Monthly Archives: November 2015

“No Fear, No Fun”

pleasedonotfeedthefears“No fear, no fun.” This is something that Sharath likes to say with regards to the practice.  Everything on the mat, all the mind stuff and controlling the thinking while doing your asana practice relate right back to living life.  If you feed the fears, they stop you from the experiences on the mat and in life. Living in India is different to say the least.  One of the things I decided to do while I was here was to rent a scooter for a little freedom.   This may not seem like a big deal to some but I’ve never driven a scooter, let alone in India.  It’s one of those things that you just have to try, observe, learn and experience.  Pay attention and learn.

Today I figured I would adventure out of Gokulam and try to find an address of something I had in mind.  I never found it, although in the adventure I was able to put the no fear, no fun rule to the test.  Things were great as I had been driving around a lot, following people to far away places like the pool or a cool pizza place.  After my first adventure on the scooter to the Banyan tree, I was told many things after that would be easier on the scooter.

You beep the horn . . . a lot.  Every time you pass someone, come to a cross road, see another bike from the side.  You just beep.  It’s meant to let someone know you are there and they in turn are letting you know they are there.  So both of you are beeping.  It’s quite  loud but if you are not using your horn, you are not doing this driving thing correctly.  I guess I beeped but then the beeping did not stop.  It was a long loud beeeeeeppp which would not shut off unless I turned off the bike.  I pulled over and tried to disconnect.  A guy on the side of the road gave me a screwdriver to pull the level out.  I disconnected it but it was still beeping.  Very loud, very annoying for everyone.  It’s hard to imagine a beeping sound being annoying to Indians but they were like WTF.  I shrugged my shoulders and said I had to find a mechanic meanwhile the bike still beeping I drove off.  I pulled over and a woman dressed officially came over to give me some directions.  I had to turn the bike off to hear her.  I made the turn she mentioned and then was directed to walk the bike up on the other side of the road and he is on the left.   In India the mechanic is just on the side of the road fixing bikes.  He was working on something and was able to leave it to help me.   This fine mechanic takes his bike to buy me the little part I needed, took my scooter apart to disconnect the horn and then put it all back together again.  It’s the pay attention and learn that helped me stay together.  Panic would be of no use as in any situation as when you have fear, you panic and nothing gets accomplished. I remembered a conversation from the night before on fixing bikes. For Tim is was the clutch, 150 rupees and he got it taken care of saying how easy it was and how lucky he was back from his long trip outside of town.  If we pay attention to each other we help each other.  That conversation helped me to understand how these things get done in India. When you are in India you surrender to the unique culture. Instead of questioning, you realize how cool it is that there is a mechanic who can help you, earning money on the side of the road.

I still figured I could find the address so I was ready to try again.   I got sidetracked as hunger set in, I came upon a very popular place with the locals. I was outside of Gokulam and you may not run into many Westerners. No place to sit so I figured I would wait.  If all these locals were here it must be good.  Again, watch and learn how it is done.  How they eat, where you pay, how they manage the food and once you learn you can fit right in.  It’s fun to do although fear would stop anyone who does not want to feel out of place.  It’s about having the experience and letting yourself have the experience.

Next for the ride home. The adventure doesn’t stop as it starts to rain. I’ve gotten caught in the rain before so I figure I’d wait for a bit. It seems to lighten up so I start the scooter up and venture home.  As I go along it seems that the monsoons are hitting, a very heavy rain now.  I keep going along carefully and keep moving as stopping now makes no sense as I am soaked to the bone.  I think how sucky it will be to have a cold here. I pull over to put my sack with my phone in it under my seat. I’m glad I take a minute to do this, as I like having my phone in working order.  I can hear Kerstin saying how she learned not to break in the rain.  I’m nervous as no one seems to be out but me and I keep going.  I make it home drenched and happy to be safe. I also feel full from my wonderful adventure today.

Catching? Yes!

Photo by Christine Hewitt 2014
Photo by Christine Hewitt 2014

I caught today. I was happy. It’s not the first time ever but the first time this trip.  In addition, I have never had consistency with it. There is an emphasis here in Mysore in “catching”. It is expected that you do the work to do this and it seems that no one gets away without doing the work. I’ve been a hard worker all my life so why stop now? I do have some excuses that keep me from having that faith that I can “catch”. One thing I know, it just keeps coming back to the techniques. There was a day last week when I was struggling and trying too hard, I was told to come up. Then when I am stalling, I have to be ready to get assisted. It’s like you have a bubble over your head with the all the crazy thoughts spelled out so everyone in the room who wants to can read them. No one wants to by the way. It all comes down to practicing that mind control so that you can practice yoga.

There are these yoga techniques we have and as you grow and mature in the practice the body changes making these techniques more important than ever. I mean everything has to be just right. The breath, the focus and the willingness to put your faith in whomever you are working with. This cannot come just at back bending time either. It starts in Samasthiti; otherwise it’s too late for me. It’s hitting that reset button as Kiki says so that I can clear the mind throughout the practice. This time I had some extra faith to catch as John has been observing and assisting in the room since I arrived here. In many ways before today I have sought his advise and have been following it before I even got here. Last year he said go back and “you do” and to make a long story short, I went back and I did and I started to rebuild. In some ways I feel like I am at the beginning . . . again.

I was happy I caught today but I almost forgot about it until now. And now that I am thinking about it, I may have to do it tomorrow. Herein lies the dilemma, as how can I be sure it can happen again? Yoga is about controlling the mind, so back to the techniques to do this and back to practice. The emotion that comes with catching is great and I felt really good in the position. I’d like to do this every day and that is the unknown. You cannot predict and you can’t expect that you will be like you were the day before. Whatever emotion, bring it on. We have the tools. We are growing and evolving every darn day on this planet.  We can’t stay stuck in anything for long when we practice even if it’s happiness.

It’s been said to that some of the best learning happens when we come to the practice with a beginners mind. I know I am not alone when I say that every day I come to the mat I learn something.   One day at a time is actually one breath at a time. That’s the best technique ever.

Holding on to Fear


Yesterday I was in my seated asanas and I could hear, between my breaths of course, Sharath’s words in the Shala as he was working with someone. I heard words like; no fear, go back, walk, why fear, go. His tone remains the same and it is just words that he repeats as he has his hands on the student. I glanced up, in between efforts to keep my drishti, although I did not need to at all, as I understand very well the fear, the hesitation and the inability to let go.

I am compassionate to myself as well in this area. I worked hard to let go of the fear and to not let anything distract me. This is not easy when you are in the first row and Sharath decides to take a seat on the stage while you are standing up and dropping back. Maybe I’m wrong but I could feel his eyes on me, knowing my mind is now getting in the way. I want to walk in to deepen the back bend and want to let go but feel a lot of hesitation held in the body. The thinking starts as well and the “I can’t.” My breath gets belabored and it’s hard to bring a sense of ease and calm to this back bending process. It’s almost like I’m rushing to get through it and this is actually the area where it okay to stay as I heard a teacher say, “it’s your time.” You finish primary series and things go great and then you come up to this other series, Urdhva Dhanurasana, and it’s like I put the breaks on and then take off doing 120 mph when I decide to do it.

You can read about back bending and talk all day about it but nothing is going to get over any fear without doing it. You have to feel it and continue to explore the changes. You have the knowledge about drishi and how your legs should be, positioning of the feet and the arms. You can watch all the videos about it but you have to experience it to gain the knowledge and get over the fear because it will always be there. This practice is about experiencing, it’s about finding the peace in the pose through the breath. I get to drop back twice and Sharath is up standing in front of me so I know my time is up. I try to breathe and back bend with him. I touch down and walk and before I know it I’m up. He was easy on me. I feel like he sees through my desire to be pushed in this area and he wants me to push myself so he stops. He wants me to figure it out.

Fear is present when you don’t know. No freedom is coming without experience and true knowledge is learning through experience. It also takes time to know some things, a time to grow and a patience that yoga can teach us. We are all going to look back onto times of our former self when we thought we knew. We didn’t, we didn’t have a clue. I know I didn’t and I am okay to find some humor and laugh. All we can do is be in the moment; doing the best we can with each breath, enjoying the learning process and the journey of this life. I find humor in the things I thought I knew especially when I discover it’s really something else. It’s a build up and there are no shortcuts. Even if you are on the fast track something is going to get you thinking and change you through experience and true knowledge. It’s not ending for me and I am grateful for the fun times on the journey.

The Effort


Everything requires effort and practicing Ashtanga requires, to put it simply, a special effort. Everyone’s journey is different, yet we can compare stories that all start with “I remember when . . . I have been thinking about my personal journey on this yogic path and I surely have not always put forth the right amount of effort. Usually is way too much and not in the right place. When it comes to yoga you have to put in the effort and then it has to be the right amount and also in the right place at the right time. We discussed this in our Yoga Sutra class today and I got to thinking about practice and how I feel today on this trip to Mysore. How do we know what the right amount of effort is? Does your teacher tell you? Is this in the books or can you perhaps learn it in a video? Is it when you can catch your heels or float back, (both I would like to do effortlessly by the way.) This is where I have it all wrong.

I have always been a hard worker. I know it is in my upbringing in combination with my temperament that gave me these most wonderful quality traits or Samskaras. They are not so wonderful when it gets in the way of practicing yoga and in my opinion especially when you set out to practice the Ashtanga yoga method. Over time this driven quality set me up for disappointments, frustration and pain. That got in my way earlier this year and a wise woman who teaches in Kentucky said to me today in our brief encounter, “Sometimes we just get lost without a teacher.” How true this is.

We think practice can be our teacher and it is without a doubt. We spend a lot of time on the mat working things out and we keep showing up every day to practice. We need feedback, we need to know that we are moving in the right direction and we need proper technique. We also need to know who we are and what we are working with. We have to take account for our limitations and work with them, not against them. I thought I could bypass more hard work and even made up some “shoulds” which I imposed upon myself. There is no schedule with this method, only techniques and practice. You can do it your way or the way it is prescribed. I have tried other ways and I keep going back to how I am being taught today. This year in Mysore I am happier and feel more at ease when I come to the mat. I don’t have these preconceived notions and start judging myself. I have more patience. These judgements can set us up for these stories we have about ourselves. They are not correct as they are only limitations that the minds sets on us. Our bodies limitations are obvious and we work with the proper amount of effort to find out the method and the teachings so that we can practice yoga and then take this into our lives.

It’s in the putting forth the effort and in the letting go of the outcome that will bring us more happiness and freedom.  So it is with an open heart and dedication that I proceed on the journey putting forth the effort where I need it most of the time. I feel calmer and peaceful this trip.  I seem to be sporting an inner smile that expresses that I am finally beginning to understand as well as experience what it means about putting forth the proper amount of effort on the mat and in my life.

Super Special First Session

Getting to India is always going to be an adventure and practice at the Shala is meant to take on a life of its own. I’m still in the adventure part of the trip which is annoying as I sincerely want to be settled for my time here. Not sure what happened to the order of the universe and I suppose this is meant to test me further. Test my patience and how good I am at all this yoga stuff off the mat. In any event all these details of getting here and any mishaps do not really matter at all as I got to practice today.

My registration card is not that impressive and you pretty much get what you get depending on who you are as well as when you register. Turns out when I thought I was on time or early, I was on the later side of the registration process as it has been going on for days without me. I am happy that it is the beginning of the season and things are fresh.  From the fresh paint at the Shala to the lightness in Sharath’s step and the hugs from all the old friends as well as new, both Indian and Western, things are progressing in a sweet direction.

I was all set for a crowd this morning for the led class that I was assigned to. Led in Mysore is not my favorite only because of the crowds and getting a spot. I have all these preconceived notions and have already painted the picture in my mind. You see, Shala time is earlier than the regular time and then you have to be earlier than Shala time to secure your spot on the stairs. It’s all somewhat confusing as you have to determine to be early, but not too early. It’s sort of like that Goldilocks and the three bears thing.  How to be just right?  As I turned into the gate it was weird.  Catherine and I were the first ones and we were able to sit at the top step.  I could relax as I would not have to negotiate a spot this time.  I would be able to get into the Shala almost first and choose the spot that suited me.  I listened to Sharath counting and thought, ‘it’s fine we are early but not too early”.  The fact is that there is alway a possibility to be called out on it with Sharath saying something or even telling us to leave and come back.

Turns out that there were only 15 of us for this Led class today, two rows with space to expand our limbs.    We were actually the lucky ones today with an almost private class with the “Boss” as John calls him.  Anyway I felt lucky and I was excited to practice.  I have been paying attention to the Vinyasa, the count and my breath and I heated up nicely.   My breath felt right today and I felt that so happy to have the opportunity to have the Trishtana method to focus on to support me in the practice. All the support was there to do this today. Pieces came together and still you can only do the best you can do each day. He still spoke to us individually as you know somehow in the group when he is talking to you. You make the change and he’s satisfied. No one moves till it’s done. I always say it’s a collective effort in Led and that makes it fun. You hold or stay up and somehow you support your fellow Ashtangi when you do this. It’s in the letting down of the group that sometimes stinks but again we are all doing our best and with a smaller group it is evident when you know it’s you. Chakrasana is a challenge when you are in Led as we all know.  Some have an ease that is just beautiful and some go without thinking.  So it is in the thinking that I personally get stuck. I have this story every time I get to this transition which is getting old.  I worked to let go of this today.  Each time that I inhale and hit it, I figure that I’m doing pretty good but the boss kept saying “chatvari” waiting for me to lift up and be there.  Tomorrow is led again with our 15 and more coming.  “Tomorrow you do”, I tell myself.

My Registration Card
My Registration Card