Sunday, January 31, 2010

Goa Recap #2

Practice # 2: I did primary again, then 2nd up to Ustrasana. Nancy helped me in Pashasana by grounding my heels first then wrapping the arm. I was leaning my full weight into her because my heels are nowhere near touching the ground. She is surprisingly strong, for such a slight woman. The practice feels good, again, the floor is quiet because it seems to be concrete so the jumps sound light whether they are or not.

In the evening talk, Nancy tells us that when she first learned Ashtanga, she learned both primary and intermediate in 4 months. She was very weak and ill at the time and not able to jump back or through. Guruji helped her by carrying her forward and back between postures. They did only 3 A's and 3 B's in those days, and she encouraged us to try this out the next practice, even just 5 A's and 3 B's. I had mixed feelings about this. For one, I am all about conserving energy for 2nd, but for two, every bit of opening helps especially before 2nd! Haha! Having faith I immediately switched to 3Bs for the rest of the retreat and was fine. I will try to do this in Canada too but the cold weather might make the extra B's necessary.

Breathing - the most important thing is that the length of the inhales and exhales should be the same. Even if every inhale is not the same length. Ideally they are all the same but most can't do that for a while. So aim for inhales and exhales of equal length and then for all equal breaths.

One of Nancy's assistants joined our table at dinner. After some chatting, he encouraged E and I to do 2nd for the rest of the retreat. He said that's why you're here, to learn and to improve and to get our help. The postures don't have to be perfect. E and I were relieved and decided to do as much 2nd as possible for the rest of the retreat.

Practice #3 - bit the bullet and did full 2nd. Another great pashasana adjustment from Nancy. I went into Kapo on my own, taking my toes, then I felt someone lightly lift my head, place it back about 2 inches and hike my fingers up to midsole - it was Nancy and then she was gone. It all happened so quickly, a half-breath, it was amazing - there was no fear and minimal sensation either. It made me realize that if such little negotiation and fanfare is needed to reach midsole, it is something I should be doing on my own daily.

Dropback drama. I skipped them. I was worried, scared, unsure, tired? I am more comfortable doing dropbacks at home alone with minimal warmup than in a studio or with a master teacher after a full practice - splain me that? Weird. I tell myself I'll do it tomorrow.

Disclaimer: I have a poor memory and sloppy shorthand...these entries are to help my own recollection of the retreat, and for your entertainment. I couldn't possibly recount everything Nancy or her assistants shared with should really see her yourself to get the full picture. Any views of hers that I share here are things that made an impact on me or altered my view of life/practice - not meant to be controversial in any way. I hope you enjoy!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Goa Recap #1

I am unfit for global travel due to being geographically retarded. Until shortly before take off (from Halifax, on Canada's East Coast), I'm convinced that we will be crossing the Pacific Ocean to get to India. Also, it is only after we land in Doha that I realize Doha is not in India. It is in Qatar. We flew Qatar Airways. And yet all of this is bewildering news to my Gravol-ridden brain.

We arrive in Goa to find that the driver we arranged is not waiting for us. None of us had the foresight to write down the phone number or address of the retreat. A number of cabbies descend upon us, trying to take our suitcases out of our hands. They have no idea where Purple Valley is. Thanks to the kindness of strangers (in this case, airport staff) after an hour or so of hanging about, we get a printout of the address off the internets and secure a ride. Even at 4am with few people on the road, the ride is predictably swift and terrifying.

Our room is rustic, lovely and insanely hot. Think it might be due to the lights having been left on all night in anticipation of our 4am arrival, we’ll see tomorrow.

There is a chalkboard proclaiming Beginners at 7:40am, Mysore at 8:00am. For some reason, likely exhaustion, this sets off a wave of anxiety in me. I think it has been called imposter syndrome before. Do I belong here? Is this a trick? Do I deserve to be in India? Am I a beginner? What time do I go? Decide that I’m on vacation and shouldn’t be worrying so much. After 2 hours of dozing, we make our way down to the shala for the 8am start time. Apparently there are no beginners because everyone seems to arrive at the same time. Phewf.

Despite jet lag, exhaustion and dehydration, it is one of the most comfortable practices of my life. Primary feels nurturing, as it should. The warmth and humidity bathe my joints, and everything feels easy. I am parked behind a large support pole and blissfully I do not notice much of anything else going on in the room although there are 40-50 other people practicing. I score an amazing Paschimottanasana squish from Nancy herself. She is superlight and confident in her touch and very quick.

We convene for the evening discussion and mainly cover admin/etiquette. The rules:

Take care when rolling your mat and towel out or up if someone is practicing next to you. Don’t kill their tapas by sending a breeze their way. Makes perfect sense, we have this rule at home too. Eliminate “flourishes” (I didn’t 100% understand this, but I take it to mean any movement outside of the breath count or traditional description of a posture) and keep to your mat, being aware of others in the space around you. Bring a small towel for the assistants to use when adjusting you. Bring a name tag for the front of the mat for a few days so the adjusters can learn names. Raise your hand or wait for help if you need to be adjusted in a pose. Skip vinyasa between sides if you’re being adjusted.**note here: it wasn’t clear if this is general etiquette or simply a logical way to spread 3 adjusters across a room of 40-50 people more efficiently. Regardless, as soon as I started practicing intermediate, on day 3, I was very grateful for this rule as the wait for an adjustment could be a few minutes if you were hitting backbends or karanda at the same time as a few others.

No Place Like Home

I'm so happy to be back in Canada! Even though it is motherflippin' cold.

Goa was incredible. I took a pile of notes following daily practices, during the information sessions and after a couple of small chats with Nancy. I will be sharing these over the coming days once I organize myself.

I am 100% digging her message, delivery and physical adjustments. This woman is incredible. She shared some interesting insights on what matters and what doesn't, and the way the practice was taught to she and David Williams in the early early days, which is in many ways different from how it is being taught in Mysore today.

It shouldn't be so serious. It should be fun. It should feel good. The body is only a vehicle.

More to come!

Friday, January 15, 2010

2.5 hours

Leaving my house in 2.5 hours for the airport. I'm not planning to blog while I'm away but I'll take good notes so I can share on my return. And there is internet there so who knows...maybe I'll check in :-)

Here's what I'm hoping will come of this:

- a full two weeks of vacation, sans blackberry
- asana practice for two weeks without interruption, no distractions
- opportunity to ask some of the questions I have about the practice of a long-time practitioner
- meeting cybershalamate V!
- a tan

That's all, nothing crazy, just the opportunity for immersion in yoga and meeting like-minded yogis. I'll fill you in when I get back. Wish me luck with the body-scanners at the airport, blech!!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dropback clip

OK - I did intermediate this morning and try as I might, during finishing I couldn't muster a solo dropback in the shala, even after multiple tries, using the wall as a prop, on my comfy thick manduka, and relying on physical then verbal cues from J. Couldn't do it alone.

So I came home, rolled out my crappy travel mat and had a go. Boom, first try! Well, the good news is at least I can still do it, thumpus bumpus landing and all. :-)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Dropback sans Liberator

Last night I was playing around and managed my first dropback without the liberator. In my shala few people do dropbacks at all because the custom is to do them only after you complete a full intermediate practice (yes, I know this is not the norm). Usually when I've done a full intermediate practice I'm wiped and tired and go straight to UD. My full intermediate practices have also been sporadic and inconsistent energy-wise, which may be why J hasn't pushed me to drop back.

I dropped to the liberator and then kept coming more and more forward for each one until I was off the liberator entirely. I hit the ground, quite thumpily (have to figure out how to deal with that impact and take it out of my shoulders) and rocked three times to come back up. Immediately banished the liberator and vowed never to use it for backbends again. Dropped back and came to standing several times sans-liberator to ingrain the memory of the movement. I'm dropping back! Euphoria!!

I will try to take a clip at some point to show the drop-thump. Been perusing others' videos and no one seems to have this crash-bang, so it might be a learning stage or something important technique-wise that I need to change.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Sardines again! 16 people showed up today, I was one of the lucky 5 who made their way to "studio 2", J's living room. We didn't get nearly the heat of "studio 1", but I enjoyed it a bit cooler. The energy was different, and yes I felt a bit tighter in a cooler room but not much. I didn't feel drained by the heat and sweat, it was really really nice actually. We did primary and stopped at Ustrasana.

We had our Goa Q&A after class and I got some useful info about cash and currency. I think I know what I'll do now, combo of USD and Rupees, and bring my plastic. Five more sleeps. :-)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Led Primary

Led Primary to Ustrasana today. We were packed in like sardines! In a nice way, I guess. J had to send three people into the house to practice - a record of 15 people showed up (the absolute max for the space is 12). I was a little anxious during the Suryas but got over it once we hit standing. Honestly, it takes a bit of effort to forget that I'm surrounded on all sides by mat is climbing the wall in back, someone's feet are directly in my face and there are mats directly on either side of me. Just like India, right? OK. Not my favorite way to practice, but it got bearable after the Surya's. And of course with that many people the heat and energy are high. And it was humid. :-)

Yesterday's weather bomb was a bit dramatic - super high winds, storm surge...we walked to moksha and it was shutting its doors because of the weather, so no hot yoga for us. I'll have to take him another time, maybe next weekend. When I started getting ready, I walked into the bedroom and there was a bunch of his gymwear on the bed - laid in piles. He needed help picking an outfit, OMG cute! I love that guy.

Despite my Kitchenaid kicking the can, I've already made two batches of bread with this new book, "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" and it is absurdly easy and delicious - Thanks Karen!

Back to work tomorrow, groan. Sigh. More bread, nom nom nom.

Updated with pics for Claudia :-)