Thursday, 25 September 2014

These Days I Manage Warrior 2 A Little More Elegantly

It was a Friday evening and as the song goes, "in a downbeat hall in an upmarket suburb" in Dublin  we were all settling  onto our yoga mats. I was looking forward to a long weekend of yoga . We did a few opening poses and though I was quite fit having been an orienteer for the past ten years or so, I don't think I realised just how inflexible I had become over the intervening time. That first two hour session had my muscles and ligaments screaming by the end of it . So much so, that I was beginning to feel resentful that others around  me should appear to be having it so easy . There were about forty folk there, the bulk  of whom were bendy females, and were betraying  little more  than a slight rosiness of the cheeks. In complete contrast to myself, as the practise began to ramp up so did the heat and as luck would have it, I was right under one of those radiant heaters . The sweat ran in rivulets down my back and into my knickers, I was wearing a pair of shorts, my legs became slippery consequently some of the poses became impossible, take for instance tree pose. Every time I lifted my right foot to place it on the inner part of the opposite thigh. It skidded off and went south, bringing  a slick of sweat with it,  puddles of perspiration  collected around my feet, making the mat slippery, making the soles of my feet even more slippery which  played merry hell with my balance in any of the more challenging standing posing. I skated into Warrior 2 and skidded to a halt . Wide leg forward fold became an exercise in restraining my feet from whizzing  away off the mat never to be seen again. I noticed that others had brought towels and were discreetly patting themselves and  their  mats, gently removing small tiny beads of moisture whilst remaining cool and collected. I know I thought, I will go to the toilet and get some tissues and dry up all the sweat. Well the quality of toilet paper wasn't great, so now as well as having a mat that was covered in sweat, it also had little tiny bits of toilet paper stuck all over it . I was becoming more hot and bothered by the second this, along with a raging thirst, and having to endure  others drinking long and deep from their water bottles….scorched all thoughts of equanimity and mindfulness turning me into a short tempered  harridan yogini . I spotted one of the organisers and signalled to him to come over. I explained that I was too hot  and asked “ would it be possible to turn the heat down”? . He said “sure” and set too, to find the switch . When Betsy, our teacher for the evening noticed, she interjected saying that she was cold and could the heaters please stay on !  A compromise was reached by me moving to another place in the hall as far away from those heaters from hell, as I could get. On the way to my new position my big toe was stabbed and and invaded by an oak splinter from one of the planks that made up the lovely oak floor. I spent several minutes sitting on my mat endeavouring  to dislodge it before I could continue.

These days I manage Warrior 2 a little more elegantly !

Later, lying in savasana, relaxation pose and listening to a guided meditation about softening into the floor and letting go. I idly wondered did it mean allowing bits of the floor to penetrate your body? Did it mean having parts of your body washed into the floor by tidal waves  of sweat? Did it mean feeling that the iron clutch of tightened muscles and ligaments were actually supposed to soften and relax that you were somehow meant to GET that this was a gift that could be enjoyed?

After practise that evening as we were walking up the street groaning and feeling every ache and pain, somewhere in the back of my mind I realised that I had actually enjoyed the session. I was careful though to call into a chemist and purchase some old fashioned bathing salts which I added to a cold bath  later that evening. I slept well.  

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Of Wooden Floors and High Ceilings

This is an ongoing blog about Marella's midlife odyssey through yoga life.

We arrive in what I think was Dun Laoghaire one of Dublin’s more affluent suburbs. It is situated on the scenic south end of Dublin bay,well  known for two reasons, the East Pier which is popular for walking on and also the utter impossibility for those not native born, of pronouncing much less spelling the name of the borough correctly! Anyway I diverse, we arrive into the hall where the yoga is to take place for the weekend. Its one of those old town halls, interesting architecturally speaking if you knew about such matters, high vaulted ceiling with long church like windows set in the walls, well above the height where you could get to a window if you needed some fresh air. This was going to be a relevant factor later on during the class. There were also four big radiant type heaters set into the ceiling which were belting out heat, it was a mild Autumn day and I thought “oh. thats nice they have put the heaters on to warm up the old hall a little…” There was also a polished well worn oak floor must have been laid circa 1900, it too would have a interesting and pernicious effect on my over all yoga performance that weekend.

I went and introduced ourselves, paid for the weekend and was directed where to lay our mats.There must have been about fifty to sixty people there, all looking terrifyingly fit, slender, flexible and bendy. We kinda hid on our mats in the middle of the crowd.

Our teacher arrived it was Betsy Downing tall, poised, elegant must have been in her late 60's, she sort of floated effortlessly up the length of the hall. A hush crept over the room without her saying anything, she had that kind of presence.

 I can't remember now, how she opened or what exactly she taught, but I do remember the following, that she addressed the group as fellow teachers and practitioners, that first word, teachers made me sit up, I felt an uncomfortable lurch deep in my guts. Was she implying that most folk here were teachers? I had a quick look around and yes the crowd in general seemed to have a certain air about them. Intimidated? me? nah, not me (not  much anyways! sure didn't I have four hours yoga experience?). This precise moment signified the start of something that would be an ongoing feature of my then unforeseen future yoga career, finding myself again and again  in situations where I was way out of my comfort zone, wondering why I was doing it to myself, it was to become a somewhat accelerated learning process and habit!

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Off to Dublin

This is an ongoing blog about Marella’s midlife odyssey through yoga life.

I hang around after class has finished and sidle up to my yoga teacher pretending to help her collect the mats but really wanting an opportunity to speak with her about the yoga class. “Hi Nancy I was just wondering would you like me to give you a hand with those mats”? She answered immediately "Oh that would be  so lovely". I set to at once picking up mats, rolling them up whilst trying to articulate  the question that has been kicking around  in my head. You see she knows that I didn't want to come to her class and what I am about to ask her will signify my climb down. “Uhm, Nancy I was just wondering what sort of yoga was it that you just taught us? Anusara she replies, a type of Hatha yoga. I ask her “ if I wanted to do that in Ireland, where would I go?” Nancy is from the States, pausing as she answers, I can see the twinkle in her eye  and I sort of gaze into the middle distance not quite meeting her eye. “ You know Marella I am not sure as it’s relatively new in the USA also, I guess you could try on line”. The brief conversation is left hanging in the air as we continue to gather up the mats. I later meet her in the breakfast queue and whilst scooping porridge on to our plates, she, with great gentleness and yet slightly teasing asks " did you enjoy the yoga then?"

Its around October when this conversation occurs, over the next six months I spend some time on the internet getting a feel for what a yoga world is.My impressions are that its a huge and varied discipline with shades, nuisances and variations that seem to stretch from OHM to eternity. In particular I do a fair bit of digging and research about the Anusara  area of the yoga planet. It seems all good. A structured approach using alignment as a basis yet emanating from the heart. It was strenuous but different entirely from a mere physical jerks type of  session. It offered more, much more and I felt that it would be worthwhile to try it out. What was my next step? I knew Anusara yoga was not available in Omagh so I had a look around Northern Ireland and nope, no-one was offering it at that time. Looking more widely I discovered that there was a weekend coming up being organised by some folk in the Republic of Ireland, they had invited a teacher from the States to introduce  Irish yoga folk to Anusara, it was to be a first. I decided that I had to go, I phoned up the organiser told them that I had the grand total of four hours yoga experience and could I come ? He hesitated, I immediately reassured him that I was quite fit and able and that seemed to do the trick. I set off for Dublin with my long suffering husband Billy and my best friend Nadine, having persuaded both of them that they would have a great weekend, needless to say  neither of them had any yoga experience whatsoever!