Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New new new!

We've got a new place!

Yep, signed the lease and everything. We're moving out of NSW 2095 into, scary scary, NSW 2094. Surely a sign of my finer, temple-greying years.. It's kind of like in London when you go from zone 2 to zone 3 on the underground and sacrifice convenience for cleaner air, more space, less drug dealers (it's relative). In our case you can't argue with Manly's sea breeze and obvious drug dealers are not abundant, so it's space we're after, more to the point animal-friendly space. I checked out the locale yesterday and there's a lovely ye olde deli to buy fancy schmancy tapanades and venison pies etc and flyers advertising a plethora of mums n bubs social events... Yep it's proper Pramville! Just need the baby now.. Hmmmm.... Let's start with a cat.And now that I'm working from home I can justify becoming the mad old women with her cat.  We saw one at the RSPCA last week who I've got my beady eye on. Gary. Grey tabby with cat flu which apparently isn't too serious - just needs TLC and warmth, which he's not getting much of at the moment in the cat pound in Yagooma in Sydney's darkest, wettest West. Not cuddled him yet but I'm letting fate decide. If he's there when we get back from New Zealand next week then we'll have him. If he's not, then he's not meant to be.  What do you think?

So yes, a new place, a new four legged friend, and (hopefully) a  new start... as the next two weeks before the move are a good time to purge and give my ridiculous amount of crap to some one more needy.

So, if I am a little quiet over coming weeks it's because I'm either

a) Snowboarding - yay!
b) Cleaning inside the oven
c) Clearing out my wardrobe of forgotten items
d) Buying cat food

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Winter in the North Shore

Ahh Sydney in the winter eh. Really, is there anywhere else?

Hubby and I had a lazy Sunday yesterday with not much planned. I had to go to a photo shoot in the morning in Mosman for one of the yoga centres where I am teaching, so we drove together towards Balmoral beach where Andrew was gonna find a cafe to read his book whilst I got my pic taken posing in the sand (much harder than on the mat, i soon discovered). 

As we got across the Spit Bridge, Andrew took a turn too soon and we ended up on one Mosman’s back streets, skimming along the harbour’s edge and heading in the wrong direction, back towards the Spit. Running late already I was tempted to make some sarcastic remark but then... 

Easy tiger, hello beautiful! What an amazing wrong turn it was, I’d never explored this way before and the houses, the views, the soft winter sun as it hit the water was just stunning! Most of the properties here had expansive terraces, casually looking out over the harbour, as it winked and sparkled back at them, like a crazy diamond. As we turned a corner we could see the national park over towards Manly where deep sweeping greens leapt out from the lively shimmery turquoise and private wisps of golden sand lay at the foot of a handful of these... holy cow... AMAZING places. Do people really live there? Can you imagine? They made me think of the baddy’s house from a James Bond movie, only better.

It’s unbelievable to think that I can live somewhere so stunningly beautiful and yet so often I just go from A to B without really taking part in it or really noticing that 'nameless' space in between. I guess those self help types call it enjoying the journey. It was only because we got lost that I opened my eyes.
If only we could experience that sensation of discovery every time and really notice things.

Monday, July 19, 2010

My true nature - frustrated

I'm sorry blog, I've been a little absent of late but finally, after days of frustration I've uninstalled my vodafone connection and installed my hubby's Optus one from work. Not a good long term solution but will do for now. I know I talk a lot of my techmares but honestly, when you work from home and there's no tech guy at work who you can call when your computer snarls error messages at you, the only people you can take your frustration out on are: 

a) Tech guys at Vodafone - I am probably blacklisted there now. The polite approach was getting me nowhere. The angry psychotic approach has had limited effect as well, admittedly. Wilting sarcasm just made me feel bad..... But should I be satisfied after 10 days of receiving no call/ no support to be told someone will call in 72 hrs. Being pretty below average at maths I (slowly) worked out that was 3 whole days! Well say three days you cowards, why dress it up in finery by calling it hours! I can't manage three days without internet at home, it's like being told you can't have running water at home for three days. Or rather that you might get a call about your lack of running water in three days. Awesome.(And to that I add the clause that I know I'm very lucky to live in a Western society where this is something that people would be feasibly outraged by..)


b) Your nine blog readers. Thanks guys.

c) Hubby - but he's overseas again :(

Feel better now. I've vented.

But why does venting help? It's not very yoga I know. In fact it's totally un-yoga because we are meant to  be detached, observing, accepting what happens. But then Matthew Sweeney says in his book Ashtanga Yoga As it Is, that if we try and modify or challenge our natural tendency then we're living an illusion:

"True change is made possible when you are in contact with what is, when you realise what you are. It does not occur when you try to become something you are not. This is delusion. With the latter, there can only be a constant war between the desire for what you should be and what you are. This is one of the most troubling truths that most yoga practitioners have to deal with. No amount of asana or pranayama or meditation practice will make you a better person or hasten your development. Nothing will. For there is nothing better than being what you are right now.... Awareness is the only key ingredient."  (pg 28 Astanga Yoga As it Is)

So in this case, bitter sarcasm and blood bubbling frustration is my true nature. At least I'm aware of it I guess,

Feel like I'm thinking myself into a yoga corner again...! Help!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Floating effortlessly... hmmmm

Yes, the old effortless effort quality. It’s something which us yogis know all too well as we attempt to ‘float’ through to a seated position from down dog or lift our entire body weight off the floor in a cross legged position (known as lolasana)and 'drift' back. Floating, drifting! 'Effortless' is not the word, there’s a heap of steely determination, five long years of regular practice and a tonne of internal bandha* control and physical strength required. So when the teacher (and I’ve done it many times myself) says jump or float lightly through to a seated position you know at least 70% of the class are gritting their teeth and working strongly to get a glimpse of the requisite ‘mysterious’ internal strength. It’s easy to say it, it’s not so easy to do it.

Matthew Sweeney, in his book Astanga Yoga As It Is says when learning how to jump back and through, “try to optimise both the feeling of lightness (no strain) and strength. One without the other is an imbalance.” So teeth gritting isn’t going to work is it? And that’s exactly what I feel I’ve been doing lately. I’ve lost a little bit of the lightness and let the strength (good) and strain (bad) take over, leaving me unbalanced (exactly what a yogi doesn’t want to be). 

For the first couple of months of this New Life there was a certain amount of floating going on, I was somehow letting go of any external or ‘obvious’ effort but; like an eager-to-please duckling paddling madly to keep up with mum, my webbed feet were working double time. At least then I was managing to maintain some floaty serenity; now I’m splashing.

So, where’s all this going you ask?

Well as a new yoga teacher I feel this responsibility to be light, serene and to present effortless effort in all that I do. You know a good teacher when it all just comes together naturally; you’re taken along in the current of their class and you don’t even notice it. Who knows if anyone is taken along in my current, but today I made my first obvious yoga boo boo. It did not come together naturally at all. I was teaching a corporate class in the city at a market research agency where my sister works, and I had my alarm set for 6am to get the ferry at 7am and be there for 8am when my husband woke me up at 7.05 saying, ‘Claire, don’t you need to be up?’

Oh sh*t

So I leapt out if bed, called my sister straight away and apologised. What else can you do? But I feel like I let people down. Due to traffic and ferry times etc it wasn’t going to be possible to make it there for 8 or even 8.15 and they have to start work at 9. So I just had to say sorry again and that I’ll be there next week for sure.

So much for the effortless effort.

But of course, as my hubby said, these things happen. It’s the first time I’ve let anyone down (knowingly!) with a yoga class and at least now it will make me be sure to double, triple check that my alarm clock is properly set.

I am sure most people would agree but there's nothing worse than letting other people down (except maybe letting yourself down) and I did both. I’m tired at the moment, these are not excuses, but I guess I didn’t wake up naturally at 6 ish as I usually do 'effortlessly'; so I need to pull on some of that steely strength, the years of regular practice, and a bit more lightness, to take things a little less seriously. Occasionally we can’t jump through lightly, we mess up, I can’t let it weigh heavily on me.

*Bandhas are internal locks or seals are contracted or activated during yoga practice and which contain and control prana (energy) and heat within the body. The most common bandhas are: mula bandha  at the pelvic floor; uddiyana bandha located at the navel, lower abdomen region; and jalandhara bandha which is a tucking of the chin to bring about soft audible ujjayi breath.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A learning from the German

What a week.... I tell you what my teaching muscles are weary and so are my smile muscles (that's another one to add to my work in progress novel 'Manly Complaints' - a list of the most ridiculous whinges I hear from this little piece of paradise I'm fortunate enough to call home).

I mean, what a week.  I think I ended up teaching around 15 classes all up. So by the end of my teachathon I felt pretty standard up there. Fittingly, the week's teaching ended with a rather curious Level 2 ashtanga class which I was covering for my teacher. 

Level 2 means the students should be pretty familiar with the ashtanga primary series and have at least 6  months experience. Well it was 5pm Sunday evening, after an awesome 'Christmas in July' dinner with some pommy mates (turkey, stuffing, brussels, the lot) I had to take my turkey belly off to teach this class (no mulled wine for the yogi sadly). It's the school holidays and it was a suitably drizzly dank day (very British Christmas) so I expected a small class and thought, we'll whip through the sequence and I won't demonstrate at all (due to my turkey baby) which you can easily do with ashtanga since people know the poses. Too easy. And, as I thought, it was a small class, but that's where the meeting of my expectations ended.

There were two girls who were pretty experienced and two guys who I couldn't even describe as beginners. Well there was one, a  German chap, who'd never done any ashtanga, I think he'd probably been to one yoga class before in his life. He was fully tattooed up, massive arms, chest bared, like a man going into battle, a huge guy with a lazy linger of a smile which sat mischievously in one corner of his mouth.

So, I opened the class by getting everyone settled, legs up the wall, coming into their breath and body and then when we were about to start the sun salutes when he says: 'I can't understand you, can you please speak better?' 

'As in louder?' I replied

'No, you know, better, better pronunciation...'

So I thought, okay, English is not his first language, that's cool, I'll have a go at speaking more clearly. No problem.

We went through the salutes and he clearly had never done one before. So I was right next to him, going through the up-dog, down dog, chataranga-motions, the Christmas sprouts and pigs in blankets nudging at my throat, threatening; but I carried on and demonstrated almost every salute, because he wasn't really responding to my clear-instruction endeavours.

In between demonstrating I was adjusting the students in down dog by placing my hands on their lower back and when I put my palms on his sacrum he lets out this funny little squeal and then, 'ahhhhhhh, oooooh' 

'Sorry were my hands cold?' I asked

'Oooh noooooo, it's just niiiiice'

I couldn't help but laugh, and nor could the other students in the class. I kept thinking, focus, this class is turning into a shambles, keep  the students focused. This is Ashtanga, it's meant to be serious business this ashtanga.

And so the madness continued... Of course it would.

We were about an hour in and I felt I had to say something. I needed to break the ice, pop this over-blown (slightly psychedelic) balloon we'd created here in this yoga-space. So I started laughing at an opportune moment and said:

'Man this is a funny class' 

It was like the air rushed straight out of the balloon, pure relief, and suddenly everyone was laughing. 

Well the yoga went out the window, along with the air. So much for coming into a beautiful yogic state of concentration and pure awareness.

Oh well. It was funny. 

Right at the end of the class, one last ditched attempt I thought 'I know - eye bags.' Those wonderful little lavender-scented bags of beans always help people to go inwards; maybe I can win back some focus here. Wonderful. Everyone can get fully immersed in their savasana. So I start handing out eye bags.

'I don't like eye bags' a booming voice replied.

Oh well, that's it, everyone was off again... 

Well, it was certainly a learning experience. I've never known a student to challenge the unofficial 'yogetiquette' of silence in class (or at least an appropriate quiet in those down-time moments or during postures, unless being spoken to one-on-one with the teacher) and I was so aware of these experienced students perhaps wanting and needing a good class.

I felt like I was patient with him. I hope I was able to give something to the other other students.... I still wonder if I acted 'correctly' and what else I could have done. 

Realising now there's so much more to teaching than standing up in front of a few people talking through the postures.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Yoga burn out

I remember a few months back reading an article in the Australian Yoga Life magazine about new yoga teachers suffering from burn out, and I thought – that’d be nice, to teach so many class that you get tired! Well, this week, I think I might be starting to char. The promise of endless hours to chew over books and get inspired hasn't happened and instead I'm buzzing and fruzzing between the mat and the Mac to answer emails, write bits and blogs, and of course teach and practice. Okay, it's probably just this week because there are quite a few teachers away so I'm covering a lot (which is great by the way) and things will get back to normal again next week but I wanted to share my experience of this new lifestyle in all its colours, and this part is a kind of roaring, sports-car red.

I’ve created my own real life mini yoga olympics and last Friday was the opening ceremony, with a 6-8am Mysore practice (just the knowledge of the hours ahead sent lead through my legs) followed by a few hours emailing, planning classes, finding music, then at 10.30 – 12pm I taught again, then a bit more class planning, then I did my yoga apprentice program from 3 – 5.30pm, practicing again, then it was time for the Funky Friday Flow class at 6-7pm, then… err, did I miss lunch? It was an incredible day and I was fully immersed, focused, riding it… a prana high perhaps? Yesterday, another event; up at 5, taught two classes, off to the office, full day at office (8.30am – 5.30pm) then back home, sizzled up and omelette then taught 7.30pm class, sofa was yearning and then bed. Zzzzzzzzzz…. Up again this morning at 5.30, taught another class and… etc etc. Now I don’t want you to think I’m ungrateful or that I’m not enjoying every single minute. Because I really am. I am absolutely LOVING the teaching. To the point where, when I talk to anyone about it, I feel a goosey rush creep up my cheeks. They say it’s a calling. I’ve never really known what a calling feels like and if it gives you goosey cheeks a big smile (and little wee bags under your eyes), well I think I’ve found it.

But it’s interesting how it’s starting to take its toll on my body. After the full on Friday my back started to tighten and quiver. Uh oh. No more. Then I started to feel a twangy twinge across my left buttock into the injured hamstring and down the leg. My teacher suggested I see a chiro and sure enough everything started to pack up. In silhouette I looked like a lower case ‘r’, barely able to straighten my back and as I did, there it goes, the twingy twang. So my lovely chiro took one look at me and my alphabetty posture and decided it was all connected, as it so often is. A few sacrum clicks and some excruciating deep tissue massage into my psoas and I should be right as rain  in a few days. So, I’ve decided to slow it down a bit. I’m teaching tonight and first thing tomorrow, but in my own practice it’s gone all squidgy bolstery with nourishing, supportive blocks, lots of breath and less stretch. My teacher told me to try practicing at 70%, and breathing at 100%, apparently you feel as light as silky scarf. I’ll give it a go. Here begins another type of yoga.  

Sunday, July 4, 2010

It's the iPhone God's will

After all these amazing days I've been having lately I feel kind of relieved that things are starting to even out, to become normal. Because last week was the first time in a while I can honestly say 'man, that was a shoddy old week'.

Yep, it was really sucky one. After having no Internet access for three days, an infestation of cockroaches in the kitchen, a broken vacuum cleaner, and an ever-niggling hamstring injury, I thought by the end of the week things should start looking up. Well, our friend up there decided no, that's not quite enough irritation for one week and he turned things even more bitter and twisty. 

So catching the ferry into the city to teach a corporate class, I was chatting with my sister about the wonder of iPhones and checking out the new ‘books’ application she got when she upgraded her software. I mean how cool is it to be able to get real books on your phone. No more heavy tombs weighing me down, I carry enough block, strap and crap around with me as it is… Well it seemed a good idea until after an hour of downloading, I plugged my phone back in to find there was absolutely no data left on it. All phone numbers, gone; all notes, gone; every calendar entry, song, everything, a big fat gone. So… being a total luddite idiot I panicked and in a crazed frenzy of clicking I managed to ‘encrypt a password.’  Only vaguely understanding the meaning of the word ‘encrypt’ I then decided to see if this worked so I reconnected my iPhone and… A flicker of hope; it asked me to enter a password to restore the back up. What password? I didn’t enter one did I? After trying every possibly password I’ve ever used for anything, sadly, computer still said no.

As you know, I have a fiery pittary temperament so my instinct, after a quick scoot around various online support forums, the Apple website etc, was to start ranting and raging, which I did for an hour or so before bed; a tired, red-faced lunatic.

Then. A sparkly new day dawned.

Thursday came all shiny and new and I decided to try and find the positives.  Yogic surrender or ishvarapranidhana means to accept what comes as part of our spiritual destiny. It’s a principle I’ve always been attracted too as so often I feel I try to control life’s outcomes and how liberating to surrender to this type of fate, this supreme governing intelligence. which says “you are not in charge, leave it to Me.”

In fact a few people had said to me ‘oh how liberating to be free of all those phone numbers of people you’ll never call.’ Others said ‘ooh, a clean slate’.

Maybe this is what I needed, the opportunity to wipe things clean and connect with those people who really matter to me.

So armed with my castrated-phone; devoid of phone numbers and deadlines, dates, mates, and other (not that) ‘pressing’ matters, I decided to cut loose. Here are some pics from my phone-free weekend (taken with my iPhone of course)

Got a new app that takes pics which look like they're taken on an old plastic toy camera - gotta love the iPhone!