Monday, May 17, 2010

Astanga

I’m going to continue with the earlier start time this week and see how it works for me. I’m starting my practice around 6:30. The Shala is a bit quieter as I begin, which I kind of like.

This morning, I was the first person in the door! My attention was pretty scattered throughout my practice and I had a really tough time connecting with my Ujjayi breath, I had to keep reminding myself to breath! It was slow, pokey practice from the get-go, so I took my time in the poses, futzing around to get deeper or find better alignment.

Teacher R was on duty today, so there was lots of verbal feedback and alignment fixes. She was a bit gentler with the adjustment in Prasarita Padottanasana C and I exerted myself to relax (I love the way that sentence came out! *grin*). When I came up, she held her hands apart about 15 centimetres (6 inches) and said, “You’re this close to the floor!” That’s pretty incredible! I definitely wouldn’t be that close without the adjustments.

The week before last, R paused me in Bhujapidasana, came over and pulled my hips back and instructed me to put my chin on the floor. She hasn’t helped me with it since, but today I got that adjustment again. I guess the hips angle back to control the decent of the chin (and avoid the dreaded face-plant-ouch). I’m not close to doing this on my own, but it’s useful to observe how it feels and where I need muscle engagement to support it (Bandhas, legs). Today, I was able to keep my feet off the floor while the chin was down!

The exit from Bhujapidasana was a true comedic moment. I kind of flopped over to one side, all of my limbs tangled up like spaghetti and then I made this noise that sounded like: OOF! I detangled, found a Bakasana and jumped back, still giggling!

‘Kurmasana Boot Camp’! R didn’t give an adjustment for this pose, she just stood there watching, making sure that my heels (which haven’t been off the floor in about a week, to be honest), lifted and stayed up for five breaths. This was hard work for my legs, but my arms were *really* uncomfortable. They felt sqooshed! Clearly, my chest needs to sink deeper to the floor and the legs need to be positioned properly (back of knees over arms) for this to work.

Garba Pindasana has been much better since P and I had our little chat about the rolls last week. This is a pose that has seen steady improvement since I started attending the Shala, but I haven’t mentioned it much. Two months ago, I could get my arms through my legs, but that was about it. I’m now able to get my arms all the way through and curl into the pose, hands on ears and hold for five breaths. I had to re-learn the roll because I was rolling the wrong direction! (yeah, I know, it IS pretty funny, isn’t it?). Once I got that going, I started working on the breath and smoother rolls. For the past week, I’ve been able to roll while curled with my hands on my head, breathing correctly and coming up into Kukutasana smoothly.

Today, R stopped me as I was pulling my arms out of Kukutasana, instructed me to keep my legs in lotus and walked me through a lotus jumpback. Hilarity ensued. I didn’t really lift as much as scootch my knees backward. I ended up stuck, on my belly, legs still in full lotus, trying to untangle myself to get into Chaturanga. Lucky me! There was another opportunity after Uth Pluthi. Again, she walked me through it verbally - I don’t think there’s much she can do to help me physically. This is something I just have to figure out on my own.

Backbending was epic today...it went on and on. After three backbends, I was just starting to warm up. The next two were good, but my feet were not wide enough. I decided to do another one, walked my hands in until the heels popped up, then pressed the feet down firmly (that was #6). I rested and decided to do another, walking my hands in even more. R saw me come up and instructed me to rock, exhaling my chest back, inhaling my hips forward. I managed about 4 breaths and came down (that was #7). I was wondering if I should try another when I heard her say “One more” so up I went! I walked my hands in, and this time rocked for the full five breaths, keeping my heels planted on the floor (for some reason, they were lifting in #7).

And that was enough! I finished my practice with one Space Cadet moment - I skipped Pindasana and had to backtrack. I took a long Savasana for my almost-two-hour practice. Sheesh!

So that sets the tone for the week. There will be a lot of backbending! Today, I discovered that there’s really no ‘upper limit’ on the number of backbends I'm allowed to do. So I’m going to work them until I’m too tired to continue. This will mean longer practices for a while, but it’s the best way to build the strength and openness I need (I’m discovering that these two things are intricately interwoven).

Back at home, I did my spiderman-down-and-up-the-wall routine - three times. I was really feeling it in the legs coming up. Not as smooth as yesterday, but I was pretty tired!

Homework: Watch videos of jumping back with full lotus.
First challenge: How to get my legs un-stuck in order to do that!

6 comments:

Helen said...

Hi kai sounds like your backbends are really coming on, well done. I did 5 urdva dhanurasanas for about a year when I first started to drop back. Have you seen the video of kino teaching lotus jump back on arkie yoginis blog. I am working on this at the moment too.

patrick said...

Jump a lotus back:

1. Work on taking it up while lifting up. In Uthpluthi, for example, try to bring your lotused knees to your chest (in the final breath, don't do the whole pose like that).

2. Swing, swing, swing. Same as learning to jump back. First you take it up, then you swing, until you can swing it up, through, and back. Swing the lotus, and the first thing you'll find is that

3. You need to tighten it up so your knees' distance apart is smaller than the distance between your elbows.

4. Lower your head. Just like jumping back any other way. Head down, hips up.

5. Swing your knees to the back of the room (basically, radically untuck) and

6. AT THE SAME TIME, move your knees APART from each other (that's how you undo the lotus)

7. AND, AT THE SAME TIME, flex your feet (elsewise you risk landing on tops of your feet, or bellyflop, or hipbones, or something else, and NOTHING feels good except landing on your toes).

There, nothing to it.

Good luck!

Helen said...

Thanks Patrick some useful ideas of ways to work on it.

Kaivalya said...

@Helen
Thanks for reminding me! I watched Arkie's clip yesterday. It's a great resource for plain old jumpbacks as well as the lotus ones.

@Patrick
This is awesome! Thanks so much for these tips! :-)

babs said...

Wow. I love reading about your practice. Jump back with full lotus??? Go for it!!

Arturo said...

hi Kai
your greta garbo pindasana story reminds me i need to comment in my blog of my improved chakorasana for the same reason.
hugs
A