From insect to peacock

I started pincha mayurasana today! Fun!! Perhaps only fun because the two times I did it my teacher spotted me so I didn’t fall. It may be less fun while I’m actually learning to get up and balance myself. I picture a lot of flipping over into back bends. So, this may be my stopping place forever and that is great! Lots of juicy poses in this practice. Tittibhasana was even harder today, my thighs were screaming by the end! You finish that ridiculous walk and your whole body is just saying “get out now!” but you have to try to inch those heels together for the final variation. Ouch. Regardless of the wingeing I seem to be doing about the difficulty, it was an awesome and super energizing practice today. I’m almost sad about the moon day tomorrow! Almost.

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The insect walk

Holy heck, yogis, intermediate series is kicking my butt! Last week was my first full week of being split, after the fiasco of the previous week, and I was feeling it! I can explain it in no other way than saying it was intense, both mentally and physically. In primary series there is a feeling of safety, of comfort. While you are asked to challenge yourself, it just somehow feels so much more manageable. It is yoga chikitsa, afterall. When adding on the poses of intermediate it all feels doable (at least attempt-able) after the long “warm-up” of primary series. When that whole series is taken away, you are left with the realization that second series is actually extremely challenging and you are asking your body (especially your poor, overworked spine) to really go to it’s extremes with the intense back bending, twisting, and crunching (leg behind head postures). It’s really all over the map, while primary is so forward fold heavy. It’s a bit intimidating, to be honest. You start your sun sals and you know that in 25 minutes, or whatever, you’ll be saying hello to kapotasana already. And, dudes, all that leg behind head action is serious! My hips are going to their limit! By yoganidrasana they’re just complaining and done with the whole business.

All this being said, I feel like I’m starting to adjust already. I know my body is capable, but my mind can be limiting. It opens you up to amazing growth to push yourself on both levels (mentally and physically), though.

So apparently we’re on to the next challenge already. Welcome to the fold, tittibhasana A, B, C, D. As of today, (I guess at this point it’s yesterday, but I’m working a night shift and it still feels like Sunday practice was today), this is my new stopping point. I’ve only done A before, but I’ve never jumped in. I also didn’t today (slacker?) but I will try tomorrow. I have no idea how it’s possible to get your legs in the correct position with a jump, especially since I am still such a slave to gravity. The next three versions of the posture were stupidly hard, and C is pretty weird with the insect walk forward and back. I think it could be the most foolish looking thing I’ve done on my mat so far. The end surprise is how much your quads burn when you finally exit, I had no idea! The hardest part for me was keeping my balance. I felt as though I was going to fall onto my back (scary!), especially during the final version. I’ll report back and let you know how it goes through the week. Like everything else, I’m sure I will make peace with it in time.

Here is the brilliant Laruga Glaser showing you how my new friends, the tittibhasanas, should look:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZHlijyG7pk

November Blues

Some people experience their winter depression in January or February, I have mine in November. The anticipation of the dark, hatefully cold months ahead is more than I can bear, and the memory of gentler weather is still too fresh. By December I have generally sunken into a sullen acceptance and will whine my way through the next few months without major lows. All this being said, dear internet, as an explanation (excuse?) for my practice delinquency last week. I managed Sunday and that was it. Every other morning I turned my alarm off and gave the world the finger as I rolled over and pulled the covers a little higher. I fought through work (a job I love) every day. The irony is that going to practice actually makes me feel better. It helped me get through the dark mornings of last year and I know it will again, if I can just drag myself out of that warm cocoon.

Last Sunday the shala was closed for Remembrance Day, so we had a little pop-up shala at the home of one of our AYO community members. How fun it was! There was much support and laughter and general amazingness in the room. No one was attaining enlightenment that day, but there were definitely other benefits being experienced. I hope we do it again! It was my first day of being split, and it was an amazing no-pressure environment with lots of “you can do it!”s from everyone. A perfect place to test the waters of my new practice.

Photos courtesy of a shala-mate!

Four of the six of us

We even assisted each other!

My favorite pose 😉

We won’t talk about what happened from Monday to Friday, let’s just put that behind us and move on to this week. I was actually a bit nervous about practice this morning. My body was feeling tight and achy and my knee was extra painful. I got on my mat and did something I so rarely do, I stretched a little. It felt great to ease my body back into the flow. I did extra sun salutations, both A and B. Not a lot, but enough to really feel warm and ready. Doing just second has a whole other energetic life that is going to take some getting used to, not to mention the incredible demands it places on the body. From the intensity of kapotasana to the hunching strain of dwi pada – such extremes for my back are challenging. I got through it though. I allowed myself to take my time, to pause for extra breaths and do whatever weird twitches I needed to. I think it will pare down naturally with time, the same way primary did. My body will let me know when it’s ready (then I will just have to conquer my mind!). My teacher came after yoganidrasana to give me pincha, forgetting that I wasn’t doing the tittibhasanas yet. I reminded her. She said we’ll add them next week, so more new, big challenges ahead!

MRI on my knee tomorrow evening. Send it your healing energy, if you have any to spare!

This weeks goal (every weeks goal) is to make practice all six days. November, you may have my optimism and all my good moods, but you cannot have my practice!

Marathon practice

To say the last two days of practice have been intense for my body would be a serious understatement. Both days were a solid two hours from opening chant to savasana and included primary and intermediate up to yoganidrasana. Holy crap. I motored through and it was that long, imagine if I was really taking my time! My knee is sore-ish but otherwise I felt great. It may not be much to look at, who knows, but my practice has felt really solid this week. I finally have a firm grasp on supta kurmasana, I haven’t flubbed it a single day since Toronto! I also managed to take my chin to the floor in bhujapidasana yesterday and today which is a woo hoo! The leg behind head postures are definitely hardcore for my neck and back. They use new muscles, which are a little achy, but I’m doing it. Even lifting myself up in my hunched dwi pada, something I really thought looked impossibly hard and a bit crazy. The body is amazing! Drop backs have been super fun. My heels are still lifting, but I feel like I’m getting more consistent with a solid stand up. That being said, you never know what the next practice holds, so I’m just enjoying it while it lasts. I’m doing lotus for supta vajrasana, but no other poses. Even that might be a bad idea. I’m carefully entering and it doesn’t hurt while I’m in it but it does when I straighten my leg after. I guess I should start skipping it again? I’m concerned that there isn’t any hip opening in second besides that pose. It’s tough for my knees when it’s just bam! full lotus with no work up before. That’s one of a number of concerns about saying goodbye to primary series before intermediate. Getting ahead of myself again, as usual!

I didn’t miss any days of practice this week, which I feel good about. I’m really looking forward to led primary tomorrow when I get to be lazy and have someone else count my breaths!

Sure, no problem, Kino!

SPLIT!

Big news in the world of my practice today, y’all. As of Sunday I am split. Eeek! Feelings on this? Mainly fear. Today I got dwi pada, in which I look like a crazed hunchback and find terribly hard. I will do that plus yoganidrasana starting tomorrow, then Sunday it is goodbye to primary (tear!) and hello to splitsville. I thought this wasn’t going to happen until my knee healed (which feels far away) but my teacher came over after I finished eka pada and asked if I felt like trying another pose, obviously I said yes. I’ll let you know how it goes. It feels a little frightening right now. She was all cool talking about taking me up to pincha in the next little while, while I was kind of nervous. This is a big change. One very happy point for me is bye-bye to utthita hasta padangusthasana, except for Friday’s!

I don’t do it like the boss, that’s for sure!
Picture from: http://grimmly2007.blogspot.ca/2012/01/sharaths-primary-series-dvd-plus-his.html

In knee news, I finally saw my doctor yesterday and am now waiting for an MRI appointment to see what’s up in there. He wants me to do physio after we get a diagnosis. I guess that means I’m not going to be pain-free for awhile, in his opinion. Maybe only doing second will be good for healing, because there’s less stress on the knees in the poses. We’ll see. Send my sad little joint some love, if you have a little to spare.

It’s a whole new world starting Sunday! Stay tuned, friends!

 

Nap time

Happy Friday, yogis! I am extra thrilled this week because the adoption of our rescue dog will be finalized this evening and I’ve been dying for a sleep-in (Saturday morning- I love you). I totally dragged my ass out of bed at 5:30 this morning and got to led, thanks to a shala mate who is picking me up Fridays. It was, as always, nice to be practicing in unison with everyone. You just get swept along like a little yoga automaton, not even needing to count your own breaths. My favorite moment is obviously when our teacher says “savasana” and we lay down on our mats and cuddle up with blankets like pre-schoolers having a morning nap.

Have a wonderful Friday and enjoy the luxury of Saturday morning! I know I will 🙂

Break through

Having the chance to practice with Laruga was definitely a great opportunity to challenge myself, but so was practicing with David Robson at mysore on the Sunday morning. He had lots of great help for me in a number of poses, but most importantly spent some time talking to me about my pesky left knee and an observation about the way I am torquing it when going into lotus. I was moving my ample leg flesh out of the way not realizing that the way I was doing it was actually further taking my shin out of alignment with my thigh. I’m still hurting and the tension the injury is creating in my hip is not doing me any favors, but between what I got from David that morning and what Jeff gave me in Victoria, I really feel like I will mend eventually and then work the flexibility back in my hip safely.

In happier news, since coming back from Toronto I think my practice has taken a step up. I am now able to get completely bound on my own in supta kurmasana everyday, even at led last week. I also have gotten my heels on my own in kapotasana every practice since my back bending workshop with Laruga. I’m thrilled with these latest developments and I think the noticeable improvements in some areas have helped offset the frustration with the limitations dictated by my knee. I really feel like I’m gaining noticable strength and building confidence. Actually, even eka pada seems to be improving a bit. Yay, ashtanga! I won’t mention all the asanas that are not accessible right now because of my busted up left knee (anything with lotus, janu b & c, blah blah, whine). Let’s keep it positive! I’ve been super fast this week, which was mostly due to necessity the last two days because I got up a little late. Sometimes a time limit works in helping me elinimate the extraneous movement and keeping me focused.

I had a little chuckle this morning while on my mat as my neighbour got to kapotasana. I was thinking about what a mind f@*% that pose is and how hilarious it would be (ALERT: yoga nerd moment!!) to watch a montage of people getting to kapo. I think practically everyone at my shala does it, including me, so I’m sure it’s very common. You arrive at downward dog, jump to your knees and then stop. Maybe you look behind you a few times, maybe you sit for a minute, maybe you stretch a bit first, maybe you do all of those things. Regardless of what is happening, I know it is definitely not correct vinyasa. I have to give myself a little pep talk along the lines of ” it’s only ten breaths, it wasn’t so bad yesterday, you can totally do it!” And then I do.

I’m going through another of my high on yoga phases and it makes me happy. I’m thinking about yoga trips for 2013 already. Here is my current short list: Goa with David Robson in March/April, a long weekend in Miami with Kino, Greenwich with Sharath in April, MYSORE in October or November. I have to limit it because, as we all know, money doesn’t grow on trees and this is a pricey addiction. So fun to think about though!

Could 2013 be my year?