Sunday, 29 November 2009

Imagine all the people......breathing together

I recently watched the film the US vs John Lennon. it is a great film, especially if like me you were too young to know the history John's life, despite living in Liverpool. Note to reader, I'm not from Liverpool or I am sure I would have heard all about it from the age of two!

Anyhow, in David Swenson's workshop he talked about the universality of breathing. How if you asked a group of people to Om then some would say they would feel it went against their religion. If you ask them to breathe though they would be okay with that. At which point my mind jumped to the song, imagine. I don't know why, it was a cheesy moment, we were all smiling.

Imagine all the people breathing together,
For me the most useful part of the workshop was recapping on the adjustments I learnt last year for teaching bandhas. I had forgotten them and will now feel more confident using them. Also learnt a new great adjustment on to help people access the upper lungs. Not sure I can explain clearly over the internet but you place one hand below sternum and one hand on upper back and lift with the person's inhalation.
I have at least another post in me about pranayama but I will do that another day. Today I went and did a mostly uneventful mysore practice. Felt great for it, no drama, drop backs feel fab after dhanurasana. Met Mel and Kevin for breakfast after practice. Lovely to chat with them both about yoga, yoga and well mysore yoga, yoga with David Swenson, yoga in India, you get the picture :)

Tomorrow I am practicing with my teacher....

Here is the trailer from the John Lennon film.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

David Swenson second series workshop

Woke up at 4:30 in the morning so am exhausted.  If this doesn't make much sense, I appoligise.  It is my current stream of consciousness so it must mean something to me at least.  I'm going to put some of my experiences down now while they are fresh but will probably write more  and clarify after some sleep.

The Swens took us on his tour of second series.  His light hearted humour is calming and inspiring.  He has good control of the group which is important when teaching such a big group.  Today this made me feel like I was in some kinda exam because I had to work to his timings not my own flow and I imagine that's more about me and the fact I woke at 4:30 to get the 5:45 train to London.  Good to do a led every now and then my practice just gets longer and longer otherwize!

We did all of standing which felt great and I got nicely warmed up.  We did the first two poses of primary seated.  Then we moved on to second series.  Lots of stopping and starting for information which was great but the body not as warm as usual. 

Highlight for me was his arm position in kapotasana.  He brought the hands to forehead in prayer then took them behind the head before lowering down.  He also uses his head to get arms further back. I got my feet easily with this method even though my back did not feel particulaly warm. 

He showed 3 different ways to jump into bakasana.  I had been doing the third version landing on bent arms.  I can't remember the difference between the second and third version.  Kevin? In the first version he kept the arms straight but took the hips into handstand to balance and then lowered with fabulous control.  When it was our turn I had a go landing with straight arms and to my suprise did it,  tried again and can do it so will do it this way from now on.  Oh just remembered he said to join feet mid air that really helped too. 

We skipped dwi pada but did yoga nidrasana.  We did the titibhasana sequence which I love, I think primary prepares well for this. 

Saw Kevin and met Mel (fellow bloggers).  Also met up with some of the people who did David Swenson's teacher training last year.  Aswell as new people, I like the slightly social aspect to workshops.Thanks for reading hope it made some sense?  I also did aanother workshop with him about pranayama and bandhas.  Will post about that another time.  Tomorrow regular mysore practice at the shala after a very early night!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Chakra Bhandasana and one more...

So today I got to practice with my teacher.  The room was crowded, focused and hot.  I had a great practice, the best of the three of my trip to London.  Lots of assists again which were all great, nice to be taken that little bit further.  I got an assist in supta K again so grabbed my wrist, curious to see if I can do that solo, we will see. Will be good to self practice again to explore a bit before David Swenson on Saturday, so excited.

I was given a new pose so now practising up to Parsva Dhanurasana.  With the heat in the shala my back really oppened up in Dhanurasana, it felt fantastic so knew I would get some good dropbacks.

So I did my drop backs and and then teacher came.  Three half bends and then he grabbed my hands keeping them in prayer and took my right hand and then my left hand to my ankles.  Whoooosh, what a feeling, it really is quite a mad thing to do.  Right shoulder was fine, but the entry and the assist was completely different from Saturday.  Anyway whole really thing blew my mind....

Told teacher I would see him next week.... so good to have a bit of consistency.  Going to my Iyengar class tomorrow and have requested backbends as this is what I'm working on.  It'll be nice to work on them from another angle.  Then 3 self practices and back to London for more, feels like an intensive with work in the middle, glad I love my job.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Shattering beliefs

Beliefs can be such limiters. I’m always grateful in life that I realised this early on in life. I am continually changing my belief system to make it work for me. Yet, we still have beliefs, I am blah blah, I can blah blah. Yesterday when blogging and reflecting I mentioned that I'd never really tried to work at Chakra Bhandasana until a teacher said that they thought they could. Suddenly upon being told this, I made my back bends much deeper. So belief was limiting me, this unusual for me as I think I work pretty hard at my practice even when left to my own devices. Sometimes though my flexibility changes but I don't change how deep I go, from habit I guess.

I find stuff like this really interesting because although it gets played out on the mat, it transcends to the rest of my life. Conquering something in your practice that either seems impossible or that you are even scared of, helps conquer similar scenarios out there in the world which is often a lot more chaotic.

Practice good today. I got a lot more adjustments and so feel that I have been deeply bent. None of that excess energy like yesterday. Yesterday when the teacher put me in Supta Kurmasana I thought I could grab my wrist. I was a bit amazed at the thought, Supta Kurmasana was a difficult pose for me, had to work hard to get it. Sharath's adjustments in Mysore helped a lot but then trying to get it on my own was another journey, largely played out on my mat at home. These days I can do it solo but when I go to Mysore classes tend to get an assist, they're just there, like magic fairies. So today I had that same thought as I was assisted, maybe I could grab my wrist and so I did. Another belief shattered, I saw a couple of people doing it in the past and though yeah right they must be born that way or something, that's just surreal. Now here I am surreally bendy, it would seem.

Yesterday I said it was great how the teacher discussed as he adjusted and it was great. Today I enjoyed the just get on with it approach, lots of adjustments but barely a word spoken, great focused space. My mind wandered a fair bit though, some days are just like that. Looking forward to practice with my teacher tomorrow, it's been months since I have been able to practice with him. Now off to meet a friend for lunch, happy days :)

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Mysore practice day one and chakra bhandasana

I have recently noticed that my practice is reflected in the clarity of the breath. Sometimes the breath is smooth and flowing and the body follows.

Today was a nice practice, right from the first breath, not amazing but definitely not concrete like Thursday, more fluid and mostly focused. My breath though was free flowing which always feels great. Practicing with other people in a Mysore setting did strange things to my dristi. I enjoy watching others mostly stay on my own mat, with my own practice. This particular teacher allows the use of props, which means people end up doing all sorts of curious things.
I got put into Supta K by teacher, who asked if I can do it myself. I can now but he gave a nice deep adjustment, felt comfortable but legs were further round my head than I would get myself. Teacher does great adjustments and like the communication and discussion he gives too. Great teacher for me as someone who practices alone a lot.

That was the only adjust I got until backbends. I felt a bit too energised to stop second at Bhekasana but that's how far I am with my official Mysore teacher (strange way to put it maybe, but you can't just have lots of teachers giving you poses??), who I will see Monday. Anyways my chest area felt particularly open so I did 5 drop backs and up to release my excess energy. I then did the traditional half bends and got 2 assists at working on grabbing my ankles. Again really good assists and discussion, he knows how hard I can go and when I good go just a little bit deeper.
First time I grabbed my ankle with right arm but he told me to put it on the floor. I twisted to grab and am not ready for that entry yet. He encouraged me to take my hands back behind my head, like from the prayer at chest position, rather than the round and grab method. My right shoulder has something not quite right with it. Feels like it is just wrong, not pain really but definitely a limiter in things like that. My hands were maybe 5-10 cm away from my feet. Left arm could have gone in further but strange sensation in the other shoulder told me not to push it. Shoulder feels fine now.

I came across these funny Ashtanga cartoons the other day.  This is the backbend I was working on, chakra bhandasana.  A few months ago I wouldn't have thought I was bendy enough to even try, I thought it was a pose for the suerflexy folk of which I was not.  I guess gradually over time my back just opened up and then a teacher said they thought I could.   Suddenly I can go much deeper, sometimes belief can be a barrier.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Last practice before London

I am going to London on Saturday for some mysore classes, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.  So tomorrow will be my day off.  Today practice wasn't so hot, first time in ages, my body felt like it had been invaded.  I could still do the poses, which suprised me.  My body felt stiff but it wasn't and the strength just wasn't there.  Oh well, everyday is different right, I see myself as an observer, exploring my inner universe.

Tomorrow, I teach two classes but otherwise I will rest up ready for my weekend.  I will be going to London this weekend and the following one, the weekend after that I am going to Dublin with my mum.  We are going to visit my brother but I have arranged to go to a Mysore class on the Sunday.  So I will be getting lots of classes in  the next few weeks. With a total of 6 different teachers, that should give me a range of insight...........

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

More on Raw food

Yesterday I posted on how my eating habits have changed recently.  Unusual for me to post two days in a row but summarising a 3 month journey in one blog post left many things unsaid.  I have also found and read some interesting things since I last posted.  Skippetty posted a link that  Kai  had linked to, it is a link to a post on Autorio's blog about Kino's thoughts on Nutrition.  Are you with me?  Linkamania!  The blog post is interesting, I had no idea Kino used to be a raw foodist or that she has studied nutrition. Would love to know why she decided not to be a raw foodist?  

Also in this post the book conscious eating comes up.     I have not yet read this book but am definitely going to at some point.  It is written by Gabriel Cousens who is a raw foodist and a yogi, he is considered an expert in the field.    I have decided to move on from reading about nutrition for a while.  I'm already reading three other books, so it will have to wait.  Visit this blog hear Gabriel Cousens talk about raw food and yoga.

I realised I forgot to mention yesterday that I eat a lot more fruit these days, probably about 3 pieces a day.  We have started getting organic fruit and veg delivered and the fruit is absolutely delicious.

Yesterday Grimmly posted a question on my blog.  He said
"There's usually a gap between the fancy recipes you find in books and the what somebody actually eats in the real world once they settle down into a new way of eating."

When I first bought some raw food recipe books I was a bit overwhelmed, they seemed a bit complex and I needed to have all sorts of stuff I didn't normally buy.  I also needed a food processor for a lot of things and did not have one.  About two months ago, I took leap and bought a food processor.  I think I have used it every day since, absolutely love it.

Anyways what do I eat?  The recipe book that helped me the most is Raw Food Made Easy.  Her chocolate cake is amazing and her recipes simple and easy, it's only a small book though.  The book the Thrive Diet also has some great recipes in although he is not completely raw and this book is mostly his nutritional philosophy, the recipe section is fairly small.

I have adapted a recipe for raw lasagne which is nothing like lasagne but delicous none the less.  I  make guacamole and a sundried tomato sauce (two separate things) and finely slice a courgette and chop some spinach, all in the food processor.  I then layer them, so a layer of the tomato sauce, a layer of cougette, a layer of guacamole, a layer of spinach, repeat. Another staple favourite is a raw nut burger on a bed of salad.  There are three recipes for nut burgers in the thrive diet book, these can be cooked aswell but I have had them raw.

I usually have lunch at home but sometimes do not get home until late as most of my yoga classes are in the evening.  Last night for instance I did not finish teaching until 10 pm!  This is one of the reasons I started exploring raw eating as this is much too late for a cooked meal.  So on such evenings I try and keep it very simple and dip raw stuff in guacomole, home made pesto, etc.  When I make Guacamole etc I usually make enough for a few days and the use it in another way the following day.  This keeps the food prep down, life is for living afterall!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Food, practice and wellbeing

A few months ago I decided I should take a look at what I eat.  I am not a nutritionist, I am merely using this space to share my personal experience. I already ate pretty healthily and was interested in how I could optimise my nutritional intake to support me in my life and wellbeing, spiritually and physically.  I'm pretty active.  As an Ashtangi working on the first part of second my yoga practice is fairly long.  I also teach yoga and teach about 12 classes a week.  I do not own a car, by choice, I passed my driving test and decided to become a cycle commuter, so I cycle to all my yoga classes which are mostly in the Liverpool city centre.  I love my active life and wanted to optimise my food to support this amount of activity.

To begin with I just cut out the baddies caffeine, milk, bread and sugar.  It's hard to cut out sugar when you go out to a bar for example even if your drinking non alchoholic drinks.  I do not go out that much but when I do, I just do my best but am not fanatical.  At home I do not eat any processed food so there is no issue.  When I first practiced without sugar and caffiene, I could barely be bothered to put my leg behind my head, very sluggish practice, it was hilareous.  Now my energy levels have stabilised, I no longer need a caffiene jolt in the morning.

I have always been curious about eating raw.  So I started eating more raw and reading some books about the topic and eating mostly raw.  At first the results were mixed, sometimes I would feel great, sometimes not so.  I also got a cold around this time, first time I'd been sick in ages.

I figured my body was detoxing, so decided to speed things up.  I did a juice only detox for four days, I followed a specific plan which involved adding blended avocado to my drinks.  I had done this detox before a few years back.  If you are overweight you are meant to loose weight but if you are at your optimal weight you will not loose or gain anything.  So I did this particular detox because I did not want to loose any weight.  I felt amazing on the detox, practice continued as normal and I even went on a 2 hour bike ride.  Any muscle fatigue seemed to get flushed out of my body, I felt fab.

After the detox I ate pretty much completely raw for a couple of weeks.  During my reading I learnt that you can not get B12 from plants and most raw foodist take a supplement for this.  I take a very good multivitamin which has a high level of B12 , as high as B12 supplements.  However, I decided to take on some more B12 from Meridain yeast extract which is fortified with B12.  I have this on hemp bread (also non raw) as an afternoon snack.

Around this time I also read the Thrive Diet which is written by a vegan triathlete who eats a lot of raw food.  This helped me consolidate and make the stuff that I read in the raw food books work better for me.  I used to run a lot and used to think about nutrition for before and after runs but I have never really thought about that before with regard to yoga.

It's difficult to say with all the changes that I have made and explored what it is that has worked for me and I feel healthier and better than ever before.  My body is the vehicle through which I experience the world.  Increasing it's vitality has helped me on every level of activity from meditation to cycling.  I'm so glad I have taken some time to explore this aspect of my life.  I think that we all have to explore what works for us and that maybe there isn't one nutritional law that suits all.

So now my diet is mostly but not completely raw.  I still like going out for dinner and do not think cooked food is evil!  My body is pretty healthy I figure and will get rid of any waste as it needs too.  Here is an average days eating.

Museli with hemp milk or fruit
Snack hemp bread with Yeast extract
Raw meal
Oh and my favourite treat at the moment is a tofu chocolate and banana mouse, just in case you were worried about me. Lol

If you've read this far well done!  Practice the morning after a raw meal is really light.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

worshops- David Swenson and mysore classes

I already planned to go to London a week on Saturday, for 3 mysore style classes.  The following week ( I realised last night) David Swenson is doing his intro to second series workshop.  Last year I did his teacher training intensive, I learnt a lot, it was fab, in fact next year I may even do it again but back to now...well I couldn't resist going to go to London two weeks in a row.  Also booked myself onto David's Breath, Bandhas and Pranayama: Exploring the Mantra of Ujjayi and the Mysteries of Energy Locks workshop.  Yogaholics anonymous s here I come! Plan to stay until Monday so I can go to AYL Sunday and Monday.  At the moment these are the things I am most focused on in my practice second series, pranayama and bandhas so will be great to explore them all in one day of workshops with the Swens, as one of my students lovingly calls DS. 

Also Hamish is coming to Manchester to do a workshop in December, since I live in Liverpool this will make things much easier, especially as it is on a weekend.  Hamish doesn't normally teach on a weekend so I normally go to London for a long weekend, practice with other teachers at the weekend and H on Monday.  Will be great to have 2 days in a row with the same teacher!  Doesn't sound like much but it is to me, lol.

I was thinking of trying to get in some more mysore classes over the Christmas break but given that I have 3 trips planned already I will maybe go to the lake district for a few days over Christmas break instead.  Am I rambling?  Sorry I am excited!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

my practice

Well this is a practice blog and I haven't blogged about my practice for ages.  I guess sometimes there is not much to say and other times it seems unimportant.

Anyways........after Sharath's led classes my jump throughs and jump backs are more consistent and fluid.  I just needed a little more strength I think in bandhas and in arms.  They continue to improve as my strength develops greater control. This has led to a more fluid meditative practice.

I was working on the dwi pada entry to supta kurmasana as I don't get a regular assist and figured it was a good way to take it deeper.  I can do that now, have been doing it for around six weeks I guess.  So my primary feels very meditative these days, I just do it.  I usually do some simple pranayama before I start which helps me get my focus on the breath.

So I was practicing up to kapotasana, but once dwi pada entry  for kurmasana became a regular occurance I wanted something else to work on.  I don't like my practice to focus in on one pose, especially one that's not changed much!  So now I practice up to pincha muyarasana which I'm working on finding the balance in, 5 breaths today!  I then do handstands, just coz I want too!  I do a few from downward dog jumping and then from a  forward bend.  I can come up from a standing forward bend but have to bend my legs, but also exploring pushing up with straight legs, just for fun.

So my practice is long, full primary and then second up to  pincha, takes me at least 2 hours 15, usually more like 2 hours 45 including pranayama and relaxation.  I feel good though, have made some changes to the way I eat, (this would be a blog post in itself) and find that I have lots more energy and strength, which is obviously a great thing and is enhancing all areas of my life.

Kapotasana, hasn't seemed to change much in the last 6 months or so but have now realised, where I need to work.  I need to open my chest out which I focused on and explored in various ways in my practice today.  Felt very energizing and at times intense when I got in there.  It's nice to have something to work at though, I like to have something to work at in my home practice.  When I go to the shala I like to just do it aswell, just flowing through the sequence, seems to develop a good sense of non attachment. I'm going to London in two weeks to visit some mysore rooms Saturday, Sunday and Monday.  I've been loving my home practice but I'm also excited and curious about going to the shala again.