Day Off

My body spoke loudly enough this morning that I managed to listen and not get out of bed at 4:45. In fact, I turned off the alarm and slept ’til 6:30, when I got up and found My Gift in the kitchen, looking perplexedly at the empty coffee pot. I have a wicked sore throat, and the extra almost two hours of sleep meant I had all sorts of dreams. One of which involved me stealing objects from an abandoned storefront and feeling really guilty–because it was wrong to do, and because I brought My Gift to help me, thereby being a bad parent, and because I jeopardized The Cop’s job by committing a crime. Geez. I shoulda just got up with the alarm.

A note first thing this morning from Sanskrit Scholar that Volleyball Guy will be back for Mysore 3/10, instead of the originally projected 3/13. Then notes from the other Mysoreans expressing their glee with that news. And a note from Volleyball Guy himself, who is happily ensconced on a sandy beach.

The Cop just woke up and came out of the bedroom saying, “Why, oh why, has my yogini abandoned me?” We had plans to practice this morning, but I just couldn’t. Anyhow, he then started this crazy pretend sequence of suryas with ballet-like flourishes, then announced: “This morning, I am going to invent a sixth series.” I said, “Um, I think there is already a sixth series.” “Okay, I am going to invent a seventh series, in which I die in the middle of the series, then bring myself back to life for the second half.” He’s very inventive, The Cop. Quite ambitious. Apparently, though, the pursuit of series seven can not occur until he has a blueberry muffin.

He and My Gift certainly help me keep my spiritual pursuits in perspective. I always think of My Gift, when she was about 14, asking me as I finished up zazen one morning, “So, you enlightened yet?”

Just now she walked past and said “You’re blogging? You didn’t do yoga today. Are you lying?!?!” LOL! I have a sore throat and feel crappy, but it’s always a fun morning with these two 🙂

Listening

Just back from restocking the birdfeeder. A few birds were loitering in the vicinity of the feeder, looking expectant. Cold out there. I don’t know how people back east can stand the winter. Snow and ice? No thanks.

Yucky practice this morning–no surprise, really. I felt bad yesterday (even called in sick to the painting-at-Volleyball-Guy’s soiree), and I woke a few times during the night with sinus pain. But since I just get out of bed when the alarm rings, I found myself standing in the kitchen at 5. And once I’m in the kitchen, coffee is definitely on the agenda. And after that, I might as well see where practice takes me.

Just through standing, as it turns out. I felt okay during the suryas, but my energy drained away pose by pose as I moved through standing. A drag, too, because I was eager to play around with backbends and the wall again.

It’s been amusing, hearing “wall stories” from people. Gx mentioned in a comment how he likes the “wee drop feeling” before you touch the wall. Yes, the feeling of falling. It’s a really interesting thing to play with. Again, memories of climbing–I was always interested in the falling feeling, how it is something humans are fascinated with (roller coasters, climbing, skydiving), even as we are programmed to resist it (babies have a reflex that kicks in if they feel they are falling). So very cool to surrender to a physical law (gravity) even as our biology resists it. I guess it’s just a matter of how we surrender–with a graceful dropback, or by falling on our heads 😉 Thanks, Chris, for your very funny comment. I’m sure I’ll find myself in the same situation, sooner or later.

So today’s lesson, I suppose, is that I am finally learning what the phrase “listen to your body” means. After keeping a daily practice for the past seven months, I am aware of when my body feels strong and energetic, and when it feels tired after five or six consecutive days of practice, etc. And today I knew I felt sick, and that the energy wasn’t going to kick in if I just made the effort. If I really was good at listening to my body, I would have known not to get out of bed when the alarm went off. Not quite there, yet, but getting closer. I don’t like learning the lesson this way, though. I’d rather be in the yoga room, courting disaster-by-gravity.

Freedom

A buddha is someone who finds freedom in good fortune and bad. Such is his power that karma can’t hold him. No matter what kind of karma, a buddha transforms it.

–Bodhidharma

Maybe it’s not a good sign that I am sending notes like this to my work email, so I can be reminded when I get there. Nah, it’s fine. I have to find freedom, and I suppose work is as good an experimental ground as any. There seems to be a chance for lots of change at work, organizational change–and as is always the case, when there is a groundswell of energy for change, there is also the drag of inertia. Personally, I love change–but I have to keep my frustration at the resulting inertia in check. And even more so, perhaps I can find freedom in all of the drama.

Practice was so-so this morning. I had a heck of a time waking up, and when I finally did, I was greeted by a stuffed up head. A cold coming on, I figured. But maybe not. Last night a bunch of us met up at Volleyball Guy’s to paint the practice room. Returning Guy, The Other Dave, Chanting Man, Sanskrit Scholar, The British Director, The Contestant and I all taped up the edges and rolled out paper on the floor and set to work. It was Returning Guy, up on a ladder painting the ceiling, who first mentioned how strong the fumes were. Yeah, okay–we had tons of energy and terrific community, but not quite enough ventilation 😉

My Gift joined me for practice and I muddled through, pausing to sniffle and scatter Kleenex near my mat. She did well: the suryas, all of standing, and even a couple of the seated poses (through ardha baddha padma paschimottanasana). Nice work. When she finished her savasana, I commandeered the Manduka. Ahhhhhhhh. I have to get at least one more Manduka. I always have My Gift use it when she practices, because she has joint issues. But I like it, because…well, I could say because I have a bony spine and hips and knees, but it’s mostly just because the darn thing rocks! The Cop could certainly use one of the extra long mats. He’s quite tall, so he’s always off one end of the mat or the other. Plus I guess he’s rather a thrasher–because his mat is all over the place when he practices. One of the long Mandukas would be heavy enough to solve that problem. I have a basket full of mats, but they’re all regular mats, and we have the stone floors. Okay, I think I’ve made my case for a new Manduka. Time to move on 😉

Practice was painful today. My subclavius muscles are killing again, thanks to supta kurmasana. Which is coming along nicely, but starting to feel Pavlovian: when I know it’s coming up, I feel driven to cry or run from the room. It just always hurts, when I rotate my shoulders for the bind. Another arnica week, I guess–and ibuprofen.

Walking down the wall after I do urdhva dhanurasana is adding some fun to my practice. I did five urdhva Ds and then the wall three times. I am amused, I guess, by the kind of scary feeling of dropping back to grab the wall. No matter how many times I do it, I always feel like I’m going to miss. So that will keep me going for a while. It’s a heck of alot more fun than just doing urdhva dhanurasana. Kind of a treat I get for being good and doing my backbends.

Okay, time to get ready for work–where there is good fortune and bad, and the opportunity to find freedom.

Climbing the Walls

Practiced this morning with The Cop. He has today off, so I took the day off, too. Otherwise our schedules keep us apart too much. So we slept in, had coffee, then hit the mats.

The Cop is doing really well with Ashtanga. He follows along by watching and by listening to my breath, and he doesn’t whine 😉 We zipped right through half primary, then he came along for the ride from bhujapidasana to baddha konasana. Woohoo!

Interestingly, he gets claustrophobic in kurmasana. I know Volleyball Guy always reminds us to keep our eyes open in kurmasana, and talks about how it can be claustrophobic. I’ve never felt that, but apparently both Volleyball Guy and The Cop do.

The great thing about having a practice partner (aside from just the pleasure of company during practice) is the help you can get in backbends. We both helped each other with a strap under the upper back during urdhva dhanurasana. And then I asked The Cop to help me understand dropping back against the wall.

At led class on Saturday, The British Director and I talked about dropping back against the wall. I was a little leery, because the rooms in the Starbucks of Yoga studio are round, so the walls are curved and it is very hard to understand your body’s relationship to the room. Plus the walls are painted white, and the lighting is low. It all added up to an environment that was too hard for me to understand, visually and kinesthetically. Plus the happy chaos of the dropback section of class was occurring, so I didn’t want to tie up The British Director for too long.

This morning, though, I explained what I wanted to do and asked The Cop to spot me until I could understand what I was doing. He’s a great spotter–due to years at the gym, no doubt. When you spot someone lifting weights, you only offer just enough assistance that the person can manage the lift on their own. Essentially, you make sure they’re safe and then keep backing off with your assistance as much as possible while still allowing them to be successful.

Now I know where to put my toes so that I’ll be far enough away from the wall to drop back, but not too far away. I definitely was concerned about trying to drop back and being too far away and just missing the wall entirely. LOL! It’s a pretty hilarious scene to imagine, but not really fun to enact, I’m sure.

Saturday led

Nice to go practice in a crowd! Sanskrit Scholar was teaching this morning. And we had a visitor from The Stern One’s shala. I was terribly curious about her practice, of course, but drishti thwarted any notion I might have had about checking it out.

The great thing about Saturday led is the sangha aspect. Sanskrit Scholar mentioned this a few times as we went along.

I’ve been away from Saturday led for a number of weeks, and I actually felt nervous in a couple of spots. Notably, when Sanskrit Scholar asked me to count one of the Surya Bs. I tried to run through my memory bank and check to see if I remembered the Sanskrit numbers through 18–but then I just decided to wing it. Worked out just fine–though I could feel the tension in my body after I finished counting. I also felt nervous on the eka pada bakasana exit from virabhadrasana. Not sure why, exactly–but somehow it’s easier to practice that move at home.

What I really went to class for, aside from the company, is the dropbacks. Sanskrit Scholar usually has us do seven urdhva dhanurasanas, and today was no different. My backbends, as has been discussed ad nauseum, stink. I have been fiddling with them, so I am building up a little stamina, and also finding slightly better alignment through my knees and hips, and through my shoulders. The sad news is that this is only going to be resolved through patience and hard work and repetition. Darn, I was so hoping there was some secret to perfect backbends that I might discover–perhaps on ezboard–thereby solving my whole backbend problem. Um, guess not 😉 The British Director, perhaps in an attempt to knock some sense into me, smacked me down on my head during the dropback preparations. Luckily I brought the Manduka with me today. Perhaps I also need a helmet. Coming back up from the dropbacks (with an assist–don’t get any ideas about me coming back up on my own) was smooth and The British Director said it felt light. Still I have the impression that the way I’m going to have to use my quads to come up out of backbends is somehow “backwards” from how I use them in, say, squats. It’s gonna take a while to work through all my dedicated years of weightlifting. Sigh.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, family yoga proceeds. Yesterday, My Gift skipped morning practice and said she would practice after school. Sure enough, when I got home from work she reported that she’d done the standing poses, using David Swenson’s book as a prompt. This morning she came out and got on the mat first thing after waking up (at noon). She had her iPod mini with her, because she’s already made a yoga mix for when she practices alone. She cracks me up. There is no need for me to teach her about yoga crim behavior. She’ll hear about that some other day. In the meantime, I am happy she is enjoying her practice.

Quiet morning

Today The Cop had an early shift. I would have been game for starting practice at 3:30 AM, but he’s not quite that hooked yet 😉 So I got up at 4:30 with him and had some coffee. My Gift appeared at 5:00 and asked if it would be bad if she practiced after school. Of course not. I feel for her. She wants to establish a routine, but it’s hard when you’re a teenager, to wake early. I remember trying to establish routines when I was her age, and it was very hard. In fact, it seemed impossible. I will help her where I can, but she’s going to have to find her own way. Needless to say, her transition to college dorm life will likely mean that a daily routine is not on the menu. But we’ll see.

So I had an alone practice. There are transformations taking place, as a result of practice, but I am not sure how to describe, or even understand, them. Some kind of physical, structural change, but also some kind of literacy that happens at the place where physical and not-physical meet. It’s like grasping at a dream, trying to explain this. Often people say they cannot remember their practice, and I think it has something to do with this mode of awareness. It’s quite absorbing.

On the gross physical level, the components in transition 😉 seem to be hip flexors, knees and subclavius. No problems, really–these are just the current stress points in the system. I wondered a bit if knees actually have the potential to transform, or if they are only given to gradations of stability/instability. Guess I’ll find out eventually…

During finishing poses I had the feeling I’ve been having rather often lately: are these poses really necessary? I know, it’s heresy. And no doubt it has something to do with how much I dislike shoulderstand (seriously, I hate it). Pretty much from shoulderstand to uttana padasana, I’m on autopilot. Headstand through savasana, though, is great. I wish I had some insight into this. Maybe I’m just not sensitive enough yet to “get” these poses. In my email to Volleyball Guy this morning, I mentioned that I want to talk about the finishing poses when he gets back.

In savasana, I found myself thinking about the people who died in the mudslide in the Philippines. There’s a saying, along the lines of: “The ten thousand things return to the one.” To illustrate the fact that all individual forms arise out of the creative force of the universe, and then are returned to it. I find this strangely comforting, particularly in instances where people die suddenly, in the midst of just another day.

The family that practices together…

This morning I thought about Olaf and his girlfriend (wife? I’m not sure). Anyhow, I thought about this movie clip: http://www.nilaf.com/movies/bendy2.mov

Why did I think about it? Well, because I was practicing with The Cop. Yup, he came back for more. It is an interesting thing, to try to teach him the practice. There’s just so much to learn when someone first starts: the sequence of poses, the poses themselves, the breath, bandhas. And that doesn’t even factor in any sort of finesse. The Cop has good body mechanics, so I can leave all of that alone. The practice will sort him out. My best bet is to stay out of his way, avoid talking too much, and just let him motivate himself in the direction he should go. It is really eye-opening, though, to realize how much I’ve learned from Volleyball Guy without him ever saying a word.

There is something just delightful in having a practice partner. I thought of Mysore at Volleyball Guy’s and started to tell The Cop about how nice it feels to have someone doing the same practice at the same time, but at their own pace and their own level, right next to you, and in silence. And it occurred to me that his interest in the practice means that this is a time when I need to share my attention with him. If he decides he likes it, the day will come when he can hold his own and we can just practice together. And who knows, perhaps he will have his own blog. I’ll have to start reporting things about his practice that are not quite accurate. That should motivate him to set the record straight 😉

Thinking about the attention I keep for myself and the attention I share made me really grateful for my teachers–I know I went to classes where they probably had students who were all self-sufficient, and then there I was, the new kid, clueless. Never did I feel unwelcome, or like I was holding things up. Same thing with zen practice. It’s a rare thing in this world that you can find a practice so compelling that its practitioners always want to share, even if it means taking their attention away from their own practice.

I definitely rate myself as a highly selfish person. I focus on what I am doing, and it is not really my nature to include others. I’m not saying that’s good or bad–it’s just my nature. Somehow, though, zen and Ashtanga have managed to put me in a space where I can really want to share, where I can appreciate how sweet that is.

This whole family yoga thing is a big surprise to me. It kind of came out of nowhere. But it was totally cool to practice with My Gift and The Cop this morning, and then all of us chat a bit and then sit down to breakfast. It’s so simple, and yet it seems strangely miraculous.

I couldn’t have planned it if I’d tried.