Friday, July 23, 2010

Astanga

Another six day week is complete! This was a particularly long one, with ‘second practices’ and dropbacks every day except Monday. I worked hard, and I feel it too! My entire body feels weary and sore. I’m looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow and having an easy morning, though I’ll probably do my dropback practice. On Sunday, I might drop in to JB’s class again - a fun Moon Day treat! Maybe I’ll show him my sloppy dropbacks and get him to assist me in some better aligned ones.

I rode to the Shala in the pouring rain this morning and I was soaked to the skin when I arrived. There were no teachers at the Shala this morning - a shalamate was there to assist. We were trying to find a lighter, then tealights to put in front of the photo of Guruji and the deities. No luck at all. The ‘emergency toolkit’ in my shala bag doesn’t have those things (just extra clothes, band-aids and the headbands I no longer use). Maybe I should add supplies for Bhakti emergencies! It felt a bit sad not to have the candles lit or the room cleared with incense.

For the first half of my practice, I was the only one in the room. I was carried along by the sound of my own Ujjayi breathing, which I could hear perfectly because there was no competition!

No futzing around today! I did the ‘Primary Express’ and moved through my entire practice, including backbends and taking rest, in less than 90 minutes.

I opted to work on the backbending on my own. I started with Urdhva Dhanurasana to warm up - six backbends with a brief break on the floor between #3 and #4. Then I worked on rocking. I wanted to find that ‘lift onto the fingertips’ that I was getting last night. Success! The second attempt was the best. By the third, I was already getting tired and I wasn’t moving my hips forward enough to lift my hands up.

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My second practice was refreshingly ‘drama-free’ today. No tears. I simply moved through it. I was on the mat for 45 minutes, including finishing poses (which I always do to calm my nervous system down so I won’t be up all night).

Ustrasana was a joy! I *never* thought I would say that about this pose, but it was actually comfortable. I did some long holds, then tried some hangbacks in Ustrasana. I focused on engaging my legs to come up (hopefully creating some good muscle memory for standing).

The standing hangbacks felt good too. I dropped back against the wall and gave myself a little shove to move my hips forward, then pressed down through the feet to stand back up. More preparation work for standing. In these, I’m able to keep my heels glued to the floor!

I’ve instituted a new rule for dropbacks (to minimise the futzing around and psycho-drama): If I don’t feel confident dropping back right way, I’m not allowed to give up. I *am* allowed to ‘hang back’ and come up as much as I like. Today, I had to do three ‘hang backs’ before I successfully dropped back.

I’m starting to realise that part of this process is just training the the eyes to ‘register’ when the floor is close enough to drop back safely. As I was doing my hangbacks, I came to a point where my brain said: “Yes! It’s time to drop back now!” And I did. And it was fine.

It’s funny, every time I start one of these ‘second practices’ I feel stiff and my brain tells me that backbending will be impossible. It *is* difficult, very difficult. But not impossible. Still, I can’t imagine myself craving backbending or doing ‘little hangbacks’ throughout the day *waves at Susan* just because they ‘feel good’. It takes some time to ‘talk my body into backbending’.

Truly, learning to stand up from Urdhva Dhanurasana is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I’m completely amazed that I’ve come as far as I have. A part of me *still* doesn’t believe I’m actually dropping back. And when I look at my most recent State-of-the-Backbend photo, I can’t believe it’s me doing that backbend!

I added something to my dropbacks today: rocking forward. It seemed logical: If I can drop back then I should be able to stand up again, right? I thought the rocking might be easier in the context of a dropback. The first two sets were good! I was coming up on my finger tips and even getting a bit of lift in my hands.

After my third dropback, I rocked forward three times. The first two times, my hands lifted and on the third one...SURPRISE!...I catapulted up and over onto my knees! It scared the daylights out of me because I wasn’t expecting it!

This is the closest I’ve ever come to standing up! I’ve seen a shalamate do the ‘crash on the knees’ thing over and over again attempting to stand. I do NOT want to make this a habit because I don’t like landing on my knees. OUCH.

So, next I need to figure out:

1) How, exactly, did I manage to come up like that? (because truly, I have NO IDEA)

2) How can I turn my ‘forward catapult’ into ‘standing up’? (Susan, help me out here?)

But, sore knees not withstanding, I think this is progress!!!?

3 comments:

Claudia said...

Congratulations on the 6 day week, and on going it alone today for the first half... intense. I feel really excited about your standing ups and dropping backs coming along, it is almost like a suspense novel for me... I am totally cheering for you! guess cause I am on the same boat, and I get to thinking that if you can do it maybe I can too!!

Helen said...

Hey kai, your doing amazingly well. When I was at the same stage I stayed on my mat until I had dropped too. Landing on the knees happens because the legs are bending too much in order to enable you to come forward. Keep the legs as straight as possible and lead with the pelvis.

Kaivalya said...

@Claudia
A suspense novel and sometimes a horror show! ;-)

In yoga, good things come in bunches! I'm cheering for a shalamate right now who is SO CLOSE to standing up on her own. I figure that when she gets it, I can ride along on her Karmic Coattails!

You can ride along on mine. We'll pull each other along - Urdhva Dhanurasana sisters, for the win! :-)

@Helen
Funny, I got that same feedback (about the straight legs) at the Shala this morning. It's very hard for me to keep the legs straight. I'm doing lots of hip openers to try to ease it.