Monday, 30 August 2010

Uncertainty creeps.

“Melanie’s possible weaknesses:
May not respond well to uncertainty.”

So says a psychometric test I took recently – and I couldn’t agree more! My “situation” of uncertainty is ongoing, hence the radio silence on the blog as keeping things from you my dear readers (!) feels a little like absence of satya (plus I have a hard time keeping my trap shut, but confidentiality is required at this stage). Haha – I’m making this out to sound a lot more exciting than it really is!
Anyway I found this comment interesting as it has been well demonstrated in my body and mind (and more particularly my practice) over the past week. I have read numerous dedicated teachers (though Nancy Gilgoff springs first to mind) say that the benefit of having a daily practice is that it’s your opportunity to check in and see where you are at, and if you are feeling unwell, or not quite balanced in some other way, that it will probably show up first in your practice (if you’re not already aware of it, that is). Last week I had the week off work, and in my mind’s eye it was the perfect chance to get some serious rest and relaxation plus (of course) to throw myself into my practice. In the run up to my holiday-at-home I was seriously exhausted and was only just getting through the preceding week at work. I even (shock horror) skipped a day of practice that week, having got up at 5.30, switched the shower on, then turned and seen my reflection and the horrendous black circles under my eyes. Interestingly the mental argument to skip practice was as much a battle of wills as I used to face to go to practice back in the olden days before I was an ashtanga swot ;)
But it turned out that my body had other ideas for my dedicated practice and rest week. Well for starters I turned out to be too busy to rest - having been away for the weekend I then made plans for Monday Tuesday and Wednesday. So for example after  practice on Wednesday I rushed home for a quick shower and breakfast before leaving again an hour later to meet my sister who was in London to visit me for the day (and we had a very very lovely time too, but exhausting!!). By Thursday morning as I slogged through yet another very laboured practice I realised that something had to give – the phrase that kept running through my mind was that I was “running on empty” and once the thought was there, it stuck – round and round it went, from the suryas to closing. I also could no longer avoid the fact that the life-uncertainty that I am in the midst of is impacting on the ability to focus my mind.  I am living in a time of speculation where I can see four distinct and separate ways that my life could go and until I know what’s going to happen, I just need to allow the uncertainty to be there, but not to let it get the better of me. But this is a little easier said than done. After Thursday’s practice I went for coffee & pastries with a shala-friend, then on to meet another yoga friend in town for a few more hours of coffee/tea and catching up (and a second breakfast) and by the time I got home I was wiped, emotionally and physically. So I decided that with a few days remaining of my holiday (how did the week go so fast??) I needed to start getting in some serious rest. Afternoon naps became obligatory from this point onwards. In all honesty if I hadn’t of had dinner plans with another yoga friend I probably would have stayed in bed from about 4pm onwards! In my past life (pre-ashtanga) I would never have been capable of falling asleep during the day unless I was ill or seriously hungover, but I seem to be getting the hang of it quite nicely these days. My favourite thing is to get right into bed but leave the curtains open – in the middle of the afternoon the sun streams in through my bedroom window so I end up napping in the sunshine like a cat.
After my successful napping attempt on Thursday I decided that a few days r&r to heal my body and soul could make all the difference. True, my situation wasn’t going to be resolved yet, but at least I would be less shattered. So after the led class on Friday I took a leisurely solo cafe breakfast with my copy of Guruji (which I am adoring, naturally), then headed home by which time I almost felt ill (I was soooo cold) that I ran a very hot bath, climbed in, and got straight back into my pyjamas afterwards and went to bed. I think it was about midday by this stage. I got up in time to make red lentil & lemon soup which I ate (still in my pjs) before heading off to see my magical cranial osteopath (who does all sorts of other bodywork and I never know what to refer to him as. Let’s just call him Rob.) First questions from Rob: So how are you? (standard answer without remembering who’s asking – “fine!”) How’s your body? (haha!!). I told him about my week off, and how I thought I would be getting my energy back, but practice has been a slog and I am beyond exhausted. He practices and teaches yoga too, and has often spoken to me before about how we make deals with our body – in busy times we stick to crazy schedules, don’t sleep enough, don’t eat well, and we tell ourselves that it’s “just until I get the promotion” or “just until the end of term” – whatever it is, we cut a deal with ourselves that this won’t be forever. And at the end of the busy period we try and get back to normal, or we go on holiday and what happens? We get sick. Rob said that he used to tell his students that sometimes you just have to “Do the ill thing” i.e. give in and STOP - which without realising it is what I had been doing for the preceding day or so. The other thing that my treatment with him became focussed on was my newly tweaky left knee (which randomly started hurting during the day on Thursday) which he declared to be inflamed and probably the result of hyperextension. Funnily enough one of my yoga teachers in my preashtanga days had pointed this out, as had Harmony on my first trip to Goa, but since then it’s never been mentioned. It does seem strange that all of a sudden it should flare up my previously pain-free left knee but I am going to take his word on it. After the treatment it was feeling quite a lot more tender, so needless to say more resting was required, which just about covered Saturday where my only outing was to a kirtan class. Sunday’s yoga practice was OAP yoga (veeeeery slow) though luckily I had the chance to chat with Cary beforehand who checked my knees and agreed that yes, I do have hyperextension and that in her words “This is good! Now you really have a practice...a MENTAL practice!”. I was given strict instructions to put in the microbends not just through my practice, but in my whole life (I reckon standing up on the tube – what do they call it, straphanging? – is where I lock out my knees the worst actually) and so my practice was slow and mindful (aka irritating). Somehow putting that teeny bend in your knees simultaneously feels like cheating, but also makes everything seem more difficult. Bye-bye delicious easy forward bends...hopefully not for long though. The noteworthy point in Sunday’s practice was that FINALLY I managed to hoist myself up into kukuttasana! Since my last post I have been working hard on garbha pindasana and watching my changing emotions towards it (from thinking that I will NEVER get the rocking, to it becoming easier, from tears of frustration to quiet determination, from bruises below the elbow to bruises above the elbow) and the moment that I gained some control in my rocking (still on-the-spot for now) Cary started pressing me to lift up at the end. Up to that point I hadn’t even tried as it just hurt and felt wrong. Cary’s explanation when I gave this reason? “You know how uttitha hasta is just HARD?” – I knew that meant I had to do it. So I have been trying, utterly convinced I would never do it, and though it took tremendous effort and about 8 momentum-gathering-rocks, on Sunday I finally had lift-off!
And you know what? Once I was up there it felt so easy – almost too easy! So when the same thing happened today (after only about 3 attempts – progress!) and I got the same easy feeling and wide grin in kukkutasana I simultaneously realised a couple of things. One – I am STRONG! Maybe not compared to anyone else, but for me – I am! And this pose makes me really feel like I am on top of the world, I love that feeling! Two – so often the journey is the hardest part. Once we have made the climb, so often we can just stand back and enjoy the view. I think it’s easy to forget this and think that things are always going to be difficult and tough if they are hard-fought, but sometimes all this means is that the hard work is already done. I’m not even sure if this directly applies to my own off the mat stuff, but it definitely applies on my mat, so I thought it might be worth sharing. Boring post over and out.


  1. The journey "is" the hardest part, and it sounds like you're in the midst of "the climb" right now in your life off the mat.

    I was just given Garbha Pindasana this week and remembered your previous post about the rocking - it does feel a little silly especially since I'm still trying to figure out how to get that rocking-round-the-mat momentum going. My teacher's been really kind in helping push and pull me as I rock, but I know that at some point I'm going to have to try to figure it out on my own! Funky but fun at the same time ;)

  2. You have got to doing Kukutasana really quickly, dedication gets results.
    I meant to look out for your Warrior exit off one foot, but must have been otherwise engaged at the time.