Loin Girding

One gets up a little tired. The yoga mat comes out. One goes back to bed. One gets up again, one has all day, it’s a weekend, no major plans, or rather a set of plans that can all fit in together, don’t you worry. One makes breakfast instead, after taking tea to the princess. The morning is passing. After a bit, one must decide between the beckoning yoga mat and one’s daily coffee, yum. One puts the yoga mat away. After all, one has all day.

Lunch. Then into the post-prandial period. Can’t do yoga just yet. One must wait an hour or more, for the ingested to be ingested. The clock ticks.

One gets out the mat, climbs onto it, does a tadasana, and decides it’s not yet time, don’t have the energy, despite the twinges in one’s back from sitting at the motherfucking computer for a couple of hours today and for all yesterday.

One’s loins are not yet girded. What can one do?

Of course the principle is: do yoga anyway. But until one has started, and continued, one isn’t actually doing yoga, is one?

Four-thirty. Put a DVD on, let Shawnee Cornee or Rodnee Yee teach me. No, not that one. Not that one. Not that. No, not that one.

And then one is on the mat. One has framed a decision: I will do three-quarters of this class from this book. If it turns into a full class, WTF, that would be better, but I’ll make no promises.

The class finishes, I managed everything up to the last five poses and cut to the chase scene or shavasana. A minute as a corpse, then time to make dinner.

Loins still not girded, but at least I squeezed in a stretch or two. Life isn’t very tidy, is it?


The Yoga Of Poverty Spending

If yoga be yoke (there’s a magazine that says it is, and probably a dictionary somewhere, and a series of ancestral communications that transformed one word into the other, and a guru before that) then it should be able to help me.

I have that burning urge to spend. Spend money, lots of money. On the internet, in a shop, wherever. I want to buy another shirt, and a Karcher or Gurney, some percussion instruments like that rain tube and maracas and a cabasa and chimes, and a new carpet, and lots of books including the rest of the Cerebus The Aardvark series, and a new phone and a new computer, and some confit de canard, and a tractor, and things for my family (new clothes, a computer for each son, games, a filing cabinet, art products), and so much music, and gold passes to the Dungog Festival, and plane tickets, and an assistant, and a kit-home yoga room/music room combination, and the game Carcassonne, and more chickens, and more pavers, and some cattle-yards and cattle, and a hat to perform in, and tons more internet (it’s very expensive round here), and more cookbooks, and more memory in the form of cards & USB & hard drives, and season tickets to the STC and Belvoir and Griffin, and the complete Arden Shakespeare but all new copies, and lessons lots of lessons, and new golf clubs, and a couple of kayaks, and a new set of camping gear, and new swimmers, and a beach holiday, and a trip to Japan, hell a trip to anywhere, and a trip to a dead posh restaurant maybe in Denmark, and a trip to Tassie to Mona & the lake and the sea, and French lessons, and a massage, and a subscription to the Sydney Symphony and ACO and Sydney Dance Company, and a week in London catching shows, and some good SD cards and a higher end editing program for editing films, and hundreds of dollars of sound samples, and some beautiful stationery, and more yoga videos, and new glasses, and black shoe polish, and tickets to some performance art, and Proust by Beckett, and steel-capped boots, and walking boots, oh and a whole bunch more.

Mindfulness teaches us to take in the feeling, to feel the feeling, that feeling of shopping desire in this case.

Yoga, the yoke, teaches us to focus on the flow or on the detail. In this case the detail and flow of not buying things I can’t afford. Just do the living, the life. Distract self by deciding to use the things I have already bought or that have come to me by various routes whether inheritance gift or theft. Use and burrow more deeply. Read unread books, learn instruments I have, wear clothes I don’t wear often enough, go for a bushwalk just outside my door.

Yoga teaches to use what we have, there’s plenty to be done there. And so I shall. And maybe I’ll buy some black shoe polish next time I get a chance. It’s not much but it’s needed.

The war of savasana

No war. Not in my 20s, 30s, 40s. Now in my 50s every savasana (corpse pose, natch) is a battleground. Once the position’s been all assumed and everything and the instructor’s voice has begun to waft through the room, weariness wafts with it.

Oh, and I’m told I snore. Not loudly like a chainsaw but at a mid-volume like a diesel engine through a wall. Though without that dysentery sound diesel engines make.

This is the battle – I must combat this weariness. I set up a beachhead by opening my eyes wider without opening the lids. I probably look insane, raising and lowering my eyebrows as if I don’t quite believe the instructor’s instructions. Then I survey the surrounding dunes and brush for telltale signs of the enemy. A missed instruction, a falling sensation, a sleep spasm, these must be taken out if glimpsed by the sniper fire of my attention. I rock my hips, squeeze my PCC muscle, I know, it’s not relaxing but my mission is to relax only to the point where I don’t nod off. It’s a balancing act.

The wafting voice goes like this. “Your knee, the ligaments and kneecap, the tendons, relax them. Your left thigh, let it soften, the muscles, bones, gristle, relax them. The left hip, breathe into the hip. Your chin, jaw, neck, soften them, calm them, relax them.” I try to convince myself the instructor got confused and left out the entire torso, both arms and most of the head. I know that’s not what happened.

We sit up, say “namaste” and start packing our gear, another battle lost. I turn to my neighbour and ask:

“Did I snore?”

The Upward Bow Poses

Urdva Dhanurasana, upward bow. The book suggests that you do more than one – they get easier! The book has lots of ideas about rising onto your head, then lifting into the pose. The book shows more advanced ways of getting in. The book suggests repeating 3-6 times (see note 0). But the book wasn’t written by a person who lives in his head and isn’t quite sure where any part of his body is at any moment: have you seen me dance?

Anyhow. Do forearm balance, make a camel, pretend you’re a locust, that’s enough preparation, I’m ready to go.

These are my upward bow poses.

The first is the miracle, the amazed reminder I can actually do these poses that terrified me for twenty years (see note 1).

The second is the fixer, remembering the things that didn’t feel right when I did the first one all that long long minute ago (note 2).

The third is the expected one: I know I can do three, I also know I can stop at three. It’s the target upward bow pose, anything more being gravy, anything less a little disappointing. The third is a little deeper and stronger (note 3).

The fourth is the first bonus multiplier extra ball (note 4), and can be followed by a giggle like the giggle after a chiropractor cracks my neck.

The fifth is rare (see note 5).

The sixth is the miracle (note 6).

Time for a seated twist!


0. Does that mean altogether do 4-7 poses? I wish they were clearer.

1: And still terrifies me today, until I go up that first time.

2. This is the simplest one.

3. And yet ironically shakier, reminding me I shouldn’t bet on making it to six.

4. Pinball reference.

5. Yet it’s my ego booster. I can announce to my lovely love: I did five today! Five!

6. Again.

Ancillary pleasure of yoga part 1

Settling into the first pose – and breathing out with my whole body.

A student, generally a modest one, who does the poses with such finesse you can’t help being inspired.

Knowing how to set up for a pose.

The whole class doing ujjayi breathing – a sound of harmony – or is it a sound – perhaps it’s someone harmonising with me.

The day not a single balance goes right.

The line dancing class next door starting up at 6.30pm.

Giving over the money for a term.

Fifteen bleary, quiet, early morning students arriving. No one talking.

Coming out of a pose and realising a late-comer has set up, quietly, seamlessly, beside you.

The sudden shocking unexpected left-field and utterly accurate reminder to breathe.

Beer O’Clock Is Yoga O’Clock

Do you remember how loose and floppy you feel when you’ve taken magic mushrooms?

Needing a beer and needing yoga in equal amounts (I have a penis) I decided to experiment by doing both. I opened a Coopers red and pulled out the yoga blue (mat) and one of the books I use to give me yoga ideas without having to do any actual thinking at all, and started. Suck on the amber, shift into Tadasana. Suck on the amber, do a dog pose. Suck on the amber,  check the book, ah, move into good ol’ Tricky Asana.

Yeah, I could cope with this. I have to admit that I didn’t have the wherewithal to get the boys to take a photo of me – that would have been sensible. While I was moving into Warrior I pose, I suddenly had an insight into how I could make a script I was editing come to life. Of course! Suck on the amber, get down into ustrasana.

I think I was expecting to do worse than I did. But that magic mushroom floopness meant I had enough disinhibition to be relaxed and not so much that I would vomit over the fireplace as I came out of reverse trikonasana. So I almost leapt into a couple of backbends.

The greatest challenges were the inversions. Unsurprisingly, frothy sugary alcoholic beverages don’t like being turned upside-down in a human body. I decided a third backbend was untenable: I’m not Wonder Woman, to quote Bernard Black.

Suck on some more and – oh what the fuck, I thought I might as well finish the routine. Headstand. Not my best idea. Shoulderstand. I should have listened to my body after headstand. Halasana (you can picture that one yourself, you’re upside-down AND you’re kind of creasing your tummy and resting your toes on the floor).

The irony is: I only had one beer. We yogic lads are a little poofy. I decided against corpse pose. Not wasted enough.

Would I do it again? Yes, but I’d really have to have some Red Hot Chilli Peppers playing. And maybe try a martini.

A man gets out

A man gets out his yoga mat, belt, blanket and block. He stands against the wall in tadasana, the mountain pose. The phone goes. He wrestles with the problem of whether he should answer it. His wife is in bed still having the cup of tea he just made her. He doesn’t like his princess to have to get out of bed in the mornings. She’s not good at mornings. Even though she’s a yoga teacher. Hmm, he has an idea for a blog: semi-sensible beginnings to statements that end “… even though he/she is a yoga teacher.”

He loves the taste of offal, even though he is a yoga teacher. She’s forever running red lights, even though she’s a yoga teacher. He has wispy uncontrollable hair, even though he’s a yoga teacher.

The phone has stopped ringing. His wife calls from the bedroom, “Drop your shoulderblades, pull your lower ribs in.” Sometimes he thinks his life consists of attempts to drop his shoulderblades and pull his ribs in. Other times he thinks his life is merely a parade of attempts to lift his arches and remember to breathe.

Suddenly he realises that he’s misread the clock (maybe he’s not much better at mornings himself). He got the hands mixed up, something he has no recollection of ever doing before.  He had trouble telling the time, even though he practised yoga at home regularly. He has to get ready and go to work. Maybe that phone call was about work. He puts away his mat, belt, block and blanket, conscious that he just undertook the shortest yoga class in history. He can’t even count the tadasana, since he never got time to drop his shoulderblades and pull his ribs in.

He is me and I am he. But this blog isn’t only about me, myself and he. Well, there will be something about my own yoga “practice” and my attempts to live forever in perfect health with busty blondes, sorry, to keep my body in OK shape and my soul in saleable condition with yoga.

But it is about the lived experience of yoga. There will be moments of bliss and poetic celebration. There will be other moments where basically one simply must laugh in the face of the agony. Moments of truth, of intimacy. There will be other people’s stories, and I hope enough familiar stuff that everyone who’s ever dragged mat onto floor and body onto mat and heard those word “Come to the front of your mat, feet together …” will find relatable. Oh, and a few explorations, some damn’d opinionations, and lots of lists.

So there. Welcome to A Pillow Book Of Yoga. I hope you agree with my Sanskrit spellings. Namaste.few explorations, some damn’d opinionations, and lots of lists. So there. Welcome to A Pillow Book Of Yoga. I hope you agree with my Sanskrit spellings. Namaste.