So here’s what’s been happening, yoga-wise.
- Intermediate series has it’s moments of magic. I’ve split my practice and am now going into intermediate after parsvottonasana, which was an adjustment – I felt very attached to the full standing sequence and even more attached to the full primary sequence. The thing is though, that by the time I got to pincha mayurasana in intermediate, I was properly exhausted. Splitting my practice has been an adjustment, with a certain amount of ego dampening (“But am I working hard enough?!’) and letting go, but I get it now.
- Intermediate series makes me nauseous and anxious and a little dizzy. Grabbing my heels in kapotasana (without assistance, or flaring out one elbow in order to make the mad, fumbling grab) remains an exercise in patience … and a lot of talking down from a very scared place.
- Olivier had me walking up walls with my feet and building strength in both pincha and handstands (I still have visions of my shoulders turning into those of a rugby player’s). Truth be told, my shirts are tighter over my back and biceps. It’s all a bit disconcerting really … although it’s bound to happen, right? Anyway, I had a moment in pincha the other day, a moment when I felt that sweet spot and did not touch the wall behind me. Not once! Some days are like that the very first time … others require a little more (a lot more) practise.
- I’m still struggling with laghu vajrasana … I’m either hovering my head above the floor and managing to come back up, or stuck to the mat with no hope of ever returning to an upright position. Bah.
I’m reminded sometimes (when I’m panicked or wholly distracted during my practice) when I first started primary series – when there was no space in my head for anything other than “breathe!” or “just one more chaturanga, you can do it!”. Now it’s much easier physically to get through a practice, and much, much harder mentally to keep my chattering mind in check.
Our bodies are constantly changing, minute by minute, cell by cell. I guess it’s this change, the impermanence, of our bodies, and the world, that is both comforting (I’ll get my legs comfortably behind my head one day), and at the same time terribly frightening.
I think I’ll just leave it as a yoga check-in for today. The rest of my life is suffused in anxiety, fuelled I think by the run up to my 31st birthday – balancing on my forearms seems the easiest part of my day 🙂
Most days when my alarm shakes me from sleep at 5.30am, and later when I’m breathing through my panic in kapotasana, fighting with my hips in dvi pada sirsasana and wondering if I’ll ever be strong enough in pincha mayurasana, I question why I practice ashtanga. It’s gruelling. It’s taxing. It’s 90 minutes or more, 6 days a week.
And then I have weeks like the last few and I realise that without yoga I’d be a public (and personal) liability. On good days I dance with anxiety; on bad days I’m a straight-up bitch, unfocused, compulsive and preoccupied, nail-biting, temper-flaring and 3am ceiling-staring. And although it’s fighting a big fight at the moment, ashtanga helps me moderate life’s vagaries, hurts, mediocrities and disappointments.
It’s the discipline that keeps me sane. It’s the moments of magic that keep me coming back.
I’m aware of the oxymoron.
But still. The month of July sees my once-weekly ashtanga students challenged to a month of a dedicated (6 days a week, less moon days) ashtanga practice. And because they are competitive, achiever types, a ‘bootcamp’ challenge seemed like the right thing to do to get the end result of a committed self-practice … Machiavellian yoga?
Okay, and it’s a little about me too. It’s winter: cold and dark. I needed some motivation to get up in the morning. And a daily adjustment in supta vajrasana.
They’re half way. And it’s amazing to watch as the layers begin to peel back … falling down the ashtanga rabbit hole 🙂
One of the reasons I work is to travel. And I’m going to have to keep reminding myself of this as I reintegrate back into the working world after almost three weeks out of SA. Bah!
Anyway. I really, really loved Copenhagen and Stockholm. I was as busy as a bee the whole time (with the result that I feel like I need a lazy island holiday real soon); but it was an amazing few weeks spent yoga’ing, learning, biking, laughing, talking, walking, shopping, spending, eating, drinking, staring, loving Joe and the Juice, munching pastries, thinking and generally feeling terribly lucky.
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (Copenhagen)
The Opera House (Copenhagen)
The Black Diamond (Copenhagen)
I landed and hit the ground running (cycling). Copenhagen is as lovely as I had imagined, even if I feel as though I have yet to get grounded!
I had a weekend of workshops with David Swenson and today was the second day of a seven day teacher training. I’m feeling a little broken from 12 hours of mainly asana on Saturday and Sunday, and I think I may collapse on Sunday.
Here though is what I’ve learnt so far:
- Biking is nerve-wracking in a city where everyone has been riding bikes since they were kids. Riding around on the ‘wrong’ side of the road has probably been one of the more challenging adjustments of the last few days
- Kiin Kiin offers some of the very best food I have ever eaten. In fact I may never be able to eat any other Thai food again
- David Swenson is everything I’d hoped for
- The Danes have awesome dogs. Really well behaved and cute looking dogs emerge every day from apartments to go for restrained, docile walks
- There is too much lovely stuff to buy in this town
- South Africans are extremely sedentary (even the ones that practice 90 mins of ashtanga six days a week). I feel a little like I am doing Copenhagen bootcamp – cycling, stair climbing, yoga and some walking. Six pack yet? Pass me a pastry
- Copenhagen is really beautiful with its long hours of sunlight, water everywhere and copper-domed roofs. And the people are nice to look at too
It’s D-Day! Finally!
Tonight I fly off to Copenhagen to see some of my very favourite people and to do a 9 day workshop and teacher training with David Swenson.
I of course also have a shopping list as long as my arm … and my arms are strangely long:
Stay tuned for updates (although probably fairly infrequent) from Scandinavia.
Perfectly ties in with my previous post.
I rewarded myself for standing up from backbends with this Gregor Jenkin table:
I only have four chairs at the moment, but I quite fancy these from Weylandts for both ends:
Or something like these lovelies:
- Jo Malone Wild Fig and Cassis is flipping intoxicating. I’d jump straight into bed with me if I could. Really.
- I have my backbends, but now I’m terrified of losing them. Like really scared that I just won’t know how to stand up or drop back any more. Poof!
- Yoga leaves no room for wool-pulling over my own eyes. I’ve had an anxious, distracted week and that anxiety and distraction has not dissipated while hanging out in kapotasana … in fact, it’s heightened to the point where I’m in child, on my mat, wondering how on earth I’m ever going to get up. Through yoga I’ve become so aware of where my emotions sit in my body – twitching feet, aching nausea, restless tossing and turning at night, and gnawing anxiety in my belly. Yoga forces me to deal with everything I feel, immediately … sometimes I’d rather eat a slab of chocolate and drink alcohol, but mostly I’m glad that I cannot duck and dive facing my stuff.
- There’s nothing like family to make you examine your beliefs, prejudices and issues.
- There’s also nothing like a pretty, waif-like blonde, studying mathematics masters (and getting 100% for all her exams) to make you question your own judgemental jumped-to conclusions.
- Tea solves many problems.
And finally, some Easter humour:
Well finally. Three years of ashtanga and here I am standing up from backbends. Something happened to my body in the last two weeks and my flexibility and strength both went up a notch; most significantly my flexibility. And then on Saturday, TA-DA, up I stood from urdhva dhanurasana.
I’ve been waiting for this moment for months, reading about technique, watching endless You Tube videos and finally after a few weeks of practicing at home without any assistance from a teacher (and just a friendly wall) it happened. And I did do a little whooping and dancing, but not as much as I thought I would; because when it actually happened, it wasn’t really as hard as I thought it would be.
I let some stuff go in the last month; more specifically I intentionally let some stuff go to create space for new people and things. And they arrived; and with them my flexibility increased, my upper back opened and I had some definite happy hormones coursing through my veins.
A teacher once said to me that when I stood up finally (and apparently I’ve been on the brink for months), all sorts of things would change in my life. It’s scary and terrifying to both drop back and stand up from a backbend … in fact it feels sometimes near impossible, with everything you’ve ever been afraid of suddenly right up in your face. The same teacher said that in finding my courage to stand up, I’d find my courage to stand up for myself in life.
I think she may just be right.