Wednesday, 26 January 2011
First, New Teacher (NT) doesn't seem to do many assists. I've just once had a very small amount of physical guidance, in three classes. That's not a complaint, I'm actually quite happy with it, which is a little surprising as I had often thought them as an important part of what made a class so worth it. She also NEVER says well done, or good practice. Turns out I'm a bit needy in that department! I miss it. I miss having a teacher who knows my practice.
Second, thanks to public transport, I always get to class almost exactly 20 minutes early. That's 5 minutes to change, 5 in virasana, 5 in Baddha K, and 5 in butterfly.
Third, Kurmasana last night was incredible. The pre-class routine must have had quite an influence, as I'd not done the full pose for a long time, and suddenly there I was with my heels in air, comfy as anything. And related to that, my hamstring is obviously a lot better. Still needs extra TLC, but to be honest it's the kind of TLC it deserves every single practice, not just while it's on my mind as an injury. NT mentioned to another student that if they wanted to work on Supta K with a strap in class, she wouldn't mind. Good to know - given that there's no assist going, using my towel is second best.
Fourth, and this is the big one, the class feels a bit competitive. It's not that NT has ANY influence on this, there's no question of her pushing us, every class she reminds us that if we are focused on the breath, we are doing yoga. End of. I don't know if the competitiveness is all in my head, or if others are feeling it too. I'm trying hard not to be competitive. And succeeding. I do my practice, I focus ever more on the breath, on the gaze, on my own body and mind. But the very fact that I am so consciously not competing tells me that there's something going on. Also, of course, I am kind of competing 'ooooh, look at me, being all inward looking and not seeing what others are doing. I'm sooo doing yoga more properly than the woman who was watching how I do my vinyasa . . . ' I know that this sounds like a cop out, a self-justification, but I can't get used to the fact that we practice in two rows, facing each other. I think the increased potential for eye contact makes me more aware that others might be watching me. I feel like a couple of people are. And fair enough - someone skipping vinyasa and vaguely watching mine in H's class would not bother me (other than the 'yikes, I hope they don't think this drag through is something to aspire to). I hope it passes. I think it's a part of how I just don't like being the most advanced in a class. I've never been so pleased to see someone else casually pop up in headstand in the middle of the room while I'm stressing and fretting with both feet still on the ground.
I'm just hoping that the lack of this feeling in H's class is the norm, and that my feeling in NT's class is a real exception, and one felt only by me. It has got me wondering, if this is all in my head, what's going on in other's heads in my usual classes? It's like I've suddenly discovered a theory of mind.
Speaking/typing of which - held a mini-headstand this morning with my legs bent, knees towards me. Near the wall, but not touching it. I'm wondering about working on both methods parallel - going all the way up against the wall, going into the legs bent version in the room.
My laptop’s not finding any wireless network – slightly worryingly, as another laptop in the same room seems to have found it just fine, but hey ho. I’m typing this on Monday night and will post when I get the chance.
This morning I did my shortened practice, up to Bhuja P (which I escaped from with only the briefest of foot taps, hurrah). Headstand also was pretty good, two that I held well for 9 breaths each, and also felt again that I was able to straighten myself out once I was up, avoiding the old ‘banana on its stalk’ look.
I also added in something that really got me thinking. In the Surya As, I did a press-up before each chaturanga. WTF?! I realised as soon as I’d done it, that it’s good old attachment. Attachment to the strength I’ve gained and am anxious about losing as I’m unable to do my full practice. Also though, attachment to the way it’s made me look.
A little while before Christmas, I caught sight of myself in a mirror wearing a vest top and was taken aback by how much my upper body has changed. I have always had broad muscles, but now they are suddenly broader – not just that they are more muscley, but also that my waist is a little smaller. I’m in danger of becoming Mrs Rush (who I'd remembered as an upside down triangle, but it seems he's a bit more wonky than that.). Which I didn’t like at the time. My collar bones have (to my eyes) a tendency to look a little scrawny at the best of times, regardless of the rest of my body being on the heavy side of healthy. And a little weightloss makes my cheekbones look just too much. Probably not too anyone else, but for a while each time I glanced in a mirror I thought I looked tired, and old, and thin – in relative terms.
So, I got used to those changes slowly (and maybe I put back a little weight) until I started to feel like I looked healthier again, more in proportion etc. And then started to like new shape. Not even from a purely aesthetic point of view, although there is that, but more because it’s such an external sign of an internal change. It represents a lot of hard work, and focus, and progress.
And here’s the irony, of course. By wanting to keep hold of that physical evidence, I not making the kind of progress I thought I’d been making, in non attachment to poses and my abilities in them. It seems that as I let go of whether I escape from Bhuja, make a headstand, bind Supta K (and of course I love it when these things happen, but it’s fine when they don’t) I’m just attaching to something else instead. And no, I don’t think that two years of ashtanga and a quick read through of a couple of texts from the Bihar institute is miraculously going to lead me to non attachment. I’m not considering non attachment in other areas of my life, just on the mat. Just in the day to day routine of getting on with my own physical practice.
Mind you, I am loving those press ups.
And another thing. I’m content with a lack of asana progress over the next few weeks/months. But would I be if that were the case for ever? If I knew right now that I was never going to bind that Supta K, hold that headstand, be given another pose, would I keep getting on the mat each day? I suspect not. Or, if I did, then I would focus even more on the aesthetic changes. And if there were none of those? If the benefit was entirely psychological (spiritual, if you insist!) would I keep doing it? I suspect not.
Southern Sister suggested that my time in my new, temporary, part time home sounded something like a retreat. From the way I’ve started not only thinking about this stuff, but also finding the time to write it down, I think I have to agree. No TV, no ‘phone, no radio. Just lots and lots of me.
Sunday, 23 January 2011
I started getting a cold on Wednesday night, and it reached its peak yesterday. Lots of time on the sofa faffing online and watching TV, bliss to just give in to being ill and have nothing I needed to do. I slept for 11 hours last night, and feel much better today, but still didn't want to practice.
I did make led class on Friday night, and managed most of the practice - felt a bit feeble some of the time, and getting out of breath was sore on my throat. As was 'fish' and anything else that tilts the head that way - I guess the airways were restricted enough without adding that into the mix!
My stand out poses - Mari D, Bhuja, Headstand - were all OK, by their usual standards. Getting into Bhuja keeps improving, escaping remains hit and miss! Had a good moment in headstand where I suddenly realised I could respond to my teacher's gentle adjust and straighten myself up by moving hips back, feet forward. Then on a second go I was so pleased with this I forgot to get my feet together and was totally thrown (why?!) when she pointed this out. Still chuffed with it though.
The other poses I focus on a little are triang mukha eka pada paschimottanasana (a pose which seems to have a different name for each site I check) which is making good progress - the first side is catching up with the second. And Supta K, which feels like it's gone backwards, my feet are pretty reluctant to get behind the head. Not surprising, it's something of a fortnightly event that I even try, these days.
Still, despite the greatly reduced practices, I still feel like I'm living as if I was practicing six days a week. Eating, drinking and sleeping that way, if that makes sense. And that's got to be more important than getting my feet behind my head.
Wednesday, 19 January 2011
Wednesday, 12 January 2011
Went to the new class last night. It was pretty gentle by my usual standards! Which was for the best, as my stomach was not happy with the situation - seated forward bends were quite sore.
A few differences in terms of the breath count, things like raising to shoulder height after each standing pose, before returning to the front of the mat, raising the arms above the head before seated forward bends, little things that helped keep me in time and in tune, to be honest. She does the 'learner vinyasa' - between poses, not sides - but said we were free to do them between sides if we wanted to. I did, mainly because it was pretty cold (had to de-ice my car between work and the class). Some differences in postures (foot placement in Mari C, for instance, was nearer the straight leg, which made it a lot harder for me). We just got up to Navasana, then back bending then finishing - with the instruction to hold Utplutihi for as long as we could. Well, now that my quad is better and my 'cheating' lotus is back, that's starting to feel like kind of a long time!
In all, I am kind of pleased with the class, but I guess I am hoping it goes up a gear next week, and that I do get to work up a sweat. I fear for my headstand - it doesn't feel like we'll get to it in class, and my morning practice is in a different space with no accessible walls! Plus I'm having to be quiet in my home practice, no jumping
Before going in I'd had the 'do, don't show' mantra going round my head, and actually after the focus on teaching the ujayi breath (I LAUGH in the face of spelling!) I did feel very centred, and inward looking.
Tuesday, 11 January 2011
My working schedule is ramping up again, so I'll be getting to my usual teacher just once a week, for led class. Tonight should (digestive system allowing) be my first class with a new teacher, near to where I work. I'm quite looking forward to it, either way it will be good - if I 'connect' with the teacher and like her way of teaching, it will benefit my yoga. And if I don't . . . well, I guess that will benefit my yoga.
Wednesday, 5 January 2011
But it also stresses me out. The intense time with others, the temptation to eat/drink/sleep/sit around more than I need to. So this year I made an extra effort to look after myself.
I got up early, by family Christmas standards, 6am each day to Christmas Eve, then a lie on on Christmas day to 7am (rest day!) then 6.30 on the days following Christmas. This meant that I could have my hot water and 'coming round' time, then my one hour's practice, then be showered and ready for the day just as everyone else was getting up and starting the PLAYING. Or chatting and reading the papers, for those over the age of three. This meant that I kept my asana practice consistent. And manageable - I didn't decide I was going to get up at 5am every day and do my full practice before anyone surfaced. I was realistic, and did a reduced but consistent practice.
I went to bed early (by family Christmas standards). By 10pm almost every night - later than when I'm working, but not by too much. I admit that this was, sadly, made easier by my Southern sister being not only tired out from creating two brand new people inside her own body (yeah, I still get WTF?! when I think about that. Mind you, so does she. Possibly more so - this despite already having my nephew) but also from sinusitis, so she was also going to bed around the same time.
For the time that I didn't to bed before 10pm, I did feel it the next day, and I was prepared for this by commiting to take a nap if I needed to. I've never been a nap person before now, but it became something of a resolution. Four naps so far, and I'm really seeing the point of it! I get into bed and set the alarm for one hour's time. Then read for a while, then start to doze. The intention is to get around 30 minutes sleep, but even if I never drop off it's still beneficial. I had on between getting home from my first full day of work and writing this post. The important things for me are firstly the realisation that taking a nap isn't a waste of time, and secondly to make sure I don't sleep too long - in the past I'd leave napping until the sleep deprivation was such that not napping simply wasn't an option, then I'd sleep for a couple of hours and wake up feeling hideous.
Other things - keeping traditions (the Big Christmas Eve Food Shop with my Dad, for one) even the ones that start to seem a little strange (making a chocolate log with gelatine marshmallows which I won't eat, and then Brandy 'butter' which I can eat, but choose not to as it can aggravate my GERD). And going for every walk that's offered to me. Extra fun this year, through the snow! And asking for what I want, and don't want. In our family we can all fall over ourselves to please everyone else, to an extent that ends up being detrimental, and no one really gets what they want. I'm learning to state what I'd like (a certain food, a trip to my brother's burial place, any given outing) and find that, more often than not, everyone's just glad that I've taken on the decision.
And keeping breakfast consistent. When all other meals get chaotic in terms of content, timing, quantity, it is extra important that my breakfast is fruit, 'yogurt' and muesli. The temptation is to decide all bets are off, and have whatever I fancy, but that leads to tiredness, GERD symptoms, and, from those two, a not very nice Ragdoll to spend time with. I get pretty snappy.
And having lots of plans for when I get home. I invited friends for lunch, planned a trip to a favourite park and cafe, accepted a dinner invitation, and generally filled my days with lovely things.
Spending New Years Eve alone. Bliss. After all that time with other people, I relish the time alone. And also love that I can have a drink (not driving anywhere!) but don't end up drinking too much - as I'd be more likely to do when surrounded by others who are drinking crazy amounts. And a small bottle of sparkling wine, a couple of shots of ginger wine - hey presto, two glasses of my favourite cocktail to see in the New Year! And I have Resolutions, more of which the next time I get around to posting.
And can you see how I'm making my posts into lists without actually making my posts into lists? Hope it's not annoying, it helps to focus my thoughts!
P.S. Spellchecker doesn't recognise 'muppets'. Travesty!
Tuesday, 4 January 2011
Looking it up, I think it's specifically semitendinosus, though that's only a very vaguely educated guess. It's my left leg, and it's sore in (and caused by being too hurried in!) the second side of Trikonasana, and the extended version. Most forward bends seem OK - in need of extra care, but not restricted. Janu C is sore on the first side, as sitting on my foot really hits the injured spot! And the first stage of Garbha P has to be modified - getting my arms through fine, but I can't then pull them towards me without causing pain in the pulled muscle.
It's getting better, slowly, and not bumming me out too much.
The second injury (I am quite ashamed to have a list here) is my right leg, one of the quadriceps. I have no idea how I did it, but it hurts to lift it at the end of Utthita Hasta Padagushtasana, and also it's sore in Utpluthi. This is actually frustrating me more than the sore hamstring. I guess because they're poses that develop core strength - something I want to work on. I have more faith that my flexibility isn't going anywhere, and I tend to think of my physical strength as being more temporary. Hmmm.
Lastly, the opening. My left shoulder is often a weak spot - when I'm tense, carrying heavy things, driving a lot, flinging the nephew about in imitation of a pair of Strictly Come Dancing finalists, sleeping in an unfamiliar bed etc etc it's my left shoulder that tells me all about it. It went through a sore phase when working hard to get the bind in Mari D too. However, I do think of it as an 'opening' as it really benefits from being worked and stretched out. I want to spend more time in Prasarita Padottanasana C (wide legged forward bend with arms over your head) letting gravity do it's thing, and I relish the wrapping-around action in the Marichyasanas. So it doesn't seem like a limitation, but it's there.
Not the most positive post! I'll end by saying that the time I've spent in Virasana is starting to pay off. I'm down to two books (from the original four) to sit on, and on one occasion, I realised that I was getting that stubborn right buttock (phrases you never thought you'd type, #23 in an occasional series) down to the floor in Triang Mukha Ekapada Pashimottablahblahblah. Only once, mind, over a week ago. But now I know it's possible! OK, OK, I always knew it was possible. But now I also believe it to be possible.
Monday, 3 January 2011
Mari D - wrist bind on the second side! I think I could have made it earlier, but resisted as the finger bind on the first side was still so unpredictable. Now I've worked on tidying that up - a more controlled move into the bind, less 'panic and grab before I fall over) - I feel more stable on both sides of the pose.
Bhuja P - escaping more often than not, thanks to adding it to my short practice, and practicing consistently over the Christmas holidays.
Headstand - a miraculous 15 breath headstand on Christmas Eve, I felt completely balanced and steady. It is yet to be repeated!
Supta K - fingers touched unaided (usually at home I'm using a towel).
I've finished 'Autobiography of Yogi', ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autobiography_of_a_Yogi ) and 'Bringing Yoga to Life' ( by Donna Farhi, http://www.donnafarhi.co.nz/ ). The latter especially has an element of 'home coming' about it, much of the things she's writing about are things that I already live by - I became vegan to limit the harm I do to the world and the beings I share it with long before I ever heard the word 'ahisma' - and it's good to reaffirm and explore it all. Although the book was easy to read, I'm sure most of it has slipped from my mind already - the joy of reading something without taking notes was too much to resist!
Much of it still reads as a metaphor for me, as someone who does not believe in any god. The same goes for 99% of Autobiography of a Yogi - a book which could give an Abnormal Psychologist an absolute field day! I umm and ah about the value of saints, gurus, etc. Especially those that absent themselves from society - is the awe and 'holiness' they inspire more worthy than getting stuck in and actually changing things themselves? I won't even start on those claiming to live by the breath of life and sunlight alone . . .
Reading through Gregor Maehle's book too, helping me think in different ways about the asana that are becoming very familiar to me. The simple 'sit up and sit down' is a good one for the Marichyasanas, it inspires and describes the grounding and lifting that I'm only just really beginning to feel in the seated twists. I've started on his writing on the Sutra too, but find my eyes do often slide off the page.
I think I need to find my own metaphor for 'samahdi', to enable to read these things without a mental sort of 'tut' each time I encounter the word.