Ah-choo!

Allergies are out of control over here. The weather is lovely, so we’ve been sleeping with the windows open and it’s killin’ me. I can’t resist, though–the breeze feels so nice and the birds chirp intermittently all night long. So peaceful. But the pleasure of the open window means I’m waking up and heading over to practice with a stuffy nose and woozy head. I thought about neti-ing before practice today, but I wasn’t sufficiently motivated. Drinking coffee and washing my face (and maybe a little web surfing) is the limit of activity at 4:30 AM.

Practice was quiet today: The British Director, Returning Guy, and a new person who is just learning Ashtanga. Another Bikramite. Volleyball Guy always is enticing Bikramites to check out Ashtanga. She did well.

Right from the get-go my hamstring was shaky. First uttanasana: ow! ow! ow! Ah, I remember the days when uttanasana was just a nice stretch. Now it’s a tester pose. I bend forward and my right leg straightens and my left knee bends. It’s kinda jazzy, but not really what I’m after.

And the fact that I didn’t practice on Wednesday, followed by a Moon Day on Thursday, didn’t help. Why no Wednesday practice? The Cop found a muscle car that he wanted, and traded his rock-crawler Jeep for it. The catch? It was in Farmington, New Mexico. Which meant we left our house at 4:30 Wednesday morning with the Jeep being towed behind, and returned at 10:30 PM with a 1969 GTO. I hate car rides. The Cop kept calling it our “adventure.” Actually, it was really interesting to drive through the northern reservation lands. Beautiful and stark and undeveloped. Astounding landscapes. A nightmare, though, to sit still for 7 hours out and 7 hours back. Oh, I worked the baddha konasana as much as I could, which was a good use of my time, but still… That’s too long for humans to drive.

And then Thursday was a Moon Day. So this morning I was stuffy and stiff. One of those practices where pain is a constant companion. It was very cool, though, when Volleyball Guy adjusted me in prasarita C. He counted the usual five breaths, and then said “Two more.” Uh, okay, I was thinking. This is a little unusual. He counts really slowly in adjustments, and I’d been giving it my all, so I wasn’t sure why the extra breaths, and I thought a moment about how dorky I was going to be trying to come back up to standing. I just totally surrender in these adjustments. No idea where up or down is, etc. So a wobbly dismount is not unheard of. Anyhow, then I hear him saying, “Extend your little fingers toward the floor.” Of course, at this point, I have no idea in which direction the floor lies. So I just push a bit more into my shoulders and unhook my little fingers from the clasp of my hands, and sure enough, my fingers touch the floor. I had no idea I was that close. What a nice surprise!

These days, I have this idea that my hamstring pain is actually more about the iliotibial band. Usually iliotibial problems manifest in the knee, but apparently it can cause some issues at the hip. The reason I’m thinking the iliotibial band might be the source of my pain is because stretching it feels both fabulous and excruciating in equal measure. This is my version of hard science. You can read all about it in my newest article, coming out in next month’s issue of “Naive Science Journal.” God’s honest truth is that I have no idea what’s going on with all this stuff, and I’m not even sure why I make up little stories in my head about what it can be.

Here is a picture My Gift took at the wedding. It’s of Sokai’s socks. My Gift was thrilled to find he had Disney socks on with his ornate robes. Apparently there is a Mickey Mouse on the ankle, but she couldn’t get a clear shot of it when he was bowing.


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Day After

Helpful hint: If you need to practice with a hangover, make it a sake hangover. I’m not advocating hungover Ashtanga, but we did have sake at the ceremony yesterday, and I had to drink almost all of it, because The Cop is not a sake fan. The tradition is to have the groom take a sip from the cup, then the bride, then the groom. That’s round one. Round two goes bride-groom-bride. And round three (at this point, apparently, The Frenchman leaned over to My Gift and asked, “How much are they going to drink?!” and The Cop leaned over to me and said, “I feel all warm and tingly inside”) goes groom-bride-groom. Being a good helper, I did the bulk of the drinking. And then there was more sake at the sushi place we went to for the post-ceremony celebration.

So practice this morning included seeing stars and feeling dread about the handstands after utkatasana and navasana, and especially the handstand after eka pada bakasana, which isn’t really a handstand so much as Volleyball Guy heaving my dead weight into the air. Eka pada bakasana is too asymmetrical for me to figure out the handstand part. This morning I realized I’ve kind of given up on trying to work this transition. Mostly I just spend my time dreading its approach and hoping that Volleyball Guy will be off looking after someone else when I get to it. Uncannily, though, he never misses it! I must get on the ball, and try to work this out on my own at home. It’s unfair to expect him to pick me up every morning. I wonder if he thinks about that, too 😉

Okay, so sake is a good hangover. It all stays in your head. No stomach repercussions. File that info away in case you ever need it.

Why did I even go to yoga early in the morning of the day after my wedding? That’s the question normal people ask. But it was quite simple: my energy was all dispersed from the lovely day we had yesterday. It was like all my boundaries had dissolved. Which was perfect for a day of pledging to love The Cop forever. But I kind of had to gather it all back up again so I could get back to regular life.

I worked my way through practice and got the bind on both marichy Ds again. It is astoundingly ugly on the outside, but very satisfying on the inside 😉 I have plenty of time to make it better. For kurmasana, Volleyball Guy tucked sandbags under my feet. I was pretty passive: I think the current hamstring pain was likely caused by my enthusiastic heel lifting–so I didn’t even try to pick them up today.

All in all, a nice practice.

And to return to wedding thoughts: it’s been interesting to note how many people have “admitted” to me that they had small weddings that they loved. It’s as if it’s something you have to keep secret–that you didn’t go along with the usual program. It’s been quite delightful hearing people’s stories about how they had intimate weddings. Everyone seems to feel like they were very selfish–but they knew it was important, and what they really wanted.

And to share a little gift with you all, here’s the URL of my current favorite blogger, Mimi Smartypants. She is a terrific writer, hysterically funny, and has the best stories about her little girl, Nora.

Surprise!

Today The Cop and I were married at the zendo. Beautiful ceremony. Much happiness. We lit incense (the picture above), took vows, shared sake, exchanged rings, and promised to help each other attain enlightenment. Sokai, abbot of the zendo, officiated. As an added bonus, the yard of the zendo was full of hummingbirds and I saw my first goldfinches.

My Gift and The Frenchman joined us, and it was a lovely afternoon for all.

Celebration

This morning, for the first time, I managed to bind both sides of marichy D on my own. It wasn’t pretty, but there you have it. I then moved through the vinyasa and sat myself on my mat, enjoying the moment.

Volleyball Guy came over, looked at me, and said, “Uh, navasana?”

I told him about what had just happened.

“So you’re having a little celebration?” he asked. I nodded.

“C’mon,” he said, prompting the end of my party. “Navasana.”

So he spotted me for my handstands, then came back for supta kurmasana. He grabbed my crossed feet and pulled them up so my core could fall under my legs more. Yay for gravity!

As most of us were nearing the end of practice, he turned on a CD. Aretha Franklin singing “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” Much laughter ensued.

Sweet! Yoga party at 7 AM!

Don’t Know

REW‘s post today reminded me of not knowing. It’s a prized state in zen: I remember how happy I was that the answer “Don’t know” was acceptable, even correct, in many zen koan interviews.

Here’s a snippet about “don’t know mind” from Zen Master Wu Bong.

I have a sign up in my office that reads: “Stop thinking so much. Life isn’t that simple.”

Somehow these things are all related.

We are so pressured to know. To be experts. To always understand. To figure things out. To be authorities. To know what we want, what we think, what we feel, what we need. To know WHO we are (Very important! LOL!). To judge right and wrong, good and bad, like and don’t like. Whew! It’s exhausting.

This morning at Mysore practice, Volleyball Guy, who has been adjusting me with great care (so as not to hurt my left hamstring), finally asked me about it in words. Yup, he’s been dealing with it for two days without ever having heard about it from me or talked about it with me. He could just see what was going on and responded accordingly.

At the end of practice, as I’m rolling up my mat, he says, “Your hamstring. On a scale of one to ten?” And I realize he’s asking about pain, and I realize I still don’t understand what I am feeling, or even if it’s an injury at all, and I say, “I don’t know.” A couple of people laughed, and then someone said something else, so that was the end of our conversation. I wondered afterwards if he thought I was being evasive or perhaps just entirely out of touch with reality 😉 and for a second I felt like a dope for not knowing. For not being able to make something up to suit the question. But in the end I’m better off just being honest with my teacher, even if it makes me seem like a total dork.

What is my hamstring, on a scale of one to ten?
I’ll see you tomorrow at practice.

Chuggin’ Along

Equanimity. Practicing and trying to be present. Trying not to compare today’s practice with some “ideal” practice I imagine for myself.

The hamstring is reminding me of my knee. I have to stay present and yet not overly-focused. It’s interesting, too, because I am accustomed to the familiar gestalt of my own practice, my own coordination and kinesthetic sensibility, and when one link in the chain is different, the whole gestalt shifts slightly.

This shift has ramifications for the meditative aspect of practice. I am not sure, quite, how to think about it. On the one hand, I can usually be absorbed into my breath and just go. But when there is an injury…um, I mean, opening…it seems to indicate that that absorption into breath and drishti might actually be at the expense of attention to the body. Am I letting go of the physical when I practice, or am I just ignoring it?

Ah well, we’ll find out eventually. In the meantime, I practiced this morning with a particular delight in each urdhva mukha svanasana. And it seems like an antidote to the compression that I’ve been feeling in my collarbones from supta kurmasana. Which I didn’t do today. Nope. I practiced slowly and methodically to kurmasana, at which point my hamstring seemed to indicate that THIS was my downfall. Oh yeah, that business of cranking my hamstrings to get my heels off the floor. My new, fun trick.

I can’t help wondering how it would have been different, if I had been more thoughtful, and perhaps less inclined to press my forehead to the floor and go “Fire hamstrings!” to get my heels up. Sigh.

Still, it was a good practice this morning. At the end, in savasana, the birds were singing and the morning light through the window was warm and cheery. I love morning. My Gift and I make the rounds in the back yard, looking at the roses and the bougainvillea and the hibiscus. The cat likes to come too, but he’s in it for the birds.

Dawg!

Before I forget: I was very interested, when watching John Scott’s DVD, to note that when he does utkatasana in surya B, he’s doing a squat so low that his thighs touch his calves. At least that’s how I’m remembering it. Granted, it was Saturday night and I was having a drink while I watched. God, I really do have an Ashtanga problem 😉

My problem this morning was my left hamstring. It is very strange: I am still not sure if this is really an injury. It may just be an “opening.” Please tell me the concept of opening isn’t just a sham…

So here’s the deal: Monday morning Mysore. First surya and I notice my left hamstring feels achey and like it’s shorter than the right hamstring. Okay, this isn’t too unusual, and it generally works itself out by the end of the suryas. Not today, though. I had this persistent, distracting feeling that something was awry with the hamstring, though it wasn’t a sharp pain or anything like that. It just felt “off.” My mode of responding to pain is to proceed, so I worked my way through the trikonasanas and parsvakonasanas, though I never really settled into it –my mind just kept telling me I felt weird.

The real fun started at the prasaritas, where the achey feeling actually made me feel really nauseous. Cold sweats and everything. Strangely, though, no really distinct pain. And, since my mode of responding to nausea and cold sweats is to proceed, I continued on. LOL! Yes, it’s funny in retrospect.

I limped through the first half of primary, after deciding that I would accept that my hamstring wasn’t going to come around, and that I could spend my energy putting some effort into my urdhva mukha svanasanas (John Scott does an inspiring urdhva mukha svanasana in each vinyasa, and I’ve caught the fever 😉 Super lame poses on the left side, totally distracted mind–ah, but lovely upward-facing dogs…LOL!

I gave up at navasana. Volleyball Guy came over and rubbed my hamstring for a bit, then set me up to do paschimottansana on two sandbags so that they could dig into my hamstring inserts. Mmmmmm. That feels good. No, it hurts. No, it feels pretty good. No! It hurts! Thus went my internal monolog. Clearly this is a kind of pain I don’t know how to qualify. I really think it is just the playing out of an imbalance I know I have in my hips. It’s been there for ages, as a result of a number of sports injuries on the left side of my body. When I first started Ashtanga, I grew increasingly aware of the imbalance, which had, over the years, just come to seem normal to me. So now I am (as Randy Jackson would say) workin’ it out, dawg.

Or maybe I’m injured. Who the heck knows. Volleyball Guy is being kind, I feel bewildered, but also pretty patient about it, and in the end, I can have vastly improved urdhva mukha svanasanas.