What is perception anyway?

Sitting in my undies has become the latest morning ritual. After our morning vinyasa class my clothes are completely soaked. Over the past few weeks I’ve gotten use to eating breakfast and sipping tea near on naked - which is not something I would not normally do. Believe me! But, in order to dry out, this has become necessary. Chatting with a friend from class tonight, I actually asked if I was the only one swimming in my own sweat each day. He assured he’s the same, hence he bought a cotton mat to soak it up and try to keep some control. I’m just reluctant to get one as it will be another thing I need to carry home to Australia. But, to make the most of this final week, maybe it might be a good investment, as a number of asanas are being compromised purely because my hands and feet are not gripping my mat. Hmm. I shall take a look tomorrow.

After class today Brittany said an interesting thing to me. She thinks I’m Bharath’s favourite student. Firstly, I don’t think Bharath has favourites. He is there to teach us, not take favourites or become buddies with anyone. Owen told me this back when I thought Bharath didn’t like me at all (during the early weeks). Although I think this is completely untrue (Brittany’s comment) it got me thinking about the concept of ‘perception’. How our perception of ourselves is often so different to how the rest of the world sees us. I’ve never considered myself to be a ‘favourite’ of Bharath’s - in fact quite the opposite as I mentioned. And yet someone else in class is looking at me as though I am. Why? What does she see in either me or him that I don’t? All this highlighted is how our neurotic insecurities can completely taint how we view the world and ourselves within it. No view (mine or hers) is right or wrong, but I just think it’s something to be mindful of. That our view of ourselves or others is merely our interpretation, our perception. It is neither correct nor wrong. It’s just a perception. Often we worry about things which no one else sees - like me thinking my teacher didn’t like me. These useless thoughts, which unnecessarily take energy from us, need to be controlled. As Bharath says, “the most difficult thing to control in this world is the mind.” That is so very true. Just something to think about.

Finally, we are doing a lot more training re how to adjust students and help students into and out of asanas like Chakrasana (wheel / backbend). I find it incredible how I can support a fully grown male, who is bigger than me, into and out of asanas. However I tend to get really nervous with adjustments, but I’m sure with practice my confidence will improve. I just tend to worry I might hurt someone if I push too far, but of course I need to remember the student will tell me. Slowly, slowly. It will come.

Namaste xx


Some pictures from my day

Why not?!

Coming home from class. Just happy to be here.

My Indian diary system

The cutest Tic Tacs on the planet!

Chanting, Pranayama, Vinyasa and Kriyas - It's great to be back!

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:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBlz5QHtVSE

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.

Thank you yoga for teaching me this.

Namaste xx

Just a crappy day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Namaste xx

No money, lost, start yoga training, make friends - all in one day!

With little cash left, and everything is paid for in cash here, I decided to make my way to Ganesh this morning to change $500AUD. As I only had 180 rupees in cash, I knew this wouldn’t get me far so this was a priority before heading out for food. Unfortunately, as the stock market was not open today being Sunday, Ganesh advised he cannot do the transaction today so come back tomorrow. Bummer.

I decided to wander the streets of Gokulam looking for one of these fantastic restaurants listed on the yoga shala’s website. Considering I ate one meal yesterday, and the portion would have been enough to feed a pigeon, I was pretty hungry this morning. Surviving on Digestive biscuits is certainly not a long term solution. The problem I find however, is the map for where these restaurants are located is completely wrong when compared with the actual address of the cafe or restaurant. It really is a guessing game when it comes to finding places / things in India. So I wandered around for an hour or so, walking through the labyrinth that is India, and eventually stumbled upon a little health food mini mart. I had circled that shop many times, finding myself back where I began but was only able to get there via a the only alley I hadn’t yet walked down. I’m thrilled to have found this place. In desperate times - this is where I will turn.

As I am craving some form (any form) of health, I took a chance and ate a green apple. Washed with bottled water - so far so good… I also made myself a vegimite sandwich with my new earthy flavoured (some would say dirt flavoured) rustic bread. Excellent - I was now guaranteed to at least not pass out from lack of food in the first class. 

At 11.00am today our class gathered at the Shala. Everyone was very awkward and clearly nervous. Sitting silently in the shala (it’s the rules) a group of about 30 of us in total sat in a circle which spanned the entire length and width of the small room. As our teacher, Barath, entered the room there was certainly a powerful presence he brought with him. It is not something I can describe as such but all I can feel is it commands immediate respect whilst at the same time offers a gentleness, an understanding that we are all vulnerable in this very moment. For this entire course. I am only one of 3 who will be continuing past the 4 weeks and completing the full 9 weeks - so I will get to know this man quite well over the coming months.

We each received a little ‘showbag’ if you will, full of our teachers manuals and training guides. Bharath took time to explain the purpose of everything within the bag and how we are to treat these materials.

We sat in this circle on our folded mats all facing the front of the room where Bharath sat. The entire wall behind Bharath is painted purple with an orange and yellow vortex leading your eyes to the unavoidable Om in its centre. It’s quite amazing what this painting could evoke - being drawn into something which is incredibly deep - but what the 'deep’ actually represents for me, I am not yet sure. All I know is it will come to have more meaning for me as I deepen my practice over the coming weeks.

After 2 hours of sitting on the floor cross legged and with back perfectly straight, it was a relief when we were told it was time to break for lunch. Just sitting is a major workout in itself!

A group of us wandered down to Anu’s cafe where everyone at the vegan buffet provided. Amazing mixtures of salads to choose from, from beetroot to lentils to what looked like a coleslaw - I was jealous of everyone having their lunch. As the meal cost 250 rupees and I only had 180 rupees, there was no lunch for me. But i did have a banana and strawberry smoothie in a bowl which was amazingly tasty. This was enough for me until I made it home and inhaled my lovely dirt flavoured bread for a second time. Mmmm!

It was great meeting other people from the course. It’s particularly nice knowing I am not the only newbie to the area. Many people only arrived when I did, and are just as lost and confused about everything as I am. There are all sorts of personalities in the group - the loud ones, the terribly shy ones, the ones who are English but act as though they are Indian, the hippee ones. It’s great! It’s amazing how such different people in the world can, through sharing an experience like teacher training, come together and just enjoy and appreciate each others company. Traveling is amazing for this. So far, I have new friends from Toronto and Quebec Canada, Holland, Perth, Melbourne, southern India and France. Pretty cool!

After lunch and chilling out at home for a while - chatting with Owen who has safely made it to Melbourne (our new home) - it was time to return to class. A little more confident this time, I wandered into the room and found a place against the wall near the front of the class where I folded my mat and sat quietly whilst the others arrived. Tonight’s class was all about the significance of asanas and pranayama breathing. There is so much beauty behind the practice of yoga and just listening to Bharath speak so passionately about it reminds me of why I came here to train. The authenticity of the practice is so important to me, and to learn from a guru like Bharath is what will make this journey so much more precious. In all my years of training, I feel I have only ever been taught by 2 teachers who seem to share this same passion - who haven’t forgotten the true meaning of yoga through commercialising their businesses (as modern gyms have done). Don’t get me wrong, I intend to start a successful yoga business however the vision of this business will be committed to the passing on of this beautiful practice in its most authentic form. Not bastardizing it by introducing ideas like 'hip hop dance yoga’ or 'barre yoga’ or gym junkie yoga taught by a PT who has no true understanding of what yoga is or means.

Back to class - we learned tonight that each day we will be teaching for at least 30 minutes to the class. We will be given 4 asanas to learn including: the meaning of the asana, its benefits, the limitations, the variations, common mistakes, the technical components of the asana and how to enter into and move out of an asana… and the others I forget already. Excellent start!

So, with a 4.00am start tomorrow, I am now ready for bed (it’s 8.40pm here).

Namaste xx