Candy canes and teardrops (and the shoes!)

Owl calls it the “candy cane.” The upper back curl that you need for a nice dropback — or any backbend, I suppose.

I’m hoping the hands-overhead dropbacks start to crack open the candy cane. That, and draping myself over the rack and over a block, and perhaps a few rounds of viparita dandasana.

The curve is good when my arms are down, but as soon as they go up, zip!, the curve of my back straightens right out. As I lay over the block this morning, I could feel pulling in my shoulders — across the collarbones, actually, and in the little nubbin of the shoulders, more officially known as the coracoid process.

Oh coracoid process, how little I know about you. Well, except that the pecs, brachialis and short head of the biceps all connect there. Hmmm, let’s see. All the muscles that seem to inhibit my putting my arms overhead easily, or to reach my arms back in kapotasana.

We’re going to get to know each other, coracoid process. Yes, we are.

***

Okay, I’m liking the overhead dropbacks because my arms are always straight and strong when I hit the ground. (Yes, you get a nice, accurate perception of my dropbacks when I use phrases like “hit the ground.”) I am thrilled to be landing on strong straight arms, so I’m not going to feel too concerned about the crash aspect. At least not yet.

What I am feeling the past few mornings is some sensation in the vastus medialis. Fondly known as the “teardrop” to bodybuilders. It’s a knee extender and a muscle that I understand and trust. It’s feeling sore because of my coming up from dropbacks with turned-out feet. A no-no, I realize. (But Matthew Sweeney TOLD me I could! That’s my new excuse for everything.)

Yes, I am turning my feet out on the way back up from the dropback. So far, it feels like “training wheels.” If it starts to feel like more than that (i.e., like something I can’t keep incrementally moving away from), I’ll ditch it and forget about coming back up for now.

bodybuilder

***

Oooh, I rarely come back into a post to add something, but I want to share the shoes.

So I was out and about on Saturday, and I spotted these shoes. Gah! I loved them. But I felt a little unsure. Pulled out the iPhone, took a picture, and texted My Gift to ask her opinion.

“They’re heinous. Step away from the shoes.”

Sigh. I was sad. But I stepped away.

Still, I kept thinking about them. Later that evening, on a whim, I pulled out the iPhone and showed the shoes to The Cop. He was surfing mountain biking sites, so I didn’t think I’d get much of a response. Plus, he’s not particularly interested in women’s shoes.

But he actually paused and looked at the picture, and said, “I like these!”

Okay, that did it. I went back and got the shoes. I ❤ them. There is some question (in The Cop’s mind) about whether they are too “dominatrix” for work. [Note to self: that last sentence ought to make for lots of hits on the stat counter.] I think not. I think they’ll be great with a black pencil skirt. I’m drooling a little as I write that.

Here’s my picture. And now you know what size shoe I wear. And that I shop in cheap stores. I could pull the shoes out of my closet and take a better picture, so now you also know that I’m kind of lazy. If you hate these shoes, don’t write a comment. I love them and don’t want to be swayed.

Next post: stilettos and spray-on stockings.

red-shoes

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Namaste hands versus hands overhead

It occurred to me that when I do namaste hands at the start of dropbacks, I get some internal shoulder rotation. Which leaves me landing with kinda bent arms (“kinda bent arms” is a technical yoga term). I default to unconscious internal shoulder rotation as a matter of course (i.e., in daily life), so getting past it is probably going to take some conscious effort.

Okay. The next three screen captures are a dropback with namaste hands — sequenced so you can see the drop.

dropback-with-namaste-0

dropback-with-namaste-1

dropback-with-namaste-2

I’ve been thinking and theorizing about this since I finished my practice on Friday, so obviously I had to try hands overhead dropbacks this morning to see if I landed with my arms more locked out.

To set up for overhead dropbacks, I extended my arms and actually rotated my palms to face the back of the room. That makes for a good external rotation, which locks my arms out. Something I cannot do, apparently, on the fly.

Here are three screen caps of the overhead dropback.

dropback-straight-armed-0

dropback-straightarmed-1

dropback-straightarmed-2

Yup, straighter arms with the overhead dropback. It’s also interesting, as I sit here typing this, I can feel a lot of sensation in the front of my body, between my lower ribs and hip bones. Muscular sensation. The good kind.

Usually, after dropbacks with namaste hands, I’ll get the sensation in the lumbar region.

The overhead dropbacks are super-awkward feeling, but I imagine that’ll get better. And the weight of my extended arms ought to help crack open the chest and mid-back more effectively than the namaste hands.

One thing I learned from VBG is this: if you have a hunch about something in your practice, give it a go for a month to see if you’re really on to something.

So it’s overhead dropbacks from now ’til… aw, let’s make it April Fool’s Day. I can decide then if the experiment was fruitful.

Baffled by her own arms

I know I’ve written about this before, but once again, I am baffled by my arms.

Dropback practice proceeds, with the entertaining addition of the vinyl sand dune. The balance thing is coming clear. The back bend is working itself out. All’s well.

Except for my arms. I keep looking at them, but I can’t seem to figure out how to make them straight — as in, how to extend and lock them out. I always land with kinda bent arms.

I figured it might be that my chest needs to stretch out more. Or my shoulders. Or my lats. Or even my triceps. Why is this so hard to figure out?

Today (after practice, of course, so I haven’t tried it out yet) I got the idea that I need to internally externally (Geez, see? I’m in here editing, because I can’t keep it straight in my brain!) rotate my arms. Figuring this out was is an enormous brainteaser. It’s like my arms aren’t really connected to my brain, somehow. I can figure out my legs, hips, feet, and back, but my arms are off the grid. I have to put my hands up over my head to think about the rotation of the shoulders, and even then, I feel like I kind of grasp what’s going on, but not quite.

All of my body makes sense to me like language, except my arms, which are math.

Vinyl sand dune

Yes, I’ve heard the advice over and over: “Go practice dropping back on the beach. Use a sand dune.” No beaches to speak of here in the desert. There are some man-made lakes and reservoirs, but they are surrounded by rocks and cacti, and I don’t want to drop back onto cacti.

Here’s what I got just before I got sick (see picture below). How hard was it for me to resist trying it out? Mentally, it was excruciating. Physically, I couldn’t get off the couch. So it was kind of a moot point.

This morning, though, out came the vinyl sand dune. It’s incredibly fun! I am mightily uncoordinated and there’s lots of yelling going on in my head (“Breathe, Karen! Breathe!”, “Breathe in going up!”, “Stay in your feet! Stay in your feet!”, “Woohoo!” — stuff like that), but I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it.

The plan, obviously, is to keep moving lower and lower on the dune, and eventually I’ll be on the floor.

The dune was shipped just wrapped in plastic material, so its cushy wedge-ness was not hidden from the mailman. What does the mailman think, I wonder? I get packages like that, The Cop gets gear from a police tactical store, and My Gift recently had a shirt for the Renaissance Festival shipped to the house from a company called Tudor Dressing.

I wonder if he thinks we are a house full of armed Renaissance acrobats.

Slowly, slowly

Ugh. Still coughing. Everyone at work is treating me like I’m returning from a year in a sanitorium — I feel like a Thomas Mann character.

There is hope, though. Did half primary and the intermediate backbends this morning. Felt all ethereal and light — binds were easy, but I tired pretty easily. Still, it’s instructive to approach the practice with softness.

Savasana was marvelous. The magical learning process of physical-practice-then-be-still. It’s like having answers whispered in your ear.

Dreaming about my heels

Last night I dreamt I was in urdhva dhanurasana and walked my hands in until I touched my feet. It was nice. The end.

LOL!

Okay, it’s… um, 3.5 years into practice and I am losing the inclination to pine for poses. Is this why people quit around kapotasana? Because the pining, driven feeling diminishes and it’s confusing and you figure it means you’ve lost interest?

Luckily, I’ve had lots of practice carrying on with projects regardless my immediate feelings about them. The project of raising My Gift, certainly. I always loved her, but the day-to-day (and minute-by-minute!) requirements and logistics and ups and downs, etc., etc., etc., taught me to carry on regardless whether it seemed possible to carry on. [Moment of single-Mom self-pity. Okay, that’s done!]

Writing, same deal. I focused on it as a daily practice (i.e., was madly driven) for a good 10 years. Pined to publish. Published. Was happy. Published more. Was happy some more. Realized I was just going to keep writing, regardless publishing or happiness. All my worries, all my ups and downs over progress and publishing? Uh, yeah, didn’t make anything happen or not happen any more quickly or slowly.

It’s all about the means, not the end. I’ve learned that lesson over and over in a variety of situations. Good karma, I think — it’s a very pleasant, freeing lesson.

Alrighty, so I keep practicing. And I’ll use the vow I used for writing and zen practice: In 20 years, I’ll take a moment to consider whether it was worth it.

That seems reasonable.

***

I’ve not practiced since Sunday. Have a pretty awful cold. Used the usual gym rat rule for exercising while sick: once it goes lower than your throat or gives you a fever, you knock off (i.e., okay to practice with head cold or headache or sore throat, but not with a chest cold or cough).

Woke this morning and lay in bed, feeling like a log. My brain has been cut off from my body! LOL! Seriously, that’s what it feels like. Like my body is opaque to my mind. Like on “Heroes” when the Haitian is around and the mind readers can’t read other people’s minds.

Yeah, I’ve been watching “Heroes” too much.

***

One hilarious thought when I signed up for Matthew Sweeney’s workshop in July. “What if I’m still not dropping back?” (said in horrified tone). Because, you know, he’s been travelling the world teaching hundreds and hundreds of people, and in July he’s gonna travel to Minnesota and single me out to say, “Really, Karen? You still haven’t figured this out?”

🙂

Binaural Report, Sweeney Returns, Heroes

If today wasn’t a moon day, I’d repeat my experiment with the binaural track before I said anything about it. But moon day it is, so my report will be based on just one use.

What did I find? Well, I guess a little context is in order: I am on the waning side of a deep, easy yoga phase. I imagine this happens to everyone — phases where asana feels very clear and easily accessible? They come and go for me — generally practice is comfortable, so I can’t complain, but the deep phases are particularly marvelous.

For the past week or so, that easy accessiblity (where I just lock into tristhana automatically as soon as I raise my arms for the first surya) is diminishing. Not too sad — I know it’ll be back. But it makes for a good time to experiment with the binaural track.

So what did the track do? Well, it seemed to help me wipe my mind clear really easily. If something about an asana wasn’t what I wished, I just went on. When something went really well, it didn’t cause much internal celebration. I felt like I was experiencing everything, but not “sticking” to any of the particulars of the experience.

I know this idea makes non-Buddhists nervous. What, no highs or lows? No vividness to life? No desires? Whatever. I’ve had my fill of vata sensibility: flying off into fits of inspiration, getting jangly with too much energy, rebounding into judgment and loud inner monolog, etc., etc., etc. Sure, those things still happen, but to a much less intense degree. And I’m happy for the smoothing out, which I definitely attribute to practice, both zazen and Ashtanga. You know what feels really freaking good? Peace. Stillness. Presence. We are enculturated to desire thrills and joy and drama and all kinds of emotional acquisitions. Sheesh. Who made that decision?

So binaural practice was… meditative. Just as promised on the package (6 Hz for theta waves & meditation). 😉

***

Well, Matthew Sweeney starts his half-year of continuous world travel (seriously, look at this schedule!) in March. And he will be in Minneapolis July 10-16. As will I! Woohoo! I’d been mulling over the idea of going for a while (would it be too repetitive? should I go somewhere else? would it be better to experience a different teacher?), but when I got a note from Gracious Yogini, who lives in MN, that 9 of the 15 Mysore spots were already spoken for, I decided to go for it.

***

I can’t read on planes, trains, or in cars. For my recent flights to and from DC, I entertained myself with TV shows on my iPhone. At My Gift’s suggestion, I watched the first few episodes of Heroes. And was instantly hooked.

The Cop laughed and noted that I am now an iPhone addict — I watch TV shows on it, and read books via ereader in bed at night.

Remember those big huge “entertainment centers” people fell in love with in the… was it the 80s? the 90s? Anyhow, the entertainment center is now handheld, which amuses me no end.