Monday, November 30, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
Since the Yoga Barn and the accompanying Little K cafe are the places I spend most of my time, here are some photos.
The Yoga Barn:
The Little K & its surroundings:
Monday, November 09, 2009
Ubud is slowly teaching me not to plan and to fully live in the present moment. Back in Dubai, I had my days planned for 3 months ahead minimum. I had an outlook calendar synchronized with my mobiles, beeping even for weekend activities and casual get togethers with friends. Here life is flowing o spontaneously and freely and I am beginning to like it.
I had planned to go to Nusa Lembongan on 4th of November for a few days. Then I learned that Bex, who happens to be one of my most transformative yoga instructors in Ubud was offering a blindfold yoga workshop on the 7th, just a few days before she was leaving for India. I couldn't miss it. In Colcatta, Bex is working with Deepa, a 4-year old blind girl and through Bex's positive energy, persistence, love and kindness, Deepa had showed amazing progress. Deepa is now 4 years old, born to a very poor mother in slums of Colcatta. Her mother had to give her away because she wouldn't be able to keep Deepa alive. So now, Deepa lives in an institution which is for severely handicapped or mentally-challenged children. When Bex started working with her last year, she was even unable to walk and talk. Now she can walk, dance and make some basic sounds. She doesn't understand any language, but can feel and respond to Bex. All that in a frame of a few months...
At 1pm we are in the studio waiting for the workshop to start. Earlier, I caught glimpses of Bex preparing for it and it seems that she had put in a lot of personal effort to it with some photos, music selection, synchronization and the like. She tells us the ground rules while distributing the blindfolds. During the 2.5 hours, no talking and no removing the blindfolds. Even if we need to go to the bathroom, the blindfolds stay on and we will be led by Bex to the toilet. Hmm, I think I would rather hold it...
Of course the workshop also aimed to explore how we use other senses when we don't have sight, which of course provides a great deal of cues when doing asanas.
We do some meditation to start with, followed by some free dancing to warm up and then a bit of partner work. Well, even finding a partner can be difficult without seeing. Bex is very clear when she is explaining the poses, however at times all of us interpret it differently. Normally, I would peek over my shoulder and see what the person next to me is doing and adjust accordingly (which of course is a big no-no) and I have this urge to adjust my blindfold just a bit so that I can take a tiny look... Then I think, what the hell? What if I am doing the pose differently? What if I am not holding my partner exactly like everyone else? As long as we don't let each other fall, we should be ok. In fact, we would be bringing our own expression of the pose which is nothing but beautiful. Even that is a big insight for me.
Then we continue with some individual asanas on the mat. Before each surya namaskara, I would have to feel the top of the mat with my toes so I can align myself. I must have done thousands of suryas, it's interesting that I would still need visual cues to adjust here and there.
Then comes the balancing poses. Though practice, I became quite good at vrksanana, the tree pose. Being able to make good use an external drishti is key for me. The minute I start to gaze around, my tree collapses. How do you find drishti, when all you see is a black blindfold? Do you imagine that you're seeing the floor and pick a point to focus or do you just gaze into this blackness? Of course while trying to figure that out I constantly collapse. It seems like a miracle that blind people can walk on streets with only scanning what's ahead with a stick.
We do a long Yoga Nidra and then some singing in Sanskrit. Time ti time, Bex reads us what she has written about Deepa. It is impossible not to feel their mutual bond. Deepa has improved significantly through Bex's love and kindness and by trusting her unconditionally. Whereas Bex seems to be deeply moved by Deepa's courage and how she hangs onto life with what little she has. This is a bond that changes both parties forever... And also those of us who are lucky to learn about and feel it, although we may never “see” Bex and Deepa together.
At the end of the workshop, we are lead to a corner of the room and asked to kneel down and remove our blindfolds. Even though there is no direct light coming in, after 2.5 hours of complete darkness, the light is too intense when I open my eyes. Intense but in a way also relieving. I notice that we are kneeling down in front of some posters, with photos of Deepa and Bex's narrative about them. I clearly remember one; Deepa on a see-saw for the first time and the joy in her face when she's up in the air. Imagine not seeing, not being able to talk and being lifted up to the air on a narrow piece of wood... What can be quite frightening for some under the circumstances is a source of pure joy for Deepa. This is her courage, this is her strength. Our senses have already been very heightened because of the blindfold and the singing and I cannot help crying in front of that photo. We are often unhappy or not satisfied with our lives. When asked “how are you?”, most of us tend to answer “not bad” which seems to be the norm nowadays. We always have things to complain, we always have excuses, we are always too busy, too occupied with ourselves, always trying to grab a bit more and here is a 4-year old girl who cannot see and cannot speak, living in an institution, purely happy to be on a see-saw for the first time in her life.
Bex and Deepa have touched me in a place and in a way that was too deep. I can only be grateful that I had the opportunity to be touched by them.
Sunday, November 01, 2009
Ubud has some very fine boutiques. Mostly selling custom-designed and handmade pieces of clothes, accessories, jewelery, bags and the like. While there's an element of simplicity, most of the merchandise sold in these boutiques reflect the rich culture and art of Bali through the pattern of the fabric or the fine handwork or the richness of the design. But once in a while something is so out of the ordinary, you cannot help noticing it.
I saw this shop door about two weeks ago. It's on my street. If we were in some major metropolitan city, this shop would have probably fit in any shopping district so well that I wouldn't have noticed it. But with its super hygienic white and glass facade , somewhat minimalistic design and most importantly the sign on the door “urban tribal concept store” this soon-to-open shop screams that it's out of place in Ubud. For starters, what does “urban tribal concept store” mean? What will they sell and how would the stuff they sell would look like?
Since I skipped some yoga classes this morning (I am trying to cut back!) I had time to go around looking for books and shoot a couple of photos. While I was trying to adjust the polarizer to avoid reflections on the shop window, this man comes and deliberately poses in front of me. Well he's not urban or tribal, but definitely fits the frame well. I tell him why I see this shop so out of place and he starts predicting based on his experience in Ubud. He thinks it will probably stock some big-sized jewelery, mostly piercing stuff. Judging by the location and the design, he also thinks the owner is Japanese. He said this street is so popular among Japanese, (they kept opening shops and restaurants that survived only 2-3 years) that they used to call it “Hello Kitty” street.
There's been no action inside the shop for the last 2 weeks, even the empty water bottles and plastic bags are where they are. I really hope it would open before I leave and I get a chance to see what will be the urban tribal concept merchandise that is sold there.
My yoga learning for the day: In poses where one needs to elongate the spine by lifting the neck (such as cat/cow, upward facing dog) try not to really lift the neck up, instead try to stretch it forward, as if you were doing these ancient Egyptian dances. Then only lift your eyes and look as high as you can. This would actually create more space in the neck area without possible neck strains.