1. Martinet said a sentence that really struck me the other day – something along the lines of, “Yoga isn’t getting your students into the perfect pose. There is no perfect pose. It’s about getting their bodies to where they can go.”
It was like the ceiling fell away and a ray of insightful sunlight beamed the centre of my cranium.
No one – no one! – is going to be perfect in every pose, or even a single pose. Because not everyone’s bodies will let them or even ever be able to.
As long as I can remember, perfection has been what I always aim for (in an academic and performance sense, I shall clarify; with my wispy blonde ‘fro, mottled purple and red-risen bitten skin and high riding comfy Indian boy shorts, I definitely can’t claim the same for appearance right now). At uni, anything below an A plus had me gutted to the core I didn’t get better (even below the 96/100 mark threshold had me disappointed – it wasn’t perfect, you see). Not coming first in athletics or breaking my own p.b in every game – even if it was only a physical education class – had me crestfallen.
That quintessential high achiever.
But in yoga, perfection is unattainable.
There is no one who has every joint open, every muscle lengthened, every ligament and tendon and bit bendy. Someone may be amazing at arm balances, but find anything involving their quads testing. Another may be a champ at standing on one leg, but can’t do a handstand to save themself.
And I’m in a class of my own.
First off, there’s my ruddy knees. Honestly, these lads are causing me so much strife. My left one is so far round it’s almost right, with my right turning in increasingly more so that I could soon claim it as my left.
Reminds me of that Young Dro “Shoulder Lean” song, but in my mind I always have the lyrics, “Let me see you bounce right and left and see that left knee lean; Now I’m going to knee lean in this bitch….”. Not the kind of melody you should have whirring round your mind as you try to empty it.
I wish I could claim an injurious reason for the left’s patheticness; alas, no such thing. Although I mangled my illiopsoas tendon as a result of it on two occasions, my knee is purely as is as a result of weakness and bad habits. I didn’t even notice until one day in a spin sprint the instructor told me to stop; she was concerned that my left leg was going to flick out off it’s hinge whenever I went fast.
And then the left knee has prompted the right one to turn in, like a peer-pressuring patella; “Mate, come with me this way, I know it’s not right – literally – and not in line with how we should be standing, but let’s be wayward.”
Thanks boys. (Because of course, I refer to them as males).
They seem to be getting a lot worse with all this vinyasa, wobbling and trembling and tipping so I tumble to the floor. But then I considered it, and wondered if it could possibly be that I am more in tune and feeling them more? And trying to counteract? I mean, I’m pretty out of whack with my bodily sensations (the other lasses here always declare they can’t understand how I can walk or run in the heat; my response was that I don’t even notice it).
2. In the Western world, vehicle safety is quite a big focus when it comes to the road. Helmets on motorbikes, seat belts in cars, all such lark. So the quite common view here of a family of five jammed onto a single, maybe duo at best, scooter seat is extremely comical.
Honestly, before I ever came to one of these Eastern countries I’d see pictures on FB or in movies and think it was just outrageous exaggeration. But it really, truly, is a thing.
It’s the Indian version of the mother minivan, a single scooter with five people crowded on it. Dad driving with one hand while holding a newborn infant with the other like a rugby ball, mum sitting side saddle in her tight sari balancing twin toddlers under each arm, the speeding vehicle on the wrong side of the road overtaking a bus with a blaring beep.
And no one bats an eye. I’ve even seen policemen look the other way.
How is everyone not dead?
3. In my last post I said about how I had progressed to being allowed to attempt nauli, the abdominal massage thing that’s also nicknamed the Belly Dance. This morning I had my first try, and as doing so wondered what the act actually activates.
So to fill you in as well as myself: there is an idea in yoga that every muscle should move at least once a day. This brings energy back into flow and releases blockages, keeps parts working as they should, and revitalises functionings and systems and so on and so forth.
So this vigorous movement of the abdomen is said to stimulate your digestive fire. It stimulates heart and blood circulation, eliminates constipation and massages your organs, such as the tum, intestines, liver, spleen, pancreas and such.
I was hoping I’d bend over and whirlwind my stomach like a Fisher & Paykel on high, but no such talent. I managed to get the central contraction to the left, somehow roll it over to the right, then lost hold and it slipped like a landslide and just looked like I’d had a big lunch .
No fear; I still have four weeks and three days to master it before I leave (I don’t know if that’s a good thing). Plus, my research revealed that even if not performed entirely successfully, benefits can still be experienced (bet I stimulated a mass bout of diarrhoea).
4. There’s this idea in India that age is not measured in years, but in the number of breaths one takes. Those who breath fast and shallow are usually quite stressed and rushing, while those with a slow and deep respiratory rate are calm and steady.
Think about it in the animal world: a tortoise breathes four times a minute and lives for 150 years. Dogs have a rate of up to 35 a minute, and live 10-15 years. Humans on average take in air about 15 times a minute, though this greatly varies depending on life situations.
So now when people ask my age I won’t say 22; it’ll be, “About 1234566 breaths deep.”
5. Today I finally nailed an arm balance I’ve been trying to conquer (pictured, though I doubt I look as steady and assured as the lass in the image) and had a moment of stupor when after being instructed to “jump through” from Down Dog (that is, put your weight on your hands and use the core to swing your legs through and outstretched in front of you) I found I did it for the first time.
It’s cool; improvement acts as motivation to get up for yet more yoga (I love it really).
6. This point here is quite disgustingly disturbing, so don’t read if you don’t work well with such tales.
One of the girls in my course was waltzing down the road when she came across a visibly distressed middle-aged woman. Upon asking her what was wrong, the woman was coaxed over coffee to share her horrid morning experience.
She had gone to get a massage at one of the many local places, and found her masseuse was a man. Usually here, it’s men-men, women-women for such treatment, but for some reason the same-sex team-up was not the go.
The man did some inappropriate touching during his manipulation of her muscles, but as with the vigourousness of the Indian deep tissue, she cast aside her qualms. It was only being instructed to lie on her back and feeling a fair few dollops of some sort of syrup on her forehead that she opened her eyes and realised the man was fornicating on her face.
At her despair, he attempted to tell her she was lacking in protein.
That poor lady. That poor, poor lady. My peer took her along to the police station to make a statement, so it’ll be interesting to hear if anything actually comes (apologies) of it.
(I felt awful, but all I could imagine was the coppers turning up to the place and questioning the man on his actions. His response? “It was worth a shot”).
7. Back to yoga poses to end on. As with all my life, I’m always in such a rush. I live my being as a race, one big competition, where I always want to finish first and be the fastest and the best and the most brilliant.
But yoga isn’t about the end; a majority of it is the journey. The way you get into an eda pada rajakaotasana is just as important as being in it.
I forget this all the often, skipping steps and taking shortcuts so I can be there as soon as. It’s like I’m laying out the white picket fence of my abode, before the foundational frame has fully even erected (such a connotative word in regards to the wee tale above). I need to learn to let the concrete set before I adorn with a doorbell.
8. Martinet just can’t fit me into a classification, and I think she finds it a bit disconcerting. This morning I was doing a shoulder opener against a wall with a block, and she brought Philippa over to examine me from afar. “She’s so flexible here and here, but there she has absolutely no movement,” I heard her mutter quizzically. “She has weird shoulders.” (Is “weird” an upgrade or step down from “strange”?). And tonight as we did hip openers, she went to tell me to put a block under my bum and was left with her mouth agape when she saw I was backwards and twisted and upside down as per the final posture, not misaligned with one leg up as she no doubtedly expected.
She can’t make sense of how my body is and how I can flex here like an advanced practitioner but not there, being at the most beginner of beginner. I think I’m her little uncategorised case.
I like being unpredictable. Especially as it’s not just to her, but to me myself too (“How did I get here?” Is something I find myself pondering a number of times a day, as I stare up at the ceiling with my foot under my ear).
Feeling yogic? Well, sometimes.