Newhouseasana

Volleyball Guy’s Saturday led primary is going on right this minute. How sad not to be there. I even have a new mat I could try out–a Manduka black mat–a Christmas present from my sister. But the new house calls.

Yesterday I went to Mysore practice, then The Cop and I worked at the new house all day, cleaning and painting. And drinking tea, because we are both kind of sick with sore throats and headaches and general yuckiness.

So today I will spend all of my energy on the house. It’s so hard to skip practice, though. It’s funny how some people have a hard time motivating themselves to practice, and some can’t let go of it. I suppose there’s a Middle Path in there. I have a hard time seeing it, though.

All’s well that ends well

Crim Moon Day practice was good. I have a headache from the sinus thing, but nothing too bad, and I’m not coughing or anything, so I don’t think I’m transmitting germs.

The usual crowd. And Mona came back. Volleyball Guy had her set up between Sanskrit Scholar and Chanting Man. He could just as easily have put her between me and Sanskrit Scholar. For a fleeting moment I wondered if Volleyball Guy reads my blog and was sparing me some distraction. And then I thought about how he really seems to have a sixth sense on a lot of things: just as you notice something out of whack on a pose, he’ll make that adjustment. Just as you come up with a question, he’ll walk over to you. I think maybe he’s just hooked into the Tao.

Practice was good, though I was a little iffy about the whole thing and didn’t have high expectations, given the headache. Any time I am thinking about cutting corners and taking it easy, I consider skipping handstands/bakasana, etc. So of course, Volleyball Guy cornered me and had me do three handstands after utkatasana. But that was fine.

On to the seated poses, where I once again confronted my little weirdnesses re: marichyasana C and D. I am a much better twister to the left than to the right. Which means my first marichy C is a little off. In fact, I always slow down and kind of overprepare or overthink my whole set up. I manage to bind it, but it always has a self-conscious quality. Which is further highlighted by the fact that when I then turn and do C on the second side, I just slip into it without a thought.

Then there are the marichy Ds. The bind is eluding me on both sides, but the larger issue seems to be the plaintive little wisp of futility that I feel about the pose on both sides. Interestingly, I expected to get caught up in futility surrounding kurmasana and supta kurmasana. But that feeling just never materialized. I am getting my shoulders to touch the floor on kurmasana, and I have no resistance to staying there and breathing for a while. In fact, it feels rather comforting. My hamstrings aren’t loose enough yet that I can get my feet off the floor, but I don’t mind waiting.

In supta, I usually manage to cross my ankles and pull my hands up pretty high on my back. No binding there, but I can feel my spine with my fingers, so I imagine I will eventually get there. Today, though, Volleyball Guy came over, put a strap between my hands and lifted up my feet, which meant I could wiggle my head under my legs. I had no plans about this, so it was a nice, though somewhat scary event. Vaguely claustrophobic, but exciting nonetheless.

So I’m thinking that my thinking is what’s keeping the marichy D elusive, and that my forgetting to think about kurmasana and supta kurmasana is what made them so easy. Basically, I didn’t stop to think that they should be much harder than they are turning out to be. This is a delightful discovery, and one I have to apply a bit more in so-called “real” life.

Moon Day of Convenience

I have declared today a Moon Day. Even The Cop, who only knows yoga from my obsessive chattering, immediately recognized my plan as crim. But here’s the deal: I feel crappy with some kind of sinus thing, Thursday is home practice and Friday is Mysore. So much better the Moon Day be today and not tomorrow. Waking up at 7 AM today, versus 4:30, just felt like the right thing to do.

And since we are confessing transgressions of convenience, I think I might have a sick day from work tomorrow. We pick up the keys for the new house tonight, The Cop has tomorrow off, and I have a few sick days left this year… Perhaps sinus problems bring out the criminal in me? Perhaps it’ll be a moot point if I keep getting sicker and really do have to take the Moon Day off and really do have to call in sick to work. We’ll see.

This week on ezboard, someone brought up the idea of yoga fundamentalism. Which immediately made me think of Richard Freeman’s essay Fundamentalism and the Middle Path. This is such a terrific essay, and it addresses fundamentalism in all of its manifestations–not just fundamentalism in yoga. I am a great fan of RF’s writing (and speaking) style. It is simultaneously evocative and precise, patient and poetic.

[The] Middle Path is hard to define, subtly serpentine, and it is where yoga systems meet their perfection. It frees us from politics without making us apolitical. It frees us from religion without making us irreligious. It frees us from thought without making us thoughtless. It has been called love, but it’s not what you think. For the present moment, we should keep on looking, avoiding jumping to conclusions.

We should keep on looking, avoiding jumping to conclusions. This really is the heart of my favorite zen sayings, “Just don’t know,” “Open mouth, already a mistake,” “Beginner’s mind,” and my very favorite: “Not knowing is most intimate.”

So my intention for this Moon Day is to look, and to not know. Which always makes for a happy day.

Physical Reality

This morning I was dogged by physical reality. I woke up feeling kinda crummy–puffy eyes, stuffy head, general sluggishness. Could I be sick? Should I have a day off? Nah! It’s harder, psychologically, to take a day off than to go to practice. And if I skip practice, I feel kind of creaky all day–like I don’t have enough space in my joints. So I went.

Quiet when I got to Volleyball Guy’s house. Just Returning Guy and The Other Dave. And the space heater. Mmmmmm. I start in on my suryas and notice something interesting. Both of my nostrils are stuffed up. Huh, I wonder why I didn’t notice that on the drive over… I wonder how I managed to breathe… Oh well. Nothing a little forceful ujjayi breathing won’t solve, right? It didn’t sound pretty, but Returning Guy and The Other Dave are loud, so my labored breathing was drowned out.

Okay, that problem solved. On to the next. I don’t know about everyone else, but at some point in almost every practice (usually in the marichys), I find myself recalling what I had for dinner the night before. This morning I was remembering during surya Bs. Not a good sign. Spicy tofu. What was I thinking? I manage to be disciplined and focused on any number of things, but for some reason, the simple practice of not eating spicy food the night before Mysore always eludes me. Zen monks, in their precepts, swear off onions, garlic and other spices. I always kind of wondered why that’d be included in their precepts, and I figured maybe it was so they wouldn’t have bad breath in the zendo. Now, though, I think it’s because practicing (Ashtanga or zazen) on a busy stomach is really distracting.

As I am reconciling myself to my stuffy nose and yucky stomach, more folks arrive. Sanskrit Scholar, The British Director, and Surfer Girl, a very sweet, very tall advanced practitioner. And Mona, who sets up between me and Surfer Girl.

Mona moans. Oh boy. I think this is my shala pet peeve. If the moaning is conscious, it’s kind of a weird attention-getting device. If it’s unconcious…well, isn’t that rather odd? Don’t get me wrong–I’m unconscious during practice as much as the next person. But I come around every so often and I’m sure I’d notice if I was moaning all the time.

So Mona moans, and she does not recognize that Surfer Girl or I exist. Her practice is not adjusted according to those around her. She smacks me a couple of times, smacks Volleyball Guy when he’s adjusting me, and I hear Surfer Girl apologizing a couple of times, no doubt because Mona has smacked her, too. Okay, as I’m typing this, I’m laughing, but I was kinda irritated at the time.

You know when someone’s doing seated poses behind you and it’s time for your prasaritas? Don’t you adjust yourself up or down your mat so that when you fold, you won’t be breathing (or moaning, as the case may be) directly onto the person doing seated poses? Just a thought.

I suppose it’s evident that practice this morning was about physical reality. Nothing in the way of transcendence for me. No idea what the lesson may be in this. Just the facts, ma’am.

Yin

Home practice this morning. I was considering knocking off altogether for Ladies Holiday, but decided to try some yin poses. Okay, so here’s the deal: I find yin yoga really challenging.

For one thing, yin poses seem dangerous to me. I am not at all accustomed to letting my muscles fully relax. Nor am I accustomed to slumping, which is actually part of yin practice. Forward bend, for example: you slump forward and relax all the muscles in your back. It actually feels good, to slump my head forward and feel the stretch in the back of my neck, but I’m sure I’m not fully relaxed down my spine. I have a belief, and apparently it’s a very deep one, that the muscles really need to be somewhat toned, somewhat on, to support the bones. I have to ask Sanskrit Scholar about this. She teaches yin classes.

So back and neck poses felt sketchy, because of my own fear. But there were a couple of poses that really will be helpful: agnistambhasana for slowly stretching out my very tight hips, and the yin supta virasana–to try to stretch out my quads/knees. Still not sure what more to do to stretch out my shoulders.

If nothing else, this was an interesting look at how much I trust muscle tension (Doesn’t it hold my bones together? Isn’t it necessary for physical integrity?), and how nervous I am about giving it up. Just another mind-habit, I suppose. Though a very deep-seated one

And speaking of habits, I was interested in Susan’s post yesterday, when she mentioned how she kind of missed work. I had that same thought this weekend. Don’t get me wrong–if I won the lottery (unlikely since I can’t seem to remember to play) I wouldn’t be hauling myself to work every morning. But I would have to find something challenging to do. Work can be a big fat stressful pain, but it also offers me an endless number of “puzzles” to work out–strategic, political, interpersonal, procedural…you name it. So for all its stressfulness, it’s also rewarding. Kind of the psychological equivalent of the muscular tension I assume I need to keep my body intact.

I wonder how long it’ll be before I’ve had my fill of those work-related “rewards” today πŸ˜‰ I’m guessing around noon…

Mind games

Whoa. This morning’s practice was very busy, mind-wise. What am I doing here? was the question of the day. It was interesting, though, because despite the tedious, sluggish disbelief of my mind (e.g., I can’t possibly do this!), my body felt pretty good.

Sanskrit Scholar made a groaning remark about practice after “five pounds of mashed potatoes and two bottles of champagne.” I could have thrown in my own comment about…actually I don’t really know what this stuff was. The Cop’s parents sent it to us–it’s toffee popcorn with chocolate covered peanuts mixed in. I suppose it could quite accurately be called My Downfall.

The marichyasana poses, which I was dreading, were especially good today. Go figure. They actually didn’t feel particularly good, but they were very deep. Not sure how that can happen, but I’ll take it. The Bs were very compact, the Cs had way more twist than I usually get, and the Ds are awkward and off-balance, but in a way that seems to promise a brighter future πŸ˜‰ I wonder if my mind was so busy being worried about how awful I’d feel that my body just went on its merry way…

I tried to sneak in my navasanas when Volleyball Guy wasn’t looking, but he ran right over to spot me for handstands. Awwwwwww…handstands?!?! Do I have to? They were fine, though. The shoulder opening stuff I’ve been working on really seems to be helping my handstands. I always used to lock out my elbows and kind of find the balance point using the flex in my lower back. Lately, though, my elbows are not quite locked, and I am finding the balance in my hands and upper arms. Much easier.

No matter that this morning’s practice turned out well: there’s no way I’m going to try to rationalize that the evil toffee chocolate popcorn stuff was helpful to my cause. When I was climbing a lot, a day of heavy food intake was sometimes really helpful–I guess it was similar to carb-loading before a marathon. I’m afraid the same principles do not apply in yoga.

Today is a day off from work. Volleyball Guy’s son came in to practice this morning. He is not a morning person. “Why is it so bright?” he moaned as he entered the room. “Because your eyes are open,” Volleyball Guy replied. Anyhow, V Guy’s Son wanted to know why those of us who didn’t have to work were practicing so early. “It’s all about the company,” I said. And that’s quite true. If I have to suffer through a post-holiday practice, it helps to be surrounded by others who are ruing their mashed potatoes.

Blech…

Alrighty, so tomorrow’s experiment is twofold: Can I get myself out of bed and to practice after a day of eating a really astounding amount of food? And: What happens when I get to the marichyasanas? Should be interesting. Truth be told, I usually pause somewhere in the marichys and have a bit of a burp from the coffee I use to fuel the drive to Volleyball Guy’s. I’m kinda scared to see what happens tomorrow πŸ˜‰

And the results of yesterday’s (inadvertent) experiment are in: Lots of ustrasanas make you really sore. Volleyball Guy has this thing on Saturdays where he counts how many men are in class and we do that many urdhva dhanurasanas. Yesterday, there were eight men. I stuck with my ustrasana-instead-of-urdhva-dhanurasana program–and I am really feeling it today. I’d been feeling like I was getting off easy, doing ustrasana instead of UD. Not feeling it today, though.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Belated Buddha’s Enlightenment Day to all, and to all a food…uh, I mean good…night!