Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Twice in a week...

Today was the big challenge. Get myself to a mysore class, and then go to work afterwards - something I haven't done for about 5 months. I planned it with military precision, trying to work out exactly what time I needed to start and finish my practice to make sure I got to work on time, how long it would take me to get from home to the shala, and then afterwards from the shala to work, and of course what time I would need to get up. As I didn't get on with the shower on my first trip to YP I decided to allow enough time to take a shower and wash my hair before I went, so worked out I needed to set my alarm for 5.20am to make sure I was ready to start my practice with the opening chant at 6.30.

So I got up and out of the house, that was fine, though I somehow managed to miss the chant by a few minutes - I was there when they did it, but I was still in the changing room. So it was fine, I started my practice with a quiet moment on my mat, at AYL I would always do the chant quietly on my own but it didn't seem right when I'd only just missed it. As an aside, I used to worry that it was annoying to other people that I did that, as not many other people did - but today when I was almost finished a girl arrived and unrolled her mat in front of me, and quietly but audibly started "vande gurunam..." and it was so lovely to hear!! How could anybody be annoyed by it? A good lesson for me to realise.

I was surprised by how busy the room was, we were pretty packed in (much busier than Sunday), but still Cary was darting around the room, and I got more adjustments than I am used to getting (even the micro ones she does on her way past)  though not as many as on Sunday. I forgot until just now but when I was approaching the shala this morning in the dark, I happened to look up and saw her silhouette through the frosted glass giving an adjustent and it really made me smile. Anyway despite her busy-ness I am really conscious of her grace. It might just be that I'm recognising what Karen was writing about last week, but I can't help but notice the way she seems to have everyones's back, even though there are so many people there, and also the way she moves around the room - almost like it's a dance. But slight as she may be, my God her adjustments are strong! No correction to the length of my downdog today (I think I've got that now - I can't believe how different it feels) but the usual push into it, a few tweaks in the tirikonasana sequence (including standing on my back foot in the revolved version, I always seem to get that!) and then on to UHP.

I wonder if I am alone in finding in next to impossible to balance in this posture by myself - even after all of these months. Cary was waiting for me to take my foot in the first place before she stepped in, and on the left side it took me about three tries just to balance.
Naturally I think my leg reaches about the angle of this picture: i.e. not all that high! (picture credit here) I am used to having a teacher take your leg up higher, and the main teacher at AYL might take it up on her shoulder whereas the assistants would hold your leg on their arm (no doubt concerned about being too strong).

But what does Cary do? Well it feels more like this:
picture credit here
Oh - except that my standing foot isn't allowed to turn out as it does in this picture. And Cary would be in the picture too, lifting my leg whilst simultaneously correcting the grip on my toe, pushing me down onto my raised leg, turning my knee in and making sure my foot wasn't rolling out, holding onto my shoulder to stop me falling, pushing my chest up at the end...! At least there was no standing leg straightening today (I tried to keep it straight, really I did, but it does feel like the only thing keeping me upright). Although this is how it feels, I'm sure my leg is actually nothing like as high as this, but I think the assist in this pose is what gave me such agonisingly sore glutes after Sunday's practice. No adjustments in pachimottanasana today which I was almost grateful for (actually maybe it was that which hurt so badly afterwards) and at least I didn't forget the sequence at the beginning of seated this time! The shala was really filling up by this stage so there was a bit of shuffling about of mats, but everyone seemed to have enough space. And then I got a bit distracted when a girl rolled her mat out in front of me into what looked like not a space at all, she was clearly unsure whether it was OK and looked to Cary for reassurance, and as she turned around I saw that she was the little sister of a boy in my class at Primary school - she was also at my secondary school, but about four years below me. Quite a weird coincidence as I didn't grow up in London, plus I think mysore classes are quite niche really, and then to practice in the same shala, and to happen to appear in front of me - I have no idea how many other people were in the room, and if she'd have been anwhere else I wouldn't even have seen her.

Anyway aside from my distraction (it didn't help that she has a dancer's physique and a very acomplished practice!!) I continued through my practice and only got adjusted in Marichyasana A - again, a very strong one which made me want to squeal as C pushed my body down to my leg, telling me to take the chin to the shin put pushing still deeper even once it had hit my leg.Then although she was stood behind me in D and I struggled to bind, I managed it again on both sides (just) without any help. I still prefer the adjusted bind, but of course it is good to know I don't need it!

From Mari D I ploughed straight into Bhujapidasana, attempting it twice before I realised I'd missed out navasana AGAIN!! Funny how I am rushing to the pose I am struggling with rather that avoiding it...I wonder what that says about me. Anyway I remembered in time, so went back through vinyasa and into navsana, where C's assistant came over and told me to come up out of my lower back which I did and immediately had to bend my knees. I did think that I'd probably been leaning back to far to get my legs up & straight but nobody ever picked up on it before. So then it was my third attempt at the bloody bhuja...actually I'm wondering if anybody can help me with this because I just DON'T GET IT! I jump round my arms from downdog, and on the last few attempts I can now gingerly cross my feet and lift them (though it takes massive effort) and then I just hang there, stuck! I have been taught to take my forehead to the floor as a beginner's modification - but in doing this, my feet are back on the floor. When I am balancing on my arms, attempting to move my head towards the floor feels far too scary as I am sure I am going to crash-land, so I end up crashlanding onto my backside instead (which is a much softer landing I can assure you). So having crashed down I'm never really sure what to do, whether I try again, or if I can give up and stop at that point (having already tried twice pre-navasana, today I stopped). Any tips will be gratefully received!

Once again today I did my tippy-toes non-headstand, and again nobody noticed, but I can't work out if I am actually just attention-seeking in doing this. Either way, there's no way I can do an unsupported headtstand in the middle of the room so I supose I'll stick with it until I get asked about it (surely I won't get away with it again!). I made sure I took a really long savasana as I know that's the difference between feeling exhausted or refuelled at the end of the practice, and then went off to shower and get ready for work. Timing-wise I couldn't believe how it worked out, I arrived at the tube station 45 minutes early for work, which given my usual timekeeping, was about an hour earlier than normal! So the good news is the 5.20 alarm might not need to be a regular thing. I am slightly worried that it had to be such a carefully planned operation to get me to a morning class though, it makes me wonder how I am ever going to ramp up my practice from once or twice a week, but I suppose I need to just work on getting there first, and worry about the frequency later. I was pretty knackered at work today too, though initially I think I was mainly feeling the effects  of eating sugary breakfast cereal at my desk rather than some good wholesome porridge I'd normally have at home. Weirdly though I did feel like from my hips down I was zinging with energy, but my back and upper body generally just felt destroyed. But I suppose I have done the hardest bit now, I have established that I can get to a morning class and then get to work, both logistically and pyhsically, so now there are no excuses!


  1. Yay! Sounds like a good practice! In Bhuja - When tipping forward, both uddiyana & mula bandha need to be engaged to get your feet off the floor. Otherwise, you're just hanging out and not working in the pose. And I wouldn't worry about what you're doing in headstands at all! ...I did a similar thing in the middle of the room for ages! The key thing is that you're building up arm/ shoulder strength even if your feet are still on the ground... and also getting used to the feeling of being upside down. Just keep working at drawing the shoulders away from ears, down your back to build up strength for when you eventually lift off.

    What I used to do is bring mat towards the wall and practice on my own there. Lots of people in my shala do it too. And even at the wall, I'd tuck my feet in (with bent legs) and just hang there without even straightening the legs. Looks odd, but I was getting used to the balance, the upside down feeling, and working the shoulders/ arms.

    If you're unsure, ask your teacher what she thinks you should do when it comes to Sirsasana and take it from there. (sorry for long comment!) But sounds like you getting your practice mojo back. YAY! :p

  2. agree with J on bandhas in budji, but also bend your elbows more than you think you need to to make a 'shelf' of your arms. you kind of slide your legs a bit further down your arms, they're not tucked up at your shoulders (I did it like this for ages, MUCH harder!).

    headstand I can't really help with, Harmony had me lift up in the centre of the room as soon as I said I was scared. then, fear disappeared! drop backs, however, still scare the beejesus out of me. these are the important parts of our practice - the bits we fly through don't hold such transformative power as the poses that stump us.

    great post btw! and good on you for getting back to morning mysore. xx

  3. Hi Mel,

    Well done for making it to practice. I know all about having to militarily arrange timings what with the trains.

    That UHP assist Cary does is sometimes uncomfortable, but some days its bloody excruciating!

    That's funny finding your old school folk, I wouldnt even recognise them if that was me.

    Bhuja is funny, it took me ages to get it, Mel at Brahmani finally foud me a way to do it.

    I'm like that of late, almost racing through to attempt the scary dropbacks, I fear them still, but love the sense of achievement when my hands land before my head.

  4. That's great, you made it!! Think I was behind you yesterday, were you in the middle row wearing red? I came in around 7. If that was you (sorry but I only met you for like two minutes, and it's hard to tell when everyone's all sweaty!) then you also had 'Shaf' on your right, small world :)

    Agree about bhuja, don't go too high up your arms! For headstand, Cary lets people use the wall, so feel free... I however never teach headstand with the wall, I teach like Skippetty said, work the prep in the middle of the room, then when you're ready, work the tucked headstand - MUCH easier to balance than straight legs, build the strength and confidence.

    I thought I spotted you again this morning, but then the girl couldn't get her arm around in marichi C!

  5. Thank you for the bhuja tips everyone, I am going to have to work at it!! Funnily enough had the urge to do bakasana in my home practice the other day (never used to be able to do it, now can just about manage it) and realised that the 'handstand' workshop I'm doing tomorrow is actually arm balances too, so maybe this will help!
    and caroline - what is it about Harmony and headstands?! She whipped me straight up, no problem, but now I am paranoid that she's the only one I can do them unsupported with.

  6. And Susan - twice in two days, nooooo!! I was all in black on Wednesday, you will usually find me wearing a spotty headband (white & turquoise) and sweating profusely! I am going easy this week because of doing these 4 David Swenson workshops Friday & Saturday and I don't want to overdo it, but hopefully I can come on Sunday too as I understand it's Cary's last one pre-holidays. Oh yes I think I realised who Shaf was too, saw his name in the book and made a simple deduction! The girl in red was to my right now I think of it, between me and him.
    Thank you for the heads up on headstand too, it's really great to know I can go to the wall but partly I don't want to keep using it...I'm building up to it slowly though! And Marichi C bind is no problem, it's D you'll see my trying and trying to get before I eventually do!

  7. Oops... guess I didn't let my drishti slide over to the left enough.. Sorry!! I'll keep my eye out for the headband.

    Enjoy DS, see you Sunday if you can make it... Cary's last day and our introduction to Denise!

  8. Enjoy DS today, see you tomorrow.

    Denise is great.

    Planning to do coffee with Helen at Euston after practice on Sunday, come and join us, if you have the energy after your last practice with Cary ;-)

  9. Hey Mel, i like your blog well i actually like reading anyones adventures in yoga but i especially relate to your earlier blogs and am really glad to hear that your back in the swing of things at YP. What i do is think of life pre and post yoga, then i think of the direct correlation between doing yoga and feeling great and then just try and do as much as possible. Hope that helps. Anyway cast your mind back to when you first started, any books that really stood out for you that you might recommend to a very new ashtangi? btw Cary makes me take my specs off so i cant see past my own nose, say hello with a prod next time you see me :-)

  10. Hey Shaf, Cary makes me take my specs off too, so you are not the only blind yogi at YP. Its why my balances (UHP) are crap, I can't focus on anything.

    I used Liz Larks ashtanga book when I was first starting as it offers mods if you cant do the full posture, also because she was my first teacher.

  11. Hey Kevin, thanks, ive been asking around and so far been tipped How Yoga Works by Michael Roach and Christie McNally and Mans Eternal Quest by Paramahansa Yogananda, all sound pretty interesting. As far as specs go, ive got a bit of a plan for next week gonna get some contacts in, i figure its worth a try :-)

  12. Hi Mel,

    Nice to meet you today, if you make it to the shala tomorrow maybe see you for breakfast.

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