Saturday, December 18, 2010

All the Mindfulness I Can Muster

Those words came to me while in a fever-induced stupor this week. I thought practicing so much yoga would give me a super immune system. No such luck. I came down with the flu or something like it this past week. I managed to teach my Monday class but then by Tuesday I was out of commission and had to cancel my classes for the rest of the week. Bummer. No classes, no Light on Yoga sequence, no YOGA!

There I was feeling warm, with glazed and glossy eyes, my body drooping without posture. But I still wanted to clean up the kitchen, give my daughter a bath and put her to bed before I took a hot shower and went to bed. Then for some reason it occurred to me that I should still try to be mindful. Even though I felt lousy and just wanted to get through the rest of the evening.

For the rest of the week I could not do much but lie down on the couch or my bed. Luckily my snugly dog was by my side most of the time. In fact I am on my couch right now with Roscoe to my right. I thought about reading and meditating but did not have the energy for that either. So I practiced being mindful. Mindful while miserable. It's easy to be mindful when you feel good.

With this mindfulness I found moments of being soothed and grateful over the past week. Grateful that my husband and daughter wanted to take care of me. Grateful that my 4 year old still likes to hug me. Grateful for the roof over my head. for my dog. for my bathtub that I can soak in with some eucalyptus and healing essential oils. Grateful for those essential oils. For my cozy warm bed. Grateful for homeopathic and non-homeopathic meds. I still had it very good. And then I thought about people who have constant and real suffering in their lives. Why bother being mindful while suffering? Maybe it cultivates more patience, more acceptance of what is rather than what isn't, which in turn gives more strength and perseverance.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 2 of Iyengar's Short 3-Day Course

I did not follow the sequence to the letter and made my own adaptations along the way. I also  did not hold most of the poses for the recommended times. I held poses longer than usual but came out of them when I felt ready.

I was actually disappointed to see the return of Urdvha Padmasana and Pindasana in Handstand and Shoulderstand. I was so disappointed I contemplated going back to the last sequence or doing my own practice. Instead I skipped those poses. I also skipped all the variations in Headstand because my Headstand did not feel steady enough.

I started with my handstand practice and stayed up there this time. I am getting better at kicking up with the right, but the left is still better. I am confused by this because I am right handed so I assumed that kicking up with the right would be easier.

Janusirsasana felt heavenly. This might be one of my favorite poses. Mahamudra is still not clear to me. It is really difficult to do the Uddiyana lift while in this position.

For Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana I placed my outer ankle on my thigh rather than at the groin and did not do the bind. I felt enough of a stretch there and did not want to push it.

Urdvha Mukha Paschimottanasana was fun. I surprised myself and held it steadily for what felt like a long time. It probably was only 15 seconds. Iyengar says to hold this one for 1 minute.

2 minute Uttanasana (I think this is the only one I actually stayed in for the suggested time) was revealing. I had more weight in my heels so I kept trying to bring more weight forward towards the ball of the foot and the metatarsals. When I did that I felt more of a stretch in the inner thighs and groin. I felt like those areas had never been accessed while in Uttanasana.

The sequence finishes with a 5 minute Savasana, a choice of Ujjayi Pranayama or Nadi Sodhana Pranayama and another Savasana. He does not suggest the Uddiyanas this time.  I went with the Nadi Shodhana which was calming and centering. My right nostril was not as clear as the left which usually seems to be the case. According to Alan finger this exercise balances both sides of the brain. I also learned from him that every eight-eight minutes, one nostril becomes more dominant, then for up to four minutes both nostrils operate equally and then they change again.

I am looking forward to the sequence for the third day. There are more standing poses which I have been missing. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Day 1 of Iyengar's Short 3-Day Course

It's good to be back. What can I say, suddenly I could not find the time. My daughter turned 4, there were family visits, anatomy workshops and more opportunities to teach some yoga. All good things.

After the 30th week Mr. Iyengar offers a three day course which benefits the body and harmonizes the mind. The first major difference with these courses is that the poses are all timed.  I did not enjoy timing the poses. On the one hand I felt that if I sustained the duration I might be getting the maximum benefit from the pose. On the other hand I watched the clock too closely. I don't want my focus to be on timing. I prefer to be present to sensations while in the poses.

The sequence is relatively short and simple. There are only 16 poses in the sequence, followed by Savasana, then Nadi Sodhana Pranayama with 6 Uddiyanas and then the second Savasna. Yes, there are 2 Savasanas.

I warmed up with my handstand practice because I am working on that on a daily basis anyway. Sometimes I get up. Sometimes I don't. So far I can only kick up with the left. When I kick up with the right my hips swing over to the left and my kicking leg turns out. I did not get up today. Not enough umph in the kick-off to get to the wall. Actually I did get both legs up, I just did not stay there.

The first pose in this sequence is a 10 minute headstand, but that did not happen. I felt heavy on my head so I cut it short.

1 minute of Navasana- After 30 seconds of Navasana my core started to shake. This is good for building strength so I did not mind it. Ardha Navasana was much harder to hold for 30 seconds.  I was ready to be done after 20.

Oddly, I loved the 1-minute Adho Mukha Savasana. The longest I have ever held it was 5 minutes. This one-minute AMS flew by. One of my teachers explained how after Mary Dunn held it for 50 minutes her one piece of advice was to continue to press the thighs back.

I like Nadi Sodhana Pranayama practice. It is one of my favorites because it balances the breath and I always feel centered after wards. It balances the energetic pathways that spiral and run adjacent to the Susumna Nadi. Then the Uddiyanas direct the balanced energy straight up the Susumna Nadi. At least that is what I experienced. Some sensation or force came right up to my third eye and softly expanded there. After 4 Uddiyanas I just wanted to meditate in that space. And then I felt tired. The second Savasana was needed.

I am aware of how my practice changes as the weather gets colder. My practice becomes more about conservation and preservation rather than growth or progression (as in the Spring and Summer). I don't go to my edge. I am gathering for the winter I guess.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Return of Week 25 - Jenny

Went through the whole sequence again today.  The hip opening/challenging poses are still so far off for me - I just have to resign myself to studying them deeply.  One thing I'm studying now is how I need to bring my knees towards midline in the lotus positions.  It's my only chance of getting the legs to rotate externally without torquing my knees.  I notice that people who get into the lotus position easily and naturally tend to place their knees away from midline.  Anatomical differences, yes, but what differences are they?

Other than that, the sequence feels great.  I feel limber and acclimated.  I'll keep going.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Time to Restore

I took the week off and did an Iyengar restorative sequence that one of my first teachers, Rama Nina Patella gave me. I think she got it from a studio in Chicago called the The Yoga Circle. This was so restful. Just what I needed.

Every pose was supported with blankets, bolsters and blocks as needed.The sequence was:
1. Supta Virasana (5 minutes)
2.Supta Padmasana (3-5 minutes each side) I did half lotus on both sides
3. Supta Baddha Konasana (7-10 minutes) with a strap (this was my fave)
4. Janusirsasana
5. Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana
6. Upavista Konasana
7. Paschimottanasana
All the forward bends were 2-3 minutes and required the forehead to be resting on a blanket, or block.
8. Viparita Dandasana (10-15 minutes) This is a backbend over a yoga chair, which I do not own. Sadly I skipped this one. There is a strap around the thighs, tall block under feet. Arms in headstand position resting on blankets. Blanket rolled under lumbar spine.
9. Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (10-15) minutes. Strap around thighs, tall block under pelvis and one under the heels. Shoulders rest on folded blankets.
10. Savasana

Lately I have been pondering whether or not to post about my practice that is off the mat - like my confrontations with ego (asmita), working on non-attachment (vairyagya) and attempts at maintaining equanimity (upeksha). Does this blog only have to be about my experiences with the asanas? More things have been coming up for me.

First, the hardest one - ego (asmita). I did not make the cut for the Equinox audition last month. I waited about 2.5 weeks before I contacted them at which point they told me that they had already contacted those they were interested in hiring. I thought that was rude not to let the those that didn't make it know at the same time. Maybe I wouldn't want to work for people like that anyway (says my wounded ego). But this has been disappointing to me and of course makes me wonder if I should be teaching in the first place. After some consideration and feeling sorry for myself I came to the conclusion that I really cannot let one rejection get in my way. This is one door that closed and hopefully there will be others that will open. In order to experience success I must also experience failure. ok enough with that.

Working on non-attachment: this has come up in a new way for me. I am not fixated on material things but on information. I am so eager to learn from many of the great teachers here in NYC and I have had a hard time deciding on where to start - which to study with first. I have been attending free open houses with Leslie Kaminoff, Amy Mathews and Jason Brown. I also want to try yoga classes at Laughing Lotus, Naam Yoga and with Genny Kapuler. So much to do and so little time, not to mention limited resources. I was all over the place and had this desperate feeling of wanting to learn everything at the same time. After many weeks and many back and forth, wishy washy decisions I decided that my next intensive/certification will be Yoga Anatomy studies with Jason Brown. As of last week it was Leslie Kaminoff's anatomy course but now I feel confident and settled in my choice now. 

Maintaining equanimity: I had a fight with a cab driver a few weeks ago. I give myself some credit- I lost it at the end right before I paid. I went to Trader Joes and treated myself to a cab home thinking it would be the usual 10 minute/$10 ride. I saved a lot at TJ's so it was worth it. Long story longer, there was a parade and it was impossible to get across to the east side. Traffic was obscene. It took 1.5 hours and $40 to get home. It costs less to get to the airport. So I calmly explained that there was no way I could pay this amount and how it was not the driver's fault but nor was it mine and could he give me a break. Well the driver did not understand me and started yelling at me to get out of his car and not pay anything. That's when I lost it. I had no intention of doing that. no way. I started yelling obscenities - more at the situation rather then at the driver. We kept yelling over each other - getting nowhere. He didn't understand and I had to go so I PAID the full amount. This still makes me cringe.

When I got home I explained what happened to my husband and I told him how I tried to stay calm and maintain equanimity. He asked me WHY? This was such a great and simple question. WHY? I wasn't sure myself at first. But then I threw out the idea that it's worth it to maintain composure and not let your mood be affected by external/constantly changing circumstances. This relates back to ego too and my feeling sorry for myself about not getting hired by Equinox. Sometimes things go well and sometimes they don't but there is a part of ourselves that does not have to be tethered to those changes. There is a part of us that is unchanging and eternal that resides in calm abiding. Yoga helps me discover that space.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Week 30 - Ariana

I wasn't planning on doing the week 30 sequence today. I was just going to do my own thing. I started off with handstand practice (an obstacle of a pose for me), then 10 minute Headstand, and Shoulderstand. Next thing I know I am doing the Shoulderstand variations from the sequence (completely in the wrong order). I figured I might as well do the whole sequence.

I thought of the Shoulderstand variations as replacements for the standing postures I had been doing the last two weeks. So I was working the legs a lot as if they were weight bearing.

It has been on the chilly side the last few days and this tightens my muscles. No binding in Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana. I used a strap around the foot of the extended leg to fold forward.

For all the Lotus and Half Lotus positions I was having trouble grounding down again in the left sit bone. My weight always shifts to the right- in all the seated poses not just Lotus. To counter this I propped my outer right hip up a tiny bit with a blanket so that left sit-bone could make more contact with the floor. This relieved discomfort in the outer left knee immediately.

For some bizarre reason I was able to do Lotus on the side that I usually cannot-with my left leg over the right. I didn't do it on my usual side. I stopped as soon as I felt anything in my left knee and did Half Lotus instead. Bizarro day. I snuck in some Baddhakonasana preps for Lotus that Jenny and I learned at a Rodney Yee workshop last year. Maybe that had something to do with it.

I am still loving how different the Virasana, Supta Virasana and Paryankasana poses are for me. I was looking forward to that trio the whole time. They feel good now. The quadriceps and abdominal muscles have learned to release and I can actually relax in these postures. I have found space in them where before there was none.

By the time I got to Salabhasana I was tired. From that point on I exerted minimal effort and focus. I lost my zeal. I am pretty sure that I rolled my eyes when I got up for Utkatasana and Garudasana.

I reread the directions for the Ujjayi AntarKumbakha. I am still not clear on how to apply the MulaBandha but I will read about that some more too.

Haven't decided if I will stay with this sequence or just keep going. I read a little about the next course and I am intrigued because Mr. I describes it as a short (yeah right) 3-day course which whenever followed will benefit the body and bring harmony to the mind.

How can I resist that?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Week 25 Strikes Back - Jenny

Okay, so I'm still staying with Week 25.  It's a bear.  But I am able to move through the poses more swiftly, exploring and (I think) finding the centering of the hip joint, then heading onto the next pose.  I think I'll stay with this one some more.  I'm concerned I might torque my knee if I push too hard.  And this sequence gives me enough to explore, to be honest.  It's a full-on curiosity fest these days.  So much stimulus in these poses.  There's hardly a one that's easy to get into and get out of.  Propping almost all the poses.  Having to take extra time to be safe.  I've surrendered.  I'm sure there's more surrendering on the way - there always is.  So I'm trying to enjoy the journey.  Because like life, it's mostly journey.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Week 29 - Ariana

I went to an Intro to Iyengar Yoga class at the Iyengar Institute today. I had never been there and I wanted to see how they introduce the Iyengar method. There is always something to learn. I tried to enter with a beginner's mind and let go of what I think I know about Iyengar Yoga. Nonetheless it was nice to be in this beginner's space in the context of having gone through these 29 weeks of LOY sequences. I understood the sequence in a way I would not have had it not been for those 29 weeks.

I did the week 29 sequence yesterday but did not have time to write about it afterward like I usually like to do. The practice is not as fresh in my memory. I squeezed the sequence into the day spontaneously. I found myself with 1.5 hours of free time so I did the practice then - around 4PM. Why not?

I don't think I mentioned yet that the sequence for weeks 26 - 30 is the same. I am pleased that I am not tired of this sequence. I don't like to repeat the same sequence over and over again. This is one  of the reasons (there are many) why Bikram does not appeal to me. But this sequence is complex and there is a lot for me to discover.

I wanted to focus on good old Headstand and Shoulderstand without the variations. My goal was to have 10 minutes of each pose. (Lately I have been starting my own practice this way. This is new for me. Before I did them towards the end of my practice.) I was working on my Headstand away from the wall again so it was pretty wobbly. I came down and went back up a few times. But a 10 minute Shoulderstand came (and went) easily this time.

Then I did the same standing poses as last week because I did not do the inverted variations. I really needed to come back to those-they are very grounding for me. After that I resumed the sequence with Jathara Parivartanasna.

I backed off when my left knee was bent in Janusirsasana. I was pressing the bent leg back with the heel of the foot at the groin. But this did not feel good in the outer knee so I brought the sole of the foot to the right inner thigh instead.

I put blocks under my hands for Lolasana. I came closer to lifting off but my toes stayed on the floor.

I did Paryankasana for the first time ever in an Iyengar yoga class recently. I don't remember ever doing it in any kind of yoga class. The teacher had us place a wood block at the highest height right behind the shoulderblades. This felt great. I felt like I had been cracked open. In a good way. This is how I have been practicing this pose ever since that class. I love it. Surprisingly this time my spine curled right over that block and then the top of my head lightly touched the floor. My hips pressed up away from the floor for this. I then checked the photo of this pose and Mr. Iyengar's hips stay down.

I worked on pressing up from the floor again in Chaturanga (instead of coming down from plank). I did not use the strap like last time but I used the block under my forehead. I can press up this way. I am probably putting too much weight in the forehead but it is teaching me something in my core that is for sure.

I still don't like Garudasana before Savasana. I begrudge doing this every time.

I need to re-read the instructions for Inhalation Retention. I did not do it right again.

I started to read Light on Pranayama which Iyengar wrote a few years after Light on Yoga. In the preface he says that in his recent practices a new light of inner awareness dawned on him which he had not experienced when he wrote LOY. That was in the 1970's. I can only imagine what new inner awareness has dawned on him since then. I would love to know his opinion of these sequences now and if he would change anything.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Week 28 - Ariana

Until yesterday I was not looking forward to returning to this sequence- maybe because many of the full poses are beyond my ability.

Yesterday I took an Iyengar class with Carrie Owerko. She has studied with the Iyengars in India and on her last visit Mr. Iyengar (she calls him Guruji) talked about Sutra 1.20 and how the 5 Yoga vitamins are mentioned there. They are: Sraddha=Faith, Virya=Strength, Smriti=Memory, Samadhi=Contemplation or Absorption and Prajnapurvaka=knowledge of the self and Self. These are the yoga vitamins that sustain our practice. Apparently he talks more about them in the Tree of Yoga. Something about this sutra and the practice (which revolved around accessing these concepts) reinvigorated my interest in this sequence. I couldn't wait to get started.

I needed to have a long and steady Headstand and Shoulderstand so I stayed away from all the variations. My Headstand was shaky. My breath was a little fast so I did not stay in it as long as I had intended. When I came down I realized I had broken out into a sweat. I was extra careful coming up into Shoulderstand because of the pain I had near my right shoulder blade last week. Luckily that pain was gone.

Instead of the inverted variations I did standing poses. Mr. Iyengar says to eliminate the variations in Headstand and Shoulderstand when you do standing positions. I did Utthita and Parvrita Parsvokonasana, Vira 1,2,3, Ardha Chandrasana, Parsvottanasana and Prasarita Padottanasana then went back to the rest of the sequence starting with Jatara Parivartanasana.
Some observations:
My Navasanas have gotten stronger. I can hold them for much longer than when I started these sequences.

In Janusirsana I felt the kidney areas being stretched again. It has a cleansing and soothing effect for me.

I did Half Lotus with the left leg on top and full lotus with the right leg on top. I am still supporting the left knee with a blanket underneath. It still alleviates a pulling sensation I get in the outer knee. I keep testing it without the support and I still need it.

I did Chaturanga with the strap around the upper arms and a block underneath the forehead. I had not used the strap for Chaturanga in a while. This time it helped me roll the shoulders up away from the floor and keep the chest open. The tendency for me is that the tops of my shoulders roll down.  Then I tried it without the strap (so much harder!) but still with the block and once again the shoulders rolled down. But at least I am aware of this and it gives me something to work towards.

When I went down for Savasana after Garudasana my breath was fast. It was nice to observe it gradually slow down and settle into a calm rhythm.

I thought I was getting used to the actions in the inhalation retention for Ujjayi Pranayama. Then I read the instructions again and I had missed a lot of points. Even with the mistakes that I made I still enjoyed it and observed a great puffing of the chest when I pulled the abdominal wall back toward the spine and applied the Uddiyana Bandha.

For today's practice I felt reinvigorated and present with what I am capable of TODAY without any judgment one way or another.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Week 25 continued - Jenny

I couldn't go on to the next sequence.  So I've been doing the same week 25 sequence for the past two weeks.  I am actually getting somewhere.  This ability to center the head of the femur in the hip socket is becoming an easier and swifter process for me.  I am surprised at how much my knee comes towards midline when I center the hip joint.  I feel all tiny - all balled up tight.  I used to have a Doberman.  She had long legs and a long body but she would fold up like a bat when she sat on the couch.  That's what it feels like.  I guess that must have something to do with my anatomy because I see so many people whose knees are way out to the sides when they sit in lotus.  Or maybe this is just how it begins.  Maybe over time my knees will extend away from midline.  Who knows?  Either way, it feels great.  It feels like nothing - and isn't that the end point of every pose?  Not that there is an end point of any pose, but you know what I mean.

I've learned to prop and move, prop and move (like "stick and move" in some sports) to keep the practice going.  It's refreshing to get to a point where I can get through the sequence in some sort of normal time frame.  This is an invigorating sequence - there is a lot of moving from front to back bends and vice versa.  I have to remind myself to be safe.  But one thing I'll say - it's invigorating.

One thing I'd like to point out about the sequencing: it seemed so completely weird to me to go from Camel (Ustrasana) to Chair (Utkatasana).  But I must say I love what it does for my Utkatasana.  My instincts tell me to work my way out of the backbend of Camel.  So I work for such a straight back in the Chair Pose.  The spine feels like it does in Down Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) - reached way long.  I like it.  Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) comes right after, and that's kind of scary, so I just take my time.  But I see how he's giving Chair as the intermediate.  We now work out of backbends in a safer way, but I think he was working for a safe way to get out of the backbend - it was just the safe way of the 60's.

Week 27 - Ariana

I auditioned to teach yoga at a gym yesterday. There were about 25 of us. First of all, it feels counter intuitive to be auditioning to teach yoga but I digress. I know gym yoga is different from yoga studio yoga but it was a jarring experience. Each of had 3 minutes to teach anything we wanted but the class had to flow from one person to the next so it resembled a real class sequence. That is what was supposed to happen but it did not exactly go that way. The first person started right off with a vinyasa sequence. The class stayed at an intense level for most of the 2 hours and 40 minutes. The class was up and down and all over the place. No warm up. No Savasana. I tried to balance out this intensity when it was my turn but I don't know if that is what the "judges" were looking for. In my humble opinion, on a macro level the sequence made no sense.

My nervous system was shot afterwards and I was exhausted. Not how I like to feel at the end of a yoga class. By the time I got home I was catatonic. It's amazing how many different expressions of yoga there are and how many of them scare me.

So my practice today was dedicated to restore and activate my parasympathetic nervous system. ahhhh. There was no pushing it today. I played Deva Premal's Moola Mantra. ahhhh. I found myself singing along at times even while in headstand (not a good idea I learned).

I did half lotus again for the Urdvha Padmasana inversions. No Pindasana in Headstand because I don't feel ready for it. But I enjoyed my modified Half Lotus Pindasana while in Shoulderstand. I am a little sore in my upper back. I am not sure if it is residual from yesterday (from the Shoulderstand without any blankets)  but I am keeping an internal eye on it. I felt it while in Shoulderstand. Very odd. I am taking it very slowly when I feel something there.

No full Lotus. Half Lotus on each side felt right today. I cannot lift up in Tolasana while in Half Lotus. I backed off on most of the binds.

I gave myself an extra long Savasana to make up for yesterday. Ujjayi Pranayama with the inhalation retention was soothing.  I feel more restored but I am not loving this sequence. All the back-bending and the Garudasana at the end still confuses me.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Week 26 - Ariana

Many surprises for me in this sequence.

1. Lotus so early in the sequence without a hip warm up
2. Downward Dog towards the end of the sequence
3. Backbends at the end of the sequence
4. Garudasana right before Savasana

I had more time today for the sequence. I did not feel rushed and enjoyed staying in and breathing in the poses for longer than last time. But it did not take me that much longer- maybe 20 minutes more than last time.

The Urdvha Padmasanas (one in Headstand and one in Shoulderstand) stood out for me when I first looked at this sequence. UH-OH.  Full Lotus is not available to me in any inversions. I am working on a seated Full Lotus on one side (my left foot will not go over the right knee). And why is it so early in the sequence without a warm up? At first I thought I would skip them entirely and do Lotus preps instead. But then I decided that would break the flow of the inversions. In the end I decided to try it out. I literally said out loud to myself before I went up into Headstand, "Let's see what happens."

I ended up doing a Half Lotus Variation with each leg for the Urdvha Padmasanas. Surprisingly gravity pulls the foot down closer towards the hips. I felt like the foot FELL closer towards the groin without my having to put it there.

I had never heard of Pindasana while in Headstand and Shoulderstand - bringing the knees towards the head while in Full Lotus in the inversions. By the time I got to it in Headstand I was ready to come down so I didn't really try it. It was different in Shoulderstand.  I did Pindasana with the Half Lotus position. It was very comforting, even more soothing than Sarvangasana.

I did one arm at a time in Niralamba Sarvangasana II before I put both arms at my sides. I held it briefly and then almost rolled down to the floor.

Virasana and Supta Virasana felt different. I sat lower in Virasana. The block was on the lowest height. Usually it is at the medium height. And Supta Virasana felt softer and easier too. It almost felt good.

While I was doing some of the bound seated twists I felt that once the arms are bound the spine is liberated. The spine can move more into the pose. 

Adho Mukha Savasana towards the end of the sequence - wow. I loved having this pose so late in the sequence. In my personal practice this is something I open up with and there is always some muscle group or joint that is cranky when I first do it. Not here. What a lovely Downward Dog. It felt so open and strong. I experienced stability and mobility in the pose at the same time. My hands and feet did not move but I had mobility in all the joints.

And then come the backbends at the end of the sequence. WHY? Garudasana is the last pose before Savasana. Not exactly a Savasana prep pose. Mr. Iyengar states that Garudasana prevents cramps in the leg muscles and removes stiffness in the shoulders. So my thought was that he wakes up the legs with the Utkatasana and then soothes the arm and leg muscles before Savasana. This is all I have come up with so far. I am making this up.

My breath was a little labored when I went down for Savasana and it took me longer to settle into it. Ujjayi Pranayama with inhalation retention was good. Once again my breath felt smooth and continuous like silk. Even though I am confused by the sequence I think it was a great practice.

My eyes look rested.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Week 25 - Ariana

I am ready to be done with this sequence. Not because I have mastered all the poses (far from it!)  I just feel ready to move on. The first time I did this sequence I was surprised by what I could do. Now I feel like I have plateaued.

I noticed how quick I was to get into Headstand and Shoulderstand variations rather than staying in  the original poses. So instead of rushing into the variations I slowed down and tried to get good old fashioned Headstand down and Shoulderstand and stay in them a long time. Of course that made a difference in the variations. They were more stable as a result.

My favorite poses this time were Shoulderstand, Savasana and Siddhana with Ujjayi Pranayama. They were so soothing and calming. I was able to let go quickly in them and not be in the poses with some tension lingering. In Yoga Anatomy, Leslie Kaminoff says that Savasana gives us an opportunity to experience a deep state of conscious relaxation which is very different from sleep. We can be fully aware of the breath without altering it. He says this is the most difficult breathing exercise of all and that "the juxtaposition of active awareness and surrender to the breath's natural movements makes possible the powerful realization that true surrender is an act of will."

I only had an hour and 10 minutes for today's practice. I was a little resentful of that time constraint. Even so, I feel steady and calm after today's practice.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Week 25 - Jenny

Okay.  I've been on a bit of a hiatus from the blog.  I was opening a yoga studio and I was rather busy.  But I swear I was still working on all these poses in my daily practice and I did the full sequence a couple of times.

Today was a very interesting day with this sequence.  As I mentioned before, I've been working delicately since I hurt my knee.  And this is really bringing up so much info about the hips.  In the past couple of weeks, I've been working a lot on centering the hip joint.  I like that approach.  Heard it from Rodney Yee at a workshop.  Rather than "opening the hips, " which doesn't resonate with someone like me who has "closed hips," he talked about centering the head of the femur in the hip socket.

In most all of my daily practices for the past two weeks, I've been doing what I call the "3 bases" of the poses in this sequence.  Those bases are Baddha Konasana, Virasana and Malasana.  Baddha Konsasana is a base for Bound Half Lotus Seated Forward Bend (Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana), Lotus (Padmasana), Bharadvajasana II, Marichyasana II and all the other poses that involve Lotus or Half Lotus legs.  Virasana is a base for Triangmukapaida Paschimottanasana, Bharadvajasana II and all the other poses that involve Half Virasana legs.  And Malasana is a base for all the poses where one leg is in the squat position - Marichyasana I, II and III.

So I've been doing these poses every day, looking for both sitz bones to drop to the floor evenly, reaching the side ribs forward and lengthening the low back.

I've been finding that in the Half Lotus position, I need to move the knee towards the midline to get that hip centering.  Today when I did Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana on the right side (the uninjured side), I had a moment where things fell into place.  When I do this pose, the quad muscles on the straight leg have a hard time dealing with the pressure of the bent leg shin/ankle.  There is some discomfort heading towards pain, though not the kind of pain that causes an injury.  Well, I had this moment - I knew something was up - when the pain/discomfort escalated, and then it just let go - the tension in the quad dissipated and then it was gone.  The hip felt like nothing.  The knee did move more towards midline.  And there was room - so much room - and I almost fell forward, my head almost touched my knee.  It was crazy and super cool.

I don't know if I'll be able to move onto the next sequence next week.  I'll see what there is in store and decide if I need to stay with this one for longer.  Either way, I'm loving this exploration.  It's so foreign to me - the hip demands.  But exploring foreign places can be a lot of fun . . .

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Week 24 - Ariana

My dog was by my side throughout the practice - either pacing, whining, stepping on my book or sitting on my mat. He had already been out so I don't know what was bothering him. I guess he just wanted attention.

My muscles are stiff - not as limber as usual with the summer heat. It has been raining and chilly where we are.

For Chakrasana I unfolded one blanket on top of my mat. Then I placed two folded blankets on top of that. My shoulders were propped up on the folded blankets and the back of my head was on the bottom blanket. This support and cushioning made a huge difference. I almost did it fully.

Salabhasana- I looked closely at the photo of Mr. Iyengar doing this pose and I was surprised to see that his palms are turned up. I am surprised because this affects the position of the shoulders. I think I prefer to face the palms down because the shoulders roll back and up which opens the chest more.

I am struggling pressing up into Chaturanga and holding it there. Coming down into Chaturanga is so much easier. I thought maybe I was not using my legs enough. So I squeezed a block between my inner thighs to activate them more. It helped. In general I feel I am not "gathering" enough to my midline. Not enough core in my practice. Too much expansion from the center out and not enough coming back into center. There has to be an interplay between the two.

I had an aversion to Simhasana today. I can't sit with my legs the way he suggests so I just sat on my heels - the second time with the toes tucked under (broken-toe asana according to Tias Little). I prefer the pose this way.

I think Mr. Iyengar placed Utkatasana after all that floor work in order to bring back circulation to and re-energize the legs. Otherwise it seems so out of place to me.

I noticed my breath more than usual in today's sequence. Observing rather than altering it. Noticing when my breath is labored and when it is calm. Like when I am in the process of getting into one of the bound poses my breath is faster but as soon I as I get into the pose my breath settles down.
Unfortunately I ran out of time at the end and skipped Ujjayi in Siddhasana.  oh well.

I have been doing some reading on breath and came across these interesting points:

In Light on Life, Mr. Iyengar says that inhalation is tension and exhalation is freedom.

In Yoga Anatomy, Leslie Kaminoff states that contrary to what we think, "when we inhale we are not pulling air into the body. Actually air is being pushed into the body by atmospheric pressure that surrounds us all the time. The actual force that gets air into the lungs is outside the body."

Friday, August 20, 2010

Week 23 - Ariana

My body was telling me to back off today. My joints were a little stiff and the muscles a little tight. I took some challenging classes this week so that might be the reason. I had too much rajas (activity) in the mind. Expecting too much. Assuming that because I have done certain poses before that I can do them whenever I want. Taking some poses for granted. Getting up into headstand was hard. That was surprising. By mistake I left out Supta Konasana and Parsva Halasana during the Shoulderstand sequence. I assumed I knew that part of the sequence by heart.

I noticed the rajas in my practice because I am in a particularly tranquil and still environment. I got myself into some challenging poses and then when I looked around I noticed how quiet it was outside. Not in my practice. So I kept trying to bring that stillness and poise into my poses and the transitions in between. I was not successful. I had to remind myself countless times.

I appreciated nobodhi's comments about Chakrasana. I think it helped. I kept the "pulling of the legs" and "pushing with the hands" in my mind. I also tried it with a blanket under my shoulders. This elevation helped too. I will keep at it.

I am still being extra careful with the knees-especially the left. The more I do lotus on that side the easier it gets though. I have to ease into it every time.

What is up with Mr. Iyengar's instructions for the legs in Gomukhasana? I have never been in a class where it was taught that way - SITTING ON the ankles and feet. I have enough trouble wrapping one leg over the other. I don't understand how his body does that.

Supta Virasana is one of those poses that is so hard for me and therefor so good for me. I have to lie back on three blankets or a bolster (sometimes both). I feel so much lengthening along the front of my body from the thighs up to my ribs that I get a burning sensation. It takes me a while to settle into it. Hence Paryankasana is not available to me. Instead I lengthen the arms overhead (still on the blanket), clasp the elbows and focus on breathing.

Bharadvajasana I and II were so calming and grounding for me. Ever since I took a workshop on twists with Carrie Owerko, they are some of my favorite poses. I didn't give them enough attention before that. I didn't really want to get up for Ustrasana and then Utkatasana after all that floor work. But I did.

I actually heard the flapping of a bird's wings while in Savasana. (I peaked when I heard the strange noise.) I think it was a hawk. Cool!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Week 22 - Ariana

I was supposed to have a meeting this morning, but the person I was meeting forgot about it and then expected me to wait an hour for him to arrive. He did not apologize. This annoyed me. I try to respect other people's time. This irked me especially because of what I could have been doing instead of waiting for this person to show up - this week's sequence. Nonetheless, when I got home
I was determined and relieved to get to my practice. I missed it. I did not get to practice as much as I would have liked while we had guests staying with us. Then my daughter got sick for a few days and of course that took precedence.

When I finally did get to practice the determination paid off. I balanced without the wall in headstand for about 30 seconds. I was proud of that.

While I was reveling in my determined practice my husband came home with beautiful flowers. Then he broke the vase (my favorite) that he was going to put them in. I listened to the jarring sound of broken glass being swept up on the kitchen floor tiles. Pleasant. Non-attachment, right? Vairagya (Sutra 1.15 learning to let go of the many attachments, aversions, fears, and false identities that are clouding the true Self). Man, I had to work on that one. I was pissed. I kept telling myself "be grateful for the flowers!"

Moving on. Recently one of my Iyengar teachers suggested rolling up a towel and placing it under the spine in Shoulderstand in order to lift the spine and C7 up and get more onto the shoulders. I tried it, but didn't get it. I felt more pressure on my C7 and had trouble balancing. I will have to inquire further on that one. Maybe it's just not right with the Shoulderstand variations. I am getting used to these. The weight has to shift in each of them. The spine and body cannot remain completely vertical. Pictures of Mr. Iyengar in these poses confirmed that for me.

In general I find it's all about getting used to these postures. You have to learn how to use your body in different ways than you are accustomed to. You just have to be patient and keep trying (Abhyasa) like babies do when they start to learn to walk.

I continued to prop up the left knee in all of the lotus poses. I surprised myself and was able to do lotus with my right leg over my left. It has been a while since I could do that without feeling something in the knees.

Lolasana is troubling for me. Both my feet don't stay under me when my legs are in Gomukhasana. The top shin goes way out to the side. Lifting up in this did not work. I kept trying and pressing my hands vigorously into the floor but no lift off.

Chakrasana-the first few times I tried it I didn't let myself roll over to one side. I think I have to press into the back of my head and hands at the same time in this one. This pose scares me. I'm afraid I will hurt my neck.

I stayed in poses longer than usual. I noticed when I thought I was ready to move on to the next pose and instead stayed in it for at least 3 more breaths. I realized how important it is to stick around for at least one exhale, especially in the poses that are the most challenging. The release or letting go happens on the exhale. The more you do it the easier it gets.

When I started Siddhasana with Pranayama these words entered my mind- "This is all here for my amusement." When I finished this entered my mind - "There is still so much to learn." I am not sure what it means but I like it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Week 24 - Jenny

I couldn't believe it.  I moved through this sequence today without stopping, without plodding, without reading and re-reading.  With all this propping for my injured and healthy knee, practice has been taking FOR-ever.  But I had a certain rhythm today.  I've been doing the sequence enough to have most of it memorized.  That helps.  I've learned and continue to learn where and how to prop, so now I just do it - no fuss.  I look for a lack of strain in the knees (I'm specifically talking about the half-lotus and half-virasana positions that take up the bulk of the second part of the sequence) and an opening in the hip - the feeling that the head of the femur is seated in the acetabulum on the pelvis (the "socket" of the ball-and-socket).  Then I moved to the next pose.  I didn't get caught up in wanting to reach the final pose - the bound arm or the head on the leg.  I just looked for the hip opening and observed the other effects of the pose.

For one thing, I had been trying to get into the full forward bend of all these paschimottanasanas (different seated forward bends with legs in various positions).  This time, I kept my tailbone down on the floor - and the amount I was able to lean forward - well, that was it.  It's like when a new student does Half Pigeon in the leaned forward position.  She wants her head on the floor, so she sort of flips over the bent-leg foot - misaligning the hips in the quest for some perception of the final pose.  But what good is that?  That's what I was doing.  For instance, in Half Lotus Seated Forward Bend (Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana), I was sort of flipping over my bent-leg foot to do the forward bend.  And yes, I did the forward bend.  But my tailbone came off the floor to achieve the forward bend.  And of course this was misaligning my hips and torquing my knee.  Hence the injury.

When it comes to the poses that are super demanding of hip flexibility, I've learned to stay away.  I'm just not ready yet.  So when it comes to Full Lotus (Padmasana), I work on Half Lotus.  And when I get to Bharadvajasana II, where one leg is in Half-Lotus and the other in Half-Virasana, I skip to the next pose.  These leg positions are repeated many times throughout the sequence, so I keep working on them in the other poses.  But I'm just not ready to do both at once yet.

One more week to this sequence, then Week 26 starts a new sequence.  I think I'll need to stay with this one for some time before moving on.  We'll see.  I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Week 23 - Jenny

Working with an injury - how interesting.  I slowly - so slowly - moved through practice, cradling my ouchy knee.  I took my time to place props and attempt every pose that didn't cause huge pain.  I became very much aware that I need to take my time with these open-hip demanding poses.  It's interesting to have two knees.  Because when one knee is hurt, I study it.  And then I have the other to study.  Because I'm so sensitive on the injured knee, I can tune up my senses on the healthy one and see where perhaps the problem began.  And I noticed that there is strain on the knee that I wasn't noticing.  So I'm propping the healthy knee, too.  And watching and watching.

I realize I'll be on this sequence for awhile.  I've hit a wall.  But working with this heightened sensitivity may get me up this wall yet.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Week 21 - Ariana

I feel relaxed and focused after this sequence. I could have stayed in Savasana longer. I probably SHOULD have stayed in Siddhasana and done the pranayama longer. But the day beckons.

Chakrasana is the same-still rolling to one side in order to flip over. Maybe the back of my neck isn't flexible enough for this maneuver.

I really wanted to finish the sequence and my blog entry today because I have family coming in (and occupying the space where I do yoga). I knew that would not get another chance to do it this week. Maybe because of that I felt like I was just getting through it. I was also preoccupied thinking about the class I taught this morning.

I had to support my left knee for the seated poses with half lotus. I elevated that knee if it was in half lotus with a folded blanket in order to alleviate pulling in the muscles around the outer knee. Supporting the knee that way took the discomfort out of the equation so I focus on the pose rather than the discomfort. Always a good thing.

Nothing so profound to report today. I am just still happy to be in the middle of this process and looking forward to whatever may be around the corner.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Week 20 - Ariana

I did not have time to journal after my practice. I like to write as soon as I am done while the experience is still fresh. As soon as I finished I got dressed and went to my daughter's swim class. I told her I would be there.

I am working on my Headstand away from the wall. Doing the variations without a wall seems worlds away. One of my teachers emphasizes the role of imagination in yoga practice. I need to imagine myself doing it even if I think that I can't.

While doing the Shoulderstand variations I actually said aloud, "this is fun!" Niralamba Sarvangasana II (Unsupported Shoulderstand 2) does not last very long for me. I jump into it blindly, hope for the best and end up rolling onto the floor. I think it is just fear of something new.

Chakrasana - I still roll to one side to get over. I tried it twice - one time I rolled to my right then to my left. I still cannot figure out how to get my weight into my hands and feet rather than my head.

Something changed. A lot of poses opened up for me today - Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana, Marichyasana I and II, and Bharadvajasana I and II. I did the full poses. I am still stunned. Getting my left foot in Half Lotus is suddenly possible. I don't feel anything in that knee any more. I always assumed I would never be able to do full Marichyasana 1 and 2 because of my struggles with Lotus. I gave it a shot today with more of an open mind than usual. I never realized how much the hip of the bent leg (not the lotus leg) has to come up off the floor. For some reason I assumed that the pelvis had to stay even on the floor. The pose would not be possible that way. I was thrilled.

Sometimes I can do more than I give myself credit for. Potential. There is always potential. I know we are not supposed to be attached to how "advanced" our poses are. I guess I am still caught up in that because I am so happy that I did those poses that have NEVER been available to me.

But where would we be without goals? Never realizing our potential. The trick might be in not getting attached to or identifying with the result. Even if you reach a goal there will always be another one. And what about being content with how things are (santosa)? Can we be content with the status quo and have goals at the same time?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Week 22 - Jenny

I spent last week working up to and getting pysched up for this sequence.  The ante has been upped.  There are poses that are difficult and different and intimidating.  So I took some time to try some out, to study them, to prepare for them.  The upside downs are the same as the last sequence.  After that, things change.  I went into some backbends - Locust (Shalabasana), Cobra (Bhujangasana), etc.  Then to the poses that lead to Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana) that were such a large part of the sequence for the past three weeks - poses like Triang Mukhaiapada Paschimottanasana (a seated forward bend with one leg in Virasana position) and Marichyasana I (Pose Dedicated to the Sage Marichi I - a seated forward bend with one leg in squat position, foot on the floor near the hip).  After that, I headed into some pretty demanding hip work.  I cannot yet do Lotus (Padmasana), so I did Half Lotus. Same for all the poses where the legs are in Lotus - I did Half Lotus.

I've been interested through all these sequences in what direction Mr. Iyengar takes the student from forward to backward bends and then again to forward.  I don't know where that comes from.  I'm sure it comes from his personal practice, but what is it that directed him that way?  In any case, I come out of these sequences with an elastic spine and I love it.  And I have the experience to know to ease my way into a forward bend if I'm coming straight out of a backbend and vice versa.

When I was practicing Bound Half Lotus Forward Bend (Ardha Baddha Padma Pashcimottanasana) the other day, something popped on the lateral side of my left knee.  Having studied it for a few days now, I don't think it's a huge deal.  I've been careful with it - cutting out this pose and others that strain the knee.  Today I was actually able to do the pose using a block to prop the leg up - there was no pain at all.  I think I was reaching for the goal a little too quickly - I wanted my head down on my knee.  I didn't even realize it.  These days, I push so much less than I used to that I forget that I still have the tendency to push too far.  This situation has brought me back to observing with a hawk's eye where the strain or stretch or stress is presenting itself in all poses, especially these poses that are demanding of the hip.  And my practice just went deeper . . .

I was proud and exhilarated to have made it through this sequence.  This stuff is getting kinda hard.  But with a slow, explorative approach, I'm getting through.  At this point, I have to allow my curiosity to really peak.  Otherwise, I'd be cramming myself into these positions just so that I could blog about it.  I've talked about this before, but I will again mention the interview with Mr. Iyengar that I read in Yoga Journal.  When asked if there was anything he would have done differently with Light on Yoga, he said he would have made the sequence a 10 year program rather than 5.  He said he assumed the student would be practicing 10 hours/day, but he now realizes that isn't possible for a Western householder.  I can feel the rapid jumps in these sequences.  I do a good 2-3 hours of yoga per day.  And these sequences are going so much faster than my body.  I know at some point my body won't be able to keep up - I'm brushing that edge already - and I'll have to take extra weeks to stay with a sequence.  But that's okay.  As I tell my students: Enjoy the journey.  Because it's mostly journey.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Week 19 - Ariana

My copy of Light on Yoga started to fall apart. The appendix fell out. I am both proud and saddened by this. I am sad because obviously I want the book to last. I have owned this copy for 17 years. I am proud because it means the book is getting a lot of use. Wear and tear shows more personality.

The sequence for week 19 is very different once again.
1. Headstand variations
2. Shoulderstand variations
3. Abdominal work
4. Back bends
5. Forward bends and twists
6. Savasana

I like doing Headstand and Shoulderstand right after one another simply because they are the king and queen of yoga poses. Iyengar places them early in the practice because they are so important and it is better to do them early when you still have energy. Most classes I attend have these inversions at the end rather than beginning of class. I think there are advantages and disadvantages either way. If you do them at the start of class you are not as warmed up and it may cause strain in the muscles. However if done towards the end of practice, one may be tired and therefor not as alert, which can make one more prone to injury.

Chakrasana is not happening for me yet. I roll over to the right side in order to press up. But I have to say that is an improvement from the last time I tried that pose. The last time I did not go anywhere. I have not figured out how much I have to press into my hands in order to roll over and come up. I will keep trying and keep learning.

Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottansana and Bharadvajsana are also challenges to me. It is easier for me to get my right leg in half lotus than my left. Although I recently discovered that keeping my left sit bone anchored as I place the left foot in padmasana alleviates pain in that knee. My left hip was coming up off the floor and I was leaning too much to the right. That unevenness in my pelvis affected my knee. It is indeed all connected.

As I went through the sequence, I would come across certain poses and say to myself, "I can't do that." But I tried it any way with an open mind to see what happened. In many instances I did variations rather than the full pose. Equally as good in my book.

Which brings me back to my old copy of Light on Yoga that is falling apart. Hopefully it will hang in there through the end of this experiment. Hopefully I will too!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Week 18 - Ariana

I was away the last week and a half and took another break from the Iyengar sequences. I did continue with my own practice. I felt that I needed sun salutations so I started the day with 10 sun salutations. On the first one my spine was stiff and sore. By the 10th it was supple and the poses flowed. It felt wonderful.

I have been told by a few Iyengar teachers that Iyengar classes typically do not include the sun salutations. But in the appendix of Light on Yoga Mr. Iyengar mentions them at the end of Course I. He states: "those who wish to prostrate to the sun (suryanamaskar) and to develop the arms and chest can do the following asanas in sequence..."

He suggests an 8-step sequence:
1. Tadasana 2. Uttanasana 3. Jump to Chaturanga 4. Urdvha Mukha Svanasana 5. Chaturanga
6. Adho Mukha Svanasana 7. Uttanasana 8. Tadasana.
This is different from the one I practice. There is no mention of Utthita Hastasana or Ardha Uttanasana and Adho Mukha Svanasana follows a second Chaturanga.

After this break I enjoyed returning to Mr. Iyengar's sequence. Practice felt like play. I was moving in and out of poses smoothly and quickly. My body is especially limber because of the heat.

While I was retaining the breath in Mahamudra I had a sudden rise of prana or energy up to my third eye area and it radiated out from there. Each time I did the retention I had this sensation but not as intense as the first one. I did not feel that I was getting this pose prior to today. I am still not sure how to do it.

Then while I was retaining the breath while in Siddhasana I felt the sensation in the third eye area again. I sat with it and enjoyed being in this space. I held it for longer than usual. It felt vast, spacious, endless and comforting. I was a little bit rushed so I did not experiment with it as long as I would have liked.

These words entered my mind when I finished the sequence: Thank you for this practice.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Week 21 - Jenny

So after the third week of doing this sequence, I'm starting to get into it - to even get the hang of it just a little bit.  For one thing, I'm getting through the sequence at a more normal pace.  And the hip-demanding poses - I'm really making progress - a surprising amount of progress!  In (Trianga Mukhaipada Paschimottanasana), I actually put my head down of my leg!  My Virasana, especially on the left side, has really progressed - the hip opening in the right place and all that.  And then I was able to bind both sides in Half Bound Lotus Forward Bend (Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana) - that one is still tough because my foot is jamming into the opposite thigh (due to a lack of openness in the hip joint). But I get to a point in the forward bend where it releases and the foot isn't jamming into the thigh and again my head touched my knee.  Wild.

This brings up another point that I've noticed in the yoga practice.  The exponential quality of it all.  I remember having a Half Pigeon (Eka Pada Rajokapotasana) that you could drive a truck under.  And it took months of hanging out in that pose before the muscles released and I could get down further.  But you learn and your muscles learn to get of tension over time.  They learn how to let go of tension.  I started to learn that the tension in my jaw really does keep all my other muscles from releasing.  And those lessons, over time, become the foundation of the practice.  And now I can release muscles in much less time.  Another testament to this wild and wonderful practice of yoga.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Week 20 - Jenny

The second week of this sequence.  A little less discombobulating than the first week, but still tough to get through.  The final 8 poses or so are so demanding of hip flexibility.  At least three of them require a half Lotus leg position and at least three require a half Virasana leg position.  And Bharadvajasana II requires both!  But I've been plugging through, attempting to do what I can.  My Virasana has improved a great deal in the past couple of months.  My half Lotus is another story, but the journey goes on.  I was pleasantly surprised again at what I could do.  Even in the half Lotus position.  I still cannot fully get into Marichyasana II or Bharadvajasana II, so I stretch the half Lotus leg while bending the other leg as much as I can (foot on the floor, to work towards Marichyasana II).  And everything is progressing and I am a witness to the progression.

Chakrasana has become fun.  I flip right over and push to Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) with a smile.  What a blast.

I'm surprised that Bound Angle Pose (Baddha Konasana) comes at the very end of a sequence that requires Half Lotus positions, but it is grounding at the end of the practice.

So I'll keep pluggin.  Same sequence next week.  And away we go . . .

Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer Solstice in Times Square

Ariana and I met last week at the intersection of 46th and Broadway for a yoga class.  We were celebrating (with 700 friends) the longest day of the year.  An awesome and interesting experience.  The theme was "Mind Over Madness."  So yes, there were taxis speeding by on both sides of the class, car horns, sirens, tourist buses and tons of people watching and taking pictures.  For me at least, the sounds didn't affect me much.  I was able to concentrate in the midst of it.  With the help of the 700 friends, it was easy.  Other senses were affected, though.  There were times when I was in a pose like Triangle (Trikonasana) where I came into the pose and found my alignment.  Then finalizing the pose, I looked up.  And I saw the tops of skyscrapers with the sky bright behind.  And it was beautiful.  And I knew there were people in those skyscrapers and people who built those skyscrapers and people on every floor all the way down to the street where we were.  Like a connection between us and the heavens.  Where else would you find a line of people that extends from a yoga class on the street 1,000 feet into the sky?  Not to mention the people on the subway below.

I really love the sense of community at an event like this.  I really like that aspect of yoga.  See Ariana's pictures on her post.

Week 19 - Jenny

Like the last sequence, I had to do this sequence twice to get it into my system.  It's SO different from anything thus far.  Well, there are some similarities.  I mentioned last time that Mr. Iyengar says you can do the standing asanas on alternating days or twice a week.  So this time he doesn't include them in the sequence.  The sequence starts with Headstand (Sirsasana) and Headstand variations, then goes directly to Shoulderstand (Sarvangasna) and Shoulderstand variations.  Then into core work and then all sitting poses.  I agree with Ariana - it is surprising that Camel Pose (Ustrasana) is the first backbend in the sequence.  And the placement of Floor Bow (Danurasana) seems early, too (before Virasana).  But I've been working with a notion lately of using the poses to stretch the various body parts.  It sounds simple.  But I do still work for completion of the pose.  And I believe I need to develop more flexibility in the chest and shoulders before really getting into Camel.  But this other perspective of using Camel to stretch the chest and shoulders allows me to back off of the goal.  The thing is, if you're way off, I have to think it's not time to try to pose yet.  But if you're on the edge, this perspective can get you further in your work.

Mr. I. adds a bunch of poses to this sequence that require flexibility in the hips and/or shoulders that I do not have yet.  Marichyasana II, with one leg in Virasana and one leg in Half Lotus, is quite impossible for me right now.  Half Lotus and I are not well acquainted yet.  And Virasana and I are just getting acquainted.  So adding a twist to the mix, not to mention the arm bind . . . well, you know.

But I was surprised, no, shocked at what I could do.  When I read the sequence, I thought - I can't do half of these.  But really Marichyasana II (Pose Dedicated to the Sage Marichi II) is the only one that I don't feel comfortable even attempting.  For one thing, I was able to bind the arm (grabbing hand to Half Lotus foot) in Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana (Half-Bound Lotus Seated Forward Bend).  I never would have guessed.  Since Shoulderstand and I don't get along as well as we should, I thought the variations would be impossible.  But I was able to balance with the arms overhead AND with the arms straight up in the air next to the legs.  It was wild.

And my weekly shout out goes to Chakrasana (Wheel Pose).  I have no freaking idea what this "pose" (it's a moving pose like Chatarunga) is all about.  It is a backward roll, as in gymnastics, except that you start in Plow (Halasana) and flip over from there.  I was squishing my neck to the point of pain when I was on the floor.  But a blanket assisted me and I flipped right over.  Which brings me to another point: having been a gymnast, I've fielded many questions, thoughts and dreamy comments from adults who want to be able to flip over.  Or be upside down.  Or something along those lines.  And there are a few poses in yoga that tap into that natural inclination that humans have to flip or to hold themselves upside down.  Handstand is the ultimate pose for so many yogis.  And it's not because it's difficult.  There are so many poses that are more difficult and more complicated than Handstand.  Yet it remains king.  You can see it in children.  Every kid tries cartwheels and handstands.  Unless fear has set in early, it's something to do on the grass every chance a kid gets.  I'm not sure what it all means.  I bet Mr. I. does.  Maybe I'll get to ask him someday.  Or maybe I'll let the answer come to me as so many have since I moved into a deep yoga practice.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Week 17 - Ariana

This practice is dedicated to the Gulf oil spill. It is weighing heavily on my mind. I am trying to understand why we cannot stop it and how we are going to be affected by it. How will we recover? I have been reading as much as possible and looking to the news for information. But I didn't feel that I was getting the whole story. I wanted to hear more from the people who actually live there. So I turned to youtube and facebook. In many ways I find the raw footage and commentary posted by individuals who are experiencing this to be more truthful.

Here are some that have stood out to me:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

LOLOY AT TIMES Square Summer Solstice 2010

We took Alanna Kailvalya's class in the middle of Times Square to celebrate the Summer Solstice.

Let's just say it was hot.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Week 16 - Ariana

Yay deeper backbends like Ustrasana (Camel) and Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog). Ustrasana came before UMS (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana) in the sequence!??!

And Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) makes its first appearance - halfway through the sequence after UMS. Also perplexing because it is not taught in that order in most classes that I have attended.

Chatturanga is also here. He instructs to do it pressing up into it from the floor. But I am so used to doing it on my way down from Plank or UMS. I struggle so much with pressing up into Chatturanga. I always ending coming up in some sort of wave-like fashion rather than all at once.

I was out late last night with friends and felt wobbly in my practice today because of it.
I felt like I needed Sun Salutations but I stayed with the Iyengar sequence.

Today I was focused on opposing actions in the shoulder girdle and the pelvic girdle. Basically one rolls up while the other rolls down. More specifically - rolling my shoulders up and back while simultaneously rolling the tailbone down. I need these actions because I tend to stick my butt out too much and slump my shoulders forward and down. These actions helped me in so many of the poses today: Sirsasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, UMS, Warriors 1, 2, 3, and Urdhva Prasarita Padasana. It was most dramatic while I was in warrior 3. Suddenly I felt anchored and light at the same time. That is probably the goal in all of the poses. I had trouble with the light or buoyant part of my practice today.

I am so used to Shoulder Stand being part of the wind down of my practice that I really did not want to do the abdominal exercises afterward. I wanted to go right into Savasana. But I persevered. I could not focus enough to do the Ujjayi in Siddhasana so I let go of that and just sat quietly for a few minutes.

I am still feeling sluggish but happy I practiced today.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Week 18 - Jenny

Week 18 says, "Repeat."  So I did.  I'm still amazed at how this sequence that was so difficult the first week has become routine.  Not easy, but routine.

I don't know what else to say.  His sequencing is profound.  This practice was so . . . complete.  My spine felt supple half way through.  Like I could bend forward and back again and again.  Mr. Iyengar says this week, "If you now find all the standing asanas are easy enough, you can do them on alternate days or twice a week."  I did them this time since I'm not doing this sequence every day (I do most of the standing poses daily as part of my own practice, though).  But it seems just the right time to delve deeper into the seated poses.  I have become quite efficient at the standing poses.  Not so much that they should be left behind, but to a point where I think the limitations that keep me from experiencing them further should be explored in the seated poses.

Note about Gate Pose (Parighasana):
Finding the hinge in the hip joint has made this pose possible for me.  It's like in Triangle (Trikonasana).  You know how some teachers have you reach forward "from the hips" before coming into the pose - I think that's there so you can find the hip hinge.  Once you get that forward hip pulled back (head of femur seated into the socket), you can hinge and there is space in the hip joint.  Same with Parighasana.  And if you look at Mr. Iyengar in the photo, you can see that he has hinged there and that it causes his torso to lean forward slightly.  I was under the impression that this pose should be done with the chest facing completely forward.  But that doesn't allow me into that hip joint.  Pulling back on the hip sets me right in place.  And the torso does lean forward some.  And the rest is breath to open up the side ribs.  And now I get the top hand to meet the bottom one every time.

I love this practice . . . 

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Week 15 - Ariana

I practiced first thing in the morning today. Well, after I walked the dog, but before I ate anything or drank my coffee. I don't like to eat before I practice. However, I do need to eat in the morning. As a result, I was not mentally focused or particularly lively. I was not tired, just not energetic.

The sequence felt long today. Starting with headstand was a surprise to my system. I felt blood rushing towards my head. At first it felt jarring and then it calmed down. While I was in Prasarita Padottanasana I noticed dog hair scattered all over the floor. The pose provided the perfect vantage point. I was so annoyed by this. I thought about getting up and sweeping the floor, but then I decided it was best to finish the practice and sweep later. Then I fixated on the dog hair on my mat. It's so hard to get it off. By the time I got to the abs section of the sequence I settled back into the practice. For Urdhva Prasarita Padasana I focused on gathering into the midline from head to toe before I lifted my legs. As a result, I felt more integrated in my core.

In Janusirsasana I felt a yummy stretch from the bent leg and up that side of the body - especially in the kidney area. I felt like I needed that kidney stretch for some reason.

My left hamstring was very tight again today.

I didn't have as profound an experience in Savasana Pranayama. At first I tried to replicate last week's experience but it did not feel right. I did feel a holding of prana on some of the inhalation retentions. Instead of focusing it on certain areas of the body, I felt it spread out throughout my body from the center, radiating out.

Today I dedicated my practice to the Gulf oil spill disaster and all those suffering from it. We are all suffering from this in some way and will continue to do so for a long time.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Week 17 - Jenny

Much different than last week.  I moved through the poses in quick, steady succession, melding them together the way Iyengar meant them to be (or at least I think so).  This past week I've been adding some of the new poses to my daily practice.  I find that it helps when I do the practice the following week.  It also helps me memorize the sequence so that I can keep flowing rather than stopping to look in the book.

Again, I felt such clarity after the practice.  I can clearly see where I need work from a physical perspective.  But also my mind is clear.  My body has moved through strengthening and lengthening standing poses, flexed through seated poses, and chugged through challenging holds.  I was upside down for a good portion of the practice, so I'm grounded and clear and I've looked at things from a different perspective.  I am an ujayii breath - victorious, flowing and open.  And there's that feeling again - everything's going to be okay.

I'm really starting to fly in these sequences.  Just this week, my top hand found my bottom one in Gate Pose (Parighasana).  The more intense Janu Sirsasana that was recently added to the sequence has created that extra stretch in the lower side back that allows for the deeper Parighasana.  I never practiced Janu Sirsasana with the bent leg pulled way back beyond 90 degrees to the straight leg.  It requires much more length in the lower side back (depending on what side I'm on) - and it's this length that brought me into Parighasana.  It feels great to be able to do a pose that was so beyond me only a few weeks ago.  That's an interesting thought on practice - the more intense pose that I cannot complete creates an opening that allows me into a less intense pose.  Without working Janu Sirsasana, would I ever have found this Parighasana?  Probably, but it would take longer.  And sometimes that's the path I need to take to prevent injury.  But with that awareness I tried out Janu Sirsasana.  And I didn't hurt myself.  And it allowed me into Parighasana.  And I like it.

To victory . . .

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Week 14 - Ariana

All that talk about continuing with the week 12 sequence for a while until I felt steady in it... I was totally inspired today to do the next sequence for week 14 instead of repeating the last one. I saw that it starts with headstand and I really wanted to do that.

My practice felt different today. I just wanted to get into the poses and not read Mr. Iyengar's instructions at all. I was focused on lines of force in the body in each pose. What moves up, down, in, out, and to the sides. In all of the poses there are forces that move in direct opposition to each other in order to create balance and stability or steadiness and ease. Stira Sukham Asanam.

I had a cool experience while in the Savasana Pranayama. Suddenly on the inhalation retention I felt prana or energy being held in the body. Then I started playing with it and concentrating the prana in certain areas of the body with mental concentration. So I directed it to different energy centers in the body that I have read about. I don't know much about chakras other than where they are located. I directed it first to the third eye or ajna chakra then to the root chakra. Then I sent it through all the chakras from the bottom up. As I did that I visualized the colors corresponding to each one. It was a spontaneous experiment. It happened when I let go and stopped trying to control the breath so much. Even though pranayama is about gaining control of the breath I felt it had to be balanced with an element of letting go. I let the inhales and exhales come and go like waves. I caught the wave on the inhalation retention and then let it go again. While I was retaining it I was playing with the prana. I might have to try that again.

After I let go I realized that the body has its own wisdom. The challenge is letting the mind be subservient to it and trusting it - to drop out of the mind and the illusion that we can control everything. Sometimes we have to give in to the wave of fate and see what is presented to us before we try to create something.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Week 16 - Jenny

So I did this sequence on Wednesday, but I didn't write.  I was busy that day and I ended up splitting the practice in two and I didn't feel right about that.  So I did it again today.

Let's see . . .

You know, that sequence on paper doesn't look that different from last week's, but it felt so different.  For one thing, it felt really long.  Not while I was in the poses or anything - I stayed pretty well focused - but it just kept going and going and going.  At this point the standing poses fly by.  I remind myself of alignment and find myself in some sort of free space pretty quickly.  I've become quite efficient in the standing poses, which Mr. Iyengar says will happen around this time.  This week adds Chair Pose (Utkatasana) and Standing Split to the standing series.  So pretty quickly I was down on the floor.

My. Iyengar's sequencing of the backbends is quite the opposite of what I was taught or what I'd expect.  He does Locust (Shalabasana) first, then Floor Bow (Danurasana), then Chatarunga Dandasana (not a backbend, but I wanted to list the whole series), then Cobra (Bhujangasana I), then Virasana, then Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana).  I expected Cobra to come first, working from the lower back up.  Then to Locust, then Danurasana.  And I usually do Virasana to stretch the quads before Danurasana.  In his sequence, Locust comes first, being the shallower backbend.  Then things go deeper, but I don't know why Virasana comes where it does.  I'll keep studying it.

Anyway, this is the first week where Mr. I. calls for Ujayii breath in Siddhasana rather than in Corpse Pose (Savasana).  Which means that it's the first time since the early sequences that I did a Savasana without doing pranayama (breath exercises).  It was nice after such a long sequence to take a plain old Savasana.  I did some body-scanning as a I lay there and I worked on releasing resistance.

Did Ujayii for 5 minutes in Siddhasana.  I like how Mr. I. has you do Siddhasana as a pose in the sequence, then has you add the Ujayii.  This gave me a chance to work on the pose - to study his notes.  There's a whole 2 page discussion of Siddhasana quoting ancient scripts like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika saying you will reach a bliss state if you practice this pose (and eat a moderate diet).

I came out of the practice with a feeling of clarity.  And groundedness.  This work is so deep that I come out of it rather hazy.  I mentioned this before - it reminds me of my first days of yoga classes - and of when I have new students who have that dazed look after class.  There is an invigoration after the standing poses - my eyes are wide.  The upside down sequence has become really long - tons of variations on Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana I) and Plow (Halasana).  And this week Mr. I. put the upside downs after the backbends and down dog, which put them before the core work - Navasana, etc.  Maybe this is one of the reasons the practice seemed so long - the upside downs used to be at the end of the sequence, so maybe I'm expecting the sequence to end, but then there's more.  After the core work, some forward bends.  And this week adding Porvottanasana, a pose I cannot conquer yet.  My shoulders are tight in that direction and so are my arms, so I hold as long as I can and feel an intense stretch up my arms.  I am attempting to gain range of motion in this direction through some supported Bridge work.  Eventually I'll get there.

I wish I could sum things up better.  But I'm still kind of unsure about it all.  But the deeper my practice goes, the more I accept that feeling.  I am here to observe it.  That's all.  And so I watch.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Week 13 - Ariana

Repeat and Become Steady.

For the 13th week Mr. Iyengar says to "repeat and become steady in your daily practices. Those who find it difficult to master all these asanas within this period can continue with them for several more weeks." He is referring to repeating the sequences for the previous weeks before moving on to weeks 14, 15 and so on.

This makes me chuckle because I don't think I will ever master any asana in any period of time. I don't know what it means to master an asana and I certainly would not know what it feels like. Needless to say I will repeat the week 12 sequence for at least another week before I move on.

Today's practice was not in my apartment but in upstate NY outside on a deck. Surrounded by Catskill hills, trees, sun and sky. That made quite a difference. My breaths were fuller. The practice felt more lively and energetic with utter stillness at the end, maybe with a taste of serenity. Just a taste. It always changes into something else.

I was less focused on alignment today. I just wanted to feel the poses as they were. I practiced in the morning. My body was not as open and that was ok. I did not try to move deeper into the poses . I just observed what my body was doing today. I guess I get carried away with what my body can't do rather than what it can. Striving towards something in a pose rather than simply being in it.

I felt strong today. My hamstrings felt tighter than usual. Microbending the knees in Parsvottanasana on both sides felt right. It gave the hams a break and I could rest my torso on my thigh - rounding more in the back. Warrior 3 was different today. Normally I don't extend the arms alongside my head because it causes too much strain. For some reason I felt like doing it today and it felt good. I didn't hold it for very long, but I did it.

I have been playing with contracting and releasing my abdominal muscles in forward bends like Uttanasana. It makes such a difference in the pose to me. I don't think one action is right versus the other, but I enjoy being aware of the difference these subtle movements make. When I contract the abs while in the forward bend my back rounds more and I fold over more. The pose is more contained. When I completely relax those muscles I feel a nice stretch and release along the front of my torso. My chest opens toward the floor. I think it lengthens the whole spine down toward the floor. The pose is more open.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Week 15 - Jenny

This practice felt different from last week even though it was the same sequence.  But of course, I'm in a different place than I was last week.  That's one thing I like about repeating sequences - you can really see where you are on a given day.

The practice seemed to fly by today.  It still took close to two hours, but it felt shorter.

The thing that stood out most for me was the dazy feeling I had after the practice.  You know - that "I just finished yoga class" feeling.  I always feel great after practicing, of course, but I haven't felt dazed since the days when I first took class.  I went outside instead of sitting to write this.  And I sat and looked at the grass and trees waving in the breeze.  It was so beautiful.

I was a little concerned about time today, though it turns out I didn't have to be - so I moved somewhat swiftly through the sequence.  I didn't take a lot of time to read and "workshop" the poses.  I just did them, reminding myself of alignment cues, etc.  But the concentration on the practice was more than usual.  I have almost the entire sequence memorized - it's only when the new poses come in that I have to look at the book.  So I can go through it mostly uninterrupted.  Swift without interruptions accounted for a focus that allowed those things - openness? release? freedom? meditation? clarity? - that brought up the dazed feeling.  At least that's how I read it.

You know, as yoga teachers, we're always telling our students and ourselves to slow down.  Because most of us are moving too fast through life.  But it seems there are reasons to speed up every once in awhile.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Week 14 - Jenny

Wow.  So Week 14 is waaaay different than Week 13.  There are quite a few new poses.  It took me almost two hours to get through it all.  First, we begin with Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana I).  Mr. Iyengar mentions that Headstand should be done before any other poses so that you're fresh and not tired.  I held it for five minutes before going into the standing sequence that Mr. Iyengar has been having us do for awhile.

This week deeper backbends were added - Cobra (Bhujangasana I), Floor Bow (Dhanurasana) and Locust (Shalabasana).  I'm a little confused with the instructions for Cobra.  Mr. I.  has you come up to high Cobra with bent arms, then go to straight arms "bringing the pubis to the floor."  But I don't know if he wants me to keep my arms bent if the pubis doesn't reach the floor.  In the photo of the straight arm version (I'm guessing it was added to the book later as Mr. Iyengar is wearing a different pair of shorts than in all the other photos), his hands seem far out in front of him.  He doesn't say anything in the text about bringing them forward, but the photo shows just that.  I tried it with the hands placed forward - it is  intense on the low back, even though I was attempting to extend the tailbone towards the feet and the side ribs forward and up.  Since he has a great degree of elasticity in the spine, he is able to push his chest way back by straightening his arms while keeping his pubis on the floor, which is probably what accounts for his hands looking as if they are placed forward of the original position.  So the arms do stay bent so that my pubis reaches the floor.  Which accounts for today's leading teachers teaching the pose in this way.

I love the simple instructions assuming I'm as elastic as Mr. Iyengar.  Like in Dhanurasana - bring the legs up behind you before pulling the legs together.  As if I could do that.  But he had to write the book in some manner; and I think this is the best way.  I think the point is that you will eventually get there - you'll be able to do the poses as he does.

After such a long practice, I was rather invigorated.  I wasn't tired at all.  With all the new stuff, the standing poses felt like old friends.  I moved through them with ease and confidence that I'm working towards proficiency in all the poses.  The backbends provided chest and heart opening and exhilaration.  The combination of them with the forward bends - this week adding Head-to-Knee Pose (Janu Sirsasana) and Seated Forward Bend (Pashimottanasana) - made my spine feel elastic - like it would have no problem going from a forward bend to a backbend and vice versa.

I need to work more on Mahamudra (legs set up as in Janu Sirsasana, but working the abdomen toward the spine as is Agni Sara) - I'm not sure I was quite getting it.  I had the chinlock and the abdomen pulled in, but it felt weird.  But I guess it is weird.  Again, I had a little trouble with the instructions.  Mr. I says to inhale, then pull the abdomen in and up, then release the abdomen and exhale.  Then he says to inhale and pull the abdomen in again.  Then to hold the pose for one to three minutes.  Does he mean to hold the inhale for that long?  He can't, right?  So I held for as long as I could - trying to exhale before I felt too much pressure entering my face - and took just a few breaths throughout the one to two minutes I held the pose.  I'll research this pose in other books to see what I can find.

All in all, a wildly invigorating yet relaxing sequence.  I'm looking forward to its repeat in Week 15.  Savasana with Ujayii again.  And I rested right down onto the floor.  My spine was a rubber band, but with strength.  I felt stretched out from head to toe.  I didn't want to kick anyone's ass.  I didn't want to walk through mountains in Tibet.  I was somewhere in between.  Balanced.  Ah yes, balance.  I believe that's mentioned in a few yoga books.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

WEEK 12 - Ariana

I feel ready to resume. I have never had a physical shut down like that before. It was hard to listen to my body and take a real break, but I am glad I did.

I woke up this morning at 6AM and actually felt like practicing. This was shocking because I usually have to drag myself out of bed to get a cup of coffee. I guess I was looking forward to getting back to my LOY home practice. I missed it. I have come to love my personal practice. It feels very centering and grounding, like coming home. I still like to go to other classes, in fact the majority of my practice is with other teachers. But I do need to balance it with my personal practice with my own inner voice and guidance rather than relying on someone else to tell me what to do. This LOY experiment is helping me commit to that personal practice.

So I was happy to come back to it today. I thought I was clever. Being up so early, I thought I had plenty of time. My daughter woke up at 6:45 AM. Pleasure. As soon as she saw me she said, "woh." I think she was stunned that I was already awake and doing something other than drinking coffee. I was mid Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch) on the right side. She wanted to practice with me, but I didn't want to today. My husband helped me relocate everything to another room where I could close the door. So I continued with Parsvottanasana on the left side.

A few minutes into it and the dog burst open the door with his nose. Got to get that fixed. He then sat on my mat. Don't know why he likes the mat. I leaned back on him for Navasana and he got the message. Then I heard my daughter crying that she wanted to watch me do yoga. Breakfast preoccupied her for a little while. The dog tired of me quickly and started scratching the door and whining to get out. He can only open the door from one side. So I let him out. What felt like 10 minutes later he pushed the door open again. Then my daughter came to the door and started crying again that she wanted to watch me. Luckily I was a few minutes into Savasana Pranayama at that point. Surprisingly none of this bothered me. Usually I would be annoyed by these interruptions and would see them as obstacles to my practice. Today I just went with it. Calm abiding I guess.

I feel replenished. But I am still having some chronic tightness in my left hamstring and arch of my left foot. I am trying to figure out how to undo that. I felt it intensely in Parsvottanasana. I touched the hamstring and it felt so taught and almost like it had little knots in it. So I massaged it a little while in the pose which seemed to release it a little.

Some of the poses felt stuck for me again (especially the revolved poses) either because it was the morning or because I had not done many of the poses in a while. Now I have to go be with my daughter.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Week 13 - Jenny

Took it slow today.  I'm not feeling that great.  So I moved through the poses with maybe a little less effort.  And surprisingly, I found I was able to do all the poses with less effort.  As a matter of fact, it seems the poses should be done with less effort.  Isn't that the goal after all?

This week's sequence was the same as the last two.  I mentioned that I attended a week-long workshop with Rodney Yee last week.  I was putting to use all the instruction I received there.

I felt more grounded than usual on most of the poses.  I've been working with a couple theories/notions.  First, always work towards Mountain Pose (Tadasana).  No matter what pose you're in, work towards bringing the body to symmetry.  Second, when you really get into the pose, it'll feel like nothing.  Not exasperating, not effortful, not special, just like nothing.

I moved lightly from one pose to the next, looking for this feeling of nothingness using the tool of Tadasana.  And finding it from time to time.  I even found some of the same feeling in the transitions from pose to pose.  The whole practice was freer than usual.  Easier.  I can see why some yogis can do these poses with no warm-up at all.

Another technique I should mention is the seating of the head of the femur (thigh) bone in the hip socket in Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II) and Extended Side Angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana).  This is something I had been working with in my quest of Revolved Side Angle (Parivrrta Parsvakonasana).  I was noticing through my study that I have to get my front thigh truly parallel to the floor if I'm ever going to get the arm over the leg.  And I started using the same technique in Warrior II and Extended Side Angle.  And lo and behold, Rodney talked about this at the workshop.  He explained that the femur bone of the front leg really needs to SIT in the hip socket.  When I get the head of the femur seated, the knee comes in line with the ankle below it.  The thigh is parallel with the floor.  And the centering of the hip allows me to release the quad muscles and lengthen the entire pose.  Rodney also explained the wave of breath now coursing from the back foot diagonally across the chest.  When I get in the pose with all these points intact, I feel that wave.  And I see why Mr. Iyengar has you look over your front fingertips.  That wave of breath pulls my head to look in that direction.  Shocking, but not at all surprising.

I know Week 14 steps it up a notch.  Yikes!