Livin’ La Vida Yoga

31 May, 2006

The last couple of days I’ve felt like I was in Mysore – I’ve been eating hot and spicy Dosas and Sambhar, the humidex puts the temperature into the 40s outside and I’ve been sweating heaps through my asanas…and I’ve taken to watching Indian television.

Shorn (temporarily) of the responsibilities of being a father, husband and an Arsenal supporter, I’ve piled into my work doing masses of overtime. It’s necessary right now and I might as well as the money comes in handy; I’m at the last band level that gets paid overtime for work over 44 hours. One more promotion and Big Blue gets all it’s overtime from me for free (kinda – of course the hefty pay hike would mitigate this).

I’ve also spent more time with my folks – helping my Dad extend his strawberry patch on Sunday (which is back-breaking work around here), and taking my Mom (Mum doesn’t seem right anymore, so it’s Mom from now on) shopping on Saturday. I even sit with her through Indian reality TV and soaps – to which I’m getting a bit addicted (I rationalize that I’m actually working on my Hindi).

The asanas have been funny lately. I have struggled with tiredness the last couple of days getting slowly accustomed to the sudden heat. Also I’m stiff in the hamstrings so Utthita Hasa Padangusthasanas are a real slog. But then some aspects of my asanas seem oblivious to this tightness – in the Paschimottanasanas, for example, I am now tucked right down, nose between knees.

Urdhva Dhanurasana is another funny one – it comes and goes. Right now it’s back (and they were great this morning). Last weekend they sucked big style though. I don’t get it. How can you be able to do an asana one week and not the next? On the Garba Pindanasana front I no longer need to lube myself – water work fine. And for the first time in a while my heels came off the ground in Kurmasana this morning.

So much into La Vida Yoga I am that last night I actually dreamt I was in Mysore. Before bed I read a couple of verses from the Sadhana Pada in Iyengar’s Light on the Yoga Sutras for a half hour. Check this pearl from his interpretation of II.32 out:

We are taught nowadays that the miracle of the world’s ecosystem is it’s balance, a balance which modern man is fast destroying by deforestation, pollution, over-consumption. This is because when man becomes unbalanced, he seeks to change not himself but his environment, inorder to create the illusion that he is enjoying health and harmony. In winter he overheats his house, in summer he freezes it with air-conditioning. This is not stability but arrogance. Some people take tablets to go to sleep and tablets to wake up. Their life has the rhythm of a pingpong ball.

Brilliant eh? Cuts right to the core of the madness of the modern world. Anyway, the Mysore of my dream last night appeared to be a composite of my remembrances of Southern Japan (where I spent a couple of years in my early twenties) and my distant memories of India where I spent a year between the summers of 1982 and 1983. I came to the Shala for Guruji’s conference on a hot evening just after sundown. I showed up late, got embarrassed, and upon leaving found that the yellow bicycle on which I arrived had gotten stolen. A bit surreal for sure. But it seemed real enough at the time. Anway, work beckons.


21 May, 2006

I felt surprisingly good Wednesday night. True, I was left deflated by their sudden collapse in the 15 minutes before the final whistle, but they had played practically the whole match a man short and I was immensely proud. They had done everything anyone could possibly ask of them and came so close to that, ultimately beguiling, prize. They are a precociously talented side with so much promise (indeed no club is sending more teanagers to next month’s World Cup). And Friday brought joy as the captain signed a 4-year deal which ties him to the Club until 2010. Quite apart from the deal, he expressed a real passion for the Club and the fans: “I want to continue writing the story of Arsenal” he said.

Anyway, the season’s done and dusted as it were.

On the yoga front, I’ve impressed myself with the way I got myself onto the mat daily this week in spite of having to be at the office every day (10 hours book-ended by two-hour drives). I was tenacious and stubborn about practicing. Unfortunately, I’m going through a slump in terms of quality – I’ve been stiff (particularly in the hamstrings) and it’s all a real slog.

After a year of daily Ashtanga practice, the irony about this business is beginning to hit me – I begin to look your standard Ashtangi. But the better I look, the less I’m supposed to care right?

I’m also beginning to count the costs of a daily home practice – can’t cost much you think. But you’d be wrong. Nothing fits me anymore. I’m a 30 waist again and I can pull all my khakis and jeans down without undoing the button or the fly (and being lazy, this is exactly what I do). I need a new wardrobe.

I need a new box of mangoes too. I’ve finished two already. The mango producers don’t know it but I’ll bet I’m a statistically significant component of the Canadian mango market. Yep, if they knew their stuff, they’d be out to monopolize the lucrative ‘Ash’ segment.

And what’s with the weather? It’s like October out there.

Vraiment Galactique

17 May, 2006

People have been stopping me in the halls at work and have been messaging and phoning me all week with their best wishes for tomorrow. Which is pretty sad because, of course, It’s not as though I’m actually playing. But naturally, I shall be watching what should be an epic match – vraiment galactique as L’Equipe bills it.

This week has been tough on the asanas. I am taking some intense education at work – 9 hours a day plus trying to spend a couple of hours keeping abreast of my ‘day job’. And I have to drive through the wet weather 1-2 hours each way. It’s makes for a long day and it’s hard to get up at 4:00 am to practice. I missed Monday – just too tired – but managed to drag myself onto the mat for a decent one this morning (a bit tight though, especially in the hamstrings – after two months of doing asanas pretty much every day, I really feel the impact of practicing only on alternate days – as has been the case for the past week).

It used to be you took education when you were ‘on the bench’ – i.e. between engagements. These days, there is no ‘in between engagement’. In fact, rather than having a break between projects, you’re generally working two engagements at the same time for a month or so as you phase out of one and into another. So, we now take education in the midst of engagements. Ubiquitous connectivity makes it impossible to get away from the customer even if you were so inclined. It’s good though. I like this intensity right now and it keeps me from thinking about the girls who are in London right now (a city which will go utterly mad with delight given the right result for it’s grandest footballing side in Paris tomorrow).

A Light Week

13 May, 2006

A weekend trip to Chicago, a moonday, and departing wife and kids, contrived to make this a light week on the mat – just 4 practices since Sunday.

Last Friday at 6:45 we – me, wife and our two girls got into the car and headed southwest for Chicago. My wife’s cousin married last April – we couldn’t make the Cancun beach wedding (alas), but the wedding reception at the Chicago Planeterium was a fine consolation on a crisp evening on the shore of Lake Michigan. I adore Chicago; it’s one of those cities that, while not quite as dear to me as London and Toronto, I know quite well and have an affinity for (Tokyo, Vadodara, and Ottawa being the others).

I managed a practice on Saturday down there but either side of that, I was a 10-hour drive that made a practice, er, impractical….and then Monday I was just too plain knackered from all that travelling and partying.

Two days later, I was dropping my family off at YYZ. My wife and daughters are now in London – my wife being on a year of maternity leave and the eldest of our girls going into grade 1 next year, this was the ideal opportunity for them all to spend real time with my wife’s family in London. They’re gone for two months(!). It’s so quiet without them. I knew I’d miss them, but I couldn’t say no and did not want to. Besides, it gives me a chance to work on a few project at home and focus on my career for a key couple of weeks. And what wonderful sleep I’m getting!

Yesterday, after a bit of a late morning, I snuck in a evening practice before the moonday – November was the last time I practiced in the PM. It’s just so extraordinary how much more extension you get. What a practice. What backbends! How have I come to be able to do those so well so suddenly?

Wild Kingdom

4 May, 2006

I had a poor practice yesterday (except for Garba Pindanasana which I got to work again but more on that later). I got up and felt for the first time in ages like skipping a day and in retrospect I feel as though my body was trying to tell me I needed a rest day and I should have listened. I didn’t however, and the results were rather indifferent.

The one exception being the aforementioned Garba Pindanasana which I did successfully again but this time with the aid of Body Butter – we’ve had a hockey puck-sized jar of this heavy duty moisturizer from the Body Shop kicking about for a while that my wife got as a gift. Neither of us ever used it because it makes you smell like dessert. But I decided that I’d use it to ease into Garba P so I wouldn’t get jammed up like I did other day (this being early morning in springtime Canada, there’s not enough sweat yet). It worked fine. The only problem was come Yoga Mudra my hands were too greasy and I struggled to keep a hold on my toes, and then later in backbends, my hands kept sliding out from under me for the same reason (I practice on a cotton rug). I used the stuff again today but next time I think I’ll try water – it should be lubricant enough.

A funny thing happened after my practice this morning. After showering, I took a look outside our bedroom window as I buttoned my shirt. I saw two robins perched on one of my apple trees down below. Beyond them I saw the flash of a pair of blue jays flitting from tree to earth and back again. And then I saw a white-tailed rabbit jump out of a stump of grass and hop towards them (presumably to get a better look). Just when I thought it couldn’t get any more interesting, I glanced up to see a blue heron fly majestically over the house. ” ‘k…that’s not something you see everyday” was all I could muster. I half expected Bambi to jump out of the woods.

An Ordinary Practice

1 May, 2006

Asanas present a host of opportunities for slapstick; there’s a mountain of comedic potential in the Primary Series alone.

Take me in Garba Pindasana this morning (and you probably see this coming ). Fresh for my first proper Garba Pindasana yesterday, I fully expected to negotiate this pose handily this morning. Slip, there goes the right arm nicely through. Now for the left. Jammed! – at the forearm just below the elbow. I turn red struggling to get it in…but no dice. It…ain’t…goin’. I lose balance and fall on one side, and now my thigh is pinching into the my right bicep and it really hurts. I can’t extricate either arm and I’m rolling around of the floor literally tied in a knot. It hurts, I know how ridiculous I must look, and I start laughing uncontrollably. Eventual I settle down and slowly come out of Lotus to ‘undo’ myself.

So who says Tronna‘s not a big Yoga city? We’ve had Lino and Darby in the past 6 months (my goodness has it really been 6 months since I practiced with Lino and Tina?!) and now we’re getting Swenson this month and then Richard Freeman soon afterwards. I’m considering signing up for these weekend workshops. However, while it’s not a lot of money, between the two, it’s probably enough to pay Mysore rent for a month. I still haven’t entirely given up on going to Mysore this winter, so I’ll probably keep my powder dry and my bank accounts topped up.