Sucker for punishment

Today was possibly the sweatiest practice of all time. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but it really was ridiculous. I was pouring sweat by the end of my surya namaskars. I felt really weak today. My body was tired, as if I’d already done a really tough workout this morning before AYO. I quit working on my jump backs around the marychis because I was worried I wouldn’t make it otherwise! Supta kurmasana continues to be so close, but I still can’t quite put it together. Maybe tomorrow? 😉 I called my teacher over after laghu vajrasana and told her I felt ready to start kapotasana again. She was very supportive and she told me to just take it really slowly, not worrying about when my hands got on my feet. I did it and it was hard, but it felt good. No back tweaking, no SI pain, no popped ribs. I was able to hold both A and B for a full five breaths and I got my hands onto the balls of my feet without forcing it. She told me to skip supta vajrasana for now and do the following three postures. Bakasana B was tough with a weak, tired body, but I almost got it. Ending at the twists in a nice place to stop. Back bends were pretty awesome. I think I’m pretty close to my feet in my assisted. We didn’t do ankles again this week, but I have been walking in quite far. Today I could see my feet clearly, not just glimpse the heels, which is new.

I went to my chiropractor for the third time today. He says my pelvis is all aligned again and my rib is back in place. He gave my ribs a couple more adjustments for good measure. I’m going next week just for massage. My back and neck muscles are very tight, so why not relieve the discomfort?

My sister-in-law is coming this weekend, so we’ll get to practice together on Sunday and Monday mornings. I love that! I’m already excited, but still have to get through led tomorrow first. Goal: get up for practice in the morning! I refuse to let myself miss another led class, no more Friday slacking!

Assisting and ankle grabbing

Progress on getting back to my six mornings routine? I was this close to being successful in my goal last week. Dang led primary is my downfall. I was running late by ten minutes, which wouldn’t have mattered any other morning, but I couldn’t go in late, so I stayed home. Full disclosure: I should also be at practice now, but after working last night I would only have had an hour between jobs and I was just plain too tired to manage it today.

In other personal practice news, yesterday was grande. I had a hot, energetic practice that I really enjoyed (no surprise – Sunday). I think I’m making progress on my jump backs and certainly attempted, with gusto, in every transition. I hope one day it will just happen. Maybe tomorrow, right? 😉 Another biggie – I got into supta kurmasana with only a foot cross needed from the assistant. I was pleased, maybe there is light at the end of this long tunnel.  Still just doing up to laghu vajrasana and, even though I’ve been wanting to add back in the other poses, I know I should follow the advice of my chiropractor and wait until I’m fully healed before trying to pretzel myself into kapotasana again. That being said, my teacher did take my hand to my ankle in my assisted back bend. I was supposed to bring the other one back myself, but I could only hopelessly slip off my foot. It was intense, but ok. Actually, let’s be honest here, I was excited and thought it was awesome!

Eoin Finn, who I am doing my YTT with, was here doing workshops this weekend. I waffled about whether I would attend or not because, as we all know, this yoga thing does not always come cheap. I skipped the Friday evening, but decided to ask Eoin if I could come assist him during the five-hour workshop on Saturday. It happened! It was a really cool experience. There were a lot of teachers there, which was a tad intimidating, but people who don’t know me just assumed I knew what I was talking about. It gave me a lot of confidence. I think it went ok. I did my best and got my hands on lots of people and answered questions during the small group activities. It was such a different experience watching people practice. It was kind of hard to not be joining in the fun, so I was glad to give up the opportunity to assist again on Sunday and practice instead. I was a bit tired after going to AYO right before and having quite an intense physical practice (what, Ashtanga physical? No way!). The flow we did with Eoin was super sweaty and fun. We did some handstand and pincha and core work and lots of hip openers. Three hours later, I was exhausted! I am feeling it today! I had the opportunity to talk to some of the newer yoga teachers there and pick their brains a bit. It was comforting that everyone basically said the same thing – teaching gets easier every time you do it. It made me enthusiastic about organizing some more opportunities to teach. Stay tuned, I’m sure this is just the beginning of this new road on my yoga journey.

Four more days to get my butt out of bed and get to practice this week. I will make it to led!

 

First steps, failure, and feeling good

Yesterday was my first time teaching a yoga class! Yes, it was informal, and yes, it was only my husband and two close friends, but it was still teaching. We went down to the park together and set up on the grass in a nice shady spot. It was perfect weather. I was surprised that I didn’t feel nervous, I wasn’t totally relaxed and calm either, but no butterflies. I think it went pretty well. I wanted to do this little class with “safe” people before I reach out to a broader group for more practice. I’m going to try to do this regularly through the summer and hopefully my comfort level will increase and my teaching will improve. Yay for being brave!

I’ve had a very hard time getting back into my morning routine since coming home from my teacher training in BC. I will admit publicly that I’ve only gone to morning mysore three times each week for the last two weeks (this feels like a huge failure on my part, and I alternately feel very silly for feeling like a failure). A number of factors are contributing to this, such as not getting to bed early enough and work being incredibly stressful lately. I am determined to make a better effort this upcoming week. There is a moon day this week, so it’s a good week to commit to practicing all prescribed days because I get a freebie. I started things off right, by getting on my mat this morning.

Lo and behold, a new assistant at AYO! Very exciting, I must say. I love having someone new around, teacher or assistant, because it’s so helpful to have a fresh perspective on your practice. It was the busiest I have ever seen it today, so there wasn’t much time for lots of personal attention, but I did still get a really great assist in marichy D. She opened my shoulders further and supported me while encouraging me to drop the raised hip as close to the floor as possible. It felt great. My left ribs are still uncomfortable when twisting to the right, but not like they were. Today was the first practice in ages, possibly months, when I really felt like I had my body back. I made the attempt to jump back properly in every vinyasa and it was probably incredibly awkward looking, but it felt amazing to try again. I jumped back from bhujapidasana and supta kurmasana with no fuss. I lifted without touching my feet down between navasanas, and I even held uth pluthi for ten full, calm breaths. Drop backs were fine, not awesome, but I’ll take it. My assisted back bend was the best I’ve had in ages. I don’t want to rush back in to doing kapotasana, but I wanted to do it so badly today! I’m going to wait until after this weeks chiropractic adjustment and then ask my teacher about doing my full practice again. Am I being to ambitious? I truly don’t want to injure myself again. I might be getting carried away because it’s so nice to be able to do everything again. It’s more than two hours post-practice and I’m still feeling fine, so I don’t think I worsened anything today. I can’t wait until my ribs and SI are completely properly realigned again, then I’m sure I’ll feel even better.

It’s easy to be in love with my practice when things are working!

Next time I’ll listen, body, I swear!

I had my first ever visit to a chiropractor today. I went with trepidation because I have always had this image of what happens in those appointments and it wasn’t pretty, just scary looking. I just knew that the couple of massages I’ve been to over the past few months didn’t fix the problems I’ve been having. Enough was just enough, time for to look at the issues through a new lens. I had an assessment and went through my list of physical complaints. My main focus was this stupid rib pain, but I also talked about the SI issues I’ve had since April. He poked and prodded and made me bend and twist. He told me that nothing serious is wrong, I’m fairly symmetrical and basically ok. Phew! He also told me that it looks as though I popped a rib out when I first hurt my ribs, (I wish I could remember how he explained that this is even physically possible), but my body has done its best to repair itself. Stuff is still not quite right on the left side of my rib cage and the rib isn’t quite in its proper place yet, so he adjusted that. It was weird and intense. I think my eyes almost bugged out of my head when he did the adjustment. It didn’t hurt, but it was startling. He also told me that my left SI joint is out of wack too, probably since my initial injury in April. He did another adjustment there. Again, woah! I am supposed to go back for about three more sesssions, starting in a week. I am so glad I saw him! I went to practice right after (an “ashtanga” class at the studio downstairs from the clinic) and I already felt much better! I’m so excited about feeling less pain (it still hurts a little when I sneeze) and I can’t wait for practice in the morning! The chiropractor told me to still take it easy until I’m totally fixed, but I’m happy to know what’s been wrong and that it’s going to be better soon. Yay for new healing experiences!

 

Peace peace peace

Let’s not dwell on last weeks shortcomings, both physically and mentally, let’s move forward into this bright shiny new week. Historically it is much easier for me to be in a positive frame of mind about my practice on a blissfully relaxed Sunday, but I want today to set the tone for this week. I had such a great practice this morning, I felt focused, but easy in my body. I took full, slow breaths. I didn’t push anything that felt potentially painful. No missed poses. Not that there weren’t struggles, but just the expected ones (utthita hasta padangusthasana, I’m looking at you). I was careful through seated, but my ribs were feeling much better, so I attempted jumping back/ through. It went better than I would have anticipated. I bound marichyasana D without too much discomfort. I even kept my feel off the floor for the lifts in navasana, and my ribs only complained slightly. No jumping back from bhujapidasana or the kurmasanas yet, I don’t want to push too hard and have a setback. Supta kurmasana was quite good today. I played around before getting into it, doing some stretches and yoganidrasana. I hate to go back to this slightly sick and dangerous thinking, but it would be so much easier to do the pose if my legs were less fleshy! My neck was bothering me today, so I only held setu bandhasana for three breaths before putting my hands down for support. Pasasana was tough to bind and balance today, and I got a shoulder opening assist because I think I was kind of hunching towards my knees. Dhanurasana and parsva weren’t nearly as tough as usual. I focused on bringing my knees closer without dumping into my lower back. I was really concentrating on bandhas and bringing the pubic bone forward. I used a block for ustrasana, laghu vajrasana, and my first urdhva dhanurasana. Huge help! It made laghu so much harder! I’m usually splaying my knees out on the lift up. Back bends felt amazing today, so I decided to try to stand up, and I did it. Since I’d gotten up, I figured I may as well try a drop back, so I did three. They felt so fun! I wasn’t as controlled going back as I was a few weeks ago, but coming up was good. I did one assisted and didn’t worry much about walking my hands in, I just focused on my bandhas and internal thigh rotation and all those good alignment points that I was ignoring pre-SI joint injury.

We have a new room for closing at the shala, which I was skeptical about at first, thinking we really didn’t need it. I’ve changed my tune after using it last week. It’s so nice. It faces the back of the building, where no traffic noises come in, and it’s cool and quiet and peaceful. I really took my time in the closing postures (even uth pluthi today!) and then did my closing chant, which I always follow by repeating the end in English to myself (may all being everywhere be happy and free, om peace peace peace) and after each repetition of peace I focus my energy towards someone/thing. The first “peace” goes out to the world, the second to my friends and family (with special emphasis visualizing those who need it most), and the third I wish for within myself. The visualization that came to me when I first started doing this was wrapping a cozy blanket around whatever I was sending those peaceful, loving feelings towards, so that’s what I still do, even the planet. Is this a little weird? I’m fine if it is, it’s a wonderful way to end my practice and it sets me up for a meditative savasana.

I’m off to shower and get ready for a baby shower this afternoon, before work tonight. Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

 

Taking it easy

Thursday, thank goodness. I’m having a massively stressful work week and I made the decision to sleep through practice and go late to work today. The two previous days on my mat have actually been ok.

Tuesday I did my practice up to laghu, as suggested by my teacher. It felt pretty good. No excruciating pain. I’m taking it really easy in the twists, not binding marichyasana D at all. The back bends feel a bit harsh, probably in part from being out of practice after my two week hiatus from any serious back bending practice. I’m really working on trying to keep my bandhas engaged and my butt cheeks from clenching. I suppose there will always be some part of my body that isn’t cooperating with my vision of the asanas (psoas!). I spoke with my teacher again after practice and she gave me her outline of a plan. She says to add drop backs in again when I feel like I can’t stand not doing them anymore, then we’ll add kapo back and really analyze it to find out where things went wrong. I can handle that.

Yesterday I was pressed for time, so I only did primary, which was nice. I got an assist in downward dog, which I always love, but otherwise I wasn’t touched. Without the jump throughs/backs the practice feels much slower and more careful, in a nice way. I’m still sweating, although not as much.

I’m trying to feel better about things and resist the urge to yell to everyone in the mysore room that I’m injured and that’s why I’m taking it easy and not doing my full practice. Silly me. I’m seeing a chiropractor (for the first time) on Tuesday, and I hope he’ll be able to help me with healing. I’m actually looking forward to led tomorrow, for once. I’m hoping to have time for post-practice tea and chatting with my AYO pals.

Re-evaluating

I have always been someone who is pretty self-aware, and I think this has helped me to become the reasonably well-adjusted woman I am today, but sometimes I am reminded that I do not always have the clearest view when judging myself. This came up today when I was reading Paul Gold’s blog post “The Obsessing Ashtangi” (http://paulmitchellgold.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/the-obsessing-ashtangi/), which was an extremely timely piece of writing for me. I have been mentioning over the last six weeks or more that I have been suffering with a number of (minor) injuries, and some of them have improved or healed but not everything. I had just finished practice on Thursday and went to discuss some pain with my teacher and a friend. My left ribs have been bothering me for over a month and have only improved slightly (I can breathe without excruciating pain now). I am unable to jump back/through to/from seated (actually anything involving lifting the lower abdomen like uth pluthi), twists are uncomfortable, back bending poses are painful, and jumping into bakasana is difficult (who am I kidding,  it’s not happening for me yet regardless, but now even trying is painful). I have continued to do my practice, only modifying as absolutely necessary. My friend suggested that the pain is stemming from bending too deeply in my upper back in kapotasana, which makes sense to me. My teacher’s prescription was to stop at laghu and not do drop backs until I heal. While this is the bare minimum of what I should be leaving out, I felt like I had regressed in my practice and it was frustrating. On Sunday, my teacher wasn’t there and I thought about doing my full practice, drop backs and all, regardless. I had been hoping to get eka pada soon, and was angry at myself for telling my teacher about the pain because now I won’t get another pose for a while. But so what? Why does this matter to me so much? Who is paying any attention to which pose I’m working on, besides me? How ridiculous is it that I was willing to hurt my body to get my next pose and what narrative was I buying into that made this ok for me? Looking back, I have definitely approached my practice from the obsessive standpoint that Paul describes. I wouldn’t say I’m a type A personality about everything in my life, but I can be a perfectionist (I’m a virgo, I come by it honestly ;)). The fact that I couldn’t safely manage a lotus when I started mysore practice was a huge hurdle for my ego. I stretched my poor hips endlessly – in front of the tv, at my office, in bed. It didn’t come as quickly as I would have liked and I still don’t have an effortless lotus. There are things in the practice that have come relatively easily but there are things that I have struggled with, as with most practitioners. On an intellectual level I know that the asana is not the point and there are days when this resonates fully and my practice is meditative and lovely (maybe 50% of the time), but I know that I haven’t hushed my ego at all. I have no feelings of competition with anyone but myself but I’m still goal oriented and it is so hard to totally detach from that. I’m thankful for this moon day of reflection and I”m reminding myself of the old adage that Rome wasn’t built in a day. My mysore practice is still new, not quite a year old yet, and I have the rest of my life improve on my imperfect humanity.