Thursday, March 11, 2010


No Manduka mat this morning - I left it at work yesterday. I pulled my old mat out of storage, my REALLY old mat. It’s almost 15 years old. I bought it through mail order, from Gaim, in the early 90s, along with two green foam blocks and a canvas strap. All à la Iyengar. At the time, I was practising at home with Patricia Walden’s ‘Yoga for Beginners.’

At the time, I thought the mat was an extravagance. I thought it would end up collecting dust, but it didn’t. Despite my ardent dislike of yoga, I practised daily and in time, my blue mat became a refuge from the swirl and confusion of my rapidly-changing life. I’m still very fond of it, but it’s not thick enough for an Astanga practice. I let out a surprised squeak when I rolled onto my head for Setu Bandhasana...OUCH.

I worked *very* hard during my practice this morning. I was focused, determined and WARM. The apartment was a tad cool when I woke, which starts to happen this time of year when the landlord dials down the heat. I turned on my space heater and the room warmed nicely. I worked up a good sweat. It was lovely!

In my sun salutations, I focused on weeding out the ‘flourishes’. I almost embarrassed to ‘fess up to them. We all have them and for the most part, they’re silly and unnecessary. Here’s one of mine: When circling my arms overhead, I do this thing with my hands, crossing them in front and only then circling them up. It’s very dancer-esque. I first noticed I did this when I saw my beginning students doing it. Of course, they were mimicking me! *cringe*

Now I start with arms at my sides, and coming back to Samasthiti, I bring them back down to my sides. Every movement is simple and purposeful - that’s my goal. No embellishments. Quaker yoga!

I’m also working my tail off on those jump-backs. Today, I experimented, trying a little bit of everything: blocks, no blocks, plain vanilla Lolasana, lifting up and trying (unsuccessfully) to jump back, lifting up then touching toes down *then* trying to jump back (better, but does it even count?!).

I even tried some jump-throughs. I can jump through with straight legs...with the blocks. In fact, I can do a fair approximation of a jump-back too...with the blocks. So what’s the secret here? Do I need more core strength? Is there a special Bandha Pill I can take to enhance my special yogic powers?

Or am I cursed?

(with a nod to Liz and her T-Rex...)

Referrer Thursday

This week, I’m giving the shout-out to Christine at Ashtanga-Yoga-Gainesville. Christine has a strong home practice, supported by regular work with her teacher, David Keil. Every six months or so, she spend 5 days in David’s Mysore Room, getting feedback and ‘homework’ for her next stint of home practice.

Right now, she’s on Day 3 of her latest visit with her teacher, sharing her experiences and insights as she practises in Savannah, Georgia (I’m jealous, jealous, jealous! I *heart* Savannah).

Here’s a great quote from one of Christine’s recent entries:

“One of the things that I love about David is his attitude of total confidence that what feels impossible to me is totally possible (with time and practice of course!)
...and one of the things that I love about the Ashtanga yoga practice is that there is no end to confronting the impossible and learning that it really can be done! “


ArkieYogini said...

If you discover the magic Bandha Pill, let me know where to buy it. I could use one of those for my jumpbacks as well. ;)

Christine said...

Wow! I'm honored to be on "referrer Thurs."!! Yours was the first blog (yoga or otherwise) that I ever read...been reading since the early days. :)
I love the sincerity in your posts and try to do likewise.

susananda said...

Christine, I just discovered your blog from here, and I like it too :)

Kai, what is with the obsession in the blogosphere with 'perfect' jumpbacks??? Don't get me wrong, I think it's brilliant the way you work on it, but 'does it count?' - please???

Jump back, jump through. If you didn't lift your hands off, you did it. The floatiness comes over time and in any case is subject to body fluctuations (esp. in women).

It's just a transition!

Kaivalya said...

I'll share the magic Bandha Pill if you'll share your magic Backbend Syrum. :-) Your Urdhva Dhanurasana is beautiful!

Thanks! :-) Enjoy your last day with your teacher. Your posts have inspired me and given me a new appreciation for the help of a teacher. I'm planning to do everything possible to make sure I can keep going to my weekly class.

Working with a teacher regularly is making a difference in my practice: it's helping me to enjoy it more.

I can't speak for all of the blogosphere, but I can answer for myself: I do it because it's fun!! Developing new skills and becoming stronger gives me the motivation to unroll my mat every day.

The floaty jumpback is a neat 'party trick' and makes for a smooth transition, but the bandhas and body awareness I gain in the process of learning is very valuable.

susananda said...

Ok... Reading my comment over, I sound a little nuts :) I like your answer a lot!

I also work on my jumps, and I try to get my students to work them too... I'd rather see them just rest and breathe evenly than sort of clamber back and forth sighing and not even trying to lift. It definitely pays off to work them!

I guess I've just heard a few people (and come to think of it, as much IRL as on blogs) berate themselves for not floating, which is a real shame. Not that you were doing that!! But sometimes people put too much emphasis on it IMO and get an inferiority complex.... it's to those people I want to say, 'it's just a transition'.

Um, I hope that explains it a little better. Keep up the good work! :)

babs said...

Oh, I still have my first yoga mat. I took it out the other day...the nostalgia.

Kaivalya said...

No one should ever berate themselves, for yoga or anything else. To be perfectly honest, this is one of the lessons the practice has taught me. I think the folks who have an inferiority complex about yoga also have it in other areas of their life. Yoga is a mirror.

But I firmly reserve the right to whinge about my arms being too short (because it's fun, and because I like kangaroos *grin*)

But on a serious note, I ignored lift-ups for ages because I hated them. Now, I'm religious about lifting up because I can see where they lead (floaty jumpbacks! wee!).

But more significantly, I'm starting to see the impact on other areas of my's amazing!

Even though I rarely use it, my first mat reminds me of my early experiences of yoga and how far I've come. It's a great reminder for those days when I don't want to practice. Nostalgia is useful! :-)