Back at it

Back to practice after the workshop, a Moon Day and a Saturday. On the one hand, probably good to get some rest — on the other, it’s always easier just to keep bending away, day after day.

Mental resistance this morning. Why? I think because I figured practice just wouldn’t be as good as the last one I had in MN. The mind is funny, no? Wants more of the good things, always. And looks for ways to avoid any disappointment. Usually by creating distractions.

That’s the beauty of traditional practice: the same thing, day after day. So you can’t pretend the day-to-day changes don’t happen, so you have to face good practices and bad practices. So you can see, in the end, that if you do the same thing every single day for years, you will transform your practice and your self.

But it can’t be measured on a straight line. It’s cumulative, yes, but not in a perfectly linear fashion.

I was fighting this and clinging to the past.

***

Remembered, as I exited utkatasana, that Matthew said NOT to do bakasana (and no eka pada bakasana after virabhadrasana). I ditched these moves a good while ago, figuring I had better things to worry about. But I am reminded, again, that his main concern was the smoothness of the flow of practice, the count and the breath.

***

The kapotasana exercise. (And a disclaimer, of course: Is this what MS would tell you YOU need to be doing right now for your practice? I have no idea. One thing that came through loud and clear over the past week is that a good teacher really does see the individual practice, and responds accordingly. There is no generic bag of tricks that applies to everyone. YMMV.)

First off, Matthew told me that it is more important that I do this exercise than that I just carry on grabbing at my toes. The exercise will help me understand the coordination of standing up and dropping back, which is, as he pointed out, what I really need to be working on right now. The strength/coordination of the bend and return are the issue at hand.

Okay, so set up for kapotasana. Then go back, hands in prayer, arching back, back, back. Slowly. With control. Then, hands touch down (NOT head). Walk hands in. Now push push PUSH through the hands until you launch your hips over your legs and come up. Arms swing out (not up) as you rise.

This is about coordinating and articulating the hip flexors and the spine. As is the next exercise, which comes after urdhva dhanurasana: Wall dropbacks.

Bend back, legs straight for as long as possible. Then a little bend in the legs as the arms (in prayer postion) extend out over the head. Hang… hang… hang… extending the arms. Then lightly touch fingertips to wall. Spring a bit in the arms to get a little momentum, then stand, again (like in the previous exercise) sweeping the arms out and around to the front.

Work to slow each aspect of this exercise down. And work to reduce the amount of momentum. You’re going for long extension time before touching wall, super light landing, least amount of momentum for return, and ideally a stand-up followed by a pause before the arms come forward.

Basically, these exercises mean you spend a lot of time bent backwards and hovering, with gravity doing its work to teach your spine and hips about bending and balance (versus pushing up off the floor).

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5 Responses

  1. Something very enriching about reading you over time is the way you use this space to play with expectations. To acknowledge where they are there and create a space around them.

    Sometimes they just go poof up in smoke. The levity born of self-awareness? Expectations turn from unconscious sources of suffering to funny little hide-and-seek disappearing animals.

    Seems like this experience was rich because you kind of gave it space to be whatever, and practiced that for weeks in advance. The retrospective hide-and-seek expectations are now coming in like smoke signals… poof.

  2. Good poetry, my friend. You have a way with the ineffable. šŸ™‚

    You know, the expectations are easier to see and play with when you have the background screen of the daily practice.

    It was really gratifying to do Mysore practice with Matthew. There was something about his groundedness in that space that made it almost physically incontrovertible: if you practice, awareness will come.

  3. I’m in the midst of some workshop and mysore sessions with Matthew. Your comments and reactions have been very helpful! Thanks so much.

  4. Ah yes, he said he was off to North Carolina next. Enjoy your Mysore mornings!

  5. It’s interesting how we consciously/unconsciously connect with the shakti of a teacher. In New York we had one day of Mysore practice under the stewardship of Matthew, and my practice was absolutely smokin that day. Yes, Matthew is grounded. And I certainly sensed his expectations, and I strove to meet them.

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