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.