Sunday, 16 May 2010

Mythbusting, wristbinding and healing.

So after my last post I have been meaning to catch up – as always, I have written about 5 updates in my head but none of them have actually made it onto a keyboard. If only I could find a way to connect my brain and my blog I would post every day. Anyway I’ll start by saying thank you for all of the lovely messages both on & off blog, it really helped to know that people were sending their thoughts. It’s been amazing really, how things have been, given how I felt this time two weeks ago.
Things have been busy since I last managed to write. And I’m starting to realise that all of the stuff that has been going on (good technical word, “stuff”), from losing my Nan two weeks ago to the other family stuff going back over the past few months, plus all of the stuff spinning around my head, it all seems to be coming together in some sort of balance.
I have found for the first time that practicing when times are tough is the way to go – as I wrote in the comments on my last post I always assumed I would hide from my mat, scared of what was going to be ready to leap out at me when I got there. But after the events of last week, I somehow managed to make it to practice more than in a “normal” week. And nothing massive or scary happened, there were no tears or meltdowns - if anything I started to notice quite a bit of progress. One of the most important things was that I managed to zap some of the myths I have created around my practice. You know, the ones that say “I can only practice two days in a row, then I need a break” or the one that goes “well if I have a late night or no sleep I can’t possibly go to the shala” (I have lots of these). It’s all well and good that I have found a routine that works for me (practice Sunday & Monday, rest on Tuesday, practice Wednesday & Thursday, rest on Friday & Saturday) but that’s not to say it’s the only way to do things. So last week, as well as practice on Sunday, I did a few bank holiday Monday suryas in the afternoon sunshine on my decking, had about 4 hours sleep Monday night, then went to the shala Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I’d planned to try and get to Friday’s led class too but I’m going to blame the excitement of the election from keeping me up late that night. Anyway I had an unusually busy weekend planned last week, Friday was a night out with three of the ashtangis I met in Goa this year, lovely to see people and catch up over dinner and cake (of course). Then I was up early on Saturday to go and meet my mum and sister who were coming up to London for the day, something we had planned (or tried to) months ago as a belated birthday present to my sister and I has anticipated being cancelled as my mum was helping with all of the funeral arrangements, and my sister’s baby and little girl have both been really unwell. But we all decided to just get on with it, they came up and we spent the day having lunch, wandering around central London elephant spotting, and then went to see Hair the musical, which was completely hippy-fabulous!! It was a spur of the moment thing, my sister felt like seeing it, we went into the box office and got good seats for an OK price, and a few hours later there we were. I had no expectations, I didn’t know anything about it really, but completely loved it! Probably the only musical on right now that includes the chants Hare Rama, Hare Krishna and Om Shanti within the musical score J

Gratuitous Ellie shots...

I spent most of the first half thinking “I have no idea what this is actually about but it’s so much fun I don’t actually care...” and by the end we were all grinning from ear to ear. After a quick dinner and a sprint back to St Pancras to see them off I went home knackered but having had an awesome day and still wearing the flower in my hair. I went to practice the next morning (and the days that followed) with the lyrics “Harmony and understanding, Sympathy and trust abounding...” from Aquarius spinning round my head and this overwhelming sense that the world was definitely trying to tell me something – although that may have been just that I want to grow my hair and wear maxi dresses....

So this week, I started my practice week on Sunday then continued Monday and Tuesday and was all set for a 4 day run but weirdly on Wednesday (and this has happened before) woke up at 3.30am and went to the bathroom at which point I realised that my shoulder was playing up again and so set my alarm for later and took a rest day. It’s almost as if I can give myself a middle of the night warning that there is no point getting up early – either that of I just always feel incapable of practice when I wake up in the middle of the night!! Anyway, practice itself has been going pretty well. I don’t know when all these little changes happen as practice all merges into one, but things that have changed over the past few weeks include being able to get the wrist bind in Mari B and D (the first day I had found it in B and was then being assisted in D and got it -  the next day I got the first side completely unassisted and had a little tweak to get the second side). I’ve also been able to get my nose to me knee in parsvottanasana for the first time since I was in India, and Cary has now started crossing my feet over my head in supta kurmasana and then lifting me right up (before I’ve been crossing my feet on the ground in front of me while she helped me catch the bind at my hands). I’m not saying it went well, but we did it two days in a row and I definitely noticed how much easier it will be to get into tittibhasana and then swing the legs around to bakasana when the legs are that much higher up the arms. Right now it’s really really hurting in my shoulder to push up at that point (Cary told me it’s all about pushing the ground away with my hands while the feet are still lifted up over my head but I just wanted to scream “but it hurts!!”). Even without the lift up today (my sore shoulder is winning the battle) I can now lift up in tittibhasana and start to swing my legs around but at that point I lose it and land on my knees. I’ve also started really really working my backbends and starting to feel like it’s giving me more energy for the rest of the day (thank god because it’s really hard work!!) and have started attempting chakrasana the past few days (which is hilariously bad but at least I’m trying!). My headstand seems to have gone temporarily AWOL though – probably not helped by the fact I did it at home on Wednesday after a bit of gentle stretching to help my shoulder and managed to lift up but carried on going and flipped right over, landing with my back on a crate of books bound for the charity shop. Lesson learnt = don’t turn my home practice space into a dumping ground, you never know when you might need it.

So anyway on Wednesday night I went home to my parents for my Nan’s funeral on Thursday morning which I was pretty much dreading. But the weird thing is, it really was OK. There is a part of me that’s a bit worried that this is some sort of denial reaction, or that I should feel guilty that I dealt with it in this way, but maybe this is just the beginning of really starting to understand the “off the mat” stuff for me. There were thoughts that kept coming to me both before and at the funeral (some of which surprised me), but the overwhelming one was that the physical body is irrelevant and so the funeral, and the burial in particular, were important rituals but weren’t directly connected to my Nan. She left two weeks ago, and although there is a car taking her to the church, and then to the cemetery, that’s not her – in any sense. This helped a lot. Of course, the circumstances helped too – she wasn’t sick, but at 96 she was tired and ready to go. Maybe this is why things have been easier to handle. But also I had all sorts of thoughts popping into my head which told me that my burgeoning sense of spirituality is getting stronger, and I started to understand why people find faith such a comfort. It’s hard to put into words, I wasn’t listening to the sermon and thinking about a God in the traditional old beardy man sense, but there was just this strong feeling that everything was as it should be, and that she is being taken care of and that we didn’t need to worry. So I sang the hymns, I listened as the vicar read what my dad had written about my Nan and, though I had tears in my eyes, through much of it I smiled as he talked about her enormous sense of fun and her almost non-stop giggles. I just couldn’t be sad. We then went up to the cemetery and at the graveside the vicar read that poem “Do not stand by my grave and weep, I am not here, I do not sleep...” which may have summed up what I was feeling but was actually a bit much to hear. At this point I completely went into myself, and just kept going back to the breath and centering myself – I had my head bowed and my eyes closed for the whole thing, I was desperate to not watch the mechanics of what was going on - what I really wanted to do was get my hands in anjali mudra and feel that calming energy zinging around but I didn’t want to do anything too obvious. I should add that my Nan - quietly progressive lady as she was – had a wicker coffin which everybody thought was pretty cool - I still didn’t want to look at it though! Instead of throwing in a handful of earth each my Dad had suggested we each throw in a red rose though I knew nothing of this until just beforehand and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do it (neither of my cousins did). But again I just went as far into myself as I could given that I had to raise my head to see where I was going and I did it, and it was fine. And then we went back to my auntie’s house and did what you do; drank tea, ate sandwiches and cake and shared stories, and then we were done. The following day was my Dad’s birthday so I stayed down and we all spent the day at the zoo with my two nieces (almost 3 years and ten months old) which was fabulous and actually just what we all needed (though my poor brother was at home ill in bed having had to stay home from the funeral too, which I think will have been much worse in imagining that actuality). My niece had a great time puddle-jumping though she wasn’t quite so happy once her trousers, socks & boots were muddy and soaked through (irresponsible auntie mel was just taking photos and letting her drench herself) and I couldn’t resist a little backbend on the picnic bench (though I was horrified when I saw the picture as to how far my shoulders were from being over my wrists!).

In my defence I was lying down and did a sort of weird dropping back off the bench before I pushed up...and I was more worried that my flabby stomach sticking out in the photo!! All in all, it was the perfect healing family day, and I was back in London for a busy weekend meeting up with some of my favourite yogis. Which obviously I am not going to write about here as this post is already way too long (is anybody still reading??). Maybe another day...I just need to write more often, clearly that’s the answer. I'll leave you with the proud/irresponsible auntie photo album.


  1. Nice bench backbend, tho doesn't look like you were following Kristen's advice LOL!

  2. I can so relate about not being sure on what it is one is feeling on the grieving process, it is so confusing, so disorienting... on a happier note I like your idea of having the mind connected to the blog, so posts can be written at the speed of thought... then again, I wonder if that could be dangerous sometimes :-)