29 today! Happy birthday to me!!

Today I turned 29! I cannot believe another year has passed since my last birthday. Life seems to be disappearing at a rate of knots. It’s incredible.

To be honest, today was a more lonely day than most. Every day can be lonely, but today was especially so. Never before have I spent a birthday alone. It’s certainly a reminder of how special it is to share these moments with loved ones. Never again will I take this for granted as I no doubt have in the past.

After this mornings practice, I decided I was going to treat myself by heading out of Gokulam to the Mall of Mysore. As I needed to be back before 3.00pm to make my afternoon yoga class, I was quick to eat breakfast and hail a rickshaw after finishing the morning class a little after 10.00am.

Driving in a rickshaw is always a fun / near death experience. I quite enjoy these rides. Considering Gokulam has become home now, and I haven’t had time to venture out for a while, it was a little overwhelming to be venturing back out into the ‘thick of it’ so to speak. My world in Gokulam really is very sheltered compared to life on the outside. The poverty seemed to worsen the further away we got and the closer we came to Mall of Mysore. People sleeping on the sides of roads, makeshift houses made of a tattered piece of plastic, cows living in piled up rubbish tips. Oh, and the fumes. My shawl was used more as a gas mask today than anything else, and still it doesn’t stop the smell of diesel from permeating everything. Long term, I couldn’t handle being amongst such pollution. The damage it would be causing to mine, and everyone elses bodies, would be horrendous.

After about 15 - 20 minutes of holding on for dear life, whilst also being entertained by the assault on every sense, I arrived at a palace like mall. Mall of Mysore. It certainly wasn’t the usual Westfield Shopping Centres I’m use to back home, as the shopping was very limited, but it had some lovely shops within which were nice to browse through. There was one particular store, Shoppers Shop, which sold lovely mens, womens and childrens clothing, as well as cosmetics and handbags etc. It reminded me of a mini Myres on the ground floor. It may sound silly, but I liked being in this part of the mall as I felt a little closer to home - just seeing a few familiar things. I probably spent most of my time in Shoppers Shop as the rest of the stores were more traditional Indian clothing stores or shops for men. Infact, stores for men were significantly more. This is no doubt strongly linked with the culture here.

I bought some lovely black pants which reminded me of the ones Jasmine wears in Aladdin - but upon looking at a picture of her, I realise they look nothing alike??? Mine are leggings underneath with a lovely thin, see through material draping over them. My description is terrible, I know. Just know I feel like a genie in them. They were my treat to self. I’m quite particular about the clothes I buy. I could purchase four pairs of cheap pants for the equivalent price, from a stall on the street, or actually buy a quality pair which I can keep for sometime. I’ve been patient with my buying, so I chose the latter.

I also found a jewelry store on the third floor. I’ve wanted to buy myself some earrings and was thrilled to find this little store. With doors open, but no lights on, I walked into a dark store with about five staff members all sitting talking. As I entered, they all jumped to their feet, as though they haven’t seen a human being for years, and I was actually startled by their reaction. Lights suddenly came on and the team were there to meet my needs, insisting I sit and relax in the black chairs at the display cabinet. The team there were very lovely, helping me to try on many pairs of earrings. I ended up with medium sized silver hoops and cubic zirconia mini earrings to put in the piercing I have in the top right ear. It was a little splurge on me but I thought - it’s my birthday so why not!

After yet another exhilarating, life threatening rickshaw ride home, I was dropped to my favourite restaurant - Depth N’ Green. I went here because I was planning to buy myself a piece of vegan dark chocolate cake which I knew they sold, and which people raved about. I’ve never had this treat before, so today was the day. With yoga class about to start in an hour, I realised it probably wasn’t the best time to be inhaling my vegan thali lunch plus cake - but I thought, “what the hell! It’ll be worth the cramps, or balloon belly which my teacher will no doubt keep trying to push back in, but with little luck”.

The chocolate cake truly was divine. The icing was so soft, it was almost like cream. And the dense cake itself was the yummiest, dark chocolate I have had in some time. If you know me, you know I handle sweets well. But this was almost too rich to finish - however, of course I finished it. It’s me we are talking about here ;-)

When I made it back to my apartment I was greeted with a basket of amazing flowers of all different sorts, a basket of oranges and a birthday card from home. Owen had arranged the flowers and mum had sent the birthday card. I felt so very special. And the lovely boy at reception was so excited to be handing me my gifts, eager to take pictures of the event which was really sweet. He speaks little English, so he tends to be quite shy, so his enthusiasm was so nice to see.

I thought Owen and mum must have planned the arrival of the flowers and mums card together, but this wasn’t the case. Somehow, by complete luck (and it really is luck as the postie here does not look so reliable…) my card from home actually arrive. And not only did it arrive, but it arrived on my actual birthday! It was just perfect, and although I felt a little lonely today, I have never felt so loved.

I emailed mum to tell her how special her card was (which included pictures of myself, Owen and the pooch). It’s incredible how seeing the handwriting of someone from home, mum in particular, makes you feel that little bit safer in the world. For me anyway. It really brought a huge smile to my face. That and all the wonderful emails and messages people sent me via Facebook. Thank you to everyone who sent birthday love. It means more than you will ever know. xxx

My yoga class, a back bending class, was surprisingly quite good - cake included! Hot and sweaty, and per usual, but I didn’t feel completely disgusting as I had anticipated. Ragu was again quite forceful with his realignments, some of which can be good, some of which can be bad. There were a couple of asanas where I was moved into a position where I could only hold it with Ragu’s support behind me. It’s interesting that he teaches this way as Bharath is quite the opposite. With a gradual movement, he (Bharath) will realign you but make sure I am left able to support myself as soon as he moves. Both Ragu and the morning teacher tend to teach in a way which could leave a student feeling dependent upon them in order to achieve a particular asana. Although I appreciate the support, it’s not something I will do, as I want people to progress through “feeling, not forcing”. My students need to be able to complete self-practice without me and know the difference between what is correct alignment and what is not. Creating dependency is certainly not my goal.

On a final note, after a relaxing evening at home; chatting with Owen, reorganising my small desk and side table to fit flowers and cards, I feel very happy about the birthday I have had. Although aging is always a worry, I am certainly entering my 29th year wiser, calmer, focused, grateful and excited about what lies ahead. Hello 29!

Namaste xx

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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Happy Chinese New Year!

Well I’ve made it to the end of week 3 successfully. Not gracefully I might add - I’m bruised, have scuffed elbows, I’m sleep deprived, I can barely cross my legs, and I’m sick with a cold… but I’m still here which is testament to me!!

Although my practice was a little slow this morning, and I was a little over emotional, the rest of the day has ended quite nicely. For starters, we were given the afternoon off to study and relax. Woo hoo! I think the entire class was thrilled with the bonus free time. But before I get into that, I have to give an update on my favourite 22 year old, Brittaney, from class…

Well, today a lovely Spanish woman, Rosa, presented. Although she struggled with her English, her knowledge was excellent and she was clearly well prepared. I was the reporter for her performance today and I made sure to highlight what a wonderful job she did, from technique to understanding the benefits etc of each posture. Long story short, I wondered if Brittany would be an absolute cow toward me after yesterday or actually behave like a mature adult and take on the feedback I gave. Well - if ever I have seen a back flip in attitudes and behaviour, it was today. Her feedback for Rosa was really positive, and more importantly the criticism was constructive. Also, apparently I am the new best friend, where I couldn’t help but get the feeling she was trying to impress me. To blow me away even further, she who is too cool for taking notes or reading our manual, sat next to me at the front of the class taking notes during the technique class which followed. What the! I was so pleased. Her response to my feedback is not what I expected at all, and I feel bad for not having more belief in her potential to improve her behavour/attitude. Turns out I was wrong - and I’m glad I was. I don’t know how she will be next week, but for now her actions today are what count. Brittany wasn’t a problem at all in the end. It was two others in my group, David and Francis, who had a dummy spit at one another over a technical question. This turned into a big and inappropriate argument whilst trying to give feedback to poor Rosa. Francis ended up storming out of the shala. (I giggled internally when Brittany looked at me with a look which said, “…what childish behaviour”). What was going on with people today? I don’t know. Good thing Bharath was nowhere near..

I spent this afternoon relaxing as we were told. There is the stress case side of me which wants to spend every waking moment studying however, as my sister Alex reminded me, don’t miss the other precious moments I wont get back, like actually taking time out to enjoy the place. So I did that! After not one, but two strawberry, banana and coconut smoothies I wandered home and relaxed for the afternoon.

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As it’s Chinese New Year, some residents had planned to hold a small party up in the common dining room, and as I had the afternoon off from class, I could go!

Up on the fourth floor of the building I walked in to see a number of people sitting around a table making dumplings from scratch (the pastry also), a lovely Chinese man was in the kitchen boiling and frying them, some lovely Chinese ladies were preparing various salads, chips and soups. It was really lovely what they pulled together. As I am vegan, and one other girl, they even went to the effort of making vegan dumplings - both fried and boiled. Although stuffed with coriander (my most despised herb - it tastes like poison to me) when food is being cooked for you and this means not having to leave to get dinner, you eat it. Doused in soy sauce to try and mask the flavour, they weren’t too bad!

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The group all moved from the kitchen/dining area to the rooftop of the building where we sat and watched the sunset. It was really magic. The sun is a tangerine colour here (behind the haze of smog), and the lower the sun gets to the horizon the more vibrant the orange becomes. As soon as the sun was gone, there was an incredible back light over the city, and a glittering quarter moon appeared with a single star below it.

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I met some lovely people this evening. In particular, I met a lovely young Indian woman, Jagriti, who is from Delhi. Jagriti, myself and a couple of Chinese people climbed to the very top of the building where we got the most magnificent view of the sun setting over Mysore. And as it was beautifully warm evening, it was so lovely sitting up there chatting.

Jagriti and her husband live in Kuwait, as her husband is an engineer for an oil company, but she will be here in Mysore training in Ashtanga for around two months. A petite woman, Jagriti and I chatted for hours about yoga, her life in India and her new life in Kuwait. It’s not often I connect with people, but I really felt she and I connected. I was excited to hear about her life and she was excited to tell me about it. I learned of her arranged marriage, what it’s like living in an Arabic country, the challenges for being an educated person in India as there is so much competition for work - mostly for men, the things I should be careful of when traveling to Delhi (this place does not sound safe at all for foreign solo women). Jagriti has also offered to take me to Lakshmi (somewhere….) where i can go shopping for some traditional clothes, bed linens etc. Maybe next week when I finish part one of my training.

Interesting fact about Kuwait - they pay people the equivalent of about $500AUD for completing each level of study (the higher the level you complete, the more money you get paid). The course is also free! Jagriti is studying Arabic and when she completed Level One, they paid her! It doesn’t happen like this in Australia. Good old Abbott has done quite the opposite! Apparently they have money to burn in Kuwait. The frustrating part is people there apparently know how to spend money but have no idea how to earn it. Interesting.

It started getting late (after 7.00pm) so we decided to call it a night. (Us yogis try to be in bed as early as possible). Although I’m not feeling 100% still, it was really nice to stop and just be for a while. I’m feeling quite relaxed after such a nice evening. It’s also nice to actually have the time to meet other people. I haven’t really had a chance to do this yet, so this has been a real bonus.

So thank you Chinese New Year. I had a lovely time celebrating with you.

Namaste xx

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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