Thursday, 19 November 2009

99% Theory, 1% practice...

No, I know that's the wrong way round, it's just that lately my yoga practice has been a little more this way around. Lots of reading, lots of thinking and talking about asana, but no actual doing. Despite the optimism of my last post I have been finding it a struggle to have any sort of regular practice for about the last two months (at least).

But today I went to my first Mysore class in a month. Now I'm not saying that's it, that's the end of my struggle, but at least it's a step in the right direction. And the reason I took the step today? Yesterday morning I woke up and felt like everything was wrong. Wrong daily routine, wrong city, wrong job, wrong life. And I couldn't shake off the feeling which got worse as the day went on and culminated in tears when on my way home from work the driver of a nearly empty bus refused to open the doors for me. And then I knew that the only thing I could do to make any of this better right now was to go to the shala the next chance I had - which turned out to be tonight.

So everyday, my alarm goes off around 6am for me to get up and do a home practice, but instead I lie in bed getting cross with myself, eventually get up just before 7, roll out my mat and manage a couple of stretches in my pyjamas before I have to get in the shower. Then I take too long to get ready for work, end up in a panic and leave the house knowing I will be late, rush to the station for the commute to the office, arrive hot & bothered and ten minutes late (always, every day, ten minutes - so why can't I fix it?), spend the day trying to avoid the fact that I am doing a job I really really don't love in an industry run in a way I am morally opposed to, spend half the day reading yoga blogs and then feel guilty and end up working late to make up for it, make the hour-long journey back on packed trains, get home exhausted, make dinner, go to bed and start the whole thing over again. So where in all of this can I manage a 6 times a week Mysore practice? Until my current blip I was going to AYL after work to practice with R, I tried for twice a week but it was normally only once (I am in a choir who meet on Monday nights, Tuesday night she has one of her assistants cover and Friday there's no evening session) and then the remaining days I would do something at home in the morning. Never my full practice, but always something. Then it's all gone off the rails, and having not been to AYL for so long, I have got swept away with the idea of moving to YP (where so many of my favourite bloggers go) as it is the East London place anyway, and I could go in the mornings and have a shower before work (no showers at AYL makes it an impossibility for me if I need to look even half way respectable after practice). The cost puts me off, as I know I wouldn't make it there 5 days a week which makes it an expensive option, but I just feel like the evening thing isn't working for me, I'm not building much of a relationship with my teacher, I'm not progressing (I know, it's not the point - but still, I want it!!). Anyway having all but made up my mind, I went back to R tonight and she was lovely. My card had expired with 1 class unused so I went with the cash to pay as a drop in. I'd not had a reply to the email I sent her asking about extending the pass a few days, she said she had replied, and insisted that I didn't have to pay which was so kind of her (I fully expected to pay as it expired 10 days ago).
My practice in itself was OK, it felt very physical which I suppose is only natural given that I was trying my hardest not to injure my shoulders (I have been seeing an osteopath for the past month as I keep getting neck and shoulder problems). So I suppose being hyper-aware of my shoulders was only natural tonight, but there were a few other things too, all gained from the blogs I have been reading! I forget where I read it, but somebody wrote about realising her toes didn't all connect with the floor in chaturanga (which mine have NEVER done) so tonight I worked on that, as well as keeping my arms at right angles to the ground (or do I mean shoulders?) which again I hadn't been aware of before until YogaSweetie on twitter gave me the tip. Then there was the awareness in forward bends that my back was curved (thanks to Grimmly's poll) and I remembered somebody's comment to ensure the forward bend started from the hip, so I tried this and again it was the first time I'd had that focus. So while I'm slightly bemoaning the fact that my mind was very much awake and my practice never had that ethereal, dreamy quality tonight, I suppose it's all part of the process to sometimes be more focused on the body (especially after an injury).
The good thing was that I don't seem to have lost too much of my flexibility over the past two months. It didn't bode well when the wrist bind became a fingertip bind even after an assist in Paschimittanasana A, but other than the tighter than normal hamstrings things were pretty much as normal. I was stepping instead of jumping-back tonight for fear of hurting my neck, although I did do one during my Suryas just to try it and actually had the lightest jumpback I've ever managed (for some reason I never do them at home, only at the shala - I'm paranoid about hurting myself as it seems such a tremendous effort). And when I got to Marichyasana A I felt really sick, but the twists felt good at the same time. I had the usual assists in downdog, UHP, and the paschimosquish and when I got to Mari D, I thought about trying to bind by myself, but just looked round to see R smiling at me from the other side of the room. She laughed as she came over, saying she thought maybe I was going to make it on my own (pre-blip I could bind on the right on a good day and very ocassionally on the left) and then gave me her fabulous arm-stretching twistifying assist - it's almost not worth being able to do it yourself, she does such a great job. Then navasana which weirdly was stronger than ever before, into my very dodgy bujapindasana (my feet will NOT come off the floor!) but instead of collapsing in a heap tonight I at least managed to come out of it into an arm-balance of sorts, and I was finished! Just backbends left, and after all of the dropback progress I've been reading about in the cyber shala I realised I need to actually start pushing up into proper backbends rather than just the lazy little bridges, so two out of three ain't bad and I was ready for finishing.
Coming home from the shala I didn't feel in my usual dreamy state, but I felt fine, and so glad I had conquered the fear of going back after such a long break from practice. Now I am just all confused as to what to do as I was resolute that the evening practice doesn't work, and I need to start going to morning Mysore classes, but I do love R and would hate to feel I had chosen another teacher over her. Anyway this was meant to be a short post so that I got to bed early (somehow I never manage to write short ones) so I'd better leave the pondering for another day.


  1. YAAAAAAY!!! Well done, Mel! If I've learnt anything with this practice, it's that I can't leap over the mountain in a day even if I reallyreallyreally wanted to. It's all about the baby steps and sometimes it's that first step that's the hardest. Now that you've got that over and done with, I hope the next step becomes a little easier. :)

    Why don't you try the morning Mysore class at the other place too? Think of it as experimenting with getting into a new routine (one that sticks)... so it's OK even if things are mish-mashed for the next couple of weeks while you try out morning/ evening and classes at different shalas. You won't know what works for you till you try it. Well done! :)

  2. Yeah, that's what I was going to say, come to YP on Sunday or as a drop-in during the week (£12 I think)... you could aim for one morning and one evening at first and see how you like it... you don't have to just jump over to 6x/week early mornings, it takes time to make the transition (did for me anyway). You may find coming to a new environment even once will give you the kick-start you need!

    Sorry you've been having such a rough time... those days sound very familiar, i.e. getting up with plenty of time, taking too long and then being 10 minutes late etc etc.. it's frustrating, but go easy on yourself, just do your best! xx

  3. Hi Mel,

    Well done for having the courage to get back to the shala.

    I have the same scenario of doing a job I really don't like. Practice is my mental and physical antidote, I don't have access to a Shala in the week, but try to always do a practice at home. Having a shala practice with a great teacher like Cary once a week is enough to keep me mentally motivated to get on my mat, rather than curl up in front of the TV.

    I wish I could get up in the morning and practice, maybe you can take little steps and go to YP a couple of mornings a week, you can't just expect to do 6 days right off, its better to give yourself sensible, achievable goals and build from there.

    See you Sunday hopefully, its £13.50 drop in at YP

  4. Thank you everyone....

    Jaime, your constant encouragement is doing so much for me. I know you used to label yourself a certified but not currently teaching teacher, but I think otherwise ;)

    I am realising over these past few months that this is a lifelong practice and a few weeks off here and there is really nothing. The fiercely fabulous female teacher & assistants at AYL convince me this isn't just a practice for the early-30-somethings so I am trying to let go of my "got to do it all now before I have to give up" feeling.

    And as for the YP specifics, I was under the impression I could only come on a weekday if I signed up for a 4 week thing (maybe I got that wrong). Otherwise I think mixing it in and trying to take some morning mysore classes but easing in gently is definitely the way to go - although maybe I shouldn't get ahead of myself before I've even tried it yet!
    So fingers crossed for Sunday, hope to see you both there Susan & Kevin, and thank you again for all of your encouragement, it means a lot. xx

  5. Sorry you've been struggling to get back on the mat, can seem such a big thing to face in the morning. You have the Swenson book right? How about aiming to do one of the shorter routines in the back, might seem like less of a big thing to face. Just needs to become a habit again no, even if it's getting up for the 15 minute routine. I did the 45min for a year until I found Sharath's DVD a realized I could do the whole series in an hour before work. I take longer now but it still seems a mountain to face some mornings, especially intermediate, i try not to think past the first couple of Sury's. Oh and Candles, buy a couple of candles, for either side of your mat, make a feature of the cold dark mornings.

    Hope you make it to YP, Did you read Karens, posts about it this week (donutzenmom).