26 August 2010

Practice notes

I didn’t get up in time to do a full Ashtanga Primary practice, but the last time I did that was probably over two years ago!
Still that doesn’t stop me from setting my alarm every evening with great optimism.

I did get up a t 6am and walk the dog. Stepping onto my mat at 7am I had just over 45 minutes for yoga. It was a quiet practice: a few stretches to ease the stiffness out my back, then I started with Paryankasana of all things, only because I couldn’t fully lay my body back for Supta Virasana – early morning tight quads arched my back so I had to rest on the the crown of my head for a while (hands holding elbows overhead) before gradually easing the arch out of my spine and laying fully down to the floor in Supta Virasana.
After that it was
50 breaths in Headstand (7 minutes)
a long Childs Pose
Janu Sirsasana

and cross legged forwad bends – a real beginners pose, but one that no longer comes easily (especially first thing in the morning). Today this simple forward bend revealed the extent of the stiffness in my lumbar and hips, but it also helped me to release some of it.

It was 45 minutes well spent - I must remember
1) not to lose my optimism when I set the alarm at night
2) not to judge myself so harshly when I fall short of my high expectations and
3) not to compare my current practice with how it used to be.

Tonight I’ll have a rare night free to do another practice after work – it could be an Ashtanga or an Iyengar practice, will see…

It was an Iyengar practice tonight – again straight out of Light On Yoga.
This time week 22-25 from the asana courses.

20 breaths in Headstand and 5 breaths in each variation.
It took me 15 breaths in Shoulderstand to develop the necessary strength and alignment up through my core and to confidently remove the support of my arms and hands for the Niralamba variations. My aversion to starting practice with inversions is diminishing - some mornings when time is short, I am quite satisfied with a one pose practice - Headstand - before work. Very economical.

My body hasn’t reclaimed enough lumbar curvature to feel comfortable in any degree of Karnapidasana although I can now get my knees to my forehead - that’s safe now.
Six months ago I couldn’t even bend my knees from Halasana because of the lumbar injury…compared with three years ago when folding in half was delicious, knees were planted firmly on the floor and squeezing my knees into my ears was a joy.
I mention this, not because I am grieving the loss of mobility, but because my yoga practice allows me to measure both the damage and the rate of healing. Slowly, not daily, but perhaps monthly, I am noticing a little progress in tiny areas of my body.

I am enjoying being a beginner again and discovering yoga all over again.
But this time round of course the years of knowledge and practice make it a deeper exploration. Simple beginners poses like Childs Pose and cross legged forward bends are multi layered, and I am able to dig deeply and excavate the buried treasure they hold: gifts of acceptance, awareness, presence, deep release and joy.

After the endless cycle of Shoulderstand variations in this sequence, I did a slow Chakrasana, not realising (until literally now) that I’d missed out Urdhva Prasarita Padasana and Jatara.
Then came the four ‘downward facing backbends’ (Salabhasana, Dhanurasana, Bhujangasana, Urdhva Mukha Svanasana), with Chaturanga Dandasana somewhere in the middle, Downward Dog then the standard line up of six forward bends including Marichyasana 1 and 2; after the two ‘buttock balances’ came the new poses for this week’s sequence:
Lolasana – no lift off, no way can I get my feet off the floor but like a beginner, it’s the trying that activates all the right muscles and neurons to build the pose. This is a pose where the knees are not only bent towards the chest (like Karnapidasana and Child Pose) but also lifted off the ground . The abdominal and dep internal muscles needed for this are damaged and dead but I remain optimistic…
Gomukhasana – the classic version balanced on one folded leg that I actually prefer to the version where the legs are splayed. Balancing on the heel is the challenge but when it comes, it’s lovely.
Simhasana – a pose I’d NEVER done in an Iyengar class in all my life, perhaps because it’s not very attractive. It’s a bizarre, mad yogi pose.

Padmasana and Parvatasana, nice and easy…for me any pose with Padmasana legs activates deep internal energetic mechanisms and combined with Ujjiya breathing, they are enormously powerful.
Tolasana – this pose I can do easily, it’s the same as one of the finishing poses in the Ashtanga sequence but they call it Uth Pluthi
Virasana, Supta Virasana, Paryankasana – I swapped around these last two poses. Same story as this morning…after laying back from Virasana it was easier to prop myself up on the crown of my head in the back arch as this position has less of a groin stretch. Gradually as the groins eased open and lengthened, I came fully down into Supta Virasana, rolling from the crown to the back of my head.

I missed out Ustrasana accidentally - my old, battered copy of Light on Yoga has very small type which is even harder to see towards the end of practice as my vision gets yoga-hazed.
Utkatasana – still don’t understand why it’s here…but at least it was followed by
Uttanasana in this sequence so it wasn’t quite so isolated.

Twists – Bharadvajasana 1 and 2, then Marichyasana 3 and Ardha Matsyendrasana, both which I had to modify by sitting on a folded blanket– these are danger poses – firstly the knee to chest position puts my hip joint into its most troubled position and secondly there’s the additional lumbar/sacral twist. But as difficult as they were, they still felt wonderful- which is a really good sign.
Malasana and Baddha Konasana to finish.

One hour and 40 minutes, then 15 mintues in Savasana with the cat snuggled between my thighs and little Buffydog sitting quite comfortably on my chest.


sarah said...

i truly feel that beginner's mind is a very deep practice. age and injury seem to be the blessings we demonize until we cultivate acceptance and benefit from them!

i so enjoy your posts and profoundly admire your practice.

Anonymous said...

Shoulder stands are great. It’s important especially for newbies to utilize key positioning skills. I found that Leeann Carey has a great free yoga video on this very thing. Your readers might want to check it out: http://planetyoga.com/yoga-blogs/index.php/free-yoga-video-key-positioning-skills-kps-push-and-reach/

nobodhi said...

So right Sarah, we are blessed, not cursed by age and injury - they bring ever-deepening lessons that cultivate compassion and life wisdom.