Monday, November 23, 2009

First Practice with Saraswati

First practice at the shala today since the official opening. Saraswati gave me 3 adjustments today. :)

It was funny coz when I rocked up at 5.40am to the shala, there was a huge crowd in front of the store downstairs. Turns out one of the teachers only had the zap-card for the lift, but not for the balcony, and no one had keys to the store where there's another entrance to the shala, and no one else there had keys to the emergency exit on the side either... So... so many doors but no way to get in! All part of the opening-sorting-themselves-out mayhem.

In the end, Eileen showed up with Saraswati & Sharmila and she had all the necessary keys and we trooped upstairs to get settled.

Saraswati had a chair she sat on next to the altar (Sharath did this too when he was here, I find this really cute) and rose from it to start with the opening chant.

Oh man! Her chant was so melodic! It still sounds nothing like the "western interpretation" of the chant where it sounds like it's in a major key... her chant was in a minor key, but you could actually hear a beautiful melody in it! I was trying to follow her tune, but got drowned out and lost by the other people who were either singing off-key or singing it the way they'd always sung it... y'know, the "western" way. It's hard to articulate this difference but it's so jarringly obvious once you hear it. (And you know how there's a school of thought that believes you need to hit the right notes precisely or the intention of whatever chant it is you're singing doesn't actually come through, right? Perhaps this is my obsession with "getting it right")

But I digress.

After the chant, people were a little unsure what was next - was it a led class? A mysore class? There was a slight hesitation while we waited for her to say "Ekam - Inhale"... but that never came. So then some started with their Suryas, and away we went.

Saraswati sat back in her chair and watched people in their Suryas. She got up maybe 5 minutes later to help with some beginners then didn't get back to her chair again.

People were a little hesitant if they should be practising Second or Primary series, and some people actually stopped after Parsvottanasana to run up to her and ask what they should do next! It seemed like if she knew you, you could practice Second, but if she didn't know you, she asked you to stick to Primary.

Sharmila was also working the room with her mother. Another of our teacher's assistants was also in the room, but only observing, she didn't give adjustments.

I was sailing along with no problems, then came to Supta Kurmasana. Urgh. That stupid, stupid bind. Or lack of. I've only ever ONCE got 3 fingers to touch on my own (and that was after teacher helping to get legs higher over shoulders). It's not happened since, I still need someone to help pull my arms together before I can bind. I wondered if anyone would come over to help.

My friend M was practising next to me (she usually has a bad-ass 2nd series practice, but was doing Primary today), and we had a similar pace throughout the class. So she was also in Kurmasana at this point, ready to go into Supta K. Usually Teacher or an assistant would come over at this point and help with the bind (they'd tell you to wait there till they could come over to assist if they were busy with someone else).

So we both looked up at the same point and saw each other, wondering if we should continue holding till someone came over or just try to bind into the pose. You know me and my lack of patience... I thought "Might as well just try this solo, right? These ladies seem busy."

This asana brings up so much frustration and anger in me.

Struggled with trying bring my legs higher up the arms so I could get more of my shoulders under... could feel my hands flailing around behind my back - I could feel the wind between my fingers so I knew I was close, but it just wouldn't touch.


Still no help came.

So I flopped down with straight legs again into Kurmasana (I read that some people would do this over and over again in Mysore until someone came over to assist. So I figured, why the hell not. I wasn't going anywhere on my own anyway and I didn't want to move on until I got a bind). I felt like a child throwing a tantrum even though I was just laying there in Kurmasana. Funny thing innit, perception?

(Photo credit here)

Still no help came.

FARK! So I tried again. By this time, my friend M had already done her thing and had moved on, don't think she could've been bothered to wait. Interestingly, the second Kurmasana felt more open, and the second attempt at Supta Kurmasana was just a tad bit better. My middle fingers were super close, I could feel them almost touching each other (the "wind" between them again). But in my mind, I was giving them both the middle finger. Get it? My middle fingers were giving each other the middle finger. OK, bad joke. I was just so OVER IT by now. Just goddamn get the bind, dammit!

And then at last! Saraswati came over and hauled my arms together. And got my legs over the head. She's fast, no-nonsense and it felt like everything was happening so fast! My feet weren't hooked over each other properly though, so lifting up through Dwi Pada to Tittibhasana was SLOPPY. The feet just came loose midway through my lift up.

Sailed through until Urdvha Mukha Paschimottanasana - she was assisting my friend M, and I hadn't realized she was anywhere near me when I suddenly felt another squish from behind - she really got my face in there good between my legs (again - SO FAST!)

And the last assist was with dropbacks.

Ever since my dropback headbutt, I've been afraid to attempt to drop to the floor on my own again. I've been doing hangbacks at the Limbo-Rock point... I do about 3, then stop in an attempt to "conserve energy" for proper assisted dropbacks. So I stopped after the 3 hangbacks.

Saraswati came round. I was a bit fearful coz she's a lot shorter than me! I had a doubt creep up "Are you gonna drop me coz you're shorter than me?" but then just went with it. She only let my fingertips brush the floor the first 3 dropbacks. Then she got me to cross my arms on my chest and dropback again another 3 times with arms on chest (I thought this is what the Intermediate cool kids do?) And then one last dropback, this time with hands fully on the floor, then she asked me to walk hands in as far as I could.

I think this was the number of counts per dropback, I can't be sure though coz it was all new and my mind was a bit fuzzed to remember fully.

To be honest, I didn't push it all the way here in this last dropback to the floor coz I had no idea what to expect next and again, was "conserving energy" in case she wanted me to do it again. My heart felt like it was gonna explode through my chest though, don't think I could've pushed myself any further even if I tried!

And that was it! My 3 Saraswati adjustments. Didn't get any Sharmila adjusts.

Oh... and after I was done, I looked up, and there was Saraswati doing assisted dropbacks with a HUGE guy who was probably twice her height, but she had absolutely no problems at all. It ain't about the teacher's height, y'all. Trust in their wisdom & experience.

The End.


  1. Excellent reporting!!!
    So fun! This is so juicy for the yogadorks.

    About anger in a pose, I can totally relate. I was talking to my teacher about how we should all keep yoga journals (records, really, not in depth psychoanalysis) so that the proof of progression is on the page. I don't give certain postures a second thought, but if you had asked me a few years ago, I might have been in a rage about them!

    You'll get Supta K and never look back. Sounds like you're very close (and good for you for continuing to try).

    I can drop back my 180 lb beefcake boyfriend, so it's possible for mismatched sizes and heights to pull of the assist (though, there was a learning curve where I dropped him a few times! ha ha ha!)

  2. Y'know how people say hip openers release all these emotions? I've never really felt that much in the pigeon poses. But in Supta K - that's when the Incredible Hulk within really comes out. I struggle with keeping even breaths here and I feel like I'm about to explode. This is when I attempt the pose on my own though. When I get help binding into it, I'm actually OK.

    Interestingly - I didn't use to feel this way even when getting help with binding into it. I remember feeling like exploding every time Teacher wrapped me up. Even that first time she got me to lift up in Dwi Pada... I was so uncomfortable and irritated I couldn't stand the pose.

    But it's feeling different now and I'm liking that tight feeling of being bound now (to the point where I don't want to move on if I don't get a tight bind & a nice lift to tittibhasana! haha!) ... so baby steps, I guess.

  3. So much fun that you get to pracice with Saraswati such a short time after the Sharat-workshop!

    As Liz said, Supta K will come. I can do the bind now, either if I put myself into it with the legs behind the head first, or if the teacher takes my feet. If I lie in kurmasana, just trying to gather my feet towords my head, I still don't reach. How does Saraswati (or your regular teacher) give the assist when she gets you from kurmasana to supta k? Some teachers will lift the right leg a bit first, closer to the head, then the left, before getting your hands together and then going back to the legs and getting those behind the head. When (if) they do this first lift, try to reach the same arm as the leg behind and up your back, and vice versa on the other side. The lifting takes a bit of weight off the shoulder and should make it easyer to bind.

    As for the hip openers/emotions thing, I don't really think that's the case. I think it's more likely that those poses that hurt or make you feel uncomfortable will inevitably release some frustration and emotions. I have open hips myself, and never felt uncomfortable or emotional in f.ex. pigeon. A lot of people do have tight hips though, and will feel the pain and frustration while trying to intensify those poses...

  4. So exciting. I'm curious about Shamila as never known anyone who has studied with her. I'd never even seen a picture until you posted.

    When I was in mysore a couple of years back I could not do Supta Kurmasana solo and used to repeat it until Sharath arrived. It was January so very busy. Sometimes I would be in Kurmasana forever but he expected me to wait and told me off in his own funny way, if I tried to move on. As everyone has said sounds like you will be doing it solo in no time especially with all the help and repeats!

    I read a book called the molecules of emotion a few months ago. Interesting book, basically we have receptors for different emotions all over the body not just the brain. For me it was an interesting scientific explanation of the emotional release you are discussing.

    Also I think Gledespiken has a point in that the frustrations we feel can bring up stuff for us. So glad to have the practice in my life. Sorry for the long comment,your post was great and thought provoking as always.

  5. Hey G, yeah my teacher does it like you explained - except with left leg first then right. And also when the leg is first raised over the shoulder, she's also pushing the shoulder under at the same time. Really helps to get hands to bind after that. Then after the arm bind, she goes back to putting legs further behind head.

    Like Helen, I fully believe in the body storing emotions. I have no scientific proof, I just believe it! I experienced it while on that 7-day detox fast - during one of the colonic sessions. Maybe there's a scientific explanation for it, but oh man, it must have been some emotion that ran DEEP coz the emotional release that came from it was from deep down inside somewhere. Who knows what that was all about.

    Apparently Sharmila teaches in Bangalore, that's what I heard.


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