My Body is a Wonderland

Hi team! If you’ve been following along, you know what a terrible ashtangi I’ve been (and if you haven’t been, I guess I’ve just outed myself). Bad lady! No benefit! In the interest of keeping this blog honest (I’m at lease trying to keep to my yamas!), I’ll admit I haven’t exactly been strict with myself about practice attendance since my last post either. BUT I did go three out of five days this week, and that’s an improvement over one day last week and ZERO days in the numerous weeks prior. I was anxious about starting on a led day, which means Sunday and/or Friday at this shala, because I’m a pusher and, hello, rushing-induced injury, so I waited until Monday to go back. What about home practice, you ask? I have many reasons (read: excuses) for why I can’t seem to get a home practice going, but the main ones are my lack of dedicated space and the four furry creatures I share 1000 sq feet with (no, this does not include my husband). Anyway, all this to say that I am starting to find my body a little bit. My bandhas are still ridiculously weak and I can’t get through a full primary’s worth of jump backs/throughs, BUT I managed to get into every pose in led this morning on a reasonable count, AND I think I might be ready to start dropping back again on Monday. As a great lover of backbends, I have been missing them. Don’t ask me how long I held uth pluthi. I’m thinking another two or three weeks of straight primary and I’ll be ready to start adding some of those early intermediate poses. That’s when my stamina will really be pushed! We have chanting at my new shala before Friday led and I loved chanting classes in Mysore so I went this morning, despite the need to be at the shala an entire half hour earlier. Doesn’t Sharath say that we should only take 5 or 6 hours of sleep a night? ;) Ha! I’m out of the loop, not knowing the chants here, but it’s easy to pick up when it’s done 108 times. I love the calm and quiet mind that comes from this practice. It was a nice way to start my day and I’m sure to be a regular. It’s so wonderful to feel a part of this world again, I had such a warm, fuzzy feeling post-practice this morning. I even managed to exchange some words with fellow practitioners in the change room so maybe I won’t be lonely in this city forever! Perhaps there are other animal-loving ashtangis who will want to dog walk or drink hot beverages after practice on Sundays. The only sad thing about having such a close knit community in my old home is that it set the bar pretty dang high! And I miss them. I have hope that I will have that again here, and if it doesn’t exist already for me to butt in on, I will create it. Happy Friday!

Oliver

Aren’t cats the ultimate yogis?

Beginner’s Body

I finally did it! I went back to practice yesterday. Back to who I think of as “my people.” It felt amazing. My new shala is lovely. I’ve visited before when on vacation here in my new home, so I knew it was a good fit already. I was pretty concerned about what my body was going to be capable of because if I’m completely honest I haven’t properly practiced (beyond a few sun salutations) in about two and a half months. I’ve never gone that long without practicing in the years I’ve been doing yoga, even before my mysore days. I’ll tell you my two take-aways from the long slog that was my practice. One: primary series is physically demanding, which you lose sight of when it’s just something you do everyday. Two: the body remembers. Urdhva dhanurasana felt horrific, so I didn’t attempt to stand up for drop backs just yet. I was weak and stiff (for me) but I got through all of primary with the only modification being no arms through in garbha. That’s not bad at all. It’s going to be a long road back, I think, but I’m sure I’ll get there and I’ll have fun doing it. Man oh man, those one million vinyasas may kill me in the meantime! I am so sore today! It’s a serious struggle to lift my arms! I guess this is a good reminder of what it’s like in the beginning; it’s hard! If you don’t think you have an ego about your practice, take a few months off and try going back. It’s humbling. I saw people doing intermediate and was slightly envious, thinking of how I once did those poses with relative ease. Now I’m giggling through the terrible jump throughs/backs (my core strength/bandhas have gone to shit) and trying to hold uth pluthi for more than five fast breaths. Regardless of my struggles, I am so happy to be back with the cult! ;)

Now to retrain myself for the early mornings. That’s a whole other challenge!

Return!

Gone a long while! To say I felt uninspired to write about my experiences in the last very long time would be an understatement, but here I am. Since I last wrote I have been on a four month travel adventure, which included seven weeks in Mysore with Sharath, and I have also moved across the country. Big changes. Another understatment. I’ll be starting practice at my new shala on Monday, so I’ll have more to report from the mat then. It’s been a long while since I’ve practiced. The post-trip depression hit me hard and I’ve been neglecting some important things, but I’m looking forward to being back where I belong. Perhaps I’ll try to share some of my experiences in Mysore during the upcoming week as well. It was pretty special. :)

Shock and pride

I landed it! It’s an amazing surprise, but after these months of trying and trying I have finally managed to land my lotus on my arms and karandavasana is mine! It seems quite a crazy thing to be trying to do, really. It was little bit by little bit and it was hard. I guess you’re not really supposed to be proud in these moments, but I’m human and I am. Monday I will be starting mayurasana! One thing I love about this practice is that you never know what you’re going to be capable of doing with diligent and consistent practice. I love that it breaks down the pre-conceived ideas you have about what your body can do. You constantly evolve both physically and mentally. You can’t help but let it change you, and I see nothing but positives that it has brought to my life. My husband has now been coming for about two and a half months. We’ve recently changed to a new shala, opened by two of the assistants at AYO who have struck out on their own. It’s been lovely so far. It’s a beautiful space and I look forward to helping grow this new little community.

Patience and lessons

I have been plagued by so many injuries the last little while. Between my messed up knees, my SI joint constantly popping out of place, a badly bruised foot, my smasming piriformis, and blah blah blah I’ve been struggling a lot. I think I’m finally on the mend and I’ve been doing straight up primary (modified to accommodate my mess of a body) with no drop backs for the last week. I think the magic of primary is working and I’m starting to feel better. I’m actually able to start putting my right leg into half lotus for the fist time in over a month. It requires a lot of patience for me, but at the same time I’m finding it soothing. It sometimes feels nice to take care of yourself, to be a little more forgiving and gentle. These aren’t easy things for me. Ashtanga has taught me a lot, and it has definitely brought into sharp focus mant things about my personality, such as my A-type drive and perfectionist tendancies. I don’t bring this out in every aspect of my life, in fact I can be a seriously lazy slacker sometimes, but on my mat I push and I really give it my all every day. I don’t mean that in a braggy sort of “look how hard I work” way. It has actually been a negative, like the pushing and not listening to the feedback from my body. And here I am, injured again. I really struggle with the fine line between “sensation”, which it’s ok to breathe through, and the kind that is actually hurting me, leading to injury. I guess it’s going to continue to be trial and error, sorry body! Part of the problem is that I love asana! It’s so fun to push the body to do things you never imagined yourself capable of! Before this round of knee problems, I was actually making progress on karandavasana. I could get my legs into lotus (and then fall onto my butt), something I absolutely never thought I’d do. I’m mourning the fun a tiny bit, in all honesty, because the process of healing isn’t so much of that. It is giving me the opportunity to work on my jump backs/throughs, though! I don’t think I’ll ever be someone with one of those effortless floaty practices, but I work on it anyway.

In other news, I put in a request for my leave of absence from work for MYSORE! My plan has been to go for the month of November with a few others from my shala, then travel for two months, including a few week stop in Goa to practice with Rolf. My leave is approved, but the dates were denied. I’m planning to appeal the decision, but I may have to do some readjusting of my plans and go later. It’s a bit intimidating to go on my own for the first trip though, and I’m afraid of not making friends and being lonely. Is this silly? Regardless, I’m committed to going to India this winter at some point and I’m very excited about it. Stay tuned for updates, and if you know nice people who are going and would like to hold my hand through the experience, please put us in touch!

 

And I’m back, with karandavasana in tow

Hi blog readers! It’s been an extended absence on my part, but that is not due to an absence from my practice, let me assure you. It has been a very busy 2013 so far, both on and off my mat. There was a trip to Austin for a week and the accompanying opportunity to practice with another ashtanga community and a weekend with David Robson at my home shala shortly after (perhaps more on those experiences another time). I have somehow managed to overcome my crippling fear of pincha mayurasana and am now actually able to get the pose my first or second try most days (don’t picture it as looking anything like this, imagine something much more graceless). I’ve had more struggle with this pose than any other, I think. I’m not a comfortable inverter, so that was the first in a long list of obstacles. Not an easy asana, by any stretch, but I have had some excellent help. I am starting to get the correct exit from the pose, although only my right arm does chaturanga so far. Today my teacher gave me karandavasana. This one is a doozy. With all the knee/hip issues of the past few months (another story for another time) there is no way I’m getting into lotus without help. My teacher left me to it, and I did try twice to get myself into lotus, but I fell after the first leg. I waited and today’s assistant came and did it with me. I know this was my first time doing it, but I am having trouble imagining a time when it will be possible without someone doing all the hard stuff for me. What muscles do you even engage to get and stay down there?! It just seems bizarre and coming up is disorienting. It could be years in the making, but I am stubborn and determined.

On a long overnight shift right now. Another five and a half hours left here until I head to practice, when I’ll be trying the insanity that is karandavasana again. Have a wonderful week!

Just Do It Already

I felt a little inkling of frustration today. This is an extremely rare occurance for me, I am not the emotional-on-my-mat sort of yogi. It was just a wee bit, but there were definite ripples in my usual relative peace and calm. It was during pincha (surprised?). What got my goat? My inability to just do it! Not necessarily land the pose but to just try, really try, without the safety net of the wall or a spotter. It’s not even conscious. I pep talk myself (“you can do this”, “falling would be no big deal!”) but to no avail. It makes me mad at myself! If I could just fall a few times, I’m sure I’d get over the fear and maybe have a shot at getting the pose. Today’s assistant (conveniently the same one as Wednesday) told the other that I “need to fall” when he came to help me. They only caught me as I was going over, and I actually landed it myself a couple of times but couldn’t hold on for long. I need to dig in and find the courage to just jump up there, no crutch, and I think that will be the turning point. No one did just let me fall, I had spotters, but I know he’s right. I was reminded of this post by Kino and it takes on a new meaning now that I am actually working on the very pose she is referring to. Isn’t it in these very challenging places that we make change within ourselves? Easier said than done. There’s always tomorrow, right?

The hard stuff

In brief, pincha is really hard. Have I said this already? Likely.  Regardless, it is so true. Pincha is my favorite kind of asana challenge, both physically and mentally difficult. I haven’t had this fear response to a pose since learning drop backs, when I would feel sick every morning before practice knowing I would have to try to do it later. I’m not at the sick point (I hope this indicates some kind of progression in my ability to cope with this kind of thing) but I am definitely all up in my head about the whole asana. To use the wall, to not use the wall? The training wheels are so tempting but I know that’s not the way to really get into the juicy stuff, the fear. It’s also ultimately only teaching me to do pincha with a safety net, so I don’t really need to find my balance point because the wall will catch me. I also know I’ve been using it as an excuse to not confront the slight panic I feel about doing the pose in the middle of the room. Today I did it with the tough love assistance of our Wednesday teacher. It was ok. I flipped over once and I didn’t die. In fact, it didn’t even hurt. Will this help me when I go to put my forearms on the mat tomorrow morning? We’ll see. Pincha, you will not defeat me.

Doing it

Hi friends. It’s only been (not quite) seven days, but so far I have a heavy duty crush on 2013. Have I been working a lot? Yes. Have I been tired? Yes. But somehow the magical shine of newness has managed to stay intact through the past week. How are the resolutions going so far, you might wonder. Here’s the rundown:

  • I epically failed, almost immediately, on my resolution to stay adequately hydrated every day.
  • I am making plans to do a yoga photo shoot in the spring, just to document my practice for my future self.
  • I have started another Whole 30 (my second).
  • Perhaps most exciting, I am in the dreamy, far-away eyes phase of planning a trip to Mysore this year, and potentially (hopefully) more of India.
  • In the meantime, I have totally been going to practice everyday. And what practice it has been!

While our space is quite chilly with its drafty windows and high ceilings, I am still managing to get through it. Today was a bit warmer with the addition of a new heater and some plastic to cover the windows (it was amazing the difference in my body). I’m getting through it in just over an hour now, which seems crazy short. Every day when I get to my last pose it seems to have come so quickly and I have to review to see if I skipped something. I’m getting more fluid with intermediate, not as much stopping to collect myself. Ok, kapotasana is still a definite stalling point, but no one’s perfect. The whole section from eka pada to pincha is killer, in my opinion, and I’m kind of wiped when I get to my knees for my pincha attempts. Pincha is actually going really well, and I think I’m close to getting it. Today I kicked up into it without the wall but couldn’t  hold on for the five breaths. My second attempt I overshot and one foot used the wall a bit, but then I was able to find balance for at least five breaths. I left it at that because I had very limited time, but I’m definitely starting to gain more control as the slight panic about the whole experience recedes. It’s close! I grabbed my ankles in my assisted back bend yesterday (ick, a feeling I don’t love) but today it was just not going to happen. There was no way that second hand was going to safely make it in for the grab. In another exciting development, I have gotten into urdhva padmasana without the use of my hands three days in a row- a first for me! It reminded me again to never say never. There was a time I thought my body would never be capable of at least half of the postures I’m doing now. If you’ve read other posts, that amazement seems to be a frequently repeated sentiment, but it is renewed all the time so I can’t help writing about it! The body is amazing.

Happy practicing this week! Hopefully you’re having success thus far with whatever resolutions you may have made for 2013!

 

Starting the new year as I hope it continues

I am pleased to say that while I missed Monday practice (I’ve been working like a fiend and was exhausted), I did go both new year’s day and today. It was so important to me to start the year off on a positive note on my mat. One of my resolutions for 2013 (yes, I make resolutions!) is to get my lazy behind to practice six days a week all year, obviously excluding extreme circumstances like illness. This doesn’t mean I have to slog through my whole practice every morning, sometimes that’s impossible with my work schedule, but I need to do at least the minimum of 3 A, 3 B, 3 closing postures. I think this is completely do-able.

In exciting asana news: pincha is coming! It seems a touch miraculous, but with the confidence I’ve gained having the wall to catch me I’m finding that I’m actually starting to not need it. Today I was able to actually kick up into the pose and balance for a breath. It’s a start! It is dang hard and my hands totally slide together, but it’s fun! The rest of practice is good. Good as in feels pretty good, not as in Yoga Journal cover ready ;), which is just fine with me. Today was a day when I was loving the practice and my little community here and feeling great. Yay for 2013! Yay for ashtanga! I’m perhaps a touch delirious with sleeplessness (I worked overnight last night) but I have really excited and happy feelings about what this new year has in store. I hope you all are enjoying some positivity in your worlds as well!

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