Monday, 18 October 2010

Beginner's Mind

So the retreat has begun and I have stopped blogging...
Well there’s just so much to fit into a day! Yesterday’s schedule looked like this: half an hour breathwork/meditation to begin a slow led class as a group, breakfast, pool-time, a little swim in the sea, lunch, pedicure , afternoon workshop, dinner, chatting with fellow retreaters, bed. See? Busy busy round here, no time for blogging!!
But in the interests of keeping a record of this trip I should say how it’s going so far. Let’s put it this way – our welcome meeting on Saturday afternoon included some gentle get-you-over-jetlag yoga (including some of deepest pigeon variations I ever came across!) and when we were in savasana Clayton did a little strum on his guitar to tune it. And then Mel realised she was in HEAVEN! We then chanted lokah samastha sukhino bhavantu accompanied by his guitar and his lovely mellow singing and I knew I’d come to the right course :)
In terms of who is here, the majority of people on the course are either beginners or people who haven’t practiced mysore style or ashtanga yoga before. This makes for an interesting dynamic on my part, as I am amongst one of only 3 or 4 people (out of 17 I think) with a regular mysore practice. Having been one of the closest to beginner level on retreats in the past this is a strange and unusual concept to me (and am trying to disengage any ego at this point). But also I am the least advanced of the regular practitioners, so that feels a bit more natural!! What’s funny is that my room-mate is as huge an ashtangageek as I am and we both confessed to having a fear of being paired up with a complete beginner and having to pretend to be normal, haha!! She’s from Melbourne and is laid back and lovely and practices up to the beginning of intermediate. And her teacher was on the same training course in mysore that my teacher, my original teachers and our retreat teacher were all on. Oh and she was on the same course at Purple Valley as a good friend of mine last year. Small world eh? And then we have another massive ashtangageek from Argentina, a lovely guy who urged me to give up my job as one of the first things he said to me and has described at length the perils of wearing a certain type of boy shorts to do garbha. We had a fabulous long chat last night (the three of us) where we realised that we are all insane, but at least we’re in it together! Isn’t that actually the point of going on a yoga retreat?
 So anyway given the number of beginners my assumption was that we would be taking things very slowly to begin with, and yesterday that was the case. But I now completely understand the benefit of going back to basics – I learnt so much! I think often when you are a complete beginner there is SO much to take in that a lot of the finer detail goes over your head. Then with regular mysore practice, your teacher might pick up on some of these glitches during your practice but there will always be things that aren’t picked up on; going right back to the beginning and being taught as a complete beginner is a great opportunity to refine the practice. We began our morning with a half hour session of “breathwork and meditation”. We began with alternate nostril breathing then some other breathwork before going on to chakra meditation (no guitar!) as we chanted lam vam ram (and so on) for each chakra – all of which left me feeling very mellow and chilled. So practice began was an erratic sounding opening chant as we did it all together, and of course everyone has veeeery different versions depending on your teacher. Clayton’s is (of course) beautifully tuneful and rather lovely in a sing-song kind of way.  He then handed out posture sheets and proceeded to demonstrate surya namaskar A before asking us to try, then the same with B, repeating a few times together before moving onto padangustasana and so on. Lots of explanation, modifications and variations (with demonstrations) for complete beginners, some adjustments as he walked round and we did the postures in a slightly less flowing way than usual because of the explanations, but I loved the way that he made everything accessible to all levels. And surely that’s the mark of a good teacher? Oh AND he was assisting the person beside me in utthita hasta padangusthasana and then just held his hand out and held my leg up too so he was assisting us both at once. Good skills!
I also have to say (just to get it out of the way...) I don’t think I ever saw a 6’2 man demonstrate ashtanga before (most of the male teachers I’ve come across tend to be shorter and have a different type of physique) but he looks pretty awesome when he demonstrates. And his abs are almost a little distracting!!  What with that and lovely mellow timbre of his speech and singing voice I think maybe I have decided a new pre-requisite for a successful yoga retreat... haha, bad lady!!!
In yesterday’s afternoon class we then ran through the postures in more detail – in the morning we practiced up to Janu sirsasana A and then did full closing, in the afternoon we talked as far as the beginning of seated. And there were definitely a few things that I picked up from this first class which I was then able to take through my practice both yesterday and today. One of the major ones was from his lengthy explanation of the correct posture of chaturanga through into upward dog. On Friday when I practiced with Elonne she picked up on my legs rolling out in upward dog. I’ve been aware that I did this a little but something in the way Clayton explained this part of the vinyasa so slowly and clearly made the penny drop. Activate legs – ta-da! Oh also (this is slightly embarrassing) I think I was confusing lifting up the kneecaps/activating the legs with hyperextension. That feeling where the knees slightly roll was one I thought I had to avoid for fear of hyperextending, but now I find that’s actually what you need to do to activate the legs...and in case I didn’t explain this well I demonstrated it with my room-mate and she confirmed that my knees were NOT hyperextending when I did the pulling up thing. Ha! More fool me! But err – sometimes these things just take a while to click don’t they? We finished the class with more chanting, one in English that he said was a typical Californian hippie campfire song and then morphed into lokah samastha, and also the news that tomorrow morning (Monday) we would be doing a mysore style practice. Pretty scary news for the complete beginners I imagine but good news for me as I feel like I have missed lots of days (what with 2 days taken up with travel and the time difference and then the Saturday rest day).
But then weirdly before the mysore practice today I was feeling nervous and like I didn’t remember the sequence – part of which is to do with having new asanas and having taken a few days break I’m a bit confused as to where I actually practice up until – so I checked the sheet before I left my room, but actually when I did my last pose today (supta konasana) I had to ask Clayton afterwards what came next – and that gave me the answer that I had finished my practice!
Anyway we began the class again today with half an hour of breathwork, the same as yesterday, then we did the opening chant in call and response before kicking off with mysore practice. I had my roommate to my left and a particularly distracting beginner to my right (I tried not to be too distracted, really I did...). When the distracting one finally agreed to stop (after saying she was happy to do more 3 times when told to stop there) her savasana consisted of lying on her side with her legs up watching the room. When told she could leave when she was finished she said “no, I’m learning” and continued to watch. Okkkaaaaay.....
I noticed that at the very beginning of my practice I felt a bit like I was trying too hard and that my brain was everywhere. It’s hard sometimes I think to switch off and focus on your practice when there’s so much else going on around you, and the suryas felt like they went on forever. I don’t know if it was because I mentioned my trikonasana issues in conversation yesterday, by Clayton came and helped me with my alignment before I had even started on the posture, and I felt like I was better aligned today than ever before which was fantastic. It was ever so hot though and sweat was pouring off me (bear in mind we started at 8am, much hotter than 6.30!) and at one point I was really shaky and thought I’d never get through my whole practice. But once I got to seated it was OK, I was using a lot of the tips Clayton gave yesterday and it was all helping. Luckily nobody was around to assist in baddha konasana so my poor sore muscles have another day to recover, and apart from my mental block at the end of my practice it was all good. One last pointer was to bring my elbows closer together for headstand – which initially felt wrong but as I stayed there very strongly I realised that I was giving me greater stability in the posture. By the time I came out of savasana only two others were still in the room (my roomie and the lady who works here – the fabulous “we love our breasts” Qi gong teacher) and it was roasting hot. So what did we do but dive headlong into the breakfast extravaganza kicking off with coconut rice pudding with fresh papaya to steel ourselves for another day of sunbathing, swimming in the sea and – oh, getting sunburnt, but that’s not really recommended. Back to a slow led class to navasana tomorrow to help the beginners integrate what they learnt today, so knowing how much harder slow classes are than normal ones, I’m off to bed!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Finding my mojo

Although it’s a little late to be up and writing, if I don’t do this now I never will! So this morning I had my first mysore practice, though not with my retreat teacher (the course only starts tomorrow with the first practice on Sunday). I slept really well (surprisingly!) clocking up almost 8 hours before I got up to have a leisurely cup of green tea and a shower before heading down for the very civilised 8am start time. One of the people I was talking to at dinner last night was already there, so I went into the shala and was laying out my mat when she started chatting to me – I wouldn’t ordinarily chat in a shala busy or not, as I feel like there is something about the room that needs to be honoured as a sacred space – but she has been here longer than me, maybe the rules are different, so I answered but without too much chat, and then laid down my mat and did some gentle stretches waiting for the teacher to arrive.

They have various teachers here when there is no retreat on, and today it was a young American teacher (who introduced herself but I didn’t quite catch her name...) who I later heard say she is a student of Richard Freeman’s. She came and spoke to me, asked if I was new to mysore, I said that I have a daily practice so she suggested that I started and we would “open up together soon”. So with three other people arranged in each corner of the room, I started my sun salutations. Apart from feeling a little creaky on the first couple, I was surprised that it just felt normal to begin my practice here, with large windows to my left and behind me revealing lush greenery and plants and the odd person walking by. When I was on my surya namaskar B the teacher brought us to the front of our mats to chant, and like in yesterday’s restorative class nobody else in the room made a sound much above a whisper, but the chant was call and response and in a very tuneful and lilting incarnation (not what I’m used to, but quite lovely). So I continued with my practice, noticing (but not attaching to) the fact that the person in front of me was new to the practice (and had a sweet conversation with the teacher “but what’s full primary?” “Don’t worry about that for now, you have what you have...” “Yes but how many more poses? What’s the whole thing?!” “Let’s just work on the marichyasanas and that’s plenty for now...”), the person to her right was obviously not new to yoga, but not familiar with mysore style, and the person to my right went through a standard full primary (no dropbacks). And the teacher picked up on many of the little things Cary picks up on regularly – my shoddy alignment in trikonasana, taking the foot slightly further out in Mari A, taking the body further away from the bent leg in surya B, a rescue mission when I beached myself in garbha (actually C doesn’t help with that, but I could do with it!) – and also some of the things I always think Cary might tell me off for but doesn’t (finding an inward rotation of the thighs and grounding the feet in pursvottanasana, not rolling the feet out in upward dog) but my overall realisation was this:
My practice was exactly like my normal practice. I have flown halfway across the world and done the same practice that I would have done half an hour from my house.
This is not a negative realisation – far from it! But what I came to understand through picking my practice up and moving it all the way here, is that what really counts in ashtanga is the daily practice. I’m not going to expect any miracles just because I am on a retreat, because that would be missing the point. Yes, perhaps once my course begins I will learn things which will cast new light on the things I do on a daily basis, but if not, it’s not the end of the world. The whole purpose of being here is the rounded experience, being away from home, having a break – and if I’m honest, this realisation (which I don’t think I have explained very well) was worth coming all this way for in itself. Because let’s face it, I am about to undertake a new job which means I will be highly unlikely to get to the shala on a daily basis anymore, and realising that I can pick it up and take it somewhere else (i.e. it’s not dependent on my regular shala, or my teacher, or the energy of the other practitioners) is HUGE. Home practice may be another matter, but this will do for starters :)

My new friend
Other good things about today – I met two people who are here for my retreat, and they are lovely (most of the people I’d already met are about to go home). I remember from my second trip to Goa the urge to make comparisons to the first time were inevitable. Here, the comparison to Purple Valley is never far from my mind – though I know this will fade. Also I remember the little struggle I had for two or three days in Goa in January of not being sure about the people I was with, if I fitted in or felt comfortable, and of course by the end of the course that was all long forgotten. So I know that it takes a little time, and whilst this morning and afternoon I spent a lot of time alone, this evening was far more sociable. Plus in my alone time I rested in my room for a while, I lay by the pool, met a family of kittens, had an iced mocha from the juice (!) bar and I swam in the sea! That’s quite a big deal for me as I am always a bit uncertain of water without an edge...but it’s flat calm here and not deep at all, so I felt brave enough and it was fun! Now I did it today I will definitely be in there a lot.
I'm going in...
Oh and this afternoon’s restorative class? Turned out to be Qi-Gong – in the open-fronted beach shala while the waves crashed and the rain arrived in a sudden downpour. I had a few reservations but kept an open mind, and so I was hugging the full moon, scooping up clouds, climbing the cliffs from the ocean of infinite wisdom to the thousand petalled lotus in the third eye with the very lovely & sincere teacher who made some slightly peculiar pleasurable moans as she exhaled. Open mind please people!! It was actually rather lovely, especially the visualisation she talked us through at the beginning, and I felt super spacey afterwards.
But tonight we saw Clayton arrive (haha, I got my new fellow-retreaters to turn round as I pointed him out and he happened to look up – busted! As they said, it’s like when you see a celebrity...!) so tomorrow we begin. And it looks like I may have found my mojo just in the nick of time. 
Gratuitous generic beach-shot. Lovely though isn't it?

And when I say I am here...

...I really should have included a picture shouldn't I? So let's put that right...I am HERE! :)

Thursday, 14 October 2010

I am here: Here I am.

In the month of so before I discovered ashtanga yoga I was going through a rough time (lost my “dream” job, broke up with the one I thought was the one, yada yada) and some of the time I was struggling to hold it together. But without even realising what I was doing I developed a personal mantra that helped me stop from falling apart (at least in public). Many was the day I spent my journey to work on the tube repeating under my breath “I am here. I am here,” as I attempted to keep flashbacks at bay and stop tormenting myself with thoughts of happier times. It’s stood me in good stead as I remember it often now, and when an asana is challenging, or life is, I can sometimes keep connected enough to remind myself of it: I am here.  I had a moment in the early hours of this morning standing on the tarmac of Mumbai airport boarding a flight bound for Bangkok where I felt this so strongly but in a new way – as I zipped across the globe I felt almost like I was sending off a signal into the night sky, like a flashing map pin..."HERE! I’m here! But not for long...".

So for today when I say I am here, actually I am in Thailand!! Just in case I didn’t mention that I was coming here ;) (oh, I think I may have done...once or twice) the lowdown is I’m in Koh Samui for 10 days, 7 of which is going to be a retreat with authorised teacher Clayton Horton. I added on a couple of days at the beginning to allow myself to get over the LONG journey and goodness me am I glad that I did? My travels began with a 4.45am alarm call (tough even for this morning mysore person...), a 90 minute train journey across London, an easy peasy check-in, then flight #1: London > Mumbai. I had opted to fly with Indian airline Jet as I was so impressed with them on my last trip to Goa, plus the price was good, and despite the extra part of the journey the overall transit time didn’t work out that much longer than more direct options. What was lovely was getting the DELICIOUS Indian vegetarian food on really!! The 2 meals served within my flight (a rather early lunch and a “snack”) were so so good! Lunch was paneer masala with rice and something lentilly, the snack was some sort of dark green patties (spinach?) with things that looked like new potatoes but actually contained all sorts of things including corn. I have no idea what I ate, only that it was great. I had a very friendly neighbour too, a young british asian guy from up north who told me that he was going on a boys’ trip to Hong Kong to get away from the missus “who was soon to become the ex”. Anyhoo he was telling me that Mumbai is his favourite city in the world (compared to New York, London, Paris...he was obviously well travelled) describing it as like the west end of London put through an Indian washing machine. Maybe I will have to try it when I get the chance :)
The other notable things about the flight which are hilarious and happened on my last Jet flights too are that they played BAD bad piano music versions of popular songs while you take off and land (“Bright Eyes” being a prime example...) – does anyone know who Richard Clayderman is? (I'm so sure it's actually him having just looked him up on Youtube!!) And also they have all these coloured lights, it’s too funny – when I went to Goa they actually did a crazy light show as we took off, the lights are under the overhead lockers and they cycled through all the colours (to the bad piano music) – with no explanation! We were spared the light show this time, but there were some episodes of the blue cabin...and purple....where they just brought in these coloured lights for a short while. I would love to know why they do it!
The flight went quickly, I watched 2 movies: Bad Ass (not something I’d normally watch and with a very high body count, but really fun!) and Entre les Murs (English name – The Class) which was interesting too (I love French films...). Anyway despite my major paranoia that my three leg journey would be problematic, changing at Mumbai was simple, the only drawback being no ATMs between International arrivals and International transfers. Good job I had 80 leftover rupees which was enough to buy some water and the precious cardamom tea I have been craving since I discovered it at the airport in January! It’s black tea with milk (which I never normally drink) but comes out of some cruddy cappuccino type machine so is frothy, and sweet and cardamomy...yum, and a complete bargain at 20Rs.
I used the flight from Mumbai to Bangkok (4.5 hours) to listen to a couple of Kino podcasts and try to sleep. Interestingly enough one of the podcasts ties in with my “I am here” notion. It’s ostensibly about the challenges of beginning meditation, but she talks about how the practices of meditation and ashtanga is all about staying with the body, understanding that the spiritual path asks you to stay in difficult places and just sit there, which was kind of like being on a plane for me, especially when I can’t quite believe my luck that I am going on this trip. 
A crazy part of my brain kicks in and says “this seems too good to be true. But it’s happening, so what does that mean? It means something is going to go wrong. SERIOUSLY wrong...” and I spend 18 hours with a thoroughly morbid full-on death wish. But despite this feeling being pretty strong, I was able to not freak out, I felt more relaxed in my body (I can feel if I am holding tension in my hips and just let it go – but at least I am aware of it!) and alongside these fears I had some moments of complete acceptance. OK, I told myself, let’s say the plane turns into a thunderball and it’s game over – then I accept it. I found some grace to accept whatever unfolds, and although it didn’t make the fears go away (though they were soon replaced with "OMG will my luggage have made the transfer??" fears) I certainly felt better. So after listening to the podcast I popped on another which is a guided meditation, and having the a seat spare beside me I had space to cross my legs, so I could join in with the meditation. Predictably enough I kept falling asleep, and slept/meditated for a while after it finished which was great until the person behind me got out of their seat clumsily and clomped me on the head and shoulder. Bit of a shock when you are in a deeply relaxed state!

Arriving in Bangkok was strange – I was here ten years ago at the age of 22 and I’d forgotten the vibe, the signs in another script (with English when you’re lucky), the anjuli mudra given by everyone who sells you a bottle of water :) Thankfully my luggage did arrive OK (though with a hole in – and the bag is brand new! So that was something else to be paranoid about..."will the hole get bigger on the next flight? should I get it shrink-wrapped?? Or does that look a bit...well, y’know..." . But having checked in (without shrink-wrap) I made my way to the lounge for free coffee and pastries. I have to say between these flights I never felt so well fed whilst travelling, I’m not even sure how I crammed the pastries in – but they were small! After a quick internet check where I looked up BBC news to see that the miners they had begun to rescue when I left London were all now freed and I cried standing at the terminal, I decided I needed me a little yoga. My hips were so stiff and my body was just crying out to stretch. So I found a quiet corner, took off my shoes, hung out in downdog for a bit and then went into headstand. I think there were a few people around but they didn’t bother me and I didn’t bother them ;) So a bit of sirsasana, then some stretching, a bit of pigeon (OUCH my hips!!!) some very gentle baddha konasana sitting against the wall, and it was time to go check in for my last flight.
I hadn’t really meant to write a blow by blow account of my journey (how many of my posts end with a sentence beginning “I didn’t really mean to write about this...”??) So consider it a diary for my own benefit. If anyone else is reading then it’s an unexpected bonus ;) But now I’ve written too much and I haven’t even arrived yet! Time to hit fast forward...
Suffice it to say I arrived safely in Samui, so did my bag, and although I tried to fight it I slept for half of 45minute taxi journey from the airport to Yoga Thailand so I have no idea if anything looked familiar from my trip a decade ago. After checking in to my lovely room I took a shower (outdoors!! But fully private...) then climbed into bed and slept for 2 hours, cursing the AC which I couldn’t seem to switch off and actually made it rather chilly. I was awake in time to get to the 5pm restorative class conducted in the small open-fronted teaching space that faces onto the sea and my body appreciated the chance to stretch and breathe, but funnily enough the thing I enjoyed the most was the last posture:  a different version of my current nemesis! We took supta baddha konasana with arms outstretched, palms facing down, as the teacher explained that this is also known as the goddess posture and allows us to be fully connected to the earth...and laying there listening to the sound of the sea and the gentle breeze I didn’t even have to remind myself...I am here.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Not another one??

Today: Supta konasana.

I'm not counting how many asanas stand between me and the end of primary...I just refuse. I'm trying to remember that just like the freak-out I have started having about my new job, I just need to stay present and stop looking ahead to the unknown that lies in my future (and making up stories of how much I'm going to hate it all). Also trying to ignore the little voice telling me that I'm only getting these new asanas so fast because my teacher knows I'm going away soon....

Full tears in assisted baddha konasana today, but I can feel so much opening up happening in my hips (not to mention some very loud clunks and clicks!) that it almost seems worth the agony (I said almost!). 

That is all.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Moving swiftly on...

seem to have always written a post the day I get given a new asana, which if nothing else serves as a good bookmark for me to look back on. But when I posted last Monday that I was given baddha konasana that day, I definitely didn’t expect to be new asana blogging again so soon! Actually it was yesterday that I was given upavishta konasana, so forgive me for the slight time delay...but it has brought up some interesting thoughts.
First thing I’ll say is that yes, I follow the traditional practice of being “given” each asana in turn. However I now have a far greater understanding than I ever did before that other approaches are no less traditional – in fact having read in Guruji the method used to teach the first generation western practitioners, actually the reverse is true! But the point is I don’t discount whichever method works for anybody else, but the way I am learning ashtanga is one pose at a time from my authorised teacher, and I am really happy that this method does work for me.
I have written previously about the learning process that seems to accompany each new asana, or for me at least. Back in the seemingly endless days when I was languishing at bujapidasana (actually 8 months from August ‘09 to April ‘10, during which time I had at least 5 months of sporadic or completely AWOL practice!) I desperately wanted to be moved on, but couldn’t see how I would EVER be able to do buja. As it turned out, I still don’t think I can do it even now, but I do have a damn good try at it every day. I spoke to my teacher the day that she gave me kurmasana and supta kurmasana, and she explained that sometimes you feel an energetic space open up and decide that the student is ready for something else. And it’s true that the night before that move-on happened I wrote a post saying that I had made peace with my practice as it was. And as soon as I let go of the grasping – TA-DA!! It happened!
Moving through the supta kurmasana learning process was another difficult journey (as evidenced by the number of posts where it is tagged!). I went through deeply uncomfortable adjustments, a shoulder injury, weeks of backing off completely and then one day I nearly bound it. In fact I had managed to catch my own fingers together a few times – not regularly and reliably, but enough to know that it wasn’t a fluke by any means – when I was moved on to garbha pindasana, and that at a time when my whole life seemed to have gone into a spin. I’d gone from getting kurmasana in April to garbha in August, which felt pretty speedy. I won’t talk again about the lessons which came with supta kurmasana but I think this was a really crucial one for me in understanding that the yoga is the process, not the “achievement” of the asana. What was also interesting was that in moving me forward (although I felt like I still hadn’t full mastered Supta k), somehow the space opened up for me to be able to really get it. And now kurmasana feels like a different pose, it is so much deeper, the bind is securely there every day with my feet touching, and I have even progressed this past week to securely locking my right foot over my left after a good few weeks struggling to try.
Getting baddha konasana last week was strange, because as far as I was concerned I haven’t cracked garbha AT ALL. Yes I can get my arms through my legs, yes I can (mostly) get my hands under my chin, and I can rock, and I can get up into kukkutasana every day now (eventually – after a few times hurling myself at it!) but I am still struggling to rock in a circle. I feel like I write about this every day between twitter & my comments on other blogs so I won’t go on, but I will say that I feel like this will NEVER be easy – let along fun as so many other seem to find it! But the bruising has subsided, the pose no longer feels quite so completely impossible, and somehow after only 1 and a half months (mid-August to September) I was given baddha konasana.
The immediate impact that it had was (again) to take the heat off the previous asana. I love how this works! Garbha did become less of a work-up knowing that I couldn’t fully indulge in it as I still had some work to do. Also my backbends seemed to benefit (as they have done ever since supta k stopped being my last pose – that is one hard transition, straight from an assisted bind there into backbending) and within a day my hips felt different in the rest of my practice. But baddha k came with a warning: I have heard and read so much about the meltdowns that come with it I couldn’t help but feel a little apprehensive. One friend of mine told how she almost begged a teacher on an intensive course to keep on adjusting her for longer and longer so that she would cry as she was gutted that she hadn’t cracked in it yet. Ha!!
Having been given the asana last Monday I was shown it that day but not adjusted. On Tuesday I was adjusted by the new assistant, he’s just learning the assists so although I was nervous that he might not known that I only just got it (Yoga is letting go of your story” fat chance!!) it was a bit tough, but generally OK. But then on Wednesday, day 3, I had the first Cary assist. I was fully holding on for dear life as C kept up the pressure to get me down towards the floor. I felt my knees touch the ground and by breath number 4 I let out a whimper and gripped on to my tension like I didn’t ever want to let it go! “It’s OK,” says C, which is quite unlike her, I know she is different with different people but for me, we rarely speak during assists. One more breath after she reassured me and I came up for air, but as I did so and then went into B all I could do was cry gently. It was HORRIBLE!! Susan heard this from the next door mat and offered sweet reassurances on our daily emailed practice reports, and in a way I was glad that I’d felt the power of the asana so quickly, somehow believing that this would mean I will move more quickly into a time when it feels good!
So the week went on and on Sunday I had the hardcore adjustment again, only this time C successfully managed to get my chin to the ground and both knees fully open. And yowzers - it WAS.NOT.FUN. Then something flicked in my brain and I thought “she’s going to give me the next one” – even though I didn’t believe it was possible after a week, I seem to be able to sense when it’s about to happen. And lo and behold, having walked away while I did the vinyasa after baddha k, Cary came beside me and talked me through upavistha konasana. And do you know what popped straight into my head?
“Nonononononoooooo!!! it’s TOO FAST! That means the end of primary is looming with the horror of BACKBENDS!” So much for being present eh?! Again, the spectre of other people’s difficulties is looming, and all I can think of is that whereas a few months ago I didn’t think I’d ever finish primary, now it seems that I am gaining momentum a little faster than I would like. Mind you saying that makes some assumption that I am going to figure out just how to catch my feet in mid-air whilst balancing on the edge of my bum WITHOUT bending my legs! But still, compared to postures like supta kurmasana, I can see that what comes next in the series is likely to move a long a little faster than what has come before.
I had actually intended for this post to be a bit more a discussion about the different ways in which we might become ready for the next asana, and I suppose in a roundabout anecdotal way maybe I’ve done that, but I guess what it comes down to is this: there is no one size fits all approach. 
Sometimes a teacher moves us on because we have fully “mastered” a pose.
Sometimes it’s because they know that giving us the next posture will make the preceding one a little easier. Sometimes it’s because we showed up on our mat every bloody day for months and tried to do the impossible - TWICE.
Sometimes it’s because we stopped wishing we could get the next one.
Maybe it’s sometimes even because we are about to go away and the teacher wants to give us something to work on before we will have a chance to be taught by them again.
Maybe it’s all or none of these reasons. 
Maybe it doesn’t even matter what the reason is – because as in life, in ashtanga we can’t always control the way and speed that things happen at. All that we can do is to show up and deal with whatever gets thrown at us however best we can on any given day.