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!

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?

Slump

Lately I’ve been feeling a bit like my body is rejecting my practice. My hips have tightened up again leading to tender knees, I have a pulled muscle in my right forearm, pulled intercostal muscles on my left side, very sore sacrum area on both sides, AND a slight pull at the connection point of my right hamstring. I honestly don’t feel as if I’ve been pushing extra hard or practicing differently, but my body is struggling. I actually took yesterday morning off to give myself a day of healing, but it just wasn’t long enough.¬†With moon days falling on Saturdays this month, I’ve taken it upon myself to just add in a few extra rest days. I feel fine about it, Ashtanga police be damned. I think I’m listening to my body and doing my best to take care of myself. That being said, I have every intention of seeing a massage therapist in the next week for a better assessment of the situation with my sacrum. Today I had some extremely uncomfortable feelings in my assisted back bend, which made me nervous. I have no interest in whatever lessons a back injury could teach me.

From my first surya namaskara to savasana takes me about an hour and three quarters right now but I’m finding the length manageable most days. In fact, I’m really enjoying practice. There’s a little bit of everything now: forward bends, twists, back bends, an arm balance, etc. I have enough to challenge me and keep the practice from feeling boring or even allowing my mind to wander. It’s a beautiful thing, this practice, and I’m so grateful for what it has brought to my life.

On an extra happy note, I leave for my first installment of teacher training two weeks from today! I feel vaguely sick when I think about actually teaching a class, but I think I could get over that and it would be fun. I also think the training will have a positive impact on my personal practice. The plan was to do this YTT course with my cousin, which was 90% of why I chose this particular course, but she bailed and now I’m flying solo. The training is with Eoin Finn on Vancouver Island. He practices a vinyasa flow style of yoga, and has a great vibe. He is a former ashtangi, which I’m interested in talking to him about. Everything I’ve read about the training gives me confidence that it will be a worthwhile program. At worst, I hope I’m going to have two weeks away from the daily grind geeking out on yoga. I’m doing a 40 hour ashtanga teacher training with David Swenson in August as well, so I’m keeping my bases covered.

Ok body, three more mornings to go.