Friday, July 2, 2010

Astanga

Six days. I made it! Hooray. This was a difficult week!

To be honest, I didn’t even want to go to the Shala this morning. I didn’t have any energy for my practice, even after 8 hours of sleep. I can’t remember the last time I slept for an entire 8 hours, uninterrupted. But I woke up stiff and depleted and stayed that way for most of the morning. As I stood on my mat and started, part of my brain was saying “Really? You can’t be serious!”

I told my brain to quiet down and carried on.

The room did NOT feel warm enough to me. I didn’t even break a sweat (okay, one small bead of sweat popped up on my forehead during the second side of Marichyasana A but that was the only one!). I suppose it’s possible that I’m not creating enough heat right now because my practice is so heavily modified, but my Ujjayi breathing was solid and rhythmic and my vinyasas are strong (I’m lifting up and back to Lolasana every time). I’m not sure what else I should be doing.

It’s a cool July, though. I can’t believe it’s even summer.

Backbends felt terrible! I was so TIRED. I couldn’t even get manage three in a row to start. So I did two in a row, then another two. Then I gave up on walking my hands in too far (my back was stiff) and instead focused on staying with my breath and Driste. I managed to do a final set of three and those were better.

One positive note: since I wasn’t doing much else, I played around with the way the weight was distributed in my feet. This is something I’ve been exploring in my ‘extracurricular’ practices this week. I found the ‘sweet spot’ where the weight was primarily in my heels and I was pushing up through my legs, then I tried to stay there. Hard!

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I really enjoyed this post by Claudia musing about the effects of the Intermediate Series on the brain and the nervous system and what to make of these effects.

Obviously, I’m still miles away from starting the 2nd series, but with the supplementary backbending practices I’ve been doing over the past month, I’ve noticed HUGE changes in my sleeping patterns. I have trouble falling asleep almost every night, I tend to sleep less and I often wake up in the middle of the night, unable to go back to sleep.

Since I’m legendary in my family for sleeping easily, long and soundly, this is more than a bit unusual. In fact, until I started intensive work in back bending, I’d never had insomnia in my life. I can almost feel the shadow of the ‘2nd Series CrazyPants’ looming over me!

Personally, I don’t believe this is a ‘created reality’. I’ve seen too many friends fall under its spell and a few have even drifted away from Astanga because of it. It’s real and it’s weird!

And it’s one of several reasons I’m willing to work through this process of learning backbends, as traditionally taught. No, it’s not always fun and I’m frequently frustrated (as evidenced here on my blog). It’s definitely difficult to watch practitioners who are ‘natural backbenders’ sail through to Intermediate while I languish in Primary.

But there’s another layer to the process beyond the physical: it’s about developing determination and mental toughness, the courage to surrender, and the capacity to work through fear .

Those qualities are essential to weathering the storms of Intermediate Series. Right now it feels like I’m the last kid picked for the team, but it may be a blessing in disguise. I’m getting loads of extra practice dealing with my CrazyPants moments in small bites, within the safety of the Primary Series. I’m learning some necessary coping skills.

By the time I do get to Intermediate, at least I’ll have a better capacity to deal with the changes. I hope.

1 comment:

Helen said...

:-) I can so relate to standing at the front of your mat and thinking "are you serious". Good to practice anyway, well done. Claudia's post was great wasn't it. Working on drop backs definitely prepared me for intermediate. I went through a lot emotionally during that time. It's great that you have that perspective already.