Monday, March 17, 2008

Day 214

“The challenge of yoga is to go beyond our limits - within reason. We continually expand the frame of mine by using the canvas of the body. It is as if you were to stretch a canvas more and create a larger surface for painting. But we must respect the present form of our body. If we pull too fast or too much at once, we will rip the canvas. If the practice of today damages the practice of tomorrow, it is not correct practice.”

- BKS Iyengar

This passage leapt out of me in the book I'm currently reading (Light on Life), particularly since Elise recently attended a workshop by David Williams that addresses this topic. Not only does Elise provide a very useful and informative summary of the workshop, but David Williams himself edited it for clarity. Definitely worth checking out. I've never attended any of David's workshops, but his approach to the Ashtanga system deeply resonates with me (A link to David's 'Letter to My Students' is in my sidebar).

All of this makes me feel a bit less sheepish in admitting that I've been skipping some poses in the Primary Series. First of all, let it be known that I don't do Chakrasana at all and, short of some experimentation here and there, I haven't even been working on it. In the closing sequence, I've started modifying Matsyasana and Uttana Padasana, working with straight legs in the former (to give myself a better foundation of support) and keeping my arms to the floor in the latter, so the full weight of my body is not on my head. I no longer practise Setu Bandhasana.

My concern is for my cervical spine. Though I'm not willing to say that I'll *never* do these poses, I can say affirmatively that I will not do them until I have the physical strength to ensure that there is no compression in the vertebrae of my neck.

To be honest, I'm not entirely sure that the ongoing issues with my left shoulder/upper back are completely unrelated to my neck and my yoga practice (although the hockey injury certainly triggered it). Easing up on Matsyasana and Uttana Padasana went a long way towards loosening up the tension in my left upper back (it's been feeling much better). Until I feel I'm strong enough to do those poses safely, I'm comfortable modifying my practice.

However, it begs the question: What could I be doing in my current practice to start building up the strength to support my neck in these poses?

Anyways, it's an interesting problem and I'll have FIVE WHOLE DAYS to ponder it because Aunt Flo is arriving at any moment for her monthly visit - a week late and mad as hell; I've been in bed for most of the afternoon moaning and groaning (I had an amazing practice early this morning - my first a.m. practice in about a week). After my three days of Ladies Holiday, there's a Moon Day to look forward to and then it's Saturday. Ashtanga Vacation, coming right up!

This is probably the longest break I've had from Ashtanga yoga since last June and I plan to make the most of it! I'm already tentatively planning to attend my teacher H's Level II Hatha class on Thursday night (Aunt Flo will have packed her bags and left by then) and M's Anusara class on Friday morning. The Yoga Reunion Tour!

I haven't been to see these teachers since I started doing Ashtanga regularly last June. I'm looking forward to observing how my practice has changed in the context of Intermediate Hatha and Ansuara.

I'll be back with a full report of my shenanigans on Sunday. Until then, keep it real, kids! ;-)

The yoga teacher!


Michelle said...

Have a relaxing time off. Phewsh! I get exhausted just reading about all your activities. I am also glad that you honor the needs of your body with regards to your injuries and your monthly cycle. Could be a lesson to us all.

Rachelle said...

I try to do the primary series every day, and since this is not always possible, I manage to do it average 4 - 6 times per week. Not bad, right? At least, not bad for a woman who started this last July / August and couldn't do more than 1 or 2 SN's. But reading that you leave some of the postures out helps me a bit with my leaving some postures out. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to do all those postures where the head is on the floor and the rest of the body goes up over the head, so no shoulder stand, no hand stand (if I could do it), no Chakrasana, or Halasana etc. It really bothers me that I can't do these. Most of the closing sequence is comprised of such postures. I am doing a very short closing "sequence" as Beryl Bender Birch in her book teaches people who cannot do the real closing sequence. Not much to it, just lay on back, do a twist on both sides, then corpse pose. Can you suggest a better closing to my practice? I love reading your blog. Thanks.

Cody said...

I agree. Chakrasana is stupid!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you about the cervical spine issue. I am an "older" Ashtangi and did not do Chakrasana until I was sure I could push off my hands enough to get off my neck. When that happens, Chakrasana feels great. Rolling over on the neck before it happens, does not and can't be good :)

Your blog is so inspiring. Thank you for keeping it up the way you do.
Enjoy your break :)