Two-fer

This morning, after a lovely ardha baddha padmottanasana on the right side, I moved on to my left side and discovered something new. Pain in my left knee. Suddenly I remembered feeling a little sore in the left knee yesterday after practice. Nothing too bad. Felt pretty normal. Apparently it was a little more significant than I realized. So ardha baddha tipped me off. I guess ardha baddha is a “tester” pose. Like the canary in the mine shaft.

Okay, so I skipped ardha baddha on the left, then went on. Decided to see if it’d feel better in ardha baddha padma paschimottanasana. Nope. Alrighty, then. Modifications for all lotus poses on the left. I guess I did learn something when I injured the right knee. I was in denial about that for days and days, trying all kinds of ways to avoid modifications. For the left side, I’ll just modify until I heal. This is so much less dramatic than the last time around.

At the end of practice, I told The Cop, “I’m having a problem with my left knee.”

“Is that the one you hurt before?” he asked.

“No, that was my right knee. It’s good it’s my left, because that means this isn’t a recurring injury.”

“It’s a recurring injury,” he said. “It just doesn’t always happen on the same side.”

I guess he didn’t realize we were having the “this-isn’t-such-a-bad-thing-in-fact-we-can-be-happy-it’s-not-my-right-knee” conversation. A conversation in which the term “recurring” does not…well, recur.

My month of doing ustrasana and dhanurasana instead of urdhva dhanurasana is up. So I gave urdhva dhanurasana a go this morning. I’m hoping that the sore knee is to blame for how crappy this morning’s urdhva ds were. Yeah, yeah…it’s the injury.

I guess it is now time for me to come to grips with the fact that I am a forward bender by nature, and that backbending is going to be a long haul. Any suggestions folks may have for good reading re: the mechanics of backbends? *Sigh* Isn’t this Ashtanga stuff supposed to be easy? 😉

Bon Voyage

Got to Volleyball Guy’s at 5:30. Bikram Teacher, The Other Dave and Returning Guy were already there. Sanskrit Scholar and The British Director came in right after me. A few minutes later, The Contestant arrived.

How great was it, to see Volleyball Guy? Pretty darn great. I was so happy, from the very first adjustment in downward dog during Surya A. Good teachers must just really have a knack for adjustments. It’s like they can share energy through their hands. It always makes me wonder what it takes out of them, all that sharing of energy with students.

I got to Janu A, and Volleyball Guy gave me the best adjustment ever. He stood behind me and used the back of his heel to push my folded leg even further back, then twisted my ribcage so I could lay my trunk precisely down the extended leg, and pushed me forward so I could rest my chin on my shin. The pose felt beautifully aligned and just incredibly flat. Hmmmm, that’s another factor in the adjustments of a good teacher, I just realized: Volleyball Guy didn’t just help me get into the pose, he helped me see the beauty and precision in the pose.

As a counterexample: I helped Sanskrit Scholar in Supta K. Volleyball Guy had to give his wife a ride to work, so he took off for a few minutes, and poor Sanskrit Scholar fell victim to one of my adjustments. I helped adjust her arms, then started in on her feet. I was walking them in slowly, probably way too slowly, but we finally got them sole to sole. She told me that I could push her legs up more on her shoulders, which I did rather tentatively, then I adjusted her feet to cross, then doubled back to her legs. So there are two kinds of amateur adjustment styles, I figure–the tentative style, which I subjected Sanskrit Scholar to, and the bold, terrifying style. I actually prefer the tentative, because the bold stuff scares me too much. It’s one thing for Volleyball Guy to twist me up, and another thing for someone else to do it. I’m sure my “gentle” adjustment must have seemed endless, though. Sorry, Sanskrit Scholar! You are a good sport.

No Bakasana today. As usual, Volleyball Guy wanted handstands–three of ’em. I did pull off a nice Eka Pada Bakasana, though. As usual, the key is not to overthink it. I didn’t even try to jump out of tittibhasana–now that I have a regular home practice, I want to save the really ugly stuff for when I’m alone 😉

Volleyball Guy is off to the Philippines. I felt really sad when I hugged him goodbye. He told us a couple of times that next Mysore is March 13. I’m already looking forward to it.

How many yogis does it take to set an alarm clock?

Woke up at 4:30 so I could go over to Volleyball Guy’s for Mysore. Felt quite well-rested. Got to the kitchen and discovered the coffee hadn’t turned on. Checked the timer–yup, it was set for 4:15 AM. Hmmm, mysterious technology glitch. Easily remedied by switching the “Brew” button. Note to self: verify that coffee brews on time tomorrow. Wait–we don’t use the timer on the weekend. Okay, make sure it works on Monday. Likelihood of forgetting to notice if coffee brews on Monday? Zero. Okay, coffee situation resolved for the time being.

But wait a minute…the clock on the coffee machine says: 3:30. Huh? Hey, wait a minute…so does the microwave! And the computer. Uh oh. Musta clicked the clock ahead an hour while setting it last night. Duh.

Well, it’s not like I’m going to walk away from a pot of brewing coffee. So might as well proceed. I worked on proofreading the book manuscript and surfed the web. Wrote an email to Best Friend.

Hours after waking, I arrived at Volleyball Guy’s. Chanting Man was there, and The British Director joined us shortly afterwards. A nice practice–slow, very warm, and comfy. Less distracted than at home, which is still a new environment for me. The British Director adjusted me in prasarita C, and it was a doozy. Usually people say “tell me when” or something like that, and I just hang in until the end of the adjustment. Had to say “uncle” this time, though–at about breath 3 and a half.

We talked about garbha pindasana when I got to it, and both Chanting Man and The British Director had funny stories about falling over and other humiliating consequences of attempting the pose. I didn’t have a spray bottle with me, so my arms were only halfway through. But I did read up on garbha p on ezboard, and a couple of people suggested the counterintuitive move of making your lotus really tight. I had been trying to keep it pretty loose, figuring that’d make more room for my arms, but they pointed out that the really tight lotus actually opens up the back of the knees more. So I gave that a shot and managed to get halfway through with no water. And I laughed and told the others that someone had suggested using Astroglide for the pose. Surely disaster awaits anyone who spills Astroglide on their mat. Hmmm, the making of a yoga practical joke?

So that’s about it. I am very happy it’s Friday. The Cop is working late tonight, but we have plans for pizza and drinks when he gets off work. Which means a very late night for me. No led class tomorrow, since I still have house work. I have to finish moving the last few things out of the old house, clean it, and then do some stuff around the new house. I think this will be the last weekend of missing led primary on Saturday, though. The move will soon be declared finished. Yay!

Tuckered out

In a boat down a fast-running creek,
it feels like trees on the bank
are rushing by. What seems

to be changing around us
is rather the speed of our craft
leaving this world.

-Rumi

Utthita hasta padangusthasana has gone to hell. I had three recurring dreams about being able to do it with no effort whatsoever. Very sweet dreams. And since the dreams, the asana has been slipping further and further away from me. I can’t seem to get through it. I even tried moving off the Manduka, hoping that perhaps it was just the cushy surface of my mat that was thwarting my attempts. Nope. It’s me. Volleyball Guy has complimented people on dancing around during UHP–he said usually it goes to hell before a breakthrough. I guess we’re going to find out if he was just saying that to be nice…

Eka pada bakasana. What can I say? Yesterday, SMN commented on my post, saying that Sharath does EPB without touching his knee to his arm at all. This morning (and no, I didn’t have any ambitions regarding trying the Sharath method!) I got to EPB, tried to place my knee, and found myself thinking, “I need bigger armpits. And deeper.” But then I remembered SMN’s comment. Instead of fretting about my knee, I just kind of used it as a touch point (versus a support) for the pose. It wasn’t beautiful, the outcome, but it was more graceful than usual. Thanks, SMN.

By the time I got to navasana, I was pretty tired. I never really think about it that much, but I guess I do get kind of progressively more tired over the course of a week of practices. It also occurred to me that the whole navasana / handstand / bhujapidasana / kurmasana / supta kurmasana part of the sequence is quite strenuous. I know, it only took me 7 months to notice. Duh.

Supta k was less frightening than yesterday. I “fought back.” I used counterpressure. I pushed back as hard with my shoulders as my legs were pushing. I think my poor squashed collarbones were the result of me not pressing back hard enough. I can’t remember where I got that idea, but it was written somewhere and caught my attention…maybe ezboard. So thanks to whoever wrote that little tidbit.

Garbha pindasana has me over a barrel. I’ll be happy to go to Volleyball Guy’s tomorrow so I can ask a couple of questions. Today I ended up with my arms through, but I pretty much felt like a total loser. Uh, apparently my rolling coordination, never particularly good to start with, goes out the window when I add in the awkward jutting arms factor. So I wonder if I am supposed to muck about with arms a bit and then pull them out and do the rolling. Or try the rolling with the stuck arms? LOL! I see no graceful outcome for this pose, I’m afraid.

Beyond all of this, the new house is great, work sucks, I am blogging on my lunch break. Now you know everything 😉

Why are my collarbones on so tight?

This morning I had an email from Sanskrit Scholar. She was reminding me that Volleyball Guy is off to the Philippines for a 5 week adventure, and that Monday is our last Mysore class with him until he gets back. I’ll be there.

More home practice today. Most notable: bakasana and eka pada bakasana transitions are coming along nicely. I am able to pull my feet up more than ever in bakasana, and as soon as I get to the tipping point, I sort of roll into the kickback. It’s nice when things kind of come together on these things. As far as eka pada bakasana goes, I am starting to get my left leg up there pretty well, but I am still kind of stymied about where to put my right knee. I know my right arm is bent and that the knee fits in there somewhere, but I am struggling with how my shin lies along my tricep. Or if it does at all. Oops, just took a look at Arjuna, and he seems to have his knee in his armpit, and his arm outside his shin. So no support on the shin, I guess.

I have to tell a bit about my current state re: bandhas. At least that’s what I think I am dealing with. Back in my gym days, I would have said I am learning something about my core strength and coordination. Bandhas always seem so much more elusive and mysterious. Anyhow, I half-woke in a dream the other night (lucid dreaming, I guess) and I was “flying”–not the usual flying dream though. I was conscious of the fact that I was lying on my side and that I was in bed, but I was curled a little in the mid-section, and I think my bandhas were super-engaged. And it was equivalent to flying, at least by the rules of dream-logic. A different kind of flying. Okay, maybe I shouldn’t be allowed to practice alone, huh?

So for the past couple of days, since the dream, I have been really…uh, I don’t know how to explain this. It’s like I am tight in my abs–or my core–or my bandhas–almost all the time. I don’t know why, and I don’t know to what effect, but it is quite interesting. It’s like I am learning something that defies logic or explanation. Learning something physical, I guess.

And on a less ethereal note: I was suddenly scared as hell when I transitioned from kurmasana to supta kurmsana today. Didn’t see it coming at all, and then there I was, terrified. Right at the part where I flip my arms over to make the bind. My collarbones got some rest over the weekend, and then they were great for a couple of days–but I think they may be a little tired now. I backed off a bit, because I don’t want to crank on them like I did a couple of weeks ago.

In garbha pindasana, I noticed that flexing and unflexing my calves as I pushed my arms through helped keep my calves from cramping–I got both arms all the way through, but then once I was there, well, I was kind of all stuck and in pain. I mean, it’s funny to think of, that a human would do such a thing. So I am finding my first significant Ashtanga pains (aside from the injured knee). Interesting, too, to try to work through it all–how to accept a certain amount of pain, and not court it or exacerbate it or ignore it or run away from it. I think I am getting along just fine with garbha p, but my calves are a little sore/bruised, and I’m going to have to practice some patience.

My publisher has been in touch and will start typesetting next month. Dealing with poetry always makes me kind of strangely intuitive and dreamy (or perhaps just plain old strange), but I am figuring that between poetry and the dreams and a month of home practice coming up, I ought to be having some cool new experiences.

Work

Work is giving me a headache. Well, a series of headaches. One each day. I don’t feel terribly freaked out, but there is always another detail to remember, another task to add to the list, etc. Everyone here at work is kind of cranky, too, this week. Though, interestingly, they all are recognizing and acknowledging their crankiness. Which is quite a good thing, I think.

Practice this morning was satisfying. I turned the space heater on while I finished my coffee, so the room would be nice and toasty. I was happy from the moment I started until the moment I finished. Well, maybe not so happy for a few minutes there in garbha pindasana–I only got one arm through, because my left calf refused to cooperate and threatened to cramp as soon as I tried to get my hand through. It occurred to me, as I drove to work, that I might try flexing my calves a bit, in order to offer a little resistance, and perhaps avoid the wicked pain. LOL! Wicked. I reverted to my Boston roots for a moment there.

This morning, I taught My Gift to help me in marichy D. And she gave me the usual adjustment in supta k. I have no idea how all of this happened, but I am really enjoying kurmasana and supta k. In supta k, I always hear Volleyball Guy saying, “Keep your eyes open.” He reminds us all the time in led primary. I guess some people find it claustrophobic, which for some reason seems really funny to me. I can understand feeling claustrophobic inside your own body. But supta k is more like you are giving yourself a hug. Well, a twisted kind of hug, but nevertheless.

I don’t know if I will go to Mysore tomorrow, and I’m not really sure why. I would imagine I’d be dying to go, but I’ve been liking my morning routine of getting up a little bit later, having coffee, and then practicing at home. I think I like practicing around My Gift and The Cop. I wonder if I’m slacking? Volleyball Guy makes me do handstands after utkatasana, and I’ve been liking doing bakasana instead. It’s hard to tell if I am relaxing my attachment to the Mysore routine or just forming different attachments to home practice. Blah blah blah. I could worry this eternally. I think I’ll just do what I like and see what happens. Chances are I’ll enjoy my strong attachment to my new house for a bit, then suddenly want some Mysore time. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Long time…

…no blog. Actually (and more importantly) long time, no practice. Not since last Thursday, which was the culmination of my week of practicing alone–both at Volleyball Guy’s and at home.

Saturday was the big move. The Cop called his friend, who we’ll call…um, The Maniac, to help move all the really big heavy things, like the refrigerator and beds, etc. I did the shuttling of lighter objects. Believe it or not, the move was done with just three cardboard boxes and three laundry baskets. As I’ve mentioned, The Cop had been slowly moving things from one house to the next over the past month. I’m not a great fan of wrapping glasses in paper and putting them in boxes, then carrying them somewhere and unwrapping them, and (if you are my mother) washing them to get, I guess, newsprint off of them, and then putting them in a new cabinet. Nuh uh. I decided they’d be just fine in layers in the laundry basket, with dishtowels kind of scrunched in to reduce breakage. Whatever glasses made it to the new house this way were declared winners and put in the cabinet. Darwinian? Yes, I suppose. Slacker? Oh yeah. This is the real reason why I didn’t want The Cop’s parents to help us move last weekend. They would have made us move like responsible adults.

So we spent the weekend at the new house and everything seems to be coming along nicely. This morning I used the yoga room. Formerly the dining area. But I had bigger plans than a diningroom. It looks out over the back yard through three picture windows. One day I will post photos. For now, it is a room “filled” with a Buddha, a space heater, the Manduka, a bunch of yoga and zen books, plants, candles and incense. Oh, and a chandelier. Right in the middle of the room. Which means navasana requires I move the mat to a corner of the room or risk kicking the chandelier. Home improvement will include removal of the chandelier.

I got up this morning, lit two candles and a stick of incense, turned on the heater, and got back to practicing. It was lovely. I was distracted, of course, by the fact that I was in a new environment. But handstands (away from the chandelier!) rocked. I got up there, stuck it, and just counted a leisurely five breaths. The same thing happened for the next two handstands. Not so great on the fourth, but the fifth was as good as the others. I learned inversions from a terrific Anusara teacher (say what you will about Anusara folks, they are very good at teaching inversions). He always had me flex my feet. But lately, as I’ve been floating up into handstand, I am finding that my toes point. And I feel incredibly light. I imagine this is about bandhas, but I have no idea how it’s working, really. I don’t want to overthink it.

My Gift adjusted me in supta kurmasana. My shoulders felt vaguely sore, but the few days off for moving seem to have healed them up nicely. And they are still looser than ever–my binds in the marichys feel very supple through the shoulders, whereas my shoulder girdle used to feel like it was made of cast iron.

I had a handy plant spray bottle by me, so I slicked up and managed to get both arms all the way through for garbha pindasana. May I say…OW? I assume the pain in my calves, caused by my bony arms, will subside once my padmasana is more open. If this is not true, someone should tell me now. If there is something else I should be doing, aside from being brave and waiting, I don’t know what it is.

So yes, I could have gone to Mysore this morning. But I wanted to stay up late (10 PM!) to see My Gift for a few minutes when she got home from work last night. Plus I had address change forms to fill out online. And I was really really was excited to try out the new space. I think I’m going to love it there. I went out in the back yard this morning and suddenly thought about how I could plant morning glories to cover the fence. Only to find out, a little later, that morning glories are banned in Arizona. They are classified as a “noxious weed.” Now I have to check my conscience and see if I will still plant them. Life is good, I guess, if this is my problem.