My body is a temple

David J Green photography

When I see my reflection now

there is no vile rejection row

with putrid dire perfection vows

that only left me growls and blows.

Now I glow.

Gentle dimples rumple up

the flesh that sits upon my butt

and nourishes my face – a jut

that’s cut above the rut

since I can strut with guts

to skip across the sunshine.

Not whining of the smut I felt

but straining for the fit I get

the joy I jet

the toys I sweat

emitting pure redemption.

I quit the pit of darkness

and spit out threats of heartless

wrecks to pander whet effects

which nourish my true whole.

Flourishing with soul my goal

is strolling with audacity,

increasing my capacity,

tenacity

and charge.

More large,

I barge

and surge,

thankful of my urge to forge

a reverence for surging

in this purely living body.

Pranayama power from yoga in Turkey

I have just  returned from a week-long Bikram yoga retreat at Göcek, which is near the coast of Fethiye, in Turkey. This was a beautiful location — up in the mountains, where the crickets rattled maracas in the heat all day long, the sound of a male tenor voice signalling the call to prayer of Ramadan echoed through the valleys at 3am each morning, and the tinkling bells on the necks of goats rang out as the herd wandered across the dry dirt and sparse grass around the mountains. Meanwhile the heat was a duck-feathered wall that comforted, held and revived me. Reaching 39 degrees on one day, it was an excellent excuse to work hard on losing my pallor by (meditatively) lounging by the pool at the commune. But most of all, the Bikram yoga practice was magnificent. As Hasan said (in ‘Balancing Stick’): ‘Like a ‘T’ for Terrific, the Terrific Turkey Troupe, not a broken umbrella!’.

The renowned Bikram guru, Michelle Pernetta, was our leader. Her instruction and inspiration, in particular, was an enlightening experience.  She also has a wicked, wry sense of humour that was constantly insightful, sometimes hysterically funny or satirical, and always witty. Here are some photographs, a poem about how my yoga practice felt at the peak of this retreat (during the final class, to music, with Michelle, on Sunday evening), and the plans I will take forward in response to the things I learnt during this epic holiday.IMG_1925

Pranayama

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Michelle told me some very scary stories about how much harm my addiction to aspartamine and other sweeteners is doing to me. Did you know that sweeteners can cause brain seizures, and cannot be digested by the body, so they remain lodged in your gut?!

I also learned about different yogic practices, homeopathy, massage techniques and ‘ayurveda’ (I am a ‘Vata’ type, which means that I should eat certain types of food to regulate my basic constitution).

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Most of all, it was a wonderful holiday. I learnt that I am taking too much medication. The caffeine detox (I decided to give up coffee, tea, diet coke and all sweeteners)  left me so drowsy that it hurt to keep my eyes open, I felt dizzy some or most of the time, and my drishti blurred so it was harder to balance and maintain each posture. But I return to England feeling strong, energised, refreshed and enlightened. I have thrown away every product in my flat that contains any kind of sweetener. I return to the hot room tonight, at the 5 o’clock class in Cambridge (with my dearest comrades Jennifer and Theo, who (as Michelle said) have taught me so well). I will put to the test what I learned about how to practice from Michelle, and exercise my newly refined postures and extroverted, energised will to power.

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Bikram Yoga

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I had a euphoric moment in Bikram yoga today. I went to my friends Theo and Jennifer’s new studio, Ethos Hot Yoga, in town, and practiced in both of their classes. I ‘did a double’ (with my packed lunch and lots of coconut water in between). This experience brought me a momentous bodily nirvana as a trolled along to my Sunday’s duration.

The first class was lead by Theo. As I exerted my body to the maximum, trying to achieve the perfect muscular alliance and traction during each pose it occurred to me that I have become so besotted to Bikram because it seems so like my previous love (and obsession): dressage. In both arts there is a set sequence of movements which never change: in dressage you follow a particular test, trying to perfect each movement, which is judged and marked out of ten. The tests might change, as you progress and advance to a higher level, but the movements stay the same. You are always trying to improve and interpret these movements with greater correction, pureness and poetry.

Just so, in Bikram the 26 poses are repeated in each yoga session, and they do not change. But every time you practice you try to improve and interpret each pose with greater correction, pureness and poetry, just like in dressage. And, in both arts, every time it feels different. In Bikram, the body reacts and plays differently, as the heat changes in intensity, whilst you can feel your muscles being stretched and your internal organs being massaged in different areas, with different amounts of pressure, as you attempt to perfect each posture.

Equally, in dressage, the horse and the rider always feel different in their interconnection and in the ways they align and communicate to interpret each movement. I used to talk to my horse with my body, through pressure from my seat bones and our connection through the reins, and with our synchronised breath and muscular harmony we could communicate and reassess each movement, always trying to advance the power of the horse’s body and show the meaning of beauty. We did this by practicing each movement, and using this process to enhance the muscular anatomy and poetic brilliance of the horse. In dressage this is an endless search and a lifelong journey that changes and is always different every time the horse and rider come together and perform.

It’s the same in Bikram yoga, my new-found love. The poses are always the same, but each effort to move the body to create them is different. I always lose my balance in ‘Standing Bow’, or during the three bounces to test the balance in the third part of ‘Awkward Pose’. During these poses, and in fact in every pose, I am tested to my limit.

But today this test erupted. There was a tsunami of sweat, as I melted (and came in the heat) and an oozing evanescence between the boundary lines of my body and my mind as they came together and performed each pose. Within the set barriers regulated order of the sequence there was a continued effort to grasp a purity or essence that might be obtained if you can ever achieve the pinnacle of perfection by doing each of the postures properly. You trust that the muscles of the body will be compressed and stretched, massaged and realigned to their ultimate benefit by doing these postures. You can really feel it happening, or, at least, that’s what I felt today. Like dressage, the practice has the aim of improving the anatomy and reaching a pinnacle of health and wellbeing, as well as achieving or creating an artistry and genesis.

Today I felt this come to fruition. Jennifer led the second class and I was determined to test my body to its utmost. It was hot. I felt so situated inside this flesh, and aligned by my practice that I took off my long-sleeved black t-shirt, which I always wear during every Bikram class. So, for the first time, wearing my crop top, I bared my arms and their scars, my stomach and its weight, and the meaty covering over my ribs, which used to protrude and now are no longer visible (even during the pranayama breathing exercise). Most of all, I bared and shared my body with myself, and felt at home there, as the sweat flushed and dripped down me. I put my all into each posture and, despite wobbling around during most of these attempts, there were moments when I could really feel the benefits of this practice. I felt fit and alive. I could see the scars, as relics of my psychotic, destructive, detained past, in the mirrors, but I no longer needed to create them, or to hide from them. I was surrounded by new friends, a new life, and the discovery, or self-discovery, of a healthy way of being inside my new body. This was my euphoria.