Monthly Archives: October 2012

Competitive edge

Another Saturday, which means some time to blog! “Slept in” this morning…meaning I let my body wake up in its own, so I think it was about 7:30 haha. But still, It was nice to wake up after the sun! Made some breakfast, coffee, and proceeded to do some laundry. The machine was occupied all morning so it was some old fashioned bucket washing. Jessie and I are moving out of our current place tomorrow (rent is up and it is booked by someone else) so I wanted to get a head start on cleaning and packing up. My new room is in Saraswati’s old house ( Sharath’s mom, Guruji’s daughter) and its literally 10 feet from the shala, talk about an easy commute! Ill post pics on Facebook when I move in! Not sure whether I’m gonna rickshaw all my stuff there or just walk it, it seems silly to rickshaw for 30 seconds. Yesterday after led, I treated myself to banana-xpcinnamon pancakes at Anokhi, had Sanskrit class, then went to the pool with some friends for the day. It was so nice to swim and just lay in the sun. Also, to help even out my crazy tan lines I got from the Dassara parade! Then we “splurged” on the best meal I have had since being here. The best Indian food I’ve ever had, I was stuffed!

Things are have still been going really well, practice has been good but very challenging. He’s really working me in my backbends…last time I wrote I was just touching my heels with my fingertips..now he has me full on holding onto my ankles!! It’s a really bizarre feeling. Is not painful, just intense. He also gave me the first posture in the second series, Pasasana, to start this xo,ing week! So I’m grateful for the weekend because it means a break from the crazy backbends. Friday is led class with is only three backbends from the ground, Saturday is rest, Sunday is another led class, AND Monday is a Moon day so we get an extra rest day. So, my back is very grateful! Things had been going so well, I knew I would have a low moment eventually…and I did. Even though I have accomplished so much since being here, I found that my competitive edge was coming back. I was an athlete for a huge part of my life, being competitive has always been in my nature. Being here around so many practitioners at so many levels, it’s easy to get caught up the the asana part of the practice. When I get to the shala during the week, it’s around the time this man is half way through the THIRD series…meaning he can compete the 1st and 2nd no problem. As I was watching him, I was just straight up jealous and felt really disappointed that I wasn’t at that level. That whole practice on Thursday negative thoughts consumed me, again I was really beating myself up. Then afterward at the coconut stand a gal was talking about how Sharath told her to come to the led intermediate class on Sunday…the snide voice in my head was saying “good for you, want a cookie???” I got back to my apartment and literally passed out for four hours, and I realized that’s exactly what i needed.

I realized I was starting to be the student I never wanted to be, a student obsessed with the physical practice. Instead of being grateful for what I have accomplished, I was angry with how much I needed to get done. I ignored the fact that for the first time in a long time, I didn’t feel self conscious, my eating was normal, and I was HAPPY. Which is why I came!! So yes, I may have a lot of work ahead of me, but I have accomplished so much already in such a short period of time, and THAT I am proud of. Sharath has to constantly remind us that asana is just a tiny part of the practice, it’s a part of the foundation, and to not get caught up in it. Each day before I start my practice I tell myself to be grateful for what my body can do today, and that’s how I truly feel writing this. What I love so much about the Ashtanga system is that because you work 6 days a week at it, you see growth. Now, this growth can either feed your ego or just simply give you confidence in yourself. And that’s what it has done for me, I feel like i finally have my confidence back. And with this confidence I know everything works out, and with that I feel at peace. And that’s why we practice, to get these moments of reassurance, knowing that attaining inner peace is possible. For the first time, I think ever, I can confidently say that I am happy with who I am, where I am, what I have, and where I am going. THAT is enough to keep me practicing.

So as I finish this up, I realized that if I hadn’t extended my stay here,I would only have two more weeks!! SO GLAD I’m staying an extra month haha. For those of you celebrating Halloween, enjoy but be safe! To my family and friends, I love you all and miss you a lot. But know, I am happy,safe, and healthy 🙂 XO

Ally

Change of plans…

Hey peeps!

It’s Saturday so no practice! It’s always nice to let your body wake up on it own, rather than a alarm clock 🙂 it’s been a fun week, with lots of big changes!

I started working on my drop backs, which is standing up then dropping backwards into a backbend. I was having trouble getting up, until I received advice from a fellow yogini in LA! Just one small tip and no I can get up three times in a row no problem! Way cool. So once Shararth noticed I was getting up on my own, he started working with me on three half way drop backs then walking your hands toward your heels once your hands are on the mat. So, the first day he helped me, I did three half ways, then started walking my hands, and walking, and walking and before i knew it I was touching my heels. It was probably one of the most bizarre feelings in the world. But awesome too. I spring back up with the goofiest face because I totally surprised myself lol. He goes, “fantastic! Next week, grab ankles.” Okay…..

So my practice is really taking off, but my back is grateful for a day off, especially after yesterday’s led class…he added an extra navasana (boat pose) for shits and giggles and I swear we were in utplutih for two minutes. But, it was still fun. I feel like my practice is the deepest it’s ever been, and it’s only been two and a half weeks! It’s amazing what a steady practice can do, not just physically, but also spiritually and mentally. I feel so comfortable in my skin, proud of who I am and where I have come. That in itself is a victory, I’ve never been good at positive affirmations to myself. I think it’s finally because I’m letting my heart do the real thinking and talking, rather than my mind. The mind tends to talk over the mind, a lot. Since being here, I’ve realized how much I have missed being a student, and how much I want to be a student. I don’t think I was really ready to teach yet, it’s a big responsibility. This isn’t because I didn’t get adequate training, my TT at flow changed my life. I just feel like I haven’t been a student long enough, And that’s what I want to be right now. Maybe one day, ill teach…but it’s not my time right now.

With that being said, i found myself getting really sad that I was already half way through my trip. I just didn’t feel ready to leave in three weeks, so after lots of thinking I have decided to stay a month longer than planned. So I will be home December the 8th. After I officially changed. My flight yesterday, I felt this immense sense of joy and peace in my heart, so I know I made the right decision. On Thursday I went to ask Sharath if I could extend my time at the shala and of course he says yes. And as I was walking out of his office he goes “oh, next week come practice earlier, ummm 5:30!” Which really is 5:15…shala time runs earlier. Sweet. It’s kinda crazy how in such a short time I feel so connected to him, I finally have a teacher.

Had a really fun time last night, had dinner at a friends house then we went out for gelato! And also found out that every first of the month the gelato is only 10 rupees…so about 18 cents!! The group Jessie and I have been hanging out with are people from Toronto and they are all so great.just really good,genuine,fun people. I feel lucky to have connected with them.

So,still things are great in India. Magical, really. Please keep in touch!! Xoxo

New Moon Day!

Helloooooo,

Today is a new moon so we have the day off!! So far it’s been lovely. I feel like I have lots to catch you up on, so I am going to try to remember everything.

Practice has been good and steady, though I found myself getting super frustrated with my supta kurmasana. I feel like ever since I first got into it, it has gotten sloppier and harder. Sharath says that’s my muscle and joints expanding and opening…and that it will get harder before it get easier. So, patience Ally!! I have started to work on my drop backs, which are great…but getting up not so much lol. Louise, one of the assistants, has been helping me but I’m hoping for some assists from Sharath this week. What I love most about this practice is that you become so in tune with your body, so on Thursday I was feeling kind of shitty about myself in general, like about my practice and I was feeling self conscious for some reason. These were all feelings coming up during my practice at 6 am…what triggered it? That’s what’s so amazing about ashtanga (for me anyway), when these things come up during practice, you find the root reason because there are no external triggers, it’s literally just you. Your mat isn’t laying there saying, “you look fat” or “wow, you call that supta kurmasana??” It’s something deep within yourself, and it makes you deal with it. That Thursday practice was an emotional one, after back ends the tears couldn’t be stopped, it’s what I needed. After svasana I felt relief, I think I am starting to let go of these old insecurities. I have become more and more grateful for my body and what I can do each day, and because of that respect, my bulimia seems like something left back in the distance. Each day my mantra is “your are strong, your are beautiful, you are brave.” And the more I practice, the more I am starting to believe it. Like i have said before, my eating disorder Has shaped a lot of who i am today, and i wouldnt change any of it. but it does not control me, and it certainly doesn’t define me.

Yesterday, Sunday, at conference with Sharath someone asked if all the postures were possible for everyone. He immediately said, yes absolutely. But, he said as long as your intentions are pure. If you are practicing just to get the next postures, you will struggle. If you practice for stability and peace, you will be successful in the postures. He also mentioned how it takes a lot of sacrifice, devotion, hard work, but none the less can be achieved by all. I knew then that this was my path, because I simply heard my heart speak it at that moment. I have suffered for several years at a young age, and it has lead me here. I need to tell my story, share it through this practice. So, I’m already to put the time and work in.

So, enough with the heavy! I have seen and done some really cool things since my last post. Friday night there was a Kirtan at Santosha cafe. This is basically where a bunch of people get together and sing chants and songs while people play the harmonium and drums! It was a BLAST. We danced, sang, laughed, then walked into town to get some local Indian food. Saturday, Jessie and I took the bus, actually two buses, up to Chamundi Hill. It’s this giant, gorgeous temple over 3,000 feet above sea level. One of the eight most sacred spots in South India. So beautiful. We walked through, placed flowers at the feet of Shiva and got some red paint on out forehead. Really cool experience. Then we hiked down the steps of the mountain to see Shiva’s bull, Nandi, where we were asked by a family to get a picture taken with us lol! It was super cute, even tho we were basically drenched in sweat haha. The bus ride back to the city was the best part, we took the local, non air conditioned bus, and it seemed to be teenage boy central. Got a couple more pictures taken if us and shook hands with people, it was a blast. When we got back into Gokulam, we again went to get a HUGE lunch for 40 rupees, less than a dollar.

Yesterday, Sunday, was a blast too. We got to go out a little bit last night since we all had the day off. We met up with some friends at a restaurant in town called green leaf, which is really awesome Indian food. Then we were feeling wild and went to Pizza Hut AFTER, dinner hahaha! We all wanted a taste of North America, so we got pizza followed by cookie sundaes. It was awesome. This only occurs when we don’t have to practice the next day haha! This was the nicest Pizza Hut I’ve ever been in, and they were play a nice mix of Rihanna, Lynard Skinner, and guns and roses lol. And then the monsoon came where we has to take a rickshaw all the way home, it was hysterical and very wet. So much fun and a really awesome group!

I’ll wrap this up because its getting long, though I do miss my family and friends, I really am loving it here. I am happy. XO

A

All is coming…

So hopefully this post goes through….this will be my third time trying.

Since I have gotten here, and I try to blog, I find myself not having the words to describe my experience here so far. Maybe because its all still settling in and I still don’t know how to process it.

Before I left the states, I promised myself to let go of any expectations I had for my own practice, to walk out smiling no matter where I was to be stopped. I am so glad I did this. I have practiced only five times since I have gotten here, and I already feel like I have made improvements. Like I got into full supta kurmasana on Sunday…just after two days of practice. (For those of you who have no idea what that is..google images it) I did have help from an assistant who helped me get my kegs over my head and my hands to bind, like pretzel dough haha. But it still counted in Sharath’s book because I got to move on to the next posture…then through the rest of the primary series. I have a later time slot during the week, 7 am, which really means 6:30 in shala time. It’s really awesome because by the time I’m to supta kurmasana the shala room is pretty empty, so we get a lot of one on one assistance from Sharath, not just the two assistants. Today I got my first hands on assist from him, I was already in kurmasana and he comes to me and says “don’t move legs, I do” meaning I was to let him bend my legs. First he squeezed my knees as far on top of my shoulders as they could go, then he pushed my elbows so I was able to bind. THEN he placed my left foot behind my head, then the right, then proceeded to squash me down closer to the floor. This may seem like a form of torture, but it was incredible. I could feel my body opening. So he let my breathe five times, them rocked me up so I could balance to jump back. As he walks away he says “you are very sweaty!” Awesome. So today was another good day of practice.

On Sunday we had conference with Sharath, we have this every Sunday, where all the students come into the big shala room, sit in front of him, and listen. He picks a topic of discussion and then we have an opportunity for open discussion. He talked about “What is Ashtanga yoga?” and he answers himself with a huge grin, “very difficult”. But then he goes on saying why the practice is much more than just the asanas (postures) but also why they are so important. He talked about the 8 limbs of yoga and the yamas and neyamas. How we must practice, non-violence, non-stealing, control, Ect. The physical practice allows us to be aware of these things and allows this inner transformation. He says we worry so much about perfecting the postures, jump backs, and floating up to handstand. In fact we obsess. Then we end up losing respect for the entire practice. He said he was even once like this. That comment made me realize that he was once like all of us, and we all have the opportunity to do what he can, practice, practice, practice. After we had our deep talk, he demonstrated some crazy posture and then we could ask questions.

Today after practice and breakfast, me and Jessie headed to the yoga sutra class that started today. It’s just a 4 week break down of the sutras, every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. Our teacher, Lakshmiish (I’m sure I TOTALLY butchered his name, is a soul of gold. Seriously one of the greatest people I have had the privilege to meet. I’m also taking Sanskrit Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays, and I am really enjoying it! I’m pretty good at it too, translating and writing that it. Speaking is a whoooole other story.

So, all is wonderful here in Mysore. I’m already planning on when I can make my next trip. I feel so lucky to be here, I wake up everyday a fresh sponge ready to absorb more. I also find that I’m constantly smiling, even when I practice ill realize I have this big, goofy grin on my face. I think it’s because I’m so happy to be here. I think Sharath likes people who smile a lot, because every time I realize I’m smiling I look around and always find him looking at me with the same grin. In a practice for disciplined and challenging, you have to be light hearted, and I think he likes to see that. Btw,his smile could melt the sun, and it’s contagious!! Anyway, just wanted to update you all. Lots of love from India 🙂

Ally

Day off

Just finished up another amazing breakfast here at Anokhi…it’s always a social event, you meet new people every day but also see the same people. I woke up really freaking sore from led primary yesterday morning…it was a nice reminder how I rush through my breaths and how I get lazy in certain poses. So ya I’m definitely feeling it is morning. Sharath counts sooooo……….slllllloooooowwwwwww……….to the point where you just have to laugh. Some of his most popular lines are “why you in hurry!?” “No dancing!” “Stay up!” he’s a gem. Being in his presence is pretty inspiring. Tomorrow (Sunday) is another led class….I’m sure to make sure we didn’t get too lazy after our day off. The after practice I found my usual spot at Anokhi ate, socialized, then made my way to chanting, basically went through half an hour of different chant, a lot of them I learned during teacher training. Then I had Sanskrit at 3:50 for about an hour and a half…went over basic consonants, then read the Gita, call and response, then discussed the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. My kind of day!

Today, Saturday, we have off. So we all ate breakfast and soon we are going to scooter up to some temples and then maybe the pool later. So this post is brief and just an update! Talk soon!

Ally

So far, so amazing

Well, I am here and still cannot believe it. I have lots to fill you guys in on and I am waiting for the water to heat up for my shower (yes you have to flip a switch 15 min before) so now is a good time.

My departure went very smoothly, got a little choked up saying goodbye to my parents but other than that nothing negative. Actually my whole flying experience was very pleasant…almost too easy. I got in Bangalore and as promised a man with my name on a sign was waiting outside for me at 5 am. The taxi ride was just hysterical…at first. Driving in India is like nothing I have experienced…pure chaos with no rules. You get to a point where you just have to trust your driver knows what he is doing and just look outside your window not the windshield. The city of Bangalore was sensory overload…poverty and wealth and everything in between. Stray dogs everywhere, like here in Mysore. Trash, right colors, foul smells, beautiful temples, mountains, tropical forests. The cab ride was going smoothly (it actually felt like a wooden roller coaster) until we are about one hour out of Mysore. We get stopped because people are on strike about something in the city of Mysore so they do not want to let people through right away. So we wait for about 30 minutes then my cab driver turns around to go another way, we get stopped once again but this time I got extremely uncomfortable. One because it was more of a back road rather than a highway, two because the second we pulled up to the tree trunk they put in the road, these young men surround the taxi. I was terrified. They were peacefully but were not gonna let us pass. I was freaking out because I am clearly the only female around, I’m white, and they are talking so fast in Hindi, so who knows what they were saying. We wait for about 45 minutes until I make my driver turn around. We get to the highway again and it looks like the strike is gone so I think we are in the clear, but no we get stopped AGAIN. this time for only 25 minutes then the police came. At this point I was in tears, tired, smelly, and just so out of my comfort zone.

I get to my little bed and breakfast and I immediately feel better. The sweet French owner greeted me, showed me my room and let me settle. This place is called Anokhi Garden Cafe…they also serve breakfast/brunch to the public so you meet lots of people. I shower and meet up with Jessie, a gal I connected with over Facebook who I will be living with starting next week, and we walked around, got real deal Indian food, saw out apartment, and just explored. 1:30 pm rolls around and I’m exhausted so I take a quick nap and then walk down to the shala to register. This is my first encounter with Sharath. He’s quite but super sweet, he asked me my level in ashtanga, who I have practiced with and so on. I got my times, paid and came back a passed out again.

This morning was my first practice. I was so nervous that I got to the shala like 30 minutes early. My time was 7 am SHALA time, this means be there 15 minutes before the actual time. So you wait in the foyer, and when a space become available Sharath yells out “one more!” And you wait until its your turn to go in find a spot for your mat, drop your things in the locker room, then start practice. So my practice went well…felt light, strong, breathing was good, and I was dripping sweat. As the room starts to clear, Sharath tells me to move my mat to the front and I keep going. At certain points I look up and he’s sitting on the front stage in his chair reading the paper lol. But he’s also very active walking around giving assists. I get to supta kurmasana…sleeping turtle, and one of the assistants come to help me. I’ve never gotten in this posture, I can get my feet behind my head but i have never bound my hands behind my back. This assist was the craziest, deepest one i have ever gotten. My fingers touched but I couldn’t hold on. So Sharath stops me
and I go to finishing. My surprisingly competitive ego was okay with this. I’m excited to see if I cn get passed it.

After practice I went back to Anokhi, at breakfast and meet so many cool new friends. Two girls in the room next to me are from Norfolk Virginia….small freaking world right!? Food was amazing and so was the company. Pure bliss. Then Jessie and I went down town to the market, I bought some pants, scarf, two tops,lotus oil perfume, a watermelon, two apples, and toe rings. All of this was MAYBE 25 bucks. The market was amazing with clothes, food, oil, incense, dyes and the colors were amazing. This was also my first ricksaw ride too! Now I’m back in my room and pretty tired…jet lag still lingering. Tomorrow is led practice with Sharath…so I’m super nervous about how long his counts are but I’m also excited.

Sorry for such a long post but I had lots to fill you in on:) India is a pretty magical place. Love you all!

A

Wheels up

Well, I am sitting here at the gate at BWI waiting to board my flight to London at 9:20. Saying goodbye to my parents was strange. It’s not like ill never see them again, but it was like they were seeing this Ally for the last time…if that makes sense. It all seems so surreal still but it’s happening!! I was overwhelmed by all the love and well wishes I received today and am so humbled. Thank you to all of you who have supported me.

Ill keep in touch!!! Love you all.

Ally