Inadvertent goodness

Set the clock for 4:30 PM. Duh.

Woke at 5:44, jumped up, gulped some coffee and hit the mat at home, since I’d blown the Mysore opportunity.

Oh wait, I have a meeting at 8AM, and I have to take it in the office.

My solution was a one second inhale/one second exhale, standing through navasana, pasasana through supta vajrasana, quick urdhva dhanurasanas, rope wall dropbacks, no closing or savasana practice. Whew!

Know what though? I felt fantastic driving to work. My breath has been slowing down as I grind through my daily primary plus part of intermediate practice. It’s been taking close to an hour and 45 minutes lately, and truth be told, I’ve been feeling tired and burnt out.

So today’s zippy split practice was great!

I wonder if I have the psychological wherewithal to apply what I’ve learned. That some days are good with a shorter practice. Argh! It challenges my methodical mind that likes to be repetitive and not expend energy thinking about what I ought to be doing at the crack of dawn. My default is to do ALL long practices or ALL short practices. I like to be extreme.

I may do split practices for a while and see how it feels. The stress of leaving it open and deciding every day would kill me.

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Just a post ago, I talked about wanting to go to Australia. The 22 hour flight kind of put me off. A long way to travel for a yoga class.

Interestingly, my boss asked me yesterday to go to Singapore at the end of October. A 23 hour flight. Which will bring me tantalizingly close to Australia. I’ve never flown for such a long stretch, and I wonder if I’m going to go berserk. Tempted to book an interim flight to Australia before heading back to the US…

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Cool enough that I priced tickets to Australia

A great laugh and 100 percent resistant to dogma.

3.9

With thanks to (the newly engaged) (and remarkably humble) Sanskrit Student.

The Transformations of Thought and Material Nature

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The transformation of thought leading toward its own cessation is accompanied by moments of cessation, when subliminal impressions of mental distraction are overcome and those of cessation emerge in their place.

— Barbara Stoler Miller

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When the subconscious imprint (samskara) of mental fluctuation is replaced with an imprint of cessation [of mental activity], then there is a moment of cessation of mental activity, which is known as transformation (parinama) towards cessation (nirodha).

— Gregor Maehle

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VYUTTHANA NIRODHA SAMSKARAYOR ABHIBHAVA PRADURBHAVAU NIRODHA KSANA CITTANVAYO NIRODHA PARINAMAH

Vyutthana = arising; nirodha = suppressive; samskarayor = of the impressions; abhibhava = disappear; pradurbhavau = appear; nirodha = suppression; kshana = moment; chitta = mind; anvayah = conjunction; nirodha = suppression; parinamah = modification.

The impressions which normally arise are made to disappear by the appearance of suppressive efforts, which in turn create new mental modifications. The moment of conjunction of mind and new modifications is nirodha parinama.

— Sri Swami Satchidananda

Power of Suggestion

Practice was all about breath this morning. The harnessing of the breath during the standing poses. That’s par for the course. Always a bumpy ride, but one I don’t fuss about, because I know by the time I get to the end of the standing poses, the breath will be back on board with the whole project. Some days it starts off like a cranky horse — running off, stopping and starting, shying, being just plain wacky and recalcitrant.

By the time I got to primary poses this morning, the breath was nice and relaxed. Very expansive. The kind of breathing where it seems like minutes are passing between each inhale and exhale. I love when time stretches like that. And best of all, the pauses. It happens in zazen, and I always wonder if it is the seed of rechaka: at the end of the exhale there is a sparkling moment or two of utter stillness. No breath, no desire for breath. Timelessness.

And then I do my intermediate poses and am all about thinking and trying to coordinate and trying to absorb my own anxieties. That’s slowly starting to smooth out: today I could relax enough to really feel the breath in these poses. It’s a challenge: the very thought of some day being as relaxed breathing in a deep backbend as I am when breathing in a forward bend makes my head spin. Maybe it’s not even possible, I think. But maybe it is.

Self

Here’s why it can be difficult to practice alone: you hear everything you think and feel everything you feel. Distracted, bored, angry, disappointed, depressed, joyful. And those are just a few. And they move at light speed through your system, changing from one into the other and back again. Whew. What a ride.

When your teacher’s around, and a bunch of other practitioners, you can be distracted by the environment: everyone’s practicing, so it’s easy to join in. Feel like just giving up? How could you, with your teacher there?

At home, you deal with each instant on your own. And it’s astonishing to see how much happens in each instant.

You can hear important stuff too. Yesterday I heard that I need MORE savasana. Otherwise I’m going to burn out. Today I heard that the TV’s been on too much and that it is pulling me outside of myself too much. More quiet time is necessary.

Interesting, when you’re with yourself, how it seems remarkably empty of a lot of the stuff we’re brainwashed to want: noise, visuals, food, interaction, chaos, stuff. Nice to get a break from that. And interesting how it can feel like an alien environment. Just the self.

More fun with hammies

Led primary this morning. Nice. Lots of people, lots of heat. A new guy who came out of nowhere and seemed to know most of the poses. No idea how he found the place, but a good sign, that new folks are finding the shala.

I played around some more with the hamstring thing. I’m finding that it’s useful to do bridge pose and think about the medial hammies. I have to admit that up ’til this point, I’ve never had much use for setu bandha. It just seemed like what you’d do if you couldn’t do urdhva dhanurasana. As it turns out, though, it’s perfect for exploring the actions of the glutes, hamstrings and feet in urdhva dhanurasana. So between all urdhva dhanurasanas today, I spent time hanging out in setu bandha.

The new thing in urdhva dhanurasana is the sensation that I am going to go rolling forward and face plant. I guess this is happening because my shoulders are loosening up and I can push my chest further forward past my hands. Sitting here at the kitchen table, I just put my arms in the air a la urdhva d, to remember what the feeling is all about. Whatever it is, it’s weird. I guess my hands and feet are getting closer together and my body is turning into a wheel and as far as I can tell, when I do finally roll, it’s gonna be chest first. This is one of those sensations I am very surprised to experience. When I think about it, it makes perfect sense, but I hadn’t thought about it ahead of time.

Perhaps this is one of the coolest things about practice: you hear things and see things and think about things, and then when you are in the midst of the actual experience, it is quite different than you might have imagined. Kind of puts it all in perspective, how useful it is to think about things ahead of time. I’m sure every thing I “discover” as I go along is something that someone already told me, or I read somewhere, or that makes perfect sense — the thing is, until you can use it, it’s of no use whatsoever. I’m like a monkey with a bunch of shiny tools. Damn, they look nice, and I hope some day I figure out how to use ’em.

Semimembranosus, Semitendinosus, Suzie, Six Days

Something’s going on with the hip flexors. What, exactly? I have no idea. It all started when I read something I’m sure I’ve read before, and did something I’m sure I’ve done before — but finally it all came together and the sum yielded more than the parts. In other words, I moved the stress of urdhva dhanurasana to the right part of my hamstrings. Specifically, I finally keyed in on the semimembranosus and the semitendinosus. I’m a geek, I know: my body doesn’t work until I figure out what muscle to move, how to spell it, where it’s located, and how it functions in relation to the other muscles.

The rocking part about the semimembranosus and semitendinosus, though, is that they help rotate the knee in, whereas using the butt and biceps femoris to push into the pose makes your knees splay out.

I blame all of this inclination to use the biceps femoris on decades of weight-lifting. Of course you can’t totally isolate muscles, so it’s not like I only used the biceps femoris (to the exclusion of the semimembranosus and semitendinosus) for all those years, but if you think about doing, say, a prone hamstring curl, it’s easy to see that you can spend the bulk of your time working the belly of the muscle. And that’s the whole point, really, from a bodybuilding perspective — because you want to focus on the bigger muscles, not the smaller, in order to get more bang for the buck. Weightlifting machines tend to isolate specific muscles, which is why I always tried to default to free-weight exercises that required supporting muscles to kick in, but even as I think back to stiff-legged deadlifts, I know I tended to toe out a little, which is very effective for pushing all of the stress into the biceps femoris.

Okay, enough of the nerdiness. Suffice it to say that if you move the stress of urdhva d from the hamstring belly to the inner heads of the hamstring, you get a hell of a lot more lift.

We had a visitor the past couple of days at Mysore practice: Suzie Columbus, of the ezBoard, came and practiced with us. It is such a trip to practice with online people. She won’t be here over the weekend, which is a drag, ’cause it would have been great to go out for lunch after led practice on Saturday. Maybe next time.

Meanwhile, back on ezBoard, I’ve been asking about peoples’ experiences with the 6 day practice. I guess I am harkening back to my gym days, because I have been wondering about the physical effects of the same practice six days in a row, week after week. I know it brings “progress” (i.e., “getting” poses), and I know it has a very calming effect on the mind. But I am curious about its specific effects on the body. Vanessa said: “by practicing before ingesting food, and practicing daily, the muscles stay small-ish (I think it is due to a process called gluconeogenesis, but I hesitate to write more because I really am not an expert) and the body fat stays low.” I think this is a really interesting idea. I’ve always done practices where the idea is to break down the muscle with intense practice, then rest it so it can rebuild and be stronger. Vanessa’s theory posits a whole different purpose for the physical practice.

Just something I’ve been thinking about. Jason S also had some interesting things to say on the subject. I’m happy to see him back on ezBoard.