Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Finding my edge? Or just making excuses?

Predictably enough, after taking almost all of last week off practice due to working away, two days into this 6 day week C ramped up my backbending another notch. Actually Monday was just "one of those days" (or should I say practices) where my brain wouldn't switch off, I kept reminding myself of things I had said or done which were out of place, my chitta vritta was trying to beat me with all of my mistakes, and getting my brain to calm and quieten down was proving impossible. I kept thinking that it would ease off once I got into the seated postures (nope), then I hoped that maybe after supta kurmasana I'd be feeling calmer (nu-uh), so when I got to backbends and C told me "Today we're doing something new" I was barely even surprised. Also (just to add to the moans) my body was feeling so sore that day, but most noticeably my lower back, right on the waistline on the right hand side - a new twinge which started on Sunday. So after doing my urdhva dhanurasanas I discovered that last week's break has given me just enough time to unlearn the ability to breathe in a hangback - I'm sure it'll come back, but for now the solo hangback comprises of 5 scratchy attempts to get my breath while I ponder whether to REALLY push it and see how far I can go, countered with not being crazy and breaking myself, and remembering to keep the legs engaged...which is a lot to think about at once, no wonder I can't remember how to make the space in my ribcage to find an easy breath! Anyway, after this Cary appears and says it's time to add something new...THE WALL.

A sunnier (but probably less deep) backbend in Thailand

I am instantly none too happy about this. Partly because I really don't want to add anything new (of course I don't!), partly because I have seen a shala-mate panting their way down the wall in a crazed and innefectual manner and don't want to put myself through the same thing, and partly (I admit it) because Susan says she doesn't see the point (and she is the crowned queen of backbends, afterall!). But of course I go with C to the back wall, and she talks me through it; lean back with one hand so that you can judge the distance, you might need to move your feet out as you go down, then go back to the wall, walk all the way down (remembering to breathe), hands right on the floor as you reach the bottom, then walk all the way up again, still breathing!! Well of course the breath thing is tricky, because in the assisted dropbacks I have been really using the breathe...inhale raise the arms, exhale go back, inhale come up...but here I am breathing in-out-in-out all the way down, and all the way back up again. And while I have seen video of peopl bouncing off the wall, of course mine is more like a hectic clamber, hands at different levels, trying not to slip and fall right on my head. Anyway I do the first two, then on the third one (apparently, I don't remember) C says I did great because I dropped straight back to the wall which takes bravery and that's half the battle - so she says.
So right after my experiments at the wall I come back to my mat to go through the whole normal routine of assisted dropbacks, but I am FECKING exhausted. Each dropback is too fast and uncontrolled, I land on my hands more heavily than I'd like, and by the end I am shattered. A big lump comes up in my throat that I can't decide whether it's an asthmatic style wheeze or a huge sob waiting to happen. I just about manage to sit down for a paschimo squish but can barely even catch my feet in the first instance...

And day two is a repeat. The main difference is that on my third attempt at going down the wall (or rather, at coming back up again), shortly after lifting off from the floor I fall down onto my head. Ouch. Luckily it wasn't far to fall ;)
Today, day three, after leaving out every jumpback through the practice (stepping instead) as I felt like that's what's hurting my lower back, I feel like my first hangback is MEGA deep (again, that knife-edge of "can I go a bit further?" versus "Am I pushing this too far?". Going to the wall I struggle to get the angle of my feet right - we have very few available walls in our shala and the ones we do have are narrow and at funny angles (plus of course there are people practicing in front of them). Without a mat under my feet I feel insecure and slidey on the wooden floor, and the walls (ick) are slippery with condensation from all of the hot bodies on the room. None of this feels very good. And again when I'm done, I am exhausted.

So I decide to tell C that I'm not liking this (even though I sort of know what she will say). I manage not to use the word "hate" but as she comes up I say "I really don't like the wall." Luckily she's not in a mood today where she just wants me to be quiet and get on with it. First of all she says that she never used the wall, which instantly makes me wonder why teach it that way, and she also says that I don't have to do it - that I should only do it if I feel it's teaching me something. Inside my head the arguments for and against are along these lines:'s definitely helpful to experience the initial dropping back to the wall part on my own...
...but if I don't have to do it then why would I?
...but isn't that just giving up?
...Remember feeling this exact same way about every other stage of this process so far? (and in fact, a lot of the rest of primary...) And how did you get through to the other side of that - by giving up? I don't think so.

Meanwhile C says that it is exhausting, and pushing your limits of endurance is part of the practice. Ashtanga asks us to go further...she talks about junior doctors working 70 hour weeks to train themselves to work intensively and says that not everybody chooses to do this, some people will never do it and are happy just to work a regular week. But then she says that exhaustion is a real issue, when she used to do half of second she was exhausted but now she can do all of it "just like that" - which of course makes me feel that I should just suck this up and get to the point where I'm not fall-down exhausted by it. But then she also says that  this is difficult, and her friend J says "you just have to let some things be difficult".
In other words by the end of the conversation I am none the wiser. My over-riding confusion is that first off, I think I should just do it because that's the only way it's going to get easier, but if she didn't learn it herself, and S has her doubts about it's validity in learning, then maybe I shouldn't wear myself out trying?

The dropbacks after the chat (and the little rest it allowed!) were more controlled than yesterday, but with more sound effects too (and more grabbing of C's arms as I come up instead of keeping my arms overhead) but again I staggered to the ground for paschimo like an old lady, actually even worse than yesterday, and the big throat-lump was there again. The first two days I did this I also had an instantaneous and massive headache at that point too, so I suppose it's progress that I didn't today even if I was stiffer in my body. But the finishing sequence followed the same pattern as the rest of today's practice; super-focused and inward looking, and I had time to lie in savasana until I felt like I was tripping out a bit (that's my favourite way of telling if I've been there long enough...if I start not knowing where I am, whether it's night or day or I'm awake or asleep then I know it's a good-un.), also incorporating lots of beautifully controlled dropback visualisations.
So now all that's left to do is to decide whether or not I head for the wall tomorrow? Or maybe I do it tomorrow, as it's the last Mysore practice of the week, and re-evaluate on Sunday. I think this is all about figuring out the difference between finding my edge, overdoing it, and just being lazy. But can't somebody else decide for me? It's just too hard to tell! Either way, I think the fact that in just over 4 weeks I will be heading out to Goa to study with Kino and Tim for 2 weeks could not be more perfectly timed, considering that she is considered by many (well, me!) to be the ashtanga world's high priestess of backbending!

Saturday, 22 January 2011

If I only had a heart...

It seems like forever since I blogged...and since I practiced...sigh. Life gets in the way sometimes. But not having active practice angst (I'm sure it'll be back tomorrow!) I'll return to a topic I keep meaning to discuss.

So here's my problem - I am beginning to wonder if I have even got a heart chakra.

Apparently backbends are emotional and all about heart opening (n'est-ce pas?) but thus far, no emotional content for me in the dropbacks - not that I can say the same about the history of my practice, there have been plenty of tears there. Witness my mad meltdowns in triang mukha (thankfully now behind me) and many other emotional outbursts in the past. No it's not that I'm concerned about lack of emotion (and frankly in my life off the mat, often it's more the case that I am too emotional). The issue is this - when I started learning the chakra meditation in Thailand, after a couple of days I could really feel those spinning discs, and the energy moving up the central energy channel and moving into each chakra - until we reached the heart. Maybe it's because it is a less specific or obvious physical area than the throat, or the third eye, but for some reason I would just lose it once we got to that point (only to regain it as we moved on up to the throat). Some days I could feel the heart chakra whilst being guided in the internal sunrise meditation but if the instruction was to sit afterwards allowing our focus to return to the heart - nope, it was gone.
Having tried this chakra meditation a lot since coming home from Thailand I continued to have the same issue - and any "heart openers" I tried left me with the same issue. Of course my brain went crazy over this - what could it mean?? Am I actually a heartless witch? Does it mean that I've got everything locked up inside and I'll never get through the stone walls I've built to protect my heart? Oh yes, full drama-queenitus comes out to support this idea whenever I think of it. In fact, the only time I have ever spontaneously felt anything going on around my heart chakra was in my new year chanting workshop, and again when I returned the following week. So at least I know it's possible, and perhaps this heart activity was responsible for feeling amazing for 3 days after the workshop? I don't know, but if it was, I really want to find a way to tap back into this. I feel a bit like I'm in a constant state of running up the down escalator at the moment, battling to figure out what is right for me in my lifestyle (and I think I'm probably getting it all wrong) and I need all the help I can get. So maybe heart openers are the key - any suggestions?

Meanwhile I'll keep worrying that my heart has turned to stone, and getting this song in my head every time I start to worry about it...

And yes I disapperead into an internet wormhole looking for a clip of this...and can I say I rather enjoyed the mix of appallingly bad and weird amateur productions, versions on ice and spoof videos of the Wizard of Oz (having established that a version from the original was impossible to find!). AND I discovered that the original tin man actor almost died from inhaling aluminimum powder, went to hospital for months of recuperation, and got replaced while he was there! Bastards!!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Down & up; up and down.

It's been a funny old week one way and another (little reader's tip: if you're all asana-asana-asana and don't give a hoot about any other gubbins in my life, skip paragraph one. That's a little gift from me to you ;) Oh and yes I borrowed that tag from Evelyn!)

The first few days of the working year got off to a fabulous start. Thanks to my post-kirtan & meditation high I was on top of the world when I got back to work on Tuesday, and a moonday lie-in and 15 minutes sitting started the day off nicely. I realised as the next two days panned out how fantastic I was feeling - and I couldn't help but realise that this was a change. Sometimes until you've come back up again you don't actually realise you were down...
If I'm honest, the weeks before Christmas were difficult ones. I have been struggling to adjust to my new job. I knew I wasn't really doing what was required of me, but at the same time a kind of lethargy overtook me, and I wasn't able to JUST. DO. IT. I went into a bit of a downward spiral, finding every excuse and reason under the sun for why I wasn't being so much an on-the-road salesperson; in my case it was more of a hiding-at-home not-really-selling person. So the day before Christmas I got a bit of a talking-to, which was completely fair and I needed to hear it. The funny thing was, everything that was said to me could also have been related to my practice at some point or another (in essence: "Don't think, just do!" and definitely some "Why fearing?") and it turned into a bit of a life-coaching session. But it also left me incredibly scared that if I didn't pull my finger out I would be back on the job market again by the end of January, all of which overshadowed my planned calm attitude and approach to Christmas with the family.
The turning point was my fabulous kirtan experience last week, and the feeling I was able to emerge from it with - but it wasn't until I got out and started seeing customers this week that I realised how bad I had been feeling before, and how good I felt now. I was wary of blogging about it right away in case the feeling didn't last, I knew I wouldn't stay quite so high, but was hoping that the positivity would stick around. And I had an amazing practice on the Wednesday, a very early start to get home in time for a 9am conference call, and one of those days where the first chaturanga feels STRONG and supported, and the rest of the practice unfolded in much the same way. I started and finished that day at the same time as the lovely J, and when I came out she told me I looked really young -ha!! Who wouldn't want a friend like this? :) (sorry J, I'm still milking the compliment!).
Then Thursday and Friday were days spent, by necessity, working at home, and the same feeling I had before Christmas (when I was hiding out) started to come creeping back. Major lethargy, physical exhaustion (and a sore body from the return to practice no doubt) but feeling mentally wide awake and frustrated to be stuck at home all day (and all evening) on my own make endless phonecalls where I had to say the same thing to every single customer. Thursday was OK, Friday I had less pressure (as more of the work was already done) so I found myself losing focus, unable to concentrate, and my body was just sooooo tired....
Anyhoo, that's the ups and downs of work.

As for the downs of ups of practice (asana-asana-asana peeps, wake-up now!) I am of course referring to the dropping back. So what was my resolve about this? I will not make my whole practice about this; I will not obsess about it and endlessly research it. I will just do it. (ha - I should of course be using this lesson for my working life too!). But as I said in the first few weeks it didn't seem to really be about my back - oh now it's ALL about my back. The latest phase introduced this week came in two parts; last Sunday (my first day back after over a week off) I had to start going back with my arms overhead rather than in prayer. Two days later C had me try to keep the arms overhead as I came up too, instead of the instinctual movement that brings the arms around (like I'm about to give her a hug as she drags me upright!). And of course each of these little phases is WAY harder than the last.
After trying one day to raise the arms overhead and dropback I mentioned on twitter how much harder this was, and the lovely Sarah said that at this point I had to really engage my legs as I hang back and this would be the key. Up to this point I had been just hanging back and thinking of England (i.e. no body awareness or "effort" aside from the effort to not fall on my head) but after she said this, I gave it a try the next morning...and Cary, who rarely ever gives feedback (and certainly not just praise!) as I went back with my legs engaged said  "Good, GREAT! It's really coming!" - HURRAH!!! 
Coming back up with the arms out-stretched - I actually managed it the first two times I tried, and then lost it, and 50/50 seems to be the ratio now, but with all of these new actions I am starting to find that I have sensation in my back later on in the day, I hesitate to call it pain, but there's something happening. Some of the time it just has that feeling that it has been working, that deep muscular-heat that kind of feels good, but other times it is definitely uncomfortable.
I'm also finding it very difficult to breath in a hangback. The routine C has me do now is: inhale arms up; exhale hangback; inhale there; exhale dropback (assisted), come up on the inhale - we do this 3 times, then the 3 assisted hangbacks, then the final one as before but holding for 5 in UD (yes I'm probably repeating myself here!). Well this week I have also been at the tail end of a stinking cold, and hanging back and then finding a breath when the cold is on your chest (and the arms are newly out-stretched instead of happily in prayer) is HARD. 
It doesn't seem to be getting much easier as the cold is getting better though - actually today I had a new weird thing happen too. When C brought me up from the last held backbend (which I think was deeper than normal) my breath caught in my throat and it felt like I was having an asthma attack: my throat just closed into the heavy wheeze where it is impossible to get any air in. Instant panic: I tried to breathe again and the same thing happened. I told myself not to panic and thankfully it worked, I didn't flip out, and struggled my way down to the floor for my forward bend - but it's just such hard work! I thought things are meant to get easier the more you practice them, not HARDER! Just before Christmas I said to C one day "it just feels like it's getting harder every day!" and her response was "no, it's getting easier every day" - in other words, I am doing more of the work, she is doing less - which I suppose is a good thing, but it just seems to highlight how fecking hard this is! My dilemma is that I don't really want to do any extra-curricular activities to hurry it along, because I feel like that goes against the answer you usually get if you ask a teacher "what can I do to improve this posture?" - the answer is always just "practice, all is coming...". But is it possible to learn to dropback by just doing what I am doing now? Or will I inevitably have to start working on it on my own time?

Meanwhile, I went to kirtan again last night and found myself visualising perfectly controlled dropbacks while I maybe I just need to keep doing that and eventually it will happen...

Monday, 3 January 2011

Starting small

Last night I went along to a kirtan workshop which was followed by (what was described as) an open meditation class. I have been to the kirtan classes at this studio before, though not for a little while, but my efforts with meditation have up until now been limited to segments of ashtanga workshops or retreats. 
I had some doubts about going along for this class as it talked of bringing a notebook to set our intentions for the year, and the full write-up suggested to me that I might end up digging up some emotions I have been trying to avoid. Silly me, of course, in that any emotions I have been "trying to avoid" have already come to my attention, but that's another story. I love (love love) kirtan but have had some emotional responses to it in the past, and I suppose the truth is I was feeling a little too vulnerable for the full force of this at the moment. So I realised - what better time to face up to it?
I hadn't booked after calling in the afternoon to be told there was no need, but arrived (late) to discover that the room was already over capacity (it takes 35 people, they had already allowed 41 in) and there were three others waiting (and another lady arrived just after me). I tried to hide my disappointment but the manager was upstairs seeing what she could negotiate, and happily came down 5 minutes later saying it was OK, we were all rather than having "too many" people there, we ended up with a fabulously well-attended roomful of like-minded souls ready to welcome in the new year :)
The bolsters and blankets were set up in a double horseshoe in the room facing the lovely teacher leading the chant (with harmonium and drummer standing by) with several rows of people behind on each side, and those on chairs lining each wall, but as I love to be surrounded by sound I was happy to spot a free space right in the middle of the second row and tip-toed in just as the first chant was about to begin. And of course I had nothing to fear... 
The sound was incredible, on a usual Saturday class there are around 12 people, so with 4 times that many I couldn't hear my own (admittedly horse) voice; I was not a drop in the ocean, I was the ocean. And the experience was incredible too - and indescribable. Thoughts rose to the surface; vivid memories of walking with a former love in his home-town, instead of banishing the painful memory I allowed it to surface, I let it sit there, I let it rise up and float free. I felt my heart swell, I cracked it wide open. I made space for those I want to send loving energy to. I set my intention to send healing energy to the person in my life who needs it the most. I felt love. And then when the kirtan was over, the meditation class began (and my fear...). But again, there was nothing to fear; the teacher talked a little about our posture, about meditation techniques. He explained a meditation technique as "the car you drive to the temple - but you still have to get out of the car and enter the temple". He told us that we would be meditating with the mantra om namah shivaya. 

He continued to speak for a little while after telling us to begin, and I found myself wishing he would stop talking so that I could really focus. He stopped talking. I repeated the mantra. I had an enormous coughing fit and had to take a drink of water, conscious of the disturbance to those around me. I put the bottle down, immediately regretting not drinking more and convinced that the tickle in my throat was so bad that I was going to throw up. I repeated the mantra. I noticed that people around me were beginning to fidget. I felt pride that I was sitting completely still. I repeated the mantra. I started to wonder how long this was going on for. Maybe I could sneak a look at the clock - but it was behind me. I repeated the mantra. I found some stillness and let the mantra slip away. My mind wandered, I brought back the mantra. I wondered again if we would be doing this for half the class and something else for the second half - we weren't really just going to sit for 45 minutes uninterrupted were we? I repeated the mantra. I wondered what sort of value for money it is to pay £12 for a class where you sit in silence? I repeated the mantra. I noticed the fidgeting around me again. I felt proud (again) for staying still. And then it was over.
And that was the whole class! I actually sat for 45 minutes - UNBELIEVABLE!! Considering my previous attempts have hit a maximum of about 10-15 minutes, this was quite a big difference. And when he suggested that we take a few moments to reflect on our experience, my overriding feeling was this: I sat and judged other people. "Listen to them fiddling and fidgeting while I sit here nice and still." Not exactly a great emotion (hello ego!) but at least I recognised that I was doing it. But as I walked out of the class and took the hour-long journey home, I felt still and calm with a clear head. Reading my very most favourite book on the way home (Awakening the Buddha Within by Lama Surya Das - which I started reading again over Christmas) certainly helped keep my mind focussed, and getting up to practice this morning I still felt calm and centred - and practice today was deliciously focused. All of which made me realise that meditation is something I really really need to find the time for in my daily life. My plan? To cut down the (enormous) amount of time I spend online, and replace it with this much healthier activity. And over post-yoga breakfast today a plan was made to start attending monthly meditation workshops, which should give me the support and motivation to start sitting regularly. 
So happy New Year everyone, here's to a calm and balanced 2011, whatever your intentions may be! :)

Saturday, 1 January 2011

2010 and the Primary Series: my year of yoga

Well well, it’s New Year’s Day so it must be time for a clich├ęd look back at last year...(well, if everyone else is doing it, why shouldn’t I?!)
This time last year I was at the airport preparing to fly off to Goa. It was to be my second trip to Purple Valley, this time to study with Noah Williams, and I was well aware that my practice had been shaky at best in the preceding weeks. It was only in November that I went back to a teacher after about three months break from my formal practice, and even then I was making it once or twice a week at best (and hadn’t practiced at all over Christmas). Arriving in Goa I found that around half of the group were beginners to ashtanga and so were taking a daily led class with Noah – leading them to believe that everyone in the early class was “advanced”. Not so, said I; true that I was confident to practice mysore style, but I was very definitely one of the beginner-est of the self-practitioners. It didn’t take long for me to get very dissatisfied and disillusioned with where I was at with my practice. I practiced up to bhujapidasana at that point, and was convinced that I was the ONLY person in the history of ashtanga EVER to be stuck at that point (oh yes, it was definitely “my special unique problem” – or one of them!). Trying to talk to Noah about it for some reassurance he basically said that I hadn’t been practicing for very long, and that given that I’d taken a three month break it was like going back to the beginning again. Which was really NOT what I wanted to hear (but was basically true). It was as impossible to balance in UHP as it had always been in my early days. I still couldn’t get into a headstand unaided. And needless to say, bhuja seemed impossible and I still wasn’t getting any new postures – despite the fact that others around me were. I kept a little notebook while I was there, much of which is filled with my frustrations. But towards the end of my stay something occurred to me. I was frustrated with my practice when I hadn’t actually been practicing. Duh!! And here I was, having practiced 6 days a week for 2 weeks (I even practiced the morning after spending the middle Saturday in bed having been very sick, India stylee), right at the start of the new year. I had a realisation that I couldn’t bitch about my practice until I actually made an effort to establish a regular practice. And having always been rather keen on that “fresh start” feeling of a new year, I couldn’t help but see it as my new challenge: 2010 and the Primary series. Somehow it just felt right, 2010 has a rounded feel to it, and to me it felt like the perfect opportunity to really give this thing my best shot.
Coming back to England I was determined to start getting to the shala more often. I documented my early attempts on this blog of course, but my plan was to build it up slowly so that it was sustainable, rather than coming back all guns blazing and reaching burnout after a few weeks. Starting with Sundays (that was the easiest day to get there for me) I started adding one more weekday at a time. By early February I reported having “made it” to practice on Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday (having skipped Monday and Tuesday because I’d almost had a mental breakdown being adjusted in triang mukha on the Sunday!!) and had started to make the connection that my body actually felt better (less sore) when I practiced than when I didn’t.
In March I travelled to Edinburgh for my first workshops with Kino, and had my first major breakthrough of the year: an unassisted headstand. It arrived magically at the end of a led class (possibly my third ever attempt at full led primary I think?), accompanied by full-on tears and violent shaking, but happily on returning home from the workshop it was mine to keep forever. On summarising the weekend with Kino I found that I had made peace with my practice exactly where it was, writing the post on a Saturday evening before bed. And so what happened the following day? Not twelve hours later I was with my teacher, who saw fit to give me the long-awaited next two poses: kurmasana and supta kurmasana. Talking to her afterwards she said that sometimes as a teacher you can just feel a “space that has opened up” – in other words, as soon as I let go of grasping for the next pose, it was right there waiting for me.
My journey with supta kurmasana was a painful one (both literally and figuratively). It involved a painful shoulder injury, visits to an osteopath, a long period of completely backing off, probably a lot of blogging, a HUGE amount of discussion, and finally the breakthrough I’d been waiting for came in July when I bound my hands all by myself for the first time. A quick review of my posts between March, when I was given supta k, and July (when I became able to get into it alone) reveal a huge amount – ha! I'm surprised myself by my level of honesty on this blog sometimes! But during these months I experience first hand how the practice can bolster you through difficult times when I lost my grandmother; I learned what happens when your teacher goes awaypermalink somewhere?!); and perhaps most significantly I ramped up my practice during this period to hit the elusive 6 day week – and immediately noticed the changes in my practice.
Then in August, all in the space of one week I was told that my company was probably going to fold (and I would be losing my job), I got two massive parking tickets, and I was given garbha pindasana. Wow thanks universe, anything else?! Garbha turned out to be a total bugger for me, and once the crazy bruising died down I had a good few months (in fact up until late November) of being able to get my arms right through but only being able to rock on the spot without getting beached. September brought baddha konasana (the day I was given it I wrote “I have a feeling this asana will bring both joy and pain” – oh how f’ing right I was!) which fast developed into my LEAST.FAVOURITE.ADJUSTMENT. EVER. But after only a few days of getting used to it, in early September came upavistha konasana. And at this pointi began to freak out that the end of primary was hurtling towards me like an unstoppable train. I was right, and the rest of primary was rolled out for me pose by pose until on the first anniversary of my first ever visit to my teacher, I was given setu bandhasana. A few weeks of getting used to this and then, a few weeks before Christmas, we started working on dropbacks. So in a sense, that was it: I set out to devote 2010 to the primary series, and in that time (completely unexpectedly), I reached the end of primary. Of course these are just the bare bones of the story, and I may now be practicing full primary on a daily basis, but the reality is that I still have so much to learn. 
And perhaps the most important thing I have to learn is balance. Because in devoting my year to my ashtanga practice, I managed to neglect a whole lot of other stuff along the way. I didn’t go on a single date. I certainly didn’t throw myself into my work (even though I now have a shiny new job). I became appallingly bad at replying to messages from friends and became a whole lot more flaky (and likely to cancel plans with friends) than I ever was before. I definitely ended up sleep deprived. But would I change the past year? No, of course not, but what it makes me realise is this: choosing to devote yourself to one thing almost always means that other things get missed out. And I know for sure I want to experience this whole rich tapestry, not to look back on my life and think “well, at least I could bind supta kurmasana by myself”. This (once again) is certainly not the post I set out to write, but I now realise with perfect clarity that the challenge turned out not to be “establishing a daily practice” or “moving through the primary series”, oh no. The real challenge, now that I have achieved (horrible word) both of those things, is to integrate my practice into my real life, and to have a bit more of a life. And something tells me this is going to be my toughest challenge yet.