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!

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Living the dream

I have not put on “real” clothes once this week. I can’t tell you how much I love getting changed after practice in the morning into another set of yoga clothes for teacher training during the day! It’s really been an exhausting, but amazing week so far.

On to business, the David Swenson experience thus far. Saturday and Sunday I did mysore with him in the mornings. It was a very small group on Saturday, perhaps 10 or 12 of us, and only a few more on Sunday. David did the opening chant in call and response style and we all got to business. The fact that there were so few of us meant everyone got his attention and he gives a wonderful, firm adjustment. It was nice to get attention in poses that usually never get adjustments at my home shala, like parivrtta trikonasana and shoulder stand. He came over as soon as I stood from my last urdhva dhanurasana and sat in from of me holding the backs of my upper thighs. He told me to drop back slowly and he brought me back up as soon as the heel of my hand touched the floor. It felt great and forced my heels to stay on the floor. His insight on the heel lift was regarding my short achilles tendon possibly being the cause. He told me he has them too and that his heels do not stay on the floor in pasasana because of that (!).

I took two of the Sunday workshops: Ashtanga’s Greatest Hits, which was a by request class where we broke down any pose people in the class needed help with or were curious about. The majority of the class were not ashtanga practitioners so there were no crazy poses. The most fun for me were nakrasana and mayurasana, which I came close to getting with David’s tips. The second workshop was Backbending and Inversions. Lots of group work happened and it was ok. For me the best part of both classes was David’s story telling and humour.

Teacher training began on Monday. There are eighteen of us, which is more than I anticipated. Most of the group does not have a regular ashtanga practice and there are only four of us have traditional mysore style practices. I was also surprised about that. We got right into teaching on the first day and everyone taught the whole class one surya namaskara. I was nervous, but it does break the ice. David talked about teaching and adjusting; things like prioritizing the corrections that make the pose safer, rather than just more aesthetically pleasing. We learned adjustments for downward dog and the beginning of standing on the first day. The following two days have been similar schedules. In the mornings we partner up and teach the sequence as far as we learned the previous day, adjusting in every pose. Then we learn the next few poses with the adjustments. We’ve done the standing sequence, jumping forward and back, then closing sequence (all but the last three poses so far). He says tomorrow we’ll finish up to navasana. I can’t imagine how difficult and overwhelming this must be for the people who have little or no experience with ashtanga. They are having to memorize the sequence, including Sanskrit names, and be able to teach it (no Sanskrit counting, just breath cues). I’m happy to only have to stress out about teaching and remembering all the adjustments, I don’t think I would be enjoying myself nearly as much otherwise. He is a patient teacher, and answers every question fully. He somehow still manages to be a bit firm and no-nonsense sometimes though, and I appreciate that. He even took time to help me with my jump backs at lunch today.

We get a two-hour lunch break and afterwards David sits at the front and tells stories and answers our questions, sort of conference-like. He speaks of Guruji often and tells funny stories about his experiences with him, both in Mysore and the US. Today there were a couple of questions about Mysore (whether a practitioner should aspire to going and whether or not he still goes). This set him off talking about what the experience of practicing at The Shala is like and lots of very funny stories about going to India. He often mentions David Williams and does a wonderful impressions of people. Yesterday he addressed someone’s question about whether ashtanga practitioners should just expect to get injured at some point. He told us that he has never had an injury from yoga (or “the yoga” as he calls it), despite having been a faithful practitioner since the early 70’s. He keeps driving home the point that ashtanga is only as hard as you make it. It’s ok to modify poses and you should do whatever you need to be safe (although he says props are only a last resort). We also discussed ladies’ holiday today. He says it is 100% personal choice, and doesn’t buy into the rule that women absolutely should not do practice, or even not do inversions during that time. Everyone should listen to their own body. David is very humble and has a wonderful way of making practice seem light. He regularly refers to it as a tool for life. He treats each persons practice as equal, regardless of how proficient they are with the asanas. I love that. He says that yoga should be fun and should build your prana, not deplete it.

Here are a couple of the nuggets of wisdom I managed to record in my notebook:

-“An adjustment creates a memory in someone’s body.” I thought this was a powerful way to think of it. I imagine most teachers want to create positive memories in someone of their experience in a pose.

– “There are fears that keep us alive and fears that keep us from living.” This came up when we were working on headstand and talking about the fear of inversions. He told a wonderful story about his wife’s experience of taking her first driving lesson and having her fear validated. I hope this is something I would already do, considering my field of work, but his demonstration with one of the participants was great.

I’ve been up around 5:30 every morning to get my butt to practice, then bus way out to the shala in the suburbs where the training is being held. It makes for very long and tiring days, but it has definitely been worth it. I can’t wait for tomorrow!

Unstuck

So, I may have failed in my plan to make it a six practice week. I missed Monday morning, for no good reason other than being exhausted and totally unable to leave my bed. Otherwise, it’s been a great week. My hips are taking longer to loosen up and my knees are complaining, but jump backs are coming along nicely and I’m landing bakasana B every day (although perhaps not on my first attempt). I’ve been trying not to itch for my next pose but, as I have admitted here, I have been. Today my teacher grabbed me on my way out and told me to start eka pada next week! I feel like there is a lot of opportunity for injury in this pose(s), but I think my body is ready for the challenge. Another exciting thing is that I’ll be starting eka pada on the weekend, but not at AYO. Saturday starts my nine days of David Swenson! I’ll be doing mysore with him this weekend as well two of the workshops on Sunday. The rest of the week is my primary series teacher training. I’ll be practicing at AYO in the morning, then taking the bus out to Swenson-fest for 9-5. I was so sad about missing out on the David Robson training, but I’m hoping to have a great week this week to make up for it. Led tomorrow morning, then I’ll be sure to post about my experience of mysore with the legendary Swenson. 🙂

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!

YTT Day 1

I haven’t done my own practice for the last two days, and I’m missing it but I’m also so glad to have the healing time for my poor torn up ribs. I’m a bad lady! I was travelling yesterday and there simply wasn’t an opportunity. I did have a little practice this afternoon, a vinyasa flow with my fellow trainees. This afternoon was the start of my non-ashtanga yoga teacher training. My husband and I are in Ucluelet, British Columbia and to say that it is beautiful here would be a huge understatement. We have a  cabin in the woods with a little electric fireplace and a full kitchen; it’s very cozy. The other folks doing the training with me seem really lovely so far and I think this is going to be a memorable experience. Today was mostly introductory stuff, but tomorrow we’re going to start getting into the meat (pardon the expression). I’m pretty nervous about the idea of practice teaching!

Are the ashtanga police going to hunt me down for skipping kapotasana today and substituting hanumanasana and other poses not prescribed?