Sometimes it pours…

And here we are just chugging right along. Vatayanasana could be awhile. That shit is hard!!

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Just when I thought it might never happen…

Once again I prove to myself that my body is capable of things I once thought impossible. Yesterday I got nakrasana. This was the longest I have ever worked on a posture; Mayurasana was a toughie! I’m not one of those waifish yoga women without too much lower body to lift!

Mark Darby, photo from Ashtangapictureproject.com

Mark Darby, photo from Ashtangapictureproject.com

Dedication and progress

Every morning the little voice in my head (or perhaps the little devil on m y shoulder) whispers that I should stay in bed because there’s no way I can possibly get through all those poses today. This week has been a tough one for shutting that voice up. I’ve been so happy that I’ve made it to practice once I’m done, but I’ve fought myself to get up even more than usual. I know that if I miss a day the Ashtanga police will not drag me away to a never-ending Bikram class or anything, but I know I let myself off the hook with excuses in other areas of my life regularly and it’s not a part of myself that I like. Commitment to my practice is important to me, and I see it as having broader implications than just getting on my mat.

All that being said, I’ve had an excellent week of practice. Every now and then it seems I pass through another door, and I feel like I did that this week. My transitions have improved in a big way, I’ve been efficient. I’ve cut out any extra stretching and finishing in record time (for me). I’ve been putting more emphasis on using my bandhas, and I think it’s helping me. I’m noticing huge improvements in poses that have been a struggle, specifically janu C and parivrtta parsvakonasana. My lotus is getting a little easier all the time. I’ve really been sweating so much more the last couple weeks. I know I’m working hard but I’m not sure that explains it entirely. I haven’t been getting much in the way of adjustments. Some tips for parsva dhanurasana yesterday, which was helpful, and supta kurmasana Monday and Tuesday. I had great drop backs both yesterday and today. I’m feeling so much more confidence. My assisted back bend was absolute crap yesterday but today I had really excellent help and it was great. I think it’s improving, although of course I can’t see it. I was able to walk in quite far today while still managing to keep my heels down. It made me think that stretching out my psoas isn’t going to be the trial that my hips have been. Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.

While I am thrilled with my practice in the warmth of the afternoon sun, I know that those extra two hours of guilt-free sleep tomorrow morning will be absolute bliss. No fighting that little voice for the greater good tomorrow! Happy moon day!

 

Worn out

Wednesday already? I never complain about time dragging with my crazy schedule, that’s for sure. The last two mornings I’ve been trying to get to practice early due to early starts at work and it has been exhausting! I’m sure I’ve mentioned the fact that I am NOT a morning person. In fact, I hate getting out of bed unless I’m on vacation. Before my mysore practice days I never got up before 8 am, if I could possibly help it. I would sleep until the last possible moment, calculating and recalculating precisely how many minutes I would need to get prepped for my day so that I could hit the snooze button a few times. All the has changed. I basically never sleep in, with six mornings of practice and juggling three jobs. Who is this woman?!

I’m not sure if it has been the sleep deprivation, or the addition of two poses this week, but I have found practice grueling the last two days. Even getting through primary has me weak and dripping with sweat, which is unusual. I know I’ve been working hard, but I don’t think it’s been that different from last week in terms of effort. By the time I got to krounchasana I felt really tired, then still had to get through six more postures. I almost cut parsva dhanurasana short this morning. After ustrasana I thought “thank god I don’t have to try to do another pose,” especially considering what the next pose is. I’m sure stamina will come in a  couple of weeks and it will all feel more routine again, but for now I am just plain worn out. Despite the wussiness, I still had some really great drop backs! I’m definitely developing more control and confidence in both going back and standing. It’s a fine balance between too much push-off the hands to get up, and too little. Everyday I still feel this weird anxious anticipation before I start my urdhva dhanurasanas, but it’s always fine. I haven’t broken myself yet. I don’t think I had a  single assist today besides my back bends. I was just left to struggle through it and deal with myself.

I’m going to try to get a good sleep tonight so hopefully I’ll have enough gas in the tank tomorrow. There’s still one more day of mysore before led on Friday. Another extra early practice for me tomorrow! Come on body, we can do this!

Asana collection

Happy Monday, world! Well, happy so far because I’ve only been at work an hour and haven’t actually done much yet. I wanted to write about this mornings wonderful practice while it’s fresh in my mind. Spring is getting closer, which is obvious when I’m now leaving the house in daylight. I hate to admit it, but I’m already missing that cozy feeling that I got practicing in the dimly lit room on those pitch black winter mornings. Not that I want winter to restart, let’s not get carried away!

I had a peaceful practice this morning. I almost didn’t even register where I was in my practice until around janu C (which, by the way, is hugely improved). I got through utthita hasta padanguthasana with no fuss, and much better balance than yesterday. I’m developing an aversion to marichyasana B lately. It’s strange to me that sometimes poses that were once no big deal become difficult later. I’m struggling to grab my wrists and generally feeling awkward in it. I got some help in supta kurmasana today, and it seems I can either bind it or cross. My slippery fingers could just not hold on to each other as my feet crossed, damn you thighs! I love getting an assist in baddha konasana, which I also got this morning. I seem to have plateaued a bit with setu bandhasana, as I find it too difficult to stay up in the full pose (no arm beside head support) beyond 3 breaths. Intermediate is going well, or so I think. I actually got a reasonable grip in bhekasana, which is so helpful. Still not confident in the posture, though. I got two more poses today, parsva dhanurasana and ustrasana. I’ll just take it as it comes and trust that my body will find the stamina. While I recognize that Ashtanga is about more than simply “collecting” asanas, it’s still exciting to have a new challenge.

This is exactly what I looked like this morning, heels included 😉

Home vs shala

I admit it, I skipped led on Friday morning. I just couldn’t face getting out of bed. I was plagued by guilt until I finally practiced at home in the afternoon. I am awed and amazed by those who self-practice at home every day. It takes a different kind of willpower to ignore the distractions of home,  roll out your mat, stay focused and not skip those poses that you may not feel overly fond of. I got through it all, with some extra stretching cheats and no backbends. I then decided to try laghu vajrasana, just for fun. Or really, to test the waters and see how screwed I’m going to be. I can do the pose, and even get up from it, but it is such an effort. My psoas are stretching to the max and my hips are very low. I find the patience it takes to increase flexibility to be one of my biggest challenges in the practice.

This morning was lovely back at AYO. It was busy and warm and sun was streaming in the windows. Perfection. My right knee was still sore, my balance was crap, drop backs were only ok, but I really enjoyed all of it. Oh, and I forgot purvottanasana, again. I was sweaty and tired by savasana and what a great feeling that is! No pose today, but I’m fine with that. What I’ve got on my plate now is challenge enough to keep me occupied. Will I ever get my arms through in garbha? Will I ever bind supta k at the same time as my feet cross? I’m optimistic, so I guess I’ll have to go back again tomorrow.

 

That good tired feeling

What a great practice this morning! It was busy and warm. The energy was high, which is always a good motivator. I was proud of myself for getting up despite being exhausted this morning. I made it to practice with enough time to relax and do my practice without stressing. Everything felt a little tight and squeaky but I gradually worked the rust out. I wonder if utthita hasta padangusthasana will ever get easier for me? I am working on less build up, just getting right into, which is helping because I don’t have time to psych myself out. My right knee is sore this week, but I’m trying to carefully work through it. The seated half-lotus postures are manageable. My jump backs from supta kurmasana and bhujapidasana are improving all the time. I felt like I’d lost them a bit last week, but this week they’re stronger than ever. I got a good assist in supta k today, which is always nice, but I do wonder how I’m ever going to bind my hands with my thighs as large as they are. I’ve all but given up on getting my hands through in garbha pindasana. I feel like it’s just going to injure my knee, and there really just isn’t space in there!  I think all my second series poses are going great. I had a good pasasana today, and I think I was able to get back into my heels a little more. I got some help with the transition back, which is super difficult for me because my core isn’t strong enough yet to lift up from a squat with my knees at my chest. I tried it a few times and only smacked my chin off the floor once. Bhekasana is a challenge. Sweaty hands and tight psoas make it hard, but also it’s just an awkward position to get into. I got an assist in it, then I did the two sides separately for some extra stretching. By the time I get to dhanurasana I’m dripping lots of sweat. I had awesome back bends today, besides the heels still coming up. Drop backs felt great and standing was solid. My assisted drop back was great. He held my knees in with his, and I got such a nice stretch through the front of my hips. I cruised through closing and was so happy to take savasana. I’m tired at that end of practice these days. It’s a nice tired feeling. I know I’m working hard and now that I’m getting into intermediate, my practice is getting longer. It’s only going to get harder as I add more poses and the back bending series coming up is challenging. I guess my stamina will increase and I’ll be able to do it. Plus, warmer weather is coming and that means I’ll be biking to/from work/practice and will generally be more active, which will be beneficial to my practice as well. I’m very happy with my practice right now and with the progress I’m making in the asanas. It’s a good feeling.

Gold star week

Despite my hectic work schedule, I have made it to every practice the last week. Today I went on no sleep after a night shift, and I will do the same tomorrow. Unpleasant for my body, to say the least, but I do notice that I’m a bit looser in my sleepless state. The last week has had its ups and downs, but I haven’t at all felt like writing about them. I finally felt that I’m making a minuscule amount of progress with my hips and the circulation isn’t being cut off in lotus this week. Today I actually jumped back from lotus for the first time, which was impossible before because of the tight squeeze my legs were in. Encouraging, for sure. I got an assist in bhekasana for the first time today and it was so helpful! I also got another pose today, dhanurasana. I’ve never been much of a dhanurasana fan, so we’ll see how I feel about it now that it will be part of the daily routine. I’m moving along in intermediate fairly quickly, but I’m sure that will end soon as the series becomes significantly more challenging in a few poses. My practice is slowly getting longer with these new poses, and I’m anticipating (read: dreading) having to get to practice earlier in order to have time for full closing and a reasonable savasana. It will be much easier once bicycle weather is here and I am no longer a slave to the public transit schedule, or the chauffeuring of my husband. Plus my body will arrive to practice nice and warm. Come on spring, don’t leave us waiting too long.

Intermediate!

This morning I got pasasana and I was happy about it. I had a pretty solid practice, and when I saw my teacher walk over during my prep for urdhva dhanurasana, I knew I was going to start intermediate today. I think it was ok. I can bind fine, but my heels are pretty far up. Those with long Achilles are blessed for this pose. I’m hoping to cruise along after this. Bekasana is tough because it’s awkward to get into, plus the sweaty hands and feet make it challenging to hold on, but otherwise the whole first section of intermediate is totally manageable. We’ll see.

Setu bandhasana is going fine. I’m getting it slowly, feeling around and taking my arms across for about three breaths now, just working my way up to the full five. Drop backs are still slowly improving. Both practices yesterday were fairly decent. Just the stand up from UD is tough. No falls though. This morning my teacher told me that they’re looking very strong, so that was encouraging. I had a super practice at “fun ashtanga” last night. We did primary through to navasana and then worked on intermediate. I had two of my previous teachers beside me and it was nice to feel like I had a little cheering squad during backbends.

I have spent quite a bit of time analyzing my desire for more poses, curious if this was just an ego thing or what. I have nailed it down to this: yes, it is a little bit ego, but more than that it is the desire for a new challenge. I was very content in my practice when I got drop backs, regardless of whether I got the rest of primary right away or not, and that was because I had something I could really work on and see improvement. I have many postures that need improvement, but those are the long-term projects that involve increasing flexibility (mainly in my hips) or strength. What I really enjoy is having something to work on that I can struggle with but slowly gain confidence in. I hope to be there soon. Heading into practice with a little bit of nervous anticipation is fun.

Emotional roller coaster

It was a roller coaster ride of a morning on the mat today. I’m usually fairly focused and not thinking enough to have an emotional response to my practice but today was a new animal. I had periods of my usual calm, then feelings of total despair – as in “I may never get this” and “I could work on this for years and years and still not be able to do it” and “I’ll never be good enough to move on to intermediate.” Wow. Definitely not self-talk that supports my plan to be my own biggest cheerleader. I fought it off, but it came and went through the parts of primary I struggle with. My knees were feeling not quite painful, but tender today, which was a big part of the problem. I was frustrated with still not being able to take half lotus with ease. I thought about the possibility that I may never be able to do garbha pindasana without modification, and was totally depressed about it. I felt like all the work I’ve been putting into my hips has done nothing. I also got angry at my thunder thighs and generally non-typical yoga body. How much easier would it be to do everything if only there was less meat on my bones? While supta kurmasana was actually pretty great today, I still thought about how effortless my bind would be with less to bind around. Total negative mind-set. I fell trying to stand from my first drop back, but the good thing is that I’m not fazed by the falls anymore and I got right back at it. My next three were almost perfect and I got some recognition from my teacher for it. I took a nice long, soothing savasana today and I felt great after.

I’m fluxuating between totally content with the poses I’ve got, which gives me lots to improve upon, and the desire to move on. I know I shouldn’t be striving to get more poses and start the next series, but there are days that’s how I think. Sometimes the eyes drift to other mats and it’s hard not to compare my practice to others. Today was of course one of those. I guess the word is out, I’m not perfect.

I’m going to give myself credit for sticking with my practice today despite the chatter in my mind. Not everyday can be perfect calm non-attachment. There’s always tomorrow…

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