Thursday, July 26, 2012

Is re-reading books for Grandmas only?

The way my schedule works these days, I have a few free hours in the middle of the day, and to fill this time I have been doing a fair bit of crocheting, a fair bit of wandering around the neighbourhood, and a whole heck of a lot of reading.  When I get home in the evening after teaching, I usually only really have a little snack and a cup of tea, a shower, and then it is usually more or less my bed time.  Going to bed at grandma o'clock is a good idea when you are getting up at verging-on-stupid o'clock.  A friend of mine has been teasing me about my grandma-ish tendencies, and when I mentioned that I love to revisit books that I have already read, that was another tick in the grandma behavior category. 

So I am an underage grandma.  Ok, I can live with that... there are worse things to be accused of!

Anyways, this Nana in training is reading the Life of Pi  by Yann Martel for at least the fifth time.  It is one of my favorite books, not only due to the quality of the writing, but also because of the way the story can be interpreted.  This habit of reading the same book many times has been with me since my childhood, and I don't know exactly where it started, or with what book, but there is something about picking up a familiar book and diving into the pages that have held you captive many times before that is a lot like catching up with an old friend.

In case anyone was wondering, the minor ninjury of last week seems to have been just a warning from the Ashtanga police.  There has been no residual pain in the spot where the crunch happened, but just as a precautionary measure, and also to help get rid of the cold that has been dragging me down the last few weeks, I have been practicing primary series this week.  A little yoga chikitsa to sort me out.  Next week I imagine it will be back to the usual, but it has felt good to ease off for a little while.

My brain is starting to get all fuzzy, so I suppose I had better stop blathering on and go take a Nana nap..... 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Ashtanga Police

The Ashtanga Police are real.  Not in a sense that they drive around in a rickshaw and hand out fines for drishti violations or over-ripe cotton mat citations, but real in a sort of figurative sense.  Pretend that I didn't just contradict myself there.

People joke about the Ashtanga Police all the time, probably because there are so many specific details involved in the practice that many practitioners find it quite regimented, and more than a little strict.  Fair enough, there is a lot to remember, and people tend to be picky about the particulars.  Myself included.  Usually when a moon day comes around, I look forward to the day off, but this week, we had the lovely Mark Robberds teaching, and his schedule overlapped with the new moon.  After deciding to take advantage of his time here in Bondi, even though it was a moon day, I laughed to myself, thinking I should head to the shala in a disguise to help avoid the AP, but didn't think too much of it, deciding that I could take rest on Friday instead to make up for it.   I got into my practice, feeling fine, and made it all the way to my last posture, when the police caught up with me.  As I was taking my five breaths, feeling comfortable, at ease, there was out of nowhere, a crunchy noise from the general area of the back of my knee.  After easing out of the asana, assessing what was actually going on, I felt pretty much no pain, except for a dull sort of ache in the wiry tendony bits at the base of the hamstring.  I did the other side with no crunching, finished my practice, carefully, but without any need for modifications, and told Mark that I would consider it a minor ninjury instead of an injury.  This minor ninjury though, can be nothing other than a warning from the AP, telling me that I shouldn't be in the shala on moon days, or I will suffer the consequences.  Lucking for me it was just a warning!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Early mornings and asana breakthroughs

Yoga has ruined my ability to have a Saturday morning lie-in.  Poor me.  At several variations on stupid-o-clock this morning my eyes popped open, I scrounged around beside my bed for my phone (it is also my alarm clock) and squinted with bleary, sleepy eyes at the time, feeling like I had slept for eons and it must be time to get up.  At about 5:30, I gave up on staying asleep, and tiptoed downstairs to make a cup of coffee, so I could at least curl up in bed with a cuppa and a book.  That was over an hour ago, and it is still dark now, although the sun is finally on it's way up and there is some light in the sky.  My internal clock seems to be permanently fixed to wake in the pre-dawn hours; I can't remember the last time I slept past 6.   There are worse things in life though, it just means that I have to go to bed at the same time as the toddler in the flat next door. 

Speaking of yoga, I had another minor asana breakthrough this week.  Sharath had me start working on tick tocks not long before I left the shala on my last visit, and they seemed absolutely impossible for my wibbly wobbly body to possibly do, until the last week I was there, when I managed to sort it out two or three times per practice.  Then when I got back to Australia they disappeared.  To be fair, the 'tick' has been getting steadier and less spastic, but the 'tock' has been sighted only once or twice in the last few months.  Elusive, and really really frustrating.  Not to mention exhausting.  This past week however, it happened twice, and that may be a small victory, but it is a victory nonetheless.  Energy levels have been pretty low too, with extra teaching hours and the remnants of a minor cold to deal with, so I was a bit surprised to have any success there at all.  What I did notice though, is that it is a major exercise in concentration, more than physical effort.  The world around me sort of disappears at certain points in my practice; I get so zoned in to what is going on with my breath and my body that there could be tap dancing elephants beside me and I probably wouldn't notice, and for something as hard for me as these tick tocks, I have to be in that state of focus.  No citta vrittis, no drishti violations.  More work is needed.  Hopefully the tock doesn't go into hiding again.

So what to do on a Saturday morning in beautiful Bondi, when you've been awake for hours and the whole day stretches ahead of you?  A wee bit of blogging, and then on to making some brekkie (quite the novelty to get breakfast in before 11AM these days!) and a trip to the farmer's markets!  Apples and beetroot and kale, oh my!   

Saturday, July 7, 2012

4 Years Already?

Somewhere in the last few weeks I hit the four year mark of having a daily yoga practice, and it is also in the last few weeks that I have really started planning for my fourth trip to Mysore.  It is hard to believe that so much time has passed, and it is mind blowing that I have been able to spend so much time studying in India.  The trips back to KPJAYI have all had a different feeling in the lead up.  The first time I was a more than a bit scared, travelling for the first time to a developing country, jumping head first into a practice that I had only been doing for a few months and knew next to nothing about.  The second trip was something I anticipated for months, as I spent the year leading up to it practicing alone in my living room, and the thought of being back in the shala with all the energy and more importantly, my teacher, kept me motivated on the days where actually getting started seemed impossible.  Heading back last time, I looked at it as a respite from the gruelling schedule I had been maintaining as I tried to save up enough money and do my three months of farm work to qualify for a second year working holiday visa in Australia.  The prospect of getting up at 3AM, going to practice, and then coming home and snoozing for a while seemed like a total vacation, as strange as that may seem.  The excitement for going for this fourth visit isn't to the same pitch as it has been in the past; it feels more like going home.  I don't really consider Mysore as a home, truth be told, mostly because I don't know that I could ever really hope to understand the complexities of Indian culture, and as much as I love Indian food, after a few months eating it, all I want is something without any trace of masala, and crunchy without being fried, but there is a degree of familiarity that makes living there a few months at a time pretty easy.  There is also less expectation of some sort of result each time that I go.  The first trip it was a running mental dialog of ... I will learn yoga, I will learn chanting, I will make heaps of friends, I will try new foods and love them all, I will have some sort of intense 'spiritual experience', I will evolve into an entirely new and improved person (ha!!),  I may be ripped limb from limb in a rickshaw accident, chances are good that I will pick up at least one parasite, etc etc etc.  The list of expectations could go on and on and on.  The funny thing is, almost all of those things did happen to a certain degree (no rickshaw accident thank goodness), but I didn't realize at the time, so while I was there I was constantly searching for a life altering epiphany and not seeing it.  Going now, the expectation is more along the lines of... I will learn, and I will drink a lot of coconuts.   Pretty safe bets really.  And all the other experiences that come up are just (mostly) pleasant surprises.  October is still a way off, and I have lots of  important things organize in the meantime, a flight and a visa for example, but I can't picture there being too much drama in the lead up.   More than anything, I am just happy to have the chance to go and be a student and soak up as much as possible. 
Four years of practice, not very much in the grand scheme of things, but what a beautiful time it has been.  Five years ago I was still in the dance world, living in Calgary AB, working in a pottery painting studio part-time, and in a daze of pain most days.  So many new experiences since then, so many changes are there. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Guru Purnima

Pattabhi Jois was born on the full moon of July in 1915, so the full moon yesterday marked his birthday, and what a day for a man who came to be known Guruji to be born.  The full moon in July is also a festival day, Guru Purnima, and to quote Tim Miller's blog, Tuesdays with Timji, Guru Purnima is a day when we express our love, gratitude, and devotion to our Guru, and remember the significant contribution that he/she has made to our lives and the lives of many others. It is also traditionally a time for us to reflect on the past year and to recommit ourselves to the spiritual path taught by our Guru.  Tim is someone I have not yet been fortunate enough to meet, but I highly recommend his blog if you have the time/opportunity to read it.  So that being said, honour your guru, celebrate the full moon, and well, now that the moonday is over, listen to Guruji: do your practice and all is coming.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Oh Canada.

Today is already the 2nd of July in Australia, but in Canada, it is still the 1st, which means many Canucks will be celebrating the day that our country came to be.  I haven't done anything to really honour the occasion, but a friend of mine posted this video on FB and I liked it so much that I thought it appropriate to share it.  It is a very clever and creative rendition of the national anthem, played entirely on beer cans and bottles.  I don't partake in the beer drinking that seems to be such a big part of canadian culture, but I love the ingenuity of how they put the song together.  Enjoy!