Thursday, August 30, 2007

Day 65

I overslept this morning and only had time for a walk before heading to work. To be honest, I wasn't sure I would make it to the mat at all today, so I was quite surprised to find that I was really 'in the mood' for practice this evening after I got home. I only had an hour before heading off to teach my Park Yoga class, but I made the most of it. I enjoyed my best practice in a very long time. My sun salutaitons flowed. My standing poses felt strong. Halasana actually felt *good*.

Great flexiblity later in the day is no big revelation to me, but the strength and the floaty-ness definitely was. Tonight, I felt SO close to doing actual jump-throughs. It felt so close.

This makes me wonder whether I should try to shift my practice later into the day. Tomorrow is the last day of this horrible, interminable contract (take a good look at me folks - this is the last time you'll see me working for THAT client!). Next week I can write my own schedule and until my evening classes start in a few weeks, I'll be able to practice at 9 o'clock at night, if I want to.

I'm thinking that I may experiment with yoga practice at different times of the day and see how I feel.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Day 64

I was out late last night, watching a Shakespeare Play outdoors and (for reasons not worth getting into) it was not a great experience. I ended up sitting in a cramped spot, with my whole body twisted out of alignment and no opportunity to move or stretch for well over two hours. AND it was cool and damp out. I was in incredible pain for the duration - mostly my back - and I woke this morning feeling AWFUL.

I don't know how I made it onto the mat, but once I got there I kind of did my own thing for a change. I did do all of the sun salutations and some of the standing poses, but after that I mixed it up quite a bit with some backbends and twists and hip openers (lots of cobra, supine twists, some pigeon). I did what I felt my body needed and it worked: after an hour of this I felt a bit better.

My practice was authentic and represented what I needed in that moment, both emotionally and physically. This has been a very trying month and it's been interesting to see how stress, physical pain and emotional upset effect a vigourous daily yoga practice.

Not interesting enough to keep it up, though. ;-) I'm really, really looking forward to Friday (my last day at the contract). It will be a relief to get back to full-time teaching, get back to my meditation practice (this is the one part of my yoga that I have really let slide) and have more 'me time.' Only two more days!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Day 63

Moon day today, but I got up and practised anyway. Nothing too strenuous - just up to Navasana, then I did the closing sequence. I was far too distracted to do a full practice anyway, because of the lunar eclipse.

I understand that these happen about twice a year and I know I've seen one before, but I can't remember the last time I really took the time to observe an eclipse. It was a beautiful morning for it - clear, cool and Orion was hovering over the eastern horizon as the eclipse started.

I live in a small apartment with a south-facing balcony, so I had a good view. As I practised, I periodically stepped outside to view the progress of the eclipse. Yoga pose. Eclipse. Another yoga pose. More eclipse. My practice was a bit broken up this way, but I didn't mind.

If I wasn't already up for yoga, I doubt I would have woken up for the eclipse, so I'm glad I did. It was a special 'moon practice.'

Monday, August 27, 2007

Day 62

Back to early morning practice after a 'yoga holiday' on Sunday. It felt good to absorb myself in practice after a night of unsettling dreams (unsettling, but informative - I think my subconscious is trying to tell me something).

I'm continuing to do a somewhat abbreviated practice that cuts out half of the Marichyasana and Janu Sirsasana variations. For some reason, an hour-and-a-half seems soooo much longer than an hour-and-fifteen-minutes at that time of morning.

Many of my postures are suffering because of joint stiffness and pain, but one pose that just seems to get better and better is Bakasana. Every morning, I fly in that pose!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Day 61

One of the things I've been most proud of this month is the way I've made time for my practice. Most mornings, I've unrolled my mat even when I really didn't feel like it (and to be honest, this has been much of the time). On Friday, I woke up and I just knew I couldn't do it. I couldn't practice. My body was simply saying 'no'. So I didn't. I slept in, took a walk, went on with my day.

And my body was so, so right. After work on Friday, I came home and went to sleep. I didn't wake for 13 hours. This afternoon, I slept for an additional 3 hours. I just can't seem to get enough sleep. I'm listening to my body and I'm going with this flow. I'll probably go to bed early again tonight. Needless to say, this is hell on my social life, but a social life of any kind doesn't seem to be in the cards for me right now anyways. August has been a sad, stupidly ironic month. I'll be so happy when it's over.

Some of this sentiment comes from life being 'life' and some of it is medically induced. The side effects from my medication have been particularly brutal and I've been in a lot of pain. Friday was horrible and I'm discovering the toll chronic pain can take on the body and spirit. I'm just so exhausted, all the time. I've never been this tired in my life. I'm not generally a tired person. In fact, I'm usually one of those “I'll-sleep-when-I'm-dead” people. These days? I sleep all the time. It's my new favourite hobby.

I'm seeing my doctor on Monday and I will talk to him about strategies we can take to alleviate some of the pain (I already spoke with my pharmicist and she suggested 'Tylenol' - I'm already doing that and I'm allergic to Ibuprofen). At the very least, I would like to be comfortable during my hockey games. And I will be teaching a full-time yoga schedule come September. I simply can't allow the pain and fatigue to interfere with my work - it's too important to me.

I haven't particularly enjoyed the contract I'm working on this month and I know I put a lot of blame on 'work' for the stress and exhaustion. Next week is my last week at that office, and although I'll miss a few of the people I got to know, I won't miss the rest of it. It will be interesting to see how my outlook improves once I'm finished with that whole mess. I seem to tolerate the medication better on weekends when I'm not under additional stress of working a job-and-a-half.

Practice today was good, solid, unremarkable. But I practised, and that's something.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Day 60

I cried for over two hours last night. Not little tears but huge, gulping, clawing-at-the-floor sobs. It was all over something that is so far in the past (well, earlier this year) that I feel a bit embarrassed about it. But the salient point is: I woke up with swollen eyes and a headache and a keen desire to go back to bed.

I didn't. I unrolled my mat and gave it my best. I'm glad because I had a good practice - full primary series today and it felt like a relief. The sun salutations helped shed my residual angst and practice became a nice vacation from being in my own head. It was such a relief not to THINK.

And, for what it's worth, I think the tears and the yoga helped shed some grief I didn't know I was carrying. I felt lighter today, and more lighthearted.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Day 59

I had one of those 'Facebook mornings' and had to cut my practice short as a result. I stopped at Navasana. Loved doing handstand and headstand again, groaned during shoulderstand (had to bend my knees during Halasana - I'm such a baby).

But here's something new: my shoulders are really starting to blossom in Parsvakonasana. I've been coming into the pose differently, starting with my hand resting light on my low back and really rotating from the waist, then extending my arm with elbow bent until I really feel a heart opening in the pose. Only then do I straighten the arm and extend through the fingertips. Magic!

I wonder if this is working because my shoulders are finally feeling good, or if coming into the posture in this way is facilitating an opening in the shoulders? Which comes first, the yoga chicken or the yoga egg?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Day 58

This morning was another practice sans the inversions. I have to admit, I really don't miss shoulderstand in closing sequence. It's not been my favourite lately.

And I love having a shorter practice - it give me more time to goof off on the computer in the morning. Healthy habits, eh? I guess I should be sleeping in a bit on these short-practice mornings.

I have just over a week-and-a-half left in this contract and I can feel myself beginning to burn out. I don't teach a lot of classes in August, but enough that working full-time on top of it all feels pondorous after a awhile. I opted to cancel my Thursday evening class to give myself a bit of a break and it's amazing how much of a weight that took off my shoulders.

I've considered modifying my morning yoga practice until I'm finished working days. I don't want to get into a pattern of dreading my practice and I feel like I'm headed in that direction.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Day 57

I ended up taking *two* days off over the weekend. Saturday was my weekly 'day off' and I used it to fully recuperate from that cold I was fighting off (success, by the way!) Sunday was the first day of my 'Ladies Holiday.' This is the longest 'break' I've taken from daily practice since early June!

This morning, I was still feeling low energy and crampy, but stepped back on the mat anyway. I fully expected to feel weak and winded, so I was surprised and pleased to find that I actually felt good! I had a really good practice - in fact, yoga was probably the best part of my day and the only part that I felt happy and 'at home' in my body. The rest of the day kind of sucked.

Ladies Holiday practice is always nice too, because I can't do the inversions. This gives me a break from the much-detested Supta Konasana (don't ask me why I hate that pose so much, I just do) and shortens my practice to a bit over an hour.

It's getting both darker and colder in the mornings here. The sun doesn’t come up until 6:30 and this morning, I wore long pants and had to wear a fleece hoodie on my morning walk. I can feel autumn beginning to stir.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Day 56

I had the best practice today - it's too bad I had to cut it short. Due to an incident at my Park Yoga Class last night, which led to a phone conversation with the police (I don't want to get into it in detail about it here, but suffice to say, it involved harassment of me and my students by some local youth) I didn't get to sleep until very, very late. Getting up was torture, so I had a slow start.

Once I was up, though, I felt great. I did the primary series through Navasana and every pose felt like a celebration. Perhaps I just needed some positive energy to counter the negativity I experienced last night.

I'm still going into my day feeling deeply cynical about the human race, but at least my faith in yoga is solid.

Also, I'm still fighting that cold. I feel better this morning, but also more drained. I'm hoping to get some rest this weekend and kick this thing once and for all.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Day 55

I think I know what my body was trying to 'burn away' yesterday and it also explains my recent sluggishness: I'm fighting a cold. I noticed that I was sneezy in the afternoon, then I was congested last night. I woke up feeling stuffed up and sore.

Practice was interesting. My sun salutations consisted of vinyasa, a few 'breaths' of blowing my nose and a few more breaths in down dog before jumping forward. Until today, I never had a true appreciation for how much 'upside down' there is in Ashtanga.

By the time I finished, my sinuses were cleared out, but my nose was still runny. I'm taking ColdFX and Vitamin C for the next few days - this is usually very effective for me.

Doesn't help that I haven't been getting enough sleep this week and I'm on the cusp of my Ladies Holiday. Blech. I'm looking forward to the weekend so I can rest!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Day 54

Today's practice was unremarkable save for one thing: sweat. I was sweating buckets from the first sun salutation. There's nothing to explain this. It's not unusually warm out - in fact, I wore a jacket on my walk this morning. I'm not dressing any differently than I usually do. So I'm puzzled.

I'm not complaining - I like the sweat and the feeling of being heated up. I feel like I'm burning and purging away things I don't need. Perhaps I'm burning away the stresses of this contract.

I hit the 'half-way point' of the contract this week. I feel like I've reached the top of a hill. By this point, I've developed a solid routine. I really like that aspect of it - there's a part of my personality that enjoys that kind of predictability.

But the work is monotonous and most of the time, I dread it. The sheer tedium of it exhausts me. I'm constantly feeling tired and lately I've been a bit cranky.

This has been simultaneously the fastest and slowest passing month ever. On one hand, I can't believe that August is already half-over. On the other, I can't believe August isn't over yet. I wonder how I'll feel about all of this, looking back from the vantage point of September?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Day 53

Full disclosure: I skipped Bujipadasana, Kurmasana and Supta Kurmasana this morning. My entire torso felt cranky, not just my back, not just my shoulders.

It was hard enough to convince myself to do Supta Konasana and shoulderstand, though by the time I got to shoulderstand, things were beginning to open up a bit.

How much of this is due to early morning practice, my upcoming ladies holiday or the side effects of my medication is anyone's guess. I often struggle to find the balance between respecting the messages my body is sending me and moving past blockages (which can manifest as discomfort) in order to find a deeper experience in my yoga practice. I want to progress, but I don't want to hurt myself.

I really, really miss my afternoon practices. At the very least, it would be nice to go for a walk *before* I hit the mat. It seems like weeks since I had a nice, leisurely afternoon practice with some meditation afterward. I'll be very happy when this short-term contract is over and I'm back to being merely a humble yoga teacher (with more free time).

Monday, August 13, 2007

Day 52

I did end up taking a day of rest yesterday. I used the time as 'me time', went to the beach for awhile and spent the balance of the day reading and resting. I know that for many people, doing an hour-and-a-half of yoga would be their 'me time' but since I practice every day and treat it as a personal committment - like an important meeting - it's nice to take some time doing something lazy of my own choosing.

I found it really difficult to get up this morning. Mondays are hard to get used to. I had a really slow start, but felt better as I warmed up. My mind was a bit scattered, but I was focused for most of the practice.

I felt very stiff and sore overall. Shoulderstand was difficult today, because my low back kept cramping up. This carried over into headstand - I came up one leg at a time and didn't feel very stable in the pose.

The standing poses felt very good, though. I'm going to explore different modifications for PPK. I can't come into the full pose because keeping my foot flat on the floor seems to torque my knee. But I don't feel like I'm making any progress in the pose with the modification I'm using.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Day 51

I decided not to take the day off, giving myself the option of taking tomorrow as a 'yoga holiday.'

I didn't have a great practice - I was distracted.

It all started with the dog. She knows that it makes me nervous when she sits and stares at me, so she used this strategy to get breakfast. After I fed her, she did it again and I was annoyed (and already into Surya Namaskara B). I called her over and she curled into my lap, snuggling her head against my knee and I realised that what she really needed was some attention from me. It's hard on her when I work days because I'm also teaching my evening yoga classes and I'm not around much. She gets lonely.

So I stepped off my mat for ten minutes, pulled out the box of dog toys and played with her. Then she settled down to nap and I continued my practice.

I felt so scattered - like my spirit was in little pieces around the room and I had to keep gathering up these stray parts of myself, pulling them back into a coherent whole. Yogi Humpty Dumpty. Over and over again.

Each time I found myself drifting off, I brought myself back to the moment and carried on. This wasn't my best practice, but it did much to strengthen my 'yoga muscle.'

And by the way, in case you were wondering where my driste was (posting this one for Cupcakes&Yoga):

Cupcakes and Buddha

Friday, August 10, 2007

Day 50

Last Friday was such a disaster that I was almost hesitant to step on the mat this morning. It's amazing what a difference a bit of sleep can make. I had a great practice! I felt very present in each pose and very energetic.

Finally got my copy of Yoga Journal in the mail the other day (it takes a bit longer to get it up here in Canada). I love that the 'master class' column is about Ardha Padma Padottanasana! (and that the theme is 'being true to yourself') I love this pose, but recent pain in my knees has taken a toll. Working from some of the suggestions in the article, I've started doing Sucirandhrasana (thread-the-needle) against the wall in place of the full pose. It will be interesting to see if this opens my hips more effectively than anything else I've tried (since nothing else has really seemed to help).

Also of note, today is Day 50, a milestone of sorts. When I get to Day 108 (that number so auspicious in the yoga tradition), I'll have to have a little party or something! ;-)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Day 49

There's a span of 15 minutes between the time I wake up and the time I step on the mat. I often spend that time marvelling that I'm about to do over an hour of yoga. My body feels so leaden and uninspired, it just seems impossible. I'm usually over that by Parsvakonasana, though! ;-)

I had trouble getting my Ujjayi breath going this morning. It just didn't come naturally as it usually does. I actually had to stop and just breath for a minute or two. I found myself focusing and being mindful in each pose this morning, without thinking about what had passed or what was coming next and I fell into a nice rhythm.

Kurmasana totally wasn't happening for me this morning because my sacrum was cranky. But I amazed myself by coming into Sirsasana with straight legs and coming into half-bend. I wondered when my transverse abdominus was going to make a reappearance!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Day 48

New house rule: No Internet until I'm through with yoga and my walk. I got sucked into the black hole of Facebook this morning and started my practice 15 minutes late. Time just seemed to get away rom me this morning. It felt particularly fleeting (but slowed WAY down, once I got to work!)

I had to cut out at Navasana in order not to be late. I cut my walk a few minutes short too. I did do closing sequence, but cut out a few poses.

I felt generally sore and stiff this morning. My knees are bothering me again. My back is cranky and I noticed that shoulderstand and Halasana were particularly uncomfortable. I think that poor, maligned Supta Konasana (which I skipped, since I ended at Navasana) is a actually a good preparation for shoulderstand work in the closing sequence. I guess I should appreciate it more!

My balance was a bit better this morning, but I still didn't feel very stable in the standing poses. All of this is probably an adjustment to doing the practice immediately after waking. Those first few sun salutations are mentally painful!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Day 47

I slept very poorly last night. In fact, I woke in the middle of the night and when I couldn't go to sleep, I gave up and got up. I caught up on some work that needed to be done and ate a banana. I finally got back to sleep, but not for very long.

When I looked outside at 4:45 this morning, I realised that sunrise is getting later and later. This morning, the sun came up at 6:12. It was cloudy this morning, so the dark seemed even darker to me. My neighbourhood is pretty safe, but I don't feel comfortable going out walking in the darkness. I decided it was time to flip-flop my morning schedule: yoga first, then my walk (usually, I walk first).

This means that fifteen minutes after I awoke, I was doing yoga. I wasn't sure how this would feel, particularly given that I only slept for four hours. But it was fine. I was no stiffer than usual, though I did find that my concentration (particularly on breath) was scattered and balancing in poses was a challenge.

My walk afterward was great - It was a pleasure to be in the park at sunrise and see the rosy clouds overhead. I wish I could find a way to integrate some meditation into this schedule too, without getting up earlier. My mornings are already jam-packed and I do as much as possible to prepare the night before.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Day 46

I did a 'multi-tasking' practice this afternoon which involved the Primary Series interspersed with trips down to the laundry room. It was a hot, humid day so this worked very well for me, since it gave me a chance to cool down between 'bouts' of yoga. ;-) My practice lasted the usual 90 minutes, but spanned over two hours with all the breaks I took. Ideally, this isn't how I would choose to do my practice, but I kind of like the fact that I'm able to be flexible and committed to it even when it's not easy.

These afternoon/evening practices on the weekend are such a treat for me - I enjoy practising later in the day and I'm so flexible. In the morning, forward bends are difficult but in an afternoon practice they're all melty and soothing. Some not-very-soothing events occurred this weekend that caught me by surprise, so it felt good to melt into a place of safety in my yoga practice.

Supta Kurmasana totally rocked today! I feel like I'm really getting the hang of it now. Another fun moment was in Marichyasana A - I didn't need to adjust anything or pull my arms back to grab my wrist like I usually do. I just reached back for it and it was THERE! No fuss, easy peasy!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Day 45

I can be dense sometimes, but even I can read the writing on the wall when it's as clear as it was on Friday morning: I needed a break. So I took one on Saturday. That day could best be described in one word: “Sleep.” I woke late (for me, at least - 7 a.m.), went for a walk, then rode my bike downtown to teach my noon class. Then I came home and went to sleep.

And I slept, and slept. I woke around six-ish and went out for the evening, but even with all that napping, I was still able to drop into bed, dead exhausted, and fall asleep immediately around midnight. I simply needed the rest.

I practised this afternoon and the quality of my practice was in marked contrast to Friday. I was full of energy, felt strong and fluid and focused. I had my best Primary Series in ages. My knees feel great and I did all of the Marichyasanas! My back was happy and I gratefully fell into deep forward bends. I soared into three open, joyful backbends.

My hamstrings were flexible. I am SO close to Kurmasana and Supta Kurmasana!!! I'm inches away from binding my hands behind my back in the latter - so exciting!

Even Supta Konasana felt good today. Everything just felt so good.

I'll see how it goes in the coming week, but while I'm working this contract, I think I'm going to start taking a break on Saturdays. Because of my teaching schedule, I can't really change the time of my practice during the week - it really needs to be in the morning. I would rather keep this consistent because I'm afraid if I vary it, my routine will fall apart.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Day 44

Nothing about my practice was good this morning. I was absolutely exhausted for a start. We're in day 3 of a horrible heatwave and I barely slept last night. I woke up feeling groggy and run down.

Still, I unrolled my mat and practised for an hour, attempting to do most of the poses of the primary series. I modified nearly every pose because I didn't have the energy to come into full postures - the only other alternative was to come into child's pose each time instead of doing vinyasa and I was pretty much doing that anyways.

Around Navasana, I finally acknowledged a losing battle and did some restorative yoga before doing Savasana and calling it a wrap.

I could blame the weather, but if I'm really honest, I think this new schedule with the contract and other things is taking a lot out of me. I probably need to rethink my 'practice schedule' in the coming week. I suspect I'll be axing my evening practice and perhaps moving my morning walk to the afternoon. I haven't meditated in a week and I would like to make some time for this in the mornings.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Day 43

Today, I started doing Ardha Baddha Padma Padottanasana with modifications that emphasized the hip opening aspects of the pose. I love this pose in its full expression so I found it really difficult to do the modified version (a standing 'rock the baby' variation). Time will tell if it helps me gain greater flexibility in my hips. Until then, I suspect my ego will have a little pity party for itself every time I do it.

I stopped doing my abdominal exercises this week, due to time constraints. On Wednesday and Thursday I didn't have time to do an evening yoga practice at all and the other days, I just felt rushed. Anyways, I could really feel it in my headstand. I couldn't come up into headstand with straight legs much of this week.

no pain - noticed yesterday but it didn't hit me until hockey

On the bright side, I felt so much better in Paschimottanasana today! My hamstrings have felt very open this week. As a result, I'm making good (and noticeable!) progress in Kurmasana and Supta Kurmasana

Oh yes, and I have a new pose to hate, now that Purvottanasana and I are cool. I now hate Supta Konasana. Something about coming into an inversion at that stage in the practice - my low back doesn't like it and I feel unstable. Yuck.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Day 42

My practice was fairly unremarkable this morning. I didn't feel sluggish and I *did* do my evening practice last night and enjoyed a lovely backbend. I'm always amazed at how much more flexible I am in the evening. I love the energy and atmosphere of a morning Ashtanga practice, but sometimes I wonder if I should move my practice to the p.m. Hm...anyway...

My knees feel a lot better - in fact, I'm tempted to add Marichyasana B back in tomorrow. I'll see how I feel after my hockey game tonight.

My hips are tight. Not in every instance (I'm fairly flexible in Baddha Konasana, for example), but they're tight in certain poses. In general, they've felt tighter lately and I've really started to notice it in my practice. Is it the biking I'm doing? The morning walks? Sitting around more since I'm not teaching a full schedule this month? Who knows...

I was perusing David Swenson's book and studied the photo of Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana more closely. His bent knee is all the way on the floor in that photo. I can bind in the pose, but my knee isn't on the floor - probably because my hips are too tight. I think I'm going to start approaching this pose differently in the coming week. Instead of coming into the full pose, I'm going to do a 'rock the baby' variation that's a hip opener. And I'll add a hip opener to my evening practice as well.