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!
(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
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