My Body is a Wonderland

Hi team! If you’ve been following along, you know what a terrible ashtangi I’ve been (and if you haven’t been, I guess I’ve just outed myself). Bad lady! No benefit! In the interest of keeping this blog honest (I’m at lease trying to keep to my yamas!), I’ll admit I haven’t exactly been strict with myself about practice attendance since my last post either. BUT I did go three out of five days this week, and that’s an improvement over one day last week and ZERO days in the numerous weeks prior. I was anxious about starting on a led day, which means Sunday and/or Friday at this shala, because I’m a pusher and, hello, rushing-induced injury, so I waited until Monday to go back. What about home practice, you ask? I have many reasons (read: excuses) for why I can’t seem to get a home practice going, but the main ones are my lack of dedicated space and the four furry creatures I share 1000 sq feet with (no, this does not include my husband). Anyway, all this to say that I am starting to find my body a little bit. My bandhas are still ridiculously weak and I can’t get through a full primary’s worth of jump backs/throughs, BUT I managed to get into every pose in led this morning on a reasonable count, AND I think I might be ready to start dropping back again on Monday. As a great lover of backbends, I have been missing them. Don’t ask me how long I held uth pluthi. I’m thinking another two or three weeks of straight primary and I’ll be ready to start adding some of those early intermediate poses. That’s when my stamina will really be pushed! We have chanting at my new shala before Friday led and I loved chanting classes in Mysore so I went this morning, despite the need to be at the shala an entire half hour earlier. Doesn’t Sharath say that we should only take 5 or 6 hours of sleep a night? 😉 Ha! I’m out of the loop, not knowing the chants here, but it’s easy to pick up when it’s done 108 times. I love the calm and quiet mind that comes from this practice. It was a nice way to start my day and I’m sure to be a regular. It’s so wonderful to feel a part of this world again, I had such a warm, fuzzy feeling post-practice this morning. I even managed to exchange some words with fellow practitioners in the change room so maybe I won’t be lonely in this city forever! Perhaps there are other animal-loving ashtangis who will want to dog walk or drink hot beverages after practice on Sundays. The only sad thing about having such a close knit community in my old home is that it set the bar pretty dang high! And I miss them. I have hope that I will have that again here, and if it doesn’t exist already for me to butt in on, I will create it. Happy Friday!

Oliver

Aren’t cats the ultimate yogis?

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A comfortable week

Moon day tomorrow! That means no intermediate poses until Sunday, so I’m pretty happy and so is my back. Practice has been feeling great. I’ve just really been enjoying it this week. I’m not too sure whether there’s been much improvement in my poses, but I think I’m in a comfortable place with my current line-up. In fresh asana news, I actually grabbed both ankles in my assisted back bend yesterday and, let me tell you, it was seriously intense! Not painful, but lots of sensation, LOTS. My obviously very trusted assistant had to keep telling me to breathe. It’s bizarre how often I have to remind myself to do that. It’s during the very focused moments, or sometimes during a longer (read: sloppier) transition so I can “stick to the vinyasa.”  I don’t think it counts when you have to hold your breath. One of the many things I love is the universality of the ashtanga experience,  so I’m 100% sure that I’m not the only practitioner that does this. Tying in to that, I had an awesome moment yesterday with my neighbour. We got to kapotasana at the same time and were on our knees psyching ourselves up (out?) before attempting to turn ourselves into the letter D, but we shared a high five and a laugh first for support. I love that ashtanga is an individual practice, but you have a community of people to walk the path with. It’s a nice feeling when you smack your face off the mat (something I also did yesterday) and there’s someone there to laugh with (or at) you. I always know I’m not the only one who tries and struggles and falls and sweats. I guess some of this unoriginal observation comes from my shitty adherence to my drishti. Oops.

Off to a cottage with friends for a couple days, where I will enjoy Friday primary outside by the lake. Sunday practice will be at AYCT, so there’s lots to look forward to on and off the mat over the next four days. Friends and relaxing and time away are much needed right now!

Bending and belonging

This morning was set up to be a bit of a shaky practice. I went straight from an overnight shift and was feeling nauseated and totally exhausted. I went in with the attitude that whatever I could manage to do was enough. The vibe on Sunday is so lovely, everyone is relaxed and the earlier arrivals, like myself, set up and chat while we stretch before we do the opening chant as a group. One of my fellow practitioners (who I see everyday but whose name I don’t know) told me to just breathe and take it slow today, and I followed her advice. I have skipped purvottanasana every practice (besides led, obviously) since last Sunday and not even on purpose. I did it again today and realized much further along when I saw someone else do it. I had to laugh at myself because while I dislike the pose, I haven’t been leaving it out intentionally. I actually had a great practice. My sleepless state left my body pretty open. It took the strength and balance a while to come, but I got into a rhythm and was feeling pretty great. Sundays assistant is not afraid to be really hands on with everybody, so I got a little attention today in a few poses, which was nice. Supta kurmasana update: I rocked it today. I was able to come up and get my left leg behind my head. I didn’t really try to get the second leg back there, but did make an effort to get the feet crossed at the top of my head before coming down. I was able to get my fingers clasped, but they were too sweaty to fight the pull of my thighs and they let go. I think with assistance I would have totally had it this morning. I have high hopes for tomorrow! Moving on, my pulled neck was feeling ok today, but I’m still giving it a few days before I re-introduce chakrasana. I did all the other neck involved poses without difficulty. My intermediate poses flew by, until dhanurasana. My hip bones were really digging into the floor more than usual for some reason. Ouch. I was hoping to get laghu vajrasana today (I know, I know) but no dice. Maybe tomorrow? Drop backs were great today! Standing was so awesome and I had a nice deep assisted back bend with heels this close to getting to the floor. I was so tired that I was dozing in savasana, so home I went to “take rest.” I was so happy that I went despite how crappy I was feeling beforehand.

Something basic in our human nature longs to belong somewhere, and the Ashtanga community certainly provides that sense of community. I’ve often referred to my practice as my “secret morning club” because it is a fairly small group of us who choose to wake up before dawn to go contort our bodies into strange and unnatural positions before rejoining the rest of the world for the day. I’ve lamented to fellow practitioners the lack of a secret handshake and laughed about how, from an objective, outside perspective, the whole mysore thing is pretty dang strange. There’s something about that that’s appealing to me, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this. When I first started going to AYO, I was intimidated and didn’t know anyone else. Fast forward seven or eight months later, and I may not know most of the people by name, but we’ve exchanged pleasantries and shared some challenge/encouragement at some point. I experience the comfort of familiarity and a supportive environment now, which I never expected to happen that first week. I no longer think that any of the feelings/frustrations I encounter are novel, or even unusual. I love that. All of these things contribute to what keeps me coming back day after day, and loving it.