16 April 2012

Conversations with nobodhi

After a 4 day yoga blitz last week, a deluge of commitments to friends, family and work took up all my waking hours.
So no yoga practice for the past 4 days.
I'm not complaining - at the end of the day, or at the end of one's life, it is how we live in this world and how we love, that matters, not how often we did a yoga practice.

Now I do admit that there is a solution to the problem of other things getting in the way of my evening yoga practice - if I practiced in the pre-dawn hours of the morning, I'd have a daily yoga routine in quiet solitude, without interruptions.

Why don't I?

Small self: My body is too stiff in the mornings so practice is painful, better to practice in the evening when I'm supple and relaxed.

Big self: You know if you start slowly and gently in the morning your body will open up, and besides, its not about how flexible you are, but about the love, devotion and presence you bring to your practice.

Small self: But if I get up at 5am I'll be tired and unable to focus at work by the early afternoon.

Big self: You know the practice will give you more energy and clarity for the day, you won't get tired.

Small self: But I just can't get up that early any more!

Big self: You know that's just a story you're telling yourself. You can change the story right now if you really want to.

Small self: mmm....Maybe I don't want to...(strange, uneasy feeling)

Big Self: Why?

Small self: I dont' know (fear rising)

Big Self: Yes you do.

Small self: (insight) I guess I'm not taking full responsibility for my life, my actions, for realising my potential, I'm just taking the lazy way out, it's a passive, unconscious attitude of denial.

Big Self: Yep, you got it!

Small self: (pout)

Big self: So now that you've admitted it, change it! Change your small-self thinking, change that one habit pattern, this is a wonderful opportunity, the light is being shone in your face. You're like a deer caught in the headlights right now. Can you see it? Here is one thing that you can change, one area where you need to stand up and fight against your self defeating thought pattern. GET UP AT 5am TOMORROW and you're a winner! Turn this around and you'll unleash an immense surge of power to control your mind. WHO is in command here anyway?

Small self: (gulp)

12 April 2012

Wake up

The call from my ex husband late yesterday was emotional - he had just been told that the cause of his stomach pains was liver cancer.
Death stalks us all, waits for us, then ambushes us; it wakes us up again and again.

Driving home from work I contemplated how to tell our two children.
The evening was spent not on yoga practice, but on the real life yoga.
This is why we 'practice'.
Presence, authenticity, love, intimacy, connectedness, and the bittersweet experience of being a living, breathing, feeling human being.
It is the full expression of what is deep in our hearts.

11 April 2012

Surfing the wave of inspiration

Another groundhog day: home from work, feed cat and dog, change clothes, heater on, step onto mat. It's 6.30pm.

Daily yoga practice is starting to become a habit.
When uplifted by a wave of inspiration, best to hop on for the ride and take advantage of it.

This too shall change.

Warm up with a hang in Uttanasana, Dog Pose and some lunges.
Sun salutes: 5As and 5 Bs.
Strong standing poses up to Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana.
Then a big yawn, motivation waning. I really want to stop and go make dinner.

Didn't this happen yesterday?

I consider doing a Handstand because it got me going yesterday.
Instead I think a few seated poses might be nice, but hey, I've only got three more standing poses to do so I may as well go on: Utkatasana, Virabhadrasana A and B - again once I'd made up my mind to continue, the poses were different, imbued with the fullness of my intention.

Seated poses: from Paschimottanasana all the way through to Marichyasana C, no vinyasas but a deeply refined inner attention to the multitude of sensations happening in the physical, mental and energetic layers during these poses.
Three holds in Navasana.
Even gave Bhuja a try tonight, but as I suspected I still can't get my shoulders behind my thighs in the standing preparation, so when I bent my elbows, wrapped my legs and lifted off I fell straight on my bum.

Damn this injury - I used to love Bhuja and Supta Kurmasana.

Onwards to Garbha Pindasana - firstly laying on my back with legs folded up into lotus, then rolling up for a try at the real pose: got my arms through lotus legs about half way, not quite enough to balance, but it's a good start.
The forward bend in Baddha Konasana was deeper than it has been since the lumbar injury over 2 years ago (or was it 3, or maybe 4 years?). Since whenever it was, I haven't been able to bend forward at all in this pose - tonight I breathed everything open and found myself nearly half way to the floor.

This is why I feel like a beginner again.

Same story with Upavista Konasana. Took great care moving into Supta Konasana because of my stiff neck. finished off with Uttana Padasana and Urdhva Pashimottanasana.

Backbends: the real Setu Bandha, feet turned out, arching back, had to keep elbows on floor to support my neck. One good strong Urdhva Dhanurasana (then forgot to do the Pashimottanasana counter pose).

Finishing poses: A careful Shoulderstand, Halasana and Karna Pindasana. No Headstand tonight, the neck needed a rest.
Did all 3 finishing Padmasana poses.

Practice was 1 hour and 40 minutes, plus a 10 minute Savasana.

That makes it 4 consecutive nights that I've done a good practice.
I do wonder what has changed to bring this about. No doubt it has to do with changing jobs, a fresh start, inspiration, the excitement of new possibilities.
I finish at my current job in just over one week's time and start at the art school on 23rd April. This in between period is interesting, tying up loose ends and getting ready to enter a new life phase.
I've been wanting to return to a daily yoga practice for YEARS, but somehow I'd lost the inspiration and discipline. The lumbar/hip injury in late 2009 has made yoga practice painful, difficult to face, emotionally draining, sporadic.

Falling in love with Mark brought a surge of life and vitality back for a brief period.
Then he died.
It's been a tough year.

Now I'm feeling ready to move on into the next phase of this extraordinary life, and I'm surfing this wave of inspiration to establish a daily yoga practice before it subsides.

10 April 2012

Practice Log

Home from work, feed cat and dog, change clothes, step onto mat. It's 6.30pm, feeling slightly hungry but not empty, have enough motivation and physical vitality to do some yoga before eating dinner. Heater on to warm the space.

Sun salutes: 5As and 5 Bs.
Strong standing poses up to Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana.
Then a big yawn...motivation waning.
Handstand to the wall for 10 breaths just in case it's my last pose. The desire to finish practice there is strong. Aware of the thought pattern, the desire for comfort, the easy way out, all the excuses rolled up to justify the cop out.
In an instant I reprogram - I swim valiantly upstream against the flow and choose to continue the yoga practice. Back on the mat to finish the standing poses: Utkatasana, Virabhadrasana A and B, all done with a quieter, more focused intention.
Seated pose: A long Janu Sirsasana A.
Twist: Marichyasana C.
Backbends: Setu Bandha, then same pose with a block supporting sacrum so I can stay longer and go inside my stiff neck to explore what's going on. One good Urdhva Dhanurasana. Ustrasana reaching hands up and back to the wall, Standing Backarch again reaching hands up and back to the wall.
Counterpose: Half Dog Pose with heels near the wall, then lift and stretch one leg back and up the wall (a sort of Urdhva Prasarita Eka Padasana or Standing Splits)
Inversions: a half Shoulderstand done at an angle, stiff neck preventing the lift up to vertical. Halfway feels therapeutic - hands under pelvis pull muscles down the spine, combining acupressure and traction. Viparita Karani up the wall with pelvis on a bolster - pure heaven, watched and felt lots of energetic sensations buzzing around my body.

Practice took 1 hour.

Dinner took 15 minutes: greek salad with some fetta and cooked green beans (it's cold outside), greek passionfruit yoghurt, and the last bit of the chocolate easter egg.

For three consecutive days I've done a moderately acceptable yoga practice. And I'm noticing the effects. It doesn't take much to feel the extraordinary benefits of yoga practice, the increase in energy and vitality, the strong legs, the glow, bright eyes, the positive and balanced outlook, the inspiration...I guess that's why I feel like a beginner again - I'm loving it.
When I was practicing Ashtanga daily, I'd be on a high, but also feel pretty wasted at the same time, didn't have a lot of energy to give out to others, focus was too narrow.

Moderation in all things now.

My yoga practice is no longer a vague path towards enlightenment (or anything else for that matter). It is a tool that polishes me daily so that I can shine my light in the world.

9 April 2012

Practice and Vitamix

In Headstand, I split my legs one forward and one back, then twist to turn my pelvis and legs to the side - Parivrttaika Pada Sirsasana (revolved Headstand).
Holding the inverted twist, I try to sense if my back leg has descended the same amount as my front leg. I press down into my forearms and lift my shoulders away from the floor, draw in my lower ribs, tuck my pubic bone a little towards my navel to bring strength into my core, suck up mula bandha to flush the energy from perineum to fontanel, stretch out into both legs from that core and twist further...and balance.

Somewhere in that pose it occurs to me that I'm not a stone cold beginner.

The knowledge and insight gained from so many years of yoga practice and teaching allow me now to create my own practice, to know intuitively what my mind and body need, to be my own teacher and to use yoga as a tool amongst many others for healing, balance and navigation on the journey.

Yet I still I approach every practice as a humble beginner.

My intention for tonight's practice was for gentle inward poses, forward bends, supine poses...but when I stepped onto the mat my body was very cold from sitting still for too long (researching the cheapest price on the internet for a Vitamix), so I did the 10 sun salutes: 5 As without stopping in Dog Pose, then 5 Bs, pausing in Virabhadrasana A for a couple of breaths and also taking the full 5 breaths in Dog Pose.
The heat was brewing, the rhythmic breath came, the connection and intensity came.

I breathed deeply through Padangusthasana and Pada Hastasana.
No standing poses tonight - a long, hard, uphill hike this morning had drained my strength, I needed less active poses.
I decided to do some of Iyengar's week 31-35 sequence - I started with Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana and Supta Padmasana in preparation for Padmasana in Headstand. But after a 10 breath Headstand and the first few variations including revolved Headstand (4 minutes in all) my stiff neck began to weaken so I came down.
Shoulderstand pressed and stimulated my swollen neck and glands enough without extending it into the variations. Next in the sequence was Jatara, Supta Padangusthasana, the two Navasanas, Ustrasana and Virasana. I spent a luxuriously long time marinating in each of these poses.
My phone rang.
And practice abruptly ended.
But that was fine.
It had been a fully mindful intelligent practice. Quality over quantity tonight.

I did finally order a Vitamix this afternoon, after two years of thinking about it. Reading all the comparisons between the Vitamix and the Blendtec on the internet today, the Blendtec was my first preference (the decision was difficult as they both do the job well). Ready to order I looked for the cheapest price on a Blendtec and was astounded that it was more expensive than the Vitamix, so at the very last moment the Vitamix won. It will arrive next week.

Green smoothie health experiments coming up soon...

8 April 2012

Easter Sunday practice

Tribal music, shamanic rhythm, I'm waking up and coming alive, ujjayi breath, moving through sun salutes, gathering momentum, deliberately keeping the intensity on the slow cooker so I don't burn out too soon, I want a long practice today.

This body is very different to what it was 5 years ago when I was halfway through second series, doing Ashtanga regularly, getting easily into Marichy D, Supta Kurmasana, Pasasana, dropping back into Urdhva Dhanurasana...working with heat, tapas, joy and dedication.

Now I am a stone cold beginner again.

My body has stiffened around injury and I am noticing how my mind seeks comfort, not challenge. Periodically I declare war on the ageing process that is stealing away my body and mind, only to retreat into the soft comfort zone again and again. So easy to give in.

Yoga is a powerful tool against the ageing process, and a very sophisticated one requiring a firm resolve as its ally.

Rediscovering the joy of yoga practice I'm finding great delight being a beginner again.
Its different this time around: a transcendent quality imbues each pose.

Take the simple act of rolling the shoulders back and releasing them down away from the neck: a beginner would notice the release and become suddenly aware of the tension they'd been holding in this area (an important revelation and somatic connection). I too notice this, but also the unblocking and stimulation of energy through the area, the opposing lift of the sternum and opening of the inner heart, the corresponding and immediate domino effect on my mind and emotions, a spacious light quality infuses my being, my breath is made fuller, the skin across the brow softens, I rise up and stand taller both physically and metaphorically.
Every small adjustment in a pose sets off a chain of sensations through the entire being: physical, energetic, mental, emotional and spiritual.

So on Easter Sunday, a time to celebrate resurrection, I honour the day with a vow to breathe new life into my yoga practice, to revel in being a beginner again and to begin opening up after a year of closure.
Not giving in.

10 sun salutes: 5As, 5 Bs, full set of standing poses, so grateful for this beautiful sequence of standing poses, every one of them has a gift, a healing quality, an enlivening quality.
Handstand and Pincha Mayurasana.
Then back to the mat for Paschimottanasana, Purvottanasana, Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana, Tiriang and Janu A.
Virasana, Supta Virasana, Paryankasana (followed by Paryankasana with a block between my shoulderblades to traction the muscles along my thoracic spine), Salabhasana twice, Dhanurasana, Ustrasana, Setu Bandha, 3 x Urdhva Dhanurasanas.
A long hang in Uttanasana.
Then the full finishing sequence - every pose from Shoulderstand through to Uth Pluthi (except Chakrasana because my neck is still fixated on something).

The practice took a little over one and a half hours , then I rested in Savasana for 15 minutes, fully present and hyper aware of the sensations in my body, quietly watching the beautiful sunset happening inside of me..