delivered to my door by a charismatic Kiwi.... 

Also, I saw a kangaroo with a joey last week!  How cool is that!  I have seen possums a few times as well, but they are slightly creepy beacuse in the dark their outline is like a GIANT rat.  Maybe if I saw one in better lighting I would like them a bit more.