Patience

It has been a patience testing week and I have to remind myself that all is not lost if I have to modify for a couple of weeks. My knees, especially the right one, have been hurting this week and it has meant no lotus. It makes me feel like I’m taking steps backwards and I’ll never get my next pose. What is the rush, I should be asking myself? This is a lifelong practice, I have years to work on primary series. Ego is a tough thing to get past. I could try to justify my desire for poses some other way, but if I’m being honest with myself (and it does hurt to admit) it’s just ego. It can be so tough not to compare myself to others, and while I have gotten much better as my practice becomes more focused over time, I am not 100% with my drishti all the time. I have moments of real discouragement and this week has been full of them. I sometimes think I will never have a comfortable lotus, that my leg will never get higher in UHP, that my feet will never cross behind my head in supta k, that parivrita parsvakonasana and virabhadrasana 1 will always be struggles, I may never have a graceful jump back from Bhujapidasana, ETC ETC ETC. This is not helpful self talk. It’s tough to hold on to the fact that I have made progress. Lots of it, in fact. Plus there’s the drop backs. I love them. They’re equal parts frightening and exhilarating. I think I’m doing well and improving every day. Actually, it’s keeping me from asana despair. I may have a million aches and pains – my back is achy, shoulder, neck, and knee pain – but I’m still enjoying practice more than I’m not enjoying it.

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Broken

Sometimes you don’t stop to listen to what your body is telling you and then, BAM, you’re hurt. I was away from practice for three days (one of which was a Saturday, the other two were 12 hour work days). I was really looking forward to getting back to the studio and my practice yesterday, even having crazed visions of accomplishing the feat of getting my arms through lotus for garbha. I was feeling pretty stiff and sore when I arrived and cheated with a little stretching before I started my practice. Not too far in, I managed to hurt myself. I am finding new and creative ways to injure my knees, it seems. This time the pain is in the side/back and goes down part of my upper calf. I can’t do half lotus, much less full, also janu C, and down dog hurt. Frustrating. Today felt fine until ardha baddha padmottanasana. After that, ouch. My teacher says to ride it out and not to do anything to aggravate it. We’ll see what happens.

I am interpreting this as my body telling me to f*%& off with my hectic schedule and give it a break; to stop pushing in all areas. My work/life balance has been incredibly skewed lately and I’m so stressed that I’m having a lot of trouble staying asleep, despite being exhausted. So, ok body, I hear you. Now heal!

I want to try to balance this negative out with a positive, so I will say that my jump throughs today felt great- light and strong. I am so glad that back bending is great! I still leave practice feeling happy because of that. Drop backs are really coming along. I am struggling a bit, but for once I am giving myself some credit because I can do it. Standing up is good, I just struggle with bringing my head up last so I’m stumbling a bit. I want to stretch out that stubborn psoas and then I think I’ll really be rocking the back bends.

I can’t anticipate what tomorrow will bring, but I’m going to try to be patient with myself regardless. Ahimsa includes violence towards the self, something I need work on.

Milestone!

I went to my “fun ashtanga” class on Wednesday night, as I do whenever possible. We were very bad and non-traditional, practicing some primary and some intermediate. I had a great class and my body was feeling very open – I wish I could have my evening body in my morning practice! At the end, we did backbends. I did my urdhva dhanurasanas, but was still unable to stand up from rocking. I got an assist up and then did a couple assisted drop backs. I decided to try one on my own and did it, except I got a little freaked out on the landing and get go of my elbows, coming to the floor.

This leads in to Thursday, which was a fairly crap practice for the most part, everything was feeling tight and sore. I didn’t even try to get my arms through in garbha. I did my urdhva dhanurasanas with not too much trouble. There was no one assisting, since my teacher was practicing herself, so I was on my own for drop backs. I came up into UD again and rocked up to standing for the first time ever (!!)- quickly falling on my ass. That gave me the confidence to give it another go and I made it up with no falling!! I then did my drop backs solo, coming up from each one like I’d always been doing it!! It was a pretty exciting moment for me. Definitely on the top of my all time yoga highlights list. I have been wanting to tell everyone since, but of course they either don’t care, or think I’m showing off, so I’m just using it as my happy place during the stressful moments at work. Hopefully I’m able to manage it again next week!

This morning’s practice was nothing special. I felt a bit like I just wanted to get through it and I think I was rushing my breath, until I was gently reminded that the movement follows the breath. I tried to be more mindful after that and practice was fine. I think these days I’m taking the attitude that every day I make it to my mat is a good day. I could easily pick apart every pose and dwell on how imperfect my execution is, but that would be so counter-productive and kind of irrelevant. I’m trying hard every day and slowly, slowly it is coming together.

Happy place

The last two mornings of practice have been great. Not that the asanas were executed with any degree of prowess, but I felt good anyway. I’m at a drop back impasse right now; too nervous to move forward into the land of no assist. I am starting to figure out what needs to be engaged in order to bend back without falling one way or the other, which is promising. I forget purvottanasa occasionally (maybe because I don’t like it), and yesterday was one of those days. I managed to clasp fingers in supta kurmasana today, but my hamstrings did not feel like cooperating to get me any further. I also got the furthest in baddha konasana that I’ve ever gone (with an assist), which was a bit intense, but good. I also think I did my best jump back from bhujapidasana today. No progress on garbha- I think that might be awhile. Perhaps another lifetime, when my legs are thinner and my hips looser.

I am loving practice right now and I look forward to it. It’s getting me out of bed early to get that 6:15 bus because I don’t want to miss a day.

Curse of the tree trunks

When I was young I was quite athletic and had muscular legs. My father referred to these, not meaning to be unkind, as my “tree trunk legs.” These trunks are still with me and not serving me particularly well in my practice. I am far from what I would think of as athletic these days, and age mixed with laziness has not been kind to my lower half. I certainly don’t want to get into excuse making or whining, but certain poses seem significantly easier with less meat on the bones. For example, binding pipe cleaners would be much easier than logs.

This brings us to this mornings practice. The room was quite a bit chillier than I would like and I could barely get a sweat going. My current dread pose is utthita hasta padangusthasana. I had no real beef with it until the last few practices, and now suddenly I await it with a bit of the uh-oh feeling. This morning I got an assist, which sometimes is awesome, but sometimes makes me feel a bit called out in my suckiness (is this my yoga inferiority complex coming out again?). The issue is not so much flexibility, as strength. I struggle to bring my leg up higher than my waist while maintaining my balance in the forward fold. I had a tough time holding my bind in Mari D today, which I think I’ll blame on the room temp. My jump back after bhujapidasana was quite crap. I am also having a tough time with my hamstrings in supta kurmasana. I was being pulled and squashed into the full expression of the pose in Toronto, but the assists are les forceful at my home studio. This means that I’m struggling to transition on the floor with a bit of assistance and it’s not pretty. I got to practice my new poses today! Which brings me back to the tree trunks. Oh, garbha pindasana, you are just not made for the meaty woman to do easily. I can get one arm (either, I tried both) through my lotus (with much water spritzing) but no way is two happening. I can envision this becoming frustrating, but for now I’m just laughing at myself. Dropbacks- I love them!! I am not doing them solo yet, but I will. Today’s back bends felt great, which was an awesome start to the week.

I’m so happy the practice room has no mirrors so that I never know what I look like and can just be thrilled with the picture in my mind.

The point

I suppose my plan is to document my practice. I have been thinking for awhile about how it might be helpful to be able to look back and see that I have actually made progress in my asana practice, and hopefully in other areas of my yogic journey, such as it is. Sometimes you are just so in it that you can’t see beyond that day on the mat and it can be difficult to give yourself credit for the hard work that has led to that point. The intensity of the daily ashtanga practice forces you to come face to face with some elements of your personality that may be less than desirable. My lack of self-confidence has become glaring, as I consistently feel unworthy to go to mysore practice. As if I am not “advanced” enough, and someone is going to either laugh at me, or tell me I don’t belong there. Silly? Yes, but there’s no arguing with feelings. Last weekend I was in Toronto practicing at AYCT, (which was amazing), and I went to an inversions workshop on Sunday afternoon. I was anxious before going, thinking that I would be the only one there who didn’t have a perfectly steady headstand. I was a bit proud of myself for sucking it up, and it ended up being a fun and helpful couple of hours. I have often been someone who avoided anxiety inducing situations, and who would give up rather than risk failure. Since starting my ashtanga practice, I feel like I am making some progress with these issues. I can’t do everything, and even the poses I can do are far from picture perfect, but I still show up and try. 

So, it’s Sunday and I’m at work all day so no practice for me. I did a home practice yesterday to make up for it, which was a bit awful thanks to the cold room and distractions. Practicing at home is definitely not my favorite. On a happy note, I got poses on Friday which will make next week that much more exciting! I’m struggling with my tight hips, as I have been for the last six months. My lotus is on again/ off again due to occasional knee pain. I’m trying not to get frustrated with my body, reminding myself that there’s no real “end” to reach here, and no rush to get through primary. Quiet down, ego. I’m now at baddha konasana and I have enough challenges with my current asana repertoire. I feel pretty great about my ugly, but bindable Marichy D and I can get in and out of bhujapidasana without any head smacking, and the jump back is coming along. Basically, I’m not going to have my own calendar any time soon but I’m getting through it. Plus, drop backs! So fun. I feel like I’m going to be able to do it on my own soon. It’s only been two weeks or so since they got added but they’re not nearly as impossibly scary as I was anticipating.

Looking forward to being back at the studio tomorrow, with some nervous anticipation of what my body will be willing to do. Yoga, I love you.