27 Oct 2011

Bandha biking

Finally procured a road bike, been wanting one for years.  Someone was about to throw this away. I pleaded for it, she was determined it was too old and broken and it was to be disposed of. Nooooo! Managed to persuade her to let me have it, saying if it was a lost cause I would be more than happy to dispose of it.

When I went to collect it, it was in a terrible state. I took it home, wiped off the black grime and saw the blue paint. Mavic rims and cogs and parts looking good. The tubular tyres were disintegrating yet still stuck on to the rims.

Took a while and some elbow grease, new tyres, brakes, gear lever wire and a wipe down with thinners. Now, well to me, it's beautiful. Fast, light and most gratifyingly nimble.

Perfect with my theme for the year light and simple.

Although the first few rides gave me a very literal pain in the arse. Consulted with my cyclist friends. They proceeded to impart their knowledge to this fledging road cyclist with sore bottom.

They said to tilt the pelvis very slightly, lift the pelvic floor muscles and contract the area below the navel.

Ha! Mula and Uddiyana bandas! Cool, yoga practice while zooming around the city. And you know what? It works! As I focused on my bandhas while cycling home I felt the weight lift a little, the pressure was eased, and there was a slight increase in power. Of course like a good little sadhana (practitioner) add to the bandhas work, chin slightly tilted down, eyes lightly focused ahead, full concentration on the road and randomness that accompanies commuting on Japanese roads, deep rhythmic breathing and I have me a new little practice here. The biggest part of which is not getting totally pissed of at cars making attempts on my life. Ahimsa on the road, ha....gonna take some serious practice. But am practicing and it is coming, slowly.

As for the asana practice. This too is coming nicely, also slowly.  Oh needed an excuse to post a picture of the biggest tree in Yamagata.  Pretty cool.

21 Oct 2011

Friday Primary

Straight-down-the-line-traditional-primary-sequence, no frills, no variations.  What can I say. It does the job. Effeciently working on everything in that neat little block of time before breakfast. Perfect.
It's been a while since I had a good, full, unrushed primary practice, even saw a bit of Garbha Pindasana action.  Now that has been a while, finally getting back on form again.  As soon as the weather turned cold my body went into 'prepare for hibernation' mode, which generally seems to consist of eating as much high calorie food as possible. I have finally managed to rein in the appetite.  I was beginning to feel heavy and lethargic. 

The past weekend Tarik Thami came up to hold three days of mysore class.  It was a good gathering. It was great to see so many fellow ashtangi.  About half the people came from neighbouring prefectures.  Hadn't seen some people for years.  Practicing with a teacher there to help out is great, to be pushed a little, and not least of all, to be able to practice in a strong group. Three days of uninterrupted  intermediate sequence up to Karandavasana, with assistance. Dwi Pada Sirasana is slowly slowly coming, so nice to have help in that one.

13 Oct 2011

Moon mountain 月山 moon day

Somewhere I read a quote from Guru Krishnamurti:
"When one loses the deep intimate relationship with nature then temples, mosques and churches become important."

This area of Japan has three mountains which are sacred for the Shugendo, mountain ascetics, for whom englightenment is to attain oneness with spirit. Awakening is obtained through understanding the relationship between man and nature. The Shugendo focus on the developement of spiritual experience and power. Their training grounds are the mountains.

Thus inspired, off I trot to the holy mountains.

In Buddhist thinking asana are meditation.

Focus the mind.

Walking up a mountain, focus and connection with a strong energy of the mountain......or could just be the slightly thinner air and intense exertion making me feel a bit high.
Standing firm at 1984 metres Gassan is the highest mountain of the three holy mountains in this area in Japan. Symbolising death. I like to think of it as the Shiva mountain, destruction and death. It is the more difficult of the three to climb. Often cold and very windy at the top.

So walking up mountains. Pretty intense. Very much like yoga. I have been walking up the same mountain. It's been my extra practice these past few weeks. There are many mountains, but I stuck with the same one. It is an impressive mountain, and the walk is beautiful. First up gradually through a valley, with velvety green spine like ridges, then up on to the ridge, exposed, the back side, with a view of more mountain spines and valleys, then the ascent up the rocks to the blustery and usually cloudy peak. Finally reaching the stone steps to the shrine on the peak. Under the tori gate to the inner sanctum built in 593AD. There is a crescent moon carving in front of the alter, again recalling Shiva, who often has a crescent moon in his hair. It is the moon mountain. Today the bottom was a warm, mild sunny day, yet at the top it was gray, bleak and incredibly windy. Crouching down low so as not to be knocked off your feet.

I noticed how the weather effects my perception of the route up the mountain. How the rocks in bad weather look dark, hard, cold, slate gray, ominous, but how the same rocks in fine weather take on beautiful blue gray hues, look warm and solid, inviting one to hop and skip.

Made me ponder how our emotions are the weather of our mind. How the same bike ride to work can look so different. Once, on a low point, I remember how nothing was shining or looking beautiful, I saw nothing to photograph. Knowing full well it was my mind projecting this. The feeling of a slight, gray fog, a veil to life. Much better when mind is healthy, good weather days, surroundings shine no matter what the physical weather as long at the internal is fair. I read once that sun salutations bring sunlight to the soul, and indeed they do. When we have sunlight in the soul the outer weather patterns won't affect us so profoundly, our environment will always show us beauty.

Mind you, getting caught in the rain on the way to work still sucks.

 Oh yeah, and practice has been ok.  It's been there, between work and mountains, slow progress but feeling good.  Practicing, practicing, practicing...