Monday, May 31, 2010

Astanga

I had a completely boring, uneventful practice today. It was absolutely terrific!

The Shala was quiet. P was on duty today. I received the usual adjustments in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana and Prasarita Padottanasana C, plus a nice bonus assist in Supta Padangushtasana (one of my favourite adjustments because it opens up my inner hamstrings so nicely).

Bhujapidasana:

I think I’m finally getting the hang of the chin-to-the-floor thing. I thought I wasn’t lifting my feet high enough, but I had a look at both Yoga Mala and Maele and noted that the feet don’t need to be *that* far off the floor. I think the next focus for me is jumping into it. R had me moving in that direction by jumping my feet to the floor outside my hands. I was playing around with this a bit before teaching a class today and it’s not easy! I find the jump into Bakasana far easier, I’m not sure why.

I ran across this blog post through a Google search and it has some helpful tips for the jump. Choice quote: “The trick is not losing your mind after you jump” Well, I’m just *terrific* at not losing my mind these days! This will be a cinch for me. :-D Maybe I’ll poke around online for some YouTube clips, find a Yogic Muse to inspire me. I’m having fun with this part of my practice!

Backbends:

I tried to sneak in a little itsy bitsy preparation pose today (the one where I lift up through my hips, grab my heels and deepen my Ujjayi before coming into Urdhva Dhanurasana) but I totally got *busted*! P saw me doing it from across the room and issued a cease-and-desist order!

So I did my three warm-up backbends, focusing on Ujjayi...took a brief rest...did two more, walking my hands in to deepen the backbend...rest. Then I did three more backbends with a rest in between each to work on rocking.

I didn’t walk my hands in quite as far today. I tried to keep my legs straight-er and push up and forward through my hips. My inhalation is never long enough, so I worked on deeper breathing. During my second rocking attempt, I noticed that I was lifting my head, so I worked on keeping the back of my head moving toward the front of my mat. Oh yeah, and Nasagrai. Why, why, why do I want to look around during these backbends? There’s nothing to see!!!

Maybe I’m subconsciously planning my escape route! ;-)

At one point, P stood beside my mat and said something very kind. I can’t remember what is was exactly (I was busy!), but something along the lines of ‘keep breathing, no fear, this will come when the body is ready’. Well-timed, gentle encouragement and I really appreciated it.

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My CrazyPants Week scared off the poor 70s Ladies! When I went to fetch them for a photograph, they were all hiding under the table in the formal dining room, nervously clutching their Persian Yoga Rugs tight to their bosoms.

But I managed to flush them out with some dainty tea biscuits.

Meet Beehive Lady.

She wants you to know that Eagle Pose isn’t correctly aligned unless your hair is higher than your hands. I don’t know about you, but I need bigger hair!!!

My crown chakra is feeling all tingly...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Astanga

For those of you just tuning in, it’s ‘Nervous Breakdown Week’ here at The Reluctant Ashtangi. And the fun continues!

First, the good news: The melatonin worked and I managed to go to sleep early-ish (with only minor difficulty), then slept deeply the entire night. I woke up at 6 a.m., feeling pretty good. I’ll continue taking the melatonin this week and report back on how it works for me.

Next, the weird news: On the way to the Shala, I had a panic attack that more-or-less continued throughout my practice. This is new - I almost *never* feel random anxiety. Simple pranayama usually calms me down in stressful situations (2-1 ratio breathing) so I kept a focus on my breath and decided to carry on. I thought the flow and focus of the Suryas would set me right and they *were* helpful. The standing poses were okay, if a bit surreal. Then I got to the seated poses and just tried to keep my attention on the vinyasa. I didn’t lose my shit until after Kurmasana and I was still okay, just a bit overwhelmed and spacey (R had remind me of a couple vinyasas).

Yesterday, I mentioned deepening the half-lotus in my Marichyasana B and D in order to protect my ankle. Today, I tried that deeper half-lotus across my entire practice and it was great! I found a deeper forward fold in both Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana and Ardha Baddha Padma Padottanasana. And yes, Marichyasana B and D were much better! I had an easier wrist bind in D, though it was a bit tight on one side. I think my rotation was better in that pose too. And my lotus knee was able to move closer to the floor.

I repeated Bhujapidasana three times because I kept screwing up the exit, but on my last try I managed an *almost* respectable Bakasana and jumpback. The exit after Kurmasana was even better. Holding the Bakasana for a second or two is a good strategy because my jumpback is smoother.

The lotus jumpback after Garba Pindasana wasn’t too shabby today! It’s coming along!

Backbending (6 total): I always expect the first three to feel terrible, but they were not so bad today. R wants to hear ‘bigger sound’ from my Ujjayi breathing in those first backbends. I was trying, but my breath felt and sounded jagged. After that, I did three more backbends, resting between each and I worked on the rocking.

My rocking is not good. R had some new suggestions for me. She wants me to work on pushing my hips forward, so they’re aligned over my ankles (rather than just pushing my knees forward, which is what I’m currently doing). She thinks it would be helpful for my legs to be straighter. I suggested that perhaps I shouldn’t walk my hands in quite as far, focusing instead on straightening my legs. I tried this and it felt like I was able to press the hips further forward.

Sometime this week, I’d like to film this at home, so I can see what she’s seeing. I think I could benefit from some extracurricular hip openers and shoulder openers this week. Those legs are not going to straighten if my hip flexors are tight!

I made it home okay and rested for a bit. My nerves felt so raw! Thank goodness for Rescue Remedy (it really works for me - I’ll make sure it’s in my Shala bag from now on). I teach private students in the afternoon and it was ‘good medicine’ to shift the focus from my self to others for a few hours. I feel much better now!

I’m going to be more mindful about taking my Calcium/Magnesium supplements in the future. I bought a good B-complex supplement and some Gaba, which came highly recommended for quick relief of anxiety (it seemed to work).

Boodi has me interested in gemstones now, so I picked up a few of those too - ones with nerve/emotion-balancing, calming qualities. My favourite is the ‘chrysacolla’, which is colourfully gorgeous if nothing else. I also got a ‘nuummite’ (‘sorcerers stone’; protects against negative energy), ‘infinite’ (healing energy, useful for mucles/joints) and ‘tourmaline’ (lucky stone, dispels negativity, enhances creativity).

My flake-o-metre is off the graph these days! My practice is giving me ‘the Crazy’ :-D

I hope the rest of this yoga week is blissfully boring!!!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Astanga

I’ve been struck with incredible insomnia this week, which is *not* normal for me.

I’m a good sleeper! I’m usually able to lay down and slumber within minutes. I can pretty much fall asleep anywhere. I used to sleep so deeply in Astronomy lectures during university that I would dream, vividly, Classmates would have to wake me when the lecture ended. I took naps in the university library regularly. While travelling through Europe, I slept in busy train stations, on the decks of ferries, in parks. The location didn’t matter - if I could be horizontal, I could sleep.

I like to sleep! :-) And I’m good at it!

But this week, all my normal sleeping patterns have shifted. Through much of the week, I was getting the bare minimum hours of rest each night (except for the night I took a pill, but that left me with a wicked pharmaceutical hangover, yuck). Every night, I’m struggling to fall asleep and I’ve been waking in the middle of the night.

My teachers want me to cook - well, it looks like I’m simmering! And my nervous system is having a Pitta Party! Wise Ashtangi friends have pointed out that backbending is the likely culprit. And I’m not even close to Second Series yet...argh.

I bought some sublingual melatonin on Boodi’s recommendation and I’ll try that tonight. To be honest, I’m so completely loopy exhausted right now, I doubt sleep will be an issue tonight.

Last night, I came home at the respectable hour of 10 p.m., but I didn’t even try to go to bed until midnight. Then I laid in my bed, glaring at the ceiling until almost 2 a.m. At 5 a.m. sharp, I was wide awake and ready to rumble! On three hours sleep! I could NOT sleep in, even though I desperately wanted to.

So I got up and practised. I had planned to do a home practice of Primary on the Moon Day, but I wasn’t motivated, so I did it today. I don’t always feel comfortable experimenting and futzing around with poses in the Shala. I wanted to work out a few things in Marichyasana B and D, play with Bakasana/Padmasana jumpbacks and work on my backbending.

I’ve been troubled by the placement of my ankle lately in Mari B/D. As much as I try to keep that joint straight, I know I’m over-stretching the ligaments on the outside of my ankle. Today, I tried a few different approaches with my half-lotus and repeated the pose a half-dozen times. I finally figured out that if I bring my foot *really* high into the hip crease and open the hip just a bit more, there’s less of an angle at the ankle joint.

This had a small impact on my Marichyasana B: I couldn’t go as deep into the forward fold (but that will come back in time). I was afraid I would lose the wrist bind completely in Marichyasana D. To my surprise, I found the wrist bind *easier* with the deeper half-lotus! Often, R has to nudge me into this bind, but I found my wrist easily today. This could be a fluke, though. I’ll know for sure when I repeat it in the Shala tomorrow.

The jumpback work was really fun! I’m starting to really get the hang of the lotus jumpback! I tried holding Bakasana for a few seconds to make the jumpback more solid. I’m still struggling to come into a hold-able Bakasana from Bhujapidasana and Supta K. My legs never end up high enough near my shoulders to make the proper transition into the arm balance.

Backbending: Three Urdhva Dhanurasana for warm-up, two for rocking, two more walking in the hands in, and three walking up the wall to standing. Ten, total. R doesn’t seem to want me to do more than that, so I stopped and did finishing poses.

Here’s this week’s State-of-the-backbend:

I had very low expectations since I had a bad week and the Moon Day, but I actually see some improvement! My arms could be straighter though.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Astanga

In the end, it was all very anti-climatic.

I woke up and very, very reluctantly got out of bed and ran my bath. I hugged Princess Fur good-bye and rode my bike slllllooooowly to the Shala, taking the long way because I wasn’t all too keen to get there. R and I arrived simultaneously and I kind of grumbled a ‘hello’ to her.

There was a brief moment when both teachers were in the waiting area, but P quickly disappeared into the Mysore room. I sat down heavily on the bench, leaned back and looked over at R. I took a deep breath and said quietly: “R, I don’t think I’m ready to stand up from a backbend yet.”

She nodded and said, “I know. It’s funny you brought it up! We were going to tell you today.”

So, we talked and I’m feeling much better about things. R really *does* understand my angst around this. Anyone who has practised Astanga for any length of time has a pose that initially had them flummoxed. I now have a clear sense of what I’m supposed to be working on in my backbending. I’ve shared my thoughts on where *I* think I should be skill-wise before trying to stand up. We’re in agreement on this (and P by proxy, because I’m certain they discussed this at length).

She says I need to ‘cook’ some more! So they’re putting me back on the stove! :-D

I’m delighted with this outcome because in the previous weeks, I was finally, *finally* beginning to enjoy Urdhva Dhanurasana. I want to get back into that headspace again, where I’m working the pose hard and learning to love it. I’m convinced that this is the only way my backbends are going to deepen: practice, practice, practice!

If I don’t develop this openness now, I’ll just hit a brick wall later on when I come to Kapotasana in the second series. I have a lot of work ahead of me before I’m ready for the deeper backbends.

I’m so relieved to have this whole thing sorted! I had a really nice practice today.

This week, I’ve been taking my chin to the floor in Bhujapidasana very reliably by myself, and lifting my feet up. I’m starting to feel less ‘squashed’ in the pose. And I’m even beginning to move more smoothly through the exit. Next week, I want to try and hold my Bakasana longer before the jumpback. I’ve been sort of doing a quick, half-hearted Bakasana but if I have to hold it, I’ll be forced to come into a more solid arm balance.

Lotus jumpbacks are coming along! This week, I started to focus more on just lifting my lotus and less on the ‘jumping back’ part (I’m still using the ‘Mayurasana cheat’ to get my lotus up, can’t do it without that leverage!) But once my lotus is lifted, the legs just want to go back! Today, I managed to take them back without collapsing my lotus to the floor first. That was a surprise!

Jumpbacks have reached a new level too. I’m now able to lift up and take my feet to the floor behind me with a tiny ‘touch down’ then lift back up and jump back. The next logical step is to eliminate that ‘touch’ and take them straight back. I’m trying!

I’m looking forward to the coming yoga week. I’m hoping it will be uneventful! I’ve had enough drama for a while.

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The weather is heating up here, so I finally gave Princess Fur a haircut and shaved her down to the skin. She looks great now - just like a show dog! But she’s never a happy camper under the clippers.

Here she is, sulking majestically. I had just given her a cute (and very temporary; it lasted all of two minutes) mohawk!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Vinyasa

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

~Epicurus

Over the past 24 hours-and-a-bit, my emotions and thoughts have meandered all over the map.

I really value the support, the wisdom and the encouragement in the comments. I don’t say it enough, but I appreciate all of you who read this. My blog started as more of a personal journal. I never thought anyone would pay much attention to a skeptics journey through Astanga, especially other Ashtanga practitioners. I never imagined how many dear friends I would find doing this. And I didn’t think I would ever come to love the practice this much.

But I do. And today I realised that my practice has been the glue holding me together over these past few months. I’ve gone through some major upheaval in my personal life, but I never felt shattered because there was always a chance to renew myself and feel whole again on my Manduka. Every morning. I need my practice.

Last night, I did something I rarely do: I took a sleeping aid so I could get some deep rest, 10 hours worth. In the morning, my head was clear and I felt better but I was on a rollercoaster. By lunchtime, I was feeling depressed and despairing again. In the late afternoon, I actually checked the price for drop-ins at Shala North. The thought of going to Shala Central in the morning made me desperately anxious.

After I taught my last class of the day, I unrolled my mat and did a cursory Moon Day practice, just the sun salutations and the standing poses to keep the joints lubricated. As I moved through them, I could literally recount every careful instruction, adjustment and vinyasa clarification that had shaped each pose. Even in the standing poses, not a single one has been untouched by my teachers. I may have come into their Shala with a nearly complete Primary Series, but thanks to them, I have an entirely different practice now than the one I arrived with; it’s immeasurably better.

I owe it to them to stick this out and find a compromise.

This is what I know:

- I’m *not* ready to stand up from a backbend yet. My Urdhva Dhanurasana isn’t deep enough and I haven’t yet developed the physical co-ordination necessary to come up by myself or even with determined assistance.

- I work very, VERY hard in my practice. I have a dedicated six-day practice and I literally *never* miss a day. I’m NOT a lazy student.

- I enjoy practising the Primary Series. My Primary is far from perfect - there’s lots of work to do! This could keep me busy for awhile. It’s not urgent that I move on to Intermediate Series right away.

- Many aspects of the practice come very naturally to me. Backbending isn’t one of them. If I’m going to learn to stand up and drop back, I need lots of help and guidance from my teachers.

- I don’t respond well to negative pressure and disapproval. I respond *very* well to patience and encouragement.

- I need to love my practice again. I need to find a way to trust my teachers again.

So here’s the plan: Tomorrow, I’m putting on my Big Girl Ashtangi Pants and going to the Shala, early. Hopefully, I’ll be able to talk to one or both teachers before I start my practice. I’ll request that my backbending be limited to Urdhva Dhanurasana from the floor for now (walking the hands in to develop a deeper backbend and rocking to prepare for standing up). As soon as I’m able to rock forward into my feet and lift my hands off the floor, I’ll be ready for some assistance in coming up to standing. But not before.

I don’t want to rush this because it’s really freaking me out.

I’ll stick it out at Shala Central until the end of June. If I’m still feeling weird about being there, I can explore my options: returning to a home practice (Not my first choice. Yes, Susan and Patrick, you were right: it’s far better to practise with authorised teachers) or making the epic schlep to Shala North (It’s a long commute, but I know people who travel further and longer to study with their teachers).

I’m in this thing for the long haul, I just need to figure out where and how.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Astanga

I’ve been sitting here for 15 minutes chewing on my bottom lip and poking at a random bruise on my knee. And I still don’t know what to write.

When I got home from practice this morning, I unrolled a mat and did a few Urdhva Dhanurasana on my own, did some rocking too and I could *feel* how far away I am from standing up on my own. I’m not even close. I’m miles away. I’m not ready.

I’m afraid that I’m going to hurt myself, or hurt one of my teachers trying to stand up. P said as much this morning, after lecturing me about not working hard enough to come up. He refused to assist me a third time, explaining that he has to protect his own practice and his back. To be honest, I was relieved because I agree with him so completely.

Somebody needs to send me back to Urdhva Dhanurasana Kindergarten.

I feel so defeated. I was laying on the floor when Princess Fur came in from her sunbath. She wrapped one furry foreleg over me, then laid her head across my chest. I wasn’t even crying or anything.

I just feel numb.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Astanga

ARRRRRRRRGH.

Okay, first the good news. I seem to be on the right track with the rocking and lifting the heels of my hands. That’s *precisely* what R asked me to work on this morning. In fact, after I finished my three ‘Monkey-ass-warm-up’ backbends, she left me alone with my rocking for another two backbends. I almost started to hope that there might not be any standing up, but of course there was. When R walked over and stood at the top of my mat, I knew that it was showtime. *gulp*

I read all of your comments very carefully. And thank you, by the way - I love you all! The encouragement means so much to me right now because I’m SO discouraged. Susan, your advice about ‘unfurling’ the spine is spot on. And Helen, your words - ‘do not think about coming up, think about coming forward and up will happen’ - particularly resonated with me. At the moment, ‘standing up’ seems impossible, but ‘coming forward’ might actually be doable.

So here’s the score this morning:

Round #1: It wasn’t great. I came up fairly smoothly, but then pitched forward, coming perilously close to a ‘squash-the-teacher’ scenario. However, I *did* keep my head back this time. I think I just forgot to straighten my legs and stand UP at the end! Oops.

Round #2: Better! I kept my head back, I rocked my hips forward. I was even breathing deeply. I tried to stay relaxed. I rocked forward. R helped me stand up, but I didn’t feel like she was *lifting* me up this time (though she probably was; it’s a fine line).

Given the choice, I would have stopped at #2. I was exhausted. But R look pointedly at my mat, so off I went.

Round #3: Horrible, horrible, horrible! For some reason, I rocked forward on the first two breaths, then completely fell apart by the third. R had to haul me up like a sack of potatoes. The look of exasperation on her face was so tangible, you could have scooped it up and put it in box.

*sigh* Stop thinking! Stop thinking! Just DO!

I wish my stupid brain had an ‘off’ switch. Actually I wish I could take the entire thing out of my skull and lay it carefully aside during the backbends so I wouldn’t THINK so damned much.

Afterward, I did Paschimottanasana and R squished me and I shook like a leaf. I did my finishing poses and laid as still as possible during Savasana so no one would notice me weeping. Then I wiped my eyes, gathered up my mat and stumbled off to start another day.

And tomorrow? Never fear! I’ll be dragging my fragile ass down to the Shala and doing the whole thing all over again. It’s kind of like Groundhog Day, but with tears, backbending angst and personal drama! Stay tuned...


Monday, May 24, 2010

Astanga

I had a terrible practice this morning.

The Shala was HOT. As I stepped on my mat and started chanting the invocation, big blobs of sweat were already running down my face (that’s never a good sign!). My shirt was soaked before I even finished the standing poses and it was all downhill from there. I like heat and I usually handle heat well but today was NOT one of those days. I felt off-kilter and my pace was slowing to a crawl. I was stalling, futzing around between poses, mopping my face with a towel. I rarely do that stuff anymore - it was weird and discouraging.

I *knew* I was being a big baby, but I couldn’t seem to stop.

I think I was really just dreading backbends. I didn’t mind the first four because Urdhva Dhanurasana is something I *can* do. Lift from the floor, walk hands in, rock 5 times? No problem. But standing up is so FOREIGN to me, completely awkward and I just don’t know what I’m supposed to DO with my body.

It’s all fine and good that R is able to bring me up (and I’ve stopped worrying about injuring her through my own incompetence; the woman is strong like an ox) but I don’t feel like I’m *participating* in standing up. I don’t know HOW to participate. It’s maddening! I *should* be able to do this (I’m strong! My backbend is deep enough). I’m just stumped.

R implored me to breath. Hm, yes, good point! I really *was* trying, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I was holding my breath out of a simple freak-out reflex.

With help, I stood up three times, very, very badly. R looked disappointed and exasperated with me. I was exhausted and shaking like a leaf, with rubbery legs. During the post-backbend Paschimottanasana squish I was shaking so hard that R actually commented on it.

I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. Instead, I did my finishing poses, then wrapped a towel around my head so no one would see me crying in Savasana.

Oh my, the DRAMA!!! *sheepish grin*

Today is a holiday here, but my classes were still running. I rode my bicycle into the city centre and it felt so good to feel the sun on my face and the wind on my damp clothing (which had dried by the time I arrived at the gym). The ride lifted my spirits. I took a quick shower, picked up a protein bar at the variety down the street and found my second wind. I did some core work, then set up in a quiet corner to do my spiderman routine against the wall.

I worked on rocking, keeping my head down (something R had mentioned in this morning’s critique). I walked up the wall three times. At the halfway point on the wall, I kept rocking, inhaling to stand up. I noticed that when I really get going with the rocking, the heels of my hands lift off the floor. I think this is a *good* thing! I remember DR mentioning it in the backbending workshop I attended last month. It means that there’s a weight transfer happening, moving weight into the feet. This seems like it would be essential.

Maybe that’s what I need to focus on when R is working with me? Keep my gaze down, and try to push the hips forward so the heels of my hands lift?

As always, advice, comments, tips are welcome. (Grimmly, I have no idea how you learned to do this on your own, but I’m filled with admiration)

Here’s the best part: Tomorrow, I’ll schlep down to the Shala and do it all over again. I don’t want to, but I will. I’m stubborn that way. Practice and all is coming. Even when it’s not.

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I didn’t forget the 70s yoga ladies this week!

Everyone has their off days! Today, one of our ladies demonstrates the starting position of a ‘Special Series for Women’:

It’s called it the Anguished Faceplant. I’m doing it right now!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Astanga

We’re having our first summer holiday weekend here in the Great White North and I really do feel like I’m on a bit of a vacation because my teaching schedule is very, very light next week. I have big plans to study the Yoga Sutra chants that I learned in yesterday’s workshop, read the stack of books that has been collecting dust on my desk, clip Princess Fur (who is VERY furry at the moment) and hang out in the sun in my new bikini! Fun times :-)

Practice was scheduled for a late start today (9 a.m.), but my body decided that it needed to wake up early anyway. In fact, my body wanted to get up at 4:45! I wonder if this is the backbend-induced insomnia that some of you have warned me about? The surprising thing is, I’m not even tired!

I decided to ride my bike down to the Shala this morning and time the trip: it’s 15 minutes, 10 if I’m moving at a good clip. Short of living on the sidewalk right outside the Shala doors, this is as good as it gets! Public transit takes almost a half-hour so I’m definitely saving some time.

I had a fabulous practice! My body was very open this morning. It was hot and very soggy in the Shala, sweat was dripping off the end of my nose! Kind of weird to be there so late in the morning - I’ve grown accustomed to an early practice.

I wore a new yoga bra and shorts that I bought on my epic yoga shopping spree on Friday. I bought these at Lu (very easy shopping and it’s amazing how the money just FLIES out of my wallet in that store!). I found two yoga towels on sale for $25 each at Winners and also scored a bikini, 50% off at the Bay. A good haul, and I’m set for awhile.

I’m not sure if I absolutely love the YogiToes towels. They’re not quite large enough for my Manduka. I’m used to tucking my towel under the two ends of my mat. Not possible with this one so it was bunching up a lot. It’s also not as smooth as the eQua, so my feet kept catching on it during jumpthroughs. R wants my hands closer together for jumpbacks too, which makes it worse. Seen from a different perspective, I guess it’s a good feedback mechanism: I have to stop dragging my feet as I bring them through *sometime*, it might as well be now.

R brought my hands to the floor again in Prasarita Padottanasana C. I spent a good 5 breaths trying to figure this out how to get them there on my own before she wandered over. I wonder how close I am without the adjustment? Once the teachers help me do something, I’m always trying to figure out how to manage it on my own. I’m not sure about this one!

I got put my chin on the floor in Bhujapidasana without help today. The next puzzle is how to lift up my hips and get my feet *off* the floor again. I’m pretty sure it has something to do with squeezing the legs into the shoulders (Gosh, maybe THAT’S why it’s called the ‘squeeze the shoulder pose’! Duh.). Oh, and bandhas, bandhas, bandhas!

P gave me a little bit of help in Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana. He simply stood behind me so if I *did* fall back, I would bump his shin. He instructed me to straighten my legs and bring my forehead forward onto my shins. Strong arms! It worked - I was able to balance. My hamstrings are very open, so I *should* be able to do this pose easily. I think this one is just practice!

And the backbends. Ah, yes! I had plenty of time to work on them this morning and I was all set to do my epic backbending thing, but that’s not quite how things unfolded.

R was standing by as I did my first three.

#1 The Money-ass backbend. Doesn’t feel good at all, so I press into my heels, keep my legs engaged and breath deeply.

#2 Slightly less uncomfortable, so I walk my hands in just a bit.

#3 Finally, things start opening up! I walk my hands in a bit more. Breath deeply. R doesn’t make a peep, so I must be breathing deeply enough.

come down....rest...breath

#4 R asked me to rock, *really* rock and my heels were coming off the floor, so I came back down after five rocks and asked her about that. She said it was fine and my heels would probably need to come off the floor in order for me to stand up at first.

Next, I was all ready to do two backbends in a row, with the rocking, but R had other ideas. She told me to rock three times and she would help me stand up!

To be honest, my first reaction was: Yeah, fat chance! There was definitely some uncertainty, and a bit of fear. And I was genuinely worried that I would somehow hurt my teacher, by knocking her over or something. At times like these, I always feel like a 12-foot-tall, 500lb sack of beans with legs and no bandhas. When R said “Three” and brought me up, I felt a little prayer flash through my mind: “Dear God, please don’t let me squash my teacher!”

I didn’t, and I stood up! It wasn’t pretty and R did most of the work, but I did stand up! Very disorienting! R told me to sit down for a forward fold and I was surprised because that was only backbend #5. Then she changed her mind and asked me to have another go at it. I was happy to comply because I really wanted to try again! This time, it was a bit better and I was trying to figure out how to be more solid on my feet when I came up. She advised me to straighten my legs once I was on my way up. I applied that tip and the third time was much, much better.

She mentioned something about adding dropbacks, once I get accustomed to standing up with assistance.

At home, I did my Spiderman routine against the wall, focusing entirely on standing up. I started my backbends on the floor, as close to the wall as possible and walked my hands in, then rocked and finally walked my hands half-way up the wall and came up. I did this three times and the final time, I felt something ‘click’ in my brain, like I was finally understanding it.

I’m not even a smidgen close to standing up on my own yet, but I’m starting to understand how it might be possible.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Jivamukti

Lazy, lazy, lazy! On Saturdays, I try to sleep in (I made it till 7:30 a.m. this morning!), then I invite the dog up to the bed for cuddles and I doze for a while. The next two days will be nice because even though I need to go to the Shala, practice doesn’t start until 9 a.m. (Monday is a holiday here). I’ll be able to sleep in a bit on those days! Like I said: LAZY! :-D

I did 30 minutes of Jivamukti this morning. That DVD is really growing on me and I haven’t even done the entire thing yet. I usually use the first 35 minutes, then segue off into my own backbending practice and finishing poses. I prefer David Life’s voice-over to Sharon Gannon’s. He’s more down-to-earth and I absolutely love the way he cue every. single. inhale. and. exhale. It’s like being led through a practice by the hand...almost coaxed along. On Saturdays when I’m feeling beat, I don’t want to work too hard and it’s nice to be pampered along with a clear led sequence.

Backbending was okay, but I wasn’t feeling very open. I miss the heat of the Shala when I’m practising at home. I did three backbends with the DVD, two on my own with hands walking in, another two with rocking and one more set for posterity.

Here’s Backbend #9:

I’m more-or-less in the same ‘place’ I was last week, in terms of the depth of the backbend but my shoulders are a bit more open because I was doing some shoulder opening exercises between rounds of backbends. I haven’t done my spiderman routine since Thursday and I need to get back to it in order to build strength and muscle memory. I’ll add that back in tomorrow.

I’m having a terrific day! In a few minutes, I’m off to a Yoga Sutras chanting workshop. No plans for the evening, so I’m going to rest, relax, play my guitar and read a good book. Maybe get some extra sleep.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Astanga

The pinkies have landed! My hands finally came to the floor today in Prasarita Padottanasana C!

When R walked over to adjust me, I thought for a moment that my stance was too wide, but I decided not to worry about it. I just tucked my head a bit more and focused on relaxing my shoulders with each exhalation. I could feel the cooler current of air running along the floorboards against my arms and I thought: “Yay!” And R said “half an inch!” so I released the last little bit and voila!

That was a weird feeling!

I had a great practice, but it almost started an hour later than I wanted it to. I must have been in one heck of a fog this morning as I was leaving because I put my jeans on without putting my yoga shorts on first! The funny thing is, I have a clear memory of putting on those shorts, but it must have been yesterday’s memory (the days all run together) because when I got to the Shala and started to unzip my jeans, I realised that I was in my underwear! (lucky I remembered to put the jeans on, eh?)

I was all ready to turn around and go home to get my yoga shorts, and then come back to practice. Fridays are my day off, so it wasn’t too big of a deal. But R pulled extra shorts out of her bag and offered them to me. R is a tiny woman! I wasn’t sure her shorts would fit me, but they did. R also has the prettiest drop-backs I’ve ever seen and stands up from a backbend easily, so I wondered if maybe some backbending juju would seep into my practice from the borrowed shorts, but no such luck! I’m still the remedial backbender of the Shala. Oh well! *grin*

But this was a good wake-up call. I’m heading over to Lu this afternoon to buy new shorts and bras. A set of my old ones can stay in my bag as backup. I already have backup headbands in there (and have used them). I’ve lost enough weight that my old stuff is a little bit roomy. Besides, I haven’t bought new practice clothes in *cringe* almost three years. They’ve held up well! I’m also going to stop in a the big discount store and see if I can find a couple more yoga towels on sale. I would love to have three of them. I get sick of handwashing my eQua. This way, I can use a towel twice and throw it in the laundry - three will last me for a 6-day practice week.

I wimped out again in Bhujapidasana today, but R kept encouraging me, so I lifted up a bit and brought my hips back, got my chin on the floor. The most effective cue was to squeeze my legs into my arms and engage my Bandhas. I even managed a very sloppy, but somewhat intact exit. My Bakasana jump-backs are starting to coalesce into something that looks more jump-backy and less like a listless belly-flop!

The biggest thing I’ve learned this week is that the first three Urdhva Dhanurasana always feel like monkey-ass (to quote Patrick), so I shouldn’t expect otherwise, or let that discourage me. I always seem to be ready to walk my hands in by #4 (and the monkey-ass feeling dissipates by then). This morning, I did 1-3 as a warm-up, then did 4-6 walking in the hands and rocking. I combined 7 and 8, rocking in each and on the last few rocks of #8, the heels of my hands were lifting off the floor! Straight arms! Straight arms!

I was excited about that, so I tried for 9. I walked my hands in two floor and collapsed onto my head, giggling. R saw me from across the room and said “Not THAT far in!!!” A ha! So it *is* possible to walk my hands in too far! At least I’m pushing the edge! :-D

I went for #10, trying to follow R’s cues to take long inhalations and use the momentum of the rock to push my hips forward. I know she was thinking of my headache issues and trying to get me to breath more deeply throughout. After I came down, R said ‘That’s enough’ and I went on to finishing.

Tomorrow, I’m looking forward to doing a shorter practice at home in the morning and more backbending. I might even take some backbending photos - with another costume change so Arturo will ‘notice something different!’.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Astanga

Today practice was okay, but nothing spectacular. I felt really low energy throughout the whole thing. Thursdays are a tough day for me in general. I’m nearing the end of a string of four-class-teaching-days. I get home late, so I don’t get as much sleep midweek. Nothing felt very deep and by the time I got to the Marichyasanas, I was already dragging.

I didn’t even try to get my chin on the floor in Bhujapidasana today. P was on duty and gave me a sharp look as I moved right on to Kurmasana, but I wasn’t about to repeat the pose. I was not willing to flirt with a face-plant today. I just wasn’t in the mood.

I did push myself harder during the backbends. Today, 1-3 were for warmup, walked my hands in on 4 and 5, rocked on 6. Came down, then went up for two more, rocking in 7 and 8. Hands remained stubbornly on the floor. I worked hard to keep my arms straight, though.

The 70s Yoga Ladies have a fan base! I forgot to post their weekly photo on Monday and the omission did not go unnoticed!

So here is the next instalment of the ‘close encounters’ journey. In this photo, the Junior Leaguers have greeted the aliens and have donned their magic yogic rocket packs in order to rendezvous with the alien spacecraft.


TO INFINITY AND BEYOND!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Astanga

I had a good practice today! R was on duty and I had a very productive practice

Wednesdays are jampacked busy and I want to have time to go outside and lay in the sun for awhile after lunch. It’s beautiful out here, but it’s supposed to rain on the weekened (boo! hiss!). So here’s a quick rundown of today’s highlights:

- My shoulder needs to be further outside of my knee in Parivritta Parsvakonasana. I can get some leverage that way and a deeper rotation
- Prasarita Padottansana C: Easier today and when I came up, R held her fingers about 4 centimetres apart (less than 2 inches!) to indicate the distance of my hands from the floor. My jaw dropped. Wow!
- Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana has been really deep lately. I’m really bringing my leg up high and when I touch chin to shin at the end, I don’t have to come down very far to find my leg because it’s already WAY up there. R is a small person - once my leg is up, she reaches under my heel and kind of hoists my legs skyward. This must be hard work for her and I appreciate the time she takes to work with me on this pose.
-Marichyasana D: The wrist bind is back. R walked over and gave me a little nudge to help me get the wrist. On the second side, I think I could have worked into it on my own with a little time.
-Bhujapidasana: With R’s help, I was able to get my chin to the floor and come up. She supported my hips. I think a fair bit of my angst about this pose is psychological. Her presence gave me confidence to try it.
-Lotus jumpbacks: When first working on this transition, a little ‘cheat’ is allowed. I can angle my hands out a bit and rest my belly on my arms (a la Mayurasana, but with the fingers pointed more-or-less forward). This provides some leverage to lift the hips. I’m still struggling to release my legs from the lotus. I kept Patrick’s advice in mind: “pull the knees apart”. I had no real progress on this today, but I’m starting to understand some of the mechanics of it.

I guess I can stop calling my backbends ‘epic’ because 8 backbends seems to be the ‘new normal’ these days. My instincts were correct about how I’m supposed to work these. The first three warm up the body and the next two are for walking the hands in. Eventually, R would like me to add #6 on after #4 and #5 (without a break) and rock. Maybe I’ll try that tomorrow if my legs don’t give out.

I asked R about walking my hands in too far and feeling like my arms were not able to straighten for rocking. She told me that I *can* straighten them and I should try to walk in as far as possible before rocking. She explained that it’s supposed to be absurdly difficult. Eventually I’ll get stronger and it will get easier.

Sheesh! Why does this have to be such hard work! :-D

I also asked her about the headaches. She says that I’m not breathing enough - deeper, longer inhales. I’ll try this. I have low blood pressure too, though it’s been less of a problem lately (the dizzy spells have become less frequent after I added more salt to my diet).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Astanga

Two additional notes from yesterday:

-Marichyasana D adjustment: By the time I started attending the Shala, I already had a wrist bind in the first three Marichyasana poses and a solid finger bind in D. So I never received an adjustment in those poses (and I’ve always been a bit envious of those who did). A few weeks back, I even had the wrist bind in D, but lost it again. Yesterday, R sat down in front of me and gave me a genuine Marichyasana adjustment! She helped me move deep enough to bind to my wrist in D. It didn’t take a lot to get me there - just a firm nudge. But it was really fun! :-)

-Flash headache: I’m hoping one of the veteran backbenders can tell me what this is all about - after backbending yesterday, I got an intense, pounding headache behind my right eye that lasted all the way through the finishing poses. It was most intense when I was sitting up or standing. I didn’t notice it in Sarvangasana or Sirsasana but it was almost unbearable during Padmasana. I thought it might be dyhydration, so I grabbed a glass of water before Savasana. It was still there as I left the Shala, but by the time I got to the subway, it was already fading, gone by the time I got home.

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I had a good, solid practice this morning. I was more plugged into my breath, moved through the series at a moderate pace. Teacher P was on duty, so there was less verbal observation, more quiet observation. Teacher P is cool because he just lets me do stuff, watches me fall on my face, and *then* he comes over and tells me WHY I’m falling on my face.

Case in point: Bhujapidasana. I decided to take a shot at lowering my chin down to the floor by myself. Usually I just lower to my forehead, but I have pretty good control. Previously, I’ve only had my chin on the floor while R was holding on to my hips. And only did it because she told me to do it. Today, I thought I would be proactive!

Round 1: I came into the pose the regular way, then lifted my head up a bit and jutted out my chin. Fell over.
Round 2: I carefully lowered my chin to the floor, but my feet and my hips came down too. So I was kind of crouched on the floor. This is NOT Bhujapidasana. I invented a brand new pose! Then I fell over.
Round 3: P explained that I needed to shift my weight forward more, into my hands. I tried this, ended up falling forward and crash-landing onto the side of my head (but NOT my face, thank goodness not my face!).

I laughed. P instructed me to “Do Kurmasana.” Oh well!

I tried a wider stance in in Utthita Parvakonasana today because R was fussing over my alignment in that pose yesterday. I think it’s better now. She wants me to bend my knee more, rotate the torso upward.

I lost my bind in Supta Kurmasana. I need to make sure that my shoulders are well under my knees before I come into that pose (I think I was still freaked out from Bhujapidasana).

A few weeks ago, Arkie Yogini posted this clip of Kino MacGregor’s workshop, discussing strategies for the Lotus jumpback.

I didn’t bother to watch it because I thought Pigs Would Fly before I would ever be doing a lotus jumpback. Since Pigs Were Given Clearance for Takeoff yesterday, I figured I’d better study up! It’s a great resource for regular jumpbacks as well as for the lotus variety. In addition, Patrick posted some awesome tips for jumping back in the comment section yesterday.

I’ve been thinking about what my torso is doing during jumpbacks. In addition to Kino, I watched a variety of lotus jumpback video clips yesterday. One common thing I noticed was the way the knees are always pulled in toward the chest while the entire torso kind of rotates on an axis: the head tips down while the rear lifts up (DR emphasized this in his workshop too!).

The torso tips, kind of like a teeter totter. The Bandhas are at work here, but it looks like gravity is helping out a fair bit.

During one of my regular jumpbacks, I hugged my knees close to my chest and imagined that I was trying to bash my forehead into the floor, forcefully. I know, I know, it’ s a terrible mental image (and “Don’t think, do!”), but you know what? It TOTALLY worked!! I jumped back! Once. And I couldn’t replicate it. Oh well! Baby steps...

My lotus jumpbacks were a happy chaos of experimentation and flopping around. No one was verbally walking me through them, so I kind of winged it on my own, with mixed results. I’m learning all of the various ways one *shouldn’t* do a lotus jumpback.

Backbending was, once again, epic. I think R must have updated P because he left me entirely alone during the first three backbends, observed #4 and #5 (and grunted ‘good’ at one point), gave more detailed feedback on #6, #7 and #8. Today, I learnt that although walking my hands in is good, it’s *not* so good if I can’t keep my arms straight while rocking. For #8, I walked the hands in a bit less, and managed about 7 good rocks, with straight arms, before I was spent.

At home, I did my spiderman routine down and up the wall and this time, I filmed it! I was horrified to observe that all of that new depth in my backbends goes straight out the window as soon as I try to drop back. And my heels shoot up as I walk my hands down or up the wall. I consoled myself: It’s not pretty, but at least I’m building strength.

And I know I’m building strength because my arms are sore, my legs are sore and my abs are sore. It’s kind of interesting to observe that ‘being sore’ has become somewhat of a goal in my practice. If I’m sore, I know that I’m working hard and building my practice.

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One final note: It’s been a year since Guruji’s passing. I couldn’t let the day pass without expressing deep gratitude for his life’s work and this practice he’s given us. I never met him, but he’s made a profound impact on my life all the same. I’m reminded of this every day, each time I step on the mat. It’s an amazing legacy, if you think about it: all around the world, there are people doing this practice each day, becoming stronger in body and mind, because of the work of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.

Rest in peace, Guruji.

Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois
July 26, 1915 - May 18, 2009

Monday, May 17, 2010

Astanga

I’m going to continue with the earlier start time this week and see how it works for me. I’m starting my practice around 6:30. The Shala is a bit quieter as I begin, which I kind of like.

This morning, I was the first person in the door! My attention was pretty scattered throughout my practice and I had a really tough time connecting with my Ujjayi breath, I had to keep reminding myself to breath! It was slow, pokey practice from the get-go, so I took my time in the poses, futzing around to get deeper or find better alignment.

Teacher R was on duty today, so there was lots of verbal feedback and alignment fixes. She was a bit gentler with the adjustment in Prasarita Padottanasana C and I exerted myself to relax (I love the way that sentence came out! *grin*). When I came up, she held her hands apart about 15 centimetres (6 inches) and said, “You’re this close to the floor!” That’s pretty incredible! I definitely wouldn’t be that close without the adjustments.

The week before last, R paused me in Bhujapidasana, came over and pulled my hips back and instructed me to put my chin on the floor. She hasn’t helped me with it since, but today I got that adjustment again. I guess the hips angle back to control the decent of the chin (and avoid the dreaded face-plant-ouch). I’m not close to doing this on my own, but it’s useful to observe how it feels and where I need muscle engagement to support it (Bandhas, legs). Today, I was able to keep my feet off the floor while the chin was down!

The exit from Bhujapidasana was a true comedic moment. I kind of flopped over to one side, all of my limbs tangled up like spaghetti and then I made this noise that sounded like: OOF! I detangled, found a Bakasana and jumped back, still giggling!

‘Kurmasana Boot Camp’! R didn’t give an adjustment for this pose, she just stood there watching, making sure that my heels (which haven’t been off the floor in about a week, to be honest), lifted and stayed up for five breaths. This was hard work for my legs, but my arms were *really* uncomfortable. They felt sqooshed! Clearly, my chest needs to sink deeper to the floor and the legs need to be positioned properly (back of knees over arms) for this to work.

Garba Pindasana has been much better since P and I had our little chat about the rolls last week. This is a pose that has seen steady improvement since I started attending the Shala, but I haven’t mentioned it much. Two months ago, I could get my arms through my legs, but that was about it. I’m now able to get my arms all the way through and curl into the pose, hands on ears and hold for five breaths. I had to re-learn the roll because I was rolling the wrong direction! (yeah, I know, it IS pretty funny, isn’t it?). Once I got that going, I started working on the breath and smoother rolls. For the past week, I’ve been able to roll while curled with my hands on my head, breathing correctly and coming up into Kukutasana smoothly.

Today, R stopped me as I was pulling my arms out of Kukutasana, instructed me to keep my legs in lotus and walked me through a lotus jumpback. Hilarity ensued. I didn’t really lift as much as scootch my knees backward. I ended up stuck, on my belly, legs still in full lotus, trying to untangle myself to get into Chaturanga. Lucky me! There was another opportunity after Uth Pluthi. Again, she walked me through it verbally - I don’t think there’s much she can do to help me physically. This is something I just have to figure out on my own.

Backbending was epic today...it went on and on. After three backbends, I was just starting to warm up. The next two were good, but my feet were not wide enough. I decided to do another one, walked my hands in until the heels popped up, then pressed the feet down firmly (that was #6). I rested and decided to do another, walking my hands in even more. R saw me come up and instructed me to rock, exhaling my chest back, inhaling my hips forward. I managed about 4 breaths and came down (that was #7). I was wondering if I should try another when I heard her say “One more” so up I went! I walked my hands in, and this time rocked for the full five breaths, keeping my heels planted on the floor (for some reason, they were lifting in #7).

And that was enough! I finished my practice with one Space Cadet moment - I skipped Pindasana and had to backtrack. I took a long Savasana for my almost-two-hour practice. Sheesh!

So that sets the tone for the week. There will be a lot of backbending! Today, I discovered that there’s really no ‘upper limit’ on the number of backbends I'm allowed to do. So I’m going to work them until I’m too tired to continue. This will mean longer practices for a while, but it’s the best way to build the strength and openness I need (I’m discovering that these two things are intricately interwoven).

Back at home, I did my spiderman-down-and-up-the-wall routine - three times. I was really feeling it in the legs coming up. Not as smooth as yesterday, but I was pretty tired!

Homework: Watch videos of jumping back with full lotus.
First challenge: How to get my legs un-stuck in order to do that!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Jivamukti

Last night was loads of fun. 5 pubs in 6 hours, dancing, and lots of walking around the city giving candy to strangers and being flamboyantly fabulous. The evening concluded in a spectacularly Canadian fashion, with some late nite poutine at a little hole-in-the-wall place. It was pretty good too, though a bit salty for my taste.


For those keeping score: I had one caesar early in the evening, then cut myself off for all the walking around. I drank a Seagram’s Ice at Pub #4 and that just did me in. I was a giggling mess after that and, predictably, hung over this morning. I did a terrific job of sleeping past 6 a.m., though. I was still sound asleep at 9:30 when the evil landlords decided to do a spontaneous fire alarm check. Seriously?! On a Sunday morning?! I couldn’t get back to sleep after that, so I got up.

As for the hangover, it stalked me off and on all day, but apparently Espom salt and EmergenC are as effective for alcoholic hangovers as they are for Astanga hangovers. Good to know!

It was such a beautiful day! I spent a few hours in the park, getting some vitamin D. With the weather this nice, there’s no reason not to ride my bike. I rode to my class in the west end and this literally cut my commute time by three quarters!

I delayed my practice until the evening, hoping I would be feeling a bit better by then, but I got a terrible headache through much of it. The Jivamukti DVD was such a nice warmup for my backbending practice yesterday, I decided to use it again today. This time I chose Sharon Gannon’s voice to lead me through. She’s much more woo-woo than David and found some of the dialogue a bit over-the-top, but it’s was still an effective practice.

After 35 minutes, I paused the DVD and did my own backbending practice: three more backbends, working the hands closer to the feet. Then I moved to the wall. Today, I tried rocking with my breath and walked my hands further up the wall with every inhalation, then tried to ‘come up’ from the wall with the inhalation. I sometimes’ twist’ as I’m coming up. I need to stop that, use the strength of my legs and come up evenly.

My quads were sore this morning and I was really feeling them this afternoon. This is a good sign! Clearly, the wall work is effective for building the strength I need for backbending. I just need to figure out a way to incorporate this work into my daily routine. It won’t happen at the Shala. Using the wall is frowned upon there. I guess I’ll need to do it at home afterward.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Jivamukti

Yesterday, before the hormonal shitstorms hit, I managed to clean up the apartment, do all the laundry, go to the bank and the library, plus catch up on my bookkeeping. It was a whirlwind, but worth it. Because today, I was allowed to be LAZY!

Okay, well, I *did* go to the Market and teach one class, but it was sandwiched in between lazy and lazy!

At least, as lazy as one can be when the body is programmed to wake up at 6 a.m.! Argh. I took a hot bath and went back to bed with the Yoga Sutras (still working on Satchidananda), read until I was sleepy and took a nap. I spent much of the morning reading. In the afternoon, lunch and more reading.

I wasn’t sure what I would do for my practice today. I wasn’t feeling great this morning, but by the afternoon, I was a bit more like myself.

On Friday, I picked up a Jivamukti DVD at the library, so I decided to try that. It’s the standard ‘Transform Yourself With Jivamukti Yoga’ with Sharon Gannon and David Life. They both teach it and in the menu, you have the option to pick one or the other. I chose David.

It’s a very basic vinyasa class with sun salutations and a variety of standing poses, followed by some warm-up backbends, then Urdhva Dhanurasana, followed by forward bending, a supine twist and some inversions (which I didn’t do, a la Lady’s Holiday). It has a good pace and I was warmed up by the time the backbends rolled around. I stopped the DVD after the two Urdhva Dhanurasana and did three more on my own, then worked against the wall.

My latest strategy: Walk in the hands in until the heels lift, pause, then push the heels back to the floor while pushing up through the hands, keeping the arms straight. When I do this, I feel a stretch across my lower abdomen. Working with the wall, I did three dropbacks and stood back up (using the wall). The first two times were dodgy, but by the third try, I was feeling pretty confident.

I used my new camera to shoot a few photos of my current backbend. The new camera allows a customized self-timer up to 30 seconds. That’s waaaaay too long. I dropped it to 20 seconds and that allowed plenty of time to come into the pose and work it a bit before the photograph was taken.

This is my current State-of-the-Backbend:


For comparison purposes, here’s the State-of-the-Backbend from April 22:


This is a huge change! I knew it felt different, but really, I had *no* idea. I was floored!!!

Theoretically, I think I should be able to stand up, given the distance between my hands and my feet. I was playing around with that today, but with no luck at *all*. I can’t even rock my hands off the floor. Here’s my theory: my body has absolutely no idea how to stand up. It’s like my muscles are confused about what to do to make the action happen. I think that walking hands up the wall will help me find the co-ordination I need to stand up. I think it’s a matter of strength too.

But I’m SO close!

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Tonight, I’m donning my ugliest floral bridesmaid dress (it’s actually my old wedding dress from waaaaay back, when I was in my early 20s!) and I’m going on a ‘drunken bridesmaids pub crawl’ around the city. I did this three years ago and it was absolutely hilarious!

To participate, you MUST wear an ugly dress of some sort. Even the guys! In fact, some of the best dresses were on the guys!

I’m so glad I don’t have to go to practice tomorrow. I’m going to nap for an hour this evening and stay until the bitter end this time! The rules state: “Bridesmaids drink like ladies. They get tipsy, not shitfaced.” Okay, for me, this translates into one or two drinks, maybe three if I space them out enough.

Here’s a photo from the last pub crawl. I’m easy to spot - look for the grandma couch:

(photo credit: Brian Tao)

I tried on that dress this morning, wondering if it would fit. Last time, I could just barely zip it up. This time? It was too BIG, literally falling off of me! I’ll have to do some last minute alterations with safety pins to keep it on. Thank you, Astanga and CRON! I’m too slender for my wedding dress. That’s pretty awesome! :-D

Friday, May 14, 2010

Astanga

Ha! I outsmarted Aunt Flo and managed to sneak a practice in right under the wire! A few hours later, my ‘holiday’ officially started. I’ll take a break from my Astanga practice for the weekend, but hopefully be back on Monday. Depending on how I’m feeling, I may do an extracurricular practice on Sunday, sans the inversions. I’m excited to test out the self-timer function of my new camera!

Today’s practice was good. Teacher P was solo this morning and I didn’t get many adjustments, but I was just so happy to be there (given the timing, I wasn’t sure if I would get a practice in at all today). My right shoulder is a bit sore, so I was just as happy to do Prasarita C on my own. I took a long Savasana.

I seem to have hit some kind on plateau in Supta Kurmasana. I need to work on opening up the external rotation of my hips. I’m going to try a few things this weekend, restorative and Hatha stuff. It will be fun to see if any of it helps with the pose!

Backbends were great fun today! I worked them in the usual way, but on the very last one, I walked in my hands and just kept walking. I wanted to see what would happen when my back stopped bending: My heels lifted. This is good to know! This is the ‘edge’ for me in Urdhva Dhanurasana. When my heels lift, I’ll know I’ve gone too far. But from now on, I’m going to try to get to that point.

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I took this shot of the Princess for my inaugural photograph on the new camera. It was quick (I had to get out the door to a class). Princess Fur is never thrilled to have a camera in her face but, as always, she’s infinitely patient with me (in hopes that treats may be forthcoming):


Feed me!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hatha

I really did honour the Moon Day today, doing only a very short session of restorative yoga in the morning and a few sun salutations to work the kinks out before teaching my classes. It was nice to sleep in and relax. I think I managed to sleep till 8 a.m. and then I enjoyed being lazy. I had a great morning.

The big event of the day was the arrival of my new camera, via Canada Post (my first mail order camera experience!). My old camera is almost six years old and on its last legs. The flash is broken, the battery is fading and last summer, I dropped it on the rocks at the Island and it hasn’t been the same since. The corner of the LCD screen cracked and began a slow deterioration. It’s bad enough that I rarely carry it with me because I’m afraid the jostling will make the problem worse.

So, time for a new camera! I like Canon, so I stuck with that brand. I shopped around for the simplest, lightest camera I could find - something I could easily carry with me. I’m not interested in bells or whistles, but definitely wanted a more versatile self-timer (I’m sick of rushing into Urdhva Dhanurasana in order to capture my State-of-the-Backbend images).

I found a recently discontinued model that received rave reviews and I ordered from a local company (at a significant discount) on Tuesday night. By noon today, it was in my hands! That’s a pretty good turn-around. And it’s orange, my new favourite colour:


I’m delighted with the camera so far. They’ve made so many improvements to the design and function of these gadgets in the past few years! Functionally, it’s similar to my old camera, but small improvements make it easier to use and far more user friendly. And it’s *very* light. Expect to see more photos on this blog in the coming months!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Astanga

I had a really good practice this morning. I started a bit late, but it was a slow day at the Shala so the room wasn’t crowded.

Teacher R was on duty for most of my practice. I braced myself for Prasarita Padottanasa C. Before she even started adjusting me, she lectured me about relaxing my shoulders and I really did try. Near the end I sort of lost it, though. My arms start to shake.

R wants me to start doing Janu Sirsasana C and we had a short chat about the nature of the medical condition in my feet. It isn’t a matter of waiting for something to ‘heal’. I’m prone to the nerve growths and if I apply pressure to that area of my foot, the problem *will* get worse. The trick is not aggravating it, and yoga *has* made it better.

When I was doing home practice, I would sometimes add Janu C once or twice a week, so that’s the compromise we arrived at. It was really fun to actually *do* C for a change, rather than just hang out in a heavily modified version of it. It’s an easy pose for me and it was a kind of relief to show the teachers that yes, I *can* physically do this pose, even if it’s contra-indicated for me.

Backbends were great today! The first one felt terrible, like it always does. The next two were okay and I walked my hands in a bit each time. Teacher P was there, pulling my hips forward on the third one. Backbend #4 felt much better and for #5, R told me to ‘walk in my hands’, so this time I *really* did: I walked - handstep, handstep, handstep - until I couldn’t possibly go further. Then I held it there.

I got an enthusiastic ‘Atta Girl! ‘ for that work. I forget precisely what she said, but she did indicate that I had made a lot of progress. So, the babysteps continue, quite literally!

I’m glad today was a good practice because it may be my last Astanga practice for a little while. Tomorrow is a Moon Day and I’m hovering on the edge of my Lady’s Holiday too. The break is well-timed - I need the rest!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Astanga

Every so often it happens, and when it does, I don’t have a lot to say: I’m having a ‘uneventful practice week’.

Public transit has been reliable, my alarm always goes off (and I get up), the Shala is quiet and I zip through my practice, without drama or fuss.

Even back bending has morphed into the ordinary. I go up, five breaths, come down, walk my hands in (repeat). Until I can walk my hands closer to my feet, the teachers are not going to help me stand up. So I’m just lingering in this ‘Urdhva Dhanurasana Purgatory’, wondering if my back will EVER get bendy enough to move on to Intermediate.

I’m not complaining! I’m pretty cozy-comfortable in Primary these days. I enjoy my practice. I’m even enjoying backbends this week, so that’s fine; I’m content with what is.

Teacher R was on duty today, so there were was more verbal commentary and a shift of emphasis in the room. It was a change of pace after a couple of days with P. It’s good to have two teachers - I like them both, and learn different things from each.

By the way, I never really resolved the whole Purvottanasana-leg-width-issue. I just modify my stance in the pose depending on who is on duty a given day. :-D If they both are, I opt for the shorter stance because R is more likely to notice and comment.

Today’s little victory was an entire practice without a single Driste violation. I’m honing my peripheral vision!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Astanga

The bizarre cooling trend continues. Last night, the temperature dipped below freezing. This morning, I dug a toque and scarf out of the closet, along with a pair of gloves. And my winter coat. I experienced a sense of reverse déjà vu as I smelled the lilacs and simultaneously caught a whiff of smoke from someone’s fireplace.

Due to yesterday’s napping, I was awake well before the alarm and headed to the Shala early. It was coolish in the Mysore room this morning! I wondered if perhaps the room hadn’t warmed yet due to my early start, but it still felt cool to me as I finished my practice. I rolled out of Savasana early because I was too chilled to stay any longer. I barely broke a sweat during my practice and I was working just as hard as I normally do.

I’m not worried. Summer is coming. Soon, it will be warmer than I can bear.

I had a good, easy practice. It just flew by! The Shala wasn’t crowded and Teacher P was there on his own. I received my usual adjustments in Prasarita C, Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana and Supta Kurmasana. The bind in Supta K was hard to find this morning. I had to wiggle around a bit to get my shoulders under my knees. I received a nice bonus adjustment in Tiriangmukhaikapada Pachimottansana, one of my favourites.

My hamstrings and calves are TIGHT. I was struggling in forward bends.

Backbends were much better today. I was playing with the idea of rocking, trying to sort out which direction is ‘inhale’ and which is ‘exhale’ (I know what it’s suppose to be, but turning upside-down seems to throw me off). Teacher P told me to remain still for the first three backbend and just walk my hands in, so I did that. In the last backbend, I experimented with rocking again.

Hopefully, these are baby-steps toward eventually standing up. This week, I’ll continue my extracurricular work at the gym, developing strength in my abs and quads.

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This week, the Junior Leaguers make contact with an alien species on the manicured lawn of the estate.

(either that, or they’re preparing to play ‘patty cake’. And I’m unclear on how this ‘stretches the arm and chest):

We come in peace. Take us to your leader!

(stayed tuned next week, when the ladies put on rocket packs and fly up to rendezvous with the Mothership!)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Astanga

As I left the apartment yesterday morning to go teach my class, I noticed the elevators seemed to be down. I took the stairs, figuring the supers would sort it out by the time I returned.

But they hadn’t. And there was nothing they could do about it. High winds has torn down Hydro lines throughout the city and in my area, a transformer blew, starting a fire in the transfer station and bringing down the entire neighbourhood. For my electricity-dependent high-rise, this meant: no electric, no heat, no elevators, no water (the pumps are electric!) and no telephone. We were immediately thrust into the Dark Ages.

And the Dark Ages means lots of stair climbing.

True to her name, the Princess doesn’t like going up or down stairs. She prefers to be carried. Okay, with a *lot* of coaxing, I can get her to do it, but it’s a long trip up and down and that’s a LOT of coaxing. I usually end up carrying her. She needs to go out at least four times a day.

And then there’s the problem of water. Since I hadn’t prepared in any way for this outage, I had no bottled water on hand (don’t lecture me: I live in a shoebox and there is NO storage for stuff like that - I buy it as I need it), so I had to buy and then carry 8 litres of the stuff up the stairs. This left me sweaty and stinky, so back down the stairs I went, gamely making my way to the basement sauna room to take a cold (and I mean icy-water-from-the-fridge-cold) shower. Then it was back up the stairs again with a bucket of cold water to use for a sponge bath the next morning.

Up and down and up and down. My legs were aching. There was no light, no hot food. No hot tea. No salt baths (this last one was making me a little bit crazy; I *like* my creature comforts). I managed to mooch wifi, but I had to be conservative with my battery use. I couldn’t flush the toilet. I couldn’t wash the dishes. I’m a tad anal retentive so this was driving me a little bit crazy too.

And the apartment was FREEZING. Oh, did I mention the temperature? It dipped below 0 celcius overnight (I just checked the weather and there are frost warnings on for tonight too). I piled every blanket I owned on the bed and invited Princess Fur to be my bed warmer. And I was still cold. And when I’m cold, I don’t sleep well.

After a night of fitful sleep, there was STILL no power. I trudged down the stairs on rubbery legs, taking the dog for her morning constitutional. The trip back up took twice as long. I suffered through a cold sponge bath, shivering in the bathtub and cursing the Hydro company. By the time I walked back down the stairs to head to the Shala, I was in full Martyr Mode, feeling VERY sorry myself.

Could it get much worse?, I wondered. And at that EXACT moment, I was hit by a cold gust of wind that nearly knocked me off my feet and *then* it started SNOWING. Snowing! In mid-May!!

But I carried on. I moved through my practice like a trooper. I thought my legs would be stiff, but mostly they were just tired. I was trembling in nearly every standing posture. No heroics this morning, I just got the job done. At Urdhva Dhanurasana, I realised I just couldn’t do it. Teacher P asked if I was okay (I was laying on my back, arm flung across my forehead in a gesture of High Drama) and I told him about the stairs. “Do what you can”, he told me.

Right-o. I can’t do any more backbends; I’m a wimp. So I moved on to the finishing postures.

When I returned from the Shala, there was STILL no power *silent scream*

I walked to a community centre I work at to use the showers (I had packed soap and whatnot, just in case). This is one of the two gyms in the city that I have full membership access to. Sadly, I’m almost always too busy to take advantage of the facilities, but I really should. And this is a very NICE gym. They have a steam room *and* a hot tub. Being starved for warmth, I spent some time in both. The hot tub wasn’t quite hot enough to my taste, but the steam room was GREAT. By the time I left, I was in a MUCH better mood.

Next stop: Hot food at the sushi place. Hot tea and miso soup put me right and I followed that up with hot chai and a chocolate croissant at the café down the street. At this point, I was falling asleep at the table, so I headed home to nap. The power...wait for it...was STILL down.

I spent the afternoon reading and then napping, since there wasn’t much else to do. I was just waking up from a 2.5 hour nap when I heard the building buzz back to life and then...the power went off again. But I knew that meant Hydro crews were working on it. Sure enough, by 4:22, we had power and the water came back shortly after. I’ve been happily dish-washing, toilet-flushing and cleaning things up ever since. The elevators are back, the heater is buzzing and the kettle is on.

Best news ever: Salt bath tonight!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Hatha

We’re having some wonky weather. It’s very cool out and predicted to get even colder by the evening. Flurries (yes, that means SNOW) is forecast overnight. Not big gobs of it or anything, but it’s mid-MAY for pete’s sake! I was planning to go shopping for a new bikini this weekend, but I’m not exactly inspired.

I fell asleep early last night and only managed to sleep in until 7:30 this morning. Still, that’s 10 hours of wonderful sleep that I’ve been craving for days. My lazy morning started with chai, a salt bath and a long walk in the park with the Princess. I sat in the window seat and read for a while, then hit the mat for a half-hour of Hatha. I did a few sun salutations, some supine stretches (hips, hamstrings), then Gentle Hatha #3 with Jackie, 20 minutes with Jackie (I added a long headstand before Savasana).

This YogaDownload class is a new one and, unfortunately, not one of my favourites. There’s too much time spent in a low lunge - different variations, but my knee doesn’t like being the floor for so long a stretch. I found myself moving into Downward Facing Dog between variations to break it up a bit. I guess I’ve turned into a Vinyasa girl. I like to keep moving!

I’m off to the Market in a little while and then I teach one class. The rest of the day is wide open. Princess Fur really needs a haircut so I’ll probably do that in the afternoon. And maybe take a nap.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Astanga

I had a nice practice today, did the ‘Primary Express’ in about 75 minutes. When I cut out all of my futzing around and just do it, I really MOVE!

Confession: I don’t tend to be terribly competitive about the poses themselves, but if I need to motivate myself to get through a practice, making it into a ‘race’ - against the clock or someone else in the room - is an excellent strategy!

Today, I started well after two other people in the room and I was finished with Primary before both of them. All of my years of competitive running have made me a sucker for any kind of time challenge. ;-)

And yes, I *know* it’s not a race. But sometimes, it’s whatever gets me through it.

My focus today was on the breath. I didn’t worry about binding deeply in poses are making any breakthroughs. I moved through Primary in a measured, careful way, noting the places where the breath counts are still unclear to me (and I’ll study them this weekend). This is the first time I’ve ever done this with Chakrasana in all the correct places. I was amazed by how Chakrasana keeps the flow going in the series. Now I understand why the transition is there! No neck pain at all, by the way. I love my Chakrasanas!

I received five adjustments today, the usual suspects: Padangustasana, Prasarita C (very gentle today and it felt good), Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, Kurmasana, and Supta Kurmasana. Most ot the time, Teacher P tends to just leave me to it, no comments, no chatter. I get into a genuine flow, very inward directed.

Afterward, I stopped at Tim’s for my ritual end-of-the-six-day-week treat and went home to walk the dog and do the cleaning. I taught one class and then...freedom! I crawled under the covers and took a nap. It’s a cool, rainy day here, perfect napping weather!

After my shift at the soup kitchen, I’m staying in. In theory, I’ll watch a movie, but it’s very likely I’ll just fall asleep. I’m WIPED!

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A few days ago, I came home from class after a string of thunderstorms moved through the area, our first this season. The Princess *loathes* thunderstorms. She’s very afraid of them. It made me sad (and somewhat guilty) that she was alone during the storm. In her panic, she hid underneath her dog bed in the crate.

This isn’t a great photo, but you can see that she’s half-emerged from her sanctuary and is giving me a pointedly accusatory stare.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Astanga

This morning I woke up with a Violent Femmes song in my head, the one with the line: “Next verse! Same as the first!”

And the second, and the third, and the fourth... I grumbled to myself as I waddled to the bathroom to run the water for my bath. Oh, I complain, but at least it gets me out of bed in the morning! :-)

Lately, Teacher R has declared war on my Prasarita Padottanasana C. Oh, to be a fly on the wall during that adjustment! Just how close are my hands to the floor? I guess I’ll find out when they get there. She pushes HARD and keeps me there for eons. I know I’m supposed to relax my shoulders but my body seems to resist this pose.

No adjustment in Supta Kurmasana today. I crossed my ankles on my own, then lifted up for a sloppy exit.

There were Driste violations throughout my practice, my mind was all over the place today. I’m on the edge of a cold - there’s a stupid sinus infection going around. I’m doing frequent Neti, including my special ‘cold fighter’ wash at least once each day and I’m taking ColdFX, trying to get adequate sleep and naps. Not much going on this weekend and it’s supposed to be rainy and cool - I’ll be able to get some rest.

Oh, and one more thing: How on earth am I supposed to look at the tip of my nose in Sirsasana and still remain balanced? I need a steady gaze point! I wish there was a good cheat for this, so it would *look* like Nasagrai, but I could have my steady gazing point too!

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Referrer Thursday

It’s been awhile since I posted a link for Referrer Thursday (these are sites that link to me, which I discover through my access stats).

Today, I’d like to introduce you to Danielle’s blog, Bon Vivant. Danielle is originally from Singapore and lives in the Bay Area with her French husband. Seems like most Singaporeans I know are big foodies and she’s no exception to this rule. This is not an Ashtanga blog! Bon Vivant is an inspiring food blog filled with recipes and incredible photography of food, food, food!

Danielle offers detailed guidance for creating beautiful gourmet dishes, along with unique, fun photos that make you feel like you’re right there in the kitchen with her. Though not all of the dishes are vegetarian (and all of them require more culinary patience than I posses), the blog is terrific eye-candy for the hopeful cook.

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Bacon Pancakes!!!

You will not find this recipe on Danielle’s blog, but doesn’t it look delightful? Hmmm? ;-)

Update: You can pour some of this on top!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Astanga

My triceps were sore this morning and I can’t figure out why. I worked my quads and abs at the gym last night, so that’s not it. I was doing some handstand work at the wall, working on the lift-up like DR showed me last weekend. It could be that, or it could be that I’m using my triceps more during jumpbacks.

I’m finally getting the hang of the ‘jumping back’ part of things, even if the effortless lift/pivot isn’t happening for me. My jumpbacks feel ‘light’. And my lift-ups are stronger, more controlled.

I was in the midst of yet another jumpback this morning when Teacher R approached. She was concerned about how ‘serious’ I looked and suggested that I project a ‘soft inner smile’. Usually, I’m all “yes, ma’am, yes, sir” when the teachers tell me to do stuff, but this one had me stumped. Seriously? You want me to think about my 1) Bandhas 2)Ujjayi 3)Driste AND remember to smile more? (I’m BUSY!)

But to be honest, the whole idea was so funny to me that I actually *did* smile a bit through the rest of the practice (and started to giggle during Savasana, which is definitely not kosher; I put a lid on it). During Supta Kurmasana, it occurred to me that it’s probably a good thing that my head is tucked under my legs in that pose, so the look of abject misery on my face can’t be viewed by the teachers!

And yes, yes, I *know* that David Swenson suggests smiling as a way to enhance Ujjayi breathing (Page 8: “It is helpful to gently smile while breathing to allow the air to swirl around the back of the throat before continuing on its journey to the lungs”). But it’s hot in the Shala, and it’s *early* for pete’s sake, and I’m TIRED. And I smile ALL DAY in my classes, even when I don’t feel like smiling (because no-one loves a grumpy yoga teacher).

Apparently, no-one loves a grumpy Mysore student either, so I’ll have to get with the programme. I’m studying this video clip for pointers:



I’m open to any advice you guys have for a ‘smilier’ practice. Do they make Yoga Rugs with knock-knock jokes written on them? Maybe I should listen to comedy sketches on the way to the Shala in the morning?

At the very least, I’ll try to keep my face more relaxed. This practice is getting *complicated*!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Astanga

Today was a better practice. I’m not sure why yesterday was such a trial, but it may have been something as simple as taking my Sunday salt bath in the afternoon instead of the evening. I took last night’s bath right before bed and I wasn’t as sore or tired in the morning. The shoulder felt fine and there were only a few twinges as I practised, so I guess it was just sore from that workshop on Sunday.

This week’s focus for practice is still on jumpbacks, but breaking it down a little bit. After I lift the feet through, I want to better co-ordinate the actions of Chaturanga (bend the arms, chest lowers and moves forward) with shooting the legs back. It’s much smoother when these things happen simultaneously, but I tend to take my legs back first, *then* Chaturanga. I don’t know when I’ll lose the toes-on-the-floor cheat, but I’m not going to worry about it for now. I want to be able to move through the jumpback smoothly, breathing when I supposed to.

The heat wasn’t as bad today. I was still sweating buckets, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed by it. I only had one I-can’t-take-this-anymore moment and I just breathed through it and moved on. Shut up, brain! I’m busy here...

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I glanced over my April goals and had a good chuckle. Aside from regular attendance at the Shala and Kino’s workshops, I didn’t do much. I’ve sort of dropped Devangarai because at the moment, I have NO concentration to speak of. Ditto for meditation. I’m not even reading very much. About a week into the month, my Mobile Meditator sprung a leak and I dropped meditation (my MM was from the first batch, improvements have been made and Scott sent out a replacement right away) . I picked up my guitar a few times, but I guess I need to learn some good break-up songs because the love songs were making me sad.

My schedule is crazy busy in May, so I’m keeping my goals pretty modest:
-Regular attendance at the Shala
-Get back to daily meditation
-Finish the Satchidananda Yoga Sutras so I can start the Bryant translation
-Abdominal and leg work at the gym 3x per week
-Play my guitar for a little while in the evenings
-Spend less time on Facebook (yeah, got sucked into that vortex again!)

In June, things will start to slow down considerably as my community classes drop off (they don’t run in the summer months).

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I scanned a whole new set of 70s Yoga today. Expect to be entertained and enlightened over the coming weeks!

Today, the Junior Leaguers hit the persian rugs to demonstrate ‘Cat Hump’.

We can only assume that the cat (poor cat!) is underneath. My naiveté about what those ladies were up to on their manicured lawns has been forever shattered!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Astanga

I felt completely depleted after practice this morning, like the Jolly Green Giant had picked me up and rung me out like a facecloth. My clothes were soaked, my legs rubbery.

So I wasn’t thrilled when, after a long wait for the stupid streetcar, I wasn’t able to board because no one was moving back (there was plenty of room). Out of blue, I heard a clear voice ring out, no-nonsense and authoritative: “All passengers please move to the back of the streetcar to accommodate those boarding!” And like a herd of sleepy sheep, people DID move back and I was able to get on.

The guy boarding behind me nudged my arm and said “Nice going!” And that’s when I realised that the authoritative voice was me! In my exhaustion and frustration I had totally conjured up my Yoga Teacher Voice, the same one I use when I direct 25 students in a gymnasium to stand-up-and-come-to-the-top-of-your-mat-Samasthiti. I was barely aware, I was so clobbered by practice.

I was sweating BUCKETS today. I know I shouldn’t be complaining. It’s not even close to being *really* hot or humid yet, but I was DYING in there this morning. If this is a foreshadowing of the State-of-the-Shala in summer, I’ll need to adjust to the heavy, dense heat and anticipate VERY sweaty practices. I should have drank a few more glasses of water before I hit the mat. I’m already anticipating the purchase of a new ‘Shala uniform’ that is more heat-friendly. Thank goodness I’m losing this extra weight because I’ll probably be in tiny shorts and a sports bra by August, modesty be damned.

I had another Space Cadet Day. I’m going to blame the heat because it makes me feel better. I skipped Purvottanasana, but didn’t remember it until I was on the streetcar home. Inexplicably, I skipped Marichyasana B, my favourite pose (though lately it’s been feeling wonky on the right side). I went back and picked it up and repeated C, because I knew R would be on my case if I didn’t. I was kind of dreading that repeat, but it actually felt great on the second try.

Marichyasana D was tough today - no wrist bind there. Supta Kurmasana was fun! R waited for me to bind and cross my ankles on my own, then she rearranged my legs and let me come up mostly on my own (and then my sweaty legs slid down my sweaty arms, making any kind of graceful exit impossible).

Predictably, my arms and shoulders are tired today. I was really getting lazy with my lift-ups and jumpbacks. My right shoulder is very twingy - not sure what’s going with that. It’s not really pain, but a soreness on the front inside edge of the deltoid. It feels deep. If anyone has ideas, please comment.

Teacher R decided that today would be a perfect day for Urdhva Dhanurasana Bootcamp! She parked herself next to my mat as I was setting up for backbends. The first one was agony and the next two were a bit better, but still difficult. Backbend #4 had me walking my hands in and engaging my legs until I was shaking, R let me come down to the floor for a rest (that was merciful: usually I rest my head on the floor and come right back up). The last backbend was insanely difficult, but in a different way. I was just working very, very hard. I walked my hands in for what felt like miles (but was very likely centimetres).

It’s lucky I don’t spend too much time thinking about how hard this practice is when I’m not doing it. If I did that, I’d probably *never* be able to coax myself to the Shala six days a week. Instead, I remind myself about the parts I like: the amazing energy of the room, the confident support of the teachers, quietly chanting the opening and closing chants, squishes in forward bends, favourite adjustments and taking rest at the end.