Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Iyengar Course 2 Week 43 (Ariana)

I was going to post this a while back. My grandfather, Sam Caplowe, passed away on December 23rd. He was my last living grandparent from my immediate family. Coincidentally I had been talking about him a lot the week before he died. I recently found a photo of us during my awkward phase (we all had one, right?). My papa (that's what I called him) has him arm around me and he looks proud to be with me. I joke about how he loved me despite my awkwardness, but it meant the world to me.

I learned a lot from him.  I suppose my fascination with the mind-body connection has a lot to do with his influence. He taught me how important it is to remain physically active as long as you can. He did as long as he could. He also taught me the importance of wearing comfortable shoes that don't squish the toes and cause bunions. He was a podiatrist. To this day I only buy shoes that are good for my feet and when I lift and spread my toes in Tadasana I think of him.

Here was my post:

Still consolidating all the poses from weeks 31-40.

I am reminding myself that Iyengar wrote this at a young age, in prime physical condition, and he had hours upon hours to practice. The practice was and still is his life.

Winter is here and my joints and muscles are stiff once again. I moved a lot slower than usual. Even after some sun salutes I did not feel warmed up so I eased off on some of the poses - especially some of the revolved poses like Parvrtta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle).

My left lateral hamstring is very tight - this has been the case in Parvrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle) lately. So I stayed in the pose longer on that side. Seemed to help.

Skipped the alternate breath exercise at end due to congestion. My body was ready for a meditation. My body was still. But my mind was ready to do other things. What a contradiction and not what I would expect. How can the body be ready for meditation but not the mind? How could I be aware of this distinction as though they are two distinct entities with minds of their own.  This was a new experience. My mind obeyed for a while and then I was off to other things. 

Most of the sequences end with pranayama or breathing techniques. However, hardly (if any) Iyengar classes include pranayama or meditation. I think there is a misconception that they are not of concern to Mr. Iyengar whereas I get an impression that they are more important than the asanas. The asanas prepare the body for this breath work. The breath work then prepares the body/mind for concentration and meditation. Meditation then prepares the mind for pure being awareness or the ecstatic state.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Iyengar Course 2 Week 42 (Ariana)

Still consolidating all of the poses - especially those left out in Course 1.

I am not exactly sure what this even means. I have been consolidating the poses from weeks 31-40. I hope he did not mean to consolidate the poses from Course 1 and 2.

I took the dog for a walk before I did the sequence and felt warmed up so did not feel the need for sun salutes this time. But did stretch out with some cat/cows and a long downward facing dog. Then right into headstand and shoulderstand. Did some variations  - not many. Then Jatara Parivartanasana (loving this lately), Supta Padangustasana and all the Navasanas. Skipped Ustrasana - wanted to save the back bends for the end. Then Virasana and Supta Virasana. In retrospect, would have preferred to do those after all the standing poses around when I did the rest of the seated postures. But ok, not so bad to stretch out my quads before doing the standing poses.

Then on to standing poses. Did them quickly in rapid succession one after the other. I was not pleased with myself. But for some reason I felt like I was "done" with the poses quickly. This is not how I usually practice. I like to be curious in each pose and explore a little. I don't think of poses as having an end to them and that's not how I teach them.

Then onto seated poses starting with my favorites Janu-Sirsana and Parvritta Janu-Sirsana. But it had been a while since I did these. I forgot to bend one knee as I stretched over the other leg. So redid them. It was an interesting mistake - I felt the difference it makes to have one leg bent. It felt like it helped to anchor the hip down as I folded over the other leg. I moved through the rest. Skipping my usuals and and doing half lotus instead of full. My left thigh is able to externally rotate more in my hip socket these days. Not sure why.

Then the back bending. Salabhasana, Dhanurasana, Parsva Dhanurasana, Urdhva Dhanurasana.

Savasana began with a rapid heartbeat from Dhanurasana. Briefly contemplated winding down with something else to ease into savasana. But then just enjoyed watching my heartbeat eventually slow down and slide into savasana.

And finally a few minutes of Nadi Sodhana Pranayama which means purification of the nerves according to Iyengar. He also says that blood receives a larger supply of oxygen with this breath exercise. I have been listening to Georg Feuerstein's The Lost Teachings of Yoga as part of my 500-hour Zenyasa teacher training I am doing now.  In the 9th chapter he mentions that there are thousands of nadis (or channels of energy) but only 3 are important: the central channel, and the two side channels which travel in helical fashion up the central channel. The 2 side nadis start at the base of the spine and travel up to the 3rd eye. They also are connected to the left and right nostrils which are related to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. He also says that when the nadis are purified the chakras are activated.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Iyengar Course 2 Week 41 (Ariana)

For weeks 41-44 the instructions are:

"Consolidate all the positions concentrating on the asanas which were left out in Course 1."

I was really excited to move on to week 41 until I saw this. I assumed it meant to combine all the poses from weeks 31-40. That amounts to roughly 98. I didn't have time for all those poses nor did I want to do all of them. I had to make decisions. I was free to make my own sequence loosely based on weeks 31-40. This was daunting and I came close to deciding to skip weeks 41-44 and move right into 45 with a prescribed sequence. I am happy that I held fast and gave it a shot.

First I needed to warm up so I did some A and B Sun Salutations. Actually first I spent 20 minutes deciding what music to listen to - which ended being more of a distraction as I practiced.  

Then I continued with abdominal strengthening and expanded on the Jatara Parivartanasana/Navasana/Ardha Navasana section. I added Urdhva Prasarita Padasana (basically leg lifts) to strengthen the rectus abdominis. Jatara Parivartansasana strengthens the oblique abdominal muscles. Then more rectus abdominis strengthening with Navasana and Ardha Navasana. Sometimes I think abdominal strengthening is a great way to start a class. It makes a lot of sense to strengthen the core before start moving and stretching the spine. In retrospect I should have added Kapalabati breath to strengthen transverse abdominals as well.

Then I felt ready for headstand and shoulderstand. I am still working on stabilizing my headstand away from the wall. It was good today. Then I added down dog and handstand to release the neck.  I did some variations while in shoulderstand.

I then referred to the sequence for seated or supine postures such as Supta Padangustasana, Ustrasana, Virasana, Supta Virasana (I really need to more of this one), Janusirsana, Upavista Konasana, Half lotus, Ardha Baddha Paschimottanasana, Marichyasana 1 and 3, Ardha Matsyendrasana, Salabhasana, Dhanurasana, Urdhva Dhanurasana and supine twists. Funny how I resisted finishing with this pose many times and now I have come to prefer it because it stretches the abs and releases the compression in the abdomen after all the forward bends. That is why it is always best to keep an open

As Thich Nhat Hanh says:

"We should never be absolutely certain of our knowledge. We need to be ready to give it up at a moment's notice for a higher truth. This is called non-attachment to views and it is one of the most important elements of our practice."

I am sure he is referring to more profound aspects of our knowledge, but I feel it applies here too.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Iyengar Course 2 Week 40 (Ariana)

This is the last time for this sequence. I listened to Healing Ragas 2 - Raga Charukeshi and Raga Kirwani. This music turned the practice into a grounding and meditative process. I think the music helped me turn off my brain and be present in my body. I moved with stillness. I kept coming back to Tadasana or Prasarita Padotanasana in some cases as a symmetrical and balanced starting point. A reset posture. Before I moved into any pose I started with an awareness of the ground and what parts of my body were pressing into to it for stability. Then I would kind of meditate on that feeling for a breath or two. I was in no hurry and moved slowly into and out of each posture. I went inward and feel very centered as a result.

Milestones - my daughter started kindergarten. We have been so focused on getting her off to a good start and now we are easing (sometimes not so easy) into a routine.

Perspicacious - my favorite word lately. It means possessing mental acuity or sharpness. My grandmother taught me to spell this word when I was in elementary school. I remember sitting on an orange swivel chair at a round table in her kitchen while she cooked at the stove. We went over the spelling again and again and again. I remember how good I felt when I finally got it right. I still remember the rhythm at which we practiced the spelling. This vivid memory came back to me after my grandmother passed away this September. She died on Labor Day. I am blessed to have had such an inspiring grandmother and to have so many sweet memories of her.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Iyengar Course 2 Week 39 (Ariana)

I have been thinking about these sequences more than I have been doing them. Originally I attempted to do one sequence every week. As the sequences get longer it has become harder to stick to that intention.

I am still at the sequence for weeks 36-40 which start with a ton of headstand and shoulderstand variations. I flipped things around and did the inversions last.

Before I did the poses I studied the sequence and broke it down into four sections:

1. Spend a lot of time upside down in headstand and shoulderstand reversing effects of gravity and assisting in the return of blood-flow to the heart. Many of the variations require a lot of core strength while stretching the backs of the legs and inner thighs. This is a lot of time spent compressing the cervical spine.

2. Stand. Bring the blood back to the legs. Strengthen and stretch the legs and hips and some oblique abdominal work with standing twists.

3. Sit. fold forward stretching the back of the body, compressing the abdominal organs, flexing and rotating the spinal joints.

4. Backbend. Extend the spine and decompress the organs, stretching the abdominal wall. The backbends at the end finally make sense. Make space in the abdomen after all that compression in the forward bends. I only realized this after I took a class with Carrie Owerko and after a lot of intense core strengthening exercises we did Urdhva Danurasana (upward facing bow/full wheel) to stretch the abdominal muscles.

I realized Iyengar's Matsyasana/Fish Pose (Top Image from Light on Yoga) is not as I learned it. The version that I have learned over the years seems to be what Iyengar calls Uttanapadasana (Bottom image).

5. Breathe. Nadi Sodhana Pranayama and Suryabhedana Pranayama

I didn't use any blocks today - not even for Parvritta Trikonasana or Parvritta Parsvakonasana. Surprisingly I had no problem getting my arm outside of the front thigh and getting my fingers to the floor. This is usually very challenging for me. Maybe the stability of the back heel pressing into the wall helped. This time I started with a straight arm up overhead and then reached diagonally past the front knee as I came forward into the pose. Usually I first hook my elbow outside of the knee and then coerce my way into the pose -pressing my elbow against my thigh and revolving my chest more and more.

Padahastasana: I was putting more weight into the ball of the left foot. So I made attempts to even myself out there.

I did most of the poses at the wall for feedback. The most surprising thing was how I turned my torso slightly with my hands in reverse namaskar. I started with my back to the wall and felt my right arm and shoulderblade touching the wall but not my left. So I evened myself out before I took a step forward with one leg and folded over into the pose.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Iyengar Course 2 Week 38 (Ariana)

Distractions reigned at first. I started some sun salutes to warm up and then stopped to put my hair up. Then to put some music on (ended up listening to Tosca - not the opera). Then to turn the mat a different way, then to get water, etc.

The music helped me settle in and focus on the practice. Theta waves of the brain. It was more up-tempo than my usual choices.  Most times I prefer no music at all.

I had time and did not have to rush through the sequence. I spent two hours on this one.

After my sun salute warmups I felt ready for the first pose - headstand. Same story for me. Slowly making my way away from the wall. It was more like wobble-asana. I blamed the mat. Then I blamed the shapes of my forearm bones. I tried different positions of the hands - fists, pinkies tucked, fingers clasped slightly separated, holding onto a block. None of it made a difference. WOBBLE-ASANA.

Shoulderstand was next but I decided against it. My neck did not feel ready for that extreme flexion. In fact I just realized that I didn't do shoulderstand at all. Oops.

I moved on to the standing poses and did them as part of a vinyasa and came into them from Down Dog. I wanted to keep moving and did not want to come into them as instructed in the book. These poses felt great. I am still watching out for my left hamstrings and the second I felt anything there I eased off of the stretch - not by maintaining a slight bend in the knee but by allowing the left sit bone to move toward the heel rather than away from it. Felt nice.

I experimented with Parvritta Parsvokonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose) - first with the heel up then with the foot planted and turned to the side. For me, planting the foot limits the rotation of the pelvis and therefore the rotation of the trunk. When I come onto the ball of the foot I can turn my ribcage more and the pose becomes more enjoyable. I like going for the twist in this pose.

Parsvottanasana (Intense Side Stretch) - I was trying to feel where the side stretch is here. I still don't get why it's called that. It is more of an intense hamstring stretch (for all of them). In LOY Iyengar says the side of the chest is stretched intensely but I do not feel it there. I have been trying to figure this one out for a while.

Marichyasana 1 - First I did it with the bind and did not enjoy the feeling in my shoulder joints. For me to get the bind I have to medially rotate my arms a lot at the shoulder joint. The pose feels much better just by reaching my arms forward while hugging my bent knee in.

I did Simhasana 2 with my legs in half lotus. It felt surprisingly good as it increased the stretch along my inner thighs.

I made the mistake of trying full wheel at the end as the sequence suggests. My body was not ready for it. It hurt my wrists - hyperextension. This pose rarely hurts my wrists. I have two more weeks of this sequence. Hopefully I'll remember to prepare more for it next time or leave it out.

Pranayama was nice. I did it before Savasana (not what book says to do). Uddiyana was particularly cool. When I contracted my abs at the end of my exhale - I was more focused on my transverse abs and rectus abdominis -  I felt a nice combo of groundedness from pelvis down while buoyant and light from chest up. A few times I easily held the breath out for what felt like a long time while feeling supported and relaxed at the same time.

For Savasana I played the incantation from Deva Pramal's Moola Mantra. ahhh.

When I was done I had an appetite. Luckily my daughter left a couple mini pickles on the table from her snack. ;)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Anatomy Studies for Yoga Teachers!!!!!

I was taking a break from the blog while I completed the 108-hour Anatomy Studies for Yoga Teachers certification with Jason Brown.  It was awesome!

First we studied the bones and joints, then the muscles and their roles. The final component was a week-long intensive where we analyzed poses from an anatomical perspective to figure out where strength or flexibility is needed and how to facilitate that in the poses. We also discussed the potential benefits from a musculo-skeletal perspective, skillful alignment,  as well as alignment issues that might arise and how to approach those challenges in class. This last week brought everything together beautifully and I feel like my understanding has shifted from black and white 2D to 3D HD.  Instead of just regurgitating poses as I was taught to - I can now confidently analyze what is going on in the body for each pose and use that understanding to build a sequence that makes a whole lot of sense.

I am proud that I completed this course. It is indispensable and I highly recommend  it to any movement professional. In fact I think it should be a requirement!

I am looking forward to returning to the Iyengar sequences to see how this new perspective will affect my experience and understanding of them. Here's to anatomy! Thank you Jason!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Iyengar Course 2 Week 37 (Ariana)

My husband's grandmother passed away on May 22nd. She was brilliant, inquisitive, loving and vibrant. She was 93 and had a better memory than I do. For instance, she recently reminded me of the first time we met - where, what day, what year. She had problems with her vision and yet always commented on my nice earrings. One of my last conversations with her was about yoga and my anatomy courses. She was always interested. She made me feel like part of the immediate family. We will all miss her.

I didn't feel like practicing much until the last few days. I approached week 36 with nonchalance - only because I did not want to let too much time pass. The practice felt good but my mind was elsewhere and sad. I warmed up with sun salutations and then went for Headstand and Shoulderstand. Headstand was unpleasant. I struggled to press up and resorted to kicking up. I felt too much pressure at the top of my head. This was a disappointment because recently I did it in the middle of an open field (with the help of a friend) and it felt great. Shoulderstand was better.

My husband and daughter came home to find me in half lotus in the living room. My daughter was SO excited that I was doing yoga and immediately came over and sat on my lotus lap. I thought it was going to hurt but her almost 5 year old body is still very light. She wanted to do the rest of the poses with me and asked me to put her purple mat next to mine. We did lion pose (Simhasana) together. I love that she knows this pose. She did Urdhva Dhanurasana for the very first time. She has tried to do  it before but actually was able to press up this time.  And then she wanted to watch a Charlie Brown video. I gave in as I thought it would allow me to finish the sequence. I did Savasana while listening to the theme song. Wasn't so bad. I did not feel like doing the pranayama - just didn't have the focus for it.

I am not feeling aligned with the Iyengar method lately.  I went to an Iyengar yoga class on Sunday, but did not enjoy it. I am questioning the reason behind many of the common instructions like "lifting the quadriceps" in standing poses and having the thigh of the bent leg parallel to the floor in some of the Warrior poses. The anatomy class is changing my perspective and that is a good thing. I think lifting the kneecaps and quads is encouraging my hyper extension of the knees. And when I try to get my left thigh parallel to the floor in Warrior 2 it aggravates my hip and hamstring.  I glanced around the room to look at everyone's tadasana after the teacher had finished the list of cues. And most people looked rigid and way too tense in the legs, shoulders and neck. Letting go of these kinds of instructions has been helping to make my practice more pleasant.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Iyengar Course 2 Week 36 (Ariana)

Some things that stand out for this sequence: First Urdvha Dhanurasana (Upward Bow) and a new Pranayama exercise that I had never done before - Suryabhedana Pranayama.

As usual the sequence calls for headstand with variations and shoulderstand with variations right off the bat. I needed to warm up a little so I did some sun salutations and tried to find something new about my downward facing dog. I recently read Brooks Hall's post How are you Wearing Your Asana? in which she mentions one of my favorite Thich Nhat Hanh quotes:

“…your motivation is not to prove that you are able to do it. The point is not to prove yourself. The point is to practice for your well-being and enjoyment.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh

I had this in mind in the beginning of the practice and it reminded me of another quote of his that I like:

"We should never be absolutely certain of our knowledge. We need to be ready to give it up at a moment's notice for a higher truth. This is called non-attachment to views and it is one of the most important elements of our practice."

I was trying to let go of what I know about the poses and let something new come up. This is hard to do when you have done a pose hundreds of times. I really enjoyed my surya namaskars and was surprised by how light my jumps felt. I experimented in down dog with a block between my legs and then my feet. I was trying to find where I was exerting effort and where not as much and where that was happening on each leg. In addition to other things I learned I have trouble reaching my right inner heel down as much as my left.

After that I went to my headstand and shoulderstand. I used my jade mat for headstand which has a little more spring to it. It was much harder to be steady and I have trouble anyway. I had heard Carrie Owerko mention that about jade mats not being ideal for headstands because of that. But this was the first time I experienced that for myself. I did not do any of the variations. Nor did I do any of the shoulderstand variations. In general I need to integrate my core more in these poses so I just worked on that. I did some targeted exercises on my transverse abdominal muscles yesterday and focuses on that muscle group while in the inversions. It seemed to help me access my core muscles to find a new way to stabilize the poses.

Utthita Hasta Padangustasana was much easier than it usually is for me -even with the left leg which is tighter. This is all thanks to the Flexor Hallucis Longus - the flexor muscle of the big toe. I press a lot into that toe against the grip of my fingers and it has changed the pose for me.

I stayed away from Kukkutasana, Garba Pindasana again. And a new one to add to
that list: Vatayasana. This looks like it would hurt my knees. I did not even want to try it.

I was surprised that the final pose is Upward Bow or Full Wheel and then Savasana. I need to ease into Savasana with some twists at least before I come into Savasana but I wanted to see how this would feel. Next time I will do some twists before Savasana.

The sequence concludes with Nadi Sodhana Pranayama, Suryabhedana Pranayama and 8 Uddiyanas. I had never done the Surya pranayama but I liked it very much and I like these three exercises together. Next time I will hopefully get to spend more time exploring them. Once again I was rushed today.

The Suryabhedana is basically one half of the nadi exercise. Same mudras with the hands and you inhale through the right nostril (while closing off the left) and hold it for 5 counts then exhale through the left nostril (while closing off the right). Iyengar states this exercise increases digestive power, soothes and invigorates the nerves and cleans the sinuses.

I felt lithe and strong today. This was refreshing because I have been feeling tired mentally and physically for the last week or so.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Iyengar Course 2 Week 35 (Ariana)

As expected I am happy to be finishing this sequence. Week 35 has arrived.

Throughout the poses I backed off of effort - not pushing myself but pausing and reflecting on how things felt today. I also spent more time in poses because I was trying to understand what muscles were stretching and which ones were working or contracting. Fun stuff. I almost pulled out my muscular system manual by Joseph Muscolino to help me figure out exactly what I was stretching while in Badakonasana. I stayed in the pose instead.

My dog was antsy, whining, following me around and giving me creepy looks most of the time. While I was in headstand he came over to lie down in front of me and just stared at me. It was weird looking into my dog's eyes while I was upside down. Now he wants to go outside so I better get this done.

I did the sequence in the morning and warmed up with some Sun Salutations (A and B) before I started. Headstand was pretty good away from the wall. Not great - a little shaky. I always do the pose within a leg's length of the wall just in case I need it. I put my toes on the wall to help with balance a few times.  No variations. I did not feel warmed up or steady enough for variations.

Shoulderstand - no variations here either. I am still working with the strap trying to keep my shoulderblades on the back and reaching towards each other. I have a lot of flexibility in my shoulderblades so that is very hard for me. But supporting the back with my shoulderblades instead of overusing my back muscles (erector spinae) helps me a lot. So I am enjoying that work.

My left leg is better. My hamstring and quads felt super tight and overworked all the time. I went to Mark Taylor in Pittsburgh PA a few weeks ago for a private session. He helped me figure out what was going on. One issue is that I hyperextend my knees when I stand and when I do a lot of poses. When I was in the seated forward bends I started to feel that -especially when I sit up on blankets or blocks. So I put a low block under my extended knee in all of the forward bends and it was such a relief. I rolled up a blanket a little bit and put it under my knees for Paschimottanasana and wow what a difference there. I am also working on getting more of an anterior tilt in my pelvis in the poses so I am not over doing it in the spine - especially where the lumbar spine meets the sacrum. This is helping me a lot too. I felt some progress - by progress I mean relief - in those poses today. This is where the easing off on the poses came into play. I no longer had to work so hard.

I skipped my usuals (Chakrasana, Full Lotus, Kukkutasana, Garbha Pindasana) and did replacements for some.

Janu Sirsana still did not feel right after Supta Virasana. Instead I did Down Dog and Prasarita Padottasana with a twist.

Savasana - my mind was very active. I was thinking about all things I want to do today and could not stop. Usually when I become aware that that is happening, my thoughts settle and I can take a step back. Not today. OK. Time to take out the dog.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Iyengar Course 2 Week 34 (Ariana)

Dog on the Blog
For the most part I felt like I was just going through the motions, plodding my way through this sequence. I can't wait to be done with it, but I will stick it out. Next week will be the last time.

I thought it might be interesting to photograph my variations of the pose and juxtapose them with photos of Iyengar's classic version. Turns out is very difficult to photograph oneself in an asana. It is also very distracting and for me defeated the purpose of practicing. Then my dog, Roscoe, came into the picture - and all his fur on my clothes and mat. He sheds constantly.

Working my way backwards-
Savasana- I came out of it to make lunch. I was hungry. Towards the end I noticed that my thoughts were fixated on daily details. As soon as I observed this I took a step back mentally. I visualized the earth then the galaxy, then the universe then the multiverse. Then I zoomed in again to sensations in my body. I did this micro to macro thing a few times. Then I remembered something I read in Zen Mind, Beginners Mind by Shunryu Suzuki about the oneness of duality-

"This is the most important teaching: not two, and not one. Our body and mind are not two and not one. If you think your body and mind are two, that is wrong; if you think that they are one, that is also wrong. Our body and mind are both two and one. We usually think that if something is not one, it is more than one; if it is not singular, it is plural. But in actual experience, our life is not only plural, but also singular. Each one of us is both dependent and independent."

These were nice thoughts, but my mind had not calmed down. I was hoping to find some space between the thoughts.

Pranayama-Nadi Sodhana
Towards the end I tried filling the lungs from top to bottom rather than bottom up. I had seen a short video clip of Leslie Kaminoff talking about the difference for him so I wanted to try for myself. My breath was much longer this way. I decided it might not be ideal to breathe that way for Nadi Sodhana so I stopped after a few times.

Uttanasana- I could have stayed in it for much longer. It felt very relaxing and releasing.

Dhanurasana to Parsva Dhanurasana was fun.

Twists were good.

I skipped Kukkutasana and Garbha Pindasana. I did half lotus with my strap once again. Still don't get why it is easier with my right leg. I don't know if that will ever change.

I skipped Janusirsana even though it is one of my favorite poses. It just did not feel right after Supta Virasana. Instead I did Down Dog and Prasarita Padottanasana with a twist.

Ustrasana- very mild back bend. I did not want to push it.

Navasana and Ardha Navasana were very hard.

Tried Chakrasana but my momentum comes to a halt when my toes get to the floor overhead.

Shoulderstand- good and strong with most of the variations with a strap.

Headstand- a downright mess. Very heavy and shaky. But somehow I wobbled in the pose away from the wall.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Iyengar Course 2 Week 33 (Ariana)

I have heard yoga described as an art form. I think part of what makes it an art for me is knowing when to push and when to back off - negotiating that delicate balance of ease and effort. I was focused on that throughout the practice. Easing off at the sign of any discomfort and exerting enough effort to skillfully sustain the pose.

This was the same sequence as last week but I hardly recognized it. It did not feel the same at all. It was another grey and rainy day but the forward bends were not as soothing as last time. They felt more out of place especially when a backbend preceded them.

No variations in Headstand or Shoulderstand-just the basic versions. My teacher (Jason Brown) recently told me that I would benefit from using a strap in shoulderstand to bring my shoulderblades closer together to support the back more instead of over using my supraspinatous muscles. At least I think that is what he said - we finished learning all 206 bones and the joints but haven't really started learning about the muscles. (correction - it was the erector spinae muscles). So I used the strap today and stayed in a steady Shoulderstand for a few. My Headstand was wobbly today but it felt light - strange combination. I came up so quickly in Headstand today that I surprised myself.

I threw some standing poses into the mix (Parsvakonasana, Trikonasana and Vira 1) to work the legs a little before all the floor work.

Ugh tried Chakrasana again and I cannot do it without rolling to the side. I decided that this is probably not good for my neck so I am not going to do that anymore. I still liked Navasana before Ustrasana. But I was not ready to then come into Virasana. JanuSirsasana felt downright cranky after Supta Virasana. Next time I will finesse that transition a little more. I was not quite ready for that forward bend. I used a strap for Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottansana and propped myself up on several blankets for Triang Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana which felt fine and good. Krouchasana was not so pleasant. I tend to lean back too much and too much to the side of the extended leg. I use a strap for this but I do not stay in this pose for very long.

I used my trusty figure 8 strap configuration for Lotus/Half Lotus. I put my hands through my legs for Kukkutasana and I imagined what kind of strength it would take but did not even try to lift up. I leaned back for Garbha Pindasana without putting my arms through. These were brief experiments that I probably will not replicate.

By mistake I did Parsva Dhanurasana when I should have done Akarna Dhanurasana (Archers Pose). When I looked at the picture I was stunned by how much his bottom foot is dorsiflexed. I think this is way beyond the typical range of motion. I barely noticed that his other foot was by his ear. I am well on my way to becoming an anatomy nerd and I love it!

Looking ahead to week 36 - I am pleased to see more standing poses. Guess I am kind of done with this sequence.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Iyengar Course 2 Week 32 (Ariana)

Forward bends feel good on rainy days. It is a wet and grey day and I feel off today even though I actually felt motivated to do the sequence. I did not feel strong. I felt out of shape. I am teaching more than I am practicing these days and maybe I am feeling it in my practice. I am struggling with finding the time to do yoga. I will work on that.

Many sequences ago I wrote that I enjoyed starting my practice with the Headstand and Shoulderstand. This is no longer the case. I feel that I need a warm up before I do either of those. My headstand felt heavy and labored. I tried again- which I never do. I usually just do one and then I am done. But my first one felt so off. I had to try again. The second wasn't any better and going up was more chaotic/less controlled.

The phone rang after headstand (I thought I had turned it off) and I answered it. Next thing I know I am checking my email and looking at a an apartment listing that my sister-in-law sent me. 10 minutes later I was back on the mat. The phone rang again after Shoulderstand and I answered it again. I usually don't do that :-/

In my Shoulderstand I used a strap to keep my elbows from splaying out to the sides. This limited the variations I could do. Even my Shoulderstand was off today and I did not enjoy it as much as I usually do. Most of the time I was thinking about how my neck was in extreme flexion beyond the typical range of motion and how this affects the rest of the curves in the spine. Do you want to maintain the natural curves (other than the cervical curve) in the spine in Shoulderstand the way you do in Headstand? This is what I was thinking about. No doubt due to my anatomy studies.

I like doing Navasansa before Ustrasana - to strengthen the abdominal muscles before stretching them. As I have learned from Jason Brown's Zenyasa classes it is better to stretch after strengthening. More and more flexibility is not the goal.

I did my usual and skipped most of the Lotus variations, Kukkutasana, and Garba Pindasana. I can't do them and I am wondering what the benefit and purpose is of them anyway. Sometimes it seems the yoga masters did poses just because their bodies were capable.

The forward bends were so soothing today and I lingered in them as long as I could but I was rushed. Had to go teach. The pranayama at the end was also good. Nothing special, just good.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Iyengar Course 2 Week 31 redo (Ariana)

Oh how I avoided coming back to these sequences.  I kept putting it off and thinking that I wanted to go through the sequence ahead of time and plan replacement poses for the ones I cannot do. Then I realized a month had passed since my last entry and I just dove in. Like it or not.

Mostly I did not like it. Most of the time I was wondering why I am doing this project. What's the point? To see what my body is capable of? Or is it to see how my mind/ego responds to what I can and cannot do? How about to learn about myself!

My shoulder is fine now and since the last time my headstands are much more deliberate and mindful. I decided not to do the headstand variations until I can balance CONFIDENTLY without the wall.

The shoulderstand variations were playful for me. Then I decided to take it more seriously and  focus more in the poses despite the fact that they are easier for me. That was a wise choice because then my shoulderstand felt more steady and stable.

Chakrasana is back and it is still not happening for me without rolling over to one side.

There were some poses that I had never heard of this time. Garbha Pindasana- Embryo Pose. When I read the description I chuckled to myself. Plate 116. Mr Iyengar looks like he is fixing his hair in front of a mirror...except for the fact that his arms are threaded through his crossed legs and his knees are up in the air. Mr Iyengar says that the pose resembles a human foetus in the womb. The difference being that the legs are in lotus and the head is down. I don't see any resemblance to a foetus here.

Then there was Kukkutasana or Cock Pose. Here the arms pass through  lotus bound legs and Mr. Iyengar props himself up on his hands only. This did not happen for me either. (I made a bad pun to myself that you'd have to be cookoo to try this pose).

Padmasana/Lotus is still not good for me. So I do a nice half lotus with a figure 8 strap configuration that I learned in Carrie Owerko's class recently. I love it.

I was almost rolling my eyes with annoyance by the time I reached the end poses Parsva Dhanurasana and Uttanasana. I was glad to do some Nadi Sodhana Pranayama until I sneezed. I decided that was a good time to head into Savasana and do the Ujjayi breath there as he instructs.

So mostly I feel glad that I finished the sequence (and did not abandon the blog), did what I could and felt ok about the things that I couldn't.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Iyengar Course 2 Week 31 (Ariana)

I was all set to knock this one out this morning. I started with the headstand and I was feeling great. My headstand was feeling light and I was balancing well away from the wall. Then a few minutes into it my left shoulder started to hurt. I came down right away.

I stretched it out and it was still achy so I decided not to continue this sequence and put it on hold. Funny, because I was talking to my teacher, Jason Brown about this project the other day and he told me not to hurt myself.  I always try to be careful and not push myself into positions that compromise my body, but something went wrong today. It is hard to admit that.

I was not looking forward to this sequence anyway. I studied the poses before I started and realized that most of them are not part of my practice. I will have to start substituting most of the poses and modifying them from now on. I will look into the "why" behind the poses rather than the poses themselves when determining the alternatives. The "why" instead of the "what".

I am bummed and it hurts to laterally flex my neck to the left. I will resume this sequence when I feel better. Lesson learned. Warm up a little before doing headstand first thing in the morning.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Day 3 of Iyengar's Short 3-day Course (Ariana)

I am better. Yay, back to normal. I feel like my body has changed in the past few weeks from being sick and then the holidays. I was not very active and a result I feel lumpy. Plus it is cold and that just makes me want to hibernate.

Nonetheless, here I am coming back to my asana practice and back to LOY. I had my first anatomy class with Jason Brown last week and already find myself thinking about the poses differently. Thinking about the anatomical terms for the movements. What is moving where and how. I am excited to see how this (6-month - yikes!) course will change my perspective.

I think my left  IT band and hamstring are tight and it is causing regular achiness. This might be affecting my right sacral joint. I felt some pain there today while in triangle. I realize I keep thinking that the practice of yoga will protect me from injury, but I am waking up to the fact that that is not accurate. I heard that Beth Israel did a study and found that 1 in 5 emergencies are the result of yoga injuries. This is a major problem for the yoga industry considering how many people are practicing yoga and how teachers are not required to have extensive anatomy knowledge. So I am trying to be extra careful in my own practice as well as my teaching.

As for this sequence, it was exciting for me to come back to it after so long, but I was almost dreading some of the poses. For instance, Parivrita Parsvokonasana, Warrior 3, the whole Padmasana sequence, and Lolasana. As usual for the Padmasana stuff I did variations that are safe for me - half lotus or ankle to knee. As for the other poses I guess I have an aversion to them because they are more challenging for me.

I really enjoyed most of the standing poses and tried to stay in them for the time that Iyengar suggests. Sometimes I felt like I could have stayed longer, others I didn't want to stick around at all. For the most part I enjoy holding the poses even though I don't think of it as holding. I think of it as exploring the pose with the breath. When I do that subtle moves and changes happen and it feels like and exploration and discovery every time. That was most pronounced today in Triangle and Parsvokonasana. My chest kept opening up to the ceiling and my head moved back. It is a wonder I did not fall backward. I went to Tzahi Moskovitz's Iyengar style class on Monday and he had us focus on the chest opening up to the ceiling in Triangle, Parsvokonasana and Parvrita Janusirsasana. The remnants of that practice were most likely still lingering in this one.

At the end I did Nadi Sodhana Pranayama. Iyengar offers the option of that or Ujjayi. I find Nadi Sodhana to be very balancing so I went with that today. By the end I enjoyed this practice and may decide to return to it down the road.

I am looking forward to Course II, Week 31! woohoo