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.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, May 12, 2011

How I Bind In Marichyasana D

I tend to be more strong than I am flexible and I hadhave a tendency to approach my yoga practice by brute force sometimes. Which doesn't really serve me well in the long run.

One pose that I approached in this manner is marichyasana d. Binding was elusive for the longest time which was odd because despite my relative lack of flexibility I am a pretty decent twister, but I digress. After some a lot of time I managed to inconsistently bind on my own on the right side but binding alone on my left side was something that only happened in my dreams. Each day I would get anxious as the pose approached and lose all bearings and not manage to bind. JB or one of the assistants would walk over and wrangle me into the pose. I jokingly told one of the assistants that I planned to never eat again so that I could one day bind on my own. She assured me that wasn't the answer. I do however think part of the culprit was my painfully tight right shoulder.

I sought treatment for the shoulder and things started to loosen up in that area but binding still wasn't possible on that side and remained inconsistent on the other. One day while attempting with all my might to bind on my good side the assistant looked at me and said "J you're arm is doing a whole lot of work but you're not twisting your body". And it was totally true and it totally clicked.

From that day on I started approaching the pose a lot different. It went from anxiety and dread to a more laid back approach. I also started to twist from the upper body first even before trying to wrap my arm around to bind. On my right side this has served me extremely well and after a few weeks I was able to bind consistently on that side. My left side is still a little challenging. When I'm not taking a led class I usually twist and rest my elbow on the outside of my knee and hold it anywhere from 3-5 breaths and this intermediate step has served me well. After that I go in for the bind and it's usually a lot easier however, for some reason I have to give my hand a slight assist by reaching in between my legs to get it to slide over my fatty calf muscle. I know it's not ideal and it doesn't flow with the vinyasa count but it works for me and I get the satisfaction of binding on my own in that pose. I'm sure that over time things will come much easier(or perhaps not) and I'll be able to do it to the actual vinyasa count.

* image borrowed from

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Slowly slowly

Tuesday's practice was very good. So good that I was even able to incorporate some jump backs into the routine and I felt strong pretty strong doing them putting more weight into the arms. I didn't attempt to bind in marichyasana d for fear of grave results. JB came over to offer an assist but I had to shake my head and decline the offer. I also had to take it easy in the last 3-4 poses of primary because rolling up from a reclined position was still a little painful. I was positively vibrating after yesterday's class and my colleagues even commented on my pre-coffee chipper mood.

Today's practice went similarly well and I'm feeling even less pain than the previous days. Today I have a feeling of lingering muscle soreness as opposed to a stabbing pain. Jump backs and jump throughs were back on the menu but I backed off as soon as I felt any odd sensations on the right side. I bound for the first time in almost 2 weeks in marichyasana d it wasn't very easy but there was no pain. I'd say that's the litmus test for this injury.

I got a soft adjustment in kurmasana to push my head and shoulders closer to the floor. In supta kurmasana JB wrangled my hands together and got me into a pretty firm bind but unfortunately there was no crossing of the feet so I didn't get to feel like a tightly packed burrito. However, to exit the pose I managed a fairly elegant jump back from bakasana into chatarunga. The key for me for this transition is to really have the arms high up on the legs and when that happens almost anything is possible.

The last several poses were still a little painful and challenging but more manageable than yesterday. Work continues on my hang backs however the ground doesn't feel like it's getting any closer and my knees seem too stubborn to bend. Perhaps I'll write them a letter. Assisted back bending with JB was fantastic as I was actually able to see my heels in the pose for the first time. At first I thought they were JBs heels but then I realized that I was seeing four sets of feet and one of them was brown so they had to be mine! I used my new Manduka Equa towel and I think that may have had something to do with it because my hands were much less slippery than usual. I'll write a full review on the towel in the next couple of days.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Practicing with an Injury

Yesterday was my first day back on the mat since a mysterious pain in my right ribs sidelined me for 9 days. The official diagnosis was intercostal myalgia with a prognosis for healing in two weeks.

I couldn't stay away from practice for another week for fear of muscle atrophy and fear that I would happen again. Needless to say that Sunday's practice was a severely modified version of primary and of course and I got no adjustments except in assisted back bending. As a result I had a very unsatisfying practice on Sunday. Oddly enough my muscles started feeling sore later in the afternoon and I knew this wasn't a good sign. I took a salt bath in the evening and hoped for the best in the morning.

This morning I passed the sneeze test which means that I felt no pain when sneezing and I thought a more satisfying practice might be in the cards. Alas I still couldn't jump back or through and I had to be very careful in the marichyasanas even opting out of marichyasana d completely. A couple of times I just paused on my mat and said to myself "why am I even here". When it came time for back bending I practiced one hang back and before I knew it the assistant was standing in front of me. She asked how I was feeling and I responded honestly that I was feeling much better but still experiencing some pain. She then said that she wasn't going to do assisted drop backs. Of course I pouted and frowned and insisted that back bending wasn't painful at all, which was the truth. So she seemed convinced and we got on with the show.

I'm at a point in my practice where back bending is like my drug. If I can't do back bending then why even bother putting myself through the torturous forward bending in primary. It's like having dinner without dessert.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Ashtangi Gods Giveth and the Ashtangi Gods Taketh Away

As usual practice was mostly great last week. I didn't get much attention from my teacher but I take that as a good sign of progress. I was binding up the wazoo, bound both arms and feet (assisted of course)in supta kurmasana and JB even commented on the great form of my back bending. I was on the Ashtanga fast track (to where I'm not exactly sure). But during Thursday's practice that all began to change as I started to experience some pain in my chest area. By the time I got to the marichyasanas I noticed that the twisting caused some pain and discomfort on the right side but other than that I was able to get through the rest of my practice.I treated myself to a massage during lunch because I figured that could only help the situation. The massage felt great and helped loosen some tightness in my shoulders but muscle soreness in my chest was so deep below the surface that the massage had little effect on relieving my pain.

When I woke up on Friday I was hesitant to go to led class but I was determined to go because otherwise I wouldn't practice in the shala again until Wednesday morning due to my work travels. The fundamental and standing postures were fine and I experienced very little discomfort. However, I did decide to omit the jump backs and jump throughs just to be safe. By the time we got to the marichyasanas I realized that I had met my match and was reminded that I wasn't the one in control. I begrudgingly went straight to the finishing postures while fighting back tears. I did a 30 second savasana and then I bolted from the shala.

If the internet is to be believed I'm suffering from a strained/pulled intercostal muscle. The pain is intense at times especially when I take deep breaths, cough, sneeze, blow my nose, get up, lay down, or twist. Other than that I feel fine. I've been self medicating with 800mg of ibuprofen every 6 hours and that seems to help manage the pain. When I get back home from Seattle I plan to see my doctor to get an official diagnosis and to find out how long I will be sidelined. The oddest thing about this injury is that I have what I did to end up in this condition and that's what pisses me off the most.