Beyond blessed

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Return!

Gone a long while! To say I felt uninspired to write about my experiences in the last very long time would be an understatement, but here I am. Since I last wrote I have been on a four month travel adventure, which included seven weeks in Mysore with Sharath, and I have also moved across the country. Big changes. Another understatment. I’ll be starting practice at my new shala on Monday, so I’ll have more to report from the mat then. It’s been a long while since I’ve practiced. The post-trip depression hit me hard and I’ve been neglecting some important things, but I’m looking forward to being back where I belong. Perhaps I’ll try to share some of my experiences in Mysore during the upcoming week as well. It was pretty special. ūüôā

Learning lessons the hard way

I have never been a person who was able to avoid heartache and hardship by listening to the advice of others. I think I’ve gotten better as I’ve gotten older, but I still have a nasty stubborn streak that often leads me to do things my own way. This is inevitably the more difficult path. I frequently need to learn life’s lessons multiple times, just to make sure it’s really solidified. As someone who lives mainly in the present, I can find it hard to keep hold of long-term goals or to consider something in terms of its future benefits. This sometimes translates as a need for not quite instant (but close) gratification. Planning for more than a few months ahead is something I find nearly impossible, and this is an aspect of myself that I would like to change (no problem, right?). This intro could totally lead me into a whole post about my struggles with aparigraha, but I’ll save that for another time. In fact, I could go on about my painfully human flaws forever, but what brought on this line of thought today is that I’m sick. Nothing life threatening, just a bad cold. No big deal, one might say, get rest and drink lots of fluids! I find this incredibly difficult for a number of reasons. For starters, I have missed the last three mornings of practice, which I hate. My body and mind suffer a little when I don’t go – I need my ashtanga fix. I get these ridiculous fears about my asana practice like, what if I can’t drop back anymore when I go on Sunday? I know this is silly, but the thoughts come regardless. Without that meditative time on my mat, I also miss out on the important, if brief, shutting down of all that mental chatter, even if I only manage it for a short time. I rarely consider the stresses of life while practicing, my mind may wander but it is usually always related to practice. It’s like hitting the refresh button and it helps me to maintain some sense of peace (or perhaps just keeps me from being a much crankier, more difficult person). Another thing about being sick is missing work. To say I am extremely tied up in my role would be an understatement. I believe my career chose me. It is a big part of who I am and how I identify my worth in the world. I love being in social work, and I care very much about the clients on my caseload. Missing unplanned days means I’m letting people down, not being able to be there when I’m expected or needed. I find that hard to live with, and I feel guilty. I could go on about that for pages, but I’ll leave it there. Finally, getting sick challenges my delusion of being invincible. It forces me to acknowledge that I push my body beyond it’s capacity to cope, and it tells me I need to slow down by getting this cold. This cycle has been going on for somewhere around seven years, but I have yet to actually follow my body’s directive. I do worry that sometime in the future I will get sick in some more serious way as a result of being stressed, over-worked, and tired, and should that happen I would have no one to blame but myself because it’s all self-induced. Ah yes, my first world problems are on display in abundance, and while I should be grateful for the wonderful life and general good health I enjoy, I do allow myself to wallow in a bit of “poor me”¬† once in a while. No matter what, I’m insisting to my self that I’ll be better by Sunday because David Robson will be here and I refuse to miss the opportunity to practice with him! And yes, I have learned the lesson about slowing down and taking care of myself this time ūüėČ

A break from the regularly scheduled programming

Today is my wedding anniversary, and while this isn’t my usual asana based post, it does connect to my practice. When my husband and I met, I was definitely practicing yoga but had not yet discovered the joys/challenges of mysore practice. He had never done yoga at all and made the time and effort to come to a number of classes with me. He didn’t enjoy it that much, but put in effort to understand my passion for it. When I did begin daily mysore, he was very supportive. He would help me get up in the mornings and took an interest in what I was learning. He has watched countless hours of youtube videos, listened to me ramble on about my dreams of Mysore (India) and my conflict around eating meat, and, of course, endless hours of dissecting my asana practice. Ashtanga is a path that requires dedication and focus and having a partner who is understanding has been so important for me. Not everyone would be ok with a wife who goes to bed so early, who never wants a glass of wine with dinner, who spends all their money on workshops and shala fees. So, today I am thanking my amazing husband for everything he does but most especially for all the behind the scenes support of what goes on on my mat every morning. Happy anniversary, my love!

Guilt

I missed led this morning because I have a throat infection. This is a totally legit skip but I am still plagued by guilt, like I’m cheating on my mat with my bed.

Starting the year off right

I can’t think of a better way to start 2012 than practicing. I took two days off for healing and was back on the mat this morning. It felt great. Still having shoulder pain, still having knee pain, very unfocused with my drishti, and basically still struggling in many poses, BUT on my mat nonetheless. I was proud of myself. I even managed to do chakrasana today for the first time since I hurt my neck a few months ago. I probably had the deepest baddha konasana ever today, thanks to a great assist. My shoulder was twinging a but but I did my drop backs anyway. The going back seems to be getting more controlled and feels ok, the coming up is still a bit of a mess. My final drop-back (the assisted one) was super deep and I felt a bit like I might throw up or split in half, but I didn’t so it was a success.

It is hard not to have asana related goals for this year, and I would really like to finish primary and start intermediate. I would also love to have a more comfortable lotus and no more knee issues. I know, practice and all is coming. I am learning patience and compassion for my body slowly. Quiet down, ego. I am also working on doing some yoga philosophy reading. Lots to ponder and lots of work to do. Luckily I enjoy the journey of self-discovery and the challenges that arise on the path. I have confidence that 2012 will be an amazing year in my life and in my practice. Bring it on!

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.

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.

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