Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Criminal Behavior

I'm partially ashamed to admit and partially unashamed to admit that I participated in some criminal behavior today for an ashtangi. My teacher is gone for the next three weeks and his senior assistants are covering for him while he's gone. I generally don't mind practicing with JB's assistants while he's gone for a day or two but something about him being gone for so long has me seeking out opportunities to practice with other teachers.

So today I sought out a different studio in my neighborhood and had a nice practice at Z's shala. There was a small group of practitioners in the shala and she was there to assist me when I needed her. She easily got my hands to the floor in prasarita padottanasana c, wrapped me up like a cute little package in supta kurmasana, helped me with a deep twist and bind in pashasana, got me into a deeper expression of bhekasana and finally helped me grab my heels in kapotasana. I'm not an adjustment whore but if I'm practicing in a shala in the presence of a teacher I have certain expectations to leave the shala feeling like I've at least be taught something.

Today was a one off experience but I'm debating of doing a little more shala hopping prior to JB's return. I'll see how the situation plays off over the next couple of days before I make any final decisions. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Power of Words

After practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays I usually spend about an hour or so after assisting. It came about when I couldn't decide on an independent study project for my teacher training course. I enjoy it but most days I feel like I'm doing more harm than good or that I'm unable to help most of the practitioners.

There's this sweet older couple that practices at the shala and I noticed that the wife hadn't been around for a while and I found out on Sunday that she was gone because her mother had just passed away. As I was assisting today I noticed that she was back practicing. I went over to her to assist her with utthita hasta padangusthasana but before I helped I simply said "welcome back" and then we went about doing the pose. I assisted her in a few other poses throughout the morning and when she finished practicing she came over to me and said "I just wanted to thank you for welcoming me back this morning it meant a lot to me because coming back has been a lot harder than you would think." She started to get teary as she was talking to me and as a result so did I. I gave her a hug, smiled at her beneath my tears and she went off to face the rest of her day.

I never would have thought two simple words would have such an effect on someone. So I'm thinking, perhaps today I did less harm and more good than usual but of course I'd have to ask my supta kurmasana adjustment guinea pigs. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Crane Has Landed

I practiced a little later than usual today and shortly after I entered the shala JB had actually begun his own practice and his mat was set up to my left and slightly behind me. No I didn't feel any pressure at all. I did take it easy during the vinyasas of primary series because I have two slightly tweaked hands and my problematic right ribs were feeling a little twingey as well. Other than that practice felt pretty good.

I managed to bind both sides of pashasana on my own and stay upright. It's funny because JB assisted me in pashasana yesterday and  his assist is pretty intense to say the least and when I do the pose on my own it feels like a completely different pose. What I do probably shouldn't even be called pashasana. Perhaps I should just start calling it "pash" but I digress. I did kapo 2.5 times on my own and it's coming along. I'm now able to hang back into the pose to get a nice opening and breathe at the same time. A few weeks ago this was a challenge to say the least. I'm also able to ever so slightly walk my hands further up my feet than before. After JB's supta vajrasana assist I commented to him that there's gotta be a better way to do that pose because when I do it, it mostly feels like my elbow is going to pierce my spine. He in turn told me what I already knew which is that I need to work on getting the elbows to cross over each other and once that happens I'll experience a lot more opening in the pose but until then I"ll have to endure the ancient elbow torture techniques.

After our little supta vajrasana discussion I did bakasana a two or three times in an attempt to lift both feet off the floor at the same time. During my last attempt I sort of had an epiphany regarding how to straighten my arms more in the pose. What I did, and I don't think I was consciously aware of it, was to rotate my arms so that my inner arms were facing forward. I did that as opposed to just straightening my arms and having my inner arms face each other. This is something that I definitely intend to experiment with tomorrow. I then got two blankets and attempted the dreaded bakasana b pose. Attempt one; fail. Attempt two; fail. Attempt three; landed the legs on my, held it for half a breath and then rolled on to my head. I looked over to my right to catch eye contact with my shalamate/assistant who was practicing next to me and instead of getting a sympathetic look he proceeded to snicker at me. Attempt four; abandoned. Attempt five; I landed the crane and held on for dear life for the full five breaths. Surprisingly JB saw the whole thing go down and said something along the lines of "good job" and proceeded to give me the next two poses.

The thing is I feel like a complete fraud because a) I don't know if or when I'll ever be able to land bakasana b again and b) I haven't even attempted it yet without blankets in front of me to buffer my fall.  So now not only do I have to worry about trying to land bakasana again I get to start stressing out about the impossibility of jamming my legs behind my head. The good news is that JB is taking off for three weeks at the end of the month so I won't have to cross that bridge until next year. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Primary and Back Bending

Led primary today definitely made up for yesterday's lackluster and emotional practice. Things got off to a sketchy start as I entered the room and the temperature was hoovering somewhere around 70 degrees. The room eventually heated up and I had a fine practice and I'm happy that the practice week is over. One thing different that I've noticed about my practice now that I've been practicing a bit of second for a while is that my back bends seem absolutely torturous at the end of primary. I can barely lift up and straightening my arms takes a herculean effort. Prior to practicing second I never had a problem with closing back bends except when I first started and the idea of doing three in a row seemed like downright torture. I'm not sure what I can do to make things better but it is a real drag to end practice on such a crappy note. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What a Difference a Day Makes

Wow yesterday's practice was light, flowing and fun. Today's practice on the other hand was cold, difficult and ended up with me hiding my tears while in paschimottanasana. There was no real reason for at all whatsoever but with each failed attempt at bakasana b (12 in total) I grew ever more frustrated at myself, my practice and any and everything else. I stood up for drop backs and was able to do one. I stood at the front of my mat for a moment contemplating a few more and started to get teary eyed. I turned around took a few deep breathes and then assumed the position for assisted. I couldn't look JB in the eyes because I didn't want my emotional state to become a "thing". So I just turned my head and did assisted back bends as best as I could. I sat down to do paschimottanasana and that's when I lost it.

At that point I grabbed a towel and walked out of the room and on my way to the locker room I ran into a shalamate who embraced me with open arms. She encouraged me to cry and to get it all out of my system and she was really nice about it and eventually even had me giggling at the absurdity of the situation.

I tend to think of myself as tough as nails and that's the impression that most people have of me. However, there is the rare occassion when I do have complete and utter meltdowns. The thing about today's meltdown is that it wasn't at all about the asana, yeah it sucks that I can't do a pose and I admit I sometimes get green with envy when I see shalamates flawlessly execute a pose that they were just given. But it's ladies holiday and I'm dealing with some work frustrations (the normal stuff that comes with starting a new job) and I just think that coupled with my practice frustrations led to my meltdown.

Interestingly enough I do think that there was something in the air today at the shala because quite a few of the practitioners called  it quits early because of one ailment or another. Perhaps we can blame it on the lack of moon days in December. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

And Now You're Ready for the Prom

Those were JB's words to me after we finished assisted back bending and he brought my hands to my heels for the first time. Needless to say the feeling was intense and I wanted out nearly as soon as my hands touched as was evidenced by my instinct to lift my head after he placed my second hand. After all was said and don't a shalamate practicing to my right says "that was great, you sounded bit like you were having an asthma attack but overall it was great" and we both got a nice chuckle out of it.

The rest of practice felt very good which I attribute to a lazy home primary on Friday and a nice castor oil bath on Saturday. The only thing that wasn't so pleasant was the length of my practice because I did full primary and second up to bakasana b.

Speaking of bakasana b that pose is not even within the realm of possibilities for me yet. I made about 30 unsuccessful attempts at the pose before calling it quits. Practice and all is coming right?

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Monday, December 5, 2011

And My Dosha Is...

Today practice felt really good. I got on my mat, focused on my breath and did my practice. I didn't complain about the heat or lack there of in the room and I didn't putz around too much in between asanas. I was also able to get through my full practice without feeling any nausea which was quite a relief. As a result things felt very good overall.

After practice I had an Ayurvedic consult by one of JB's good friends. In the days leading up to the consult I thought it would be funny to have some of my shalamates guess my dosha and I would reward the winner with a dosa. Turns out all three of my buddies guessed correctly that I am a pitta-kapha. I'm one firery sturdy beast is what it all boils down to. All joking aside, the woman who did my reading is actually a practicing ashtangi so in addition to giving me some dietary and lifestyle pointers she did also offer some valuable feedback on my practice. One of the most important things that she mentioned is that I really should be spending at least 12 minutes in savasana (almost double the amount of time that I currently take). I forget the exact reasoning now (it's ok because she's going to send me a full work up with specific recommendations) but it has something to do with that it takes that long for the nervous system to really calm down and relax after such a vigorous practice. And being a firery pitta it's important to not generate too much fire within. The other thing that she mentioned was that it's important to start a breathing practice and she mentioned four different things that I should start doing daily. In total all 4 should only take about 10 minutes. Besides the specific benefits from each of the 4 different breathing exercises she said that these exercises are important important to help balance the ego. Especially when it comes to a practice such as ashtanga where there is a linear progression and it's easy/tempting to judge ones ability by how far along they are in the series and comparing oneself to others.

Her last piece of advice as far as my practice is concerned is that it's not good to practice to the point that I'm drenched in sweat. Unfortunately, this was my least favorite piece of advice as I generally judge my practice by the amount of sweat generated. I guess there is always something to work on. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Glorious Sweaty Led Class

Practice was glorious today and also quite sweaty despite the room not being very heated. There's something about a led class that really get my tapas burning. I also didn't feel sick and nauseated in class at all today and I wonder if this gives new credibility to the second series/kapotasana anxiety theory. Hrmmm.

Because I was so sweaty a hand bind came easily in supta kurmasana but that was only after I was told to not close my throat as I breathed in kurmasana. If it's not one thing it's another I tell you. I didn't do any back bending today because my lower back was having none of it. I substituted full urdhva dhanurasana for bridge pose.

Am looking forward to Saturday's Iyengar class followed by my weekly castor oil bath. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Nausea, Not Pining and New Poses

I felt nauseated during practice again today. I stepped out of the room before parsvottanasana and spoke to JB when I came back in. The nausea was so bad today I was almost on the verge of tears while I was outside the room. So after disclosing that I wasn't in fact pregnant to JB he suggested that the nausea could be from all of the nerve cleansing going on thanks to the deep back bends of second series. He also said there there might be some anxiety on my part as I face the more challenging poses of second. I'm not generally a nervous person as it is so that hypothesis didn't seem to hold much water with me at the time.

Today I actually did primary up to baddha konasana and then went on to second. Ustrasana felt great as I was able to move my hips far forward while I was in the pose and laghu is continuing to improve as well. As I set up for kapo a huge wave of nausea swept over me, perhaps I was anxious after all. I closed my eyes and took a few moments to focus on my breath and after doing that I was able to face kapotasana. I did it once by myself and was able to grab my toes I then waited for an assist from JB. I asked him to place my left hand first which he did and I think that made a huge difference as I was able to surrender and breath as I held on to both heels. I've been having some tightness in my erector spinae on the left side and when I'm adjusted into kapotasana with my right hand first it causes a lot of discomfort and cramping on the left side. So hopefully we can do it this way going forward to make it more bearable.

Supta vajrasana is still pretty sucky and I think it will continue to be that way until I can cross my elbows correctly behind me thus enabling me to keep hold of my feet as I arc back. By having my hands and feet bound I don't even know how I manage to arch back to get my head to the floor because I literally feel stuck like there's no way to go. After supta vajrasana JB had me vinyasana and assume pashasana position. I shook my  head furiously as if to say that I didn't want a new pose but he didn't get the memo and proceeded to ignore me so off to bakasana it was. Mind you, I've never been able to do that pose during any of the vinyasa classes that I attended during my previous lifetime. It was always a dreaded pose for me along with almost all forward bends. Something about the ashtanaga practice over the past year and learning to bear weight on my arms while leaning forward has taken a lot of fear out of the pose and I was surprised by my ability to do it. Thankfully we only did the A version as I'm sure I would have been completely humbled by any attempt at the B version.

As I prepared for my back bends it was as though my nausea had miraculously disappeared and I was feeling well. Dare I even say good? You know that good feeling that you get after practice sometimes and all feels right in the world? Well that's how I felt.

Am really looking forward to led class tomorrow for some reason. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Is This What Nerve Cleansing Feels Like?

Today's practice was interesting to say the least. I was excited to get on my mat this morning to give my shortened practice a try but it didn't seem that much shorter. Well that's sort of a lie. It did feel a little bit shorter and less physically taxing but I managed to somehow let my practice take up the whole two hours that I allotted myself. Something else for me to work on I suppose.

What I'm finding is that the back bends of second series aren't so physically taxing per se but after kapo and supta vajrasana I feel completely wrung out and I curled up into a ball on the front of my mat feeling nauseated after each pose. Supta vajrasana was especially fun today because I was on the verge of tears after I came out of that one. Oh and it took about 12 minutes for me to regain any feeling and sensation in my hands. I also felt like a complete failure doing that pose because I was unable to hold on to my feet at all during that pose. It seems like every muscle in my back is getting worked these days and it's reminiscent of how my hamstrings would feel when I was learning primary. Each day would be successively worse in terms of soreness in my hamstrings and my ability to fully execute most of the forward bends. I guess my back is the new hamstrings. The saddest thing about this whole situation is that my hamstrings still get pretty sore after each practice so it's not like the back soreness has replaced the hamstring soreness. I'm just sore all over these days.

One positive development today was that I only did laghu vajrasana once today. I got my head pretty close to the floor (it may have even touched at one point) and I hoisted myself back up fairly gracefully. I didn't give it another go in an effort to conserve some energy.

During assisted drop backs with JB today "we" walked my hands pretty close to my feet. I touched my hands down on the forth exhale and he had me stay there for a few breathes while he straightened out my feet. He then instructed me to walk my hands in some more and THEN he started to count from one. I used to enjoy assisted back bending with JB because it would give me a great buzz that lasted throughout the day however, today I just wanted to puke after all was said and done.

If there's one thing that this practice has taught me is that I know that in a few weeks time my body will adjust to these new asanas and things won't be so terribly bad but from where I stand now I'm in a dark dark place and I don't see the light yet. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

No Benefit, Incorrect Method and Splitting

I fought off nausea throughout this morning's practice. As if the practice isn't hard enough on it's own, throw a little nausea into the mix and practice was a rip roaring good time this morning. I practiced next one of my buddies this morning and as we both watched the Ashtanga Police video yesterday there were a lot of "incorrect method" and "no benefit" comments thrown around. We are indeed a bunch of bad yogis.

Other than the nausea practice went relatively smoothly and I was able to bind supta kurmasana again for the third day in a row. I think the bind is a direct result of the nausea I've been feeling the past couple of days and the lack of appetite. I did get yelled at again for my breathing in kurmasana though. But to my credit I WAS breathing for the first five breaths. A shalamate taught me a very helpful tip a few days agao for binding in pashasana. She basically told me to use my hand to move my abdominal flesh out of the way as I twist which helps to bring the shoulder lower down on the leg and thus encouraging a deeper twist. So far it seems to work and I've been binding both sides on my own. The next frontier in that pose will definitely be to try to work on getting the heels flat which will probably happen in another lifetime. Surprisingly krounchasana is coming along nicely and I'm able to touch forehead/chin to knee on both sides these days. My hamstrings have been so sore from practice the past couple of weeks I'm not entirely sure how that came about. I'm able to lower down much further in laghu vajrasana these days as well. It's not the prettiest of asanas for me but it is definitely coming.

Sweet sweet kapotasana on the other hand feels like death. It's not even that it's that particularly painful of a pose but after I exit out of the pose I feel completely, absolutely and utterly spent. Today's attempt was particularly intense as JB held me up trying to get a good hip extension I suppose before bringing my hands to my heels. By the time I actually got into the pose my quads and abdominal muscles were on fire and I'm pretty sure the people practicing to my left and right saw smoke coming off of my body.I told JB that kapo makes me feel like my muscles are being ripped from my bones and he basically said that's what happens when one has such a muscular build. I told him that I would happily be a flexible noodle if I had the choice. As I was laying in a heap on my mat trying to recover from kapo he tells me to get up and prepare for the next pose supta vajrasana. I think I'll eventually grow to like that pose, even though it's essentially a limbless back bend, once I'm able to hold onto my feet as I bend back.

After that endurance effort, to my surprise JB told me that I can start doing half primary each day, alternating which half I do every other day. I was happy to hear him tell me that because my practice has been inching up towards the 2.5 hour mark. This shall be an interesting change to my practice as I've become quite attached to primary since I've been practicing it almost daily for the last year or so. I wonder what my dear hammies will think about this and if they will tolerate it at all. I guess only time will tell. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ashtanga Police

I don't really feel like posting about my practice except to say that kapo is kicking my butt and I have a very sore back thanks to that pose. In other news my quads seem to have adjusted to the addition of ustrasana, laghu and kapo so I'm able to walk up the five flights of stairs to my apartment with no problem.

In other news I came across this video and just had to post it here because it's so funny.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Over the Moon

I'm over the moon that today is a moon day which is a rarity because I would practice everyday if I could. But for some reason I felt like I've been hit by the yoga truck multiple times this week. My body felt so sore some days I wasn't sure how I was going to be able to make it through practice. Add to that the three new poses that I got Tuesday and needless to say my muscles could use a break.

Speaking of new poses, I'm pretty sure that JB hates me and that's why he tacked on ustrasana, laghu, and kapo all at once. I'm pretty sure it's written somewhere is the annals of ashtanga yoga that that is a no no. JB usually gives out ustrasana and laghu and then a few weeks later he'll add on kapo. But anyway my first actual attempt at those poses on my own was quite laughable and I failed to lift myself up out of kapo correctly the first time which led to a complete fail. The second time was slightly better but my challenge is being able to get my left elbow to the floor. Oddly enough I've got some serious soreness going on in my left triceps close to the insertion point near my elbow. I never expected that at all from the pose as I was mostly anticipating pain and soreness in the lower back. Don't get me wrong there IS soreness in my back but nothing compared to what's going on with arms and legs. Did we discuss my legs yet? My poor quads felt like jell-o and I had to think twice about leaving my apartment since I live on the 5th floor of a walk-up.

I did however leave my apartment to treat myself to a massage yesterday and that coupled with the time spent with my has really helped the situation. I'm happy that tomorrow is led primary and I won't have to face second again until Sunday. Hopefully by then my muscles will have had a chance to recover and I plan to help things along by increasing my protein intake.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ustrasana, Laghu Vajrasana and Kapotasana Oh My

Today I was given kapotasana along with ustrasana and laghu vajrasana. Now truth be told I've been a little obsessed with kapo since last january when I recieved a postcard from manduka with a woman doing kapo on the front. Mind you back in January I had only just finished primary.

I'd been stuck at parsvo dhanurasana since early August and having been itching to move forward for weeks. Seeing many of my shalamates progress didn't help the situation much at all. So today as I'm preparing to do my back bends JB comes over and tells me go back back into downward dog.

Ustrasana wasn't so bad as I've done it before in my past life during my vinyasa days. Laghu was a whole different animal and I'm pretty sure that my quads and glutes are already sore from that pose. One thing I noticed about laghu is that I really need to hold on to the bottom of my legs for dear life if I'm going to get anywhere in that pose.

Then there was kapotasana. I wasn't expecting to get that pose today as well but it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected it would be. Of course JB was there practically manipulating my body into the pose itself. The real test will be tomorrow when I get to try these poses all on my own. One of my initial concerns about kapo was how it would affect my unstable rib cage area and the good news is that I barely felt any sensation from the pose in that area of my body.

Surprisingly, because of all of the new back bends from second series, drop backs came a lot easier than normally today.

Lastly, on the assisting front I'm learning to do assisted drop backs as well.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Practice First

I had a practice first this morning at the Paris shala, I actually lifted my heels off the floor during supta kurmasana. Who would have thought that such a feat could be possible just by engaging my quads for dear life. One day a few weeks ago JB actually suggested that I should lift my heels and I just laughed at him and pretended like I couldn't hear him.

In others news I think the carbo loading is beginning to catch up with me as binding is marichasyana d on the second side is practically impossible. I'm ok with it though because I'm having a blast. I'm off to finish my crepe and pichet of cidre.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Observations, Pampering and Abductors

Today I committed two Ashtanga infractions and one was first. I practiced while on ladies holiday and on a new moon and can I just say that the world didn't end because of it. I'm generally a fan of moon days and observe them regularly but as I'm traveling and I overslept on Monday due to jet lag I made an exception.

Things are interesting in the Paris shala that I've been practicing at. Not necessarily in a bad way just interesting. The teachers have been really nice and helpful but some of their instruction contradicts what I've been taugh by JB which I why I can understand that it is encouraged to only have one primary teacher. In addition to the instruction some of the adjustments have been different as well, much lighter I would say but still pretty firm in most instances. One thing that I do love about practice here is that everyone gets a nice sacrum squish and massage while in child's pose after headstand and it feels like heaven. Today I even got some pampering just as I laid down for savasana. Reminded me of my old vinyasa days but only better minus the lavender. In terms of my practice one thing that the instructor has honed in on is my lack of inner thigh strength and inability to really access my abductor muscles in my thighs and that my duck feet during drop backs is a symptom of such. There are so many poses where I should be engaging those bad boys in which I haven't been (shalambasana, bhekasana, parsvo dhanurasana, dhanurasana anyone). So it seems like I have my work cut out for me for the next couple of weeks/months. One last thing to say about my practice over the last couple of days is that it feels much different due to the energy in the room. I think it's a little less ambitious/competitive if that makes any sense.

The shala itself is small but really nice and is accessible from a lovely courtyard and gets some nice natural light. I'm not used to practicing in natural light so that could explain some of the difference in my practice. It seems like a lot of prop usage is encouraged and half lotus and full lotus isn't done by the majority of practitioners. Not that I was keeping count but it felt like I was the only one that did the full expression of garba pindasana today. Normally this wouldn't be such a huge deal but I've also noticed quite a few of those same people practicing well into second. Then there's
utthita hasta padangusthasana, I haven't seen many assists given during that pose and I've also seen quite a few people doing tree pose instead.

These were just my observations and that's all that they are. Even though the sequence of poses are the same in Ashtanga that are so many different variables that affect how it's taught by the specific teachers.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

I skipped practice today because I had so much going on and I needed the extra time to plan for my trip. Yesterday evening I threw a birthday celebration for my friend and that didn't leave much time for packing. Additionally, some cocktails were had and I thought it would be in my best interest to skip practice today. It's a shame because I was just starting to fall in love with led classes again. Also, I've been noticing some small progress on poses I've been taking for granted so that's been nice.

Yesterday's practice was pretty good as I was really able to work on my focus. Sometimes I like to count in Sanskrit in my head to keep me focused on my practiced as opposed to the practice of those around me. A funny thing happened as I was practicing pashasana. I managed to bind on the first side as JB watched. After I held the pose for a few breathes he called over the two assistants and decided to make a teaching moment out of the situation. Next thing I know JB is standing behind me insisting that I move my arm lower on my leg. Just when I thought it was impossible to go any lower he moves my arm an inch lower so my wrist is close to my ankle. He then helps me bind and twists my torso deeper than its ever been twisted before. And because it was a teaching moment I swear he held me in the pose for at least ten breathes. Then it was time for the next side. Before allowing him to assist me I insisted on a moment to catch my bearings. He then got me into the pose on the second side and says to the assistants "Guruji used to adjust women from here (referring to my boob area). It's a good location but I tend not to do that because I think it would give the wrong impression". It took all my might to maintain the position and to not fall out of it due to laughter.

I'm definitely going to miss JB's sense of humor while I'm away.

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Location:Skipped Led and Pashasana Adjustments

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ashtanga + Paris = Heaven

Friday will be my last day at work and I have about a week off before I start my new job. Instead on laying low during that week I impulsively bought a ticket to Paris. I used to live there almost two years back and still have many friends there and if I were still allowed to work there I'd be living there now. Needless to say I'm really looking forward to my trip. I leave straight after work on Friday. In addition to reconnecting with my friends I'm also looking forward to practicing at a different shala with different teachers. Of course there's the risk that I won't like the duo that I plan to practice with and that can put a damper on the whole experience. But then again the photos of the shala look amazing and sunlight with a tranquil zen garden. Today's practice was ho hum as I fought off nausea the whole time. It was my fault really as I probably should have stopped last night after my first cocktail instead of having three. There was no hand bind in supta kurmasana but my breathing was much improved and focused. I also think that my hamstrings are finally on board with this whole daily practice thing as I'm noticing them getting longer and longer by the day. I'm talking millimeters here but it's still progress so I'll take it. My old friend krounchasana seems like it may actually be doable one day. Pretty? Well let's not get carried away I'm aiming for passable at this point.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Asana Report

On Sunday, despite waking up early, well before my alarm sounded, I managed to make it to the shala 30 minutes later than usual. This was­n’t a big deal because the Sunday timeslot has been re-extended to 3 hours instead of 2. However, when I walked into the room it was already pretty crowded and there wasn’t a space for me in the front row where I normally like to practice. This meant that I was relegated to the back row which was like a free pass for my monkey mind to have a field day. I struggled extensively to get into the groove of my practice and at one point even mentioned to one of the assistants that I was suffering from a bad case of the citta vrittis.

By the time I got to the marichasynas my mind started to settle a little and surprisingly I was able to bind my hands in supta kurmasana all on my own. It was a momentous occasion that's only been one year in the making. Between you and me, I gave up on the idea of ever being able to bind that pose on my own and surprisingly, it wasn't until I recommitted to binding on my own did it happen. In addition to my supta kurmasana bind I was able to hold myself up in kukutasana for the full breath count. Not necessarily a first but it is a pose that I still struggle with from time to time but yesterday was the first time that I felt like it was really coming along. I finished my practice dropping back and standing up three times using my trusty blankets. I didn't try any without the blankets because of stiffness in my back.

Yesterday I had another good practice and the supta kurmasana bind apparently wasn't a fluke. Getting my legs really high up on my sweaty shoulders seems to help tremendously. Remove one of those ingredients and it's a no go. I tend to practice in shorts for this reason because it cuts back on the friction and allows me to extend my legs straighter and higher up than if I were wearing tights. And once again kukutasana was executed for the full breath count. Another pose that I've been making progress with in the past couple of weeks has been uphavista konasana. When I asked one of the assistants what the key was to this pose he told me to pretend like I had Barbie legs and try to externally rotate my thighs somehow that visual has really helped me as I work that pose. The following day I asked JB as well about my lack of progress after he assisted me in getting my head to the floor. His response to me was "have you ever gotten your head to the floor before" and of course my response was "no". To which he replied "well, then that's progress. Each day going forward you will touch your head to the floor." And thus far that has been the case. Practice was wrapped up with two sets of 3 drop backs. Three using blankets and three to the floor. I then did assisted drop backs with JB where he walked my hands to within centimeters of my heels.

Today's practice wasn't as exciting as Sunday and yesterday's. The shala was cooler than usual which made it difficult for me to find my groove. Also the energy in the room was quite low. JB came over to assist me in supta kurmasana and I kind of got "scolded" for not breathing correctly. It was well deserved because I reached a point where I was determined to bind my hands by hook or by crook regardless of the lack of friction reducing sweat. I got nice pashasana assist and bhekasana assists. It was the first time that JB assisted me in bhekasana that my feet didn't slip out from my hands. He then assisted me in dhanurasana in which he lifted my legs so high off the ground I felt like I was going to take flight. He did it again after parsvo dhanurasana when my thighs felt like the consistency of jelly. When it came to back bending I decided to give drop backs a try without the blankets and I managed to land safely on my hands. Standing up today was a bit more challenging because I didn't have the warm up from using the blankets.

I'm happy to see that I'm still making progress with my primary series poses even though it felt like I had reached a plateau and actually gave up on expecting additional progress in certain poses.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Back in the Swing of Things

It's been a while since my last post and during that time I've been struggling with a persistent and pesky injury. Oh and there was the thing about my teacher not really being around so much and all that good stuff.

My teacher JB has been around a bit more often and during consistent times which has made for a happy yogini. Unfortunately, I don't think everyone from my mysore class reached such a positive resolution and some have decided to part ways with my teacher.

In terms of asana I haven't really made much progress there over the last two months or so due to my rib injury. And just when I thought the coast was clear, I felt/heard a popping noise during urdhva dhanurasana two Sundays ago that pretty much sidelined me again for two weeks. However, I'm officially calling the latest injury an "opening" of sorts. Since Wednesday I've been feeling pretty much 100% again, my gauge being whether or not I practice dropping back assisted and unassisted. By Wednesday I was dropping back once again to my two blankets and bailed out of an attempt to stand upright. However, by Thursday I was feeling great and I dropped back and stood up from my blankets. Because I had to wait a while for JB to do assisted, I decided to give it another go on my own without blankets and was utterly surprised when my hands landed on the floor, instead of my head, without much of a to do. I even managed to stand up a little less spastically on my own. This injury has taught me that I really have to be mindful during my practice and to not force myself into specific asanas even though my ego may want to.

The other thing that's changed since the past two weeks is that I've made a reappearance at led primary practice on Fridays. Last week's practice was really good and it was just what my body needed. Today's practice was good as well but with a much smaller class of only 12 of us. Because the class was so small I did get a lot of attention from JB in all sorts of poses that he's never assisted me on before. He gave me a down dog squish to try to get my ankles to the floor and encouraged my to rotate my heels out slightly so that they were parallel, I got an uttanasana assist to encourage me to extend through my back and keep my palms firmly planted on the floor. There was also the parsvakonasana adjustment where my entire torso was firmly rotated towards the ceiling. I was called a slippery lady during my supta kurmasana assist as my arms were pretty sweaty and I don't think JB was expecting that. I was helped in getting my heel to the floor in supta padangusthasana which made it very difficult to maintain a connection with my big toe and then there was the urdhva mukha paschimottanasana squish. Then there was the karnapidasana oh so intimate ass to ass assist to get my knees to the floor and lastly, I guess I've been doing it wrong this whole time, instruction on the correct hand placement in urdhva padmasana while encouraging me to lift even higher, higher and higher. And last but not least, to seal the deal JB stepped on my left knee/thigh in matsyasana so that it would touch the mat.

Needless to say practice was amazing today but unfortunately, it will probably be a few months before I ever get that much attention from JB again. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


I feel like I'm at a critical point in my ashtanga practice as my one year anniversary approaches. I'm dealing with my second injury within a six month period, my favorite assistant/teacher has left, my teacher teacher hasn't been around consistently since June and there is a possibility that he will move out of state come next fall.

Given all of that I'm left questioning a lot of things about the practice as a whole. Do I want to continue my commitment to said teacher even though his commitments may lie elsewhere in the not so distant future? Do I want to continue my commitment to the practice even though it's left me injured and my muscles in a state of constant soreness? My new hypothesis regarding my intercostal injury is that they are a result of the extreme tension and tightness throughout my back and when I do back bending my front intercostals overcompensate somehow thus leading to strain and injury. It's just a theory but I don't even know what kind of doctor/body worker I should schedule an appointment with to shed some light on the situation. The doctor I saw last time only diagnosed me and told me to rest. Had he explained how the injury occurred in the first place I might not be in the situation for a second time but I digress.

When practice is good, it leaves me feeling really good for the better part of the day and I look forward to getting back on my mat the next morning. Nothing else can really compare to that feeling. But truth be told I haven't felt like that since early August. And while I'm very fortunate to be able to practice with one of the best teachers in the city I should value any amount of the time that I DO get to practice with him because I know there are folks out there that leave in remote regions of the country that don't have the type of access that I do.

I don't think I'm going to pack it up and call it quits any time soon but with all of this extra time on my hands it's no wonder that I've started to contemplate these things. And if there's one thing that I've learned from my yoga studies is the concept of impermanence and how everything is constantly changing. The less accepting one is of this universal axiom the more suffering one is bound to endure in this lifetime. As a concept it totally resonates with me but being able to fully accept that as reality is what is so challenging.

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Friday, September 2, 2011

Humble Pie

It's been over a week since I've managed to practice any yoga. Tuesday's gimptastic practice up to janusirsasana doesn't count at all because I don't even think I managed to break a sweat. At the rate I'm going it's going to be one heck of a struggle to get back to where I was in my practice.

You see thanks to Irene I went out and bought all of these provisions in case of a real disaster however my provisions included things like ice cream sandwiches, chips, candy, cookies and wine. Even before the storm hit I was already snacking on the provisions and that snacking hasn't stopped since. Since I had already decided that I wasn't going to practice for the rest of the week I invited friends over to enjoy some wine on my rooftop deck several days running. So you see there's no way I'm ever going to be able to bind any pose in the primary or intermediate series when I am feeling well enough to practice. I'm also dreading how tortuous my return will be to my poor hamstrings especially since we've always had a pretty rocky relationship. From where I stand now it seems like it might be best if I give up on the whole ashtanga thing now because I know what will be in store for me when I return. Humble pie anyone? Why yes, I'd love another slice.

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Monday, August 29, 2011


Despite my plans to take Hatha and Iyengar classes this weekend that didn't happen. I missed the Hatha class because I was busy preparing for hurricane Irene which came and went without much of a to do in my neighborhood. Then on Saturday the Iyenar class was cancelled on Saturday due to the impending storm.

Last Wednesday after practice I noticed some soreness in my rib cage area slightly lower than my original intercostal injury. I took two advil before class on Thurdsay and it didn't bother me very much. When I realized that the pain was only on one side and was very similar to the pain and sensation of my original injury I decided to take off on Friday and not go to the led class and I wasn't too bummed out not being able to practice over the weekend. However, it's been four days off from practice and I still have some soreness in that area. I'm being extra cautious this time around because I don't want to be sidelined from practice for another six weeks. I truly believe that I only exacerbated things by insisting on practicing even though I was in so much pain.

So my plan is to practice tomorrow but to only do everything before the marichyasanas and then go directly to closing. Drop backs may be off the menu as well.

The most frustrating thing about this situation is not knowing what I did to cause the pain. My two suspicions are that I'm either twisting too deeply in the marichyasanas and assisted pashasana or it's something about the way I drop backs and stand up that doesn't agree with me. JB is out until Friday and hopefully I'm feeling better by then but if not it may warrant a conversation.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

UPDATED: Kino's Practice Unedited

I really love these unedited videos showing Kino's practice. I find them quite refreshing compared to how we usually see her.

*Updated to include back bending video

As for me, practice was ok this morning. I woke up, got on the mat and did my practice. I'll be doing a little yoga tourism this weekend taking a Hatha class tomorrow evening and an Iyengar class on Saturday. No, Ashtanga, I didn't quit you I just think we should start seeing other people, at least temporarily. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Vinyasa-less Practice = Increased Flexibility?

I didn't sleep well last night so when the alarm went off this morning I wasn't sure how I was going to make it through practice. In an effort to help things along I purchased an espresso at my local Starbucks before heading to the shala. The caffeine hadn't kicked in by the time I got to my mat causing me to almost forget to chant the invocation. As my left hand/wrist has been tweaked most of the week I’ve cut out a bunch of the vinyasas  since Monday on the recommendation of JB.

Part way through seated I got this sensation as though I wasn't practicing in my normal body. I’m not sure if there is any correlation between my cutting back on vinyasas and my extra flexibility but I felt like elastic girl today. Forward bends were deep and effortless even from the first surya namaskars. I was touching my torso to my highs which doesn’t usually happen until after ardha baddha padmottanasana and it kept rolling from there. Wrist grab in paschimottanasana c, knee to floor in both ardha baddha paschimottanasana and janushirasana c. And the piece de resistance was an actual head touch on both sides of krounchasana with nary a hint of nausea to be found. I’ve seen minimal progress in that pose since I started practicing it and all of a sudden everything seems possible. Oh and there were several titibasana attempts at coming out of supta kurmasana.  On the first attempt I insisted to E one of the assistants that I just couldn’t do it. She told me that I had the strength and flexibility to pull it off and she asked if it hurt in my hamstrings. When I thought about it I realized that there was no physical pain or discomfort stopping me from doing the pose at all so I attempted unsuccessfully a second time.  For good measure I gave it a go one last time and I came much closer than ever to fully extending my legs over my shoulders. Once I was done I tried to simultaneously bring both feet back to bakasana position and I almost face planted but it was fun.

After all that fun I was curious to see what was in store in terms of back bending. After some press ups from the floor and a few attempts using the wall I got out my pile of four blankets. To my surprise I dropped back and came back up three times. I figured what heck and removed one of the blankets and once again I was able to drop back and come up again. Then I did it again and dropped back to two blankets and was able to stand back up. Being one to push my luck I removed the 2nd blanket and attempted to drop back to just one and I didn’t get very far but I was ok with that because I’ve accelerated my 4 week plan by two weeks. And can I just say that standing up from back bends feels like magic? Oh and I don’t think JB witnessed any of it. Or maybe he witnessed all of it but didn’t want to say anything for fear of messing up my rhythm.

Practice can’t continue to be this good and I fully expect to get hit by the ashtanga truck any day now.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

4 Blankets, 3 Drop backs, 2 Successful Attempts at Standing

Practice was really nice today. I got to the shala extra early because I had to be on an 8AM conference call for work. The shala started off pretty quiet but it eventually got pretty busy. JB arrived right around the time that I was practicing navasana and it wasn't long before I got the juiciest adjustment in supta kurmasa. JB's adjustment really works my legs slightly up and over my head while most of the other assistants just cross my feet in front of my head. I know the that the leg behind the head poses are in my future (distant albeit) and I'm for anything I can do to ease that transition. I wasn't able to do a bakasana exit out of supta kurmasa because the right side of my left hand is all tweaky. I spoke to JB about it and he said that I'm probably rolling my hands out to the sides during my vinyasas and that I should take it easy with the jump backs this week and to pay more attention to my hand positioning during the vinyasas. And so after the discussion with him I entered each vinyasa with a bit more mindfulness and was able to eliminate most of the pain and discomfort.

I was able to bind the first side of pashasana one my own again and struggled on the second side. JB saw my struggle and told me that he'd come over to help. Of course he made me do it again on the first side but that was ok because his pashasana assists are so effortless. It's no struggle for me, no struggle for him and I'm pretty sure he does it with only one hand and with his eyes closed.

My back bending project continues and my press ups from the floor felt deep and effortless. I then did three attempts at the wall which were pretty nice as well but I was careful not to drop back fully and put too much weight on my hands. Next came out the blankets (I'm still using a stack of four). I dropped back to the blankets three times in a row without a huge pause in between. My first attempt at standing back up was an ungraceful failure of an attempt while my second attempt did in fact bring me an upright position but there was nothing graceful about that one either. My final attempt was marginally more graceful and controlled and I was utterly surprised to find myself standing at the front of my mat. A shalamate practicing besides me exclaimed "you stood up". I said something about the pile of blankets below me making the whole effort easier. Did I mention that I don't think JB witnessed any of it? Seems to be par for the course.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Another Practice Report Recap

In terms of my practice August has been an interesting month. My favorite assistant left at the beginning of the month and my practice really hasn't been the same since. I've had a few teary breakdowns during savasana and after practice but I think that is mostly behind me now. I had a really nice chat with one of my shalamates after practice and as always she had some wise words to share with me.

My practice has entered a new phase where I'm no longer an ashtanga beginner but I'm definitely far from an advanced practitioner and the level of attention that I once received when I first started isn't there anymore.  I rarely get any assistance during UHP anymore and while I can pretty much approximate the pose on my own these days most days I long for assistance at that point. I guess the point of mysore style yoga is to be able to develop a self practice and I'm on my way to achieving that.

In other practice related news I've been flirting with binding pashasana on one side. It's not a regular daily occurring but it's been happening more frequently. One of the first days that it happened JB was standing on my mat behind me and about to give me some help when he saw that I bound on my own and he didn't step in to help me go deeper into the pose. One thing that has helped my pashasana but has had virtually no effect on my supta kurmasana is getting deep wrist binds in all of the marichyasanas on both side. After all of my struggles trying to bing marichyasana d I never would have thought that I would manage anything more than a finger bind in that pose. Bhekasana continues to be my FML pose as grabbing my feet and holding on for five breathes while lifting up through the chest just doesn't resonate with my body. Today I tried the pose with a towel over each foot and I was slightly more successful in maintaining contact with me feet. And then that brings me to parsva dhanurasana which is slowly getting better but is not graceful at all, it's kind of the garba pindasana of second series. I don't miss the days of feeling like a beached whale after failing victim to that pose. As if parsvo dhanurasana wasn't bad enough on it's own, one is required to come back up into dhanurasana and hold that variation for five breaths as a kind shalamate pointed out to me last Thursday. All I can say is that my legs feel like jell-o by that point

And finally there are the drop backs which have disappeared from my practice as mysteriously as they have arrived. Actually, there is no mystery to explain their disappearance they disappeared because I hold the record for the highest number of times a yogi/ini can fall on his/her head while practicing. And that's not a record that I'm proud of and my ego isn't cool with it either. So as of yesterday I started using a pile of blankets again. I started with six and worked my way down to four. Today I started with four and drop back successfully several times to that height. My new plan is to remove one blanket a week as long as I can successfully drop back to the blanket height. So if all goes according to plan I'll be dropping back on my own sans blankets in four weeks. And if it takes longer I'll be OK with that too. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Twisting, Binding and Assisting

Today I managed to bind on the first side in pashasana. This was a big and unexpected breakthrough today. It's even more surprising because I didn't think that I would actually make it through practice because of my monkey mind. The first half of practice was a slow and laborious struggle but by the time I got to the marichyasanas I was getting help to bind and twist deeper in each pose. I've been really focused on wrist binding the past couple of weeks but today's assists took it to a whole new level. Usually when I practice pashasana an assist comes immediately. If I happen to not get an assist I try to work the pose as best I can and and sometimes my fingers would touch slightly before tumbling over. I'm not going to get too attached to today's breakthrough because I know that everything can change tomorrow. Drop backs anyone?

My practice now goes up to dhanurasana and the combination of that pose with the shalambasanas has my lower back really feeling it. Bhekasana is still not a pose that I'm proficient at but I got some nice tips today from one of the assistants such as spending as much time as I possibly can in virasana. I'll try it out for a week and see if I notice any real difference.

One other fun thing to mention is that I'm going to be apprenticing with JB a couple of hours a week to learn how to assist. For the time being I'm pretty much useless but I'm taking it all in and hope to prove myself worthy of the honor in a short period of time.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

A Recap

This week was my first six day week in perhaps a month. Nothin much new with my practice this week except for wrist binding in marichasyna d. Surprisingly I got a lot of love from JB yesterday and when he adjusted me in baddha konasana a he placed his thighs on top on mine and then sat on me and stayed there for the b variation. After it was all said and done he commented on how much better that pose is getting for me. That was a dreaded pose and adjustment for me that usually made me want to cry and required several breaths to recover from. At the end of yesterday's class he asked me what pose I am currently stopping at and I suspect a new pose may be coming to me soon but then again who knows.

Today was led primary and I practiced during the later time slot with most of JB's assistants whom I refer to as the yogi all stars because they all have a pretty advanced practice. I'm talking 3rd and 4th series advanced. The vibe in the room was so different than the early morning class. I guess by 8:30 people have had a chance to actually wake up. I even felt unusually limber and flexible for a Friday practice and I knew things were off to a good start when I felt myself floating back into chuturanga during my second surya namaskar a. However, by my second one I was dripping in sweat, literally. Kurmasana was nice today as I've been focused on really getting my legs up close to my shoulders before even lowering down into the pose. I'm happy that it no longer feels like my elbows will snap when I practice that pose. JB then came over and helped me bind my hands and cross my feet. The past two days he's been doing something a little different as he adjust my legs in that pose. Instead of just crossing the left foot over the right in front of my head, he lifted up my left leg first and sort of shimmied it over my shoulder and slightly behind my head before crossing the right foot over.
Overall is was a really good practice and I'm a little disappointed that tomorrow's a rest day as I would love to try to do it all again. Guess it will have to wait until Sunday.

Some other interesting things are afoot but I want to wait until things are more certain before I go mentioning it here.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Friday's Led Primary

Yesterday was a led primary class. I feel like I haven't done a led class in ages with moon days, ladies holidays and random skip days it's been at least three weeks. It's been even longer practicing with JB since he's been on vacation.

I took the earlier led class but sooner regretted that choice because I had decided to take the day off from work which would have allowed me to take the later class. It also would have allowed me to practice alongside assistant A one more time prior to her cross country move. But the earlier class was just fine. JB wasn't very generous with assists but I managed to wrist bind on both sides of marichyasana D with no problem. The key to the wrist bind for me is a little lower back sweat to help the arm glide more smoothly across my back and to give me the extra length that I need. A little sweat goes a long way in helping me get more deeply into certain poses. I'm still a ways off from a wrist bind or even a finger bind in supta kurmasana but as long as I continue to focus on wrist binds in the marichyasana a-d it should come along.

The only adjustment I received was a nice lengthening and straightening in
sarvangasana. It's such a gentle adjustment but it really changes the feel of the entire pose. Shirshasana also felt great as well. Sometimes I struggle with getting my head positioned correctly so the pose doesn't always feel as light and effortless as it should.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Guest Appearances

Drop backs made a guest appearance during my practice today and I'm not exactly sure where they came from. I think yesterday's emotional breakdown was helpful in that it allowed me to release some of the residual fear and anxiety I was holding on to from the fall. I also think today was different because I was focused internally and wasn't suffering from performance anxiety due to the other yogis in the room.

I practiced 3 urdhva dhanurasana as usual and rocked a bit on the second and third attempt. At this point the rocking is mostly for show as I haven't yet committed mentally to being able to lift myself up, i's funny how the mind the mind works. After that I moved to the wall. I practiced one hang back and then two drop backs. The drop backs weren't stellar but my back did feel fairly open today which gave me the confidence boost to try again in the middle of my mat. Yesterday's anger and frustration were a distant memory. I struggled a bit with the pose as my body kept wanting to spring itself upward whenever I reached that pivotal point of no turning back. During my successful attempt I really tried to focus on all of the feedback that I've been given during the previous couple of weeks; hips forward, strong engaged legs, engaged bandhas, gaze focused on my mat almost looking towards my ankles. With a strong foundation in place I bent my knees for dear life, reached my arms back and softly placed my hands on the floor behind me. Once down I rocked a bit (a little bit more than a cursory effort at this point) then laid down on my mat. I stood up to attempt it again but a second drop back just wasn't in the cards for me today. I don't think JB witnessed today's accomplishment but one of my shalamates/assistants was there watching me and encouraging me throughout the most of the effort (in between his drop back/tic toc practice). At one point he even came over to give me a little pep talk which was nice. I got a huge smile and approving nod from him after my successful attempt.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Back to My Roots

I did a bit of yoga tourism this weekend and opted for a vinyasa class in lieu of a regular Saturday practice of an oil bath. In an essence I went back to my roots because the class was with one of my favorite vinyasa teachers. I really enjoy his class because he has an ashtanga and iyengar background and he does great sequencing in his classes. One of the reasons why I can't bear most vinyasa/power vinyasa classes any more is because most of the teachers at the studio can't sequence a class to save their lives. I'm not the most flexible yogini out there but give me enough warm up postures beforehand and the odds of me approximating a posture requiring lots of flexibility increases.

Today it was back to mysore class and overall it was good. I had some soreness in my hips and upper back from some of the poses we did yesterday but nothing that really negatively affected my practice. I did notice that my forward bend in the surya namaskars felt deeper than usual and I'm not sure what to attribute that to.

For the past week or so I've been working on binding my wrists in all of the marichasyna poses with mixed results. I can bind consistently in A and C and in B I've been able to wrist bind on the right side only. I've only attempted a wrist bind in my head when it came to D because my ability to actually get into that pose consistently can be a bit touch and go. Today as I held my fingers on the right side in marichyasana D one of the assistants came over and suggested the I grab my wrist. I gave it a feeble attempt and told him that it wasn't going to happen today. After some instruction on which hand grabs which wrist I made a second attempt and to my surprise was able to grab my wrist. I attempted the left side as well and I was shocked when I was able to do it. After exiting the pose the assistant said "the next thing you want to work on is grabbing your shin to deepen the twist." I told him that I would think about it for the next couple of days and that all I really wanted to think about in the moment was my little victory.

When it came time to practice drop backs I tried several times against the wall then moved to the middle of my mat. I tried unsuccessfully to drop back two times before I found myself getting completely frustrated and on the verge of tears. I thought I would be able to do assisted but I was such a hot emotional mess at that point that I opted out. I'm not a big cryer at least not in public which is why I'm going to take the opportunity to blame today's emotional breakdown on my pending ladies holiday.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Quantity vs. Quality of Practices

I know that there is much to be said about having a consistent 6-day a week Mysore practice. This is something that resonates with me, the I benefit from and something that I committed to as soon as my body would allow after I started my Mysore practice. However, ten months into this practice (I can’t believe it’s been that long) I find that the quality of my practices aren’t consistent from day to day.  They seemed a lot more consistent early on actually.

For example, during Sunday practices fresh off of my oil bath, I feel invincible on my mat. I’m flexible and strong, touching my chin to knee/shin/<insert body part here> left right and center. Jump backs, jump throughs, vinyasa between sides ; check. Hang backs; unlimited. Monday practices are similar to Sunday but I notice just a little less flexibility and strength in my practice. By Wednesday I can only usually muster jumping back when switching between poses and I seriously start to consider whether all of those vinyasas are truly necessary.  Hang backs? What hang back. Come Friday, I can only get through the led class by the force of sheer will and wanting to be a good student for JB.

So I’m wondering what’s more important quantity of practice or quality of practice. For me I know the answer isn’t to cut back the number of days that I practice because as much as I don’t want to admit it I’m a little attached to it. I get all twitchy and antsy when I can’t practice. Perhaps I should focus on a consistent practice at 60-70% of my ability as opposed to 100% all the time. Maybe I can keep Sundays as my go all out and challenge myself practice  and focus on a more consistent practice throughout the rest of the week. This may be a good project for me because as much as I’m ashamed to admit (and I’m currently working on) I tend to take a somewhat competitive approach to my practice. Not necessarily with others in the room but mostly with myself. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Ashtanga Love and Random Thoughts

I’m having such a whirlwind crazy love affair with Mysore style ashtanga yoga. And it’s been like this almost since the first day that I started practicing. I’m a little surprised that I’m still so much in love with the practice after 10 months. I would have thought that my love for it would have waned slightly by now but it hasn’t. The other thing that gets me is that if someone would have told me a year ago that I would be waking up at the crack of dawn to practice yoga for 1.5 to 2 hours I would have called them bat shit crazy.

Even though I know that my body needs the rest day, I hate Saturdays because I don’t get to practice. And being the traditionalist that I am I rarely entertain the idea of yoga tourism. The other crazy thing about my practice is that as soon as it’s over I’m already thinking about when I can get on my mat next. I don’t think this is sustainable but I am enjoying it while it lasts.

In terms of some random practice related news JB was back for a few days this week and it was nice to have him back in the shala. Because he’s so tall he was able to effortlessly put me into pashasana yesterday and then hold me in place with his shins. It was all “look ma no hands”. Today’s practice was mediocre at best and is all the more motivation to look forward to tomorrow’s practice.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Oh Saṃskāra

JB is back from vacation after a two week hiatus and it's nice to have him back in the shala. It was so nice to do the opening chant together in unison again. I was excited to show him my drop back progress but unfortunately they've been elusive ever since I fell on my head twice. I'm not particularly stressed out about it but the saṃskāra from the fall is now there and is hindering my progress. Let's just hope that this too like all things is impermanent.

Other than that practice has been good the past week. No major breakthroughs but I am noticing some minor progress in my second series postures. When I attempt pashasana on my own my fingertips just barely manage to touch and krounchasana still makes me feel like I was to puke but slightly less these days. I'm getting stronger in shalambasana and noticing more flexibility in my back. And then there's bhekasana. My version of this pose is still just an approximation of the actual asana but today I did manage to grab both feet and hold on for four full breaths. My chest was a mere millimeters off the ground but my standards for progress are low.

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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Today I Fell...

...on my head! Not once but twice. Yes, the big thud heard in the shala and the subsequent cursing was me. Technically I didn't fall per se, I managed to drop myself back on my head. Not once but twice. Because of the holiday the shala was practically empty so there weren't many witnesses.

For some reason I felt must stiffer in my back today and the drop backs that arrived by surprise last week disappeared as quickly as they arrived. The fall onto the top of my head wasn't as bad as I had feared it would be when I first started practicing drop backs. But then again I always thought it was one of those irrational fears that would never possibly come to pass but I guess I was a little naive. Since the fall wasn't as bad as I had feared I got back up and tried a few more times once with marginal success and once with a second big thud. In a way I'm kind of happy that it happened because the reality isn't as bad as I thought it would be and I can learn from my mistakes. However, today obviously wasn't the day for that learning to come into play and thankfully there's always tomorrow and the prospect of practicing with blankets.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I Drop Back Down and I Can't Get Up Again

Since Sunday's escapade in drop backs I've managed to drop back a couple of times each day since. The odd thing about it though is that they aren't getting any easier. Sunday's drop back exercise seemed easier in retrospect because I had just come off using the wall and I had no expectations and as I mentioned in my previous post no one was watching. On Monday, throw in an eagle eyed assistant and I nearly choked due to performance anxiety but I did managed to pull one off successfully. After I stood back up from my drop back she gave me some suggestions on better arm placement which was very nice and greatly appreciated however, all I wanted to do was relish in my achievement. And then we did assisted drop backs to help me find the right muscles and motion for me to be able to lift myself back up.

By Tuesday, I had told one of the other assistants about my drop back progress (he was actually the one that encouraged me to move further away from the wall thus enabling me to be able to drop back on my own). He was practicing two people away from me and I must have tried 100 times with no success. I looked over at him and whispered "they're gone". His advice was to bend my knees more and to just drop back. And so I did and wouldn't you know it my hands landed on the floor. Success! As I was packing up and getting ready to leave he mentioned something about a next step and being able to lift myself back up.

Of course there's a next step, with mysore style ashtanga there's always a next step. It's a practice that doesn't allow you to rest on your laurels and it's a never ending cycle of struggle, practice, achievement (or something along those lines). I guess it's the method's way of keeping those egos in check and keeping us humble.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

If a Yogini Drops Back and No One is Around to See It...

I thoroughly Sunday morning practice. The fact that I can wake up later than usual and practice without the pressure of having to go to work afterwards makes it especially enjoyable. Also, Saturday's rest day coupled with an oil bath means that my body is extra supple during practice.

Practice felt great today and I was able to get my chin or forehead to my knee is almost every pose and my bakasana exit out of supta kurmasana wasn't a fluke as I've managed to do it every day this week. I even managed to hold kukkutasana for the second time ever. While primary felt solid, my intermediate poses on the other hand still need a lot of work. I need almost two people to wrangle me into pashana, krounchasana still makes me feel like I'm going to puke and my bhekasana is practically non-existent. After the struggle with those I was thrilled to move on to back bending.

I did three urdhva dhanurasanas and felt no residual pain or tightness in the recovering rib cage area then moved to the wall to practice my drop backs. I've never been a fan of using the wall but I tried it on Thursday thanks to the suggestion of one of the assistants. When I tried dropping back to the wall today a different assistant suggested that I move further away from the wall so that I wasn't completely relying on it for support. It was a little frightening at first but once I realized that I could reach my hands back to the wall for support it felt a little less scary. I did three of those and moved my mat back and decided to try once more without the wall just to see hoe it would feel. To my surprise (it was actually more like shock) I dropped all the
way down to the floor. I thought it was a complete fluke so I tried once more and yet again I touched down. Unfortunately, JB is away on vacation and didn't see it and neither did any of the assistants so it was kind of anti-climactic. I think that when I try again tomorrow I'll wait until I have the attention of the entire room to make sure that they see it happen.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Skip Day

It's a rare day when I skip practice and I usually only skip when I'm travelling or due to LH. When my alarm goes off in the morning I usually spring out of bed after pressing snooze once. However, when it's LH time just finding the energy to press snooze is problematic. So today was on of those days. I had the choice to either drag myself to the shala half tired and be tired for the rest of the work day or skip practice and hope that the extra sleep would do me good.

I went with the latter and I kind of regret that decision because as I sit here and type this I can barely keep my eyes open.At least if I practiced today and felt like this afterwards, I would at least feel like I accomplished something with my morning. Lesson learned I guess.

I do think that today's tiredness is a result of my pending LH but I have a sneaking suspicion that those second series poses that I've added to my primary routine are partly to blame as well. I'm hesitant to type that  because it's only five new poses but I do think there is some truth to it. Prior to starting second series my practice would leave me energized and ready to face the day. Whenever JB would adjust my hands closer to my heels in final back bending would leave me buzzing for hours. Practice these days is reminiscent of when I first started practicing mysore style and I would arrive to the office and it would be painful just to lift my eyes and say good morning to my colleagues. I hope this phase passes soon.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Three Noteworthy Things from Today's Practice

Today's practice was tough and completely drained me but overall it was good. Had I weighed myself before and after class I am certain I would have ended up 5lbs lighter. Mind you I think I'm the only person that has gained weight from practicing ashtanga but I digress. The room wasn't exceptionally hot either it's just that I managed to generate a lot of internal heat from the first surya namaskar. Stopping to wipe the dripping sweat from my face and shoulders disrupted the flow slightly but it was a necessary evil.

I got a strong adjustment in baddha konasana for the first time in a while. Today JB actually put his thighs on top of mine and sat on top of me with his entire body weight whereas in the past, due to my struggles he would only use his hands to help my knees get down. For the first time ever I felt no discomfort in the pose and I was able to lift my legs and move on to the next vinyasa. I never thought I would be possible. I remember having to take a week off from practice in early January because I was practically unable to walk thanks to that pose.

Since baddha konasana is no longer the major annoyance that it once was another asana naturally had to come along and take it's place. And that asana is krounchasana. For some reason my left side is much stiffer than my right and while I was being crunched together chin to knee in that pose I literally felt like I was going to puke. I even mentioned it to the assistant that was helping me at the time. He didn't seem too bothered by it as he came back over to assist me on the second side which felt much better and didn't evoke such queasiness. The weird thing about the pose and adjustment is that while it hurts and feels absolutely terrible I know that it's just karmic pain and discomfort that I have to deal with and it not the type of pain that would lead to an injury. That's not to say that I'll be able to walk comfortably or even at all tomorrow but I do know that in time this pose will be much like baddha konasana for me and yet another pose will come along to take it's place.

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Friday, June 17, 2011

Good and Bad Practices

When practice is good, it can be really really good but when I have a bad day on the mat it can feel like hell. Thursday was one of those days in which I felt neither strong nor particularly flexible and on any given day I can at least count on one of those to help me through my practice. Just to get through the suryas felt like an arduous task. As I moved through the asanas it felt as though I was battling against this invisible barrier of resistance. I think part of the reason why Thursday's practice was so unbearable was because I dealing with some life issues and I brought them with me onto the mat. Another reason I'm guessing is because my body and muscles were just tired because as of two weeks ago I've start doing vinyasas between each sides of certain asanas.

What I'm also discovering is that adding some second series poses to my practice makes me extremely tired. I was given bhekasana on Tuesday and after a good hearted attempt at the pose I just collapsed on my mat when it was over. That pose is very deceiving in terms of it's difficulty level.

Friday's led primary on the other hand felt absolutely amazing. Granted I was sweating buckets from early on in the practice and the room wasn't even that warm. I felt strong and powerful as I transitioned from standing to chaturanga, dare I say it felt like I was floating through the air at times? I had wonderful savasana at the end of practice and I was able to get through the rest of my hectic day with ease.

Today I pampered myself with a castor oil bath. I was initially skeptical about it's benefits but I noticed a distinct difference in my practice after the first time I tried it. This will be my go to remedy for a tired and worn out body and I recently determined that I'm allergic to Epsom salts. Perhaps I'm mistaken regarding the cause of my eczema flareups, I hope I am, but right now they seem to be at the root cause.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Two More Down

I really do love my Sunday Mysore practices because it's the only day that I really get to enjoy a leisurely practice and not be stressed about getting to work on time. I'm not thrilled that the studio shortened the Sunday time slot but I am confident that will change in some time. Practice felt pretty good today and even though I'm still not 100% I feel as though my practice is at the same level it was before I took my unscheduled hiatus.

For the first time since getting the pose I attempted pashasana on my own and that was a most humbling experience. One of the assistants come over to help out and she managed to wrangle me into the pose on the first side but the second side was a complete failure. After seeing what a failure it truly was JB came over to give her some pointers on how to do the adjustment. What this meant for me was that I had to do the pose over again from the beginning while he walked her through it. Any pose that requires the hands, feet, legs and torso of a teacher to get the student into the pose probably isn't worth doing in my book. At one point I was almost tempted to say that they could have the pose back because I am not ready for it. But I didn't and I endured the suffering and the increasingly sore calf muscles.

Because he was feeling extra masochistic generous JB gave me the next two poses in the series Shalabhasana A and B two fairly straightforward poses that I would practice regularly during my pre-ashtanga days.

After that it was on to back bending. Urdhva dhanurasana is feeling a lot better but I still omit any attempt to lift myself up from the pose. I practiced hang backs in earnest for the first time in about a month and they felt good as well. After one pretty decent attempt one of my stalemates and occasional assistant told me to just go for it because I'm almost there. While her words were very encouraging still lack the courage to go all in. I think the other thing holding me back is my fear of re-injury. I think that once I get passed the latter fear I'll be able to attempt drop backs a bit more ambitiously. Stay tuned til then.

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Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday Led with Full Vinyasa

Today was led class at the shala. For the record, I don't like doing a led class every Friday. We used to have led classed every other week but that changed a few months ago. I decided to take it easy today during class and to only vinyasa between poses and not between sides. I didn't want to irritate the already tweaky rib cage. This was all fine and good until JB announced that he wanted to do a little experiment. He wanted us to practice full vinyasa between a few poses. So basically my plan to conserve energy and to not over exert myself was completely tossed out the window. One of the things that I'm trying to work on in my practice is floating back. And while I'm still pretty far off I have made some serious progress in terms of leaning forward into my arms and bearing some weight there instead of just kicking back with brute force. Due to this new area of focus in my vinyasa I can't pass up and opportunity to practice my new technique.

To make up for all the energy I didn't conserve during my practice today and due to some unpleasant things that went down at work I decided to treat myself to a massage this afternoon. The massage felt great but I'm really concerned by the amount of knots in my back. As she massaged away I felt knot after knot after knot in my upper back and shoulders and I'm not sure if this is normal or just par for the course. Things do feel a little looser now but it's definitely not a cure all. I will most likely do a castor oil bath tomorrow to loosen things up for Sunday's practice. I'm pretty sure that any agreement that I had with my hamstrings has been nullified now that I've started practicing krounchasana

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

And So Begins 2nd

I do indeed think the intercostals are improving and dare I say recovered. The reason I say this is because I had an even less gimpy practice yesterday and was given pashasana and survived!

I’ve been secretly wanted to start second series for quite some time now. And if I’m going to be truly honest, I’ve been jealous of all my shalamates that are currently practicing second series. I feel like there are more advanced practitioners in the room than there are beginners, not that this is a competition or anything. Granted my primary isn’t perfect but it has come a long way (thank you hamstrings for your cooperation) and I think my back bending would be even further along if I wasn’t sidelined for a month due to my intercostals injury.

So after setu bandasana I was putzing around on my mat very slowly preparing to vinyasa and proceed to back bending when JB came over and said “we’re going to try a new pose today called pashasana”. I wanted to squeal with excitement but I didn't only in my head. Before giving me the pose he said something along the lines of “given your recent instability in the chest area, it’s very important that you breathe getting into and during this pose”. My internal response was "ok how bad can this actually be". I've seen numerous shalamates contort themselves into this pose and it didn’t seem so bad. I knew that getting my heels to the floor would be a challenge and I knew that the bind would be difficult as well. What I wasn’t prepared for was the intense twist that soon followed thanks to the “help” of JB. Holy smokes batman. My second attempt tomorrow will be interesting.

After that came krounchasana and again I was thinking to myself, how bad can this actually be. All of the forward bends in primary series surely had to have lengthened my hamstrings no? Well needless to say I was once again shocked by the difficulty and intensity of the pose. Even JB made a comment about it being a relatively challenging pose. And to think that I've been looking forward to being given kapo and I can barely handle the first two poses of intermediate.

It is nice though to have something new to work on once again which will give my practice a renewed focus. However, I'm not looking forward to the new aches and pains associated with working on new poses nor am I looking forward to the longer practices.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Hot Shala and Trigger Points

In NYC in went from rainy monsoon season to to mid-July summer temps in the matter of a week. Yesterday the temperature in the shala was a whooping 93 degrees. Of course this wasn't intentional but apparently someone left the heat on in the hot room and the mysore class had to suffer the consequences. I don't know if it's because I was doing my gimpy practice or not but it didn't actually feel that warm. Had I not seen the temperature on the thermostat I never would have guessed it was that hot.

Today on the other hand I felt beads of sweat inside my sports bra as soon as I began my second surya namaskar A. Also practice was a lot less gimpy today as I started to incorporate some jump backs into my practice. I also managed to do the lifts between each iteration of navasana which I've been avoiding the past couple of practices. I even tried binding on each side of marichyasana d with no ill affects and I got a nice assisted bind in supta kurmasana, both hands and feet. The only thing I omitted from practice was back bending. I opted for bridge pose instead of the full on urdhva dhanurasana. Overall practice felt good.

I've concluded that my muscle strain is pretty much healed and any residual pain and discomfort that I'm feeling is the result of trigger points in my intercostal region. You can pretty much feel two lumpy muscles, one under my right breast and the other on the outer left side. I've taken to giving myself trigger point massages using my foam roller and why they are neither pleasant nor relaxing it seems to be doing the trick. I lay on my foam roller and roll until I feel discomfort and I hold it in that position for as long as I can bear. I do this a few times in a row and I try to do it several times a day as well. So now instead of feeling deep intense stabbing pains in my chest region I feel sore/tight muscles instead which I'll take any day over the former. Looking forward to tomorrow's practice and then the moon day on Wednesday.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Different Phases of Coping

Due to my injury this past month has been very challenging. I haven't been able to practice at the level that I've grown accustomed to or even at all on most days for that matter. The days I did manage to practice I only succeeded in re-injuring myself.

For several weeks prior to my injury I was kind of feeling like I hit a plateau in my practice and I was left wanting more. Instead of having breakthrough after breakthrough it felt like same ole same ole. I guess I wasn't specific enough with what I was looking for out of my practice which is probably why the universe handed me a big heaping of intercostal neuralgia myalgia to cope with. And cope with I did not initially. My initial response was denial and I continued to practice as usual with the same determination and that didn't go over well at all. I'm pretty sure that's the reason why I'm still not 100% recovered almost a month after the fact.

After denial was no longer an effective coping mechanism I turned to anger and frustration. I took a few days off from practice and once the pain subsided a little I'd be back on my mat. And because I couldn't practice at my pre-injury levels (and boy did I try) this led to a few teary breakdowns during savasana.

The next time I stepped on my mat was my gimpiest practice ever. I practiced slowly and removed almost every flourish that one can think of. I think at that point it would have been difficult to call it an ashtanga practice. But the fact is I was pain free up until it came time for urdhva dhanurasana. I went all out with that pose and after the third one I was barely able to complete the finishing sequence. Needless to say that I only made it through the standing postures the following day. I almost broke down again in savasana but I wouldn't let myself and I decided to accept my practice for what it was that day. And amazingly by the time I left the shala I had the same positive energy that I normally have when I do my full practice.

And so I'm continuing to give it my gimpiest best during practice and to challenge my ego when she says "come on jump back you can do it". And instead of listening to that voice which I have too many times in the past I step back gingerly and proceed to have a pain free practice. I will continue to do so until I am 100% pain free and the threat of re-injury is minimal.
Who cares if it will take me another six months to build up the flexibility to be able to bind in marichyasana d again.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Manduka Equa Towel Review

It's no secret that I sweat big time during my ashtanga practice. Perhaps it was a secret but it no longer. When I realized how sweaty my morning Mysore practice can get I went out and bought a yogitoes towel to absorb my sweat droplets and to keep my yoga mat from turning into a slip 'n slide.

I originally went with the yogitoes towel because I was convinced in the power of the little silicone-esque dots on the bottom that would hold it in place. For some time I was content with my purchase. When I purchased my manduka mat however, that's when I first began to notice the limitations of my sweat absorbing, slip reducing towel. The mat outsized the towel by several centimeters along the perimeter. In and of itself this wasn't terrible but it was something that I noticed and felt each time I placed my hands down on my mat. Despite its slight shortcomings I wasn't in the market to replace my existing towel.

That was until I saw the manduka equa towel on sale. I ordered two figuring that a sweaty girl like me could always do with extra towels around. When the towel first arrived I was very pleased that it didn't come with the "wash two times before using" instruction. I don't know about you but when I get something new I want to use it immediately. I brought it to the shala the following day and fell instantly in love. It covered the entire surface of my mat and felt as smooth as silk. It didn't bunch up or move at all during the duration of my practice. A few days later I was forced to use my old yogitoes mat because my equa towel was being laundered and the first thing that struck me was how un-smooth it felt due to the grippy bits on the bottom and I was instantly put off.

And there you have it going forward I will make sure that I don't ever have to practice without my equa towel again.

Practice Report: well there really is no practice to report on. My intercostal myalgia neuralgia isn't completely healed and I think forcing myself to practice last week did more harm than good and that got me thinking of ahimsa or doing no harm. If one cannot practice ahimsa with oneself how can one even image applying such a practice to others. For now i'm seeking acupuncture treatments and staying out of the shala until I am 100% pain free. I may attempt a modified version of my practice at home when things improve slightly but the shala means bad news because I always want to give it my all when I'm there not some half assed version of my practice.

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