Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I had a bright, chipper, energetic practice today. This was a surprise, since I played ice hockey last night and usually 'the morning after' is a bit of a dull affair.

It was a tough game last night. We tied 5-5 against a very good team, the same team that beat us in our very first game. I had one assist and two very good shots on net. I took one hard fall, in which I hit my head. This left me with a 10-minute headache (some pranayama on the bench took care of it). I also fell on my bum, but it was a stupid fall. I was standing around feeling sorry for myself because the other team had just scored goal, when my feet went out from under me. Doh.

My neck was a bit tender this morning, but all my parts seem to be working. No weird bruises or tender spots. My left hip is a bit tight, though.

You may have noticed that I'm beginning to keep track of my 'skipped poses'. I'm dong this to hold myself more accountable for them. It's working - I've stopped skipping Marichyasana D. So, today I skipped my usual: Janu C and Setu.

I skip Janu Sirsasana C because I have nerve damage in both my feet. The condition is called 'Morton's Neuroma'. It's an enlarged nerve between the third and fourth metatarsals. I likely developed the condition when I was working as a field archaeologist in the 1990s. On some sites, sitting is prohibited so you squat. For hours. As a result, I'm a great squatter, but my feet are damaged. It probably doesn't help that I have tiny feet for my height.

Any pose that requires excessive flexion in the metatarsals is a problem for me. I can do Janu Sirsasana C, sort of (and if I'm in a shala, I will), but doing it daily aggravates the neuroma, so I don't. I used to have Plantar Fasciitis too, but that seems to have faded away.

I'm currently obsessed with Navasana. A few weeks ago, I did some research and realised that I've been doing the pose wrong. I've been balancing on the tailbone, rather than on the sit bones.

It's hard to balance on the sit bones! (I tend to fall forward) It requires a lot more abdominal strength and I consciously have to avoid using my Psoas to support the pose. But if I can pull it off, my spine is as straight as an arrow.

I tried teaching this new alignment to a group of students last week and they really struggled.

So I'm doing research. Depending on the source, you're either balancing on the sit bones or on the area between the sit bones and the sacrum (just forward of the coccyx). Some sources get specific (oh, those Iyengar people) and specify the front of the sit bones. Another source mentioned the 'back edge of the sit bones'.

In terms of Astanga, Gregor Maehle and Beryl are in the behind-the-sit-bones camp, David Swenson doesn't specify, but the photos look like he's on his sit bones.

Fun Trivia: In fancy anatomical language, the sit bones are called ischial tuberosities (a term I love using in my classes; saying it is like chewing gum).

I'm personally leaning towards 'the back edge of the sit bones' but I'm going to keep experimenting in my practice.


Meaghan Hutchings said...

Just stumbled onto your blog - love your commitment! I'm a Hatha yoga teacher but thinking of buying a primary series DVD to give it a try - no Ashtanga teacher in my city. I'm sure your experiences will help me along the way :)

Meaghan Hutchings

Flo said...

I am a horrible squatter. :)
But that condition does sound a bit painful.
Also, you brought up 2 things that I noticed; I tend to skip the same poses each practice (subconciously I suppose...I dislike twists) perhaps I need to document that to keep myself accountable.
Also...I never realized you should do Navasana on your sit bones!??!
Must try!

Arturo said...

Kai! sorry i don't have your email. could you help me figure out how to syncronize the ipod itouch with the itunes?

Kaivalya said...

Welcome! I'm a hatha teacher as well (I only teach one Astanga class per week). I practised Hatha exclusively for over 10 years before I started Astanga.

I think you'll have a lot of fun learning the Primary Series, since you already have a good foundation in the asanas and alignment. Let me know how it goes!

A few of the alignments are different. Eventually, you may want to go to an Astanga teacher so he/she can tweak a few things (and tell you your stance in Utthita Trikonasana is too wide - I *still* do that!)

'Fessing up to your skipped poses does keep you honest! ;-)

Try Navasana on your sit bones thing and let me know what you think. Next time you go to YTT, ask your teacher too - I'm curious what her take on this is.

After some experimentation, I'm leaning towards using the 'back edge of my sit bones' or the little spot between the sit bones and coccyx.

One thing's for sure: my spine is definitely longer the more I can root into the sit bones in any pose, so it makes sense to do it as much as possible in Navasana.