Hurtie time

I guess everyone goes through times where practice pretty much just hurts. My hamstrings are both complaining, though the left one is the real problem child. There’s something in my lower back that’s kind of nagging, too. All of this enough of an issue that I asked Volleyball Guy about how to proceed (after he squashed me in baddha konasana until my chin touched my toes for the first time. I’m not a natural baddha konasian–so this was rather a milestone). He told me to keep on practicing. “Should I keep trying to push into each pose, to try to push through this?” No, he said. Back off just a hair and pay attention.

The key’ll likely be more attention in home practice. My home practice has been slovenly at best, lately. Must re-focus and bring some sensitivity to it, try to hear what’s going on with all of these crinks and aches. I really do believe that it’s alignment stuff happening–the proper alignment promised by yoga chikitsa, but still it’s a challenge not to feel overwhelmed or hopeless or scared that I’m going to really damage myself somehow. I guess these are my physical and mental granthis.

On the up side: got Gregor Maehle’s book yesterday. What a tome! Super-detailed physical information. Just what I wanted.

Practice has its inception in doubt, is enhanced through dynamism and the application of effort, and develops into faith only as those preceding factors mature.

Sitting with Koans, John Daido Loori


Just Say No…

…to Saturday led class. Last week was 34 people in a teeny room. I just can’t do it again! (said in dramatic voice). I had a good week with my less strenuous schedule. Instead of a week of getting up 5 mornings in a row at 4:30AM, capped by a Saturday led class that knocks me out for the rest of the day, I did early Mysore on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, an evening led on Thursday, and I will practice here on my own today. Likely, I will do a little something tomorrow, too. Not Ashtanga, I think, but something different–just for fun.

I am actually a little giddy at the expanse of Saturday lying before me. The Cop kindly gifted me with a rake (which I’d been asking for), and I can try it out in the back yard. He uses a blower to deal with leaves, etc., but I wanted an old-fashioned rake. I am thrilled at the prospect of having excess energy and a yard to use it on: there are rose bushes to trim, hibiscus to prune, palm trees and oleander to water, and all sorts of things to rake. Then I can clean the pool and jump in.

On the My Gift front, we have some relief in the tiredness she’s been feeling. I read some interesting info on vegan diets for lupus, and she’s giving that a go. Feeling very sorry for herself at times, particularly when she’s with friends who are having fast food. But she’ll be fine. She’s off to a hippy kind of college in the fall, and her diet and Buddhist beliefs and yoga ways will suddenly stop being strange for Scottsdale and become totally normal for Flagstaff.

Happy Saturday!

2 extra hours!

I got up at 6:30 this morning and it totally rocked. The Cop shared the same pot of coffee as me, which is almost unheard of. My 4:30 coffee is generally a lonely affair 😉

I sat on the couch and said, “Waking up at 6:30 is very different from waking up at 4:30.” He looked at me with a compassionate expression that seemed to indicate “Duh!” Anyhow, after my oblique little blog-discussion-via-comments with Jody yesterday, I realized that it might be wise to see if less than 6 days a week of practice makes me more attuned to normal human life.

The Cop seems to vote yes. I appreciate his willingness to let me explore these ideas on my own. Honestly, if I told him I wanted to practice three times a day, seven days a week, I think he would express concern for my health, but then buckle down and help me do it, if I were bound and determined. I love him for that. I fear for my general well-being (shouldn’t someone try to stop me?!?!) but I love his willingness to be supportive.

So with an excess of energy, I went to work. Lunch was a pizza bribe to the guys in IT so that my team could sit down with them and discuss technology in general, and podcasts in specific. I think some podcasts on our website (we’re an educational organization) are a great idea. And since I brought the pizzas, how could they be upset when I mentioned that I might have downloaded an open source code audio editor on one of our workstations so we could do some experimenting with audio files?

Anyhow, lunch was lots of fun and I learned that though they have the capacity to spy on us (and rat me out for occasional blog entries during working hours 😉 they don’t. This is refreshing to hear: the last company I worked for was a network analysis company with a bad attitude and a penchant for spying on everyone.

The day off worked out marvelously. I am eager to get to practice tomorrow morning, and not nearly as wiped out as I generally feel at 4 in the afternoon. I’m not even sporting my late afternoon headache. I have no idea how this experiment with my schedule is going to work out, but the current plan is to do Monday/Wednesday/Friday Mysore, and Tuesday/Thursday evening led. The heck with Saturday led: it’s too hot and it knocks me out for the whole day. We’ll try the new 5 day a week schedule for a bit and see what happens. No matter what, it’s always fun to try something new.


Yesterday was Volleyball Guy’s adjustment workshop. Okay, so if I’d thought about it for even a minute, it probably would have occurred to me that non-Ashtangis would attend. And that they would ask to learn adjustments for non-Ashtanga poses. And they would be people I do not know or practice with.

Ah, my limited view! I go around thinking Scottsdale’s yoga folk are the people I practice with each morning at Mysore class. And maybe the Saturday led folks. As it turns out, there are a lot of other yogis out there, and they don’t do Ashtanga. How narrow is my view? Okay, so we did adjustments for Ardha Chandrasana and revolved Ardha Chandrasana and Natarajasana. Sigh. Forgive me, but I am an efficient person, and all I could think was “Don’t do this one. Don’t do this one. Don’t need this one.” Say it in a Rainman voice and it’s more endearing.

On the upside, we did Vasisthasana, which felt delightful and criminal. The woman I was working with complimented my Vasisthasana, which I love to do, and which I learned from Anusarians. For a moment there, thinking back to my Anusara teachers (who rocked, and who are now My Gift’s employers), I put down my prejudices against the non-Ashtangi. (Haha! On re-reading this, I realize we pretty much all just sound like a bunch of nerdy groups from a Star Trek convention anyhow.)

As I adjusted to the reality of the adjustment class, I realized a few things:

  1. I can only understand which “side” of the pose I’m doing if I turn my body to the right on my mat.
  2. I don’t trust adjustments from anyone except Volleyball Guy and the Mysorians.
  3. I don’t like touching people I don’t know.
  4. I don’t like people I don’t know touching me.
  5. I particularly dislike being sweated upon by people I don’t know.
  6. I’m not cut out to be a yoga teacher.

Basically I walked away with a newfound respect for the physical effort Volleyball Guy makes for us every day. Note to self: work more on the Eka-Pada-Bakasana-to-handstand exit from Virabhadrasana B before you kill him.

I was surprised at how many people seemed to think that adjustments were a way to put students into the pose perfectly. My experience with Volleyball Guy is more about him helping me push past the normal edge of a pose. And then the next time I do the pose, I try to push into that new space that was created, that new possibility. Okay, enough about that. A lot of what he was trying to teach us yesterday involves trusting the unsaid, trusting the experiential–so no more words.

Practice this morning was fun, though kinda off for everyone, since we’d all given up our day off to go spend four hours giving and receiving adjustments. Lots of good cheer this morning, but lots of sighs and grunts, too. The team is a little tired. I’m taking a day off tomorrow. I need to do some thinking about whether 6 days a week is making me too tired. I’m not sure if I’m managing to adjust.

How many yogis does it take to overfill a room?

As many as we had today at led.

Yikes. Mat to mat. I wanted to feel happy and gracious and pleased with how many people were there, but mostly I felt like I wanted to close and lock the door. Parallels with the immigration issue: of course you want everyone to be able to go where they want and do what they want–but how are we going to handle the logistics?

I had a huge bodybuilder fellow put his mat down perpendicular to the top of mine. I wondered if he was a Bandha Boy (which is what Sanskrit Scholar calls the muscular fellows who can float into handstand from navasana), but he looked a little too bulky. As it turns out, he seemed to just be a bodybuilder who decided to check out Ashtanga. He had that kind of stunned look that new people get about three quarters of the way through standing poses, but then he dug down and really hung in there through the rest of practice. I was impressed. I used to really value big muscles (both on men and women), but that aesthetic doesn’t do much for me anymore. Still, you’ve got to hand it to a bulky person who hangs in through two hours of practice. You know he’s got to have wished he hadn’t worked so hard for all that extra weight.

Beyond the bodybuilder, there were a handful of other new people. The more I think about it, the more I realize the heroic effort it takes to be a beginner in Saturday led class. The room is packed, everyone seems to know everyone else, all the words are in Sanskrit, it’s a bazillion degrees. It sounds kind of hellish when you think about it. LOL!

Gotta love the possibilities the heat brings, though. Well, the possibility of really hurting yourself, which I try to avoid by giving myself a little talking-to on the drive over to the studio. But also the possibility of getting deeper than you can any other time. Today I got my chin in my hands in garbha pindasana for the first time. Yay! And then I decided to try to roll that way. Yeah, with the mat-to-mat situation, I ended up pretty much just rolling back and forth on my mat and not really doing any revolutions, but that’s fine. Now I have a new issue with kukkutasana: when you roll up and your arms are super sweaty, how do you keep from slipping back down on your arms? I am pretty sure the answer is going to involve the term “bandhas” 😉

Tomorrow, Volleyball Guy is doing an adjustment workshop. I’m going, as is Crim Girl, Returning Guy and Chanting Man. Should be fun. Maybe we can learn some things that will be helpful in our ever-growing Mysore practice. Soon Volleyball Guy is going to need some help to look after all the new students.

Cracking the shell

Why is it hard to practice in the morning (zazen or Ashtanga)? I think I have a little insight today. For the past couple of weeks, My Gift has been feeling tired and run down. And then she got a little sore on the side of her mouth. These are signs that the lupus might be kicking in more than usual. When she is ill, it takes up a good bit of my psychic space. It’s pretty awful, really, because there is nothing I can do about it and we have no idea what course this disorder will take.

Anyhow, when I woke this morning, my psyche felt very tender and defenseless. Which is common, I think, after a night of unconsciousness. All of the static of a busy day hasn’t started up, all the thoughts that kind of pull us out of the center of ourselves. So I got to thinking about how morning is the perfect time for meditation, because of this lack of psychic “shell,” but it’s also a little tough for the same reason. Psychic vulnerability. Good to work with, but it can be a little hard to open yourself up day after day.

This morning I felt the pull of My Gift. Hard to leave the house and go to Mysore practice. Not that my staying home would have done anything at all. She doesn’t need anything from me, and there is nothing I can do to help. But the psychic pull is there.

Off I went.

Very crowded today. More and more folks showing up for Mysore practice. I wonder if Volleyball Guy is starting to feel overwhelmed. I went happily along. Fridays always have a cheerful feel with this group.

When I got to supta k, I managed to graze my fingers together, but then when I tried again, I just couldn’t find them. Why does this happen? I have a theory. I keep using the muscular energy of my arms to try to get my hands together, and I suspect that may collapse my chest. I need to make the grab from my shoulders, by opening my chest and pressing under my legs more. At least that is the answer in my head today. We’ll see if it works in physical reality tomorrow morning.

Crim Girl spotted me thrashing and helped me out with a hand bind. In the meantime, Volleyball Guy showed up and got my feet together. Gotta keep pressing through with the shoulders and chest, I think. And just get used to the whole thing. I did about 25 breaths today and by the time I was done, my arms were exploding with energy–all tingly and discombobulated. It was really hard to do the vinyasa. I wondered if I’d face plant.

Supta k is interesting because it tempts you to think it is about the limbs, about arms and legs, when really it’s about the core. Duh, I suppose. But I just figured it out this morning. I keep defaulting to arms, but it’s really about shoulders and chest/back. I keep defaulting to legs/feet, but it’s really about hips and bandhas.

Crim Girl helped me out in baddha konasana, too. We got a great crack out of the left side of my sacrum. Mmmmmm. That feels so good. In a really scary way. LOL! I have a bit of a leg up, I think, because I like to surrender to adventure. And what an adventure it is.

When I got home, My Gift was all ready for school and feeling chipper. We had a breakfast of poached eggs and vegan muffins (orange cranberry), and yes, I see the irony in our menu. We chatted about one of our favorite podcasters, an Australian monk of the Thai forest tradition. His name is Ajahn Brahm, and he is available via MP3. My Gift and I love to listen to his talks. A little while later, The Cop showed up after an overnight shift and then a deposition at court. So we all met for a moment and then went on our Friday ways.

New “Openings” :-)

You know how in your practice, there are little spots in the sequence that your energy starts to be attracted to at different times? Right now for me, that’s supta kurmasana and baddha konasana. And they are interrelated. Supta k is asking me to be less fearful about the back of my neck. I never realized how sensitive I am about that part of my body. Or rather, I guess I was so used to it that I never challenged the belief system that makes me feel like it’s fragile.

Anyhow, I am about where I need to be to start binding my feet, at least according to Crim Girl. Who is a harsh taskmaster, I must say. Take that as a warning, anyone who might practice on a mat next to her 😉 My hips need to be a bit more open to really pull this off, so that’s where the baddha konasana seems to be coming in.

Interestingly, I started out with my increased energy around supta k and baddha konasana thinking that it was primarily about the hip opening. As it turns out, the real challenge may be in my neck. That’s where my fear is, and I suppose it might be a delicate process teasing it out. Baddha konasana B is quite the challenge for me, because it feels so weird to try to curve my neck that way. Maybe something to do with a resistance to/misunderstanding of whatever forces are at work in jalandhar bandha?

A good exercise, no matter what. Usually when I am frightened, I do whatever it is that’s scaring me. I took up climbing when I was laid off from my job and terrified, as a single mother, about my and My Gift’s futures. Solution to that huge life fear? Take up rock climbing! Feeling small and weak? Do heavy squats alongside the guys at the gym. LOL! It really does help put things in perspective. But it’s also indicative of my approach: bust through with brute force–either of will or of muscle. This neck thing, though, is likely going to require a bit more finesse.

I’m a little excited about the idea of meeting a delicate challenge. Totally something new for me. No idea how it will go.