27 August 2009

The Evening Begins

Friday 28th August 2009

The walk home from work takes half an hour, a welcome incline as I head towards the foothills.
I breathe out the day.
The dull early-evening air has been polluted by exhaust fumes and the accumulated etheric waste from a million human beings: CO2 and stress, exhaled into the atmosphere, toxic by-products of natural processes and unnatural lives.

Morning air, on my morning walk, is filled with birdsong and clarity.

In the half hour to and from work my continual mental chatter muffles into every footstep; the obsessive compulsive mind torturing itself, resisting the day ahead or ruminating over the work day events just gone. I notice twinges of self-pity and urges to escape into solitude and oblivion. How easily I elope with these entrenched thought patterns...they carry me away from the present; how easily the comic-tragedy of daily worklife catches my unguarded mind in its sticky web of drama and ingrigue.

I forget to notice the birds, the scent of flowers overhanging a fence, the lofty trees, the hint of incoming weather on the breeze, the undulations of the path under my feet.

Arriving home around 6pm, I feed Buffy, change my clothes and step onto the yoga mat. Hanging forward in Uttanasana like a soft rag doll, my body sighs as it begins to release; my spine opens, my neck lengthens, and my muscles let go of tension as the reversal of gravity waterfalls through them.
I WILL my legs to life, activating the muscle groups out of auto-pilot and into old-fashioned manual.

I stop thinking.

And I begin to feel my body.

Hanging in Uttanasana, legs slightly parted, the weight of my torso falling down through my elbows, I feel the workday tension dissolving away as my mind lets go of its ruminations.
I step back into Dog Pose, breathing slowly, deliberately. Little areas begin to adjust themselves though the pose, stretching, lengthening, aligning, waking up.
Thoughts about work creep in like silent, stealthy intruders. I catch them and banish them immediately. BE GONE. Get out, out, out of my Dog Pose house.
I come back to the breath and my body – my home –the elusive ground of the present.
Stray thoughts and whispers keep luring me away. My mind escapes with them, the habit is strong.
Bringing it back over and over, I return to the present, each time, gratefully, to an INCREASED AWARENESS of the present. Awareness seems to grow stronger each time I exercise my will over my mind.
Finding myself still in Dog Pose I breathe deeply….I step forward…
Practice begins…

More Sprouts

Thursday 27th August 2009

On the subject of sprouts, I snapped this photo of my gorgeous little sunflower sprouts this morning. They were planted about 4 days ago so in another 2-3 days they should be about 4 inches high and ready to snip off and eat.

Sprouts are nutritional powerhouses and there’s a huge variety to choose from – mung bean and alfalfa sprouts are the most popular but you can sprout almost any seed. Sunflower sprouts are my favourite. They have a sweet, nutty flavour, not unlike cashew nuts, and a lovely nutty texture too. I throw a big handful into my raw salad dinner most nights with lettuce, rocket, avocado, cucumber, capsicum, olives, a balsamic vinaigrette and sometimes some grated parmesan or fetta and cooked green beans….super healthy AND sooo delicious.

It must be nearly time to pack up work, walk home, do some yoga and eat dinner…

Yes, life is good, and I am most humbly grateful for all the wonderful (and delicious) things I have.

26 August 2009


Wednesday 26th August 2009

It wasn’t that long ago that I set myself some weekly goals….walking to work three times a week, an additional yoga practice each week (to make at least 4), regular meditation, and daily journaling…
Like little seedlings, they were carefully watered for a few weeks, they faltered for a while, then somehow I forgot about them. This week, while walking to work, I suddenly remembered them and realised that they’ve all taken root and become firmly established routines in my life.
- I love walking to work each day and do it most days now (weather permitting);
- Yoga practice has changed from an occasional morning struggle to a regular evening practice which is much more achievable
- daily journaling justifies my morning coffee habit so the day starts with reflection, not just caffeine
- and meditation serves as a regular debrief before bed.

Life’s not so bad.

21 August 2009


Pre menopause…that’s the only explanation I can come up with for my moodiness over the last few months. We humans (especially we women) are at the mercy of our pesky hormonal chemicals. They have a mind all of their own and bombard our systems at will wreaking havoc on our moods and behaviour.
I’m thinking it’s peri-menopausal because
a) I’m 49 years old
b) My menstrual periods have been coming every two weeks for the past three months
c) The ups and downs FEEL hormonal and out of my control.

My heavy frown, my lack of motivation, my depressed state of mind, are all completely out of character. There’s no sense of Divine communion anywhere, no disciplined spiritual practice, no altruistic ideals, no love and compassion for all beings.
Just generally feeling very self-centred and demoralised.

As with all things I know this shall pass, but if it is peri-menopausal it won’t be passing quickly so I’ll need some new strategies other than the panic stricken, beat-myself-up ones that haven’t been helping me at all.

Yoga practice has waned to almost no yoga practice, especially with my yoga buddy Renate overseas for two months – an occasional evening restorative practice has been the yoga highlight of my week. What happened to the athletic 40-something who used to thrive on a daily, sweaty Ashtanga practice? I pondered whether lack of yoga is actually causing my blue state of mind (which led to the thought that feeling good each day may have been completely dependent on a morning Ashtanga yoga practice hit), but quite possibly the reverse is closer to the truth because a depressed mood destroys all motivation and a hormonal imbalance can drastically alter my physical/mental/emotional state.

Hmmm…what comes first, the chicken or the egg?
And can the mood and lack of motivation be overcome by WILL?

I don’t know if one kind of hormone is being overproduced or if another one drying up. Whatever it is = no motivation = no yoga = leave me alone.

The last good 2 hour practice I did was last Saturday, exactly one week ago, but I’ve done a couple of shorter evening practices since them.

Here are my notes from last Saturday:

It was a blissful Saturday morning because I had a day off – no work, no commitments to anyone, my precious time was my very own. I felt strong enough, and present enough to attempt a few moves that have dropped off my practice routine because they aggravate my sacroiliac injury, like the lift-up-jump-back move from seated position.Although I haven’t been able to ever do this properly, engaging the muscles to start it helps strengthen my core and, well, you gotta start somewhere…again.

Paschimottanasana, (the seated forward bend) for me starts the second third of the sequence. I tend to divide the whole sequence into three sections: standing, seated and inverted poses. Paschimottanasana is a fairly accurate barometer of my determination on the day – the gauge being how well my heels lift off the ground. If my mind is disengaged or resistant, my heels won’t be off the ground and it becomes a resting pose instead of an active one and the practice will slowly disintegrate from there.
Today I was right in this pose, actively grounding the thighbones, working the leg muscles enough to keep my heels off the ground and engaging mulabandha. Concaving my pubic abdomen (ie. drawing the top of the pubic bone inwards slightly) in all forward bends is something I learned from Glenn Ceresoli and that little adjustment causes wonderful things to happen in my sacroiliac joint and pelvic floor.
From Janu C I digressed to backbending: Supta Virasana to stretch the front of my thighs, Salabhasana to strengthen my spinal muscles, Dhanurasana to develop the upper back arch, Ustrasana to deepen it even further, then some repetitions of Urdhva Dhanurasana focussing on my new obsession with alignment. Add together sacroiliac injury, uneven leg lengths and lop-sided pelvis and you’ll understand why my body needs some serious retraining.

So I approached Urdhva Dhanurasana with a slightly different intention today. I slid to the top end of the mat, made sure my feet were placed parallel and in a straight from mid-heel to middle toe. The side edges of the mat provided the frame in which I positioned my feet – they had to be an even distance from each side. Once in place I cemented them there, determined not to move them even one millimetre for the duration of the 3 backbends. This was a fascinating mental exercise because I was confronted with every little habit that my feet wanted to revert to, to make the lift up into the backbend easier - like slightly lifting a heel or turning one foot in more than the other. Catching the little urge to move the foot just before the foot responds to the urge gives a fascinating insight into how unconscious and prevalent are our habit patterns.
After pushing up into the first stiff backbend with feet cemented into the earth like tree trunks, I then had to adjust my hands to line them up as perfectly as my feet – each one had to be the same distance from the side edge of the mat, and as I’d placed myself at the end of the mat I could also place the tips of my middle fingers at the leading edge of the mat. Once my feet and hands were perfectly lined up both horizontally and vertically, the unevenness of my arched body was magnified to gigantic proportions in the full backbend. My pelvis felt crooked and I had to work hard to stretch up through the left side of my torso (this is my shorter side, as my left leg is 1.5cm shorter than the right). Need someone to spot me objectively…
So today it was Urdhva Dhanurasana that provided the context within which I could explore the extent of my body’s misalignment.
As my body ages, and as I become increasingly sensitised to the subtleties of my body and its habits, the imbalances built up over a lifetime are emerging in tandem with the imbalances of my peri-menopausal mindstates.

Lovely, lovely Headstand....12 minutes in Headstand: 100 breaths, it topped off a thorough practice. Counting to 100 provides a realistic but challenging goal and keeps me right there in the pose, watching how my body and mind change as the seconds tick away.