Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Day 105

I woke up early this morning, got sucked into the Internet for about a half hour, then finally made it to the mat. This is a bit 'out of the routine' for me: no tea, no breakfast (a small, easily digestible bowl of bran cereal) and no walk.

I was stiff and I was hungry!

My mind looked similar to what I imagine my dog's 'monkey mind' to look like:

“Food. Food. Food. I'm hungry. Feed me? Oh, we're standing up now - does that mean you'll feed me? Food! How about after this next pose? If I whine, will you feed me? Can't stop thinking about food! Are you going to feed me yet? Food! Did I mention that I'm hungry? Pleeeease feed me!”

And on and on and on, with that same theme.

Good practice today. Once again, I did every single pose, some with modifications.

In Marichyasana D, (there's a better image here) I'm working on getting the twist (I'm not even close to binding right now, though mysteriously, I've been able to bind in the past). This morning, I was entertaining myself by poking my boob with my big toe. Yeah, yeah, I know - I shouldn't have said that. Now all the google-verts are going to be coming to this site looking for yoga kink (oops, I did it again). Go away, google-verts! Nothing to see here...move along!

I've been playing around with Janu Sirsasana C, but keeping the extended leg bent, so I can focus on doing that stupid thing with my foot. My foot doesn’t like to do that thing. I don't get it. Argh.

Overall, I seem to be having a good yoga week! I've been meditating too! Go, me!

Backbending never comes easy to me, but early morning backbending is a very precarious thing: this is supposed to be Urdhva Mukha Svanasana. Groan!

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Day 104

I woke up this morning feeling emotionally raw after a night of restless sleep and nightmares. Right before I went out for my walk, I had a short, but good cry, letting out some long-pent-up grief.

Before practice, I sat down on my mat and soaked in the silence. Then, on a small scrap of paper, I compiled a list of all the assorted emotional baggage I've been carrying around lately. I put that list on my altar while I practised. Afterward, I ripped it up and placed it on the incense holder to symbolically burn away as I did my meditation.

Every single item on the list can be boiled down to fear. My fears haven't gone away, but I've named and acknowledged them. That's always a good first step.

My mat felt like a very safe place to me today. As soon as I sat down on it, I felt peace and a sense of wholeness wash over me. Perhaps because of that, I was braver in my practice and worked very hard. I tried every pose - even the ones I usually skip - and surprised myself!

My hamstrings and hips are very open this week, inversions feel good. Even Supta Kurmasana felt good to me today (and that almost never happens). Ever since the Bujangasana face scraping incident, I've been wary of the full pose. Today, I put a pillow in front of me and managed to come all the way down, albeit with my toes resting on the floor as I lowered down.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Day 103

Back to my regular practice this morning and it was a good one. I did nearly all the poses (skipping Janu Sirsasana C and Marichyasana D like I usually do). After I did my requisite three hand stands, I played around with Pinchamayurasana and surprised myself by coming up to balance and staying there for two breaths. I think I may deviate from 'tradition' and do this again tomorrow. It was fun!

A long time ago, one of my three readers asked me about food. Over the past few weeks, I've been compiling some food photos and thinking about my typical eating habits.

I'm a vegetarian, and a vegan at home. This means that at restaurants, at parties, at the soup kitchen (we volunteers are treated to cheese sandwiches and the odd dessert), I will eat dairy and eggs in moderation. I never eat dairy or eggs at home nor do I eat meat under any circumstances, haven't since I was in my early 20s.

At home, I don't eat sugar, processed food and white bread/pasta/etc (I simply don't buy these things at the market). I've also been cutting back on starchy foods (white pasta, white bread, white rice) and rajasic foods (onion, garlic, mushrooms). I occasionally eat sugar and rajasic foods when I'm out with friends, though. In the past month, I've had sugar 6-8 times.

I very rarely drink alcohol of any kind. Every few months, I enjoy a vodka and cranberry at the pub, usually with my gang from the ice hockey league.

At home, I eat 2-3 meals and 2-3 snacks each day. For snacks, I eat fruit, nuts and dried fruit (almonds and tropical trail mix are favourites of mine). I eat a small snack whenever I'm hungry. Breakfast is almost always a small bowl of Bran Buds with vanilla rice milk.

Lunch and supper are interchangeable depending on when I'm teaching yoga (usually in the evening, so on those days I eat my 'big meal' for lunch), but lunch is usually a fruit smoothie (banana-strawberries with soy protein powder, flax meal, wheat germ, a gob of peanut butter, rice milk) and an apple.

Supper is usually some kind of vegetable, some kind of grain or bean sprout salad, and tofu. Sometimes I buy Okara burgers as a special treat (Okara is a bi-product of soy milk production - high in fibre, protein, no cholesterol, low fat) and fry them in olive oil. I rarely use salt in my cooking or to season my food.

My favourite grains include oat groats and brown rice. I also love whole wheat roti. I eat a huge variety of veggies - some fresh, some frozen. I buy frozen vegetables in bulk, treat myself to fancy mixes and brussel sprouts every so often. I go on a cooked spinach kick once a month. In the summer, I eat more salads and fruit, in the winter I break out the slow cooker and make yummy vegetable soups.

I never drink cola and rarely drink juice. My beverage of choice is water - I try to drink 2 litres per day (realistically, it's probably more like 1-1.5 litres). I drink a cup of English Breakfast tea each morning with soy milk and splenda sweetener.

I enjoy food and have a great appreciation for it, but during the week when I'm busy, I eat for fuel and health. My diet doesn't vary a lot, though I certainly go through 'phases' in my eating and it changes seasonally.

The most frequent question I'm asked by non-vegetarians is whether I get enough protein and iron. The answer is 'yes' and 'yes'. The only vitamin I take is daily Vitamin C during the winter months. I haven't been sick since early 2005. I get the flu shot yearly and haven't had the flu since I was a teenager.

Since starting my daily walk routine and a six-day Ashtanga practice, I've noticed two interesting changes in my appetite: I've stopped craving sugar and I do crave protein (usually in the form of nuts and tofu).

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Day 102

Shadow yoga

My moon day was fabulous!

I love it when it falls on a day that I can actually sleep in. I slept until 9, took a long, leisurely walk, and tidied up the apartment. Then I travelled up to Don Mills via subway and bus, sipping tea and reading a good book. Sometimes taking public transit is like a game of roulette, but today everything fell into place like puzzle pieces. Trains rolled into the station as I walked onto the platform. Buses were waiting patiently for me at the station.

The bus rolled past my old office, the one from way back, when I worked the corporate job. I didn't have a good experience there and I was bitter for a long time after. Today though, I felt a surge of gratitude. If it wasn't for the money I made working there, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now (teaching yoga). I'm grateful I had that experience. I'm grateful for the resources the company provided to me when I chose to leave. Aspects of that job were horrible, but I learned a lot, paid off my school loans and here I am now, doing what I love.


For lunch, I met up with a good friend who I haven't seen in over 5 years. We worked together on an IT project for a small company back in 2000. At the time, L was one of my favourite people to spend time with, but it's been a long time. As soon as I hugged him, I realised that the passage of time doesn't erase true friendships. The years just melted away. We enjoyed a wonderful meal at a Japanese restaurant. I looked through his photos from a recent holiday to China, we chatted about friends we know in common and parted warmly, promising to meet up again soon. It was really lovely.

By happy coincidence, the restaurant is next door to my favourite hockey shop. I had 2 inches chopped off my composite hockey stick - the fancy expensive one I bought earlier in the year. I haven't been using it because it was too long. The chopping process only took five minutes, but I've put this off for so long because it's a big schlep for such a small thing. I'm very excited to use this stick again! I'm going to retape the stick this weekend so I can use it at my game next week.

The rest of the my moon day was restful and fun. I taught a youth class in the afternoon, where I was able to get a little bit of a yoga fix. We played around with sundial pose and Kurmasana. I helped a 9-year-old bind in Supta Kurmasana and she was so excited! When we said our 'gratitudes' at the end of the class, she said that she was 'grateful to learn something new'. She's my handstand girl, so it was neat to see her get so absorbed in a floor pose. She liked it because she thought it made her look tiny and scrunched up. “Look how little I am!” So cute!

I went home and watched Grey's (from tape - I teach in the evenings, so I record my favourite network shows to watch later). Dr. Hahn, my favourite recurrent character, is now on the show regularly. I was dancing around and cheering when she showed up! Hooray for silly, brainless, but fun television! I'm so high energy that I think it's good for me to occasionally sit still for an hour and watch something I enjoy.

Tim Miller suggests that observing moon days “makes us more attuned to natural cycles” but I think it's just nice to have two days each month that seem special - kind of like having a holiday! (Oh no, did I just quote Tim Miller?!! I did, didn't I?)

Now where was I? Oh yes, this is an Ashtanga blog and I'm supposed to be writing about yoga.

So yes, and I practised this morning and it sucked. I was tired, my back hurt and I couldn't focus at all. I cut out at Navasana, but I did do three very nice handstands.

I'll be back on Monday.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Day 101

Today's practice flowed really well until I got to the floor, then I was very unfocused. When I'm feeling all distracted like that, my Mysore rug becomes an item of great fascination. I think I know every little thread and flaw of that thing by now. It's like a security blanket.

I skipped Marichyasana B and Marichyasana D (I can't do D anyway). I've been replacing Janu Sirsasana C with Pigeon pose, because I'm trying to open up my hips for Hanumasana (that was one of my New Years resolutions - it's not going so well).

I rushed through closing sequence and totally forgot about Sirsasana. I can't believe I did that! I love Sirsasana! I hate Kurmasana and Supta Kurmasana, but I never seem to forget those poses. If I'm going to forget something, isn't it better to forget something that makes me miserable anyway? ;-)

The jury is still out on the what day is moon day. I made an executive decision and opted to take tomorrow as my moon day. I already get up stupidly early on Thursday mornings to go to the soup kitchen, so I figured that as long as I was already up I might as well do yoga. Tomorrow I can sleep in...yay!

Regularly scheduled programming will return on Saturday. Happy moon day, all!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Day 100

Day 100 of the Ashtanga Primary Series! This is a milestone of sorts. Only 265 more days to go ;-)

I went to bed early last night and got up early this morning to practice. Although I hate waking up, I really enjoy the feeling of early morning practices. But I don't enjoy being so stiff. Once again, it was not a good shoulderstand day for me. It wasn't a good headstand day either (yesterday was - I was able to gracefully come into half bend and came out of the pose in slow motion. I felt very strong). Today was also not so good for balance.

But it was a good day for tapas - I worked through the entire primary series diligently and gave my best in every posture. It may not be much, but I'll take it. At least I made it to my mat.

Speaking of my mat, I'm officially loony: I did iron my Mysore rug. It looks so much better now!

So here's a question for my three readers: Is Thursday the moonday or is it on Friday? I keep getting different answers to this question. Google Calendar thinks it's on Friday. Tim Miller thinks it's on Thursday. My local shala says Friday. What do you think? Anyone? Anyone? Bindifry?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Day 99

I love a rainy day practice - soft light filtering in through the windows, candles burning on my altar, enough humidity to work up a good sweat.

Today was all of these. I feel like I've found my groove again and I'm enjoying my practice instead of just enduring it.

Knees felt okay today, but lately I've been feeling some soreness in my elbows, particularly at night. This, of course, could be caused by my medication, since there's a joint involved,

My back was cranky and shoulderstand felt yucky today. Funny how that one is so blissful when it's good and so uncomfortable when it isn't.

Lovely to practice on a clean sticky mat and Mysore rug. Except now my Mysore rug is all wrinkled. I'm thinking of ironing it. Does that make me weird and OCD? Or just slightly loony?! ;-)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Day 98

Today, I feel like I was really 'back' (I didn't feel like I was 'all there' during Saturday's practice). I feel at home in my body again - my strength and co-ordination is back. There were a few distracted moments here and there, but I was mostly focused.

Best of all, my half-lotus poses are back, full lotus is back. I did nearly every pose (did pigeon in place of Marichyasana D), sweated up a storm and enjoyed myself. It feels like it's been so long since I enjoyed my practice (In reality, it's probably been about a week). I'm grateful.

I used my day off yesterday to engage in some important Sauca around the apartment: tidying closets and cabinets, general cleaning and scrubbing the floors. After practice today, I soaked and scrubbed my sticky mat and washed my Mysore rug. Both needed it - the Mysore rug particularly (Yuck).

I cleaned up and tidied my altar, added a few new objects to it and meditated for the first time in weeks. I would like to start meditating daily again. I can't believe how easily I've fallen away from that. I'm going to try to get into a routine of meditating before I go to bed each night and establish a ritual around that - light some candles, read something inspiring and really savour the quiet time for myself.

On a sad note, I'm keeping all of the SoCal/San Diego Ashtangis in my thoughts today as the fires continue to encroach on the San Diego area. I lived in there as a child and my heart hurt when I read about the fires in Escondido. Julie has been evacuated and many more probably have as well. Love and blessings to all of you. Hope you and your families remain safe and your homes are spared during this horrible time.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Day 97

I'm back. It was a difficult Ladies Holiday. It lasted longer than usual and I felt worse than usual.

I continue to be amazed at the dramatic changes that take place in my body throughout my monthly cycle. I certainly noticed this when I was doing a regular Hatha Yoga practice and even before I did any yoga at all. But Ashtanga is unique in that it's a series of consistent postures. When you do the same thing day after day after day, you have a basis for comparison and any variation stands out in sharp relief.

In the week leading to LH, I often notice a not-so-subtle tightening of my hips. As a result, my knees are more sensitive and I tend to shy way from the half-lotus poses. My hamstrings are tighter than usual and I seem to have less mobility in my pelvis in general. Everything feels odd and out of whack. My SI joint and my lower back are always a bit cranky and sore and I'm prone to spasms. My feet hurt.

On a mental level, I'm cranky, lethargic and self-critical. The lethargy sets in a week before and I start sleeping more. But the biggest change is my overall mental state: I am SO distracted, unable to focus on anything, whether it's yoga, meditation or the book I'm currently reading. I become more self-absorbed and just a tad anti-social.

When I first started this little Ashtanga experiment, I practised right through my menstrual cycle - sans the inversions, of course. I've gradually come to appreciate the value of having a holiday. Or, to be more blunt, I'm delighted to have a vacation from practice for three days because I can paaar-tay! (read: sleep in).

Today's practice was sluggish and awkward. I'm not yet able to do the inversions, so I did my 'slacker short form' which takes about an hour. I felt really weak and clumsy, like I was borrowing a body that belonged to someone else. I hope I get mine back soon. Day off tomorrow, back on Monday.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Day 96

Took a day of rest yesterday. I felt strong and light today.

There are definitely days when the possibility of jump backs/throughs doesn't seem quite so remote and this was definitely one of them. I seem to have plateaued at the crossed-legs-toes-on-the-floor phase, mainly because Lolasana feels impossible to me (read: I can't do it). I could throw around all the usual excuses (”My torso is too long!” “My arms are too short!” “My toes just enjoy being stubbed”), but I know now that it's probably only a matter of time and these breakthroughs will come when they're meant to come. So I'm waiting patiently.

Marichyasana C felt was really good today! Instead of binding right away, I focused on the twist, kept twisting deeper and deeper from the hips until I could bind without very much effort. Lesson learned: force doesn't work (or doesn't bring ease to a posture).

I played around with doing Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana against a wall. I taught it this way in my Saturday class. It seems to be helpful because it takes the balancing aspect out and helps students move deeper into the stretch (then we bring the balance back in and they're better for it). But today, I found that I wasn't liking the wall because it made me feel disconnected with the earth. My standing leg didn't feel as strong, spine didn't feel properly aligned.

As an alternative, I tried not leaning into the wall, but instead bringing my opposite hand (the hand-on-the-hip hand) flat against the wall while balancing on the standing leg. This was good: I felt grounded through the leg and could lengthen up through the torso, while the wall offered some stability for balance. I may try teaching it this way in the coming week.

This is one of reasons my practice so important. I need to practice yoga regularly in order to teach more effectively. When I don't practice, I simply don't have as much to offer to my students. It's a direct correlation: the more I practice, the better feedback I get from my classes.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Day 95

The crankiness, lethargy and stiffness is no longer a mystery. My Aunt Flo is coming a bit early for her monthly visit - she'll be making her appearance in the next day or so. I should have known.

I took it easy this morning and did the short form, really enjoyed myself. Such a contrast to yesterday!

The only pose that struck me with dread was Marichyasana C - yes, that again. The twist just feels impossible this time of month and I don't think it's just the bloating. On the other hand, Purvottanasana has been feeling so good lately. I think this new enjoyment is due to more open shoulders. And I've been bringing my hands further back as I come into the posture - it's made such a difference.

The weather is getting cooler out, finally. I had the door closed as I practised. I wore a light coat and gloves on my morning walk - the temperature was 4C. It won't be long before I'll be wearing my toque!

The sun is moving deeper into the southern sky and in the past week, it finally started peeking into my apartment in long, slanty beams. I love practising in a sunbeam - it made my heart happy!


Friday, October 12, 2007

Day 94

I was so exhausted last night that I actually dreamt of being exhausted. In my dream, I was visiting friends on the seashore and wanted to go for a walk along the beach. But I couldn't, because I couldn't stay awake. I slept in until 9 - almost unheard of for me - and had a tough time even motivating myself to go for a walk.

I taught a lot this week. With my new corporate class, I'm at my maximum number of classes per week and this will continue through early December. Most of my classes are on Wednesday and Thursday this session, so those days are particularly intense. I've seriously considered taking Friday as my 'day off' because by Thursday night, I'm wiped.

I almost skipped practice this morning, but decided that I should at least try. Part of me was like a recalcitrant child as I dragged myself onto the mat. I did not want to be there. I tried to focus on breath, as I had on Wednesday, but my mind wandered. I picked at my nails. I petted the dog. I took potty breaks.

I was definitely not present.

I finally gave up at Navasana, did a few handstands, a shoulderstand and fidgeted through Savasana. I have six-year-old students who are less fidgety and more focused than I was today.

I honestly don't know what is wrong with me. It's such a contrast after having a series of incredible practices last week. I feel like I'm a different person.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Day 93

This morning, I realised that I might as well face reality: I'm not the slightest bit bendy this week (not that I'm ever very bendy...). In order to benefit from my practice at all this week, I would need to find a different goal. So I chose breath.

As I began my practice, I resolved to focus on my breath and follow my inhalations and exhalations like breadcrumbs in a fairy tale. I challenged myself not to lose track of a single breath.

This was a good practice for me because lately I've been experiencing some anxiety and feeling some tightness in my breathing. Breathing deeply and evenly felt like a relief. Having a one-pointed focus kept my mind from wandering too far. The hour-and-a-half passed quickly.

I didn't work hard. I did the easiest variation of each pose, not trying to go to deep. The only demand I made on myself was to focus on breath.

It was one of the most soothing practices I've had in a while.

Tomorrow is 'my' moon day. Yes, I realise ever other Astangi in the universe took a moon day today, but my Google Calendar told me that the new moon is tomorrow. It actually works out better for me this way.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Day 92

When I stepped on the mat today, I was struck with an overwhelming sense of déjà vu, like “Haven't I done this before? Like VERY recently?” Yes, in fact I have. Yesterday. And the day before that. I'm having one of those weeks when it feels like all I do is Ashtanga Yoga.

Today's practice was better than yesterday's, which isn't saying much. But I didn't skip any poses and I put genuine effort into each one. Yes, I still feel stiff, and yes, I'm still cranky. Each time I caught self pity kicking in, I took a deep breath and focused on the posture, the breath, moving on to the next posture. This is how I made it from the first sun salutation to Savasana. Baby steps.

Something tells me that this is a practice that will play well off the mat too! ;-)

My left knee was achy, my right knee felt better. I added a few Lotus/Half-Lotus poses back in, but I could only do Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana on one side. Ditto for Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana. I did manage to get into full Lotus though, and it felt okay. Lower back is a little bit cranky.

As for my general crankiness, I'm wondering how much of this has to do with the fact that I didn't have my tea or go for a walk this morning (it was pouring rain when I woke). Funny how we come to depend on these little rituals to get us to the mat. I never thought about the walking/tea constituting a 'ritual' but I guess it is...

Monday, October 8, 2007

Day 91

Buh-bye, Half-Lotus poses.

My knees are acting up again. I don't think this is an injury though because my wrists hurt too. Overall, I felt stiff and heavy. Nothing felt good. I may be experiencing more side effects of my medication, or it could be that my ladies holiday is coming up. Perhaps it's the upcoming moon day. Surely I can find a scapegoat somewhere! ;-)

I felt heroic just making it to the mat. Half-way through the practice, I found myself curled up in a fetal position just wishing I could stop. I didn't stop.

I kept going, but I *did* skip any pose remotely resembling shoulderstand (no Supta Konasana for me!) because my back felt cranky.

Then, during closing sequence, I had this sudden, urgent need to do shoulderstand, so I did. And you know what? That's exactly what I needed! I felt a flood of relief, like drinking a glass of cold water on a hot day, or taking a deep breath. I felt something release and I was overcome with a sense of ease.

Last week was such a fantastic week for my practice. I'm fearful that this week may be just the opposite. *sigh*

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Day 90

I missed my practice on Saturday because I was too busy sleeping. When I came back from teaching my morning class, I was all fired up with energy but within minutes I had crashed. I laid on the couch to rest for awhile and woke up four-and-a-half hours later. So much for Saturday.

So I practised today and it was okay. Not great, just okay. I did a one hour, abbreviated practice (the same short practice I was doing in August, when I worked the contract). I didn't put my heart into it. It was just one of those days.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in Canada. I hope to squeeze my practice in during the morning hours, before I squeeze a tofu loaf, mashed potatoes, squash and many, many desserts into me!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Day 89

Backbends, backbends, backbends, oh why do you vex me so?

I stopped doing Urdhva Danurasana for the entire month of August, using my tight morning schedule (that's when I was working the contract) to justify the omission. Oh, the tangled webs we weave for ourselves! By the end of the month, I really couldn't do Urdhva Danurasana properly. I continued to be lackadaisical about backbends in September, so resolved that October would be the Month of Backbends. Or, Urdhva Danurasana, at least.

I'll never be Gumby, but at least I'm doing them and holding them for five breaths. I took this photo to gauge where I'm at with Urdhva Danurasana. Not bad. Next time, maybe I can channel David Swenson! ;-)

Urdhva Dhanurasana

Practice today was good, solid and very, very sweaty (the humidex is 27C here. Hello...Where's Fall?). My fabulous work ethic on the mat continues, but I had a heck of a time getting myself on to the mat. I enjoy it so much once I get into it, so why is it so, so difficult to get started?

The mood of my day was lazy: my schedule on Friday is light, so there's no need to rush. This morning I slept in a bit, surfed the web in bed, eventually took a walk. I got sucked into the Internet for another hour or so, then finally practised in the afternoon. It was one of those mornings when I was in my yoga clothes for hours before I got around to actually doing yoga!

I do love these afternoon practices though. My body is so open! I felt good - not too sore - which means my body is adjusting to my busier teaching schedule. Looking forward to the weekend and having some down time to do some reading.

The dog usually inserts herself into the Primary Series somewhere during Supta Padangusthasana when I have a hand free to rub her neck. Today, when I put my nasty, smelly Mysore rug in the sun to air out (note to self: time for some yoga laundry!) she immediately found it and made herself at home. Stinky, damp Mysore rug = Doggie heaven.

Dusty does Mysore

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Day 88

Today wasn't a sweat fest like yesterday, but I had a good, focused practice. It was hard to motivate myself to get on the mat though. It's amazing how many otherwise-not-very-fascinating things (usually internet-related) capture my attention when it's time to practice yoga.

My full class schedule has kicked in this week and I'm teaching 11 classes per week. Wednesday and Thursday are my 'busy days'. Yesterday, I taught four classes. Today, I volunteered at the soup kitchen in the early morning and I'm teaching three classes. I was absolutely exhausted this afternoon but couldn't seem to nap. It's always an adjustment when I start teaching a full schedule again after the summer and these first weeks are particularly difficult because I demo stuff a lot more for the brand new students. It will get better.

I'm teaching an Ashtanga Intro class on Wednesday night. The students who sign up for 'power yoga' (that's what it's called in the guide) are usually a bunch of keeners ;-) who expect a more rigourous yoga class. Last year, I taught vinyasa flow in this time slot. This year, I'm teaching an 'Intro to Ashtanga.'

Out of the 14 students who signed up, none of them have ever practised Ashtanga. Half of them are completely new to yoga! Needless to say, there was much modifying as we went through two (2!) sun salutations, the standing poses, and a few poses of the Primary Series. My goal was to teach these poses in such a way that everyone could participate and everyone did.

It's really fun to teach something that I've been doing every day and working so hard to master. As a yoga teacher, it's easy to get caught in a rut and teach the same things every single session. Teaching something new is a welcome challenge and it also brings deeper meaning to my daily practice.

The students seemed a bit glassy-eyed and overwhelmed at times, but they worked very hard! I'm humbled by their focus and effort. Even though this is brand new to some of them, they were earnest and their efforts were genuine. I'm inspired by them!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Day 87

I worked really hard today in my practice (the same could also be said for yesterday). I seem to be undergoing some kind of shift and taking my practice a bit more seriously these days. I've been more focused. When I find myself getting frustrated, I'm better able to bring my attention back to the pose I'm doing right at that particular moment (if I think about all the poses I still need to do, I tend to get overwhelmed by it).

I had a nice moment in Janu Sirsasana A today. It just felt so good - like a glass of water on a hot day. Just delicious.

Yesterday, I added some of the Half-Lotus poses back in and I felt okay. More importantly, my knees felt okay. So today I added a few others that I've been avoiding/modifying for a long, long time:

Garba Pindasana - This is a pose I've been avoiding (usually skipping it completely) Until I'm able to special order that Magical Ashtanga Microscope that allows me to find the two holes in my legs where my arms are supposed to go *snark*, I won't be coming into the full pose. Since I have full lotus again, I can roll. For the first time today, I rolled in a circle, nine times, exactly like I’m supposed to. I even lifted up for 10 breaths on the final roll, although it was no Kukkutasana. I think I have found a new favourite! The first time I tried this pose a few months ago, I hated it because it bothered my low back. This time, I loved the rolling. It's fun! I need a little bit more fun in my practice, so I think I'll keep it! ;-)

Urdhva Padmasana - I set up my Lotus and did this pose properly for the first time ever this morning. This is something I've been slowly working towards, using crossed legs. For a few months, I couldn't fathom how I was supposed to keep my crossed legs up there without toppling over. I had to keep one hand on a knee, the other braced on my back. In the past few weeks, I've been able to bring both hands up to support my knees. The first time I did it, I couldn't believe it! I felt like I was defying gravity! I think this pose is all about core strength and really 'getting' Sarvangasana (feeling solid and centred in the pose). I did feel some instability with my legs in Lotus, but I think I'll continue to grow into this one as I build strength.

Pindasana - Ditto for this pose. I came into it in Lotus, but felt a bit 'tippy.' I really felt a stretch in my neck, but didn't feel any compression in my cervical spine. I wonder if I'm doing it right?

Matsyasana - This pose is a completely different animal when it's done with legs in Lotus. I did grab my toes and wow, it felt good. I felt like a tangle of arms and legs when I tried to get out of the Lotus to come into Uttana Padasana, though. Hilarious!

It's worth noting that I sweated buckets today. I always know I've worked hard when my Mysore rug is damp in Savasana!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Day 86

I was happy last night. I played a good hockey game last night with no pain or nausea. After struggling with these meds for months, I've finally found the right balance between food and pain killers and my medication schedule. Before the game, I hung around the rink and chatted with friends and watched a game and after the game, I walked home in the balmy air.

But this morning, I was not happy. I had to get my bloodwork done. This means I had to fast for at least 12 hours. After a night of fitful sleep, I got up early and biked to the lab in the rain and waited in line for a half hour before sitting in a waiting room for another half hour, knocking elbows with all of the other hungry, cranky people who also needed bloodwork.

Now? I'm happy again. I just finished a great yoga practice with some wonderful, heart opening backbends. I'm getting ready to go for a walk. I'm heating water for tea.

My moods are usually constantly in flux, so I'm always taken aback when someone assumes that because I do a lot of yoga, I'm always happy. Last night, I had a Twitter exchange with a friend. She asked “how can you do all of that yoga and not be happy all the time?” I answered, simply: “Yoga every day doesn't necessarily mean 'happy' every day. Life's challenges are still there, though yoga makes them easier to face.”

If anything, doing yoga has given me the ability to ride out my moods with more equanimity. It helps me realise that I'm not my moods - I've become better able to recognise my moods as a state, rather than an identity.

In time, I'm sure I'll be able to do every single pose of the Primary Series absolutely perfectly. But, for me, the real work of yoga is being able to connect with that state of equilibrium beyond 'happy' and 'unhappy.' I'll be facing that battle every day of my life.

Addendum: Shortly after I wrote this post, I found this quote that sums it all up rather nicely:

Monday, October 1, 2007

Day 85

Took the day off yesterday. Slept, loafed around, read lots of books. Volunteered at the soup kitchen and laughed with friends. Sat in the park soaking up late afternoon sunshine and listening to a guitarist while children played and dogs frolicked around me. Watched some brainless television. Went to bed early and slept like the dead. Carpe Diem!

Today's practice felt kind of serendipitous, like finding a $20 bill on the ground. I unrolled my mat as soon as I got back from the doctor's office because I knew that I wouldn't do it if I didn't do it RIGHT THIS MOMENT. The sense of urgency faded during the first few sun salutations and I ended up really enjoying myself.

No 'rockstar moments' or big breakthroughs, though I did come up into Sirsasana with straight legs very spontaneously, no fuss, no effort. Just like I'd been doing it every day my whole life. Obviously, I've been working too hard at this. It finally came easy as soon as I let go of 'effort' and embraced 'ease.'

Marichyasana B felt like a big hug from a beloved friend. Sometimes, it just all comes together, exactly the way it was meant to.

Welcome to October!

Marichyasana B