Monday, August 31, 2009

Mysore: Primary

The last time we did full primary in Led, I realized that my recent focus on 2nd (and the overall routine-upset of summer) had weakened me in the transitions. I’ve never had the jumpback, but before I started intermediate, I was at least doing that awkward pickup attempt before most of them to build strength. I found I wasn’t even doing that anymore.

So I decided to dedicate a Mysore practice a week to Primary. Right now I try to get to 3-4 classes per week at the practice space (summer has been harder). Two Mysore and two Led. On other days I practice at home, but it isn’t Ashtanga. It is more like a series of exercises and stretches and it is workshoppy. So considering I only get 2 full intermediate practices a week, giving up one is pretty significant…but it will be worth it. And as I got through Primary, I realized I need it.

The space was warm when I arrived (late) because there were already 6 people in there building heat. I got right into it and was sweating up a storm in no time. For some reason I felt nice and light jumping forward to Uttanasana today in the Suryas. Sweet!

I have to say, I *love* the vinyasa/transition between Utkatasana and Virabhadrasana 1. Why does it feel so good? You’re so much warmer than in the Suryas and that Chaturanga-updog feels fab!

I got a rockin’ adjustment in Marichyasana C. I don’t push this one anymore…I have a fairly wide range of motion in my twists but if I get too twisty my QL can act up the following days. If I am feeling gentle I won’t even take the wrist in C, and I’ve stopped taking the wrist in D (unless assisted). In fact I don’t even know if I can do it alone anymore. Once I started linking fingers in pashasana I decided not to push as hard in the marichyasanas and my midback agrees with me.

I’ve been kinda regretting my laziness in Navasana and decided today was day 1 of my new relationship with it. Straightened the legs, pointed the toes, it was not near as low as J would have wanted but I was happy with it. It will improve. Bhuji was OK, I did touch my feet before lowering my head and (as usual) on the way back up. I wasn’t able to hold the full breath count. This one still needs work.

Supta Kurmasana is one of the ones I always hated and is now one of my faves. I’ve had smoother binds, but this one was fine. Walked the feet in (how on earth do people lift the feet – no idea) and crossed them.

Today I graduated from hands under hips to hands over head UD-style in Setu Bandhasana and it felt really strong and grounded today. Dare I say, I liked it?? Even better than hands under hips??

That’s it for now – I’m working on a post describing the LBH work I’ll be doing in the evenings for the next little while. Started this last night and there is a lot of work to be done.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Intermediate, Laghu Vajrasana blues

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to the practice space today, but J was away so it was a self-practice day. This didn’t bother me in the least. I love self-practice in the community space…it allows me to borrow heat and energy from others, plus I can trim out vinyasas and also take a few sneaky breaks, which I’m still finding necessary to manage my energy throughout intermediate. It also removes assistance from the picture, which is probably good for all of us once in a while.

Standing to reverse Namaste, seated to Navasana, then full intermediate. All systems go up to Laghu Vajrasana. It is improving. Atrocious but improving. It has been a while since I’ve gotten that awful calf spasm or shoulder knot on the way down. I’ve figured out how to maintain more of the bend in my back so that helps. Coming up is still strictly garbagio. I suspect it is quad strength I am missing. Kapo was also disappointing after Monday’s “I-can-see-my-toes” revelation…but I will try it again tomorrow and Thursday so all is good.

A was there and showed me how to strap my feet for Supta Vaj, which allows me to do the work while someone grounds my thighs. It was cool! I had always suspected I could probably manage the up-and-down on my own but we usually practice assisted with no props so I wasn’t sure. Happy to learn that I could.

I usually modify the entire LBH sequence if I am practicing unassisted, which is what I did today (see weenie section in Swenson book). Now that my two-month focus on Pincha Mayurasana is finally paying off, I am going to switch to LBH in my home/evening/workshoppy practice. I should take a video or two so I can see ground zero.

I had a great Pincha Mayurasana today, which was a nice surprise! I found my bearings with a quick touch to the wall (can’t WAIT until that is consistently unnecessary) and held it for the full breath count. Came down, vinyasa, then did a bottom-part-of-karanda variation that looks a bit like bakasana with pincha arms. Might have to post a pic of this one, a little hard to explain. It’s the best I can do alone I think, without the adjustment J gives us. Wasn’t really sure what to do? I should scour the internets for karanda variations. I’ve been wanting to do Baddha Hasta Sirsasana C, lotus up the legs and bring ‘em down during mysore but I keep procrastinating asking J as I suspect this isn’t the traditional approach. Maybe will inquire at her next workshop.

I video’d my Vrischikasana today and I laughed aloud when I realized how straight I am. Something about that pose makes it feel as though I am in some delicious backbend. Wrong! Haha. Mayurasana was the joke it usually is. Toes and chin heavy on floor, elbows in gut, mind in confusion. Sometimes I wish there was a private Nakrasana stall/area in the practice space so one could do it alone and never be viewed.

I took a significant break after Vatayanasana even though it was the gearing-down part of the series. I needed it. My breath was rampageous (if that is a word) and energy was all over the place.

7 headstands, check. On to closing. UD, chin and hands to wall, walk up the wall. Did some hangbacks and held, but did not attempt to drop back.

Was a happy practice, if only for the pincha mayurasana!

A’s class, Quad opening, Learning to Drop Back

I wrote this yesterday and forgot to post it!

Today we started with long holds, mostly quad openers, using the wall, straps and blocks. Then a few Suryas, holding our updogs in the B’s…so if the quad openers weren’t enough of a clue, I knew by the end of the Surya’s that we’d be doing some backbends…so I was excited!

At one point we did Virasana with a block behind us and laid back on it. I propped my block up to it’s highest point and was delighted and surprised when my head touched the ground behind it. I think it had everything to do with having the block in just the right spot. But it felt great to have the opening in the back, and the ease of resting my noggin without using my neck or shoulders.

We did some standing, then into Samakonasana, followed by Hanumanasana. I used blocks under my thighs for both, at the highest setting…this is not a movement I’m used to at all. It was inspiring to see A resting her thighs on the floor and fully able to extend her arms over her head in both. We always say that a pose looks impossible and then one day find ourselves in it, breathing and forgetting that it ever looked difficult. Hanumanasana…looks like something I just.can’! But who knows? 

On to the fun stuff…one of my favorite things about A’s Saturday class is the focus on backbends. Backbending is fun for me. It doesn’t cause fear (anymore) and it feels soooooo good. I also find a curious lack of anxiety or defeat that I need to push out of my mind for other challenging postures (LBH stuff, inversions, notably). I’m at the start of my journey with backbends, having just started working on Intermediate this spring. Laghu Vajrasana kills me, but I am hoping some work on dropbacks and standing from UD will help me build the strength I need to do LV without dissolving to the ground in a pile of knees…then having to disengage from the reclined posture and push myself back up with my hands.

Today we did UD, then UD at the wall, pushing arms and chest to the wall, then walking hands up the wall, then pushing off the wall to standing. It was FUN! We moved on to dropping back, which I’ve only tried assisted a few times before. I started pigeon-toed, trying to rotate the thighs inward, hands on hips/sacrum and arching myself back, as instructed…from the beginning I could see my mat, so I had comfort. A showed me how to use my inhale to lengthen and exhale to deepen, which helped and soon I was seeing more of my mat. I found a place where I could hover (it felt like maybe indefinitely!) then brought my hands to prayer. This is when the assist started. She got me to bend my knees…which was difficult! The inward rotation of the thighs and the semi-upsidedownness combined in such a way that my brain couldn’t instruct my knees to bend. Eventually I got there. With A’s help my hands landed on my mat and then I came back up (used much more of her help coming back up).

It was interesting that even with very few vinyasas, and with the length of the holds, we still got heat. I was sweating buckets. It felt wonderful. There is something so satisfying about pushing that much water through your system…my body tends to hold it and hoard it, so it feels good to purge and start fresh. Sorry if that’s gross! But if you do Ashtanga, I guess vast quantities of sweat probably don’t gross you out too much…

After class I bought a camera so I will start posting some videos eventually to track my progress. I love reading blogs where the authors post videos, mine will not be as beautiful as theirs but it will be good for posterity!