Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Astanga

I slept for 11 hours last night and woke up yawning at 7:30 a.m. We’re in the midst of a late-summer heatwave, so the apartment was more than toasty. I was sweating buckets during my practice and the apartment was so hot that Princess Fur begged to be let out onto the cool balcony.

I slogged through my practice today. My hamstring is tight again and it felt uncomfortable at times. But the wrist bind in Mari D is back and Supta Kurmasana was very deep. My legs were so slippery I couldn’t get a decent exit, though (and I had to repeat Bhujapidasana a few times because I kept sliding out of the pose as I lowered down).

My Intermediate poses are feeling a bit more intuitive to me now and I moved through them more smoothly. I was relieved to be able to bind my fingers in Pasaana. I rolled up my striped towel and secured it with a rubber band to provide some height under my heels. This helped a lot; a felt more stable finding the bind.

Krounchasana is a great pose and I’m really enjoying it, though I’m pretty sure I’m rounding my back too much. This morning, I managed a sloppy jump into it with my leg already folded. First time I’ve ever done that!

Shalabasana A & B feel fine, though not terribly deep. I need to build strength and I know the best method is simply to practice them, every day.

Bhekasana is feeling better. I reviewed Kino’s DVDs this afternoon. In her ‘how to work’ section, she offers a great preparation for this posture that I’ll try tomorrow. Mainly, it’s my shoulders that seem to be holding me back, though. It’s a wicked stretch! I recall a good ‘research pose’ for this in Maehle’s book - I’ll reread that section.

Parsva Dhanurasana is still a big mystery; the pose feels absolutely foreign to me. I don’t know how on earth I’m supposed to keep my legs together. Seriously! I have trouble enough just keeping my heels close! I’m never sure what to do with my head. In the DVD, Kino mentions that it’s okay to lay the head down for a second while finding the pose, then lift it up again to come deeper into the backbend. She also mentions separating the legs briefly to engage them, then bringing the feet, heels and legs back together again.

Ustrasana is my happy place, so no issues there. :-)

I’ve been lowering my head down to a block in Laghu Vajrasana then coming back up again several times, over and over again until my legs give out. I was reassured that Kino offers a variation of this method (come down as far as you can, but she doesn’t use a block). This is another pose that will require daily practice to get, but I’m already feeling stronger and it hasn’t yet been a week!

I did three Urdhva Dhanurasana, paying close attention to alignment, followed by three dropbacks. My feet were much closer in my dropbacks today, but they always end up turned out as I drop. I’m trying to find a better alignment, but I seem to default to the bad!

My practice took close to two hours and I was absolutely spent by the end. On the surface, adding eight poses doesn’t seem like a very big deal, but I’m finding that getting through them is incredibly difficult.

I don’t know if it’s Intermediate Series or an ‘energetic hangover’ from the week with my mother (or a little bit of both), but I’m absolutely *exhausted* right now. I’ve barely left my couch all day. I did the laundry and that’s about it. I slept for a couple of hours in the afternoon, ate some lunch and I still don’t feel like moving.

Obviously, this isn’t sustainable (I teach classes tonight!!). I hope that I adjust to my new practice soon. It’s not like me to be this lazy!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Astanga

I was awake until late last night, cleaning and unpacking. Princess Fur needed a b-a-t-h after her adventures at Doggie Camp (she was stinky!) and I needed some semblance of order before I could rest comfortably. I’m one of those people who pack three days before the trip and unpack immediately after arriving home.

It feels SO good to be home!

I was up at 5 a.m. and on the mat close to 6 for my new, much-longer practice. First time doing this at home! It’s much easier in a warm room, though not *much* easier. :-D I’m struggling with these Intermediate postures. I could probably write an entire post on the topic, but I’m too tired!

I brought no souvenirs home from my holiday, but I *did* bring home a Buddha Belly. I can feel it hanging around my mid-section as I practice and my clothes are fitting a bit tighter. I couldn’t find the wrist bind in Mari D or the finger bind in Pasasana. Supta Kurmasana was a struggle - it took ages to bind in that one. Even the wrist bind in Mari C took some effort. I’m not worried about it though - a week or two on a moderate diet and the weight will slip away. It’s one of the perks of a six-day practice!

It didn’t help that I was out eating a big sushi supper at 9 p.m. last night. Yes, you read that correctly. Usually I’m in bed by that hour! My hard-partying mother has been a bad influence on me. I fear it will be hard to get back into my regular routine. I spent the morning with my mom, drinking tea and chatting on the shaded patio at the sweet little Bed & Breakfast she was staying at. I loaded her into an airport limo around noon before riding off to teach my class.

I felt a sense of surreal relief, but I cried all the way downtown.

My mom has noticeably aged in the four years since I last visited with her. I had planned this holiday around walking, lots of walking, to keep my energetic mother busy. I come by my excessively Pitta constitution very honestly! My mother practically crackles with energy and she likes to move, move, move! Last time she visited, my feet were sore from following her around the city.

But this visit, she couldn’t walk far without taking a rest and she needed at least two naps during the day. In Montreal, we walked short distances from the hotel, then went back to the room to rest. After a day walking around in Quebec City, she was absolutely spent from the effort of being out and about for 8 hours. This is definitely a change.

It was a serene visit, though. We didn’t get into a single fight, which is a first. I think the years have softened my mother and yoga has made me more difficult to bait. ;-)

The few times she tried to pick a fight, I gently warded her off. I refused to get angry, or defensive (or to ‘bite the hook’ as Pema Chodron would say). During one tense moment, I replied in a calm voice: “Mother, be gentle with me, please.” She backed off, I didn’t hold the grudge and the next morning, we continued to enjoy each other’s company. Crisis averted.

For the most part, she was supportive of my vegan diet (just *one* snarky comment the entire trip!) and, to my surprise, she was very supportive of my yoga practice. She asked questions and was genuinely interested in my experiences at the Shala in Montreal. She seemed openly impressed with my dedication to a morning practice and the strength and good health it has given me.

I’m glad we were able to spend time together without tension. And I’m grateful to my practice (both yoga and meditation) for granting me this equanimity in the face of her criticism. I know that someday, my mother will be gone and I’ll regret wasting any time in anger. This trip made me realise that time is fleeting; these visits need to become more frequent. I’m already planning for next year.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Astanga

I woke up very early this morning to get my practice in before we hit the road for home. Ironic that my very first self-practice with these newly added Intermediate poses took place in a hotel that I’ll likely never see again!

I practised in the little exercise room again (my image is reflected in the mirror).

It was too cold to work up much of a sweat, but I *did* sweat, despite the air conditioning and the draft. In David Swenson’s chapter of the Guruji book (which I’m constantly amazed and inspired by - I’m SO enjoying it), he describes ‘the steam rising from the bodies of the practitioners’. It’s just a small detail from the book that has stayed in my memory, but it’s made me more aware that I can generate my own heat regardless of the conditions around me.

I was still stiff in many poses this morning. I’ve put on some chub from all of the restaurant food I’ve been eating, so the wrist bind in Mari D was gone and Supta K, though possible, was initially elusive. And everything else felt just a bit ‘off’.

But I was very focused. I worked steadily through Primary with minimal futzing and moved right into Intermediate. I didn’t repeat any of my Intermediate poses, just did my best with each one. I’m keeping the bar set very low for ‘best’ for awhile until I really learn these poses.

This is really difficult! It’s strange to be working so hard in my practice again. I haven’t felt particularly challenged with Primary in months. With the exception of one or two transitions and the poses affected by my injury, Primary is easy peasy.

The new poses are uncomfortable. They feel foreign to my body and they don’t flow naturally. After I finally finished my very, very mediocre effort in Laghu Vajrasana, I felt relieved. Then I remembered: I still had to do backbending. I think that’s when I fully realised what a long haul this is going to be. My practice is now LONG.

I did three Urdhva Dhanurasana and then surprised myself with three dropbacks (I wasn’t sure I could pull them off). After finishing, I rushed upstairs. I had just a half-hour to get cleaned up and ready to leave!

We hit the road at 8 a.m. with a full tank of gas and I drove non-stop for five-and-a-half hours. By the time we stopped for lunch, I was stiff, tired, cranky and so VERY relieved to be out of that car! I’m not used to sitting in that position for long periods and I rarely drive. My whole body was tense. I stumbled out onto the grass and started spontaneously doing lunges and my mother was amused.

Princess Fur stayed at doggie camp while we were away. She launched into a raucous greeting when I stopped by to collect her, then she proceeded to bawl me out for almost 5 minutes. The staff person observed that she’s a very quiet dog EXCEPT when she’s giving me hell! Even my mother agreed! The Princess was making an Official Complaint! She was NOT HAPPY to be left behind.

It was a long day. Twelve hours after we left Quebec City, we finally pulled into my driveway. I was so relieved! My entire body was a big knot and I was exhausted. I could hardly see straight.

I drove every bloody kilometre of that road trip (and there were approximately 1600 of them!). My mother was no help - since the last time we travelled together, she’s become uncomfortable driving on unfamiliar roads (and she’s never been a helpful navigator - I relied mainly on my iPad GPS to find my way around).

I’ve decided: next time, we’re taking the train!!!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Vinyasa

We left Montreal in the evening and drove up to Quebec City, arriving very late.

I was so exhausted by the time we approached our destination that I decided (okay: ‘insisted’) that we stop at a hotel just off the highway, outside of the city. It looked clean and reputable. I was charmed by it because it was decorated in little white lights. I knew as soon as we talked to reception that it would be fine. In fact, it’s fantastic!

We’re staying two nights and not bothering with lodging in the city - we’ll just drive in to see the sights. We would have had trouble anyway - all the good hotels are booked. It’s high season here.

One of the things that appealed to me was the exercise room. This hotel has a lovely, clean Salle d'exercice available to guests. I moved aside a squishy exercise mat this morning to make room for my Manduka. I never saw another soul there as I practised - I had the room to myself. I turned off the T.V. and turned down the air conditioning, but it was still pretty chilly. But it was quiet and spacious and I could practice without waking my mother with my Ujjayi breathing!

I did a short practice this morning, just enough to iron everything out. I’m pretty stiff from all the driving I’ve been doing (I’m not used to it). I did the sun salutations and fundamentals and closed with the last three poses. No backbends today. I wanted to keep my practice brief so I could sleep in a bit. I’m sleep deprived and facing a 10+ hour drive tomorrow.

The life of a travelling Ashtangi! Yoga mat and yoga clothes set out for morning practice on top of the cooler of vegan food that I'm SO glad I brought.

Quebec hates vegans.

My mother is being more tolerant (with both my diet and my practice) than I ever expected, but a rude server actually laughed in my face when I asked about vegetarian options.

I'm eating a lot of 'pasta primavera' and 'veggie wraps'. There's some compromise involved, so yes, I'm cheating occasionally. But I'm doing my best.

And I'm eating, eating, eating! Restaurant food is heavy! I'll gain five pounds on this trip, at least. How ironic is it that I *finally* get Pasasana, but I’m getting too heavy to do the pose?!

:-D

Friday, August 27, 2010

Astanga

I arrived a little bit earlier this morning because I knew my practice would be longer. The Shala 'officially' opens at 7:30, but people come earlier while Darby and Joanne are still doing their practice.

The Shala is beautiful. It's in an older building. The layout reminds me of Shala North - it's on the second story with stairs leading to the reception area and practice room (both have high ceilings, so it's very spacious). The change rooms (with showers) are located on the third floor. The space is comfortable and well decorated.

The walls are covered with photographs of the Darbys and Guruji. One series of photographs depict a very pregnant Joanne being adjusted by Guruji in various poses including Taraksvasana A, followed with a family photograph of Darby, Joanne and their baby son Shankara. On the stairwell, there's a photo of a smiling Guruji and Iyengar, embracing.

The practice room is painted one of my favorite colours, a greenish blue. There are lots of windows and the sunlight streams through in the morning. A brass Krishna, Patanjali and Ganesha sit on a window sill and there's a large, beautiful Hanuman in the the left hand corner. Guruji's photograph oversees the room from the front wall.

The room never seems very warm when I arrive but I sweat buckets while I'm there. There were usually 20+ people practising but the room could hold more; there's lots of space. As I arrived this morning, I noticed blocks and straps set aside for use and one practitioner was doing a few preparatory hip openers before practice.

I was feeling a bit nervous about my practice this morning. I had no idea how much Intermediate I would be given. Last night I reviewed the vinyasa up to Laghu Vajrasana, just to be safe.

As I moved through my Primary, Darby came over a few times to talk to me about the positioning of my head and neck. In almost every pose, I'm failing to integrate my neck with the whole of my spine.

For example, in Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog), I'm bringing my head too far back in an attempt to find a deeper back bend. Instead, Darby encouraged me to lengthen up the neck from the collarbone to the ears, draw the shoulders slightly forward and lift the upper chest forward/up to bring more bend into the thoracic spine. In every pose, he wanted me to integrate the neck.

He's a very, very patient teacher. I wasn't 'getting it' right away, so he kept offering the information in different ways (verbal cues, physical adjustment, even demo-ing) and pointing it out in different contexts. He talked to me about this alignment issue in three of the standing poses, spent a lot of time working with me in Urdhva Mukha Svanasana and also helped me apply the concept in Setu Bandhasana.

In Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, he sat next to me and asked me to do the pose my way, then he helped me find the correct alignment, then back to my way again, so I could feel the difference. In time, I could feel that my head felt 'floppy' if I was misaligned. I started noticing this sensation in other poses and correcting it myself.

Through all of this explanation, he never once raised his voice, expressed frustration or became impatient. And when I finally started to catch on, he was equally calm and accepting. I felt no pressure; I could feel my guard coming down. I felt free to explore these new directions in my practice and trust that they would become clear in time.

I found his adjustments to be strong and direct, but never forceful. If anything, these were some of the lightest and most subtle adjustments I've ever received in Mysore-style practice.

So I was feeling very supported and comfortable as I started into Intermediate series. It didn't feel like it was a 'big deal' at all (though maybe just a tad surreal).

I got the bind in Pasasana. The right is my easier side, so it was much deeper. Darby was helping me and when my heels plopped to the floor, he said "Even better!" and helped me keep them there, giving me cues and assistance with balance (root down through the heels!).

He sat next to me for the first side of Krounchasana, and demoed, cued me and lightly adjusted the pose. I was on my own for the second side but he came back for Shalabasana A & B and I repeated those poses several times. Darby showed me a way to work in the pose that protected my back.

I was pretty much on my own for Dhanurasana and Parsva Dhanaurasana. I received more detailed instruction for Ustrasana, then did Laghu Vajrasana on my own twice, waited for help.

Darby cued me verbally but didn't give a physical adjustment per se - he instructed me to come down until my head found his hand, then come up again. I did this over and over again and GEEZ!!!! It was hard!!

Darby didn't need to tell me this was my ending point. I knew! He said, "Stop there" and told me very firmly not to move beyond that pose without a teacher's help.

Joanne helped me with my backbends - just Urdhva Dhanurasana. I did it five times. I really enjoy her energy - she has a calm and gentle presence. After, Darby came over and gave me the most awesome squish in the history of squishes (and my first real squish in over two months).

I felt sad as I rolled up my mat after practice. I don't know when I'll be in a shala with teachers again. I really didn't feel like a guest in this shala - the teachers and students were so warm and welcoming, I felt very much at home. When I came over to say goodbye, Darby gave me big hug.

Montreal is quite a trek, but I would love to go back someday soon.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Astanga

I have a confession: I’ve been to Montreal only once and it was for business. I travelled by train, stayed in a hotel and didn’t really get out much. I’ve never driven there.

As we hit the road yesterday, I didn’t have a route planned or any idea of how to get there, short of heading north-ish on the major highway. I figured I would just wing it.

This strategy mostly worked, but I *completely* underestimated how long the drive would take and the difficulty I would have in navigating a strange city late at night. I’m good at cities, but Montreal is confusing!

We encountered many, many detours driving into the downtown core. We were lost so many times I stopped counting. At one critical juncture, I pulled into a parking lot while my poor mother rolled her eyes in frustration.

“Do you have a plan?”

“Yes! I’m going to ask these guys over here for directions!”

“Who?!”

I had serendipitously parked right next to a couple Montreal police officers enjoying their late night coffee break!

As I meandered through the empty downtown streets, I think my mother was ready to strangle me. When I was younger, this scene might have deteriorated into a screaming match. But 15 years of yoga practice mellowed me out. I just smiled a lot and carried on, remained cheerful and positive, and reassured her that I did, in fact, know where I was going (I didn’t!).

Through some miracle (Thank you, Ganesha!) I found my way to the hotel. And I even managed to get five hours of sleep - an achievement, given that I wasn’t sure we would even make it into Montreal at all.

********************

At 7:30 this morning, I was salt-bathed, dressed and walking down the street to Sattva Shala for practice with Darby and Joanne.

There are two categories of professional recognition for Astanga teachers (granted by KPJAYI, the yoga institute founded by Guruji in Mysore): Authorization is the first level. The highest level is Certification and fewer than 40 people carry it world-wide. The Darbys are the only certified teachers in Canada. I was pretty excited to have an opportunity to practice at their Shala and have new eyes on my practice. I’ve long wanted to visit here.

I first met Darby at a yoga conference a couple years ago. I really enjoyed his energy. He’s warm, humble and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the practice. I was fairly new to Astanga at the time (and a bit intimidated to be talking to the guy who was on my favourite DVD). His approach to teaching Astanga and obvious reverence for it was one of the things that started to ‘win me over’ to Astanga. My attitude towards the practice started to ‘shift’ after that. I left the conference thinking that someday, I would like to visit their Shala.

When I arrived this morning, both teachers were finishing their practice. I stood quietly on the threshold of the room for a moment, then unrolled my mat in an empty spot near the windows. It felt a bit weird to just walk into a new room and GO, but that’s exactly what I did.

I was through the first few standing poses when Darby arrived at my mat. He asked me where I was from and where I practised. I told him I practised at Shala Central, but also home practice.

He gave me a very focused adjustment in Parsvakonasana. He modified the position of my head/neck and encouraged me to push and lengthen through the extended arm (he asked me to push my hand against him and push through the back foot).

This theme carried over into other poses but especially Urdhva Mukha Svanasana. Instead of arching my head back, he asked me to lengthen the neck from the shoulders to the ears then lift the upper-chest forward and up.

Because I was already into my practice the first time he came around, I wasn’t sure what the protocol was for announcing injuries. He walked over as I was starting seated, so I paused to I let him know that I had a two-month-old hamstring injury. He tutted me a bit and said I should have mentioned it sooner. I realised he noticed my modification in Parvottanasana, because he asked me to stand up and repeat that pose. He worked with me on a strategy to get the leg straight with full extension of the torso over the leg without triggering cramping around the site of the injury. It worked!

Darby’s adjustments are light and subtle, but they pack a punch! I had more than one ‘light bulb’ moment as he worked with me. I found myself cross-applying concepts from one set of poses to another and feeling my body respond to the small changes I was making in alignment and direction of muscular energy. I was working so deeply, with intense concentration, that my practice slowed down quite a bit, and I was sweating more than usual.

Darby mostly observed. I didn’t get many of the ‘typical’ adjustments. He brought my hands to the floor in Prasarita C (and corrected my shoulder alignment - the same thing DR is always on me about, but I’ve fallen into bad habits). I was on my own for most of Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, but Darby swung by near the end and gave some very specific cues for the alignment and action of the extended leg. It made the the pose MUCH harder because I was working harder! He crossed my legs over my back in Supta Kurmasana. I haven’t had this particular adjustment since my last visit to Shala North. I *love* it. I savoured every breath of that hold!

Joanne helped me with Setu Bandhasana, encouraging me to come into the pose with straighter legs. I followed her cues as I repeated the pose and it was deepest I’ve ever managed on my own.

When it was time for backbending, I felt stumped. I didn’t know what to do, so I just reverted back to my old Shala routine: six Urdhva Dhanurasana and three rounds of rocking. Joanne came over to work with me in Urdhva Dhanurasana, encouraging me to push up through the hips. Very light adjustment, but it helped me direct the energy of the movement upward and felt amazing. Darby observed my backbending for a few minutes and then asked me to do something very simple in Urdhva Dhanurasana: lift the balls of the feet up while pressing down into the heels. It felt impossible, but when I did it, I felt the legs engage very evenly. So simple!

I did a few rounds of rocking, but didn’t drop back. Darby had told me very matter-of-factly that he doesn’t allow his students to drop back or stand up until they’ve mastered Kapotasana (he asked me earlier if I was being held back from Second Series because I wasn’t standing up. I confirmed this but admitted I sometimes do some Intermediate in my home practice). I think the Darbys use Supta K, along with mastery of the Primary Series, as the ‘gatekeeper’ for Second Series. I understand this is common practice with some of the certified teachers who studied with Guruji in the early years.

I don’t want to get into the politics of this - I’m just providing some context for what happened next.

I did my finishing, took rest. I thanked Darby as I was leaving the room, and let him know that I would be at his Shala for one more day. He closed the door as I left, but opened it up again and said: “Tomorrow, add on the Intermediate poses and I'll tell you when to stop."

I nodded, but the import of this didn’t fully sink in until I was halfway up the stairs to the change room.

Am I being given Intermediate?

I guess I’ll find out tomorrow.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Astanga

My hard-partying mother kept me out last night until almost midnight so the 5:30 wakeup call was particular brutal, but I got up and did my practice. I’m so glad I did! I had an absolutely *fantastic* practice. Everything just flowed. My practice had a ‘Primary Express’ feel to it, but I was working hard and didn’t feel like I was just breezing through the poses.

It was one of those rare mornings when everything just came together and it felt like a 90 minute flowing meditation. I really, really needed that.

I’m still tweaking the heat level in my practice room. Today was absolutely perfect - just enough that I was sweating, but not so much that I was drenched.

Since I managed to get on the mat 10 minutes earlier than usual, I had extra some time for backbending. I did a few deep lunges, quad stretches and a shoulder opener before I started. I know these preparations are not kosher in a traditional shala, but they made *such* a difference. I could feel it in the very first Urdhva Dhanurasana - it was comfortable and I was able to easily hold it for 5 breaths.

Today, I spent a lot of time in Urdhva Dhanurasana pushing the hips forward and trying to push the pelvic heads up while walking my hands in. I also did this while rocking. Instead of worrying about whether my hands were lifting off the floor, I just focused on moving my hips forward instead, trying to keep my legs straighter and the heels down. My goal was to feel a stretch across my pelvis. I had mixed success but in one round of rocking I actually felt my hands start to lift, which makes me hopeful that eventually I’ll get that part back, while maintaining the upward lift of the hips.

I’m spending a good part of today sitting in a car, driving to Montreal. I’m pretty sure this is *not* going to help my hips open, but I’ll work on the lunges when I get the chance. Tomorrow, I’ll be back in a Shala for a couple of days, practisting with Canada’s only certified Astanga teachers. They’ve been doing this practice for 35 years. I’m pretty excited and grateful that I have this opportunity.

I think I’ll like being an Astanga tourist! If any of my readers practice at this Montreal Shala, please say hello! I would love meet you.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Vinyasa

For the next five days, posts may be short and sweet: The Mother arrived has arrived and boy, is she ever keeping me busy!

She flew in last night, while I was teaching. No problem! She took a cab into the city on her own, found the Bed & Breakfast I had arranged for her and then she headed to a baseball game. She’s a huge Yankees fan and by merciful coincidence, the Yankees are in town playing here this week. Thank you, New York Yankees, for keeping my mother entertained while I was working!

She bought the tickets online and travelled to the stadium via subway, navigating the system like a pro and making friends with the collectors at a couple different stations as she got lost. I met her at the game. It was a bit weird going to a baseball game to rendezvous with my mother, who I haven’t seen in 4 years!

I’ve been to a few games at this stadium, but always in the upper level nosebleed seats. These seats were field level, 29th row! It was quite an experience! My mother insisted that we bring binoculars and I swear I could see the pitcher’s nosehairs through them. We could practically hear what they were saying on the field and we could easily spy on the dugout. ;-)

Also, did you know that the stadium caramel corn is vegan? I was surprised!

It was a fantastic night for a game, beautiful weather, and the dome was open. As the 8th inning drew to a close, my mother asked “Oh, do you know it’s a full moon?” And I replied: “Actually, I *do*”

But, of course, I practised anyway. :-D Nothing too taxing, just an hour of vinyasa before teaching at the gym, plus some backbending. I’ve talked about this experience before: the music, the people, the distractions and the gradual immersion into breath and Driste that takes me away from the chaos and deep into my own body. There’s something magical about that. I had a good practice.

I did many dropbacks, a bit of rocking. And lots of thinking about what my hips are doing as I’m backbending and trying to stand up. Thank you, Anonymous and Susan for sharing your observations in the comments yesterday. You offered some great tips, plus you helped me synthesize some of my thoughts about this whole process of ‘standing up.’ I’m getting closer!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Astanga

I’m back to my regular schedule for practice, at least for a few days. I was on the mat at 6:30 a.m. this morning, candles lit, incense burning and it was hot, hot, hot! I was already sweating after just a few sun salutations. I turned the heat down a bit, but didn’t open a window until finishing.

I had a pretty good practice, but I was a bit distracted this morning. It took effort and frequent reminders to keep myself on track. This is one of the things I love about Astanga vinyasa yoga. It’s very clear when my attention starts to stray. I’m following my breath, so if I lose track of the count, I’m not paying attention! Simple. There’s no option to ‘check out’ because I’m always engaged in the practice.

Well, I’m supposed to be, anyway! I have a feeling that rubbing Princess Fur’s belly is *not* part of the Primary Series! ;-)

I worked on the exit from Bhujapidasana today. The pose itself is good and I’m starting to consistently lower my chin to the floor and lift back up without touching my toes down. But I can’t find a solid Bakasana for the exit. My legs are always too far down my arms (or they slide that direction). I tried it three times and gave up, moved on.

Kurmasana is coming back! My knees are still a bit bent, but I can bring my forehead to the floor comfortably! This is a big deal because that’s the pose that caused my injury - my hamstring is always most tender in it.

My injured hamstring has been feeling so much better lately! Any lingering discomfort seems to be due to the left leg being less flexible than the right. This has always been the case, but everything tightened up with the injury so I’m slowly stretching it out again. I’m able to catch my wrist again in most of the asymmetrical forward bends and my forehead touches the knee again in Marichyasana A. During my post-backbend Paschimottanasana today, I was able to come into a full forward fold, face to shins and take my wrist.

I’m *finally* squish-able again, but there’s nobody around to squish me. Pity!

I had plenty of time today, so I worked on backbending for almost 25 minutes, bringing my practice up to 2 hours.

I started with Urdhva Dhanurasana from the floor, three warm up backbends in a row (bringing my head to the floor for a breath in between), then I did a bunch of single backbends, walking my hands in as far as I could and holding for five breaths. My goal was to walk my hands further each time. I was on backbend #6 when I shifted my Driste and I dimly saw something on my mat. It was white and roundish. When I startled, it moved! EEK!

It was my heel!!

I fell out of the backbend and laughed so hard my eyes were all teary. In that moment, I was SO glad not to be at the Shala because I felt free to giggle and just enjoy the moment. It was the best laugh I’ve had in months! When my hilarity finally subsided, I thought, “That was SO cool! I wanna do it again!”

And I did! A few times, in fact, and I took a photo because I was genuinely curious how close my hands had to be to make this miracle happen. This is what my backbend looks like when I finally glimpse my heels:

Not as deep as I imagined it would look. I’ve probably hit the feet-viewing mark before, but wasn’t paying enough attention.

I know what you’re thinking. I was thinking about it too! Many people have told me that if I can see my feet, I can stand up! I *did* try to stand from this deeper-than-usual backbend, but I wasn’t even close. The problem is, it’s so tight, I feel like my body is made of concrete. My breath felt restricted and it was hard to move, let alone rock. I’m hoping that as my body adjusts to this deeper backbend, I’ll find more softness in it.

I had much better luck rocking after my dropbacks. I’m trying not to worry as much about standing up this week and just get into a steady, even breathing pattern. I’m trying to make my inhalations as long as my exhalations, then extend both. I do this while rocking up to my fingertips. I read something on Facebook about ‘digging in the heels’ to stand up. I tried, and failed, to visualize this as I rocked.

I only did three dropbacks. The first was a bit rough, the second felt deeper but I had a hard time dropping back because I kept popping back up every time I pushed my hips forward. The third was the best: I was able to hang way back, hands in prayer position and linger there for a micropause, then gently plop my hands to the mat.

********************

It’s Monday, and time for some Vintage Yoga fun!

Here’s Audrey. As you can see, she’s still looking around for that contact lens she lost a few weeks ago.

Hm...maybe it’s under the sofa.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Astanga

I think that mean security guard from yesterday sent me some bad voo doo because it’s been raining on me all day!

I arrived at DR’s morning workshop 10 minutes late and dripping like a drowned rat because it was literally *pouring* as I biked to the Festival. I had to stop a few times because it was coming down so hard!

The rain stopped for a while, but as soon as I hopped on my bike to ride home the skies opened up again.

Each time I rode somewhere to teach, the showers started. As soon as I arrived at my destination, they stopped. Four sets of clothes are drying over the bathtub and I’m just grateful to be inside. But, of course, it’s perfectly lovely out now! Blue skies! *eyeroll*

********************

I used my new radiator for practice this morning and I love it! I just need to find a way to put it on a timer so it can heat up before I wake up. It’s quite small, but perfectly adequate for bringing the temperature of the room up to shala levels. And it’s so quiet! It just sits there being warm without making a sound.

It would be *perfect* if it also gave adjustments but I can’t have everything, can I? ;-)

I had a nice practice. I started to feel tired and distracted during the Marichyasanas, but this often happens on mornings when I haven’t done the full Primary Series the day before; I lose my momentum a little bit. When this happened at the Shala I would just keep breathing and move through it. At home, it’s definitely easier to pause and seek out a distraction (and there are so many to choose from, starting with Princess Fur).

This morning, I chose not to not allow my attention to wander, but I was very aware that it was a choice. I guess it always is, but in the Shala, I know teachers are watching so there’s an external motivation to maintain concentration. At home, I have to rely on myself.

Backbends were okay, not great. I did my three dropbacks but I didn’t spend a lot of time rocking because I was pressed for time. Even though the dropbacks were not fabulous, they were not scary or difficult either, which is amazing in itself! Each time I drop back, I’m still in awe that I can do it. On the days that I find joy in it, I’m astonished that I so thoroughly enjoy something that used to frighten me and bring tears.

Even if I don’t stand up from a backbend this summer, I’m happy and grateful that I learned to drop back. This process has been such a great learning experience. It’s given me confidence in my ability to guide my own practice and to motivate myself.

********************

Fivefootwo asked about altars the other day on her blog and I responded in her comments with some thoughts about my own altar. I promised her I would post some photos here.

An altar is such a personal, special thing. The last time I wrote about this topic (on an old blog) a shitstorm erupted in my comments section. So I feel a need to say this: there’s no right or wrong or good or bad when it comes to an altar. There are many different spiritual paths out there. They’re all valid and they all lead more-or-less to the same place. Whatever ‘party favours’ you choose to bring (or not bring) to your own ‘spiritual fete’ are absolutely fine.

This is what resonates with me. Meet Buddha and my Spiritual Posse!

The Posse includes Hanuman, Shiva, Ganesha, and Durga.

Guruji is there, of course. He hangs with the Posse and they all share a candle in the morning.

The tapestry covering the altar is from Pondicherry, a gift from a sweet friend. The Tibetan singing bowl was also a gift. The small wooden box is Hawaiian Koa Wood. It was given to me by a woman who was like a mother to me when I was young. She’s gone now, but her spirit lives with me always.

I’ve filled my Koa box with small, symbolic reminders of significant people and events of my life. Until I came to this city, my life was very scattered because I moved around so much. This box has helped me gather the bits of my life together. Sometimes, when a close friend visits, I let them choose an item from the box and I tell the story of it.

I have two Malas: The everyday Tibetan rosewood one I wear on my left wrist and a special Tiger’s Eye Mala which I only use when I’m sitting for meditation. I keep my special Mala on the altar with the Buddha. There is also a small collection of gemstones (Boodi spurred my interest in these a couple months ago).

The little prayer flags are a gift from a longtime student - they come from Nepal. One of my sisters gave me the little plaque on the left when I was 10 - it pictures a sailboat at sunset and has a quote from one of my favourite Richard Bach books, ‘Illusions’.

An original mixed-media piece by artist Monica Aebischer hangs further up the wall, outside of the photo. I fell in love with this piece while working at a gallery during my YTT year and I saved for months to buy it. It depicts a faceless person in meditation, gently holding a golden bowl in cupped hands.

In the morning, as I’m practisting, this is what I see:


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Vinyasa

Today was a bit odd.

It started out great! I breezed through my morning volunteer shift at the Festival (I’m definitely perkier during the morning hours) and actually had a lot of fun!

I was assigned to monitor a classroom - DR’s classroom, in fact - but wasn’t allowed to sit in. Once the workshops were in session, I passed the time chatting with the other volunteers, playing around with adjustments, doing Sirsasana in the hallway and spying on DR as he taught a workshop on Mysore Style Astanga.

I have to admit, the Iyengar teacher in the other classroom was equally entertaining; lots of party favours (props) and they were doing some crazy, crazy stuff. Stuff that I want to try! The second floor is definitely a juicy volunteer assignment. We were all greatly entertained! :-D

After my shift ended, I had extra time before teaching, so I headed to the gym early and did a practice right in the middle of everything: weights, various contraptions and the swirl of activity. 70s pop was playing in the main gym and pounding house music was pouring out of the spinning room behind me creating a mixed caucophony. Maintaining focus and concentration was a challenge. Also, the spinning instructor enjoys yelling at people. A few times I actually startled, thinking “Is he talking to me?”

I recall Bindi mentioning that she sometimes does her practice at the gym because it attracts new students to her classes. I have often drawn questions from members as they observed my practice. It’s a good promotional tool. I may try to do it more often, at least on Saturdays. I really enjoyed my practice, even with all the distractions!

I didn’t do a full Primary, as I only had an hour. I practised half-Primary and skipped the vinyasas between sides of the seated poses to leave time for postures up to Garba Pindasana. Then I went right into backbends.

So far, I’ve only done dropbacks in three locations: the park, Shala North (during a workshop) and at home. I wondered how my brain would feel about doing dropbacks in a NEW place. I was surprised to discover that it wasn’t a big deal at all! I worked intensively for about 15 minutes and I was comfortable hanging back and dropping back. In fact, these were some of the deepest dropbacks I’ve ever done. I was landing my hands very close to my feet!

After I finished teaching, I started to bike home only to be caught in a downpour. That’s when my day started to get weird.

I paused in front of a building, still on the sidewalk, but taking shelter under an overhang. The rain was coming down in buckets! A crusty old security guard spotted me and came out. He aggressively told me to leave. It was a tense and confusing confrontation, given that I was standing on a public sidewalk! But I didn’t want to make a scene, so I left and was immediately drenched.

But Google made everything better!

I found another sheltered spot and pullled out my iPad. It took me less than a minute on Google to research the building’s management company. I wrote a quick email to their facilities department describing the incident. I did it right there! On the sidewalk! Dripping! Then I checked email as I waited for the showers to ease up and walked back to the building. I politely told the security guard that I had written to his employer and would be following up on Monday. He was nasty to me, but he also looked worried.

That was fun...I *love* technology!

But it left a residue on my day. By the time evening rolled around, I just wanted to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head. Instead, I did some yoga-related retail therapy: I rode to Canadian Tire and bought a oil-filled radiator to use during my morning home practice. There is a delicious irony in buying a space heater on a warm, humid day in August. I was getting some extremely perplexed looks while waiting in the lineup with my heater.

The guy behind me finally couldn’t stop himself, he asked: “Was it on SALE?!!

“No,” I told him honestly, “I’m buying it to warm my apartment!”

His eyes widened.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This week’s State-of-the-Backbend was taken on Thursday, during the course of my regular backbending practice.

I think this was pre-dropbacks.

Meh. Looks the same as last week!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Astanga

When the alarm went off this morning, I lay in the darkness thinking groggily: "Shala." Then I woke completely, remembered, and corrected myself: "Sweep floor!" I also put all the blinds down, which helps keep the room a bit warmer.

It worked - I was sweating buckets this morning. It was great! I had a really nice practice: strong, focused and *fun*.

The wrist bind in Mari D is easy again. Looks like it's sticking around for the time being. Yay!

Supta Kurmasana was really deep. After I exited, it occurred to me that in home practice, I'm free to come into that pose however I like! I could try the Dwi Pada Sirsasana thing, prop myself against the bookshelf to keep my balance as I get the second leg behind and hook the ankles. Hmm...

I could try it tomorrow! I'm feeling so energized and excited about my practice again. I see all these possibilities and I'm suddenly brainstorming ways I could develop specific skills in my practice.

I did Bhujapidasana twice because I wasn't entirely happy with the exit. This part of my Primary really needs some work, so I may start repeating it regularly. It's a good strength builder and it's always better on the second go.

The lotus jumpback is one of my new favourite things right now. I'm still doing the cheaty 'Mayurasana thing' with my arms, but I'm really lifting the lotus! And I can hold it up for a micropause before I shoot my legs back too. Love it!

Dropbacks were a bit shaky this morning, but I kept trying and trying and finally got through them. No luck standing up. I'm still trying to deepen my inhalation on the rocks forward.

I still need a deeper backbend and I've been thinking about hangbacks. I could do them before the dropbacks. I could try this for a few days and see if I notice a difference. I like hangbacks because I enjoy the intense stretch in my hips. They just feel good (that's reason enough to do them!).

Oh, and I'm back to doing jumpbacks/jumpthroughs after an almost-two-week hiatus to rest my right shoulder. I wasn't going all-out, but doing them gently and it felt fine.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Astanga

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.
-Robert Frost

Yesterday evening, on my way downtown to teach a class, I stopped by the the Shala and picked up my Manduka. As of this morning, I'm returning to a home yoga practice.

This wasn't a spontaneous decision - in fact I've been mulling it over for almost a month. The reasons are complicated, but the most important one is this: I can't fully respect myself if I willingly allow anyone else to treat me badly.

Parts of my childhood were very bad and during those dark times, I made myself a promise: When I was a grownup and I finally had control over my own life, I would never let anyone mistreat me. I would surround myself with people who love and value me.

I need to keep that promise.

So this morning I went back to my old 'home routine'. I got up, turned on the heater and took my bath. I swept the floors, moved the furniture aside and lit tea lights on the altar. I burned some incense and started my practice at 6:30 a.m.

I had a good practice! I was worried the apartment wouldn't be warm enough, but it was fine. I might buy a second heater, one of the oil-filled radiating ones, for the fall.

The only real change I've made to my home practice setup is the direction of my mat: I've turned to face north, away from the window (because it's too distracting and I don't like the light in my face).

Dropbacks are now part of my regular practice. This is what I'm working on: First, three warmup Urdhva Dhanurasana just to get the 'monkey ass' feeling out of the way. Then, three deeper backbends, walking my hands in each time and trying to get them as close to my feet as possible. Then I drop back three times. After each dropback, I walk the hands in and rock three times, aiming to lift up to my fingertips on the third rock.

Backbends were good today. I found one good 'lift' that felt promising. I need to drop back further away from the futon though, otherwise I'll crash into it if I land on my knees. I need a deeper arch in my back to land my hands closer to my feet.

After I finished backbends, I turned the heater off, put the tea in to steep, and did finishing. I forgot to look at the clock as I got up from taking rest, but it must have been close to 8, because it was 8:30 by the time I put everything away, bathed, put my yoga clothes in the bucket to soak, fed the dog and prepared breakfast.

8:30 is often the time I've *finished* my practice at the Shala. It wasn't a long commute there, but I'm definitely gaining some extra time. I'll appreciate that next month when I return to my full teaching schedule.

I'm committed to my 'six day' Astanga practice and for the time being, I'll do it at home. I have no immediate plans to study with a teacher again, though I'm still going to Darby's Shala when I'm in Montreal next week.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Astanga

After I finished my practice this morning (Teacher: R; Room: hot; Mood: content; Hamstring: good; Mari D: wrist bind both sides; Adjusted: UHP, PPC; and no, I didn't stand up), I bicycled home and emptied out my shala bag.

I filled it with a picnic lunch, a blanket, a water bottle, a thermos of tea and a thought-provoking book (CTSM), then headed out to the docks.

Just me and the dog. We rode the ferry to the far end of the island and spent the day slowly walking all the way to the other end, with frequent stops for tea, lunch and long interludes gazing out at the lake and doing nothing at all.

I grew up on the water and I do my best, clearest thinking when I'm near it. That's where I am now. I'm sitting on the sand, listening to waves break on the beach. I can feel my spirit being soothed and lifted by the wind and water and sunshine.

Watching the sailboats on the lake makes me happy. The winds are good today.

I haven't had any deep epiphanies or sudden leaps of understanding, but i think I have figured out one small thing and that's enough for now.

The rest will come in time.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Astanga

My practice has hit a kind of plateau lately. There isn't a lot to say about it. I could almost create a form and just check off the appropriate responses every day:

Daily Practice Report Form

Date: 16/8/2010

Teaching (select all applicable):
X P
_ R
_ assistant

Shala temperature:
_ too cool
_ hot
X very hot
_ sweltering
_ I'm melting

Mood:
_ good
_ bad
_ tired
_ energetic
_ goofy
X resigned
_ contented
_ frustrated
_ cheerful
_ angsty

Practice duration (fill in the blank)
95 minutes

Gimpy hamstring feels:
_ good
X bad

Mari D wrist bind:
X both sides
_ neither side
_ second side only

Adjustments received (check all applicable):
_ Padangusthasana
X Uttita Hasta Padangusthasana
X Prasarita Padottanasana C
X Supta Kurmasana
_ Paschimottanasana
X Other (please specify)
Baddha Konasana

Stand up from backbend:
X no

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Astanga

It wasn't difficult to get up for practice this morning since the Shala opened late, at 9. But getting through it was a challenge. I was SO creaky and stiff. Just two days off and I could feel the accumulation of Lazy in my body!

My gimpy hamstring was feeling it the most. I didn't lose too much flexibility, but I definitely felt the injury more. The gimpy shoulder is still tender, even after a couple of days rest. I modified vinyasas today.

The wrist bind on the first side of Mari D disappeared again. I even came out of the pose and tried again, but it wasn't going to happen so I accepted the finger bind and moved on.

The teachers are still away, so I played around a bit in Supta K. I sat up after Kurmasana and brought my left leg behind my head, then lowered down and brought the right leg back, hooked the ankle over. Then I did bound the fingers.

It worked pretty well! In past attempts, I haven't been able to get the fingers if I hooked the ankles first, so that's an improvement. It was definitely deeper, but I wasn't able to keep the ankles behind my head when I lifted up for the exit.

I spent some quality time with backbends since I had the time and no one was watching :-D. I did three creaky Urdhva Dhanurasana and then I did a second set of three, focusing on walking my hands in, trying to go deeper each time. It felt really deep to me, but I have a feeling it wasn't that great.

I did four more backbends to practice rocking, but I wasn't very happy with them. The third one was the best. I was able to lift onto my tippy fingers, but I wasn't finding that elusive lift of the chest.

I think my upper back is a bit stiff. I was feeling it when I did my supplemental backbending at home afterward. I had to repeat Ustrasana multiple times to find a pose I could hold for any length of time.

I did a bunch of hangbacks. I was noticing that I seem to 'pop up' when I straighten my legs. I tried it a bunch of times: hung way back, then straightened my legs as I lifted back up. Pop! A few times, I generated so much momentum, I actually tumbled forward onto the futon.

I'm going to keep playing around with this idea.

Dropbacks are slowly improving. I'm inching the feet closer together, suppressing the urge to angle my feet out and trying to keep the legs straighter in the first part of the 'hang'. I did five dropbacks today. I tried rocking in the last two, but I was going nowhere with it, so I gave up.

Teachers are back tomorrow and it's a 'six day' practice week. Healthwise, I'm feeling so much better! I'm hoping for some great practices in the coming days.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Hatha

Lazy won out this morning. I never managed to make it to my mat for an early practice. I finally did a bit of Hatha in the evening, just 45 minutes to stretch out my hamstrings and hips.

I also did some backbending. I'm always surprised by how incredibly good Ustrasana feels to me these days. For years, I hated that pose but I love it now and I can stay in it for long holds.

I was also playing with dropping my hands back to the edge of the futon (a la Kapotasana) staying there for five breaths, then lifting back up. I'm nowhere close to the real pose, but it's a good exercise for easing the body into it. Gotta start somewhere.

And the way I need to activate my legs and lift up from the chest seems similar to the actions required for standing from Urdhva Dhanurasana.

I worked on that too. Did a few backbends and some rocking. No dropbacks, though. I was tuckered from all of the biking, walking, and shopping I did today.

I'm finally feeling better after a week of food poisoning fallout. My stomach was not happy! I've been living on brown rice cereal, soy milk and soy yogurt for the past few days.

Today, I ate vegetables and tofu for lunch. Cookies for dessert. It was divine!

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This State-of-the-Backbend photo is from earlier in the week. I was working on walking my hands in FAR while still breathing (never mind deeply, just evenly was enough of a challenge).

This is as far as they get at the moment.



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Friday, August 13, 2010

Hatha

It's a rare occurrence, but this morning my GCal agenda read: 'No events scheduled.' Nothing. Nada. And that was fortunate because I wasn't feeling well. Post-food-poisoning aftereffects + Ladys Holiday = Unfun. I was having pain on top of my pain.

As often happens when I'm forced into inactivity, I found myself catching up on piddly little tasks that are easy to do while sitting still. I cleared out files, both paper and electronic, throwing away all the bits and bites that seem to accumulate.

It felt good to get organised and I got to shred things, which always cheers me up. ;-)

It was such a treat to enjoy the entire day at home! I didn't *need* to go anywhere! In the late afternoon, I took Princess Fur for a long walk and that was the extent of my wanderings.

I did a short Hatha practice in the evening, consisting mostly of hip and hamstring postures.

On a whim, I practised bringing my legs behind my head, one side at a time, then both (I kept rolling backwards!), and trying to cross my ankles to lower into Supta Kurmasana. I was surprised to discover that I could bind my fingers, even though I wasn't particularly warmed up.

I'm putting this one on my 'list' of things to try the next time I do a home practice of Primary. I'm betting it would be far easier if I was really warmed up! A deeper Supta K would be a nice addition to my practice, given that my other Madskillz are still limited by the injury. Funny that this particular pose is totally unaffected by the hamstring.

Maybe I'll do it tomorrow! My weekend plans have changed and I'll be in town. Since I took today off, I could practise at home in the morning and even go to the Shala on Sunday.

********************
Princess Fur is enjoying the unexpected attention and a consistently available lap. She can't believe her luck!


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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Astanga

Holy smokes!!! I almost stood up from backbend today!

I was in early, the assistant was there and no one else. It was like having the Shala to myself! I settled into my favourite spot and enjoyed a very inward-directed practice. The room was completely silent except for the sound of my Ujjayi and I moved through my Primary steadily.

Thanks to food poisoning and lingering tummy troubles, my weight has dropped below the 'Mari D Wrist Bind Threshold'. I got the wrist bind yesterday and today. Today, I noticed that my Mari C wrist bind is back to being a one breath turn-and-grab affair.

So that's it, no more muffins for me! (famous last words!)

The shoulder issue that emerged this week is still tender, so I've scaled back my vinyasas. No jumps and I'm stepping back and forward. Yesterday, I even skipped Vinyasa between sides, but I added those back in today, as my shoulder was feeling slightly better.

I was alone as I started my backbends. I did one, came down, then came up for two more. Then I did three more, trying to rock to standing, resting in between.

For the past few days, I've given up on on getting any real lift and I haven't been thinking much about straight legs either. To be perfectly honest, I've been pretty relaxed about the whole thing, just doing the rocks and not getting too attached to the outcome.

Lazy! I'm having a little vacation from my teachers ;-)

The 'magic moment' happened in my second attempt at rocking. I was doing my rocks and just thinking about lifting my chest. Nothing heroic, just wondering if I could lift it maybe three inches higher.

On the second rock, something shifted and I felt my legs 'connect' and my hands came off the floor for an instant, then I ran out of inhale and came back down. I need bigger lungs!

I've managed to get my hands to lift off the floor before, but it was through pure momentum (rocking). This felt different. It felt like my legs took control of the movement, like a baton being passed in a relay. I recognise the sensation - I've felt a hint of it when DR has helped me stand up but I never felt like I 'owned' it.

I'm making no predictions. It could have been a fluke. Since the 'chest lift' visualization seems to be working for me, I think I'll keep with it.

Lady's Holiday is here, along with a busy weekend of playing 'tour guide' and maybe a day trip or two. I scheduled this weekend 'off', so I won't be back at the Shala until Monday. I'll be doing some home practice in the interim.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Astanga

I did another speedy Primary this morning. I finished in 80 minutes and I only skipped one pose - the last Paschimottasana. I did that on purpose, opting once again for a longer Tadaga Mudra before Sarvangasana.

Yesterday marked six weeks since my injury occurred. Six weeks is the *minimum* healing time for even a 'Grade 1' hamstring pull. It can take up to six months. Or a year.

I've come a long way, but I'm still far from 100% in my forward bends and Paschimottanasana is still touch-and-go. I miss easy, blissful forward bends! I miss getting a wide variety of adjustments in my postures. And I really, really miss squishes!

My summer practice has revolved around modifications with a heaping spoonful of surrender as this injury has healed. It has definitely been humbling but it has also given me the confidence that I *can* go on with my practice and find deep joy and inspiration from it, even if it's limited in some way.

I didn't do a Second Practice today. I planned it for the evening, but was teaching instead. And my Lady's Holiday is looming. Maybe tomorrow, maybe Friday.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Astanga

Food poisoning, Day 4: The 'eat at your own peril' edition.

I seem to be fine these days unless I put anything more complicated than rice cereal or tea in my tummy.

I was feeling queasy last night, but I was fine by morning. I ate some rice cereal this morning with no ill effects, but a small plate of vegetables and tofu at lunch left me in pain for hours. *sigh*

I'm only now emerging from the fog of my wasted day. I'm glad I worked on my dropbacks in the morning and went for a walk!

When I arrived at the Shala this morning, I immediately sensed that something was amiss: No teachers. They're away for the entire week. M, the sub who covered my first week at the Shala, is here today and tomorrow. The assistant is working the rest of the week.

I was already planning to be away this weekend anyway. Depending on how my plans unfold, tomorrow may be my last Shala day this week.

It was very humid this morning and I sweated buckets during my practice. I had a good, efficient Primary - just under 90 minutes. My hamstring was feeling stiff, though.

The 'tweak' in my right shoulder is back and I felt it during the vinyasas. Initially, I wasn't going to rock in my backbends, fearing I would make it worse but I did a trial run and it was okay.

I'll be mindful of it tomorrow and if it's still bugging me, I'll 'dial down' my jumps the rest of the week during home practice.

I had one Space Cadet Moment: I skipped Utkatasana.

********************
Second Practice:

I waited a few hours to do this, had some breakfast, drank my tea and went for a walk. Then I was ready.

I did a shoulder opener, a hip opener and Ustrasana x3. Then, lots of Urdhva Dhanurasana with a focus on walking the hands in far and maintaining a consistent breath.

The other day, I mentioned feeling like my breath was 'stuck' in my backbends. A reader mentioned Leslie Kaminoff's book, 'Yoga Anatomy'. I grabbed my copy off the shelf: Kaminoff says that in Urdhva Dhanurasana, the body is stabilized in a 'maximal inhalation' and expanding the breathe further isn't possible.

I'm going to gently disagree. Kino addressed this in her workshop. When Udiyana Bandha is engaged in backbends, the pressure of the lock shifts the organs toward the pelvis, taking that load off of the spine, but also creating more space for expansion of the lower ribs on inhalation.

That's what I was doing today and it was totally working for me (though I'll readily agree with Kaminoff that 'relaxed breathing' is preferable).

Thanks for your comment, Markus. It helped me think through this problem!

I wasn't sure how dropbacks would feel after a four day break. I did three, one after the other, easily. What a surprise! They were amazing and...dare I say it?...FUN!!

I *never* thought I would say that about dropping back! :-D

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Monday, August 9, 2010

Vinyasa

Food poisoning: Day 3. I’m *still* not feeling 100% but at least I was able to sleep last night.

Somehow, I managed to bike downtown this afternoon and teach my classes, then biked back to my neighbourhood. I was marooned in a health food store for a half-hour while it POURED rain outside. I bought some soy yoghurt and vegan-gluten-free macaroons to tempt my capricious appetite and dashed home during the first break. I ate lunch, somewhat reluctantly (I wasn’t really hungry, but really I need to eat...).

Still feeling queasy. UG.

I did a one-hour Vinyasa-style practice this morning. It’s been a long time since I practised with one of the YogaDownload sequences. I always liked Dawnelle, so I picked her Power Vinyasa Flow, 60 minutes, which was basically an hour long flow of standing poses. There were about four floor poses scattered in there, but three of them were backbend-ish and one was Navasana.

Yeesh! That’s a lot of standing, but it wasn’t hard at all. I did everything in the sequence without pause, and though I was sweating at the end, I didn’t feel overly taxed.

One advantage to keeping a blog is the ability to reference past practices. I searched for the entry describing my first experience with this particular sequence: It was very challenging for me, my legs were tired mid-way through and I had to take rest in Child’s Pose a few times.

It’s kind of nice to be able to gauge my progress in such a concrete way. I’m stronger! Yay.

I enjoyed the class but after months of practising Astanga exclusively, it felt unbalanced to me. Too much standing, no seated poses and no finishing poses (I missed my finishing!). But it was a nice change from my routine and it felt good to move my body a bit (and necessary - I’ve been spending too much time laying around).

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Audrey understands! Sometimes she feels like being a sloth too!

But I don’t think my ‘Back-of-Leg’ muscles have been getting any benefit as I’ve laid around, watching old episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and sipping coocnut water.

It does not seem possible that I will actually be getting up and going to the Shala tomorrow morning. *sigh* But I will! And I’ll be doing backbends!

*whimper*

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Astanga

My teachers are away this weekend, leaving the Shala in care of the assistant. I was planning to play hooky and practise at home anyway, but the lingering effects of the food poisoning gave me a valid excuse: I was in no condition to get on the mat at 9 a.m.

Instead, I slept in a bit and tried to drink some tea. I stayed in bed resting until noon and managed to eat a protein bar for lunch. My entire body was feeling puffy and tender. The pain was intense last night and I slept fitfully.

When I don’t practise in the morning, I kind of forget that I need to. Practising later in the day is not part of my routine.When noon rolled around, I was surprised when I realised I hadn’t yet done yoga.

So I rallied and stepped on the mat at 1:30 to do led Primary with Sharath’s CD. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I really surprised myself! Not a bad practice! The standing poses felt impossible, but once I moved on to the seated, I fell into a groove.

It’s been a long time since I practised with this CD. In fact, it’s been five months (I checked). It didn’t feel as difficult as I remembered but it does move FAST! At times, it felt a bit *too* fast, like I was only getting two or three breaths in before it was time to move again. That was weird, but it makes sense, given that my full Primary lasts at least 90 minutes these days (the CD runs about 75 minutes).

It was really fun to do the Chakrasanas in all of the appropriate spots - I’ve never done that before with this CD. Those transitions really do help the flow! I’m getting so much better at Chakrasana and I feel comfortable with it. I need to start working on moving all the way through when I bring my legs back. I’ve fallen into a bad habit of pausing before rolling. But I’m closer to rolling to my toes (rather than my knees). The transition no longer bothers my neck.

As I listened to the CD, bits and pieces of verbal instruction were suddenly clear that had never made sense to me before. For example, the ‘bring the heels close’ direction in Karna Pidasana. Before going to the Shala, I kept my feet apart so it never really registered. There were all kinds of small things like that. It’s all stuff that I wouldn’t have known if my teachers hadn’t corrected me. It highlights how much my practice has changed over the past few months. I’m grateful for all of the help I’ve received at the Shala and in workshops I’ve taken over the summer.

My practice moved quickly after Garba Pindasana and it was fun! By the time I hit finishing, I was feeling so much better and I was glad that I decided to give it a try. I wasn’t sure I would last through the Sun Salutations, but I finished strong, holding Sirsasana and Uth Pluthi for all of Sharath’s counts.

And now I’m all ready for the Moon Day tomorrow :-D

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Restorative

If lying over a bolster and writhing around in agony qualifies, then I did some restorative yoga today. I tried, I really did.

When the pain started last night, I assumed that it was my Lady’s, arriving a bit early. But it wasn’t. I had a touch of food poisoning, which was just enough to keep me in bed for most of the day.

Of course, I was bored out of my mind!!! I didn’t have the mental focus to read a book or study. The Internet is a Dead Zone on the weekend. DVDs can only keep me entertained for so long.

After the first few uncomfortable hours, I figured out a brainless activity that would help me pass the time: I organised my photos from the past year. This in itself was a bit painful, given the Big Life Changes I’ve gone through, but there was an element of closure in the process, which I appreciated.

And if I had to get sick, at least I did it on a Saturday! Tomorrow I’ll be back on the mat.

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I shot a State-of-the-Backbend photo during my brief Second Practice yesterday:

No huge changes from previous weeks.

Why on earth do I feel like I can’t breathe if I walk my hands in to my maximum? (where they are in this photo)

It feels like an iron band is cinched around my chest and the air won’t go in.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Astanga

Primary express this morning! I zoomed through my practice in a streamlined 85 minutes! I challenged myself to follow the exact vinyasa count, particularly for the Maricyasanas. I managed it as far as Mari C (and still got the wrist bind too!) but in Mari D, it all fell apart (and only a finger bind). But I picked it back up again. Fun!

Backbends were efficient. Three warm-up backbends, two rounds of rocking on my own and three with assistance. My only point of pride in these was my persistence. I only took a 3-breath break between each. I was not getting very much lift, but I was definitely working my legs.

Skipped pose: The post-backbend Paschimo. I know, I know...it's supposed to be a bliss-out moment, but this morning the hamstring wasn't cooperating and I knew a squish wasn't coming so I did Tadaga Mudra instead. Tadaga calms my nervous system more effectively anyway.

P didn't say anything about it.

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Second Practice:

Since I'm no longer trying to quash my fear of drop backs and they feel pretty solid (if a bit sloppy), I've imposed a moratorium on Friday drop backs. This is a common practice in Astanga in order to ease the nervous system into the Saturday rest day. I'm going to start following it.

So today I worked on my research poses (opening hip flexors/shoulders/quads) and did three Urdhva Dhanurasana. Then I did my abbreviated 'finishing' and went on with my day.

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As much as I love gadgets and technology, I'm 'old school' in some ways. I was an 'early adopter' of the cell phone, but I'm not a big talker. I finally gave up my phone because I never used it! I have a landline. I think I've made two phone calls in the last two months (and received one - my friends know better than to try to reach me by telephone!).

I mostly communicate by email. But I'm 'on the road' so much with my teaching, I found myself coveting iPhones and that easy access to the Internet. Alas, it didn't make sense for me to get one given the expense and the the fact that I would be paying for phone service I would barely use.

I was still tempted! When the iPad was introduced, I was cautiously optimistic. I decided to wait it out and see what kind of reception it received from my geek-friends. And I saved my pennies.

Today I took the plunge! The 3G was the main selling point. I can access the Internet anywhere! Even the most generous data plan is very affordable, particularly if I do the unthinkable: get rid of my landline and use SkypeOut for the rare phone call (usually to my mother). I have access to a Wifi lounge nearby if i really need toconnect my laptop to the 'net.

So far, I'm delighted with it. I can see why some of you are SO in love with your iPhones! The landscape keypad is marvelous and with some practice, I've learned to efficiently touch type on it (I wrote this entire entry on my iPad!).

I have a feeling that this device may replace my beloved Kindle. I'm not sure the 'e-ink' trumps the ease of use provided by the touch screen. The Amazon app is very well-designed! Books feel more 'bookish' on this device. You can flip through the pages and easily access the Table of Contents.

My only complaint so far is that it's a bit on the heavy side. That could be limiting, but it's not much heavier than a hardback book.

Well, that and the price. OUCH.

The guy at the Apple Store laughed out loud when I pulled out a wad of cash to pay for my purchase. I even had exact change! I'm so 'old school' I'm practically Amish!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Astanga

Quiet morning at the Shala. I was on my mat at 6:30 a.m. sharp and moved through my Primary in 95 minutes. Not a bad practice, given how exhausted I was feeling after practice yesterday. For much of the day, my body felt ‘heavy’. I had to take the subway home from my evening class because I ran out of steam to bike home!

Today was a good hamstring day! I found a deep(ish) forward fold almost immediately. In the hamstring-healing-process, the last two hold-out poses seem to be Parsvottanasana and, of course, Kurmasana. In both, the hamstring is uncomfortable in the opening moments, but if I ease into it, I can go deeper.

The wrist bind is gone, gone, gone in Marichyasana D (though I can still get my fingers easily). I need to stop eating my own muffins!

This is a batch I baked up this morning for my students - I used blueberries, fresh mango and slivered almonds.

Where was I? Oh yes: Backbends.

By the time I started my backbends, I was the only person in the room actively practising (everyone else was taking rest). I had P’s full attention; he was hovering. After the first three Urdhva Dhanurasana, I asked him: “Is it okay if I do three more?” I was trying to straighten my legs more and push up through my hips and I wanted another go at it. Then I did a few rounds of ‘rocking’ on my own.

Though it felt like a ‘step backward’, I made a real effort not to bend my knees very much. This meant my hands were barely coming off the floor. It was so much harder!

Since P was around, I peppered him with questions. I asked about keeping my legs straight. He suggested that I focus more on straightening them until I could feel the contraction of my quadriceps and then maintain the engagement of the legs as I rocked. He said that if I’m feeling the work in the quads, then it’s correct.

So that’s what I did: strong legs, keeping them as straight as possible. When he helped me rock today, I could tell that he was doing more of the work than usual, but I also felt like the direction was more ‘forward-up’ and less ‘forward-forward.’ My legs were shaking by the time I finished!

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I carried this over into my Second Practice. 'Straight legs’ is the puzzle piece I inadvertently ‘dropped’ from the table when I took my dropbacks indoors. In the park, I’m certain I was keeping my legs straighter and finder a deeper hangback. During the transition to the Scary Floor, I adopted the wide stance and hyper-bendy knees just to get the job done (and it was VERY effective), but I’m way past that now (no more fear! yay!)

I have a new mission!

Today, I skipped the research poses and instead opted for many, many hangbacks with my legs as straight as I could make them. Even though my back wasn’t feeling very open, my dropbacks were definitely better. I was feeling more of an arch in my back. I was feeling the stretch in my hip flexors as I hung back.

I wondered if The Fear might return when I changed my approach to dropbacks, but it didn’t. Seems as long as I can see the floor in order to gauge a safe ‘dropping distance,’ my brain is still willing to play.

I started with my feet flush to either side of my Maha mat. This mat is narrow compared to my Manduka (on the Duke, my feet probably would have been half-way off the edges). My goal is to eventually have my feet *entirely* on the Manduka. Of course, once I begin to hang back, the feet start to ‘migrate’ away from the mat edge and my toes angle out a bit. I’m not worried about this. I have a feeling this will get better with time.

Here’s the current State-of-the-Dropback:

When I compared this clip to one shot in the park almost a month ago, I could actually see some improvement! The differences are subtle, but my hands are landing closer to my feet. I’ve lost that lovely ‘hang in mid-air’ that I was doing in the park, but I’m arching back more.

Alas, I’m no closer to standing up.

‘Practice and all is coming’ but no one ever said it was going to come quickly, did they!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Astanga

I had another unremarkable, but enjoyable practice this morning. I really appreciate it when I hit a stretch like this: no big breakthroughs, but no hesitation either. I’m always happy to be on my mat. But the ‘practice reports’ are a bit dull. I have so little to report!

Here’s a first: In four months at the Shala, I’ve never stood at the top of my mat to wait for an adjustment. I always just move on if a teacher isn’t available. But my Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana is SO much better with some help, so I waited in Samasthiti and focused on my breathing for a minute or two and P came over when he was free.

I worked steadily in my backbends today, but my back wasn’t very open. I could feel this as soon as I tried rocking. P helped me with 3 rounds of rocks. The third time, I was keeping my heels down and engaging my legs as I rocked, which is something, I guess. But mostly, I just felt gummy and stiff.

During my Second Practice at home, I shot a video of my last dropback and rocking attempts. Then I watched it and laughed at myself. *shakes head* It’s actually quite amazing! I didn’t think it was possible to drop back into a backbend without actually bending the back, but I seem to be pulling it off!

Here’s a one-sentence summary of my current M.O.: “I don’t like bending my back, so I’ll just bend my knees instead!”

Not to say that the time I’ve spent on these dropbacks has been entirely wasted. Keep in mind, when I started this project in late June, I was TERRIFIED of dropping back. Now I’m not afraid (even though I probably should be, given my wacky alignment!). I knew my dropbacks were not great and that’s why I filmed. What I’m feeling in my body and the visual reality of it are almost always entirely different. I wanted to see exactly what I was doing in these dropbacks with my own eyes, in order to start the ‘fine-tuning’.

The great news is, there’s a wealth of ‘fine-tuning’ available to me! The three biggest issues at the moment seem to be:

1) Lack of openness in my upper back. I’ve been ‘hanging off the box’ to work on this, but I probably need to incorporate hangbacks into my Second Practice again. As I’m dropping back, I need to work on keeping my legs straight and arching back as much as I can first.

2) Bendy knees! My back isn’t bendy, but my knees are! I need to stop relying on this ‘crutch’ in my dropbacks. I’m thinking that perhaps some work at the wall, ‘walking down’ (and up!) while keeping the legs as straight as possible might help address this.

3) In my rocking, less ‘forward’ and more ‘up’. In reviewing my attempts to ‘rock’ to standing I noticed that I’m moving forward ‘horizontally’, but there’s no lift in my hips. Most of the time, there’s not even enough lift to rock forward to my knees! If I was a rocket, I wouldn’t be leaving the atmosphere!

Straighter legs will help, if I can pull that off. Getting the hands closer to the feet (as R has pointed out) will also be helpful. I need to develop a ‘bendier’ back to do this. And I need to rock ‘up’. This feels like one of those ‘missing pieces’ of my puzzle. My body doesn’t seem to understand how to go there. I have my work cut out for me!

Tomorrow, it’s back to the drawing board. Again!


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Astanga


I had an early practice today and I’m happy to be back ‘on schedule’ again. The weather has returned to ‘hot and muggy’ and I’m loving every minute of it! I’d be perfectly content to amble through an entire August full of hot, damp days. This is my season!

My practice has been steady and satisfying this week. No big breakthroughs, no great difficulties.

I’m modifying for the left hamstring less and less. In general, the hamstring has it’s good and bad days (today was a Good Hamstring Day). The only lingering discomfort seems to be the cramping sensation of angry scar tissue. It’s healing, it’s just not happy about it. I’m always aware of the injured area during my first few sun salutations, then the sensation begins to ease. I’m almost always fine after the first Prasarita.

I got the Prasarita Padottanasana C adjustment this morning and R didn’t have to work *too* hard to get my hands to the floor. After months of struggling with this adjustment (then losing it completely) it’s my new favourite thing. The pose felt fantastic! No hamstring pain and my right shoulder (which has been a shade wonky since my gremlin decided to move in) felt good too.

Three breaths with my pinkies on the floor. I would have happily lingered there for 10.

The wrist bind in Marichyasana D went bye-bye this week. Muffins lead to ‘muffin top’! Who knew? I’ll have to take it easy on the ‘treats’ for the next few weeks. Gotta get back down to ‘Pasasana Weight’. You know, in the unlikely event that I ever need to actually DO that pose. *eyeroll*

There was a LOT of backbending this morning. My schedule is light on Tuesdays so I didn’t need to rush off today. My practice lasted almost two hours. I think I filled my backbending quota for today AND yesterday, so at least I’m out of the ‘dog house’ now.

There have been some notable shifts in Urdhva Dhanurasana recently. The biggest one is that I’m finally feeling a stretch in my front hips! I can access this stretch if I push the heels of my hands towards the end of my mat and push up and forward through the hips. If I stay there, the stretch also moves into my lower ribs (engaging Udiyana Bandha is helpful here). This has become the new focus of my ‘warm up’ Urdhva Dhanurasana. I try to find this ‘front stretch’ and breath into it.

My first few attempts at rocking today were miserable, but then I fell into a groove. My new strategy was to walk my hands in with each inhalation/rock forward. On the last few rocks, I try to come up on my fingertips and stay there for the duration of the inhalation. Repeat!

At one point, I started to come forward and my hands actually lifted...up...up....but I fell over on my left shoulder instead. CRASH!. Ouch. And funny. And totally unnerving. But it's the first time I've ever done THAT at the shala! It was acrobatic!

If 'Fail Better' is my new motto, then that's PROGRESS!

While R was assisting me, I came VERY close to standing up. So close that she couldn’t resist - she started to bring me up. But then I panicked and crashed again. I really wasn’t expecting to stand, so I was caught off-guard. But afterward, I was wracked with frustration at the missed opportunity.

Why, why, why can’t I get this?!

It feels SO close! Have you ever been working on a puzzle and managed to construct major portions of it, only to get ‘stuck’ searching for the pieces needed to bring everything together? That’s exactly where I’m at with this ‘standing up’ business. I’ve figured out parts of it and I can do those parts pretty well. There are some other scattered parts and I’m trying to figure out how they fit in to bring it all into one coherent picture.

I’m a bit worried that my dog ate a few of the key pieces I need because I can’t find them ANYWHERE. :-D

During my last rounds of rocking (number 10? number 15? I lost count....) I was coming right up onto my fingertips and hovering there. Yet another valiant effort! R finally told me to stop and take Chakrasana: “That’s enough. Commitment without attachment.”

*sigh*

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To be honest, I didn’t have a lot of juice left for my Second Practice today. I did a few ‘research poses’ and two Urdhva Dhanurasana to warm up for dropbacks. I wasn’t on the mat for more than 25 minutes.

Great news on the dropbacks! My stance, which has been quite wide, is narrowing! My hangbacks are feeling much ‘hangier’. If I start to feel panicky, I just move my hips forward more (this has been a theme over the past few days) and root down through my feet. When I do this, I feel like I have so much more control!

I did three dropbacks and rocked four times after each. In the last two, my hands were lifting off the floor completely and I even managed to crash to my knees once.

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It’s been a few weeks since we checked in with the 70s Yoga Ladies. Today, they’re working on twists...and checking for rain.

Wouldn’t want to get that lovely Persian Yoga Rug wet!

But actually, it seems pretty sunny out, so maybe they’re just looking for a hand-out. Does anyone have a tea biscuit? Spare change?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Astanga

It’s a holiday here, which means that the Shala was running on later hours. But since I was teaching a full schedule and then some, it completely threw me off! The morning was sheer chaos. I slept in a bit too much, walked the dog a bit too long and then frantically tried to get organised for the day ahead. I was hungry, but I couldn’t eat because I hadn’t practised yet (but I was starving because I hadn’t eaten a meal in 15 hours).

I arrived at the Shala just before 9 and launched right into my practice knowing I had exactly 90 minutes to move through it. I had to be efficient, but this is do-able.

I was a tiny bit distracted by my grumbly stomach, though. By the time I got to the Marichyasanas, I was so hungry I think I would have eaten my own yoga rug if teachers were not there watching! I zipped through the remaining poses and went right into backbends.

I did my three warmup backbends and R verbally corrected the alignment of my arms: fingers need to point forward and my arms need to be straighter. Then on to ‘rocking’, which is going pretty well, actually. I’m lengthening my inhalation, coming right up on my fingertips and trying to hold there for the duration of the inbreath.

During the third go, I actually rocked forward until my hands lifted! It was awesome! I was so proud of myself and I snuck a sideways glance to see if R was even watching.

She was - she saw it from across the room and said: “That’s a valiant effort, but it’s not going to get you where you want to go.”

BUZZ! No dice. Thanks for playing.

I’m not sure why, but I found this VERY funny and I started laughing. I managed to get a hold of myself long enough to listen to the reasons that my ‘valiant effort’ wasn’t cutting it. Wait for it...my hands are not close enough to my feet. But I thought THAT was funny too so once again, I dissolved into giggles.

Backbending used to make me cry. Now it makes me laugh! I think I might be going a little bit crazy. Shhhh! Don’t tell anyone!

Also: The more I thought about my ‘valiant effort’ the more I thought about Prince Valiant! This was NOT helping me take backbending seriously. :-D

Nice horse! If I had an awesome red cape like that, I’ll bet I could stand up from a backbend!

The clock was ticking and I had to get to finishing, so I did chakrasana and unrolled my rug. R chose this specific moment to come over, shake her head and say: “More.”

Usually, I wouldn’t mind backtracking, but I was in a time crunch. I replied: “Not today. I have to finish now. I have classes to teach.” Since I’m blind as a bat without my glasses, I have no idea how this went over, but I suspect I may be ‘in the doghouse’ now because my ‘good-bye’ was ignored as I left the room.

Oh well. Prince Valiant and I, we'll keep doing our practice! ;-)

I raced home and in my spare ten minutes, I managed to bath, feed the dog and eat. I didn’t have time to prepare anything, so I stood in the middle of the kitchen inhaling the horrible blueberry crumble squares that I had decreed were ‘not good enough’ for the Shala. Apparently, when I’m hungry enough, anything goes, even if it’s heavy on the nutmeg!

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Second Practice:

30 minutes, after lunch (as it was the only spare time available to me).

I wondered how that would go: dropbacks on a full stomach! *burp* But it was fine. Dropping back is no longer a Big Drama, so I just moved through them.

Rocking was interesting! I rocked after pushing up into Urdhva Dhanurasana and then I rocked after each dropback.

I really *was* paying attention to R’s feedback earlier today (despite my giggles and Prince Valiant obsession). I know I need to walk my hands in more, so I was trying to do this.

One of my shalamates is trapped in this 10th Ring of Hell along with me (she has a terrific Primary, but can’t move on since she can’t stand up). She’s mastered rocking to her knees. I noticed that when she’s rocking, she walks her hands in on each rock.

So I tried this and it actually felt like I was coming ‘up’ more by the third rock but then I balked because I was afraid of the ‘knee landing’. I just need to get over that! A few bruises are not going to kill me (and it wouldn’t be the first time I’m black and blue from Astanga).