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.