Friday, 28 June 2013

The yoga of nervous laughter

'The next session will be partner yoga,' said Tashi at Kaliyoga in France.  My heart sank.  We'd done this in Spain and, to be honest, I hadn't been wild about it then and my view hadn't changed with the benefit of hindsight.  I don't know why but it doesn't feel quite like yoga to me.  It's more of a party trick.
Above all, I get anxious.  I worry I won't do it right (if you're doing it wrong on your own that's fine, you're only letting yourself down...but with someone else...).  And yes, I know there's supposedly no such thing as 'wrong' in yoga but still... oh, you know.  So I turned up late, rather hoping that everyone would be neatly paired off and I could slope back to the pool with my book.  But no.
'Ah, there you are,' said Tashi.  'And there's your partner waiting for you.'  Poor Rosa.  Not only had she had to drive me for four hours from Nice airport but now she'd landed me as a partner.  She must have been wondering what ghastly thing she did last week to deserve this karma.
It didn't start well.  She pressed into me so I pressed back, assuming this was what one did.  She tugged my arm; I tugged back and we got into some kind of weird tug of war.   'Oww,' she said, finally.  'That hurts.'
'Me too,' I said. 'What are we doing wrong?'
'I don't know,' she said.
'But you've done this loads of times, right?'
'Nope.  This the first.'
'It's all about trust,' said Tashi.  Rosa and I looked quizzically at one another and soldiered on.
'Oooh, look at those wonderful long limbs,' said Tashi, pulling out her camera.
'Oooh, look at the difference in our skin,' said Rosa, laughing at the contrast between her delicious Italian olive skin and my gleaming white slightly sunburned and madly freckled pelt.
 We managed a few moments of relative calm but, truly, it still wasn't quite doing it for me.
 'Everyone swap!' said Tashi and we shifted around.
This time Anne-Marie drew the short straw.  Not that she's short; just that I was a fair bit taller.  Even I had to admit it was pretty comical.
Then it got worse.  A lot worse.  Don't even ask what we're trying to do here - and yes, that's me on the bottom of the pile.
This is the point at which Candida is reduced to a quivering bunch of Balasana while I make a quick getaway - can't quite decide if I look more like Renfield or Quasimodo here.
And this is how it should be done - Emma and Tashi looking serene and rather lovely.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Come walk with me...

So you can't be here, in Dulverton, on beautiful Exmoor...  Never mind.  Come with me on my morning walk.  We'll take it slow (I'm not feeling so great today)...
The SP is bouncing like Tigger but he always waits for me to open the first gate...
...and then the second gate...
We walk through town as it starts to wake up...past the familiar shops, and the familiar cars and familiar people.
And then we cross the bridge and turn up into the woods.  It's steep and somehow steep on tarmac is harder than steep on earth so we take it easy.
The wild foxgloves are bee buzzed bells...
Most people go straight on, following the wide track down to the river.  But we veer left, through this narrow opening, and up the steep track known locally as the Chimney.
Past ancient beech tree hedgerows, moss-crept, sinew-rooted...
The bluebells have sunk back into the earth now, and bracken reigns.  The woods open out as we dip down and up the old ramparts of the bronze age hill fort.
We pause at "my" tree, of course, wondering again how it survived when its brothers and sisters were felled. Happy chance.  Sometimes I meditate here, sometimes I just lean back and listen to the birdsong, the distant sounds of the town.  If we're very still, sometimes the deer come.
The path widens and we come across the den, a little camp constructed around a tree.  Weeks back I decorated it with a rib-cage, placing the skull to watch in a nearby tree but now they've gone.
We have a choice.  Sometimes the SP and I turn left and make a full circuit but today my energy is flagging so we veer to the right and pick our way downwards.
Past the hawthorn tree, past this little moss-sprung spring...and back to the wide path, down down down, over the bridge get the picture.  It's only a small walk - an hour at most - but every day it is different, every day some new fresh detail.  It comforts me somehow.  Even if life is basically meaningless, it can still be beautiful.

Monday, 24 June 2013

My sidekick

Kaliyoga France was very different from its Spanish sibling in many ways, for many reasons.  But the most important for me was that, for the first time in donkeys' years, I had a sidekick. 

I’m usually a loner.  Yes, I can be sociable.  Yes, I can join in with most groups, fit in quite easily if I make the effort, but I tend to be alone, to travel alone and that's fine because I like my own company.  That’s not saying I like me, per se, just that being alone is the norm. Y'know, sometimes I even forget how to talk out loud and when I do, my voice comes as a surprise.  

So when I was at Kaliyoga in Spain and Emma said she’d come with me to France, I was surprised, taken aback. Okay, worried a little too.  Would I be good enough company?  Could I be smart, witty, fun enough?  Because it’s one thing amusing people for the odd hour or so, anyone can act the fool for a short period of time.  But for a whole week? 
Emma (left) with our yoga teacher Tashi
But it was fine. More than fine. In fact it was perfect (at least as far as I was concerned). No acting the fool required. She gave me all the space I needed and more – yet it was just so good, so unusual, so wonderful,  to feel there was someone there, someone watching my back; knowing someone was unequivocally on my side.  I'm slow to trust, I'm a wary soul but she melted my defences darn quick. We shared a little house, so sweet – our own small bedrooms and then a lovely little living room, full of treasures, and a sunkissed balcony.
We spent a lot of time in silence, easy, companionable silence. Yet every so often we would take it in turns to lie on the 60s couch for ‘analysis’ – well, just chatting really, sharing little worries and concerns, big worries and concerns. Not judging, not dictating, not telling one another ‘what you wanna do…’  Never assuming, just listening, warm and dear.  And I thought again and again over the week, how funny (and wonderful) it is that life seems to send you people (maybe just lend you them for a little while or perhaps let you keep them for a while longer) just when you need them.  Of course it's probably just coincidence but what?
Emma was/is a true gift.  And it did me a world of good not to be hidden away in corners but to be warmed by her generosity of spirit, by an openhearted friendship that demanded nothing, asked for nothing, expected nothing.  It was just there – light and free.  Magic.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Everything is not so bad

‘Everything is not so bad,’ said Daniel at Kaliyoga France.  Ostensibly he’s an osteopath and a reflexologist (whole body though, not just feet) but I suspect he’s a fair bit more than that – definitely a healer, maybe a bit of a shaman.  And, oh those eyes!  Those young/old wide open palest blue eyes.  He’d checked me over and found all the old kinks, even dug around in my abdomen and found the same gut quirk that had surfaced in Austria.  He adjusted a little here, a little there and then paused.

‘It’s here,’ he said, gently tapping my breastbone. ‘You’re locked right here... in the heart.’

Ah.  My poor heart.  It’s ever been thus.  For our bodies try, dear souls/hearts, to protect us, don’t they?  They build up a carapace; they armour us with wrenched tight twisted fascia.  And our minds play sidekick, quickly jumping in, alert to hurt, watching for a reason to doubt, to suspect, to withdraw.  And Body is more protective of Heart than it is of anything or anywhere else. 
‘People hurt you,’ whimpers Body.
‘Keep ‘em out,’ advises Mind.
‘Might be best,’ agrees Body.
‘Definitely,’ says Mind with a profound sigh of relief.
Yet at Kaliyoga everything was conspiring to open me up again, to blast away heart/mind/body’s carefully constructed defences. 
A series of yoga postures – opening, exposing, baring.  And I felt a giving somehow, a loosening. A silent tear or two.  And then chanting which, again, was all about opening, being, letting go of doubt and fear because, really (at heart), whether doubt and fear are true or not, they are not helpful.  Om Tare, Tuttare, Ture, Soha... The Green Tara mantra which protects against doubt and delusion, the wrong thinking that traps your heart. And Tayata Om, the healing mantra of the Medicine Buddha.  Gate gate, Paragate - passing the threshold, evolving into fearlessness.
Once you know something, you cannot unknow it.  You can never go back; you can never change back into something you once were. And change is not just inevitable, it is safe. It must be.  No matter what happens on the other side of the gate, on the other side of change.

‘Do you really believe that?’ said Mind.
‘Hell no!’ replied Body.

‘Give it a chance,’ whispered Heart.  

The writing on the boards...

Kaliyoga France.  Sun and space.  Mantras and meditation.  Yoga magic.  And words...every day different...but saying much the same...



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Anyhow...if you want to see more pictures, check out my Facebook page - I've posted a  bunch there.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

In which Trisha totally creases me...

So, this morning I wandered down to the river, for kettlebells, my Sunday service.  And my heart sank. No little group loitering by the grass.  Had I got it wrong?  Was it cancelled?

Then Trisha popped out of her car, lean and tanned in tiny shorts and vest. 
‘Where is everyone?’ I asked.
‘On holiday,’ she replied. ‘I think it might just be us.’
And my heart soared.  I looked hopefully at her, fully expecting she’d say something like, ‘So how about we go get some breakfast at the Tantivy?’
‘So…’ she said.  ‘How about we do something different?’
I looked quizzically at her. Not the Tantivy then? 
‘How about we do some interval training?’
It sounded so simple.  ‘Er…sure.’

So we started off running… Well, she ran, I sort of amble-jogged. Then…oh God, I really can’t remember.  It was the longest hardest toughest hour of my life.  I have a dim recollection of doing shuttle runs, followed by sit-ups and push-ups.  There was a bit where we swung monster kettles, then did burpees (oh sweet heavens above, is there any more exquisite form of torture?), then …something or other that was equally painful.

I felt my face go red; I felt sweat gluing my t-shirt to my back; my mouth went dry. People stopped and watched and you could almost see the thoughts going through their heads. Who are these totally mad women and what the freaking hell are they doing on a Sunday morning? 

‘How’re you doing?’ said Trish, not even slightly out of breath.  I just stared, wild-eyed, and sort of spluttered. 'Fine. That is, if dying is fine.'

‘Right. 100 rep cycles now,’ she said. 
‘What?’ I gasped.
‘100 reps of everything – kettlebell swings, arm raises, burpees, kettlebell sit-ups, lateral flies, leg drops, triceps…’  I stopped listening.  ‘Don’t tell me,’ I begged. ‘Let’s just do it.’

And I just endured. And somehow it ended and I was still alive. Sort of.  And, as we walked along the river for a cool-down we bumped into Teresa and Dawn-Marie and Teresa said, ‘Wow.’ And I just sort of grimaced. 
‘You’re so fit,’ she said.  ‘We couldn’t believe what you were doing.’
‘No, I’m not,’ I said.  ‘And nor could I.’
Because the thing is, it’s oh so easy to get into a rut.  I can do my normal routines easy-peasy but this seriously floored me.

‘I think I may have creased Jane,’ said Trisha with an evil grin.
‘I think you may,’ I said with a simulacrum of a smile, mopping my puce-red face.

But truly, it was great. Pushed me out of my comfort zone and made me realize that I’ve let my foot slip off the gas lately.  Put on a fair few pounds; lost a fair bit of aerobic fitness.  Time to make some changes.  J

If you want a Trisha beasting, she offers personal fitness sessions as well as a series of classes (kettlebells, bootcamp, Nordic walking etc.) around Exmoor.  Check out her website.  And...relax...she will work with your level of ability and to your goals. Seriously, it could change your shape; change your life. Save your life even, if you've been killing yourself with food and lack of exercise.  She only beasts me because she knows that, despite all the moaning and groaning, I love it.