Monday, 28 February 2011

Monday Mysore 28th Feb

Thought I'd be extra stiff after the last three days but luckily I wasn't, managed some really nice forward bends too, must've been the hot bath. I have had minimal pain the right hamstring too, and hip for that matter. I think I've mastered the hip problem though, I think I had my leg folded wrong in the Maris so I'm now placing the foot a little wider than I have been and it's not squashing my tendon or psoas or whatever it is that was hurting.

I also did some nice backbends a nice shoulderstand sequence, really getting high on my shoulders now but pushing them into the floor and a headstand with legs parallel then bringing them back up before taking them back down. Still working on taking them up straight though, maybe I need to change the angle of my head to curve my spine the other way in order to do this, I'm thinking it's not so much about core strength than technique? Need to do some more home practice, this has been missing somewhat recently, what with all the other classes I'm doing!

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Lino Miele Oxford 2011 Workshop

Just returned from a weekend workshop with the wonderful Lino Miele! I love how after a good workshop you feel all re-energised and full of enthusiasm for your next practice! The weekend started with a counted practice on Friday night, Mysore style self practice on Sat and Sun mornings and a workshop Sat and Sun afternoons. Gonna try and remember what jewels of wisdom he passed on to us, I wrote down Sats but not Suns...

Lino started off with the importance of the breath and linking it fully with the movements into and out of the postures, not so much focusing on the posture itself, because I think he saw that as 'an end in itself', but the breath as 'a means to an end' if that makes any sense. Basically if the rhythm of the breath is compromised by for example, you 'feeling' yourself getting into a posture, an ache here, or an adjustment of the feet there, you are not doing your practice properly. Fluidity, no struggle.

Lino then went on to express the importance of uddiyana banda and its use throughout the practice, especially as they key to lengthening through the spine. He gave an example in a forward bend whilst stood on the edge of the stage, the correct use of uddi meant his hands reached way past his feet and the stage floor by at least 1 foot! Amazing.

In my first Mysore practice he corrected me in trikonasana; I've never been able to reach the toe without compromising my 2-dimensionality. He came and shortened my stance, made me grab the toe and there it was! He mentioned this in the afternoon workshop. How you should always try a posture, at each of your practice. Why? Because each of your practices is different. Practice in the 'now'. You may be able to do something today that you couldn't do yesterday. But what if it is a posture which hurts you? Lino's answer is that you'll never know if it hurts you today if you don't try it. So try it, if you can't do it because you feel pain, back of a little, but hold the pose wherever you can. Accept the pose as it is 'today'. If you don't try, you'll never know. Being in the present moment is being alive, feeling is being alive, if you don't try these postures you won't feel anything and if you don't feel anything you are not living. Simple. But back to my trikonasana... so what if your catching the toe but you're bent over? Lino's answer? Someone'll come and straighten you out! Brilliant.

So what if you can't so a posture perfectly? "WHO CARES"?!! There is no perfection. You cannot compare yourself or your practice to anyone else. So there can be no comparison by you CAN aspire; that's OK. We finished the Saturday with a pranayama practice, man kumbaka after an exhale is difficult. I made some loud sounds as my lungs filled themselves back up with air!!

Today Lino opened his workshop by talking about freedom. It was a little difficult to understand what he was trying to say, but he gave some examples about how to be 'free'. He spoke about 'Gurus' and teachers and how people sometimes follow them like horses with blinkers on, not straying from the path of their teachings, taking every word they say as gospel. He says that this is not freedom. One should not follow a teacher like a strict religion. One should question everything their teacher says, and that is freedom.

Lino then spoke about fear. Asked someone if they were fearful of dropping back, 'yes' - why? 'Cos I hurt myself 12 years ago!' 'WHO CARES' We did some practices to try and overcome fear. Fear of handstands was overcome by doing some partner (urgh) work where we places our hands on the floor with legs straight and our heads between the legs of our partner. The partner had their knees pushing into our shoulders and their hands holding us round the waist. We then came up onto our toes and leaning into our partners knees our legs went up into handstand effortlessly. Quite amazing. Quite simple.

The Drop Back! Why are people scared? Because they don't try. How does one know one is 'ready' for a drop back? Look at their spine in a prepatory UD, if it's got a nice bend they're ready. Again, working in partners, first you start bending back with arms just by the sides slowly, you try and catch your heels or your calves, you're quite deep into the pose at this point, you're leaning into your partner who has their hands lightly on your lower back so you don't fall, you then release your hands and turn your arms into the position for UD then your partner lets go gently and you drop! You don't die! Woo! The partner starts to pull you forward and back 3 times then on the 3rd you bend your elbows slightly and on an inhale come up. Really quite effortless. Such a simple technique to get you over your initial fear and everyone loved it! We did a simple meditation to end the workshop, literally just focussing on the breath. I fell asleep! Funny.

Anyway, such an inspiring man. Great workshop, good times :o)

Thursday, 24 February 2011

A few little notes...

I've been a bit lazy with my blog this week, just realised I haven't posted since the 15th... Hate being lazy!

But I have been practicing. I didn't do my normal Wednesday hot class last week due to a prior "Come Dine With Me" committment, which meant a lot of food! Great food though :) I practiced at home on Thursday as I was tired and wanted an early practice so I could chill out before bed. So by Friday I was eager for a good practice and decided that as I had missed hot this week I needed some and ventured over to the Haven for a hot class with a new teacher T.

T normally teaches Ashtanga and so was a little disjointed with the talk-through, but despite his little anomalies he was a very sweet and attentive teacher and his little mistakes made him all the more adorable! Unfortunately, the lovely class and feeling following was disturbed when I came back to my car which some fool had broken into and tried to hot-wire...just what you need when damp and tired on a Friday night at 9:30pm. It was quite a test actually, as previously I think I would've freaked out, cried and had a tantrum of sorts, but now I can deal with these little issues that life throws at us without losing the plot, or my mind. :)

I had a great weekend and my first pole dancing class, would you believe, which was really good fun, scary but fun! I learnt some basic moves and a little sequence and even ventured into some inversions, although my thighs weren't strong enough to hang on for very long without hands! However, it did put my Monday self practice completely out of the window as I literally couldn't lift my arms away from my body!

ARms still weren't right Tuesday, but I managed to do a complete DYP series with my sister, me teaching. It was the best teaching practice yet. I was really happy with my talk through, even if I do say so myself! It was more fluent and flowing and I literally only got a couple of lefts and rights wrong in the standing sequence. I wasn't even doing it myself which makes it harder, just kinda imagining me doing it and it worked! Afterwards I actually thought, "man, I can do this shit", I sounded good, like I knew what I was talking about and even mixed it up a bit drawing upon my teachings from V, PF, hot yoga, and even my weekly updates from It all came together. I liked it, a lot, and to make it so much better my sister had been practicing at home. She hadn't told me but I could tell straight away and it was great to see. :)

I went to hot yoga Wednesday, another new teacher C. It was a proper flow class too, with a jump back/through after more often than not, each asana. Bloody hell, it was hard, but each jump back and through felt so much easier?! What's all that about? I jumped my feet through in line with my hands, they don't do that in my normal ashtanga class! In fact that's the first time it's happened - result!

I haven't been able to get prasarita p sequence for weeks now. My little right hip issue is making sure of that. My head is at least a foot off the ground! (See previous posts). My body used to be so good at these! lol (See how I detached "I" from my body Not that bothered though, just went with it, did a nice sequence with a lunge and bind a balance and a lunge again, made up for it, loved it.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Injuries as self-obsessive narcissism...

My last two practices of Friday and Monday were lovely, meditative practices, but for one thing... my current injuries. My right knee is bad again, swollen and irritating and I've developed a nasty pain in the front of my right hip. Not sure whether they're inter-related but I seem to remember I had an excrutiating pain in my right hip after my last retreat, just before the knees went.. Anyway, whilst they're always on my mind when practicing I think I've been sensible about it all and after 6 days of practice,  incorporating both hot yoga and ashtanga, I had the weekend off. Much deserved.

I thought that post-injury one was meant to practice more 'awareness' of the point of injury in order to be more gentle and let it heal. And I think I'm always aware in this regard; however, at what point does 'awareness' become self-obsession and even narcissistic? Richard Freeman highlights this problem in a recent blog post saying that "One can cultivate in addition to asana practice a pranayama practice, a meditation practice, and the study of various philosophies of contemplative schools. This way one can break through one’s own narcissism and can watch their own mind construct and then let go of egotistical and selfish obsessions, as the mind returns to what gives true happiness and pleasure rather than deeper and deeper frustration. Concerns with health, injuries, and looks are natural, but need to be dovetailed into a broader and deeper intention to eliminate the very root of suffering and to find genuine happiness for oneself and others."

So maybe I've somehow unwittingly passed the point at which my 'awareness' was a positive thing in my practice to a place where I am letting the injury get to me, causing frustration and a non-accpetance of my current circumstances. Maybe I need to just "let things be", surrender to the pain and cease interfering with the injuries as they arise. It's difficult though, like everything else in yoga there is more than one school of thought; one that says do this pose instead of the one which hurts and it'll make the injury better, and the other which says don't do the pose at all.

I remember being at Manu & Bella's workshop not long ago doing a modification for ardha baddha padma paschimottanasana which a teacher had told me to do because of knee pain, and Bella said, don't do that, just leave your knee on the ground and breath, let it be and let it heal. At the time I thought this was a lovely, caring thing to say, and a beautiful way to look at the practice, but that way of looking at these things soon changes and I find myself back in the previous mindset of pushing myself.

The truth is, I hate even the idea that I am self-obsessed or narcissistic, because those qualities are something I abhore in others. I need to pull myself together, take a few deep breaths, look at what I have around me and simply let things be as they are...

Thursday, 10 February 2011

The problem with Ashtanga...(3 posts in one)

Been so lax with the blog this week and sooo tired tonight, so all I'm prepared to write is a summary of my last 4 days' practices. 4 Days! I feel bad! Well, now I cannot feel bad about not practicing 5 days a week I need something else to feel guilty about right?! So there it is.. I feel guilty about the blog! Aaargh!! *angst*.

What I've been thinking about a lot lately is when did Ashtanga begin to feel like a competition? Who am I competing with? Is it time I'm competing with? Is it my fellow ashtangis? Is it the people I see in DVDs and on youtube? Who the hell am I trying to impress here?! I think I'm having a losing 'the power of now' episode at the moment. Maybe it is because I've been attending quite a bit of hot yoga which has a completely different vibe to ashtanga.

In the hot yoga class I attend the teachers are there to guide you through the practice. Their little talk throughs are soooo sweet, soooo heartfelt and soo believable that I cannot help but love them for it. D and I joke about them because they love to 'thank us for our energy' at the end of class and reel off other predictable yoga type sayings, but it's cool, whether or not they actually mean it, I believe it, I feel their love and it's cool. :o) So what I'm saying is that the hot yoga is different, not just because it's in a stupidly hot room, but because it's conducted differently. There's no emphasis in this class on how you look, how good your jump back is, whether you can jump through to sit with your legs straight or whether you can hold handstand before 'flying' through the air to break your toes in chaturanga.. (joke)

I guess what I'm saying is that this yoga class does not feel like a competition. There are so many standards of practitioners that it is nice to go whether or not you feel you have the energy for the class in hand. You can lie down if you feel like you're about to faint; I would never dream of just lying down in savasana mid-flow in any of my ashtanga classes, because I had a sudden rush of blood to the head or such like... That sun-power yoga class I go to from time to time is similar, a broad range of practitioners but all able to attempt the asanas given to them. Maybe it's the fact that Ashtanga has a 'series'? or 5 or 6? And that its practitioners want to be seen to finish the first series and move on to the next and if you don't then well... you're a failure... I mean, at the moment I'd love to feel as if I had the capacity to be 'given' some intermediate postures, but the 'rules' say you're not allowed until you can do the entire primary series with drop backs, jump through, LBH etc etc. I'm ranting. Apologies. 'They' say it's set out like that for a reason, but hey, as much as I love the series, the practice, that's bollocks. Some's back may never be open enough to drop back. But who are 'they' to say that they are not 'allowed' to attempt ustansana for example?!

You don't get so much of a competative air if you don't know the sequence ahead of you. I feel equal to everyone else in the room as I look up and try to work out which posture is being described. It gives me more of a sense of being at one with everyone else in the room, rather than just concentrating on myself, my own being, which in ashtanga and especially Mysore style ashtanga focuses on.

Hot yoga is more of a battle too which unites us all, its like everyone in the room is after the same come out without fainting :o)

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Easy like Sunday

I really needed some yoga today, as I have had to have a break since Wednesday due to my knees not behaving themselves (I think I overdid it with tri-class (they were swollen after that class) and what with hotyoga straight after).... So today after a lovely relxing day with my family I came back home and got straight on the mat. I even started with the intention of the full primary series, but didn't have too much energy and didn't want to jeopardise tomorrow's practice, so I left it at Navasana and went into finishing. I had a twinge in my left shoulder in backbend, :o( I was no where near the floor in Prasarita P, and Utthita Hasta was done with a very bent leg! What's happened to me?!!!

The best bit was the padmasana sequence at the end, I had a nice little meditation and then was almost asleep in savasana, which I haven't done for ages! I'm looking forward to my full mysore style tomorrow, hopefully I'll have a bit more energy following a very busy weekend!

My yoga haven...

As part of our 'yoga tourism' I was going to try a bit of Iyenga yoga tonight as we found a class at the Buddhist Centre, but instead, D & I ended up finding ourselves drawn back to our little hot haven in Birmingham! I'm really stiff lately so I was glad to have some heat to give me a good, warm stretch and a hard workout (teacher was Mi) at the same time. It even gave me time to go to my tri-class before hand, just to be a bit more crazy :oS!

I managed to get through quite a bit this time without feeling dodgy, found it took until the backbends to start feeling light headed. Maybe my body is starting to be able to regulate it's core heat better now...

The relaxation was great too, Mi has such a nice way of guiding us through, this time we were the sand in the desert, I wonder what we'll be next time?!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Monday, bloody Monday...

(Don't you just love Alan Partridge?!)

Anyway... I had a lovely weekend following my Friday yoga class which set me up just right. I did NO YOGA all weekend as was very pleased with myself. Isn't it funny how one minute I can be beating myself up about not practicing and then then next beating myself up about practicing too much?! I just finished reading The Kite Runner (left me feeling devastated) and then tried to forget about that and relax for the rest of it.

I felt a little cold so wrapped up warm for yoga with a t-shirt instead of a vest and a long pair of leggings and a pair of trackies over the top. But I was soon very warm and it worked in my favour! I had a great practice which flowed softly through. My wide legged forward bends seem to have left me recently, my head hardly reaching the floor. It's funny how these have gone whilst the back bends have come? I wonder whether the relaxing of the lower back in order for the good backbend has the opposite effect on the psoas or whatever other muscles I use in the forward bends? I realy need to brush up on the old physiology. Can't wait to start my BWY training with P at the weekend, we're starting with A&P which should really help me, then I will be able to explain why one needs to do a posture in such a way; understanding the science behind the postures. I was put onto, the newsletter of which has some really useful tips on the mechanics of stretching and posture work... it's a bit beyond me at the moment but once I sit down and start practicing what I'm reading it should work for me!  

I had a lovely twist in Mari C today, isn't it funny how I used to dread that posture and couldn't breathe in it, now I can't wait for it! The practice was one of those you don't think would be much but ended up being great. I love those days. I was very relaxed afterwards and for the first time in ages felt energised afterwards and not just like I wanted to sleep. I went to bed at gone 11pm and slept straight through, happy days :o)