Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Week 7 - Jenny

So I picked up LIGHT ON YOGA today to check the sequence. I knew that the last sequence was Weeks 5-6, so I was excited to see what was in store for me. I was surprised to see that for Week 7, Mr. Iyengar suggests consolidating the poses (asanas) and holding them longer.

So I went through all the poses that have been introduced since Week 1 - it wasn't much different than last week's sequence, since each sequence builds on the last. I decided to go back and read the description of each asana before doing it. For each one, I found one piece (or two) that brought me deeper into the pose. Here is the journey:

I found prana (life force energy, in this case in the form of breath) coursing through my rib cage - something I've never felt in this pose before. I know it's due to the depth of front opening poses, especially Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I), that I've found working through this book.
Mr. Iyengar tells you to keep the back of the legs, the back of the chest and the hips in one line. This alignment pulled my ribs in and I found more prana traveling up my back. I also found more twist (rotating chest to sky).
Similar to Triangle, Mr. Iyengar suggests you keep the chest, the hips and the legs in a line. To do so, "move the chest up and back." Again, more prana. He also tells you to stretch the body infinitely, stretching the spine so long that your vertebrae pull apart and your skin stretches. I felt like I was 10 feet tall.
Lift up out of coccyx. Wow. Amazing instruction. I pulled my low back longer and found more breath, more prana, cruising right up the center of my torso - specifically in the soft part where the two rib cages meet. This pose is my nemesis and Mr. Iyengar just brought it closer to being my friend.
I was actually surprised at the lack of instruction Mr. Iyengar gives for this pose. In vinyasa practice, which stems from Ashtanga yoga, Warrior II is such a big deal - I don't think it's as big a deal for My. Iyengar. That being said, the instruction is excellent, just sparse.
As I mentioned in an earlier blog, stretching the shoulders and shoulder blades really resonated with me in this pose. It pulled me up out of my hips and allowed me to twist deeper and from a lower place in the spine.
I like how Mr. Iyengar has you put your chin to your knee, then stretch the head forward so the nose, then lips, then chin come to the knee. My chin doesn't make it to my knee yet. But there's something about that action of rounding first, then stretching the head forward - that seems to me to bring in the side stretch (otherwise, it feels like a leg stretch - keep in mind that I cannot yet do 'Namaste hands" behind my back, so I'm grabbing elbow to elbow and that may be diminishing the side stretch).
I didn't do this pose too often before my studies with LOY, so I had read this one carefully in the preceding weeks. So there weren't any instructions that surprised me. I have to say, though, that I love the way Mr. Iyenyar instructs you into and out of the pose. He has you place your hands on the floor beneath your shoulders and arch your back, then come forward into the pose and then round your spine to place your head on the floor. Similar to the feeling in Parsvottanasana, this stretch forward before curling the spine. You get a feeling of length in the torso and a lift off of the hips (in this case, a hang off of the hips).

The core work proceeded as usual. I had studied these poses so much in the past two weeks that I just stuck with the instructions and held the poses for longer. And I do feel like a UFC fighter when I get through these.

I realized when I looked at the instructions that I had never looked at them before. When it came to that pose in the sequence, I just did it. So I had no idea that more than a page is written on this pose. It's no surprise, since so many yoga teachers of Mr. Iyengar's caliber sing this pose's praises. What really stood out for me was the chin lock - Jalandhara Bandha - where you bring your chin to your chest. I work with this bandha every day in pranayama (breathing exercises), but I never thought of it in Shoulderstand. He says you should bring your chest to your chin instead of chin to chest. This was a revelation for me. I have tight shoulders and chest and Shoulderstand is tough for me - I can't seem to stack my body correctly. This use of Jalandhara Bhanda got me so much closer to the proper positioning of the pose. I was able to stay for 5 minutes. And for once I was able to feel the calming effects of the pose - usually I'm just trying like hell to hold myself up. Wild.
Another one I hadn't looked at. What is up with that? So here's what was amazing. Mr. Iyengar walks you from Shoulderstand to Plow, then has you put your hands by your feet (unless you have a good enough Shoulderstand to be able to do it there), then let go of the chin lock, pulling your torso up off the floor more. You point your hands now down past your hips. If you have the flexibility, you can interlace first your thumbs, then all fingers. I cannot touch my hands together, so I grabbed the sides of the mat. And I got a lift off the top of my back that I haven't experienced thus far). And man did I feel it in my back. I got a stretch through the center of my back that confused me. I couldn't figure out how this action was creating that stretch. But I just have to say that it is, for whatever reason - I'm guessing it's just that my hips are higher so my back is stretching more.

After it all, I did Ujjayi breath in Corpse Pose (Savasana) for 5 minutes, as directed. I love doing this. It adds a lot for me. I get up from Savasana ready to take on anyone and anything. Victorious Breath, indeed.

And so I look forward to Week 8 and whatever is in store for us there.

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