Writing and editing

Ok. So it isn’t the mat. Today, coming up to standing from backbends on the thin mat, I had to run backwards slightly to keep from landing on my head. By number three, I was good to go – but it is a little unsettling. I got David to help me problem solve what I was doing wrong. I stick my toes out, and once I’m up – I’m unsteady on my clown feet.

It was fun being a regular student again and hearing all those cues “Come up on your fingertips, push through your feet, squeeze your inner legs, come up, come up!” Usually, he would make me work pretty hard if he noticed me dancing all over the mat, but today he let me get away with just doing it once or twice and then gave me a piriformis massage with his knees. Ah, bum massage!

We had our first prenatal class last night. I like my teacher and the other couples in the class are all funny and sweet. Our teacher had some props with her, including a toy placenta. She told us her dog likes it.  Imagine being in the toy placenta making business? It is hard to make that thing not look horrifying, not that they didn’t try. But it looked like a deranged and extremely dangerous jellyfish.

How would that not scare the beejezus out of an expectant mother? It looks like a day at the beach gone terribly, terribly wrong. I am, however, looking forward to demonstrations with the “knitted uterus”.

We watched a dvd of several women dealing with contraction pain.  The women were in deep trance-like states, with chirpy midwives as their guides. Hot, sweating, with eyes glazed over they repeated guttural sounds and banged furniture rhythmically. It was beautiful and mesmerizing to watch, but also painfully private.  The teacher commented she would like some popcorn to eat with the movie. Seriously? Popcorn? Who can think about eating?  This might be the biggest reason to never allow yourself to be filmed giving birth. Inevitably, someone will end up eating snacks while staring at you hitting the edge of a bathtub shouting “HA! HA! HA!”

I thought about that trance state in practice today. I have small glimpses of it, especially around janusirasana A + B. But once I notice, it has slipped away out of reach again. I think that will be my real work in the practice until June 2. I suppose that is my real work in practice all the time. Vinyasa, vinyasa, vinyasa.

I’ll keep you updated on knitted uterus and scary jellyfish that wants to kill your baby.

I made it through another led primary today. There was certainly less adrenaline than in Mysore, but it was nice to waltz in right before opening chant. I could also lay on my side for a little while after class instead of Sharath calling out after the last vinyasa, “Ok go home, take rest!”

In Mysore, everything revolves around the crazy thing we all do in the morning. But here, we are a bunch of crazies who do something in the morning. Because yoga is an umbrella term in the west for general stretching, it is hard to communicate that what we do is a system, passed through a lineage of teachers. I often wish we could just call it something else. Most people can understand the tradition and system in Karate school, for example. But yoga is under a different set of rules in North America.

If I took a self defense class and learned a Karate move to kick a man in a padded suit, no one would say that I am a black belt in Karate.  I guess the same could be said of language. I may know the word for tomato is “pomodoro”, but that doesn’t mean I speak Italian. Yoga, like language, has a set of rules – a structure. If we decided to make up the rules of a language based on what felt comfortable to us as individuals, then it would render it meaningless or insensible.

Ultimately, kicking a dude in a padded suit might be infinitely more useful to me than years of Karate. And it might be way more fun to call a tomato “gooky goo”. I’m not trying to pass a judgement on yoga classes or their efficacy. It is great and very healthy to breathe, move your body, and connect with like-minded people.

David thought a better word might be meditation. The Ashtanga Meditation Centre of Toronto. Of course, that opens another can of worms because we aren’t sitting around cross-legged om-ing. But it might be closer to the truth, since the system is just teaching us to be stronger and stronger meditators no matter how flexible or agile we happen to be, whether we never bind in mari D or we practice Advanced A.

When I came back from India the first time, it was after years and years going to vinyasa classes – based on whatever happened to be in the teacher’s head at the moment. I remember talking to people about the tradition and feeling so overwhelmed with gratitude that I would start to get a little teary. I couldn’t believe the practice was there for me the whole time and I had brushed by it. After this trip, it feels more matter-of-fact. I practice this way, there isn’t really another way for me. It isn’t a strong, emotional attachment like when I went the first time. It is just part of a routine in my life. The funny thing is I am in a position where I speak to a lot of people about the practice. Some feel the same way I do, some have questions about its efficacy, and some feel very turned off by the idea. I’m always intrigued by the questions I’m asked. I rarely feel like I’ve said the right thing. It seems the further I go into this whole thing, the less I have to say about.

Sharath is right. It is like brushing your teeth. I just do it because if I don’t, I notice and probably other people do too. I’m trying not to smell. That’s about it.

So, a new name for the studio, with a new tagline:

“The Ashtanga Meditation Centre of Toronto. Try not to smell.”

Ohh… that’s good. It works on a few different levels.

Today’s practice was certainly in an Elevated Yoga Terror zone, but I focused on vinyasa and where ever I could making my inhales match my exhales. I moved slowly through the practice and poured sweat, but I found it easier to watch my thoughts rather than get swept away by them.

After breakfast, we took a tourist visit to Mysore Palace. We splurged and got a tour guide, who was smart and knowledgeable. He had a bit of a limp, so he and I were walking at the same pace. We had to take our shoes off to go inside the palace. I suppose it is someone’s house, but I’ve never taken off my shoes to go into a museum. The tiles were beautiful and felt cool beneath my feet. I wish I could always forgo footwear in places like that – it helps you know a place in a different way.

We weren’t allowed to bring our camera inside the palace. Our camera had to wait for us in a special building, babysat by a particularly indolent fellow.

The original palace was made of wood, but it burnt down in the 19th century and this new lavish palace was built in its place. Half of the palace is used as a tourist site and for ceremonies. The other half is where the royal family still live.

Judging by the look of some of the wiring inside, there might be another fire very soon. The view from the palace of the grounds is stunning. Really, it is the best porch in the world.

The inside is lovely, and the craftsmenship on the Burmese Teak doors and Glaswegian stained glass is gorgeous. But it is all so poorly maintained. Black streaks from ancient handprints stain the corners of the yellowed walls, Venetian mirrored dressers are dusty and dirt lined, the crystal throne from Belguim is vaguely foggy. The guide told me, “The Sistine Chapel, they painted directly on the ceiling. But here they painted on the floor first and THEN attached to the ceiling.” Looking almost two stories up, I can see where the screws have been placed.

We took a few pictures of the two of us, but we haven’t quite mastered the art of getting the building plus two people in the frame at once. Here are our heads blocking the main entrance.

Next, we went into town to pick up rugs and towels for the studio.

The women at the textile store tried to put 80 rugs on one small scale for about 10 minutes, helplessly watching the tower topple over time and time again. Finally one of them pulled out a calculator and weighed the rugs in groups for shipping. I think the heat gets to everyone. I’m not sure how anyone works in this heat. I feel like a zombie.

We tuk-tuked home and collapsed under the fan.

Currently, I am writing this entry with my feet in a bucket of cold water.

Tomorrow the temperature is supposed to go up again. I am going to be a puddle by the end of the week.

Last night I had a dream that Dolly was in my purse. I had to change around my plans because I realized I couldn’t bring her into a store. I pulled her out of my bag and gave her a pat on the head. I remembered every hair, every mark so distinctly. I hope I can keep her with me, so perfectly realized in my memory and that feeling of knowing her doesn’t fade like my dream when I woke up.

I had a happy led primary today, a change from the past few weeks. I think part of the problem is my shifting relationship with the vinyasa. Sharath spoke about vinyasa in conference and it reminded me of the struggles I have been having over the last month. He talked about trying to achieve correct vinyasa during mysore class, and correcting your mistakes during led primary. I find it is easier to fall into that meditative place during mysore when I  have connected with my breath and I feel very present. Led primary has always been harder, at least for me, because I am following the correct count of the teacher which inevitably will differ from my own practice mistakes. I can get pulled out of meditation easily in led class, as soon as I am pulled out of a breath and I start to follow a thought. I suppose the trick is to correct and then refocus quickly.

Now that I am pregnant, my vinyasa is too slow in places, too fast in others as I try to maintain a steady breath. I know my inhales and exhales are not evenly matched, particularly in seated. I find I need to take more breaths than I used to. I notice this when I am swimming – when I put my head underwater for just a few seconds – I resurface spluttering and coughing.

Sharath said that vinyasa and breathing are for mind control. I can see where I am losing my breath during led class and then letting cyclical thoughts take over turning me into a grumpy goose and elicting Yoga Spot Terror charts.

I searched today for the opposite of my Terrifying Cereal Yoga chart, and I tried to think of the most yogic breakfast cereal character. The Sugar Crisp bear is pretty calm, but he is so obsessive with his cereal. Definitely not the bird that is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, or Cap’n Crunch. Tony the Tiger is too competitve. Maybe Papa Smurf in Smurf Berry Crunch?

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They all seem pretty yogic and helpful. Well, except for poor old Grouchy Smurf with his hatred for cows.

Sharath told us he felt mind control from years of asana practice helped Guruji when he fell sick. He felt that Guruji was enlightened for the last days of his life. I wished he had talked more about it, or I had the nerve to ask a question. It is a huge statement. I wonder what those last days were like.

And I sat there, in the shala during conference, dripping sweat. I couldn’t sit still, I was so uncomfortable – fanning myself every few minutes. The baby was jumping inside me. All this new life, I’m just a little ship transporting it into the future. I’m so wrapped up in newness, it strangely makes me feel closer to death. I wonder if the people close to me and I will be afforded the same peaceful death that Guruji worked hard all his life for and that Dolly was given.

Certainly mysteries that cannot be revealed in conference. Back to learning my vinyasa krama.