gripes

gripes

This is so last year…

I’m beginning retrospective posts from when I decided to jump on a training regimen again in December. All part of the New Year’s Resolutions stuff I usually blog about, but I’ll leave it out this year and instead just link to it here.

The real reason for my renewed blogging is to document and describe my attempt at combining yoga and running into a complete practice. And the story it really starts in 2014.

2014 was real a real drag for the following reasons:

1. I had to close Ekam at the end of June, not enough people supported the studio to pay the bills, and my landlords found a buyer. So…

2. I had to move in July. At first I was looking for a space with an extra room to teach from, but in the end I think I made the right decision to walk away from teaching yoga for a while.

3. My family came in August. Not a bad thing, but an added stress. Work also got pretty stressful around the same time.

namaqualandfamily4. My dog got cancer, again. We started radiation treatments in September, then surgery in October, which she never healed from and required frequent cleaning and bandaging. We finally got the wound closed in February 2015.

5. In December, my computer and car decided to die at the same time. Along with all the vet bills it made for a sticky financial situation.

But I was able to get back on my mat regularly again in mid-December when my place of work closed for the holidays. I had three weeks off to reflect and make my plan to take back my mat (and the rest of my life)! I have been fighting some injuries for a few years now and through the last few months of 2014 I took a different approach to my ashtanga practice- one of therapy and healing. I got rid of the ashtanga agenda (but not the ashtanga practice).

I love yoga, and I love practicing ashtanga vinyasa yoga, and I love the philosophy and practice of ashtanga yoga, and I was heartbroken that:

  1. I was having a really hard time, battling in every forward bend of the primary series and in constant pain during my entire practice, and,
  2. People have such strong opinions about what makes you an “ashtangi”.

So this year is about saying a big “screw you” to the haters.

Also, for some reason, I decided to start running.

Mysore myths #3: Ashtanga is hard

A week or so ago I almost got into a knock-down-drag-out argument (in public) with a friend over this myth. She’s currently training for a half marathon, and is known for readily volunteering for 100+km ultra races (both of which I would define as ‘hard’). From her perspective ‘ashtanga is hard’ and she, and others, keep trying to get me to agree with them. It won’t happen.

There is a consensus out there that ashtanga vinyasa yoga is hard. It might be the earnest clarification that the class you are about to waltz into is an ashtanga class. It could be the concerned look the teacher shoots your way when you walk in; a pained expression that conceals the incorrect assumption that you might not be ready for this. Or you might have heard it announced by a practicing ashtangi who perhaps needs a pat on the back and a thumbs up for getting on their mat today.

If practiced traditionally, ashtanga vinyasa is a set sequence of postures practiced six days a week (there are a few exceptions). Accepting a 1-2 hour daily practice is a commitment, but does it make ashtanga hard? Another observation is that the postures themselves are hard. In the traditional method, postures are practiced in sequence and as they become accessible to the practitioner. A new student would not dive into pincha mayurasana (see below) or nakrasana on the first day, but they would certainly be ready for these postures when they arrive at that point in their practice. The ashtanga series of postures are accessible to anyone willing to develop a consistent practice.

A daily practice and challenging postures don’t make something hard. I have witnessed beginners to ashtanga, to yoga, walk into a class, complete an entire primary series, and walk out again none the worse for wear. I have worked with students as they develop their practice, and I have maintained my own practice through the years, and I can tell you: ashtanga vinyasa yoga is not hard. It is the mind that makes something hard. It is the mind that says doing something six days a week is impossible. It is the mind that insists you will never get into that posture. It is the mind that tells you that repeating the same sequence every day is boring, boring, boring! What would you be able to do if your mind wasn’t so busy telling you something was hard? Instead of blaming the practice, or the style of yoga, gain control of that rogue element in your mind that has duped you into believing you can’t do it. [Helpful Hint: a consistent yoga practice assists in gaining mind control.]

I sometimes tease beginner students that they have chosen one of the most challenging forms of yoga practice. But I never doubt that the ashtanga vinyasa sequences, schedule, or lifestyle is not accessible to anyone who seeks it out.

And here’s Kino, proving it’s not hard.

Beginner’s mind is a crock

‘You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state...’ – Sharron Gannon

What my practice is not.

What my practice is not.

None of us, really, are beginners to yoga. We’ve just forgotten our true state and we’ve returned to yoga seeking answers to questions like: how do I stay fit and strong and resilient? How do I heal this physical and/or spiritual injury? How do I calm my mind and stay focused? Yoga can and will inevitably answer these questions if you stick with it for long enough.

Whenever I hear a yoga teacher say ‘beginner’s mind’, I wretch a little (and I’ve actually blogged a lot about it here). Returning to my mat now, with some significant, complex, interrelated injuries, and a healthy cynicism for the current climate in the yoga community, I cannot forget how I got here. My body and my mind are intensely aware of my past abuses. Their bitching and moaning is a huge distraction to an ego that thinks even one of my feet can still be placed behind my head. So, NO, I can’t get on my mat every day and pretend I’ve never been here before and everything is fresh and new and my mat is the idyllic field of buttercups and daisies it once was.

I have a new approach: I am not a beginner, I have been here before, and I am my own best teacher. Because recognizing you’re on the wheel is the first step to getting off. When I practice I am the practitioner and the teacher. I watch myself go into the asana, I observe the breath, I count the vinyasas, all as student and teacher. Would my teacher allow me to skip that vinyasa? Would my teacher approve of practicing that posture out of sequence? The teacher me sees injuries before they occur, because teacher me has been here before. Above all this teacher side of me is observant, supportive and compassionate, and far more forgiving than I am.

This method has worked so far, I’m not getting re-injured, and some of my injuries have started to heal. Most of all I don’t sweat the small stuff, because I have faith in my teacher and in the practice, it will eventually bring about healing, and strength of body and mind. You are not, nor were you ever a beginner, so get off that wheel and have faith in yourself!

1.2 yogasgchittavrttinirodhah (Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind.)

1.3 tada drastuh svarupe ‘vasthanam (Then the seer abides in its true nature.)

If you’re interested in the deeper discussion of how to detach yourself from your karma, read Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras Sadhanapadah (Chapter 2) and check out these links:

What’s made me happy this week: I’m still rocking out to MC Yogi’s Mantras, Beats & Meditations! And thankful for the reinforcement offered by the track ‘Truth Seeker’. Pay attention to those you meet on your journey, you don’t have to experience everything personally to gain knowledge or make good decisions.

Mysore Myths, part 2

Look at your Mysore self-practice teacher, now back at your mat. Now back at your teacher- is your teacher practicing? Are you practicing? Eyes back to your mat. Sadly, your teacher is not practicing. Your teacher would be practicing if there were someone else to teach Mysore self-practice this morning; but, there is not. Eyes back on your mat. Your teacher is now looking at you and wishing that they too had a teacher to assist them during their practice. Are you present in your practice? You’re now realizing that your self-practice is possible today because of the sacrifice your teacher has made. So honour them by focussing on your practice.

“Mysore-style is where you get adjusted.”

Some practitioners have had yoga teachers who like to jump on, climb on, or otherwise man-handle a body into a posture. Some people like this because they feel they’re being ‘pushed’, ‘challenged’, or ‘opened’. (I have also seen the word ‘cranked’.) This style of adjusting is not in line with the first yama ahimsa (non-harm), and I can assure you, experienced, long-term practitioners of ashtanga vinyasa avoid these teachers like the plague they are. No good can come of forcing a posture into a body (or mind) that is not ready.

So what am I paying for?’ you might ask. First, a dedicated space and time to practice. Because we all know that rolling out your mat at the foot of your bed every morning hasn’t been working so well for you. Second, Mysore-style teachers observe a practice as a whole. If you’re struggling with something, we can usually help. And by ‘help’, I don’t mean ‘jump on’, ‘force’, or ‘crank’. ‘Help’ sometimes means redirecting the student’s focus (i.e. breathe!), or leaving the student alone to figure it out on their own.

Third, and this is the big one, teachers share the shakti energy of the lineage absorbed from their teachers and amplified through their own practice. We are here to share the practice with you, not to force our own practice on you. When we adjust manually or verbally, we do it out of love for the practice, and because we love our students. And love shouldn’t hurt. Nor should it be demanded like some sort of commodity.

So do not come into my space with an agenda of ‘getting adjusted’. And to further manage expectations, I’ll let you in on my adjusting philosophy:

1. If you’re new, I don’t adjust you. Even with beginners I won’t adjust until an understanding of the initial sequence and breathing has settled in, and that you are committed to coming. This rule also applies to people I’ve worked with before who have gone missing. So don’t expect anything from me until you’ve been coming regularly for a few weeks. Yes, weeks.

2. I start with verbal adjustments, because if you don’t listen, how can we build a relationship? Being able to process verbal adjustments demonstrates knowledge of your left from your right, and that a mind-body connection is present. It also gives me an idea of how easily distracted you are. 

3. Before manually adjusting someone, I look for a minimum amount of strength and flexibility required by the posture and an awareness of where the posture is going. I also look for correct breathing and a sense of calm. Because if I add my asana to your asana and you’re not strong enough or flexible enough, things are going to go pear-shaped and injury will occur.

4. I adjust more intensely on Mondays and Tuesdays and then I back off as the week progresses. I want to see that the effort invested has been retained and incorporated in a practice. Friday is an adjustment-free day. Yet another benefit to daily practice.

Lots of hard adjustments aren’t bad, but they’re not suitable for every day. If you want to be challenged, go to a workshop and get adjusted. Or even better, go get a massage! Afterwards, return to your mat and maintain your daily practice, which usually translates to fewer injuries when you attend those challenging workshops. In order to maintain a daily practice you can’t always be limping to your mat from all the adjustments the day before.  And to be honest, I don’t have the energy to adjust you every day in every posture, because I have to get on my mat too!

Ultimately, ashtanga vinyasa is a self-practice. Come to Mysore-style classes with the intention of self-development and the pursuit of peace and meditation on the mat. You will never leave disappointed.

Mysore Myths, part 1

There have been a few issues recently that have made me very, very grumpy. Hrrumph! Blogging fingers ACTIVATE! Stay tuned because this is just the beginning.

Queen of the East Village recently wrote a fabulous ode to the humble Mysore-style teacher here. I’m thankful for this blog post because sometimes I would love to remind travelling yogis everywhere of who it is who stays home and keeps the home fires burning (shala space/practitioner base) while we wait for your return.

More on that later. But first…

“Mysore-style is not for beginners.”

At Ekam, Mysore-style is for beginners, and I have gotten rid of any and all ‘beginner’ labelled classes. I’ve stopped targeting classes to those who brand themselves ‘beginner’ when really they are just uncomfortable or inconvenienced with being outed in a yoga class as either inflexible, weak, unbalanced, or all three at the same time. I also consider it a form of molly-coddling and generally patronizing to the practitioner. One thing Mysore-style classes clearly demonstrate (if I could get people to come) is that we’re all beginners. But you can’t be a ‘beginner’ until you take that first step and get on your mat!

Lately, in this New Year’s Resolution/Goal setting season, I’ve received emails asking if I do privates, or if I run beginners classes, workshops, boot camps, etc. I DON’T because:

  1. I don’t like the intention/expectation behind ‘private’ classes; you/your practice is not so special that you need me to personally watch you do it. I’ve run so many ‘private’ Mysore-style classes and I can assure you, it’s uncomfortable for both teacher and practitioner. An ashtanga practice is a self-practice, not a one-man/woman show.
  2. Short workshops/weekends/camps are simply a short spurt of activity usually followed by a lengthy down time wherein the student searches for their next yoga fix. One leaves these sessions thinking they’ve ‘learned’ something, but if they don’t have the self-discipline of a daily practice there’s nowhere to invest what they’ve ‘learned’.

Both of these situations ignore the fact that ashtanga vinyasa is a daily, personal practice. And the only thing that reinforces a daily practice is a daily practice. So my response to inquiries about private classes or beginner workshops is to come to Mysore-style classes! Especially for those with no experience. Mysore is an effective combination of both a private session and a workshop. The teacher gets to work with practitioners personally, and the practitioner receives benefits from other practitioner’s experiences, as well as reinforcement of the practice in a group setting. This traditional method is hundreds of years old and it wouldn’t be around today unless it really worked. In the past few years of maintaining a Mysore-style shala, I have developed a profound respect for this method and the practice. It keeps me honest as a teacher and a practitioner. As long as you get on your mat, it will work for you, I promise!

After a few weeks in the Mysore-style self-practice setting, I encourag new practitioners to start attending weekly led classes; usually around the time they reach paschimottanasana. Led classes feel like a wonderful vacation after a week of hard work. But again, the daily practice has to be there for the method to work. For those who attend only led classes once or twice a week, ashtanga can feel a bit brutal and unrelenting. The beauty comes is in finding harmony between the two.

The inspiration for this blog came from here. Love the meme!

ekamyogini, gym bunny

i joined a virgin active gym. all i can think is: what’s a yogi like me doing in a place like this? long story short: my seamless transition from one yoga studio location to another didn’t go as seamlessly as i’d planned. so i’m studio-less for a few months. also, my parkour training has brought me to the point where i’ve realized: i’m just. not. strong. enough. but more on that later.

the real purpose of this post is to note a yogini’s observations of the gym as a practice space and yogic environment.

  1. oom-tss oom-tss oom-tss… vande gurunam…oom-tss oom-tss… charanaravinde…oom-tss oom-tss… good thing mantra goes with any beat.
  2. mondays are BANGING, literally. but as the week goes on there are significantly fewer people. every morning i was able to park closer and closer to the entrance. where did everyone go?
  3. OMG…BREATHE! a yogi will note, almost immediately, that everyone is breathing wrong. just wrong. so much effort, so erratic. it’s actually painful to hear. no wonder so many exercise regimens fail.
  4. there’s a lot of standing around, drinking water and generally ‘resting’. as i’m about to learn with strength training, yes, you do rest in between sets. but for many it’s like a loss of focus time. they wander around, eyes glazed over, sucking on their water bottles. yep- they’re in the zone alright.
  5. this is going to sound uncharitable, but most of the people in the gym don’t actually look like they spend much time there. maybe the ones in better shape escaped! except for the scary guys in the free weight corner, darkly flexing and grunting.
  6. yoga room = spillover conditioning room or cool down room. i might be busting my ass in bhuja pidasana, but everyone else is using my tranquility to foam roll or in one case…srlsy- to SKIP ROPE! [OMG the beautiful wood floor!] and hey don’t bother to remove your shoes.
  7. upon being kicked out of the yoga room i rolled out my mat in the weight machine area. the amount of testosterone being pumped into the air there fueled an incredible primary series practice for me.

honestly, the gym isn’t such a big step from mysore-style practice. especially if you’ve ever done it in mysore or at one the bigger mysore-style studios around the world. you have to listen to people breathe, grunt, and take the occasional tumble, feel people sweat, dodge flying feet and hands (i’ve actually smacked people in the ass on both sides of me coming up from back-bends). if i hadn’t spent the last 5 years practicing in airports, hotel rooms, hallways, dining rooms, pool sides, hotel gyms and dark corners i wouldn’t have developed the pratyahara to actually enjoy my current situation. there is never a good excuse, you can practice anywhere!

and as for those guys flexing and grunting…i’ll be hopping over into their corner soon.

the 10 things i wish i had known before opening a yoga studio

today, Ekam Yoga closes its (current) doors (temporarily) for ‘renovations’. it was a fun 2 years, but i’m ready for a cleaner, better-maintained, cheaper, homier space and a more consolidated, minimalist lifestyle. the insane running around of the last 2 years is finally at an end (whew!). i can now look forward to 1 june, when Ekam will begin a new phase in Parkhurst.

i opened Ekam Yoga in March of 2010. i had these beautiful fantasies of introducing johannesburg to the joys of traditional ashtanga vinyasa yoga. i had practiced in Mysore and NYC and those places were always packed! i thought, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it; the traditional ashtanga practice and teaching method is beautiful, practical, and it works. people here are going to love it!

looking back on the last 2 years, here’s the reality:

1. everyone that you need to get your studio up and running is ‘un-yogic‘. the shortlist: landlords, contractors, builders, financial advisors, interior decorators, branding agents, your own family, etc. it’s business as usual, and no one knows (or cares) what ‘yogic’ means. it’s ok. remember: you’re yogic and you understand the nature of karma.

2. your practice will disintegrate, rebuild itself, disappear, become transparent, rise, fall, and spin in circles. just like everything else in the world. you will then come to realize that you’re always practicing. and that is a priceless learning experience.

3. your practice will take new forms, for example: cup washing, mat cleaning, snack sourcing, flower arranging, website updating, email answering, budget balancing, etc. each new form reveals itself through a love of the practice.

4. you will have over 600 followers on FaceBook, but no one will show up at 6am in the dead of winter. on the up-side, you can use that time to practice! or go back to bed.

5. that person with the 2, 3 or 12 friends who can’t wait to experience your studio? they’ll never pitch. it’s the same with those who said they were coming to your workshop, your retreat, your class on saturday, etc. and then there are those that call to ask you if it’s ok to come to class (‘sure!’) and they’ll see you tomorrow am (‘bright and early!’). i’m sorry to break it to you: they’re just teasing. but there will be lots of nice surprises that walk into your studio too!

6. you will teach more private yoga classes than you thought possible, and your students will love you for it!

7. you won’t make as much money as you thought with those famous yoga teachers who pass through town. but they will draw numbers and gain recognition for your studio. they’re a lot of extra work, but they’re worth it.

8. if you stick with it, keeping true to your vision, you’ll lose friends, but you’ll make friends too. be grateful for both.

9. it will be a rough ride for a while, and you may not make it. but,

10. you will never, ever regret it.

“take this pink ribbon off my eyes…

…i’m exposed and it’s no big surprise.
don’t you think i know exactly where i stand,
this world is forcing me to hold your hand.”
                                           -just a girl, no doubt

i’ve been trying to finish this post for a while, but couldn’t think of a way to write it that didn’t sound like a pissing contest between me and most men on the planet (which i would undoubtably win), or a militant feminist, or both. i am not militant, and i’m not a feminist. i’ve never identified with being a ‘girl’ in such a way that it prevented me from doing whatever the hell i wanted (doesn’t everyone think this way?). maybe it’s not so much that i don’t identify as a ‘girl’, but more that i don’t identify any activities as being ‘boy’, e.g. gender specific (except maybe pissing contests). but i am getting a bit tired of people joking about how underneath my lululemon 50 rep bra i’m actually a man. i’m just a girl. throughout my life i’ve ended up in activities whereupon, when i do eventually get distracted from the activity itself and look around, i find myself surrounded by men. i don’t know why this is. it’s as if men took all the fun activities on the planet and peed on them, and so most women stay away. in any case, here’s some of the fun i’ve had-, not being able to distinguish the smell of male urine from anything else.

raft guide the raft guide training itself is challenging. in Maine, it takes place during one full week in May when there’s still snow on the river banks and ice chunks floating in the water. it’s freezing cold, the river is at flood-stage, and you have to exist on peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches and spaghetti bolognaise. every morning you slap on a (wet) wetsuit that gets more and more ripe each day. the job itself requires a certain amount of physical strength and endurance, the development of a technical skill, a level head under pressure, a loud voice, and a certain feel for the element of water. it’s also not without serious risk. once you’ve taken your practical and written exams and get your Level I Whitewater Licence from the State of Maine (and your Maine Guide patch, which i’m extremely proud of) you can now throw 8 overweight punters who don’t know what ‘down-river’ means and call a paddle an ‘oar’ into a 16″ raft and take them through some class IV whitewater. it’s a fabulous test of endurance of body as well as mind. one of my guide instructors told me once that women make better raft guides. they know they can’t rely on strength so they plan ahead and make their runs work for them, rather than relying on muscle and dumb luck. i’ve seen this concept crop up in other activities as well- technique and skill over brawn and muscle.

4×4-ing

i’ve owned 4x4s since 1998. my first was a wood-paneled, navy blue jeep grand wagoneer, but i prefer land cruisers, specifically the 80 series model with the solid front axle. the new FJ is nice too, but the IFS doesn’t thrill me. since moving to africa in 2001 i’ve kitted two cruisers with: roof rack, roof top tent, 3-drawer packing system, 40L national luna fridge-freezer (sun-downers require ice), 55L water tank (i require showers), the ultimate 168L long range tank (made in australia) bringing my total fuel capacity to almost 250L of petrol or an off-road driving radius of about 1200kms, a dual battery system, a compressor, B.F. Goodrich all terrain tires with an IEF dual spare carrier carrying 2 more, and a VHF radio. i know the difference between brake fluid and diff oil (specifically with regards to smell), and i’ve assisted with two diff repairs in the bush (the reason i always carry diff oil). you don’t know what a diff is? 4x4s have two. with my kitted vehicle i’ve travelled throughout botswana, south africa, namibia and kenya. i also drove from gabs to nairobi (towing a trailer with all my earthly possessions). i didn’t do all those trips alone, but i was the principal driver, navigator, and chef. and i make a mean pan bread.

somewhere in Namibia...

parkour

male-dominated, but not for long. the ladies are catching up! it’s the same as with…

besides, what woman could go that long without taking a bath!

yoga

yes, yoga! until only recently yoga was a male-dominated activity. for the last 5000 years the traditions, sequences, practices, and philosophies have been passed down through the ages via oral and written tradition through by men through guru-shishya parampara (teacher-student oral tradition). only recently, probably since Indra Devi emigrated to the US in the 1950s, has the practice of yoga become dominated by women. this, however, is a western phenomenon. worthy of a movie even.

i’ll continue to do my own thing, regardless of labels. i’m having way too much fun. and you guys can join me, be it on the mat, at a jam, in the bush, anywhere- as long as you’re not up for a pissing contest. because i’m really not a man. i’m just a girl.

so you want to practice intermediate series?

below is an article i wrote about 2 years ago when an occasional student insisted i teach them 2nd series. i intended it for the Ekam website but couldn’t figure out how to tone it down enough for general consumption. i’ve had my personal battles with learning intermediate series, especially without a qualified teacher. perhaps this was a way to vent my own frustration with learning 2nd series on my own- a process that is still ongoing after 3 years. i did do some research when i was writing the information below- this isn’t stuff i just made up because i think i’m a bad ass. i sympathize with those learning intermediate on their own, it’s a truly devilish sequence of postures and the risk of injury is greater than that in primary series. so if you want to learn intermediate series (from me) i’ll refer you here first. and i’ll be very honest that i’m still on my own journey though this sequence. i truly believe in the criteria outlined below, which is why i am currently not practicing 2nd series, but i do assist others (and believe me, i recognize the ethical issues of this).

‘primary series is for students, intermediate is for teachers, advanced is for demonstration.’ – Sri K Pattabhi Jois.

The intermediate, or ‘second series’ of ashtanga vinyasa yoga is a challenging set of asanas that work deeply into the body and the mind. This series of postures, known as ‘nadi shodhana’ or ‘channel cleansing’, requires the ‘yoga chikitsa’ (yoga therapy) learned in the primary series to create a grounded physical base for this more energetic sequence. The intermediate series is a much deeper practice than the primary series, while being complimentary to it. Just as primary series pulls and twists your physical body, the intermediate series pulls and twists your nervous system and the energy channels that run throughout the body- the nadis. And like the primary series, each posture in the sequence prepares you for the next.

For many students of ashtanga vinyasa, beginning to practice the intermediate series will be the first time the student has experienced the traditional method. Many people (like me) learned primary series all at once from a DVD, a book, at a gym, or at a yoga studio during a full primary series led class. So learning one posture at a time, slowly integrating it into your daily yoga practice, may be a new concept. Like the primary series, the intermediate series of postures can take years to learn- perhaps a whole lifetime.

Learning the intermediate series is rewarding, but takes a serious amount of physical, mental and emotional commitment. If you don’t have the strength and the stamina to complete the primary series and feel energized afterwards, you will not be able to advance in your second series practice. Second series postures are added, one at a time, to your primary series practice, testing your physical and mental endurance. To be truly ready to embark on this next level of your practice, you should be able to answer ‘Yes’ to the following statements:

  1. I have been practicing the primary series at least 4-5 times/week for at least a year. In addition, I am capable of sustaining a 4-6 day/week practice indefinitely.
  2. I know the correct vinyasas for entering and exiting all postures of the primary series.
  3. I can perform all jump backs and jump throughs between each posture all the time, every time, throughout the entire primary series.
  4. I am capable of binding myself in Marichyasana D and Supta Kurmasana. I am able, or nearly able, to stand up from Urdhva Dhanurasana and drop back into the posture unassisted or with very little assistance.
  5. I have the time for my daily practice to run up to two hours in length.
  6. I have attained yoga chikitsa (yoga therapy) and my life is in balance. I am content in my current yoga practice.

Also, review the first two limbs of Ashtanga, the yamas and the niyamas, and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Ahimsa (non-violence): Do I knowingly bring myself to the point of injury in my current yoga practice? Am I able to recognize an injury before it manifests and change to avoid it or ask for help?
  2. Satya (truthfulness): Am I honest with myself with regard to my capability within my practice?
  3. Asteya (non-stealing): Am I taking away time and effort needed in my primary series practice?
  4. Brahmacharya (going with God): Is this truly a good use of my energy? Do I have constancy in my practice, offering it as a prayer or meditation rather than just a physical effort?
  5. Aparigraha (non-grasping): Am I trying to acquire 2nd series rather than seeing it as a daily meditation and act of humility?
  6. Saucha (purity): Am I approaching this new level of my practice with purity, having uncluttered my primary series practice? Am I open to the benefits the practice will bring?
  7. Santosha (contentment): Am I content with my current practice, regardless of whether or not I ‘advance’ in 2nd series? Would I be happy practicing primary series for the rest of my life?
  8. Tapas (austerity): Do I have not just the desire, but the discipline to carry my practice further, despite what it may bring?
  9. Svadhyaya (self-study): Do I seek 2nd series as a way to know myself better? Regardless of what it uncovers?
  10. Isvara-Pranidhana (surrender to God): Can I surrender my practice to a greater power, open to what each day may bring, whether great advancement or serious setback?

Finally, students wanting to learn intermediate series postures will need to attend Mysore-style self-practice at Ekam Yoga for at least a month before any postures are added. This is so we can observe your current practice, work with you where necessary, and ensure an open, honest relationship between student and teacher moving forward. Traditionally, postures are given by the teacher, not asked for by the student- are you ready to surrender your practice and trust another to guide you? We as teachers are also slowly deepening our own practices with these postures and that resources regarding the intermediate series are currently thin on the ground in South Africa. We are doing the best we can, grounded in a respect for ourselves and our practice, and with awareness of our own strengths and limitations. We are all a part of the journey.

shoe report: my new (balance) kicks

i’ve had this blog in my drafts pile for a while, so i’ll give you a review of my pk shoes (santa brought me a new pair for christmas), always a popular topic of conversation among traceursesessssssss.

by the way, i’m hearing americaaaaans pronouncing traceur like ‘tracer’, as in ‘tracer bullet’. if the word was ‘tracer’, it would be spelled that way. it is spelled ‘traceur’ so we must rub some franglais on it and say it in a way that doesn’t make us [americans] look like ignorant hillbillies who know nothing of the original language of diplomacy, i.e. french. so move the stress of the word to the first syllable and then say it like you smell a sewage leak. and if you can’t say traceur correctly, don’t even try traceuse, just say ‘girl who trains parkour’.

yoga and parkour are alike in that you don’t need much equipment to practice them. for yoga, a mat; for parkour a pair of shoes. FACT: the mat/shoes can range from really cheap to really expensive, but will have almost no bearing whatsoever on your practice. as a gear junkie i am genetically attracted to the most expensive equipment, so i will practice on a manduka for the rest of my life. and my pk shoes are beyond my experience level, but come in pretty (expensive) colors.

the consensus in pk/fr circles in south africa is that new balance is a pretty awesome company and makes pretty awesome shoes. they also sponsor some of the parkour athletes here in SA. i think NB is awesome because they still make sneakers in my home state (Maine), so buying them supports my friends and family back home!

mens minimus road, ladies minimus trail. not shown: the ones in ugly colors.

(NB minimus philosophy as told by a long-haired hippy)

the more i trained pk outside, the more i wanted a shoe similar to what i wore racing cross-country/track & field in high school, i.e. low profile, fitting close around the front of the foot, thinner sole, and without the wide/wedge heel in the back. the sales people assured me that the ‘barefoot’ style running shoes were what i was looking for. so i got 2 pair of the NB minimus, one trail (ladies) and one road (mens). i recently added a pair of the new ladies minimus zero in turquoise. because i luvs them, i luuuuuuvvssss them! here’s why: 

  1. both street and trail are very forward, meaning they get me moving on my toes and make running easy for me. they were designed to do this and there’s a warning on the box about achilles tendon damage. wait, what, damage? huh?! nevermind, just keep reading…
  2. the strike pattern of the shoe is helping me pronate rather than supinate when i run, which hopefully will reduce the risk of ankle rolls for me.
  3. because of their forward construction, when i precision i usually land on my toes. for this reason alone these shoes are awesome for me!
  4. the trail and new road minimus models have vibram soles, which are stickier on painted surfaces, making rail work more comfortable for me. i love the grip, unfortunately, i’m losing pieces of vibram doing cat work.

one additional note: the minimus does not come with an insole, to compensate i use an insole called sofsole which absorbs up to 4x the impact. get the ones without arches if you can, and make sure you try the minimus with the sofsole in it when you’re judging size as the insole will change how the shoe fits you.

kicking back in my lovely ladies minimus zero in turquoise. not shown: ugly mens in piss yellow.

(a cool ad campaign for the NB minimus)

note that i have found these shoes to be great for me, for now. and as my ability and usage change over time i may choose other shoes. the men’s road shoe was my early favorite because it supported my sprained ankle a bit better and it has a single layer sole, no vibram, but no tearing! it also had a bit more reinforcement around the toe. unfortunately, they have disappeared. i think perhaps i left them somewhere or perhaps they walked away after i left the top down on my convertible while i went shopping. so, here are some care and maintenance guidelines:

  1. don’t leave your shoes in your car with the top down in johannesburg, south africa. common sense, i know.
  2. buy shoes based on whether or not they fit properly and are the right tool for the job and not what color scheme they are. unless you are me, and then get whatever the hell you want.
  3. never use your sneakers for anything other than their intended use, i.e. don’t wear your pk kicks to work even though they are comfortable and look totally RAD!
  4. untie the laces when putting them on and taking them off. cramming your feet into tied shoes can break the heel support and weaken the shoe where you need it most.
  5. make sure shoes are tied properly when in use so the foot is secure, lessening wear and tear on the shoe. it will also save others from getting hit when your shoes fly off during a webster.
  6. when not shredding, store your kicks in a cool, dry place (not in your gym bag, boot of your car, etc). when they get wet let them dry out (if you take the insole out they dry faster), but don’t dry them in a dryer. don’t wash them in the washer either, hand scrub with mild soap.
  7. to reduce stinkiness: see #6 above and use synthetic socks that wick moisture away. also sprinkle baby powder or baking soda in your shoes after use to absorb odor and moisture. i actually prefer gold bond, but they don’t have it here in south africa.

(NB minimus isn’t just for running)

whatever shoe you train in, wear them well and take care of them! and if you can find me these or these (in south africa) i will bake you a cheesecake. a real one with a graham cracker crust and phildelphia cream cheese. and your choice of topping.