Dog Breath

Mysore this morning was permeated with vague regrets about Saturday led. Which rocked. Among other things, there were eight urdhva dhanurasanas that actually made me feel like perhaps I am not sentenced to a lifetime of sucky backbends. Sunday, though, I was sentenced to screaming hip flexors, care of those urdhva Ds. Especially the left side. Kinda good, though, because tight hip flexors are really hampering the udhva D improvement project. So I welcome the growing pains.

So yeah, this morning I was a mess. Left hamstring pain, as usual, plus the screaming hip flexor. Oh, and a burning sensation in the right hamstring insertion. Joy.

I struggled through practice, feeling a good bit of pain. Interestingly, I also was in a really happy mood. No idea why. Just wanted to practice. Right around triang mukha eka pada paschimottansana, I suddenly thought about the dog. When I am sitting on the floor in the livingroom and she wants something (generally a biscuit or for me to open the back door), she’ll come over and put her head on my shoulder, take a normal inhale, and then exhale in this little shuddering breath that has the teeniest moan threaded through it. It is delicately long-suffering and hysterically funny. I really want to learn how to do the dog breath, because it’d be perfect for when I’m having a painful practice. I gave it a couple of tries this morning, but I need to get her to teach me the subtleties. It cheers me up.

So yes, Saturday led was great. I got a really solid hand bind in supta K, and managed to get my feet together (usually they don’t quite touch without my losing the hands). Baddha konasana is next on the tough pose to-do list, and it’s going well. But between the supta k and the baddha k, I am feeling weirdly destabilized in the hips. Driving to work this morning, I thought of rubberband-jointed dolls. I’m not sure if Barbie was one, but there were Barbie-like clone dolls with articulated joints, and if you pulled the ball of the joint out of the socket, you could see that an internal rubberband held the whole thing together. Today my rubber bands feel pretty gnarly.

For some reason, though, I don’t mind all of this. Maybe my mind, as well as my body, is realigning. Weird, huh? Sometimes you feel physically great but your mind gives you huge suffering about practice, and sometimes you feel bad physically but your mind is happy. Who knows? I wish I had a picture of the dog’s big brown eyes–just to illustrate that remarkable combination of suffering and joy.

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“Interesting”

An “interesting” night’s sleep. The back/hip thing has been coming more and more “clear”–in a somatic sense (versus a narrative sense). As per usual, I am experiencing these changes most clearly in the hypnagogic state. So last night was a light sleep, and I woke numerous times, in all different positions, and upon gaining a bit more consciousness, I could feel places where my back was misaligned, and knew how to move to readjust it. Bodywork while sleeping. I know it sounds crazy, but there you have it. I am inspired to write about this after sitting zazen this morning, then reading Linda’s mention of the Seth material. Gosh, I read the Seth stuff decades ago, and still I love it. Yup, there’s lots of stuff out there that sounds crazy, and I was brought up to disparage them just like everyone else πŸ˜‰ So call me crazy.

Lots of stuff going on emotionally about My Gift moving away for college, too. Everyone in the extended family expects me to crack up about this. I guess that’s considered “normal.” My Mom really suffered a lot when my sister, my brother and I moved away. I was listening to a podcast by my favorite Thai forest monk this weekend, and he talked about how humans make this suffering, how birds let their young fly from the nest, etc. The upshot was that you don’t own your children, that they aren’t a reflection of you, or a chance for you to re-do your life in an alternate mode. Essentially, you get this human sent to you and you help them out and send them into the world. I am down with that. I adore My Gift, but I have never wanted to make those sticky emotional overattachments that mothers sometimes try to make (sorry, Mom).

Anyhow, I am processing this change as much as possible beforehand, and seem to be working some of it through in dreams. Meanwhile, I am enjoying the time I get to spend with her before she goes. Her thrill at being out in the world will (and should) far outweigh any desire I have to keep her close.

Meanwhile, practice is rocking. There is a newfound strength–something akin to what I used to feel when I was lifting weights and just totally in the zone. Where nutrition and activity and rest and love all come together nicely.

Yup, things always change. For this moment, though, they are quite sweet. And I feel really grateful.

Led, with crack

Saturday led practice in the summer seems to be not such a popular place. I’m good with that! Got to the Starbucks of Yoga studio and signed in. Only The British Director’s and Sanskrit Scholar’s names were on the list. Often when I sign in there are a good 15-20 names. At first I figured it was the weather we’ve been having. I assume that an ambient temperature of 115 degrees makes a cramped practice room seem quite unappealing. Later, though, Crim Girl suggested that the low attendance might be due to folks taking vacation.

Whatever it was, it rocked. I practiced between Sanskrit Scholar and The British Director, in the space near the door (prized for its relative coolness). There were about 12-15 of us, all together. Returning Guy was there, as was Crim Girl, Chanting Man and The Cat. And best of all, Volleyball Guy propped the door open a bit with a sandbag. Heaven. Air and some space around my mat. What more could you ask for? Oh, I know: Crim Girl setting up her mat at the end of mine. Now I am totally surrounded by Mysorians. Score!

Practice goes nicely. A couple of new people, who kind of sit up and look around to figure out what everyone else is doing. With their heads popping up every now and then, they remind me of the meerkats My Gift and I watched on TV yesterday.

Everything rolls along nicely. I am at a point where practice just is, and it’s interesting, because I can listen to what’s going on with my body without using too much of my mind. Which means the details can kind of blur together. After practice, Crim Girl and I went out for lunch. I was telling her that somewhere in practice, my shoulder had popped dramatically, but I couldn’t attach the details and remember what had happened. Very much like recounting a dream.

Suddenly, though, I remembered what it was. Supta kurmasana. I got the hand bind on my own, and then Volleyball Guy crossed my feet and pulled them up so my upper body could fall through the space. As I fell through, my shoulder made an enormous crack. A gee-I-think-I-just-broke-my-collarbone crack. I heard it and quite purposefully pushed my consciousness away from the sound and any thoughts I might have about the sound–I didn’t want to decide if it hurt or not, or if I should be freaked out. LOL! So I forgot about it as soon as it happened.

I guess I’m getting to a point where I can let my subconscious do some work. I don’t have to think about the sequence any more, and I kind of have a grasp on the practice as a whole. So I can let my id get in there and mess around with these somatic structures I’ve molded into my “self.” Yup, and this paragraph represents a pretty good facsimile of my post-practice discussion with Crim Girl. Who will attend the zendo tomorrow morning. She went to the Philosophy Monk for Rolfing, and as everyone knows, Rolfing and long discussions about energy and the history of Western philosophy are a sure road to the zendo πŸ˜‰

After practice, Chanting Man and The Cat mentioned that they’d found my blog. Now that folks are finding out about it, I think someone else from the shala ought to do some blogging. To offer some alternative views of our community. Chanting Man mentioned our newest Mysorian, who I’ve been calling the new guy, and who I must name since he really does practice with us every day. We discussed how quiet this fellow is, how he comes in and does his practice, then leaves. On my drive home, it struck me that I will call him The Ninja. LOL! Cool name, huh? Now that the Mysorians are reading this blog, I’m sure they’re going to want equally cool names. Perhaps we will do some revisions. The only person so far who has had a name change is Crim Girl, who started out as The Beautiful One. But with much effort, she managed to flaunt all the rules of Ashtanga and, indeed, general human society, and thereby forced a name change. So okay, we may revise some blog monikers. Perhaps I can make this as intricate and difficult to follow as the characters in a Russian novel πŸ˜‰

You never know

Really, you just never know what kind of practice you’re going to have. Last night I slept terribly–kept waking with pain in my lower back, kept thrashing around trying to get comfortable. It all added up to 6 hours of crappy rest. So I figured practice, which has been kind of painful lately, was going to be quite a challenge.

As it turned out, though, practice was incredibly light and strong. We have a terrific shala; the energy is always really good, but on Fridays it is particularly happy. I ran into the British Director in the parking lot, which was nice, because I haven’t seen her for a while. As I went through the door, I almost knocked The Cat over with my huge Manduka mat bag. True to feline form, she just looked up, smiled, and scampered away.

Returning Guy was already doing his Suryas–somehow he’s always the first one to practice. The Cat’s dad, Chanting Man, was present, as was the new guy, who I have to think up a name for, because he’s been quite devoted to practice these past couple of months. Sanskrit Scholar, The Other Dave and Crim Girl all came in a little while later. Sanskrit Scholar’s just back from Costa Rica, where she hoped to try surfing. I can’t wait ’til before tomorrow’s led class to ask her if she had a chance to give it a try.

Volleyball Guy came over for Prasarita C–which appears to be one of his favorite adjustments lately. The Prasaritas have been killing my hip, but not too bad this morning. When he came over for C, I didn’t want to run away quite as much as I usually do. It was a great adjustment, too–my hands touched the floor on the third breath. Haha! A new record πŸ˜‰ On the way up from the adjustment, I suddenly heard the loudest buzzing noise. Which was, I realized, all in my head. Trippy.

Crim Girl helped me out with adjustments in the Baddha Konasanas, which was great, because popping my sacrum seems to make it feel better for a day or so.

Best of all, we had hippie music, which always makes me love everyone and feel like I am 13 years old again. I was just ecstatic through all the seated poses. It’s goofy as hell, but boy, it feels great. For some reason it brings back memories of hanging out and smoking pot in the woods. (Cop, disregard previous sentence.)

Speaking of The Cop, I wanted to take a moment to think about how cool he is. He bears with this craziness that leaves him with a wife who sometimes suffers long periods of self-inflicted pain. Many people (my entire extended family, for example) would tell me to knock it off, that practice must be bad if sometimes the result is pain. The Cop, however, is endlessly supportive. Which rocks, because it means things like putting up with me shifting around constantly during our viewing of “Pirates of the Caribbean” over the weekend. I just can’t sit still for two hours. The movie? Eh. It was okay. Johnny Depp with eyeliner? Priceless.

Great!

Yesterday was chiro/massage day. First, an hour long massage, concentrating on my shoulders and traps. Then an adjustment session with the chiro.

She asked, “How was yoga today?”

“Great!” I replied happily. (Volleyball Guy was back after a couple weeks of vacation; he adjusted me in Marichyasana D, which is quite unusual. Usually he stands back and lets me make my way through the pose, which is improving, but which as yet yields decidedly unaesthetic results. Yesterday, though, he moved in for a much-appreciated adjustment. Then he spotted me for between-Navasanas handstands, which were light and fluffy. Then an adjustment in Kurmasana, after which he stepped back and let me get the hand bind on my own before he helped out with my feet in Supta Kurmasana. Then an adjustment in Baddha Konasana. I was in heaven! So much help in the part of the practice I most want to concentrate on.)

“So,” said the chiro, “No pain!”

“Huh?” I said. What in the world could she be talking about? During practice, my hamstrings and hip had hurt like hell.

“Great yoga. No pain,” she said.

I laughed and told her why. She looked perplexed. I guess we have to clarify our criteria for a “great” practice πŸ˜‰

Lunch blog

About pain, of course, but it’s not what you think.

No whining.

For the past couple of days, the back/sacrum pain has kind of cracked open and become malleable. Energetically, or psychically. The intractable, everpresent lump of pain now has a more diffuse, more differentiated, quality. As if it has come alive, somehow, and become more accessible.

This may be, at least in part, due to the chiropractic adjustment. And it may be, in part, due to my discussions with Crim Girl about energetic sensibilities and sensitivities.

Anyhow, the pain has gained a kind of coherence, which somehow makes it more accessible to my conscious mind. And to my imagination. And that somehow makes it more possible to resolve. I’m not sure how the mind/body interface works–all I can say is that it is somehow manifesting. One morning this weekend I woke with a lot more pain, and the next, I woke with absolutely none. Now it is oscillating. In the midst of all this, I’ve had so many dreams, all kinds of memories from the past, and little glimpses into the future. Then the pain resolved into this intense energy–almost like that “restless leg” thing that can happen–in my lower back. “Oh, so this is what people mean by blocked energy,” I thought. Energy that can, potentially, be unblocked and manifested as mobility, flexibility, possibility.

It’s scary, and it’s hard to conceptualize, but it’s real.

I had the thought this weekend, “I should learn to do bodywork,” meaning bodywork for other people (this after a discussion with Crim Girl about cranio-sacral work). I had to kind of laugh as I realized that, as yogis, we are all bodyworkers. It can be hard to trust oneself, though. That’s what makes the adventure.

What if I undo these structures I’ve created subconsciously? What will be left? Will “I” unravel? Am I undoing nature? What authority do I have? What training?

Yup, a challenging adventure.

And all of this reminded me of an excerpt from Richard Freeman’s article “Fundamentalism and the Middle Path”:

Freedom in yoga is not a single experience or a belief, or even the giving up of a belief: it is the ability to enter and to release theories and experiences to find direct experience of the living process. This freedom of the awareness appears as a Middle Path between our mental processes of mapping out reality and then leaving those maps. This 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.

Crackin’

The short version, since I am at work (bad lady!):

Left hip killing over past couple/few weeks. Finally broke down and did a massage/chiropractor combo. Unbelievably good massage–the kind that makes you want to cry and laugh at the same time. Chiro cracked my neck (mmmmmm, good!) and adjusted my hips. I left feeling relaxed and vaguely headachey from having my neck adjusted for the first time in at least a couple of years.

This morning: now I’m sore on both sides of my hips! Practice regardless. Turns into a very sweet, deep practice. The biggest change (result of adjustment/massage? who knows…) is a really clear and intense uddiyana bandha. And a sense that said uddiyana bandha, applied more diligently in the future, will help stabilize/heal the hip situation. True? Who knows. Even a placebo effect will be acceptable, though. For some reason, I kept thinking mula bandha was what I needed to focus on, but that idea went out the window this morning. Uddiyana! That’s the ticket! If I remember correctly, someone on ezBoard said you automatically get mula bandha when you apply uddiyana bandha, but not vice versa. Am I remembering that, or did I dream it?

Got to supta k and felt remarkably clear and confident: set up the right arm, then calmly reached with my left, and sure enough, the bind was achieved in one breath. It’s weird how sometimes it’s a huge struggle, and other times, it all seems so easy. Did the adjustment/massage make this possible? And if so, is it physiological? Psychological? Doesn’t matter, I suppose. Ultimately it’s just the practice, doin’ its thing.