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.