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?


  1. lovely, Mel. I think your travel revelation will help you tremendously through the workshop and again at home. Yup, your practice is your practice, just like wherever you go, there you are.

  2. "Open mind please people!!"

    Hehe. I'm very 'take what you want, and leave the rest' about some of this stuff. I'm so pleased that you've found that this trip, and your practice, is just as you'd hoped it would be.

    And well done for swimming in the sea! That's fantastic. I've been a strong swimmer all my life (one of my earliest memories was of swimming without armbands for the first time) and still find the great big ocean pretty unnerving.

  3. OK, I'll say it. How cute is that kitten? Egads. Have a FANTASTIC retreat!

  4. Fran of course you're so right - you take yourself with you everywhere you go, so why not your practice? You will be my home practice inspiration :)
    R I missed out the bit where we gave gratitude for our really...but I'm making a joke of it and actually it was quite lovely! She said it was all about energy and I definitely felt different by the end. And I went in the sea again today, and even got a nose/mouthfull of seawater thanks to a rare swell...yeugh!! But I won't let it put me off, I'm going to try and get in there every day :)
    Loo you said it. They are GORGEOUS! And so playful... they just want you to play with them whenever I see them. And then I get a bit nervous they might scratch me and have rabies, haha!! And thank you!

  5. Practice is the same everywhere. The difference with a retreat is that practice takes first place, it doesnt have to be fitted in around daily life, you don't have to "save" something for later in the day. Being in a beautiful location certainly helps.

    You are braver than me, I only went in up to my knees!

    Love that kitty

  6. "Practice is the same everywhere" - is that why your recent post is called it's always better at the shala? ;)
    I don't consciously feel I have to "save anything" when I practice before work to be honest (as generally speaking I have more energy when I do practice than when I don't), but i definitely appreciate the chance to have a day where all I have to worry about is what time my pedicure is. And The sound of the waves and the cicadas is an added bonus!

  7. Ha ha, Well in my case because the Shala is a lot warmer than at home, if I could always practice somewhere warm then it wouldn't make such a difference.