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!

 

Barfing, practicing, and dreaming

It’s amazing how time flies by. I didn’t realize how long it had been since I’d posted!I had an evil stomach bug last week and only did Sunday and Friday practices. It was a rough four days in between! We’re currently having a snowstorm here, so I didn’t make it to led this morning because of transportation issues. I was kind of sad to miss it, especially because I can’t make it up with Saturday mysore this week, thanks to work.

Practice has been fun this week. I think I am making minimal progress on pincha, but I’m enjoying the challenge of it. Lots of little aches and pains to contend with this week. Tight hips are not helped by this cold weather (and the AYO room is not nearly warm enough for me!), so leg behind head poses are a bit of a struggle, especially dwi pada. I don’t think I’m any closer on the final tittibhasana. How the heck do you keep your balance while you sort out where all of your parts are supposed to be situated?! Kapotasana has also been a bit of a struggle lately. Just when I thought I had it, how typical. I guess I’m kind of used to being split now, but there are still days when I would rather do primary. The thing about primary is that you can back off if needed. You can still be doing the pose, but make it less physically taxing. In intermediate, the poses are a different sort. Just to be in some of them is a huge challenge and they are sort of all or nothing (think dwi pada). Maybe this is just me?

I got my MRI results back and things aren’t great. No tear (yay!) but four other issues. I understand two- I have tendonitis and fluid build up in my knee. There was also something about my patella and he said it was chronic and degenerative (boo!). My doctor is pretty crap at explaining things and summed it up by telling me it was too complicated to Google and that he’d refer me to the sports medicine clinic. I’m waiting to hear from them so I can figure out what the next step will be.

In other news, my husband has quit being a stay-at-home ashtangi spouse and started to join the fun! He’s coming on Sundays, as of two weeks ago. It’s been exciting for me, but I’m trying to restrain my enthusiasm for fear of putting him off! He enjoyed last week, and I hope he’ll catch the fever and next thing he’ll be planning yoga trips with me. Fingers crossed!

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?

Still at it

Hello world! It has been a dog’s age since I posted and I’m wishing I had made more effort because there is so much to catch up on: the rest of my David Swenson training, my latest injury debacles, the second half of my YTT with Eoin Finn, and as always, my practice. I’m going to take it slow, because that feels a bit overwhelming. I hope to post in more detail about at least the trainings but I’ll give a one or two sentence wrap up of the important stuff now.

David Swenson: I adore him and his easily digestible approach to Ashtanga. The training was a great experience, mostly because of his amazing story telling about Guruji and his own fascinating life.

Eoin Finn YTT: I met some truly incredible people while I gained the skills and (almost enough) confidence to teach. I’m certified, y’all!

Injury report: Knees = F@#%ed (LCL left knee, MCL right knee), slightly bulging disk thanks to trying too hard with eka pada (these are self-diagnosed because god forbid I seek medical attention). Frustration level is being managed but it’s a bit hard.

Practice: No way I can keep this to two sentences. My practice and I went back to casual dating for a few weeks because my knees were so painful, mainly my left one. It was ugly. I wasn’t sure I could even manage a modified practice because even walking hurt. I gave it a bit of time. It is slowly, slowly feeling a bit better. I decided I was ready to re-commit this week and I did practice every day. I’m starting to do lotus again with the right leg. The left will be quite awhile longer, I fear. The biggest issue is how the knee problems effects my hips. My hips are one of my numerous struggle points in this “yoga of no” and to lose the flexibility I had gained in my rotation is a tad infuriating, but I suppose there is a lesson here. The knee stuff was scary for me and it’s forced me, more than ever, to practice mindfully. I was so happy to be back in the routine this week. I got to the shala early everyday so I wasn’t forced to rush to get my full practice in. It feels good to take care of yourself. I spoke to my teacher yesterday and she wants to give me more postures and split me when my knees are feeling up to par. Exciting/scary.

So that’s the basic rundown of the last six or seven weeks. Coming up tomorrow I have a super fun yoga weekend in Toronto. I’ll be at AYCT for three workshops with Laruga Glaser. If you haven’t read her blog (http://peaceloveyoga.blogspot.ca/) or seen her practice, you really should. She’s pretty super-human and mind-blowingly amazing. The workshops are on intermediate series, arm balancing, and back bending so I predict there will be challenges and laughter. I also get to do mysore at AYCT on Sunday morning, my most favorite thing. I’m tingly with excitement as I wait for my husband to pick me up from work!

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.

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.

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