17 September 2015

A new backbending prop

Another 1 hour evening practice.
Focusing on mulha bandha while moving through the Surya Namaskars intensifies the flow of prana.  My body takes on a brightness, lightness and strength.  Jumps are soft, light, floaty.

Then my phone rings while transitioning from Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana A to B on the first side, and I abandon my leg while in the air.  It’s my son, so I answer.
Note to self – phone gets turned OFF from now on during yoga practice.

I get back on the mat, bandhas, breath, rhythm, flow, energy…all gone.

Oh well, let’s do backbends.
Salabhasana, Dhanurasana, Ustrasana twice, Supta Virasana, Setu Bandha.  I press up into Urdhva Dhanurasana, arms won’t straighten.  I feel heavy.  I try again.  The second one is usually better, but not tonight.
Thick, tight shoulders again. 
How to release them?

I try a handstand with my fingertips 40cm away from the wall, sort of an arching backbend.  It doesn’t quite work.  I come in closer to the wall, kick up and arch my lumber to drop my back thighs to the wall, still trying to stretch open my shoulders. 
It doesn’t feel good, or safe.  I come down.

I spy the esky at the end of my bed (yes, an esky) and it already has a yoga mat draped over it.  This is set up so my little Buffy has a halfway place to jump when getting on and off my bed.

I pull the esky near the heater and lay over it lengthways taking arms over and back behind my head.  A strap is over my elbows to keep my upper arms parallel.  I lay and wait for the release. It’s not too bad actually.  We often laid over the side of a stage during Iyengar classes, with crown of head and forearms on the floor, knees bent and feet on the stage, then we'd flip our legs overhead, through a headstand and down onto the floor.  They were good, solid classes.
Wriggling backwards down the esky, I try to get into a supported Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana with my forearms on the floor but can’t quite get there without pressurising the top of my head.  Not good.

Enough for tonight.

Headstand: 10 breaths balancing with head barely touching the floor then I allow weight on my head and stay in the pose for a while.

I sit in half Padmasana for a long time - perhaps ten or fifteen minutes.
It is quiet in here, after yoga, inside my head.  Perfectly balanced, hauntingly silent, I am looking out from inside the central point of a spinning top, from deep inside the eye of a tornado.  This vast peacefulness is familiar.  I remember it, I have missed it, this silent, fathomless abode that is home.  The yoga is working.  The amnesia is lifting.  

16 September 2015

Director and Observer

A 1 hour evening practice tonight.  Deep, intense, focussed, quiet.

Supta Baddha Konasana and Supta Virasana (both on a bolster to destress my body from the day’s hard physical work)
Cross Legged forward bend
Supta Padangusthasana
A very long Paschimottanasana
Baddha Konasana – I released into this pose, much more than usual tonight.  There is deep emotional tension stored in my muscles that restricts opening in the hips. Although slightly frustrating on one hand because I used to easily go forward flat to the floor, on the other hand it's a fascinating challenge to gently overcome the resistance and observe the pose unlocking the tension.  I take heart knowing that there is corresonding opening in the mind and heart as the body physically releases emotional trauma.
Janu Sirsasana
Parivritta Janu Sirsasana – a twisted side bend from a very wide Janu Sirsasana
Upavista Konasana
Marichyasana A
Marichyasana C
Shoulderstand, Halasana, Karna Pindasana

During practice my focus is laser sharp, internal and microscopic, I am moving through my body with great precision, watching and feeling tissues tightening and relaxing, muscles and hard tendons releasing, joints opening, blood flow stopping and starting, all while working in the poses. 
My mind is split: one part is directing the pose and managing the balance between intensity and release.  The other part is observing the effects and monitoring degrees of safety, intensity, progress.
Yet another part is feeling love, joy and gratitude, for being alive and being able to do yoga.

Yoga unites all these parts into one seamless whole that is much greater than what we can possibly imagine.

15 September 2015

Early morning practice

"Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark."
Rabindranath Tagore

Here in Adelaide spring has just arrived. 
The mornings are still chilly, but the days are filled with promise.

I made a pact that I’d get up at 5.30am today.
I step onto the mat at 5.45 and as I begin my sun salutes, I am rewarded with a symphony of birdsong.

Body has morning stiffness, but that was expected.

Surya Namaskar - I rise up, I bow down, I repeat this many times over in a cycle of movements that warm my body. 
Surya Namaskar is truly a bowing down to the magnificent energy of the sun.  As I perform these sacred movements, I feel humbled and honoured to be practicing as the sun once again rises over the horizon to warm this side of the earth.

I move through the standing poses, aware of the early morning restrictions in my body.  Slight modifications are needed for Parivritta Parsvakonasana and Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana, and I’m happy with that – doing a yoga practice that will wipe me out or cripple me for the rest of the day is no longer practical. 
Transformation must come slowly, gently, organically.
Yoga practice must nourish my body and mind, and provide energy, love, balance and inspiration for the day.
This is Buddha’s middle way and the sensible wisdom of age.

After the standing poses, I kick up to a handstand.  Still feeling a bit heavy.  I may have added a couple of kilos over winter and just noticing it now.

Practice time is running out.  I have to be finished by 6.45am. 
I abandon the sequence and choose what I need to do: Janu Sirsasana, then simple backbends: Salbhaasana, Dhanurasana, Ustrasana.
I won’t even attempt Urdhva Dhanurasana this morning.  The risk of injury is high.
Supta Padangusthasana is the backbend counter pose today.
I finish with some inversions: Shoulderstand, Halasana. Matsyasana, then Headstand.
Savasana for 5 minutes.

With only half an hour after practice to get ready for work and have breakfast, there is no time for writing or reflection.

Now, late at night, I can look back and reflect.  It feels like a dream to have risen early and done a practice this morning.  Magic and mystery suffused those quiet early hours.

There is a tribe who chant, pray, dance and bow to the sun in the bewitching hours before dawn.  They seek union.  They are yogis.

14 September 2015

The spark

It hasn’t been a successful yoga week.
And tonight I am not so forgiving of myself. 
YES, my life is full; YES, I have been damaged; YES, I no longer have the zest and exuberance of youth; BUT if I were really committed to a regular yoga/spiritual practise, I’d get up at 5am each morning when mind and body are fresh, because there are too many variables in the evening that I can use for self sabotage.

Tonight, after a physical working day with lots of lifting, I showered and fronted up to my mat. 
Dog Pose, Uttanasana, a few gentle stretches.
I was surprised by the heaviness of my body and lack of energy.
Breath seemed shallow and insipid, prana weak.

Perhaps I could have changed my thoughts, refused to listen to the excuses, pepped myself up with motivational self talk, turned the situation around.
I’ll never know.
Instead I took the therapeutic Iyengar path (do what your body needs):
I start with a 20 breath Headstand, then moved into a twisted spinal Headstand.
20 breaths in Shoulderstand, Halasana, and Karna Pindasana. 
These inversions are pure gold.

I then fell asleep on my mat.

Memories of tough, early morning ashtanga practices haunt me.
The yoga burned into my body and psyche, a transformational fire, a sacred and devotional practice performed in the quiet early hours on a pure, blank canvas.

Fast forward 6 years and I am now a bit lazy, a bit mediochre, drowning out pain and discomfort with the superficial buzz of daily activities.  Seeking solace through disconnection.
I have been avoiding thoughts about realising my full human potential.
I have not been working on purifying my mind.
I have not been living with raw authenticity. 

Owning up to this, a spark has ignited inside.

Tomorrow I will get up at 5.30am.

And step back onto my mat in the quiet early hours.

9 September 2015

Two thirds Ashtanga, one third Iyengar

Since returning with great commitment to a regular yoga practice about 6 weeks ago, I've become aware of how much ‘life gets in the way of yoga practice’.
Of course this is ridiculous, because the reason we practice is to help us become more present and accepting of whatever arises, to remain awake, aware and centred through each moment of each day.  
Life IS practice.
For me, working long hours, often with early starts, makes a regular morning practice difficult.  Damage from past trauma makes it even harder to spring out of bed and into the day. Work extends into early evenings quite often and other evenings are taken up with helping my son.  Weekends come and go in a blur of back to back commitments.

Yoga practice sits like a little jewel sparkling in the distance.
When I get to practice, it is no longer a discipline, or an attachment, or even a spiritual communion, but simply a challenge and a joy.

This morning’s practice was short and, knowing I won’t fit in another yoga practice until Friday evening, I step back onto the mat tonight.

Starting with the sun salutes as I normally do, I move fluidly with the breath, no stopping in Dog Pose.  5 As and 3 Bs.
I follow the Primary sequence through all the standing poses with rhythmic Ujjayi breathing and a firm focus on Mula bandha.

My chest shows no sign of infection or heaviness tonight.

Ardha Baddha Padma Padmottanasana is the only hiccup in the flow.  The second side is persistently painful, but strangely, as stand upright, holding the left leg in Padmasana for 5 breaths, the hip begins to release and my knee moves down in it’s own time.  Resistance in the left hip succumbs and the bone moves out of the way, but only when I wait patiently.  I breathe deeply through the fear.

After Virabhadrasana ll, I do a long Handstand against the wall, then shift gears and quieten the practice down for the second half.  

Dandasana to Marichy A, with no vinyasas.  I stay seated, holding each pose for 5 very long, slow breaths, and connecting to the flow of prana.  This has become a seriously quiet Iyengar style practice.

After Marichy A…backbends. 
Not through choice – but through the tapas of necessity.  I am determined to break down the hard crystals that now live in my upper back and shoulders.  When the body relinquishes long held tension, a corresponding opening occurs in the mind.  Bit by bit, we can become more open, more giving, more loving, more free through this practice.

I lay over a block for a few minutes, hands interlocked behind my head to increase the chest opening.  Then Ustrasana.  Then Urdhva Dhanurasana.  I don’t want to do this pose, but I do…three times, and each time is a little less difficult than the last.

My practice finishes with the full Ashtanga Primary sequence of inversions, from Shoulderstand through to Baddha Padmasana.

I am loving my yoga practice again.