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.