26 Dec 2011

Christmas Day Death

It was a different Christmas. White.  Beautiful. A new moon. The day started with a phone call to tell us our friend had passed away.  He'd been suffering in the final stages of cancer for a few weeks, so it wasn't a shock as such, but still, it was very real.

Life ending.

H. was busy on the phone, being the closest friend he had to let people know. He said I should go for a board and then come pay respects to the body.  I think he wanted time to himself too, this friend goes back way longer than our relationship.

Got into the car.  First song that came on my i-pod was Queen, 'Who Wants to Live Forever'  ha!  How apt.  Brought tears to my eyes that didn't stop flowing all the way up the mountain.  We'd been expecting this call for a few weeks now.  Once it come though, that was it.   I just had a couple of runs down, boarded like a bat out of hell.  Felt like I had to get something out of me, had no fear, and was going well over speed for so early in the season.  Felt good.  Then cried all the way back down the mountain to more Queen. I guess we all deal with things in different ways.   He was a boarder too, maybe I was connecting.

Went to pay my respects, his face looked so peaceful the pain had gone.  Yet another body with no one home. 

Again in the midst of more Japanese funeral rituals.  More reminders.  Close friends gathered in the evening, told stories, talked about life and death and the nature of it all.  Am always thankful for the yoga philosophy at times like this.

21 Dec 2011

A pot is a pot

Was mulling over Grimmly's post, while listening to a BBC radio podcast.  I learnt that Japan was the first place in the world to make clay pots.  16,500 years ago to be precise. 

These people were most likely the first people to eat and make a stew..of sorts.

The first pots were decorated with twisted string patterns.  The designs would change consistently every 25 years.  The archaeologist said that even to this day Japanese culture stresses continuity through change.  Continuity through change seems so very contradictory.

Still, for 16,500 years, there is a strong pot making tradition in Japan.  There have been constant changes but a pot is still a pot.   This pot (Image from here) is an ancient Jomon pot but had gold leaf applied inside and was used in Tea Ceremonies in the 18th Century.

It made me think of Ashtanga changing with each generation.  Minors tweaks, additions, subtractions.  but the general form, function and essence remain.

Sometimes to get too bogged down could be seen as an attachment to tradition, no?  Of course it is good to often go back to the source, if things get too distorted and a pot is no longer a pot we would have problems.  I'm sure a lot of potters study the Jomon era pots, just as we all go back to the Yoga Mala, Krishnamacharya's teachings, and the ancient texts, keep things authentic.  Keeping as it is yet ever changing.

7 Dec 2011

Small Progress

Have been working on Bakasana a lot recently, on straightening my arms and the jump into Bakasana B.  The jump is coming slowly.  It's just I seem to lose control on the landing on the very last 5cms.  Bandha control me thinks...it's that final abdominal curl I have difficulty with.  Have a feeling this is gonna come into play big time once I start focusing more on Karandavasana, for now I am still just toying with that. 

But my arms are finally pretty much straight in Bakasana A, wohhooooo a little progress, feels good.

Oh and my Tittibhasana doesn't look as bad as it feels.  I thought my legs were much more bent, it still is my worst set of asana in my whole practice, but we are making friends. Just a bit longer, and who knows it could turn out to be my all time favourite.

Have an authorised teacher coming up for a weekend mysore class session, am very much looking forward to practicing with people again, and, well to be taught...something... I wonder what? 

5 Dec 2011

Daily Tittibhasana Practice

Practice has been good.  I've been sticking strictly to the six-day-a-week ashtanga routine. Occasional Vinyasa Krama routine in the evening. The mornings might slip a bit once the snow comes, when I'll be practising my breath work riding down a mountain. Planning on some evening Vinyasa Krama sessions this winter.
Nothing much to write home about really, the elusive Dwi Pada Sirasana (both legs behind the head) comes and goes.  Been focusing more on Yoga Nidrasana which felt really good today.  Probably due to my late start time, makes such a difference.  Bakasana, arms are getting straighter and jumping in is slightly more predictable.  Feel like I'm even coming along in my version of Karandavasana.  Knee is getting better, almost there.

It seems I'd developed a keen disliking of the Tittibhasana sequence. I never had strong feelings about this before, but I realised I'd been quite content to be stuck at Dwi Padasirasana over the years.  It was time I fessed up to myself and to pull out the proverbial finger, I needed to do Tittibhasana more, A LOT more.   I have stuck to a strict six-day-a-week-ashtanga-home-practice. I have practised Tittibhasana everytime,  no avoiding, primary only once a week. It is good.  I've made myself do all the Tittibhasana just to get through to Pincha Mayurasana, which I enjoy greatly.

So why do I so dislike this relatively innocuous asana.  You don't hear people talking about it much, people don't get stuck here, so what is my problem with this?  Well, I am pretty bad at it, I don't know how to make it feel good.  I just do it.  Get it out of the way.  I generally don't like to treat asana in that way, but Tittibhasana. ..  Well first law of attraction: proximity. So I am forcing my self to get up close and personal with Tittibhasana everyday.  It's working, I don't feel like avoiding it quite so much anymore. We are slowly making friends.

Really enjoyed reading Kino's post  Six Day a Week Ashtanga Yoga Practice. We were talking about this in class along these lines, but Kino says it very simply and succinctly.

"When you do not know what you will be doing next your attention will always be on your teacher rather than within yourself."

"The requirement to practice six days a week is meant to develop the kind of mental, spiritual and devotional determination needed in order make progress along the internal path of yoga."

4 Dec 2011

Cat on a ledge

During class:
Me: Did you drop back by yourself?
Her : Yes 「big grin」
Me: How many times?
Her : Five 「bigger grin」
Me: Excellent!

Cool, this lady has had all the parts in place for a long time now, flexibility, strength, timing and a very firm practice. I've said everything I could say, I help as much as I can but at the end of the day it's up to her, the only thing stopping her was her mind.

End of class:
Her: My cat got stuck up on a ledge other day.
Me: Really?
Her: Yes, it was the second time.
Me: Cat's are good at that eh.
Her: Yes, we coaxed her down, smiling and calling, she was so scared, bottom in the air, meowing. We knew she could do it, but she was so scared
Me: Ahh that's cute. Did she make it?
Her: Yes, it took a while for us to persuade her back down.
Me: That's good.
Her: Yes and it made me think this is how you must see me. Every week, coaxing me to do drop backs. I saw myself scared like the cat and you as me coaxing and encouraging her to come down, knowing she can do it but watching her fear. So I knew I could do the drop backs too.
Me: Ha! Yes, it's something like that 「big grin」.
Her: 「Big grin」

Rolf Naujokat talking about the role of teacher in the book Guruji:
"So it's the teacher following the student rather than the other way around. It's an interesting idea.
Or maybe walking together and you just hold the hand in difficult spots. I often felt that Guruji did just that, hold the hand as I pass over some difficult area. But again, it's according to each person's nature, and it works somehow because in the end it doesn't matter - whatever makes it work, wake up, that's fine."

Japanese Buddhist Funeral

Sometimes I forget this is a Buddhist country, but am once again reminded, and remember it was one of the things that drew me towards Japan in the first place.

The funeral process was beautiful. I'd been a little critical of Japanese funerals before this and I take it all back now.

Thursday I spent a day in a light warm tatami mat room with a corpse. Gentle old lady laying in a white futon in a beautiful blue silk kimono with a white, lace edge handkerchief over her face. Looking peaceful. She died peacefully painlessly at the age of 93. We burnt incense and sat around drinking tea and just being with the body. The body of the decease must not be left alone, so we took it in turns to be there. My husband and his family spent the night there too.

Before being cremated a Priest prayed and performed a ceremony, then we wait again, in a tatami room drinking tea and chatting. Then we are called down. There are the charred bones and ash that once was a lady called Kimiko. The chief mourner and closest relative took the first bone together, the only time people can ever hold the same thing with two pairs of chopsticks, and put it in the small wooden urn. Starting from the feet , using extra large wooden chopsticks, we placed the bones in the urn. It was a strange feeling being so close to the remains of a person, strong reminder of the transient nature of the world. I resolve to work on my own attachments with renewed resolve. We found the melted ten yen coins. Apparently six coins are needed to cross the river to the other side. The deceased will be traveling for 49 days in the netherworlds. The next Journey.

The head was placed last by the crematory staff with bare hands. He then carefully, and so respectfully wiped the table for any misplaced ashes with his hands, then placed the lid. The urn was then painstakingly and touchingly wrapped perfectly in a white wrapping cloth, over which an ornate yet subtle gold and white cover was placed over the urn. This we took away, along with the photo, and wooden Buddhist name tablets.

Everything was respectfully done with incredibly precise and well practiced movements. The Japanese have precision, understatement, respectfulness and politeness as a well practiced art. It really is amazing to watch. Especially at times like these.

We drive over to the temple. It's a Zen temple, by coincidence, one I used to very occasionally visit for early morning zazen. A beautiful old temple. I must go back and take some photos, the detail and decoration is just, well, inspirational. The Priest chanted sutras, and performed his ceremony. Part of which involves the swishing of a tailed wand, I always imagine this is him symbolically helping to cut away attachment to this world. Helping them to move on to the next stage. It was calming and full of imagery. We all said goodbye, made offerings of incense and paid respects to the Priest.

Finished. It was so quiet and simple. So Zen.

28 Nov 2011

Involuntary Cleansing

Went to sleep early after a lovely little meditation at the end of yoga class on Friday’s new moon. Only to wake up at 5am feeling positively strange. Heavy, churning stomach, bowels on over-drive. Then it came. The intestinal cleanse from both ends….in other words a stomach virus. Not nice. Not nice at all. It was the first time in seven years I had to cancel a whole day’s work.
Drained of energy, I slept, sipped water and read, all day and night. Reflecting on my recent dietary misdemeanors, determined to keep it more sattvic (light and pure) upon recovery.

My reading for this day of viral induced purging was ‘Guruji’, I’d been reluctant to buy it. Not sure why, perhaps worried I’d be disappointed. However to my surprise I found it such a reassuring and inspirational read. To hear the thoughts of such long term practitioners congruent with mine. To see how different people express similar concepts, how Guruji’s teaching was imparted, received and understood differently by all, and yet fundamentally the same. To see which teachers I resonated with the most.

To relate their long experience with Guruji to my short three week stint. But I think I got it, I had a taste. It wasn’t all in my imagination. That power he had, the energy I felt in the room, the energy from him just standing next to me, assisting me, petrified as I was, with drop backs, the grandfatherly warmth and love yet with the power and discipline of a guru. Looking back at this photo, I truly am beaming. I have never beamed so much. I am still so glad I scraped together my unemployment benefit and ran off to India on a shoestring, knowing so strongly I HAD to meet this man, HAD to go to the source of this yoga. It was just enough to get the hug after dropping back and the big squeeze for this photo...awwwwww...memories.

I lost 3kg in a day, amazing what that did to my stamina. The next morning’s pratice was light as a feather and all my body seemed to want was standing poses, a little forward bending, a lot of back bending and a touch of shoulder-standing and head-standing. That was enough. So shall build it up again slowly. The interesting thing in this morning’s practice, was the knee that’s been bothering me for so long slipped nicely and totally pain free into lotus. One teacher in the book said how his knee problems were also energetically a sign of fear of taking the next step, fear of moving forward. Food for thought. Motto for the rest of the year: No Fear.

18 Nov 2011

Master Snowboarder and Ashtangi

Terje Haakonsen. In the snowboard world, he's the man. I love boarding, but don't follow the competitions or fashions or fame but when I saw the words 'for Terje' on the bottom of my board I looked him up. Japanese call him the god of boarding. Man is he good. When I found out he was also an Ashtangi he became a bit of a hero for me. Thinking how I would so like to meet him and talk yoga and boarding one day. For those of you who don't know him, check this out:

As they say on the video to do a run like this requires mental toughness, to overcome all your fears and doubt. Not an easy feat as we all know. So when I hear he is going to be in my neck of the woods I go to where he is hoping I might at least get to say hello...maybe a quick chat.

The first day I was too shy to even go near him, this is ridiculous I tell myself. I can usually talk to anyone, overcome my shyness, but I couldn't, just couldn't do it. He has a different aura, dare I say the aura of a master.

The second day I catch the bus over the mountains to the big city to meet some friends at the club where the Burton riders would be. Thinking I will probably be unable to even say hello, so no expectations except to hang with some friends I hadn't seen since the earthquake. Fun, music and drinks. Then my friends encourage me to go say hello. I did, blurted out god knows what in my drunken (bad yogi) nervous (worse yogi) state and he invites us into the back room with them...... We chatted, I was in awe, so much in fact I just chat and chat and chat with no mention of yoga or boarding once. What was that about, maybe I didn't want to bother him. Oh how I kicked myself all the way home.

However it did make me realise what separates the masters from the practitioners. It's the strength and clarity of mind. That equanimity, composure in any situation. I know in my meager riding experience how important it is to be totally relaxed, clear and in the moment. The minute nerves, fear or doubt creep in, wham, crash, bam! What could be better training for this than Ashtanga, both physically and mentally I can think or nothing better to prepare me and keep me going through the season.

So it's Firday and I practiced primary. I felt terrible while doing it, stiff and heavy, had to haul my ass through to the end. So many times I wanted to stop and have breakfast, but I didn't, and when I was done, I felt great. Ironed out some kinks, released a bit of negativity and lightened my step for the day.

Come on snow.

27 Oct 2011

Bandha biking

Finally procured a road bike, been wanting one for years.  Someone was about to throw this away. I pleaded for it, she was determined it was too old and broken and it was to be disposed of. Nooooo! Managed to persuade her to let me have it, saying if it was a lost cause I would be more than happy to dispose of it.

When I went to collect it, it was in a terrible state. I took it home, wiped off the black grime and saw the blue paint. Mavic rims and cogs and parts looking good. The tubular tyres were disintegrating yet still stuck on to the rims.

Took a while and some elbow grease, new tyres, brakes, gear lever wire and a wipe down with thinners. Now, well to me, it's beautiful. Fast, light and most gratifyingly nimble.

Perfect with my theme for the year light and simple.

Although the first few rides gave me a very literal pain in the arse. Consulted with my cyclist friends. They proceeded to impart their knowledge to this fledging road cyclist with sore bottom.

They said to tilt the pelvis very slightly, lift the pelvic floor muscles and contract the area below the navel.

Ha! Mula and Uddiyana bandas! Cool, yoga practice while zooming around the city. And you know what? It works! As I focused on my bandhas while cycling home I felt the weight lift a little, the pressure was eased, and there was a slight increase in power. Of course like a good little sadhana (practitioner) add to the bandhas work, chin slightly tilted down, eyes lightly focused ahead, full concentration on the road and randomness that accompanies commuting on Japanese roads, deep rhythmic breathing and I have me a new little practice here. The biggest part of which is not getting totally pissed of at cars making attempts on my life. Ahimsa on the road, ha....gonna take some serious practice. But am practicing and it is coming, slowly.

As for the asana practice. This too is coming nicely, also slowly.  Oh needed an excuse to post a picture of the biggest tree in Yamagata.  Pretty cool.

21 Oct 2011

Friday Primary

Straight-down-the-line-traditional-primary-sequence, no frills, no variations.  What can I say. It does the job. Effeciently working on everything in that neat little block of time before breakfast. Perfect.
It's been a while since I had a good, full, unrushed primary practice, even saw a bit of Garbha Pindasana action.  Now that has been a while, finally getting back on form again.  As soon as the weather turned cold my body went into 'prepare for hibernation' mode, which generally seems to consist of eating as much high calorie food as possible. I have finally managed to rein in the appetite.  I was beginning to feel heavy and lethargic. 

The past weekend Tarik Thami came up to hold three days of mysore class.  It was a good gathering. It was great to see so many fellow ashtangi.  About half the people came from neighbouring prefectures.  Hadn't seen some people for years.  Practicing with a teacher there to help out is great, to be pushed a little, and not least of all, to be able to practice in a strong group. Three days of uninterrupted  intermediate sequence up to Karandavasana, with assistance. Dwi Pada Sirasana is slowly slowly coming, so nice to have help in that one.

13 Oct 2011

Moon mountain 月山 moon day

Somewhere I read a quote from Guru Krishnamurti:
"When one loses the deep intimate relationship with nature then temples, mosques and churches become important."

This area of Japan has three mountains which are sacred for the Shugendo, mountain ascetics, for whom englightenment is to attain oneness with spirit. Awakening is obtained through understanding the relationship between man and nature. The Shugendo focus on the developement of spiritual experience and power. Their training grounds are the mountains.

Thus inspired, off I trot to the holy mountains.

In Buddhist thinking asana are meditation.

Focus the mind.

Walking up a mountain, focus and connection with a strong energy of the mountain......or could just be the slightly thinner air and intense exertion making me feel a bit high.
Standing firm at 1984 metres Gassan is the highest mountain of the three holy mountains in this area in Japan. Symbolising death. I like to think of it as the Shiva mountain, destruction and death. It is the more difficult of the three to climb. Often cold and very windy at the top.

So walking up mountains. Pretty intense. Very much like yoga. I have been walking up the same mountain. It's been my extra practice these past few weeks. There are many mountains, but I stuck with the same one. It is an impressive mountain, and the walk is beautiful. First up gradually through a valley, with velvety green spine like ridges, then up on to the ridge, exposed, the back side, with a view of more mountain spines and valleys, then the ascent up the rocks to the blustery and usually cloudy peak. Finally reaching the stone steps to the shrine on the peak. Under the tori gate to the inner sanctum built in 593AD. There is a crescent moon carving in front of the alter, again recalling Shiva, who often has a crescent moon in his hair. It is the moon mountain. Today the bottom was a warm, mild sunny day, yet at the top it was gray, bleak and incredibly windy. Crouching down low so as not to be knocked off your feet.

I noticed how the weather effects my perception of the route up the mountain. How the rocks in bad weather look dark, hard, cold, slate gray, ominous, but how the same rocks in fine weather take on beautiful blue gray hues, look warm and solid, inviting one to hop and skip.

Made me ponder how our emotions are the weather of our mind. How the same bike ride to work can look so different. Once, on a low point, I remember how nothing was shining or looking beautiful, I saw nothing to photograph. Knowing full well it was my mind projecting this. The feeling of a slight, gray fog, a veil to life. Much better when mind is healthy, good weather days, surroundings shine no matter what the physical weather as long at the internal is fair. I read once that sun salutations bring sunlight to the soul, and indeed they do. When we have sunlight in the soul the outer weather patterns won't affect us so profoundly, our environment will always show us beauty.

Mind you, getting caught in the rain on the way to work still sucks.

 Oh yeah, and practice has been ok.  It's been there, between work and mountains, slow progress but feeling good.  Practicing, practicing, practicing...

24 Sep 2011

Krama Time

Usually take Saturdays off but was itching to get started on the Vinyasa Krama Asymmetrical sequence. Found the time for an evening practice. Have been working on dwi pada in the intermediate sequence of Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga for years and years now. From having very very stiff hips and thinking the legs behind the head poses would forever allude me, I have made progress, when all the stars align and conditions are just right I can do it, but with no consistency. So it's time for a new approach. I have dabbled, in times of injury, with this Krama sequence. It's challenging, but have never stuck with it long enough, always hop back into my old routine as soon as other stars align and body feels better.

So I shall say this publicly. I shall practice my usual Asthanga Vinyasa rountine in the morning as tradition dictates and practice Vinyasa Krama in the evening.  I intend to do this as consistently as possible. 

Found my inspiration here  Grimmly's leg behind the head tutorial. Which is also where I got this wonderful cheat sheet to get me going until I commit it to memory.

I practiced the asymetrical squence on twice on both sides up to Ekapada Sirasana (one leg behind), it felt good on the second go both sides.  Am excited to continue this.  Vashitasana the second picture on the top row, I found incredibly challeging.  I could lift up, very ungraciously, but could not keep a hold of that toe.  Also Utpluthi with half lotus and extended leg....killer. 

Good recipe for practice here, felt good, gave desired effects, allowed lots of bandha work, and challenge poses to aspire to. Excellent stuff.  Much gratitude to Grimmly for providing inspiration, not to mention excellent photos.

23 Sep 2011

Autumn Equinox

Early morning yoga, side of a hill, fresh air, the sound of running water and insects.  Pretty good start to the day. Equinox, balance.  Last year I was trying to balance home, work and yoga.  This year am working on the balance with people and alone time.  Been a while since I took off to the mountains alone.  Nothing like it really.  Equinox, time to prepare for winter. Also a busy time, people running round like squirrels trying to get every thing done.

Tim Miller wrote a lovely equinox post.  Here are some of the bits I liked:

Time for perfect balance of opposite forces.

Yoga Sutra 11:47 Balancing appropriate effort and surrender we become absorbed in the infinite

Irony of asana practice is that we use a physical methodology to ultimately connect us to something within that isn't physical.

Amidst all the changes we experience in our asana practice, what we are looking for is he one thing that remains constant.

Would love to meet Tim-ji one of these days.

21 Sep 2011

Dry Practice

With a plunge in temperature from 35degrees celcius to a mere 15 practice has sadly lost the sweat and bendiness.  Just the other day I was drenched, sweat pouring into and stinging my eyes.  Today I had to do extra sun salutations just for the warmth.  Shock to the system.   Yesterday was my first attempt at Kapotasna in about 6 weeks.  Not the deepest, no chance of heel grasp today, but on the path to recovery. Felt good.

The neck, shoulder blade, whiplash thing is taking its time to pass.  For a while I only practiced using my legs, no upperbody movement, needed to let it rest.  After that, like an allergy test, I introduced asana back slowly slowly to check where the aggravation was.  The only time I feel a twinge now is jumping through and the last movement after coming up from back bends, bringing my head up.  Still stiff which has afffected legs behind the head,  shoulderstands are coming back very very slowly.  Surprisely hand stands and pincha are strong.  Thoroughly enjoying a long head stand and working on a little pranayama.  Need to work on a pranayama program to follow for the next few weeks.
Oh the ups and downs of the ashtanga asana path.  This is the ultimate test in patience.  Take it slow, carefully and let the healing continue.

19 Sep 2011

Mountain Worship

I have been in the mountains recently.  I'd forgotten how much I love being in the mountains.  I body boarded at least once a week for 6 months of the year for the past 11 years.  This year the sea is too far and wave forcasts aren't matching my work schedule.  So I decided to have local adventure.


Dewa Sanzan is the old name for Yamagata. 
I have fallen in love with this place again. It was love at first sight, from my first morning opening my curtains and seeing white peaks in the near distance. There is so much to discover. This area also has the longest history of mountain worship.

Dewa, is home to three of the holiest mountains in the Shugendo Sect.  Shugendo is a mystical, spiritual tradition, it is a combination of native japanese shintoism, buddhism and tao. Shintoism is basically a form of nature worship, to put it simply.  It's recognising the spirit in everything. Natural beauty was revered.  The Shugendo thought enlightenment is attaining oneness with the kami (spirit).   They strive for awakening through experience.  Through understanding the relationshop between man and nature.

The Dewa Sanzan
羽黒     Haguro  Black Feather
月山   Gassan     Moon Mountain
湯殿山 Yudonosan 

Today I visited Yudonosan.  The shrine dates back 1400 years.  It was raining, which for me made it all that  more pleasurable.  Mist drifting through the forested mountains, the sound and feel of rain, and not to mention less people due to the weather. A tranquil spot. a beautiful few hours spent.  Sadly photography is strictly forbidden, and there is code of not speaking or even listening about this place. So I shant break this rule.

But it is set deep in the mountains, receive purification and walk around barefoot in the rain.  The shugendo, mountain ascetics. Right here, training, practicing.  I've know this all along, but my interest in this discipline is growing deeper and deeper.  A friend well versed in Buddhism said this tradition was in essence similar to  yoga.  Interest perked, and this week I shall be spending my time mainly in the mountains and on the mat with a small spattering of work. The week after gets crazy busy.

4 Sep 2011

From darkness to light

Found this old photo taken while I was at university.
Reminded me how dark I could get, how my interest in yoga come about in that first week of university, how I had no idea where to start, what to do, how to practice, or even what practice was. 

So like the stereotypical student, I experimented... Are the students today lucky to have so much information to hand on the net.  They can find anything with a click of a mouse, or more likely with a touch on a pad on how to practice?  Does it help people speed up the process, or is the process part of aging? A process learned from experience.  I've always sought experiences.  In a way I'm glad I found things out the hard way, it may be slow but unforgettable.

Love this chant, I feel it to be so true for my practice. The first time I chanted it in India I had no idea what I was chanting, but I liked the sound and loved the teacher doing the chant. 

asato ma sad gamaya                             
tamaso ma jyotir gamaya                        
mrutyor ma amritam gamaya   

From ignorance lead me to truth             
From darkness lead me to light
From death lead me to immortality

— Brhadaranyaka Upanisad, 1.3.28

15 Aug 2011

Black mood, mat, humor

I arrived in England still, shall we say, emotionally sensitive, only to wake up to the shootings in Norway.....deary deary me, then the news that a good friend has terminal cancer, followed by my last few days in the UK watching riots on T.V. Last day out in the UK fell off my bike while avoiding, successfully I may add, crashing into a lovely dog . Left me a bit scabby, bruised and bent out of shape. But no harm, apart from a super pain in the neck and shoulder...crash landings on concrete, just not good for you.

Back in Yamagata watched an NHK documentary about an independent team of scientists measuring the radiation in the villages surrounding the nuclear power plant. just after the quake. Some with unbelievably high levels. Farmers in tears, saying all they wanted was to live naturally, farming and leading a quite life. All taken away from them. They feel such anger but have no outlet for this. Oh I feel like marching on the anti-nuclear path. Seriously people, we don't need it. So bit of a black mood.

But my first practice back home after being very bent out of shape on planes trains and automobiles was very nice. Back on my big black mat, in my light and airy tatami room. Sweltering heat, 30degrees at 6am. No complaints. Garbha Pindasana is still out, and cannot even attempt shoulder stand right now. But everything else was good, strong and balanced. Ahh….content smile, to breath and just be…ahh..

Last night a gathering of friends. What a bunch. Not sure if it's all Japanese people or just the one's I know but talk about black humor. Amongst us was a family who are in the process of evacuating from a radioactive town, and a good friend of everyone's who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a year to live. Laughter is the key in hard times. Of course there was serious talk but punctuated with jokes in truly bad taste, yet to laugh together is precious.

Home practice away

Since being back in the UK I've been here, I've been there, meeting people I haven't seen since last year, or ten years, or even ever, new  people hurray!  Busy, not work busy but still busy.

Was at a friend's house the other day watching their chilled out cat.  Total relaxation was underway, very impressive.  Cats always impress, I've more than once wished I was made of furrier stuff.  Cats have one pointed focus and concentration, when needed, they have a beautiful balance of strength, flexibility and balance, and boy do they know how to relax. There is no past no future.  Cats learn from experience but don't dwell, regret or worry.  They just are, here, now.  Independent, one could perhaps say selfish, doing what they need to do when it suits them.  Not getting in the way too much and doling out affection when appropriate.  I love to watch cats.

So this trip I have tried to strike a balance, to see people but not run myself ragged.  Have been keeping up my practice albeit mainly in a very very small room with just enough space to lay a mat diagonally. I knock things and have to shuffle around, keeping it quiet.  This is my stealth practice.  Waking before anyone else, silently practicing, quietly as possible.   Have practiced in a few other homes while away from my own.  Even shared with a friend who was very resistant.  I never push, or ask, or even encourage until I get a sign.  I jokingly mentioned we could practice yoga before breakfast and she took me up on my offer.  Wonderful.  She got it straight away and vowed to continue.  Great to see her face smiley face beaming after yoga, even her hangover was cleared away.  For me it's the constant in my life.  To practice anywhere immediately makes me feel at home. It's become a cliche but practice truly brings me home.

Whilst in London I had intended to join a mysore class, so many experienced teachers, but when faced with early morning expensive train tickets, class fees and the prospect of being ejected into the street after practice to search for an overpriced breakfast.  Not to mention having to explain my body's quirks to a new teacher....  I have a lot to work on from my three days with Tarik, also I am still healing and tweaking so I opted for home practice, my Uncle's home, converted loft, sky lights, lots of space not to mention a lovely breakfast with company to follow. Perfect set up for a venture into the city.  
Been good. Yoga hasn't been the centre of my life while here in the UK but rather has been a strong undercurrent. Perfect, shall continue cat like.

20 Jul 2011

Packing Mantra

Annual trip to the UK to visit family and friends, and to feel like I fit in again. Always being a foreigner can get tiring. Sometimes it's nice to merge into a crowd.

It can be a challenge to keep up with my yoga while on the move. But am determined to do a better job of it this year. Last year I managed an average of 3 practices a week. It's while I'm away that I keenly feel the effects of regular practice. As with anything, it's when it's gone you notice how important it is. Have been in a good routine of morning practice for a while now. Must try to continue while travelling. Preparing for a yoga trip to India is simple compared to a trip to the climatically fickle British Isles. It's been around 35degrees here in Japan most days, coming down to a cool 25 or so at night. I can't imagine wearing many clothes right now. Ah packing. Need to keep it light and simple. Light and simple.

Also a bit of mental preparation, I've made changes to my lifestyle, especially eating habits, want to keep these up and not slip back into old habits.  So easily done, it can be like I have two lives, but I want to integrate them into a whole.  Much simpler.

Bought the Manduka travel mat, folds into a neat A4 size, no padding but good grip. But it's not fairing too well in this summer heat and the rubber is sweating, making it feel slimey. But it'll save me lugging a mat around.

Light and simple, light and simple, light and simple, packing mantra.

19 Jul 2011

First Kindle Purchase

I debated, and mulled and mused, kindle, i-pad, kindle, i-pad.....  Kindle was the right size, but limited and no colour, the i-pad too big to fit in my bag.  Then, while making enquiries into the price of my phone bill I saw the galaxy tab on a sales display.  It was love at first sight.  Same size as a novel, pretty much the same functions as an i-pad.  My perfect gadget, I signed up immediately. What with all the earthquakes and nuclear meltdown I really felt the need for news and information at my finger tips. 

It was just recently that I discovered the kindle application. Danger danger danger. One touch and I have the book.  Anyone that knows me, knows I have a book problem.  At least this won't weigh my house down anymore, but am worried for my credit card.  Now I am able to carry all the books I want with me, oh paradise. Mind you I do still carry a few paper books, can't resist the pull of paper.

My first kindle purchase was Claudia's book.: 21 things you should know before starting an ashtanga practice.  Thouroughly enjoyable read it was too.  She had a nice tone throughout, encouraging to read someone else experience and views, a lot was familiar from her blog.  Claudia's opening words resonated, especially as we started Ashtanga the same year, 2004.  Seven years in the ashtanga world is indeed a blink.

I have recommended it to a couple of my students who wanted work on their English and learn about Ashtanga, perfect, and hopefully it will inspire them to continue.

Made me think of my beginnings, how I started this practice with a couple of good friends, one of whom was a teacher.  I avidly read and practised along with DVDs,  tapas in effect.  I couldn't get enough.  As much as I love Claudia's book, I do have a stubborn independent streak that makes me want to find things out for myself, experience and discovery. So I'm glad I read this after the fact. I like to find out things for myself. This does also hold me back, it is much faster to learn from others, but nothing replaces those lessons which we glean from direct experience.  I like it raw. That's how I do things.

My first trip to India - I went on a total whim.  I wanted to find out about Buddhism.  I was considering Tibet, but my friends convinced me that Tibet would be expensive and difficult, and it would be better not to give money to China. They advised me India would be freer and  more fun.  Good friends.

I knew nothing about India.  I knew the Dalai Lama's residence was in Dharamsala. That's where I would go.  I also knew there were big beautiful mountains in Kashmir, but because of the troubles, my friends told me not to go there.  Guess I don't always heed friends advice as I stepped off the plane, into Delhi, and straight to Kashmir, before Dharamsala, I couldn't resist, it was worth it, but that's another story.

I launched myself into India and was duly shocked.  I seriously knew nothing. But I'm glad I did it that way.  To see it all fresh, and make what I could of it.  I had an amazing experience.

Same with Mysore, 10 years after my first trip to India, talk about excited.  I wasn't part of a shala, I knew no one that had been, no advice, no guide, no lists, nothing.  It was great.  I just made my way to mysore on the local bus, and bumped into a Scottish guy on the first morning who took me to his house and made me chai, then set me back on my way to registration.  Then I met a teacher from Hong Kong, who helped sort me with room and moped, showed me a few restaurants, offered a few sage words of advice, on all sorts.  I like to work by chance meetings, spontaneity, always works. Within one day I was totally set up.  Still very green I broke all kinds of shala rules, Sharath was on my case, but I was so green it showed so much, peaple understood,  it's quite embarassing now. At least I knew my practice well enough.  Glad I went so fresh, no expectations, no worries, no stress, happy like a puppy, wagging tail and all friendly.

What do you think? Do you like to read up and plan before travel or just go?  I have to admit, now that time is more of a premium, I do read up and research a bit now to make the most of my experience, but no strict plans, I like flow, and to be flexible to new openings.  To wander and leave open chances for coincidence to occur.  Often I am so wrapped up in the busy-ness of life I feel that I am missing the flow.

15 Jul 2011

Full Moon Oil Bath

My full moon treat. Been wanting to try the castor oil bath for a long time now, finally a full moon holiday has coincided with a work holiday.

I bought the oil over winter. When it arrived, and I looked into the intricacies of oil bathing I realised it would by nigh on impossible in my sub temperature bathroom. To begin with the oil was in solid form.

Now the climate has turned tropical, it's time. I was surprised at just how sticky this oil is. It took a lot of work to get it through my hair onto my scalp. Left it there for the recommended 5 minutes for first timers before doing the whole body.

Castor oil is said to remove excess heat from the body, to be anti-inflammatory and so is reportedly good for relieving arthritic joints, nerve inflammation and sore muscles. It is healing and cleansing. I also read that it penetrates the skin and helps to stimulate the production of collagen and elastin. All good.

The backs of my knees and lower back became really hot, almost burning, as I massaged the oil in.  Finished with a hot hot shower and lashings of Dr. Bronner's magic soap.  After which I experienced an overiding urge to lay prone on the tatami and sweat, while listening to circadas.  The shower really was hot. I read that the hotter the better to both open pores to absorb the oil, and then to wash it off.

Either way, right now I'm feeling very mellow and particularly well lubricated. Interesting to see how practice goes tomorow.

12 Jul 2011

The man I call my teacher

I've come to think, that a good teacher is simply there to reflect your own strengths and weaknesses, and to offer advice on the way. The clearer this mirror,  that is teacher, the better the effect it has on the student.

Chilled, clean and clear. If the teacher is off kilter the reflection will change, warp slightly. The importance of teachers keeping up a personal practice and keeping that vibe is vital.

Tarik Thami came to visit us in Yamagata. He’s the teacher I see the most, so I guess he is my teacher. I do hate to use the possessive pronoun with people. I hardly ever get to Tokyo, but it is nice to have a teacher that is familiar with my practice. So we Yamagata Ashtangi gathered and practiced.. Been while since I last practiced in a strong group. It was fun. Good energy.

I was having doubts about Ashtanga, thinking maybe it's impossible for me to get past my blockage. Stuck in the same place for years, and now with clonky hips and a painful knee, certainly no lotus here sir. I know it’s not the asana really, but I do like practicing this sequence and love to feel progress along the physical path. I had even thought about not attending, very instantly mind, no way I could miss out! So I joined with the intention of just doing what I am able to.

Three days in a row of Mysore class. No teaching. Just practicing. In hot hot steamy Yamagata. Bliss.

The combination of heat, group energy and a strict teacher watching over seemed to do wonders for my weak willed practice. I could get both legs behind my head. Go figure, had totally laid off even one leg this last month, waiting to heal. I guess the rest worked, no pain, felt good.

Finally made it to Karandavasana.....now I've got some work.. I thought this would be out of the question, what with my no lotus status. But Tarik showed me a way with Bakasana style legs, knees just bent. Ha ha ha, all that Bakasana B I've been doing certainly helped prepare for this version. Ah finally to practice Pincha Mayurasana with a teacher, even tried Pincha to chatuari. Nearly did it twice, and twice thwomped my chin.

I fell like the light shone on me a little, oh I do like to be taught, the luxury having a good teacher around ; )

3 Jul 2011

Envy and Freedom

Been reading, Stretch: The Unlikely Making of a Yoga Dude by Neal Pollack. Has it ever made me chuckle, even out loud on the bus.

Of all the unproductive emotions in the world, none is worse for the soul, none more toxic to creative out put, than envy.

Hmm yeah, so true I thought as the bus sped through the mountains up here in sultry monsoon Yamagata. Have learnt to love this steamy weather.

Been hearing a lot of the same problems from a variety of people, wanting to be themselves, express themselves, live their lives in their way, worried about what others are thinking. Often others are envious. But you don't have to bear this burden. To be on the receiving end of envy is just as torturous as projecting it out there. Japan often strikes me as an envious country, in the petty day to day life. One expression, iina-, which means *I'm so envious* is a phrase that I wish were used less, particuluarly when whined or pouted out. It’s bandied around so flippantly, mindlessly said most of the time, but shows us the mindset.  Language and thought so intimately connected.  I swear my thinking has changed since I start speaking Japanese. That's for another post.

It's summer vacation time. In Japan it is not common for people to take holidays, especially longer then a week for those lucky ones who do. I'm not sure how much this is company policy, or those unwritten unspoken undercurrent rules Japan is so good at.

I just wish people could be people, do what you want, be nice, be kind, work hard and do your thang. Some are good at this, but get the guilts from relatives, co-workers. I know of people who go off secretly so as not to incur the envy of society, careful not to get too tanned, a dead giveaway. The pattern needs to be broken. I do believe everyone needs a vacation now and then, of over a week, two is perfect, to enjoy. Enjoy what ever it is that rocks your boat. Surely all people would like this, so why the jealousy, someone goes, you feel happy for them, knowing next it'll be you.
Here’s the catch 22 – don’t take that paid leave because you feel guilt, people are envious, perhaps because they want paid leave too, but won't go because people will be envious and they will feel guilty. So the cycle continues.A cycle of repression, a samsara, of a sorts, a birth of guilt and a death of freedom.

Freedom is important. Even without the vacation, that’s not really the point, is it? It's about an inner freedom. Bhagavadgita says it perfectly:

A yogi is one who performs his duties in society yet stays free inwardly.

Dropping back from standing into a back bend makes me feel free.

I’m working on them. Decided to add one a day and keep to the inhale exhale, no breaks or fiddling. Ha! Only made it to eight. Well, shall add one every day or so, nice and slow. Body is healing, things are coming back.  Can really feel it one my legs today.  Still needs a lot of work.  Need to relax my face, and neck more, and get those hips forward and stretched out.  Need to come up more through my legs, am relying on my back a bit too much.

Meditation also gives that space, that taste of freedom. I’ll always remember coming back from my first trip to India, shaven head and meditating in a park in my hometown, and feeling free, realizing it was a state of mind. Not bad for 22. Soon forgot in the daily toil. But to experience once is to make a path, to be able to return, hopefully more and more often.

May all beings be happy and free.  As Bruce Lee said: As you think....so shall  you become.

28 Jun 2011

Broken Heart and Backbends

I'd avoided intermediate series for a little while directly after the earthquake, as it is such a heart opening and nerve stimulating practice, I felt I didn't need my heart opened any further when it was already torn to shreds. My heart is open, I have deep empathy and I'll admit I am highly strung,. When I watch the news my heart breaks, every time. It's bad enough for the survivors of the quake, often overcome with feelings of guilt at having survived, when their whole family perished, losing everything they’d worked hard for a whole life, but there is some modicum of focus to rebuild and start again. The destruction was visible, violent, yet it's happened. Over, reconstruction is under way.

It's Fukushima that is shredding my heart to pieces. Every time I see these poor confused, fearful faces on T.V. discussing matters, that until now it was only necessary for nuclear physicists to fully comprehend. There is confusion, and fear. Fear of the unknown, the unseen. The fact is much about radiation is still unknown, we know it is harmful, and that it works in mysterious ways. I have learnt a lot these last few months, we all have. You may say it's their fault for living in close proximity, for allowing these things to be done, but with the force of the government and rich corporations spending big yen to persuade, brain wash people into believing it's safe the regular farmer will go along, trusting the government not to put it's own people at risk. I shall not go into things here, it's not the place, I just want to say it's truly breaking my heart. Fukushima is a beautiful idyllic place. Many of these people work the land, have big old beautiful houses, some with gardens tended over generations, and they are being asked to leave. Or rather in some cases given the choice to leave. Where the radiation levels are clearly maxing out evacuation is mandatory. But where the accumulated dose over a year would equal that of a nuclear power worker's limit, they are given a choice.

I want to offer yogic condolences, suggest reading the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Yoga Sutras, find spiritual comfort and start life anew somewhere else. But these are normal people, attached to their land, possessions, many elderly, planning to live out their years amongst the things they have earnt, worked for and accumulated.

My heart breaks and breaks.

Of course the situation made me look at my life. I had dreams about evacuation, what to take, I was on the bus fleeing from the unseen danger seeping from the nuclear plant. I have been on a minimal possession  route since university. Well it's always been my ideal. however recent years saw this slip and I accumulated. For the past three years I have been steadily reducing, simplifying and clearing. I have no particular bonds to land. I could be happy here, in the UK, in India, the US. For me, on good days, I like to feel the world is my home.

Today was another relatively good practice, as good as it gets with this heavy heart, almost back on form. I try not to dwell, it does no good, but it's tough. Fukushima is our neighbour, I have many friends there. Some sticking it out at their posts, others nearer the plant moving away. One couple are hoping to move here.

To backbend intensely, or not? I feel that my heart needs relief, but is a little sore.

I'm doing minimal at the moment, three from the floor and then about 5 drop backs, it does feel good. Kapotasana was a lovely stretch, hip flexors aching pleasantly today. Haven't taken a photo for a few years, there is a little change. Feet still splayed to stand up, this picture was just before standing up. It's good to see the photographic evidence. Makes it clear where I need to work. My chest and shoulders seem fine, it's those hip flexors that need some attention.  Hmm, more drop backs tomorrow.  Was impressed with Grimmly's 108, I thought I'd go for a modest 35 first.  It looked like it felt sooooo good.

27 Jun 2011

Fragrant Potions

Yesterday I dragged my body, kicking and screaming, through a very difficult intermediate series, like it was a bag of bricks, a screaming bag with sharp corners. Lumpy, heavy and achy. Every emotion decided to raise it's head, and nearly dozed off at one point. Concentration at an all time low. But I made it to the end and felt moderately better for doing so.

Took myself to a hot spring, the bath was amazing, but was not in the mood for being stared at....being a white non-japanese person is still of interest to people here. Reminded me why I don't go out on Sunday's much unless it's up a mountain or in the ocean. I don't like being gawped at. Especially when having a bath.

Next was an aromatherapy class, held by a lady in one of my yoga classes. Glad I went, she taught us how to making a detoxifying massage oil.

I felt like a witch. I've always wanted to be a witch. She told us the properties of five oils good for detoxifying, then we selected the ones we liked, combining and proportions was left to us. Everyone's smelt totally different.

My mixture was:
Cypress: good for calming and soothing anger and irritability, relieving arthritis, cellulite, rheumatism, varicose veins, calms nerves.

Grapefruit: good for muscle fatigue, moodiness, mental and physical tiredness. Muscle stiffness, cellulite and bolstering the nervous system. Helps clear lymphatic system, stimulates and clears toxins.

Juniper: Calms nerves, relieves anxiety and mental exhaustion. Tonic effect on the liver. Relieves inflammation and eliminates uric acid, so relieves pain or rheumatism and arthritis. Good for study, concentration and spiritual awakening.

We were taught how to massage, with a focus on lymph glands and eliminating toxins. Like a good student I followed orders had a bath, drank lots of water and slathered on the oil before bed. Felt nice, smelt good. Had a long deep sleep.

However, it wasn't until I practiced this morning that I noticed I felt a little more bendy, lighter, generally better. Something seemed to work. Shall definitely be trying that again.

22 Jun 2011

Reading recommendations anyone?

Practice before reading the news was good,. Felt much steadier and more enjoyable, not so much craziness in my mind to calm first thing in the day. Instead I finished off the Bhagavadgita with morning tea. Such a slim text, but dense, perfect pre-practice reading. 

Think I shall have to restrict my news intake to basic checks once a day. It's just that I like to know, to know what's going on, and then why? What are the effects, what's happening around me. It's just that there is SO much bad news right now. It's overwhelming. The papers hop around from crisis to crisis.

The other morning I spent reading a text summerising A LOT of Chernobyl research, the final chapter: Decorporation of Chernobyl Radionuclides was of particular interest...hmmmm well information is power.

Time for a rest.

However living an area with the biggest nuclear crisis in history unfolding is tough. Even without the news my equanimity is disturbed. A visit from a friend with radiation on his mind, followed by a visiting student to class. His face look disturbed and his practice was intense, he hung around to chat. He was from a radiation hot spot area, there is a certain look of intense stress and ingrained fear that these people wear, very distinct expression. He is looking for a place to move to. We talked and talked. I tried to keep my mind from racing off into fear. Need to keep clear, to read the situation. Think he needed to talk, he face lightened a little and I could see his real self. Tough times, tough conversations, soul searching and decision making. At the end of our talk he asked where I was from and then told me I had a very eastern perspective on things.

So I shall continue to monitor the radiation here, and pray with all my might that something can be done to get this under control. Pray also that people have the power to do what they need to do.

The Bhagavadgita lent me inspiration of a strange bent, but the words resonated and offered a degree of comfort. These are the parts that resonated this time round, wonder what will next time I read it. 

Anyone read a particularly good translation? I have a feeling there maybe some better ones out there. And think I could read another version quite happily. What other inspirational books do people read? Or maybe I should just stick to escaping into novels again......

Set thy heart upon thy work, but never on its reward. Work not for a reward; but never cease to work.

A harmony in eating and resting, in sleeping and keeping awake; a perfection in whatever one does. This is the Yoga that gives peace from all pain.

The man who has a good will for all, who is friendly and has compassion; who has no thoughts of 'I' or 'mine', whose peace is the same in pleasures and sorrows, and who is forgiving;

He whose peace is not shaken by others, and before whom other people find peace, beyond excitement and anger and fear - he is dear to me.

The man whose love is the same for his enemies or his friends, whose soul is the same in honour or disgrace, who is beyond heat or cold, or pleasure or pain, who is free from the chains of attachments.

Freedom from the chains of attachments; even from a selfish attachment to one's children, wife, or home; an ever-present evenness of mind in pleasant or unpleasant events;

Intermediate, no krama insertions today. But full standing sequence, love the homey feel of it, and it felt good to do a more 'pure' practice for once. Still pain at times, and still definitely no leg behind head or lotus. But as I said I am concentrating on what I can do.  Shall do more Krama on days when I can practice for longer.

21 Jun 2011

That's better

Haa, feels like a breath of fresh air not to be writing on black anymore.  I am very much NOT a black person, and I really think my blog colour was having an effect on me. 

I really do believe, and feel the effect colours have on us, I love to have bright, airy colours around me.  Why oh why did I do the black blog for sooo long. 

Today's practice was cramped and forced, I really wasn't in the mood, so I did standing, slowly, slowly, slowly and a long savasana.  Felt good.  I must also change my morning routine.  I think I need to get on the mat before I check the news and take a look at the radiation levels.  It\s become a habit I am not too fond of.  Morning routines can really set the scene for the day, don't you think?  Think news after breakfast is probably a better idea right now.

Ahhh blue blog.  Feels good.

20 Jun 2011

Charity Yoga

Yesterday we gathered up the mountain for an early summer solstice celebration. Two days early because more people can come on a Sunday, and I wanted to donate proceeds to the earthquake fund. Last year we gathered on the solstice, at 5.30am, but this year it was a much easier time of 7.30am.  It was a god turn out, a big cirlce under an octagonal roof on the side of Mt. Zao.

We practiced a simple sequence, many sun salutations, then some pranayama finishing with a meditation. To charge us, keep spirits and bodies strong, and send out some much needed good vibes into the world. It was nice to see people from my different classes get to sit down and talk together, all having yoga in common, they chatted and shared and communicated. That's what it's all about. A community of beautiful spirits, sharing experiences on this path we walk. I randomly put people into groups, as with a group of that size people tend to stick to who they already know and topics they always share.  I wondered around joining in the group sessions, some good conversations going on, every little group had it's own vibe, some very serious, others more spiritual, all good, we talked about spontaneity, mystical experiences, home practice, consumer power, varied as the people that participated. Think we all felt the joy and comfort of a yoga community.

When everyone went home, I sat by a lake, still by myself for a while, reflecting on the morning. I often wish I were a participant of classes, as I don't get the full experience, having to keep the class going, watching time, trying to make things go smooth and fun. I hope it worked for everyone. The chai was a little too sweet perhaps, and shockingly I forgot our finishing mantra, oh well, organising these events, like anything else takes practice.

Oh and today I could donate 40,000yen to Red Cross. Every little helps, and a lot of help is needed.

Om Shanti.

18 Jun 2011

Playing yoga

Something is working.  Last weekend just walking hurt, going up and down stairs was very painful and had to hop and skip to take the weight off my right leg.  But now,  I can walk up and down pain free. Even sit in a loose half lotus, good leg in lotus.  An effective combination of time, yoga and supplements, given to me by a riend hyaloronic acid, collagen and other stuff pills, seems to be doing the trick...perhaps.

Practice is fun again. I have made an intermediate based sequence to work on for a while until things are back to normal.

Working on: leg strengthening, particularly glutes and quads.

Avoiding: lotus, externally rotating thigh bends (janu sirasana type), legs behind head until hip settles, and kapotasana for a little while due to the strain it puts on my nobbly knees.

For now it's standing asana for eight long breaths, minus parsvokasana and ardha baddha padmotanasana, replaced with standing eagle...which I love, and works all the places I want to get to right now. Always wish this were in the Ashtanga sequence, something about it, the focus and windy-roundy-ness of it.

Then onto Krama yoga's bow sequence, which I am thoroughly enjoying, bakasana, pincha murayasana, followed by attempts at vrishchikasana and mayurasana for fun. Scorpion is one of those I've always wanted to do, so while hips and knees are out of action shall keep focusing on what asana are left to me. Back bending and dropbacks still good, so finishing sequence is intact, finishing with extra long headstand and variations ending up with pranayama.

The whole point of this yoga for me right now is to continue with practice, to regain strength, peace of mind, and to enjoy it. To not get attached to achieving certain goals. Have had to let go of my dwi pada (both legs behind head) aspirations for a little while.

But feel like my practice has taken on a new lease of life, like I've just got a little freer while I iron out these physical kinks and see what can be done.  I am so happy just to be practicing pain free. I feel like I'm playing.