Springcoming: Anois teacht an Earraigh

crocus

I had this argument, or should I say ‘debate’ out with a friend of mine this time last year. When does Spring officially start? In my mind, Spring begins on February the 1st- St. Brigid’s Day. This goes back to my primary school days, when on February 1st the Bord Dúalra (Nature Table) would take on a greener, fresher shade. Red berries, deep brown nuts and fading holly leaves would be swept off the display into the teachers’ palms. The gesture of another Winter passing. Sprouting beans atop cotton wool gauze in yoghurt pots would fill the space and on mornings, we would be witness to all feats of nature’s wonders in bold colours on the slide/ projector screen. The white and purple crocus. Talk of tadpoles would creep into (usually boys) conversations. Used 1/2 litre Milk bottles clutched in little hands would, one by one, line up along the window sill, gasping with expectation for the tadpole jelly.

And so this evening, as I lead my yoga class on the eve of the feast of St. Brigid, a Pagan Goddess to many, I paid quiet homage to the shifting of the seasons that tomorrow will mark (even if it’ still pretty Wintery outside). In the West of Ireland, St Brigid dolls made of straw (súgán) will be walked from house to house as locals bend and turn the súgán into festive shapes above doorways, welcoming visitors in from the darkness. Time to exhale and breathe again.

As I set up the music to play while my students rested in their final relaxation savasana of the yoga class this evening, I noticed how the petals of the white tulips I’d picked up last week, were now open wide, like glad children – giddy with expectation at the changes which lie ahead.

To my friend’s mind, Spring begins in late March, around the Equinox. A fair argument, perhaps. But for me, the memory of the nature table is fixed firm and February 1st signifies the wonder of tadpoles, crocus, snowdrops and light.

Anois teach an Earraigh, tá an lá ag dul chun síneadh (O Raiftearaí)

Welcome the Spring as the day stretches long.

 

All in good…time

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I finished my class this evening back-to-front or backwards, even: with an intention. Setting an intention for an asana (yoga) class usually comes at the beginning, to focus the mind on a broad, fleeting or quiet aspiration or reflection. But this evening, somehow, it slipped through my new-teacher mind. Happily- and appropriately, it did drop back into my mind as the class drew to its gentle conclusion.

The theme, or intention that I was going to set – and meant to share- was around developing awareness around the idea that all the things we wish for-  desires, kindness, necessary affirmations in life-  come in good time. And so, it fit perfectly that I should at first forget and then be reminded of this humbling and, all too often, challenging acceptance. It will fit when it fits.

The trouble is, all too often, we become attached to these wants, needs, desires and identify with them to such an extent that they end up controlling our minds, hearts, days and nights. The lesson here, is in letting go. Letting go of attachment to the, ‘ I need’, ‘I must have/ do/achieve’. Without the attachment to the ‘I need’, there is no expectation and no chance of disappointment – just acceptance of what is.

This is a lesson which resonates with me ‘off the mat ‘also, as I recently received news that has brought an unexpected affirmation, and while I did not actively desire or ‘need’ it,  has made me aware that fulfillment can happen even if the need is without any particular shape or form prior to it happening!  But when it happens, you know it fits. You realise that – yes, this is what I needed and this is the right moment. And so, the intention to be aware is also the intention of letting go, accepting and trusting that things will happen, when they happen, in their own time. Back -to -front. Upside down. Inside and out.  All… in good time.

 

Yogalann Beginnings: Teaching Yoga Any-where

When I came across the notice from Bitu – an experienced Hatha yoga teacher based in the North Indian State of Ladakh-taped to a lamppost offering classes in his rented room in the Asia Guesthouse on the Chungspa Road in Leh,  I have to admit I wondered what that would be like. Coming from the Western world of underfloor-heated Yoga Studios with surround sound speakers and adjustable lighting I felt slightly uneasy with the idea of sharing such an intimate, private space with a complete stranger – and practicing yoga to boot. But, a fellow traveller recommended the classes to me, and so I dropped my preconceived notions of Western propriety and cultivated expectations of what a yoga studio should offer the student in terms of setting the tone: space, light and cleanliness, and set my watch for the 6.30am wake up. When I walked through the sleepy Asia Guesthouse courtyard at 6.55am,  guests sipping their early morning lassis before taking to the surrounding Himalayan mountains en masse- and proceeded through a narrow, unlit corridor, onward up the polished stone steps to room number 3, I was met with a lesson over the following two weeks of early mornings that I will never forgot.

First, to drop all preconceived notions of what is or is not an appropriate place to practice yoga. And second, to understand that yoga, with the right intention, approach and teacher guiding you safely through your practice, can be practiced anywhere. Sure, the aesthetics of your space are important and one of the precepts of the traditional  Ashtanga 8 -Limb system of philosophy is cleanliness (saucha). This room could have been cleaner, perhaps. But it was flooded with the cleanest and brightest morning sunlight I have ever seen.  There were no yoga mats, belts, blocks or eye pillows.  Instead, it had a gradually inclined  floor, several layers of (dusty!) carpet and a mattress (where the teacher slept, up to about -oh, 5minutes before my arrival!) laid up against the wall. But the room did have a view and a natural soundtrack- a lazy stream- melt waters of the Himalayas, skirting the Guesthouse. And the windows, shut tight to the early morning chill, offered stunning mountain vistas. At 3,500 feet above sea level, the city of Leh is nestled on Ladakh’s high plains at the foot of the Himalayan range. Beyond the range as seen through the window of the Asia Guest House and due West, lay the embattled State of Kashmir; Pakistan lay further West and China rose due North. Ladakh is a Buddhist State, formerly Tibetan – and at this altitude and through the month of July (when I visited), promises days of glorious sunshine, with the finest of visibility. The mountains, rising from the horizon – humbling, inspiring and bold in their lofty beauty – made each morning practice a joy. The uneven floor, became part and parcel of the daily challenge.

So when it came to considering where I might begin to explore my own yoga practice as a new and recently qualified yoga teacher, I was reminded that with the right intention, approach and teacher guiding you, yoga can be taught anywhere. And so, this evening marked my first steps – not quite like in the Asia Guesthouse but here,  in my own home in Limerick- and appropriately on the banks of Ireland’s longest River, the Shannon. Converting the living room space into a bespoke – or to use the buzz word of travel magazines – ’boutique’ style yoga studio was perfect. I am lucky to rent a room in a very well cared for home, with an open plan living room area, offering plenty of floor space and options for mat placement. I did invest in some props and scents (rose, for the heart!) but I opened my first class as a new yoga teacher with a welcome and a very warm acknowledgment of the lesson learned from Bitu, who taught me well in his humble quarters at the Asia Guesthouse on the Chungspa Road.