Saturday 23rd February 2008
This morning I drove to the other side of the city to do a practice with Kosta in his workshop-come-yoga studio.
We decided to do our own separate practices since it's Day 2 of that female time of the month again (has it really been 4 weeks since Glenn’s workshop?) and Kosta was complaining of a pinch in his lower back (he came up the wrong way from a supported backbend).
I opted for doing the tried and true primary series up to Urdhva Dhanurasana with the intention of finishing off with something other than inversions. Somehow Kosta slipped into it too and we ended up practising in unison, not intentionally, but probably the result of two strongly directed yoga energies running parallel in a slipstream, which was a lovely experience.
Having not been to the shala for a long time or to a led Primary for over a year, I’d forgotten about that special energy created when two or more people practice the sequence in unison.
At a cheat point, jumping from Marichi C to Navasana, he pulled me up...
“What about Marichy D?” he queried, looking innocently perplexed.
I had no excuse today so I shamefully went back and did it, binding easily on both sides and twisting with actual integrity.
Why on earth did I choose to skip this pose? Habit???
It was a little gift to have this highlighted, but after that insight I couldn’t possibly skip Bhuja through to Supta K as I'm also prone to doing on occasions.
Well, so pleased was I with my effort in Supta K that I sat up afterwards and put each foot (ankle actually) behind my head just to prove to my lower back that Supta K with both ankles crossed behind my head might be possible one day. Perhaps I might develop my yoga siddhis to such heights that I'll channell the spirit of Vanda Scaravelli into my body in my old age.
Breath is interesting in practice lately, or to be more specific, the flow of energy that rides on the breath. Ujjiya Pranayama is an integral part of my asana practice, even when I’m doing a quieter Iyengar sequence. I love watching the prana being generated, channelled, moving, ebbing and flowing, building up or draining away in relative proportion with my focus and stamina. Sometimes it’s dissipated weakly throughout the body, sometimes it whooshes through the central channel, sometimes I can discern it rising up through the front of my body and collecting in my throat (most noticabe in Utkatasana), other times it can flood my head blurring my sight and destabilising my inner ear balance (in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, Matsyasana and Sirsasana).
The importance of grounding and energising the entire lower body can't be overstated when working with raising energy up through the chakras and channells. This activates the muscular earthy energy in the lower body so it can then be drawn upwards and refined. If the leg muscles are not engaged and the base of the pose is weak, there’s no foundation to work from. Yuk, even thinking somatically now about a weak base (imagining the feeling in my body) makes me feel insipid and impotent.
In seated poses too the legs have to be fully engaged or the strong earth energy will remain untapped. And in inversions/balances whatever part of the body is contacting the floor (eg. two hands in Handstand or Bakasana, the forearms in Sirsasana, neck and upper back in Sarvangasana, hands and feet in Urdhva Dhanurasana etc) must actively press down into the floor to activate and energise the rest of the pose.
Tapping into the presence and flow of prana around my body seems to be my main focus in my practice these days. It requires a refined and subtle awareness, something that has been developing over my many years of practising and teaching yoga.
I remember a friend quoting Shandor who often said that the first ten years of yoga is just ‘donkey work’. Well, 13 years after my first yoga class, I’m witnessing a quantum leap in the evolution of the yoga donkey.