Thursday, May 31, 2012

Project Love

When I first moved in to this neighbourhood, and was exploring all the different ways to walk to the beach and to work, and discovering which streets have more trees and less traffic I came across these two words etched into the sidewalk.

I find myself walking down this stretch of road more often than necessary, and it is a very dangerous way to walk, due to the organic bakery with it's wide open doors and the aroma of cookies and bread and coffee wafting out, how to resist stopping for a treat?  Anyways, I see these words and I always fall to wondering about who took the time to do it.  Did they mean project as a verb?  Did they mean it as a noun?  This little bit of sidewalk graffiti fascinates me every time I see it.    Project Love, whether as a verb or a noun seems like a good idea to me.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

G'day mate

The Australian accent is fantastic.  It is playful and cheeky and colourful, and there is an awful lot of it getting absorbed into my manner of speaking.  So many words are shortened, so much slang is there, and so many r's are missing in action. 

For example:

This arvo, I had an avo and a cuppa and then went to the op shop and got a jumpah in good nick, and it was a bit expo.  (Arvo means afternoon, and avo means avocado, but they sound exactly the same.  Cuppa is cup of tea or coffee, op shop is short for opportunity shop (second hand store), jumper=jumpah=hoodie, in good nick means in good condition, expo is expensive.) Phew

Some more words/ phrases you hear a lot:
Heaps, I reckon, far out, darling, bubba, ta, cheers, no worries, bogan, tucker, and there are more, I just can't think of them at the moment.

Words that make me giggle: (essentially anything with an r)
Here (heah), hair (haih), beer (beah) surf (suuf) yarn (yahn).... you get the idea

What's even funnier is that often words with no r end up sounding like they do, for example yoga starts sounding like yoger. 

Little things too like instead of saying you've been at the beach, you would say you've been down the beach.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to be condescending.  I am just fascinated, and have been really enjoying the colourful additions that I have noticed slipping into my own voice.  Part of the fun of traveling is seeing all these little variations in language from place to place, and playing with different ways of communicating. 


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sharath's Conference Demo

Sharath doesn't demo very often, but he did at a conference this past March.  I had already left Mysore, so I didn't see it in person, but it is pretty amazing to see even on youtube.  Let the boss show you what he means by bandhas.

Lucky he didn't tip over.  No mat on those tiles... risky business!

Friday, May 18, 2012


Today marks three years since Pattabhi Jois passed away.  What a profound impact this man had on the world.  Sending gratitude and respect to Guruji; his legacy lives on.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Breath of the Gods

A trailer for what looks to be a great yoga documentary! 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Superhero moments

I don't write about my actual practice very often on this blog, partly because I don't think it is all that interesting, and partly because it isn't really something that I dwell on outside of the time that I am practising, but every now and then something noteworthy happens that seems relevant enough to write about.  A breakthrough or a revelation of some sort that, to paraphrase Kino MacGregor, allows the impossible to become possible.

A lot of what goes on in an ashtanga yoga shala, to an unknowing observer, would look like some sort of ninja training.  People do absolutely mind blowing things with their bodies and they do it with a degree of focus and ease that make it look extraordinary.  Quite frankly, a lot of things that happen in the practice are nothing short of extraordinary.  When you begin, the simple things are really hard.  You learn to focus, you learn to breathe, you keep repeating those same things over again, day after day, watching the subtle shifts in your body as things begin to unlock and you start to get to know the inner workings of your own unique instrument, and then you learn something new, and it is really hard.  You may look up at some point, and notice the person beside you doing something that looks like it will be forever out of the realm of possibility for you, and watch on in admiration for a moment, but then you remember your drishti, and get back to your own practice.  Sooner or later you get to that asana yourself, and maybe for a while it is indeed impossible, but then with time, breath, patience, and maybe a helping hand or word of advice from a teacher, small inroads are created, and then one day... poof! You have discovered a potential within yourself that you failed to believe ever existed.

The arm balancing postures of intermediate have been that mountain for me.  When I first saw karandavasana, I thought it would be the end of my asana journey in ashtanga, because it appeared to be the type of thing that required a nearly superhuman strength, something I most certainly do not have.  Yet here I am, practicing beyond that.  This week, my energy levels were a bit low, and there were no expectations for any major asana breakthroughs.  Yet on Monday, as I prepared my arms for pincha mayurasana, I thought to myself that it was time to try jumping up with two legs instead of lifting one leg at a time.  The worst that could happen is that I would tip over, not such a big deal.  So up I went, both legs together, bent in with my heels to my bum and my knees to my chest, but believe it or not, I stayed, and straighened up into the full pose for a steady balance.  Karandavasana next, so I tried it again.  Success.  Tuesday morning, same time, same posture, wondering if it was just a fluke, but nope, up I went, steady and balanced.  Wednesday morning as I wiped the sweat from my forearms and prepared to enter the pose I thought it would be interesting to try coming up with two legs straight, like you are meant to do for the tick-tocks at the end of practice (something else I am struggling with).  Much to my surprise, it worked.  When I came down, I felt as though I should tie my yoga rug around my shoulders like a cape for the remainder of my practice (I didn't actually, but it was tempting), because it was the best superhero moment I have had in months.  Thursday, it worked again.  The impossible became possible when I managed the posture in a very tentative, bambi-ish sort of way that somehow got a pass from the boss to move on the next postures, but it happened all over again when some sort of intelligence blossomed within my body to allow the possibility of doing these same poses in a way I thought only accessible to the incredibly strong.  And I certainly don't fall into the category of incredibly strong, more into the category of undercooked spaghetti (as opposed to the overcooked spaghetti that I was when I first started).     

It is amazing how with an ashtanga yoga practice, doing the same set series of postures day in and day out never gets old, never gets boring. There are always shifts and changes happening in the body, physically and energetically, that leave you making new observations and discoveries.  New possibilities emerge, and the limitations you have set for yourself are proven to be completely unfounded.  The days that you start out thinking that it might be worthwhile considering geriatric yoga instead of this crazy hard and focused  ninja/superhero business can sometimes turn out to be the ones where you find a profound moment, not just physically, but in terms of the citta vrittis as well, those fluctuations of the mind that are so hard to turn off.  When things are harder than usual, because you are stiff, or tired or ate too much dinner or have stinky/heavy breathing/space hogging mat neighbour, you have to go more inwards, and when you go more inwards, and find that moment of complete quiet, and sometimes, a very surprising breakthrough will happen, that brings you back out of that quiet, marvelling at the fact that a new realm of possibility has opened up before you.  Not only is the physical achievment something, there is a glimpse of the depths of stillness in the mind when you are so entirely focused in on the present moment, and the vastness that exists in that.   

Guruji certainly summed it up well when he said 'do your practice and all is coming'.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Extraordinary Life

My life is extraordinary.

I came to this realization the other day when a representative from Landmark Education came to speak to all the staff at work about the forum, and how it can help you to create possibilities to lead an extraordinary life.  Back in the days when I worked at lululemon in Victoria, I participated in this course, and it gave me some things to consider, especially in terms of the way I communicate, but looking at it now, after establishing my yoga practice, it isn't necessary.  Daily practice allows you to see all the very best and the very worst of yourself, what you choose to do with it is entirely in your own hands.  Keep running through the hamster wheel of samskaras?  Reacting instead of responding time after time?  Yoga allows you (ok it allows me, can't speak for everyone here...) a certain omniscience to observe all the patterns and filters and tendencies that prevent me from being a better human being, and eventually, over time, these rough edges are polished and shined and come out of the maelstrom with greater subtlety, more grace.  Looking at what the Landmark program offers in terms of the yamas and niyamas is also really interesting, because it upholds the element of satya (truthfulness) very well; it is basically a no bullshit (pardon my french) allowed experience, but it leaves a lot to be desired in the elements of aparigraha and santosha (non-greed and contentment).  Looking at my life now, it would seem absolutely ludicrous to start asking for much more than I already have.  My job allows me to share something I love, and work for a really rather small number of hours a day.  I have seen and experienced more places and cultures in the last few years than many people get to see in a lifetime.  A walk from my doorstep to the beach takes less than ten minutes, and that beach may be crowded, but it is clean and well cared for.  How can I ask for much more?  Being in a meaningful relationship would be nice I suppose, but maybe now isn't the time.  Being closer to my family would be nice as well, but a time and opportunity for that will present itself, I am sure.  My life is not perfect.  Not by a long shot.  But so many possibilities are there.

My life is extraordinary.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Food for thought

Last week I did something tremendously exciting.  It began with a bus ride, and then a short walk, and I found myself at the help desk of the Waverley Library.  The very helpful lady set me up with the form, and once I had filled it in, I was issued my very own library card.  This may not sound tremendously exciting to you, but I was over the moon.  Thousands of books, available for my perusing pleasure, for free.  Seven days a week.  How much better does it get?  A trip to the shops was also on my agenda that afternoon, so I restrained myself to picking out just one book, and decided to go with something I have been meaning to read for a while.
He describes at length the evolution of eating habits, from different angles, and marvels at the fact that food is something in need of defense at all.  What it boils down to is simple.  Most of what is available in the supermarket isn't really technically food, just a food-like product comprised of chemicals/sugar/other questionable substances, and we eat a lot of it.  Pollan looks at the ballooning waistlines in America, but elsewhere in the world as well, and notes that the inexact science of nutrition has been leading eaters away from common sense and cultural diets and also the pleasure of eating.  Looking at packets of processed "foods" can be quite alarming, to the degree that reading the label of a packet of pumpkin soup the other day actually made me feel a bit nauseous.  There were about 10 unpronounceable ingredients listed, including something that sounded like corn syrup and another that sounded like coffee whitener, before the pumpkin came along.  When I make pumpkin soup, there are about 5 ingredients involved, the first one being, surprise!  Pumpkin.  There was nothing that came as a huge revelation to me in this book, but it made me firmer in my resolve to avoid things in packets with un-identifiable components.  When I do go to the shops these days, I notice I am buying very little.  Quinoa, brown rice, oats, tofu, beans, olive or sesame oil, nuts, dried fruit, and not much else.  At the farmers market however, it is a different story.  Luckily there are two markets that I can go to during the week, so accessing fresh, local fruits and vegetables is no challenge at all.  Another notable comment that he made is that the quality of the food we eat is a reflection of the quality of the soil.  The higher up you go in the food chain, the more factors are involved.  If you eat a steak (moo!) and the cow had been pumped full of hormones and antibiotics and fed a diet of grains, and that grain was sprayed with pesticides and the soil was dumped full of chemicals, how much of that is being passed on the the person putting a bloody piece of flesh in their mouth?  If the soil is nurtured (hello compost!), you grow healthy plants without the need for chemicals.  If healthy plants are fed to people, or animals, they will be healthy too.  It isn't rocket science.  The whole obesity and nutrition issue is spinning out of control in many parts of the world, but the solution is so much simpler than any diet program or exercise regime.  Michael Pollan has it pegged.  Eat Food.  Not too much.  Mostly Plants. 

Now off to the library for some more books, maybe I will live on the edge and take out two or three this week.