Sunday, February 28, 2010

Led Intermediate

Today, with assistance, I bound Tittibhasana B for the first time...I hadn't been assisted into it before and the closest I'd come on my own was a fingertip brush. Boy that clasp makes a world of difference! I could ground my heels, really work on straightening the legs more and coming through them. Felt great, demanding on the quads still, but great...I had always wondered why this one didn't seem to be coming to me although I can do Supta K and (usually) Yoganidrasana. I'll be asking for this assist for a while I's got to help me manage it on my own.

This was also a teacher I hadn't been to before so I enjoyed a new/different perspective. I like the idea of having a regular teacher for consistency but I think it is good to hear a different voice once in a while....not because one is better or worse, but sometimes it is valuable to hear something explained to you in a different way. There are so many ways to describe asana. The energy, the anatomy, the mechanics/physics...each teacher usually leans more toward one way. Sometimes I'm so dense that need all 3 ways for it to sink in!

Kapo was actually nice today, I got footpads alone with less discomfort than I've been feeling lately.

Pincha was sweet! The teacher assisted me for the first 5 breaths then left me and I held for another 4-5 on my own in the middle of the room.

Gold medal game today, so excited. Probably going to make mudslides. Mudslides are like the best thing ever, Vodka, Irish Cream, Kahlua, Ice Cream and Ice in the blender, with chocolate sauce for garnish. They are a special treat for special days. An Olypic gold medal hockey game where Canada has a shot is one of those occasions! GO CANADA!!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Props galore

The Saturday class I look forward to all week is a non-traditional intro to 2nd series and features backbending, long holds, and a ton of props. I love it! Today we used the wall, straps, blocks, sandbags and my new favorite, the chair.

We started out with supta virasana forever, then I'm-not-effin-kidding-you like 25 sun salutations. 5As, 5Bs and at least 15 anjaneyasana variations (sp?) some with hands pushing on front thigh, some with arms up, some with back knee on ground. All designed to get into the groin and hip and quad. Let me just say, namaste to you if you've done 108 sun salutations. I have never done it and I don't think I could!

I was dripping with sweat before we even began the asanas...A spoke to us about pashasana in a way I hadn't thought of it before - as a chest opener. My tendency is to tuck and round and get low to get the bind but she urged us to open to back shoulder and lift the chest. Got a great adjustment here. She spread my shoulder/hip, and I felt like the space between them doubled - it was crazy!

What can I say about the chair? It's amazing, I want one in my house...just a standard, folding gymnasium seating-type chair with all kinds of places for you to stick arms/legs, grab with hands and open your back.

The best thing about the chair is the support. I'm still working through whatever the hell is going on with my back. I don't know what it is, but I think 2nd is putting me through some physical confusion. I've kinda lost my backbends - there is pain in the lumbar and SI. So the support allows me to keep that area from participating too much, while getting into other areas that maybe weren't pulling their weight before, like shoulders and thoracic, even triceps. It is amazing what the hard edge of a chair can create in your shoulder blades. It doesn't hurt, it just starts with an unfamiliar discomfort and we hold it long enough that it starts to feel absolutely great.

I'm dying to do kapo in this class. We've done it once or twice before, but generally by the end of class I feel so open I just want to try everything!

Best part - in UD I felt something very different and it felt great. I think it was the groin work...I hope I'm not crazy. I think my pubic bone actually pushed through my hips bones and forward. Is that possible? Am I nuts? I felt this crazy mobility in the front of hips that I don't think I've experienced before. It felt great for my low back, whatever it was.

Anyway, I might check out a different led 2nd class tomorrow. I haven't been to this one before (it isn't my usual studio) and I will probably be stopped at one of my trouble points but that's OK.

Happy Saturday!

Also FRIGGIN EH CANADA!!! Way to go against the Slovaks last night...I can't wait for the gold medal game Sunday. We watched the women's curling last night too, and while I don't know much about curling, it was plain to see that Cheryl Bernard is amazing. I actually felt sick when we lost in the extra end.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday Led

Today was a nice practice. The studio was freezing when we arrived, the door had been left open overnight so it was about 11C in there. Agh! I started to panic slightly and then a few people showed up and everyone agreed we'd heat it up with our movement. I was leading today (so no full led intermediate). There were only 5 today (no surprise as numbers dwindle when J leaves town) and given the lack of heat we decided to do primary and then 2nd up to Ustrasana.

So first time speaking during practice? Difficult! But manageable. It wasn't as bad as I had expected. I lost count during the sun salutes (ha! I think we ended up doing extra of both A's and B's) and was most worried about keeping the pace reasonable. My natural tendency is to practice fast, which I've been trying to correct. I asked for feedback after and all agreed it wasn't too fast so I was really relieved. It was actually really fun!

Mysore tomorrow, assuming I get out of the office on time - looking forward to some intermediate.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Intermediate = my practice

The biggest change since Goa has been my commitment to make intermediate my practice. To use every mysore class I go to as an opportunity to do intermediate, and intermediate only. To not miss a Sunday led intermediate class (a new treat we're enjoying at the shed). I'm in it. I'm intermediate! Whether I can do it or not.

This change is awesome. I bloody LOVE intermediate now and I used to hate it. Been talking for months before Goa about just doing it and there I'd be, in flipping dandasana, doing primary, every mysore class.

I've noticed how powerful the breath aspect is, and how the pace and intensity of the breath affects the pace and intensity of the practice. If you're at 100% take the breathing down and back a notch. If you need to get your body off the floor in nakrasana, take it up a notch.

Another change is that I have a sudden and weird interest in 3rd series. Which I can't believe I am writing here, but there it is - embarrassing me as I reread it. Obviously not tomorrow or next month or next year, but some part of my mind has just accepted or become comfortable with the idea that I will probably learn more than primary and intermediate in this lifetime. 6 months ago that would have seemed completely unfathomable to me. Intermediate was more than I could bite off and chew. (It's still all I can chew).

So those are the biggest things. Asana-wise I don't think I have anything mind-blowing to report. It just all feels a bit better in a way that likely isn't all feels more cohesive in that I'm not exploding and panting at random intervals through it (much). Still can't do all the things I couldn't do before, LBH, Mayurasana, Karanda etc...but the effort feels...less strenuous? More enjoyable?

I'm leading a practice group on sunday, which will be fun. It isn't really teaching, I just practice and call the counts and asanas, everyone's familiar with the practice - I've never done that before so I think it will be interesting!

Goa Recap #7 - final

Nadi Shodhana - alternate nostril breathing, the right side is heating, the left side is cooling. If you are plugged in one, your body temperature will reflect it. Also apparently putting your fist under the opposite armpit will help to clear it. I was clogged on the same side every day we did this but I can't remember which side now (am a bit clogged in both today - there is my gross update).

Today we talked about home practice. Nancy said she herself enjoys her home practice and that many people "figure things out" at home that they may not in the studio so it is important to try it. That is true for me, personally, and I know it is for many. We discussed modifications for postures at home that we usually need adjustments for. Supta Vajrasana, she said a heavy piece of furniture will do - try to bind yourself, but OK to use a strap if you can't do so yet. I finally got the guts up to ask a question and it was the dreaded karandavasana. If you normally take the adjustment, how should you practice at home? She asked me if I could get into lotus up there (no) so she said to work on that, but that it was important to learn to fall safely so that I wouldn't have fear. She was really kind and basically said just get up there and do your best :-)

V asked about the difference between tucking the tail or sticking out the butt (for lack of a better description!) in backbends and the answer was that it depends on the body but for most the tuck is most appropriate. Same with the feet. She demonstrated the foot position she learned to drop back and come up in and it was wide-legged with toes pointed slightly out. Different feet and hips for different people. I loved this. She did stress that lifting the heels is not good - the importance of grounding.

Saturday as a traditional rest day? Nancy is pretty sure that Saturday was chosen by Guruji's family as it was the best or most convenient day to have together. She didn't think it was overly important which day you take rest as long as it is one day a week. I also love this as Saturday I don't work and it is easy to practice. Moon days and ladies holidays are non-negotiable in her mind though. I must confess to observing neither of these (aside from the occasional unbearable LH when I welcome it).

Last week of practices: I did intermediate every day. Sadly, my back did not recover for about 3 weeks so I was unable to drop back or come up, or have a comfortable Kapo in my remaining time there (I made do with crummy, crappy ones - no skipping). I did, however, have zero complication and got plenty of great advice on the non-backbending areas of my practice and I enjoyed every moment. The "pushing out" with the elbows in Pincha has stayed with me, and I shared it with a pal at my home studio this week - she was also thrilled. I have just started dropping back again this week and am glad to have it back.

A few interesting things happening in my practice and I will share them in another post now that the Goa chapter is closed :-)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Brief non-Goa interlude

Maverick dabbled in a few power yoga classes when I started up in 2005 but it never really stuck for him as he was surfing and running and doing lots of other things. It has been years since he's done any yoga.

He finally took a beginner Ashtanga class this weekend (Primary to Navasana) and had this to say the following day:

"I hurt in all the places you've ever complained about."

I am loving this.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Goa Recap #6

Monday practice - back to intermediate, have some low back pain so I'm not going to push it. Even Shalabhasana feels weirdly congested and achy. I focus on pulling myself forward as much as possible and try not to worry about kapo. Sigh.

This is the first time Kapo has caused me real anxiety. For me this pose has been all about exhilaration and excitement and "rush", not fear and claustrophobia. Today I am scared as I go back and feel my lumbar & SI protest. It isn't injury-pain but it is at the very northern tip of discomfort and I know better than to push it. Proceeding with caution. Toes, breathe, up. Relief. Dropbacks will be out of the question today.

Bakasana was very nice. I am really trying to pull my feet higher every day. Starting to feel myself bringing a bit more bandha to the party and less brute force as the feet rise up higher. Also now that it is more reliable/stable getting in and staying in, I'm trying to use core strength to scootch my knees in a little higher once I'm up. It's probably imperceptible but even doing it in my head is a start. The higher the feet, the more comfortable the jump back.

Dwi pada arrives and I try it on my own, the real thing, for the first time. I've always either modified it or been adjusted into it. I allow myself the struggle today. Surprisingly, I get the left leg back there - I balance precariously and try to swing my right leg up. It catches momentarily, my head is deeply bowed, but I hook into the balance needed and I can see just for a breath, what it will feel like to do this on my own. Right leg slips out, but I feel utterly thrilled with this small victory, and I modify for the rest of the breaths.

I bust out my old man tittibhasana, with superbent legs and I decide for fun to try straightening them in A. They can actually go straighter, I've just been lazy. My theory on this is that before Goa I haven't really learned to manage my energy in 2nd. By the time Tittibhasana rolls around I'm dead. My Titti A is just dead weight swinging in the breeze. I engage and lift and it's much better. Still bent but better. Still can't bind B-C-D on this mother but I get a fingertouch today which is lovely.

S's elbows-out advice for pincha worked today!! I get up there and hold 5 breaths and am amazed! The idea is not to physically move the elbows out but concentrate on "pushing" outwards (this likely has the real physical impact somewhere in the shoulders but forearms are easier to instruct and have that tangible connection with the ground) and the difference is amazing. I am so stable that I bring my right leg in to my hip and I seriously start thinking about the left...ZOMG!

J appears and watches for a second. I lose it and come down - we're going to do his karanda-vrischi adjustment today. In Vrischi, I have to tell him when to stop as he rounds my body for (presumably) a head-toe connection. My lower back is not on board with this at all. I hope he doesn't think I'm a big baby, I probably should have mentioned my back beforehand. I thank him afterward. That was a highlight.

Headstands feel dynamite today. I hopped the legs up together for most of them and didn't need a wall touch for the toughies - must learn pike. So many things!

Moral of the story, even when backbends suck the practice can be great. Leave it with the pose and move on to the next.

At breakfast there was a designer selling her jewelry. I am smitten with a gorgeous, giant blue topaz ring and immediately claim it. She tells me it isn't part of her normal collection, and it's the only one she's ever made. Perfect.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Goa Recap #5

Saturday, rest day - last night we went to Shorebar, had pina colada followed by wine. I was soooooo excited! Practice has been feeling so good, I'm torn between being glad for a rest and worried I will lose my steam (as if that matters). After the nightcap, I had my longest, deepest sleep since arriving - a full 8 hours. Actually used a blanket for the first time last night.

Still not eating much, not sure what it is. Lost my appetite, not food-motivated at all, which is incredibly unusual for me. I have to figure it is the different flavors, because my nature is to crave food all.of.the.time. So in order to keep energy up, if I ever do feel hungry I just eat as much as I can. Not terribly scientific, but seems to be working.

Speaking of which, we're now at the German Bakery and I've just ordered a cheese sandwich, fruit juice and delicious coffee. E and I skipped out early in the morning to get a quiet coffee and breakfast.

I'm wondering if there will be a demonstration of 3rd series at some point in the retreat. I'd love to see it, having never seen it in the flesh (no one practices advanced at my shala) but understand how weird that would be for someone to demo their practice. It would be Jason and we'd have to get up early to watch (fine by me, up anyways). We'll see if it comes up.

Poolside afternoone - I spoke to a girl who was stopped at a pose in primary for 2 years. I admire her dedication and non-attachment and ability to surrender to the teacher/process without ego. I'm weaker than that, I would have moved on, I know it. I feel fortunate to be learning in the environment I'm learning in - not that it is any better or worse than any other environment, but it works for the type of person I am.

Miss maverick.

Epiphany of the day - Practicing daily is much easier on the body than randomly or even 4 times per week, huh? Today, rest day, is the first time I feel sore, following led primary which killed me with the pace.

Sunday - today felt off right from the start. So I decided to do primary to navasana then eka pada. I made it to the tittibhasanas then started to feel dizzy and blackness coming into my eyes. I went to close, no dropbacks. Blech. Tomorrow will be better.

Nancy tells us that primary and intermediate are sufficient for physical wellness. Her opinion is that advanced is necessary for god realization. She herself practices advanced and feels that everyone should learn (when they're ready).

I asked Jason about my "zoning out" which is something I have wondered about for a long time. It's not "wandering off", it's not making a grocery list, or thinking about work, it's just lost time I guess. I wake up to my breathing and don't remember the last 5 things I did. He said he thinks that's fine, why do you need to remember the last 5 things you did. Haha, when put that way I agree!

Cucumber + Melon + Mint = delicious Juice from the Juice bar down by the pool. This one is my favorite.

Starting to think about a long bubble bath in a clean tub and my king-size bed at home.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Goa Recap #4

Thursday Q&A:

Pashasana - one of those things that some people get right off the bat, with heels down, and others work 10 years for. She advised (as something to try, not necessarily every time) grounding the heels and taking right shoulder to left knee then reaching forward with left arm (instead of wrapping) to get the feeling of being grounded while maintaining balance. You could try gripping the front of the mat with left hand to keep you there. Unfortunately even this is impossible for me, so tight are my achilles.

Utpluthi - 100 breaths as fast as you can do em, with equal inhales and exhales. I've been doing 25-30 so I decide to give it my best shot tomorrow. She couldn't even do one breath when she arrived to learn from SKPJ (he held her) and at the end of 4 months was doing 100.

Pregnancy - no twists, no navasana. Bharadvajasana is the modification for Mari C&D. Each practitioner is different and will need something different. (She said more on this, I kinda zoned out cause I'm not planning kids immediately - sorry!)

Back rounding or straight - she mentioned maha mudra (Grimmly, thought you would like this)! She showed us pictures from Yoga Mala where SKPJ was not straight or elongated. She said he taught them to first make a forehead to knee connection then slide the nose and chin forward, all the while head touching the leg.

Full Vinyasa - is OK once in a while if losing heat or if it feels right. I was surprised by her answer to this as I didn't think it was traditional to do so but she seemed very flexible on it if it was occasional.

Tone - have fun, laugh, don't be too serious. The atmosphere when she was learning was more like a gymnasium, with talking laughing and joking.

Splitting and practice length - if you practice both, you can either alternate primary and intermediate or do all intermediate except for once a week. When you know all of intermediate you can do that, or full primary then start at eka pada to finish 2nd. Or primary to navasana then start at pashasana. With proficiency, the practice should become shorter, not longer. A good exercise is to knock minutes off your practice until it becomes as fast as you can do it, then add minutes until it becomes as slow as you can do it. Somewhere in between is the middle ground. Breathing sets the pace. In her personal practice, she does 1st-2nd-3rd twice in a row to make her full week.

Surya B - tough to keep the correct breath here, when bringing the leg forward. Her advice is always to move faster to be in line with the breath, rather than holding or taking extra breaths. Although taking more breath is preferable to holding it, always.

Backbends - when she learned, UD wasn't a part of finishing. In fact, when they practiced primary, finishing was the final 3 lotus postures. UD was taught after intermediate. Dropbacks definitely weren't taught until all of intermediate was done (I forget about shoulderstand and fish pose, when these came into play). I found this interesting, and it made sense to me. Probably the biggest departure from the norm, but I like it and as she said, it's how she learned. Doesn't mean it stayed that way but it's how she learned in the beginning. (See disclaimer!! hahaha)

Friday Led class - Realizing that I practice much too quickly. This class was very difficult for me, because I found the movements much slower than I am used to. Legs were shaking! Got a great shoulderstand adjustment from Jason, he lifted me up so I could completely turn my shoulders out and get them under me. It felt amazingly straight. I did 80 (superfast) breaths in utpluthi.

Goa Recap #3

Tuesday night I slept poorly, the dogs are just utterly insane here. I laid in bed for a few hours staring at mosquito net then got up at 6 to make a nice coffee and sit. There is no talk Wed night so we're doing the beach.

I miss Maverick. And I'm dreaming (literally) about BBQ ribs. Awful, awful. This has motivated me to reduce my meat intake though, which is a great thing. I'm not actually missing it daily, it just shows up in dreams. I also dreamed of bread/buns....guess I am a bit attached to preparing my own meals. The food here is lovely and usually delicious but sometimes it just isn't what I want. I've been eating far less than normal and I don't even feel hungry. Kind of nice to be reminded how little food I actually need (when flavors and preparation are in my control, I'm apt to stog my face). Sleeping far less too and not feeling tired/dreary.

2nd again today. Got a wicked Supta Vaj adjustment from Jason, he got me to bind my toes at the top each time and then lose them as I go back. I noticed that J loved this adjustment so I'm hoping she'll bring it back to Hali. I can immediately see how this will help eventually stay bound for the whole thing. Ardha Matsyendrasana felt like a dream afterward too, I felt like I could grab my whole ankle my shoulder/ribs were so open!

LBH, sigh, sigh. I suck at this. But I do it anyway. Nancy came over and rocked my world with a Dwi Pada assist. She somehow helped me orient my hips better (in a way I don't fully understand) and coached me verbally to bend the legs (don't straighten, don't straighten!) and point my feet. She pushed my chest through and it was comfortable. I was thrilled. I thanked her afterward, it was the most comfortable assisted Dwi Pada I've ever experienced. Maybe my body does this? Who knew?

I crapped out on dropbacks again. I stood and arched and did some hangbacks. Waited a few minutes (lot of people dropping back at the same time) and then got nervous and gave up. Got annoyed with myself at dinner (how's that for being present, haha!) for coming halfway around the world to skip my flipping dropbacks. J really helped me, she said "it doesn't have to happen all on the same day, it's OK Katie". She's right. But I'm doing them tomorrow.

Thursday - Intermediate again, I'm on a roll. It feels better every day, truly. I'm starting to realize what I've known all along and haven't made a reality. Intermediate is my practice, warts and all. It doesn't make me feel good about myself, it doesn't feel smooth or easy or nurturing. But it's my practice and I have to do it, always. No more defaulting to primary, unless its led. Point finale!

In Kapo I spidered my fingers past the footpad, easily. Why have I been stopping at toes forever? Thank you, Nancy.

Dropbacks. I stand, I arch, I hang, I wait. I fidget, I think. I wonder...I almost sit down. I don't. Nancy appears and takes me through the funnest part of the trip. Now I'm not used to dropback assists, I've had them kind of erratically and more from A than from J, few and far between. So I get her to coach me through the breathing and we do:

- 3x back on an exhale just barely touch the hands to mat, then up on an inhale (quickly)
- 3x hands across chest, back halfway
- 1x down and hold for a breath and come up

For the rest of the day, the 1000 volts of electricity running through my body are very pleasant! I feel so happy I did it.