Irish Yoga in Mallorca

Due to a friendly person siting next to me on my flight from NYC to Barcelona, a young unemployed pharmaceutical rep from chicago, I did not sleep for almost 40 hours. Thus after an ‘Irish yoga’ class taught by my friend Howard, and a late night bread-toast with olive oil and tomato, I crashed like a meteor on its way to the milky stars.
You might be wondering more about the ‘Irish yoga’ than the consequences of my crash, so I will fill you in.
‘Irish yoga’ is an hour long yoga class which used to be taught by an Irish pro soccer player who found yoga after an injury to his hip. Apparently he was popular in the little village where my friend Howard has set up his home. When he left, Howard, who basically got the class organized, picked up the class so the experience could continue, however, since he is not a yoga teacher, and was more interested in the community, it became a practice class with everyone heading to the down town center to drink beer and eat potato chips and local olives.
As most of the sailors were back from their journey, we had a rather large class, forcing us to move from the roof top of a local student and into the yoga studio of a different friend.
The practice was an interesting experience. I have taken a few classes per the last few months, and most of the time I leave feeling a bit off balanced, primarily because classes are predominately focused on standing postures, and most of them are the same repetitive movement over and over. They gets stamped with the word ‘vinyasa’ which means ‘flow’ and thus what you tend to get is a yoga class that simply moves through the same combination of postures for about 50 minutes, then they do a back bend, a seated pose and relaxation.
Howard led a class that was unorthodox in my book, yet balanced far better than most. After 3 sets of an interesting adaptation of sun salutation we went to the floor and worked with various poses that positioned the hip in all three planes of movement, then worked the shoulder girdle in a similar plane manipulation.
The planes of the body are the three dimension movement we can go through, forward, backward and side to side.
We then stood back up and used a rubber strap to create more movement in the shoulders (considering that the class was balanced between its male and female population this was a cool observation of what really benefits practitioners who really do yoga every once in a while, or once a week if they live on the island).
I appreciated the fact that each pose was actually held for a period of almost 8 breaths, something which again is very rare in the bare skin, tight fit wear, ego filled yoga classes of the USA.
Howard says of his class that he put it together to work the agonist and antagonist of each muscle group, creating a compete body experience, which ultimately is the point of any good sequence.
We headed to the ‘piaza’ after class for beer, olives and potato chips. It was a fun relaxing way to get to know the various students, and after 3 beers, conversation about Thai Massage, a mix of jokes which was provoked by Howard, who was recalling our Croatia dinners which were always filled with jokes, laughter and social mix, we came back to the house.
Howard had a friend stay over, and we had a nice late snack, before we all retired.
I honestly am unsure how I survived.
When Howard went to work with his clients in the afternoon, I was online cleaning emails and reading a book about Osho, written by his former body guard, and fighting my body’s desire to crash. My eyes like a pair of heavy weights threatening to fall on my toes.
I knew I was going to the Irish Yoga class, and though I thought of doing my ashtanga practice, I could also feel that my traveling soul needed a respite. I did do my daily minimum which proved to offer a bit more energy, yet also showed me that had I attempted to do any more I would have enjoyed an inner rebellion, my cells rising to the aristocracy of my ego and putting it to the gulliotine. I chose to be part of the socialistic movement and settled for 3 sun salutation A, 3 sun salutations B, and the 3 closing poses, what my teacher Patabhi Jois told my other teacher David Williams was the daily minimum required to be an ashtanga yoga practitioner.
I did have an interesting conversation about ahtanga with one of the students siting next to me. While she did not enjoy a beer because she was pregnant, the subject came up when Howard shared something I told him when we were teaching at the Thai Massage Gathering in Europe two years ago. If you can’t stay up drinking and eating and still get up the following day and practice, you should not be eating and drinking late.
It is super easy to be a “yogi” living an austere and secluded life style. Never participating in the fullness of living. I am not preaching over indulgence here, but if you over indulge AND get up and practice, in my opinion, you are just as committed and just as spiritual as the recluse yogi or yogini.
That’s why I also respect Osho, despite knowing that he led a community of people on a path of over indolence in sexuality, sensuality, money, and expensive toys. At least that is what the author of ‘The God that failed” was sharing in his personal account of his time with Osho.
Osho, also known as Rajneesh Resh, is enjoying a resurgence of awareness in these times, through his foundation publishing books based on his extensive talks, on virtually every subject imaginable, from religion to poetry, from art to architecture.
YouTube is also credited for helping this new movement where Osho’s lecture videos are now easily discovered through their search engine.
Howard’s point really was that here we wee on a beautiful island in coatia, eating and drinking and laughing until the late hours of the night, and yet every morning I would be out on the deck over looking the ocean, practicing with who ever wanted to do the practice.
Practice after all is just brushing your teeth, I shared with the Irish Yoga group.
But brushing the teeth takes 3 minutes, commented the student sitting in front of me.
True, I responded, and practice takes about an hour, which is why most people do not do it.
The student next to me was surprised at how long it took me, saying it takes her at least 2 hours to finish her mysore practice.
I shared that I do tend to be a bit lazy these days. Where I used to practice the first and second series together for many years, these days I apply principles I picked up from my teacher Anthony ‘Prem’ Carlisi that when you travel, you should only practice the Primary Series.
When I hung out with David Williams I learned that he took ‘vinyasa’ – the flowing coordination of the body through push up, upward facing dog, downward facing dog, and back to sitting – after both right and left side completed the pose, as opposed to taking ‘vinyasa’ after each seated pose, which is how I practice if I am in a traditional mysore room. I hardly get to practice with others in a mysore setting any more, and thus in the confine of my personal practice, I have found a liking to the original form of the practice, and thus it only takes me an hour to finish the practice.
‘do you take less breaths or practice faster’ I was asked, to which I only smiled and replied of course not.
The practice of ashtanga is not a physical practice after all. it is a breath practice.
After a brief exploration I had an intuition that the student sitting next to me was under the guidance of a teacher who has placed more emphasis on the body, as opposed to the breath, so I asked her: ‘you spend quite a bit of time trying to position your body in the pose, which is why it takes you almost 2 hours?’
She was shocked at my insight.
While it is perfectly fine to do that, I pointed out words that my teacher Tim Miller left me about 8 years ago when he was attempting to wrap my arm around my leg in a complicated pose called ‘Marichasana D’ dedicated to the sage Marichi who is considered to be the grandfather of Surya and the son of Braman, the creator. I had been with Tim about 4 months at that point, and while it would take me another 18 months before I would actually bind the pose by myself, I asked him ‘why is it taking me so long?’ Tim simply smiled at me and calmly said: ‘it’s not about the pose.’ I knew exactly what he meant immediately, and laughed with him at my own attachment, when the whole point is to find the joy that lies through connecting with the breath.
It is not about the pose, even though we are trying to achieve the posture.
It is about the breath, and the practice is to do the best we can, but with ‘vairagyam’ which means non-attachment.
At this point in my teaching career I am used to the fact that my perspective is very different than what most student are exposed to, or what most teachers offer. Since I feel my perspective is a result of my teachers, I simply feel grateful to them when it helps inspire others to embrace their practice once again.
Amelia, the student sitting next to me, looked at me and said: ‘I never thought of it that way, and that makes so much more sense.’
While we had planned to be on the beach by 8am for morning practice, Howard and his friend did not step out of their room till 8:30, and by the time we got to the beach the sun was well on it’s journey to heat the freezing mediterranean ocean.
Where I was hoping we would practice on solid ground, I found myself on a beach towel, on sandy plain, looking at the crystal blue ocean, in one of the bays of the western side of the island, guiding Howard through the primary series.
Yoga on sand proved to be harder than I expected, yet also surprisingly fun in it’s application of the same things I shared the night before.
We did have to adjust the towel every now and again, and it was super hard balancing in boat pose on the soft sand. I felt as if i was imprinting my tail bone on the coast of Mallorca.
After a stroll down the beach side, and a discovery that the ocean water is the temperature of my freezer, we headed back up the mountain to make lunch for Howard’s kids who are hanging out with us this afternoon.

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. yogagirlheidi
    May 11, 2012 @ 02:50:51

    there it is…. that beautiful heart of your’s being sprinkled around just like pixie dust. enjoy your travels :))


  2. Ima
    May 11, 2012 @ 09:12:22

    🙂 love you always, Ima


  3. Trackback: WHY – Wellness, Health, Yoga
  4. Trackback: 1-2-3-2-1 – Insights into Thai and Ashtanga Yoga « WHY – Wellness, Health, Yoga

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