I went to my first Mysore class on Tuesday morning. Mysore is essentially a way of practicing Ashtanga yoga where you work on your own practice whilst a teacher guides and assists everyone in the room. I suppose it is maybe the purest form of Ashtanga in some sense. I woke up feeling pretty fearful, isn’t that interesting? It’s not like I haven’t yoga before! And Ashtanga is yoga, just like any other form of yoga. And I’ve been blessed to work with several really great Ashtanga teachers over the years, so nothing that new to me. And yet, Ashtanga pushes a button in me which always leads me to feel apprehensive. In my mind over 75% of the poses in the Primary Series are challenging for me, so I always think that I won’t be able to do it. Then I usually think that I’m not flexible or strong enough….which is fascinating because I don’t (so) often have these thoughts anymore in relation to any of the other forms of yoga I practice. I feel that there is a paradox inherent in Ashtanga which makes me uncomfortable but needs to be discussed. Ashtanga has got this tag of ‘hardness’, at least in my mind, which is a gross over simplification of a practice which is actually no easier nor harder than any other type of yoga - yoga is as hard as YOU make it for yourself. Certainly, one of the reasons why people consider Ashtangi’s to be hardcore is because they practice six days a week, and that’s a big commitment when you consider that the primary series takes around two hours. Personally, my preference is to flow, and move, and breathe within my personal practice, and much of my practice is about being free ‘n easy with myself, because its in my nature to be totally hard on myself. That may be a reason why Ashtanga pushes that button! If you have ever read David Swenson’s great book, “Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual”, you will see that he offers modifications for every pose and nowhere is a ‘push it’ attitude encouraged. Yet I have heard over the years many horror stories about deep adjustments - the kind that break people’s bones - and that has certainly played a part in the fear which I feel towards the practice. but let’s be clear here, you DO have a voice when it comes to adjustments and if something is to deep you absolutely must say…..sometimes that it not so easy to do! So when I got to my mat at 7.15am i had this plan in my head that I would just do the 5 rounds of Sun A & Sun B and see how I felt. You know, as I kept moving and breathing I started to feel pretty damn good. I realised that no-one was watching me, no-one could have cared less about my tight hamstrings or any of the other 100’s of little things my mind brings up as restrictions in my practice. But the biggest thing about the whole experience was the fact that Eva (who leads the class) was able to read my body and help me in a way I have never really been helped before. I feel like a key was turned in a lock and a door opened to me that I had never seen before. Yes it was hard. Yes I got terrified at some points. But Eva never let me go! We laughed when I fell over doing Eka Padagusthasana series, and I realised that the tension I have recently come to see big time in my lower back is real, not just some fabrication of my mind. Eva’s kindess in telling me which asana came next (I forget everything after the standing poses!) and in touching me in a way which my body could process just blew my mind. I guess you could say that Mysore has fed the flames of my personal practice this week. I certainly felt liberated, powerful and blissful at the end of my session. The sun was streaming through the window at Yogaview onto my mat and it was sheer bliss. At the end of my practice Eva came and adjusted me and said “Thank you for working with me - you are strong”. It made me feel good about myself which is something I am only just learning how to do. I will be back at class this Friday!
The minute I heard my first love story, I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.
I shape my destiny
with a chisel.
I am the carpenter of my own soul.
A love letter to my friend Kate
I’ve been staying with my friend Kate since I got to Chicago last week and I feel like now I am about to move onto my second port of call, it’s about time I wrote her a love letter. Yep, you read it right, a love letter! I met Kate when we were on the Yogaview Teacher Training. She is sassy, funny, honest, swears as much as I do and is generally the kind of girl I could only wish I had as a sister. We’ve kept in touch over the last few years and each time I have come to Chicago its been bliss to meet up with her and hang out. She has a passion for life which is infectious. This year - when I was so desperately in need of a safe space to stay - she let me come and stay with her and I am more grateful than she could ever know. She (and her hubby) have made me totally at home, given me space, fed me, driven me about, made me cocktails, let me eat their food, let me empty the dishwasher and take out he trash. Such mundane things are important to me when I’m here! We’ve laughed, had deeply disturbing conversations about the etymology of many English words, got drunk, sat on the porch watched the world go by and I have had one of the best weeks I have had all year. On the days I have been crying, Kate has listened to me and held my hand, and given me the space to let it all go. We’ve done yoga together in her basement, which as far as I am concerned, is a very sacred thing. I feel like the space which we create for our personal practice is special and can’t just be shared with anyone. Since I arrived I have been blessed to go to Kate’s classes as an ‘adjuster’ and its been such a huge learning experience for me. It’s been so special to be in her space when she teaches and to see what an amazing teacher she has become. She teaches from the heart. She is precise, mindful and cultivates a great space for her students. She is also funny, honest and you can hear her deep commitment and love for yoga in her words and see it in her actions. I am grateful that the universe bought us together and that she is my friend. I am grateful that we have had this week together. Dearest Kate, you rock! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being my friend.
I’m sat on the porch listening to the cicadas. We’ve had a good evening involving hearty conversation, plenty of swearing, laughter, pizza and a decent glass of wine or two. But my heart feels so heavy I feel like I am breaking in two. I feel like such a mess of contradictions. Every year I come to Chicago, being abjectly lonely is part of the experience. Somedays it consumes me and I guess today was one of those days. I am missing things I don’t have any right to miss. I am missing someone i just met who blew my world apart. I feel like the most stupid girl ever, being sucked into a void. A voice tells me ‘your stupid, obsessional, needy and deep in lust’. Then I say to myself that everything is just as it is meant to be. I was meant to met this person. It will all be ok if I just let go. I guess my need to be loved completely is overwhelming. it certainly feels that way. I wonder how I can have explored my own soul so deeply through meditation and yoga, and yet be projecting my happiness onto someone else so powerfully. We really are emotional creatures, oh yes. You can’t strip it out, take it apart or away from your experience of being human. How my heart needs to be loved right now.