FRIENDS OF MARRICKVILLE YOGA
Welcome to July.
It’s about 5 degrees every morning now, and what better way to warm up than a 6am yoga class. The heaters are happening and so are the handstands – and it’s totally worth the early start just to see the sunrise over Sydney city from the window of our lovely studio.
Welcome, also, to the new-look Friends of Marrickville Yoga Newsletter brought to you by the new-look Friends of Marrickville Yoga Team. Many thanks to Mark and Yvonne who have done such a wizz-bang job of getting this publication off and running – they are big shoes to fill but we’ll do our best!
This month we talk yoga practice with Malith, we hear from Rachel (who plays a mean djembe drum) and Sarah gives us the low down on her amazing knits!
The Team at Friends of Marrickville Yoga
I’m a professional cellist and music educator. I am professional cellist and a music educator. In my capacity working for the Australian Children’s Music Foundation I teach music to kids who wouldn’t normally get that chance. Some days I go to work with kids who are in prison; some weeks I teach in rural Australia and find myself an instant expert in potato farming. Oh, and my boss is Don Spencer – remember him from playschool?I teach all sorts of musical things to the kids I see. I get them to sing. I do a lot of drumming. I facilitate concerts – we’re often visited by players from the Australian Chamber Orchestra and I help to ‘demystify’ that strange beast that is highbrow classical music. I create ‘orchestras’ from junk – rubbish bins, feed containers, bits of long PVC piping. I have sung, and laughed, and leaped around the music room and I often have a djembe drum (a medium sized drum from Africa) strapped to me most of the day. Days in schools are very noisy. I am exhausted by 3’o’clock. Most days not only am I physically exhausted, but emotionally exhausted as well. By the end of term, I am a mess. By the end of the year I am a train wreck. (However, I wouldn’t do anything else. Strange, I know.)I haven’t been practising Iyengar yoga for very long. But here’s what I’ve noticed: It seems to be a reset button for me. I come into class slightly deaf, often wired, mostly exhausted (and a few times in tears – sorry Hugh!). And after class I feel completely different. My head seems to have set aside what it needs to. My heart is open again, ready to nurture those kids all over again.
The next day I feel creative and ready to laugh my way through another day of drumming, or singing, or kazooing. My legs and hips don’t ache from having a drum strapped to me. The black cloak of depression I wore into class has somehow been taken away from me. Trying something in yoga class that frightens me (generally involving chairs or hanging upside-down on ropes like a bat) reminds me what I ask of some of the kids I see – and has made me more compassionate in class.
I walk out the door at Marrickville Yoga Centre all put together again. Always with a smile on my face. Even if I’ve flopped around my mat like a fish out of water, or fallen over trying to turn myself upside down. I don’t understand yet how this happens. I’m not sure I want to. But it does happen. Every time.
I would never have thought to write about being a knitter but another student asked about a handknit I was wearing one cold yoga morning and got interested. Then she said, “And I suppose you cook as well?” That made me think that the way I knit and the way I cook are a bit similar. I get attracted to the ingredient – say quinces, or some lovely green wool – and then figure out what to make. There is often a recipe or a pattern to start with but I don’t usually follow it quite to the letter. There is scope for experimenting. This means there can be triumphs, but disappointments too. Yoga is giving me an opportunity to notice this aspect of my character. Properly following the instructions can be very important. If you practice the basics, the foundational skills, then you can explore from there.I learnt to knit when I was growing up and I guess I have taken these skills for granted. Mum, now 86, is still a very active, skilled knitter and weaver. My knitting and cooking are quite simple and pragmatic. I like making things I can see and use. The fruits of my paid work aren’t always so obvious. I don’t make anything too elaborate because I tend to knit when I’m also doing something else, like watching TV or on long car trips (only in the passenger seat). You could get a lot done on a long international flight but knitting on planes got banned after September 11. Metal needles were a potential weapon. Desperate knitters started smuggling round needles made of bamboo or wood onto planes in the brims of their hats so they could continue once they got through security. I have given a lot of garments away to friends and family – there are only so many woollens you need in Sydney – and this year I am knitting hats for various people out of the left over wool from past projects. I did start a more complicated cardigan with cables all over it before we moved up to Darwin but it was too hot and sticky to knit up there so Mum finished that one for me. Then some ladies from Elcho Island taught me pandanas weaving (which is similar to crochet in some ways) and I made small mats and baskets instead. Women in most cultures have made useful things out of fibre forever.
Last year I went back to the UK with my mum and my Auntie Pat was knitting a whole nativity scene. She was struggling because the donkey was threatening to be bigger than the manger. Knitting, like yoga can present a lot of challenges.
Student Life – Malith Ramansundara
How long have you been practicing yoga at MYC?
I was introduced to Iyengar practice six months ago when Veronica, my girlfriend, was visiting. She practices regularly in Griffith, NSW, and was keen to do some holiday practice while in Sydney. I went with her to my first class with some curiosity. It was far more challenging than I anticipated; for one seeing students performing headstands (Sirasana) in the centre of the room was incredible. I’ve been addicted since!
What is your favourite pose for winter time and why?
Backbends – I find them exhilarating. Especially walking down the wall because it’s a little frightening leaning into the pose but when you are doing it, there is a rush of energy throughout the body.
What is the most challenging pose for you and why?
Warrior Pose III (Virabhadrasana III). This particular pose requires both strength and balance – if I come to it with a distracted mind (which is sometimes the case) I quickly topple over. I find it helps develop the much needed skill of concentration.
Have you noticed any changes as a result of yoga in your life/health/wellbeing?
I have been told that my posture for one is certainly better – I think this simple change has led to more confidence in my everyday life, particularly dealing with confronting situations at work. I can appreciate a sense of steadiness also – holding difficult asanas for slightly longer each time and resisting through the discomfort can be likened to bearing through the tough parts of the day and holding in there for a pleasant reward from the hard work at the end.
What is the most surprising aspect of yoga at MYC – something you really didn’t expect when starting out?
I am still surprised (to this day) how the teachers remember everyone’s name! It is not a small group of students that pass through and it is encouraging that they also take note of your development through the classes and continue to push you that little further.
Sarah in Mungo National Park