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Day 30!!!

Wow so this Friday was day 30.  I did it and I love it.  The other day while I was relaxing in some restorative asana, I was struck with feeling of thankfulness.  I am so appreciative of the two teachers who agreed to trade classes with me so that I could come to yoga class regularly even when I couldn’t afford to pay for it.  These first regular classes (three days a week) really helped me to fall in love with yoga in an irreversible way.  I am grateful to Tzahi Moskovitz and Melissa Montilla for helping me to continue my studies, take regular classes and for showing me what a good teacher is.  I hope to take many more classes from these two teachers.

After practicing these past 30 days I have realized that this is how I wish my practice to be.  I have committed to myself to practice daily from now on but to not be as rigid about it as I have been these past 30 days (I don’t want to do sick yoga again).  I truly have seen benefits from just 30 days of continuous practice and wish to continue to see these benefits.  My mind has been more restful.  I have not been so mental and have felt more at ease with myself.  My body has also felt comfortable and strong.  The next thing that I wish to incorporate into my practice is a small portion of mantra meditation.  I do chant one Maha Mantra in my mind whenever I teach or practice yoga but I wish to chant 108 every time I practice.  Yoga’s goal is “the yoking of all the powers of body, mind and soul to God” and this path I have just begun to look at with sincerity.

“The young, the old, the extremely aged, even the sick and the infirm obtain perfection in Yoga by constant practice.  Success will follow him who practices, not him who practices not.  Success in Yoga is not obtained by the mere theoretical reading of sacred texts.  Success is not obtained by wearing the dress of a yogi or a sanyasi, nor by talking about it.  Constant practice alone is the secret of success.  Verily, there is not doubt of this”  Hatha Yoga Pradipika.

Surrender to God.

Day 23, 24, 25 and 26.

So I must admit to a bit of slacking on the writing front (not on yoga) on Saturday, however I was fully intending to write on Sunday but I became ill and have been fighting sickness for the past few days.  Although I probably could have written I thought it best to conserve my energy for more important things like giving Surya her bath and feeding her.

Although I have been ill I have still been practicing yoga due to the commitment I made for thirty days of yoga.  I have come to the conclusion that yoga is not really that beneficial to a sick body.  I did do only restorative practices but really cannot truthfully say that they were very beneficial practices.  I didn’t feel the benefits in my mind or body from yoga that I usually do feel.

On Friday I usually go to class but because of a friends wedding I skipped class and practiced alone for the first time in a while.  One thing that I noticed was that I was able to concentrate and focus on my practice more so than in the past.  I can only attribute this to the daily yoga that I have been doing for the past 26 days.  I must admit to a bit of laziness when it comes to doing Surya Namaskar and other strenuous asana on my own, but Friday I was on it.  Saturday, Sunday and Monday were filled with much yumminess using bolsters, blocks, blankets and straps.

Day 21 & Day 22

Day 21 was Wednesday and we got back to basics and did an nice, hour long beginner’s practice.  The basics are always good for really working on alignment.  I can usually find something to adjust in Trikonasana, generally its my big toe mound not pressing down enough on my front leg, or it could also be my bottom shoulder that needs to be moved back (although I am getting better at this one).  I can also appreciate not having to sweat as much when I’m doing a beginner class.  This particular day I was also appreciating not feeling so sore from Bharatanatyam dance class the night before.

Day 22 we practiced a class leading up to Virabhadrasana III.  Funnily, as I was watching a movie with Ram the night before I suddenly got inspired to write a class leading to Vira III, and so I did.  I don’t often practice Vira III because…well because it is quite difficult.  This particular asana takes a lot of core strength and some good butt muscle.  I have to work hard to not let my belly go and sink into my low back.  It was a good practice:  sweaty, hard work, and good relaxation afterward.  My butt is still sore.

On another note, my dear grandma is not doing so well.  Grandma developed an infection in her chest after undergoing hip surgery to fix her broken hip.  The doctor initially said she had only two days to live but it seems he was wrong.  I spoke with her yesterday on the phone (she is in Wales, UK) and while she is slowly doing better she sounded so weak and could only speak for 5 minutes.  She told me she was in a lot of pain and had a hard time brushing her teeth in the morning.  I tried to hold it together until I got off the phone but it was difficult.  Please say a prayer for my Grandma to find some comfort and be freed from her pain.

Surya and her great-grandmother, my grandmother.

Day 20

Yay for day 20!  I am so happy to have practiced yoga for 20 days straight (it’s really 22 days because when I made this commitment I had practiced the two preceding days) and still be loving it.  I am even looking forward to my daily yoga session.

So today we did an early morning practice right after Ram dropped Surya off at school.  The class we did was leading up to Urdhva Dhanurasana, not sure of the English name.  Anyways, me and this pose have a sort of love/hate relationship going.  Back-bends were always easy for me to do but this particular back-bend always gave me a severe pinching feeling in my low back so I could never stay up for long.  It came as a revelation when, during yoga teacher training, I was told that you must actually strive to lengthen your low back in Urdhva Dhanurasana by bringing the flesh of the buttocks to the backs of the knees.  Although practicing in this way is harder work, it is good work as it allows me to stay in the pose for much longer, and without any pinching feeling.  Due to the flexibility in my back it is easy for me to not be as controlled as I should be in back bends, and just sink into my low back.  But now I really take it slow and go for control and proper alignment.

Day 18 & 19.

Day 18 was Sunday and we decided to take a family trip to our favorite beach, Anastasia State Park.

Beautiful Anastasia.

The weather was perfect, not too sunny and not too hot.  We played on the beach for a while and then, just as we were about to take a stroll we saw some dolphins frolicking in the water right in front of us.  There were about six dolphins who played, and surfed right near to us for about ten minutes before moving on.  It was beautiful to see.  After our stroll along the shore we got down to some yoga.  It was interesting practicing in the sand.  I am used to the ground beneath my feet in downward facing dog being solid but on the beach it was more fluid.  It was a challenge to jump forward from the ditch my feet had made during down dog but was really nice to see the ocean and hear the waves while practicing.  Also, the wind prevented me from sweating too much.  We ended up the day with the playground and some ice cream.  Just Perfect!

Frolicking while we stroll.

Fancy sand castle.

Since the last two days were relatively easy and shortish (30 min) practices, we decided to step it up for Monday’s practice.  Since arm balances are my weak point, we did an arm balance class that I had written down from our teacher training.  There were some Vashistasana, Bakasana, Parsva Bakasana and Bhujapidasana mixed in to the class.  Challenging to say the least.  I think the fact that I have quite a few extra pounds on my body make it that much more difficult to lift myself up.  More practice I think is in order.

Days 15, 16 and 17.

Day 15 fell on the Vyasa Puja of my parents guru Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.  It is amazing to me that a man that I never had the good fortune to meet, has shaped my life in so many ways.  If it wasn’t for him I would not have the bhakti-filled upbringing I had, and probably would not have met many of my dear friends.  After the sweet Vyasa Puja kirtan and feast I had to wait a while before practicing yoga.  Nevertheless when I did eventually get to it, it was a fabulous class of intense practice for an hour.

Day 16 was Friday, the one day a week I have time to practice under the guidance of a teacher.  Melissa’s class was, as usual, a butt kicker and I was, as usual, dripping sweat.  The class lead up to Salamba Sarvangasana or shoulderstand with many variations and I left class feeling divine.  Thank you Melissa!  I do feel my body getting stronger everyday and I’m loving it!

Day 17 was a Saturday which happened to be the first Gator game and also Ekadasi (the twice monthly day we fast from grains).  Ram was headed to the game so Surya and I went to a friend’s house to get in on the Gator action.  The action ended up not being so great but it was fun hanging with friends.  So great was the friend time, that we didn’t leave until 1am at which time I had still not done yoga!  Ram made the argument that technically it was the next day and thus I had skipped a day but I say that if I am still up then I will count it as the same day.  I figured that if I didn’t do some yoga then I would have to restart my 30 days, so we had a 1am 30min restorative practice which was actually kind of sweet.

Today is the most auspicious day in the Vaisnava calendar.  It is Sri Krishna Janmashtami or the day Sri Krishna appeared on this planet over 5000 years ago.  This special day is celebrated around the world by hundreds of thousands of people who spend the day singing, dancing, chanting, fasting and serving.  Many Krishna bhaktas observe a fast on this day and do not partake of any food until midnight.  As a child this day was always special and is still one of my favourite days in the year.  Today we woke and went to the temple to take darshan.  On this day the pujaris decorate the altar with loads of flowers and everything is especially beautiful and festive.

Sri Radha Shyamasundar

After the morning arotik I headed over to a friends house to make hundreds of sweet balls to give out at the temple in the evening.  We had fun as there were quite a few girls there and we chatted as we worked.  I think we ended up making 1500 “simply wonderfuls” which took about four hours.  I must admit that I never really thought “simply wonderfuls” were all that wonderful but these ones came out quite good.  Following a brief nap, we all headed to the studio for a short practice.  I really was desperate to stretch out my quads after yesterday’s dance class and they felt a lot better after a couple King Arthur’s.  Around 6pm we headed to the temple where we were to take care of some murtis of Radha and Krishna for the Village of Vrndavan.  Vrndavan is a little village in India which is the birthplace of Krishna and every year on Janmashtami this holy village has been recreated in Alachua.  Devotees bring their deities from home and they are placed in makeshift temples for the evening.  Ram and I had the good fortune of taking care of Sri Sri Radha Shyamasundar for a few hours.  After we decorated the temple the murtis arrived and for the next couple hours we gave out sweetballs to the numerous devotees who came for darshan.

Shyamasundar

Radhe

Surya giving out sweets.

We had a lot of fun celebrating Krishna’s birthday and really enjoyed the rocking kirtan at the end of the night.