Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Today's Little Triumphs

Since I got into the habit of not blogging regularly, I've become ultra-lazy about blogging... and er... it's been a while hasn't it?

A lot has happened in the past few weeks... I went back to Singapore to visit friends and family, and after returning back to Sydney, Kelly's mom came to visit so I've been busy doing touristy things with her while Kelly's been at work. Will have more photos in the next few days (or maybe weeks - this is my disclaimer here!)

But anyways, I went to one of the famous ashtanga yoga teachers here in Sydney this morning and wanted to talk about it... Hauled my ass out of bed at 6am, took a bus and got to Bondi around 7am. The studio's called Yoga Moves and the teacher is Eileen Hall. She and the rest of her teachers came highly recommended by my ashtanga teachers back in Singapore so I thought I'd give it a bash.

In case you're unfamiliar with ashtanga, it's basically a fixed series of poses you flow through with your breath leading the way, linking each pose. In the traditional style in Mysore (where ashtanga came from in India), you practice in your own time and the teacher moves around and adjusts you to either take you deeper in your practice, or to correct you in the posture, or even give you a new pose that's next in the sequence (if teacher feels you're ready for it). So if you showed up at any time between 6am - 9am, the entire room could be full of students at various points in the sequence, doing their own thing.

When I first turned up and walked up the stairs to the studio, all I could hear was Ujjayi breathing - the glorious "victorious breath", a deep hissing sound made by constricting the back of the throat as you breathe through your nostrils. Kinda sounded like a room full of Darth Vaders! After turning the corner at the top of the steps, I almost made an about-turn beeline for the door again... the studio was packed to the brim with people and their heaving bodies... there was probably at most 2 inches of space between each yoga mat and I instantly felt claustrophobic. I've been doing purely self-practice on my own at home since moving to Sydney and used to the peace & quiet, so this scene in front of me was a complete shock to my system.

A part of my brain just dug its heels in and said "you're doing this, no turning back". So I tiptoed round to a spot that had just opened up. Since I was there around 7ish, the first group of students who had been there from 6am were just about wrapping up their practice and headed for the shower. In a strange sort of way, practicing in that claustrophobic group environment really energized me... for some reason I felt stronger today, even though it's been about a week since my last proper ashtanga practice.

I've been working on grabbing my hands behind me in Marichyasana D - because of my busted knee on one side, I've tended to take it easy in that pose, but recently decided that I need to make more of an attempt to actually get into the pose or I'll never do it. This is what it looks like:

(Photo credit: http://www.birmingham-yoga4u.co.uk/)

He makes it look so easy. His right leg on one side is in lotus, jammed into his hip/ pelvis, and it's that twist that happens at the same time that makes you feel like someone's punched you in the abdomen and its knocked the wind out of you. If you can get over that and still reach round and bind the hands around the left knee behind you... you're apparently ready to take on the Intermediate series of the Ashtanga sequence (well, at least the first pose in the Intermediate series, anyways). I've never been able to do it on my own before, but today... my fingers touched! OK, not quite a hand-bind, but it's the beginning of something at least!

And also today for the first time, I got a complete bind in Supta Kurmasana! Hands bound AND feet around head! Teacher had to help bind me in the pose, but I could finally stay there on my own, fully bound for the 5 breaths, with no cheats or slipping out of the bind before the 5 breaths. YIPPEE!!

(Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/mastapiannis/245913906/)

And now... well, life goes on, I suppose. But it's just 2 mini triumphs for today. :)

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