Upping the anti

Well - our teacher has certainly upped the anti with our morning practice. I lost count of how many rounds of Surya Namaskara we did, but all I know is it certainly woke me up. We tend to be left in strong holding positions for what feel like hours at a time. I challenge people to stand in Utthita Hasta Padasana (foot hand extended) with feet about 4 feet apart, arms are extended to the sides and shoulder height, fingers splayed, pelvis tucked in and abs active. Just stand in this posture for 2 minutes and see how your arms and legs feel. They become like lead weights. But when you have to do this for the equivalent of about 15-20 minutes, through moving into other postures, believe me, it becomes a challenge. The sweat has gone from dripping down my back during these practices, to running down my back. Who would have thought such a simple combination of postures would work you so hard. This is why technique is so important.

Today we practiced Sirsasana (head stand). Never before have I been able to get myself near to doing this posture, correctly, but today I managed to bring my body into the correct alignment, with spine and shoulders uplifted, and bring both feet up to my chest. Although a strong posture, I felt sturdy - which I’ve never experienced. Woo hoo!

On a totally different note, whilst walking home this morning and begin dodged by scooters, trucks and rickshaws (you learn to keep walking here and they will work their way around you), I realised how my nervous system is working on overdrive at the moment. The constant tooting can be so shocking at times. Some days I manage to deal with it ok, but as I am already a hyper sensitive person, there are other days, like today, when you literally feel as though the body is going into shock every time another horn is tooted. I’m not sure this is something i could get use to on a permanent basis???

Posture or technique - what's more important...

Today has been a little all over the place for me. I think a combination of physical and mental fatigue, a crappy night sleep, worries about presenting and worries about home have caught up to me a little. I have also moved from the front of the class to the back of the class (we rotate weekly) so it made it a little harder to see and hear the demonstrations, which is probably another reason why I wasn’t as engaged this morning. What I find amazing is how you can tell if you’re a little off through your practice. For example, Vrksasana (tree) was really difficult for me today, highlighting my concentration is off - which is absolutely true. What I did find, however, was Chakrasana (wheel / back bend) was really strong for me tonight which was interesting. Something to contemplate…

Earlier today a friend emailed and asked if the training is what i had expected it to be. I thought this was a great question and one i hadn’t considered until now. My response to this was..

“Honestly, I think I was a little naive in what to expect. It’s incredibly intensive but not in the way you would expect. Our teacher is big on making sure our alignment is perfect, as only then can you experience the true effects of any asana. So we spend alot of time just holding ourselves in what would appear to be simple positions however are incredibly difficult when done correctly (e.g. bending forward with arms alongside the ears and parallel to the floor - nasty!). He often highlights that people are impatient and want to just ‘get into’ a posture to prove they can do it - however this is often with poor technique and reliant upon strength of arms or shoulders for example, rather than core and correct alignment. There is also a misconception that flexibility is good, however we have now learned its one of the worst things if there is no strength also. I lack the strength.

I really like my teacher. He is so passionate about what he does, and has phenomenal technique, which I hope to learn also”. 

i wanted to add this email in here as a reminder to self never to forget or compromise technique for the sake of trying to move into a posture and proving i can do it. That’s not hard to do (well, in my case it’s very hard to do, but for others it may not be). It’s the awareness which makes the difference. A connection with body, breathe and mind.

Our teacher told us a story about a previous student who had tennis elbow. She said this was the result of doing 90 Surya Namaskara’s in 30 minutes in a 'Power Yoga’ class. Well yes - that will do it! Fads are causing so many injuries out there which could be avoided if more emphasis were placed on technique. This is my intention.

I will also be sure to carry forward my teachers recommendations that students don’t use supports like bolsters, straps or blocks. These all create dependency and prevent people from reaching their full potential. Someone who is using a block today will be using it still in a years time. I aim to help people to actually progress with their practice and experience the true bliss which can come with it when results are being achieved. 

Tomorrow we will be presenting on Sirsasana (head stand / king of the asanas). This is one of the most difficult poses to do, however once achieved correctly then you will (apparently) be able to fly into other strong postures. I’m not currently flying into anything like this - more like flying off the mat when I attempt such postures. But, in saying that, my teacher assures it is possible for anyone to achieve this given time and patience combined with proper technique. There is hope for me yet!

Well - off to bed as I’m going to do this all again tomorrow!

Namaste xxx

A philosophical approach...

Where to begin. I could never have expected to have so much happen in one day when you spend 95% of that day in the same room with the same people. I am constantly receiving gifts of incredible wisdom from my teachers. You see - yoga is not just about asanas. This is a very shallow way of thinking about this beautiful practice. Yoga dates back thousands of years and the philosophy of yoga is so very complex that you could spend your entire life studying it and still not fully understand. Our philosophy teacher has done exactly that.

One of the most important lessons i took away from today, is that yoga is all about the presence of the mind and any technique that relaxes the mind is considered yoga. Think about that for a moment…  Without this presence, we cannot achieve - whether that be a posture or something else in our lives. We must be present in order to ‘reach the peak’. One of the key ways of doing this is through the breath. It is the breath that represents the presence of the mind. Simple concept, but so powerful and one to contemplate. 

The yoga sutras are a joy to learn about. Although mind boggling (always), I tend to hobble out of these classes filled with questions - trying to better understand the interpretations of each of the sanskrit words. Today, phrase 30 caught my attention mostly. Essentially it talks of all the challenges we as yoga practitioners and teachers face when doing yoga. There is disease, doubt, dullness, laziness, craving for enjoyment, erroneous perception, false perceptions, inability to achieve better, not obtaining, distractions of the mind… just to name a couple. The idea of Patanjali (who wrote the sutras) listing these problems is that we can challenge our 'enemy’ by knowing them. Only then can we overcome these problems.

I think all of the above was an issue for me today. For example, my new found sense of release in my legs and hips yesterday was certainly gone today. Today, I was in agony. My hips were on fire and my back felt as though it was breaking (this is just from sitting!). I wriggled from one sitting posture to another (keeping within the positions we are allowed to do) but nothing helped. At one stage, during pranayama (breathing), I thought I was going to vomit the pain was so bad. You just want to give up and run away in those moments. When I got back to my apartment for lunch and spoke with Owen, I just burst into tears.

Today I have felt weak, drained, bruised, sore… the list could go on. I found it dreadfully hard to focus on my studies at lunch today. For example, what I would normally do in 10 minutes took an hour. I’m not sure what came over me today, but it was just one of those days where everything seemed like a struggle. Like I was sinking in quicksand and had nothing to pull myself out with. Asana classes this morning and night weren’t too bad - it was the sitting, and mostly the state of mind.

So again, philosophy class is so interesting as these sorts of challenges are often brought up in one form or another, highlighting that it is through these challenges that we as yogis will seek the reward. But we must experience them first. Our teacher also described an analogy of a mango tree to help us understand this concept. He said, “at first, when you plant the seed, you must give it a lot of attention and work to make it grow. Then in 5 years it begins to fruit and over the years it will naturally, and without much effort, continue to give fruit - but this can only be achieved because the hard work was done at the beginning.” I’m not sure if my seed is even in the ground yet. I think mine got thrown on a concrete path or something because the growth seems very stunted at the moment???

This leads me onto another important point I noted today. Today’s world is so rushed so people want results quickly and without effort (i’m guilty of this). It just cant happen this way. Its not possible to receive the results you desire without putting effort in. I am hoping to really embrace this concept and remember it always. Because only then will the true rewards come.

You see people in yoga classes trying to force themselves into full postures - without feeling it first and making sure the technique is correct and safe. This is a perfect example of a lack of patience. Or the alternative is, its too hard and people quit. I intend to work hard at being a more patient person and in doing so, passing this on to my students also. 

Moving more toward this morning’s class and my 'near death’ experience in class (of course i’m being factious) - never before have I felt as much pain and exhaustion as what I did this morning doing Surya Namaskara (sun salutations). Turns out when you actually learn how to do this practice it will near destroy you (at first). Of course there is absolute beauty in what this practice achieves for the mind and body - but what is phenomenal is how one simple change (to how you move into, out of or hold an asana) can make ALL the difference. The sweat was dripping off my head and we did 3 rounds! All I could hear was people panting and taking short breaths trying to maintain the postures for the eternity we were made to hold them.

We have such a wonderful teacher who has amazing knowledge of yoga. His understanding of the asanas and how the body is to move into and out of them is incredible. My body is now moving in ways it never had - but the asanas are all the same. So how can this be? Well, lack of proper technique in the first place and, I think, a disconnect with the body and how it is feeling / moving. I am learning to feel everything activate from my little toe to every vertebrae in my spine. By stopping and listening, one can learn great things about their body - often quite confronting things - but at least its real right?

Well, its time for bed. We get a sleep in tomorrow. He has taken pitty on us and given us a later start at 6am! Woo hoo!

Goodnight.

Namaste xx

Training in Victor Harbor

Over the New Year break, Owen and I have decided to come to Victor Harbor and stay with mum and the rest of the crazy clan that is my family. Of all the places in the world, I can think of nowhere better to wake up than here. There is something magic about watching the sun rise above Encounter Bay - and i know Im not the only one who feels this way about this amazing place.

It’s been wonderful practicing on my beautiful mat with sparkling ocean views surrounding me. You just cant beat doing yoga at the beach.

Tonight, I have been working through the postures I have been learning the names for. There are many names which I still struggle to remember, but there are many others which are becoming firmly embedded in my mind the more I practice them - Tolasana for example. Usually it’s the postures I struggle most with which I remember more easily. Go figure!

Tomorrow morning I intend to practice Surya Namaskara at sun rise here on mum’s balcony. It will be silent, and peaceful, and just pure bliss.

xx