Friday, September 3, 2010

Born-Again Ashtangi

Greetings from London!

I've been here... almost 3 weeks now. And it's been pretty quiet on this blog. I've been thinking about this... and it's interesting I've had the same attitude towards blogging as I've had towards my Ashtanga practice recently.

"I should practice today. But I haven't in a while. It's gonna be too hard"


"I should blog today. But I haven't in a while. It's gonna be too hard."


To be fair, I did start out writing a post, but I had dodgy internet connection and Blogger didn't save everything I'd written... and since I'd lost all the precious thoughts I'd penned, it was just too hard to start all over again.

And so I didn't. And 1 day of not blogging became 3 weeks of not blogging. Eish. Like my lack of Ashtanga practice - 1 day of no practice became 1 month of no practice. Double Eish.

With the yoga, of course I'd done the occassional Vinyasa-Flow class along the way and thought "Hey, I can do these funky arm balances, I'm still strong!" ...Now of course it's not just about the physicality of the poses - I did derive loads of peace and calm from the Vinyasa classes; got in tune with my body; centred my Self.

HOWEVER... what I have discovered, now that I've been back into an almost-daily Ashtanga practice while in London - this practice is really an AMAZING yardstick for you to check in with yourself on so many levels.

1. From a purely physical level - yes, I can tell how much strength I've lost in 1 month. Even though I've been maintaining some kind of "physical exercise" with Vinyasa classes, I thought I was keeping up my strength and stamina... And boy was I wrong. This time around in London, I thought I'd check out the other highly recommended teacher, Phillipa, from TY. Within the first Ashtanga Mysore self-practice class (the first in 1 month)... I was floored. The second class barely 2 days later, was even worse. Stiff and creaky, nothing moving, lost touch with the bandhas... I was gobsmacked HORRIFIED.

2. From an Ego point-of-view - it's made me eat humble pie.
For the first week, I could only manage 4 days' practice, and only Full Primary. I've lost my bind in Supta Kurmasana COMPLETELY (still can't find it back), and also my standing up from dropbacks. When I asked Teacher P "When should I start putting my Intermediate series poses back into my practice again?" She replied "When you can stand up again from backbends."

Needless to say - that first week back on the mat was huff-and-puff week, and my body had NO CLUE what the heck what I was trying to make it do when attempting to stand up again from backbends. There was A LOT of mental chatter...

"I CAN DO THIS! I KNOW I CAN DO THIS! I've done it before, I can do it again. And soon!"

"Well, come along then... DO IT."

*Huff* *Puff *Huff *Puff*

Body to Brain still went... "What the Eff?!"

3. Non-attachment and learning to surrender to the process.
I figured I might as well put my 2010 reminder of "Joyful Surrender" into practice, even on the mat. Sure - I could do all these poses before. Now, I can't do some of them.


Does that make me a better or worse person?


It just is.

It's been said so many times that it's now a cliche, but it's true - it's not about the physical asana pose and whether you can do it, but it's about the process you go through internally to get to it.

In my case - I felt such a mash-up of feelings... going through the whole process of tuning into the body to the point where it "clicks" in a pose, and then losing that connection to the pose completely, and then having to go through the same process all over again of trying to find that connection once more - it was familiar and frustrating. Most of all, it brought up feelings of regret.

"Why did I ever think stopping my self-practice was a good idea?!"
(Er... because work got busy, social life got busy... and general other bits of living life are actually important too? Hello?)

It just is.

So it feels like I had to start from scratch again and just give up all my expectations of what my practice "should be" like at this point and just see that IT JUST IS.

4. Your practice comes back (aka "Practice and all is coming")
The second week back on the mat went much better than the first. I got back into a full 6-day practice and it wasn't as much of a struggle to get on the mat as it was in the first week. (Plus, it helps when you have a teacher you click with. Joey was filling in this week for P, and he gave awesome adjustments so I was looking forward to get to class).

I was a bit of a rogue yogi since P was away and J has never seen my practice if I could stand up yet from backbends... So I decided to just carry onto my Intermediate series poses. Lo and behold, what do you know... that very same practice after carrying out my "illegal" Intermediate practice, I stood up from all 3 dropbacks. Something just clicked and my body remembered.

Thank Holy Hell.

Over the next few days they were intermittent - some days I'd nail them all and other days I'd land on my knees, but I'm making steady progress.

To digress, the other thing that's still NOT coming is Laghuvajrasana. The International Conspiracy continues. J spent about 5 minutes with me breaking that down (another post for another time. But when he came over to help, he said "Let me guess - this is your favourite pose?" Seriously?! Is it THAT obvious to everyone?)

5. Proof that it's possible to work crazy hours and still keep a regular morning Mysore practice.
Yes, it's FUCKING DIFFICULT, but it's possible. I did it this trip. (OK maybe not the night when we were working till midnight, but other nights that ended at 10pm, I've still got on the mat at 7am the next day.) It's probably not sustainable over the long term, but it makes me wonder when "I'm just too busy" can be used as an excuse not to get on the mat.

Part of me is wondering if having a good teacher, or rather, having a teacher you click with makes all the difference in motivating you to get on the mat. Yes, I know it shouldn't JUST be about the teacher, but I have to admit... it does make a difference. I am afraid if this is the case for me, coz... What happens when I get back to Amsterdam? I still haven't found "MY" teacher there yet!!

6. Yoking the Mind-Body-Spirit connection. Jeez. That sentence sounds so airy-fairy, but I dunno how else to put it. Since starting this Amsterdam job, the stress levels have got the better of me and my dirty old habit of smoking (yes, CIGARETTES) has made an appearance. I've mentioned this on and off - as I'd picked it up only on and off in the past few months.


It started to become a problem. Like... I was officially a smoker again. After 5 years of quitting, might I add... Spare the tut-tutting and passing judgment, please. Go tut-tut somewhere else.

I think this might explain some of the reason why I'd fallen off the Ashtanga practice-bandwagon. I felt like a fraud. (How can I smoke and practice yoga at the same time? Umm... Hello? How can I deny I'm only human?)

At the point when I decided "Enough is enough", I had to clean up the temple that is my body - I decided to go on a caffeine AND nicotine detox 2 weeks ago. It has been easier than I thought initially (except for TERRIBLE headaches I got in the first couple days). In the first week I was probably substituting SUGAR for the caffeine and nicotine, but this week I think I've been getting a grip on the sugar intake.

Getting back on my yoga mat has been part of this detox/ getting-in-tune-with-my-body process as well (Plus, the deep Ujjayis probably kill any kind of fag-craving.) ("fags" are Brit for "cigs")


That's my observation on life in the past 3 weeks so far. I haven't taken a single photo either while in London (GASP!) coz I haven't charged my camera (just like my Ashtanga and blogging, I was probably thinking "It's just too hard!") HA.

But... I'm back!

PS. I'm here in London till mid-September. I left my Amsterdam apartment, y'know, the one I'd only moved into for 3 days before I had to leave for London, thinking I'd be back home again in 1 week. Well... I haven't been back yet. By the time I finally leave, I'd have been in London a whole month.


  1. Jaime!! I'm so glad you wrote because I was in desperate need of a break from my work and wanted to be entertained!

    I'm also happy you found that photo of me doing a back bend. I look pretty good in the water like that, don't I?


    Your saga- the non-practicing, starting smoking, guilty feelings, regret, and then coming back around again are probabaly something that's familiar to a lot of people. Don't be too hard on yourself. You smoke, I eat whole pizzas by myself, someone else has 10 cocktails within an hour, another cusses out her husband, etc etc. We all need yoga for different reasons.

    I've heard my teacher tell beginners, "If you smoke, drink, and don't excersise, this practice is perfect for you" Because it is. It helps everyone sort out their business.

    Good for you for getting back on the Ashtanga train, even though it was hard.

    Now get busy with that camera!

  2. Hurray you're back!!! Though I am lucky enough to have had a brunch with you to fill in some of the gaps ;)
    I'm so glad you loved Joey too, I'm just jealous I didn't come practice with him in fact! I've only taken 2 workshops with him but even from that I know he's something really special. But just picking up on what you said about clicking with a teacher and it helping motivate you - for me it's that plus the other people...even after a moonday I MISS my shalamates!
    Also - keeping up the practice while you're busy, yes I think we all know the mind games we can play with ourselves where we think we're listening to our body but really we're making lazyman excuses. And then there are the times when you really DO need to rest - it's figuring out the difference between the two that's so hard!
    But well done for getting back on the wagon and making some sense of all of it here, and like you said - now you know how hard it is to come back after stopping, NO MORE BREAKS!! :)

  3. Hurray, you're back!! I go through the same "it's too hard" excuses when I travel. Jet-lag, weather changes, new environment, etc....anything change to the routine makes it 'too hard' to do yoga. It's all the stories we tell ourselves isn't it? Really agree with #4, and I suppose we all go through cycles of regular practice, falling off the bandwagon for many different reasons, and the process of restarting a regular practice reminds us of the 'real' lesson of yoga: non-attachment and accepting things just as they are. I'm really impressed you manage a consistent practice despite long working days - it's inspiring!

  4. Hey Liz! Bahaha, you never fail to make me laugh! You look gorgeous in that backbend so I just had to share it with everyone. ;p I have to catch up on your blog too. Been too busy to catch up on everyone else's blogs (Arghhh!! It's all just too hard! HA.)

    Mel - yeah, it IS difficult trying to figure out when you're playing mindgames and trying to bluff yourself and when you REALLY need a break. I haven't figured that one out yet. Like... I've only JUST come back to the hotel from work. It's 12.15am on Saturday night. And I need to be back at work again at 10am tomorrow. This means I will most definitely miss Kino's Mysore class tomorrow morning (that I've already signed up and paid for). I've been trying to scheme how I can whizz through practice in 1.5hrs to be done by 9.30am so that I can get to work after that. Not sure how I'm gonna do this...

    Danielle - Like I said, I don't think it's something sustainable for the long-term. Then again, I suppose working crazy hours too isn't sustainable for the long term. I really, really, really wanna practice tomorrow and thinking of skipping Kino's Mysore class altogether coz it starts too late, and heading to another shala coz class there starts a little earlier. Blech. All just to get a practice session in before work! I think I'm tired and not thinking straight at the moment!!

  5. Dear Jaime

    so good you got the coming to standing back so soon. i would not judge you for smoking - maybe you're just Chinese that way. haha. it seems like a birthright for people to smoke here. but it's not good in combo with yoga because it probably makes you work harder when breathing in yoga.

    isn't your trip to Mysore coming soon?

  6. Hey Arturo, like I said, it's intermittent. The first 2 today were like making pancakes: rubbish. Dropped to my knees. Got it on the 3rd go. I've just forgotten to ground my legs as I'm standing back up again.

    Actually - it didn't feel like it made me work harder in yoga. It was the other way around. Because of the yoga and increased lung capacity, I was taking longer, deeper puffs (WHICH ARE SO BAD FOR YOU COZ YOU INHALE MORE CRAP!!!)

    Maybe you missed it in one of my earlier posts - but when I agreed to take on this fulltime gig in Amsterdam, part of the deal was that I could NOT take 2 months off to go to Mysore and start work in November. Coz they needed to continue working NOW. So... maybe I can get like a month off some time next year, but Mysore ain't happening this year. :(

  7. I think if we're all being real, most of us have battles like this. Maybe not necessarily smoking but we all have our vices. One thing about coming back to a regular practice is that it's in you already, you know it and it'll just happen again through consistency and you'll be on fire again. Kinda freaky in the first week though when you're like, but I could do that! Yep, humble pie for sure LOL - it's great that you can look at your situation, and you are one hell of a busy uprooted girl, and get back on track without letting it all spiral out of control. Welcome back :-)

  8. Hey! You are back full strength! good for you. I heard a teacher say once that a smoker( ex-smoker?) understands mula bandha because they feel the lift in "them lower parts" when they inhale. So there. Even mistakes are useful.

  9. Hey Mary! Yup, everyone has their "thing", their issue(s) to deal with... I guess the same addictive part of my personality that gets me on my mat everyday is also the same addictive part that can slip back into disgusting smoking patterns! And sometimes things need to spiral a little bit before you bring them back to equilibrium. Without "bad", there's no "good" for comparison. Heh. :p

    Fivefootwo: Very interesting... i've never come across that before. How strange! ...I guess it depends how DEEP your inhale-puffs are I guess coz I don't think I ever made that mulabandha connection through smoking. Um... actually... I can feel it more during ladies hols and er... there's a feminine product right where you engage the mulabandha. HAHAHA!

  10. oy, i missed that detail, that you could not take time off, but it's great that you're needed in Amsterdam. me, i have to wait until my tax holiday in 3 1/2 years, which is a 33 day holiday, to go to India.


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