Dog eating dirt

Unfortunately, I did not have the camera handy to document the dog enjoying some delicious dirt from the jade plant pot I put on the patio, but I’m sure everyone can imagine. She had the same guilty face she gets when I catch her eating birdseed from the birdfeeder. Dog with pica. For some reason I find it incredibly funny.

The jade plant, a gift from my team, looks like it might be wrapping up its current incarnation and returning to the One. I like to think I had nothing to do with this, and that it is simply an old jade plant that is eager to be reincarnated as something else, but the statistical likelihood that all the plants I’ve ever owned are old and on the brink of death is rather…well, unlikely. So I’m a plant killer.

Led practice today. Volleyball Guy is away, so The British Director ran the show. And quite nicely. I practiced near Returning Guy and The Cat, so I was happy in my little spot. Returning Guy asked where I was yesterday and I launched into my “want to practice alone for the most part” story. He asked if he could make an observation, and went on to tell me that my practice is very focused and meditative, and then he theorized that the music in the shala might be throwing me off. I laughed and said it was more likely the fact that we had a moaner at Mysore on Wednesday. He told me an amusing story of a moaner at a Bikram class, who apparently rivalled Sally in “When Harry Met Sally.”

“Well, it was happening around ustrasana,” he said, quite kindly. “You know how backbends can really open your heart chakra.”

I think I looked skeptical. Maybe it is a function of my clamped-shut heart chakra that I just wish people wouldn’t moan profusely throughout practice? LOL! Who knows. I do realize that it is my problem, and that I just have to put it down. Still, when I see Sally enter the room, I do kind of feel a little irritated. Ah well.

Today we had no moaners. The British Director led us and we had a nice practice. Lots of new faces. Seems like someone’s turned up the volume on the popularity of Ashtanga.

Volleyball Guy, and Volleyball Guy’s students (e.g., The British Director) include the samakonasana/hanumanasana sequence after the prasaritas. I haven’t been doing samakonasana or hanumansana lately, because they seem to irritate my hamstring. Well DUH! LOL! Tried them today, though, and it went just fine. I’ve noticed that if I do that sequence every day, my hamstrings get burnt, but if I just do it once a week in led class, I actually seem to make progress. I found the same thing with handstands today. I haven’t been doing them for weeks (in hopes that my shoulders would loosen up), and today I gave one a try and stayed up easily for a good 15 breaths–my balance felt just right on. Maybe it’s one of those “the harder you try, the worse it gets” kind of deals?

Before practice, I went to buy a couple of sweaters. I’m afraid of how cold it’s going to be in Chicago for the next few days. I know, I’m a baby. I also found the cutest shoes on sale, and some black pants. Bought everything and hurried off to practice. Now that I’m home, I find that I have two left shoes and a pair of pants with the plastic sensor still attached. Alrighty, then. Guess my efficient shopping before class didn’t work out quite as well as I had planned…

Remiss

Feel slightly remiss–decided to practice at home instead of heading over to Mysore practice. Not sure what the deal is, with all this self-practice.

Lately, though, self-practice has been very internal, very dreamy almost. A really interesting contrast of physical extension and psychic relaxation–almost a hypnagogic state. My breathing is much quieter at home.

This morning I thought a little, at the tail end of practice, about the idea of pushing energy OUT. I tend to bring it in, and kind of curl around it through my shoulder girdle and sacrum. In ubhaya padangusthasana I realized: there needs to be more external energy–balance and strength and a radiating energy. I tend to pull everything inward. Which is great for core strength, but needs to be balanced more by an opening OUT. Seems like the opening out is where the real joyousness of the pose resides.

Quickly… sinking… into… energy talk…
Must… knock it off 😉

Okay, back to reality. Thank God it’s Friday. Not much of a weekend, though. Off to Chicago on Sunday morning. For a four day class on managing new product design and development. Which starts on Sunday from 3-9 PM (egads!), then Monday and Tuesday 8:30 AM – 9 PM, and Wednesday 8:30 AM – 1 PM. I just got the pre-reading material yesterday: 150 pages of articles and a book. I’m looking forward to the program, but gee, I don’t know if I can really stay awake in a classroom ’til 9 PM!

Sthira & sukha

Home practice this morning. Got some Krishna Das CDs to play in the background, and they rock.

So a quiet morning. A tough practice. Lots of thoughts–in part because I am headachey from allergies, and in part because my traps are tight as hell. Because of the jumpback initiative, perhaps. Because of work being really busy and rather stressful, maybe. So there were “maybe you should just go to navasana” thoughts, and “maybe don’t do a vinyasa between sides” thoughts. Which I just ignored, because I don’t want to start the habit of changing it up because my mind is busy.

The traps, though, really ARE like rocks. Too much sthira. As per usual. Sthira is definitely my habit–strong and active. But of course, since I am always rather extreme, my sthira comes at the expense of sukha–comfortable and light.

Seems like life is conspiring to push my “sthira” buttons. Work, My Gift moving away for college, and… LOL! Actually I guess that’s about it, stressor-wise, but they are two omnipresent forces: work and My Gift. Between them and my tendency toward hypersthirativity (just made that up; don’t try using it in any yoga lectures 😉 I’m kind of wound too tight these days.

Time for some sukhativity. Actually, the realigning of my hips/sacrum over the past year and (almost) half of Ashtanga has brought lots more sukha through that area. Sure, it hurts sometimes, but at least there is movement. The traps/shoulders, though…I don’t know about that. I suppose it’s inevitable that there be realignment there, too. Though primary series doesn’t really seem to get at it directly. Unless I’m overlooking something?

Okay, so “joyful and soft” has to be the mantra for practice for a while. And life, too!

Since it’s early and I have time to write, I’ll share a Huang Po quote from my pre-practice reading:

Any SEARCH is doomed to failure. Some madman shrieking on the mountain-top, on hearing the echo far below, may go to seek it in the valley. But, oh, how vain his search! Once in the valley, he shrieks again and straightaway climbs to search among the peaks–why, he may spend a thousand rebirths or ten thousand aeons searching for the source of those sounds by following their echoes! How vainly will he breast the troubled waters of life and death! Far better that you make NO sound, for then there will be no echo–and thus it is with the dwellers in Nirvana! No listening, no knowing, no sound, no track, no trace–

And yes, I see the irony in posting this quote along with an entry about my SEARCH for sukha. I’m still shrieking in the valley. Slow learner.

Odds and ends

Mysore this morning. Practice felt good–I kept the mantra “strong & light” in mind, and as it turns out, practice worked out that way.

The stressed breathing that I was having a few weeks ago during the Marichy D through Supta Kurmasana sequence seems to be resolved. My only “sticking point” is Kurmasana. For some reason, once I get into the pose, it takes a number of breaths for my hamstrings to really relax so I can lift my heels. Residual fear, perhaps, from the time I cranked my feet up and hurt the insertion points. Can’t blame the hamstrings for remembering that!

Garbha Pindasana is coming along. I can finally get my palms to my cheeks. Volleyball Guy adjusted me today, and it was cool to feel the pose as a flattening out (somewhat similar to Yoga Mudra in the action of the back). I love Yoga Mudra, so it was nice to find that feeling in Garbha Pindasana. Usually I just roll in place and don’t go around in a circle, but today I gave the circle business a whirl. It was pretty pathetic, but whatever. There’s a part of me that really does NOT want to roll in a circle. No idea why. Perhaps because it seems so ridiculous and undignified. LOL! Like the rest of my practice is dignified! I have no idea what my problem is on that. I just have to do it and get over myself.

The other place where I am taking extra breaths is Upavistha Konasana. After Baddha Konasana, my hips and back are so burnt that I just kind of creakily sink down into the pose, taking a bunch of breaths and being kind of surprised at my own…well, creakiness.

Speaking of Baddha Konasana. Today I decided that Baddha Konasana is, for me at least, the most painful pose to learn in the primary series. Oh yes, I remember my moaning about collarbones when I was learning Supta Kurmasana. And yes, I realize Baddha Konasana may seem more painful now, since it is what is currently hurting. But whatever. The darn thing is pretty intense.

As I’ve mentioned (often), I am not a natural when it comes to this pose. I started off about…oh, I don’t know, maybe two feet away from the floor? Seriously far. Then I learned that if I turn my feet up and engage my quads and PUSH my feet against each other HARD, I can get further forward. So now it’s a prop pose for me: a sandbag on each thigh, and then Volleyball Guy goes by and puts a couple of sandbags on my back. It takes about ten breaths, at this point, for me to get my head on the floor. Then I stick around for a few breaths, just to enjoy the searing pain.

Then I sit up straight and press my sandbagged thighs down even more, to increase the pain. Hahaha! When I write it out, the mania of my willfulness is both amusing and frightening. Seriously, though, this is the pose I most had to surrender to: I had to fully believe that I was going to break myself trying, decide to go ahead and break, and then find out that in fact I didn’t break. So now I love it, even though it really still hurts. I’m not sure if I’ve drawn this analogy before (and vegetarians, read no further), but it’s like when you roast a chicken. When it’s cooked, you can rotate the legs in the joints quite easily. That’s the only way I can make sense of Baddha Konasana. It’s a pose that’s cooking me like a chicken.

Jumpbacks are still on the menu. Looking pretty bad, I’m sure, but feeling more and more familiar. The side of my right foot is getting irritated from dragging on my mat. I suppose once it gets bad enough, it will teach me to curl more effectively. LOL! Lazy woman’s guide to Ashtanga: let it hurt until you do it right 😉

Sports specificity

Tuesday mornings are practice with The Cop. As per usual, we just proceed. I make, at most, two statements about form per practice session. This morning was the elbow/wrist form for chaturanga (he tends to have issues with his wrists, and I wanted to head that off at the pass), and an “inhale UP and exhale BACK” for jumpbacks. Beyond that, he just followed along. I could hear some ragged breathing, but he persisted. At the end, he mentioned that he felt tired, probably from all the mountain biking he’s been doing since he bought a new bike last week.

It’s hard to do Ashtanga once a week–harder than doing it six times a week. At least I can build some efficiencies in my practice. The Cop, on the other hand, is basically just starting over and over and over every time. I thought about how I’d fare on my mountain bike these days. I’m figuring I’d be sucking wind at about the ten minute mark.

The Cop wants me to ride with him, but I am averse to crashing. I guess because of climbing days, I only like to fall when I am tied in to a rope. Plus, desert crashes are entirely different from a nice grassy single-track crash. Desert crashes involve rocks and cacti. If you’re lucky, maybe you just hit gravel. Plus, I am a huge baby about my hamstrings. I’m kind of ashamed, truth be told: “Oh, I can’t do things like that! It’ll tighten my hamstrings.” Sigh. I’ve turned into that kind of person?

We used to go to the gym almost every night and lift and do cardio together. **Mushy love-moment memory** Then I got crazy into Ashtanga and he returned to martial arts and biking. I was tempted to go to martial arts with him, but then that seemed kind of weird. So here we are, trying to find a way to share some activities, but both pretty involved in what seem like mutually exclusive pursuits. Not to say I can’t bike with him, just that I don’t want to bike with him enough to tighten my hamstrings. Much like he practices with me on Tuesdays, but does not want to expend too much energy on yoga, because it makes more sense, in a sports-specific universe, to practice his biking. So I’ll go biking occasionally, and he’ll practice with me occasionally. And I will always be starting over with biking and he’ll always be starting over with yoga.

I can fall over on beginner terrain and he can swear during bakasana.

Love. Sigh.

It’s a bitch 😉

Back

Back at Mysore practice this morning. Nice to see everyone. A great adjustment in supta kurmasana from Volleyball Guy. I’m not sure how it’s happening, but slowly there seems to be more space in the pose.

Also a good adjustment in baddha konasana. A nice, strong pop in my sacrum. Most addictive pop in the series, at least for me.

Jumpbacks proceed. Addressing their quality seems silly at this point. I’m just happy to be persisting.

When walking, standing, sitting, lying down, speaking,
being silent, moving, being still

At all times, in all places,

Without interruption–what is this?

Community

Brunch with Sanskrit Scholar, Crim Girl, and…hmmmm, let’s call her “Girl with a Red Mat.” As in “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” Girl with a Red Mat should be imagined in a Vermeerish light. Anyhow, brunch was good, with lots of laughter and Ashtanga talk. I asked Sanskrit Scholar about our responsibility to the community. Obviously, I was asking because I have been practicing on my own. She, gracious as always, preceded her response with a “Well, I can only speak for myself…”

Anyhow, there is a certain amount of business that must be generated by the Mysore practice in order for it to remain on the Starbucks of Yoga schedule. There are also details re: how the money goes to the studio and to Volleyball Guy. Suffice it to say, it is a good idea for me to practice there at least a couple of times a week. And so I shall.

The catch now is going to be finding a way to let folks know that my struggles with supta kurmasana–ugly, frantic and crazed as they may appear–should be allowed to proceed. Yup, everyone is so thoughtful that they want to intercede, to help me find some semblance of the pose. But I need to be left to flop around. Hahaha! I guess it’s like asking people to let someone fall down a flight of stairs day after day. Yes, it’s painful to watch, but it’s the only way I’m going to learn.

Brunch was lovely, and now I’m home with The Cop, who is just getting up after working the night shift last night. He had to go “hands on” with someone last night–a drunk fellow, of course. I guess the guy got in a fight at a bar, decided to fight when The Cop tried to arrest him, and then even got into a fight with the guys at the jail.

Prohibition really starts to seem like a good idea, once you hear enough of The Cop’s stories. Sigh. I think he should do commercials: “Crystal meth, breakfast of car thieves,” “Bud Lite, beer of choice at 9 out of 10 domestic violence calls!”