And I’m back, with karandavasana in tow

Hi blog readers! It’s been an extended absence on my part, but that is not due to an absence from my practice, let me assure you. It has been a very busy 2013 so far, both on and off my mat. There was a trip to Austin for a week and the accompanying opportunity to practice with another ashtanga community and a weekend with David Robson at my home shala shortly after (perhaps more on those experiences another time). I have somehow managed to overcome my crippling fear of pincha mayurasana and am now actually able to get the pose my first or second try most days (don’t picture it as looking anything like this, imagine something much more graceless). I’ve had more struggle with this pose than any other, I think. I’m not a comfortable inverter, so that was the first in a long list of obstacles. Not an easy asana, by any stretch, but I have had some excellent help. I am starting to get the correct exit from the pose, although only my right arm does chaturanga so far. Today my teacher gave me karandavasana. This one is a doozy. With all the knee/hip issues of the past few months (another story for another time) there is no way I’m getting into lotus without help. My teacher left me to it, and I did try twice to get myself into lotus, but I fell after the first leg. I waited and today’s assistant came and did it with me. I know this was my first time doing it, but I am having trouble imagining a time when it will be possible without someone doing all the hard stuff for me. What muscles do you even engage to get and stay down there?! It just seems bizarre and coming up is disorienting. It could be years in the making, but I am stubborn and determined.

On a long overnight shift right now. Another five and a half hours left here until I head to practice, when I’ll be trying the insanity that is karandavasana again. Have a wonderful week!

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Just Do It Already

I felt a little inkling of frustration today. This is an extremely rare occurance for me, I am not the emotional-on-my-mat sort of yogi. It was just a wee bit, but there were definite ripples in my usual relative peace and calm. It was during pincha (surprised?). What got my goat? My inability to just do it! Not necessarily land the pose but to just try, really try, without the safety net of the wall or a spotter. It’s not even conscious. I pep talk myself (“you can do this”, “falling would be no big deal!”) but to no avail. It makes me mad at myself! If I could just fall a few times, I’m sure I’d get over the fear and maybe have a shot at getting the pose. Today’s assistant (conveniently the same one as Wednesday) told the other that I “need to fall” when he came to help me. They only caught me as I was going over, and I actually landed it myself a couple of times but couldn’t hold on for long. I need to dig in and find the courage to just jump up there, no crutch, and I think that will be the turning point. No one did just let me fall, I had spotters, but I know he’s right. I was reminded of this post by Kino and it takes on a new meaning now that I am actually working on the very pose she is referring to. Isn’t it in these very challenging places that we make change within ourselves? Easier said than done. There’s always tomorrow, right?

The hard stuff

In brief, pincha is really hard. Have I said this already? Likely.  Regardless, it is so true. Pincha is my favorite kind of asana challenge, both physically and mentally difficult. I haven’t had this fear response to a pose since learning drop backs, when I would feel sick every morning before practice knowing I would have to try to do it later. I’m not at the sick point (I hope this indicates some kind of progression in my ability to cope with this kind of thing) but I am definitely all up in my head about the whole asana. To use the wall, to not use the wall? The training wheels are so tempting but I know that’s not the way to really get into the juicy stuff, the fear. It’s also ultimately only teaching me to do pincha with a safety net, so I don’t really need to find my balance point because the wall will catch me. I also know I’ve been using it as an excuse to not confront the slight panic I feel about doing the pose in the middle of the room. Today I did it with the tough love assistance of our Wednesday teacher. It was ok. I flipped over once and I didn’t die. In fact, it didn’t even hurt. Will this help me when I go to put my forearms on the mat tomorrow morning? We’ll see. Pincha, you will not defeat me.

Doing it

Hi friends. It’s only been (not quite) seven days, but so far I have a heavy duty crush on 2013. Have I been working a lot? Yes. Have I been tired? Yes. But somehow the magical shine of newness has managed to stay intact through the past week. How are the resolutions going so far, you might wonder. Here’s the rundown:

  • I epically failed, almost immediately, on my resolution to stay adequately hydrated every day.
  • I am making plans to do a yoga photo shoot in the spring, just to document my practice for my future self.
  • I have started another Whole 30 (my second).
  • Perhaps most exciting, I am in the dreamy, far-away eyes phase of planning a trip to Mysore this year, and potentially (hopefully) more of India.
  • In the meantime, I have totally been going to practice everyday. And what practice it has been!

While our space is quite chilly with its drafty windows and high ceilings, I am still managing to get through it. Today was a bit warmer with the addition of a new heater and some plastic to cover the windows (it was amazing the difference in my body). I’m getting through it in just over an hour now, which seems crazy short. Every day when I get to my last pose it seems to have come so quickly and I have to review to see if I skipped something. I’m getting more fluid with intermediate, not as much stopping to collect myself. Ok, kapotasana is still a definite stalling point, but no one’s perfect. The whole section from eka pada to pincha is killer, in my opinion, and I’m kind of wiped when I get to my knees for my pincha attempts. Pincha is actually going really well, and I think I’m close to getting it. Today I kicked up into it without the wall but couldn’t  hold on for the five breaths. My second attempt I overshot and one foot used the wall a bit, but then I was able to find balance for at least five breaths. I left it at that because I had very limited time, but I’m definitely starting to gain more control as the slight panic about the whole experience recedes. It’s close! I grabbed my ankles in my assisted back bend yesterday (ick, a feeling I don’t love) but today it was just not going to happen. There was no way that second hand was going to safely make it in for the grab. In another exciting development, I have gotten into urdhva padmasana without the use of my hands three days in a row- a first for me! It reminded me again to never say never. There was a time I thought my body would never be capable of at least half of the postures I’m doing now. If you’ve read other posts, that amazement seems to be a frequently repeated sentiment, but it is renewed all the time so I can’t help writing about it! The body is amazing.

Happy practicing this week! Hopefully you’re having success thus far with whatever resolutions you may have made for 2013!

 

Starting the new year as I hope it continues

I am pleased to say that while I missed Monday practice (I’ve been working like a fiend and was exhausted), I did go both new year’s day and today. It was so important to me to start the year off on a positive note on my mat. One of my resolutions for 2013 (yes, I make resolutions!) is to get my lazy behind to practice six days a week all year, obviously excluding extreme circumstances like illness. This doesn’t mean I have to slog through my whole practice every morning, sometimes that’s impossible with my work schedule, but I need to do at least the minimum of 3 A, 3 B, 3 closing postures. I think this is completely do-able.

In exciting asana news: pincha is coming! It seems a touch miraculous, but with the confidence I’ve gained having the wall to catch me I’m finding that I’m actually starting to not need it. Today I was able to actually kick up into the pose and balance for a breath. It’s a start! It is dang hard and my hands totally slide together, but it’s fun! The rest of practice is good. Good as in feels pretty good, not as in Yoga Journal cover ready ;), which is just fine with me. Today was a day when I was loving the practice and my little community here and feeling great. Yay for 2013! Yay for ashtanga! I’m perhaps a touch delirious with sleeplessness (I worked overnight last night) but I have really excited and happy feelings about what this new year has in store. I hope you all are enjoying some positivity in your worlds as well!

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!

On being a big (sore) wuss

What’s been going on in my practice during the last week, you might ask. Here’s the update, friends:

Thursday I totally wussed out doing pincha and used a wall. Lame. A crutch that will never help me to gain balance to enter the posture. That old friend fear definitely reared its ugly head.

Friday came along and I slept in, skipping led. Sometimes you just need to stay in bed with your cats; don’t judge. I made up for it by going to the Saturday morning mysore at AYO. Super fun! I did primary with no drop backs, just like it was Friday. Ah, sweet, gentle, friendly primary. My body rejoiced. I feel like second is strengthening parts of my primary practice. I also noticed how not having to do all that half lotus everyday has helped my knee. I’m sure the leg-behind-head stuff is probably helping my hips open in a different way as well.

I was in Toronto for practice Sunday and Monday. AYCT is the hottest, sweatiest practice room of all time. My body loves it! David was away on Sunday, but that was fine. I loved being back there and noticed such a difference with the heat, in dwi pada especially! We’re barely breaking a sweat in the cold room at AYO these days. It’s a big room with lots of windows and there just isn’t that many of us. AYCT is pretty much the exact opposite. I took it slow because it was so sticky hot in there that I got nauseous a few times. Tittibhasana is possibly improving, but my legs are still hating me for it. The burn!! I got to pincha and, despite talking a big game beforehand about going solo in the middle of the room, I asked an assistant for a spot. Monday David was back, so no messing around. He adjusted me in trikonasana, which made me notice how lazy I can be in the standing postures. I totally got called out for my usual pre-kapotasana psych-out. It was good though, because it forced me to just do it with minimal mental chatter. I even got a little praise when I found my own heels (I will except ego strokes whenever I can get them!). David was busy when I got to tittibhasana so I didn’t get the help with jumping in that I had hoped for. He also spotted me for pincha, but perhaps with a slight eye-roll at my wussiness. I may have whined slightly as I made excuses about how recently I had gotten the pose. I got some good pointers regardless. I had to grab my shins (which I quickly slid down to my ankles) in my assisted back bend. Ouch, it felt terrible. My back just didn’t want to release at all. David says I should be doing it with my teacher everyday because my body is capable, but to be honest, I’m pretty glad I don’t because it’s just about the most uncomfortable thing ever. It makes kapo look like a cakewalk.

Back to the home shala yesterday. AYCT, I already miss your heat and intensity. Work interfered with practice in the morning so I had to go to evening mysore Tuesday. It was nice. Not many of us, which actually helped me focus on my breath because it was so obvious when I let it go. I got some really excellent pincha help and took my first steps into solo, wall-less attempts. It was a good practice (I love evening body!) but I was feeling a bit sore.

This morning work was also cutting into practice time, but I did make it. I was hurting. Perhaps something is out of place in my SI region, because there is extreme discomfort. I also have a little hamstring pull,  which is getting harder to ignore. I basically felt achy and a bit awful, so I took it very easy. I really half-assed kapo, just touching my toes, and skipped supta vajrasana (there was no teacher/assistant and I didn’t want to interrupt anyone else’s practice). I ended after eka pada because I was out of time and my body was definitely slamming on the brakes. I need rest. Practice tomorrow may be a fiasco. I can guarantee you I will not be asking to grab my ankles in my back bend.

I should be getting my MRI results tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed.

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.

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!

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