Is it really yoga?

I think it’s time for an update, which i know is long overdue!

So, I’ve been back in Australia for just over a week now and in that time I’ve seen family in Adelaide, traveled to Victor Harbor to spend a night with mum (I miss her), driven to Lorne with my little family (Owen and the pooch) for our relaxing two day holiday, and moved into (trying to move into) our new home in Melbourne. Let’s just say it’s been a crazy, but fun, week.

Here in Melbourne I’m starting to get the wheels in motion for beginning my own studio. I’ve visited a hall today, chatted with a number of venue hire people, looked at advertising tactics to try and get my first student. It’s all very exciting. The hall I visited today was very basic but could possibly work. There is nothing flash about it - its dark, has an old and run down kitchen and toilet, but the area is functional. I will continue to look but this could be a good starting point as the rent is relatively cheap (and I will no doubt be making no profit for a little while - and with little money in the bank, cheap rent is important). 

I posted an ad on GumTree to see if anyone has a space in Melbourne, so something may come of this, but I’m yet to hear. What has happened, however, is I got my first student!! A man who is MMA trained wants to work on his flexibility. The strength is there for this martial art but he needs help opening his hips to improve his training. He has also requested private lessons with me as he wants to really work on his practice. How exciting!!! Now I just need to lock in a space.

Tonight I attended possibly the worst ‘yoga’ class I’ve ever been to in my life (I actually cannot call it yoga - it was that terrible). I’m in the process of approaching local studios to offer assistance as a teacher and this particular studio was happy to meet with me. When I arrived I saw they were doing aerial yoga, but I thought the Restorative Class i was going to attend would at least be a normal class. Turns out this was aerial also. Although I wanted to walk out right away, I decided to stay and see what this was all about. But unfortunately it seems I’ve possibly injured my back, ankles and wrists doing this uncoordinated, simply dreadful class. I didn’t think I could miss my Shala more than what I have since leaving, but tonight I MISSED my Shala.

With a good laugh which will no doubt last for sometime to come, I’m feeling a little more confident about teaching!

I’m very excited about teaching. It’s going to be so wonderful. I just need to be patient and let everything happen as it’s meant to.
I will be sure to keep you posted.

Namaste xx

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

What a day. The energy of the day just felt off. From 4.30am in the morning when a friend from class pointed to a gathering at a home where someone had just passed, everything from then just felt uncomfortable. Chanting Om for half an hour this morning seemed easy when you realise you’re alive and breathing.

The exam was fine. I flew through it which was fantastic. There was the odd question I wasn’t sure of, but overall it was great.

I noticed during the exam Brittany wasn’t there but she arrived 20 minutes late, sniffling and and covering her head with her shawl. She was clearly upset. To be honest I thought she may not have passed the course and had just been told the news. I feel totally crap now that I know what really happened. After an Ayurveda class, which immediately followed the exam, Bharath told the class Brittany’s mother had passed away. The death was unexpected and happened while she was sleeping - as I understand. By the time Bharath told us, Brittany would have been on her way to Bangalore where she was booked to fly home to California at 8.00pm tonight. How terribly sad. I can’t even contemplate how she must be feeling right now. We sat in silence for a minute and chanted three Shanti’s for Brittany’s mother. The silence was deafening. We all felt sick with the news. How tragic.

After lunch with the group at the Royal Inn, as a mini celebration for finishing our studies (the group wanted to try and keep up their spirits), I rushed home to speak with Owen. A blubbering mess, we talked about life and death. How death can throw people into the present and remind them they only have now. At any time we could get a similar call, as morbid as it sounds. We just don’t know. My struggle to accept this fact makes it even more terrifying and I’m the typical westerner who tries to ignore this reality. But at the end of the day, this is the reality. None of us can stop it. I guess this is why I’m so committed to living my life how I dream. To follow my heart. To enjoy every moment to the fullest. Because at the end of the day, this is all I/we have. Moments.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

Smile and enjoy. It will change your life.

As I write this I am listening to the sound of glorious rain. The second time it has rained since being in Mysore. This first was about a month ago for a couple of hours only. Whilst singing my favourite slow, almost sad, evening chant with Bharath’s wife, the thunder began giving hints of what was to come, followed by lighting and then a sudden, almost explosive opening up of the skies. The rain bucketed down for the next half hour. We then sat in the dark, starring at the flame of a candle (for our usual evening Trakata kriya/meditation) all the while listening to the rain pour and the thunder roll. It created such an eerie yet almost magical atmosphere. The streets were dark as power was off all through Mysore. Only those homes and buildings with generators remained lit. One was certainly very careful walking home in the pitch black with crazy Mysorian drivers around. Definitely an evening to remember.

There were so many things which happened today that I wanted to recount. But I shall select only a couple or I could be here all night and I have an exam to study for (it’s tomorrow).

Time for subtitles.

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Om:

At 4.40am I was standing outside the Shala and ready to prepare myself for our morning meditation then asana practice. With new cotton mat in hand, I was ready to give it a test run. This morning was a little different to normal. Usually the Shala is well lit as we enter, however today it was in complete darkness with only a faint red spotlight shining on the huge Om which is painted on the back wall. The feeling of the room was instantly calm and sacred. I totally forgot we were doing Om meditation this morning so I moved myself to the back of the room with all the others when I noticed everyone back there.

Bharath entered the Shala at 5.00am on the dot and quietly sat behind us all – directly behind me in fact. In complete darkness, we all sat motionless starring at Om and then chanting Om together – over and over and over for half an hour. Ommmmmm, Ommmmmm, Ommmmmm, Ommmmmm…. It’s amazingly calming but I swear I thought I was hallucinating at one stage. The vortex Om is painted in just drew me in. And then there was quite a substantial amount of time where I sat hating the meditation, worried I was going to be chanting Om for the rest of my life, in this agonizing pain my back and hips were in. Knowing Bharath was behind me also meant I didn’t dare move my legs. I was terribly distracted. I went from focused to not focused over and over and over again. Who would have thought sitting perfectly still and chanting Om for half an hour would be such a struggle! We will do this for the rest of our mornings here, and on Saturday, we will do it for 1 hour before our Surya Namaskara Marathon straight after. God help me.

A moment:

After out mid morning class which takes us through to lunch, a gorgeous (personality and beauty) Iranian woman who is training with us, stopped me outside as she wanted to tell me something. We’ve never spent much time together so I had no idea what she was going to say. She told me she has always admired how much I enjoy everything about my training. She said she watches me all the time – in asana practice, in philosophy, student lectures, chanting etc – and she can see how much I love being there. And even though I find something challenging or struggle to learn something, for example an asana and how to correctly adjust, she has noticed that I still manage to be completely present, smile and still enjoy the process. She said I inspire her to be the same way. That even if she is finding something challenging, to always try and stay positive and enjoy. This completely blew me away. What a lovely thing to say to someone. She may never know how much that meant to me, but it is something I shall carry with me always. I think about my previous life in the corporate world. I never had this same passion. It took from me. But it’s also made me appreciate this new path, these new choices, so much more. Those experiences shaped who I am today and I now feel truly lucky for the path I have been led down.

Contrary to this conversation, unfortunately I ended up eating lunch with some other students who were having a completely oppostie conversation. Long story short, all they were doing was complaining. They don’t like listening to Bharath, they don’t like philosphy classes etc etc. I couldn’t believe how negative they were being. I just kept quiet and ate my lunch rather than getting involved in this crap conversation. It was as though they had listened to nothing about what yoga fundamentally is - the control of the mind, having an open mind, acceptance…  I honestly felt/feel sad for them because those attitudes are stopping them from enjoying their time here. It’s all about perception. If you want to enjoy, you will. If you want to experience no pain, you can. If you want to sit chanting Om for 1 hour motionless - it can be done! Our minds are the hardest things to control, but it is within our control still. So choose differently. Choose better. Be open to experiences rather than closed. Then wisdom will come.

Quality:

My final point - I used my new cotton mat this morning. Turns out I was the most stable I have ever been in Sirsasana - splitting my legs, twisting my body from side to side with heels touching, lowering my legs parallel to the ground - and this is all because my arms weren’t sliding out from under me. Great investment!

As the mat smelt of chemicals, I decided to wash it after class. Then tonight, mid way through class as I was beginning to slip, I rolled it out and it turns out I now have only 70% of the mat I had this morning. Looks like a good 30% shrank in the wash! I officially have the most anorexic cotton yoga mat in the class, and possibly anywhere - but hey, it’s India! Rather than get annoyed, I just laughed. Just another unique thing about this place. Nothing is perfect which is such a great way to be. As long as its wider than my feet, it shall still do the job. Haha.

Ok, time to study. Thanks for reading and remember to keep smiling. It will change your world for sure.

Namaste xx


Special moments from my day

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He was so proud to have his picture taken with his orange

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Power cables are never too close to the ground!

I’m going to miss these

Mysore Style, pampered and beaten - all in a day!

Today I began Mysore Style classes at the Shala. As I am here to train, I figure it’s important I keep up my practice during my holidays. This mornings class was led by a woman whose name I couldn’t remember if my life depended on it. Starting with “P” and followed by lots more letters, is as far as i know. (Terrible… I know). I needed to be really conscious of being open to a different style of teaching. Although she is trained by Bharath, of course each person will bring their own flavour to a class. So with this in mind, I needed to be open to learning from a new teacher rather than dismiss her (in my mind) based on nothing else other than the fact that she is not Bharath. As I have had so many bad yoga teachers over the years, it’s hard to accept someone new after working with someone as incredible as Bharath. But, I needed to let that go.

I worked through the Foundation Series (as Bharath had recommended), more slowly than usual to be honest. I think a combination of being watched by another teacher and feeling a little out of sorts with my body at the moment (I think that time of month is on its way), I felt I needed to pay a lot more attention to my technique. As predicted, the new teacher had some differing ideas about a couple of the asanas (even something as simple as how many breaths in between) but I surprisingly found her instruction very clear, supportive and encouraging. I ended up really appreciating having a woman guide me into and out of particular asanas. Just something about a womans touch I guess. I can’t quite describe it, and not what I expected. Note to self: Be open to new experiences and don’t be too quick to judge. There could be wonderful learnings to be gained.

As class was done by 10.00am, I had a new found freedom! I wasn’t quite sure what to do with my spare time. Considering I live in Gokulam and have seen very little of it thus far, I decided to go for a wander through the backstreets to try and find some of the little yoga stores and a silver jewelery shop I have been told about. Although I found none of these places, as the shops are usually within people’s homes with nothing outside for advertising, I did come across a little sign for a beauty salon. When I saw ‘pedicures’ on the list of things they do, I was intrigued. My toe nails have remnants of red nail polish which has been chipped away day by day. Not a classy look! Such a simple thing, but having feral toe nails has been a little embarrassing.

Walking into, again, someone’s home, I was greeted by a young boy and four other Indian women, the eldest being the owner. With a price of 350 Indian rupees to have my toenails done, I was in! They saw me right away as no one else was booked. It seemed like they must get quite bored in there, just waiting for people to walk in the door.

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After a short wait, I was led into the back room where two black leather salon chairs sat. One with arm rests and holes in the arm rests (why, I wasn’t sure - my whole leg could have fit through it) and the other was just a normal chair for cutting hair. A young girl with dark hair tightly pulled back with a frizzy ponytail rushed me through and sat me down in the chair, making sure I was careful not to put my feet in the bucket of water below me. Sitting on a small stall in front of me, the young girl placed a white towel over my thighs and one over her own.

The pedicure began with removing the remainder of my nail polish followed by filing my toe nails. She then applied cuticle cream on each toenail and asked me to dunk my feet into the relatively hot water below. As she worked, all other staff sat around watching. I felt as though I was a zoo animal where people come to stare as I look different. But with all my travels over the years, you learn to just go with it!

After a few moments, the young girl asked me to lift my feet out of the hot water, where I noticed the cuticle cream had hardened - like candle wax. Wasn’t expecting that! She then took care to scratch it off with all sorts of mini utensils. Next, she dipped her hands into some honey coloured liquid and rubbed it all over my feet. It was divine. By this point, I realised I was getting a little more done than the original intention, which was to just have my toenails painted. This golden syrup bubbled up and with a fingernail scrubbing brush she then started to scrub my feet - everywhere. The toes, the tops of my feet up to my ankles, my heels, under my toes. No part of my foot was left unscrubbed. One would have thought a brush as hard as this would have hurt, but although it was rough, it was actually a really lovely sensation. With a rinse, next came the huge foot files - two different kinds. I would have been happy with one, but clearly the job wouldn’t have been done right if the second wasn’t used also. I think it may have been a buffer. One of the other girls who sat by the wall watching, a meter or so away, kept bringing more and more creams, and liquids, and brushes over. I honestly thought this pedicure was going to go on for the rest of the day. I wasn’t complaining!

Some peach smelling violet coloured body scrub was then massaged into my feet and all the way up to my knees! At this point I was getting a full leg and foot massage also. I was amazed this tiny girl had such strong hands. With more scrubbing, then washing, my feet were then painted with an avocado green paste! The whole foot to my ankles. By this point, I couldn’t help but giggle to myself about the experience I was having - all this effort just to get my toenails painted. With green feet, I was left on my own for about 5-10 minutes whilst the girls cleaned up behind me. What this cream was, I have no idea. But again, I just went with it!

While waiting, I was watching the young male give a haircut to a man who walked in during my pampering session. Right when I thought the haircut was done, the young male hairdresser brought a spray bottle over and sprayed the customers head, followed by one of the funniest head massages I have ever seen. I watched on in amazement as this customer was slapped and thumped and just attacked overall by the hairdresser. Clearly this is a normal thing as I noticed the customer actually readjust himself in preparation for the beating which was about to come. Had this been me, I think I would have walked out of the beauty parlor with a concussion. The thud sounds were so loud it was as though he was literally being bashed. I had to turn away a few times to hide the hysterical laughter I was trying not to show. I had the tears welling in my eyes and it took every ounce of energy not to completely lose it. By the time I turned back, I notice the hairdresser is back with the spray bottle, but this time spraying the mans face - drowning him by the looks of it. To top things off , the man’s entire face was slathered with shaving cream. I’m not joking. Forehead and nose included. All that was left were some blinking eyes. Seriously, one of the funniest things I’ve seen for a while. Very entertaining. This hairdresser then shaved this man with a cut throat razor. That was very impressive to see. He was scarily quick too. I’m not so sure I would feel so comfortable with a knife that sharp, moving that quickly, next to my jugular! Ahhh, the experiences of another country.

With green feet now washed, I walked out of the beauty salon with lovely maroon painted toenails with pretty silver dots on top. My feet felt amazing. I felt amazing. And I was so proud of my new toe nails. It’s incredible how something so simple can make you feel so lovely - and clean!

After a lazy afternoon, I attended my back bending Mysore Style class this evening with Ragu. I really like him. We have gotten to know Ragu over the past month and he seems like such a lovely young man. I think he is only 22 years old. This is my first class with Ragu and to be honest, his teaching style is not what I expected. He is wonderfully involved in the class, but my goodness he is much rougher than Bharath. Whilst doing my best to hold a position, he would quite forcefully pull my hips back or tuck my chest in. Not what I expected from him at all. It wasn’t bad, but they way the realignment was done makes it a little harder to embed in the memory. I think it’s important to be realigned more gradually so you have time to notice/feel the adjustment. Instead I’ve gone from A to Z without really knowing how I got there. I think this is where the work of a master, like Bharath, shines through. He must know that students need the opportunity to feel how the body is being realigned so we can recall it for next time, rather than force it. A small point but I think it’s an important one. It is certainly something I will keep in the forefront of my mind when teaching my own students one day.

This evening I have spent relaxing at home. I got to speak with my Owen for a short while. Unfortunately the power outages seem to be happening more frequently the more it heats up in Mysore which often stops us from chatting. It can be quite frustrating when the power goes out, again, but what can you do! I use these little experiences to help improve my acceptance and patience in life. If I didn’t then these silly things would get me down. I won’t let that happen. Back home, we have no tolerance for power outages, but at the end of the day - it’s life. In saying that, however, thank goodness it’s not something we have to deal with daily (back home). We really are very lucky. Here - it can happen multiple times a day, anywhere from a few moments to hours. Life.

So my lessons for today are; always be open to new experiences and always look for the learnings and positives within them; live in the moment and appreciate the little things. This is what creates ‘meanings’ in life.

Namaste xx


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What we take for granted

It’s not until you come somewhere like India, that you realise how much you take for granted when at home. Fresh water is a big thing. Every time i want to eat something I must wash my bowl and spoon using bottled water. Every time i want to brush my teeth, I must do so with bottled water. Every time I have a shower I must make sure my lips are pressed firmly together to avoid any water entering my mouth.

Spoons! Spoons are not that easy to come by here. It took a little while before I could find myself a plastic spoon so I can re-use it daily to eat my breakfast. Cars - not having your own car means you walk everywhere. The alternative is a rickshaw or public transport which both have their own challenges. Bartering with rickshaws or squeezing into a bus which has people standing on the outside of the bus because they are so overcrowded.

Clean feet - never in my life have my feet, and hands for that matter, been so filthy. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times a day you clean your feet, within seconds they are somehow grubby again. The dirt and dust here is unimaginable to someone who has never ventured outside of a developed country. Clean air is another - I would hate to think about the level of toxic fumes I am breathing in every day that I am here. The smell of diesel is overwhelming. It permeates every part of you making you feel as though you’ve been doused in the stuff. It has, unfortunately, become my latest perfume - but not the one you would normally think of!

The freedom to wear what you want, reveal your shoulders. Here in India - you do not do that. Showing your shoulders, for example, is a sexual sign for men here. So regardless of how hot it is outside, you must make sure you are covered up.  (I won’t be coming home with a tan, that’s for sure!)

And of course silence. It is never silent here. There is always noise - someone spitting outside your window, motorbikes starting which sound like tractors, dogs barking, people yelling, horns constantly beeping for NO reason other than it is habit. There is so much noise here.

Simple things, but it is those things we forget to appreciate. These are just a few thoughts which I had whilst walking home from this mornings asana practice and preparing my cereal for breakfast.

Maybe we need to contemplate more. To notice and be grateful for what we already have rather than constantly wanting for more. If we do this, it will never be enough. That’s what I believe and i think it’s a lovely way of being. I am grateful this experience, yoga and India, is helping me to see these things also.

xx