Holiday, Celebration. Come together in every nation.
This is the first week of my three week vacation. On Monday at noon I met a friend for lunch.
'Are you enjoying your holiday?' She asked. 'Staying up late, sleeping in, mmmm.'
'Haha,' I answered. 'No, I still get up at 5.30 AM, holiday or not.'
'Really,' I said. 'I have an Ashtanga addiction now. It goes beyond my imagination.'
'Where are you planning to go?' She wanted to know. 'I remember hearing you talk about Italy and Switzerland?'
'That's right. I think we are heading to the North of Italy on Wednesday.' As I said this, I was doing the math. If we would go to Italy for ten days, I would miss eight classes.
After lunch we went our separate ways and she wished me a pleasant holiday in Italy. I smiled and waved.
Tuesday came and my BF and I realized we had to do some planning if we would be off to Italy the next day. We started by checking the weather forecast. To my surprise, it didn't look good. The weather in the North of Italy would be worse than in the Netherlands.
'This doesn't look good,' my BF said. 'We are not going to Italy.'
Somehow I felt relieved.
'Then what?' I asked.
'I'll think of something,' he answered.
Today is Wednesday. I practiced this morning. It is awfully hot in the Netherlands. The shala was packed with people and the sweat was flying around. There were at least three new people. As I lay in Savasana, I enjoyed listening to the teacher's explaining of Surya Namaskar and him talking about the bandha's, drishti and the breath. And he told the newbies not to come only once a week.
'You have to create heat. You are creating heat by practicing regularly, not once a week. It is a like putting a pan on a stove and trying to boil the water. If you are turning the gas on and off, it will never cook.'
I enjoyed his clever chat.
In the hallway I met my friend E.
'I thought you were going on a holiday? Are you leaving today?'
'No, I am not,' I answered. 'There is bad weather in Italy, so we are not going.'
'You don't look sad about it.'
'I am not sad at all. Now I can go to Mysore Class again tomorrow and on Friday.'
I realized what I was saying. That I'd rather go to Mysore Class than be on vacation in Italy.
He realized it too. He laughed and said: 'This is what Ashtanga does to you.'
I took this picture in Florida
I have long hair. A few years ago, somebody mentioned that I touch my hair a lot. It is true. I touch it, I stroke it, I draw it back behind my ears, I redo my ponytail. When that somebody mentioned that, another person said: 'Yes, but I understand that because she has beautiful hair.' Of course, I smiled. Then the first person said: 'I think she does it because she is nervous. It is a tic of her.'
Au ch. He got a point. And since that time, I try to be conscious about touching my hair and why I do this. It is not easy since I tend to do it a lot. But I noticed: I do it when I feel uncomfortable. When I think someone is looking at me, when I have to speak but I feel shy, why I don't know what to say, when I am writing on my laptop but don't know what to write or how to write it.
It also happens during yoga class. When I enter the shala in the morning, I lay down my mat and start to fumble and fidgeting. My hair, my clothes, my face. As if I am scared to start the practice. As if I don't know if I am ready to do the practice. I think I feel a bit nervous, still. Being at the shala, first thing in the morning, being surrounded by all these advanced practitioners, being there with my insecure feelings about whether I am not too old to be here, whether I will ever be able to practice the complete Primary Series, etc.
Luckily, I always get my self together and start my practice. But then I fidget and fumble during practice, in between asanas. Maybe because I am afraid of doing Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana or that I don't think I can do Urdhva Dhanurasana. Since noticing this, I talk to myself. I ask myself what it is I am feeling uncomfortable with. Do I feel lost, do I feel shy because the teacher is looking at me, am I nervous about the next posture, am I thinking I cannot do it, or am I feeling insecure. This morning I forgot to do Utthita Parsvakonasana and Parivrtta Parsvakonasana. I only realized this when I was doing Utkatasana. My mind began to race:
'!! I forgot two poses!'
'Did the teacher noticed it?'
'Do I have to go back?'
I calmed myself - after doing some fidgeting - and said everything is okay and don't worry about it and pay more attention now and do the poses tomorrow, and I went going.
I am still reading the book Guruji, through the eyes of his students. So many stories, so much wisdom. So much to take in before I am going to sleep.
On my mind is still my job and why it is not making me feel satisfied. My ideas and thoughts run around during the day.
'Maybe I should write another book.'
'Maybe I should become a yoga teacher.'
'Maybe I should go to Mysore for months and sell my house and go live with my parents.'
'Maybe I should concentrate on the positive things about my job.'
'Maybe I should work at a vegan restaurant.'
And on and on and on and on. I am happy when I am home after work, cook dinner, do the dishes, then some reading and go to bed early so I can go to my Mysore Class in the morning.
Luckily I came across the chapter in the book Guruji where Sharath was interviewed.
Through Guruji I had to change not only my body but my lifestyle.I had so many friends, and they used to call for parties, and I had to say no, and I slowly got more serious about yoga practice. My mind totally changed, my focus changed. After five in the evening my mind would go to tomorrow's practice. When that is there, you don't think about other things, you don't have distractions.'
I still have distractions. Lots of them. They are about my in satisfaction. Or about me wanting something which will give me more fulfillment during the day.
This week I practiced five times. I started on Sunday with the Led Class, and then from Tuesday - Friday. Monday was a Moonday. My BF says he never saw me this happy and satisfied and positive in all the years he's known me (I think this is about ten years). So Ashtanga is giving me pleasure and fulfillment and joy. But somehow I am still very much distracted by negative thoughts about my job.
Lucky for me, now I can take a break from work as I have vacation now. For three whole weeks!
I took this picture in Zanzibar
What is awful about my current job?
What is great about my current job?
Two questions. Many answers.
It's great that I have a job. That I get paid for sitting behind a desk. That I can drink tea while working. That I have fun and sweet colleagues and the nicest manager I could wish for. That making a living keeps me independent. Hmm, I am not completely answering the questions. The questions are: what is great about my current job and what is awful about my current job?
Great: Getting paid enough. Working 9-5, so evenings and weekends are free. Working at a fancy office. Being able to go to Mysore Class before work. Nice manager, sweet colleagues. Doing work I am good at. Having contact with clients who can make my day.
Awful: Working 9-5, being part of that type of society. Clients who can break my day. Being stuck at a desk for forty hours a week. Boredom. Unsatisfying feeling because it is 'just paperwork'. Too little creativity. Too little really helping people. Too little physical movement during the day. Doing work I hardly take an interest in. Not being proud of what I do. Telling strangers I don't like my job. Feeling embarrassed when somebody asks me what I do.
Oh no. I do need a plan. I have to make a plan.
Picture of the bike I could buy because of my current job
On Saturday I went to a small dance party. Outside, in the park. Two stages, one deep house and the other techno. I left home and decided to not take my bike. I went walking. It took me about half an hour but it was a nice walk. As I came closer to the park, I could hear the house music. It gave me goosebumps. House music is something you love or you hate. I know people who hate it. But I think I know why. These people don't like dancing (because they think they cannot do it). House music to me is great. It gives me energy, it makes me feel happy, it makes me feel love all the people who smile at me while I am dancing.
I went by myself, but I knew there were already some friends at the party. We met, we chatted, we danced, they had beer and I had water. The first few hours, I was wondering: Shall I have beer too? But I knew that if I was going to drink beer, that I could not make it to the Ashtanga Led Class at 8.30 AM the next morning. And I felt it in every cell of my body that I definitely wanted to go the the class, even though it was a Saturday and I was dancing at a party. So I decided to stay away from the beers. It was not so hard as I imagined, but that was merely because my friends didn't mention it. I know that if someone was asking me: 'Hey, why are drinking water, What is the matter? Are you sick? Pregnant? Boring?' that it bothers me. But this didn't happen.
A man next to me started talking to me. He said that this guy had been talking to him for an hour and that he was tired of it and he asked me if him and I could have a chat.
'Of course,' I said.
We chit-chatted a bit. He was funny and serious at the same time. He asked about my job.
I said that I didn't wanted to talk about work.
He asked why.
'Because it is Saturday and I am at a party.'
'Don't you like your job?' he asked.
'No, not so much,' I answered. ' But I have a plan.'
'Tell me about this plan of yours,' he said.
'I am going to continue to work this job for two years. Then I am going to quit and I am off to India for a few months to think about what I am going to do after that.' I smiled at him.
He looked at me if I was crazy and said: 'That is not a plan.'
'No, it is not. And besides, if you don't like your job, you should not stay there for two more years. You should leave in two months.'
I stopped smiling.
'You should have a plan.'
'I just told you my plan.'
'And I said, that is not a plan. You have to think about what you want to do. What you really want. And make it happen. Don't go to India to try to feel what you want to do. Start your plan now.'
I felt like I could cry. Somehow I worried he was right.
I just realized it. Really realized it. My injury is gone. My ankle is fine again. It's not hurting anymore, and I can do the Mari's. I can sit in Padmasana and do Utpluti.
A few weeks, even days ago, I would never thought it would ever go away. I thought I was to stay stuck at Janushirasana forever. So the biggest lesson to be learned here for me is:
things will pass, eventually. You learn some patience and it will happen. Everything passes. Fun things, hard things, difficult things, easy things, love things. They all pass. Things change, all the time.
I've learned from my injury, I think. That I don't have to stop hurrying. That I need to be gentle to my body. That, even though I myself can be careful, still things can happen to me. It is not in my control.
I remembered what my yoga friend E. said to me during lunch: 'You can always come back at a decision you've made before.' This too has got to do with things changing. If today I am saying to my BF that I've decided that I am going to stay with him forever, I still can change this decision tomorrow.
Today I've decided that I am going to go to Mysore in 2019.
This morning, Mari D again was possible. On one side, I could bind myself.
'Muy Bien, muy bien,' said the teacher and she smiled. 'You don't need me anymore.'
'Oh, yes,' I answered. 'Please help me on the other side. It's my dark side.'
I felt relieved. I thought: If Mari D is possible, anything is possible. When I started my practice this morning, I felt like sh*t. Yesterday I met with E. for lunch. E. used to be my yoga teacher, now he is my yoga friend as we practice in the same Mysore Class every morning.
E. has been to Mysore. He started telling about it. It sounded like heaven, Ashtanga heaven. I talked a bit about myself and my past. At one point he said: 'You are a real ashtangi.' I felt proud but I also thought: Is that a good thing? We had been talking about drugs, alcohol, sex and addictions. I asked if I wasn't just replacing one addiction with another. The other addiction being Ashtanga.
E. told me that he is fantasizing about going again to Mysore. That he's secretly been saving money for it. He wants to go in October of 2019. I immediately said: 'If you are going, then I am going too.' The rest of the day I spent thinking about my job, how to save as much money as possible, about going to India, for three months.
The idea of going to India in 2019 for three months is very exciting, but I immediately started worrying. That I need money. That I want to quit my job so I can go for three months. That if I return after three months, I will need a new job. Worries, worries, worries. It made me sad. It made me sad because I realized I am absolutely and totally insecure about myself. I don't trust myself. I don't trust the universe. All this I realized when I was practicing. I wanted to cry because it was so clear to me how I think about myself. If my friend was telling me his sorrows, I would say that he didn't needed to worry, because he has brains, he knows people, he has family and friends, he never once was without a job. I couldn't understand why I could not say these things to myself. It was an eyeopener. I have to build my self esteem. I have to trust myself. Then I got to Mari D. And I thought: If Mari D. is possible, anything is possible.
I took this picture in Miami, Florida
So. I turned 40 and I wasn't feeling bubbly. On the contrary. I felt heavy, stressed out and looking back: I wasn't myself. Even though I just got a new job which I enjoyed and I had my first novel published, I didn't feel exited about life. Given the fact that I'd always wanted to have my own book published, I should've felt proud and ecstatic, but I didn't. I felt tired, and maybe a bit depressed.
I took a three week vacation and all I did was fantasize about being 67 so I could stop working. I counted the weeks before my retirement. If I saw my book in a store, I felt embarrassed. This was not going well.
Luckily, my boss saw my stress and acknowledged her own. We had to get help. She hired an assistant, for her and for me. The first few weeks it got worse, because I had to instruct this assistant and learn her a a lot of things. But I really liked her, we got along really well and she made my work a bit more lighter. This was step one.
Step two: I returned to do yoga. But not Ashtanga. I wanted to relax, unwind, take care of my tired body. So I took Vinyasa, Yin, Jivamukti and Restorative. In a week, I would go to three different yoga studios. It felt good and I started to heal myself. Then one studio started to offer Ashtanga yoga. I thought: maybe I should give it another try. And I did. I took a lesson, a led class half primary, on a Saturday morning. It felt good, sweating and flowing and breathing.
Now my body and mind were up for it. The next week I went back.
I started going to class it twice a week. Next I was practicing a bit at home, with the help of YouTube videos. I got really excited about the practice. My teacher told the class that he was going to go to India, to Mysore. This was the first time I heard about Mysore. I started reading about it. When this teacher returned from India, he told me that he practiced Mysore at 6 AM in the morning in a studio near my house, three times a week. I felt I wanted to do that too. But I hesitated for months. Thought I could not ever jump out of bed so early. Thought it was only for very advanced students. Worried about not being good enough, worried about getting tired, about not being able to maintain a normal life, about how to combine a practice with my job.
One day I set aside my worries, hesitations and doubts. I went to my first Mysore Class at 6 AM. This was three months ago. This morning I could bind in Marichyasana D.
The picture says: It is difficult to make a choice. But sometimes you just have to do it.
"You come to it for one thing and later you find yourself sitting in a room in Mysore."
David Swenson said this in the book Guruji, A Portrait of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Through the Eyes of His Students. It is a great read, this book. His students, who are now well known teachers around the globe, talk about life in Mysore, back in the days. And about Guruji. About Ashtanga Yoga.
I read it for half an hour in bed before going to sleep. And when I wake up, it is my time to do Ashtanga.
Why did you start practicing yoga? Do you remember?
I certainly do.
I'd had an extremely busy time. In September of 2014 I'd started a new job for forty hours a week with a lot of stress and responsibilities. On top of that, I had a book coming out. I'd written a novel, and had sent it to maybe ten publishers. Nobody would wanted to publish it and I'd almost forgotten about it. Especially when I started this new job, I thought: better to forget about the book and focus on my work. It was more than enough. But then: Expect the Unexpected: a publisher mailed me and wanted to talk about the manuscript. I took the train to Amsterdam and had a meeting about a possible book. We had an agreement and they would publish the book on my fortieth birthday (this was in March of 2015). I started panicking because it was already November and the book was not even finished. I had to read it at least ten times, make adjustments, change sentences, paragraphs, whole pages, skip a lot and be satisfied with it. A hell of a job.
From Monday till Friday I worked at the office of my new job, panicking. On Saturday and Sunday I would be working on my book, stressed out. I started feeling not so good. I had migraines and I didn't sleep very well. I was tense all the time. I didn't want to make any mistake at the office, and I wanted to do a good job with the book. There were chapters in the book I hesitated about, but it was too late to rewrite them completely.
Finally, after a whole lot of stressed times, the book was published. I'd expected that I would've made me proud for the rest of my life. It didn't. It was the opposite: the book coming out made me feel vulnerable. Everybody could read it: my parents, ex-lovers, family, colleagues, my boss. I was tense the whole time. I needed something to relax me. The wellness center with the hot tubs was not enough. I went to a yoga studio. They offered Ashtanga. I didn't know what Ashtanga was. I took a couple of lessons, and I quit. I thought it was too demanding, too harsh, too difficult, to rigid. All the things I didn't want in my free time.
To be continued
I did it.
I did it!
I took the Sunday Led Class for advanced students.
This week I admitted to my yoga-friend E that I was nervous to go to this Class. That I knew I felt intimidated by the advanced yogi's, the ones who are strong and flexible as no other, who teach yoga themselves, who live and breath yoga, who make money by teaching yoga, who are practicing second and maybe third series.
E. never took this Sunday Led Class, but he's been to Mysore, India, he teaches yoga himself and he believes in me. I talked to him about going to this class.
'No coffee, no prana,' he said.
'I don't drink coffee. But should I eat breakfast?'
'Only a little?'
'Maybe some fruit. But better not.'
'But Class starts at 8.30 AM. And I won't be home before 10 AM. I am going to be hungry as hell.'
'You'll be fine. Your body will get used to it.'
'What do I do after Navasana?'
'So I continue my practice? I don't wait?'
'You keep going.'
His best advice was: 'Go lay close to the door. You'll be finishing your practice as the first one. So when you'll leave the shala, you won't be bothering too many people.'
Ekam inhale. The counting was in sanskrit. The teacher mentioned the names of the asanas. I was impressed. I lay next to the door. The counting was fast, I liked it. When we got to Marichyasana A, two people stopped. I didn't. I did Mari A, B, C en D with help of the teacher. Somehow it calmed my worries, that I wasn't the first one to stop in the practice. That I was doing fine, even though I am a newbie.
I came home at 10 AM. I didn't feel hungry. I felt excited. Pumped up. My BF was still in bed, I woke him up. I started chatting, enthusiastic and happy. I felt like I could run a 100 miles. My BF advised me to go outside and take a walk, to lose some of my energy. I think this was in his benefit too, as I talked his ears off.