Monday, October 26, 2009

Sharath in Sydney: Week 1, Day 1

Wow. I woke up at my usual time to get to mysore practice in Bondi this morning, since it's the same train line to get to where Sharath's workshop is taking place. It said class starts at 6am, with registration open from 5.15am. So I figured by the time I got there around 5.40am (rough estimation), I should still be OK.

I didn't realize how GUNGHO Sydney ashtangis are. I got there as estimated, with a good 20 minutes to go... but the ENTIRE hall was pretty much packed to the rafters already. I had to set my mat up in the first row (where no one else would venture). I didn't mind since I usually like practising in the front of the shala - less distractions when all you've got is a wall in front of you. In this case, I had a window with a lovely view of the yachts in Rushcutters Bay.

There were about 100 - 120 people in Drill Hall. It's a really interesting building - looks like it used to be someone's boat shed which they've now converted into a dance hall. So you've got lovely high ceilings, but shocking bright white lights like in a school gym. And inside the hall, they've built a raised dance floor leaving about 1 metre around the edges of the building in its original condition. (I dunno why I notice these things, but perhaps it's because I was right in front and had space to leave my stuff in this 1-metre sunken space, I found it rather amusing)

(Oh look, it's classified by the National Trust of Australia. Read its history here.)

Oh dear, I've gone into another history lesson.

So... how was Day 1?

I'm still processing but my first impressions:
1. Sharath has a sense of humour.
We heard someone crashing into someone else in Prasarita Padotanasana (I think it was around the B or C variation), and he said "Hey, no chakrasana now!")

And of course in the 5th Navasana he counts for longer which got everyone in stitches.

2. L-O-N-G counts!
Maybe it's coz I'm whizzing through my morning practice in order to make it to work on time and have got used to a faster pace (full primary in 1hr 15min or 1hr 20min, depending how long I take in Savasana). But OH MAN. His 5 breath count is double my usual count! Which is good though coz it forced me to slow down (time and again, many teachers have kept telling me to "SLOW THE BREATH!")

For most of today this was OK, but I really felt it in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana (all variations of it) and found myself thinking "OK, come now hurry up with the counting!"... oh, and of course I also felt it in Navasana.

Uthpluti - 10 L-O-N-G and super slooooooow counts. (I usually manage about 25 regular breaths but I was shaking by the end of his 7th or 8th counts and had to come down a few times).

3. Timing the breath
I can't remember when the last led class was that I took, but I really enjoyed having somebody count out each breath. It made me extremely aware of lengthening each inhale & exhale, and always coming back to the breath. I guess this is why some people practice with a metronome.

It took me the first few Surya's to work out where the count was. As in "is ONE on the inhale, in between inhale/ exhale or on the exhale?" ...and kinda figured his count was on the exhale or towards the end of the breath as in: Inhale-Exhale (ONE)... Inhale-Exhale (TWO)... only coz I got caught out in the first Surya A when everyone was jumping forward right after he'd counted FIVE but I was still on my 5th exhale scrambling to finish up and jump forward.

4. What comes on the inhale/ exhale now?
I realized today how I've gotten a little sloppy with mysore practice. As in: he had precise instructions for "Inhale: do something", "Exhale: do something". And I guess when practising on my own I sometimes gloss over these things. Like when we came to all the supta poses towards the end. He kept saying "lie down" after each vinyasa and stopping people from putting their legs over their heads first. Not until he counted "Inhale, legs behind" (can't remember what exactly he said now for this instruction, but you get the idea).

5. Sanskrit
OK - so I know most of the Sanskrit names for each asana but today it felt like going from Sanskrit 101 to Sanskrit 102 (OK, maybe a Sanskrit 201 class). Each count was in Sanskrit... now I have to learn the NUMBERS too?! Except when he got to holding within each pose, which was an English count.

What I found cute was the way he said "eight". "SIX... SEVEN... YYYATE... NINE..."

The one thing I'm still trying to work out if it's coz of his accent or if he's saying it in Sanskrit and I'm not understanding... I'm not sure now, but in the seated postures when it comes to the vinyasas, I always thought it was Inhale-Lift Up, Exhale-Jumpback to Chaturanga. But I could've sworn today he kept saying "Exhale-lift up"... which got me a bit confused.

I've just checked Arjuna's site for the counts and he also lists Inhale-Up, Exhale-Chaturanga... so maybe I'm not comprehending what Sharath is saying here. Anyone care to comment on this?

Oh my goodness, Miss Longwinded has struck again. I think it's coz I obviously had a great time. I didn't have any adjustments from him - he adjusted the guy next to me in Marichyasana A and it's quite imposing having him count right next to your ear. That's as close as I got to an adjustment but hey... I have 13 more days to go!

Oh yeah, the one thing I found myself thinking was this: because of the longer counts, I'm working a little harder than I usually work, and in some poses I found myself thinking "Pace Yourself! Don't floor it on Day 1 and kill yourself later!" OK... so I've got 13 more days to go, but isn't the point of it to also take yourself to your edge (whatever the heck that means), and see how far you can go? I'm still trying to figure out how "hard" I should "work"... kind of viewing this like a marathon for now.

Ahhhh... good start to my Tuesday. Happy days. :)


  1. I was right up the back - (and by gosh I won't go into my own observations because it would be ANOTHER whole blog-length. Best if I restrain myself to twitter :) - but I completely agree with you on utpluthi, navasana and "it's only Day 1"!

    PS. Sounds like arriving to find only the front row free was perfect! I also love just having the wall to look at, but you got the view of the bay - gorgeous!

  2. Oh please post your thoughts too, Miss Om! Wanna know how it went for you too. Ashtangikali found me in the front and we got chatting before class and were wondering if we'd see you today... I'll try to practice near the front again tomorrow - see you then? ;p

  3. Great observations, Skippetty! I've practiced with Sharath many times, including in Sydney, and always get a kick outta his loooooong counts in the toughest poses.

    By all means, pace yourself. Overdoing it will only get you injured (I speak from experience).

    Yes, the 'take-it-up' is done on the inhale; 'take-it-back' on the exhale.

    Would love to hear how the rest of the time goes for you...keep writing, k?


  4. Hey there! I've been off blog reading for a bit, but I'm back. This entry was so fun and juicy! Thank you! Not long-winded at all. You know we all love the details.

    Manju came to Austin several years ago and I went. He counted 10 breaths in each pose. It was horrific. The slow count is a killer. I would have been shaking in Navasana! No way to cheat! ha ha!

    Have fun and keep reporting!

  5. Hey Rupali, thanks for your comment! Oooh, maybe that's what he said "take it up" that I didn't get. Will listen out for it again tomorrow and report back. Was exhaling on the lift up and thinking "this doesn't feel right but I should just listen to him for now". Haha, should've known better.

    Heya Liz - been reading about how busy you've been, so I'm honoured you still checked back here. And only yoga dorks would have found this post un-longwinded. (my other non-yoga friends have described it as "intense". hahaha)

  6. Don't worry, we're all yoga dorks here :) Great blogging!

    You get two weeks!! Lucky. Although with 2s, that might have killed me lol

    It seems like the old way to vinyasa was inhale look up, exhale release, inhale pick up, exhale chaturanga. But now it is most definitely inhale look up, exhale release, pick up, chaturanga. I don't mind it, but IMO it's a bit fast for any relative beginners in the group....

    Look forward to reading more, thanks :)

  7. Hey Susananda! I've been following your blog for a while and inspired by your practice (liked your posts when you went to Sharath's workshop not too long ago too!) He's doing led primary for both weeks and also doing led intermediate in the 2nd week. Last week he was in Bali and I know a whole bunch of Ozzies from my shala were also there... which means they'd be getting 3 weeks practice with him in all. (Sydney Ashtangis = GUNGHO!)

    So... you mean you ARE supposed to lift up on the exhale? Wow, that's pretty groundbreaking for me. Does everyone else also practice it this new way?

  8. Okay, so Iiiii inhale look up, exhale release, inhale lift, exhale jump back, inhale up dog, exhale down dog...

    (and you'd have seen my observations on my twitter :) I'd go all out and post full details, but I've got essays, negotiations and exams to prepare for!!)

    I'll keep an eye out for your white-silver pedi tomorrow!

  9. I'm in awe at this other world of yours and do love reading all the comments.
    Very intense!
    Gaye x

  10. SO much fun to read about your experiences! Hope day 2 was just as great (depite your burning thighs...!)
    When I saw him in London I loved that he had a sense of humouor too though I did wonder if a truck-load of devout ashtangis are a pretty easy crowd to induce giggles in? as I think I said to Miss_om earlier I found the count reeeeally slow too but apparently in Mysore the count is super-fast these days so I'm not sure what that's all about! Anyway you mentioned the metronome - you really must try it, I took a workshop a few weeks ago with it and it definitely impacts on your practice. But the good thing is having done it once it brings you back to your breath, so you don't have to keep on practicing with the tick-tick-tick (which would probably drive you loopy!). looking forward to hearing about the days to come, especially conference - after susananda's conference blog they are big shoes to fill!! xx

  11. Hey Gaye! yeah... um... they say lots of Type A personality-types are drawn to Ashtanga. So... yeah... Intense! :p

    Mel - his conference here's this Friday. But at 5pm! So I'm trying to see how much earlier I can take off from work to get there. Nothing will compare to Susan's great report on the London conference. And now that I've been sitting at my desk for the last 2hrs in the aircon, my burning thighs from this morning are now numb.


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