Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Parsva Drishti

If there's one drishti, or gazing point, in the Ashtanga series that evokes a strong reaction from me, it's gotta be Parsva Drishti. Also known as "side" drishti, or sideways gazing point.

I mean... SIDEWAYS?! OK, so you're either looking to the right side or to the left side. But even then this is ambiguous. All the other drishti gazing points are so SPECIFIC, like the nose drishti (Nasagrai), hand drishti (Hastagrai), foot drishti (Padayoragrai), etc. Even the fluffiest-sounding one, the third-eye drishti (Ajna chakra or Broomadhya), which isn't even based on a physical body part, more like an energetic point, is so much easier to define than the ambiguous Parsva Drishti.

I mean... OK, if you're talking about Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana where you swing your leg out to either side in Utthita Parshvasahita... I'm thinking: "so I'm looking to the right, but right WHERE?! Up? Down? Eye level?"

I usually tend to just gaze a little bit higher than eyeline - somehow it just helps me from an energetic point, to keep the leg lifted, to keep the whole asana lifted together and upwards. So for me at least, this "Parsva Drishti" has always been a little bit more "sideways and UP"!

But then in Mysore, I remember in led classes noticing how most people's heads were dipped down. As in: They were looking to the side, but their focus was down on the floor!! (What great Parsva Drishti I have, that I can also spot other people's eyelines. HAHA!) I suppose in a crowded led class, there's no way you're gonna look sideways and at eye level, coz this means you'll be staring at your neighbour and if they wobble, you're gonna wobble and crash too.

So then I tried this out the next time: I looked down to the floor. SIDEWAYS, but gazing down at the floor. Wow, this really F'd up my balance. Maybe it just felt different and I wasn't used to it. But NO WAY. Never again. It felt like energetically I wasn't doing anything to keep myself in the pose either.

The other Parsva Drishti that makes me laugh is in Supta Padangusthasana. Usually by this time in the Primary series, I'm happy to be laying on my back and sometimes cheat a bit by not working so hard here. Heh. Also, with the sideways drishti here, sometimes my gaze wanders around the room to check out what other people are doing at this point. So I guess this particular Parsva Drishti is a "sideways and all over the room" drishti for me. Haha.

(I dunno why Arjuna is looking away in every Parsva Drishti picture. Maybe he's in on the conspiracy that you can't tell where the eyeline is supposed to be in Sideways Drishti.)

And then what really got my back up in yesterday's practice was Parsva Drishta in Pasasana. I was doing an evening practice at the MWF shala (no morning practices on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so it's evening practice there instead), and in fact I've been enjoying evening practices again so much that I'm thinking of switching over to evenings all the time now. It's only when work gets busy that it's hard to do so.

But anyways, so I digress.

Yesterday's practice was very laboured and water-retentive (that time of the month is creeping up!), and maybe it was also the big lunch I'd had, but getting the bind in Pasasana was a bit of a struggle. I got there eventually on my own, but I couldn't crane my head around fully in Parsva Drishti. I ended up looking kind of sideways to the left wall (and right wall) on either side, but usually in Pasasana I'm able to crane my head around so I'm looking more towards the back. So I suppose my usual Parsva Drishti in this is "sideways and to the back", whereas yesterday's Parsva Drishti was "sideways and... er... to the side".


Look, for Arjuna, it looks like it's "sideways and UP!"

See what I mean by how Parsva Drishti is just a bit of a pain the ass?!


How "sideways" is "sideways" enough?


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Call Me "Urban Herbologist"!

It was an AWESOME Spring weekend in Amsterdam this weekend. The sun was shining in full force and everyone came out to play. It was still chilly, of course, but WHO CARES?!? Without a grey sky, everything is manageable. And everyone is in a good mood. :)

I went to a group of Urban Herbologists, who were meeting in the Hortus Botanicus, Amsterdam's Botanical Gardens. Let me just clarify that I don't have green thumbs, dunno jack about herbs and plants, but I am extremely curious in finding out more. Especially since I've got a keen interest in food, health, healing (natural ways of healing), and also dabbling a bit in Ayurveda (it's more like armchair-Ayurveda, based on a hodge-podge of bits and pieces I've read up here and there.)

My friends all laughed at me when I told them I was keen to check this group out. They were like "OH MY GAWWWWWWD! That's SOOOOOO dorky!!"

HAHAHA!!! Of course it is! But... Who the hell cares?!?

As expected, I was probably the youngest in the group there (heehee), but I had the most AMAZING time. The group is led by an English lady, and there was another American dude there and two other local Dutch people. Including me, it was quite a motley crew of random people joined together by the same interest: Plants!! (Wow. I never thought the day would come when I'd ever have said that.)

Anyways, Lynn, our group leader, is the most warm and friendly lady, and was explaining how by tapping into the natural healing properties of plants, we could be witches. And then she went and explained the whole etymology of the word "Witch" and how it's NOTHING to do with wicken/ wicca or broomsticks and cauldrons. It's simply someone with vast knowledge and wisdom. (The only two men in the group looked at us three ladies in the group with a raised eyebrow. Haha).

I liked her immediately!

We walked around the herb garden for a bit where I learned to stroke the leaves of the plants and sniff their scent off my fingers. We also saw some patches of herbs with bell jars turned over on them, creating a mini-greenhouse effect. These bell jars have been here since the start of the Gardens, so they're of historic value!

The wormwood plant. Great for killing parasites in the body. I remember my Kinesiologist putting me on a detox that had wormwood to flush out parasites. And er... It's also the main ingredient in Absinthe (it's genus-species name even has "absinth" in it.) Someone explained how you can mix crushed wormwood with vodka, ferment it for 40 days, and you get a crude sort of Absinthe. Um... OK.

Then we moved onto another section where we saw SUPER OLD plants. This one had a sign on it that said "critically endangered" and is even "put in jail" for its protection coz it's worth a lot of money and is extremely rare. It's the Wollimi Pine. Once thought to be extinct and only seen fossilized in rocks... Until some explorer chanced upon it in the bottom of a cave. And now there's a whole industry set up to cultivate and sell the (very expensive) Wollimi Pine.

A redwood tree! Not quite the super ginormous ones you get in California, this one looked just like a regular tree until someone pointed it out and got us to touch it. Its bark is super soft, like flannel or felt. I've never felt anything like this on a TREE!

Then someone else pointed out these little green leaves growing on the ground. They looked like... um... regular green weed type of leaves, really. I forget the name now, but it's something-something garlic. It's NOTHING to do with the garlic plant, but picking up the leaves and sniffing it, it totally has the pungent smell of garlic. (!!!) Someone else mentioned it's currently the season for these leaves to grow and she goes to her neighbourhood park to "harvest" them. It only takes about 6 leaves per person to cook a pasta dish, and is a great garlic substitute. Imagine that!

Then came my favourite part of the day: We walked into the GIANT greenhouse in the Botanic Gardens, they have different sections for different climates: hot and dry for all the cactii, and hot and humid for all the lush tropical plants.

Here's a ginger plant.

There are a number of pools of water in this tropical section, and a lady who volunteers here at the Gardens told us a funny story about how the Hortus didn't put fish in the water at all. The water is there to be decorative and also aid the humidity levels. But over time, fish started appearing, and then terrapins started appearing... People had been dumping their old pets in the ponds! HAHAHA!

In fact, apparently that morning she had witnessed a family releasing their pet goldfish, Roy, into the pond. When she asked why, the parents said "Roy's grown too big for his goldfish bowl at home". (Super lame excuse!) But then, the huge drama of the day was when after the two little boys released Roy into the water, another HUGE white fish darted out of the corner and started chasing Roy around the pond!! As you can imagine, the two little boys were hysterical and in tears as they were witnessing Mother Nature's fight-for-survival in action. "MAKE HIM STOP!! MAKE HIM STOP CHASING ROY!! Is he gonna EAT ROY?!?" And the parents had to pick up the boys and take them outside.


I wished I'd been there to witness the scene. (Evil, I know. But it's so cute!) Fortunately, when we got to the pond, we saw an orange goldfish swimming around. The lady who volunteers there was pretty sure that was Roy, so drama averted. :)

A staircase leads to a little gangplank where you can walk amongst the tree canopies. Super awesome.

And then we saw this cactus plant, which apparently only flowers in its 100th year, and after that ONE time it flowers, it dies. We caught this flowering in action. There was gooey sap dripping from the ends of the flowers. It's latin name had "Agave" in it. Is this the same plant that produces Agave nectar?

The next meet up they're organizing might be... BIRCH TAPPING!!! Someone had suggested that the time to do it is NOW, when all the trees' energies are moving upwards and waking up at the start of Spring. I was like... Um... Birch tapping? What the hell is THAT?! ...You basically tap the tree for its sap. It's kinda sweet, like maple syrup. You need to cure it first or put it through some process first before you can eat it, but HOLY HELL!! How cool would THAT be?! I'm signed up and raring to go.

I must've spent about 1.5 hours waltzing around the gardens with my new-found super knowledgeable Herbologist friends, and when I left the place I almost felt kinda high! My confession of the day: I skipped today's led class to attend this meet up, but I'm so glad I did. Communing with Nature is just a whole other experience altogether.

After this trip, I had brunch with 4 ladies and a Daschund and told them all about my experience. They weren't laughing at my dorkiness anymore and all of them now wanna come tapping Birch trees with me when it happens. HAHAHA!

Friday, March 18, 2011

My Friend Liz

I have been meaning to write this post for... Oh say... Four months now? If I don''t knuckle down to do this NOW, life will just run away from me and I will never tell the world about this special lady.

Let me just clarify that I have never met her in real life, we've only ever been in touch through emails and er... various "social media". In fact, we met through the Cybershala. If we were living in the same town, I have the feeling that we would probably get along like a house on fire.


My friend Liz makes awesome bags. Bolsa Bonita bags. Like seriously... she HAND-MAKES them from scratch and sells them on her own website. Last year, I ordered a Mr. T handbag from her, and it still makes me giggle. Where his mowhawk is, is a little tuft of "touch me please" fuzzy softness.

She makes other bags of a similar style but with fuzzy patches of softness elsewhere too... Like Burt Reynold's moustache... And Tom Selleck's moustache... And Chuck Norris' moustache... And if you can't handle Macho Men Moustaches, she has softer fuzzy subjects like bunny tails and squirrel tails. She makes them as pillow cushions too!

Her stuff is so cute and awesome. And so well made. My Mr. T bag came with a little fortune cookie type fortune sewn on the back:

"A wonderful adventure awaits you, fool."

:) :) :)

And because I'm a little special, I got a matching purse with another fortune on the inside that says: "No time for jibber jabber." HA! That's what my old yoga teacher in Singapore used to say when people faffed on their mats or asked too many questions before attempting a pose. Mr. T and Yoga. Who'd have thunk?

To top it all off, when I returned from Mysore and was going through a bit of post-Mysore blues, guess what I found waiting for me in the mail one day?! ...Liz had decided to screenprint the picture of me and my Cosmic-Connection Swamiji from the cave on a new wallet design she's testing out!!


I can't begin to tell you how awesome it is. It's so awesome I can't bear to use it. In fact, I think I'm gonna keep it until my next trip to Mysore... Where I'll bring it along to show it off to Swamiji himself. :)

I loved that she wrote "C.C. From Austin to Amsterdam" on the back of my package. :)

There ain't nothing like this one of a kind! She's planning on offering these on her site soon (I think?) so go on and ask her all about her stuff.

PS. She has no idea I've dedicated a post to her and I might get into trouble for it, so this is really a plug for a product/ person-with-mad-crafting-skills I believe in!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Speak My Truth

I've been going through a period where I haven't felt like saying much. Hence the silence on the blog. Initially, a large part of that was just processing being back from Mysore... It really hit home when they say "there are more distractions in the West".

It's not just the TV and Internet either (Ashtangis in Mysore are invariably glued to Facebook post-practice. Haha.) But it's all the other "life stuff"... Social events, dinner parties, birthday drinks, boy problems, oh and then there's that thing called work too... I suppose when your day only revolves around doing your practice in the morning and then foraging for food later (pretty much THE biggest decision of the day in Mysore is "Where shall we eat"), getting back to regular life again suddenly seems so complicated and so full of other STUFF you need to do. (It didn't help that I'd been away for practically all of December for work too, which meant I also had 2 months worth of other personal admin backlog to get through. Ugh.)

My life last year was mostly about work, work, work. With a little yoga squeezed in between. I am trying to balance that out now by trying to be a tad more social, but then also not at the expense of my yoga practice the next morning. Damn, it's hard.

I pretty much whizzed into 2011 without giving it too much thought since I crash-landed straight into Mysore in the new year. I had no time to sit back and reflect what this year's intention will be. Since I turned a year older yesterday, which is kinda sorta almost like a new year for me, with new beginnings and possibilities... I had another chance to think about what this intention will be.

Last year, I had a very apt intention of Joyful Surrender, which served me well through the mayhem of last year (you can do a search for "Joyful Surrender" on this site and see all the events that pop up).

Yesterday, at the (ripe old) age of 34, I've decided it's the year to Speak My Truth.

Y'know... Honesty. To work through that throat chakra and speak up. And speak up honestly about my intentions and my feelings. Sometimes, it's easier just not to say or admit the truth (not just to others but to myself too). So speaking up can be a difficult thing... But that's the only way to live an authentic life, innit.

I hope I won't bore you in the process, as I just have telling you about it. HAHAHA!

In other news, my workmates are AWESOME. Yesterday, they Happy Birthday'd my desk. It was so lovely coming back from the boring-est client meeting first thing in the morning to be greeted by this sight:

And, I had 3 slices of different cakes yesterday, chocolate tart for elevenses, peach, rhubarb and prune tart for dessert, and vegan apple tart for tea. And another chocolate cake for breakfast this morning. I think I'm gonna have another apple tart for tea now. Happy Birthday to me. *BURP*
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