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 . . .