Tuesday, 18 January 2011

A Cautionary Tale

I tend to sweat quite a lot during my Ashtanga pratice and, being 'follicly challenged', this sweat runs into my eyes which is both annoying and distracting.  To remedy this less than satisfactory situation I usually wear a bandanna when I practice. My current crop of bandannas were looking a little threadbare and so at the weekend I treated myself to a new batch. This morning, resplendent in my new head gear, I started my practice as usual, working my way through the standing sequence and into the primary series.

As I was reaching forward into Janu Sirsasana A, I noticed a droplet of bluish liquid next to the inside of my right knee - at first I was perplexed, but then I realised that this must have dripped from my head and taken some of the dye out of my new bandanna. This casual observation was immediately replaced by a second, far more concerning thought...that same bandanna, with dye running, was still firmly wrapped round my head.

Trying to stem the rising tide of panic, I duly completed my 5 breaths before getting up from my mat and walking to the toilet in as nonchalant a fashion as I could manage. Once there I whipped off the bandanna, looked into the mirror, and sure enough...my forehead had taken on the pigmentation of a smurf. Now in full on flap mode, I started to frantically wash my head in the sink - fortunately after 3 or 4 washes my skin had returned to its more customary pinkish hue and I was able to rejoin my practice, albeit in a somewhat flustered state.

So please heed my advice and learn from my mistake - if you're planning to wear a bandanna during practice, just make sure you run it through the washing machine a few times first.



Saturday, 15 January 2011

Balu - Arambol

Before we went up to Purple Valley, S and I spent a week travelling round Goa, visiting a number of different places. On our short journey we spent a few days in Arambol which, if you haven't been there before is certainly something of an experience - a very lively place with an eclectic mix of ageing hippies, new age traveller cliches, dreadlocked fire twirlers and...yoga.

Whilst we were there, we were lucky enough to stumble across an incredible, lovely Ashtanga teacher called Balu. Balu has an interesting life story - he's been teaching yoga for 12 years, he spent 3 years training in the Himalayas, followed by 2 years in Mysore and now splits his time between assisting in Mysore and running his own little Shala in Arambol.

S and I took a led primary class with him and we found him to be a very inspirational teacher with a lovely, gentle nature and a constant smile. It was a really enjoyable class (he showed me a great alternative to Marichyasana D which I'm still nowhere near) and at the end whilst in Savasana I had a pretty amazing experience. As you're laying there Balu comes around and gently lifts and pulls on your legs before placing them back on the ground - he then does the same with your arms before raising your head, straightening your neck and placing your head back on the floor. He finishes up by running his hands from the top to the side of your head (like a massage) and touching you ever so gently on your forehead. It was the smallest of gestures but it had a very profound effect on me - I actually felt quite emotional at first, and then I had a sensation akin to shivers running right through my body which lasted for a good 30 seconds or so. I won't go on too much but suffice to say it was an incredible feeling and a special experience that I won't forget in a hurry.

At the end of the class Balu asked us to stay for Chai and cookies - every Friday he splits his earnings 80:20. 80% he gives away to a charity that helps out orphaned children and the remaining 20% he uses to treat his students to some tea and biscuits which I thought was a really kind and thoughtful gesture. It was lovely to sit and chat with Balu and some of his other students and he also got S and I to join in their 'play time' and try out some partner yoga (much harder than I thought it would be!). It was a brilliant morning and one that S and I will long remember...I'd strongly encourage anyone who's interested in yoga and heading to Arambol to look up Balu and take the opportunity to practice with a very special teacher.


Adventures with Swenson - Part 2

About a week after taking the David Swenson workshops I was walking back to my office after lunch when whom should I walk past but...David Swenson. Seeing as I was about to fly out to practice with him for 2 weeks in Goa, I decided to take courage in my hands, tap him on the shoulder and introduce myself. Somewhat embarrassingly the conversation initially went something like this:

YB: "Er....hi...Mr Swenson?" (like I wasn't sure!)

DS (looking a little nervous): "Uh...yes?"

YB: "Hi...ummm...I just wanted to say hi."

DS (looking a little more nervous): "Oh...well, hi."

YB (increasingly babbling): "Sorry, I'm not explaining myself very well - I'm taking your workshop at Purple Valley later this month and I thought I'd just introduce myself."

DS (visibly relaxing): "Oh, hi...so great to meet you!"

From there we had a brief but very pleasant chat - it was mostly small talk but it was nice to see that the persona that comes across in his workshops is in fact the real David Swenson...down to earth, charming and funny.

I later found out that he emailed his wife Shelley about our little encounter and when I mentioned to him that he looked a bit worried when I initially tapped him on the shoulder, he replied with his customary humour "I thought you were going to ask me for money".

Top man.


Monday, 10 January 2011

Adventures with Swenson - Part 1

This post is a little late in coming but at the start of December I attended 2 David Swenson workshops at Triyoga London - I'd taken one workshop with him the previous year but wanted to remind myself of his teaching style before S and I headed to India, so that we'd know what to expect. I was so glad that I took these workshops because by the end of the day I was even more excited than before about our upcoming trip to Purple Valley.

David is such an amazing teacher - it's not just the vast amount of knowledge that he has stored in his head, it's the articulate, expressive and often amusing way that he manages to convey that knowledge to students that makes attending one of his workshops such an enjoyable and fun experience. But more than that, what sets him apart for me is that he's just such a genuinely lovely guy - so open, honest and humble in the way that he communicates with people.

The first of the workshops was a led full primary series - 'All Aboard the Ashtanga Train'. This was actually the first time I'd ever been taken through the full primary series and it was a great experience (not to mention exhausting) to be led through it in the 'proper' flowing way...even though I struggled to keep up with the pace at times (it takes me a while to shuffle my way into position in certain asanas - by then David was on his second or third count!). Come the end of that first workshop I was feeling fairly tired, but after a 30 minute break it was time for the next - 'Ashtanga's Greatest Hits'.

This workshop was a bit more light hearted than the first - it was basically an opportunity to try out a number of 'party poses' with many tips and tricks from David for how to pull off some more challenging asanas. It was great fun although I did have a fairly uncomfortable moment about half way through. After practising Mayurasana, the guy who I was partnered with was complaining to me that it hurt him where his elbows had dug into his torso...he then proceeded to show me the afflicted area. I assumed that the location of his pain would be around his ribs, but seemingly the discomfort was located slightly lower down his abdomen. Instead of lifting up his top, he instead rolled down the top of his shorts, revealing a good deal of his 'pant moustache' and a little too much of something else as well. Not quite sure where to look I just managed to splutter 'Oh dear..' and maintained a fixed gaze towards David at the front of the room, hoping that the moment would pass quickly...which thankfully it did.

That slightly awkward encounter aside it was a thoroughly enjoyable day and a great taster for what was to come a few weeks later in Goa...more of that to come.