Monday evening, I finish work, walk home, take a quick shower and step onto the mat at 6.30pm, a little jaded, a little hungry. Better to practice on empty than with food in my stomach. Besides, dinner will be a nice reward after practice.
Sirsasana cycle, 6 minutes. Despite my small breakthrough last week, Padmasana in Sirsasana doesn’t come on either side tonight, so Pindasana in Sirsasana is left out again.
Sarvangasana cycle, 15 minutes, with extra time working on Pindasana in Sarvangasana.
I come down from the Shoulderstand sequence and reconnect with the ground for a moment then move into Jatara, wringing the tension out of my shoulderstand neck with a full twist of my head.
Continuing to follow the week 26 – 30 sequence, I am sensitive to my body’s limitations tonight: The shoulderstand sequence has bent my upper spine too far for too long. I need to backbend it out, but the next poses are forward bends: Janu, Ardha Baddha, Triang, Marichy A and Paschimottanasana.
Instead of looking down in these poses, I gaze to my feet. This helps to lift the front ribcage slightly up from the legs and away from the pelvis, actively lengthening the front of the spine. It gives a more active forward bend experience than the gaze down orientation which tends to internalise the mind under a cloak of darkness.
The lengthening also helps to prepare for the next pose, Urdhva Mukha Paschimottanasana. I lift up through my ribcage and balance holding the outer edges of my feet; I lift up higher, compact body to legs and teeter upon two miniature sitting bones that seem to be shrinking by the moment. My heart blossoms up to the sky.
Prolonged forward bending is now aggravating the nerve roots in my spine, causing my hips to ache. Gomukhasana provides some relief. I squeeze my thighs to stimulate the root chakra, it stirs and unravels upward. Lolasana, the next pose, flattens it. I struggle to lift off, arms are strong but that doesn’t help. Whatever is needed to get my feet off the floor, I just haven’t got it…yet.
Taking a breather, I re-read the instructions for Simhasana. How extraordinary that in all the 15 years of attending yoga classes I never encountered this pose. I don’t quite get the legs. Mr Iyengar’s foot points out from behind his buttock in the photo, but following his instructions for how to cross and sit on the legs, the pressure on my feet and ankles is unbearable – the position must be wrong. I settle for kneeling – perhaps I’ll get some benefit from the facial contortions…it’s supposed to cure bad breath. I think it also cures vanity.
Padmasana, Parvatasana and Tolasana – I slip into them one after the other on the first side. But nerve ache is spreading out of my hips and the accumulated effects of the practice now echo mournfully through my joints. I consider stopping after making it through all three poses on the second side, but instead I refold my legs into Padmasana and lean back for Matsyasana. In stoic defiance of aching hips I try to keep an internal focus on Broomadhya drishte (inward gaze to the third eye).
This is my last pose for tonight.
A very high pain threshold is useful in childbirth, but not in yoga.
I lay back on a bolster in Supta Virasana for 5 mintues attempting to reverse all previous hip positions, then finally I lay out for Savasana.
Three quarters of the sequence completed in one and a half hours.
Not completing an intended sequence does prompt me to re-examine my motivation for practicing.
Not completing a sequence is not failure. Failure does not exist in my vocabulary because things are just as they are - there is no good, no bad, no judgement…just a continual flow of changing conditions.
A little twinge of disappointment lingers, so I let it go, then reconnect with my physical and mental condition as it is right now.
ANY form of disappointment shows up our unrealistic expectations.
When I rise from Savasana my body reveals how intensely I worked. I feel fully satisfied.
Working with and around the pain has brought a sharpness and sensitivity to my mind.
I may have earned my dinner…but for now I can only hobble to the kitchen like an old lady.
Its times like this that I wonder why I persist with asana practice.
Then I remind myself that asana, the third of eight yoga limbs, is an integral part of a whole system of mental, emotional and spiritual development.
So what of the higher limbs…why don’t I spend more time on the cushion training my mind, or out in the community helping the helpless, instead of stretching and challenging my body on a yoga mat?
What lures me to spend so much of my precious spare time playing solitaire within the deeper confines of my body and mind?
Tonight I see yoga as an internalised form of self entertainment.
Yesterday I saw it as a system of purification leading to enlightenment.
Tomorrow I shall see it differently.
And none of this matters…I’m just playing around inside of my head, entertaining myself…