Kosta's Wednesday morning led practice
2 November 2011
Kosta and I went hiking a few weeks ago. We walked, we talked.
He moved into a new yoga studio recently and his classes are doing really well in the beautiful big space.
So when he mentioned that he'd just introduced a Wednesday morning 6.30am led practice, my ears pricked up. I have such fond memories of early morning Mysore practices...there's something very special about doing a full practice as the day is dawning.
A seed was planted and I've been thinking about going to the led practice for a couple of weeks. Thinking but not doing. Sometimes it takes a little while for these seeds to sprout.
Now, three weeks later, the conditions were ripe for me to go.
Anyway, it was no drama.
It was, in fact...easy!
Even getting up at 5.30am and leaving home at 6am was remarkably easy!
And it has revived in me a longing for the sacred early morning yoga ritual.
Led practice was sublime. Kosta quietly calls the poses in Sanskrit, no instructions. His manner is calm, strong, empowering, non-invasive. It allows me to enter my own sacred yoga space, yet remain connected to the small group.
The sequence was elegant. The progression of poses had logic.
I've watched Kosta mature into a strong, intelligent yoga teacher over the 12 years we've been practicing together.
We've had similar training and been influenced by the same teachers, so our personal practice is similar: Ashtanga flow, often based on the primary series, vinyasas connecting poses, a strong focus on breath and bandhas, but with an Iyengar precision and steadiness and some occasional restorative work. Kosta's had exceptional training, he's now Iyengar certified, but his partner is Ashtanga certified by Sri Patthabi Jois. The blending of styles makes for a nicely balanced teacher.
So I LOVED every moment of this morning's led practice.
As I get over the hump of Mark's death and enter the third phase of life, my yoga practice is slowly returning. I have started practising daily again and plan to attend Kosta's Wednesday morning led practice every week.
There's also the opportunity to join Renate's Saturday morning little-group-of-friends practice. No cost, just friends practising yoga together in Renate's art studio. Sounds nice...
Here's what I remember from Kosta's led practice this morning:
Warm up gentle forward bends
Dog pose and Uttanasana a few times
Vashisthasana A and B (I didn't attempt B)
Trikonasana and Ardha Chandrasana
Parsvakonasana and Parivritta Parsvakonasana
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana
Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana
Samakonasana and Hanumanasana
Bakasana to 3 point Headstand (which I fell out of quite elegantly)
A vinyasa rolling from Halasana to Malasana, then up into Bakasana
Handstands (timed holds for 1 minute)
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Urdhva Dhanurasana (x 3)
After which I went straight to work, very hungry.
Two evening practices after work
31 October and 1 November 2011
Either a shift is happening in my psyche, or I'm having a good yoga week.
Two nights in a row, I've come home from work looking forward to immersing myself in yoga.
And I've loved these after-work practices.
I start at 7.15pm with slow sun salutes.
Then slowly, gently, I make my way through some standing poses, relishing every turn of the head. My neck has been unusually stiff for a few weeks, as if some of the stiffness from my lumbar has broken off and travelled up my spine.
The simple turn of the head upwards in Trikonasana, against gravity...I never gave it a second thought until it became difficult to do. I look up, rotating to the sticking point, wondering if it is calcium that has deposited in the cervical joints and tissues.
These things come and go.
I love the standing poses - they are not just about legs and grounding. They provide us with an opportunity to plug into a primal earthy power source. The body becomes a transformer: energy is drawn upwards filling up crevices, smoothing out creases, flowing though and enlivening the body's barren, forgotten wastelands and tissues that are lame from lack of use or overuse.
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana - bending forward over to the front lifted leg, the abdominal contraction builds core muscular support for the lumbar. I get there, I work at it.
Virabhadrasana 1 - micro adjustments to the pelvis, tilting it slightly forwards then backwards, dropping one side a little to level the iliac crests, micro nutation of the sacral bone.
Virasana, Paryankasana, Janu Sirsasana, Shoulderstand.
Short, sweet, practice, ultimately satisfying.
Thursday 13th October 2011
An evening yoga practice, one hour, nothing special, just like my day.
Life is both ordinary and extraordinary.
To warm up, stretch out, unwind before starting practice proper:
Uttanasana, Downward Dog and Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana.
I start my 'practice proper' with Headstand and throw in a couple of variations, then move on to Shoulderstand with a few variations.
I stay on my back for Jatara and Supta Padangusthasana, kneel for Ustrasana and Virasana, then lay back into Paryankasana and Supta Virasana.
Although not driven by any one sequence tonight, Iyengar's Light on Yoga course seems to be steering my opening choices.
Janu Sirsasana - 20 breaths on each side.
This is an exercise not in stretching, not in willpower, not in opening beyond my physical limitations, but rather the challenge of simply staying and being.
After 10 breaths I really want to move out of the pose. I have to adust, back off on the urge to stretch my joints open before they are ready. I just stay with the discomfort of wanting to get out of the pose and I breathe. It's not a physical discomfort, its a mental one. I don't like staying this long in a pose, it's like being locked in a cage, I am prowling around, devising a way to escape.
Yet here I am imposing this 20 breath directive on myself while at the same time rebelling against it. Mind training.
At some point after 15 breaths, I accept that I will stay for the full 20 breaths in this pose. I will observe the mental and physical reactions, and make peace with the process.
My first real yoga teacher always held me in poses for an eternity, especially the seated poses. I got used to this and enjoyed sliding down into the dark depths of my mind, becoming immensely quiet. Quite often, my state of mind would change dramatically in those poses and I would emerge transformed, I still didn't know how or why.
Tonight , one long stay is enough.
I continue on - only 5 breaths in Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana before a heavily modified version of Marichyasana A and Marichyasana C.
After the foward bends, I can't do a backbend, tissues and joints have lost their youthful elasticity and take a while to recover - Upward Dog looks like a Plank for a few seconds until my body yields unwillingly into the pose.
The phone rings, its my daughter, practice is over for tonight.