Massage in Mysore

It seems to me there are two types of massage that people get when they come to Mysore.

Thai Massage and Ayurvedic Massage

I’m not the biggest fan of massage, someone getting into my personal space doesn’t fill me excitement nor does the prospect of someone feeling all the lumps and bumps that I generally try to hide from the naked eye. But hey this is Mysore and it seems to me the place for new things and pushing boundaries of comfort, spirituality and physical capability.

So in the name of research (you’re welcome) I tried out both, my good friend Jill who’s a Thai Massage therapist gave me my first and ‘Swastha’ across the road from the main Shala gave me my Ayurvedic massage.

Thai Massage

I’m not a skeptic when it comes to massage, but I was however not the biggest believer that they were anything more than a way to relieve stress and tension in your muscles. When people started saying they were breaking into tear mid thai massage or having mini epiphanies however I started reaching for the crazy pills.

And then I had mine.

Thai massage is done fully clothed (where’s the fun in that I hear you cry?! I hear you) and with nothing but a little essential oil on the feet. It’s a very active massage, more for the masseuse than you as you basically lay there and get thrown about like a rag doll.
I was fearful, as I say people touching my body for massage I could just about do but have them move me about I feared I would be like a piece of wood, embarrassingly unable to relax. Jill however took it so much in her stride I was literally like putty within minutes, I talk about it with awe as I was honestly amazed!

The massage continued with continued amazement.

I wasn’t aware I wasn’t meant to be in pain, unaware it wasn’t supposed to hurt all the time, it felt right then that all this suffering was by choice after all, I just hadn’t realised I had the choice. As a hamstring released I literally felt the tension ease and the physical give was at first painful and then incredibly wonderful!

She worked around my body like she was doing a little dance, at one point I was so out of it with relaxation I hadn’t even realised I’d been turned on my side.

Jill explained before she started and again as we were going through that I was in a ‘safe place’ and that any release of emotion was a ‘good release’, at first I felt confused, why did I need to know I was in a ‘safe place’ with ‘no judgement’?
Everyone I’d talked to had mentioned that it was during the work around the hips and belly they had felt emotional, having gotten through that I was relatively sure they were just dramatic and possibly a little sensitive, being a Northerner I simply assumed I was immune.

And then she started on my back, firstly up the left, or was it the right? I can’t remember, but as first it felt like a deep tickle and then it came, the laughter, unapologetic and unstoppable. I laughed all the laughs I’d missed, forgot all the times I’d muted myself and just laughed, it actually felt like such a wonderful release like it was part of the massage itself, as if the only way to release the tension was to have this burst of emotion.

As the pressure continued up to my neck massaging in an upward motion from the base of my neck to the top, squeezing upwards every time I’d bitten back my emotions, too scared to put myself on the line, wanting to speak but not having the words, not knowing the worth of my voice. I felt her squeeze from that little knot that still remained in my chest. Every so gently plucking the pieces that had fused it together, my little reminder.
Fingers pressed in around my jaw and cheeks and I felt every time I’d kept my mouth closed, every tear I hadn’t cried, I felt my shame and my anxiety but not as I’d felt them before, I felt outside of them, or them outside of me I can’t be sure.
Hands cupping the back of my head, “Give me the full weight.” And I did, I let her have every heartbreak, every rejection, every self loathing and repressing thought I’d ever felt, Now it feels, if I let it, as if it could be but a scar, and scars are rarely painful, they generally sit quietly as reminders, life’s little teachings, the proof that we have lived at all.

I lay, weighted down by the experience and yet feeling the lightest I’ve felt in years, no idea where any of my limbs were in relation to my body, I wiggled my toes and fingers almost to reassure me of their existence and relaxed.

The best savasana of my life.

And that’s how I had an emotional breakdown on an unsuspecting Monday morning on a thin mattress on the floor of an Indian annex. I walked into practice the next day with more clarity and focus than I ever had, I’m not sure whether my physical practice changed or whether it was just my approach to it but I was definitely kinder to myself.


Ayurvedic Massage

Diane informed me when I first arrived in Mysore when referring to Ayurvedic massage, “You do realise you’re completely naked don’t you?”, well with this in mind I braced myself… nope didn’t work I was totally not prepared for this.

Stepping from the bright sun through the yellow curtain and into the dimly lit room was a little bit of a shock but seemed to set the tone for the (unbeknown) intimate experience I was about to have.

Two small indian ladies, probably not much older than me, only just reaching my armpit in height stood eagerly encouraging me to de-robe.

Everything.

Watching with beaming smiles as I shly folded my clothes and put them on to the shelves. All you wear for an ayurvedic massage is a small string around the waist with a skinny piece of cloth to cover your (already fleeting) dignity. Let me put this clearly, you have no where to hide!

First directed to a small stool I sat gingerly looking, I presume, like a deer in headlights, the more smiley girl parted my legs with her hands making me feel I was about to receive some kind of lap dance, and emptied a small pot of oil on my head. At this point I have to put all joking aside, it was bloody lovely, if not a little reminiscent of ‘The Grudge’ shower scene, with multiple hands running through my hair massaging my temples.

After I’d almost fallen asleep where I sat, I was escorted onto a varnished wooden table, which I must admit didn’t fill me with the comforting thoughts of relaxation I’d been imagining. As heated oil was poured onto my body and four hands simultaneously worked on my achey limbs I couldn’t help but imagine myself sliding straight off the table with every assertive pull.

This was not by any means the deep tissue massage I was expecting (hoping) to receive but the rhythmic movements helped to relax me none the less. They say an oil bath a week is good for the joints and I’m sure it has it’s benefits but I couldn’t help but feel like the christmas turkey being prepped for dinner… I’d like to say there weren’t herbs involved but at this point I really can’t be sure.

The basting complete I’m sat up and transferred to the oven steam bath where a towel is placed around my head making it all feel rather reminiscent of E.T in his basket, allowing the steam to envelope my slippery body. My basters set to cleaning the table for the next before settling down on two chairs, whispering in hushed voices and giggling like school girls, maybe at a funny joke or perhaps at my pasty mosquito bite covered ass, one can never be too sure.

I’m just about to slip off the now well lubricated stool in my steamy coffin when I’m patted on the cheek and the towel removed from my head, the metal encasement is opened introducing my body to the cool air and releasing a cloud of steam into the dim room and no, unfortunately the chapati belly I have formed is still there, I’m feeling floaty and light but my little Buddha Belly gives away my late night escapes for ice cream at corner house.
At this point I’m ready to receive a towel and squeedgy of the excess oils draped over my body but no, it’s as if I’m 3 again having my mum carefully and tenderly dry me off after a bath, plaiting my hair and helping me get into my pyjamas, why the hell not the past 90minutes have been passed with hands rubbing more of my body then I think anybody has since, well my 3year old self getting dried off.

I was left feeling deeply relaxed even if my muscles weren’t as unknotted as I’d of liked, after almost 4 months of travelling I’d be lying if I didn’t kind of enjoy the intimacy of someones touch, an admission which seems to be repeated with most other people who’ve experienced the massage.

I was pleasantly surprised at the ease I felt in my joints the next day, the stiffness in my right knee having eased as too had the dull ache, my hips seemed more leanient when I pressed forward in my bends. A win I’d say, proving I guess that you don’t have to feel tortured after a massage to benefit, definitely a more physical outcome than my Thai massage, thank goodness, I don’t think my emotions could of handled it!


I wasn’t sure whether to post this blog or not, I am after all travelling not evaluating beauty treatments (although the thai felt more like therapy), but I realised this is more about travel, anyone can write about that, this is about my journey and that’s what all the great blogs include, little pieces of the person.

Festive Confessions of a Mysore Yogi

I’ve not written a single card this year, not placed baubles on any trees,
I found branches on an Indian street and thought thats the one for me.
My mulled wine will be served in plastic mugs, the movies illegally streamed,
All my festive efforts this year have gone into my Marichasana D.

Moon days have ruled my calendar month not the birth of Jesus Christ,
More interest here in the new Star Wars than when the ‘worlds saviour’ was brought to life.
My thighs have ached and screamed at me, I’ve consumed a life supply of chai,
Trying to get my head around sanskrit not the presents I need to buy.

Calls of ‘One more’ have haunted my dreams this year, not presents from St. Nick,
I’ve probably misbehaved anyway, that fat judgemental prick (sorry).
‘No coffee no Prana’ has been my mantra each day, my coconuts religiously bought,
Maybe I’ll only do 3 Navasana today and hope I don’t get caught.

‘What you do?’ the dreaded question poised upon Saraswatis lips,
My only christmas wish this year is that I can open up my hips.
Sharath has got his spies they say, he knows everything you do,
I’ve spent most my days at Corner House and he doesn’t have a clue.

Rest days to me equal pizza; garlic and extra cheese,
Guess I’ll have to stay to work this off but where will I find the fees?
It’s not all about the asana but it looks good on Instagram
I guess I’m just working for enlightenment in any way I can.

I’ve tried not getting too attached to things, but my gosh that mala’s pretty,
Just hoping I still get up for sun salutations once I leave this city.
And so a Happy Christmas, where ever you may be
Next year I’ll try to be better, love from a Bad Yogi.

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I started this 2 years ago… where’s my patience?

Today I was an angry inpatient little yogi. My thighs are tight, I have acid in my stomach that’s vying to escape and I’m so hormonal I don’t know whether to cry or scream.

Today I didn’t feel worthy of the mat I stood on, “poor mat”, I thought, “if only it belonged to someone more deserving than I”.

Where’s my inner peace? Where is my love and acceptance for myself? When Oh when do I get to feel worthy?

I tried to pull it together, I’d missed at least 3 standing postures, my ujjayi breath got sidetracked and f*cked off and my headstand resembled more of a pathetic pile of limbs than a strong pillar of power. I tried to gather find my patience.

I repeated my finishing sequence, forgot it again, attempted some meditation and sunk into Shavasana with a lump in my throat. I won’t cry here I thought, got up and ushered the boy prodigy into my spot, all the while restraining myself from squeezing him, telling him how awesome he is and thinking of my niece back home.

I rolled my mat the wrong way, the changing room door slammed behind me before I had time to catch it, I slipped on my shoes, tripped on the pavement and came home to cry.

I’m not posting this because I want any sympathy I’m posting it just encase you feel the same, in any aspect of your life. I’m posting it because tomorrow I’ll get up at 6am again tomorrow morning and I’ll go to practice on that same mat, in that same room, probably with that same boy prodigy and I’ll do it for the next 2 weeks. Then when I leave here hopefully everyday after that too, I’ll unroll that same mat (thank goodness I bought a good mat) until I feel worthy, and when I do feel worthy, which one day I will, I’ll continue to practice and maybe then I’ll help people to feel worthy too, not just on their mats but every. damn. day.

I came straight home and wrote this post to get it all out, to show myself some patience in this journey.
We all tackle our own demons, what matters is that we keep tackling them. We are all worthy.

Namaste

Mysore Week 1: Ashtanga got me good!

“If all you can do is crawl, start crawling” Rumi

Wow.

One completed week studying with Saraswathi in Mysore.

End of week 1. Tired and happy after class

End of week 1. Tired and happy after class

A lot of things I thought I would do when I booked this trip in January, a lot of them just words and good intentions. Since then I’ve climbed mountains, dived oceans and now (almost) managed to get my feet behind my head. A lot can happen when you set the intention.

I was wondering whether this is for me, early mornings, sweat dripping from my nose and a permanent burning in my thighs.

I’ve been wondering this because it requires hard work and patience and I’m not too much of a patient person, I also don’t like to be bad at things, I’m very proud and facing my flaws is often followed by a temper tantrum in my head reminiscent of my 5 year old self.

So I wondered this at 6.45am when my alarm went off and again at 8.15am as I rolled out my mat, I wondered it again when I forgot, not for the first time, the next asana I was supposed to be going into. I wondered because I am scared. I am scared to be judged. I am scared to fail. I am scared because as I was wondering all these things I felt irritation and annoyance. I felt helpless and a little bit naive.

Early morning company

Early morning company

It seems silly really because all these things I was feeling, were down to myself. They were my expectations. Not the person on the mat next to me effortlessly easing themself into their vinyasa. Not the assistant patiently smiling at me as I gave my apologetic shrug to what came next. Not even the guy outside supplying coconuts to me every morning while I look like I’ve just stepped under a waterfall.

Post 'waterfall'

Post ‘waterfall’ practice pic

Expectations have no place in yoga. I sat in conference on Saturday and listened to Sharath talk of the 6 shells we have, I sat and ticked all six of them off on my list of personality traits.

I am at the beginning of my journey, that is very clear to me (now) when sitting with any one of the other students studying alongside me, yet I am trying to place myself in the middle. But here you can’t lie about your practice. Mysore is like a truth serum, you can not fool anybody, your actions, eventually, will always speak louder than your words.

Surrounded by my fellow yogi’s in the Shala I can’t help but think are they all going through the same battles as me?

In good company in the shall

In good company in the shall

My week has concluded with no great physical feats but many small ones, a bind I struggled with just 6 days ago, a strength in my arms I didn’t know I could have… a determination brought just with turning up.

It’s been an entire week spent struggling demons in my mind and on the mat. With released tension it seems you also release a lifetime worth of ill addressed emotions (I think us English have this one down to a T), you keep that in and around your hips, did you know that?
Me neither, someone should of warned me of that before I did all those hip openers that lead to an afternoon listening to Adele (Hello. It’s me….) and watching cat videos on youtube, had someone given me a bottle of wine and tub of icecream my apartment would of been reminiscent of a scene from a Bridget Jones movie.

But stepping into lead class this morning, I noted that I left my ego with my shoes at the door and rolled out my mat with less anxiety and more excitement at what Ashtanga would teach me today…

                    …As it turns out it was that I have terrible focus, an allergy to Drishdi (point of focus) and a tendency to think of food and writing while doing my asanas.

Good job I have 3 more weeks here, by the end of it when Saraswathi asks “What you do?” I might actually have a clue!

Mysore: The journey to human pretzel begins!

“We are only envious of those already doing what we were made to do. Envy is a big flashing arrow pointing towards our destiny.”
Glennon Doyle Melton

It is true that in the past my relationship with yoga has been reminiscent of Ross and Rachel in friends, you know that it works, you know that it’s good for you, but you fight and resist it so that you never really get anywhere. Then you see how amazing Ross yoga is with someone else and you get jealous that you ever broke it off in the first place and you repeat the process consistently for 3-4 years. No you’re pretty much up to present on the relationship that yoga and I share.

Much like Ross and Rachel at the airport (gosh that was emotional), I have come to my make or break, in that, I am currently sat in my new (very sparkly and well organised) apartment in Mysore, the birthplace of Ashtanga yoga and the home of the Shri. K Pattabhi Jois Shala where tomorrow I start my 2 weeks intensive yoga practice. The choice is laid out in front of me ‘go hard or go home’, and I’ve already paid and registered so…

The new pad... I even got me a fridge!!

The new pad… I even got me a fridge!!

I have been guilty in the past of being lazy and unmotivated in my practice… maybe.
By the end of my time here though I hope to be able to convincingly contort myself into a pretzel, something laziness and excuses are not exactly conducive to. My non-chalent ‘maybe tomorrow’ attitude is  now surplus to requirement and it’s time to slip into my big girl (yoga) pants and get my ouija breath on.

I would love to be telling you how prepared I am right now, but unless the unnecessary, but totally adorable, new outfits I have are going to help me touch my toes in the morning, there’s a chance I may be stuck on the first sun salutation for the duration.

Maybe this top will help?

Maybe this top will help?

Definitely these though right?

Definitely these though right?

It is however important to remember that everyone is a beginner at some point in their lives and that we must endure through the hard (read; absolutely excruciating) first days/weeks(/years) to reap the rewards of dedication and practice.

I say that last paragraph merely to sound wise, I start tomorrow and expect to be flexible yesterday. I’m probably going to sit and try to be humble and yet compare myself to the entire class, if not outwardly verbal, inwardly and repeatedly to myself. But hey what I lack in flexibility I make up for in enthusiasm and overpriced paraphernalia.

Cheat sheets at the ready I’m last-minute cramming for the exam inside my head, to ease my worries, channeling my inner strong woman, “You are far too smart to be the only thing standing in your own way.” (Jennifer Freeman), and adapting it to my own downward dog based needs. 

Reminded today by thanksgiving, a tradition to which I have no attachment, but this loving, multicultural, yogi community I seem to have leapt into embraces, I have the opportunity to practice a passion I’ve been nursing for a while now, in a place where many Ashtangi’s could only dream of coming.

The Shala of dreams

The Shala of dreams

We as the human race give up too many of our passions and time to things that don’t feed us. I see my family and friends set aside their best dresses and the projects they dream of completing, for mundane and arbitrary alternatives everyday at home. Everyday storing a little bit of themselves for later, for tomorrow. So all joking aside I may go into that shala and fall flat on my sweaty face but I’m going to get up and go the day after, and the day after that regardless, for all the times I told myself tomorrow.

Everyday we have the opportunity to start over and to live our lives with unapologetic enthusiasm, to stop playing Ross and Rachel with our goals and contort ourselves into pretzels, if we so desire.

I have my new mat, my backstage pass to Saraswathi’s class and to the path of  enlightenment, I am on my way, inner cynic be silenced, with the outward witty, self-deprecation and the inner stubborn determination I am ready to follow my flashing arrow!

Toes to the sky… I’ve done it!

I know when it comes to yoga it seems I’m all resistance rather than persistence, you’d be forgiven for thinking that, my yoga journey is about as successful as Katie Prices singing career… no? exactly.

But progress my dear friends is what has been happening the past few weeks, hidden away behind  the closed door of my bedroom I have braved the fear of the fall and moved away from the wall with my headstand… I’ve only gone and bloody done it!

Just a little ray of hope for my fellow hostile yogis out there, we can overcome our gravitational demons and fling our heels over our heads in pure rebellion! 

It took a while to not make it all the way up then promptly fall into surrounding furniture in what can only be deemed ‘pure giddiness’, but once I had composed myself into almost passing as the graceful yogi I aspire to I got this video…

And for your viewing pleasure I have also included my not so graceful fall from grace…

You’re welcome!

Happy Sunday people

Yoga at home… the hardest thing ever?

How do you start your own home practice in yoga?

It is so … abnormal. So independent. I mean as humans we work well as sheep, it gives us a sense of belonging, we are in essence pack animals, we find comfort in familiarity and intimacy.

It takes a brave person to be a leader to stand up and ask to be followed, it takes an even stronger person to not ask but to do what they want anyway. It takes a strong person, a motivated person to not know the way but to keep walking regardless, to find the adventure. Home practice is all these things. It is taking control of your body , facing your metaphorical mirror and working some stuff out.

I am not that brave person. This is what I tell myself everytime I step off my mat after 3 sun salutations and a half assed attempt at some standing/sitting postures I hope may give me abs and help me look awesome standing on my head.

I have been doing yoga for about 4years now. I cannot succesfully hold ujjayi breath for an entire session, do a headstand or even hold a bridge position for a full five breaths.

The only time I really practice is when I am in a class being led and moulded by a teacher, so am I yogi?

Hell yes I am.

You know why?
I have been doing yoga for 4 years! That is longer than any diet/romantic relationship (less than romantic relationship)/hobbie I have ever tried, and I am sill trying.

So why on earth can I not practice at home?

Truthfully it’s not hard or scary. But as soon as I start to ease force myself into my first forward bend I feel the tenseness of my hamstrings, the blood rush to my head, the motivation pour out and the procrastination thoughts seap in. All off a sudden I remember that I was meant to send that email, tidy my room, buy something for travel, or even read how to do the pose I am currently in. There is simply no space in my head for me time. So maybe it is a little scary. It’s all these things that remind me of the effort I need to put in and the energy I must exert. All these things remind me of how good I’m not at yoga.

I continue to try, I continue to push, but my body continues to resist my yogic adventure. The reasons to continue trying outway my reasons not to, I am ever in search of my inner contentment, but maybe I’ll never find that while I’m telling myself I am not that brave person.

My name is Bekki and I’m a hostile yogi…

I am the hostile yogi.

The ‘do I have to?’ yogi.

The reluctant, excuse making yogi, that actually really bloody loves yoga.

You never regret going to a yoga session, stood strong in mountain pose or stretching out the day in a forward bend, leaving feeling lighter, more positive, it’s all true… until I get in my car and drive round the corner.

Yes we all want to be the serene beings the western yoga pratice promises we will become. the reality?

We totally suck at being serene! 

It is something I’m working on, my blood pressure could sure do with it as could my tendancy to comfort eat. Long days do not lend themselves to enthusiastic workouts my friend. Unless you’re one of those people. God I envy those people.

So I’m in a yoga class, ujjayi breath firmly  barely in place and then bam, in the corner of my eye I see that person, how does she get her spine to do that? That’s not normal. And how is she upside down and still perfectly composed? NO! Concentrate, in… and out… but seriously that hair! It’s perfect. Shhhh…    I’m trying to be serene.

I know I’m not alone, my body is actively and blatently hostile towards yoga, it goes against everything I do hour to hour. And whether people admit or not I’m pretty sure about half of the people that do yoga get spontaneous attention deficiencies as soon as they step on the mat.

I mean concentrating on my breath, observing my thoughts as they float by(?), having some one to one time with me, now that is hard!

My mind goes into overdrive, my legs cramp, my bladder decides it’s full and needs attention right now. If I can’t be what a yogi is supposed to be in class how can I outside of it?

Then I realised, yoga doesn’t expect me to be anything but me. All these expectations I put on me are just that, my judgements and insecurities. Yoga isn’t an end point, it’s progress, it’s self discipline and dedication, you don’t just walk in and are given ‘enlightenment’. It takes you as you are and teaches you about you without saying a word. I am still making excuses not to go to yoga classes or leaving a class then arguing with a driver round the corner.

That is just me, I’m a little hostile. I’m dealing with it.

 

We all need people…

People that know me know that I have ‘issues’ with my moods, some people call it depression, I like to think of it as ‘temporary personality glitches’.

Sometimes I feel angry at close friends and my families presence, irritated by comforting words and patronised by affirmations of my achievements and positive things to come. I feel guilty for that.

Despite my minds best efforts of sabotage I can trick myself into thinking I want to go to yoga long enough to get into my yoga pants (admittedly not much persuasion needed for this) and into the car, I could probably slip gently out of the back door if my eyes persisted on the leaking business.

Today yoga reminded me of something. It seems even in my darkest hour I can inevitably find myself again in Chaturanga (could these studies be right?), never before have I had to be so conscious of myself as I have to be in yoga.

Working with a partner I was taught we need people even when we hate people, even when a breath at the wrong time makes you draw pause in annoyance. People pull us out of ourselves emotionally and into ourselves literally… in a yogic sense.

As my tension eased, I fell into the cushiony comfort of ujjayi breathing in unison with a dozen other people and felt the supportive grasp of another human stabilising my ankle I felt just that, stable, supported.

We need people.
People to teach us, form cultures, societies, give us ideas we would have never formed alone, you can learn so much from a stranger if you’re actually willing to look and understand a little.

It got me thinking… is this why we travel? Because other people keep us alert, interested, sane!?

Travel the world to see through someone else’s eyes. Take a yoga class and just soak in the passion of the people that go each week shaking in their Navasana but never giving up.

Go home and tell your spouse, that friend, your cat, dog, fish, you can’t live without them.  ‘What a lonely life I’m trying to create’ I thought this evening.

Letting people help despite yourself is sometimes difficult, hey we can all be stubborn sometimes, but sometimes it’s exactly what we need.

Appreciating those who take the time to withstand your ‘personality glitches’ are the people you kind of want to keep around!

So say it.

Thank you for just being there.

Thank you for saying things will get better when I don’t believe they will.

 

 

Upside down without the fear!

There are many things we as humans strive to achieve to believe we have succeeded in life. Nice Car. Big House. All these materialistic dreams, and so it is true, we achieve our material dreams with, if we’re lucky, with a little hard work (or not as may be for some), relative ease.

But what about those dreams and goals that scare us, the ones that give us butterflies at the prospect of, that we sit on the edge of completing or even attempting?
Like giving up your job to travel the world, spending all your savings on that business idea, or just achieving something that requires a little concentration and a push.

 

Today I did a headstand, albeit enhanced by the trusty bedroom wall, in my elation (and after I recovered from being smacked on the head with the frame I kicked off the wall), I had my roommate (Em) take photographic evidence which I promptly uploaded to Instagram to share with some unknown entity my worth and progress as a human being.

This was quickly followed by a text to Mum saying, and this is the bit that got me thinking, “I did it, it was just getting over the fear of falling”, and that’s just it isn’t it, it’s just living without ‘the fear of falling’.

Literal or metaphorical no one wants to fall, and once you’re over that well, amazing, neigh scary, but none the less wonderful things can happen, like flinging your toes above your boobs and standing on your head.

 

 
 

Life kind of does look better from upside down if only you forget about the fear.