Sunday, 23 May 2010

Sunshine & Supta Kurmasana

I had a great practice this morning, haven’t had one like that in ages where everything just seems to fall into place. I arrived in time for the chant which I always try to do on a Sunday but usually fail  and it’s my only chance (on weekdays it’s at 6.30, I have no chance of getting there that early). But I had just rolled out my mat when Cary walked to the front of the room, so it was perfect timing, I don’t like to start my practice without chanting but it seems silly if the teacher is about to do it shortly afterwards. As an aside – Susan if you’re reading, I kept meaning to say to you – last Sunday I arrived after half 8 and thought I’d missed it so chanted myself, then did it again when you led it 10 minutes my practice should have been double-good last week after 2 chants!!
In the past week or two I have developed a few issues, as well as having hurt my left shoulder (scapula?) again from supta kurmasana my right knee started talking to me last week – and I have NEVER had knee issues!! This came the day after I proudly announced on facebook that I could now get the wrist bind in Mari B & D, having managed it two days in a row, and of course the next day – knee pain, no bind. I should learn my lesson really, no boasting...Anyway then after a few days the pain went up into my hip – I was at my gospel class on Monday night rehearsing for a concert so we were dancing (more like stepping from side to side) when suddenly my right hip completely locked up. All I could think was “I can do an ashtanga practice but my hip goes when I’m STEPPING??”. I’m a big believer in a little knowledge being a dangerous thing, so I’m loathed to do too much anatomy swotting, but when I pointed out where the pain was to my friend today she said it was the dreaded psoas, but all I know was this it was bloody painful.
But I had to practice on Tuesday as it was Guruji’s anniversary, and actually my hip was completely fine during practice. I had to back off my knee, the sharpest pain was in inverted padmasana so I just crossed my legs instead, but I was happy that I practiced – the shala was packed, I counted 32 in the book plus one observer, it was definitely the busiest I’ve ever seen it. But after practice my knee and hip were really hurting again, it’s actually straightening my leg that is the problem, I just want to keep it bent which doesn’t make walking normally that easy. I had an Epsom salt bath and tried massaging in castor oil (and then covering my knee in clingfilm overnight) on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and I took Wednesday off. Back to practice on Thursday, I had to take out all lotus and half lotus on the right side, and I suddenly started to understand why people say that the knees represent ego. It’s really hard to hold yourself back from full lotus when you can normally do it, even if it hurts like hell, and Mari D was super frustrating knowing that a week ago I was getting the deepest bind I’ve ever had but this week I couldn’t bind at all. The thing that was strange though was that my usually unstable solo UHP was really strong on the right side (usually my wobbliest) and as I took my leg out to the side I could actually extend it with the leg straight and felt a huge change in my right hip which made me wonder if it’s true when people say that every injury is an opening (it was crappy again today though!). The other thing that’s disappeared lately is my headstand, ever since I crashed out of it at home and landed on a crate of books. What’s odd about this is that when I was struggling with headstand initially, I was never as scared of hurting myself as I have been since trying to get it back. I’ve been able to do it at the wall but I don’t want it to become a big thing after I spent a year getting it, so am wary of getting hooked on the wall again.
So back to today, the shala was normal for a Sunday, fairly quiet, but hot and really really bright. We have these opaque sliding glass shades that completely cover the windows, and I was right at the front this morning facing the wall of windows. It was really hard to keep my focus in UHP as all I could see was my own (very wobbly) reflection, it must be because the sunshine was so bright. But given what beautiful weather it’s been all weekend I am NOT complaining!! Aside from wanting to cheer when the person behind me got given pasasana I had a fairly focussed practice but it was also just generally good, the warrior sequence didn’t stress me out too much, even triang mukha was OK on my angry hips, and I was able to get into half lotus when I needed to. When I got to Mari D, I was almost in the wrist bind on the first side and Cary came and helped my fingers round, then took the fingers of the right wrist (the grabbed one – I had to just try it to work it out!) and took them onto my shin, telling me that when you’re in really deep you can grab your shin...which is all very well in theory, but as she was helping me my little finger was getting stuck so it made me giggle – not that I could articulate what the problem was all twisted up and Ujayi breathing! The second side I could barely even bind, just got the finger-tips, and even then my knee was hurting so I probably shouldn’t have gone even that far.
The other thing that I’ve noticed (which I almost definitely shouldn’t say here for fear of cursing it) is that bujapidasana finally seems to be changing. Little by little, but change is change, I’m not asking for miracles overnight. On Thursday I felt a little more control as I dropped my head and for the first time I felt like I could squeeze my legs in tighter once I was down there – coming up was still a mammoth effort though. But today I felt I completely controlled the movement of taking my head to the floor, so that it was placed further back and without my full weight on it, and again I could squeeze the legs in, so the whole thing felt markedly better. Again I struggled to come up but at least the days of landing on my bum with a smack are definitely behind me, though a graceful transition into bakasana feels like it’s a very long way off.
Kurmasana started to feel different a few weeks ago too, my right leg is still not straight but I can feel that I’m pushing down from my hip now to work it towards the ground, so I went through into supta kurmasana by myself knowing that Cary would come and assist me on my second attempt. I waited quite a long time in kurmasana, it’s good to get the smackdown in that pose first (that’s sometimes what it feels like – WHAM! and you’re flat on the floor) but it wasn’t to be, so I brought my left arm in, my left foot, then my right arm before I started working my foot in. But rather than an assist into it C called across the room that I was almost there, told me to drop my hands a bit lower down, then told me I was about an inch away before heading over and helping me. Usually if I have tried to get into it by myself first, she brings the fingers together, then as soon as she goes to bring my feet in I lose the precarious grip. But today my fingers were locked tight, she brought my left foot over my head  and it’s at this point I start making sound effects as I can really feel the weight of that foot bearing down on my left shoulder. Then it’s right foot over the top, lock the right foot over the left and she lifts the feet, telling me to keep my head down, keep the feet locked, bring my arms around and really push down into them (we’re in sound-effect-City by this point) and here’s where my left shoulder really struggles. I get the theory, but for some reason just bringing the hands back around (even when I’m not lifted up in the assist) is where the pain really kicks in. Anyway my feet did unlock sooner than they should, and it took a bit of gearing up but I pushed up into what felt like a good tittibhasana and then successfully brought my right leg around to bakasana, and was trying so hard to stay up there and bring the left one around before I fell that Cary had to remind me to breathe! I almost made it then did a comedy fall & roll out of it right off the side of my mat but it was the closest I have come, so I was still happy.

Then it was into backbends (and yes K, I’m pushing the shit out of it!), my new routine of one little bridge, then three full UD with 100% effort, holding the last one for as long as I can. It’s funny but I’m finding myself newly completely obsessed with backbends – up until a couple of weeks ago I hated them and wanted to skip them, but since getting a few tips from friends and starting to put some effort in, I’m finding that I just want to do them more and more. We’re into hanging back in the bathroom at work territory here, which is clearly a whole new level of obsession and not something I ever thought I’d end up being like! Then to round off my very lovely practice, I managed to get up into headstand in the middle of the room for the first time since my crash – so all in all, I was a happy bunny.

It’s been a lovely weekend socially too – completely glorious sunshine all weekend long, Cary’s party yesterday and the chance for lots of chat with fellow shala-goers whilst stuffing ourselves silly with amazing homemade cakes, then a very beautiful post-practice brunch today with the lovely A who I know from Goa in idyllic Regents Park which was picture-postcard-perfect. But I am currently sunburnt like a bugger from today, having sat on a bench by the river putting the world to rights for a few hours after breakfast completely sans suncream, which is going to make me look highly irresponsible when I go to the Doctors tomorrow to get a dodgy mole checked...anyway here are some photos of Cary’s party borrowed from friends as I didn’t get my camera out (thanks to Jen and Kevin).
 nice arty shot from Jen

Me talking (to make a change) with P & Jen (I'm in the middle)


  1. LOL Kurmasana smackdown, but I know what you mean and it does make the following Supta Kurmasana easier, I was willing your fingers to dock after I heard Cary tell you how near they were. Love how you have got into backbends, hang backs in the company facilities, yes you have the bug and I predict a dropback will happen by Christmas :-)

    Good that Bhuja is coming too, we seem to go ages without getting anywhere, then suddenly things change for no reason, probably because we have given up hope that they will.
    Who got Pasasana?

  2. It will all happen whenever it happens...but dropbacks by christmas would mean an extraordinary rate of progress between now and then so I can't see it myself! I really don't mind, I'd rather take time to really work on each pose, it's just really gratifying when you have a practice like today where things start to come together (even if they will go backwards again!)
    I'll answer your other question on email!

  3. Kurmasana smackdown! I'd love to see a WWE wrestler pull that as his signature move! HAHAHA! You girls look so pretty in your sundresses! :)

  4. I think it really was a perfect day on Saturday..

    Something I've been told recently which has become another one of my little mantra's (deserving a blog in it's own right when i get round to it!):

    om purnamidah purnamidam, purnat purnamadashate, purnasya, purnamadaya, purnamewa vashisate

  5. Ooh Jen what does it mean? Yep Saturday was lovely, in fact my whole weekend was :)