Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bringing it back

The other day, I wondered aloud 'what would Guruji do' with my hibernating Astanga practice and gimpy shoulder. As it stands, I've taken a 20-day hiatus, my strength is diminished and I've fallen out of the routine of this practice. As soon as I asked the question, I knew the answer: start over again. Surya Namaskara and the fundamental standing poses.

On Saturday evening, I unrolled my mat and gave it my best shot. But instead of stopping at the standing, I went right into my 8 Intermediate poses, then did lots of backbending (as much as I had time for) and closing.

It was an interesting practice because it was SO different from my practice 20 days ago. I wasn't in any pain at all! It felt novel and fabulous to practice without the throbbing pain in my shoulder. I could move my arms around without discomfort and the bind in Baddha Padmasana was accessible to me. I also noticed that my body is open in new and different ways.

The biggest boons:
-My hamstrings: The gimpy hamstring is history. I have full flexility back in all forward bending poses, including Parsvottasana and to a certain degree, Krounchasana.
-My neck: It's bendier! Sarvangasana felt awesome and my knees were on the floor in Karnipidasana. I'm going to give credit to Bikram's Sasangasana for that one.
-Balance: ROCK SOLID. I've really gained some mad skillz in this area! I did Uttita Hasta Padangustasana for fun and I didn't fall over once (but I also couldn't hold my leg up at the end (strength FAIL).
Backbends: Urdhva Dhanurasana was not as deep as it was 20 days ago, but I come into it from the floor without shoulder pain and I can stay there endlessly because I'm actually breathing! Deeply! I can feel my lower ribs puffing in and out as I hold the pose.

I could write a whole post about the Bandhas. I thought I would lose my connection to my Bandhas during Hot Yoga Month, but to my surprise, I'm more aware of them. In hot yoga class, there are a few cues that are repeated often. One of them is: 'Suck in your belly!' Each time I heard this, my brain registered: "Oh! You want me to engage my BANDHAS!" And I did. With good results. It's amazing and it makes me want to do it *more*.

Overall, my first Astanga practice in 20 days felt great. I felt all happy and floaty afterward! I was excited to repeat the experiment on Sunday, but alas, it didn't go quite as smoothly. The soreness from Saturday practice was already setting in.

I know what you're wondering and it was on my mind too: what does my gimpy shoulder think about all of this vinyasa-ing? To be honest, I don't know yet, because EVERYTHING about my shoulders hurts right now. I've lost considerable strength. I can still *do* everything I could do before, it's just harder and I tire more quickly. I'm back to following up my practices with long salt baths to sooth my tired upper body.

I practised again on Monday and I was definitely feeling sore. I could detect some sensation in the right shoulder, near the area of the injury, but that's not completely unexpected.

I'm easing off on the Astanga practice for the next few days. This will give me a chance to recover from the initial soreness and get a better sense of the state of my injury and my overall level of fitness for Astanga.

On a mental level, I'm vacillating between elation that I can *do* my practice again and anxiety that the injury will still limit me in significant ways. I'm genuinely worried about my planned visit to D&J's Shala in March. Part of me wonders if I should even bother, given the poor state of my practice. But another part of me is certain that this in itself is a GOOD reason to go: I need the advice of these teachers now more than ever. I need help with alignment to prevent re-injury. I'm certain that D will know what to do.

More than anything else, I want to keep Astanga sustainable over the long haul. I love this practice. I want to return to it and keep doing it in the years ahead. This injury was a good wake-up call: I no longer care if I EVER have floaty jumpbacks. I'll be happy with smooth, efficient, pain-free vinyasa.

I'm scared, but I'm hopeful.

********************
On a lighter note, I have a new 'injury' to report.

Last Saturday, hot class went over by more than 10 minutes and I was at risk of arriving late to my noon class. In my rush to get there on time, I stupidly sprinted across a street and when I stepped onto the sidewalk, I landed HARD on my right knee. I didn't notice anything was amiss until later on in the afternoon when I saw this dark maroon bruise.

The knee is fine and the bruise hasn't affected my practice at all - it's just a surface ache. But it's oh-so-colourful with a new kaleidoscope of hues emerging daily.

Pretty! ;-D




- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

7 comments:

The Misanthropic Yogini said...

Ouch!

yoga and wellness said...

Hi Kai,

I agree that an injury is a good wake-up call and you are so lucky that you still get to practice. I have been sitting out for almost two weeks now as I can't do those poses that involve the hands as I need to rest my elbow. The doctor said that my elbow is healing and although I am tempted to go for a hatha class, I don't want to do anything that will delay the healing process.

I still don't know how I got the tennis elbow, could be from repetitive usage of the mouse due to computer work or even from yoga. What I do know is that I will be more aware on how I do my poses from now on.

Love & light,
Karin

yoga and wellness said...

Hi Kai,

I agree that an injury is a good wake-up call and you are so lucky that you still get to practice. I have been sitting out for almost two weeks now as I can't do those poses that involve the hands as I need to rest my elbow. The doctor said that my elbow is healing and although I am tempted to go for a hatha class, I don't want to do anything that will delay the healing process.

I still don't know how I got the tennis elbow, could be from repetitive usage of the mouse due to computer work or even from yoga. What I do know is that I will be more aware on how I do my poses from now on.

Love & light,
Karin

Yyogini said...

Glad I'm not the only one fascinated by the color change process of bruises :)

I think you're right; senior teachers will be able to help you with alignment and injury-preventions. It's not necessary to go visit them only during your peak physical performance period.

eryn said...

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Namaste!

amaranthinestudent said...

I agree I think you should go to them regardless of the state of the practice. My teacher has a bad back / reoccurring SI joint injury and she goes to Maui every year for almost a month to work with Nancy. She says without fail her back flares right before a visit. Ofcourse she gets sad because she goes always hoping for new advanced, but recognizes that working with her during these times does help her to learn how to deal with her back in her injury.

And I don't want to be a downer but the weakness in your shoulder may be something that you will always have to contend with in your practice. I don't think mine is where yours got to in terms of pain, but I feel like mine will always be a 'problem' to some extent. I hope yours is not, but the teaching they can provide you in dealing with it seems like it will be invaluable in to the future; whether to avoid hurting it again, or to accommodate it within the practice so it is not a constant source of pain.

I couldn't agree more regarding jump backs. I have let go of that ambition all together.

Anyways good luck easing back to the practice. I will send loving kindness to your shoulder!

Flo said...

That is some bruise! Ouch.
Glad to hear you revisited the practice and it felt good! Hope you are healing up!