With a mere 5 days left of yoga with Radha and Prem at Raka Raka in Ubud, I’m pretty sure I learnt my last pose today.  I say learnt, with the most spectacular degree of generosity.

“Go into downdog” Radha instructed me from two places down, mid-assist of Cas into Urdhva Padmasana (some sort of inverted, levitated lotus position…).  I complied, with considerable ease.  Ahh – down dog – the rest pose, that is finally, after nearly six weeks of daily practice, beginning to actually feel like a rest pose.

“Now, jump your feet around your shoulders”

What?  Is that for me, or Cas?  Over my shoulders?  Urm….

I looked up, trying desperately to clarify what a) that would actually look like, and b) how the flip I was going to do it…

I don’t do much jumping in my practice yet.  Jump backs, jump throughs – I’m more of a stepper.  Slow and methodical, conserving my energy for all the gut and hip busting twisting and opening that I need to focus on.   I have strength, but really struggling with my flexibility and coordination.  I could foresee a potentially disruptive catastrophe so kind of part hopped, part shuffled my feet towards the front of my mat, tried to hook my shoulders in between the top of my thighs, and looked about me with a confused crease  denting my forehead.

“is this right?”  Could it possibly be right?  What is it supposed to look like?  What the hell do I look like right now???

“That’s it Laura, hands behind your heels.”

Shuffle, shuffle, deepening crease of confusion in my forehead.

“Hands flat, hips higher.”  Cas folding into a similarly confusing position, “arms straight…arms straight.”

Is that me or Cas?  At this point I wasn’t even sure what direction “hips-higher” was in.

“OK.  Just stay there for now.”  Radha had moved away from Cas’s successful completion of the pose, and had started to walk towards me.

“What, 5 breaths here?”  My voice was barely audible through the folding of body parts and meek projection into an upside-down shala.  There is something undeniably frustrating about having to confront your physical limitations with such unforgiving regularity.   And then there’s that conscientious slap on the wrist – or ankle, or whatever body part your hand happens to be bound around at that particular moment in time.  “Patience and non-competitive thinking!  Patience and non-competitive thinking!”  It’s an absolute battle-field out there.  Out there being your body, your mind, your ego, your self…all bickering and coaxing and sending mixed messages to each other.  Push yourself, you can do it!  No, hold back, don’t strain yourself.  Breathe.  Don’t forget to breathe.  STOP TALKING TO YOURSELF!  Mulah bandha.  Ground yourself.   Urgh, ahhhh.  Stretch, jump/step, thud!  Hope no-one saw that.  Who am I kidding, Radha and Prem see everything.  They can see straight into your soul.  Because that’s what yoga does to you.  Turns you inside out on the mat.  There’s nothing you can run away from, or hide.  You is just there – exposing itself through the sweat that forms a puddle between your hands, the crook in your shoulder, the knotted emotions in your hips, the single stutter in an outward breath.

When people say – ah, you must be so relaxed – time away and all that yoga.  I don’t know whether to nod my head in agreement, or shake my head in exasperation.   In some ways it is so relaxing.  Those moments when the voices stop, when all you can hear is the flowing of your breath, and the comforting warmth surging through your body as you just click, hips and all, into place.  But, to get to those moments, to learn to sustain such moments, is in some ways the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.

Last time I wrote I spoke about riding out, being on the cusp of another breakthrough.  I’ve not broken it yet.  Not sure I ever will.  It’s not that kind of breakthrough.

I was having a really difficult time in practice.  Hips jarring, energy sapped.  Feeling disappointed with myself, paranoid that my teachers were disappointed in me.  I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t focus.  The loosening toxins in my chest making me feel sick, recurring emotional pain not letting up.  I decided to give Reiki a go.  I’ve heard good things, and I guess the further I get into my practice the more things like energy channels resonate.  Maybe it’s the way the steam rises from the body when you are just sitting in a pose, breathing, the way energy lifts in upward movements, and then grounds on the exhale.  My appointment was on Wednesday morning, and I had no idea what to expect.  All I could remember was that wonderful feeling in yoga when one of my teachers would do reiki on everyone in rest pose.  Gently, moving his hands, hovering just above your head.  How the tingling sensation and heat would spread like tentacles through your brain, behind the eyes, and all the way down to the base of your spine.

Ok.  So that’s what I was expecting.  An hour of invigorating, regenerating tentacles chasing away the demons, unblocking all this crap, releasing me…

And it wasn’t like that at all.  She stood over me, speaking softly, fan was off.  It was a cooler day.  Everything still, except for the rustling of rice pickers in the paddy fields behind the organic white cotton curtain.  My eyes were closed and I waited expectantly, felt her finger tips press gently on pressure points on my forehead, temple, behind the neck.  Waited patiently as she moved her hands along my body, over my heart-space, hips, groin…asked me to turn over…back.  I wasn’t feeling anything, because I couldn’t connect with my body – my mind wouldn’t let me.  Incessant, unrelenting, frenetic, schizophrenic…the voices echoed, multiplied, got louder and louder until I was sure that she could hear them.  She turned on the fan, and I felt a jolt and shudder, arm spasm, wished she’d turn it off.   And then it was over, and I opened my eyes.   Distorted black blobs floated and settled in my line of sight.  The voices had abated, and I sat still for a moment, sipped some water, felt the onset of a headache, but could sense my answer.

She told me the heat in my chest and hips was stronger than she’d felt for a while.  She couldn’t go past them for ages, because something was blocking them.  It made sense to me.  My hips are stubborn fuckers and those lungs of mine are in a right old state.   But that’s not what struck me, it was what she said at the end…”You know who you are.  You know your path.  You have to trust yourself.”  Trust yourself.  Isn’t that exactly what Prem had said to me the day before, as I grappled with the concept of doshas and practically cried out:  “What am I?  What am I?  I don’t feel like a Kapha,” and sighed.

Was it worth it?  Perhaps I would be reluctant to swear by it and recommend it to others, but for me, it was yet another important pointer in the right direction.  Maybe it was her healing hands, or maybe it was just that time in stasis, with no distractions, but it was clearer to me at that point, than any other, that my mind…my ego…is what’s holding me back.

But holding me back from what  –  Getting into Bhujapidasana?  Finding my happiness?  My peace?

I needed time to think, to be alone.  I didn’t want to fight anything, just to seek solitude and let things settle.

I cycled the steady incline across town, on the clunky, rusty boys’ bike I’ve rented for £1 a day.  Huffing and puffing, thinking that perhaps I now knew the answer to all those running and yoga forum debates.  With all the good that Yoga does  –  improved cardio, is not one of them.  Not  in the way hill climbing does anyway.

A friend had, with the kindest heart, invited me to stay at hers for a few days.  Staying in the guest room of a villa overlooking the fields, I had to say yes.  It was like my very own ­Enchanted April.  The perfect setting to, please please please forgive the tired cliché – self-discover.

I filled pages and pages with scrawled thoughts and fears.  Read books cover to cover, and re-attempted The Power of Now, discussed meditation and ethical responsibilities over dinner with my hosts.  I raced with their young daughter in the pool, took my tea in the gazebo, and swam for hours in the afternoons.  But holiday antics aside, the moments that counted more than any other, were when I found that place from which I could observe my thoughts, and my emotions.

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I guess the answer has been there all along.  Just like my friend Mike told me before I went away.  “You’ve already got everything you need…Trust me.  You don’t need to go anywhere.  The only reason you have to is to realise it.”

I’m sure we all get lost sometimes, behind our egos.  The false interpretations of who we are.  Manifested and constructed through society and upbringing, past pains, and future projections.  This is who I am, because of all this crap that happened last week, and last year and when I was a kid, and this is where I want to be, but I don’t really know where that is and how to get there, or why?  What about right now, in this very moment, in the only moment there is, according to Tolle.  He writes that the incessant voice or voices in your head can’t tell you the answer, only the silence within.

What I’ve gained from all of this, is merely an indication of how dominant and obstructive my ego has become.  I’m not sure I’ve ever known who I really am in the moment, in the now, in the silence.  I care too much what people think, and those voices in my head have always been so loud and assertive, that I dare not question their authority.  I had no idea that they are separate from my being.  A mere projection that I can control and manage.

I don’t know, just yet, how to do that, but I take comfort from my yoga, and more importantly still – this path I’ve chosen.

I guess no one thing is going to be the solution – whether that be yoga, or reiki, or travel, or the beauty of nature.  It’s just you, making use of what’s there to turn yourself inside out and rediscover, or even discover for the first time – who you really are, minus the voices, in the now.

Isn’t that exciting?  All those things you’ve thought of yourself for all those years, all those experiences that you’ve used to define yourself, often negatively, can be let go.

I’ve got a long to way to go, but when Radha indicated that it will be unlikely that I’ll be mastering Bhujapidasana anytime soon, I released from my deranged alternative entanglement of a pose, plonked down on my mat, with a beaming smile and an enthusiastic “brilliant!”  However long it takes, and however silly I may look and frustrated I get in trying to get there, it doesn’t matter.  Its time to trust myself, and the path I’m on…right now.

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