Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sharath in Sydney: Week 1, Day 5

Sharath & I walked past each other as he was leaving today. He said something but I didn't realize he was speaking to me, until he tapped my arm and repeated what he said.

"You hold all the way tomorrow. Headstand - you hold for all the counts tomorrow."

EEEEEK! (I had a BOO! IT'S HALLOWEEN! moment) Has he been reading this blog or what?!? (haha, yeah right) ...Or maybe he's just noticed this is the one pose I'm going balls to the walls with. WOW. I'm impressed (if you've been following my reports since Day 1, or is it Day 2... you'll know what I mean).

Today's headstand - I held up to 6 of his loooooooong counts (he goes up to 15), came down for a couple counts, then went back up again for another 3, almost 4, counts.

Then with legs at 90 degrees, he usually counts for 10. I've been too winded to even bother here and been resting in child's. Up until today - I held at 90 degrees for 5 counts! Geewhiz, it really is a mind over matter thing innit? (what he said about our bodies are strong but minds are weak - has really stuck, and I guess I'm trying harder).

Hmm... maybe eagle-eyed Sharath noticed this today?

So... it's not quite a physical adjustment, but definitely a verbal prod to adjust my mindset.

Even better. :)

PS. They were selling "R. Sharath World Tour 09" Tshirts today. I bought one that said "Eat More Chepatis!" coz I absolutely loved that story from yesterday's conference. It still cracks me up!

Sharath in Sydney: Conference

As promised, here's my little report on his conference last night. Some of you are chomping at the bit to hear about it... I will try as much as I can not to mangle what he said (though I'll be paraphrasing all of the time). Will try to follow Susananda's lovely reporting style on his recent UK conference since I enjoyed it very much.

He started with an opening chant (I have no idea what!), and then a talk on the practice of yoga. Umm... yes, I took notes (I have to, otherwise it's in one ear and out the other!).
[Update] This was the Opening chant: "Agnyaana Timiraandhasya Gnyaana Anjana Shalaakayaa Chakshuhu Unmeelitam Yenam Tasmai Sri Gurave Namaha"

A Guru can save us from the pangs of ignorance (darkness) by applying to us the balm of knowledge or awareness of the Supreme, I salute such a Guru.

The talk kinda sorta touched on the following:

Yoga came from the rishis in order to help them attain higher consciousness. He talked about the importance of the 8 limbs of yoga - where Ashtanga gets its name. We must follow the Yoga Sutra's 8 limbs step-by-step, building from the foundation up.

Hence, starting with the Yamas & Niyamas (guidelines on how to live your life), before progressing onto asana, pranayama, pratyhara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi.

Asana is the foundation - we use this to purify the body and the mind, then the next step is pranayama and so on and so forth. By doing so, your organs come under your sense control. The purpose of doing asanas is so "the practice should change you."

This is why the Ashtanga system is complete in incorporating asana, pranayama, drishti, following the 8 limb path.

People say things like "I only do meditation, but not asana"... but how can you sit still with your mind if you haven't learnt how to control it through asana? Doing so is just sitting, not meditating [this might rile some people up!] Asana is one limb to connect to the rest. All the limbs are important, you can't practice only one without the rest.

An interesting point he touched on when talking about the Niyama "Svadhyaya" (self inquiry) is it's important to think about "what is yoga"... get more knowledge from the practice, to sit, think, read about it. He talked about Guruji's famous quote of "Yoga is 99% practice, 1% theory"... this "practice" does not refer to just physical practice... it refers to your self-inquiry of svadhyaya.

Then he spoke of the importance of lineage/ the role of the guru (don't freak out! "Guru" here simply means teacher). For everything, there is a way to do it. To fully understand and learn, you must stick with the same teacher and have faith in his/ her method. There are exercise videos & books you can learn from, but energy doesn't transfer if you just watch.

Even Krishnamacharya read many books but couldn't find any teacher to learn yoga from. He finally heard of a yogi, Ramana Mohan Brahmachari (let's call him RMB from now), who lived at the foot of a mountain (or was it a forest?) but when he went to see him to ask him to teach him yoga, RMB refused to see him for a few days, only sending his son out on the second day with 2 chepatis (flat bread). Krishnamacharya said "I'm not here to eat chepatis, I want to learn yoga". [giggles ensue] So he passed the test and learned from RMB for the next 7 years.

His point was that these days people learn a few months from this teacher, then another few months from another teacher, then after that coming up with their own "system"... there's no depth to their knowledge when they don't stick to one lineage/ method. People can offer teacher trainings for a few months, claim to teach you pranayama or meditation in one class, tell you you can reach samadhi. People go to different gurus to learn different things, but this will only confuse you. Go to one teacher.

He related a story where he sat next to a lady on a flight and he asked her what she did. She said "I'm a yoga teacher". Everyone burst out laughing. Someone chirped "What did you tell her what you did?" Sharath replied "Nothing, she didn't ask me."

Question & Answer session.
Q: Do you find Westerners different, more easily distracted?
A: You are more distracted because you have more distractions in the West. You go to different gurus. Ultimately it's up to you to decide. But follow the rishis, who followed one teacher. India has a more disciplined life, but there are different kinds of attachments/ non-attachments. Many Western students have been able to adopt a disciplined life too.
[This reminded me of something I read somewhere (Heart of Yoga?) where Krishnamacharya refused to teach Western students for the longest time, thinking they weren't disciplined enough. This kinda makes sense why now, looking at it from the 8 limbs point-of-view]

Q: How long should the primary series take to practice?
A: 1 hour 30min, 1 hour 35 minutes. Anything more and you'll be tired.
[No wonder we've been more tired so far... each led class had averaged 1hr 45min!] :p

Q: What do you think about the use of props?
A: No props! For chikitsa, to cure diseases, if you can't walk, then yes OK for props use. But all of you are healthy and physically able - why do you need props
[Hmm... I smell a debate on this one]

Q: What's the best time to practice? / Should you practice at the same time every day?
A: Early morning is the best time. Less distractions, the mind is pure. 3.30am - 5am is best. I had to practice with my grandfather at 1.30am. If you wait till later in the day, your mind will be distracted by what has already happened that day.

Q: Is there such a thing as "positive attachment"? Isn't any kind of attachment bad? What if I am too attached to my yoga practice?
A: Attachment to your practice is good. It's a different kind of attachment. Can you survive without food? This is just like how you need yoga. If you don't practice, you get distracted and you get sick mentally.

Q: Do you feel a burden having to carry on your Grandfather's work?
A: There's no burden if it's not a burden. [what an awesome answer!] I was on my way to getting my electronics engineering degree. But my mother called and said "please come and help your grandfather, he's too busy". I planned to be there only for one month to help him, but once I started, I knew I was to be a yoga teacher.

Q: I love yoga and I know this is my path, but I don't want to teach. Is this wrong?
A: Yoga is for your spiritual knowledge. Yoga helps you in your work. Yoga helps you in your life. You don't have to be a teacher. The teacher's path is hard.

Then we closed off with a chant honouring Guruji.
[UPDATE] Thanks, @Ashtangikali for what both chants were, including translations:
"Om Sahana Bhavatu, Sahanao Bhunaktu Sahaveeryam Karvaa vahaiand
Tejaswee Naava Dheeta Mastu Ma Vidvishaa vahai Om Shanti Shanti Shanti"

I pray that you help me teach, you help me learn. May our study be brilliant and may we not misunderstand! Om Peace, Peace, Peace!

And we also chanted the also the Closing Prayer again, wishing peace & happiness to all beings on earth.

I was struck by his matter-of-factness. There was nothing high-faluting or esoteric at all about how he explained things. It was a "this is just how it is" manner about it. He's got a quiet calm about him, is earnest and serious in his discussions, but also cracks the odd joke (I like!) and he's soooooo down to earth and humble.

A very inspiring teacher. When's the next flight to Mysore again?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sharath in Sydney: Week 1, Day 4

"You physically strong. But the mind is weak."

So says Rangaswamyji aka Sharath at the end of Uthpluthi today.

He counted "One", and paused for about 5 counts before people started giggling in anticipation of the "Two" that didn't come. He probably held for another 5 counts before he decided to go into "Two".

Funny thing is, I've been starting to feel the same way about my practice in the past couple of days. And it hit home when I heard him say it this morning. (I mean this in the most positive way, even though what he said sounds kinda hardcore.)

Today was a decidedly inward-focussed practice. Maybe I'm tired. Maybe the excitement about being there, having everything fresh, shiny & new is wearing off already, and I'm really starting to get focussed on my practice groove.

I could've sworn I was closing my eyes quite a bit today - in most of the seated forward bends especially, but I think maybe my eyes were open (Hello drishti!), but my mind was in the zone. (I was going to say "my mind was somewhere else". But it was definitely there, yet it wasn't. I'm finding it hard to articulate this now, I hope you get what I'm saying).

Today's headstand was decidedly stronger. Held for 6 of his counts, came down, then went back up again for another of 2 of his counts. OK, seeing how I came down at his 4th count yesterday, I'm pretty pleased with myself. Besides, this was the first time in a loooooong time that my biceps were burning in headstand towards the end, so OK, slowly but surely I'm going somewhere. Who knows, tomorrow I might not even be able to get up! (a guy from my shala holds sirsasana for 108 long & slow breaths. Geepers! ...that's something to inspire you!)

A short report today, but it was a good practice for me at least. :)

His conference is on this evening, so I'll hopefully take some notes to post here some time after tomorrow's practice. (Yes folks, Saturday will not be our rest day. Monday will be our rest day.) (Pedantic traditionalists, take note! Heh.)

Here's a bizarre ad I spotted on the walk to the workshop this morning to make you laugh. I'd be afraid to go there if I were a bear, and likewise if I were a man (or woman). I'd love to see the other (bad) ads their ad agency have come up with for other clients!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sharath in Sydney: Week 1, Day 3

If I had one word to describe how I felt today, I wouldn't know which one of these 2 to choose between: SORE. TIRED.

I have a pretty regular practice, I'm at the shala at least 4 times a week, though I try to make it 5 - 6 times. Sometimes life "gets in the way" of my yoga practice (LOL!) so the requisite, traditional 6 times a week of mysore style practice isn't possible (does doing a few sun salutes or meditating count as "practice" when I can't make it to the shala?) I've done my fair share of 3 days' practice in a row before... so why did my quads feel like steel deadweights as of last night? And my triceps too.

He makes you work hard, this Sharath! No cheating!

A hot shower before I left and a little warming up before we started this morning seemed to help. The thighs weren't burning as much today as they were last night. Most of my energy was focussed on ME today, so a little less to report on Sharath.

1. Dinner
Yup, By the second count (DWE: EXHALE!) into the first forward bend, I could feel last night's dinner in my belly. And was thinking "great, today will be interesting". In case you were wondering, I'd cooked me some miso soba noodles with leftover tofu + veggie scramble thrown into it. I got the sense I was still digesting that choy sum. Yuck.

Which made me think of the discussion most yogis eventually have at some point: what & how much to eat the night before you practice? that you get enough sustenance through the first few hours (since you don't eat before practice), but also so you don't start groaning like me in the forward bends and twists.

2. Stronger or trying harder?
Even though my body's a little winded, today I thought I'd try a little harder and hold every chaturanga instead of cheating by placing the chin on the floor or the upper body on the floor. Earlier in the week I thought "pace yourself", which in my book meant not flooring the chaturangas.

He makes sure everyone holds in every chaturanga. You hear "Don't Hurry" a lot when we get to this pose. If anyone has moved ahead to Up-Dog, he makes them go back down again (which means the rest of us are STILL holding in chaturanga). Now you understand why I've been cheating? :p

Anyway, today with the little pact I made with myself, I surprised myself by holding about 95% of all the chaturangas and realized my arms and core strength are probably a little stronger than I give them credit for. Yay for me. I wonder if I've already grown stronger, or am I just trying a little harder?

3. Uthpluthi
By his 6th count, I had to come down, rested on the 7th count, then went back up again. Sharath walked by my mat around the 8th count, stood right in front of my mat, facing me - all I could see were his feet. IN FRONT OF MY MAT! Then he counts "NINE"... I'm still holding (I don't think he saw that I'd come down earlier. Hehe.) and then he gives a little cheeky, conspiratorial "ohhhh..." (as in "ohhh... so you think you can hold so long, do you?") I don't know if he was referring to me coz I was staring down at a piece of fluff on my mat towel, concentrating on "HOLD! STAY UP TIL 10! HE'S IN FRONT OF YOU!"... and then he goes and calls out "Nine... and a half..."

Dammit! He made me (and everyone else) laugh and I had to come down. I was too shy to look up to see if he was making fun of me. What? Me, Star-struck?! Noooooo.

4. Sirsasana
Dunno if this is better or worse than yesterday. Had to come down by his 4th L-O-N-G count, but then went back up again and held for another of his 4 counts. All the while thinking of the advice/ comments I've been given by the cybershala. There's a lot of ego and fear involved in this pose for me. And that's all I'll comment on for now. (Still processing, not ready to talk about it!)

5. Closing Chant
Too winded to even complete the first "Om". had to stop halfway and catch my breath!
But... being the yoga-dork I am, I looked up the closing chant on the KPJAYI site yesterday and was reciting it. Yes, extremely dorky. But it worked coz today I wasn't straining to figure out what the heck he was saying and was able to focus a little more inward as the words were a little more familiar and rolling off my tongue a little easier (how many times can I use the word "little" in a sentence?)

Oh, this goes for the Sanskrit numbers too. Looked it up yesterday, and the practice went a little smoother (in my head) coz I knew the counts and wasn't distracted by silly thoughts like "Huh? Is that a number or is that something else he's saying?"

That's all for today!
PS. There'll be a conference with him at 6pm this Friday at the new Yoga Moves shala, 40 Hall Road in Bondi Beach. Yay!

By the way, a friend of mine had asked if she could take pictures on the first day, but Sharath didn't give permission. So I haven't dared to bring my camera in. These are shots from outside the building waaaaaay before most people have showed up.

This is directly outside the hall, at around 5.30am.

And this is the same place after practice, about 7.45am. Gorgeous innit (yup, that's the Harbour Bridge in the distance).

We're right next to a park by the yacht club. :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sharath in Sydney: Week 1,Day 2

This is what a geek I am. I've discovered another use for my Blackberry. Since I've got about a 10 - 15min walk from the workshop to the train station, on my post-practice walk there I whipped it out and started typing down little notes from this morning on the Memo Pad app. Hey, it's important! By the time I get back, shower, change, get back on the train to head to work etc. I'd probably have forgotten half the things that I found interesting during the practice! (so this is what I'm referring to now as I type this post. Heh.)

The numbered points worked for me yesterday (and prevents me from going too far off-tangent, for your benefit too)... so here goes my observations on Day 2:

1. Opening & Closing Chants
The opening chant as recited by Sharath sounds weeeeeeeird. It sounds completely monotone and without the usual "melody" I'm used to chanting it in. Is there supposed to be a tune with this, have I just been singing it all wrong (y'know, the "Western" interpretation of the chant). As opposed to Guruji's version here (scroll to the bottom of page)

Yesterday was the first day I ever recited the Closing chant (7 years after discovering Ashtanga!) It was kinda cool. I'm gonna research this a little bit more today for its meaning. The only part in it that I recognized was one of my favourite phrases, "Lokum Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu" (May all beings everywhere be happy and free). This seems to be more recited out loud (like reading from a book) rather than chanting or singing.

2. More Sharath humour!
- UHP: people getting off-balance especially when it came to the second sideways variation (utthita parsvasahita?) and he says "No dancing!"
- Backbends: after extremely long counts in Urdhva Dhanurasana and everyone came down after the last one with a big SIGH (of relief), he says "No crying!"
- Uthpluthi: he says "Stay up. Don't come down. $25 fine if you come down".

This isn't really part of his humour, but I found it really cute that he doesn't use the word "Ujjayi". His reminder is simply "breathe with sound". I was trying to figure out what he meant by "free breathing" (closing in baddha padmasana), but then he repeated with "free breathing with sound".

(since it's another long-ish post, I'm breaking it up with a nice picture of baddha padmasana). :)

3. Counting
Today's counts seemed more manageable than yesterday's. Have I already gotten used to it, or was he just a little bit faster? Chatted with someone who'd been in the Bali workshop last week and she says the counts there were definitely a lot longer than the counts in Sydney (she reckons maybe it's because people were on holiday in Bali as opposed to how everyone needs to rush off to work after here). As an example, we're supposed to go from 6am - 8am (the timings they more or less stuck to in Bali), but the past couple of days here, we've finished at 7.45am.

Oh, also, we've been doing 5 Surya A's and only 3 Surya B's. Both today and yesterday. I thought it was coz we had a bit of a later start yesterday being the first day and all so didn't think anything of it, but it happened again today.

Found myself struggling to concentrate on the breath in Mari B - D. Or rather, struggling to regulate my breath to his count (I was starting to veer into 2 or 3 of my breaths per one of his counts. FOCUS!)

4. No adjustments again today!
...but he adjusted people on BOTH sides of me! (should I be grumpy about this or relieved? LOL!) Gimme a bind in Supta K, dammit! :p

But I also realized today how used I've gotten to having assistance in getting bound into Supta K (without doing much work myself even though it feels like you're working damn hard. Which I suppose you are, but in a different way). It's quite a different way of working your body when you're trying to bind the pose yourself (and failing miserably). Ha.

5. Body aches
Started yesterday evening with a bit of burning thighs and triceps, and really felt it when I woke up this morning... and after the practice, walking up the slight incline all the way to the train station really got me a bit winded. Really felt those thighs in backbends today too.

Headstand - I have this really weird thing that happens when I get to about 20 of my regular breaths (that's about, oh say 5 of Sharath's counts?)... my right foot starts cramping and I have to come down and flex it out (oh who am I kidding, the rest of my arms can't hold myself up by then anyway). Am I trying too hard here or what? Gonna try and see if I can build up strength over the next few days to hold for longer since he's a good metronome and I can gauge by his counts how strong I'm getting. Or not. Haha.

6. The Inhale-Exhale timings from seated asanas
See comments from yesterday's post. This is what I've been obsessing about from yesterday's practice. So I was straining really hard to work out what the heck he's saying when we come out of seated postures, moving into vinyasa. It's Inhale-look up. Something-Exhale. Dwadasha-Inhale etc... (my next mission is to learn sanskrit numbers!) But it's definitely "Dwadasha-Inhale". And I found out today Dwadasha means TWELVE. (Thank you Google)

So folks, I reckon what got me crossed-eyed yesterday thinking he was instructing the "lift up" on the exhale (when it should be on the inhale), was coz I thought he said "Exhale: dwadasha"... and not knowing what dwadasha meant I thought it was "lift up". As in... "Exhale - lift up". Lost in translation y'all!

He usually does the count, followed by the instruction. Y'know... Ekam (One): Inhale. Dwe (Two): Exhale. Trini (Three): Inhale. Chatvari (Four): Jumpback etc. First it's learning the numbers, and by the end of these 2 weeks I'll be getting my diploma in Sanskrit linguistics, you watch.

By the way... for my tweeps who keep asking if there are boys in #skimpyyogashorts at the workshop... I DON'T KNOW! Pratyahara y'all, withdrawing my senses and all; not focussed on things around me. HAHA. But I went earlier today and set up my mat towards the front/middle of the hall and got a better view of the goings-on ahead of me. When it was time to start, Sharath stripped off his trackpants to reveal mid-thigh cycling shorts and somehow I thought of my twittershala. Nothing tittelating (or is that "twittelating") at all, not like this guy.

That pretty much wraps up today's report. Have a happy Wednesday!

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. :)

Call me First-Aider

So... last weekend, I spent both Saturday & Sunday getting first aid certification. Yup, that's 15hrs to getting Senior First Aid Level 2 certification. Woot!

What cracked me up was getting to my seat only to see what looked like a prosthetic nose & mouth on my seat. Yup folks, I had my very own rubber nose & mouth to use for CPR. Gone are the unhygienic days from my youth where everyone had to "do CPR" on the same grotty mannequin in order to get your first aid badge for Brownies.

It would make a pretty good part of any Halloween costume, don't you think? I thought we'd get to keep them, but sadly they all had to be returned at the end of our course (so they could be disinfected, heat-blasted and dried for the next lot of First-Aiders, so we were told).

Behind the nose was a little nozzle that you basically plugged into the mannequin's face. Seriously. This is what the nose-less/ mouthless mannequin looked like.

There were 18 of us in the class, and we had 9 mannequins. I mean, torsos. It was quite a sight!

So yes, now I can do CPR, work a defribillator (but still not sure sure how to spell the word), apply bandages, make a sling, care for you when you're in shock/ having a heart attack/ having a stroke/ having an epileptic fit/ just been stung by a blue-bottle, bee, wasp/ just been bitten by a spider, snake... (though I still can't tell what's most poisonous. I mean, I'm living in the country with the most dangerous snakes & spiders)... but all this is of course while we're waiting for Secondary Aid to come. Which, in First Aid speak is "the ambos" (the guys in the ambulance).

Not bad for a weekend's work huh.

And the reason why I went to all this trouble? ...well, now that life has started to ease into a routine here and I'm a lot more grounded and comfy with what I'm doing with the rest of my life, I feel ready to teach yoga again!! (Duh, all roads lead back to yoga, didn't you know).

And most studios here require all yoga teachers to have current insurance (check) and First Aid certification (check). So... I've just been inquiring with a few studios here and let's just see where the Universe leads me to. :)

In other news, SHARATH'S WORKSHOP BEGINS TOMORROW! I've just packed my bag and I'm ready to go. Was so excited I had trouble falling asleep last night. I'll try to give (almost) daily reports if I can, so watch this space. YEEHARR!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sharath Is Coming To Town!

You could almost read that title as "Santa is coming to town!"

Well, that's what it feels like for us Ashtangis in Sydney anyways.

Photo credit here

He's doing a week in Bali from 19th Oct, and then moves here for a 2-week workshop from 27th Oct - 8th Nov. That's 6 - 8am, 6 days a week for those 2 weeks. I've signed up for the full 2 weeks of led Primary (in the second week, he's doing led Intermediate too, right after the Primary class). Our shala's organizing the Bali workshop as well, so lots of hardcore regulars will be doing the full 3 weeks in both Bali & Sydney. (it kinda makes me feel a bit less mad/ jittery for signing up for the full 2 weeks here... the fact that there are people who'll be doing all 3 weeks in 2 different countries!)

Got my pass last week, YEEHAR! It has started building up the excitement/ anticipation now. Short of going to Mysore, India, to practice at the hallowed KPJAYI with him (one day soon, this will happen!), this is the next best thing. A twittershala mate who did his 2-week NY workshop called it "Rangaswamy's House of Pain". Heh.

You can feel the buzz in the shala starting already. This morning, apart from us regulars, a lot of new faces popped up to practice. I thought it was coz it was Sunday morning, and the weather's starting to get nicer (y'know, just like how people start heading to the gym to work on their "summer body"). But a friend rightly pointed out that people are probably gearing up for his trip here.

We are usually pretty packed, 5 in a row with about 2 inches between mats, but this morning we had to squeeze SIX mats in a row. There was literally 1cm between each mat. (Teacher said "just like the good old days in India")

I was right next to the wall and crashed into it while rolling around in Garbha Pindasana, and my kind neighbour was hanging out in Downdog while waiting for me to finish rolling over her mat, underneath her! How could you not crack up at that! There were so many people, everything was steaming up inside the shala from the collective heat-generation. Even the walls were dripping with sweat/ condensation! Yeah, sounds kinda gross, but it was lovely feeding off the group energy.

To top it all off, an added bonus to this morning's practice: a live kirtan singer with his harmonium was singing as we practiced. It really helped to turn your focus inwards, especially in such a jam-packed situation. I took a picture from a few Sundays ago, when he was also playing.

It is pure magic to practice with live kirtan... it's like you're being held throughout the practice and all the chatter in your mind really comes to a place of stillness. At some points I found I even lost count of how many breaths I'd already taken coz I was just lost in the soothing dulcet tones of the music and his voice!

Ah, blissful Sunday. I am grateful.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Big Piano comes to Life!

I looooooooved this scene from the movie "Big". Y'know, where he's playing on the piano at FAO Schwartz.

Now VW has come up with something to encourage people to take the stairs instead. The English version hasn't made it onto Youtube yet (I found it on the Adcritic site), but here's what those titles say:
Can we get more people to take the stairs by making it fun to do?

66% more people than normal chose the stairs over the escalator.

Fun can obviously change behaviour for the better.

We call it the fun theory.

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