Thursday 1st November 2007
Practice started off strong but the joyride only lasted for the standing poses. At that point it changed into a passive Iyengar practice. I seem to have created certain exit points in this sequence, different places where I get off, like a bus stop. Doing this practice alone, outside the watchful eye of a Mysore class, I’m more prone to giving up early.
Exit point 1 is at the end of the Surya Namaskars – it’s pretty sad if I get off here and I don’t even count it as practice.
Exit point 2 is at the end of the standing poses – this seems like a short practice when judged by Ashtanga standards, but at least I’ve done something. And besides I’ve been to many Iyengar classes in my time where the entire 80 minute class has consisted of the full repertoire of standing poses followed by inversions with all their variations, and ending of course with Savasana, so if I get off at this exit point and do a few inversions at least I can feel like I’ve done the equivalent to a real class.
Exit point 3 is after Marichyasana C. Exiting here means my energy has waned, the seated poses have become a chore and I’ve started skipping the vinyasas, so I know I won’t have the mental determination, stamina or will to attempt Marichy D so that rough little trip from Bhuja to Supta K is unthinkable.
If I exit at Marichy C, I usually attempt a few extra poses like Baddha Konasana, Supta Padangusthasana and a couple of backbends before the finishing poses, so once again it’s not such as bad practice by “other” standards (I tell myself).
Then there’s exit point 4 at Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana which only happens when I’m so emotionally exhausted that I can’t summon the strength or courage to face any backbending – this was a common exit point last year but happily I rarely get off here now as backbending is the highlight of my practice these days even if I exit early.
Here’s a little gem I’ve discovered in the Surya Namaskars: an awareness of the inner thighs. When I was teaching yoga I often instructed students in Downward Dog pose to roll the inner thighs back and lift the inner thigh flesh up to the ceiling (rather than rolling it around toward the back of the thigh). This gives the sensation of a subtle upward lift. Lately I’ve been remembering this in my own practice and applying it not just in Dog Pose but in sun salutes and vinyasas, and consciously combining it with mula bandha.
This simple instruction has the initial effect of helping beginners with the pelvic tilt forward, but when the pelvis is tilted too far forward you can’t engage mula bandha to its maximum and therefore the energy from the lower body is not being fully drawn upwards. So as practice becomes more refined and subtle, it’s fascinating to play with the degree of pelvic tilt that allows the best flow of energy.
To describe it more: I’m in the standing forward bend…inhale and look up…exhale bend the knees and jump back to Chaturanga Dandasana. Right at this point I focus awareness on my inner thighs, engage these muscles and roll them upwards. At first I didn’t feel anything happening and couldn’t make the connection – it’s a real dead area – but just by trying seomthing was stimulated. During the next two moves, inhaling to Upward Dog and exhaling to Downward Dog, all my attention is focussed on consistently lifting the inner thighs and engaging Mula Bandha.
I don’t’ know why I’ve got this sudden fascination with my inner thighs. Maybe they’re just waking up after all these years. It’s quite exciting feeling life and awareness return to long dead parts of the body.