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.