alan little’s weblog archive for november 2007


9th November 2007 permanent link

My colleague Kai and I – not masters, but we’ve met some – were swapping stories over lunch about his fifteen year judo career and my ten years’ yoga.

Knees, inevitably – Kai’s anterior cruciate ligament that he says is better than new; my torn meniscus that still gives me trouble, indirectly.

A class with a little sixty year old ju-jutsu seventh Dan where Kai found himself flying through the air, surprised, without even having felt the guy touch him. Ki.

Backbending in Mysore, the day Sharath was sick. Pattabhi Jois’s grandson Sharath had been working with me on my backbending. My backbending was very stiff and heavy at that time (nowadays it’s almost respectable, on a good day). Fit, strong thirty year old Sharath had been visibly struggling, according to friends of mine who were watching. Came the inevitable day when Sharath was sick, and Guruji, then 86 years old, walked over to me. Oh no, I thought, poor old Guruji is going to injure himself trying to lift me, and the whole yoga world will hate me. A couple of attempts later, there I was floating upwards, surprised, with just the lightest pressure from a couple of fingers behind my hips. Prana.

Ki. Prana. Just enough force and no more, at exactly the right place and time. Nothing supernatural, just practice. Lots and lots and lots of practice.

If you expect to become a martial arts master in a matter of days, you have a very long couple of days ahead of you.
Tyler Hass

The time scale for “mastery” is decades … the idea of someone claiming to be a “master” under the age of sixty is ludicrous.
Marc MacYoung

related entries: Yoga

stone age italians

8th November 2007 permanent link

Alan’s Guide To Surprisingly Good Small Museums, part two. (Part One)

On holiday last month I was surprised and impressed by the Finale Archaeological Museum in Finale Ligure in Italy. I had no idea Liguria – the coastal region of north west Italy – was a major hangout for stone age man, but it makes sense. Limestone plateaus with comfy inviting caves and lots of edible flora and wildlife, right next to a sea brimming with fish (then, not any more), and a suntrap south of the mountains for those chilly glacial spells. So lots and lots of stone age human remains in the area, well displayed here in large quantities.

Not just stone age humans either. The complete cave bear skeleton on display is smaller than I expected, and as my son points out disappointingly much smaller than a proper dinosaur; nevertheless I wouldn’t like to be personally responsible for chasing one out of a cave using only a stick with a pointed rock on the end. Or even a stick with a pointed rock on the end, another stick with some fire on the end and some dogs. Tough boys, those Neanderthals and Cro Magnons.

Captions & website in Italian only. I have school French and Latin, so extracting some sense from moderate quantities of written Italian isn’t too hard (forget understanding anything spoken at normal speed). Paleolitica and neolitica aren’t too hard to figure out in the context.

The museum has the additional major plus of being situated in a lovely former convent in the mediaeval walled town of Finalborgo, one of the borghi più belli d‘Italia – the [officially] most beautiful small towns in Italy.

street in Finalborgo

infinite yoga

7th November 2007 permanent link

One thing I have learned in the last four and a half years is that some people have the discipline and motivation to be parents of small children, have a day job and still practice a full ashtanga vinyasa yoga series every day – but I’m not one of them.

I maintain a reasonable level of practice most of the time: forty minutes to an hour most days, and a full series a couple of times a week. Last weekend I went to a two full days workshop and this evening I have Mysore class with Bettina, so I absolutely can’t complain.

However: an important part of a yoga practice is maintaining the difficult balance between being motivated to keep practicing diligently, and accepting the reality of where you are without value judgement. Tuesday is my wife’s yoga class night. I leave work early to collect my son from kindergarten, so I don’t have time to pop to the gym at lunchtime. Usually we go Boys’ Night Swimming, but yesterday was cold, rainy and dismal so we stayed at home and the neighbours’ little boy came to play. After I dispatched one small boy home and the other into bed, I managed about ten minutes asana practice and five minutes meditation before I fell into bed myself.

Which, as I always remind myself in my diary on days like this, is infinitely better than no practice at all.

related entries: Yoga

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