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.

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


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 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


Every day is so different! Sunday's practice felt 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


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.

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.

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


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 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


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.