What is perception anyway?

Sitting in my undies has become the latest morning ritual. After our morning vinyasa class my clothes are completely soaked. Over the past few weeks I’ve gotten use to eating breakfast and sipping tea near on naked - which is not something I would not normally do. Believe me! But, in order to dry out, this has become necessary. Chatting with a friend from class tonight, I actually asked if I was the only one swimming in my own sweat each day. He assured he’s the same, hence he bought a cotton mat to soak it up and try to keep some control. I’m just reluctant to get one as it will be another thing I need to carry home to Australia. But, to make the most of this final week, maybe it might be a good investment, as a number of asanas are being compromised purely because my hands and feet are not gripping my mat. Hmm. I shall take a look tomorrow.

After class today Brittany said an interesting thing to me. She thinks I’m Bharath’s favourite student. Firstly, I don’t think Bharath has favourites. He is there to teach us, not take favourites or become buddies with anyone. Owen told me this back when I thought Bharath didn’t like me at all (during the early weeks). Although I think this is completely untrue (Brittany’s comment) it got me thinking about the concept of ‘perception’. How our perception of ourselves is often so different to how the rest of the world sees us. I’ve never considered myself to be a ‘favourite’ of Bharath’s - in fact quite the opposite as I mentioned. And yet someone else in class is looking at me as though I am. Why? What does she see in either me or him that I don’t? All this highlighted is how our neurotic insecurities can completely taint how we view the world and ourselves within it. No view (mine or hers) is right or wrong, but I just think it’s something to be mindful of. That our view of ourselves or others is merely our interpretation, our perception. It is neither correct nor wrong. It’s just a perception. Often we worry about things which no one else sees - like me thinking my teacher didn’t like me. These useless thoughts, which unnecessarily take energy from us, need to be controlled. As Bharath says, “the most difficult thing to control in this world is the mind.” That is so very true. Just something to think about.

Finally, we are doing a lot more training re how to adjust students and help students into and out of asanas like Chakrasana (wheel / backbend). I find it incredible how I can support a fully grown male, who is bigger than me, into and out of asanas. However I tend to get really nervous with adjustments, but I’m sure with practice my confidence will improve. I just tend to worry I might hurt someone if I push too far, but of course I need to remember the student will tell me. Slowly, slowly. It will come.

Namaste xx


Some pictures from my day

Why not?!

Coming home from class. Just happy to be here.

My Indian diary system

The cutest Tic Tacs on the planet!

A few too many ‘fluctuations’ for my liking

Ribs hurt. Back hurts. Knees hurt. Breathing hurts. Body’s shaking. Emotions are all over the place…. But I couldn’t be happier with myself. With my situation. That pretty much sums up today.

Ok - I will break it down into a little more detail but it’s one of those nights where I am so exhausted, my mind is mush and therefore subheadings are a necessity.

A little lopsided

This morning we practiced a new Kriya (cleansing technique) called Uddiyana. This is to pull the stomach up. Take a look at this short YouTube clip to see what this looks like.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcfvWctsRxU

So, whilst doing this technique I noticed my belly only tucks in properly on the right side. The left doesn’t seem to tuck as far. I asked Bharath why my belly is lopsided and he said it’s nothing to do with my belly. It’s the Scoliosis in my back. Gently he explained my alignment (in my back) is quite off and he can see it quite obviously in my Sirsasana (head stand). This explains why I have to work that much harder to find my balance in this asana. He tapped me on my shoulder as if to say it’s ok, assured it can be fixed and gently smiled at me before walking away.

I’m not sure what it was that Bharath said, or if it was how he said it, but I had to hold back the tears as he walked away. Never before has the Scoliosis upset me like that before. I’m not sure if I felt as though someone felt true empathy and compassion for me, or if I just felt immensely safe with this man in that moment? Or quite possibly that I was letting him down in some way by not having this perfect back (which is absolutely not the case - I’m talking from a deeper level here that I can’t even seem to explain to myself!). All I know is the way he spoke, the kind eyes he looked at me with combined with the most gentle but assuring touch really moved me. Even writing this now I have tears in my eyes and I’m still not sure why. (Owen has this problem with me often…). I must be going through one of those “fluctuations” Bharath always warns us about! They are meant to become more intense during this part of the course so that’s quite possibly going on under the surface.

Do the Chakrasana Walk!

Not only is the Shala becoming a sauna the more Mysore heats up, but our training is heating up also. I love our evening classes. Bharath calls the evening classes an “Innovation Series”. Essentially this is the time to learn the more advanced asanas like Pincha Mayurasana (which I spoke about late last week). As we have been working with Chakrasana (back bend / wheel) for sometime now, Bharath offered for those who were comfortable to bring their practice to the next level by walking the length of the Shala in Chakrasana. Only myself and one other girl attempted this. With legs already shaking from the 2 repetitions we had already completed on our mats just moments before, I went to the wall at the back of the class and prepared to walk. My legs are getting very strong the more I work here. In Chakrasana in particular I am becoming quite sturdy. I lifted myself off the ground and after a few steps to get the rhythm, I relatively quickly walked on my hands and feet from one wall to another and then back again, using the lines of the tiles as my guide for where to go. I swear the room quadrupled in size whilst I was doing this! It was quite an achievement I thought. Toward the end of the walk my arms and legs were shaking and my breathing was becoming louder and harsher. I wanted to give up about mid-way on the return, but in my head I just kept repeating, “keep going, do not give up, you’re nearly there, this will be an awesome achievement, focus, breathe, almost there.” So far I am the only person in the class who can do this (not that that means anything - just awesome to be able to do it).

We’ve also moved into our handstands. Bharath said I was very good at these. My problem is I don’t know how to leave the wall, but Bharath assured that is coming. By this point, in tonight’s class, my arms were turning to jelly. I was exhausted -  as I am now.

So, after a cold shower (not by choice) I’m in bed and praying to sleep through for once. I have more work to do with my thesis, but the plan is an early night. I’m unusually tired at the moment so i need to listen to my body and rest it well. I also need to try and manage these ‘fluctuations’ - God knows I don’t need anymore of these!!

Namaste xx


Some pictures from my day. I always take time to try and ‘see’

Why not?

Coconut anyone?

Yummy but not before class again…

Listen to your body. Love your body. And your body will love you back.

With the stress of exams over, I finally made the effort to go and speak with Bharath privately during lunch. Bharath meets with students on the second floor of his Shala, in the front room which is lit beautifully with natural light. I didn’t quite know what to expect his home to look like, but he had a lovely wooden, low to the ground couch which thin cushions - but still comfy. The chairs were deep. I would have fallen backwards had I sat on the edge and lent back. A thin sheet covered in 1960’s style orange and yellow florals sat over the couch and each of the matching chairs. This mini lounge, a discrete bookshelf in the corner near the bay window and a small laminate coffee table in front of the couch was all that was in the room. I love how simply one can live. My home is much the same. Owen and I are not big on filling our home with clutter. It just creates a stressful, overwhelming environment (for me anyway). Simplicity is so much calmer, and stillness can be achieved much easier (not that I’m always still! That’s exactly why I need a de-cluttered life).

I asked many questions today which I’ve built up over the weeks. As I spend my lunch hours studying, I never found the time to see Bharath until now. I have also been slightly intimidated by him to be honest. I know there is absolutely no need to feel that way but I guess it can be a little intimidating at times being in the presence of a master, and someone I have wanted to meet for some time now.

Back to the questions - I asked simple things like the meaning of certain mudras we do multiple times a day or the reasons why inversions (among other asanas) are not good during menstruation and pregnancy. Being a woman for one, and wanting to work with pregnant women also in future, I think its important I understand this a little more. I asked Bharath if he would recommend I train in gymnastics (in addition to yoga) when I return home to improve my strength. He just laughed at this question. Completely against this idea, he explained the strength comes from the combining of the mind and the body. Often, we limit ourselves purely due to our thoughts. Since being here, I now fully understand what he means by this and have personally witnessed it to be true. Bharath recommended I remain committed to my yoga practice and don’t start other activities like gymnastics, pilates etc. I mentioned that it had been recommended I train in as many areas as possible, such as gymnastics and pilates. To that, Bharath simply said, “…the people who do that are lost.” Enough said.

Finally, I chatted with Bharath about the chronic, and currently sharp, pain I get in my back. I explained I have Scoliosis and that i have flare ups every now and then - now being one of those times. I told him that many people have said my back would improve through yoga, but I am yet to see this happen. That during practice I can relieve it, but once practice is over, the pain always returns. I also explained I have accepted that I shall always live with this pain. There. That was it. Bharath found the problem in an instant. It’s not my back, it’s what I think about my back which matters. If I continuously tell myself I am in pain, that I must deal with pain forever, then that is how I shall live. Bharath told me a story of when he was run over by a motorbike a few years back now. His ankles and legs were broken, he suffered a slipped disc in his back and had severe sciatica (among other things). Bharath said he feels no pain now. Although you can see his damaged knees following the operations, he feels absolutely no pain and this is due to firstly; his commitment to regular practice, but more importantly; his mindset. He wouldn’t allow himself to think negatively about his body. I, however, have done the opposite for years. So - from now on, positive thoughts!

I left Bharath today feeling much more ‘connected’, if you will, with him. I like that he knows a little more about me, and I think he does too. He has a wonderful heart and soul, and clearly wants to best for his students. He is also wonderful at giving 100% of his attention to you. To me. Nothing could distract this man during the time we shared, and it was lovely knowing he is completely engaged. He is so focused on us that you can’t help but feel important to him.

So after today, I no longer feel intimidated by this man - at all. Maybe I should have gone to chat with him a little sooner….

This evening was a more relaxed practice. Beginning with a photo shoot by Bharath of all of us, it ended with us all having an opportunity to take pictures doing asanas in front of the gigantic Om at the front of the class. It was a really fun evening. Bharath sat with us all and helped us get into and out of our postures for photos. He helped me get into Sirsasana for mine. As I was on the spot and rushing into the posture, it was good having him there to make sure I didn’t end up doing a back flip. For most students, this was their last evening practice. For me, I get another month with this wonderful teacher, and I feel so very fortunate for that.

So, my take home lessons for the day; love my body more and be kinder to it, challenge feelings of intimidation - it’s not necessary to feel that way and only brings harm, and stay focused on my practice. This is my chosen path and I will commit to it. What is yours?

Namaste xx


Notice the little things. They will stay with you forever.

Today I want to focus on the highlights of my day. Yes, my back is in terrible condition at the moment (I have these ‘flare-ups’ every now and then), and yes it seems like an eternity since my alarm went off at 4.00am this morning, but overall, there were so many positives in the day. Here is where i want to place my energy.

To begin; during the midday teaching session (where we teach other students) our teacher today, Rosa, brought me to tears in a lovely way. During her class I could barely move the pain in my lower back was so dreadful. When we came to do group practice of Vriksasana (tree) I was unable to get my leg up without feeling as though someone was behind me stabbing a million knives into my spine. When Rosa noticed I was having trouble, she gently smiled and nodded to say “it’s ok - don’t worry”. This subtle and simple gesture meant more than she realised. When I gave my feedback to Rosa after the class, I became quite emotional and teary telling her this. Firstly, when you’re in class among other intermediate to advanced practitioners, you can’t help but feel a little silly when you can’t do a basic asana - the mentality which stops beginners from trying yoga in the first place (I’m very aware of that). But Rosa made it OK that I couldn’t lift my leg today. And not only did she make it OK, she didn’t make a big deal out if it either. As a teacher, this is an important skill, more like quality, to have; and as a student, it is important to have a teacher like this. She unknowingly made me feel so much better - emotionally anyway.

When I arrived home after class, the lovely Indian boy I was chatting with yesterday had an unusually large grin on his face. He followed me to my room, which he would never normally do, and prior to me opening the door, he told me they did not get to clean my room today (or get me pillows) like I asked. I had this moment of disappointment, realising I must have forgotten to leave my door unlocked again, and felt sick at the thought of having another night without extra pillows for support. As I opened the door, (the young boy within a couple of metres of me), I noticed my room had been beautifully made up, with extra pillows sitting waiting on the bed. Brand new sheets, bathroom and floors sparkling. They had actually gone to more effort than normal today, which was so lovely. Behind me, the young Indian boy was laughing as he knew he had tricked me. I giggled and said. “you got me!!” and he laughed even harder, repeating, “yes, I got you, I got you!” It was such a beautiful moment seeing how much joy this silly trick made him. 

As I mentioned yesterday, often people don’t even greet these young boys at reception as they enter the apartment. I however, always take the time to speak with them and ask how their day has been. I think in doing so, they have worked out I am no one to be threatened by. I will be sure to get a picture of the three boys prior to leaving Mysore. Their smiles will stay with me forever.

In keeping with the back pain theme, my practice tonight began very slowly. Vinyasa flow was not ‘flowing’ so well for me at first. But given time, listening to my body and being gentle with myself, I actually relieved a lot of tension in my back and ended up in postures I never thought were possible for me - especially in this condition. Well - first achievement was Eka Pada Rajakapotasana - only on my left side though (and not looking as graceful as in the picture, I assure you). 

image

I couldn’t believe it when I felt my way into this asana. I think I was one of two in the class who did it! I’m also now learning to walk in Chakrasana, up and down our mats. I can’t help but think of the Exorcist when I see people doing it - clearly some childhood scares there!

Lunch today at Anu’s (one of the best restaurants in Gokulam) was free, as by the time I arrived there wasn’t a lot of variety left. I still ate more food than probably two grown men would eat! But, Anu insisted I not pay this time and just pay the full fee next time I come for lunch. How sweet - an unnecessary!

And finally, I wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who is supporting me during this time. I have received such beautiful emails from family and friends daily and have been told beautiful stories of my journey inspiring others also. There is nothing more special and inspiring (for me) to hear that. So, again, thank you for believing in me. You will all never truly know what this means.

On that note, I shall leave you as I have a big exam coming up and I need to keep preparing. Almost there!

Namaste xxx