In June, I took my practice to a new space. Mysore-style practice is offered there at a variety of different times (with different teachers) so I embraced the change, opting to practice in the afternoon a few times a week.
At first, I didn't notice any particular difference in my body or my practice - except for the buckets of sweat that poured off of me during the heat wave we've been having (turns out, morning practice has a distinct advantage in the summer months: it's *much* cooler at 6am).
But this week I practised twice in the morning and I noticed a *huge* difference between my morning and evening practices.
Let's start with the getting-up-at-5am part. *groan* I'm no longer used to it! In fact, during much of the week, I don't even wake to an alarm clock; I just sleep until I'm ready to roll out of bed.
During my two 'early days' this week, I woke groggy and rolled into the Mysore room sleepy and a tad bit cranky. How on earth did I do this for a year? Every day! At 4am?! *shakes head*
This week, for the first time, I really noticed how stiff my body was at that early hour. My flexibility was very limited when I first stepped on the mat (though my range deepened as my body warmed up). My hamstrings felt absolutely gummy!
Backbending was particularly tough - and Sarvangasana (due to a lingering shoulder injury). But inversions like Pincha Mayurasana and handstand were actually easier!
I returned to an afternoon practice yesterday and I was amazed by how good it felt, how open my body was. Everything felt more open - from the first Surya to the last lotus.
It's kind of awesome, but I'm aware that there's a danger in this openness - it's far easier to use my flexibility to come into postures, my warm body choosing the 'path of least resistance'. I've been cultivating strength to balance out the flexibility in my backbends and to enhance stability in my other postures.
In light of this, I'm choosing to see the openness of my afternoon practice as a big 'plus' since an open body allows no illusion of strength. In Pincha Mayurasana, I have to be engaged and aware because it's just as easy for me to flop over into a backbend like a wet noodle. *plop* And alignment becomes a mindfulness exercise in handstand.
The deep backbends of second series are deeper in the PM, so it's easier to fall into bad patterns. I need to work extra hard to find the support of my legs in backbends and extra *extra* hard to avoid bending into my lumbar spine. The lumbar is just easier. To move into my thoracic spine requires me to 'think' and 'engage' muscle groups that I don't intuitively connect with yet.
In a new space, with new teachers, at a new time of day, and with new openness, I'm approaching my practice with a 'beginners mind' and I'm learning something new every single practice.
I'm having a pretty spectacular summer!
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