Back again

Really, was it only one day? Was I at Pure Yoga only yesterday morning?

Yup.

Time is very elastic right now. No matter. I got myself up at 5:30 and — yay! — finally figured out the little in-room coffee pot thingie so I could have a cup before practice. Ah. The good life.

Truth be told, I was a little scared to go back. Demanding teacher. Not in an awful way, just in a way that lets you know that she’s watching everything all the time, and you won’t be able to roll through anything. Nada. Best behavior at all times. No tense deltoids (as if).

Okay, so I head over to Pure Yoga with just my blanket. I will use one of the mats they have out on the floor. There is a part of me that is horrified at this idea (the Howard Hughes-channeling part of me), but as I step onto the mat, I discover that it is pristinely clean and delightfully sticky. Geez, they must wash them every day. And I wonder with what? I’d like to get whatever it is they’re using because these mats are like new.

CL heads over as I’m doing my routine working-my-way-through-standing-so-I-can-get-to-the-good-stuff. I’m not proud of this habit, but hey, I acknowledge it. She has me do a re-do of Parivritta Parsvakonasana. She tells me to really bend the back leg (usually I keep it straight) and to turn the front knee in (toward the midline) so I can get my shoulder hooked over it. She also tells me not to look back yet. Nope. Look at the ground and get the shoulder set up, then put the back foot down (still looking down) and then twist into the final pose.

A star for the teacher. That totally rocked.

I heard her (with a mix of excitement and dread) approach during Prasarita C. I had set up with my palms facing out, as she’d had me do yesterday, but she asked me to do it the other way first, pushed my hands to the ground, then had me reverse my hands. And then I got a crank that was even more bone-crackin’ than the one I got yesterday. My internal monolog went: “Relax, relax. Oh holy God, where is the effing FLOOR?!?! Surely it must be close!?” It was clear she was not gonna knock off until my hands were on the floor. Imagine my relief when I finally felt it.

Strangely, I am attracted to this adjustment that scares the bejesus out of me. I can’t wait to have another.

I extrapolated from our Marichyasana D adjustment yesterday and tried to keep both sit bones down on all Marichyasanas. Also to keep the balance/energy in the navel (usually once I catch the bind, all of the energy shifts into my shoulders/arms). The sit bones down version changes the character of the Marichys immensely.

Got a fabulous squish in Upavistha Konasana. I kept up my mantra for today (and, if I’m smart, into the future): Relax the shoulders; use the navel. And all my whining about the humid heat yesterday? Forget it. It’s totally conducive to a bendy practice.

And lastly, a great adjustment in Supta Padangusthasana. Part 1: This pose is about the kidneys. I’ve always curled from the abs, but if you push from the kidneys, it’s a whole different experience. She also mentioned a few times that I need to quit putting tension in my feet. Energize the leg on the floor, but relax the feet. (She also told me to relax my hands a few times.) Part 2 of Supta Padangusthasana: Still about the kidneys. That’s where the energy/strength resides. Then soften the leg that is lowering.

Terrific practice. I highly recommend the place, if anyone is ever in Singapore. Speaking of which, I’m really enjoying the city. Discussion about the non-yoga part of my trip is in the other blog.

Tomorrow and the next day, which are Thursday and Friday here in Singapore (I am living in the future!) will be early days for me, so I won’t get back to Mysore practice until Saturday. Gonna have to see if I can squeeze in a quick practice on Sunday, too, before I leave.

Pure Yoga

Woke up with a headache at 5:30. Probably because somewhere in this crazy travel schedule I must have missed one day’s worth of coffee fix (i.e., one cup). Put on my yoga clothes, put my hair into the standard ridiculous pigtails, and headed to the lobby to find a cab. It was still pretty dark out, and the guard in the lobby looked pretty surprised to see me. I’m sure this city starts its days quite early, but here in one of the upscale hotels, everyone is on a different schedule. There was live music in the atrium until well into the night.

So I get into the cab and show the driver a piece of paper with the Pure Yoga address. He is on it. No worries. As we go, he asks me if my yoga includes meditation, and is pleased when I say that it does. He is Indian, and he asks if there is a religious component to the yoga I study. I tell him that I’ve learned a lot about Hinduism from my teacher. He is satisfied with that answer. I have the sense that he is curious, but doesn’t want to be intrusive.

I know what he feels like. Last night, we passed a Hindu temple. People were going in and participating in a puja ceremony. I hung back, as did my colleagues. We could see what was going on, and I didn’t feel like it would be appropriate to enter the room as tourists while the puja was in progress. It’s very funny, because the folks from work keep asking me questions about India and Hinduism and I just don’t know the answers. Between that and watching the puja in the midst of an Indian neighborhood, I felt quite the poseur. I know my own practice is true, but it is worlds away, in many respects, from anything at all to do with traditional Indian practices. I mean (duh!) it’s not my culture. Anyhow, not necessarily a thought to belabor, but something good to acknowledge.

Much as I must acknowledge that the Singapore that I am seeing, as a guest in a high-end hotel, is radically different from the lives of people who really live here. It seems to be a fiercely entrepreneurial city, and of course I am being exposed to the fruits of that entrepreneurial spirit. A lovely picture, but not the whole picture.

Alrighty, back to yoga. So I am dropped off at a huge office tower. Go in and ask the guard if I am in the right place. He consults an enormous book that lists all of the businesses in the building. Indeed, my friendly cabbie has brought me to the right place. He tells me to go to the 18th floor, and is adamant that I must use the very furthest elevator in a bank of elevators, despite the fact that most of the elevators have signs that indicate they go to all floors except the 4th. Okay, whatever. I take the elevator he wants me to take.

Upstairs is the Pure Yoga floor. Very marble and glass and metal. Corporate, even. The woman at the front desk says, “Mysore?” as I enter the room looking lost. Ah, the universal language! “Yes,” I say. “Mysore.”

She asks me for my membership number and seems surprised when I say I am dropping in. She has me fill out a waiver and then runs the tab. “Forty dollars.” I hand over my credit card. I am not good at mathematical conversions, and I figured practice was going to be pricey, so I’m not terribly surprised about all of this. (When I got back to my hotel room, I calculated the conversion rate. The drop in fee is $27.50 US, plus tax, which comes out to about $29.50. Yikes.)

Like a total loser (seriously, I am a dork), I tried to figure out what was going on. Wandered through the huge ladies dressing area looking for a locker where I could put my stuff. The woman at the desk had, mysteriously, told me my mat would probably not fit in a locker. Finally found a place for my shoes and the shirt I’d thrown on over my yoga top, and headed out to try to find the Mysore room. There are four large studios at Pure Yoga, and all of them have heavy frosted glass sliding doors. The woman at the desk had indicated that the Mysore room was to the right, so I had two rooms to choose from. Why does this all sound so Kafkaesque?

Tried the first door. Nothing. Just a big room with a bunch of mats on the floor. No people. Tried the second. There we go. About half a dozen folks there, in various stages of practice. Woohoo! Oh but wait, the room is REALLY hot. And I could hear the heater still going. The windows were all foggy, but folks were just going about their business, so I joined in. First order of business was figuring out the mat thing. I have always been bemused when out-of-town yogis email me to say they are coming to visit my shala and then ask about whether they can rent or use a mat. I’ve always hauled mine around. In fact, I even brought the heavy Manduka with me on this trip. But here at Pure Yoga, I was looking at a room full of empty mats. Mandukas. The good ones. I reckon there were about 35-40 mats in the room. I moved one over and rolled out my own, since I’d carried it so far, and also because I can get kind of lonely when I travel, and then I form a weird attachment to my mat. You know, like it’s my true friend. Silly, but there you have it.

Launch into practice, eager to see if I can escape the headache, and also the krink in my thoracic spine which has been dogging me for about 18 hours. At first I am hugely distracted by the heat. I like heat as well as the next person, but not humidity, and Singapore is humid. Oh wait a minute, I just realized that I like to think of myself as easy about temperature, but wasn’t I recently whining about the cold in Florida? Okay, I’ll stop now, because I need to whine a little later about the cold in the hotel.

The teacher, Celeste, showed up when I was at the very beginning of standing poses. She made a beeline straight over and asked me who I was. Very direct and very strong. I told her I was visiting from the US, and told her my teacher sent his regards. “I haven’t seen him in ages!” she said. Then she told me to go ahead and do what I usually do. And off she went to adjust folks in the room. You know how people use the word “tiny” to describe little women? Okay, yeah — this teacher is REALLY tiny. I think she may be as tall as I am, but she can’t weigh much more than 90 pounds, if that.

As I was in Prasarita C, I heard the tiny teacher approaching. I wondered if she’d be challenged to adjust me, given how small she is. Yeah, okay, forget that idea! She grabbed my arms, told me to relax my elbows, refolded me back so my hands were facing in the opposite direction (palms facing out) and cranked me HARD. “Relax, relax,” she said. “Just soften.” Oh the hilarity. I’m not a good softener — and it took her all of, what, 2 seconds, to figure that out. And the other funny thing was how this waiflike person was manhandling me. Rock on. I stood up with aching arms and a heck of a lot fewer preconceptions. Very funny.

I got a good smoosh in paschimottanasana. Not using her weight, but applying pressure on my sides in a really effective manner. She also said, “pull in with your navel, and pull your anus tight.” Shout out to Linda and the folks at her shala — I know you guys hear this a lot, too. 😉

Adjustment again in Marichyasana D. She stood over me on the first side and said, “Put both sit bones down.” I gave a “Yeah, right” snort. She stepped on the down foot and said “Go ahead, you won’t fall.” It seemed like a looooong way to the floor for that other sit bone, let me tell you. I looked up at her at the end of the pose and grinned. She laughed. On the second side, I set up trying to keep the left sit bone down. What I realize now is that I usually shift all of my weight to the hip on the lotus leg side in order to counterbalance as I bind. If I set up without the big weight shift, I can keep the sit bones down. Interesting.

Next adjustment was in Baddha Konasana. She just dug her knees into my upper thighs and pushed on my back, told me (of course) to relax my shoulders and to not pull — to relax into the pose, rather than muscle through it. The interesting thing was how all of the pressure was so focused: it wasn’t about her body weight at all; none of the full-body draping that usually goes on. All I could feel was the pressure on my thighs and then her hands between my shoulder blades.

Last adjustment was in Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana. Mostly verbal. Don’t pull with the arms/shoulders. Don’t use muscular energy; instead, use the energy of the navel to bring the legs in.

What?! NO pulling? How will I practice? LOL! Note to self: Karen, please remember this. It is your most important lesson and one you keep resisting.

I walked out of there feeling like I’m all about overusing my shoulders and being divorced from my core. Gotta re-balance that. Fascinating to go to a new shala, because all of your habits seem so much more obvious than at the home shala, where you can roll through the usual with a huge sense of familiarity. Celeste seems like a very perceptive and very strong teacher. As I was wrapping up she was working on standing-from-urdhva-dhanurasana with someone who is clearly a regular practitioner. It was a nice interaction: a good combination of moral support, instruction, and humor.

By the time I left, there were about 25 people practicing. Seemed very focused and yet every so often I could hear a couple of people murmuring a bit, and occasionally a little laughter. Nice place. I’m happy I went. Tomorrow and the next day are early mornings, work-wise, but I’ll go back after that. I think I can get in two or more practices there before I head home.

Singapore blog

Put together a blog for the trip. I’ll dwell on the yoga on this blog, as per usual, but wanted to have a place for other details of the trip.

Singapore Tour

Shuffle, Sleep, Singapore

The shuffle meme (put your iPod on shuffle and document the first 10 songs that come up):

1. Politik, Coldplay
2. Borrowed Time, A Fine Frenzy
3. Don’t Panic, Coldplay
4. Drown In My Own Tears, Ray Charles
5. High Speed, Coldplay
6. Ray of Light, Madonna
7. Brown Eyed Girl, Van Morrison
8. Gayatri Mantra, Deva Premal
9. I Try, Macy Gray
10. Lebanese Blonde, Thievery Corporation

Not very adventurous taste, I know — and a Coldplay problem.

***

Everyone’s talking about sleeping poorly. Online and at work, everyone seems to be having trouble. Full moon? I woke up suddenly at 3 AM today. Okay. Meant extra time to read before practice. Kinda tired now. No sense trying to adjust to normal time, since I’ll be flying through a ton of time zones tomorrow and the next day.

***

Practice was lovely this morning. Great to see the Mysorians and VBG. I mentioned that I’ve found a shala to practice at in Singapore, and VBG asked who the teacher was. Small world. Turns out she’s practiced with him.

The President of the company swung by my office this morning and proposed a short side trip: Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Oh yeah! I am SO in!

Where the heart is

Woke up with a start in the hotel room. Had a (false) memory of picking up the phone for my wake-up call and then putting it down and falling back to sleep. “What time is it?!” I panicked. Look at the clock. Oh, uh, 3:30 AM. An hour before my wake-up call is due. And now I’m too awake. Start thinking about something that’s been irritating me at work, and go around in circles with it for a bit.

Finally get up. Okay, so 4 AM in the Florida hotel room is 1 AM at home. This is a really early start to my day. The weird sleeping has my emotions all whacked out. Nothing dramatic, just the sense of loneliness and mild despair. Seriously, the thought of practice makes me want to curl up on the floor and cry.

Do a little blog reading, including Laksmi’s site, where I think of my Anusara teacher of yore, and suggest she look into Anusara if she wants some good help with pincha mayurasana.

I reminisced a little about learning yoga with Martin, who always (yes, I know) had a theme for each class, and always sat and told little stories before we began and at the end. My Gift worked as a receptionist at the studio he and his wife owned, and still rates it as her favorite job. She was highly amused to report that he and his wife — her employers — always gave her a hug at the end of her shifts.

Okay, all the fluffy Anusara stuff aside, I am grateful for the education I received in form and alignment.

And suddenly I found myself in the hotel room, at 4 AM (meaning 1 AM), downloading a random Anusara podcast on my Shuffle, and using that to practice. It felt totally criminal and I was amazed at how guilty I felt. I don’t think that’s healthy, but I’ll reserve judgment and see how it plays out in my mind.

The podcast practice was lovely. Very sweet. I had the sudden, rather disturbing insight that I am such a methodical person that I can easily approach my practice as a routine chore. And that — insidiously — there has evolved a suck-it-up-and-get-it-done component in my current state of practice. Uh oh.

I will think about this some more. I will even go over to Martin’s place and take a class. I want to know how that makes me feel. Will my guilt subside? Will I learn something — again — about my tendency to dogmatism?

Ah well. We’ll see. In the meantime, I am FINALLY home. Air travel sucks. It’s all screwy and always late. But I’m here. Nice.

Need to wash my clothes and repack and be ready to head out to Singapore on Saturday.

Busy Mind of Hotel Practice

Hotel practice is hard. This particular hotel has carpet over every inch of the floor except the tiny bathroom. Ack, practice on carpet. Very tough on the wrists. So much internal monolog with hotel practice. And I get so disembodied by travel. Decided right from the get-go just to do primary. To try to get back in my body, to try to get grounded.

So much going on in my head through all of practice. My alone version of supta kurmasana really sucking these days, since VBG does an assist all the time. When he puts my feet over my head, all is well and there is incremental progress. When I try to do it myself… ah, well. That train of thought is not particularly useful.

Finally managed to get the heat in the room up to 80. Thank goodness. We are at a property in the Disney empire. Temperatures set below freezing; a coffee maker in the room, but no coffee (WTF?); and a wake up call that is Mickey Mouse screaming in your ear. Plus carpeted floors. Not Ashtangi heaven.

Makes me realize how lovely my usual practice at home is: the routine of the wake-up, the coffee, the drive to the shala under a starry sky, the nice warm practice. Ahhhhhh.

Okay, so I’m not there now. Sleeping poorly; eating weird food; freezing; long hours; no Cop. I think what makes the internal monolog most busy is that all of these circumstances add up to a kind of loneliness. When I’m in my familiar home environment, I am integrated; out here in a different world, my boundaries feel more obvious — it’s harder to integrate. So then I’m a lone soul wandering around a (God, how awful) Disney-esque landscape.

I know there are people who love to travel for work. I so don’t get it.

Cold weather practice

To all practitioners who live in cold climes: I salute you.

I am actually in Florida, which is not known for its chilliness, but I am at a work conference, so that means I am in air-conditioned surroundings all day and all night. I have the heat turned on in my hotel room right now, but it is pretty weak. It is fine outdoors, but apparently the populace prefers an air-conditioned ambient temperature of about 70 degrees. Hotels, stores, restaurants, cabs — all freezing. I don’t get it.

The difference between my usual hot desert weather and these cold temperatures adds up to one thing: sore joints.

Oh, and tight muscles. Almost forgot about that.

Today as I snuck outside the hotel to stand for a few minutes in the swampy heat, I thought about all the Ashtangis who regularly practice in cold climates, and I’ll tell you this: I admire your devotion. If we make a division between those who study Ashtanga (the tough guys) and those who don’t, we should also consider a distinction based on cold-clime Ashtangis (the tough ones) and tropical or desert Ashtangis (wusses like me).