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.

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!

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.