Monday, May 30, 2011


If I were to pick one word to describe yesterday's practice, it would be 'bendy'. Today's word: 'tired'. On Sundays, I start practice at 9:30 in the morning so I've had time to walk the dog, drink tea, and loll around a bit. Also, the shala was like an *oven* yesterday. It was awesome! This morning, I started at my usual time, 6 a.m., and it felt like every muscle in my body was aching a little bit. I didn't have a lot of stamina.

In my long-winded practice report on Saturday, I made a significant ommission. I forgot probably the most important part: Laghu Vajrasana. I've been Laghu Vajrasana-ing like crazy lately. Early last week, DT suggested that I come down and come up at least 5 times in a row. I've been doing that, then repeating until I can't do it anymore. So five 'chicken pecks' (As Owl likes to call them), then a short rest. And again. And again. I do about three sets of five. By that point, I'm so exhausted that I'm shaking a little bit, then I go on to do Kapotasana like a good little masochist.

Every practice is hard right now, but there's almost always an 'easter egg' hidden somewhere in that two-hour time frame. Yesterday, the egg was in Laghu. I had just finished going up and down and up and down for the kazillionth time (okay, the 9th), when DT stopped by said: "That's good! It's looking much better!" Somewhere in my fuzzed-out Laghu stupor, I acknowledged her, then continued chicken pecking.

It was a great moment, because DT almost never does that. If she observes that I'm getting the hang of something or a pose has reached a new level, she just gets busy making it harder for me.

Today's 'easter egg' was Bakasana B. I've been landing it fairly consistently on the third or fourth try. When I filmed it last Friday at home, I observed that when I jump into it, I always *have* it, but I don't *keep* it. Same thing happened today. I jumped into it, then popped my toes to the floor.

I've learned something important in hot yoga, from practising standing balances. In Bikrams, these balances are long holds and I realised that once I *have* the balance, I need to make a decision to *stay* for the duration.

In other words, I need to decide that I'm NOT going to fall out. No matter what, no matter how much I wobble or how silly I look.

So today I decided: no matter how ugly my Bakasana was, no matter how unstable I felt, I would jump into Bakasana and I would STAY. And I did. And I nailed it. Oh yeah, it was ugly, but I was there for five breaths and *that* part was beautiful!

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Look ma! No hands!

I had a very good yoga week, but for some reason I didn't have much to say about it. I was doing a lot, thinking a lot, but I didn't feel like writing.

I glanced through my private practice notes to form a bigger picture and realized that I covered quite a lot of ground over the past week. Here's an overview...

LBH: This week, I started consistently getting Eka Pada Sirsasana on the right side hands-free. Near the end of the week, I was able to come back up from the forward fold without the leg slipping at all. The pose is slowly coming on the stiffer left side and by Thursday, both sides of the pose were hands free. The exit is also getting stronger. Lately, DT has been holding off on the Dwi Pada Sirsasana assist, letting me flail around a bit before coming in at the very last moment to help me get the right leg back. Because my left side is stiffer and that's the leg that goes behind my head first in Dwi Pada, it's a bit tricky. I end up rolling onto my back a lot.

Kapotasana: For awhile, I was taking the traditional entrance into this pose and dropping back to the floor, but it was getting to a point where I felt I wasn't going anywhere with it. This week, DT suggested I go back to working against the wall for Kapo and walk my hands down while trying to deepen the bend/lift in the upper back. I'm working on finding muscular support from below (to help me lift my hips up and forward).

Backbending: I used those fancy, expensive 'Health Bridges' twice daily for almost a month, but wondered if they were really making a difference. So I stopped using them for about two weeks and realised that they really *were* affecting depth of my backbends and my ability to connect with that part of my body, especially the upper back. So I'm using them again and working up to two sessions a day. Mid-week, DT suggested I practice UD with my feet closer together, hip width. I tried this and I like it - I feel a stronger connection to my legs. I shot a State-of-the-Backbend photo after practice on Friday. Given that I wasn't practising Urdhva Dhanurasana for almost four months this winter, it's looking pretty good. I'm nearly back to where I was pre-shoulder-injury.

Headstand: Sirsasana is one of my stronger poses and I deeply enjoy it. I've been trying to hold it longer, but feeling shy about using my iPod alarm at the shala so I'm not sure how long I've been going. DT has hardly adjusted me at all in that pose, but this week, she encouraged me to lift my head off the floor to build more strength in my arms and back. She didn't say why, but I'm thinking this is a good prep for Pinca Mayurasana. She also talked to me about building strength in my neck, alluding to the 'seven deadlies' at the end of Intermediate. That's far, far away for me, but no reason not to get started.

Lolasana: I've been diligently doing as much of this as I can in my practice. On Friday, I filmed my Lolasana to see what it looked like and it was pretty disapointing. I don't seem to be getting any stronger. I'm going to film every Friday to measure my progress.

Other stuff: In the Saturday class, we workshopped Mayurasana a bit, using blocks under the shoulders to come into the pose, trying to get the lift in the legs. It's hard, but I had one absolutely magic moment when everything activated and my legs floated up.

So that's a wrap! Onward to the new yoga week!

Though our spring has been damp and cold, summer is waiting in the wings. It's forecast to be July-hot next week. I only have one more week of my full-time schedule - As of June 7, I drop to part-time. With evenings free, I'm looking forward to doing a second practice on most days. I plan to work on extracurricular stuff that will supplement my morning practice. I'm also adding another weekly vinyasa class with my old teacher HS and maybe an additional hot class.

As my attitude towards my practice has shifted, my goals have shifted too. My main goal for the summer is to build strength. Every week, I'm sore somewhere. The week before last, it was intense in my hamstrings and my core. This week, it was a general soreness around my torso and upper back and my legs were tired. I'm connecting with all these muscles I didn't know I had (or had never communicated with before).

Each time I hit a brick wall in my practice, DT says: 'That's because you're not strong enough.' So for now, I'm focusing on getting 'strong enough' and curious to see what happens when I do.

State-of-the-Backbend, May 27, 2011
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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Impossible things

My attitude about my practice has taken an enormous shift since I started practising in DT's room. Suddenly, I want - REALLY want - to master all of these complicated, difficult things in my practice, the stuff I avoided before. Mainly it's because she makes everything look easy and fun and seamless, but also because she always comes up with a good answer when I ask 'why' (and I'm allowed to ask why, something I didn't feel comfortable doing in the more traditional rooms I've practised in).

Floaty jumpbacks always seemed like window dressing to me, but after that workshop on Sunday, I finally *get it*. Floaty vinyasas, in of themselves, are not important, BUT the strength and control required to achieve them is. Because the strength balances out all of the flexibility. Because the vinyasa linking each pose is like a glue, holding everything together. And because this balance keeps the practice sustainable, helps prevent injuries and is an important preparation for Advanced (if I ever get there...).

So I'm taking Lolasana way more seriously, doing it as often as possible in my Intermediate practice and holding it for as long as possible. I'm now looking back at all those wasted years of Primary Series with regret - I could have been *rocking* all of that vinyasa! That's okay - I'll make up for lost time on Fridays! :-D

I'm also spending more time in handstand. I usually do three handstands against the wall, right before Bakasana. Yesterday, DT wandered over and pointed out that I'm bringing too much weight into the heels of my hands. When she corrected it, my entire balance shifted forward and my body slammed into the wall. BLURG.

Today, she wanted me to lift out of my shoulders. She demonstrated, coming into a handstand herself, mimicking what I was doing, then doing it correctly (it was actually pretty funny - I was cringing at the demonstration of 'my handstand'! Yeesh, am I really THAT floppy?!). I finally got it, though. It's kind of a lengthening of the inseam of the legs upwards, as if the feet were going to stand on the ceiling. DT said, "It's Tadasana, upside-down!" It *did* feel lighter and more controlled..

Later on in the day, I was on the floor playing fetch with Princess Fur when I suddenly had this 'OMG-handstand-epiphany'. We've already established that when I bring the weight into my fingers, my weight shifts toward the wall. And whenever I do it, I have this disconcerting feeling that I'll fall over backwards. I remembered that I used to feel *exactly* the same way about headstand, but I had to get over it because that shift is what makes it possible to lift the legs into a pike.


I tried it and it totally works in handstand too! I've been trying to lift my legs into a handstand for *years*. I always knew it was possible, but I couldn't figure out how it was done. For me, 'bringing the weight into the fingers' is the missing piece of that puzzle.

So I've been doing handstands all day like a silly kid! :-) Beautiful day too - sunshine and blue skies. I wonder if I'll be able to drudge up the courage this summer to start working on handstands away from the wall, maybe on the grass in the park? Hm...

This photo is from yesterday - scary skies over my city as the thunderstorms moved through.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

I know! Let's blow ourselves up!

This is *not* a happy time of year to be Princess Fur.

It's Victoria Day Weekend here in Canada. For those of you not familiar with our odd canuck customs, here's a primer: In theory, this holiday commemorate's Queen Victoria's birthday. In practice, it's just another day off, usually reserved for 'opening up the cottage' if you're lucky enough to have one. Those who don't tend to congregate in various city parks, parkettes, parking lots and back yards, get drunk on cheap beer and blow themselves to smithereens with cheap fireworks.

It's a tradition, eh?

It would be nice if everyone limited these actitives to the actual holiday (which, like many Canadian Holidays, is on a Monday), but usually the entire weekend is one huge orgy of beer, barbeque and Big Loud Booms.

Poor Princess Fur spends most of it hiding - either in the back of my clothes closet or jammed behind the toilet in the bathroom. She shakes and cries and if I'm moving about, she hugs my ankles like an alarmed toddler and won't let me out of her sight.

Last night, the weather cleared and it was a beautiful night. I think many people used up their fireworks because rain was forecast for Monday night. So I was up until the wee hours, cradling my terrified dog. She was shaking like a leaf and cowering in a corner until well after midnight.

I rolled into the shala this morning after five hours of fitful sleep. I'm realising more and more that I simply MUST get enough sleep. I can't do this practice if I'm tired. The first part was okay, but I was seriously dragging by the time I hit LBH and I thought Tittibhasana was going to *kill* me.

By the time I finished and staggered out of the room, I was already in the full throes of a full-scale energy crash. I don't know how I made it home. As soon stumbled in the door, I crawled back to bed, still dressed in my sweat-soaked shala clothes and passed out cold for two hours. I woke up cranky, disoriented and shaking with cold.

So, it was not a great morning, but there was some fun in applying the stuff I learned in the workshop yesterday to my practice. And between the morning nap, the afternoon nap and the Bikram class I just got back from (Peanut was teaching so I couldn't resist - he's one of my favourite teachers) I'm feeling perkier.

After hot class, I went to the Absurdly Expensive Gourmet Pizza Place and picked up a 'Vegan Magic' pizza for supper. In a few minutes, I'll join Princess Fur in the bathroom, where she's hiding from the thunder. A line of storms just moved through the area AND it appears some idiots are already collecting in the park between rainshowers so they can continue blowing themselves up. When Canadians do Crazy, they do it with gusto!

I had high hopes for an early bedtime tonight, but I'm not holding my breath.

Happy Victoria Day!

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Sunday, May 22, 2011


I had the nicest lie-in this morning. I woke around 6:30, ate breakfast and did some reading, then I went back to sleep since Mysore didn't start until later. I was groggy when I arrived at the shala so I wasn't sure how practice would unfold, but it was actually great! My Intermediate is flowing a bit better and I finished up everything in an hour and forty minutes.

I went home to get cleaned up and headed right back for the workshop. The workshop was so helpful - and challenging. DT covered the basics of jumping back and jumping through, with lots of Lolasana, a bit of handstand and some detailed discussion of precisely what type of strength must be cultivated to master a 'lift' (hint: not just the core). Most of my questions were on that topic and I wanted to know very specifically how I could work on these things in the context of my practice.

I can lift up into Lolasana, which is an improvement from what I was able to do last year at this time (and I'm actually pleased with my progress, given that my shoulder injury prevented me from working on this stuff for nearly 6 months). But I can't nail the second part, lifting my hips up and floating my feet back. Actually, this shows up everywhere in my practice and whenever I bump up against some 'impossible thing,' strength is usually at root of it.

The only way to find this action is to keep working on it and keep trying, so I'll carry on. Patience! That's how I got Chaturanga 8 years ago. Around the time I started YTT, I couldn't do Chaturanga at all. My first eight years of yoga study had been Iyengar-style and vinyasa wasn't part of my practice at all. But I kept at it, doing a silly belly flop day after day until eventually, I found the missing piece that allowed me to lower down smoothly.

At the time, I would watch other people do Chaturanga and I couldn't understand how they made it look so easy. When I was finally able to do it, it didn't seem difficult at all.

That's the faith I'm hanging on to. Whenever I get too frustrated with things that seem impossible (and look like magic tricks when other people do them), I remind myself of Chaturanga and carry on...

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Waiting for the Rapture...

I had a rough practice this morning, which I capped off nicely by falling sound asleep while 'taking rest'. I've never done that before in a shala! I woke up disoriented and realised I'd been at the shala for nearly two-and-a-half hours by that point. Good thing I didn't have anywhere I needed to be (and the room wasn't particularly crowded).

After practice, my back felt tweaked out on the right side. As soon as I got home, I rinsed off, put on a fresh set of yoga clothes and headed back out to Hot Central. I figured a Bikrams class might iron things out a little bit and it did - I felt better. The area is still a little tender, but nothing a few minutes rolling around on a tennis ball won't solve.

I'm not certain what brought this on. I do know that I've been using mucles differently in a several postures of my Primary. And Intermediate has been causing all sorts of sensation to emerge in my back too. I'm keeping an eye on it all and being mindful.

Taking that earlier Bikram class fit my schedule perfectly! I couldn't go to the 'Gong Show' hot class tonight because I met up with my meditation group and we all went out to eat afterward. Nothing like Buddhist meditation and Indian food to cap off the last day before the Rapture! I needed to confirm my status as a heathen so there will be no question tomorrow when the Angels of Mercy descend from On High to scoop up the Righteous! Me=Not Righteous!

Is it selfish to hope that the Rapture doesn't carry off my Mysore teacher? I was really looking forward to that workshop on Sunday! I also hope God doesn't carry off the people with floaty vinyasas and deep backbends (I'm looking at you, Susan) leaving the rest of us behind to fend for ourselves!

Also, given that these are the End Days, I'm thinking it might be fun to finish up Intermediate Series by the time the world implodes permanently in October. Do you think I'll be able to pull it off in between earthquakes, plagues and floods? Those seven headstands might be kinda hard to nail if the ground is shaking...

(It boggles me that any God in His right mind would destroy a world that's looking so pretty...!)

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

The sun is

Practice was Primary again today. I'm relishing this opportunity to spend quality time with my Primary. The only extracurriculars I'm adding are the LBH poses and I'm making some progress with them.

Yesterday, I immersed myself in the LBH section of Maehle's book and today applied some of his advice for Eka Pada Sirsasana. Result: I'm now able to hold the pose, with hands in prayer (praying, of course, that the legs doesn't slide out from behind my head!) on both sides AND lower into the forward fold without losing my leg.

I might've Dwi Pada'ed myself again too, but DT came over to help. With her adjustment, I lowered to the floor for Supta K and my feet didn't slide down the back of my head to the floor! I kept them there! YAY! I couldn't keep the pose together for the exit, but it's coming.

Outside of practice, I've started lotusing my legs the opposite way (left foot first) so I can get used to it. Yesterday, I noticed that the inside of my left knee was feeling a little bit tweaky. I asked DT about this, showed her how I was coming into it and she told me exactly what I needed to do to keep the pressure off that part of my knee.

I'm still trying, trying, trying to find that elusive opening across my upper chest, lifting those back ribs UP. In my deep backbending against the wall, I'm struggling to straighten my arms. When I ask DT, the answer is always the same: It's not about flexibility, it's about strength and alignment. In this case, I'm just not grasping the action needed to straighten my arms.

*Sigh* I remember when I first started practising, yoga was about putting a foot here, an arm there and YAY! A pose! Now, it's more about engaging this thing and pushing inward while simultaneously pushing outward and engaging something while releasing the adjacent thing and externally rotating this while internally rotating that and THEN creating length in another place while restraining other parts that are just *dying* to jut out. And in this roundabout way, finally building the action required to do the thing you actually wanted to do.


It never gets any easier because yoga is this all-you-can-eat buffet of progressively more complicated skill sets. After 16 years of this stuff, I *still* feel like a beginner - in part because I've been fortunate enough to study with teachers who keep it all fresh for me by constantly raising the bar. There's always a new layer to explore. It's exciting!

News flash: the sun is shining, intermittently, but shining. It was shining yesterday too - for five minutes. Such a shame it's been so lousy out - I'm missing the peak 'Pretty Flower Season'. Instead of hunkering down under an electric blanket, I *should* be walking around the city, smelling brightly coloured growing things.

Last night, as I was coming in from work, I spotted some practically new freebie patio furniture sitting on the loading dock. I grabbed two chairs and a table and I've set up a nice little garden area on my balcony. I have a feeling it will become my new-favourite-place as soon as the weather warms up. All I need now is a fake grass carpet and I'll be set! In the elevator this afternoon, I had a chance to thank the neighbour who gave the stuff away (he had literally just set it out when I nabbed it). He made my day, I made his!

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rain and more rain

My 'ladies holiday' kindasorta started this morning, not with a bang, but more of a whisper. I decided to take it easy and just do Primary. That's probably what I'll be doing for the rest of the week.

I had the nicest practice! The downpour waited until I walked into the warm, dry shala, with little pitterpatters on the roof and windows. Then, a serene quasi-dark fell over the room while the storm moved over us. I savoured my forward bends and watched water drip down the big picture window in front of me. I basked in the feeling of being warm and safe and happy.

The highlight was when I managed, for the first time, to 'Dwi Pada' myself and lower into (an extremely sloppy) Supta Kurmasana. The LBH poses seem a lot easier in the context of Primary Series!

Lately in my Primary, I've been working on vinyasas and transitions. Last Friday, the theme was getting the right kind of exit and entrance in the various poses (like the Marichyasanas, for example). I suppose the operative word here is 'trying'. It was a bit of a 'fail' but fun.

The healing of my shoulder has been a slow process, but last Friday's practice confirmed what I already knew: my shoulder is completely back to normal. All of that lifting and jumping and experimentation didn't leave me sore or re-injured. I've been backing off from this part of my practice for months and it helped me heal.

But I think the biggest help was having a teacher around to watch out for me and correct my quirky Chaturanga. The modified vinyasas were not hurting me, but I think I was straining my shoulders (both) by collapsing them forward each time I lowered down. I'm not doing unasssited dropbacks on right now because I land too hard (during one of my hard landings, I swear I could feel DT cringe from all the way across the room).

Today, I worked on simple jumpbacks and jumpthroughs. Prior to the injury, I had a decent jumpthrough, jumpbacks were coming along. For now, while I work on form and building strength, I'm using blocks. The handful of ashtangis I most admire, who have controlled, floaty vinyasa transitions (my teacher among them) learned this way. I'm going with what works. DT mentioned that I will probably need shorter blocks (closer to the floor) soon. She's going to look for some.

I spoke with her before I started practice today to confirm that I was working in the right way. She made a few changes. I need to jump through with crossed legs part of the time, alternating legs so I don't develop a imbalance. I can alternate those jumpthroughs with straight-leg jumps (which, oddly enough, I find much easier!).

The timing couldn't be better: DT is teaching a jumpback/jumpthrough workshop on Sunday from 1-3. I'm really looking forward to it. I think it will help a lot.

DT has given me some new backbendy things to do against a wall. She's beginning to emphasize extension of the hip flexors more with me now. Today, she showed me a backbending exercise facing the wall (while standing and hanging back). It's wickedly difficult, mostly because it requires me to reach my arms overhead and back while pressing my quads flat to the wall. I feel like I'm going to fall over backwards (or die) which, of course, means I'm not strong enough. ;-)

But yay for narrow hallways! I have one at home so I'll work on this with two walls until I can build more strength. I've been cheating on Astanga a bit lately. I teach classes at gyms, so whenever I have the opportunity, I've been using the Magic Hamstring Machine and doing some exercises to build core strength. When I add stuff like this to my routine, I do it in the spirit of experimentation. If I don't see any benefit to my practice, I move on to other things. Time will tell.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bakasana and Dancing Blue Turds

I clearly remember rushing out to buy Gregor Maehle's 'Intermediate Series' book when it was first released. Then I looked through it and thought, "What the hell am I doing with this? When am I ever going to practise Intermediate Series?" I put it on the shelf and sulked off to do my endless forward bends.

Now, that book is my BIBLE. I even purchased the Kindle edition so I can carry it with me everywhere and it's really the best thing ever! When I find a spare moment, I open it on my iPad and geek out on the minute little details of the poses I'm working on.

Yesterday, I was reading the section on Bakasana B while stuck on a delayed train in a tunnel somewhere in the vast underground of the city. I must have laughed out loud because the woman next to me glanced over and said: "That must be a *great* book!" I nodded. "I'm learning how to turn my armpits into a vacuum using my inhalation." She smiled at me nervously and scanned the train for another open seat.

I felt bad for scaring her. Obviously, the Crazypants is leaching into my leisure time.

The Armpit Vacuum has been on my mind ever since. This morning, I gave it a go and successfully (and lightly!) landed Bakasana three times. Armpit-suctioning-madskillz really work! Who knew? The fact that this feat was repeatable is encouraging, but in order for me to successfully land in that arm balance, I've learned that the following conditions must be met:

1) My suctioning armpits must be turned on.
2) My Driste must be far, far forward - like across the street.
3) I can't even *think* about starting my inhale until I'm actually preparing to take the leap and that's probably too soon.
4) Under NO circumstances can my teacher be watching me do it! ;-)

Too bad Kapotasana isn't this straightforward. In describing the entrance into *that* pose, Maehle explained: "There is an entire universe in this movement." No kidding! *sigh* Clearly, I have my work cut out for me...

So I know a few of you are scratching your heads and wondering, isn't it a Moon Day? Why yes, it is. My new shala is open on Moon Days and when the shala is open, I'm there, no question. After my long teacher-drought, I'm not willing to miss a single minute of instruction.

At first, I thought I would miss the day off but I actually don't mind at all. In fact, it's easier to just stay with my routine. I love my practice so much these days, that I'm just happy to be in the shala.

The weather is still gray and cool here, but at least it's not raining. I didn't teach at noon so I ran errands instead. Princess Fur needed dog food and I also bought a box of fancy 'poo bags'.

These bags are special! They are hand-shaped, kind of like a baseball mitt. I guess this will come in handy when Princess Fur suddenly developes high-velocity projectile pooing abilities.

The instructions on the box are pictorial and very helpful

Here's a translation:

Step 1) The dog has a great idea! *exclaimationpoint* *helpfularrow* The dog will eject feces from her anus at high velocities for the human to catch! (Cue: Mula Bandha).

Step 2) The human uses the specially designed Scoopies Poo Mitt to catch the Dancing Blue Turds as they fly across the park. (Cue: Happy Dance!).

Step 3) The Dancing Blue Turds then board their shuttle craft to rendezvous with the Mothership for their return to Planet Dog Poo. The dog waves 'Bye-Bye'. Planet Earth is safe for humanity once again (Cue: Dramatic space-themed soundtrack).

Seriously, I can't wait to try these out! Princess Fur is thinking deeply about Mula Bandha. I'm thinking deeply about my failed baseball career.

I'll let you know how it goes.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Found Hamstrings & The Raccoon Loaf

It was 7C this morning when I jumped on my bike to ride to the shala. For those of you who dream in Fahrenheit, that's the low 40s. My landlord turned off the building heat because, hey, it's mid-May and it's *supposed* to be warm so I've been running my old heater in the apartment - the noisy one. My oil heater now lives at the shala so I can better fly my freak flag as the 'the one who's so hard-core, she brings her own HEATER.'

Anyway, it's cold and it's rainy and practice was difficult this morning. Everything felt slightly 'off.' DT has been leaving me to stew in my own private Idaho in the LBH poses. It's not going so badly. On a good day, my legs stay put in Eka Pada Sirsasana but I need to grab my foot coming down into the forward bend. The leg always pops out during the exit. Dwi Pada is only doable if I can lean into a wall. This pose always makes me think of Weebles. Remember Weebles? They wobble but they don't fall down? I need to be a Weeble.

DT descended as I was wiggling into the first side of Eka Pada today and I received deep adjustments on both sides and a few tips to help me do it myself. My LBH poses *are* getting deeper. I noticed today that with the help, I could actually find some extension in my torso, especially on the right side. I felt like I was sitting up straight instead of curled forward like a gargoyle.

And there's *good* news! My hamstrings are sore, really sore. This afternoon, I sat down on a bench in the subway station and made a surprised 'OOF!' sound when my tender hammies touched down. Over the weekend, DT and I were messaging back and forth. I wrote: "You'll be happy to know that my hamstring hurt." She messaged back: "Yes, that means you're using them." Yay!

I'm used to my quadraceps being sore, but not my hamstrings. It feels backward!

In other news, our shala has a mascot! A raccoon! Actually, the raccoons have been around for years. I remember seeing them back when Shala Central was at this location. They like to hang out on the green roof right outside our windows.

When we arrived for practice on Sunday, it was wet and miserable out. A raccoon had found shelter, curled into a furry ball between the air conditioning unit and the window in what can only be described as a 'raccoon loaf'. Cat owners will know exactly what I'm talking about! When I walked to the corner to unroll my mat, he kind of checked me out, then curled back up into his loaf.

(by the way, it's probably *not* a good idea to Google the term 'raccoon loaf'. I thought MY freak flag was flying high. Eek!)

As the room filled up, the raccoon finally freaked out and left. I lowered the blind to give him some privacy (after I noticed that he was cautiously peering around the corner at me as I was coming into upward dog), but he didn't come back.

A shalamate caught this photo of him, sleepy and slightly disoriented. He looks exactly like a small child groggily waking up from his nap, which makes perfect sense because that's exactly what he was doing! Aw!!!! Cute!

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Vacationing Hamstrings

The weather was horrible today. Cold, damp, pouring raining. The bike ride home was pure misery. As soon as a stepped in the door, I ran a bath and marinated in a tub full of Epsom salts for a half-hour. I'm heading right back to that tub after I publish this post. It's been *that* kind of day.

Oh, my poor, SORE hamstrings. *groan* I must be doing something right because my legs HURT!

I've been trying to think of how I could best sum up the past week of yoga practice. In my brain, it feels something like this: HamstringsHamstringsHamstringsGluteusMediusHamstringsPleaselegstaybehindmyheadNOTanotherbackbendGAH! There's definitely a theme, though it's a bit fuzzy.

The conversations and analysis around all-things-Urdhva-Dhanurasana continue... On Wednesday, I came down from a backbend after yet another failure to 'turn on' my hamstrings. I asked DT depairingly: "Is it a lack of intelligence in my hamstrings, or a lack of strength?" She replied: "Probably a bit of both." I groaned. "So my hamstrings are weak AND stupid?" DT laughed and said: "More like they're on vacation."

"Dominican Republic," I confirmed. "They don't like the Canadian winters." Not only are my hamstrings getting drunk at the Urdhva Dhanurasana party, they're doing the limbo on tropical shores while drinky fruit cocktails. That's just awesome! *eyeroll*

But! My legs *are* getting stronger and I'm seeing effects across my practice. I'm able to lower all the way to the floor in Laghu Vajrasana again (this is a first since the shoulder injury). My backbends are getting deeper. My lame little version of Kapotasana is even feeling better (though 'better' is a relative term in Kapo).

When I did my Primary on Friday, I could feel a difference in all the poses - DT even noticed it. At the 'Gong Show' Bikram class that evening, I was able to do every. single. pose. competently for the first time ever - including my nemesis, toe-stand.

A new depth is emerging in my yoga practice - Intermediate Series is making me stronger.

There's a huge mental component to this, too. I'm learning that I have to be 'on' all the time. That's why it's so exhausting! In every pose, a major muscle group is working like mad. The poses of Intermediate Series not only demand strength, but a greater coordination of effort between different parts of the body. I find that I need to pay attention and I can't 'relax' into a pose.

I'm constantly amazed by how difficult even the most simple poses are. Take Tittibhasana. My hamstrings are pretty open so this one is not a big deal for me. I can breeze through Tittibhasana A and B (though the walking part is a little bit weird). But my endurance starts to flag in C and my legs are shaking like jello by the time I get to Tittibhasana D because it's SO MUCH WORK. Then I fall on my face trying to exit.

So that's the theme of my practice this week: It's difficult, demands full attention and deep reserves of perserverance and strength. But it's getting easier every day.

On Friday, I welcomed a special visitor to our shala! The lovely Serene Flavor joined us for practice! If you ever have a chance to meet this amazing woman, you MUST! She was visiting town for a family event and cleared a whole morning to spend with me.

It was such a treat!!! She's incredibly warm and sparkly, one of those people you feel like you've known forever within minutes of meeting. It was so much fun having her in the room for Mysore. She has a great energy and focus in her practice. And it makes the 'Cybershala' feel a whole lot smaller and more 'real' when I'm able to practice with other bloggers. Her visit was well-timed: her kindness and good energy reminded me of how special our online community reallly is. It's a blessing and joy to connect with other Ashtangis from around the continent and around the globe!

After practice, I brought her to my 'hood for breakfast and introduced her to Princess Fur (and the "famous" Blue Futon). Then the three of us took a walk around the city. The weather couldn't have been more perfect: sunny and warm. Spring surprised us this year by arriving all at once - it feels like every tree and flower is bursting to life simultaneously. It was the perfect morning!

I'm so glad we had a chance to meet and I was able to show her the city at its best! Here's a photo of the three of us on the grounds of the University.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Party Crashers and Evangelists

It's been a little over a week since 'Dogma-gate' and I'm long overdue in thanking all of you for your super-awesome comments. They went a long way towards convincing me that I'm not crazypants. And you also reminded me of something essential: We should all be minding our mental Driste as well as our visual one. And honouring the principal of Ahimsa in our lives and on our blogs by refraining from anonymous, person attacks on one other.

My teacher wrote a terrific blog post about dogma here. Go read it, then come back, because you don't want to miss the part about my drunken, party-crashing quadraceps.

Are you back? Good!

I was startled by how deeply those comments affected me. In hindsight, I totally get it because I was having a tender, touchy week. Intermediate Series is tough! I'm only practising roughly half the series and it still wrings me out, exhausts me physically and mentally (and I thought it would be *easier*! Ha,ha,ha! I'm still having a good laugh about that one, at my own expense). By the time I finish my practice, taking rest seems like too much work. I just want to curl up in a ball and pass out.

But I'm adjusting. This morning, after successfully binding both sides in Pasasana, I realised that I just have to *decide* to bind. If there's any question in my mind about the binding then it doesn't happen. I started to apply this new philosophy to each pose and I realised that up to this point, I've been approaching the Intermediate Series the same way Dobby the House Elf (of 'Harry Potter' fame) approached that all-important sock that set him free from slavery. "A SOCK, Master?! Really? FOR ME? You've given Dobby a SOCK!?"

Each and every pose was feeling like an all-encompassing event that I had to think about, double-check, and brace myself for. On some level, I couldn't believe I was actually doing these poses. Me! On my mat! Intermediate Series! I was worried that somebody (Anonymous? The Astanga Police?) would march into the Shala and take it all away from me. This morning, I let go of all that.

I also let go of any illusion of perfection. I practised each pose to the best of my ability, and then I let it go so I could move on to the next. And my practice flew by. I didn't have help with LBH poses this morning, so I wiggled into them myself. My exits from Eka Pada Sirsasana would have made fine comedy material, but I tried. Dwi Pada Sirsasana was a train wreck, but it was MY trainwreck and I'm kind of proud of the way I bungled through it. For the first time since I split, I feel like this practice belongs to me. I'm owning it, in all its rough imperfection.

I didn't really stop or slow down until I got to the backbending - and DT was waiting for me to get the party started. Today, instead of poking my own hamstrings, I poked hers, which only highlighted how uncooperative *mine* are. Another piece of this puzzle is my gluteus medius.

Let's take the horrible 'party' analogy to it's full expression, shall we?

Urdhva Dhanurasana is having a party! Yay! Invitiations have been sent out. The hamstrings RSVP'ed and they're supposed to be bringing a date, the glut medius. Everything is going fine. Most of the guests have arrived - my heels are grounded, my inner thighs are internally rotating and our hostess (DT) has nudged my errant right foot (the one that always splays out) back into place. The President's Choice hors d'oeuvres are circulating and the drinks are flowing freely. I press up into the backbend. And that's when the quadraceps arrive, loud and unruly. You can't even have a conversation over the din of their off-tune singing. They dance around the room clutching a bottle of whisky while the hamstrings look on despairingly. The hams shoot a meaningful glance at the glut medius and say: "Hey, this place is getting a bit crowded. What do you say we head to the martini bar down the street?"

This is around the time that DT is usually shaking her head and saying "Nope, they're not on, the hamstrings are not on" and I'm collapsing into a heap, bemoaning my burning quadraceps. We tried a few different things today. Some of these things helped, some made me feel like I was trying to speak Swahili. But it's a process. That's why it's called a 'practice' and I'm there every day, at 6 a.m., rain or shine.

Which, in a funny way, leads me right back to dogma. There's actually nothing wrong with dogma - as long as it lives within the confines of our own mats. Let's face it - everybody has a personal brand of batshit crazy that no one else can understand. My non-Astanga friends think I'm nuts. My more traditional Astanga friends suspect that I'm not quite nuts enough.

But at 6 a.m., it's just me and my crazy on my mat, with occasional input from my teacher. Dogma tells us that everyone is doing the same practice, but it's just not true. We're all doing our own version of Astanga. Each teacher out there is transmitting this practice as they were taught - and the variations are staggering (and so are the disagreements around who is 'correct').

How about this: We're all correct! Everyone has their own dogma, their own frame of reference for this practice. Each Mysore room has a culture, carefully cultivated by the teacher. It's when we start applying our own crazy to everyone around us that the conflict begins. When we stop respecting each other as practitioners, that's when we've lost the heart of Astanga, the very thing that brings us to the mat in the first place: Yoga-Yuj-Unity.

This is a value I'm holding on to, one that tells me I'm not alone and there's a deeper meaning to everything I'm doing, on the mat and off.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, May 9, 2011

There's no party without the hamstrings

I was working on Ustrasana this morning when DT stopped by to suggest that I bring my legs together - just as an experiment - in order to experience the action in the legs (internal rotation). Then she said: "Extend your toes." I looked at her, then back at my toes with a stern expression. I think I also had my hands on my hips. It must have looked very much like I was 'bad-ladying' my toes because DT laughed. Then she said: "Uncurl them."

Huh?!!! But sure enough, my toes were curled up in Ustrasana! Intermediate Series is highlighting all of my unruly, rebel body parts!

Practice was just hard this morning. I felt stiff. I just can't seem to access my upper back the way DT wants me to. I briefly wondered if I my backbending is backsliding but I suspect Miss D may be raising the bar just a bit. Or maybe not, but it feels harder.

Here's an interesting problem: My hamstrings aren't 'on' in Urdhva Dhanurasana. DT pointed this out one day during assisted dropbacks. I told her my quads were buzzing and she shook her head at me. "You need to use you hamstrings more." I couldn't do it. I can *think* about engaging my hams, but when I do, nothing happens.

DT put blocks under both my feet this morning and I pressed up on top of my head. "Feel it?, she asked. "Now they're on!" But I couldn't feel *anything*. I poked at my hamstrings with my fingers. They *felt* like they were on. Even when DT removed one block, so one foot was on the floor, I couldn't feel a difference (but she could see it). Apparently my hamstrings speak Swahili.

I was mostly on my own today with the LBH poses (the room was pretty busy) so by the time I had some help in Eka Pada, I was bendier. I still can't get into Dwi Pada myself though, except against a wall, so that's what I did. DT has been taking me into Supta K from Dwi Pada.

Here's a burning question: I can lower down to Supta K on my own, but how on earth do I keep my feet from sliding down my head?

I have a feeling I know the answer: 'Engage the hamstrings.' See?There's no party without the hamstrings. Might as well go home if they don't show up!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sunday Social

Argh, my back! It's not really hurting-hurting, there's just a lot of sensation emerging, new stuff I haven't felt before - especially in my upper back and shoulders.

I know I'm accessing my upper back in backbends more and more. I'm even accessing my upper back more in my day to day life! Standing in the kitchen stirring miso soup, I'll sometimes activate my upper back muscles and feel my chest lift up. I've been laying over those wooden backbending bridges at least once a day (usually twice), so I practice there too, reaching my arms over my head, chin to my chest to feel the lift. If I do it right, my upper back curves away from the wood bridge beneath. It's pretty awesome.

But those muscles are sore now. Last week, DT was adjusting me in Eka Pada Sirsasana and poked her knee into my right upper back. I yelped! I'm sore in so many new and different places, I'm having trouble cataloguing them all.

As of today, my 'six day Astanga week' has formally returned. DT added a Sunday Mysore to the schedule. With the Saturday Vinyasa class, this means I'm back to practising yoga every day, but that's okay because the weekend classes are social!

I love being at the shala on the weekend! It's located in a vibrant market neighbourhood. There are shops and great places to eat all around. The vegan cafe downstairs bakes fantastic muffins that I'm now addicted to. I've been hanging out at the shala after practice to chat with people and I'm having so much fun getting to know my new shalamates. DT is keen to build a sense of community in her room. I forsee many social, friendly weekends ahead of me.

Practice report: Today, I practised Intermediate Series up to Tittibhasana. Yes, more new poses. DT wanted me to add these poses with the others last week, but I decided to hold off until this week.

I found Yoga Nidrasana relatively easy. I've been practising Tittibhasana A and B before Kurmasana in Primary, so that part was simple enough. DT had to talk me through Tittibhasana C, though. I've never done that pose in any context! She encouraged me to engage my legs and wow, no kidding! If I let my legs go, I fell on my bum! It's a difficult pose, even with my super-flexible hamstrings, because it requires strength and mindfulness as well as flexiblity. I would have never guessed that, looking at it in yoga books.

Sunday Mysore starts late, so I had time for a long walk and a salt bath before I left this morning. Since the room steamy hot, I thought I would I would have a super bendy practice, but I didn't. I felt stiff and gummy. Oh well!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, May 6, 2011

First week of Intermediate

I capped off my first week of Intermediate Series practice today with Primary Series. It was a relief to go back to the familiar routine of my old practice. I was curious how Primary would feel after a week of new poses and all of that uber-backbending. It felt easy and comfortable, just like an old slipper that has been well broken in - soft and pliable.

Now that my shoulder feels better, I've been adding in some of the more complex exits from poses, especially in the Marichyasanas. I couldn't resist doing a little bit of Eka Pada and Dwi Pada before my Supta K, but I generally stuck to the sequence and didn't add any backbends. Doing only three Urdhva Dhanurasana felt like cheating! ;-)

My practice this week was strenuous and challenging. Even though I'm familiar with most of these postures, it still felt like a lot for my body to process. I was exhausted at the end of every practice. I'm still repeating poses (backbends) and doing a few preps (mostly for Kapotasana and UD), but mindful not to allow my practice to overstep the 2-hour mark. Still, it kind of cracks me up that I thought my practice would be *easier* and *shorter*. Turns out, it's neither! It's just different and more challenging.

The first day, I discovered I coudn't bind anymore in Pasana. DT had to help me. By Friday, I was binding on my own again. The same was true for Krounchasana - I felt unusually stiff the first day but by mid-week, it was as deep as it always was. It's almost as if my body had to accept that fact that there would be no specific 'warm-up' for those parts of my practice and it all started to open up on its own.

Since the shoulder injury was aggravated by it, I had removed Parsva Dhanurasana from my practice for the past few months. This week, I returned to it and discovered that my knees *still* hurt when I roll to my side (this has been an ongoing problem). I asked DT about it and she watched me take the pose. It took her all of three seconds to diagnose the problem: "You're leading with your knees when you roll. You need to lead with your hips!" Simple solution. The pose doesn't hurt anymore and I can't believe the fix was so easy!

The biggest surprise of the week was discovering that I'm actually pretty flexible! DT is really happy with my progress in Kapotasana. She says my back is flexible, it's just not as strong as it needs to be. My greatest hinderance in Kapotasana is a lack of strength in my back and a lack of openness in my triceps and chest. DT added Raj Kapotasana as a preparation. I'm using a strap to grab my foot. I'm also doing some front-hip openers.

Supta Vajrasana continues to be my 'happy place' pose, even though it's involves a backbend and it's really not very comfortable. I think I love it because it's easy and obvious to access my thoracic back and doing this really makes a difference in the pose. It's good practice for me.

Bakasana A is not difficult. I've been getting help with Bakasana B - I jump to a half-handstand and DT helps me lower into the arm balance. I use that pose as an opportunity to do a few preperatory hops to handstand against the wall (I'm chuffed that handstand is sneaking back into my practice again).

Eka Pada Sirsasana and Dwi Pada Sirsasana have become deeper this week. I started using the window ledge as a 'prop' for a preparation pose. DT worked with me on the alignment of my legs, especially the leg that goes behind the head. I 'taught' myself this pose a long time ago (I've always been able to sort-of do it), but I taught myself wrong. The way I was coming into it wasn't horrible or anything, but I'm grateful to have a teacher looking after me as I learn this stuff.

The biggest shift I've observed in my practice this week wasn't in backbending, but in inversions, particularly Sirsasana. Headstand feels like an entirely different pose now, super-easy and stable, like I could stay in it forever. The change is actually quite striking and I don't know what to make of it. It was never a difficult pose for me, but it feels so much more solid now.

Princess Fur, celebrating spring with leaps and bounds (she didn't actually catch the squirrel)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dogma Attack

After my post on Monday, I received a handful of comments on the blog. Some were warm and supportive, others were critical but fair, and there was one - just one - that was abusive, petty and meanspirited.

I know what you're thinking: I got off pretty easy, and you're probably right.

I shouldn't have let it bother me, but clearly I'm not making as much progress on the old 'don't-take-things-personally' Samskara as I should be. I don't get a lot of hate mail. The comment deeply hurt me, particularly since (though it was written 'anonymously') I knew exactly who wrote it.

I've been hunkered down, mulling this whole thing over. For a day or two, I was pretty sure I would shut down the blog. Between my practice and teaching, I really don't have the energy for this kind of drama. I considered blogging privately. I flirted around with the idea of writing about cheesy 70s television, or Cute Things Princess Fur Does.

But I have a feeling that's not what you, the 500+ readers who quietly surf and absorb and lurk without judgement, are here for. You're here to read about yoga. And that's what I forgot about in all the mental static around the Rude Comment. All of you outnumber 'anonymous' by a wide, wide margin and I've found friendship and a genuine sense of connection in the 'Cybershala.'

And as isolated as I was feeling, I was reminded that I'm no longer in this alone. My teacher not only reads my blog, but she and her partner are unconditionally supportive of my writing. They've made it clear that I can blog freely about my practice, both the positive and the negative. They trust me to be fair and honest in my writing.

Many of my shalamates read too. A few have blogs of their own. I'm realising that I'm in a very different place than I was a year ago when I was practising at Shala Central.

But I think I need to make something clear to all of you who read this: My practice has changed a LOT in the past few months and I'm no longer doing what could be described as a 'traditional' practice. One of you remarked about my split: 'That's not the way it's done.' I know that. I'm doing things differently and I'm comfortable with that.

For the time being, you can expect to read about a practice that's more 'criminal' than 'traditional'. This shouldn't be a great shock to anyone, it's pretty much been the way I've always rolled. Think about it: I 'gave' myself the Primary Series, in its entirety, learned from books and DVDs. I've always used props and preparation poses in my home practice (and I know some of you do too!).

I should probably mention that when I visit a traditional room, I'll always respect the rules of the teacher. During my recent visit with DR at Shala North, I practised the Primary Series from start to finish with no embellishments or added poses. It's a privelege to be a visitor in a Mysore room and I'll always honour that.

I had an entire post composed in my head about dogma, but the bottom line is, we're all grown-ups and we get to choose our yoga practice. If we're smart about it, we choose a practice that makes us stronger, keeps us safe from injury and - this is an important point - helps us to become kinder, more loving, compassionate people. If a more dogmatic practice does that for you, terrific! It wasn't doing it for me, so I'm making a different choice.

I don't knock anyone for thinking differently, I just don't support a fundmentalist attitude with holier-than-thou ashtangis going around attacking others for lacking 'purity' in their practice or warning of dire consequences if others don't follow 'the rules.'

Someone implied that by taking Intermediate Series before standing up from a backbend, I was endangering myself. I'm not worried. I've been practising yoga in the lineage of Krishnamarcharya (Iyengar yoga, classical Hatha, Anusara and Astanga) for close to 16 years. I've been doing most of these postures 'out of sequence' for a long time. I think I'll be fine.

There are many, many ways to practise yoga. I don't believe there's one 'right way'. I'm finding the 'right way' for me. If that resonates with you, keep reading.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, May 2, 2011

Fart-o-maniac and the Split

Today was a great day at the shala! There's finally mat storage: Hallelujah! Also: I'm *finally* split!!!

This morning, I split from Primary and took six new Intermediate poses. From now on, I'll practise Intermediate Series through Dwi Pada Sirsasana every day (except Fridays - I'll stick with the tradition and go back to Primary Series on that day).

This wasn't a surprise - DT and I discussed it at length and came to the decision together. My practice has been very long, sometimes in excess of 2.5 hours (now that I'm recieving adjustments and instruction, it takes much longer than it did at home). Grinding through an hour or more of forward bends every day just wasn't serving me anymore. My hamstrings are long enough! What I really need is more backbending.

For the benefit of my non-Astanga readers, I should probably back up and explain more clearly what a 'split' is. Here's an analogy: Think of an Oreo cookie, two chocolate wafers with some sweet white filling in between. The first chocoate wafer is Surya Namaskara A and B (sun salutations) and the fundamental standing poses. Everyone does these, even if they're working on fifth series. The white filling depends on what you've been given so far by your teacher. The second chocolate wafer is backbends (Urdhva Dhanurasana) and closing poses (shoulderstand, et al).

Everyone who practises Msyore-style begins with a little bit of Primary Series. Most start with just a smear of the white filling (and maybe only part of a chocolate wafer on each end). The teacher gradually adds more and more until there's a full cookie (the full Primary Series!). Intermediate Series is then added pose by pose, in addition to Primary. After awhile, it becomes a bit like an Oreo 'doublestuff' cookie - it's a lot of yoga.

Eventually, the cookie gets *too* big. That's where I was at. With the split, I'm back to two chocolate wafers with about half the amount of filling I had before. It's more manageable.

Most of the 'new' poses I was given today are not new-to-me. I've been working on the LBH poses in the context of Primary for weeks, Bakasana (an arm balance) and the twists are easy for me.

The only place I truly felt out of my depth was in Supta Vajrasana. I've never done this pose before! And I love it!!! It's my new favourite thing :-)

Bakasana B is challenging. It's basically a handstand into Bakasana. I used to do a lot of handstand in my Anusara practice. When DT asked me to hop into a handstand with legs tucked, I faltered. But I knew *exactly* what was going on. I even said out loud: "I need to turn off my brain!" As soon as I did, I went right up! But the core strength to lower into the arm balance isn't there yet. That will be a project. DT helped me today and it was fine.

Yoga Nidrasana and Tittibhasana are waiting patiently in the wings. DT wants me to add those soon. I sometimes do Tittibhasana as a preparation to Kurmasana, so it won't be a stretch.

In theory, this change was supposed to *shorten* my practice and make it easier. In reality, it took 2 hours from start to finish (in part because I repeated a few of the backbends). It completely exhausted me. I was pretty disoriented moving through the new stuff.

It felt very odd to go right into Pasasana from Parvottanasana! And it was hard! Actually, everything was difficult. I felt cold and stiff and wondered if I would ever warm up. But by the time I hit Bhekasana, I was sweating profusely. I was running out of steam in the LBH poses.

I was relieved (and exhausted) when I finished Dwi Pada Sirsasana. Then I remembered: I still needed to do Urdhva Dhanurasana and dropbacks! Would you like some backbends with your backbends? ;-) I think it will feel easier tomorrow, now that I've been through it once.

I had a funny moment as I finished my practice. I was jumping my lotus back after Uth Plutihi, when I emitted a sudden, high-decibel fart that sounded *exactly* like one of Princess Fur's 'squeaky toys'. It was so dramatic that for a moment, a profound silence hung over the room. Then everyone busted out laughing.

I love the fact that in my new shala, weird and embarassing body noises are a cause of hilarity and shared laughter, instead of humiliation. :-D

In the spirit of the moment, one of my shalamates offered this tidbit: In the 19th century, a Frenchman named Joseph Pujol travelled the world performing as a Flatulist (a professional farter). He called himself 'Le Pétomane', which roughly translates as "fart-o-maniac".

According to Wikipedia, some of the highlights of his performance included recreating the effects of cannon fire and thunderstorms, as well as serenading the audience with moving renditions of "'O Sole Mio" and "La Marseillaise".

Also, this: "It is a common misconception that Joseph Pujol actually passed intestinal gas as part of his stage performance. Rather, Pujol was able to "inhale" or move air into his rectum and then control the release of that air with his anal sphincter muscles."

In other words, SQUEEZE YOUR ANUS! Dude had Mula Madskillz! So I guess I really *am* using my Bandhas!

Joseph Pujol

(image source: Wikipedia)

As I turned to leave, I said to the room: "Of course, you guys know, I'm TOTALLY gonna blog this, right?" :-D

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Weekend Yoga Adventures!

Ten years ago, a friend and I compiled a list of 100 things that were awesome and unique about our city. I think the 'vomit comet' was number 57. This is a nickname for the northbound night bus that carries drunken club-goers back to their northern suburbs. It's apparently...ahem!...quite the experience!

I've never taken the 'vomit comet' before, but this morning I decided to give it a go because I wanted to drop in to DR's Mysore room at Shala North at 7 a.m.

I left with plenty of time to spare. In fact, I was at the bus stop by 6:10. Good thing, too - because the bus didn't come. And the next bus didn't come. A half-hour later, a bus passed by, but it didn't stop because it was packed full. The next one didn't stop either.

Mysteriously, the 'vomit comet' was packed with leggy people adorned in brightly-coloured track suits, fit-looking, clutching water bottles. I was perplexed. What happend to the 'club scene'? Where were all the stoned ravers and drunk teenagers?

The mystery solved itself when a middle-aged, stringy gentleman in a bright turquoise track suit approached our bus stop, water bottle in hand. There were three of us waiting and we gazed at him curiously. He was friendly. He explained that the buses were full because a 10K race was starting in an hour. Aha! Mystery solved!

The four of us pooled our resources and grabbed the next taxi north. After waiting in the cold for almost an hour, I arrived at Shala North around 7 a.m., just as I had intended, so it all worked out in the end!

I had the nicest practice in DR's room! I'm genuinely fond of him and his assistants are really terrific. This is a 'traditional room' so I didn't do any of the extras or prep work I've been adding in lately. It was a bit different doing my 'standard issue' Primary Series again, without the extras (correct vinyasa!). But I didn't skip any poses.

I noticed that the poses came easier than I remembered, especially Supta K. I came into it the regular way, without the LBH stuff beforehand. An assistant helped me cross my feet. I used to struggle to bind in this one, but I bound easily this morning. And crossing my ankles actually felt comfortable! The Marichyasanas felt great - DT has really been working me in these and it showed. Every bind was easy and I felt tall instead of all scrunched.

DR worked with me on dropbacks and standing. My legs were already sore from the work I had done this week with DT, so it was *challenging*, but fun. DR is really good at taking me right up to the edge of my strength. He made me work hard to stand up! At one point, I was pressing up on my fingertips, working my legs until they quivered like jelly! I'm sure I'll feel that tomorrow!

Then I got a genuine, full-on Paschimo squish, which was awesome. I really miss those!

On Saturday, I went to my teacher DT's vinyasa class. Every week, she blows my mind a little bit by asking me to do something unusual or (seemingly) impossible. This week, she brought us into Gomuhkasana and on the exit, asked us to lift into a tripod headstand with our legs still twisted together.

My immediate reaction was: "You want me to do WHAT?!!!!" I can do a regular tripod headstand and I can even twist my legs together once I'm up there. But for some reason, twisty legs weigh about *kazillion* pounds! Eek!

I didn't have a lot of time to think about it though, so of course, I just DID it and it was fine. But holy smokes! HEAVY!

On Friday night, I went to the 'Gong Show' Bikram community class. A new-to-me teacher was leading. I've decided to call her 'Hazlenut' (I name all the Hot Central teachers after nuts). I liked her class a lot - Hazlenut's pacing was very good.

Even though I'm only doing Bikram classes periodically, it's getting easier and easier. I have a theory: my Astanga practice is SO long and difficult right now, it makes hot yoga feel like a very warm, sweaty vacation. Think about it: the class is only 90 minutes and I get to take rest between nearly every pose! Compared to my morning practice which is 2.5 hours and I go-go-go!

I noticed two interesting things in particular during this Bikram class: My hips are now VERY open in Pavan Muktasana. I can bring my knee to my shoulder! And backbending is comfortable and fun, especially Ustrasana, which used to be my 'nemesis pose'. Now I love it! Yay!

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