WOMAD festival was wonderful. For anyone who enjoys a more relaxed and family-friendly approach to festival going then this is the one for you, helps if you like world music of course! We thoroughly enjoyed the experience, wonderful music (well in my opinion, but then I like the Sitar and folk and all that kind of stuff even if E did struggle a little!), fantastic shopping, great vibe and lots of lovely people especially the ones we joined!
The trouble is, being 23 weeks pregnant does make things a little tricky in terms of energy levels. Being anaemic does not help, nor the fact that we ended up camping in a really noisy place so that sleep was challenging and by the end of the weekend, well I was certainly feeling it! Still the bean kicked his/her way through the weekend so clearly gained some benefit from the energy of it all - especially in the wonderful Arboretum, what wonderful places these are with the large red woods and those fabulous Himalayan birch and the Japanese paper barks maple. Inspired by trees again. And yes, I tried hugging the red wood, so soft indeed!!
Back here I am now 24 weeks pregnant and feeling it a little, the energy levels are tested and the scar tissue from a previous operation is being stretched to full capacity so sitting at a desk can be a little challenging! I had this wonderful cranio osteopathy treatment this week to release my sacrum, no idea how it works, it is indeed magic, but gosh what a release. I do find it all fascinating how pregnancy and all the changes going on in the body throw up so much old stuff, especially when you have your spine manipulated and hips opened too.
In fact hips has been the major focus in class this week too. Approached from the ground of non-harming, or Ahimsa, we have been practicing hip opening sequences in general and private classes. There is this wonderful extract from Cyndi Lee's book, "Yoga Body, Buddha Mind", in which she writes, "Yoga and meditation invite us to see who we are right now. The very first step on the path of yoga is found in the yamas and niyamas, the ethical "do's" and "don't" set out by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutra. It is ahimsa, which means non-harming to self or others. the first step is also referred t0 as the ground of the practice, or the foundation from which all our choices evolve. When you commit to practicing ahimsa, you flip the habitual approach to your entire situation, including your attitude toward your own body.
In "The Wisdom of No Escape: And the Path of Loving-Kindness", Pema Chodron writes, "Practice isn't about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It's about befriending who we are already. the ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are".
"Your back tightness, your squishy tummy, and the irritation and discomfort that arise from your wishing they were different is known as dukha, or suffering. The only way to reverse the claustrophobia of dukha is to acknowledge it. It's the same with our bodies. if you pretend your legs are loose when they are tight, you will end up straining a back muscle. Your legs will not open more, they will tighten up more. Your pain will increase until the point you cannot ignore it anymore. This is not ahimsa."
"You begin to reverse the pattern by letting your mindfulness practice and your physical sensations help you understand your body. Letting ahimsa be your guide means, at the very least, don't be a nuisance. We don't often think of ourselves as nuisances to ourselves, but if we take a closer look we might see how we get in the way of our own happiness, how we create our own suffering, through habitual pulling and pushing. This tendency to engage in personal tugs-of-war shows up frequently in seated poses, especially forward bends and hip openers".
Seated forward bends and hip openers fascinate me, not least in my own practice, but also witnessing the shift in others when they are practicing in the class environment, indeed the shift in the energy of the room. For some, seated forward bends are a true joy, where one can be with oneself in the yumminess of the introspective nature of such poses, for others they are a constant reminder of the pain in hamstrings and back and the sense that one is never quite progressing enough. Hip opening poses can throw up all sorts of things, for some there is indeed an ease that sees them falling gently into that quiet space within, for others there is intense discomfort, the mental urge to run away, the pain, the heat, the sweating and the grimacing on the face.
Cyndi Lee talks beautifully about the hips and pelvis, "Our pelvis is home to a lot of movement: digestion, elimination, reproduction. Add on walking, sitting, and breathing and you get the ordinary activities that keep us involved and circulating in our world. Restrict those activities and your entire existence shrinks...there are lots of reasons - societal and personal - that each of us has for minimising our pelvic and hip movement."
"Everywhere we look, advertisements, TV, and film tell us that there is only one good body shape for women and one good body shape for men. No wonder this area is so full of emotional baggage for us. My yoga teacher friend told me her mother lives in her right hip and her father in her left. Almost everybody wants to change what's going on in there - as if that would make us happier."
"Fashion may dictate that we all look the same, but yoga and meditation invite us to be our most authentic, genuine, unique personal self. When we go to a garden, we don't consider only two of the flowers to be beautiful and expect all the others to look like those two. To find our personal balance of earth and heaven, heat and heart, is an individual journey that requires ahimsa, befriending our own being inside and out".
So it is too in our practice, that we befriend what is present within us, in that moment. Hip opening poses and seated forward bends can teach us so much about our relationship to ourselves, the attitude with which we practice, the pulling and pushing, the fighting against the resistance, or the gentle surrender, the grace as we softly and gently allow the unfolding to begin, the acknowledgment and letting go and of course the acceptance.
So you see it comes to pass that once again we are reminded of how beautiful we already are, tight hips or loose hips, skinny hips or larger hips! It is what it is and all things come to pass. Ahimsa, let us be kind to ourselves and sit on the floor and walk on the earth and get those hips moving!
The sun is shining, the tide is rising, what a glorious day for the beach!