Friday, November 30, 2007

Day 125


I slept for 5 hours last night. Normally, this would be cause for concern, but under the current circumstances, I was ecstatic to get that much sleep. It was a small victory for codeine cough syrup. Alas, it was short-lived - I was up early, because I'm always up early. So I went for my morning skate at the ice rink, then came home to practice.

And, then, Surprise! In the midst of a lingering cold and massive sleep deprivation, I had one of my best practices in a long, long time. Everything felt open, everything flowed. I felt strong, steady and focused. Walking around the apartment beforehand, I felt heavy and weak and woozy, but in the context of practice, I felt light and strong.

I did the full primary and it took me an hour and 45 minutes. I took my time, loafed around in postures, repeated a few, did some handstand.

I came *this* close to binding in Supta Kurmasana! I haven't done that pose in over a week because I was working with the short form of the Primary Series. I was very surprised with my mysterious progress, but I'm not complaining.

I worked on dropbacks (into Urdhva Dhanurasana) against the wall. I successfully walked my hands down the wall three times. I think I'm getting better at this.

Here's something weird: I found that lightly resting my thumbs against my sternum in Namaste helped me feel safer and more stable as I dropped back. I have no idea why, but there was definitely a difference.

It's the little things. The funny little things...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Day 124

I'm having a problem, a sleep problem.

My voice is back (after a bout with laryngitis last week), the bronchitis is mostly gone, I still have a bit of an head cold, but that's fading. But the cough lingers. It's a dry cough, a unhappy-bronchial-tubes cough. It occasionally accost me when I'm trying to teach, but mostly it emerges after sunset.

Every time I go to sleep, the cough wakes me up. I probably got five hours sleep the night before last, so I went back to bed and slept all day. Last night, I got no more than three. Sleeping all day wasn't an option and I didn't feel like doing that anyway. I skated for two hours then came home to do yoga.

I didn't know that I could actually fall asleep in a forward bend, but it appears that many things are possible. ;-)

I cut my practice short, but did manage to make it to Navasana, at least.

I was particularly keen to do the Marichyasanas, because I've been having some breakthroughs with these poses:

- I'm binding to the wrist again in Marichyasana B (this one went away - I could only bind to fingers - but now it's come back)
- I'm now binding to the wrist and feeling really GOOD in Marichyasana C. This is new - and huge for me. I've gone from hating this posture to really enjoying it.
- and...drumroll please....I'm binding with fingers in Marichyasana D. On BOTH sides. I was able to do this a few months ago on one side, but it was a huge complicated operation, which involved wiggling and tugging at my arm and twisting around and then it just hurt. Now it doesn't hurt. Now I just need to get that knee down.

I think a lot of this progress can be attributed to my newly wide open hips. I haven't been riding my bike over the past few weeks and won't be for the rest of the winter. My knees now comfortably rest on the floor in Baddha Konasana.

I think it also has to do with the fact that I've shed some additional poundage over the past month or so. My black corduroy pants are fitting me nicely again. I think my FUPA has shrunk, giving me some additional leeway to twist.

So it was a good practice today, if a little bit sleepy.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Day 123

My Happy Place

I had intended to do the full primary this afternoon, but I was strapped for time and it just felt right to stop at Navasana, so I did.

It's been a good week for hips and hammies, but a difficult week for everything else. In Paschimottanasana, I found myself sinking forward, as if I could hide from all my demons merely by placing my face on my shins.

It's not so easy. I think I'm going through an emotional growth spurt of some sort. I'm coming to terms with some things that are long overdue.

This reminds me of my first experiences with yoga. I stumbled across a beginner's Iyengar video in the bargain bin at Best Buy. It was 12 years ago but I can still remember how bewildered I was by yoga. Bewildered, but I liked it. I kept coming back to it. Every morning, I carefully did each pose. Then, I laid down in Savasana and completely came undone; I laid on my mat and sobbed. I did this for a month. An hour of yoga, an hour of tears.

Then my entire life started to slowly unravel.

I had a good, deep cry this weekend. I can feel my life shifting again. I'm both fearful and exhilarated.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Day 122

I'm back after a two-day break: Saturday was a moonday and Sunday was my usual day off. And it was just as well because I felt awful on Sunday. I got up early to go to the soup kitchen and ended up arriving late, suffering through 55 minutes and leaving without assisting with clean-up. I was just miserable.

Part of it was being sick, part of it was because my medication is causing some nausea and part of it was *hangs head in shame* I went out on Saturday and did the thing that I'm absolutely not supposed to do: drink a lot of alcohol. I had loads of fun, but boy did I ever pay the price the next day. I've never been so sick in my life. I think I've learned my lesson: no more drunken partying for me. At least not until the New Year. Sheesh!

I wasn't feeling so hot this morning, but I rallied and taught my noon yoga class. That's when I really started to turn the corner and feel good again. I love that group of ladies - they're so much fun to teach! Inspired, I came home and decided to spend my afternoon doing yoga.

Michelle commented about the 'Yoga Today' classes. She had tried one of the Ashtanga classes and was curious what I thought of them. So I gave the class a try. The one I did was called 'Breath Control. It was an Ashtanga-inspired sort of class (not traditional Ashtanga) with a lot of Pranayama (breath work).

Pranayama is one of those things I really dislike teaching, so I'm always up for new ideas and methods of conveying it to students. The two methods the instructor presented were new to me and very good - I'll be adding them to my repertoire. One was breath retention and the other involved 'sipping' the breath, targeted to each of the chakras.

The rest of the class was just okay. Because the Pranayama took almost 20 minutes, there was only 40 minutes of asana practice and probably 20 of that was spent moving through the sun salutations veeeerrrrrrry sllllllloooooowwwwwllllly. I never really built up any heat during the sun salutations - they felt more like a meditative exercise. The class didn't cover a lot of poses and the holds were longer than I'm used to. I enjoyed a neat variation on Parsvottanasana, where you sort of lift your back leg a la Virabhadrasana III with hands still in reverse Namaste. I found that pleasantly challenging. Long holds in Navasana were....well, long!

Overall, it was a good practice for someone new to Ashtanga, but I suspect serious practitioners would find it too slow.

After I finished that, I spent another hour going through my usual short form and really, really, really enjoyed it. But I'm starting to miss some of the poses from the full Primary Series. I may go back to that tomorrow.

My hips are very open this week! Before Ardha Baddha Padma Padottanasana, I've been doing the 'rock the baby' hip opener and gradually getting my foot behind my head on each side. It doesn't *stay* behind my head, but it does get there! (How do you get the foot to stay there? Do any of my three readers have wisdom to convey?)

I've also been playing around with jump-throughs using blocks. I know, I know, blocks. But I think getting the 'muscle memory' is the challenge for me. I know I'm strong enough! With the blocks, I can lift up and jump through and also lift up and being my legs back into Vajrasana. I can do this a few times before massive toe-stubbing ensues. So perhaps I do need to build up some strength for this. I'll keep doing this and report back if I have any success.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Day 121

I'm really beginning to appreciate the short form I've been working with. It's the 45 minute short from the Swenson book, but I've added a few postures to it to round out an hour. I've been feeling under the weather this week and this short practice has allowed me to continue with Ashtanga despite my lower-than-usual energy levels.

I think I'm going to continue with the short form through this week. I'm teaching it to my Intro Ashtanga students as a 'home practice' for them to do during the holiday break between sessions (this is a pre-registered class). It would be nice if I was thoroughly familiar with it.

Today, I even managed to do some Ujjayi breathing for part of my practice. I'm also starting to move Sirsasana back into the middle of the room. Funny thing about working with the straight legs: coming into the pose with bent legs is totally comfortable for me now. I can do it anywhere, confidently.

The effects of the laryngitis is lingering. My voice is touch-and-go these days. I was struggling last night, sounded like a frog teaching my noon class and my youth class this afternoon. But I have moments when I sound completely normal. I hope I'm over this soon (like, this weekend).

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Day 120

Another low-key short form for me today. I snuck in a few Ujjayi breaths, but since I'm still hoarse and still coughing, I didn't want to push it. Ironically, all of my classes cancelled last night because of a power outage, so I was able to go home early and rest my voice. My Thursday noon class moved to Friday. Today, I'm resting my voice for my two evening classes.

I worked on Sirsasana fairly extensively today. I've taken the pose back to the wall while I work on coming up with straight legs. Once I feel completely stable, I'll work in the middle of the room again.

So far, it's going really well! I haven't actually used the wall (for support) even once. I love the way it feels coming into the Sirsasana like this. I feel strong. I'm working on coming up very slowly and fluidly. It's very different from kicking up, or even coming up with bent knees. Half-bend is feeling easier and easier.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Day 119

Late Monday, as I was preparing to take to the ice for my ice hockey game, I noticed that my voice was getting really hoarse. One of my team mates told me that laryngitis is going around. So I stopped talking.

Laryngitis is a yoga teacher's worst nightmare. I had it a few years ago and literally lost my ability to speak for three days. Not a good thing when you use your voice to pay the rent!

I think I caught it in time. Over the past 48 hours, I've been resting my voice as much as possible. A combination of steam tent, slippery elm, neti pot and lots of lukewarm water have soothed my larynx and I managed to teach today's classes, albeit not loudly.

I practised yesterday, but not Ashtanga (I couldn't trust myself not to use Ujjayi breath during the practice and I knew an constriction of the glottis could aggravate my larynx). Instead, I did a gentle Hatha practice.

I did a short form of the Primary Series this morning, trying to be very mindful NOT to use Ujjayi breath. Amazing how difficult that is! It made me realise just how second nature the breathing becomes after awhile. It wasn't a great practice, but I was just glad to be doing it. I will probably do a short form again tomorrow, returning to full series on Friday when I know I'll have a few days off.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Day 118

It's good to be back to my practice today. I had a very nice momentum going over the previous few weeks, particularly with my early morning practices. I didn't manage to get to the mat early this morning, but my Lady's Holiday neatly coincided with a cold bug I've been fighting and I felt that the extra sleep would be good for me.

I'm a big believer in Cold FX, Vitamin C and the Neti Pot when I'm fighting a bug - combined with lots of rest and lots of water. I did all of those things and I seem to be at the end of it. The sore throat lasted less than 12 hours. The Neti Pot is my little ceramic saviour in the winter months (and during allergy season). I'm such a Neti booster that I demo that pot in my pre-reg Hatha Yoga classes once a session (if you think the idea of Neti is kind of funny, try doing it in front of 25 people! lol)

I took a long practice today - almost 2 hours - and really savoured the postures. I took out the Swenson book and reviewed the Driste for each pose and found myself reading some of his tips.

One recommendation really leapt out at me. I've been working on coming into headstand with straight legs for some time now with mixed success.

These four sentences made a gigantic yogic light bulb appear over my head (under my head? *grin*) I'll quote it:
“In order to lift the feet from the floor, it will be necessary to transfer your weight behind you. This will actually create a momentary unbalancing. This unbalancing is what will draw the feet upward. The trick is to bring the hips back to the centre line as the feet rise.”

Eureka!!! It's just like half-bend, which I can totally do. It helps to work against a wall at first, with your clasped hands about four inches away from the wall. Walk the toes in, try to keep the legs straight. Lift up through the sitbones and move the hips toward the wall, transferring the weight slight off-centre. Keep the transverse abdominus engaged and the legs will magically lift! Once they're up, move the hips back over the shoulders to centre the pose.

I was doing all of this except the weight transfer! As soon as I added that piece, the entire pose came together for me! I did it five times because I just couldn't believe how easy it was.

Gravity is my friend!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Day 117

Set my alarm very early this morning - 4:15 - thinking that I would do my yoga practice before I headed to the soup kitchen. It's amazing how persuasive I can be with myself at 4:15 in the morning. That is, how easily I can persuade myself that I don't *really* want to get up and practice. I'd rather sleep! So I talked myself into that and I slept. And slept. And woke up at 6 (and was late!).

Oh well! :-)

I did a short form of the primary series today - one that leaves out some half-lotusy-poses and the dreaded Kurmasana. It's sort of a shame, because I was really starting to like that one, but not at this time of month! My low back is so achy. Although I did enjoy Sarvangasana today..

I turned on my heater a few minutes before I started sun salutations and before long I was quite warm and sweating. The heater usually goes off at some point on its own, but it didn't this morning. I checked it - turns out, I had it set on 'fan'! All of that heat was coming from my own efforts! I get a gold star for Tapas today!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Day 116

I enjoyed my accidental early morning practice so much yesterday that I decided to do it on purpose again this morning and set an alarm. I was up by 5:15 and on the mat by 5:30. It's tough getting up early, but I love the silence of the early morning and I really love the darkness. By the time I'm in Savasana, the sky is turning pink and the room is glowy. Lovely. It feels really good to finish my practice early so I have time to do other things in the morning;

I had a good, sweaty practice this morning - I found my flow and built up some internal heat. This time of year, when it's starting to get colder out, it's a pleasure to feel deeply warm.

My lower back is sore in that very specific way that it gets sore right before Lady's Holiday, so I did modified versions of some poses, particularly Kurmasana/Supta Kurmasana and Sarvangasana. I'm predicting Friday for LH to start.

My hips are also tight due to LH, so I'm feeling some (typical) soreness in my left knee in the Half-Lotus poses, so I took it easy in Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana and Ardha Baddha Padma Padottanasana. This week, I've noticed some soreness in my left elbow as well - not sure what that's about, but I'm keeping an eye on it. I tend to hyperextend in my elbows, so I've been taking special notice of this and microbending my arms in my downward facing dogs.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Day 115


I woke early this morning, but not on purpose. I was having a dream about thirst. I kept drinking and drinking, glass after glass of water and nothing would satisfy my thirst. Then I woke and the clock said 5 a.m. It's entirely possible that I was actually thirsty (because I was!). Or perhaps the thirst in my dream was symbolic of something else (that's possible too).

The finals for the first 10-week session of my ice hockey league were last night (my team played for the championship, got clobbered 5-0). There's always a party afterward at the neighbourhood pub. I drank cranberry vodka coolers and ate fries and pizza. This qualifies as fairly wild behaviour for me. I rarely drink, so I was staggering and giggly after the coolers and felt heavy from the greasy food. I thought I would feel terrible in the morning. You know, 'garbage in, garbage out'.

Instead, I was just thirsty. And very awake.

So I lit a few candles on my altar and did my practice and it was a good, ordinary sort of practice. It was lovely to do yoga just as the sun was starting to warm the sky (and nice not to have the background noise of the construction crew in the background). I wish I could feel comfortable getting up early regularly. I really enjoyed this.

And, for what's it worth, I feel totally unaffected by the vodka, fries and pizza I ate last night. I was even hungry for breakfast this morning. Perhaps it's good to go a bit crazy every once in a while and eat total crap.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Day 114

By the way, I had a very nice moon day and day off over the weekend. Kind of nice to have two days in a row like that. I didn't do anything special, but feeling lazy in the mornings is kind of a treat.

Great practice today - well really, tonight. I waited until late afternoon to start because I was busy with a furniture rearranging project. Now I just need to sell my old computer (still sitting under my desk) and I'll be somewhat uncluttered.

Perhaps it was the feeling of a 'new space' around me, but I was very focused in my practice today. Didn't skip anything, even had some great momentum with dropbacks (though I'm still using the wall). And I *sweated*! I'm sure the new space heater contributed to this heat, but I've been using the heater for days without breaking into a sweat like this. Goes to show how much Bandhas and breath have to do with inner heat.

I tried to bind in Marichyasana D and *almost* got it.

I did Sirsasana in the middle of the mat, far from the wall with no incidents. I tried something new this time - no blanket under my head. That's a crutch that I was ready to leave behind and didn't even realise it. I'm more stable without the blanket and it seemed to help a lot.

I hope I can keep this momentum going through the week!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Day 113

It was so, so difficult to get to the mat today, and to get through the practice. But it was also very necessary - and comforting.

Each Sunday and Thursday morning, I volunteer at a breakfast for the homeless. This morning, a fellow volunteer, who I've become good friends with, collapsed in the washroom was rushed to hospital. We thought it was a heart attack. I'm very grateful that it was nothing more than a strangulated hernia (though painful for him). He's now resting at home with his partner.

I didn't feel like practising when I got home, but I felt pulled to my mat. My mat has been a very 'safe' place for me lately, and I wanted to dedicate my practice to my friend.

So I did. It wasn't the most energetic or strongest Primary Series I've every done, but it felt right. I know I skipped a bunch of postures and added a few (mostly Balasana and Pavan Muktasana).

I felt better when I finished. Almost immediately afterward, I got the news that everything was going to be okay with my friend.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Day 112

Nice practice today - full primary (skipped Janu Sirsasana C because it's impossible and Garba Pindasana because I simply forgot it). I'm loving that heater, by the way. I cranked it up a bit today and broke into a moderate, but envigourating, sweat.

I was a bit distracted, but I suspect that has something to do with my Aunt Flo - she bought her ticket today and she's packing her bags at this very moment in preparation for her monthly visit. I'm so bloated I feel like Jabba the Hut.

In other news, I'm pleased to announce a new Reluctant Ashtangi 'Special Feature' for the entertainment of my three readers: The Weekly Yoga Playlist.

This week's playlist was a bit heavy on the electronica, but it there was some good pop and funk to mix things up a bit. Props to Jenna for recommending The Cinematic Orchestra's latest album. It's amazing!

1) To Build a Home - The Cinematic Orchestra
2) Bittersweet Symphony - Andrew Oldham Orchestra/The Verve
3) God Moving Over the Face of the Waters - Moby
4) The Garden - Faithless
5) As the Stars Fall - The Cinematic Orchestra
6) Silver Inches - Enya
7) Breathe [Edit] - The Prodigy
8) Changes - David Bowie
9) Music: Response - The Chemical Brothers
10) Lebanese Blonde - Thievery Corporation
11) Night Train - James Brown
12) Space Oddity - David Bowie
13) Indian Vibes - Thievery Corporation
14) Sunday - Moby
15) Familiar Ground - The Cinematic Orchestra
16) Addictive - Faithless
17) Where do I begin - The Chemical Brothers
18) Flora's Secret - Enya

On an ordinary day, I just let the music flow and my practice flows and I don't get the least bit distracted by it. But when The Prodigy's 'Breath' comes on, there's always the odd chance that I will break out dancing wildly somewhere between Virasana I and Virasana II (it's better than vinyasa!) This is particularly true if I'm in a goofy mood.

And you really haven't lived until you've done Marichyasana C to James Brown's 'Night Train.' Night Traaaaaaaain!!!

But that's the extent of my sillyness. Really and truly. I would not, for example (keep in mind: this is purely hypothetical), grab the lighter off my altar and start swaying back and forth to David Bowie's 'Space Oddity'. Nope. No siree! Not me!

I'm a serious yoga practitioner!


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Day 111

A little heat!

It dropped below 0 last night for the first time this fall (chance of flurries today!). Perfect timing for the inaugural use of the cute, little heater that I bought at Canadian Tire last night (I've propped the Swenson book next to it to give you a sense of scale).

I found this heater on the website but had no idea how tiny it was. When I saw it in the store, I almost squealed. I live in a tiny apartment, so size really does matter. This heater is so small that I can just leave it next to my Zafu when I'm not using it.

For a tiny little thing, it packs a lot of punch. I used it this morning and felt toasty warm (and I didn't even have it on the highest setting). This will come in handy in February.

I had a fabulous practice this morning. This is turning out to be a good yoga month - nothing like last month with my lack of motivation and lethargy. I guess it all runs in cycles, but I'm enjoying it while it lasts.

I did three drop backs against the wall today, but collapsed in giggles two out of the three. Oh well - baby steps! ;-)

I did headstand in the middle of the room today with no falling, no incidents. This really isn't a big deal - I haven't really 'used' the wall in years, but I always did the pose near a wall for security. I don't know why I've always been so afraid. I think that it was really helpful to play around with falling over into a backbend yesterday - it made me realise how difficult it really is to fall over! I practically had to muscle myself over to get my feet to the floor.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Day 110

'Fun with backbends.'

Do those words even belong in the same sentence?

I can do dropbacks (there's a photo here). Sort of. I can do dropbacks in a yoga class - as long as someone is supporting me as I go down. I can even do dropbacks unassisted - as long as I'm in the park and dropping back onto a steep incline (like a hill) on soft grass. But I've never managed to even come close to dropping back during my practice at home.

This is such a shame because dropping back is my favourite way to come into Urdhva Danurasana. When I can pull it off, that is.

So I'm happy to report that today, I did three dropbacks. Granted, I dropped back by walking my hands down the wall, but it's a start (and I've never actually been able to pull that off before, so I'm feeling proud of myself). I also practised dropping my feet to the floor from headstand - part of my grand plan to build confidence in that pose (if I can fall out of it gracefully, what is there left to fear?!)

Good practice today, overall. I moved steadily through all the poses, worked very hard. Something clicked this week and everything is flowing very smoothly.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Day 109

I spent all morning at the Doc's office and I bring glad tidings: My last official day on the meds will be December 2nd. The joint pain (one of the lovely side effects of these meds) I've been experiencing will fade into nothingness within a week and the other side effects will follow within two weeks to a month. By 2008, I'll be as good as new! This has been a tough year for me physically and I'm really excited about getting back to 'full strength' again.

Another milestone/sign of the season: today was the first day in six months that I didn't take an hour-long walk in the park with the dog. I achieved my goal of walking every day through September and even kept going through October. But I knew it would eventually come to an end. November is the month that it usually gets cold and (potentially) snowy here. With the end of Daylight Savings Time, it's also more difficult to fit in a walk in the evening (and usually too chilly to go out in the morning).

But, weather-be-damned and ever optimistic, I didn't bother to buy a Metropass this month, thinking I could keep riding my bike through November. You can all feel free to chastise me later on this month when I whine about how my hands are freezing on rides.

Today, I lacked the motivation to accomplish the two things still on my to-do list: yoga and laundry. So I combined them!

Loga? Yogaundry?

Here's a brief outline of a typical practice when these two modalities are combined:

Sort laundry, take it downstairs and put it in the washer.

Surya Namaskara A x5, Surya Namaskara B x4, Standing poses.

Back downstairs to transfer laundry to the dryer and bring air-dry items back upstairs. Hang up air-dry items.

Surya Namaskara B x1 (to warm my body back up) and the Primary poses. Closing sequence, a lovely Savasana and even some meditation.

Go get laundry out of the dryer. Fold it. Mindfully!

You see? I have this all figured out! Now I'm going to go kick some ass at ice hockey ;-)

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Day 108

I had a great practice today and I'm having a great day in general.

Yesterday, I realised that I needed some true downtime because I was feeling really ambivelent about everything. Right now, there isn't a single day in my schedule that I don't have some kind of personal commitment, whether it be hockey, volunteer work or teaching. So I skipped J's birthday party last night (it was out in Parkdale and I really didn't feel like making the schlep) and I didn't volunteer at the soup kitchen this morning. Today was free and clear!

I slept in and fully savoured that extra hour gifted to me by the clocks turning back. I lingered in bed and felt lazy. I took my time tidying the apartment and sweeping the floors. I went for a long, long walk. I found a bench in a quiet spot in the park and sat in the sunshine, drinking a vanilla cappuccino and reading the Bhagavad Gita (the Easwaran translation).

I've found myself being drawn back into my studies of the Gita again. I've also been meditating more and finding it very calming to my spirit.

In terms of my physical practice, I have a small confession to make. I imagine that some of you think that I just propel myself onto the mat every day and soldier through the primary series entirely on my own. That's not exactly true. Most of the time, I've been practising with a DVD - Beryl Bender Birch's 'Power Yoga'.

When I first started, I didn't know the series very well and I found that looking at a book was distracting. I found it difficult to maintain momentum. Also, I was doing a very early morning practice and I'm not terribly bright at 4:30 a.m. (it became very easy to skip poses). The DVD solved all these problems and, as an added bonus, I didn't have to overthink anything - Beryl did that for me. *rolls eyes*

I've gradually moved away from using the DVD in the past month and I've found it very freeing. It's easier to focus on my breath without someone talking at me and I also move through the series more efficiently. Beryl had me on the mat for and hour and thirty-five minutes. On my own, I can finish in an hour and twenty-five or less.

On my own, I find that I move through the postures more fluidly, focusing on the breath. But I do miss Beryl telling me to engage my Bandhas. But I wouldn't go back. I feel like it's really 'my' practice when I do it on my own.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Day 107


Fear has been on my mind lately. Not the gut-tightening aversions that come and go quickly and suddenly, but the quicksand of deep seated anxiety. The stuff that gets us stuck. The stuff that takes us by surprise. One moment you're in motion, the next moment you're frozen. Afraid.

Tiff's comment on Day 104 summed it up very nicely:
“Fears are always there, but I think sometimes we empower them so much they become even more onimous.”

Sometimes I wonder if, at its root, inertia is just a more tamasic expression of fear. I didn't practice yesterday because I felt too tired, told myself that I didn’t have it in me to unroll my mat. This morning, I did practice, but lethargically. Uninspired.

All the while, I feel this low level of anxiety that I sense is rooted in something deeper.

I see it in my students, particularly my very young students (perhaps because they're so unabashedly honest). The other day, an eight-year-old who has been studying yoga with me for two years was struggling with Pinchamayurasana. After a few tries, she curled into child's pose. I asked her if what was up.

“I'm tired.” she whined.

“Really?” I asked.

She sat up and sighed dramatically. “Why is this so hard? It's just like handstand on my arms, but I'm so afraid! Why am I so afraid?” She shook her head.

I had a sudden flashback to myself, curled up in a ball at the feet of my teacher, M. I was crying because he had brought me into handstand and I was so afraid that I literally collapsed into a puddle of fright on the floor.

He asked me why I was there and I had no answer.

Yoga is such an interesting laboratory for exploring our fears.

This morning, I struggled through my practice, feeling a great reluctance to be on the mat at all. Then, somehow, I completely skipped Savasana. How did I manage that? I forgot to rest.

"Fear has its use, but cowardice has none. I may not put my hand into the jaws of a snake, but the very sight of the snake need not strike terror into me.

The trouble is that we often die many times before death overtakes us."

- Mahatma Gandhi

(Dying many times...Hmmm. I wonder if this is why Savasana is called corpse pose?)

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Day 106

I was quite exhausted this morning. This is the time of the week when I begin to lose my momentum; I'm teaching a lot of yoga and I'm up early on Thursday. The weekend begins to look very enticing.

I did the full primary series today, though I sort of skimped on the closing sequence and didn't have time to chant or meditate afterward. I've really started to look forward to this meditation time to wind down and reflect after my practice. This morning, I had to get cleaned up to go teach a class so it just wasn't happening. I think it's really positive that I actually missed my mediation, though. In the past, I've had to drag myself kicking and screaming to the zafu - my meditation is becoming a safe place for me once again and I really value that.

I had an epiphany in headstand today: I don't need the wall. I really don't need it at all. Even when I'm moving my legs around or coming into half-bend, I feel strong and balanced. I've been doing the pose close to the wall for months, just for the security of it, but I can't remember the last time I needed to use it.

Today, I set up in the middle of the room and I was fine. I was physically fine, but more importantly, I was mentally fine; I didn't miss the wall.
This is huge for me and I think it's the first step to eventually moving my handstand away from the wall.

It's not a physical struggle as much as a mental one. Dumb monkey mind, you spoil all my fun!