20 Aug 2014

One Year Post Surgery

Primary Practice 
Dripping sweat on tatami
Head Clear Body Strong

This year, since my knee surgery has felt like an eternity, ups and downs, leaps, bounds and plateaus. It's been a strange year. But one with a steep learning curve and a large dose of humility thrown in. I have learnt so much more about the way bodies work from my amazing physiotherapist.  Finally my muscles are almost balanced between right and left legs, sacrum is straight. I have learnt the very hard way that deep back bending is certainly not a good idea with a misaligned sacrum.  Flexibility is coming, as is strength.  Been hard work getting here, still a long way to go, but have hit an important milestone today.

For now I am pleased that I have finally made it through primary.  Even played with some second series asana today.

Hope to restart the blog properly. Have written numerous posts, but had no heart to publish.  Not sure why, when I need a cybershala most I hide away, retreated from everyone, tying to wade my way out of the slump I'd fallen in.

10 Dec 2013

From Fasting to Sour Plums

Umeboshi Drying in the Sun, photo from here.
Since my three day water fast a few weeks ago I have fallen in love with Umeboshi - salt pickled sour plums.  I've never had strong feelings about them either way, but now I positively crave them.

I broke my fast with brown rice porridge topped with a little miso and umeboshi, after not eating for three days it tasted divine.  But this infatuation with sour pickled plums has continued long after.  Now I plop one in hot water in the morning, mash it up and happily sip the concoction.

I began to wonder why the craving, is there anything particularly good in these squishy red balls, I knew they were healthy but had never paid much attention before. So I  turned to my old faithful book that explains all about Japanese Foods that Heal.  I just loved what I read, and so I shall continue my love affair with this salty sour delicacy ; )  Which require a fairly lengthy process of soaking in salt and drying in the sun and adding red shiso leaf for colour.  Next year I vow to learn how to make them.

From the book:

"Japanese food authority Robbie Swinnerton compares umeboshi's taste to the culinary equivalent of a cold shower. Swinnerton writes, 'The abrupt, searingly tart, tangy, salty taste jolts the eyes open, shakes the stomach awake, sandpapers off any staleness from the taste buds, and gets the day off to an unforgettable start.'"

Yes, exactly I thought.

"Japanese pickled plums have remarkable medicinal qualities. Their powerful acidity has a paradoxical alkalinizing effect on the body, neutralizing fatigue, stimulating digestion and promoting the elimination of toxins and the absorption of calcium. In addition, umeboshi is said to help the liver process excess alcohol, restore the skin, help regulate sugar metabolism, prevent or cure anemia and relieve acute stomach and intestinal pain due to gas"

Wonderful!  And to think I was going out of my way to drink lemon juice in the mornings, when I had the local equivalent sat right on my kitchen table!

So I shall continue.  I guess my fast served it's purpose.  I had never properly fasted and the decision to do this one was very whimsical.  I wanted an exercise in self-discipline to get me back on track with my eating habits which had become rather yogically delinquent. So three days, only water. It was not fun, I was left very tired and cold, and no spare energy.

But the fast did make me realise how much unnecessary stuff I put into my body throughout the day as a treat, or form of procrastination.

Then two days of rice gruel with miso and umeboshi.  So simple and so delicious.

I am still enjoying simple food, have regained a modicom of self-control, and a new found love for the "Venerable Pickled Plum"

29 Nov 2013

A Tiger for Malgudi - R.K.Narayan

Narayan has become one of my favourite authors since visiting Mysore. His books are all set in a fictional town called Malgudi, yet have a distinct feeling of Mysore about them, as indeed the author lived there for a while. I love visiting India, and seeing as I can't go right now, I am arm chair travelling.  I love the way he captures the essence of South India, the sunshine, slow pace of life, how the spiritual and the mundane blend. I often go back to re-read his books, like taking a little holiday.

This book is a beautiful tale of a Tiger and a Yogi, both on the journey to enlightenment. The Yoga Master guiding the tiger.   Reading this always brings me a sense of peace and calm, and the enjoyment of a good story.

I was just re-reading it again, and these passages stood out this time, especially after my weekend of practicing in a group and remembering the importance of drishti.

This is the Master teaching the Tiger.

"This is one of the rules of yoga to steady one's mind, to look down one's nose and at nothing beyond. That's one way not to be distracted and to maintain one's peace of mind."

"The eye is the starting point of all evil and mischief. The eye can travel far and pick out objects indiscriminately, mind follows the eye, and rest of the body is conditioned by the mind. Thus starts a chain of activity which may lead to trouble and complication, or waste of time, if nothing else; and so don't look at anything except the path."

So true.

27 Nov 2013

Mysore Class with Matt Corigliano

It was a much needed weekend of warmth, shared practice and confidence building for me.  I'd forgotten the joy of practicing in a Mysore room, it's been so long, the sound of the breath, the help of a teacher to push a little, to encourage and support.  Nice to be in students shoes again.  Such a beautiful position. I do love teaching, but I also very very much love to be a student.  Not to mention to be able to practice along side many of those who come to my classes was just lovely.

Matt Corigliano created a beautiful space for us to practice in, great energy - everyone had a great practice.

Practice has been bared back to minimum recently, but it's coming along fine, Matt pushed me a little further than I'd dared to go by myself and I was surprised at how much more I could do.  Also noted the fear still residing in my knee and hips and how much I needed gentle adjustments to coax my body into an actively relaxed state.   To trust again.

There was also the added challenge of hiking with Matt and two guests to the top of  Mt. Zao, to the crater lake.  Usually a fairly routine hike for me, but I was quite nervous as to how my knee would take it. I used stocks, much needed on the descent.  But again felt great to be up in the snow, fresh air and mountain energy.

In the workshop Matt talked a little about his parents practice, about the fundamentals of Ashtanga, not necessarily anything new for us, but I think we all needed reminding and everyone walked away with something to ponder.

For me I am again excited about my practice and am slowly finding my strength and confidence again.

Recently, I hadn't noticed, but with all the focus on physio and the physical aspects and challenges the practice had been presenting me with recently, I had been neglecting my breath and drishti a little.  This was brought into sharp focus this weekend. Boy did I feel better for it physically, mentally and emotionally.  Been letting too much slip.  Nice to be brought back into line ; )

15 Nov 2013

Conflicting Advice and Tradition

The mountains are all gleaming white, snowboarding season is fast approaching.

My physiotherapist, and the general canon of yoga  is telling me to take it easy, go slow.  Step by step.  Which I have been doing as much as possible.

However, my husband, an ex-pro-snowboarder, and the Doctor, a  sports man,  are telling me to move more, do the sports I love.  Make muscle having fun. Get on your board and go!!

Up until now I have generally followed the word of the therapist as law.  More about this soon.  But I feel that I am filled with fear of moving and my energy is being depleted.

Also, yes the modern approach to yoga is one of gently gently, but I feel it hasn't always been this way.  When I first started practicing Ashtanga I was very gentle with myself, but after visiting senior teachers I was often shocked at how hard they would push me, and how I was actually fine. One thing we must learn is to know our limits and ride the edge.  It was the intensity of the practice that hooked me, not a gently gently approach.  Not that everyone needs pushing, but my weak point was to hold back. This holds true in all areas.

Snowboarding is an extreme sport and people around us have had all kinds of injuries, and to hear how they all overcame these and got back on the mountains is wonderful.

One of my most inspiring friends is Anna, she broke her back snowboarding.  I was with her. They did an emergency operation to fuse two vertebrae together.  This was in a hospital here in Yamagata,  the doctor left it to me to break the news that she would never walk again.  I went in and told her straight, her reply still stays with me, she said 'Ganbarimas!' which roughly means, I won't give up, I'll do my best, keep on trying. She has done just that, and more.  Total inspiration.

Keep the body and the spirit strong.

My husband also told me about his friend (in his 20's) who smashed his patella to pieces, had surgery and was limping for 6 months after.  How, he went snowboarding while still in a cast, went down The Wall, a particularly steep slope, infamous, he did a few turns and then tumbled quite literally head over heels a few times. On the wall once you tumble there is no stopping till you hit the bottom. Anyways, he finished up feeling no worse for wear, infact better than before!

Could be something in it.  I won't go down the wall, but I do need to let go of my fear and begin to physically challenge myself again.

It is in this spirit that I shall head to three days of yoga class. No teaching, just practicing with all the guys. Can't wait.

Currently,  practice consists of a  very stiff, punctuated primary, interspersed with physio to focus on weak points.  I think it fits in beautifully. Tarik did say, regarding asana practice, that when injured the rules go out the window (n.b. meaning, one needs to adapt the asana a little, not blindly follow the rules regardless of pain nor, conversely,  to throw the baby out with the bath water). I usually practice alone, so am wondering how I should practice in the Mysore room, this weekend.  I love the Ashtanga tradition, and believe that there must be space for individual differences.  Not tailoring the practicing because it's what you feel like, but objectively looking at what is needed to get the body back to strength, alignment, and health.

Haven't been this excited about a workshop in a while!