Practice tonight was again the Week 22-25 sequence from Light on Yoga.
40 breaths in the Headstand sequence then 15 minutes total in the Shoulderstand sequence. Every Shoulderstand variation felt deeply comfortable and nourishing so I stayed longer than usual to soak each one of them up.
Before I went up into the first Shoulderstand, I prepared with Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana to open my hips ready for the final inverted pose Urdhva Padmasana. This is the pose where from Shoulderstand, you fold your legs into Lotus then extend your arms up to support the knees with your hands. It’s a favourite pose but not an easy one to get into at the start of practice when your body’s cold and hips aren’t pliable enough for Lotus. It was much nicer to prepare for it first and spend some quality time in it (15 long, slow, Ujjiya breaths).
Chakrasana was a very slow, carefully controlled rollover. After 15 minutes in various Shoulderstand poses with my chin pressed into my sternum, Chakrasana just tops it off, pushing Jalandhara Bandha to the max for about 2 seconds!
Although Matsyasana is the standard counterpose to Shoulderstand, in this sequence it’s Salabhasana. I don’t mind this - it’s a softer transition than countering with Matsyasana, and even more so because I normally look down in Salabhasana. I did the pose twice, focussing more on lengthening from toes to crown in the first one and adding maximum lift to the length in the second one. Mr Iyengar looks up in this pose. It was in Dhanurasana that I finally looked up and stretched open the arch, so this was a more effective counterpose to reverse all the chin locks in Shoulderstand. The deep stretching, compressing and releasing of the neck and throat in this sequence stimulates blood flow, and balances all the functions associated with the thyroid glands in the neck, as well as releasing a lot of accumulated sitting-in-front-of-the-computer tension in the neck and shoulder muscles.
I got a monkey grip, not a wrist bind in Marichy A and B, but all the Marichys put my hip joints into gripping discomfort. I imagine they’ll be problematic for quite I while. Nerve pain shoots from my lumbar to my hips in any tight knee to chest position, and in the Marichys, the pressure of my straight leg sitting bone into the floor can intensity it – the hip rotation of the half Lotus position in Marichy B lessens that pressure.
I’m not any closer to lifting off in Lolasana. If I were obsessed with improving, I’d be practising this pose daily – but I have no goals in this practice any more, except to increase awareness and presence. Still, it is fun to keep trying. Maybe my body will learn how to activate and strengthen the internal muscles needed for lift off in this pose, but 'm convinced there are damaged muscles that have completely turned off. Doing Lolasana regularly may or may not help, but what it does do is reveal any changes to the internal musculature - it's a useful pose for measuring any improvement or healing.
Tonight I did all three Lotus poses (Padmasana, Parvatasana and Tolasana) on the right side first then changed the cross of my Lotus and did all three on the left side. Being lazy? This sequence of progression was easier than folding and unfolding my legs six times which tends to stress my hips and lumbar, so I figure easy was smarter.
Marichy C is another pose that my body now has difficulty with. To sit up straight with the bent leg in its correct position is the first challenge especially n the right side. Humility, beginners mind and baby steps are required here, and I enjoy being humbled, having my Ego and expectations squashed. I am happy to just sit in the prep position and observe the myriad nerve sensations sparking through my hip and lumbar. I try to work out what is stimulating or pressing on those nerves, what is out of place, misaligned to cause the nerve pain. Probably all coming from degenerated facet joints in my spine where cartilage has worn away and bones are not articulating correctly.
Can the damage be reversed, can cartilage regenerate?
The best I could do in Marichy C tonight was to wrap my elbow around my knee and gently challenge the position of the femur into the hip joint by carefully squeezing my body closer to my bent leg.
The whole practice seemed to go for hours. I did every pose and could have sworn it was over 2 hours before I got to Savasana. My watch said 8.30pm as I was setting up for a well earned Savasana, so the sequence had actually taken me one and a half hours. I wondered if perhaps I’d started at 6pm, and not 7pm…I couldn’t remember. Time had passed very slowly during yoga tonight. I’m sure that time changes velocity – it’s subjective and relative, not linear and fixed. And as most people know, it speeds up as you get older…
“Because Indo-European language dictates that we express all our thoughts in past, present, or future tense, we have the notion that time is an abstract backdrop moving in one direction, like the hands of a clock, from past to future. None of the hundreds of Aboriginal languages contain a word for time, nor do the Aborigines have a concept of time. As with creation, the Aborigines conceive the passage of time and history not as a movement from past to future, but as a passage from a subjective state to an objective expression. The first step in entering into the Aboriginal world is to abandon the conventional abstraction of time and replace it with the movement of consciousness from dream (thought) to reality as a model that describes the universal activity of creation.”
‘Voices of the First Day’ by Robert Lawlor