Road back

This morning’s practice was three surya As (stepping back vs. jumping back) and standing poses and then some backbending over the Swiss ball. Everything felt fine, bendy-stretchy-wise, which was a nice surprise. I guess I imagined I’d feel like a thick old rubberband, one that’s been in the back of a drawer for seven or eight years, and when you stretch it, it kind of cracks around the edges and threatens to snap.

But it wasn’t like that at all. The sun was shining, the yoga room was cheery, last week The Cop hung a thistle seed feeder outside the window, so there were finches clustering and singing. I know, huh? Totally perfect environment for practice.

I had a few revved up moments right at the beginning, where my mind wanted to push into a frenetic practice and catch up to where I left off just shy of three weeks ago. Those impulses were pretty easy to put down, though.

What felt best? Something really simple: padangusthasana. Who’d have thought, right? It wasn’t about the hamstring stretch (though that was nice), it was all about being upside down. It hadn’t really occurred to me, but the most notable thing about the past three weeks is that I have kept myself upright pretty much continuously. After the surgery, it was all about keeping the head raised. Sleeping on multiple pillows, always being propped up.

Yoga teaches us so many different perspectives — and in this case I’m not even factoring in the mental/emotional perspectives, but just sticking to the kinesthetic perspectives. Think about it: if you go around in regular adult life, there’s a good chance you lie in bed, sit on chairs, sit at a desk, walk around a bit and then lie down again to go to sleep. All head above the body, spine straight up-and-down (well, unless you throw in some slouching) perspectives. Your eyes are always above your heart and hands, your legs are always below your head, and pretty much just hanging around down there.

Absolutely the best thing about climbing is being in strange bodily relationship to the ground, the rock, and, I guess, the moment. I clearly remember the day I lost my “normal” relationship to physical reality. Years and years of “everyday life” training, and all of a sudden, on a climbing route called “Neptune,” it all disappeared. The route had these weird overhangs and underclings, and at the very end, a roof that you have to maneuver around and over. It was the strangest sensation: I had always been very clear about the relationship of my body to the ground (even if it was far below me) but on this particular day, it was as if the undulations of the rock face created a new center of gravity in the earth, and I found myself orienting myself to the heart of the rock face, rather than to the ground. I didn’t feel any gravitational or emotional resistance when I was upside down or sideways on the wall. Very cool.

Yoga is a great way to reproduce that effect. If I get really deep into a pose, I can give up my normal bodily orientation and just be inside the pose. Prasarita C is a really good example of a pose I can go way into and then get kind of “lost.” It’s like climbing: you get so involved in climbing that suddenly you find yourself somewhere, and you can’t quite fathom how it happened. And it can be scary if you freak out and/or immediately try to figure out your exit plan. That’s when the discipline of turning off the mind comes in.

Ah well. Enough joyous musing on yoga practice, eh? Suffice it to say, I was thrilled to be back upside down.

Left to my own devices

Still not medically cleared for practice, so no led class today. Meanwhile, The Cop is in Baltimore for a family funeral. I am at home with the dog, who is too old to understand or accept being boarded. She’s been with The Cop for many years, and is the creature he loves most in the universe, so we never board her. Either she comes with us when we go somewhere, or one of us stays home with her. Right now she’s out in the yard, basking in the sun. Her dog joy is quite apparent lately: she spends as much time as possible out in the yard, lounging about.

In the evenings, she goes over to the master bedroom side of the house, and the cat comes over into the living space side of the house (they coexist peacefully provided there is a door between them). Anyhow, I let the dog out one door, get the cat, then open a door on the other side of the house to let her in. Usually she is standing right at the door, ready to come in and hop in her dog bed. Last night, though, she’d found a bit of a leftover chewed bone and was lying out in the grass, gnawing blissfully and enjoying the warm evening. She spent about an hour out there, just relaxing. Of course, she’d slept all day, so why the relaxation delighted me so, I can’t say — but it did.

I remember how, when we were kids, we would welcome the longer, warmer evenings in the spring and summer, and I think that’s what the dog was feeling. I’m a responsible adult now, so my sensitivity to evenings is blunted by chores and exhaustion — though last night, the dog’s enjoyment reminded me. Does a dog have Buddha nature? The answer is easy.

Okay, so my stated plan for today was to sleep ALL day. I kind of blew it by going to bed early last night, so I was ready to go again by 8 AM. I repotted all the plants in the house: the kitchen plants, the ones in the yoga room, the ones in the livingroom, and even the ones in the… hmmmm, I’m not sure what it’s called. The entryway to the house. It’s kind of like a vestibule or foyer, but it’s outside. I’m sure there’s a real estate name for it.

I always think of myself as a plant-killer, but we do actually have a good number of plants and all of them are alive, though tattered from the persistent plant-tasting that the cat likes to conduct each night, while the rest of us sleep. I also hosed down the outside foyer/vestible/whatever. And washed the front door, which, I guess rather unsurprisingly, was really dusty/dirty.

I think these are things I am probably supposed to be doing on Saturdays, but I go to led class and then out to lunch with Mysorians. I have a vague sense of perhaps having the wrong priorities, but then I know that as soon as it’s possible, I’m gonna be back on the led and lunch train. So no sense thinking too much about it.

Next stop is the mall. I got a big cash gift from a team at work that I helped out on a project about three months ago. Notice of the gift was a letter stating that the money would be direct-deposited to my acccount. I showed The Cop the letter, and we both agreed it was very nice and very generous. And then I promptly forgot about it. Until this morning when I finally figured out why there was extra money in checking. My finances are as carefully-tended as the plants and the vestibule, I guess. ๐Ÿ˜‰

So off to the mall to find some khaki pants. We put on a annual conference each year, and I am going to Orlando next Saturday. Therefore, khakis are in order. I’m still not clear why jeans are unacceptable but khakis okay, in casual business settings. They seem pretty equivalent to me.

I am now allowed to make my leave. The dog has come in from the backyard and is ready to begin her sleeping on the livingroom couch. Okay. I’m off.

Macaroni and cheese pose

The chitta is like a vehicle propelled by two powerful forces, prana and vasana (desires). It moves in the direction of the more powerful force.

Light on Pranayama

A couple of days ago I wrote about getting back to practice, and mentioned that, as usual, marichyasana B was my favorite pose. Confused left a really interesting comment:

could you say a little more about why you love marichyB? i sure donโ€™t! so iโ€™m curious. for me C is relatively good, A is ok, D is not good but not as confusing as B. what is your secret?? so far my teacherโ€™s adjustments have not enlightened me- they make it look better though. i know i could use more space in the hips, but iโ€™m guessing itโ€™s also my short torso and tight back creating the weirdness. are you someone with more of a long, loose torso? just trying to figure this out a little. i think i did a doubletake when you said you like marichyB.

I spent a little time thinking about it, and I realize that marichyasana B is my favorite comfort pose. It’s like the macaroni and cheese pose of primary. I remember once saying that I loved marichyasana B best, and Crim Girl said it was a favorite of hers, too. So, quite honestly, I just assumed it was a pose that everyone loved. I think I did a doubletake when Confused said he or she doesn’t love marichy B.

I have no idea why I love marichy B the way I do. I looked back in my archives, but as far as I can tell, it is one of the poses that came easy for me — you know, one of the ones you can do as soon as someone shows you. I remember the lotus leg used to offer some resistance, but other than that, the pose was accessible from the get-go. Suffice it to say, there are plenty of other poses that were not accessible right off. So perhaps that’s one reason why I love marichy B.

I don’t have a long, loose torso, as Confused proposed. Hence my continuing attentions to baddha konasana. And my quixotic struggles with pindasana, which I don’t even bother to document, because I have enough problems as it is. On the other hand, I think I tend to understand the origami subtleties of poses rather quickly; I can usually coordinate all the necessary folding in the necessary order pretty easily — though not always to any kind of charming aesthetic effect.

But there’s something more to it. I’ve just always felt safe in marichy B. It feels good to fold up and put my head down and feel the sole of my foot up against my ribs. It’s like a hug. The only place where I feel such sweetness is in the little child’s pose moment after sirsasana.

I guess I’ve always figured I’ve had other lifetimes of asana practice, and that somewhere along the line marichy B and sirsasana (and its subsequent child’s pose) have been my most deep poses over the most lifetimes.

Or maybe that’s crazy talk.

I don’t know that I would call marichyasana B my favorite pose, since there are different criteria for different kinds of favoriteness. It’s definitely my comfort pose. I think at this point, supta kurmasana and baddha konasana are my favorite challenge poses — they’ve required the most change in my body (and mind). I love janusirsasana A, because it feels good and it feels bad in equal parts: it’s the pose that’s most like wiggling a loose tooth. And vasisthasana (which I have not practiced since I started Ashtanga…) is another pose I just adore for no discernable reason.

Tell me more about why you don’t like marichy B, Confused. Is there a pose you have just always loved?

It’s an interesting topic. I suspect most people have favorite poses that they kind of assume are everyone’s favorite. Funny to find out that isn’t necessarily so.

Chandra Krama

This morning I tried out Matthew Sweeney’s Chandra Krama sequence (scroll down a bit on this page to see it). What a terrific sequence! I sent away for the poster when I realized I was going to be having some time off, and would need to do a slow reentry. Apparently this series was developed for practitioners to use on Moon Days. It has softer vinyasas, and (obviously) different poses in a different sequence, but any Ashtangi will feel it’s familiar: the structure is reminiscent of Ashtanga. A kinder, gentler Ashtanga ๐Ÿ˜‰

I suppose I might as well also mention that I love Matthew’s book. If I were to compare it to Gregor Maehle’s book (which is also terrific), I’d say Gregor’s book is detailed about specific poses, while Matthew’s book offers perspective on the practice as a whole. There is something very generous and forgiving in Matthew’s take on practice, despite the fact (because of the fact?) that he seems to be a traditional practitioner. The tone is very compassionate, very drama-free, and also very humorous, which goes a long way in my view.

Anyhow, practice was great — I threw in a couple of extra trikonasanas, because I so needed to crack my sacrum a few times. Mmmmmmmm!

Now that asana practice is back on the morning horizon, I am trying to figure out what to do with pranayama practice. Honestly, after asana practice, I feel kind of pooped, and like I want to get on with the day. I know there is direction to do pranayama in the early morning, or in the early evening. How early, though? Is it madness to do pranayama before bed? If anyone has any experience with this, help me out here. I don’t want to disturb my sleep with spontaneous, pranayama-induced levitation or anything…

Two weeks

Delightful to roll out the mat in the sun and just putter about a bit. Started at dandasana and proceeded through marichyasana D. No vinyasas — I just stuck a baddha konasana in between each asana because it felt weird to go from pose to pose with no “re-set button” (which, I realize, the vinyasas serve as) between each.

What felt best? Marichyasana B, of course. It’s always my favorite, under any circumstances.

So I did my little practice and then threw in some samakonasana and called it a day.

Already I felt myself thinking about “getting back to normal” (i.e., my usual level of practice). Goodness, how attached I am. So part of the practice of recovery and return is going to be trying to stay mindful of my own thoughtless ambition.

So: same practice issues, different starting point. I imagine that if there is such a thing as reincarnation, this is exactly what happens. You find yourself in a new situation, and yet there they are, all your usual habits. How crazy is that? I’ve probably chased a bazillion various unnecessary ambitions throughout eons of time.

Damn, that’s some looooooong learning curve ๐Ÿ˜‰

Back at it

Had a note from Returning Guy: Mysore practice is back to a Monday / Wednesday / Friday schedule. I am so pleased with how the Mysorians dealt with the shala schedule challenge. I think we were all kind of shaken by the sudden Tuesday / Thursday schedule, but no one freaked out (at least, not overtly) and when we all saw each other at Saturday led, we discussed the issues, brainstormed some solutions, and just generally worked together to try to square things up, so that we could get back to normal and make sure that everyone is happy and able to practice. Nice work, people!

Today was one of the global advisory board meetings. Up at 4 AM to load slide decks and get the technology up and running. I was (simultaneously) delighted to wake in the super-early morning, and horrified by the hour. How easily I adjusted to sleeping in over the past few weeks! On the other hand, I miss my early-rising, quiet morning reality. Tomorrow I’ll start back with some vinyasa-less asana. I’m gettin’ creaky ๐Ÿ˜‰

I was just chatting with a friend here in my office, and I mentioned how The Cop amused himself during my recovery by putting his hands on the sides of his face and pulling back so his eyes get really tight. I happened to be miming the gesture as the president of the company went by. Sure enough, after my friend left, she circled back around and asked what was going on. She was totally on to me. She had the same surgery 4 years ago, so we exchanged a few stories.

Self-consciousness yoga

Just took off the tape on the outer corners of my eyes. Scary, after almost two weeks of having it there. And tight. Really tight. Feel like my face might fall off, without the tape to hold it all together. Also very numb on the outer edges of the eye — whether as a result of the incisions or as a result of not moving that part of my face for so long, I’m not sure. Probably both.

My Gift is visiting for a day — I’m meeting her for lunch at the mall in half an hour. Wanted to put on some makeup and actually look presentable. Since the surgery, I’ve been going out with The Cop — just popping on some big Scottdalesque sunglasses and letting him lead me around. I’m not cleared for contacts yet; I had to go blind since I wanted to use sunglasses (non-prescription) to cover the bruises and tape.

So now I’m leaving the house with regular glasses and some makeup. The closest I’ve come to facing the world without cover of darkness (i.e., sunglasses). I know, I’m being a baby. I have an aversion to attention, though, so I don’t like feeling obstrusive. Or like a Scottsdale cliche, which, if I am entirely honest, I can’t really claim not to be.

Got to go back (physically) to work tomorrow, which will feel challenging — again, the attention issue. Can’t I just telecommute forever? ๐Ÿ˜‰ But for now, lunch with My Gift. She’ll be my biggest critic. Not that she isn’t always marvelously compassionate: but she’s also highly observant. A little unlike The Cop, who, when prompted, said, “I don’t really see that much of a difference.”

He looks straight into my heart.

Tomorrow is our first anniversary. We’ll celebrate tonight, with a trip to the sushi restaurant where we celebrated post-ceremony last year.