Just a crappy day

My day began walking to class, alone in the pitch black, with every single dog in Mysore (I swear) howling like something out of a horror movie. In the distance I could see packs of dogs running through the streets, or standing scarily still as though they were ready to tear me limb from limb. It was like something out of Pet Cemetary. I’m not kidding! Not fun.

Today was an off day. I don’t think it was just me either. Tonight we were allowed to leave 30 minutes early as Bharath could feel the energy in the room wasn’t great.  (I love how aware and intune he is with all of us).

Firstly, I was the teacher for today. Although I got great overall feedback, one of the asanas I presented was incorrect. We were meant to present on Virabadrasana B but I presented on Virabadrasana A (warrior pose). Oops. The rest was fine, but I was mortified when I realised I made the error. But in saying that, I think errors like this are necessary for someone like me. You see, I tend to place a lot of pressure on myself to do well at whatever I try. I accept I am always a student, and therefore learning, but i want to be a good student - always. So the fact that I made an error today and still made it out alive is a good reminder. Again, I need to be gentler on myself. Relax a little!

Something I have noticed over the weeks re the feedback other students give, is how badly and sometimes violently, people communicate with one another. Some people have no idea how to give constructive criticism to others. Ever heard of the sandwich technique? Over the weeks I have witnessed people being unnecessarily rude about a person’s presentation and yet when they get up and present themselves (the critical one), they are all over the place! It tends to be the much younger ones who behave this way. Very opinionated, know-it-alls, who fail to recognise that we are all learning here. That this is new to us all and some tact is necessary if you want to have positive relationships with people in life. It baffles me why so many people are quick to point out someones error, or where they may have demonstrated a weakness or imperfection, rather than focus on the positives of a person. I appreciate from a learning perspective we need to know what could have been improved etc, but again its about the language and how that information is presented which can make all the difference. I guess being exposed to this process is also part of this journey right? Learning how to be amongst people like this and not lose my centre.

Tonight we did Vinyasa Flow. Far out! I thought I had done proper Vinyasa in the past but I am now realising I absolutely wasn’t! It’s an incredibly challenging way of incorporating all the asanas we are learning into literally a ‘flow’ practice. I am completely uncoordinated at the moment. I am quite strong and can lower into Chaturanga quite easily, for example, but its bringing all the steps together into a lovely ‘flow’ effect which I struggle with. But i can see it would be a powerful practice which would have some amazing benefits. Something to work on.

As a final note, I wanted to mention another few words of wisdom my teacher shared with us tonight. We were chatting about meditation and the ability to remain completely still for at least 20 minutes (he expects this of us now. Holy sh*t!). He explained that any pain can be controlled with our mind. That we must consciously pay little attention to any distracting thoughts, like pain or anything other than what we are to be focused on, and through doing so the thoughts weaken. We need to learn to stop responding, as this takes energy. Personally, I struggle with this, however I will continue to pay ‘less’ attention to the disturbing thoughts and commit to remaining focused on the practice. God help me tomorrow…

Namaste xx

Feel it don't force it

Physically, today has probably been my most challenging day. From the moment i sat on my mat at 5am this morning and felt pain in my backside, I knew I was in for a rough day. Emotionally too - when I woke and looked at a picture of my Owen at home, I felt quite sad and lonely. So I think the combination of heightened emotions plus physical and mental exhaustion has made today a more difficult day than normal. Our teacher is always reminding us that we will experience fluctuations in emotions, health, strength etc whilst training, so no doubt this also has something to do with it also - but mostly I just miss him.

I have just come from a really trying practice (what’s new). Some time ago I gave myself a goal to successfully move into and hold Kakasana. Well - I’m still not there and I keep beating myself up about it. I’m aware I shouldn’t do this, but sometimes you cant help but feel like a failure when you try and try and still can’t find the strength and focus the posture requires. What I have learned since being here, is that these postures often have nothing to do with strength. Any fit, strong person can possibly move into it postures like Kakasana. But it’s when you move into the posture with a conscious awareness of all the parts of the body which are activated and working in duality to get you up that you have successfully achieved it. I’m clearly not at that point yet!

My teacher is very encouraging but that only makes me feel worse as i can’t help but feel I am disappointing him. I know this is untrue and need to get a hold on these unhelpful thoughts. (Again, aware its an overly emotional, and therefore irrational day for me). I guess that’s just what’s real for me at the moment is all.

My entire body hasn’t stopped shaking today. A combination of squatting against a wall with knees bent and hands overhead for 5 or more minutes, legs raises, single leg balancing asanas and sitting for hours, has left my legs weak. Basic balancing postures like Garudasana (eagle) and Vrksasana (tree) have been extremely difficult for me. Normally these are fine however upon reflection I am aware I have never pushed myself the way i have been pushed here - hence my legs have had reserve strength for when I move into these asanas. Tonight I could feel the sweat dripping down my back as I did by best to keep my body uplifted and strong. Never before has my body been worked so hard. No gym class, PT class, jogging or weights session has ever come close to the level of work and effort you put into holding your own weight. it’s phenominal what can be achieved.

Tonight, when class ended, our teacher spoke to the group in a way which left me feeling truly inspired. Firstly, he  said “if your entire body is in pain, then the training is working”. That made me feel a little better! He told us that a mountain looks beautiful from afar, but it can be difficult to climb, however once at the top, the view is magnificent. This is what we are going through now. We are climbing that mountain - Everest!

Our teacher is very gentle in how he speaks. He assures we are not to force ourselves into a posture, but to feel it. I love this and will be sure to remember this when teaching others. Our teacher also made it very clear that he is there for us. Should we have any questions or concerns, he is available. He told us that through making mistakes and asking questions we can learn. If we know everything, then he cannot teach us as there is nothing to teach - so it is expected that we come with many questions. I have a book full ready to go! I may need to block out an hour or so ;)

Finally, our teacher talked about why we need to study so intensely everyday - to know the asanas inside and out. The Sanskrit name, the limitations and benefits, technique, common mistakes and variations. He explained that we are no longer beginners, We are training to become teachers and in doing so it is our responsibility to educate others, to share our knowledge. So we must know these things. I find it really exciting when he refers to us as teachers. Not only am I thrilled my own practice is deepening so much, but i am thrilled that I will be able to share this experience with many others to come.

Well - i need to fall into a state of unconsciousness now before my heart stopping alarm goes off at 4am in the morning again. Then i can repeat this all again!

Namaste xx

Bendy or broken... i'm not sure?

Where to begin. What a day I’ve had. Right now I’m sitting on my bed, trying to keep my eyes open after just finishing training, not even an hour ago. It’s 9.00pm as I write this and training began at 5.00am. I am bruised, my legs are still shaking, my eyes are stinging and my back is killing me. One can’t help but wonder why people put themselves through this torture - I mean training. I like to think I know why but then there are moments where i stop and ask myself, “what the hell are you doing Jessica?!” But when those moments of doubt pass, I recall why I am here and manage to solider on. Tonight I almost got my legs behind my head so that’s progress! I’m just scared they will get stuck when i eventually do get them there.

Tonight i was so tired coming home I ate stale bread for dinner (couldn’t be bothered going out) and had a cold shower (didn’t want to wait the 15 minutes for the shower to heat up). And the day doesn’t end there - I have to continue to study the asanas in preparation for teaching tomorrow. Tonight’s asanas are Utkatasana, Garudasana, and Utthita Hasta Padangustasana. I can barely see the pages of the book let alone study them! Hmmm…

So back to my original comment of “what a day I’ve had”. To try and bring some sort of order to my writing, as no doubt its already all over the place, I shall use headings. Far simpler style for the exhausted nutcase who is writing the post. It begins with, teacher training.

TEACHER TRAINING:

I spent many hours yesterday and last night preparing to teach my first class today. The postures to teach were Tadasana, Parvtasana, Padagushtasana, Vrksasana. (Forgive the highly likely incorrect spelling. My text book is all of 1.5 metres away and its far to far to reach right not to confirm).

I put a lot of effort into learning all the ‘stages’ of teaching, as well as the opening and closing chants (in Sanskrit) I would need to lead the group through. Considering I am here to challenge myself, and wanted to overcome the anxiety of teaching, i put my hand up to be the teacher today. Our main room was divided by curtains into four parts so each teacher could teach their group. I had 5 other people in my group. Considering everyone was still in the same room attempting to teach, it got a little loud and distracting, but eventually I found my feet, and concentration, and was able to carry on with my teaching somewhat uninterrupted. I was so terribly nervous at the beginning. Internally my heart was racing but apparently I didn’t appear nervous at all. Excellent! The group noticed I was far more confident at the end compared with the beginning only because I got a little louder. That was my biggest criticism of the entire practice. Of course there were minor technical steps I missed, but overall everyone said they really enjoyed the experience, that I was well prepared and guided them well. The group said I appear very natural and calm. And the best bit - get this - I was told I have an angelic voice and would be a wonderful practitioner during relaxation classes!!! I couldn’t help but laugh when they said this. I said “my partner and family may have a slightly different opinion…”   ;-)

So, all in all, I threw myself in the deep end and feel so much calmer for having done so. Excellent start.

ANATOMY

Our anatomy teacher, who is a doctor here in Mysore and completes a lot of social work in tea plantations, reminds me of an Indian Ken (my step dad). I can’t help but giggle when I see and listen to him because his mannerisms remind me so much of Ken - in a very good way of course. I can’t even pinpoint exactly what it is, but it’s there. So Ken, if you’re reading - I have found your Indian twin!

COCONUTS

I had my first coconut today. On 9th main, which is a busy street here in Gokulam, a weathered and very thin old man which grey hair and leathery skin stands at his coconut stall all day selling to mostly the westerners who walk by. He is famous for having the best coconuts in the area. Behind the hut which houses a trailer of coconuts splayed all over the ground, tends to be cows who eat the rotten coconuts. Interesting world.

So, on my way home from lunch at Depth n Green (they are getting to know me there) I decided to stop in and try one these famous coconuts. I had the option of jelly or water. Jelly is sweet, water is not. I asked for a recommendation and before agreeing to the recommended jelly coconut, the machete was already out and the top of the coconut skillfully hacked off. My coconut was full of water too so I wasn’t sure what the difference was, until I touched the inside. It really was like putting my fingers into jelly!

Ok - enough on coconuts.

STRAY DOGS

Something I really struggle with here is the number of stray dogs walking around the place - or lying in the dirt under a tree trying to cool down. These dogs look so unwell - the fur looks/is flea bitten, they are anorexic and they seem to really struggle when they go to the toilet (whenever ive walked past and noticed this. Im not seeking this out). At night I also hear the dogs screeching, like they are being beaten or harmed in some way. I’m not sure what is going on, nor am I game to find out, but it’s quite awful to hear. I’m so glad we do it differently back home. Our animals are loved - it’s what they deserve and need - whereas here there is no regard for animals, especially dogs. 

But on a cheerier note - everyone LOVES my pug shawl from Tara-Ellen. Here all the westerners are trying to look hippee or Indian and then I come along with my wrap also but it’s covered in pugs. Hahaha! Love it.

Well - that’s all from me for now. I have all of a couple of hours sleep before I do it ALL again!

Namaste xx

Destroyed... day 1 proper training

From 3am this morning i have been awake. In fear I would miss my 4am alarm, i must have woken up early and then couldn’t get back to sleep. Today has felt like an entire month. No shit.

Today was an incredibly trying day for me. Never before have I sat on a hard tiled floor for so many hours. In total, today’s training was about 9 hours, including asana practice in the morning and night, chanting, philosophy class and anatomy class. We are only allowed to sit in certain positions so as you can imagine, spending about 7 or more hours sitting and learning has near destroyed me. For one I think my back is broken, and my ass is completely numb. Ankles and knees are bruised… Energy, non-existent at the moment. Not only do we have this level of training, but we must also study a minimum of 3 hours per day, self study, in preparation for teaching the class the following day. I had a slight melt down to Owen (on Skype) today after finding out we need to teach everyday. I think the starvation combined with exhaustion and broken limbs (nearly) possibly had something to do with my overly emotional reaction.

But nevertheless, I am completely shitting myself about presenting tomorrow. I need to run an entire class from start to finish. This involves opening prayer, greeting (namaste), teaching which has 8 parts I must cover (introduce the asana and its meaning, silent demonstration, limitations, benefits, techniques, common mistakes, variations, group lesson), savasana and closing prayer (or chant). Holy crap!!
And my teacher is very strict about what we must present on and how. So naturally, I am nervous.

During our practical classes, my body has reached such a level of exhaustion that everything is shaking non-stop. I have never been so fatigued before, and I think much of it is due to the amount of sitting we have had to do (who would have thought sitting was so hard!). Hopefully I start to get use to this.

On a completely different note, I managed to find a local bakery in the area. Not your average bakery. Check out the pictures of this glamourous place!

Well, time for MORE study and then bed. Another 4am start awaits.

Thanks for reading!! xxx