Yes, my alarm clocks (I have two set) and I were not friends again this morning as they exploded at 4.00am, but I can truthfully say these early mornings are so very worth it. This morning was our first class back and let’s just say it’s been a combination of joy, exhaustion, relief, calm, intrigue, doubting, not doubting… The list could on.
Class began a little differently than normal. All nine of us sat close to the front, in our perfect lines, and began by chanting unfamiliar chants with Bharath. Let’s just say we are not exactly creating music to the ears, but it’s always fun to learn these new chants (in Sanskrit of course). We then began our Vinyasa A and B practice. This is very new to me. You see a lot of teachers teaching Vinyasa Flow. Well, this is what I am now learning. What an incredible practice. We dabbled in it during our afternoon sessions last month, but I didn’t quite understand it, or like it for that matter. Now working through the technique more slowly and with all concentration, I think this is a practice I could really enjoy - and possibly teach also.
Not only is the temperature in Mysore heating up, meaning the Shala is heating up (all windows closed and no fans / air con), but the practice is intensifying. As we are now moving into advanced practice, we are to hold far stronger postures than we did in the first half of the course. This morning I watched sweat drip off my wrists and nose onto my mat, my hands were slipping from my ankles and my clothes were glued to my body. And it’s only going to get stronger (and hotter I might add!). Bharath moved us into postures and made us hold them until everything was shaking, near collapsing. This is when the will kicks in. I work incredibly hard to maintain focus on my breath and repeat over and over and over and over in my mind, “you can do this Jessica. Just a few more moments. Breathe. You can do this. Do not give up.” I’m not kidding - I literally repeat this to myself, like a mantra, and it gives me to strength to stay there. Bhujangasana B was an example where I needed to do this. Cobra but with your hands resting behind your head. My head has never felt so heavy in all my life!
After practice, we then moved onto Pranayama (my favourite!!). As I can sit for far longer periods now without pain in my knees and hips, Pranayama is becoming a more enjoyable practice. But today, we have begun introducing Kriyas - Agnisara Kriya to be specific. Take a look at this clip to see what this is:
With shirtless men around me and us ladies raising our tops up so our bellies are exposed, we are all hunched over working to push our bellies in and out. All sorts of sounds were being made in the room as each of us were trying to practice this. Quick breaths, grunts, forceful exhalations of air. Everyone is working with their own body to try and get the technique / rhythm of this practice down. Good fun but certainly a challenge for me from a confidence point of view. My stomach is my most disliked part of my body. I don’t have a lovely flat belly like most women. So exposing it was a challenge. But then I went back to remembering that yoga is not about what your body looks like, its about how your body feels. This is what’s important. So with this in mind, I too flashed my belly and did funny looking belly rolls with the rest of the class! Even with Bharath’s nose within a few centimeters of my navel (making sure im doing it right), I knew it was all ok. It was safe and i had nothing to be self conscious about.
I didn’t do a lot today, but of what I did do, I had an amazing time.
Something one comes to realise when living in the bubble of Gokulam, is how fast the outside world is moving. Why do we fill our days with so many activities? Why do we feel the need to buy more and more material things? Do we need those extra shoes or bracelets for example? And why is it the quiet person, who is happy with the simpler things in life, or better still - one’s own company - is frowned upon?
These are the honest thoughts which have just come to me whilst trying to work out how to structure tonight’s blog post. I say this because my amazing day may seem nothing short of boring to so many in the world. And it may very well be. But for me, I make no excuses for being the quiet one, happy with the simpler things in life, as this is where the bliss in life lies for me.
With that said, my day involved nothing more than a wonderful conversation with two beautiful young women I met at Anu’s (over a chocolate smoothie of course), and an evening class with Bharath (lesson not asana) followed by a simple dinner on the floor of Barath’s home. No extreme sports, shopping, wining and dining. This was it. Oh, and my weekly washing. I love getting this done!
Today really was a highlight day for me - of the entire trip. For one, these two lovely women, Marie from Norway and Amy from Scotland, were just genuine people. As I find it so challenging to meet genuine people nowadays, meeting them were like a breath of fresh air. We chatted for hours, and had I not needed to go home to get my undies off the line in the communal downstairs car park, I would have stayed longer.
We talked of many things, but as one would expect when you have a group of yoga practitioners together, the conversation naturally turned to that of yoga. Marie and Amy practice Ashtanga yoga, something I am not too familiar with. But type of yoga aside, fundamentally the purpose of yoga is the same. That is, we are seeking a way to still our mind. Asana is of course the first way to do this, hence the practice is so common and widely spread in the world. Something I really appreciated was Amy’s comment that yoga is bigger than all of us. She is absolutely correct. This statement can be interpreted on so many levels, but for me, as yoga helps me to connect with the deeper parts of myself, I can then connect with deeper external/universal energies (well, try to!). For example, if my energy and awareness in life is poor, then my connection to the greater world, including energy I omit and receive in return, will also be poor.The opposite is also true. If my energy is high and I can connect with myself on a deeper level, then my ability to connect with the world is also heightened. It’s important to remember yoga is not just about asana. That is one component of yoga. Moreso, it is the ability to bring yoga into your daily life. Whether on a boat, in an office or a crazy market place, an ability to maintain presence demonstrates a true, deeper level has been attained.
With yoga, we need to remember we are practicing what our teachers have taught us, their teachers taught them, those teachers were taught by other teachers and so on and so forth. This practice is thousands of years old and as practitioners we have a responsibility to honor this practice and its history. To treat it with utmost respect and remain committed to implementing the learnings into our daily lives. Often people can forget how old this practice is, how important it has been to many millions of people over the years. Yoga is not the latest trend, or fad diet. It is an art form which should be treated with respect. As a teacher and practitioner, I have a responsibility to this practice. To continually strive to deepen my own practice. Only then, am I in a position to teach it to others.
We also chatted about whether it is good or bad if people miss classes. As Amy pointed out, our teachers do not care if we miss a class as that is not their problem. It is our problem. If we miss a class, we are the ones who have lost, have missed out. The enormous benefits by which this practice can give to every human being have been lost. I too agree. To the practitioner who has a regular routine, they will notice the effects within themselves when a practice has been missed. Energy is not quite right for that day. However, in saying that, one also needs to allow themselves the freedom to miss a class should their body need this rest because, as I mentioned before, yoga is not just about the asana. It’s about how to bring yoga into our daily lives which is where the real power lies.
A lovely conversation I was disappointed to leave.
View of the sunset from the Shala
Ready for Part II - bring on 500+Hrs TTC!
This evening we commenced the second half of my 500+hr TTC. There are nine of us in total. Two new students, who completed training with Bharath in previous years, have joined our small group. Duncan and Josephine. They seem like lovely people.
In class, Bharath took us through the course structure for the coming month, and I have to say I am very excited about what’s to come. We will learn about (and practice of course) advanced kriyas, bandhas, mudras, asanas, adjustments - among many other things. This month is all about achieving Sadhana, about deepening our practice. Its not about learning asanas and their limitations etc. We know all this. Now we go deeper. We will also be writing a thesis (and delivering a one hour presentation in two weeks time) on working with a student who suffers a particular ailment. Again, we are going deeper now which is exciting.
As Bharath has gotten to know us all, he has also become much more ‘chatty’. He maintains the respect as a teacher, but there is a wall he has removed allowing us to get a little closer to him (if that makes any sense). The class format seems far more relaxed and I guess this is more easily achieved when working with a much smaller group. Bharath also seemed more comfortable at dinner sitting on the floor with us, laughing and eating, telling stories and sharing lessons. For such a young man, only 35, he has so much wisdom. I could listen to him talk for hours. I am completely inspired by this man. Unlike yesterday with obsessed followers of Amma who tend to lack any rationality around why they are so obsessed, with Bharath everything he says has reason to it. There is logic to his words and he only speaks of what he knows and has studied intently. This is why I hold him with such high regard.
So, as one can see, today was a simple day, but a truly great day. Because, for me, it’s the simple but meaningful conversations with genuine people, with no agenda or ulterior motive but to purely share and learn from one another, which brings joy to my world. This is where the substance is. To me, this is living.
With my alarm set for 4.00am (yes back to that routine) it is now time to prepare for bed. I have a vinyasa flow class first thing!
Enjoy your practice, and remember to ask yourself - “are you bringing yoga into your life?”
6.30am I arrived in Bogadi. The sun was yet to rise and I’m already sitting, waiting to see the famous Amma - ‘Mother of the World’. It was recommended by another yoga student, who met Amma last year, I arrive early as I needed to get a token to see Amma. Knowing there would thousands of people here to see her today, and finding out she will be giving hugs until about 1.00am the following morning, I decided I would take the advice and come ultra early. Let’s just say, that advice was not exactly correct. But I will come the that in a bit. Surprisingly, there were large numbers of people beginning to arrive at this crazy time also - for Amma and also other ceremonies which were to be completed prior to her arrival at 11.30am.
Walking into a huge shed across the way from Amma’s temple and ashram, with blue time slip in hand (required before you can get a token - you exchange one for the other later in the day), I moved to the front where people were chanting a buddhist chant. The deep guttural sound of the 5 or so men on stage chanting was almost a little unnerving. One can certainly see how you can enter into a sort of hypnotic state whilst focusing on this one repeated sound.
A group of helpers were working to place mini ceramic bowls full of oils, incense and other small offerings onto each chair for the next ceremony which was to take place. The poonja (I think). As I was coaxed into paying to attend this ceremony, I sat with my little chair of offerings in front of me and decided to join in. I had no idea what was being said, but by copying what others were doing, I was able to follow along. Each item on my chair had a special purpose: I circled the flame in the oil around my chest and head three times, then the leaf with a small offering was circled around my crown three times, I dipped my small leaf into the single pot of oil and dripped this into the top of the terra cotta pot about 50 times (as this was done in time with a chant they repeated over and over), I near set myself on fire when I lit the little kerosene cube (which had a dangerous resemblance to a sugar cube), and then coated my entire body in the smoke of the burning incense stick and fumes from that little sugar cube. At other times I stood and turned in circles three times. Why? I don’t know?
To complete the ceremony, everyone carried their little terra cotta pot in their right hand on top of their head to Amma’s temple across the way. In a line of about 500 or so people, it took a while before I reached the temple to do whatever it was people were doing with their pots. With shoes off, I eventually entered the small temple steps where I then had a better view of what was going on. Inside the temple, on a small platform, men dressed in white linen robes were throwing the water of all the pots onto a statue which sat in the middle of the platform. It was a little dark in there and I couldn’t see what the statute was. All I knew is it was something important to all these people so I was happy to respect the tradition and offer my bowl of water and oil to the shrine also.
People were pushing their way through to have their pots taken from them and offered to the God within (I’m assuming), so I learned early on this morning that it’s important to be a little pushy also. Otherwise, I’m getting nowhere! As I walked out of the temple area I was sprinkled with water from the bristles of a tree branch, handed a small edible offering (which i haven’t dared eat), and given some die to put on my forehead. Quite an experience.
With hours to kill until Amma arrived, I decided to find a toilet. Let’s just say I’m not a fan of traditional Indian style toilets…. Not only is it a hole in the ground, but it’s like a bath in there. I nearly died when I saw women walking in bare foot. Oh, it’s a different world to what I know. Not saying mine is better - I just know this isn’t exactly a comfortable experience. But, it’s an experience nonetheless!
I sat in the isle where Amma would walk as she enters the huge shed turned temple we were in. In preparation for Amma’s arrival, a human barricade of people holding hands was created - about 70 or more metres at least. I was a part of this barricade, and found it to be quite a fun experience. The excitement in the room was beginning to grow. We were, however, holding hands for about 30 minutes prior to her arrival as I think someone got over excited and gave the cue a little early! And then before we knew it, surrounded by another barricade of people all dressed in white, Amma powered past me headed for the stage.
Sitting on a round pedestal on stage, Amma opened the session with one hours worth of singing. The first three songs were really exciting for me, but then it just became quite tiring to listen to. I was starting to dwindle by this point as I had already been there for over 6 hours. Next came another two or so hours of preaching (which I didn’t understand a word of) followed by meditation. Although I appreciated being in Amma’s presence, I was a little over it by this time. The ceremony seemed to go on forever. I was also a little concerned I was going to be one of the poor people who has to wait until 1.00am the next day for my moment with Amma. For as it turns out, there was no need to come early and get a ticket. There was no order whatsoever when it came to exchanging the ticket for the token. Ridiculous.
When that time did come (to get my token - which is a letter and number of the alphabet, e.g. B5), the entire place erupted into a mosh pit of people scrambling to find one those men who were handing out the tokens. It really was a matter of first in best dressed with getting a token. But then I noticed the people handing them out were selectively giving people tokens in the Z category or the G category - whatever they felt like it seemed! The Z people will be there all night.
With my new skills of pushing, I pushed my way through masses of crazy people to a man who eventually agreed to exchange my ticket. I ended up with G1. I was devastated. This meant I was going to be there for another 3-4 hours waiting for my hug. This would not do. So, in Indian fashion, I asked around about how to exchange this token for one which was earlier in the queue. Although told I could not change it, I was determined to find a way. I was directed to a man in an orange robe who was a helper of Amma’s. I explained I had been at the temple since 6.30am this morning and would really appreciate if there was a way to see Amma sooner. After some clarification of what I was asking, (as I think the man was originally trying to pretend like he didn’t know what I was saying), he exchanged my token for C5. Magic! I was instantly taken into the queue and within 30 minutes my face was in Amma’s breasts!
The chaos surrounded Amma up on stage. She had many helpers around her, which made this confined space that much more overwhelming. But the energy getting close to Amma was incredible. Knowing I was finally going to meet this woman, even though just for a moment, was certainly exciting and a little nerve racking. I noticed she hugged some people ever so briefly whilst others she would hold tightly, almost appearing as though they were being suffocated. Whilst holding people she would be talking to her helpers before kissing the hugged person on the head and sending them on their way.
After having my forehead patted down to remove any sweat before hugging Amma, a man in an orange robe to Amma’s left (my right) asked what language I spoke. I’m not sure why as it made no difference to how I was spoken to? Then, before I knew it, I was suddenly grabbed from behind the head by Amma herself and pulled into her right breast. And there I stayed for the next 20-30 seconds or so. I’m not sure why she held me for so long, but it was certainly nice to have the extra attention.
The gift Amma gave me: A little lolly and some red dye. I’m also holding flowers a helper gave me which Amma had touched and used in her
Amma’s hug was not what I expected. She smelled of fresh flowers and her clothes were soft silk. She held my head tightly toward her and in those moments I knew no one could touch me. I was a little awkward though. I wasn’t quite sure where to put my hands, whether to put more weight toward her… I was a little overwhelmed really. I began creeping my arms around her plump waist and returned the hug. But again, I was a little unsure what to do! I was also expecting to be pushed away sooner but I kept hearing her muffled voice, as my ears were squished, talking to the people around her. Was she aware I was down there? Or was the conversation more important? Was she talking about me? Who knows? After this short while she then pulled me slightly away from her chest, whispered something into my right ear in Hindu (I’m assuming), kissed my head and then released me. I was then just another one of the masses of people trying not to fall over the thin railing of the stage as people pushed their way to her.
One of Amma’s helpers, a Frenchman who I met during the ceremony, ushered me to go and sit on the stage behind Amma for sometime. To take in the energy from there. So I did. It was a much calmer feeling being behind Amma, knowing i didn’t have to wait until the early hours of the morning to see her and could now just observe. I watched on for about 20-30 minutes or so before it was time to allow others to sit on the stage also. I also had a chance to watch some young children perform traditional Indian dances on the other side of the stage, which was quite beautiful to see.
After all of this, I was ready for home. Starving and in need of a toilet, a western toilet preferably, it was time to go.
Upon reflection of today, of course I am glad I went. It was an experience like no other. What I feel is unfortunate, however, is how people are treating Amma as though she is God herself. I don’t think this is how she sees herself at all but the followers look to her as though she is this divine, supernatural power. In my opinion, this almost weakens her teachings. I can relate to the human but not the God, if that makes any sense?
Essentially, Amma preaches that people must look within to know thy Self. That there is nothing external which will ever help someone to achieve this knowledge, and if we rely on the external world then we shall always suffer from unhappiness. Love and compassion is another big concept she preaches about. But supernatural powers are not who or what she is. Not from what I could gather. Yet so many westerners (who made up 70% or more of her helpers today) seem to kiss the floor she walks on, looking to her in this way. I respect this powerful woman for the messages she is bringing to the world. Good messages full of truths. But, I cannot look at her like she is a Goddess. Should I? Am I missing something? I feel I can appreciate her teachings without having to become completely obsessed by her unlike so many others - so it seems. Each to their own I guess.
So, if ever Amma is in town and you want to go and see her, my recommendation is to arrive just prior to the ceremony, get your ticket and then brace yourself for the moment when you exchange your ticket for a token. Use elbows if needed, because I can guarantee everyone else will be!
Thank you Amma for our moment today. It was one which will remain with me for a lifetime.
Today I planned to climb Chamundi Hill followed by a visit to the Mysore Zoo. Pretty casual outing I thought. Turns out, not so.
My lovely driver, Somu, from the other day, was waiting at my apartment for me at 7.20am as promised (for my scheduled 7.30am pick up). Bright eyed and a huge smile on his face, I was so pleased I had committed to traveling with him again. Today, I was headed for Chamundi Hill. 1008 steps up to the temple!
The drive to the summit took about 30 minutes from my apartment. Along the way we stopped for gas, but this only took about 15 seconds to fill the rickshaw with 100 rupees of gas. Mysore was so peaceful at this time of the morning. Although there were still a few beeps around the place (you’re never truly free of noise here), the streets were silent compared to how they normally are. What I thought was interesting was how thick the smog is at this time of day. It’s like travelling in a haze, constantly. Although there are minimal vehicles on the road, the pollution in the air is still so apparent that traveling with my shawl covering my nose and mouth is still necessary. Incredible.
My driver was kindly beginning to drive me up the mountain, assuming I wouldn’t want to walk up, however upon clarifying my intentions, we took a turn and headed round the base of the mountain. Driving through little alleys surrounded by unused scrub, turned rubbish tip, we finally arrived at the base of the stairs. My driver was committed to waiting for me to return, expecting I would take around one and a half hours. (I always feel terrible knowing someone is waiting for such a long time, but I guess they are use to it).
The beginning of the climb didn’t seem too dreadful - for the first 50 steps or so. Quite quickly the walk became steep. Very steep. And the stairs are extraordinarily dangerous. All different sizes (height and width) coupled with being quite slippery due to so much wear, I needed to keep focused on my footing. As I was taking many pictures with my little camera, I was extra careful, holding it close to my chest. (I think I would have broken my arm first before allowing anything to happen to my camera).
The stairs had remnants of coloured dyes, stained from yesterdays Happy Holi Festival no doubt, and rubbish lined the perimeter of the stairs. The stairs themselves, however, seemed to be free it. Quite clean. In terms of people walking up, and down for that matter, there were very few. It appears most people tend to be driven up and down the hill, rather that complete the pilgrimage up. I now understand why!
The steps felt never ending and my thighs were just getting a relentless bashing from the trek. (I know I’m going to feel this tomorrow). I couldn’t help but think about how much more challenging this was compared with a common walk people do back home in the Mount Lofty Ranges. I think I could sprint up Mount Lofty now after having done this. Talk about a work out!
With sweat dripping down my face and back, I eventually reached Nandi the Bull - about two thirds the way up. I recalled reading in my Lonely Planet book that the rest of the climb is more forgiving than the first part, which gave me hope, however they were lying. Yes there were some slightly easier steps, but it is still hike up. Let’s just clarify that right here!
As I was there nice and early, about 8.30am, it was relatively quiet here with only a minimal number of people around. This gave me a chance to actually stop and appreciate Nandi without being pushed aside or have to listen to people yelling at each other in conversation. I found it really relaxing just being there. A lovely man, who I later bought a mini Chamundi brass statue from, offered to take my picture with the statue. I was thrilled. And considering it’s just me in the picture, without having to battle through people to get a view of Nandi, I was quite excited.
After eventually making it to the top of the hill, (another million more steps up it felt like), I was greeted with many market stalls selling the typical touristy items as well as flowers and coconut offerings to take into Chamundi’s temple. Bees were absolutely everywhere because of all the flowers people were selling. It certainly didn’t appear safe having that many bees surrounding you all day??
Leaving my shoes in a monitored shoe stand outside, I tip toed over the cow poo on the floor and headed for the temple. As it was still early in the morning, about 9.00am by this point, I didn’t have to wait in a massive queue to enter, which I understand happens as the day goes on. Walking through the temple, I noticed people were praying at all different areas within it. Some were touching and kissing red dye, which was all over the floor at the entrance to the main section where Chamundi was. Others standing by smaller shrines against the walls and within reach, covered in flowers and money offerings. When it came to seeing Chamundi, about six or so Indian men wearing white robes stood behind a counter which prevented the public from getting any closer to the goddess. About 10 metres further back was the shrine to Chamundi, covered in orange and yellow flowers, with incense and oils burnings around her. People were being rushed along to give their offering and say their prayer before being near pushed out of the temple. I stood to the side of the queue to try and get a longer look (having poor eyesight didn’t help me) but eventually the pressure of people shouldering and pushing past forced me out. I walked through the rest of the temple however there wasn’t a lot to see and within moments I was back out amongst the crowd.
Walking back down the hill, I came across my rickshaw driver! He had decided to start climbing also. (Clearly I was taking too long). He was exhausted by the time I got to him (about half way - we found a carving which said 500 steps not too far from there). I sat with him on the stairs for about 5 minutes while he caught his breath before completing the descent. He is such a lovely man. With two young boys at home, 11 and 13, he offered to take me to his home one day and introduce me to his family and make me chai tea. It’s incredibly sweet. At the bottom of the hill I bought Somu some water before moving on to the next part of the trip. The Mysore Zoo!
Somu predicted I would take about 45 minutes to an hour to look through the zoo. I’m not sure how long it’s been since he went there, but I was at least two hours. It is massive! Three kilometres of animals to look through. This takes a long time. What was funny, and a little annoying in the end, was I seemed to be the main attraction. So many people wanted their picture taken with me! Clearly it’s a novelty seeing a white person walking around.
The zoo was lovely. Very old and in parts run down, but generally speaking the animals seemed well looked after. It’s always sad to see animals in cages, especially those native to Australia (as I know what their habitats look like), but on the whole it was a lovely experience. I was glad to leave by the end of it though. It felt like a never ending maze in there. At 2.8 kilometres to go, I had a break. Taking time to eat my apple, I thought I had been walking for miles by this point. I nearly died with about 45 minutes later I saw there was still 2.3 kilometres to go. The heat, combined with pushy people and constant attention for photos made this a more challenging than normal experience.
I felt terrible when I eventually made it out and saw Somu still waiting for me (as I knew he would be). Considering he thought I would only take an hour or so, I definately felt a little guilty. But of course, Somu was still kind enough to show me another shop I would like, selling all sorts of Indian trinkets, knowing he would need to wait longer. Out of courtesy I had a quick look, but after a scan inside I decided it was time for home. By this point it was about 1.20pm and my feet were tired. I was tired.
Considering Somu committed so much time to me today, I was sure to pay him well for taking care of me. He is such a lovely man who wouldn’t try to rip me off in any way, and is happy to accept what I give him. For that, I am happy to pay him more. Somu is now scheduled to pick me up tomorrow morning at 5.50am to take me to a little town called Bogadi where I will be meeting the “Mother of the World” - Amma. She hugs people, and apparently her energy is like nothing you have ever felt before. So tomorrow I am off to be hugged! As there is such a huge following, I need to get there early to get a token and get in line. It’s going to be a long day.
My afternoon has been spent reading about Raja Yoga, which Hatha is an extension of. Essentially it looks to the science in any religion and talks of the fundamental principles a yoga practitioner must possess / do in order to become a Yogi. I’ve really enjoyed reading this book and it’s been quite enlightening - however something to chat about another time. The learnings are endless.
Off to bed for me now. I have a date with Amma to prepare for!
Today was my last day training Mysore Style. Upon reflection, it’s been a great week. I have been given an opportunity to truly deepen my practice, using this time to work hard at better understanding particular asanas, and how I move in, out and hold them. My Sirsasana, for example, has significantly improved by having more time to work on this; feel it, notice what is and isn’t working - both physically and mentally. Both teachers have also been very involved with the practice, correcting physically moreso than verbally, to help me (and others) improve our technique.
But with this approach to teaching, which is quite the opposite to Bharath, I noticed how people became dependent upon the teacher. (And they told me so also). Even I would unwillingly become dependent in particular asanas. Sirsasana was one of them, which is not what I wanted at all. Although the lovely woman who taught in the morning meant well by helping me to maintain balance, I was beginning to need her there. Thankfully her involvement became less and less as the week went on, but it made me think about how people come to ‘need’ their teachers. I can see why this would be great for business, but it’s not helping the practitioner to progress.
After class today, I was chatting with another student - a young woman from New Zealand. She was telling me how much she loved being physically corrected. I agreed it had it’s benefits, but in the long run it’s not good at all. This prevents practitioners from ever being able to do self practice in a technically correct way. It also minimises a persons ability to truly learn their body, how it works and what needs to be done in order to achieve a particular asana - whether that’s a micro movement of the hips, engaging the pelvis or a slight tilt of the chin. All these movements are important to feel naturally, not to be forced into. It will never come this way and it creates dependency. The same goes for using props; like straps, bolsters and blocks. Practitioners will never learn to effectively work with, challenge and explore their body whilst using props. I, for one, use to like using a strap for asanas like Supta Padangusthasana (lying down big toe = lying on your back with one leg raised in the air and holding onto your big toe). But now that I don’t use a strap, I realise how limiting this (strap) was to my practice. My flexibility and strength in my legs has significantly improved since working without it. My hips are also opening much better because I’m working through the asana more strongly, through feeling everything work together - arms, hips, thighs, calves, legs, abs, breath. The strap was just laziness (on my part anyway).
So, although it has been a great week in terms of my own development and deepening of the asanas, it’s been a real eye opener about what type of teacher I want to be. I want to offer people the opportunity to really explore their body, to see their body ‘open’ naturally and in their own time. This is a gift and I am excited to share it. I feel so overjoyed every time my body moves in a way I once thought was impossible, and I want others to feel this way also. I could think of nothing more rewarding.
On a completely different note, it’s Happy Holi Day here in India, which explains my slightly odd look! Seeing people drowned in different coloured dyes was fabulous fun. I just wasn’t game enough to bring my camera…
My new favourite shop - yes, up those vertical stairs!