Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Devil’s yoga

Went to hot power yoga tonight not done a hot class for an age.  I can’t help thinking it’s the devil’s yoga.  Not just because he wouldn’t have to worry about the heating bills.  It’s the way you get that extra bendy bonus.  Suddenly the leg is surprisingly over there and woah who knew that hip would ever swing into alignment … and all those thoughts about yoga not being about moving about, how it’s about stilling the mind and finding yourself … well they’re out of my yogini’s head to be replaced by ‘can I get my nose to touch my…. oh yes!’  But on the other hand, all that work anxiety has been sweated out too, so not all bad then.

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The answer is fear, now what was the question?

For some time now I’ve been nagging my yogini to do her shoulder exercises.  Having injured her shoulder she’s got this giant rubber band thing and a set of exercises to do three times a day.  OK so I’ll admit that’s probably pushing it timewise – but once a day? Why is this not happening I keep asking her? After some thought she answers, “Fear.”

Having been with my yogini for some years now I’m beginning to see that whenever I ask, “Why are you avoiding [Insert name of thing here]?” the answer is always fear.  So it’s become much more interesting to ask, “Fear of what, exactly?” My yogini admits that’s she’s become rather settled into adjusting her practice around her shoulder.  No chaturanga; side plank with the knee down. Some of the fear relates to the gizzillion chaturangas in each class, that she’ll have lost her strength to do these, and that they’ll be HARD.  And then there’s further fear about all those scary inversions that lie beyond …. particularly handstand … which shoulder-out-of-action give her a good excuse to avoid wrestling with.

So I’m beginning to see that the answer to, “Fear of what, exactly?” is nearly always answered with, “Fear of leaving my comfort zone.” I keep showing her the picture, you know the one – blob for comfort zone and, outside, blob for ‘where the magic is’.  “I know! I know!” she says, “but getting from comfort zone to magic is like getting from the Shire to Mordor – necessary but hard.” I’m not sure I’m completely with this analogy.  Sure the magic zone is nicer than Mordor? And the journey improving rather than scarring? But I kind of know what she means. 

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Unity

My yogini seems to be going through a phase when all the obvious things about yoga are becoming well…obvious.  Recently she’s been feeling very connected to everything, both completely in and shaped by her body and simultaneously not her body at all but just her own and everybody else’s breath – so the whole yoga being about unity thing seems to be making sense.  Satisfyingly in today’s class her teacher said (not unusually) – “Curl up in a little ball like the dot of the om” (there had just been some oming with movement) but then the teacher added, “You are the dot, and the white space” and my yogini thought “So I am.”

Walking home afterwards my yogini wonders why her practice seems to be so inspiring at present.  She doesn’t like my answer though.

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So who were you again?

Last night’s class focused on heyam duhkam anaagatam (Yoga Sutras, II.16) which I understand to mean that pain which has not yet arrived can be avoided. My yogini did a pretty good job of focusing on her breath and trying to stay in the moment – apart from some occasional swerves into ‘should have handled that better at work’ and ‘OMG, haven’t thought about what I’m going to cook for dinner’ – her regular yoga mantras. 

By the end she felt rather odd, in a ‘I can’t quite remember who I am’ kind of way.  This got me to thinking more about past pain and how much we carry about our baggage and let it influence our actions and feelings in the current moment.  So what if we managed to let go of the handles and step away from the suitcases?  Who would we be if we were just us, in the moment.  Unrecognisable seems to be the answer.

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All about the breath

So everybody knows that the breath is really important in yoga.  But there’s knowing and knowing.  My yogini ‘does’ the breathing – in for this, out for that – noisy when it’s supposed to be – and even sometimes remembering that it’s supposed to be the breath initiating the movement. But also sometimes so caught up in the ‘can I get my foot/leg/arm/whatever there?’ that she forgets to breathe at all.

Then suddenly, the other Friday morning, an unexpectedly revelatory class where it really is all about the breath. Her body moving is just a reflection of the breath; almost just something there to give the breath form.  And so it doesn’t matter if she can get the foot/leg/arm whatever there, because the body’s just showing her where the breath doesn’t flow. She’s struggled to explain to me quite how it was.  Apparently it’s something like electron microscopy – where you coat the sample you’re looking at in metal atoms.  So what you actually see under the microscope isn’t the tissue, but the layer of metal atoms, from which you deduce what the tissue must be like.  Here the body is the metal atoms – it’s what you actually see; but it’s not what you care about – it’s whole purpose is to show you the breath.

“OMG, now I get it!”, she says to me, and “do you think you could not mention that I’ve been faking it for the past ten years?” Ah well, cat out of the bag.

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My Heart’s Earth Hunger

Last time I wrote I was stumped by my yogini asking how she could satisfy her heart’s earth hunger.  Further thought and (well in) further class has moved me a step more towards an answer.  Yogini, you need to open your heart.  My yogini is not overjoyed by this suggestion.  “It’s my soft, tender heart and I’m afraid to expose it lest someone stab me in it” (in a metaphorical type way). “How do I open my heart and remain unhurt?” (Previous experience has not been positive). Well given she’s been having this thought for some years now, at least framing it as a question feels like a step forward.  And the answer?  Well I’m still working on that.  At the moment it looks a bit like this.  Sometimes when you’re in Ardha Chandrasana just seeing someone else wobble can cause you to lose your balance.  But some days, your balance is so firm and rooted that even a knock from a falling mat mate does not throw you.  You need to be like that with your heart.  How?  Well, that’s another question…

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Hungry Heart

“Everybody needs a place to rest
Everybody wants to have a home
Don’t make no difference what nobody says
Aint nobody like to be alone

Everybodys got a hungry heart…”

All day my yogini’s had this going through her head and it’s her yoga teacher’s fault.  Last night’s class started (not unusally) with sthira sukham asanam and thoughts about connecting to the earth.  Then in Janushirasana he encourages the class (again not unusually) to imagine the heart reaching for the toes rather than the head reaching for the knees and, consequently, the heart plunging towards the earth.  “What you’re thinking”, he says, “is how does this fit with being connected to the earth?” “Spooky”, thinks the yogini, as that was pretty much her exact thought.  He suggests that the connection through other parts of the body suffices.  But my yogini asks her heart, “is that enough?” and her heart replies, “No.  I hunger for the earth.”  So now you can see where the internal singing has come from.  “So, Custard”, asks my yogini, “how do I satisfy my heart’s earth hunger?”  Well I’m new to this blogging malarky and feel I’ve got to the point where it says, “insert, pithy, witty, wise answer here”, but the problem is I don’t have one.  And I pretty certain that the combination of “well it’s sure not eating more, although that feels like a solution”, and “and for heaven’s sake STOP humming”, is not really going to cut it.

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