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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