Culture of BDSM

As a rule, people who know unforgivably little about BDSM may believe that this process is something abnormal, associated with pain, humiliation and other perversions. But all these stereotypes are justified by ignorance. BDSM is a whole subculture, the basis of which is the mutual exchange of power in order to achieve sexual pleasure for both partners.

Climbing Adam’s Peak

‘You’d be mad not to do it once, but mad to do it more than once.
When I tell Amiter, our guide he laughs. ‘In Sri Lanka we say, if you haven’t climbed Sri Pada then you are a fool. If you’ve climbed it more than once you’re a bloody fool,’ he says with a broad grin.
Despite a reasonable level of fitness I feel slightly nervous about the prospect, particularly since we are holed up in a nearby guest house with the rain sheeting down, ominous rumbles of thunder and flashes of lightning which light up the whole sky.
At the appointed hour of 1am a guide wakes the group I am travelling with to find that as Amiter had promised, the rain has stopped. Walking through the darkness towards the holy monument by the light of the full moon feels like the start of a real adventure.
There are 5,200 steps to the temple at the top of the rock, our guide cheerfully informs us, adding helpfully that it is 10,400 if you count coming back down. For the first few km the pathway leading to Adam’s Peak is easy. The last three kilometres is where it starts to get harder and steeper by the minute. Soon the excited chatter of the group is replaced by puffing and wheezing, and we have to stop to catch our breath every half hour or so. A bobbing line of lights appears like fireflies below us – other pilgrims are following us and it spurs us on to the top.
We are the first to arrive at 5am, three hours after leaving, knowing that it is an hour until the gates to the temple are unlocked. As I dream of a hot drink to warm myself, our guide appears from nowhere with a steaming tray of mugs of hot, sweet Ceylon tea, which feels like the best cuppa I’ve ever had.
The pilgrims atop the rock are flapping arms and stamping feet to stay warm as the sun starts to burst slowly through the clouds to gasps all around and the clicking of camera shutters. The light up here has a quality I’ve not experienced anywhere else, gradually bathing us in a warm glow as we remove our shoes ready to enter the temple. The full moon means it is a public holiday and we are lucky to be allowed into the Buddha’s footprint, kneeling to kiss the ‘footprint’ three times.
I ring the bell once to indicate the number of times I’ve visited the holy site, making a silent promise to myself that at some point I’ll be able to ring the bell twice…
After half an hour wandering round marvelling at the atmosphere and the light and the panoramic view it is time to begin our descent. Three of us spontaneously stand in a line and do some sun salutations. As I stand at the top of the steps ready to walk down I notice I have a lump in my throat. I’m buzzing from the whole experience and despite wobbly legs enjoy every moment on the way down, noticing the waterfalls and different types of trees and the wildlife all around. ‘It feels like we’re walking into Shangri La,’ says one of the group and I have to agree with him. The sun is shining and life feels good. It has been one of the many highlights of travelling to Sri Lanka and I hope I will return one day. If I do I will certainly climb Sri Pada again – even if it makes me a bloody fool.

My new passion

Anyone who has practiced yoga will be familiar with the calming effects of holding a relaxed posture while breathing deeply, perhaps in a meditative state.

So it is with some surprise that after nearly 20 years of being perfectly content with sun salutations and the ‘corpse’ pose I find myself dangling upside down, balanced on a pair of feet belonging to a man I’ve only just met.

I’ve discovered AcroYoga, a physical practice blending elements of yoga, acrobatics and Thai massage, which is fast gaining converts throughout the UK. Invented by Jason Nemer and Jenny Sauer-Kline, a couple based in San Francisco, California, the name comes from the Greek ‘akros’ meaning high, and Sanskrit ‘yoga’ meaning union. The practice encourages trust, connection and playfulness between partners. Such is the buzz around the practice there’s even a new AcroYoga ‘app’.
In 2006 there were 26 certified AcroYoga teachers. There are now over 150 globally and the practice has blossomed, with AcroYoga communities to be found throughout the UK and beyond.
An AcroYoga session requires three active roles: the ‘base’, who spends most of the time lying on their back with their legs at right angles and is essentially the pillar on which their partner rests; the ‘flyer’ balancing up top who performs most of the moves, and the ‘spotter’ who ensures there are no nasty falls and often acts as an interpreter between the base and the flyer.

I spend much of the three hour session being tossed about like a rag doll on the feet of an experienced AcroYoga base, which is both daunting and incredibly liberating.
Unlike many other forms of yoga, Acro gives people the opportunity to connect physically and mentally with others in a safe environment. And play is definitely the name of the game. After our warm up, all around me I hear the sound of people giggling as they try to get into gravity-defying positions, the noise of bodies falling onto mats, and hysterical laughter when a pose goes pear-shaped.

Luckily my partner knows what he’s doing and seems perfectly content to base while I get all the glory tying myself into knots on the soles of his upturned feet. He manipulates me into poses I would never have dreamed of and at one point I close my eyes and simply follow his instructions, realizing I don’t even know which way is up.

And now I understand how the Thai massage fits in. My base kindly starts massaging my back and shoulders, adding a spiritual element to the proceedings. When it’s my turn to base I am worried about supporting a much heavier man but, perhaps thanks to all those years of ‘flying machine’ games with my children, I lift him effortlessly into the basic ‘Folded Leaf’ pose and provide a strong enough support for him to perform various stretches and poses.

It is the most fun I’ve had in ages and I feel amazing afterwards. AcroYoga instructor Jacquie Wan, one of the first practitioners of Acroyoga in the UK, who trained with the founders in 2006, explains the health benefits of ‘inversion’ or in layman’s terms, being upside-down.
‘Inversions are great for turning your world upside down and as we spend hardly any time in this position, what better way is there to have a different perspective on your body?’ she says. ‘The anatomical benefits include an increase of oxygenated blood to the brain.’
There is more to it than this, according to John Friend, founder of Anusara Yoga and one of the most well-known yogis in the States.
‘By inverting the body and using gravity to reverse the normal flow of blood and lymph, the legs and lower body get some fluid drainage, while the glands in the head and upper torso swell with fresh blood,’ he explains.
‘After coming out of an inversion, circulation returns to its normal pattern but with new vitality. All the endocrine glands, which help to rule the immune system and hormone production, are recharged.’

That must explain why I leave at the end of the session on a total high, eagerly anticipating the next chance to ‘fly’.

Many people are attracted by the fact that this form of yoga means working with others, exploring how we connect and collaborate with each other. Personal trainer Neilon Pitamber, who recently joined the Brighton Acro group says: ‘Acro instantly appealed to me as you’re essentially playing with someone. It’s like when you used to do aeroplanes with your dad. I love the intimacy and trust of working with someone else and learning a new skill.’

After my first session I have learned an impressive number of postures including Sun Bird, Walnut, Flying Whale and others which, unless I’d seen photographic evidence, I would not have believed possible.
AcroYoga attracts all kinds of people, many of whom are non yogis. As the practice covers many disciplines it draws in a broad audience from the massage and dance fraternity as well as yoga bunnies, says Wan, who easily sums up the appeal of AcroYoga.
‘It enables us to explore themes like communication, partnership, mutual respect trust, community and play – all valued qualities that can be applied to everyday life.’
Why Acro?
The combination of acrobatics and yoga makes you fit, toned and supple as well as being good for the soul. You don’t have to be a yoga bunny, although it helps, but beginners will soon feel the benefit. Trusting your own abilities to support someone in the air, and learning to trust people supporting you is liberating. An atmosphere of playfulness and trust abounds. Acro yogis are a very friendly bunch.
Where to Acro
Acro instructors and communities organize jam sessions in open spaces and indoor areas throughout the UK
How to Acro
To learn more about AcroYoga and attend a workshop in your area, visit www.acroyoga.org/
or join the Facebook group www.facebook.com/acroyoga

Insideout Boy

‘Inside out boy’

Big as pools, those eyes.
Soft as honey skin
And dark night hair,
My boy slipped out like a little brown fish from the depths of me,
bawling.
My eyes drank in the sight.
My fingers brushed his face, connecting.
My hand stroked his bare, bear head
Feeling the damp fur.
Pulling him into me
Greedily, away from the nurse
Into the circle, the mother-arms,
armed only with love.
I looked up at Him and breathed my silent thanks.
My boy
Safe from harm.
Inside
Out.

 

First Communion

 

‘First communion’

A little girl smiled at me
in church this morning.
A tiny white bride of Christ.
Her face, in that moment,
Pure as love.
Before a shadow passed over it
As the priest,
Mumbling,
Moving forwards with hands outstretched to his God
Lowered the small circle of bread
As was his belief.
Said, Take this body
This Christ.
And I saw the fear
Of swallowing
The holy wafer,
Of taking it in.
I saw the fear rise up in her
And thought I could hear the silent prayer,
Echoed down the line of tiny white brides,
Please, make me good enough to receive this.
Make me good and make me believe.

Poem: Eliza

‘Eliza’

I waited months for you and then you came,
Naked and square mouthed
Curling your tongue against the world.
‘Hello little girl, I am your mother,’ I said softly one morning
as I looked down at you lying on the rug,
Wriggling, helpless.
Arms waving madly.
And I laughed with the pleasure of you.
Hours I passed with my gaze pinned to you
Sweet milk appeared from the blind warm curve I nudged against your cheek.
I learned you from toe to tip:
Flame-haired, fingernails like tiny pink moons,
the jutting lip.
Recognition brought you closer
Your measured gaze and sudden smile made my cradlings even more intense.
The soft weight of you on my shoulder
Fierce promises of defence.

How to get published

Wandering around the London Book Fair for a fair few hours last week (what a buzz, great show) it didn’t take me long to realise that the way forward for book publishing is, like everything in these times, digital. I encountered Kindle Direct Publishing and variants on this theme which basically make authors their own independent publishers.

So I have decided to self-publish Significant Mothers. The days people refer to s-p as ‘vanity publishing’ are coming to an end. Yes there will always be a small amount of dross, just as there is on You Tube, in the Top 40 (and on the shelves of many booksellers) but it really makes sense to me to get my book ‘out there’ and see what happens. Otherwise I’ll still be sitting here in six month’s time telling friends, ‘Yes, it’s with a couple of agents but I haven’t heard back yet….’

I know it’s a cliche but I don’t care: watch this space!