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


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 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


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


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 :-)

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 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 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 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


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.

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.

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.