Friday, April 30, 2010

Astanga

Happy Friday, and to all those ‘criminals’ who practised on the Moon Day *innoncent look*, Happy Six Day Week! :-D

This is probably ‘safe for work’ as long as incense is allowed. Seen in the Shala waiting area this morning:


The Buddha is happy to see you!

I’ve had a stretch of extremely Good Transit Karma recently. This morning, I left for the Shala ten minutes late, but arrived ten minutes early. The minute I stepped onto the subway platform: SUBWAY! The minute I cleared the last few steps to the street: STREETCAR! This *never* happens, but it’s been going on for days. Frankly, this frightens me because I know that a follow-up stretch of Bad Transit Karma will surely follow. I’m enjoying it while it lasts.

Practice was good this morning. I kept my expectations low because I was feeling tired. I told myself: “Don’t be a hero, Kai. Just do the Primary Express.” And I mostly stuck to that. When I got to Supta Kurmasana, Teacher P was standing at the top of my mat, watching. As I moved into it, I couldn’t see his face, but I could practically *feel* his eyebrows raise skeptically. So I explained what I was trying to do.

In a dry, level voice, he said: “Usually it’s better to wait until you can reliably get both legs behind your head.”

Well, yeah. I suppose that’s how a *sensible* person would go about it, but I’m impatient! ;-)

I don’t think he was annoyed, more just thinking that once again, I’m getting *way* ahead of myself and I just need to slow the heck down. He helped me into the pose (I needed assistance with the bind because I was well out of Kurmasana) and crossed my ankles for me, really tight this time. Then he helped me lift up: “Keep your ankles crossed!”

It was AWESOME!

I lifted up and tried to nail the exit. Not bad! At least I’m doing the vinyasa correctly. R is right - keeping my head up in Bakasana makes it MUCH easier to get my legs in place and lift. Still can’t get my hips to float for the jumpback though. I think this will come as I continue to develop my vinyasa jumpbacks.

I’ll keep working on opening my hips and bringing my legs behind my head until I can do it on my own. When it’s foolproof, I’ll start doing it at the Shala. I don’t think P will have any objection as long as I can get there on my own. At this point, the juiciest part of my practice is Bhujapidasana through the Supta K exit. It doesn’t feel impossible to me anymore and I’m enjoying tweaking it along.

If I’m going to be forever mired in the Primary Series, I’m going to make it a GREAT Primary Series and enjoy it!

Parsvottanasna-leg-width update: Today, I tried 3 feet, since Teacher P was ‘on duty.’ He seemed happy with that. Given my druthers, I like this distance; it works for me.

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My weekend social calendar is full and the fun starts tonight: Dinner with the posse and maybe drinks somewhere afterward. I can stay out late and live dangerously because there will be no illicit Astanga practice on Saturday! I need to rest. I’ll probably do some Yin or Hatha to round out my week. I’m in workshops all weekend, so I need to conserve my energy.

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Princess Fur likes to use my lap as her own personal hammock. She’s literally ‘draped’ over my leg in this photo. Minutes before, she had her head hanging toward the floor and she was snoring!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Astanga

Uh oh. *Somebody* overdid it with the research poses yesterday. My tummy hurts! But in a good way!

My noon class was a no-show, so I played around on the gym equipment, especially a structure that’s meant for abs, but I’ve nicknamed it the ‘Backbending Machine’. I figured out a way to use it for hangbacks and I was dropping my hands back to this little platform, then coming up. Back and up, back and up. Then I did some abdominal work and experimented with the Kill Your Quads machine over in the corner.

I’ll have to remember this the next time I’m waiting for class to start and I have some time to kill. Strong abs and quads can only help in the standing-up-from-backbend project, right?

Today’s practice was good, but I was tired. And I was a space case too! I skipped Purvottanasana, didn’t remember it until I was on the streetcar going home. I *almost* skipped Bhujapidasana, which would have been a shame because that pose was terrific today! I slipped my feet between my arms without touching the floor, then back up again.

I think it’s finally safe to announce that Chakrasana has officially become No Big Deal. I just do it. If I’m very tired, I lift my legs over first and push through my hands to launch the roll, but most of the time I just roll. No more Drama. I’ll see how this plays out in Led Primary on Sunday - that will be the true test. Teacher R witnessed one of my rolls today from across the room. We were both grinning.

I lifted up on every vinyasa, but there was no jumpback magic for me today. It’s coming along though. I can lift up and bring my feet through, touch down on one toe, *then* I try to lift my hips and ‘tip’ forward to shoot my legs back. I’m focusing on doing this without pushing off from my toe. It’s not really ‘pretty’, but I’m getting stronger.

I’ve noticed this increased strength in other areas of my practice, places I wouldn’t expect. Sirsasana is SO stable now. This used to be the Drama Pose but now I look forward to it. I kind of go into a daydream fugue state while I’m there. Lately, Parivritta Trikonasana has started feeling really good! I’m less wobbly and for the first time, I feel myself levelling the hips, squaring them off while still rotating the torso. Teacher R changed the position of my bottom hand this morning. She moved my hand forward slightly, spread the fingers.

There’s a small drama unfolding over my Parsvottanasana with the two teachers giving me conflicting direction. This morning, Teacher R asked me to narrow my stance. I glanced down and noticed that my feet were no more than 2 feet apart. The other day, Teacher P asked me to *widen* my stance (to about 3 feet). Yoga Mala says the stance is 3 feet (page 57). Gregor Maehle doesn’t specify, but it looks like a 2 foot stance in the photograph of the pose (page 42). Swenson says one leg-length distance between the feet (page 42). I have looooong legs so for me, that would be slightly more than 3 feet.

And now I’m confused, which is great news because I have a juicy question to ask at conference on Sunday. I’ll let ‘em duke it out then ;-)

I didn’t have the energy to try the legs-behind-shoulder manoeuvre in Supta Kurmasana today. I defaulted to yesterday’s cheat: bringing the left leg around the shoulder, lowering down, getting the right leg in place and the ankles crossed and binding myself. But the final result is much better than anything I’ve managed so far, even with assistance, so it’s coming along. I’m going to keep working on this on my own and the next time I have a chance, I’ll ask the teachers for guidance on how to move forward.

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As of today, I’ve been at the Shala for one month. It goes without saying, but I’m staying on for May. Wild horses couldn’t drag me out of that Mysore Room right now! I’m having so much FUN! I do feel that my practice is taking leaps and bounds under the guidance of the teachers and I’m definitely working harder with their beady eyes watching my every move. It’s all good. :-)

And on a more serious note, I feel a genuine sense of safety and comfort being there. The one month anniversary of the Big LIfe Change came and went with little fanfare. I’ve handled it far better than I ever imagined I would. I’ve been doing great, keeping busy, making my own fun. I haven’t really been *sad* per se, but occasionally a melancholy mood will strike and on those days, that five minutes of Savasana at the Shala is the best part of my day. Laying there, in a cocoon of heat, and movement and Ujjayi breathing, everything feels okay again.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Astanga

I appear to have reached out and grabbed that New Moon and now I’m swinging along, riding its energy. I feel bouncy!

I woke up before the alarm this morning and wanted to practice, so I did. It was an interesting experiment because this is the first time I’ve practised the full Primary Series on my own at home, since I started going to the Shala. It was good! No music, no recording to lead me, just my breath and the city skyline out my picture window, sunshine streaming in and Princess Fur snoozing contentedly in her basket.

My practice has changed in the past month. Everything is a little bit deeper. My hips are more open, the hamstrings have opened up a LOT. But the biggest change I noticed: Ujjayi. I breath LOUDLY. Holy! Just one month of Teacher R’s good-natured nagging (“Big Sound! Big Sound!”) has turned me into one of those loud breathers. Don’t get me wrong, there are many at the Shala who can drown me out easily, but in my tiny apartment, I could HEAR my breath.

And there were the distractions! With no teacher watching, I was much more prone to fussing and fidgeting. I managed to stay very focused right up until Supta Kurmasana. Then I was messing around with trying to get that left leg behind my back. I sort of lost momentum there. I could do it, but getting my right leg behind my back was too challenging. I ended up placing the left leg, lowering down, crossing the right ankle over left. I still managed the bind though. I’m looking forward to getting some help with this at the Shala. I think the teachers will be game for it - Teacher P was encouraging me to cross my ankles before binding the other day.

My two big breakthroughs - the wrist bind in Marichyasana D and the heel lift in Kurmasana (I almost typed ‘hell lift’ there; that’s what it feels like!) were repeatable today. I was watching Kino’s Primary DVD last night (yeah, that was my Big Excitement for Moon Day Eve - that and a hot bath). I noticed that when binding in the Marichyasanas, she tried to straighten the non-binding arm and, if possible, tuck that hand around the leg to get some leverage. I tried that today and it really made a difference in both Marichyasana C and D (C was just easier and in D, The lotus knee sank closer to the floor).

I did three backbends, which I filmed for posterity (but not public scrutiny). I also did a film of my jumpbacks/throughs and surprised myself with a jumpthrough that didn’t touch down - I straightened my legs and lowered! Kind of funny that I’m all obsessed with my jumpbacks, but it’s the jumpthroughs that are improving!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Astanga

Every so often, the Universe sees that I’m struggling and throws me a bone. This was one of those days.

Maybe it was the Full Moon energy. Maybe it’s because of the earlier practice (I bumped up my practice time this week), but I had a fabulous practice! I was feeling STRONG

Let’s count the small victories:

-Three successful no-toe-touch jumpbacks and many strong lift-ups
-Several no-bum-to-floor jumpthroughs (a complete surprise; something was ‘clicking’ this morning)
-First time I’ve ever had a bind to wrist (WRIST!) in Marichyasana D (and both sides too!)
-Chest flat to floor (with help from teacher) then heels lifted off the floor (my own hard work) in Kurmasana
-I enjoyed a rather spectacular Garba Pindasana with my hands never leaving my head as I rolled around and then pushed straight up into Kukutasana
-I nailed every last Chakrasana without help, including the dreaded post-backbend roll
-Teacher P asked me to cross my ankles first in Supta Kurmasana. I needed help with the bind, but it was a tight, tight pose. And I lifted up by myself, though my legs fell apart immediately. Until I get my legs behind my back, a real lift-up probably won’t happen in that exit. But fun!
-I heard a “Good!” from Teacher P during backbends
-A nice lift straight up in Sarvangasana without my usual Halasana cheat (I’m figured out how to get up on my shoulders under me first before lifting into the pose)

Backbends are getting interesting! Earlier in the month, Teacher P took away sunbathing privileges between cycles of Urdhva Dhanurasana. Yesterday, Teacher R suggested that I avoid the beach entirely: no more rest between the first three backbends and the last two. Go down and right back up! Yesterday, it felt like agony, but today was okay. I do feel like I’m getting stronger.

My legs were shaking as I walked to the streetcar afterward! I went straight home and took a salt bath. Thank goodness tomorrow is a Moon Day! I need it. I’m not going *anywhere* tomorrow morning - I’m staying put (and sleeping in, though I’ll probably indulge in an extracurricular backbending practice at home).

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“Strength is a decision you make.” (from the Kino ‘strength workshop’ - thank you, Susan for the reminder)


At the rate I’m going, I’ll soon be able to open those bottles all by myself! *snark*

Monday, April 26, 2010

Astanga

In the post-class discussion yesterday, I brought up jump-backs, since they’re my new Project. I asked Teacher P what it felt like in his body when he was bringing his feet through and shooting them back into Chaturanga. He said that the weight of the body shifts forward and the head drops, similar to the action of lowering the head for Bhujapidasana.

*lightbulb!*

Kino’s teaching is similar, except she emphasizes bending the arms as you come forward (like lowering into Chaturanga).

I didn’t have a chance to explore this in today’s practice because Teacher R was determined to clean up my jumpbacks. I’m now keeping my feet flexed (this helps engage the Bandhas, but *I* think it’s harder to get my feet through my arms), my hands are closer together (which gives me more height but it’s harder to get my feet through my arms - do you hear a theme developing?) and I have to keep my head up, up, up! Inhale on the lift, exhale as soon as the feet (painfully) clear the arms.

Argh! I felt like I was starting over (which I pretty much was), but it started to feel more natural by the end of the practice. True to my intention, I lifted up every time, even between Navasanas when I tend to fudge it a bit. No lazy today! I worked hard.

The Shala was quiet this morning and Teacher R was on duty for my full practice. I received so many great adjustments and lots of verbal feedback:

-I think I held Prasarita Padottanasana C for at least 10 breath cycles. I started on my own, then R came over to adjust. I thought it would *never* end. I have no idea if my shoulders are opening at all. I haven’t noticed much of a difference in the past month.
-I really like the adjustment in Tiriangmukhaikapada Pachimottansana. She pushes down on my hips and gives me a nudge, but mostly leaves me alone for the forward fold. Solidly anchored, I can really rev up my Bandhas and it feels fantastic. Wish I could find that on my own, I would enjoy the pose more.
-I had lots of help for Kurmasana and Supta Kurmasana today. In Kurmasana, my legs needs to externally rotate more. Today, I focused on engaging the legs and pressing through the heels to lift them. I’m SO close! But it’s exhausting - my legs were feeling the burn. The Supta Kurmasana exit continues to elude me. I can do it, just in a half-assed fashion.
-I received a new-to-me adjustment in Supta Padangusthasana that really opened my inner hamstrings and thighs. This is *exactly* what I need to do to open up my legs/hips for Kurmasana! I’m bendy in forward folds, but my hips don’t like the wide angles.

I’m still struggling along with Chakrasana. Teacher R walked over and suggested that I stop trying to use momentum to get the roll. She says that I manage to get my legs over my head and then I panic and freeze. She did a terrific impression of my tense face, framed by arms and I laughed out loud. Funny! So the first Chakrasana was all momentum, the second was R hauling my ass over like a sack of beans, and the third was me rolling slowly and pushing like mad with my arms.

If I have to make everything so difficult, at least I have fun doing it!
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It’s been awhile since I posted a 70s Yoga Pinup Girl. Here’s our Lyn, rocking the smurf blue full body yoga sock.

Bandhas, Lyn, Bandhas! ;-)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Astanga

Sundays used to be lazy lazy, but not so much these days. This morning, I slept in a bit and woke in a panic at 8:10. Technically, I’m supposed to leave for led Primary by 8:30 on Sundays. I raced around and made it to the Shala with 5 minutes to spare.

When I walked in, Teacher R took one look at me and said: “Wow, did you get your hair cut?” I was very, very tempted to say something like: “No, I just blow-dried it this morning” or something equally snarky, but I was too sleepy to conjure any enthusiasm for sarcastic humour. It *is* really, really short. I finally measured it and it’s less than an inch. Except on top, near the front it’s longer. It’s very tidy though. There was no Orangutan Hair after today’s practice!

We had a full house for the led Primary and it was HOT in the room. I was sweating buckets! I had a good practice and enjoyed it. I never expect adjustments during a led practice, so I was delighted with each one I received. I was particularly grateful to get a post Urdhva Dhanurasana squish. I work so hard on those backbends, the squish is a special reward for me.

Each week, I set an intention for my practice; something I want to focus on and work hard at. Last week, I was working on a consistent Driste. This week, it’s lift-ups. My goal for the week is to always, always lift up. Even when I’m tired. Even between repetitions of NAVASANA. *tortured wail of despair*

Seriously, I’m *this* close to jumping back without the toe-cheat. I did it once last week! I’m strong enough to do it, I just need to get the knack. I’ve been combing YouTube for video inspiration. I want to be light and floaty too!

Bandhas, Bandhas, Bandhas!

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The Internet Asks: Interesting Searches in My Access Stats

I haven’t checked my site stats in awhile. I’m always amazed by how many people visit my blog. The search terms are pretty funny this week. Here are a few (search terms in bold, my response below)

i hate ashtanga
I used to hate Ashtanga too. That’s what brought me to the practice: my aversion to it. I wondered if this aversion might have something to teach me. I found that the more I did Ashtanga, the more it grew on me. I have learned a LOT and I’m still learning.

backbend heart open tired
This is *exactly* how I feel after 5 Urdhva Dhanurasana in the morning. Add “and I wish I didn’t have to do Chakrasana now” and that would totally sum it up!

1 percent practice 99 percent theory
It’s called graduate school. Frankly, I prefer Ashtanga! ;-)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Vinyasa

I enjoyed a good lie-in this morning! Princess Fur woke me up with her ears. She knows that barking is verboten, so she makes other noises when she wants attention. Squeaky toys are a favourite and if nothing else works, she shakes her head so vigorously that her ears flap, flap, FLAP!

I practised for 75 minutes. Nice and easy - I didn’t do a full Primary, but I did want to warm up. I started with Surya Namaskar (5 As, 3 Bs), did the standing poses, then moved on to backbending.

To start, I did three long repetitions of Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, focusing on keeping the legs active and internally rotated, pressing the big and little toes into the floor, positioning the pelvis (it’s tricky in this pose, it feels counterintuitive to tuck the tailbone).

Then I moved on to a very unsatisfactory Ustrasana. I hate this pose and no amount of backbend workshopping seems to change that.The lack of flexibility in my upper back is starkly obvious as soon as I move into the pose. I took a video of it and *groan*! It was discouraging, but I’m glad I’m documenting it. As my backbending improves, I’ll have something to gloat over!

(And no, I’m not posting that video! I’ll take on a fourth career change and become a ‘YouTube Diva’ when I have Boodi’s madskillz.)

Next, three repetitions of Laghu Vajrasana. Reviewing the video of this one was good fun. From my perspective, it felt like I was in the pose for HOURS. Actually, I was down and up in a heartblink. At least I’m coming up strong and on my own. My legs felt like jello afterward, which is good. That’s what I’m after: strength!

Finally, I went through my Shala-endorsed backbending series, pushing the weight into my feet, moving the pelvis forward, pressing the heels into the floor. Again, perception vs. reality: It felt like I was walking my hands in for MILES. Viewing the video, it was more like millimetres! I also did a few hangbacks, but they felt awkward and terrible. Need to work on those some more, find the ease in them.

This State-of-the-Backbend is from a still of that video. In this image, I’m on the third repetition of the backbend. I’m getting tired here, but I’ve walked my hands in at least an inch.


I’m trying to keep my focus on the action of the legs and not worry about the pose looks like. I realise it doesn’t look as deep as backbends in previous months, but it’s a LOT more work! I don’t feel it in my back, just my legs.

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I took my Orangutan Hair to the Grumpy Russian Guy this morning and said the magic words: “This time, you can cut it as short as you like!” His whole face lit up! Dude likes using his scissors!

He hated the longer cut on me and said as much. As I sat there with my eyes closed, silently doing japa, I could feel the big hunks of hair cascading around me. When he finished, I told him: “This will be easier” and he replied: “This *looks* better.”

I’m not sure about that. It’s REALLY short. Perfect for yoga; no fuss. I totally have the Pema Chodron look going on, though! I’m not posting photos here, but if I’m feeling bold, I may put something on Facebook.

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It was a gorgeous day, but a bit coolish so I didn’t bother going to the Really Big Park, as planned. I’ve already missed the Cherry Blossoms anyway. Princess Fur and I went to the Small Park instead. I read poetry and she soaked up sun and nose-twitched for an hour. Happy times for both of us!

I’ve been trying to spend more quality time with her because the past few weekends of workshops have been tough. She hates it when I leave her alone. When I unrolled the Manduka this morning for practice, she settled down in her basket and let out a contented sigh. I think she misses watching me do yoga (or, at least, having me nearby).

Since I didn’t do it yesterday, here’s the weekly Princess Fur shot:

Friday, April 23, 2010

Astanga

I had a great moment today: I glanced at my calendar and realised that I was looking forward to every single item on today’s schedule. I realise that it might seem like such a small thing, but it’s not trivial. I don’t take happiness for granted anymore.

I finished off my yoga week with a good, but unremarkable practice. I dutifully tried to roll each Chakrasana, but had no luck until the third one. And it was so sloppy, I just skipped the last. Better luck next week. Seriously though, how hard can rolling backwards be? I obviously missed out on an important childhood skill. I’ll blame the terrain of my youth: too much ocean, too little terra. I’m a good swimmer but gravity confuses me.

My hair is starting to drive me CRAZY. I kind of suspected this would happen. Now that I’m no longer trying to look cute for anyone, there’s no reason to put this much work into it. Tomorrow, I’m going to visit the Grumpy Russian stylist and ask him to cut it all off. He wasn’t happy with the longer cut so he’ll enjoy this. No more Orangutan Hair! And it will be SO much easier to deal with in the morning.

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As an antidote to the nasty-NY-Yoga-Teacher link I posted earlier this week, check out Larry Sherman. He lost 365 pounds after he started regularly attending a yoga class. He credits his yoga teacher for ‘seeing past the fat man, making him feel accepted and loved. This video made me tear up a little bit. Kudos to the teacher, Lisa Paskel, of The Yoga Shelter.

I love happy-yoga-stories! And this one is a good reminder that all kinds of approaches and methodology can resonate with different people. Larry mentions that sanskrit and chanting (something I do a LOT of in my classes) made him uncomfortable; he felt at ease in Lisa’s class because she taught the pose names in English and played rock music. It takes all kinds!

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Some of you may be hearing from me via Facebook. I’ve decided to start using that network again. I’m on there as my ‘real name’, so I’m hard to find through a search. Get in touch with me via email if you’d like to connect (Gmail - I’m the reluctantashtangi).

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Astanga

I had a good practice this morning. I felt good, my body isn’t as sore. I was kind of expecting some soreness in my legs because I was doing dropbacks against a post in the subway station yesterday. The train wasn’t coming and I had that end of the platform to myself, so why not? I wasn’t coming all the way down, just dropping my hands back and ‘standing up’ by pushing into my heels. I hope the transit constables don’t cite Ashtangi violations!

Teacher P was at the helm this morning. I really like having two teachers. Their styles and adjustments are very different. Teacher P is more laid back. My practices with him are more inward directed. He’s quick to notice if I’m carrying unnecessary tension in a pose; he reminds me to relax.
-I had a very deep Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana today and my balance was good. I remembered to restrain that wandering thumb!
-I bound my hands by myself in Supta Kurmasana and Teacher P crossed my ankles. I’m really noticing the work of my Bandhas in this pose.
-Teacher P gave me my favourite adjustment in Baddha Konasana A & B. It felt really good. There's something about laying my chest on my feet that makes me stupidly happy.
-Chakrasana was mainly absent today. I tried the first one, gave up. Skipped two and decided to really work the fourth one. Teacher R was on call by that point and she glanced in my direction, but left me to it. On the third try, I was able to find the right combination of momentum, leg placement and push through the hands to make it work. I rolled.
-Through some miracle or fluke, I managed to lift up and jump back without touching the floor with my toes. Just once, but WOW! I think it had something to do with bending my arms a little and shifting my weight forward. I learned this in Kino’s workshop, but this is the first time I was able to put it into practice.

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It sounds a bit crazy even to me, but I think adding the Whey Protein smoothies to my diet has made a huge difference. I swear I felt better after drinking the very first one. The smoothies boost my daily protein consumption to 70g (from 40g). If I’m going to continue working this hard in my practice, I need this. I’ve definitely noticed that don’t get those ‘snacky’ urges anymore and I’m better able to avoid junk food.

I’ve been carrying raw almonds around with me and if I get hungry, a small handful takes care of it.

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Last night, I dreamt of cookies.

I was in a huge room filled with tables and these tables were covered with numerous cookie-filled trays. There were cookies of every conceivable variety: sugar cookies with the coloured sugar sprinkles, shortbread-y cookies with fruit centres, gingerbread cookies, chocolate cookies and some others that I didn’t get a chance to sample.

Yes, I was eating them! The sugar cookies were particularly nice! I was moving from table to table, munching.

And as I was eating these Dream Cookies, a single thought kept intruding: “Whoa, this is SUCH a bad idea. If I keep eating these cookies, I’ll never be able to bind Marichyasana D tomorrow!”

I woke up happy! And I was able to bind in Mari D just fine ;-)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Astanga

I had a better practice today. The Shala was very busy. I imagine there must be cycles for this sort of thing, times of the month when just about everyone shows up, and other times when no one does. It’s kind of interesting to observe the ebb and flow.

Teacher R was in charge for most of my practice. She’s very detail-oriented:
-My elbows are angled too wide when I have my hands on the waist in Prasarita Padottanasana B. I think bringing the elbows together stretches the shoulder and preps the body for Prasarita C.
-Why, why, why does it seem *harder* to hold my big toe in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana if the thumb is on the big toe? Am I getting more leverage with just the two fingers? Anyway...I need to work on this because I’m STILL doing it.
-Lots of Driste Penalities today! I lost count and I don’t tend to have a wandering gaze at all (mostly because I can’t see much without my glasses). Teacher R has an eagle eye for the flickering eyeball. She doesn’t miss a thing!
-Backbends were tough because my quads still hurt, but I worked hard to root down through my heels.

I managed to bind Supta Kurmasana on my own today, with crossed ankles and everything! Teacher R has a knack for getting me into this pose. Yesterday, she tied me up like a package and helped me lift up. I was able to stay there and exit (very, very sloppily) on my own.

The Battle of Chakrasana continues.... I’ve regressed; I’m back to not being able to do it at all without assistance. I think I need to push up through the arms, but I can never seem to remember to do that when the moment comes. My brain malfunctions when I’m upside down! It forgets to think!

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I was feeling absolutely atrocious all day yesterday. I had a mild headache, fatigue and an overall sense of yuckiness. I struggled through my classes, came home and went to bed early. The extra hour of sleep did help, but this really got me wondering about my diet.

Some of you may remember that a few years ago, I was practising Calorie Restriction Optimal Nutrition (CRON) very seriously. I carefully tracked my diet each day, logging everything I ate in order to ensure that all my nutritional needs were met. I kept my calories levels lower than average, which helped me manage my weight. Although it was sometimes challenging to avoid junk food, I was never ‘in the dark’ about my nutrition and my diet was never better! I felt great when I was on CRON and my weight was ideal.

Then a bunch of things happened: I was very sick, briefly hospitalized (from a super-bug I picked up doing temp work in a hospital) and I was put on bed rest. I also started a relationship right around this time. For a few months, my diet and my yoga practice were put on the back burner. The yoga came back, but the diet kind of stayed in limbo. I made some noise about going back to CRON a few times, but never really followed through. It’s challenging to maintain a strict diet while in a relationship.

Recently, I dusted off COM (the diet tracking software I used to use) and I started logging my foods again. I was surprised to find that my diet isn’t bad overall - that is, when I manage to avoid the junk food! I’ve been a vegetarian since my early 20s. Although I flirted with eating fish for a short time last year (the girlfriend liked salmon), I quickly went back to a vegetarian diet and I’ve stuck with that since.

I’ve made a few changes. I’ve added a green smoothie with Whey Protein Isolate in the evenings to boost my protein level. This is a great solution to the ‘supper problem’, a dilemma I was usually ‘solving’ with Clif Bars. I teach every night so it’s not possible for me to eat a meal (I eat my main meal at lunch). The smoothie works great as a meal-on-the-run and it doesn’t affect my practice the next morning.

I noticed that my teachers add ‘Emergen-C’ packets to their water bottles at the Shala. I purchased a box and I’ve been adding a packet to my post-practice water every day. It has electrolytes and various vitamins.

And one more thing: I’m avoiding sugar. It’s hard. I LOVE SUGAR. But I’m avoiding it. Pray for me.

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Finally, there’s an interesting discussion going on over at Autumn Lotus Yoga, spurred by a question I left in her comments the other day:

How to Get Thrown Out of a Yoga Studio: What would *you* do if you were attending a class that was poorly taught, to the extent that students’ physical limits were ignored and injuries could occur?

There’s much food for thought here, in terms of teaching, Ahimsa and swallowing your bile when you see another teacher instructing students in a way that invites harm.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Astanga

By yesterday evening, my quads were VERY sore. In my city, we have these special buses called ‘kneeling buses’ to accommodate physically challenged passengers. Most of the time, the driver just lowers the entrance ramp a bit for elderly riders, so I call it the ‘geezer ramp’ (very politically correct of me, eh?).

When the bus pulled up last night, the driver must have seen the look of despair cross my face as I beheld that huge step-up. Helpfully, he lowered the geezer ramp, so the gimpy Ashtangi could climb aboard without ow-ing her quadriceps. Now, my EGO hurts too! ;-)

I was feeling more than a little bit tender this morning when I stepped into the Shala for my practice. I took it easy and moved very carefully through the sun salutations and standing. By the time I got to seated, Teacher R had taken the reins from Teacher P.

My goal for the today’s practice: incur no ‘Driste Penalties’. Mission accomplished, though she did tell me to keep my head up and look forward during jump backs. She says this will help me jump back, but so far, it just feels *harder* to do it this way. I will persevere.

The first Chakrasana came up and I paused, decided I would ask. Following the rules of effective negotiation, I set my price very low. I told Teacher R: “I can’t do Chakrasana today. My neck is too sore.” From her stance at the front of the room, I could tell that Teacher R was giving me a ‘look’ but since I didn’t have my glasses on, I couldn’t see WHICH look it was. Was it the nodding, ‘Okay, don’t do Chakrasana’ look, or was it the ‘Eye Roll’? It’s always possible she was ‘Raising a Skeptical Eyebrow’ too (she does that). By the time she walked over, I could see she was laughing.

So we had a good chuckle and settled on an assisted Chakrasana, so I can get the hang of landing on my knees instead of my feet. This will take the pressure off my neck. She helped me with the second one. I gave the third one a go without assistance, but gave up when I couldn’t roll without tweaking my neck. I pretended the fourth one didn’t exist.

I also forgot to do Paschimottanasana after my backbends, which is a weird pose to skip since I *heart* it. I guess I was just ready for my practice to be over. It was one of *those* days.

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Anna posted a comment thanking me for the notes from the Kino workshop. It makes my heart glad to know that other people (particularly home practitioners who don’t have the advantage of a Shala) benefit from my blog. She asked me if I would post more detailed notes from Sunday’s workshop at Shala North. To be honest, I didn’t think anyone was really reading the notes. I’m happy to share what I learned.

Please keep in mind, these notes were taken through a very specific filter: my experience. I’m sure I left many things out, but these were the elements of the workshop that were most helpful to me.

Standing up, Dropping Back Workshop Notes

Sun Salutations: We started the workshop with 5 Surya Namakara A’s and 3 B’s, which I really appreciated. DR emphasized worked the rotation of the pelvis forward in Virabhadrasana I and tucking the tailbone. DR reminded us that sun salutations warm up the hips and the legs, which is important for backbending.

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana: We worked with a partner to focus on key aspects of Upward Facing Dog.
- Push down through the tops of the feet to engage the legs. Focus on pressing down through the big toe and especially the pinky toe - this will help internally rotate the legs, which releases the glutes.
- Partner work: while one person was in Up Dog, the other poked the calves, hams and finally the glutes (result should be: hard, hard, soft). *When the legs engage, gluteus maximus relaxes*
- Bottom edge of the pelvis (tailbone) moves forward, top edge of the pelvis moves back

*There should be no pressure or pain in the sacrum - create space!*

Ustrasana: Camel pose, focus on working the legs
-Press the legs/feet into the floor actively to move the pelvis forward
-Keep the gluteals soft and lift the spine out of the hips
-In this pose, press down through the big toe mounds to encourage internal rotation

The Bandhas:
-Mula Bandha: creates a natural pelvic tilt, pulling the tailbone down (try it! it’s subtle, but you’ll notice the tilt)
-Uddiyana Bandha: combine with the chest-lifting action (very similar instruction to what I learned in Kino’s workshop)

Standing Backbend: Root down through the feet, push the hips and thighs forward until you feel the stretch in the hip flexors. Keep the front thighs as forward as possible. The gluteals may engage a bit, but focus on the action in the legs. Remember, we’re working against external rotation. Root down through the big toe mounds to encourage the legs to internally rotate.

*The chest lifts because the feet push down*

Integrating this work into Urdhva Dhanurasana:
-Tuck the tailbone and lift the hips up
-The knees move forward
-Press down through the feet (especially the inner feet) and find a stretch in the front of the hips (hip flexors)

Positioning of the arms: This part is important because when the shoulders are not strong and correctly aligned, injuries can occur.

Try this: Reach your arms upwards and bend your wrists as if you were doing a handstand on the ceiling. Start with your fingers pointed back.
-Turn your fingers to point inward (toward the median line), drawing your biceps inward. Observe the action in the shoulderblades (the shoulderblades will move toward one another, toward the spinal column)
-Next, turn your fingers out, so the biceps draw outward. In this position, the shoulderblades broaden, moving away from the spine.

The latter is what we want. The action is very subtle - see if you can do this while reaching your fingertips toward the ceiling, palms facing in (it helps to think about drawing the shoulderblades together, then apart).

Laghu Vajrasana: Exploring the action of the legs (engaging the quadriceps and the Bandhas). We worked with partners for this pose and I did it about a kazillion times (which probably accounts for my very sore quads, but I was having so much fun!). Near the end of the exercise, I could almost come up by myself, but my legs were like jello!
I learned to decisively engage my legs coming up and not to let go of my ankles until that engage occurred (otherwise, I started flailing my arms around and falling over).

Urdhva Dhanurasana: We did more partner work and received a few tips
-The action of the legs is similar to those of a skiier with knees bent, pushing off.
-Pull the pelvis forward, bringing more work into the legs
-Try walking your hands down and wall and back up
-To work on standing up from a backbend, try dropping your hands back to a wall, then engaging your legs to left back up (you won’t have as far to go, but you’ll still experience the action in the legs and Bandhas)

(A note from Kai: Another way to mimic the action of the legs in Urdhva Dhanurasana is to sit in a regular chair, and press the heels into the floor as if you were going to push the knees forward and the chair backward. This works even better when sitting on the edge of a bed, because there’s no way you’re going to get that sucker to move!)

Rocking up to Standing:
-If being ‘upside down’ is confusing (in terms of knowing which direction to rock), try coming into Urdhva Dhanurasana with your chest facing the wall, then rock the chest toward the wall, rock the knees forward (repeat).

Alignment vs. Action: Get the action first, even if the alignment isn’t perfect. Try different ‘wrong’ alignments, if they help you get the action.
Examples:
-wide feet
-turned out feet
-bending the knees excessively to bring the hands to the floor

Monday, April 19, 2010

Astanga

I was back at the Shala for Mysore today. It felt good to be on a ‘schedule’ again - I was actually happy to get up and go. I had a good practice, binding everything that is usually bindable including Supta Kurmasana. Since I was able to bind my hands solo, Teacher P assisted me with getting my legs and feet in place.

I rolled all of my Chakrasanas, though the one after Urdhva Dhanurasana was pretty dire. Teacher R encouraged me to bend my knees at the end of the roll (to come into a table position).The trouble is, I’m very disoriented as soon as I turn upside down. My neck is bothering me again. Since it felt fine over the weekend, I’m now sure that Chakrasana is causing the stress. I’m so frustrated! I want to learn this transition, but I don’t want to cause an injury in the process. I’ll go back to one or two rolls tomorrow until my neck is feeling better.

I worked very hard on backbending today, despite VERY sore legs from the workshop yesterday. I didn’t think Teacher R was paying any attention to me until I came down to rest after my first three backbends and spotted her beside my mat. She gave me an adjustment for the last two backbends, asking me to walk my hands in again and again, pulling on my hips to bring even more weight into my feet (I was focusing on pressing down through the heels). I thought I was going to DIE, my legs were SO tired!

Clearly, I need to build some strength! That’s what I learned in the workshop yesterday. It was an interesting afternoon.

I’ve never been up to Shala North before and was very curious to see it. The Kino weekend was sponsored by this Shala, so there was a heavy proportion of Shala North students in her workshops. I had no trouble finding it - it’s in a neighbourhood already familiar to me because my massage therapist used to have an office in the area. It’s a lovely space with two floors (and balconies!), change rooms with showers, a reception/shop area and two yoga rooms. The Mysore room has cork floors, which I love.

I liked Teacher DR immediately. He has a direct, friendly manner and a great sense of humour. This workshop did a lot to clear up some of my questions about Urdhva Dhanurasana and standing up from the pose. Most of the workshop worked toward this action and by the end, I understood why: if you can stand up, you can probably drop back too, because so much of the action is tied to strength - in the legs, in the core.

It’s like the universe leaned in and tapped me on the shoulder: “Hey Kai, THIS is why you can’t do Intermediate yet. You’re not STRONG enough.”

And it’s true. I’m not. But I’m bendier than I thought! My shoulders, in particular, are very open. My hips are pretty open too. In fact, I can come into a decent backbend, but what I *can’t* do is use the strength of my legs to draw my weight forward into the heels in order to stand up. This is what I’ve been struggling with every day at the Shala and the workshop illuminated exactly what I need to work on to make it happen.

And it’s all strength.

I won’t get into the embarrassing details, but suffice to say: I can drop back, so long as someone is holding onto me for dear life (to keep me from crashing back like a felled tree: “TIM-ber!”). In Urdhva Dhanurasana, I can’t seem to bring my weight fully into my heels unless someone stands at my knees and pulls my hips with all their might. And I can’t lift up on my fingertips, even when I rock. Even with Teacher DR’s assistance, I couldn’t get a decent rock going (though I was a champion with the Ujjayi breathing - he threw me a bone, telling the class “She’s got the breath going perfectly!” Well, at least I can breath!)

So I asked lots of silly questions and received lots of help. I was finally able to walk down a wall (which I could already do), but also walk back up the wall and push up to standing from the wall (baby steps!) I was partnered up with this incredibly strong woman who was grasping the work intuitively. She helped me a lot and gave me strong physical assistance, (which I needed) though I was never able to stand up from the backbend, even with her help.

By the end of the workshop, I understood the action of standing up, even if I couldn’t do it. I learned how to work on my backbends and I know where I need to build strength (my legs, my core). I feel so *heavy* in backbends! Rocking feels impossible to me.

One interesting element of this workshop was Teacher DR’s approach. He encouraged us to learn the ACTION (of coming up/dropping back) first, then fine-tune for the ALIGNMENT. There was a lot of experimentation with taking a wider stance with the feet, turning the toes out, strategically bending the knees, etc (within safe limits, of course, protecting the knees and low back). Basically, if we could get the action, even if the end result was “not pretty”, then it was a start. Then move on to work on the alignment.

He told us a story about watching Sharath teach in Mysore. There were many of Sharath’s students who were only half-way through the Primary Series, yet they could drop back and stand up (imperfectly, but they could do it). Once they had the general idea of it, he corrected alignment errors.

Post work-shop (today), I’m very, very sore in the legs and abdomen despite an epsom salt bath last night. My work around the city takes me up and down many, many stairs and I could almost hear my quadriceps saying: “Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!” as I climbed up (and especially) down. My quads also said “Ow!” as I was teaching my classes and doing the grocery shopping (I’ve started choosing my public transportation strategically in order to maximise escalators!).

I don’t even want to think about what tomorrow’s practice will feel like!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Astanga

When I go out on a Saturday night, I try not to stay out *too* late and I usually don’t drink. But last night there was Champagne, so what’s a girl to do?! Carpe Par-TAY, of course! I had a great time! Between the bubbly and the night of wild dancing, I was a bit worse for the wear this morning. I had managed to squeeze in about 5 hours of sleep before heading to the Shala. Fortunately, it was a led Primary this morning and started later, at 9 (unfortunately, I had a long, long day ahead of me with a workshop in the afternoon)

I had no idea what to expect from my practice, given my lack of sleep, but it was fine. In fact, I really enjoyed it. The Shala was less crowded than I expected, so we had space to spread out. I rolled every Chakrasana, but skipped the post Urdhva Dhanurasana roll. And my neck is a tiny bit sore. This is obviously a learning process for me. As I child, I never liked to turn somersaults very much!

Today’s led Primary felt easier than the one a couple of weeks ago. I think the room was cooler, which helped me keep a clearer head during the practice. I had better balance during Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana today, despite no assistance. Teacher P had to corral my Turtle, helped me bind in Supta K.

The discussion afterward was really interesting. A few days ago, I was trying to describe Astanga to a friend and I came up with the analogy of Martial Arts to convey the culture of daily practice and building a relationship with a teacher. I was surprised when Teacher R brought up this same analogy in the discussion. I think it’s very apt. I asked a question that had been nagging me about backbending and Kundalini and clearing space in the Sushumna. In retrospect, I think what I was *really* asking is this: “Why am I doing this?” To their credit, the teachers mainly addressed the heart of the question.

The discussion that emerged gave me some food for thought, mainly along the lines of trusting the process and trusting your teachers and just *doing* the practice. The idea of ‘beginners mind’ came up, being open to the practice and what it can teach us. I came home to a post Christine had written on Yoga Sutra 1.32. She observed: “At this point in my journey through the Yoga Sutras, I'm starting to wonder if the whole book couldn't be summed up by Pattabhi Jois when he said "Practice and all is coming." Patanjali's main theme thus far seems to be: Choose a practice. Keep practicing.”

It felt like my entire day has followed this theme: We keep practising and it’s the practice itself that becomes the POINT. Not the Kundalini or the emerging Siddhis (yogic super-powers) or the Yoga Butt or the Man Arms (*waves at Liz*) or the next pose in the series or Standing up from Urdhva Dhanurasana.

I spent my entire afternoon chewing on that very last item, because that’s what the workshop was about. I came home from the workshop absolutely FRIED and I’m still exhausted. My legs are like jello and I’m so exhausted, I feel numb.

Workshop report tomorrow. Now: bed.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hatha

I didn’t get around to doing my yoga practice until the afternoon. YogaDownload announced a new class, Gentle Hatha #4 and since I’m a big fan of this series, I downloaded all four time formats immediately. I did the 30 minute version. It wasn’t bad, but I prefer some of Jackie’s other classes. I also found the music intrusive (this isn’t always the case - occasionally, Yoga Download is able to strike the right balance and the music enhances the practice).

Perhaps I’ll enjoy the longer versions more. Or maybe I was just in a dour mood (always a possibility, during my Lady’s). It felt good to get on the mat though, and weird to be practising so late in the day. I’ve become very accustomed to early-morning practices.

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This weekend, I’m attending workshops with local teachers (next weekend, I’ll get a break, but I’m doing a couple more the following weekend).

This afternoon, it was a Kirtan/Chanting workshop with the leader of a Kirtan band. I’ve been studying yoga philosophy, chanting, and Shruti Box with her for a couple of years. I find that I don’t integrate chanting into my classes nearly enough. I was hoping that this instruction in Kirtan (call and response chanting) would help me develop confidence to teach chanting to my students.

The workshop was actually very comprehensive. Not only did it cover the ins and outs of call-and-response - we explored the musicality of Kirtan: pacing, volume, improvisation and audience dynamics. Even with a background in music, I found this incredibly complex. At the end of the workshop, we split into groups and prepared variations on the original chant which we then ‘taught’ to the other group through a Kirtan.

It wasn’t easy! I actually messed up our chant and, of course, my ‘audience’ got it wrong along with me, so I corrected myself and they followed along with my correction! When my group finished, I exclaimed: “That’s harder than teaching a yoga class!” And it is! When you screw up, everyone else screws up right along with you. Our instructor was acting as the percussionist and she and I totally got our wires crossed with the pacing too (I wanted to speed things up, she pulled back).

It gave me deeper appreciation for Kirtans and the musicians who offer them. It was difficult enough to lead my small ‘band’ and read the audience’s response. I can’t imagine what this would be like with a percussionist, keyboardist, guitarist, etc. AND a huge live audience of people, many of whom have never attended a ‘call and response’ performance. Eek!

For the curious, here's a YouTube clip of a Shruti Box. This one looks very similar to my MKS:



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Sometime on Friday, I kind of ‘let go’ of any expectations around my birthday. Due to the Big Life Change, I had put off planning anything and it was too hard to pull anything together at the last minute.

So on Friday, I worked my regular shift at the soup kitchen and brought cupcakes for everyone (they were a hit!). I met up with a good friend for dessert, but I was too tired to go dancing.

This evening after the workshop, I headed out to meet a few friends for dinner, thinking I might see one or two of my favourite people and that would be fine. Imagine my delight when pretty much everyone I wanted to see was there! It was deeply moving to connect with so many old friends and embrace a community of people I had lost touch with over the past year. I had a fabulous vegetarian meal, got free dessert (and you know how I love my dessert!) and I danced for hours afterwards with my buddies.

Best. Birthday. EVER!!!!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Yin


The ‘Decade of Awesome’ starts today! There are cupcakes in my future and probably some cheesecake too. Probably not such a good thing for my Marichyasana D, but you only turn 40 once! I’m seizing the day...and the desserts! I’ll be well-fueled for my Astanga practice next week.

Unfortunately, I’m feeling a bit battered and bruised by my ‘Lady’s Holiday’ today. I woke up feeling fragile and sore. The timing is bad, but I’m going to try to carry on with my plans. The dancing later on may get nixed - I’ll see how I feel. There is the possibility of drinks and dancing tomorrow night as well. I don’t know if I have enough energy reserves to go dancing two nights in a row. After all, I’m 40!! ;-)

I’m simply floored by the love and generosity of my friends. I’ve been inundated by birthday love over the last couple of days. I spend the morning responding to messages and taking phone calls. The next month is going to be a lot of fun, as I continue to connect with people.

I’m feeling rich in friendship and community. This is exactly what I need right now. Today, I realised that at this moment, I have absolutely everything I need to thrive. This is a good headspace to inhabit as I move into my personal ‘new year.’

Yoga practice was very low key this morning. I did 45 minutes of Yin Yoga with the Sarah Powers’ DVD. Tomorrow is a rest day and I’m attending a workshop in the afternoon. My meditation practice has been sporadic over the past week, but I managed to sit for 20 minutes yesterday. I hope to do so again today. My focus is spotty during these sessions, but I really notice a (negative) change in my mood when I skip meditation. Even a simple effort is helpful to me.

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With the warmer weather, Princess Fur and I have been going for longer and longer walks. She’s not used to the extra exercise and falls deeply asleep when we return.


I’ll bet I could have completely covered her with toys and she *still* wouldn’t have woken!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Vinyasa

Aunt Flo arrived this morning. Geez, I hate that woman. No matter how carefully I hide the chocolate, she always eats it ALL!

So I slept in again this morning. Unlike yesterday, I *really* made myself sleep in. I woke up my usual early but went back to sleep until almost 9. My noon class cancelled, so I’ve been having the most fantastically lazy day. I can’t remember the last time I did this. I’ve hardly glanced at the clock, just letting things unfold as they will.

It’s great to have a little bit of extra time to catch up on stuff, especially email. Since the Big Life Change, I’ve been hearing from many friends and I’ve taken deep pleasure in reconnecting with them all. It’s difficult to co-ordinate so many schedules for a birthday celebration, so it looks like I’m going to be ‘celebrating’ my birthday several times over the coming weekend and coming weeks. So far, I’m looking forward to enjoying my favourite dessert, eating cake with fellow volunteers at the soup kitchen, sushi lunches, geek brunches, dinner with dear friends, dancing and more dancing.

I’m spending the last day of my 30s quietly. I took the dog for a long walk in the sunshine while sipping a giant mug of tea. I spent some time in meditation and practised an easy Vinyasa sequence from YogaDownload (Morning Flow #1, 20 minutes with Dawnelle).

The emphasis was on backbends and I enjoyed applying some of the knowledge learned at the Kino Workshop over the weekend. It’s a pleasure to find ease in my backbends. My new goal for backbends is to be able to breath deeply and easily in them. I’m no longer afraid of holding Urdhva Dhanurasana and I easily held the three repetitions of the pose this morning, including a version in which each leg is lifted to the sky. Fun!

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Old age: coming soon!


Gosh, is ‘dishpan hands’ are an indicator, then I’m ANCIENT!
(years of working on archaeological sites were not kind to my hands).

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Astanga

Moon Day, so no Mysore practice, as the Shala was closed.

I had big plans to sleep in, but only managed to sleep until about 7 a.m. I did lay in bed for a while though, and enjoyed the novelty of not getting up to rush around.

Moon Days are on Wednesdays this month, so I’ll be able to use up the last two classes on my studio pass, attending Teacher IM’s Astanga I/II classes in the mornings. This is such a treat for me, a ‘teaching development opportunity’ as much as a practice.

IM is one of the best teachers I’ve ever studied with - he was a senior teacher long before I had even contemplated applying for YTT. It’s a pleasure to listen to him lead a class and I always pick up things that I can apply to my own classes. He’s been very inspiring to me as a teacher.

Poor guy had his hands full this morning! He works hard! He offered me several suggestions for postures (Wider stance and square those hips in Parvottanasana and he gently encouraged me to lift up, lift up, lift up! in jumpbacks). I got that terrific adjustment in Marichyasana C, on both sides.

Then I watched him work compassionately with a student who was brand-new to Astanga. Talk about teaching multiple-levels! There were many ‘middling’ students, bookended by two more advanced, with a raw beginner in the mix.

I enjoyed the class and I really like this studio. I always set up by the window where I can see the sky (and there are no Driste police to stop me from gazing at the clouds drifting by!)

Urdhva Dhanurasana was good this morning. I only had two opportunities to do the pose, but I was able to hold it for a long time. 15 long breaths for the first hold, at least 10 for the second. I even experimented with rocking my body a bit, making sure to rock forward on the inhale, back on the exhale. I’ll need to do this if I’m ever going to stand up from that backbend!

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I wouldn’t mind ‘smuggling years off my figure’. I might need to after Friday!

Maybe I should buy one of these to wear at the Shala! It will go great with my dorky headband!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Astanga

Great practice today! I’m definitely a bit sore in spots (in good spots, like my abs), but I felt strong and focused this morning. Teacher P was there solo and he mostly left me alone to do my thing.

During the Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana adjustment, I worked on keeping my thumbs from wandering away from my big toe. I also tried to rely less on the teacher for balance. In that adjustment, the teacher is offering stability and little else. He won’t help me move deeper unless I move in that direction myself. So I was keeping my legs active and really making an effort to lift my leg UP in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana B.

My shoulders felt better in Prasarita Padottanasana C. I’m almost always get an adjustment in this pose and I’m deeply curious how far my hands are from the floor. I guess I’ll know when they land!

I needed help with the bind in Supta Kurmasana again, but once I was there, Teacher P was able to get my legs further up my back than I’ve been managing lately. It was good.

I rolled of my Chakrasanas solo, but needed a few tries for a couple of them. This week, I’ve been trying the roll after Urdhva Dhanurasana, but today I veered to the side. Teacher P does *not* want me to roll to the side, for good reason (my neck). He urged me to be cautious and not feel pressured to do the roll every time (though I think he definitely wants me to give it a shot, even if I only try three times and then do my regular vinyasa).

Backbends felt great today and for once, Teacher P had absolutely nothing to say about them, except that they are ‘good’. My breathing was strong and stable throughout. For each backbend (I did five), I walked my hands in a bit.

Tomorrow is a Moon Day so the Shala will be closed. I still have a couple classes left on a pass I bought last month, so I may visit Teacher IM tomorrow for a studio Astanga class.

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It’s birthday week! On Friday, I’ll begin the ‘Decade of AWESOME’

In celebration, I’m posting birthday-themed vintage ads all week.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Astanga

I was very happy to be back in my ‘home Shala’ this morning. I learned a lot over the weekend, but I often felt ‘lost in the crowd’ in that big room. Through sheer dumb luck (or, dare I say it: good karma?), I’ve landed in a great Shala with two incredibly competent, caring and outstanding teachers. I was very happy to see them!

I settled into my favourite spot by the window and enjoyed the glow of the heaters around me. Happy warm room! I started my practice strong, but I was very tired midway through. My bind in Supta Kurmasana was MIA, but Teacher P came over and pulled me into it. It’s moments like these that I’m so deeply grateful for adjustments. At home by myself, I would have moved on and the pose wouldn’t have happened at all.

I revelled in my newly blissful Purvottanasana and Urdhva Dhanurasana definitely felt better today. The biggest change from my perspective: I can now breath long and slow and easy in the pose. I feel strong and stable enough that I’m not in a huge hurry to get out of it. Thank-you, Kino!

I wasn’t particularly sore. My serratus was talking to me a bit, but I’m almost embarrassed to ‘fess up to my main complaint: I seem to have developed shin splints walking to and from the workshops. Guess I should have worn better walking shoes!

As I was leaving the Shala, one of my teachers said: “You missed a great class yesterday!” and my face just crumpled. “I *know*!”, I replied.

Just thinking about the sweat bath I missed makes me very wistful. Hopefully, I’ll make it to the led Primary next week!

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This week’s 70s yoga Pin-up Girl, Kareen, leads us in a cheer:


“Oh, hai! I can haz pom-poms! OM!!!”

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Astanga, Workshop

More Kino notes and observations about the weekend...

Led Primary

Kino’s led Primary was scheduled for 7 a.m., well before the subway runs in my city. My options were: biking, cabbing, or walking. Up until the time I went to bed, I hadn’t made a decision about transportation. Predictably, I dreamt about it all night! *eyeroll*

As luck would have it, I woke early enough that walking was a viable option. I arrived at the school (all of the sessions were held at a private school, midtown) 15 minutes early and set up near the back row (in an effort to be as invisible as possible).

The led class started just after 7 a.m. and it ran for...(wait for it!)...2.5 hours. No joke! (a led Primary typically lasts anywhere from 1 hour, 10 minutes to 1.5 hours) So, where did this time go? Mostly to the long, looooonnnnng holds. Some of the holds were so long that I wondered if Kino was still there (Was she napping? texting? getting a coffee?), then another minute would go by and I would hear her say: “Four...” *groan*

And there were many, MANY backbends (the backbends went on and on...I sort of lost count, but I think there were 7 or 8). I wish I had the benefit of the fabulous backbending workshop I attended later so I could have enjoyed these more.

I rolled three of my Chakrasanas with no fuss, skipped the one after Urdhva Dhanurasana(s) because I was SPENT. I was binding everything I usually bind, even Supta Kurmasana. This was surprising because I certainly wasn’t very hot. I took off my headband at the end of the standing poses because I wasn’t sweating at all.

The temperature turned out to be a huge issue for me (and not something that Kino could have controlled). This room felt *cold*. During one of my vinyasas, I abandoned my Driste and glanced back at the dude behind me - he was all shiny with sweat. Me? I was blowing on my feet in Baddha Konasana B trying to keep them warm.

By the time the finishing poses started (right around the time my teachers were beginning their led Primary back at the warm, warm Shala), I was chilled to the bone. I’m not sure why I was so chilly. I’m hesitant to speculate, though I do wonder if the pace of the class was just slower than what I’m used to. And yes, that Uth Plutihi lasted *forever*

I did get a fabulous adjustment, the Famous Kino Downward Dog Squish. It was great! :-) The best part about it was, after she gave me a final push and wandered off to the next person, I remained totally grounded in my feet.

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Backbending Workshop

The backbending workshop was FULL OF AWESOME! If you ever get a chance to go to this in person, DO IT!

I’m not a big fan of Purvottanasana, but by applying the instruction I learned in the workshop, the pose has transformed into a place of bliss for me. Seriously, if I had learned *nothing* else, this would have been worth the price of admission! Purvottanasana has been my nemesis for years and now? I LOVE IT!

This love didn’t quite translate for Urdhva Dhanurasana but I’ll concede that it feels at least 50% easier to me now. It’s as if I took a little ‘strength pill’ or something. It’s all in the technique and building strength (Kino insists: “There is no pixie dust”).

I dubbed Kino’s opening dialogues the ‘Kino Keynotes’. At the beginning of her workshops, she opens with chanting, then gives a little talk. She does this while standing in front of the room, balanced on one leg in a quasi Vriksasana (‘Tree Pose’). She waves her hands around enthusiastically as she speaks, never wavering or losing her balance. After about 7 minutes, she switches legs and continues. Hilarious!

I took lots of notes during the Backbending Keynote (I’m the ‘remedial backbending’ student of my shala, so I need all the help I can get). I also made two short video clips which I’ll post later on in the week.

From the opening remarks:

- Backbending allows us to gain control of the spine. By controlling the spine, we can begin to control the nervous system. The deeper purpose of backbending is to awaken the Kundalini and offer a open channel for that energy to move up the spine.
- Joints can be either open or compressed (stabilized). In backbending, we’re dealing with many, many joints - the vertebrae of the spine and we need to open them, create space.
- Pain: allows us to feel, to move out of compression

The entire body is involved in backbending, not just a specific part, say...the lumbar spine *ahem*. The entire body needs to be awakened! If you focus the bend into just one spot, injuries will occur)
*Every joint needs to have spaciousness
* The legs are the foundation of the spine (read: strength, engagement)
* Lift the lower spine up UP and OUT of the pelvis

(hmmm...where have we heard THAT before? I think it was yesterday: “Our whole body is a network. There is a synergistic effect; the whole body *must* participate”)

Some effects of backbending practice:
- heat
- nausea
- shaking
- insomnia

I can vouch for the first two. I spent much of the workshop sweating bullets and wondering if I was going to hurl.

A few anatomical notes:

-The spine starts at the tailbone. The sacrum is like a keystone, takes the weight of the column of the legs.
-Turning the feet out compresses the sacrum, but when you’re first learning, it may be preferable to turn the feet out a tiny bit, especially if your knees tend to splay out otherwise.
- In order to backbend, we need to open the hip flexors, the psoas muscle needs to lengthen. The psoas starts in the inner upper leg, runs through the pelvis and attaches to the spine. Kino believes that the reason that Guruji specified grabbing the waist in many poses is because that is where the psoas attaches; it’s a point of stability.
-During a backbend, two things can potentially happen to the organs: they can either drop onto the spine like dead weight, putting pressure on the vertebrae OR the abdominal muscles are drawn in (Uddiyana Bandha) so the organs shift down into the pelvis. The latter is preferable!

This last point is important - Kino emphasized it again and again. Kino mentioned a circumstance in which someone was x-rayed doing a backbend and in the x-ray, her organs were shifted toward the pelvis!

Setting up the structure for backbends:

Come onto your knees, then step one foot forward (toes of the back foot are tucked under), like a lunge.

1) Inhale, press down actively through the legs
2) Exhale, tuck the tailbone
3) Inhale, lift and expand the ribs (you can bring your hands on the lower ribs and try to ‘lift’ them up)
4) Exhale, draw in the stomach, engage Uddiayana Bandha

Scoot the front foot forward a bit, but keep the tailbone tucked. Find the stretch in the hip crease of the back leg. Eventually, lift the back knee off the ground, again keeping the tailbone tucked (which will further lengthen the hip flexors).

Once this foundation was established, the hands are brought to prayer position at heart centre, then lifted to the face/forehead, then pointed back over the head, eventually straightening the arms.

Other examples:

For the other exercises and backbends, this structure (the numbered list above) was applied. There was an emphasis on activating the legs first, then working your way up through the body, integrating the body before backbending.

We repeated these steps in:
- Sukhasana (simple cross-legged seated pose)
-Sphinx (Inward rotation of the thighs helps to prevent contraction of the gluteus maximus)
-Ustrasana (Camel pose)
-Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog pose)
-Laghu Vajrasana (I can actually do this pose! Who knew?!!!)

Purvottanasana:

Kino’s approach to my nemesis, Purvottanasana, is so revolutionary, that I wanted to document the steps here, as they specifically applied to this pose. My history with this pose has been VERY negative. I hate it and it makes me feel full-body AWFUL. Applying these steps, I enjoyed the pose for the first time in my life. It was spectacular!

1) Come into Dandasana. Strongly engage your legs, pressing the inner big toe mound edges together and the heels together.
2) Tuck the tailbone and allow that action to begin the lift in the hips
3) Inhale to expand and lift the lower ribs, Exhale to draw in the stomach (Uddiyana)
4) Keep tucking the tailbone and lifting the hips
5) Expand through the chest while drawing the shoulder blades down the back
6) Keep the tailbone tucked, the legs engaged!

Magic!!!

Urdhva Dhanurasana:

The final frontier! Following these steps, I was able to come into a backbend which didn’t leave me gasping for breath or praying for mercy. It didn’t feel like kittens, cake and colourful balloons, but I didn’t want to die either. That’s progress!

1) Press your heels into the floor and root down through your big toe mounds. Activate the legs!
2) Tuck the tailbone and allow that action to begin the lift in the hips
3) Inhale to expand and lift the lower ribs, Exhale to draw in the stomach (Uddiyana)
4) Inhale, expand the chest, keep tucking the tailbone and lifting the hips
5) Place the hands near the ears, fingers spread and ‘clawing’ the mat, then engage the legs to come on to the head
6) Straighten the arms, actively move the shoulder blades down the back

(video coming soon!)

Funny moment:

During the closing questions, a guy asked Kino something about Hanumasana. Turns out, he wanted to know how to come into a backbend in that pose.

Kino was perplexed at first, then she said with astonishment: “You mean, you want to do Kroukachasana B? That’s the second pose of the FIFTH series!” She chuckled and said: “First, learn the Primary Series!” and everyone laughed.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Workshop

It’s Kino Weekend! It started last night with chanting and a demonstration (which I couldn’t attend because I was working at the soup kitchen) and continued with Mysore-style practice this morning (which I had to opt out of because I teach on Saturday mornings). But I did make it to the afternoon strength workshop.

I took copious notes during the workshop and I’ve transcribed these, trying to flesh them out with details and some context. I didn’t make any videos or take photographs during this first workshop.

From the opening remarks:

-Strength comes from Shraddha (Sanskrit for faith). Strength is a decision of the mind.
-The hips contain our centre of gravity so when we shift them radically in space, our balance is destablized and that’s where much of the fear comes from.
-You whole body is a network. There is a synergistic effect; the whole body *must* participate

Setting up the structure - building a strong plank

Come into Table Pose (on your hands and knees):

1) Wrists aligned under shoulders, wide fingers ‘clawing’ the floor (rooting down particularly through the mound of the index finger)
2) Creases of the elbows are angled at 45 degrees forward
3) Gaze is at the floor, chin moves away from the chest
4) Broaden the collarbones, pull the shoulders back (the shoulderblades move down the back)
5) Inhale, as you exhale pull the sternum up into the space between the shoulderblades
6) Inhale, as you exhale, pull the lower ribs down and together to close off that space (action of the serratus anterior muscles)
7) Engage Uddiyana Bandha
7) Tuck the tailbone. From this action, step the legs back one at a time to a plank position (you’ll feel a sense of lift through the length of the body)

(From here, we worked with partners. Once the ‘structure’ was set, we leaned onto our partner’s upper back (near the shoulderblades) to test the stability, both in Table Pose and Plank).

‘Up’ happens! (Jump back/through)

The first step is to build a foundation, a structure. Then you can move forward into that foundation and ‘up’ happens!

This is your mantra when moving your pelvis in space: I SEND MY PELVIS FORWARD (she repeated this again and again, and applied it to *everything*, even in some movement where it seemed counterintuitive).

The key to these exercises is taking it very slowly and ‘walking’ the feet in tiny tippy-toe baby-steps instead of actually jumping (even if you already can). The goal is to maintain the ‘structure’ created in Table Pose (above) and initiate movements of the pelvis from this base of strength.

Jumpthroughs:
1) Set up the structure (Table to Plank, as above)
2) Walk the feet forward, moving the pelvis forward until the feet bump up to the arms/hands
3) Wiggle the feet through (I found this was the most difficult part!)
4) LIFT, extend the legs forward
5) Lower down with control

Jumpbacks:
1) From Dandasana, bring the hands about one hand-length forward of the hips
2) Shift the weight forward and lift up. Send the pelvis forward, as in, sending the pelvis back and then UP in a circle (as if you would lift into a handstand)
3) Wiggle the feet back through the arms
4) Lift just one foot up (the other can remain on the floor), then bend the arms (as in Chaturanga)
5) Step the feet back one at a time, then straighten the arms

Jumping from Bakasana into Chaturanga: Same principles apply: I SEND MY PELVIS FORWARD. The pelvis moves up and forward (as if to lift into a handstand) but then shoot the feet back.

Sirsasana (Headstand): It was interesting to see Kino’s ‘mantra’ applied there. When I do the pose, I really do ‘send my pelvis forward’. This allows me to shift my centre of gravity towards the floor in front me and my legs float up smoothly. I apply the same technique to coming down. When I teach it, I encourage my students to work with gravity by moving the pelvis forward to offer a counter-weight to the legs, allowing the legs to lift (I guess my mantra is: “Gravity is your friend’. How Newtonian of me!).

Handstand: Same principle as headstand (but it’s SO much harder - at least for me!). Kino explained that it doesn’t matter if you can’t lift up into a handstand right away. Even if you ‘send the pelvis forward’ and keep hovering on your tippy-toes, you’re building the strength that will allow you to eventually lift up. Kino told us that this is what she did this for 5 years before she she was able to lift.

She’s not a fan of using a wall for handstands (or any balances) because the body begins to negotiate balance based on the wall and you can become dependent on it. (I can vouch for this from my experience with headstand). Instead, work in the middle of the room most of the time and perhaps try the support of the wall once a week.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Astanga

I didn’t sleep well last night and I couldn’t figure out why I was so cold! I woke up to put a wool hat on, then around 3 a.m., I finally put the electric blanket on the bed because I was *freezing*. When I left for the Shala, an icy blast of wind and snow hit me. That’s when I figured it out: It’s COLD.

The flurries continued off and on for the rest of the day. Even in Canada, this is weird weather for April. Yuck. And brrrrr!

I had a weird day. The street cars were not running when I left the shala, so I had to walk to the subway in the biting wind. I stood in a long line-up at Tim Horton’s for my ritual Friday hot vanilla cappucino, only to discover I didn’t have any money on me (a kind stranger behind me paid it forward, then later on, I discovered five dollars in my wallet *facepalm*). Then I came home to a nasty-gram from my horrible superintendents. And my noon class was unsettling.

When I finally got home, I flew the white flag of surrender and just took a nap.

I had a difficult time waking up this morning and straggled into the Shala late. It was busy today! I was feeling a bit wobbly, so I took it easy during the sun salutations and focused on my breath. This got me back on track and I moved through the practice smoothly.

The adjustment in Prasarita Padottanasana C was intense today. My feet have been too wide in Parsvottanasana - I need to narrow them a LOT. I don’t get adjustments in Baddha Konasana anymore, so I’ve been working my Bandhas in that pose to get my chest and chin to the floor. I’m still kind of floored that I can actually do that!

Oh, and apparently the thumb needs to be firmly on the big toe in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana. That will be a tough habit to break (my thumb kind of likes to hang out in space in that pose). Teacher R had to remind me twice.

I rolled Chakrasana three times, all on my own. The first two were a bit shaky and for some reason, only my left arm was pushing up straight. By the third one, I rolled smoothly. I skipped the one after backbends. My neck is feeling better and better these days. I think I’m just about over that little hump.

The teachers are leaving me alone with my backbends right now. I’m doing five: for the first three, I drop my head to the floor in between repetitions. Then I take a rest for five breaths (if I stay there too long, Teacher P says: “No sunbathing!” *grin*), then I do two more. I walk my hands in each time. I’m trying to lengthen and smooth my breath as I hold the backbends.

By the time I finish, my heart is pounding in my chest. The other day, I lowered from my last backbend and Teacher R asked me how many I had done. I was too overwhelmed to answer her in English so I held up my hand like a little kid demonstrating her age: five fingers. *pant*

I’m back at the Shala on Monday. This is Kino weekend and I’m really excited!

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This week’s Princess Fur photo is from the archives:
Princess Fur has a rebellious side! I love how amused she looks in this photo. If she had a middle finger, she’d be flipping it!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Astanga

When people talk about how Mysore-style Astanga Yoga has changed their lives, they never seem to mention the laundry. But I’m going to remedy that right now.

True confession: Since I started going to the Shala, my underwear drawer runneth over!

I never run out of underwear. NEVER. Or socks. Because I’m ALWAYS washing *something*, be it my yoga clothes or my eQua towel or my headband. I’ve become the Handwashing Queen. I even have a system in place for moving through this daily task quickly. I don’t need a humidifier in my tiny apartment because there’s always something drying on a rack in the bathtub. And once a week, the whole lot goes into a washing machine for yet another wash.

Not only that, but this week, I bought some white vinegar and followed EcoYogini’s instructions for mixing up a mat cleaner. If you haven’t done this yet, you should give it a try. My poor Manduka was greatly neglected when I practised at home because it never seemed important to clean it. Now that I’m in a public space, I clean the ‘Duke daily and I’m basking in the fringe benefit: my mat is grippy again!

I’m pretty sure my general level of Sauca has bumped up a notch or two, and I’m a pretty finicky clean person to begin with!

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I started my practice at 7:15 this morning and once again, I had a very nice practice with some input and help from both teachers.

I’ve noticed that the assistance I receive in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana is becoming ‘lighter’ and today I discovered that I can come much deeper into the pose on my own. I used to avoid bringing my chin to my shin, but there’s no getting around that in the Shala. I’m becoming proficient at it! My legs are much stronger.

Last night, I couldn’t sleep so instead, I laid in bed eating Cadbury MiniEggs and Googling: ‘chakrasana tips ashtanga’. I found this old post on the Astanga message board. It’s chock with good advice and definitely worth a read if you’re working on this transition. This led me to Tim Miller’s Yoga Journal article. The two big tips I gained from my googling were:
- Lift your legs BACK (past your head)
- Driste is the navel - this will protect the neck

Teacher P helped me with my first Chakrasana today and I rolled, but I rolled onto my forearms. I needed to straighten my arms as I came over, so I tried to remember this on my next roll and I got it! For me, the key was moving the legs BACK instead of UP. Teacher P mentioned this and I remembered the tip (push the legs past your head) and I everything came together. I rolled the other three Chakrasanas without assistance and on the last one, I even straightened my arms all the way so I basically ended up in Adho Mukha Svanasana.

My neck feels no worse for all of this. It’s still a bit stiff, but it’s slowly getting better. I’m not convinced that this is the end of my Chakrasana saga. I’ll believe it when I have a week of successful rolling behind me. Someone on the message board said that this is like riding a bike and I disagree. This is MUCH harder and once you ‘get it’, it doesn’t always ‘sitck.’

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It’s Referrer Thursday!

I kind of dropped the ball on this last week, but this week I’d like to point you in the direction of Arkie Yogini’s. Arkie has maintained a home Astanga Yoga practice for the past almost-four-years and she has some interesting posts about the challenges of home practice.

She also just finished a week-long workshop with Kino MacGregor and documented her experience with some great posts and videos.

Of all her writing, this post most deeply resonated with me because it reminded me of the day I quit my soul-destroying corporate job and said ‘Enough!’ (I’ve never looked back).

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Astanga

I’m back on the Chakrasana train. Sort of.

This morning, Teacher P asked if I wanted to know how to roll Chakrasana without hurting my neck. Well...HELL YEAH!!! Bottom line seems to be that I need to stop worrying about landing in Chaturanga (any old landing is fine for now, including bent knees) and I need to PUSH with my arms. My arms need to push to straight as I roll. This will help to lift my head, so the neck remains neutral.

P helped me roll one and Teacher R helped me with another. I tried one on my own but I could feel the pain in my neck so I stopped, took regular vinyasa. Baby steps!

I had a pretty good practice today. I think the 7 a.m. start time may be the big winner. It’s early enough that the Shala is not *too* crowded, the temperature is perfect and it’s just busy enough to be interesting. Best of all, I didn’t feel like I’m getting up in the middle of the night to go. In fact, I woke before the alarm this morning, after going to bed at a reasonable hour last night.

My practice wasn’t flakey at all today. I remembered all the poses and didn’t get rattled when the teachers stopped by to make suggestions. It’s certainly been an adjustment for me, moving from a home practice to a Shala, but I’ve come to love the sound of a teacher’s voice floating across the room: “Kai, blah-blah-blah...driste....blah-blah...big breath!”

Given the sad, crazy couple of weeks I’ve had, it’s nice to know that someone cares, even if it’s only to tell me to look at my nose. Or to breath.


(Princess Fur likes to do this a LOT!)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Astanga

I just received an email from my mother about the earthquake. It was her first Big Earthquake experience and I think she’s very excited about it. She was on a patio when it hit. The ground started moving, the awning overhead was waving around. She says it was immediately obvious who the Californians were because THEY got up and moved away from the building! An earthquake newbie, she stayed put and watched it all play out. When it stopped, everyone applauded (“Hooray! Nicely done, Mother Earth! Encore!”...there were aftershocks a short time later)

My neck is feeling better today! I was a bit worried about my hockey game last night, but my neck actually felt better after I played. I guess all that head swivelling and craning to see where the puck went was good for stretching things out. I massaged, heat-rubbed, and took muscle relaxants last night. I’m almost pain-free today. I’m thinking I’d like to stay pain free for the rest of the week since Kino arrives on the weekend. On Monday, I can start Chakrasana-ing again and see if I can manage it without straining my neck.

Due to my late night at hockey, I decided to sleep in and come to the Shala a little bit later than usual. The last possible start time is at 9:15, so there’s a lot of wiggle room. I’m a bit like ‘Goldilocks’ right now, trying to find a start time that’s ‘just right’.

An ealry, 6:15, start is less hot and not as crowded. Later start times have the benefit of not requiring a 5 a.m. alarm *flinch*. There’s more of a sense of community in the Shala when there are actually *people* there. I’m starting to learn names - it’s fun!

Today, I started at 8 a.m. It was hot and crowded, but not unbearably so. There was always space for new arrivals to lay their mats. I liked it. I might try a 7 a.m. start tomorrow.

I had a very, very flaky practice this morning. I never actually forgot any poses, but that’s only because Teacher P was keeping an eagle eye on me. Teacher R was around during the first part of my practice and she offered advice and guidance for my standing poses. I’m really beginning to fine-tune the flow of the standing poses. She stopped me in Parivritta Parsvakonasana and gave me some advice for deepening the posture.

I’m finding that this level of heat is a better test of my new headband and yes, it definitely works as advertised. I was sweating a lot this morning and the Halo keeps the sweat from streaming into my eyes.

I really can’t believe how much I sweat! Teacher P assures me that this is completely normal but I feel like some kind of Sweat Mutant Freak. I’ve noticed that I’m not the first woman at the Shala to come up with the bike-shorts-sports-bra-tank-top combination. It really works for me. I can’t imagine wearing long yoga pants during my practice. I’d boil! And they would get heavy from all that sweat.

According to this, I could do it in my formal wear:

(Nice suit, but the dude needs an adjustment)