Thursday, June 10, 2010


I think it’s good for me to have a ‘blah’ practice every now and again. It reminds me that the quality of my practice is almost 99% rooted in the attitude I bring to it. Although there are certainly days when my body doesn’t want to join the party for reasons of illness or injury, I’m finding more and more that my brain is usually the culprit.

Yesterday, I was all ‘Poor little me! Owie my toe!’. Today: Same toe, more bandaids, different attitude. And I had a really great practice! Attitude is everything!

During the years that I practised solo, it was very easy to cut my practice short or skip the poses I didn’t like when I was feeling ‘low energy’. I’d find myself caught up in a thought spirals, leading me to abandon effort and just go through the motions. It probably didn’t hurt me, but in the end, I wasn’t growing my practice.

My friends who practised Mysore style would try to explain the magic of the ‘energy of the room’ to me. I didn’t understand. My first few weeks at the Shala were so incredibly disorienting and overwhelming, I still didn’t understand.

Here’s a weak analogy - it’s the only one I can think of: Restoring hearing to a deaf person. When the hearing is turned ‘on’, there are not really ‘sounds’, just ‘noise’. It takes a while for the brain to understand how to filter everything and sort it into categories.

During my first few weeks at the Shala, it was a full-on cacophony: the other students, the teachers, the room, the smells, the heat and the energy. I clearly remember one particularly busy morning, with lots of sound (breathing, jumps) lots of activity (people arriving, leaving) and R was working with me (cleaning up my standing poses). Mentally, I felt pulled in a thousand directions all at once. By the time I left, I barely knew my own name!

Now, I’m far less distracted by all the ‘stuff’ that goes on around me. Earlier this week, I left the room after my practice and realised that I had no idea who else was in there (I’m usually pretty aware of who is coming and going). I was so focused on my practise, I didn’t pay attention!

While I still don’t enjoy practising in a *packed* room, I genuinely enjoy the energy of people around me. I now understand what my friends were trying to convey about the ‘energy of the room’ in Mysore style. I’m definitely affected by that energy, I find myself buoyed and supported by it. When I feel my attitude slipping, the presence of my shala-mates helps to inspire me.


The Shala was empty when I arrived this morning so I had the room to myself for the Surya Namaskaras. Surrounded by silence, I found myself VERY focused on the sound my breathing and I was able to set a steady rhythm for my Ujjayi that carried me through the rest of my practice. I really noticed the instances where I *stopped* Ujjayi breathing (I tend to do this when I’m binding the Marichyasanas).

I also noticed that my breathing becomes very shallow in Marichyasana D. I tried to maintain deeper breathing when I repeated the other side. No wrist bind in that pose today - that one really comes and goes! My body is a bit poofy this week because lady’s holiday is looming, so that could be affecting the depth of my twists. Yuck.

I know I often give my poor, distracted brain a pretty hard time, but today, my brain had a Hero Moment!

I was already through the second side of Marichyasana A when I found myself spontaneously taking Janu Sirsasana C without even thinking about it. Then, without skipping a beat, I proceeded on to Marichyasana B. Then I paused and wondered what the hell I was doing! But I wasn’t inadvertently repeating the pose. I had skipped it and my brain helpfully added it back in while I was on ‘auto-pilot’.

It was a neat moment, kind of like dropping the reins and letting the old grey mare take you back to the stable. I lost the pose, my brain found it for me! Thank you, brain! *pats own head*

Backbending was interesting. After yesterday’s lackadaisical Urdhva Dhanurasanas, I was determined to work harder today. As I did my three warm-up backbends, I reminded myself of Susan’s advice: push all the air out on the exhalation and let the inhalation come. This was helpful! I was definitely breathing more deeply and with bigger sound.

I followed those up with two more backbends in a row, walking my hands in. After that, I did just one backbend at a time, working each to the limit of my endurance, and then coming down to rest. I’m still working with Maehle’s advice: swiping the hands toward the back of the mat and engaging the quads. I definitely feel a deeper stretch in the front of my hips when I do this.

Today, I did nine. P said that my backbends are looking good.

Outside of my Shala practice, I’ve been doing a variety of hip openers, particularly targeting the hip flexors, in order to develop more openness in my backbends. I don’t know if it’s working, but I understand that this is all a process. Hopefully, I’ll get around to capturing a photograph this weekend to measure my progress.


Tomorrow is the Moon Day at my home Shala, but it doesn’t seem to be a Moon Day anywhere else (my calendar says Saturday). So I fully intend to practice without guilt! Since my ‘lady’s’ is coming up, I don’t want to waste a day!

I’m pretty sure the Mysore room at Shala North is open tomorrow. I’ve been wanting to visit their room for a while, so I’m thinking about making an excursion, just a bit later in the morning so I can sleep in. I’m not sure if DR will even be there (he’s about to become a dad to a new baby any moment now), but it would be great fun to experience another room and admire those cork floors!


Boodiba said...

We have Saturday moon here too. I'm going to be in bed REALLY late for me tonight (probably around 10pm), but that's ok. I'm not traveling up to Pure tomorrow. I'm going to do my primary solo...

Kaivalya said...

Everybody seems to have the Saturday moon! I think my teachers observed the moon tomorrow to give everyone an extra day off. I don't need it with my stupid lady's non-holiday coming up.

I'm going to sleep in tomorrow, but then I'll head up to the other shala and practice there. This will be like a fun 'field trip'! A stranger in a strange land! I'll wear my pith helmet!

I'm SO grumpy today. The PMS really *is* global.

Boodiba said...

I took care of my pms w/ two martinis and I'm smoking POT, even though I'm not completely clear.

BTW I mentioned the order of Raja Kapo & Eka Pada Raja Kapo being backwards today, & John said there are some who claim to have learned it in the reverse order, which makes more sense. But he told me they were big pot smokers twice. I didn't say anything, like I LOVE WEED!!!

Sophia said...

Hi! I've been reading your blog for a while but I havn't made any comments.
I am a student at "Shala North". You're right, we have Saturday moon day this week, and so you should check out our busy place! I'll warn you, it's been really hot! And DR is still there as he's still waiting for his wife to go in to labour. Although, he might be gone today!
I really enjoy reading your blog! Keep up the backbend work. It took me forever to stand up.

Kaivalya said...

Smoking pot?! BAD LADY! ;-)

I think you and JC need to get high together. THEN you can discuss the in and outs of Raja Kapo. Wouldn't that be fun? *grin*

I cured my PMS with carob almond clusters and coconut water. I'm boring!!!

I'd pay admission to be a fly-on-the-wall during your Primary! If you want to give me a present, you could film Bhujapidasana. Your Kurmasana-to-Supta-Konasana clip is still my favourite YouTube.

Kaivalya said...

Thanks so much for commenting with the info!

I took a chance and went up this morning. DR was there and very welcoming, as always.

You 'Shala Northers' have a really special community and a great teacher!

And yes, it was HOT! I'm a enthusiastic sweater and my sweat glands were having a little party this morning.

I'm probably going up again on the 25th. If you see me and I'm not tied up in a knot, wave hello! :-)

Boodiba said...

Boy I don't even remember writing that comment. I am indeed a bad lady.

I think JC's wife would have my head on a platter if we got high. :) Too funny.

Michelle said...

Hello Kai, good to read and catch up with you. I admire your dedication to your practice so much. Good for you. Now that I have wrapped up homeschooling for the year maybe...just maybe I can get back on my mat.

Kaivalya said...

Given that you don't remember commenting, I'm glad you didn't write anything TOO scandalous!

JC looks far too clean-cut to be much of a pot smoker anyway. :-)

Boodiba said...

Yes! Something to be thankful for. You could've not approved it anyway :)

word veri: whompa!

I bet JC has smoked a bit but he's a Family Man. He's got Responsibilities.

I, on the other hand, am a rarified form of Arrested Development.

Kaivalya said...

Don't worry, I wouldn't have approved anything VERY bad. I'm fully committed to protecting your sterling reputation ;-)

Bah! I think Responsibilities are overrated.

I might have best claim on 'Arrested Development', given that I'm stuck in 'Perpetual Primary Purgatory'. All else being equal, at least you're finishing Third Series! :-D

Boodiba said...

Twice! I finished it the first time a couple years ago, though it's a lot better now than it was then.

Now if I can only open up my upper quads. I think Chris might be trying to fix me up. He told me he's got a new student who's an excellent acupuncturist / acupressure therapist... I wonder if this guy will be in class Sunday. Hmmm...

Kaivalya said...

Twice!! You da bomb!

I learned a good upper quad/hip flexor opener in a Jivamukti workshop using a block. Don't know if it will help, but I'll send you a photo.

Boodiba said...

Yes please do! I think I need to do hanumanasana 2-5m a night per side... and really f-ing lean back into that back f-ing leg...

veri: hypsesse

Sophia said...

Hi Kaivalya!
I didn't realize it was you until you were in backbends. I walked in late and there was one person between us! Next time you come I'll be sure to say Hi !
Yes, we do have a great community up north! We are lucky little yogis!
Glad you enjoyed it!