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!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

WEEK OFF - Jenny

Since Monday, I have been at a Rodney Yee workshop practicing yoga 8-4:30 daily.  I'm having a blast.  I'm also exhausted.  LIGHT ON YOGA comes up every single day.  I will return next week with more information that I ever had.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

WEEK OFF - Ariana

Rest - Restore - Relaxation

I feel like I need a break. Last week my muscles were heavy, tired and sore. I did go to 2 yoga classes last week (even though I probably should not have) but did not have the energy to do the sequence for week 12 on my own. All I wanted was to do restorative poses. But I did not make time for that either.

Surprisingly, I did not find one mention of restoratives in Light on Yoga. I think that Geeta Iyengar, Mr. Iyengar's daughter, suggests dedicating the first week of the month to standing poses, the second week to forward bends, the third to back bends, and the last week to restorative poses, which includes seated pranayama. I would like to know how this came about because I don't see anything about it in LOY.

So I am taking a break and will resume when I feel ready.