7 December 2007

New Years Resolutions

Saturday 8th December 2007

I worked a busy 13 hour day yesterday – my usual 8 hours in the office plus 5 hours serving wine at the exhibition opening last night. Today is my last work day – hopefully an easy one minding the art gallery. After today I’m officially on annual leave until 2nd January.
What will I do?
I should have a plan.
Time is precious.
Must use it productively.

On the Mat
After I walked the dog this morning, I came back and did a leisurely ‘ladies holiday’ practice at 8am (work started at 11am).
Started with a long Supta Virasana simply because I may start back at the 6am Iyengar led class in February next year (with you-know-who) and my body might need some coaxing back into some of the old standby Iyengar poses (handstand, forearm balance, Ardha Chandrasana, a thousand and one Headstand and Shoulderstand variations etc).

Although it looks like I can do it easily, I’m not very comfortable in Supta Virasana any more – will need to lay around in it more often.

Sun Salutes, standing poses, all good, then a long Janu Sirsasana A, the penultimate menstrual pose (next to Baddha Konasana). After that I grabbed a block for a passive chest opener: laid on the floor with the block under my thoracic spine - this is like a passive version of Matsyasana with extended legs - then gradually raised my arms up until they pointed to the ceiling and slowly, slowly reached them back over my head, til the thumbs touched the floor (palms facing inwards). I took my time doing this because the arm movement, when done mindfully, shows up where the shoulders catch and it helps me to correct my wonky right shoulder as it starts to skew.
This is classic Iyengar work...realignment at a surgical level. It brings balance to the two sides of the body, something that we often poo-poo in Ashtanga while merrily skipping through the same practice reinforcing the same habits.

After that one, I put TWO blocks under my sacrum for a not-quite-so-passive Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge). The bottom block is placed horizontal on the floor with a vertical block on top. I have to be up on my toes to get my sacrum up onto the block but once it’s in place I can lower the feet down and masochistically enjoy the piriformis stretch.

Then I did a sleepy kind of Supta Padangusthasana to release out of the back bend and lay in Supta Baddha Konasana for a while instead of Savasana.

New Years Resolution
I’m thinking about making a New Year’s Resolution.
And I don’t go into this lightly.
If I make a promise to myself I have to keep it so I have to be careful what I promise.
The Resolution would be to practice yoga EVERY day.

It’s completely unrealistic for me to do an Ashtanga practice 6 days a week right now – I’m no longer mentally fired up enough for that, neither is my body.
But if I make a NYR to practice SOME kind of physical yoga every day, even if it’s just a few stretches, or research poses, or corrective surgery poses, or an Iyengar sequence, or only half of Primary series, or even full Primary series, or maybe even Primary plus some second series backbends – whoa getting a bit ahead of myself here….anyway I think if I gave myself all that leeway I may be able to honour the promise to myself.
It would definitely help me build up a daily routine of self discipline which I’m really going to need when my yoga practice buddy Renate goes away in February for 6 months.

I’ve never made New Years Resolutions before. Although well intentioned they seemed like those impulse buys, splurges induced by a spur of the moment madness.
Being more sensitive these days, I can feel how Christmas/New Year is a time where collective energy rises like a crescendo over Christmas, followed by quiet reflection, and then the coming New Year generates a particular energy which facilitates new beginnings. Maybe by making New Years Resolutions we are subconsciously hooking into this collective energy to help lift us up to meet our dreams.

So I’m going to sit and reflect on all this for the next few weeks (not on Vipassana of course when my thoughts are being purified). Then I’ll consider making a committed promise to myself to get to my mat every day – and I won't be able to break my promise without extreme anguish and pain.

A BIG THANK YOU to Mr Iyengar for sharing so much life-wisdon in his book 'Light on Life' and for rekindling my belief in the path of yoga.
His opening words in the Preface:
"by persistent and sustained practice, anyone and everyone can make the yoga journey and reach the goal of illumination and freedom. Krishna, Buddha and Jesus lie in the hearts of all. They are not film stars, mere idols of adulation. They are great inspirational figures whose example is there to be followed. They act as our role models today. Just as they reached Self-realization, so may we.”

So true.
It’s not that hard.
Just believe in the way and follow the path. You’ll get there.

Vipassana and forearm balance

Tuesday 4th December 2007

Have you ever driven your car somewhere and at some point during the journey you find yourself sitting at the wheel wondering how you go there alive because your mind was completely absent?
You wake up out of a dreamworld and realise your body has been driving on autopilot while you’ve been away – it’s scary.
I wasn’t quite that bad during practice but over and over I had to keep waking myself up to where I was.
Practice happened a great distance away from where I actually was - or vice versa.

So I’m looking forward with great anticipation to the Vipassana retreat this year.
I’ll do 7 days this time instead of 10, starting December 15th. As it approaches, I’m becoming acutely aware of how much my mind really really needs this annual detox and space-clearing.

Some women indulge in face and body make-overs. I go get my mind purified.

Eleven hours a day of seated mindfulness of breath and body sensations is the backdrop against which all the impurities that clog up the system are flushed to the surface and whisked away, leaving clear mind, pure mind.
Sounds like an ad for a cleaning product.

On the Mat
As I went through the motions of practice this morning, the physical practice receded into the background as what was on my mind asserted its false urgency and demanded undue attention.
Standing poses were strong to start with because my initial focus was strong – I think this planted and established the strong Ujjiya rhythmic breath that lasted for the entire practice. It remained deep and connected long after my mind lost the plot near the end of the standing poses. Everything but the breath started dropping away and the practice veered off the Ashtanga course.

I went to the wall and did 2 long handstands then kicked up for a couple of Pincha Mayurasanas (forearm balance).
What possessed me???
I hadn’t done this pose for yonks (that’s Aussie slang for a very long time!)
PS: Sssshhhhhh...maybe it was because I had dinner with a few yoga friends last Sunday evening, one of them the senior Iyengar teacher that I absolutely adore (not mentioning any names) and who’s Friday morning led class I occasionally hook into for a while. I haven’t been to his class for at least 6 months hadn’t seen him for that long and had almost forgotten how much I adore him. To cut this long story short…his class is always a megadose of handstands, forearm balances and backbends. Maybe me go back next year…maybe me infatuated...maybe me talking like sillly girl....anyway must practice handstands and forearm balances now…maybe mad…maybe love…

Back to earth, back to the mat for some forward bends. No vinyasas but luckily the deep Ujjiya breath kept all the poses connected together like a string of pearls. Forward bends were difficult, only because my mind was occupied elsewhere.
Rest of practice - lost in translation.


Thursday 29th November 2007

Another full practice, very satisfying. It just keeps getting better – not better in that I’m progressing (regressing is closer to the truth), but better in a deepening/maturing kind of way. Deepening might sound like my yoga is becoming heavy but it’s not, it’s actually deepening with a light infused intensity.
I love this practice. I hope I can do it forever.
Practising with injury accelerates this process of maturity. It demands awareness, observation, presence, compassion, investigation. You can’t practice on autopilot when you body’s in full protect-at-all-costs mode.
Tuesday 27th November

There’s pain…and there’s pain…it manifests in so many different guises, and even if I just limited my random thoughts of pain to the physical body (as opposed to emotional, mental pain), I'd still be able to describe many different sensations.
But what I'm feeling in my lumbar and right hip joint is mystifying.
It’s definitely pain, but not a shooting pain, not a sharp pain, not even an achy pain.
It’s a sort of blocked pain that I’d associate with deep tissue damage and severed energy channels. There’s nerve aggravation, distortion, and an exaggerated somatic perception of imbalance because one part of my body is producing cellular heat and mobilising healing fluids for tissue repair and the corresponding opposite side of my body is completely dull in comparison.

On the Mat
Surya Namaskars
went well, and the only problem that arose in the standing poses was a complete inability to hold up my right leg unsupported in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana. Note: it’s not just abdominal and leg muscular strength that are needed here. My right hip joint is completely impotent, limp, as if the energy channel has been cut inside it and the prana can’t surge through. Left leg – no problem – I held it up at 90 degrees for a good 5 breaths.
Come the seated poses I was determined not to retreat from the hip pain, but face this injury, investigate it through the poses and learn more about it.

(By this time it was obvious that Renate was having a dud of a practice…she only did a few standing poses then retreated to the floor for another 10 minutes or so before giving up, sitting up, blanketing up and meditating before hitting the floor gain for Savasana and a snooze – unusual for her – she usually puts me to shame with her endurance).

I did looong seated poses up to Janu Sirsasana C and really brought in all my 12 years of yoga experience, minutely adjusting, microscopically observing, deep-sea internal exploring and processing it all through some ancient part of my brain. This really is fascinating yoga…pity we usually only do this kind of yoga when we’re injured.
The focus is quite different, much sharper, not diffused amongst breath, bandhas, drishti, alignment, energy etc. It’s not that kind of global focus where the awareness permeates the whole body/mind/beingness (which is a beautiful experience in itself and a sign of an advanced yoga practice). No, this is staring eye-to-eye at specifics without blinking kind of yoga. The gaze undistracted, unwavering. eg. I look at how my leg muscles are working, I slightly rotate the femur and note what that does to my pelvis – is it square? Can I even trust my perception when one side of my sacrum feels warm and swollen and the other side feels dull? I lengthen through my neck, making a little more space between the cervical vertebrae and a tiny almost imperceptible pop tells me the energy channel between throat and third eye has cleared, surrounding nadis have unblocked, the energy flows and I realise that these small openings are why we feel so good after a yoga practice and can’t quite articulate why.

Since I cut the practice short by stopping at Janu C, I had half an hour to spare before I could legitimately start the finishing poses (what kind of weird time management logic is this?).
I tested my lumbar/hip response with a long Baddha Konasana, it was a bittersweet entry but got easier as my body gave way its defences and I softened and lengthened forward into the pose. Supta Padangusthasana came next… I love the little extra adjustment in SP-B (when the leg extended to the side) where you slide the heel of the grounding leg away from the sitting bone – if you also keep the femur of this leg consciously pressed towards the floor while stretching that heel away, you get a lovely stretch through the front hip.
That was it..that was practice.

Rare photo of a nobody!

Sunday 25th November 2007

This is a rare photo that SOMEONE SNEAKILY TOOK of me at Onkaparinga Gorge today.
I went bushwalking there today with a very achy, painful back/hip. The walking was gentle on it, yoga isn’t.

Yesterday’s Mysore practice at the shala was great at the time and the assisted backdrops were a rare treat, but my fragile lumbar/right hip is aching from it all today.


Friday 23rd November 2007

Over and over I keep reading the section from Iyengar’s Light on Life about conscience (pp178-179).
It has a direct bearing on this passionate urge of mine for living and acting from the Absolute Truth. My conscience doesn’t limit itself just to pricking me for something I’ve said or done wrong, but it also nags at me for what I haven’t done, haven’t started, haven’t said, haven’t finished.
It’s telling me that there are things in my life that aren’t quite right that I need to clean up.

To quote Mr Iyengar:
"(Conscience) is the nearest point of contact we experience between the natural world and the spiritual world. For that reason, you could say that conscience is the perception of consequences perceived from the deepest level, that of unity. This is where soul infuses matter, a bridge between soul and Nature. That is why conscience will only ever tell you one thing, offer one course of action, because is comes out of Oneness. Conscience is consciousness being able to tune in to the promptings of the individual soul (atma).”

He goes on to talk about the difference between intuition and conscience…
"What then is different about conscience? The difference is that conscience hurts; it causes pain, we say we are pricked by conscience. Intuition prompts us, causes perhaps some confusion, because we do no know where it is coming from. But conscience hurts. That is because it lies at the heart of the paradox of what it means to be a spiritual being, living in a physical body, in a material world. Conscience tells us to do the harder thing, because it is always pulling us toward Unity, toward Wholeness. Conscience, when it is flawless, is the voice of our soul, whispering in our ear. In that sense, even a painful conscience is a privilege as it is proof that God is still talking to us.”

I have a burning need to live this mundane daily life with immaculate presence and flawless integrity.
I wonder what changes I could make to facilitate/accelerate this?
My lifestyle, my habits, my schedule of activities, spiritual practice, choices, decisions, interactions and relationships...it’s like I need to lay a new blueprint over my life like a silk sheet and let the luminous colours bleed into every layer of my life transforming it into a pure and delicate expression of Light and Truth.
One beautiful silk sheet that is the Truth...