Tag Archives: yoga

Has it been a week already?

When you’re young, a day feels like eternity but it seems the older you get, 1 week goes by in a blink of an eye.

Highlights of the week:

Ada’s Visit
A friend from Australia that I hadn’t seen for over a decade visited.  She was in London for less than 24 hours but still managed to squeeze me in for a catch up.

I chose a restaurant near where she was staying.  It was the German Gymnasium at Kings Cross.  They serve… German food.  Ha!

Anyway, it’s in a Grade II listed building and named German Gymnasium because the building was the first, purpose built Gymnasium in England with funding coming solely from London’s German community.

The building was built in 1865 so we ate dinner (I had a German afternoon tea) inside a 150 year old building.

Yin with Sharky
Yoga which has been my life for so long, was pretty non-existent because – January.

You have to book ALL your classes in otherwise they’re all full due to all those well-intentioned New Years Resolutions people who disappear by Feb.

I managed to book classes from mid Jan through to Feb and thought by February for sure, the classes would start being freer but it wasn’t to be.

So I have spent many days not going to yoga because the classes have been booked out and I hadn’t booked myself in, in time.

Can you imagine?  Attempting to book yourself in 2 days in advance is still not long enough.  FARK!

I did manage to get to one of Sharky’s first Yin classes and I loved it.  She did a different method to the other teachers and allowed time for “rebound” between each posture.

Rebound is a savasana in between every posture to allow whatever released in each posture, to move through and exit or integrate into, the body.

The result?  I ended up getting really teary and emotional.  I actually felt emotions releasing from my body and I was so grateful to be able to feel them so I could let them go.

It only lasted a few seconds though because as soon as Tony saw me looking teary, “WHY ARE YOU CRYING?” came out of his mouth and it was so abrupt and harsh, I immediately cut off all emotions and went back to thinking mode.

I got skillz like that.

Actually, he managed to say it just like my mother used to.  I know he said it out of concern but I heard it the way my mum said it which meant “Stop being a pussy, you have no reason to cry and if you don’t stop I’ll fucking give you a reason to cry.”  That’s the mild version. 😉

So I stopped.  IMMEDIATELY.  I’ll just have to find a way to cry at times he’s not around so I can release emotions in peace.

Paris & Rome
Another week in peace.  Both boys are really happy and binky every day.

Paris does the cutest binkies ’cause he’s so chunky like a bulldog and bottom heavy.  So he looks more like a jumping goat or ram when he binkies.

Rome has started to jump on my arm and shoulder.  Last night he sat on my shoulder and every so often would turn to lick my face – cheek, eyelid, eyebrows, temple, forehead.  Then he’d jump down and jump up onto my other shoulder and tug at my hair.

I know he’s just looking for a way over the fence and using me as a viewing platform but I like to think we’ve developed a good bond plus I’m loving all my bunny kisses!  He loves kissing my nose.

He’s still incredibly mischievous, spends a lot of his time in meerkat position, listening out for what Paris might be doing and he’s completely chewed up the skirting board instead of the chew mat we gave him because he thinks breaking the skirting board will help him escape the fence.

We keep him fenced because although the more loving of the two, he’s also the trouble maker.

He is so curious he gets himself into all sorts of trouble – biting things he shouldn’t, falling off things he shouldn’t have jumped on in the first place and starting fights by annoying the crap out of Paris by not letting him have space.

The other day he fell down the stairs 3 times in one day (that I saw)all because he kept standing on 2 feet on the edge of the step and then leaning backwards.  Don’t ask.

He’s been contained in the hallway with plenty of run space including the stairs and the bathroom but it doesn’t stop him from attempting to  break the fence and looking for FREEDOM!!!

I’m also having a battle of the bathroom with him.

After a week of watching Tony and I go toilet (he’s in the hallway so we have to pass him every single time and sometimes he follows us into the bathroom), he stopped pissing and pooing anywhere but the bathroom!

He just chose to go in the shower because he can’t reach the toilet.

Unfortunately, we have to keep clearing his poo and pee before we have a shower and he gets very frustrated with us because every time we clean it, we’re effectively saying he’s not allowed to pee and poo there, and therefore he has nowhere to go toilet.

So then of course he’ll poo and pee outside of the shower as well as in the shower, using the entire bathroom floor as his toilet which makes it difficult for us to go in there and use the toilet ourselves.

I put a litter in the bathroom for him and it’s taken a couple of days but I think he’s coming around to the idea that this is his new place to go toilet because there is much less poo anywhere but the litter.

Although the chew mat I bought is completely intact for Rome, Paris’ is almost completely torn apart and non-existent.

Paris actually only chews the things we give him to chew and he knows EXACTLY which is for him and which is not.

A perfect example is that he has a cardboard box he chews on, we give them cardboard boxes a lot.  Yet, I’ve left cardboard boxes full of my eBay stock out right next to his play area without any fences.

He can walk right up to them and start chewing on them, pissing on them, whatever he likes really and he leaves them untouched!

He has identified what is ok for him and what will get him into trouble and he really has behaved himself so we’ve removed the fence and he’s running “free range”.

He actually just stays in his area!!  He’s recently started to explore under the couch but he has steered clear of the hallway and gone nowhere near the only fence that keeps him apart from Rome.

So far so good.  Unsure how long this will last but we’ll see.

Paris has also started to approach us more and nudges us for treats which is much better than running away!

Still hates getting patted but he tolerates it a bit more before running away.  He also has no problems standing on our feet when he’s begging and asking us for treats.  We didn’t teach him, he just does it.

Overall we have 2 very happy bunnies and we’re finally starting to understand their personalities.

Because only their scent is on their stuff, they’re not marking territory as much as they used to.

That means there’s barely any poo outside of their litter and hutch and they’re not pissing outside of their designated litters at all.  I knew they were supposed to be easy to toilet train!!

All they needed was to be separated and feel safe about what is THEIR space.

Our house no longer smells as bad (either that or I’m used to it) and I’m back to normal amounts of laundry.

That makes 2 good weeks in a row with them out of 5.5 weeks together.  It was a hectic start but we’re getting there!! YES!!

Last thing… last night I attempted to feed them rocket (again, I think it was my 3rd attempt at feeding them rocket, probably the 15th time to attempt to feed them some sort of fresh veg) and THEY ATE IT!!!!  That was their first ever fresh vegetable they’ve eaten.

And to test trust, I held the rocket with my mouth and had them eat it from me.  BOTH of them did it which means they’re both cool with sharing food with me.

YES!  After many weeks of rejection, I finally got acceptance.

I can’t have asked for more.  Patience, persistence, trust and love. That’s what these boys are teaching me.

And restraint… I’m learning restraint.  Sometimes I wish I could just SQUEEZE them and smother them with kisses because they’re so damned CUTE but that’s probably why they don’t let me hold them!

Here is a picture of them when they used to get along:

Paris & Rome

 

 

This is them in rapport even when separated.

sleepy-paris
Sleepy baby Paris
Sleepy Rome
Sleepy baby Rome. Notice the completely intact chew mat next to him (on the right) and our chewed up door frame (on the left). That’s just paint on the door snake.

 

Seriously, Tony skyped me one pic while he was with Paris in the lounge and Rome was doing the exact same thing while with me in the hallway!  In rapport, even when apart – there is hope for them yet!

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Indoor Rock Climbing

We were at lunch a little while ago and speaking to friends who:
a) have learned to sail and went on a holiday sailing their own yacht
b) were going on an adventure trip to the Costa del Sol involving outdoor rock climbing and bouldering
c) did sculling and rowing in crazy -10’C water
and things like that and on hearing that we participate in no such adventures, they invited us to go indoor rock climbing with them because it’s a regular activity that they do.

Tony was excited.  Apparently it’s something he used to do a lot and enjoyed but he hadn’t gone because I wasn’t into it.  WTF?  I had no idea.  He’d never mentioned it to me before!  If he had, I’ve forgotten…

So, I agree to go.  I’m definitely not going to be the reason why someone doesn’t do something.  Except I’m not exactly the sporty type and I’m scared of heights.  I agree but spend the next 2 weeks in trepidation, wondering why he doesn’t just go by himself.  I think you need pairs (because someone has to belay while the other climbs) so reluctantly, I don’t cancel or excuse myself, otherwise he wouldn’t have a partner.

Now, I’ve been indoor rock climbing before – a total of twice.  Once about 20 years ago and another about 17 years ago.  I neither enjoyed it nor hated it but I do remember being shit scared when I got past a certain height on the wall and had a hard time letting the wall go and trusting the rope on the way down and I was very sore the next day, both times.

“You have to do a test” our friend told us.  “When you get there, you have to know how to tie a figure 8 knot.  It’s easy, just look it up on YouTube.”

So the day before we were meant to go rock climbing, that’s what I did.  I looked up a figure 8 knot and learned how to do it using our earphone wires.  Sweet.  All set.

We turn up at the centre and the first and only question at the front is “Are you competent climbers?”  Tony immediately and confidently says “Yes.”  I shit myself and just stare at her, I hate lying but she takes his answer to mean the both of us and tells us both to go inside.  Phew!  Now all I have to do is tie the knot.

The guy arrives, introduces himself and says, “OK, so I’ve got to test you guys.  So first of all, put this on and come over to the ropes.”

He hands us each a harness.  OMG I felt like that one time I tried water skiing and put the wetsuit on backwards because I’d never worn a wet suit before in my life.  Super embarrassing.  The harness was just as foreign to me.  Just a bunch of straps.  I stared at that harness thinking “Do not embarrass yourself. Put it on the right way.”  I actually wasn’t sure if I’d done it properly but it felt comfortable enough.  So I figured it was right.

I walk over to the ropes. “Now tie yourself in” he said.  SO… I take the rope and pretend that I know what I’m doing even though I’ve never done this before.  I trust in YouTube.  I feed the rope through the loop on my harness and start to do the figure 8 knot.  I’m pretty much at it for about 5-10 mins (it could have been less than 10 mins but it felt like AGES).  I had to take it out and do it over and over and over because I either got it wrong, upside down, too short or something.  I FINALLY get it done.  It looks beautiful just like the one I saw on YouTube  and I’m way proud of myself.
“Yes!” I think, “I’ve done it! I’ve passed.”  Phew!  I show the guy my beautifully tied knot with a big grin.

He doesn’t even acknowledge it.  I think he was getting frustrated watching me get it done and just relieved that I’d finally sorted it.  “Now clip yourself in” he says.  Huh?  Clip myself in? Where?  To what?  He hands me a carabiner and I stare at it because I don’t know where to clip it.  “Do you know what this is?”
My answer “Yes” which is true.  I know what it is.
“Do you know what to do with it?”
My answer “Umm.. yes”.  I take it and I clip it to the loop in my harness (actually not knowing if this is what I’m supposed to do with it) and then wonder what I’m supposed to clip into.  He hands me another gadget and says “Here. put this on.”
I stare back at him and say “Ummm…”
“Do you know what..”  NOPE
“Have you..” NOPE
“So you..” NOPE  NOPE NOPE.
I managed to wing it that far but this thing was beyond me and I wasn’t going to pretend with this one.  I don’t know what it’s called but it was the gadget for belaying except I really had no idea what it was when I saw it and had no idea how to thread the rope through it.

Needless to say, had the test been purely on tying the figure 8 knot and untimed, I would have passed but there was more to it than just a knot and so I failed my test.  I felt horrible until I found out that Tony failed too.  He didn’t even tie his knot properly.  Neither of us double backed our harnesses and although he clipped himself in, his belaying skills weren’t up to scratch.  WELL… that was fun! And, because we failed, we weren’t allowed to climb.  I didn’t care… any reason not to do it was enough reason for me!

But Tony still wanted to go and looked so disappointed.  So I told the guy our friends were inside and he said we could climb if our friends “supervised” us.  So, we all signed off the waiver form to say that they were supervising and we were aware that this could result in death and off we went to do some rock climbing.

The test was actually the most eventful part of the experience I would say.  The rest was pretty meh.  Surprisingly I climbed up quite easily and reached the top on all my attempts.  I was doing the easiest level, 4.   I just had mini panic attacks when I had to come down.  I never looked down.  I tried once and I couldn’t see anything but the wall (because it jutted out just below where I was) but that was enough for me.  Staring at the wall was the best thing I could do to stop any fear from creeping up on me.  I didn’t need to see just how high I was from above.  I could see how high it was when on the ground, by how much my neck hurt constantly looking up at other climbers!

That was it really.  I didn’t really go up the wall that many times.  Maybe 4 or 5 and I spent the rest of the time tying myself in over and over to practice that and I practiced belaying too.  Tony went up a few more times and did a climb using an auto-belay.  We gave bouldering a shot too.  I managed 2 climbs on the boulder and that was it, my arms felt like falling off.  After that, it was all over and we had pizza.

In the end it wasn’t as bad as I imagined it was going to be.  I wasn’t as fearful as I expected to be either.  I thought it was alright but nothing so awesome that it makes me want to go back either.  I suppose if Tony wants to go back, I wouldn’t be jumping up and down about it but I’d go with him.  Afterall, I know how to belay and tie myself in now so it’s all good!

To be honest, I never ever had to get tested on tying myself in before and I don’t recall ever having to tie myself in!! I have no idea how I managed in the past.  I would have remembered having to thread all those ropes if I had to get tied in for each and every climb.  I can only think that maybe someone else tied me in every time?  Maybe it was all clips?  So weird.

Another difference was that in my first 2 attempts, I always did “rainbow climbs” ie.  I never picked levels, I just used which ever holds there were, no matter what colour, to get up the wall.  This time, however, I stuck with the level and the colour and I did alright.

2 notable differences between the previous times and this time were that first of all, I wasn’t as panicked and clinging to the wall as much as before and secondly, I wasn’t sore the next day.

It must be the yoga.  It has to be.  Flexibility in the hips, strength in the legs and fingers and the ability to breathe at times when I would normally panic are all things I know I developed through my yoga practice.

It is a bizarre feeling to know that I can do now, things I couldn’t do in the past – that I’m actually more physically capable in my older years than I was in my youth.

Now I wonder what other things I can do because of  yoga.  Since rock climbing’s not so scary anymore, perhaps I’ll finally learn how to ride a bike.

Shoulder update – who needs doctors when you have yogis?

Update on the shoulder – it’s actually my neck.  More specifically a nerve in my neck.

So how did I come to know this?  It surely wasn’t the doctors!  NOPE, I went to the doctors twice, saw 2 different doctors.  BOTH of them made me do arm movements to see the mobility of my shoulder.  They both know I do yoga because it’s in my records and they both asked me…. but they judged my mobility based on what a “normal” person should be able to do and of course I could do all of it!!!  SO… my shoulder’s looking pretty damned mobile and according to the doctors I’m absolutely fine!

Obviously!

Next, they kept asking WHERE the pain was and because I felt it all underneath my scapula and near my spine in the same region but like a phantom it disappeared when they touched any of it and I told them that sometimes it shot pain down my arm, they both concluded that it was muscular.

Guess what that means?  It means, nothing to do, you simply just sit around and wait for it to heal.  That’s it.  Take a few painkillers if the pain bothers you but that’s it… even if it’s taken 4 weeks (when they said it should take 2 weeks for muscular pain to heal) and the level of pain is EXACTLY the same (mind-numbing  levels) which means no healing has taken place at all in those 4 weeks, it’s definitely muscular and you just gotta sit it out.

To be honest I think dealing with the doctors and their conclusions made the pain worse because I was so frustrated that they refused to help me with my pain.  One of them actually said “what do you want me to do?” I wanted to scream “YOU’RE THE BLOODY DOCTOR!!! YOU SHOULD KNOW!”  Alas, the truth is, other than prescribing pain killers, they didn’t actually know.

genie aladin crick in the neck

SO a couple of yogis spoke to me after a class one day, 4 weeks into my pain, I think  a few days after my 2nd doctor’s visit.  I spoke with them separately, told them what I was experiencing and BOTH of them said “Are you sure it’s not your neck?”  Both of them had some weird thing happen to their shoulder / arm where they actually felt pain in their wrist or shoulder and pins and needles down the arm and BOTH of them found out through either MRI or physio that it was their necks!!  When they treated and strengthened the neck, all arm, shoulder, wrist pains disappeared.

So you know what we did after that?  Tony stopped massaging my shoulder and started massaging my neck each night and low and behold, the pain in my shoulder went from every day at 12 out of 10… down to only every other day and the pain level at 2!!!!!  THANK YOU YOGINIs!!!

Last time I posted, I said, if you ever have pain you’re worried about, instead of worrying, just go to a doctor… Let me take that back!!  If you ever have pain you’re worried about, go ask an experienced yogi. ie one who has practiced yoga regularly for longer than 3 years, preferably more.  Chances are, they’ve experienced it themselves OR they know someone who can help.

Neither of those yoginis were teachers either.  They were both students who have practiced yoga for over 5 years each!  So there you go.  Pain levels down without painkillers and within a few hours after talking to them.

This is my perception of what doctors think of yogis…

doctors need to do yoga

Notice how far away he stands from the yogi as if he’s going to catch a disease by touching him and yes, my doctors do look at me as if I’m mental.

I suppose I’m not helping my cause when I say things like “Well, you said it would take 2 weeks  because it’s muscular.  If it was muscular I would normally heal in 3 days, 10 days if it’s severe but I’ve now been in pain for 4 weeks so it must be something else.”  I say things like this to be helpful but they always look at me as if I’m telling them how to do their job.

What doctors (and others who think we’re all just tree hugging , wheatgrass drinking, hippies), need to understand is that the body is ever miraculous.  It is self preserving and self healing.  Practicing yoga just aids the body to do what it does, more efficiently.

So a yogi isn’t any different from any other human, they simply have found a technology to help the body perform the miracles it already knows how to do, quickly and without the drugs and they witness the miracles happen every day in themselves  and in others.

So… when the body isn’t healing within normal timeframes, then a yogi will know that it is more than likely something other than what they initially thought.  They won’t just give it more time, they’ll look at other things as well.  Damn it, I even changed my pillow!  Anyway, that’s my 2 cents worth.

I’m still waiting on my ultrasound for my shoulder btw.  I finally got an appointment but it’s not until the end of this month.

Meanwhile, I have actually had an acupuncture session (which relieved the pain instantaneously for 3 days before it came back) and have been lathering on arnica oil and arnica ointment every morning and night since, which has meant that although I feel a bit of ache at say level 1 in pain, in the morning, it’s pretty much non existent during the day.

The person who did the acupuncture on me has practiced yoga for over 5 years, she suspected it was a nerve so she shoved a needle in my hand… and voila, both neck and shoulder were fine.

The person who recommended the arnica, also a yogi of over 30 years, suspected it was an inflamed nerve and suggested I rub arnica (natural anti-inflammatory) all over the neck area to reduce inflammation so I did.

And there you have it.  Pain level is now down to 0 to 0.5 within 1.5 weeks of 4 different yogis helping me out.  2 to point out it’s my neck, not my shoulder and 2 to point out it was a nerve and having ways of sorting it out other than sitting, waiting and taking pain killers.

Of course I also have to mention the loving patience of each and every teacher letting me take it super easy in all of my classes.  This is the easiest I’ve taken my classes ever!

I am just happy and grateful that I’m practically pain free again and chances are that I’ll be completely healed before I  get to my ultrasound, so they will find absolutely nothing wrong with me.  Typical.  I bet the doctors will conclude that I healed because it was muscular and the appropriate time (2 months by the time of the ultrasound) has passed to heal!

I know for sure it was the help I got because the pain reduced dramatically and immediately.  It wasn’t the time that stopped the pain, it was the correct diagnosis of the cause of my pain that helped.

I also love that yogis always look for natural ways to help the body heal before resorting to drugs.  Don’t get me wrong, I understood that painkillers were to help stop inflammation but I knew if I couldn’t feel the pain that was supposed to be there stopping me from doing certain things, I’d more than likely do those things and aggravate the situation.

So my conclusion is that for aches and pains, you don’t need a doctor, you simply need yoga and a community of loving, caring, thoughtful, knowledgeable yogis.

Zero Bikram Yoga in 2 weeks and counting…

Holy Tamale!  Can you believe it?  This is the first time in 3.5 years!  Tony and I loved it so much that every time we travelled to another country for a holiday we would make sure we found the closest Bikram Studio and visit it!

But alas, we have strayed, dare I say it, in the last 2 weeks we have been doing every other type of yoga except Bikram…  Say what?!!

It’s not really that dramatic.  Basically, we were introduced to another studio to try out a different yoga, we ended up paying for a 25 class pass which we had 6 months to use but instead of using it, we continued to go to Bikram classes and before you know it, the 6 months was over and we had about 18 classes still to use up, we had to pay more to extend the pass and now we have to use up all those classes otherwise we just lose them and our money.  We have 3 weeks to use up all our class passes.  Nothing like losing money to motivate you to go to yoga.  Whatever works I suppose!

So, it’s not that we’re not doing yoga at all, we’re just not doing the Bikram series.

Advantages:
Our practices have improved 10 fold as we get slightly more and more confident with things like crow pose, tripod headstand, headstands, handstands, side planks, wheels etc.  No, we are not doing them all to full expression yet but attempting them in every class means we’re getting used to the feeling, the strength and balance required to do them.  In Bikram yoga beginners series you do these zero times.

My shoulders, oh my dear shoulders, are finally opening up faster than before and I am so happy and grateful for this.  They’re still stiff but not the way they used to be.  I know because I no longer do wheels in agony, thank you God!

I find that after every few classes I say to Tony “Guess what?  Today I did …xyz… for the first time ever!”  Whether it’s the deepest or longest I’ve gone into an expression of the posture or, if it’s the first time I’ve ever attempted a posture, every class is a new discovery.

Every class is different and I mean different in that the series or the style changes depending on the teacher or type of yoga and all the transitions are different too so you must remain present in the room and listening at all times rather than just going through the motions and each class has you attempting to move your body in a way you just don’t ever move it so it keeps you very attentive and mindful.

There are people in the room who are superstars and are so far into their practice that they can just do some pretty unbelievable and amazing things that you would never see in a Bikram yoga room which means in every class you get inspired whether by the teacher or another person practicing next to you of the possibilities.

It does mean we’re engaged in the process again.  We talk excitedly about what we’re having problems with and go home and see if there is anything we can improve.  “How’s my alignment?” we ask each other, while we each attempt various postures that we’ve just learned that day and want to be able to do.  Yoga is fun again!

Disadvantages:
For the last 2 nights in a row, I haven’t slept well at all.  It’s like I’ve got way too much energy and wake up wide awake, not stressed but completely energised and I can’t get back to sleep again except it’s at 2am.  I then spend the next few hours wondering if I should get up or try to go to sleep, listening to the birds wake up and the planes start passing overhead before I finally fall asleep again and then wake up completely groggy.  This happened very rarely with Bikram yoga, 99% of the time I’d sleep right through the night.

Pain.  My shoulders started to hurt.  All the chaturangas, planks, downward dogs and handstand attempts really started working the shoulder muscles.  My shoulders started to sound like they were grinding and they started popping in every downward dog, they still do and eventually, after about a week of classes I felt my shoulder start to twinge in pain every time I lifted my arm.  After realising that perhaps I was putting more weight on one side than the other, I decided to use my other arm and shoulder more and the result is that the pain moved from my shoulder down to the muscle right next to the spine and the one underneath the scapula.  Now my back hurts.   There is a giant knotted ball of muscle next to my spine.  Strangely it doesn’t hurt while I’m doing yoga.  It just hurts at all other times.  I guess this is what progress feels like.

I dream of yoga.  This has to be a disadvantage surely.  I mean I talk about yoga during the day, I go to the classes in the evening, after the class Tony and I go through the postures and look for tweaks to do for next time and then I go to sleep and dream that I’m doing a yoga class???  Really?  I even wake up stretching as if I’ve just come out of savasana.  Surely this is bordering on obsessive?

Not to worry, it will all be over soon.  We’ll finish our class passes and we’ll be back to Bikram again before we know it.  It will be very interesting to see how well we do after 3 weeks off!  I’m hoping to see a massive improvement but you never know, zero heat, zero standing bows, zero rabbits and zero standing head to knee postures for 3 weeks could well affect our balance and spine mobility, results have yet to be seen.  For now, just enjoying the change!

Charles Darwin is my new Motivational Coach

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to “school” and had to do “homework” or so I thought.  On the Saturday that just passed, Mary Jarvis redefined for us what it was to be at a yoga studio.  She said that it was not a studio but a Yoga School.   We attend classes, there are teachers and we learn every day.  Our teachers are our teachers for life.  We’re constantly learning.  And like it or not, we have homework!

I’ve already mentioned previously that we had homework (6 camels a day) given to us by Mary over a year ago and I started doing it for maybe 2 weeks but then I stopped.  Why?  Because I hate back bends and as with anything I don’t like, I just procrastinate and find so many other things to occupy my time with instead and I basically tell myself that I don’t have the time to do it.

Self motivation isn’t the problem.  I get stuff done all the time.  It was simply pain avoidance.  Not being able to understand that the pain I felt doing a back bend was good for me, is what stopped me.

So, here I am over a year later, no more pain free (when it comes to back bends) than I was back then but something triggered my motivation over the weekend.  We went to Down House, home of Charles Darwin.

Down House, the home of Charles Darwin.
Down House, the home of Charles Darwin.

We learned a lot by visiting his home.  We learned about his study of nature, what he did during his life, how he spent his days, his relationship with his wife and children, what interested him and sparked his curiosity, all the experiments he conducted.  We even walked the path he walked (he would walk on his “thinking path” 3 times a day every day for his exercise)!!

The view as you stroll along Darwin's Thinking Path.
The view as you stroll along Darwin’s Thinking Path.

As a child I was ALWAYS fascinated with biology.  It was my favourite subject.  I loved learning about how plants reproduced and dissecting plants (and rats, although smelly) was interesting to me.  I loved seeing how pregnant rats had a little pocket for each baby like peas in a pod (there was a dissected pregnant rat preserved in a jar in the lab) or how you could bust a hole in its trachea, stick a straw in and blow air into its lungs and watch the lungs expand and contract.

I even managed to germinate my own seeds in the fridge (I was trying to grow Bonsai), catch tadpoles and feed them, watch their tail reduce and their legs grow longer and witness them transform into frogs.  None of this was actually school related, I just did it at home by myself.

I always thought that slugs were just snails without shells so I would try to crack the snails’ shells with a twig and see if I could watch them stretch out into slugs (they didn’t, instead they moved a LOT faster when you started cracking their shells and they never contracted back into their shells which one would expect them to do, they’d just try to make a mad dash, as mad a dash a snail could do).  I used to also collect empty snail shells that I’d find in the garden and offer them to slugs.  I’d give them different sizes to see how they picked which shell they’d use and then I’d wonder why they would never take any.  I resorted to trying to balance the snail shell on the slug which resulted in a similar mad dash reaction by the slug.  All of this of course, was before I grew up and learned that they were 2 completely different animals!  Yes, all sorts of silly things like pushing soil or pouring water into the hole of an ant hill and watching as they all rushed around fixing the entrance, this is how I spent my days.

When I was maybe 3 years old, I’d watch my grandma peel a mandarin.  I’d see all the “white bits” that connected it to the skin, see how the mandarin had sections.  She’d take one section and give it to me to eat but instead I would look at the section and watch how those “white bits” formed patterns on the segment.  I’d peel off all the white bits until the segment was pristine and then notice that the segment was surrounded by it’s own “skin”.  I’d peel the skin and look inside to see a million little segments that looked like encased droplets of juice and how they too had their own membranes holding them together.  I’d pick at each tiny little droplet inside the segment and try to open them unsuccessfully, wondering if there were segments inside them and how many and how small those segments would get.

So you get a visual of what I'm talking about. Here is a peeled mandarin segment.
So you get a visual of what I’m talking about. Here is a peeled mandarin segment.

I’d pick one tiny droplet and eat it and I would do this one at a time reveling in the tiny burst of flavour that came out of each.  My grandma used to laugh at me.  “Look!” She’d say, “In the time it took you to eat that dot, I’ve already eaten the whole mandarin!  You’ve taken so long, I don’t have any more to share with you!”  I didn’t mind, she only had 8 segments, I had a million of them!  Every time she had a mandarin, she’d only ever give me one segment because I would be inspecting it, dissecting it and eating it for hours!

Going to Darwin’s home was inspiring and got me to remember those strange fascinations and the wonder I had about everything as a child.  I realised that for someone who lived such a simple life, even putting himself down as a “farmer” in one census, Darwin was absolutely extraordinary.

He was focused, dedicated, patient (all the things we learn in yoga) and most importantly, did things that he didn’t like (eg. boiling pigeons so he could inspect their skeletal structures) in order to continue his research to formulate and solidify his theories.  He classified and collected barnacles for 8 years.  Some of his experiments went on for 30 years!

In this day and age, how many of us do anything for more than 30 seconds let alone 30 years?  And, with immediate gratification always at our doorsteps, it is rare that we’d go through any kind of pain to get a result.

He was also very sick, suffering from boils on his skin, headaches, nausea, trembling etc and yet he managed to accomplish so much.  He worked from home and got to spend a lot of quality time with his family.  All of his work was done in his home study or in his garden.

The most important thing is, he never stopped being curious.  In his last days, he was studying earthworms!  He played music to them to see if they could hear and he cut leaves into different shapes to see if they could discern between them!  Sounds like the sorts of things I would do!!

This made me think.  If he had 10 happy children (unfortunately 3 of them died of illness before adulthood), a happy wife all of whom he spent a lot of time with, an experimental garden, a worm experiment, barnacles,  pigeons, bees, climbing plants that he was recording the movements of every half an hour, illness and still be able to formulate and solidify a theory of evolution that would pretty much rock the belief systems of everyone he knew including his own wife’s and change how biology is studied for the rest of time, how could I possibly moan about not having time to do 6 camels?

Where was my patience?  Dedication?  Focus?  Commitment?
Where was my curiosity?

Mary Jarvis says that “Back bends are the healer of the spine.”  I have scoliosis so… if it disappears after doing years of back bends then, I will have proof for myself of whether or not it’s true.   Except there’s only one way for me to find out, it takes years and it takes me doing back bends for all those years!  Don’t I want to know?  Am I not a biological specimen that I can study?  Isn’t this just another experiment?

This year, it isn’t just 6 camels for homework anymore.  There is ballet bar work, handstands, lunges and so much more that it makes me wonder why I even thought 6 camels was worth complaining about!

 

I reckon if Darwin was around these days, we’d be mates.  I’d be telling him all my funny animal stories and studying plants with him too.  Just like him I was completely fascinated with insectivorous plants and used to have a Venus Fly Trap which I’d catch flies for and put in there to see if it would eat it.  I’d get all different sized insects and see what it liked.  I’d notice that it didn’t like dead things so I’d use my hair to “tickle” them to close.  It was quite funny to hear the extent that Darwin went to, to find out how light the trigger had to be for them to close (using his wife’s hair).  Oh we’d have so much fun!  Darwin and David Attenborough would be a tonne of fun, they’d definitely hang out with me staring at (observing) snails and plants!

Insectivorous Plants in Darwin's Greenhouse.
Insectivorous Plants in Darwin’s Greenhouse.
Insectivorous plants in Darwin's Greenhouse
Insectivorous plants in Darwin’s Greenhouse

 

And then I’d get them to do yoga with Mary!  They would love it, especially since yoga is a technology to help the human body function at its best and a life long experiment.

I love this tree
I love this tree
Eating organic apples that grew in Darwin's garden.
Eating organic apples that grew in Darwin’s garden.
Contemplating life, looking out into Charles & Emma's garden.
Contemplating life, looking out into Charles & Emma’s garden.

On the Monday I actually thought about Darwin and had no more excuses not to accomplish everything on my list of things to do while adding on my yoga homework.  Afterall, I’m not an invalid and I don’t have 10 children!

So, I did one handstand (all against a wall), came down and swept the floor.  Got into another handstand, got down and vacuumed.  Got into one more handstand, got down and scrubbed stains off the floor, then got into another handstand, came down and loaded the washing machine.  I kept going up and down until I had finished my chores and finished all the required sets of handstands that I needed to do.  No more excuses , no more complaining and I even managed the 6 camels 🙂

I think he would have laughed at and commended my approach as much as he’d be proud of my kefir experiment I’ve got going at the moment.  I’ve made kefir and recorded it all on a spreadsheet ie what sugar I used and how much it yielded so I can figure out the best sugar combination for optimum yield.  I’ve been recording it every day since March so I’ve got 6 months of data so far.  I did this of my own accord, my own little biological experiment already going for 6 months!!  I didn’t realise just how much I had in common with Darwin, nor that I had continued what I was doing from childhood into adulthood through my kefir experiment, until I went to his house!

I certainly didn’t expect Charles Darwin to be my motivational coach but relating so much to him, thinking of what he accomplished in what looks like such a simple home life, was extremely inspirational.

Afterall, I’m talking about just doing back bends and a few handstands.  From his humble home and garden, he changed the world and the thinking of all future generations to come!

Thank you Charles Darwin.  You’ve contributed more to my life than you or I will ever know.

“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” ~ Charles Darwin

Bikram Yoga: Shape Shifting with Mary Jarvis

I’ve been reminiscing about when we first started doing Bikram Yoga and how achy, poppy and crackly all my joints were.  The popping eventually stopped and I forgot all about it, that is, until now.

That’s because it has started happening again.  My shoulders sound like they’re grinding cartilage.  When I bend over to touch my toes, I relax my head and immediately 3 of my neck vertebrae separate from each other with a melodic crack-click-pop.

A back bend, any back bend, is met with resistance.  I feel my mid back tighten up, desperately clinging to stop my shoulders from opening up while my lower back does a little “click”.  The camel is sending me into head spins, creating pins and needles right across my chest, shoulders and in my arms, my fingers are cramping and random emotions are shooting up into my chest.  It’s awesome.  Even though it doesn’t feel or sound that way, I know this is a good sign so it’s awesome!

All those things used to happen but after some time, it stopped.  Now it’s happening all over again so I feel like I’m back to the start.  Yet, it’s different.

Evolution happens in cycles doesn’t it?  Just like a spiral.  Imagine the shape of a cone where the starting point is the bottom tip of the cone, as you circle upwards, you keep coming back to the point where you started, except one level higher.  As you improve, you circle higher, the problems get slightly harder, the circle gets slightly larger and longer to get around and at the same time it doesn’t phase you because you are equipped to handle it since you learned a few things when you passed the circle below.  And so, the cycle of improvement continues, in a never ending spiral outwards and upwards.

So here I am, in my yoga evolution, better than when I started and yet my body is complaining like when I first started.  For at least a year, I haven’t been popping but then again, for at least a year, I felt like I was getting nowhere and my practice wasn’t improving much.  The pops and clicks returning are telling me that after at least a year, something is finally starting to shift.

I’m grateful.

It means I’m at the beginning of a new level of my journey and I’ve reached the point where my body and mind are opening up to changing once again.

What started this shift?  It was starting a little over the last couple of weeks already but a workshop with Mary Jarvis has pretty much sprung it forward.

It had been over a year since we last saw her.  Tony and I first saw her last year in June.  On the weekend just passed, we attended her Shape Shifting workshop for 2 full days.  It was intense with 2 x 2 hour classes per day and a workout for 3-4 hours of shape shifting exercises in between them.  What did it involve?  Everything that Mary did in order to get herself walking, mobile and healthy again after a car hit her and left her in a state where all the doctors said she’d never walk again.    It was lots and lots of backbends,  “Mary Lunges” (how cool that she’s named an exercise after herself), handstands, ballet bar work and all sorts of other things.  It was pretty much a mini Yoga Bootcamp!

We only went for 2 days, others have gone there for 7 days!  I am definite that their shapes have  shifted in that time!  After 2 days, I was already having a hard time getting down the stairs without my quads cramping and believe it or not, my bingo wings disappeared!

Last time we went to see Mary Jarvis, I was supposed to make camels my new best friends and do 6 camel postures a day.  That was my homework.  The homework I never did.  This time around there was so much more “homework”.

It just highlighted that if I want to improve my practice, for any visible improvements to happen like they did at the beginning,  it’s no longer just about going to classes.  It really does need some extra work and that weekend showed us just how much extra work it involves!

Going back to the cone analogy, the circle for this level is bigger, which means the challenges are harder and without momentum and effort,  it will take even longer to get to the next level.

Still, all my excuses come up and if I let those excuses win, then something that could take me a year or less to accomplish might just end up taking me 3 years instead.  Well, if it is to be, it is up to me.  It’s my choice, it’s my improvement and it’s my own patience I’ll be testing.

As for Tones, Mary remembered him.  Last year she helped him with his floor bow.  This year, she gave him a one-to-one lesson on his standing bow.  We all got to watch him do a demonstration while she instructed him and we watched his bow transform from butt ugly (I exaggerate but it wasn’t pretty) to beautiful, right before our very eyes!

She truly is an amazing teacher – extremely detailed, meticulous, precise, giving, patient, gentle, encouraging and most importantly, she gets results.  She teaches in such a gentle way that you have no idea how hard you’re actually pushing!

In that one weekend I probably did more backbends than I ever did in my entire life.  I definitely spent more time upside down than I’ve ever done in my whole life and I did my very first wheel on tip toes (I’ve always attempted wheel with feet flat on floor) and I even managed to do some side planks without falling over.  My triangle has definitely improved and although I can’t see or feel it yet, she said that my chest was finally starting to open up.  I think the biggest achievement was getting rid of my bingo wings which I’ve had since I hit puberty.  I can’t believe it, you can actually get rid of them in 2 days!!!  Who knew?!!

If ever you get a chance to spend some shape shifting time with her or any time with her for that matter, it is well worth it.

We’ll be seeing her again this coming weekend for 1 more workshop day and then, it’s all up to us to keep the momentum.

Tony will have to put up with my picture taking because I’m going to start taking posture progress and shape shifting progress pictures just to see how much improvement we have this year compared to last year.  It will be interesting!

Until next time, keep loving life!

x

The things I do for coconut water

OK so apologies for the delay in getting this post up this week.

Yesterday, Tony and I spent ages trying to work out how to combine music with a video.  Yes, we’re old like that.  What took us 30 seconds to film, took us 2 hours to figure out how to speed up, add music, put onto my phone from his phone (so I could upload it via my account) and then we had to figure out how to upload video onto Instagram.  Yes, I repeat, we’re old like that!  At least we know how to do it now.

The last time I was on Instagram was 6 months ago but I wanted to get this one up specifically for my Instagram loving teacher who offered the prize for the person who would stay in Toe Stand the longest during class.  It was me (I also won another coconut water prize she offered years ago with “who could stay the longest in Triangle”).

She joked about how my next challenge was to drink the coconut water in Toe Stand.  So after class, we took this video to show her 🙂
Gave her a cheeky wink too 😉

I will do a proper post next week.  For now, enjoy our little shenanigan.

PS – if you can’t see the video play auto-magically as I expect it to, then just click the caption at the bottom and it’ll take you to it.