Wednesday, December 30, 2009

3 loaves later

My kitchenaid died! LOL, my overexuberant usage was too much for it...it threw sparks, the motor quit and we had to take it back. Right in the middle of making pizza dough, damn!

The replacement is on order but won't arrive for a couple weeks. Very unusual for a Kitchenaid I'm told, they are very well made...anyhow, I'm excited for the new one to arrive so I can test out recipes in the new book I got yesterday, Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day per Karen's suggestion...haven't delved into reading it yet (Maehle owns my nightstand for the moment) but it sounds like it's going to save me time, which I love!

Speaking of Maehle, I'm enjoying the book a lot. I find it difficult to isolate parts of my body in the way he instructs but I think it is learnable so I'm trying hard...the first thing I'm tackling is femur rotation. That is visual-spatial/obvious/tangible enough that I can handle it and make changes. My reward was a full day of totally cooked hammies...I spent one practice just gently rotating my thighs inward in all my forward folds and it was enough of a change from a routine movement that my body has grown used to that I felt it, super-felt it, every.step.i.took, in my hamstrings the next day. And not an owie, hurty feeling, but a "Hi we're your legs, did you forget about us? We're still here." kind of way.

Another small change: I've been wondering how my back-rounding upbringing has been affecting my practice. Part of the femur rotation is to bring the fold a bit deeper, and to help me take some of the roundness out of my back. I want to train my spinal extensors and core to be alive in this movement so that they can withstand the pressure of LBH. I'm pretty sure this goes against what I've been taught which is a little confusing to me. Because of the back-rounding, I don't have that floppy forward fold where the belly touches the thighs. None of us do in the studio. I'd like to experience that range of motion and see what it does for Supta K, LBH and all folds really. I'm going to pay a lot of attention to what Nancy Gilgoff has to say about this - she teaches hips back, and back rounded so I can't wait to hear her take.

Another comment on Maehle - "excess adipose tissue", lol. A few others have mentioned this and I think it is pretty funny...he says it several times! I don't have the resolve to diet in the name of asana. Period! I'll live with my adipose tissue, I don't think there's too much of it anyways.

Sacrum nutation. How?? I arch back, ask myself if I'm nutated, and I have no idea. Is it something you can tell from the outside...can I tactile-ly press my hand on my sacrum and know it is nutated? Lost!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Birthday Girl

29 today. This is my gift, isn't it awesome?? I opened it yesterday, then made some chocolate pecan cookies and the best batch of bread I've ever produced...I was actually a teensy bit jealous that this machine can clearly knead way way better than my hands. I've been staring into the bowl watching the beater do its work. So cool!



Now it's coffee time....thinking about what to practice this morning Primary? Primary + 1/2 Int? Intermediate only? The most exciting thing about Christmas for me is the three days off in a row. Yesterday I had a home practice...I could really feel the effects of non-regularity on my practice during and especially now. There's a reason I'm supposed to do this daily - it hurts when it's sporadic!

I've never done the 6 days per week thing anyways. For me, 4-5 (gasp!) is what works best with my schedule and the mysore schedule at the studio. And Saturday rules be damned - Saturday is the easiest day to fit in a practice, I'm not resting.

I taped a bit of yesterday's practice, wish I knew how to edit it. My entry into krounchasana on the first side made me laugh when I watched this, I think I forgot what I was doing mid-entry so it looks kinda funny. I stopped taping before Ustrasana...had a feeling my backbends were not going to look or feel so hot, and I was right.

video

Does the timing seem off, like it has been sped up? I'm hopeless with file conversion...been trying different freewares but something tells me this isn't quite right. Meh - whatev!

This is the first time I taped any of these asana, and there were a few things I noticed, but I won't hash them out now, I'll just practice again today and see if I can correct them.

Next year? I will do more Intermediate. No goals, just do my practice - finally getting it. I love this time of year, the wrapping up and starting fresh.

Goa in 3 weeks, which I am looking forward to as a vacation and relaxation and an immersion in something that makes me feel good. Not as an opportunity to learn asana, which is I think what I had in mind when I booked the trip. That has changed.

LBH and jumpbacks and all the things I struggle with will happen here, in my living room or in the studio, when my hips open naturally, or when my bandhas show up to the party, which will take years...not halfway around the world in 3 weeks' time. I'm cool with that, and really excited to spend two weeks living yoga!

Now I will eat my 2nd chocolate pecan cookie, in the morning, before my practice and even though I'm not actually hungry - god I love birthdays!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Title

Work has been Buck Wild.

So I haven't been posting much, and haven't (sadly) been practicing much in the past week. I have nothing to report about asana!

However, despite my job-eating-my-life, a couple of things happened in the past week that have made India seem so much closer. :-)

My visa arrived today, and I got about half of my shots yesterday...Typhoid, HepA/B and Polio. Have to confirm with my doc which other ones I might need, if I've had the boosters or not already. Why don't I remember this stuff?

I don't like needles, at all, in fact they make me pass out - so the burly nurse grabbed my legs and held them above my heart (I was sitting in this weird rocking recliner thingy) and it helped, and was mildly amusing to my hubby, who joined me for the appointment in case he had to wheel me out after.

Anyway, hard to believe it is only 3+ more weeks...there is a lot more to do and plan. Hopefully my job will take a break from eating my life long enough to buy some bug spray and do some flipping yoga.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dwi Pada, Maehle book

Gregor Maehle book arrived! I raced home from work, raced to evening Mysore, raced into shower and then off to dinner with a friend who was in town...all the while thinking about it sitting on the kitchen counter.

When I finally ripped it open, I immediately flipped to the LBH section, hahaha. No patience, whatsoever! I was thrilled to read his thoughts on warming up. I often cheat in the studio and do the "cradle the shin" for a couple breaths before I try stuffing it back there.

Tonight was the first time I managed a (majorly) assisted 5-breath lifted Dwi-Pada. J stands behind me, supporting me from toppling, pulling my feet back (and I think up, a bit) while I ground the hands and push into my mat. Normally I get this horrible clavicle crunchiness when I try it so we skip the liftup part or do it half-assed.

It appears that my shoulders are now through and open enough not to compress my clavicle...interestingly, I used to get this same yucky crunch feeling in Supta K and eventually it went away so I guess the same thing happened there.

I have dinner out with friends again tonight so I think afterwards (if I can stay away from too much vino) I will do the Maehle exercises/warmups. I realized reading it that I haven't been aware of my pelvis at all in the warmups I've been doing. It is likely twisted and misaligned all over the place. Good to know so I can be more careful.

Also, last night the zing was back in alarming full force. :-( I've been having such a good run! I made a wrong move and it made me yelp out loud at the dinner table in a restaurant...twice...embarrassing! I'll do some stretching tonight and tennis ball stuff to release whatever is pulling me out of whack. It is usually my right butt. Epsom salt bath too maybe.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Led Primary

Today was marvelous. There hasn't been much to rave about in my practice lately...been missing that zoned out feeling I love. Today it was back in full force!

Is it bad that I'm "zoned out" and that's what I want? Is "zoned out" and "autopilot" different from "being present"? I worry that it is, and that I have no idea what "being present" is. Maybe I'll learn? Right now I crave "zoning out"....maybe that's a step I have to get through though toward being present. I hope so. It's all a process.

In the asana-centric sense (which is easier to describe :-)) today was all head to floor, head to knee, bind the wrist, mind in the zone. Wowza! Yoga Magic!!

The "open book" business has changed baddha konasana...I'm sooooooo glad J adjusted me that way a while back, I am seeing BK in a whole new light and I look forward to it. It causes far more sensation for me now.

Too bad it was Led, would have loved to bring some of the "zone" to intermediate.

Driving home from practice I was thinking about the shuffleback (or any asana) as vritti. Today there was an amazing jumpbacker parked in front of me so I was treated to a view of her many floating transitions - OK, I guess I wasn't THAT zoned out :-).

Anyhow, I remember the shuffleback and lots of other things feeling dumpy/slow/awkward and eventually becoming natural. Taking a new/uncomfortable/awkward movement and committing to replacing an old and familiar movement with it until the new and correct one becomes comfortable...that is how we're supposed to treat our ideas and thought patterns too, right?

Maybe this is already obvious to most yogis, hahaha - I kind of just "got it" today!

Training the body to convince us it is possible to train the mind. Hmmm, I like it.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hip switch

Yoganidrasana is doable but Dwi Pada is not? Here are some of the reasons I think this is the case...

- Gravity is on my side in Yoganidrasana with the heavy legs
- Don't need to balance on my butt
- I can get away with more curve in the back (not so much in Dwi Pada)

There was nothing spectacular about practice today, it was good and steady...the only thing I noticed was the yoganidrasana thing, and it made me curious about why I can't apply whatever I'm doing there to dwi pada.

Also one of my hips was switched at birth and doesn't belong to my body. Haha! Why is one so much tighter than the other? And which one is my real one? The loose one I hope?

Today I left the office run an errand. I arrived at 1:55 and the note on the place said, back at 2:20. I cursed aloud, then sat down on a bench for 25 minutes. It was excruciating. Sitting and doing nothing. Hadn't brought my blackberry so I couldn't even work or answer emails. Didn't have my notebook with me to do a grocery list. My impatience continued to grow. This made me realize that a meditation practice could probably do me some good. Is 25 minutes that big of a deal? It shouldn't be.

I am probably the person you see on the street speed-walking to work, charging from desk to water-cooler to refill, avoiding smalltalk so that I can get on with the list of tasks and projects I've planned. Passing by the kitchen if the microwave is in use (that microwave dinner they are heating up means 4 more minutes I could be working before I eat my lunch!). Such a nerd! I used to make fun of people like me. People who race everywhere.

Maybe I need to slow it down a little. Or at least try. This I learned from taking my boots to a kiosk in the mall to be retreaded.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Led Primary

No repeat of the bhuja a-ha today but that's fine. It might be because it was Led. I probably need some more mysore time to fuss with it...energy was good though, musta banked some from yesterday! Got a foot cramp this time (same leg as yesterday's calf cramp) but it wasn't until padmasana so I could tough it out OK.

The shuffleback is still the same as always, although it seems a bit more natural and easy now that it is normal. Shuffle shuffle shuffle...then one day maybe pickup/jump? :-)

Today there was someone wearing perfume in the studio. It was really a distraction...I don't understand that at all. Even an otherwise nice smell (in whiff-size doses) seems noxious when you are breathing deeply through the nose! I would think it would be difficult for someone wearing it too, although maybe they are used to it.

Got a great Baddha Konasana adjustment...J opened my feet "like a book" so that only my baby toe side of the foot was touching and BOY was it different. I think this is how I was supposed to be doing it all along, and will going forward, but I didn't actually realize my body was capable of it until she showed me just how exaggerated the "open book" can be.

Heat's on tonight...ah bliss!

Pashasana, Winter, Cold

Last night was one of those "everything feels great" nights! I bound my wrist in pashasana for the first time...rolled up my mat under my feet which seemed to make a big difference. My feet don't touch the ground on their own so stability helped me get deeper into the twist since I was less worried about balancing.

BHUJAPIDASANA - I got my head down AND BACK UP! Something was different...my knees weren't super high on my shoulders, they were lower toward my elbows...which made it easier to manipulate the distribution of weight and let me come back up. There's no shortcut in this one, I need more bandha, but it was an a-ha moment for me. I can't wait to play with it some more.

Then I got a mean calf cramp heading into Laghu...I didn't drink enough water yesterday. Ugh, I was so full of energy, but even stretching didn't loosen the thing so I decided to be gentle and close. I had fully planned to do all of intermediate after primary, that's how guns-a-blazing I was feeling!

Later at home it turned into a foot cramp. Today, H20 and bananas...I'm excited for practice tonight, I'd like to think I "banked" the energy I was feeling last night for later use, LOL.

Winter and cold. My husband and I play this silly game where we wait until we can't stand it anymore before we turn on the heat each year. It is a competition as to who can take the cold longer, we employ fleece sweaters, blankets, magic bags, whatever helps...the person who turns on the heat loses and this year he lost and I WON! Last night he turned on the heat. I had figured we could make it straight through to Christmas but I am very happy to be in a warm house again.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What does it all mean?

Lots of inspiring stuff in blogland these days - food for thought! It is making me think about what I'm doing with my practice and how I got here.

It's so interesting how each yogi's experience differs based on teacher/shala/geography.

I had done yoga on and off for about 3 years, mostly power-type yoga. I had a great first teacher who then left town. So I went to whatever random classes I could find, even some Bikram, yup.

Then I wandered into an Ashtanga studio and was promptly humbled by the most physically difficult 70 minutes of my life. Full Primary. There was no stopping in Led either, no time to say uncle, no mysore attention to put you out of your misery and halt you...you do the whole thing. Well, assuming you could keep up. There were binds and twists and lotuses and all kinds of things I'd never seen! The friendly shapes and sizes on all sides of me were wrapping and binding and kurmasana-ing with ease.....I was thrilled and excited and couldn't wait to get started. The teacher, J, was tough/kind/stern/dry and pretty much exactly what I needed.

I spent about 9 months fumbling my way through primary. I did not (!) master it before moving on to intermediate. My teacher believes that the milder backbends are beneficial and worth practicing to balance the folds of primary so she lets many of her students do up to Ustrasana after they learn Primary.

Based on the experiences of others that I read about, in a stricter shala, I am pretty sure I wouldn't be doing intermediate at all. I would still be working on my strength, transitions and my nemesis...bhujapidasana! I don't actually hate it, I truly love it...each time I practice I run into Mr. Bhujapidasana and it's like, "are we really going to do this again? all right I guess we are."

I was quickly given the rest of intermediate, in maybe two or three more chunks over a couple months. Despite not being able to...jump back, or do a good clean bhuja, or a hands-free setu bandhasana, or a full-on wristgrab in supta k. Or the plenty of other cleanup things I could work on. Chakrasana even (which I avoid because of prior neck complications, and probably more than a little fear).

I now know that's not the traditional method really, but until I started reading blogs...I had no idea that that was different from anyone else's experience - LOL!

I trust my teacher and I love my practice. I aim to have enough physical challenge to distract my mind and keep it from wandering - I'm not nearly advanced enough to turn it off at will, I rely heavily on the physical challenge.

At the moment I can't imagine wanting more poses, as intermediate is more than enough for me to chew on!

Like anyone, I love the idea of someday fitting my leg comfortably behind my head. Despite the impatience or frustration I might sometimes feel, then talk myself out of...I am beyond happy with my 70-90 minutes of escaping the world. :-)

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Good morning

It was open studio this morning. I felt like a shorter practice so I did primary to navasana...added bhuja and supta k (I could do this because there was only one other person there, who wouldn't have noticed!) and then closed.

Yesterday I wrapped up my team's performance reviews - so relieved!! It amazes me how open my team members are to constructive discussion as long as you can tailor that discussion to their interests and goals (assuming you know them, hopefully). It's a really interesting and rewarding process to work out a goal with someone, develop a plan for it, give them tasks to test them and opportunities to demonstrate that they've met it.

I'm super task-oriented by nature so the focus on people is challenging for me. I've been through a couple of cycles of it now and I'm just starting to get comfortable now.

Well yoga is done for the day so my evening is free! Guess I'll cook dinner and watch Glee :-)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thumbs of Justice – Half Intermediate – Shoulder is GOOD!

In joyous holiday news, based on today’s practice, my shoulder is now FINE :-).

Saturday was a rest day. I got a massage from a dude who nearly made me scream/faint with his brutal thumbs. Sounds unpleasant but it was exactly what I needed. For the first time in maybe my entire life my traps are relaxed. Like completely relaxed. And boy did I earn it.

At the end we did the Flying Elbow Drop.

I lie on my side, bring the top knee to hip level and he takes the pointiness of his elbow and applies firm direct pressure into my glute/hip muscles. You know when you feel the muscles slide over themselves? Globie called this the “gloop-gloop” the other day, which is totally correct! After the initial near-fainting discomfort, I felt such a deep release it was like my leg actually detached from my hip. When I walked home my hips were all loosey-goosey and it felt amazing. Then today I had the snuggest/foldedest ardha baddha padmottanasana ever.

The shoulder pain has brought another level of awareness into my twists, and I think the new focus has actually improved them…oddly enough? I tell my brain to start the twist at the pubic bone (Bandha! Sthira!). This twist-from-the-pubic-bone thing came out of Darby’s workshop - forgot to mention it in my coverage. Now, twisting from the pubic bone may not actually be possible (I have no idea) but for me, at least bringing more of the twist LOWER takes a lot of pressure off of my shoulder socket and forces me not to overuse shoulder mobility in my binds. Of course, that’s what we’re supposed to do…but bad habits form. And this is one I am getting the hell out of. Even if it slows me down, I’m twisting properly, from now on.

I also get a zingy nerve pain in the right side of my back when I fold, been happening forever; I sometimes forget it’s weird. I am now determined to fill my entire chest with breath, expanding every goddamn rib and every vertebra, relieving whatever compression it is that is zinging through my little spine. Hard to tell if it is actually working yet but at least it's making me feel in control…in the past, I would feel the zing and back off, but I’m starting to realize that the zing has been happening for 5 years and kinda needs to be addressed. It is something that my practice should be helping – yoga chikitsa.

Shock of the day; I did my regular Kapo, that’s how good my shoulder was. I thought I would be weeks away from that. Did it up, was great!

I didn’t expect to talk so much about injuries and pain today, sorry y'all…I’m actually SOOOOO happy and relieved about my shoulder that I got excited to use my practice to address my ongoing back zinginess. I feel really positive about it....:)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Primary Friday - TGIF

Primary again today...I feel great. Still not rocking my normal setu bandhasana. I have never been able to do the full expression anyway, I usually support it with hands over head UD-style, so it doesn't bother me much to step back to hands under hips for a bit.

Today was the half-or-full class, so we could stop at Navasana or do the rest. Stoppers have the option to stay and watch if they are interested to see the rest. Everyone stayed! I expected a few people to close and roll up but everyone stayed to watch and we all closed together. It was nice. My practice doesn't feel very spectator-worthy at the moment but I was happy to do the motions if it helps someone else. I remember a year ago sneaking peaks at people lowering in Bhuja or binding in Supta K while fumbling through myself and I definitely could have used a guiltless show - even watching someone else struggling but breathing and doing it anyway would have helped me I think.

Primary is lovely. I love it and always will. But when do I get my 2nd practice back?

When the neckshoulder is twangy-twangy, what does this mean for 2nd? First, dropping my head back in Laghu and Kapo just ain't happening. So goodbye for now to my favoritest and need-to-work-on-est backbends. And what does it mean for LBH? I can modify and do the heel and knee in elbow crook. But I wantttttttt to keep working on the real deal. But I shouldn't. So I won't. A heavy leg attached to a newly tighter hip does not belong behind my twangy-twangy neckshoulder. Le sigh.

I will do 2nd on Sunday at group practice and modify best I can. I hope we can veer off instead of doing full primary first. Or maybe I will do primary plus back half of 2nd.

I'm drinking a large Tim Horton's coffee, feeling very rambly.

Also, this made me laugh. J was telling people that there is a moonday on Tuesday - she has morning mysore and evening Led on tuesdays...and she is the only teacher so it is a "big day" with two popular classes. So we were talking about it being a "bad day for a moon day" and then it was a "bad moon" and then it was a "bad moon risin"...hahaha!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Terrific!

Today I did Primary, skipping nothing, and only deviating from my usual practice at setu bandhasana. I modified it - too risky quite yet but it will be back soon.

There was minimal discomfort so I'm really hopeful that in another week I will be back to normal-ish!

I was sooooooo happy to do sirsasana today for the first time in two weeks! I love that pose, why do I love it so much? I learned to stand on my head when I was a kid. My grandpa helped me learn and it took me a whole summer. He would drag one of those long cushions off of an outdoor lawnchair into the middle of the yard for me to practice on...and he would hold my feet for me, so I think I love it because it reminds me of him.

I was tempted to go into 2nd after but I didn't want to push my luck with the backbending. I did my first UD since I hurt my shoulder/neck and it went fine. I was really careful not to extend the neck, basically just letting it hang. I don't think I am ready to relax the head back in Laghu or Kapo.

Work is utterly insane. My days are booked up with meetings and calls all frickin day...I am madly scribbling in a notebook at all times trying to keep track of everything spinning around me. I am really looking forward to this yearend process winding up and getting back to normal.

Happy Thanksgiving y'all. I'm in Canada but my office follows US holidays...so I had today off, and I am very very thankful :-)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Easing back

The shoulder/neck has improved. Primary and 1/2 intermediate today. It was fine!

"Cautious" practices aren't necessarily exciting. But cautious seems like the smartest approach so that's what I'm going with. I modify anything that irritates it, and it has quickly shown me what I've grown attached to "doing well" in my practice...and also that on some level I worry about looking lazy. Which is silly. There are no lazy people doing ashtanga!

Keeping my jumping to chaturanga as light as I can in Surya's. I can't float, of course, but trying to distribute the impact as evenly as possible not to jar my shoulder. In the standing poses, there has been a lot of toe dristi instead of looking up. I can manage all the marichyasanas but haven't been going for wrist in any of them. I made it my mission to create space and not "overuse" my shoulder mobility to get me there.

I booked a massage and was so lucky to have an extremely skilled RMT. She had worked in physio and she did things I've never experienced before in a massage, including coaching me to breathe certain ways at certain pressure points. It was great!

There was absolutely no going back in Kapotasana today. I turned it into another Ustrasana, haha!

No Sarvangasana, no Sirsasana, and only the teensiest utplutihi. They'll be back before long I hope!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Workshop Last Day

Something I said I’d come back to from day 1. Orientation of pubic bone and tailbone in downdog…sitbones are lifting, pubic bone is going up! And tailbone is tucking…after I got home I got out my anatomy book and MB connects the pubic bone and tailbone front to back. So a contraction of MB would pull them closer, drawing tailbone into tucking and pubic bone upwards to the sky (in downdog). Got it! This anatomical discussion of MB was really helpful for me. I think there could be more of that – words like “pelvic floor” and “root lock” don’t make the connection for me. What can I say?

Injuries – Darby shared some of his personal injuries with us. A long time ago, in each vinyasa, he used to go into handstand, tic over into UD then toc back back through to seated before the next pose. Unreal…it hurt him badly. The repetition really strained his back. He does not advise it! He also can scratch the top of his head with his toe in the Janu Sirsasanas (even showed us, and WOW). But he said he stretched the ligaments in his lower back doing this so he stopped. Also doesn’t advise it!

Backbending – the first part of intermediate (up to ustrasana) is fairly accessible and should be available to all as soon as their primary is under control. He doesn’t insist on dropbacks and standing from UD before intermediate. J doesn’t either (b/c nancy doesn’t). I haven’t had much of an opinion on it, really, other than being a bit disappointed not to work on dropbacks as soon as I’d hoped. But after hearing his rationale, I have to go out on a limb and say I agree. The milder intermediate backbends strengthen the back. Back strength is needed to drop back with control and stand from UD. That makes sense to me.

Morning – Led Primary, it was great. We were in a nice large room, which was surprisingly warm and cozy. I wrenched my shoulder, I have no idea how but it was burning by the end. I tried to take it easy. Ego won a couple of times (of course), particularly at headstand. I WANTED TO DO IT SO BADLY. So I did, and it was dumb. Why is it so hard not to be stupid? And why did I have to do utplutihi? Course I did it. Cause I didn’t want to be the lazy ass in the front row filing her nails during utplutihi. Anyway, at midday break I raced home, had a bath with Epsom salts and iced it. Going to have to do so tonight too.

Afternoon – Backbending. We did modified sun salutations with lunges, which we held for 5 breaths each side…some with a slight back bend, some with back knee on ground. Coming back to samistithi between sides. We were quickly warmed up again! I took it very, very easy on my shoulder. Ego was firmly in check.

We did Intermediate up to Ustrasana. I would have loved to do more. A lot of people had a lot of questions which is wonderful that they got answered and that we covered their injuries but I was disappointed that this forced us to stop at Ustrasana. So I’ll have to go to Montreal someday and get the full meal deal…

Interesting points, even though we didn’t get to do them, he prefers for students to master Laghu Vajrasana before taking on Kapotasana. Not surprising, I think this is usually the way in Ashtanga but my teacher doesn’t enforce this (I’m lucky because Laghu Vajrasana took me a long while and I still find it very hard).

Workshop is over!! Wonderful people, I do think I’ll visit Montreal someday.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Workshop Day 2

We did more yoga today! Here are the main things that made an impression on me...

Mat friction - I know my mat has some grip to it, but I don't think I realized how much until today. He asked us to set aside our mats and just use our towels on the hardwood floor...putting a fold in the middle of our towel, between hands and feet. The point was to leave a certain amount of slack in the towel. It was pretty darn tough! We did the Suryas and Standing this way and I was sweating immediately trying to keep my bunched up mat from sliding into tautness and holding me there. I realized quickly that these are muscles I seldom use. Mat friction gets us away from core and bandha...and makes things easier than they could be. I am consoled a bit by my soft/smooth eQua towel which doesn't help me too much until my hands and feet start sweating.

Bhujapidasana - after his demo, I actually made it fully around my hands, touched down then hopped up to crossed feet once (got this tip from Skippetty)! Still can't jump in feet-free, but I was pretty thrilled...his demo was extremely helpful. The hips and legs don't need to go "high", the hips come "forward", legs then wrap around and "in". And you keep your head up and ignore the floor! I honestly think there's a shot of me getting this one day - never thought so before. One of J's senior-est students, who leads some of her beginner classes, jumped in today for the first time, pretty cool to witness! She was pretty casual about it (I envy her non-attachment) but I was nerdily thrilled on her behalf.

Chanting - we chanted while practicing! We had a mantra on the inhale and Om on the exhale. It was a really neat sound, but I found it extremely hard to vocalize on the inhale, ended up swallowing air and then got burpy. Real fun right around Mari C. Sorry if that's gross, it was even grosser to be me at the time. Breathing through the mouth is WEIRD. Remember how hard it was to do nasal breathing in the beginning? well it feels ten times weirder to mouth breathe now. He admitted after we finished that it is very difficult to manage the inhale-vocalization but it was a good exercise for us to try.

Eight Limbs - he talked about Ahimsa and vegetarianism and not using animal products. I felt guilty for eating meat.

He is extremely dynamic, and Joanne is the most darling lady (and funny!). His movement is really expressive, exceptional control over each limb and each small nuance of movement (not surprising, I suppose) almost like a dancer I guess. When he is making a point about something, his entire spine is involved in what he is talking about.

Every time I see someone who has practiced for that long, it reminds me that I need to do this until I die. That kind of vitality is extraordinary.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mark and Joanne Darby Workshop

Tonight was a 2 hour talk and we did a few Surya A’s and exercises. These two just seem like the coolest pair. So funny, she seems very warm and has this lovely French accent and teases him quite a bit. Informative and entertaining! OK, here is what we covered…in order of when it came up…I was not organized and did not bring a pen/paper so here is what made an impression! I’ll be better tomorrow.

Round/Straight back – the orientation of the pubic bone and the tailbone (and their relation to each other) are what is important, not the pelvis/hips. Pubic bone should be (I forget – will come back to it tomorrow), tailbone should be tucking, sit bones should be lifting. And they can move independently (pubic bone and tailbone). His preference for his students is a straighter back with tucked tailbone but he wasn’t disparaging about round back – he mentioned matter-of-factly Sharath and Nancy now do rounder backs.

Shoulders in Updog, Downdog, everywhere – both seemed very concerned about shoulder injuries (and other injuries) and how common they are. Stressed relaxing into the shoulders in updog, resting into the shoulders, without sinking…and going deeper in updog means going forward and through, not up. Use the bones, not the muscles. It was great for me, because I have these crazy tense traps and I overdo it in updog sometimes. J was beside me and I know she doesn’t love updog, she actually said – that felt great, I could be there all day.

Uddiyana Bandha – this was my favorite. He gave us this neat exercise in pairs where you are in a straddle squat with sacrum pressed against the wall and someone coaches you. You engage from the pubic bone to the navel, all the while rolling each individual vertebra up the wall – slowly. I volunteered for the demo (he did two, I went 2nd) and he actually pressed my abdomen quite firmly and guided me while watching my vertebra go up the wall and giving me the feedback (slow down, too many vertebra – etc), and oh-my-god my stomach wrapped itself in and engaged like I’ve never felt it. It was super, super cool. Hard to grasp at first because I was focusing on the vertebrae and the wall…but they were just tools. As soon as my body was in the right place Uddiyana happened! I didn’t want to stop!

A troop of Karate kids kicked us out of our space after promptly 2 hours – we were not in a studio, at a gym - and everyone was reluctant to wrap up. There are sessions tomorrow and Sunday, will report!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Snow!

First snow of the year yesterday! Went to MEC today and got snowboots...

Yoga with A today. We strapped up our knees and did several long-hold quad openers to start – all virasana variations – followed by progressively deeper chest/thoracic openers, leaning back over the block with less and less head support. A took my sissy foam blocks away and gave me wooden ones and I was surprised that they were actually more comfortable. I even used them later for my propped versions of samakonasana (sp) and hanumanasana.

The first time I went to A’s class, when we did the splits in the middle of the prasaritas it was disarming. I felt resistant, impatient, slow and even annoyed. Getting into the hips. Those tight old hips. But I’m not good at this. I hate this. Why are we doing this, lol.

Today, I actually enjoyed them! Did my hips magically melt and allow my butt to sink to the ground in a gymnast-type split? No, absolutely not. I blocked those mothers like no tomorrow. But I lifted arms overhead and let myself sink as much as I could manage and it was a great stretch. I’m completely over my pissy, petulant phase with the dreaded splits. I like ‘em now, propped butt, bent knees and all.

A thinks I should be going for heels in kapo…she showed me that I could see my heels just by turning my head (turning my head never occurred to me in a million years but tada, there they are). I’ve been pretty satisfied with toes and the odd ball of my foot but if she thinks I can do it it’s worth a try. Then she let me stand from UD alone today!

I touched head in laghu vajrasana and came back up on my own – nearly hooted I was so excited. First time ever. I think the recent standing from UD must have unlocked some mind-quad connection I had been missing before. I used to be able to get sooooooo close but, if my head touched earth, the bandha disappeared and it was all over.

I had a bit of a “shoulder” breakthrough today…I realized when A was demo’ing shoulder stances that I squeeze my shoulderblades together far too much in ustrasana, which creates this whole mess of congestion in my traps and causes discomfort when I stretch my head and neck back. My sternocleidomastoid (big word alert) muscle on the right side doesn’t like full neck extension. If I slide my shoulder blades just a bit apart and down I can retain the openness in the chest and extend the neck far more comfortably – nice!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Shuffleback

So…the shuffleback is like one baby step after the lean forward. I place my hands as though I were going to do a real jumpback, haul my butt back as far as it can go and wherever my feet land, I launch from there back to chaturanga. I do it in both Mysore and Led now. It builds a bit of strength (compared to the lean forward) and doesn’t slow me down too much. The lean forward is way faster though.

The steps I read, advice I have been given, and what I’ve learned from watching others in my studio (only one person in the studio can actually do it!) is that I need to bend the arms to draw my shoulders down and my hips up, counterbalance-wise.

My brain refuses to give this instruction to my arms!! Does. Not. Compute. Is it fear? It has to be fear. When I don’t understand why something doesn’t work, it is fear. Not a conscious fear, but that innate, human, don’t-want-to-break-my-face fear that takes over your limbs. My mind has some serious work to do to convince my body.

I have a weak bhujapidasana, and I am pretty sure the two are related. If I could confidently, slowly move myself into bhuji (sans head-thump) maybe I would trust my arms and allow them to bend. Been working on this.

The shuffleback also feels nicer than it looks, ahahaha, but you can’t win them all. It evens out with my less-than-atrocious wormthump this weekend :-)


video

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Group Practice

New development - I am loving Sunday group practice. Nearly gave up on it last week. We've abandoned the idea of breathing together and keeping up with eachother and I like it much better. This Sunday we were a full house, mat to mat, elbow to elbow and literally feet to face....it got soooo warm. I think I had my favorite Supta K of all time. Everything felt pretty good actually. Didn't even mind the crowd. Lady beside me got kicked in the head by the person in front of her, ouch! :( She was OK though.

It was an easy practice and it flowed well...it was like mysore because it was on my own breath and counts, but there were no adjustments. And I love adjustments, but what a flow you get into when you aren't stopping or waiting?! It was great. Sometimes it is nice to struggle a bit and find your own way in asana - I think it is valuable. Sunday group is on its way to becoming my fave practice of the week.

The only thing that would make it better would be if we didn't necessarily have to do full primary...like veer off mid-standing or even after navasana and do 2nd. I still lack the stamina to do a pleasant full primary and 2nd. I mean I can do it, but its pretty punishing. I don't like going into those headstands tired, mainly. I'm a sissy like that. We stopped at Kapo and I felt great going into savasana.

Work has been Buck Wild so far this week. I have to complete my performance evaluations by the end of the month and while I adore my team and I love the process, I usually feel pretty depleted afterwards, personally.

Anyways, back to yoga :-) I have to get them off my camera and convert the files and so forth but I have a shuffleback video to post this week at some stage!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Backbends

A few weeks ago I stood from UD to my own surprise. Then it left me for a while…I was accepting of it and didn’t dwell. This weekend it came back. So, I tried it a few times to be sure and I think it is truly here to stay.

video

Feet are still yucky but you’ve gotta start somewhere (nice little dance at the top…then my husband comes charging through…these are the distractions I live with while trying to work on my backbends…le sigh). I managed to do it without the dance later but didn’t catch it on film.

I also did some dropping back to the liberator (affectionately renamed Liberace) and coming back up from same.

video

I then tried to come out a little further from the liberator, to have less of a prop on landing. I came out too far, realized this on the hangback and lost my nerve going back. I'm a little disappointed I didn't go for it as watching this it seems a lot closer than it felt. Maybe if I bring my Manduka home from the studio, it would protect my wrists better than my travel mat. Then I might have the confidence to do it sans Liberace.

video

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The WormThump

I never intended to film the wormthump because frankly I was a little afraid of what it would look like. I knew it didn't feel great.

Then I thought what the hell. Someday (when I can do it properly) I will look back and enjoy this and be grateful to myself for sticking with it.

video

So? It sure isn't great, but it isn't as horrific as I was expecting. The forward-hop is something I figured out a few weeks ago, the wormthump portion happens on the back end, which is I think the part most people have trouble with anyways. It looks exactly like a Nakrasana from someone who's still learning Nakrasana. And that's what I am :-)

I took a couple more videos and I may share them tomorrow, blogger takes too darn long to post!

Friday, October 30, 2009

David Swenson DVD

‘Bout six weeks ago I ordered David Swenson and Richard Freeman DVDs. I had kind of forgotten about them, but last night I arrived home from a particularly grueling day at work and was delighted to see a package on the hall table. David Swenson’s DVD had arrived.

I have a terrible cold so I slathered myself with vaporub, hooked up the DVD player (which frankly I don’t even know how to do, embarrassingly, but I worked it out given the circumstances – maybe I was coached, a little). Crawled onto the couch under a duvet and cued it directly to Third Series. No effing around, it was a rough day and I wanted to be entertained.

Result: I don’t know if I could ever go to his workshop and meet this man. I would be utterly geeked.

He flies like a butterfly/ballerina? Defies my understanding of physics?

Even my husband was riveted for a good fifteen minutes before wandering off, interspersing it with sports-watching noises like ooooooooh and oh-HO-ho. OK I’m not good at replicating the sports noises but try to imagine the sounds you hear from a room full of guys watching soccer or hockey. Yeah, he was impressed.

“His feet…don’t even touch the ground!”

Tell me about it.

I nodded off before it finished (in a haze of night-time decongestant), but I’m looking forward to seeing 2nd sometime this weekend. Maybe I’ll actually do some yoga too :-)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Normal

Much better. Led class at a regular (non-warp) speed. Happy happy.

I finally started doing the chakrasana exit in the 2nd half of primary. I had a neck injury earlier in the year that held me back from Setu Bandhasana and Chakrasana. I cut them out completely, added SB back a couple months ago but this was the first time trying Chakrasana and it was fine. Didn't bother my neck at all. Proceeding with cautious optimism! Chakrasana seems to be about the timing and I feel like I need a lot of space for it.

There was enough time for the shuffleback - which is feeling less awkward and more natural now, despite its lack of elegance. It's so funny that it felt awful and ungainly and ugly when I first started doing it last month but once you cycle it through enough practices it starts to feel normal, no matter what it looks like. Same as when you learn chaturanga or the toe-roll as a beginner. Your teacher tells you to put them in and keep them there...and it feels wrong and difficult and forceful. Then they just fade into the rest of it and become your practice.

J has been talking about lightness a lot and softening the exhale on the poses that challenge us. I'm guilty of some "angry breathing" in poses that challenge me...so I've been trying to soften the breath. Lightness is just hit or miss. Sometimes I feel it and sometimes I don't. I get it in headstand, sometimes on a jumpthrough or jump to uttanasana. Sometimes in Virabhadrasana II, oddly.

I miss Intermediate, esp. the first half. Haven't done it since Thursday, I want to bend my back. Mysore tomorrow...UD feels sooooooo much nicer after intermediate.

Coffee is my favorite thing.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Off

Every day is so different! Sunday's practice felt just...off. I was feeling a cold coming, and I debated skipping but I decided to go and hammer through thinking (hoping) that a practice might just annihilate the thing.

It was the fastest practice I've ever done. The Sunday class is no spoken instruction, no counts, just breathing and moving in unison (or trying). Which generally means we default to the fastest breath count, which was soooooo fast yesterday. Then we tacked on the back half of intermediate. After Mayurasana (which was nothing to write about, believe me) I decided to do a long slow close and take a long savasana, waiting for the others to finish. I've never tapped out early like that, I think it was a combo of the cold and the speed. I was just spent.

I just don't think that kind of practice is for me. I focus too much on others (the breath and movement of others, not the asana) and am unable to find my own breath and get into a rhythm. I land in an asana, and by the third breath I am thinking about exiting it and keeping up with the pack in the next vinyasa (which also eliminates the opportunity for the shuffleback, which was coming along so well, even in Led).

I will give it a couple more tries but I don't know. I think it is just too fast for me.

Hoping Led tomorrow will be better...the beauty of the practice is we get a new day and another try!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Yoga Day

Yesterday was a yoga day. Class at 9 with A, then an afternoon workshop with J.

In A's class we did primary then 2nd up to LV and some dropping back to UD and coming to standing (assisted). Her new Saturday space is large and open, with mirrors but it is quite cold...took a while to get things warmed up. I used to love mirrors before I started practicing ashtanga...I found it helpful. Now I find them really distracting. Saw myself a couple times and the breath just evaporated. Not so good.

She assisted my standing to UD and the last time I am pretty sure I did it alone, I didn't feel her touch me...we talked about the process, she said lead with your pubic bone/hip, send all your energy there, then you can think about the chest and only last can you think about the head. My first time, by dumb luck, I managed to come up as a unit...trunk down, trunk up...all momentum, zero control. It made much more sense, splitting the body into modules, and felt much better and more stable. UD to standing will be back.

It is funny, with the backbends, I just have this feeling that they will take care of themselves...that as I practice they will just happen and turn into what they need to be. I am not inclined to worry about them or work on them outside of practice.

LBH is the opposite...I lack faith that LBH will be the happy product of consistent practice. I still believe I need non-ashtanga intervention to make it happen. I'm probably wrong - the difference is the faith.

J's workshop was mostly talking, which I was a bit relieved about because the practice with A was dynamic and all that I needed for the day physically. There were only 4 of us there and we talked a lot about breath (very helpful) and asana-wise we worked on chaturanga and sirsasana. I don't have problems with these but the refresher was helpful. I'm happy that I have quite a strong chaturanga now but it took me a long time to build the strength. I see people in the room looking dismayed and not having faith and I just wanted to say, "I was you!! It will happen!! Keep trying!!" but I thought that might be inappropriate.

I decided to skip my Karanda question, for fear of terrifying any beginners in the room. I did ask for some help on Mayurasana and I'm glad I did because it turns out I've been exaggerating the hunch too much and I'm basically flopped over my arms in an arc. Of course I am having problems! I had a respectable attempt and felt the difference. Mayurasana will happen someday.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Second

Today I was early to Mysore which is nice because I always seem to be the last to arrive. Got halfway through standing and decided to do some primary and see how I felt. By Navasana I had decided to do intermediate.

Had a nice Kapo, my hands actually landed on my tiptoes - normally they hit the mat and walk in a bit. LV was OK too, I was assisted and it went better than normal. I get a cramp in my right calf when I stay down the full five breaths...never fails. So strange, always on the same side. Stretch it out and move on. Probably a reason for that.

Mayurasana felt closer today than before (we're talking 10%). For some reason each time I approach it it feels different.

J told me today that she wants me to do more 2nd so that I can practice it in Goa and get help. My primary needs less help than my 2nd (makes sense) so I should get used to practicing it more now...she thinks i should do a couple of primary's at the beginning of the workshop then switch to 2nd and get more really good instruction on it. So I guess that means I am "split" as they say, to 2nd.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Shuffleback comes to Led

I love primary. Love.It. Just do!!

I hadn't planned to do the shuffleback (my awkward pickup/slog-jam the feet back/hop to chaturanga) in Led for a while. But today there seemed to be an extra nanosecond between the end of asana and the beginning of vinyasa...which made the shuffleback fit. In my mind J was accommodating me with her counts...but maybe instead my mind was accommodating my practice. Either way, the shuffleback lasted until the end of Marichyasana C. And either way, I know J was happy that I tried, because she kindly fixed the front of my eQua in the middle of a downdog (it gets all messed up when I shuffleback, as my feet don't clear the mat). She has no patience for mat/towel/asana fussing, so it is pretty nice of her to mat/towel/asana fuss on my behalf.

Notables: lotus in sarvangasana without hands is now consistent. J is holding a workshop on Saturday and I am planning to ask about the sirsasana modification for Karanda. I like to do this in my home practice and I'm curious what she thinks, but I imagine it won't be acceptable in the studio (which is fine). I also have questions on Mayurasana.

The week continues to improve!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Beast of a Day

There was an extremely unpleasant chain of events this weekend involving a 10-foot rental truck and a gas station fender bender. Low speed, no injuries, just a complete drag. But between police station, insurance and rental company…repeating the report to various parties has become a bit exhausting. I am looking forward to putting this business behind me. I took today off work so I could deal with the phone calls and police report quickly and without distraction.

On to happier news, the weekend was spent in my home town with the parents and it was wonderful. I knitted my mother a scarf and brought it to her and she was so happy with it, and also openly coveted the scarf I was wearing so I secretly left it in the hall closet and she discovered it this morning. I love knitting, and giving knitted items! It makes me so happy.

After the business of phone calls and police reports there is Mysore class tonight and I am looking forward to breathing this event right out of my mind.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Steady as she goes

Well standing from UD didn’t happen today but that’s OK. I will keep trying! Now that it has happened, I know my body is capable, and my attempts today made me realize that the timing of it is quite important…probably more important (for me) than openness.

In all other ways my practice today was steady. So I thought there was nothing to write about really…and then I remembered six months ago when I couldn’t imagine describing anything about my practice of intermediate as “steady”! I was actually smiling when I finished. Primary to Navasana then full intermediate.

There were new faces at Mysore, and that doesn’t happen very often. It felt strange to practice facing someone I don’t normally see…this space is 200 sq feet so you get to know the regulars pretty quickly. There are big/weird/political changes happening in the yoga scene in my town…displaced teachers and displaced students. Studios changing direction…that kind of thing. Hence the new faces. Once I got over the initial surprise (and actually, some shyness, to be honest) it was great and I enjoyed new/different energies.

J gave me the Karanda/Vrschikasana adjustment today…which I have renamed the "side of beef" adjustment, or the SOB for short. Hehe. We haven’t done that one in a while. It really is like having your limbs tied up in padmasana and then kinda tossed around. I used to dread it so horribly…it was uncomfortable and I didn’t think it would teach me anything. But then I realized…..what better way to learn stability in Pincha than to have someone completely manipulating your limbs and balance in an inversion? Pleasant? Not really, not at first, but I think it did help my Pincha…generally, I am just so worried about hurting J (tiny powerhouse woman adjusting my tall frame) that I dig to keep myself supported and not collapse on her. It works!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Morning, Standing from UD

This morning I did a short practice at home. It was a bit of primary and a bit of second...for the first time I stood from Urdhva Dhanurasana unassisted!! It was the most unexpected thing...I was just doing my closing and decided to try rocking hands and feet. All of a sudden, I was up.

It was superfast and the feet were all wrong I'm sure, plus there was a lot of shuffling and stepping at the top to be sure I truly was up and not about to hurtle back or forward but I did it.

I am interested to see if I'll be able to do it tomorrow. Sometimes these little asana breakthroughs happen and then they go away for weeks/months...they always return after a bit of time. Hopefully standing from UD is here to stay.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Intermediate, with video

There were three of us practicing Sunday at the studio. We stayed in sync until the end of standing, no counts. Then I veered off into intermediate and they completed primary+intermediate to ustrasana. This was my first full intermediate in about two months. It was nervy, sweaty, with a thin layer of despair. Ha! I forgot how Intermediate teaches you humility…so you can bind Mari D unassisted? And your Supta K is comfortable? Let’s see you hop, wise ass.

Notables: I did the hands to calves version of Laghu Vajrasana again and I’ve decided I love it. It is easier with the proportions of my body and although I can’t lower my head all the way down I am getting darn close and at least this way I am strengthening my quads in the process. In the hands to ankles version I lower down and then dissolve into a pile of knees without working my quads at all. I will aim to be strong enough for it one day though.

LBH is not good, has not progressed at all, which is not surprising to me. In fact it felt more constrictive than usual, probably due to the prior day’s run of backbending with A.

I managed all 5 Nakrasana forward hops, YAY! Still can’t do it backwards but it will come. I find starting in chaturanga makes all the difference to me. I’m not sure if that is correct, but when I start on my belly I do this awful worm-thump thing.

I was able to hold Vrshikasana without using the wall today, which has never happened before either. I’m realizing as I’m writing this that I completely forgot Vatayanasana and all related vinyasas. Darnit!

The headstands are still fine. The baddha hastas can be done without a wall now, but the mukha hastas need a bit more time. I don’t use the wall every time but I use it enough that I’m not ready to move away.

In closing I did UD to standing at the wall 3 times and 3 hangbacks…so there it is, I broke the seal on full intermediate + backbends. It's been too long!

New: video from yesterday of my recent Laghu Vajrasana approach (hands to calves)...I am not able to do 5 breaths yet or touch my head to floor so it is quite quick, but it will come - there is a short hangback afterwards.

video

And below is an LV video from one month ago (hands to ankles). I can almost see where I touch (thump) my head and completely disengage my bandha.

video

Sunday, October 11, 2009

First Dropback at the wall

I love A’s classes. She included hanumanasana and samakonasana in the prasaritas, and some preparatory quad and hip flexor openers, along with shoulder/armpit/rib(?) openers. Then we did intermediate up to laghu vajrasana, which she let us try several times…she had me lean back holding higher on my calves, around my knee crease, which felt better to me than ankles, given my current struggle…once I was down she helped me hook my hand around my thigh. I’m certain I wouldn’t have been able to do this without her help. And then she assisted when I came back up. The high-calf, knee-grab is something that helps with my steepness issue, which in theory should help me come back up. I’m not sure if this is acceptable traditionally (not that I care much one way or another but it wouldn’t fly in J’s room, so practice opportunities for this are limited to home). I found that I needed less help to come up this way. The normal assist I need is someone grabbing my hips and hauling me up. A intervened more on the way down than up, helping me maintain the steepness and then on the way up she got involved only until she could see my own equilibrium would take me the rest of the way. (I love conservative, decreasing adjustments by the way…adjustments where you do most of the work).

She gave us a viparita dandasana prep at the wall (sirsasana, then one leg to wall, both legs to wall, lift head, lower head, walk one leg down, back up, walk other down, back up, both down at once using the wall as a guide). We spent a lot of time on this one and it was fun!

Then drop backs and UD to standing….I dropped back for the first time at the wall. I’d come up at the wall but never dropped back before. It was great!!

Today the entire front of my body feels awake. My throat, my abdomen, hip flexors and quads.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tickets

Got new passport photos taken, renewed the thing, it's arriving later this month...then I can apply for a Visa. Bought my airline tickets and also a spot in the retreat itself, in Savasana House. There were no singles left so I will room with another student from the studio, we went to the passport office together and booked our flights online at the same time to make sure we had all the same connections...I am so excited! Then we emailed all afternoon about the fun things we were going to learn.

Because it is a retreat there will be students of all levels there, including beginners looking for a relaxing getaway. I'm told that Nancy groups them up with her assistants and focuses on those who have been practicing longer herself, which I am thankful for. Apparently she also has some students who have progressed past second, and you can watch them practice. I have never seen anyone do third (aside from video clips here and there) so I am looking forward to that! It is inspiring.

I remember when I started learning primary and so much of it seemed difficult to me...and the idea of intermediate seemed ludicrous. I would leaf through my David Swenson book and figure, no one actually DOES those headstands, right? And who on earth puts their legs behind their head. If I hadn't seen people do it with my own eyes in Mysore class I'd probably never have had the guts to try it.

I'm also looking forward to the food!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Led Primary; death of a shuffleback

Today I realized that the shuffleback was not going to survive in Led, not with the speedy vinyasa counts…everyone was heading into downdog by the time I got to chaturanga. It felt disruptive so I decided to stick with the original plan and save it for Mysore. J’s big on synchrony in Led. After a couple months in Mysore it is invited to Led.

Today it took me a lot longer than usual to turn my mind off. Usually by the time I hit Padahastasana I’m zoned out. Finally my breath came to the party and I got into a groove. Primary is hard, man.

In Bhujapidasana I ended up hanging on the back of my arms my butt dropping to the mat after each swing up. It was comical! I don’t normally have difficulty crossing the feet but today I just couldn’t make it work. I am making a mental/physical connection between my difficulty in Bhujapidasana and in jumpbacks. I’m fairly certain one could resolve the other. The action of bending the elbows and dropping the shoulders is where I am stuck in my jumpback and it has never been strong in Bhuji either. More primary, more primary…

I came home to a quiet empty house, delicious dinner already made and a just-opened bottle of sparkling wine open in the fridge, ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Moon day - Power Vinyasa Flow

I took my rest day yesterday and enjoyed an early Power Vinyasa Flow class this morning. We did a lot of plank work and long holds...it was a challenge and felt like a great workout. I will be sore tomorrow.

I noticed today how little mat time there is in Power Vinyasa Flow...we did long Surya variations followed by standing, then more vinyasas, standing, balancing and maybe 3 mat poses which were part of the modified closing section. H mentioned to me when she was home how she felt like it was difficult to keep the heat going during primary once she hit the mat (she is an ashtanga-based Vinyasa yogi). I think she is right, it is difficult to keep that heat...vinyasas and ujjayi breath help, as does moving through the series quickly...but it is a very different energy from a flow class. J is great at pacing the series, we rarely spend more than 70 minutes on full primary so it is hard work and I feel heat but I would lose it if I slowed down I think. I sometimes lose my heat in 2nd because I slow myself down...otherwise my breathing is laboured and erratic and I can get panicky/exhausted in certain poses.

For now, I would rather suffer a bit of coolness in 2nd than be forceful. I was forceful a lot when I was learning primary.

Today after yoga I went to the office and stayed there, working, for 13 hours. I'm exhausted....I am now drinking a glass of wine and winding down for bed. I will play it by ear tomorrow to see if I can make it to yoga. I have a lot of stuff to get done tomorrow, and I need to eat sensibly. But the idea of some backbends is pretty tempting...maybe I could do 2nd half of 2nd and try some dropbacks? Maybe if someone else does.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Kapotasana!!

I arrived at Mysore and the studio was empty. I thought I had made a mistake or it was a moon day or something but then another lady showed up so I knew it was OK. I did all of standing, primary to Navasana with no vinyasas between sides…then into 2nd.

I got great adjustments in Bhekasana and Dhanurasana. In Bhekasana J anchored my calves with her legs and held my shoulders, pulling them back. It felt incredible and my chest lifted a good 6 inches. Then in Dhanurasana, she held my calves and pulled me back so I rose right up onto my pelvis (which felt great on the back, but not so great on the pelvis). Funny how I always think it is tightness of my front that prevents me from going deeper into some of those poses, but it is really the weakness in my back. Apparently my front is open, my back just isn’t strong enough yet to pull me there.

In Laghu Vajrasana I went back as far as I could while still feeling the grounding in my quads…so I didn’t touch my head to mat (or even come close, pretty sure).

I started Kapotasana and J came over, she asked me if I wanted help or to try it alone (yay!). I asked if I could try it alone, and she let me. I saw my toes again, I was so excited! I got my toes from the air and walked fingertips up past the ball of my foot while hovering. I really love that hovering part, it feels good.

After Supta Vajrasana I vinyasa’d out by resting my trunk on my elbows and lifting my lotus back, I haven’t tried that in ages but this time it felt much easier…I think the Shalabhasanas have helped.

Eka Pada, Dwi Pada…eh. My right leg can get back there fine, it just can’t stay…left leg is another story.

I did the shuffleback for all my vinyasas and I think it is going to help. I am hopeful. It may take years but I’m up for it, committed to the shuffleback, unless I’m in Led. Whatever J showed me in Mysore Monday actually worked because my jumpthroughs felt great today.

Anyway, I got sent to close after Dwi Pada, could have done more but them’s the breaks.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Goa thoughts

Through the week before the wedding, I was busy and stressed and looking forward to the return to normalcy after the spectacle was over. I kept focusing on Goa and my regular 4 practices a week plus stretches and home asana workshops with props in the evening (no, I don’t do the traditional 5 then 6 practice weeks). And as I fantasized about Goa, my escapist thinking was becoming more and more goal-oriented, as in “by the time Goa rolls around, maybe I will be able to do this…” and then worse “I want to be able to do this before I go to Goa”.

When I began yoga it was completely a physical workout. So it was natural to bring a level of achievement-oriented energy to it. Now that it has become something else for me, I am trying not to be so goal-oriented but it is difficult, I’m human!

The best I can do is be aware of it and try to rein it in as it happens. The compromise I am striking is to regard the regularity and frequency of my practice as a goal, more so than individual poses…so that I will seldom go two days without practicing and so that I will be on the mat more. And if I do that, everything else falls into place. I may not be doing Dwi Pada by January, but if my practice is regular and frequent, then I’m doing yoga.

Because I can’t help it, and because they will be the focus of posts over the next few months, here are the main challenges I face in 2nd.

Laghu Vajrasana – coming back up to kneeling
Bakasana – jumping into it
LBH – all of it, all the time
Tittibhasanas – can’t get the bind, or jump into it
Karandavasana - (Can't believe I forgot this one when I first wrote this post)
Mayurasana – I still don’t understand this one, and I say understand because I believe my body has the capacity, but I just don’t get it
Nakrasana – is “detest” too strong a word?
Backbends – I haven’t learned to drop back or stand up unassisted

There are a lot of other tweaks like the transitions between poses that I’m only still scratching the surface of and things like bringing the knee closer in Vatayanasana but I will leave that to a few years of regular practice. Those things don’t happen overnight and I’m happy to wait for them to appear as little surprises month by month. Primary was so joyful in that way! What a fun and rewarding year I had figuring it out.

So if I am lucky, perhaps ONE of these tricky asana will fall into place in the next little while, or I will learn something new in Goa that makes my brain and body click. And if not, perhaps Goa will teach me how not to be so goal-oriented.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hm.

I was taking a pic of my new haircut to send my sister and I decided to video a jumpback attempt so I could see where I am...

I realize the angle is quite bad, sorry, it was spur of the moment. I am wearing super-cozy wigwam socks and flannel jammies and I have a slick-as-hell engineered hardwood floor...all factors contributing to how much easier it feels here than on my black mat (or an Equa or yogitoes) at the studio.

So it is pretty obvious I'm still struggling, but I am actually closer than I had thought. And by closer I don't mean like 90% there, I mean like more than 20% there, which is where I thought I was. I like numbers (see profile).

I'm glad I recorded it. Seeing it (more than 20%) makes me believe J that someday, even if it is in 8 years, I will be able to do it.
video

Two things I definitely need to work on are tucking myself in quite a bit smaller, folding up my legs tighter and more into my body (maybe navasana will help? what muscle am i engaging to do this, besides MB, the hip flexor?). Second thing is learning how to edit my videos, to cut out the start and finish.

PM Mysore, AM open practice

After a hiccup yesterday morning, today was my first early-bird practice and I loved it. It was tough to get out of bed, tough to drive without the benefit of coffee and my body was stiff and unyielding from 8 hours of sleep, the recent cooler temperatures and the memory of two previous days’ practices. But it was all good. The studio was toasty warm, and a teacher from the other side of town was there and already at Laghu Vajrasana when I arrived. I enjoyed his steady energy and the fact that he had already brought considerable warmth to the room. It is so inspiring to see a dude in his sixties rocking Bakasana B. I mean how on earth can that not motivate you?

Standing to Parsvottanasana, primary to Navasana…vinyasas between poses but none between sides. Correct, straight-leg navasana is becoming easier, I never thought I would say it but there it is. It’s possible, even for me with my shortish torso and longish legs.

On to 2nd through to Dwi Pada. Backbends at 7:00am are humbling, I’ll tell you that. I thought I knew my range and my limits and I was treated to an eye-opener when dropping into Kapo. It took me three hangbacks to get the confidence to even put my hands down. And once they were down, I stayed in B, I didn’t even consider trying to bring the hands back to my toes. It was god-awful. But I loved it. And someday, with more morning practice, I’ll be able to do it. Best of all, I was free to struggle, to hesitate, to muck up a pose and try it again, and to take a few extra breaths in downdog preparing for the next asana. I would never give up Mysore completely, I still need help and adjustments, but I like the freedom of struggling and finding my way a few times a week. I think I need those opportunities.

I was conservative with my timing and vinyasas this morning, erring on the side of cutting out poses and it’s a good thing, because I ended up with a 55-minute practice and just enough time to do it all…during breakfast I checked emails and stuff too, but I don’t want to give that time up.

6:40 alarm
6:52 in the car
6:58 on the mat
7:54 in the car
8:06 in the shower
8:21 breakfast
8:35 blowdry and get dressed
8:51 walking to work
9:01 at my desk

I’d much prefer closer to a 70-minute practice….if I set the alarm for 6:30 I can probably take it to Pincha, or do full standing, squeeze in more vinyasas in primary, or do full primary and no 2nd. Lots of options. I am resistant to anything earlier than 6:30, but maybe that will change in time. I set out my clothes for yoga and work the night before and set up the coffee too. This afternoon I got my hair cut shorter than it has been in nearly 10 years, so that is going to help considerably with the blowdrying time!

Last night in Mysore J walked me through the jumpthrough. She said, “every time your feet hit the mat on the way through, you are stopping your practice”. So we did a few tries…engage MB, tuck the hip and swing through and it was thrilling to find that it worked a couple times. Usually my feet skid but I end up getting through…when she coached me, a couple of times my feet came all the way through and my butt landed softly. I kept them up through the rest of last night’s practice but was losing it toward the end due to fatigue. I used the method this morning and I am going to keep trying.

We also talked about jump-backs (dread, sigh). She said she wants me to start with the pickup, then struggling through without moving my hands (I've been doing a pickup, then moving my hands in front of me)…she said she thinks I can actually do it if I just spend some time in the struggle. I tried today…it isn’t so bad. It is awkward and it slows things down but I can see the value in it. It is probably like the toe-roll, something that used to seem impossible, but if you try it every time you can eventually do it every time…I don't know if true jumpbacks are ever going to work on this body but I will definitely keep trying.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Morning Practice?

This morning I went to the studio to practice (per website open 6:30-8:00am) but it was locked up! I arrived at 6:50 and waited outside until 7:05 but no dice...disappointed. I have been thinking about making a move toward morning practices for a while and changing my work hours to 9-6. It has the double benefit of reducing overtime since I'm going in later plus having my evenings free.

Not going to happen today. By the time I cut it off, I was glad to have some coffee and a bagel. I'll go to Mysore tonight and mention it to J, see if she's still allowing open practice in the mornings...third benefit, it isn't mysore so i can get away with no adjustments!

I thought (for a millisecond) about going to another studio nearby that I know has 6am Mysore, but I didn't have my mat. Or money.

Hopefully if work doesn't tie me down I can make it to regular Mysore tonight and post a practice diary...if not I will post some Goa thoughts.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Primary and part of 2nd

Today was my first day back to the studio after the honeymoon and I was so excited when I woke up! I was expecting some tough going, for the transitions to feel difficult and for exhaustion to set in early. But it didn’t…we did a quiet practice with no one calling out breath counts. Most of the time we were on count together, but I could tell it had relaxed a bit in that a few others were going at their own pace.

I’ve mentioned before, that I love the chaturanga-updog-downdog between standing and seated. I think it is the warmth of the body after standing and how much smoother it feels than earlier in the Suryas. Anyway, today it felt extra heavenly…

The marichyasanas were fine, they’ll be tighter again after a few more practices, I still crap out on the Bhujapidasana head-to-floor and back up bit, which hasn’t improved with stopping at navasana to go to 2nd. Today I didn’t even trust myself to lower my head. So I will work on that in the evenings a bit I think. I barely caught the bind in Supta K and brought my feet to touch but didn’t cross. My navasana was straight legs all the way (all five times!). A suitable first day back to school. I’ve had better practices but I loved how I felt (energized, not depleted) so that was enough for me.

We finished primary and remarkably (for me) I still felt fresh and able to do more. I wasn’t “wrung out” yet, as J would say. I didn’t go to close, just contemplated for a second and then J asked me if I was waiting for her to tell me what to do…I said no, I was trying to decide what I had in me to do. She said “go to Ustrasana” so I did. I wasn’t sure if I was disappointed or relieved that I wouldn’t be doing Laghu Vaj or Kapo but I didn’t want to ask for them so I decided I was relieved.

For the first time, sweat was a problem in Pashasana! I never had the problem with slippage before, but it caught me up on the left side. Right was fine. I still don’t know if I will ever get the wrist in this one, but fingers are fine for now. In hindsight I had it in me, so I probably should have gone through to Bakasana, my Ustrasana felt super open and I could tell the Kapo would have been a good one. Next Sunday perhaps.

J’s normal policy is to give dropbacks only after full 2nd. Since I will only do full 2nd once or twice a week, I’ve decided to work a little harder in urdhva dhanurasana the other days to continue this work. Walk the hands in a little more, lift a little higher, get more into the shoulders and thoracic. Straighten the legs a bit more. Today I watched (semi-longingly) as A did her backbends. So amazing!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Liberator

Months ago, on one of my favorite blogs, I happened upon a description of a tool/prop used to aid in dropping back from standing or into Kapo. It was called the Dune and basically it is a wedge-shaped mat used for tumbling drills in gymnastics. I decided that I needed to have one.

Thus began a months-long hunt for this product online, in gym equipment stores and industrial parks…I even emailed an acquaintance who works for the school board distributing gym equipment to see if he could hook me up. Turns out he is mostly into football and probably confused to no end why I needed such a thing. None of the online distributors could ship to Canada…disappointment at every turn.

Then….I saw the movie Burn After Reading, and realized there was another application (and therefore source) for the prop. So my traipsing online took a detour into Adult Furniture (yes) and I continued my hunt in sex shops throughout three provinces, online to many purveyors who would not ship to Canada and finally found a website that could help me out and promised discreet shipping to the great north. Sold!

Edit - the packaging was not as "discreet" as promised...:-)

I finally received "The Liberator", a wedge mat covered in durable black microfiber (I ordered blue, to make it less obvious, but they sent me black anyways).

Anyhoo – the point of the post is to draw attention to a couple other (yoga) uses for the liberator…I’ve been using it at the beginning of Pincha Mayurasana to get my toes up a little higher and therefore my hips/pelvis in the right place earlier in the attempt. It really made a big difference for me in my pincha mayurasana journey, and also relieved the tenderness in the pad of the bottom foot from repeated attempts at kicking up and coming back down onto one foot (I know I should do it double-footed, hopefully I can someday).

Karandavasana is a lofty goal. In all likelihood it won’t ever be possible for me, but I will still try, so I envision using the liberator to cushion my many, many falls.

H has trouble with Sirsasana and we used the Liberator to get her taking off from a higher point. She actually hung out in teddy bear stand for longer than she ever has (I don’t think it was just the liberator, she had E and I screaming supportively at her that she was “up! UP!”). I wish we’d had more time to practice together and work on it. I can totally tell from the attempts that I saw that she is so close. Like a couple hours of practice with someone beside her to debrief (too far with hips, not far enough) and she would likely nail it. I’m lucky that Sirsasana came to me so easily, I learned it as a kid.

I also use the Liberator in some of my Pre-LBH stretches and I recline on it after I get LBH and tire of holding my leg with hands and neck. I lean back onto the liberator and let gravity do some of the work while I continue the hip opening.

I adore my liberator - money well spent!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wedding, Yogis

The wedding was amazing. Cold, rainy, harsh winds and it was still beautiful…we still took photos outside too.

There were a handful of yogis at my wedding! I had the good fortune to spend a bit of time talking to an Iyengar yogi in her fifth year of certification process and she was somewhat disillusioned with the style…she has reached the point where they are doing backbends out of sirsasana and she is finding it painful and knows some other yogis who have hurt themselves. She has two young kids and wonders if it is worth it. She started in Bikram, then Ashtanga, then Iyengar. We were discussing the differences between Iyengar and Ashtanga and she said she would find it boring doing the same thing each day. If you’d asked me earlier this year I would have agreed with her. But now that I’m working on intermediate, I have plenty to keep me busy, between keeping my primary up to speed and creating some ease in intermediate (a long way to go there). I feel for her that she has come this far and is now having doubts. Any other style would take her, with her dedication!

I also caught up with a friend who brought me to my first yoga class. He is now teaching some Power Flow classes and practices Ashtanga on his own time. We had such a great time chatting and sharing our experiences. He is in a creative field of work so he craves the regularity that Ashtanga provides. He was the one who introduced me (and my friend H who is taking teacher training) to our beloved first teacher Alex. He’s based out of Orlando, hasn’t been down to Miami to see Kino MacGregor but I suggested that he go…

I also “played yoga” a bit with H, not a practice but we showed eachother what we’re working on. We spoke a lot about the divergence in our styles since the time we were roommates but I’ll go into more detail on that one later. It was so interesting, considering we came from an identical background! But something different attracted each of us to where we ended up. I thought I might be able to “sell” her on Ashtanga but she’s just as passionate about Power/Vinyasa/Flow, and she’s totally committed so I know she’ll stay there and carry on. Her updog/downdog transition is really something amazing to see…whatever she’s been doing for two years is working…she can actually slip a chaturanga/plank in there (yes, like a MAN) before sliding back to downdog. It’s unreal. Anyhow, have to save some details for my next posts 

Because of the busy-ness of the wedding and honeymoon I haven’t been blogging so I’ve been thinking up some posts that I want to write and one of them is about Goa and what it means to me and how I’ll be spending the next three months. It was interesting when I examined how I was thinking about it and what my motivations were. I probably won’t post again until the honeymoon is over so hopefully I’ll have that train of thought worked out by then.