Tag Archives: India

Day 9 – When is it coming?

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Part of what made me fell in love with the practice was the idea of commitment, consistency and perseverance which Ashtanga demands before you are rewarded with the fruits of your labour. These fruits come in the form of self-accomplishment, and a deeper understanding and acceptance of your own possibilities.

Guruji was known to have said this to his students when he was alive, “practice, practice, practice and all is coming”.

I was excited when I saw glimpses of this truth manifesting in my practice when I begin my daily Mysore classes at Upward. From Navasana (boat pose), I was given, and this I am describing in my own words and perception, the notorious Bhujapidasana (shoulder pressure pose). One of the gate or ‘peak’ poses in the Ashtanga Primary Series. I lost count of the number of times I had to awkwardly untangle myself from the pose because my body just could not register the level of strength required to pull myself out of it into a Bakasana (crow pose) AND jump back from there.

A few days later, I figured out how to come up without untangling myself. But I kept falling on my bum. And believe me, with my bony frame, it was literally bones against the mat over and over again. Thank God for those well padded Black Pro Manduka mats. My head would come up and I would move to the instruction of either of my teachers (“straighten your legs, pick up your bum, straighten those legggsss”) and BOOM I would fall. And there are days when doing one of those was enough and I would much rather lie flat on my mat after and she would smile slightly and say, “try, 3 more times”.

THREE more times?! My wrists felt like it was about to detach itself and run away to be the understudy for Idle Hands movie.

But I did. Grunting. Breathing like my life depended on it. There was no ease in that pose. Definitely no sukham in those few long minutes. A little over a week later, I came up. Bum up. Stayed up. And I eased (or at least tried to channel some ‘ease’) into something that resembled a Bakasana, and stepped back. All in a little over a week of 6 times a week practice, plus a few more moon days in between.

And so I had thought, by coming here, and being so close to the source itself would help me progress faster. I am coming into week 2 of my 1 month stay. At the back of my head I am filled with a slight but very real pressure of returning home having completed the entire Primary series. But my practice seemed to be just at Supta Kurmasana and everyday I am hoping Saraswathi would say “Tomorrow you try Garbha” which is the next pose in the series. Everyday I approach my Shirshasana (headstand) with a deep resentment and a splinter of hope because I know how it will be. Halfway and I am stuck. That hope is mostly a little bit of courage to try to balance on my own. But mostly it fizzles out as soon as I am on the tip of my toes. Or these days, I catch the attention of David, her assistant, and he kindly helps me with the full headstand and the pike headstand. Supporting me and ensuring I don’t go flipping backwards and shock the entire room with a big bang.  I feel like I could write a whole entire book about my journey into trying to stand and balance on my head. It has been 2 years and I can’t help but feel that typical ‘dang! is there something inherently wrong in my physiology that it’s taking me this long? When is it coming already??”. What took others a few days to learn (I have seen this happening personally), I am still struggling with. 2 years later and I have progressed forward at the rate of a very sleepy tortoise. Maybe that is the challenge that I have to face. To detach myself of the desire to progress at MY own timeframe, but rather allowing it to happen on its own. Perhaps.

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Day 7 – Clarity of Intentions

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These past few days feels like the upheaval of feelings which I never knew existed within me. An intense and focused practice coupled with the new environment and being away from home has a tendency to do so to almost any yoga practitioners I know. I had expected this, but I hadn’t thought it would come so soon.

So many different thoughts crossed through my mind since I started practicing here in Mysore. From “I feel like I could progress faster at home, why am I here again??” to “I don’t think I’m going to learn anything new here” to “So ok now it seems pretty much real that my spine is not as normal as everyone else, right, now that headstand seems like lightyears away from me”.

Amazing how easily the ego takes over of all sensibility, clouds the clarity of my initial intentions of coming here and deciding to study with Saraswathi (to deepen my practice, to be closer to the source of origin, to the lineage of Ashtanga). Saraswathi is the daughter to Shri K Pattabhi Jois who founded the system of Ashtanga Yoga as it is known today. He passed away in 2009. Certainly, I could not get any much more closer to the source than this. It doesn’t help either that there are common conversational topics surrounding authorizations and certifications which can only be given to you by Guruji’s grandson and director of KPJAYI, Sharath. And this is only likely if you were to be studying directly with him.

It doesn’t matter if my initial intentions of coming to Mysore does not include getting an authorization, it doesn’t matter all that I ever want by coming here is to remove myself from my hectic daily schedule and focus entirely on my practice, it seems like NOW I should be focusing my efforts on getting an authorization too.

So much for independent thinking.

I do understand these struggles are minor, though very real in its essence. I realise it is one of those things that I will need to face and work through one way or the other. Whether it’s through having a sudden desire to ‘get authorized’ or the full acceptance of my physiology and working my practice to support rather than worsen the situation. I am lucky in that I am surrounded by people who understands these challenges that may clearly appear extremely trivial to others. H here has been straight up with her advice, kind but straightforward nevertheless. It seemed like a prophecy when she told me on the first day we arrived “Be clear on your intentions of being here because as the days roll by, it is very easy to forget why you are here in the first place”. I had no idea what she was referring to then, but heck I think I’m starting to understand now.

D,  I suppose picked up on the vibes from our chats that he decided to call today to tell me of his own yoga journey. I hadn’t heard his voice since his last visit in August and what a breath of fresh air it felt like. “Just remember that you are there to reset and refocus on your own intentions to teach, so that you can come back and share these with others. Don’t worry what others are doing”.

And that was precisely the root of all these busy thoughts. Distractions. Which then clouds my own clarity. When I was telling H today about my observation of another Ashtangi, her amused reaction was “you notice a LOT of things around you during your practice! I wonder where your drishti is!”. Ah. Exactly. My drishti, my point of focus has been everywhere but on the point I should be focusing on. It is the reason why I noticed other people’s practice but manage to forget 4 full standing poses from my own. It is the reason why I feel scattered and not grounded in my own practice. And it is precisely the reason why I am wanting things that I never really actually want in the first place.

And so tomorrow, I shall begin Day 8 with 2 things in mind. Drishti and mindfulness. I am hoping for the best.

What are your distraction? And what are your initial intentions that you felt is now lost beneath all the distractions?

Day 1&2: Mysore and Breakfast at Santosha

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I had been planning to make this trip to India for the longest time. It was one of those things I knew I had to do as soon as my TTC in Vikasa was done in 2012. Since I am no longer bound by the rules of corporate annual leaves, the decision to go was made a tad bit easier without having to apply through the necessary approvals. Having dabbled with Ashtanga practice before, and participated in a few Ashtanga related workshops, it felt like a natural inclination to deepen my own practice and knowledge in this type of yoga. Many things, if you begin to pay attention to, happens to prepare you for your next experience. And the sequence to whatever I went through in the last year or so certainly conspired to help me get to this point right now – sitting in an apartment that is 2 minutes walk away from KPJAYI (Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute) with a whole month ahead of me intended to deepen and progress my own practice in the Primary Series with Saraswathi, who is the daughter to the late Shri K. Pattabhi Jois.

I would be lying to say the journey to finally arrive to this place is smooth sailing. The flight to Bangalore was a night flight, and I am generally a terrible sleeper in planes. That plus the back area of the entire plane felt like an orchestra of snoring people which would have been nice had I known how to appreciate such musical notes escaping from the throats of the passengers.

From Bangalore we made the 3.5 hour car trip down south to the town of Mysore. That was a nice change. It had been raining and the air outside was cool. So I nodded off in between little chats with H, my travel partner who had been here a year before. Once during the ride the driver stopped, and I thought we had arrived only to be told by the driver that he is stopping for a cup of chai as a brief break during the long ride. That was a first, but I certainly didn’t mind.

A lot of what I had encountered so far from the locals and the town itself reminds me of my time in Vietnam. Perhaps it was experiencing the town of Da Nang on my own and immersing myself with the locals there that made it feel like a natural transition into this town. It was a feeling of familiarity like returning to a warm embrace of a very dear friend. The driver who stopped for chai, it could easily be a Vietnamese driver stopping for a cup of drip coffee.

We arrived at 3 in the morning. It felt like a haze in between being woken up, the need to immediately reorientate myself of where I am, and the fact that I had to lug 23 kgs worth of luggage up 2 flight of stairs at such an ungodly hour with an existing injury on my shoulder. I remembered crawling into bed mumbling a sorry to H for not showering because I am just too tired to even think of anything else but sleep.

Monday was spent walking and riding the tuk tuk around town. And paying KPJAYI a visit only to find out registration time for both Saraswathi and Sharath was on that day. Earlier in May, I had the chance to practice a LED class with Saraswathi during one of her trips to KL. I loved her gentle motherly energy and decided soon after to make this trip to study with her for a month. During the application period in early August, I knew generally the differences between practicing with Saraswathi and with her son, Sharath based on my conversations with others but arriving here, it occurred to me each of them attracts their own specific types of students. It is only my first day practicing at the shala today, perhaps drawing my observations now could be a little premature, perhaps at the end of my one month here I would have a different perception, but at least for today this seems to be about right.

I walked out of the shala this morning from what seems to be the shortest and fastest Mysore practice I had ever done before. I saw a group of men and women huddled together next to a van with a man serving fresh coconut. “I saw you here yesterday! HI!” cried one girl to me. That was my initiation into the conversation. I walked over and introduced myself and was invited to Santosha for breakfast. A small house by the corner near to where I am staying. I thought to myself “it will be so easy to never forget my Yamas and Niyamas while I am here given how everything is named”.

It dawned on me this town, the mere fact that KPJAYI is here, attracts a number of people for a multitude of reasons. The searchers. The explorers. The avoiders (or those who are ‘escaping’ from something or someone). The curious. The loyals. The serious and committed practitioners. The new and searching students. There are old timers, people who make their annual visits here. They greet each other like old friends who have been apart for too long. There is a warmth in their encounters, yet a quiet reservation for those who are new.

H told me yesterday that I should come back to my real intentions why I am here as the month progresses, it would be so easy to lose sight of the main purpose she said. Indeed a good exercise to remember, even though the first 2 intentions were crystal clear to me. To deepen my practice with Saraswathi and to (erm..) buy all these cheap books I had been reading about on Amazon India and have them shipped back to KL. Now is a good time as ever to start practicing Aparigraha (non-possessiveness/ non-hoarding) don’t you think? 🙂