Surya Namaskara Marathon

Let’s just say I had no idea what I was up for walking into this mornings Surya Namaskara marathon. To begin, let’s break this down a little. There are 12 steps for each side (left and right), meaning there are 24 steps to complete one round. 60 rounds of Surya Namaskara translates to 120 when you add the left and right sides together. 120 ‘sides’ works out to be 1440 movements! This is 90 minutes of non-stop movement.

I went through so many different phases, mentally and physically, during this session. I began extremely optimistic and committed to finishing this marathon. Although a little stiff at first, as I usually am, within a few rounds my body began to feel stronger and more flexible than ever. At this point I’m thinking, “this isn’t too bad!” As the sweat began to bead on my forehead, I started getting agitated by it - feeling it trickle through my hair and down the sides of my face. I was trying to wipe it away, but with sweaty palms this soon became useless. By this point, not even half way, I noticed I would enter into meditative states where I was just completely focused on Ragu’s voice, my breath and the movement of my body. In a normal session of Surya Namaskara, I often find myself forgetting which leg goes back - getting lost and confused as to where I’m up to - but in this session, my body naturally knew where I was up to and moved into the asanas with minimal thought at all. Certainly an interesting state to enter into, and one I haven’t been in before.

The next challenge then came when I started slipping in and out of the asanas. I was now sweating so much that puddles were forming below my feet, hands and forehead. Trying to move so quickly through the asanas without slipping off the mat was an enormous challenge. The concentration became so much deeper at this point - it had to. I was absolutely soaked. I often joke about how I walked out of a class as though I jumped into a swimming pool. I was clearly mistaken re what this actually looks like. I was so drenched, I didn’t even notice the sweat which was pouring down my face anymore, dripping into my eyes, nose and mouth. At one point I couldn’t tell if I was tasting sweat which had dripped into my mouth or whether I was sweating in my mouth also. I’m not kidding - I actually had this thought cross my mind. I also didn’t know it was possible to sweat from the soles of your feet either. Turns out you can! By the end of it, my fingertips had turned prune like, as though I had been sitting in a bath for too long. Ridiculous.

The room became like a sauna. With all windows and doors tightly closed, there was no air flow at all. No air was getting in or out, which is all part of the process. The windows became so steamed up you couldn’t see outside at all.

As the time passed, which felt like an eternity, I noticed other students in class were dropping like flies. Moving to the back of the room to sit the rest of the class out, or lying in Savasana (corpse). With no time to even towel yourself down if you wanted, let alone have a drink, you can see why people just needed to stop. The heat and moisture in the room alone was enough to make you pass out from asphyxiation, let alone the physical exertion also. I, however, was determined to complete this marathon without missing any rounds. I wanted to achieve this as I knew it would be a wonderful achievement in the end. I kept hoping Ragu would suddenly tell us to now lay in Savasana, but that cue seemed as though it was never going to come. I was convinced it would never end. But then my rational mind would kick in and remind me that it would (come to an end) and to just hang in there. I knew I could do it, but come the last 20 minutes or so, I was starting to fade. I began having dreams of water. Knowing it was right next to my mat b ut untouchable for the moment was sheer torture. Finally the words “last 12 rounds” came and I knew I needed to push on. I’m far too determined and stubborn not to! By this point my clothes were drenched, I had sweat dripping off my necklace, my breaths were losing coordination and I was doing my best to maintain correct technique throughout each of the steps. Surprisingly, I did well with my technique as the rhythm forces you to move in such a smooth way, that your body naturally aligns itself. It’s quite fascinating to notice as I have never seen this happen so clearly before - in my own body of course.

Eventually, Ragu brought us back to Namaskarsana (step 1) and we all automatically went to raise our hands up into step 2, Urdhvahastasana, but he didn’t count with our movement. We were done. Among a sheer moment of joy there was also a fear of throwing up which suddenly arose. Standing in Stitali Tadasana (a relaxed standing pose) I was worried I was about to be sick. Clearly this was a pretty intense practice! But I was fine.

We lay in Savasana for 10 minutes or so. The most glorious Savasana I have ever had! Lying in a pool of sweat, which I couldn’t have cared less about by this stage, I noticed my heart rapidly beating but not in a way where it seemed overly stressed. The beats were controlled and they too slowly lowered as I cooled down.

After class, it was funny to see how destroyed everyone was. All of us looked completely wrecked. But not in a bad way - we were tired from our training but there is still a really powerful energy you achieve after something as intense as this. I can’t quite describe it. All I know, is its a wonderful, calming yet almost euphoric energy which we all seemed to share.

Walking home through the ‘quieter’ streets of Gokulam in the early morning, I was so appreciative of the practice I had just done. I was admiring the beautiful purple flowers in the Jacaranda trees which are scattered through the streets, and gazed aimlessly at the mist which sits like blanket over the entire area each morning. The hint of orange and pink from the rising sun make this place quite magical in the early mornings. Gokulam is glowing at this time. It was a lovely way to finish the class.

As I am officially on holidays (even though I am about to return to the Shala to pay for the Mysore Style classes I will be taking next week) I intend to laze about today. I think an extra large strawberry, banana and coconut smoothie is in order!

So after all that, if anyone has an opportunity to challenge themselves to do a Surya Namaskara marathon, I highly recommended it. It will be an experience to remember! Not many places in the world do this, but if you can find somewhere that does, definately get on board. I will also practice this one Saturday each month for my own self-practice. I it’s a great way to rejuvenate.

Enjoy your day.

Namaste xx

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My clothes needed wringing out when I got home! Gross, I know…

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I didn’t bring Hydralyte for training purposes, but it turns out that’s what I’ve needed them for. (Much better alternative to the original plan for these).

Live, love and breathe deeply

We were warned the tempo would increase, but bloody hell! The sweat was pouring off everyone in the class tonight. We all looked as though we had jumped in a swimming pool and then decided to do yoga. The shala becomes like a sauna in these conditions, and Barath wont open the windows to let cool air in as this can disrupt our prana. My understanding of this is - the more advanced our practice becomes, the more sensitive our bodies become to external forces which can lead to injury or illness. Therefore, as our bodies have naturally warmed in the room through movement, our bodies have adjusted to the temperature and can comfortably continue working in those conditions. The same goes for Savasana (dead man pose). Should the windows be opened during this resting time, then it can shock our bodies and again lead to illness. Its fascinating learning the science behind the practice.

Of course you have those students who can’t help themselves but complain (who I try my very best not to be affected by) but i just figure - Bharath is the teacher, the master, so there is a reason for everything he does. Trust the process. He can see we are slipping off our own elbows or from under our own feet, but this is all part of the process I guess.

For me, because I was literally doing exactly that (slipping off my own elbows) it required I be so much more focused in the posture to maintain it. Kakasana was a great example of this for me tonight. Not only is this already a challenging posture for me, I now needed to work out how to hold it with absolutely no grip from my skin to hold me in place. I may as well have been  covered in oil. But - I did it, and held it for probably my longest time ever. So, at the end of the day my technique and focus must be improving. Method in the madness!

Prior to class, against my better judgement as usual, I decided to eat about five of these instant heart attack biscuits I love. I know they are bad for me. I know my focus in class is significantly reduced when I eat them (or any other crap for that matter). I know I will then need to spend the rest of the afternoon trying to maintain an ounce of dignity… But, of course I had to go ahead and eat them. I regret it every time. The lesson to self here is - listen to your body. It will tell you what it likes and what it struggles with. The act on it (or not act in my case).

Chatting with a friend at lunch, we were talking about obesity and health problems due to poor eating habits (which we all have. I’m a sucker for lollies). I feel a huge part of this problem is people are no longer in tune with their bodies. They’re not listening to what it’s telling them. Prior to meeting Owen, I too was one of those people. I ate a packet of chocolate biscuits every night before bed, lived on ready made meals, drank far too much alcohol, smoked - and I never noticed how unwell my body was. Owen use to tell me he would feel almost a burning sensation in his throat when he had too much sugar. I had no idea what he was talking about. I could have inhaled 5 blocks of chocolate and not understood this feeling he claims to get after about 3 pieces. But now, I fully understand what this meant (among other internal sensations). I have found being here, in Mysore, and so involved in my practice has also helped me to dig a little deeper. I realise not everyone can come to Mysore and have this type of experience, but through a willingness to listen to and respect your own body, combined with regular practice, we can all achieve this greater insight into ourselves. Just a thought anyway.

Earlier this morning I watched a Mysore Style class. Here, the students work at their own pace with the more advanced students at the front of the class and the newer students at the back. Myself and two others in my course sat at the back of the shala watching as everyone practiced in front of us. Personally, this style doesn’t appeal to me. I much prefer the led classes. As I tend to be someone whose mind runs at a million miles an hour, it’s nice to be told what to do and not have to think through my own routine. My mind needs a rest at times.

Mysore Style does, however, force people to become more disciplined in their self practice, which is a great thing, so I absolutely see the value in it. I’m just not keen to practice this way for myself. Something I was excited to realise today however, through this observation, is how you can learn from your students. By watching how people move, noticing their individual achievements and struggles, the emotions which arise while practicing - I realised I am not the only one in any class who is struggling with my own body, or beautifully flowing with it. That everyone is walking their own journey, and that journey needs to be respected and appreciated. I am excited for the path I am paving for myself - that I will be able to share this journey with my future students. Watching how Bharath interacted with the students, and knowing one day I too will be doing the same, gave me such joy.

On a final note, I was chatting with Owen today about the importance of making choices for ourselves which bring joy to us. That make us think and smile. It saddens me to think of all the people who dreamed of a better life but never dared take that one step (which is all it takes) to pursue it. I am a bit of a risk taker - yes. (I have a property portfolio, for example, and am in significant debt to own these properties and yet I threw in the career and am currently jobless in India). But what I know, is that I need to make sure I am living my life how I want and trust everything will work out. What an awful moment it will be if I were to wake up one day and realise my life has been nothing of what I ever hoped for. We only get this chance once, so the price of not living it how I choose is far higher than any money I could lose etc. So i think it’s important people follow their hearts and live how they want to live. Life is so short and we all have a timer which none of us can stop. So if one wants something, plan for it now and take action as tomorrow may not be here.

Of course, we all need to make sacrifices in order to achieve certain things (I for one have had to leave everyone I love, step outside of my comfort zone and travel to India alone for three months to pursue yoga - as you well know) but if the reward is far greater, then the sacrifice will never be considered a burden on your life. It’s life giving rather than life taking.

Now, I’m not trying to be a life expert by any means. But I just hope my beliefs may resonate with some and encourage them to take a chance. To live, love and breathe deeply while we still can.

Ok - I’m going on now. You get the point.

So, it’s off to bed for me now. After a shocking night sleep last night, I need to make sure I get a better one tonight.

Namaste xx


Some things I appreciated today…

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Ashtanga Yoga Mysore India

I’ve been sick in bed for the past two days, so it’s given me some time to just relax and learn more about where I’m headed. It seems the Mysore way of training is quite intense. So intense, and unique, it has created this name for itself - “the Mysore way”. Trust me to enroll in such advanced training style. I guess it just wouldn’t be me if I did it any other way!

Watching videos on YouTube is really inspiring. Wow some people are strong! Kino from Kino Yoga is very impressive.

It’s also a little intimidating to be honest. I haven’t got the experience many of these people have and would be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about being the weakest or most inexperienced in the class. This is just a worry I need to move past. It doesn’t serve me to think this way - and instead I choose comedy for my mind, rather than horror (as Sudghuru would say).

It’s been recommended I train in gymnastics to improve my strength and posture. I’ve emailed a couple of gymnastics schools here in Adelaide to see if I can attend a few classes before I leave. When I return to Australia, I will look for a gym school in Melbourne to continue my training. I’m certainly open to any form of training which will improve my practice.

Finally, I’ve been practicing the posture names in Sanskrit. This is proving incredibly difficult. During a moment of improved health today, I decided to try a couple of the postures I have never done before, Kakasana being one of them. Turns out I need to practice a little more often!!

Namaste xx

P.S. I resigned today!!!!