Sunday, June 13, 2010

Vinyasa

It’s probably no secret to many of you that I strive to maintain a basic level of anonymity on this blog. I never mention the name of my city and avoid specifying identifying landmarks. I give the studios I practice at vague little nicknames. I refer to my teachers by their initials instead of their names. I never, ever discuss my shalamates or their practices. My dog even has a pseudonym.

If someone *really* wanted to know my location and even my identity, they could figure it out. I’m aware of that. I’ll bet most of my readers have a pretty good idea where I’m blogging from. A handful of you are my FB buddies. A few have met me in person. My aim is not to deceive, but to foil the search engines. I don’t want my blog to be searchable by certain details, specifically my ‘real life’ name and those of my teachers. I monitor my search statistics pretty carefully.

What I absolutely don’t mind are the general searches about Astanga vinyasa yoga, queries from people keen to try to the practice but unsure where to start, or those seeking out information about traditional Astanga or specific poses. It’s one of the reasons I do this blogging thing: to be useful and to provide information.

I’m a student of yoga, but I’m also a teacher. The teacher in me is humbled and awed by the opportunity to share my experience of yoga and to inspire others. This practice - not just Astanga, but Yoga in the larger sense - has flipped my life upside-down and inside-out a half-dozen times over the past 15+ years. I’m a better, happier person for it. It’s a gift.

A few weeks ago, during Crazypants Week, I watched my access stats go through the roof. There are different ways of looking at this. There’s the rubbernecking perspective: Hey everyone! Kai’s totally losing her shit over there! Let’s go WATCH! But there’s also the empathy perspective: Wow, I’ve totally been there! or even That’s exactly how I feel! You mean I’m not ALONE?

I choose to believe the latter. Did I pause before I hit the ‘publish’ button on some of those posts? Absolutely! (my biggest concern wasn’t for myself, but for how my words might reflect on my teachers. I tried to tread carefully while still being honest.) But if sometime in the future, one of those posts helps another Astanga practitioner feel less isolated and alone as they struggle with backbending, then it’s all worthwhile to me.

From a purely selfish perspective, processing these experiences through my writing has helped me figure things out and do the right thing. In the case of my backbending meltdown, I asked for help, I spoke up for myself, I stuck it out at the Shala even though I was scared. The comments I received here were amazing, as were the emails from those of you who had gone through similar challenges and soul-searching in your Astanga practice. It really helped!

I may have lost my shit, but the Cybershala helped me find it again.

A couple months ago, I did something rather naive: I mentioned my location in the comment section of a friend’s private blog. Little did I know, but I had just ‘outed’ my blog to people in my city, including a few who already knew me in some fashion. Oops!

I considered making the blog private, but I’m very aware of the consequences. Foremost: the lost opportunity to share with others. But also: if I made this blog private, I fear it would just morph into a gossip-after-practice forum. I doubt I could sustain it under those circumstances. To be perfectly honest, this blog has often been one of the things that keeps me on the mat. I have a consistent six-day practice because of my writing; it’s part of my process.

I started this blog as a ‘practice log’ and for a long time, I was astounded that *anyone* was reading. For months, I referred casually to ‘my five readers’ and I wasn’t being facetious - there were, in fact, only five readers! These days, I receive upwards of 500 unique visitors per day. Not a huge number by Big Blogger standards, but respectable for a humble little blog that’s in the niche of a niche.

So I carry on. Each time I hit the ‘publish’ button, I have an opportunity to reexamine my own boundaries and perceptions as I ascertain the strength (or weakness) of what I offer here. It keeps me on my toes and on my mat, and that can only be a good thing!

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Practice today:

5 Surya A’s

3 Surya B’s

Standing poses

Backbending, backbending, backbending!

I set the timer for one minute holds, working in a modified bridge pose to really work my legs (focusing on pressing down through the feet, as if I was pushing the floor away with them, and keeping the gluteals soft). I alternated this exercise with one minute holds in Urdhva Dhanurasana, focusing on the same. Then I added depth by walking my hands in.

This week’s State-of-the-backbend was my last attempt. The heels came up as I walked the hands in, but I was able to press them firmly to the floor as I held it. This was only a 30 second hold:

I have no idea if this is doing anything for me, but my legs feel all wet-noodle-y again and my shoulders are tired.

10 comments:

Arturo said...

dear Kai

OMG, i'm friends with a rock star of yoga. haha. i get only 76 daily readers. part of that might be my remoteness. i am in another country. i used to get more readers when i lived in California, about twice as many.

they say if you want to become enlightened, you should move away from your country. but i digress.

500 daily? OMG. i'm friends with a rock star of yoga. but i said that already. don't go private, please. i'm missing Boodi already, even though she's out there somewhere.

hugs
Arturo

word verif, "undid" - let's not undo.

Gumbomum said...

Personal drama always equals more hits. I'd like to think it's out of genuine concern (speaking for myself).

It seems to me when blogs go private they mostly die off. There is something compelling about that larger audience.

Anna said...

I have followed your blog for years and I so much enjoy it b/c of the reasons that I can feel that I am not alone in my home practice and you give me so many advices and tips I will use when I get further in my practice! Pls continue writing! I see you as both my cybershala-friend and cyber-yoga-teacher - if that is possible!?! Love

Ragdoll said...

I've been thinking about the anonymity thing a bit recently too. In general, I think of my blog as being 100% public, and while I do maintain some level of anonymity, I also remind myself each post that anyone could identify me if they wanted to. Plenty of non-yoga people do know me as Ragdoll already, it's no big secret, but I've also not gone around telling the world that I started a blog, and would never use my real name on it. None of my non-yoga friends know it exists.

I'm sure your 'wow, I've totally been there!' interpretation of people's curiosity is the most accurate. We love to read that other people are having things as tough as we are!

Tara said...

I think your backbends are definitely looking deeper, particularly in the upper back area. Looks like whatever you're doing is helping, keep it up!

Elizabeth said...

I'm one of the readers who's been lurking for the past few months. I've been struggling with backbends too. It's been good for me to see someone else going through the same process and frustrations, especially since I'll be moving to a small town with no studio/shala soon and I'll have to go it alone. You are one of my very favorite yoga bloggers, and I suspect your stats are rising because you are one of the few who produces a coherent narrative that's fun and engaging to read. Thanks for helping me feel like I have an Ashtanga community. :)

Anonymous said...

Your backbend is looking deeper !

Do you find it difficult to keep weight on your heels and shift the center of gravity forwards because you have short achilles tendons ? If so, squats might help.

Good luck,

Floss

babs said...

I *heart* your blog and love reading about your experiences. I really liked this post. It is scary to share this much of yourself with strangers, but I've found my blogging about yoga is just an extension of my teaching yoga. Plus, I love the added benefit of asking yogis all around the world their ideas on something. So, I'm glad you didn't make your blog private!

Kaivalya said...

@Arturo
I'm only a 'rockstar' when I'm Crazypants, so don't be too impressed. When I'm boring and normal, my numbers drop accordingly! ;-)

@Gumbomom
You're right about private blogs. I used to have a private blog and I didn't bother to update it. I really enjoy the writing process and would miss it if this blog went away, so I'll think I'll be sticking around for the time being.

@Ragdoll
I don't think any of my non-yoga friends would have the slightest interest in this blog. I've given the URL to a few people, but I doubt they read.

And I agree - we Ashtangis love to commiserate! There's so much good material ;-)

Kaivalya said...

@Tara
Thanks! That's good to hear! I hope some of my extracurricular work is opening things up. Time will tell.

@Elizabeth
Thanks so much for the kind words! Good luck with your move and the move to home practice. Will you be able to manage periodic visits to a shala? I'm realising how lucky I am to live in a place that has so many options for my practice.

@Floss
Thanks for the tip, Floss. I'm adding achilles tendon stretches to my evening practices to try to open up that area. I'm a great squatter (feet flat to the floor) but backbending seems to erase this skill.

@Babs
The 'cybershala' has been such an awesome resource for me too. I love that fact that I'm part of a worldwide community. If I won a million dollars, the first thing I would do is go on a Shala-world-tour and visit all my cyber-friends. :-)