End of an era

Volleyball Guy’s last led class at Starbucks. Lots of folks there. Many come every week. I don’t know how many, if any, consider themselves Ashtangis. My impression is that they just come to the Saturday led class. Either way, it’s a bunch of people who are fun to practice with and to chat with on a weekly basis. I will be curious to see how many come over to the new studio. A good number, I hope.

Class was nice and steamy. As I set up for janusirsasana B on the second side, there was a ping in my left sacrum. No pain. But still, it kind of freaked me out. Now, post-class, it is a little sore. I took some ibuprofen to try to get ahead of any inflammation, and I’m going to ice as soon as I finish this post. A best case scenario is that my sacrum was fused (and I believe it was in the David Coulter anatomy book that I read that most adults probably have fusion of the sacral joints) and the ping was it unfusing. Yes, that’s the thought I’ll go with.

The left side of my lower back has always been my “problem” side: if I ever feel back pain, that’s where it is. When I first started kapotasana, I was waking every morning with my left lower back just aching up a storm. Wonderfully, all pain and stiffness has been absent this past week. It was kind of interesting, too, because once it was gone, I recognized that I’d had a baseline of stiffness for so long that I wasn’t even conscious of it until it disappeared. Okay, so we’ll take the ping as an opening, part of the greater transformation.

I lay in savasana, visualizing and reassuring myself that I am just fine. Immediately started having climbing flashbacks. Any time I slipped on a climb, or felt sketched, or thought I was going to die, I pushed the feeling into my left lower back. No idea why. Guess it’s about keeping the fear in my back pocket, so to speak. I couldn’t freak out in the moment, that would have been too dangerous, so I just pushed all the fear behind me.

Class ended with the traditional bow and namaste, and then spontaneous applause broke out. It went on for a long while. Volleyball Guy was sitting on the floor in the middle of the room, and he bowed to us and just waited for the noise to die down. “I’m just going someplace else,” he said, “It’s not like I’m dying.”

Tomorrow at 10: improv class. Woohoo! Can’t wait to get into the new shala.

Last Friday at Starbucks of Yoga

Been reading about people doing parts of primary along with their second series poses — rather than the traditional all-of-primary — and decided that since I’ve been feeling a little crisp around the edges, and since I had a conference call to be on at 7:30 AM, I’d see about knocking off primary at baddha konasana.

As I finished up the vinyasa after baddha k, I caught Volleyball Guy’s eye and gestured as if I was going to do pasasana. He nodded. Cool.

Well, as it turns out, my notion that skipping a few poses would give me more energy for the intermediate poses was kinda true, but there was a fatal flaw. Seems the ending poses of primary are a nice little breather. To go from baddha konasana to pasasana, for me anyhow, was more like jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Yes, I am back on the pre-practice coffee, after a week of drinking my caffeine AFTER practice. And today was one of those horrible pukey-feeling backbend days. Exacerbated by the abridged version of primary, I believe. Urp. It was so bad that I had the cold sweats. Uck. As I explained to The Cop, Volleyball Guy assists me from laghu vajrasana through supta vajrasana, and then through the dropback sequence, during which time other people are finishing up their practices and getting ready for dropbacks (i.e., needing his help), so I can’t slow down to try to let my stomach settle. It was pretty bad, but eventually it HAS to go away.

Okay, I hurried home for a conference call, and now no one’s showing up. Oh well. Who cares? It’s Friday!!

Just a thought

You know how I said a while back that maybe some day I would love backbends? I didn’t really believe it, but it seemed like a nice idea. Well, sure enough, I love backbends. Not just in a grudging way, but in a looking forward to doing them way. I still suck at the beginning poses of intermediate, but damned if I don’t look forward to it more than anything else in practice.

And to make it all more fun, I put on my climbing harness, used a carabiner to hook myself into the rope wall, and did kinda-kapotasana hanging in the air. I had a sling (more climbing gear) hooked around my ankles, and I could hold the ends in each hand to pull my feet toward my head, since when you hang in space, there’s no way to use the ground to work the hands toward the feet — yes, that’s obvious, but ask me if I was surprised anyhow… 😉

So yeah, hung off the wall, even without my crash pad (which arrives this afternoon). The whole thing made me happy as hell. Even happier than inversions usually make me.

Go figure.

I need to go drink some vata tea. I’m way too wired to be of use to myself or others.

Web conference, Dog eyes, Santosha

Global webconference this morning, meaning up even earlier than usual (4 AM) to get set up and the call started by 4:45. Yawn. We go through ’til 6:30, so no Mysore practice. I’m going to type up a few notes now, and then do practice here. I don’t mind the home practice. I can go easy and baby the new tattoo. It’s small, just one word on the back of my neck: santosha. My favorite niyama. LOL! I wonder if it’s tacky to have a favorite niyama. Hey, maybe that should be the sort of thing one uses as a pickup line: So, what’s your favorite niyama? 😉

I’m feeling a little tired this week. I need to just work it through, of course. I’m assuming that this is just normal exercise science: the principle of progressive resistance results in increased strength and endurance. Alrighty, then.

Last night, my sister wanted to take my parents out for dinner for their upcoming anniversary. So The Cop, My Gift and I met up with them over on my parents’ side of town. My sister’s girlfriend suddenly said, “Karen, I need some yoga advice.”

“Okay,” I said hesitantly.

“I have a yoga tape that I use. How long am I supposed to stay in each position? Am I supposed to get into the positions fast, or slow?”

“Um, what do they do on the tape?”

She didn’t want to talk about what they do on the tape. She wanted me to say how long to stay in yoga poses and whether to get into the poses quickly or slowly.

“Well, it’s different for everyone, really. Try it a few times and see how it feels. See what your body tells you.”

“I can’t do it if I don’t know what to do, and I can’t feel what it feels like if I don’t know what it’s supposed to feel like!”

“If you just try it a few times, you’ll start to find out…”

“How can I find the answer when I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing?!”

I kind of shifted my attention a bit, as The Cop and My Gift were both starting tentative alternate conversations to try to get me out of the jam they could see that I was in. My sister’s girlfriend started telling my sister about how she couldn’t know what to do until someone told her what to do, etc. She was very unhappy and frustrated with my answer. I’m not good in situations like this, because I don’t know how to respond when someone is intent upon getting something I can’t give them. When things like this happen, I need to start acting like the dog, who looks at me with great compassion when she doesn’t understand what it is that I want of her: I will make big dog eyes and turn my head to the side, indicating that I WISH I could make the human happy, but, being a dog, I have my limitations.

I suppose I could have just said, “Five breaths, and get into the poses as fast as you can.” In the end, perhaps that is the same as, “well, yoga is really a self-exploration,” or even the same as big dog eyes.

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Free time in the middle of the day, Falling, Mystery

I am writing an entry in the middle of the day. Why? Well, because of GTD. My organization and productivity is going along so swimmingly that I find myself with 20 free minutes before my next meeting. This actually makes me feel giddy, which is kind of pathetic, but hey, feel happy for me!

Did I get through a couple hundred emails yesterday, and head out the door at 5:30 with only a dozen in my in-box (and all of those marked as waiting for someone else to do something before I have to deal with it again)? Yes. Yes, I did.

This morning I got hooked into my rope wall again and decided it’s time to do the more highly suspended poses, which of course requires I purchase a book of directions (The Yoga Kurunta — scroll down a bit on the page). I had a chat with The Cop and asked him to make an assessment of the security of the rope wall. A bit of background information: as a rock climber, I was always a little sketched about the security of my equipment. I find that I am equally anxious about the ropes. If I’m gonna climb up there and fold into a backbend three feet off the ground, I want to be sure the screws aren’t going to pull out of the wall.

“Can you assure me that the screws won’t pull out of the wall?” I asked The Cop.

“No,” he said.

He is an honest cop. Okay, so I make another purchase. It will also come in handy when I finally decide to do my handstands away from the wall, which I already know is going to be a big freaking psychological deal. I love handstands and pincha mayurasana, though I only do them occasionally and in secret so I don’t get excommunicated. Just for fun, not for yoga!

I also think that I might throw the dog’s bed onto the mat for extra padding. And maybe some pillows. And then I’ll take a picture of the whole mess and title it, “My Anxiety.”

The mat, folded up, is 2 feet by 2 feet by 6 inches. I want it as thick as possible. And then I’ll hope that if I fall, I hit the mat. Wow, this is just like bouldering!

In other news, I have a tattoo appointment at 3. In a sudden flash of inspiration, I have decided on a single word, which will fit nicely on the back of my neck and not impede my practice during healing time. What is it? I’ll get The Cop to take a picture later.

Back to the grind, State of the state, BBQ report

Back to work with my GTD book, which I am hurrying to finish so I can put it to good use. Despite hundreds of while-you-were-on-vacation emails to sift through, I am feeling really relaxed. Yay for vacation! I want to try to keep this presence of mind for as long as possible. Should be interesting to see how long it takes before I find myself in a vata death spiral. Man, I hate those! Definitely the worst thing about work, even though I am the one who generates them. Perhaps I can stay clear and calm. Forever. 😉 Worth a try, right?

One of the things David Allen talks about in GTD is the “50,000 feet” (shouldn’t it be “foot”?) view. The big picture view that one takes of one’s career, and (much more importantly to me) one’s life. As I read about this, I realized that I have always had a practice of one sort or another, because long projects (writing program, Masters degree, bodybuilding/nutrition project, climbing, zen, Ashtanga) are nice, meaty life practices that can be viewed from a perspective-enhancing distance. Sure, there are daily things that need attention: proper training, sleep, newest theories and methods, etc. But in the end, these are projects that take years to play out. I love that idea — it’s like a long book that you can enjoy reading for a nice long time.

Okay, so in practice news, I am going to do a bit of a “marker” for the current state and then knock off with so much blogging about asana specifics. I’ve come to the point where my progress is more… well, I guess it isn’t slower than when I was moving through primary, but I guess it is somewhat repetitive. Ultimately there are asanas that are tough and ones that are relatively easy and it all has to get coordinated with the breath, and bandhas need to be locked in, etc., etc. I feel like something of an articulation slacker, because I think some of the new stuff is more internalized, and I’m disinclined to try to compact and extrude the experience in words. Who knows, I may decide to give it a go one day.

Anyhow, I want to make a current state report, so I can refer back to it in 6 months and see where I’m at. Issues at hand:

Marichyasana C and D: For a while there, I felt “done” with these poses. With the introduction of the beginning poses of intermediate, though, I am working them from a different angle. The binds are fine, but the poses seem to be “undoing” my shoulders (this in tandem with what’s happening via pasasana and supta vajrasana). All in service, at this point, to the opening necessary for kapotasana. This is all well and good, but I do find that my shoulders are strangely tuckered out after C & D, so the lolasanas between navasanas and transitions out of bhujapidasana and supta kurmasana are weak and lame, lame, lame. Must be patient about this.

Supta kurmasana is a-okay. I can, with great effort, cross my ankles, but generally I bind my hands and let Volleyball Guy put my feet behind my head. I have short legs, so this may never be a pretty pose for me. But it’s functional and still opening, so I can’t complain.

Pasasana through kapotasana: Very, very beginning of a new road.

Stamina: Kind of worrisomely sucky. I’m sure it will improve, but only because I’ve been this lacking before, in different contexts, and found that with persistence there was eventual improvement.

Mind: Getting up every morning and getting myself to practice has been much more difficult with the addition of the intermediate poses. If not for the habit of the past two years, I don’t really think I would be able to sustain it. No idea why this seems so much harder. The additional poses take about 20 more minutes, but seem to tax… oh, for cripes sakes, I’m such a dope! I was just going to write, “seem to tax my nervous system so much more than just primary.” Yeah, okay, well everyone knows what nadi shodana means, and there is my answer. See, it does help to write things down.

BBQ yesterday was pretty fun (she says grudgingly). I had a moment of panic when my sister’s girlfriend came into the house, looked around for about two seconds and announced, “Now that I see this, I’m less happy about my house.” These sorts of comments tear the life out of me for some reason. Back up for just a moment and make note: The Cop and I do not live in a swanky million dollar professionally decorated home or anything like that. We have a nice house in a nice neighborhood in Scottsdale, which I am very grateful for. I love it because it has high ceilings and an open floor plan. The architecture is pretty and open and minimalist and we don’t have much at all in the way of decorations, because I just like the space. I never think of it as a show piece or a special possession or anything like that. It’s a minimalist space that appeals to me and which is where I have life with The Cop and My Gift. I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t objectify it, and there is something about critical objectification that gives me the willies. Santosha. Santosha is my favorite niyama. I wish I could find a way to share it with everyone.

That was the only weird thing, though, all afternoon. The Cop was the best husband ever and poured drinks and sat out in 110 degree heat BBQing chicken and soy dogs. He held it all together and was just a rock. Everyone talked and drank and ate and it was fine.

GTD, two thoughts, BBQ

There is a world of GTD-related info out there. I’ve been looking at wikis that can be used to implement the system. I’m chained to Outlook & Internet Explorer at work, and would love to find something that’s compatible, so I can sync up work and home projects. Would prefer it to reside in a personal wiki, rather than on corporate’s server… If anyone knows of anything that might be suitable, please let me know.

A new woman came to led class yesterday. She had never done Ashtanga, and I think perhaps hadn’t done much of any kind of yoga. She gave it as good a shot as one might imagine. She was two mats down from me. Volleyball Guy did his best to keep her afloat, but the current of a led class moves along rather rapidly. I occasionally have “poor me” moments where I think about how sad it is that I didn’t find Ashtanga until two years ago. I tell myself I’m being lame and that everything that preceded my finding Ashtanga was necessary, my karma, etc., etc. Yesterday, though, I suddenly felt entirely grateful for where I find myself at this very moment. I’m two years in and the transformation has been nothing short of revolutionary. Thank God for the fact I’ve had these two years and that there are more to come. At this very moment, I’m lucky — the past is immaterial. I saw it clearly for a few moments, knowing even then that I would lose it again. No matter. What’s seen is seen.

Someone asked me if I was going to keep taking classes at Starbucks of Yoga once Volleyball Guy opens his shala (July 1! Yay!). I was surprised by the question, because why WOULD I take classes at Starbucks? Then I realized that this is an “Ashtanga-specific” response. I don’t choose from a range of different classes according to my taste/preference at any given moment. I go to my teacher and I do the same practice day after day after day. It’s about the practice, not the class. I thought of the first time Volleyball Guy mentioned that I should check out Mysore practice. “What’s the real difference?” I asked him. “All Ashtanga makes you strong,” he said, “but Mysore practice makes you strong here” — as he pointed to his head.

My parents, my sister and my sister’s girlfriend are all coming over for a BBQ today. My Gift and The Frenchman will also join us. I hate entertaining. I have no idea why. This particular event is partly under duress, meaning my Mom suggested it because my sister and her girlfriend are in town from California. Maybe I’ll have fun. Who knows. Generally, I’m not crazy about “extended family time,” and I’m not so hot on entertaining in general. As I said, I have no idea why this is. Too many lifetimes as a hermit, perhaps? One big “reason” for the BBQ is because my sister’s GF hasn’t seen our house. I don’t like showing people my house. It seems creepy to bring people through my personal space: “Here’s where I take a bath… Here’s where I sleep… Look at my pillow, doesn’t it look comfy?… Oh, and my closet. Look at my clothes all hung up.” LOL! I don’t know. These situations always make me feel like an alien being.