Woah Nelly!

I woke up to snow this morning. I thought I was having a bad dream, but no such luck. I felt a low level of dread heading up the stairs to AYO. I was very low energy this morning and I took my time with practice. I probably fidgeted more than I’ve been allowing myself and I didn’t work on jump backs at all. In fact, I even stepped through in most of the second half of primary. No work on chakrasana confidence either, I just came up to sitting and jumped back to chaturanga. My right forearm was strained somehow, which was kind of painful and definitely had an effect on how much effort I put into my transitions. I also felt my knees in an uncomfortable way when I flipped out after garbha, so I was trying to be respectful of my body and take it slow. My teacher assisted me in kapo today, bringing my hands to my heels, which felt fine. It’s such an intense pose that I find it difficult to tell sometimes if I’m ok, or pushing to far. Supta vajrasana was a laugh, my fingers are just so far from my feet when I go back and my top leg wants to slide out of lotus. I tried jumping into bakasana B and my teacher gave me some pointers about where to engage that helped a bit, although the result was the same (totally unsuccessful). Then I got to add on baradvajasana and ardha matsyendrasana, which is one pose more than I thought I was going to add. I like the twists and they feel do-able. My teacher says we’re going to keep me here for quite awhile (whatever that means) so that I can get really comfortable with what I’ve got on my plate now, which I find to be quite a lot. I’m not too anxious to get to the leg behind head poses yet because that work is quite hard on my lower back, which is still feeling sensitive. So there I am. I think I’ve gotten a lot of poses in the last couple of months or so and I’m ready to work with what I’ve got right now. I still find primary to be enough of a challenge!

Another lovely Sunday

I missed led primary on Friday, which my body said was just fine. We’ll chock that one up to ladies holiday. This morning I was back on my mat. It was not the most effortless practice I’ve ever had, I definitely had some struggles. I was making a huge effort during the first half of primary to properly jump back. I usually just put my hands down in front of my legs and jump from there.  Today was the best I’ve ever managed to do with it, using the tips I got from David Swenson last weekend. I’m realizing as I write this that I’ve given up on getting my arms through in garbha and I should probably make some effort with that tomorrow. I had some very nice assists today, which is always great because it’s usually quite rare. I had a pretty good supta kurmasana today, although my hands wouldn’t clasp. I come out of kurmasana and fool around with eka pada and yoga nidrasana, hoping that one of these days I’ll be able to manage dwi pada and just lower down from there into supta. Maybe tomorrow. I feel like I rush a bit through intermediate until laghu. It all comes to a slow crawl there. I’m certainly not the first to say this but I will anyway; kapotasana is hard. It is so intense on my back, especially in B. I’m grabbing the top of my foot without help, but it’s quite challenging. Today my teacher came over to help me get my hands higher up my foot and it wasn’t too successful. I am definitely finding back bends less stressful on my back muscles after adding the next two poses. I cannot possibly imagine a time when I’ll be able to hold my feet in supta vajrasana, but anything is possible. I couldn’t quite stick it standing from drop backs today, every time was either too much push off or not enough. I think my blood sugar was low and I was getting tired. Tomorrow I add two more poses and start the challenge of jumping into bakasana B. Wish me luck!

Intermediately awesome

The title has nothing to do with me, I just liked the way it sounded. On that note, I do want to very briefly post about the last two stellar days of practice because they were noteworthy for me. Yesterday was back to my home shala and I was so happy to see all those familiar down dogs. I was also happy to be in a pain-free body and I really enjoyed practicing, even through poses that I had a tough time with yesterday ( like utthita hasta padangusthasana). I actually reintroduced a very slow chakrasana, setu bandhasana, and head stand. I finally  felt like I wasn’t cheating, which I do a bit when I’m modifying. Silly, I know. I did kapo, which wasn’t perfect but I’m able to grab about halfway up my foot without assistance, so I think that’s pretty good. My teacher came over and gave me supta vajrasana and bakasana A! I was stunned. I didn’t think I would get another pose for ages. She explained that she doesn’t like to leave someone at kapo longer than absolutely necessary because it’s hard place to stop for back bending. She watched me do the two poses and then told me to do the next two starting on Monday, even if she forgets. Wow! I’m feeling like intermediate is coming in such a different way than primary. I’m really having fun with it, but I’m also aware of how long my practice is getting. I was about two hours this morning in and out the door. That’s hardcore for someone who’s only pretending to be ok with early mornings. Regardless, I’m loving practice right now and have a new-found appreciation for my body since having to take a week off. Thank you body for all your cooperation!

New York state of mind

It has been an incredible week in my life. It’s hard to know where to begin and I’m almost wishing I had brought a laptop to New York with me so I could have blogged while there. I’ll recap and try to be brief.

Thursday:

I actually went to practice in the morning and it was pretty good. All my aches and pains and strains were masked by good old Advil, and I managed to do full primary, modifying as need be. It was a huge relief. I left for New York a couple of hours after and, as this is a yoga blog, I won’t go into great detail about the rest of the day, suffice to say we had a fairly easy time getting to our apartment rental and enjoyed the first of many delicious meals.

Friday:

We got up at 5am (while on vacation!!) to get to led primary at AYNY. We walked there in the pre-dawn quiet. I was amazed at the beauty of the shala. It’s a magical space. Eddie Stern wasn’t teaching because Sharath was in Connecticut. Speaking of which, I suppose it could be considered a bit of an Ashtanga crime that we were so close by and missed the opportunity to practice with the boss of our yoga, but the wheels were in motion for the trip before Sharath’s schedule was released, so the timing just didn’t work out. Next trip, perhaps. Led was lovely, and my body was still hurting but less. We spent the rest of Friday walking Manhatten and enjoying ourselves as much as possible.

Saturday:

Enter Yoga Journal Conference. We started the day off with Inversions and Arm Balances with the incredible Ana Forrest. They don’t call her a tigress for nothing! The class was very intense. Ana demands full attention and we did tons of very challenging core work. I really appreciated her message about showing up 100% in your practice and in your life. A few giggles were had in the portion of the class that we were actually on our hands. Next we met David Swenson, who Youtube told me I would like and I did. He was very humble and funny, he keeps things simple which I like. We had an absolute blast doing his Flying , Floating, and Handstanding workshop. Lots of work on jump throughs and jump backs, some good take aways for me there. We did a lot of partner work, which was fun for my sister-in-law and I. He hung out for pictures and chatting after and we took full advantage.

 

Next was Richard Freeman. The workshop was called Bolted to the Earth and involved much mula bandha discussion. Ashtangis seem to forever be discussion their anus’s and this workshop was no exception. Richard was lovely and full of great information, as expected. We did standing and some primary with lots of talk about soft palettes and threading needles and fake vomiting. Watching both Richard and David when they demoed anything was so incredible. The ease and control they both have is an inspiration to see. It was an exhausted but elating day and we made the most of it with a lunch picnic in Central Park and a great dinner in Chelsea.

 

Sunday:

I was extremely excited about our first workshop of the day which was Intermediate Series with David Swenson. It surpassed my expectations. It was significantly smaller than the previous days Swenson workshop, which was nice. David did an intro and then we went right into practice, doing all of standing (including the warrior series) and then intermediate up to eka pada, plus mayurasana and nakrasana. It was such a fun time. I was shocked that I could manage kapo and had a laugh trying things I haven’t done before. A highlight for sure. Next we met Dharma Mittra for Maha Sadhana. I wasn’t sure what to expect from him, but I enjoyed his teaching. He was soft-spoken and laughed at all his own jokes. I was completely entranced. We did an interesting asana practice, which was challenging and I enjoyed it. He spoke at length about the connection to god being the most important thing and asana just being to keep the body healthy, also seated meditation and a vegan, preferably raw, diet. We took Seane Corn last. It was a very meditative and spiritually focused workshop. A peaceful wind down after so much excitement. I felt reflective and somewhat emotional, and it left me in a peaceful state. Afterwards we had yet another amazing dinner.

Monday:

Our last day. We got up and went to AYNY for practice. We met Eddie Stern, who has a gentle way about him that I appreciated. I had an amazing practice. One of my best ever. I don’t know why, I don’t think I suddenly became more proficient at asana, but something about the energy and the head space I was in resulted in a really great day on my mat. I got through everything without pain and left elated. We had totally incredible smoothies for breakfast and had a bit more time for exploring before flying home.

It was a really special trip. New York was everything I’d imagined and I don’t know if I’ve come up with the words yet to describe the conference besides amazing. I feel so grateful that I had the opportunity to do this, especially with my sister-in-law, someone who I share a special bond with. This is our second annual yoga trip together and I’m already dreaming and scheming about next year’s adventure.

Patience

I dragged my aching body to practice this morning. I just couldn’t stay away! It wasn’t awful. I was feeling ok, still in quite a bit of discomfort though. I did a lot of surya As to test things out. I didn’t push into my forward bend as I usually would, and no jumps at all. The step backs and forward was surprisingly difficult for me, I wanted to jump every time. I did about four surya Bs and virabhdrasana was pretty uncomfortable in my injured hip. I did standing poses until prasarita B, which was too much forward stretch for right now so I skipped the other three. Utthita hasta padangustasana was too much as well, so I decided that was enough for today. I just did three seated closing postures, but not in lotus, and then savasana. It was good to be at practice, but frustrating to not be able to do what I usually can. Patience can be a big challenge at times, but I know that’s what I need to have in order to heal. I’m heading to New York City on Thursday for the Yoga Journal Conference and to practice at AYNY and I want to be able to get the most benefit possible from the experience. That means taking it slowly this week and maybe not practicing at all, if that’s what my body tells me. I’ll be how I feel as the day progresses and judge tomorrow based on that.

Broken

Three days of kapo this week and it was going pretty ok. As in, not killing me. I’m sure I did not in any way resemble a beautiful Yoga Journal model, but the pose was certainly recognizable. I was just starting to toy with the question of how far it was safe for me to go. I had a conversation with Wednesdays assistant about the potential for injury because I have quite a flexible back but am tight through my front body, so my back is taking all of the stress of the pose. He felt that over time this would lead to an injury and that I should pull back a bit in my backbending postures to avoid that. Otherwise I had quite a nice week of practice up to that point.

Along came Thursday. I was having a very peaceful and lovely morning on my mat, until kurmasana. I was doing the same thing I do everyday, pushing my torso to the ground in order to stretch into my hips in prep for supta k, when something happened. It hurt. I came out the same as I usually would to enter the next posture but when I sat up and began stretching my left leg to play with eka pada, I had pain in my right low back/hip/psoas. I got up to walk a bit and see how bad it was and the pain was pretty awful. I couldn’t forward bend at all and walking was a challenge. I called it quits and did savasana. My yoga pal speculates that I have done something to my SI joint. Not too serious, but painful enough. Today was a fair bit better until I over did it a bit and now I’m fairly sore again. Idiot me. Pushing too hard and now I’ve gone and injured myself just a week before my trip to New York for the Yoga Journal Conference and my much-anticipated meeting with Richard Freeman, David Swenson, and Eddie Stern (among others). I am hoping I heal quickly but I’m still not 100% sure what’s wrong. I was so excited about practicing with my sister-in-law, who’s in town for the long weekend. It’s very disappointing and I’m already frustrated with my body’s limitations.

Dear universe, is now really the time for whatever lesson this injury is teaching me?!

Be careful what you wish for

Dear spine,

I’m so sorry for bending you to your limit this morning. I hope you won’t be too mad when I beg you to do kapotasana five mornings a week from now on. Oh, and yes, we still have drop backs after that.

Thanks in advance for your cooperation.

Image

So the big story from my mat this week thus far is that yes, I have finally reached the dreaded kapo. Was it everything I had feared and more? Well, yes and also no. Getting into the pose was difficult. I had to really hang in a backbend twice before I could see the toes I was aiming for. I then got my hands to my toes, arms straight, but had absolutely no control of my arms. I had to completely surrender to my teacher, who brought my hands to my feet. I had to try twice because the first time down I got a little freaked out and thought my spine might snap so I came out. The second time I stayed with it and once I was in, it was ok. Not nice or relaxing, but manageable. I could breathe into it and I didn’t feel panicky. Anyway, I think my ego is massive now because I was so proud of myself for getting there, but I’m sure I’ll have a hard crash down tomorrow morning when I have to actually do it again. I’m mentally settling in because I think this will be my project for quite some time to come, and I’m feeling pretty great about that. Great, and also a touch apprehensive. My lower back and neck muscles this afternoon? They are not feeling to great about any of it. Ouch.