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?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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.