Thursday, 22 July 2010

Practice report

Maybe it's time for a practice report; it's been a while. Non ashtangis (are there any reading?!) you might want to look away now unless you want to be bored to death!!

Quite quickly daily practice has become the norm. Aside from missing Sundays the past few weeks (my birthday/moonday and then my niece's 1st birthday - and my other niece's 3rd this weekend, so that'll be 3 in a row) the consecutive 5 weekdays feels tough, but good. That decision making process of whether to go to the shala has gone, and the daily routine is now comfortably established. My alarm is set a little earlier these days (5am) and due to the broken shower at the shala I allow time to wash my hair before practice, have some tea and mill about for a bit before I leave, starting practice around 7am. The little victory this week has been arriving closer to 6.45 and getting onto my mat BEFORE 7! Next thing I know I'll even be on time for work... ;)
I've been concentrating on tidying up my practice too, by which I mean cutting out some of the faffing, and I think I have probably shaved a good 10 minutes off it on a good day, maybe more. Enough time anyway to no longer have any excuse but to do 5 surya As and 5 Bs, my guilty confession is that since having new poses added in April (I think it was) I cut down to 3 Bs as I was feeling knackered and a bit overwhelmed. A wise friend suggested last week that it's very important to do the full quota to warm up the body so this week they are back, and I haven't keeled over and died just yet. My other spot of cheating which I have kicked to the kerb this week is the bent leg navasana...I stopped trying to do it with straight legs months ago as I had a serious case of the leg shakes and felt that I was tipping so far back to prevent it that I might be better off with the legs bent. But I couldn't shake the feeling that I was cheating...and then assistant B suggested on Monday that I just tilt my head back a little and it seemed to make all the difference, the straight legs are back and yes, there is a little additional effort but it also seems easier somehow (maybe alleviating my guilty conscience has done me some good).

So what else is new? Prasaritas are feeling STRONG, I have always enjoyed these (mainly A) but with my quite-wide stance the head is now comfortably down in A, loose strands of my fringe are brushing the mat in B, head is down in C and I can feel that sans assistance the hands are nice and far over (they are back to being down to the ground with help, but it doesn't come often) and in D I can move weight back over my hips and not lean all of my weight on the thumbs as I bind around the toes. This sequence is undeniably getting much much stronger with my more consistent practice. Another huge change is in UHP, mostly in my mental attitude. It's gone from being a pose of dread to once where I feel strong and empowered (thanks to twitter friends @yogicaroline and @Dom1985 changing my mindset on this). I am not bowing down to the leg unless I'm assisted but I've gone from veeeery shaky balance and dropping the leg 2 or 3 times before giving up to a good firm A where I  feel strong in the leg and have a firm grip on my toe. Taking the leg to the side for B is the real challenge, some days I can find the right spot and feel I am still lifting and the leg is strong, other days my hip clunks noisily as I rotate it and puts me off, or I just can't find the balance. Led classes tend to bring a complete absence on this posture and I am starting to crave an adjustment so that I can do a "proper" one, it's been a while.
Utkatasana is now a pose of great effort as opposed to one I rushed, the legs are bent trying to feel the burn (it's Susan's fault for saying it's good prep for pasasana, might as well get started early!!) but the warrior sequence is a bit of a trial still. I'm feeling tired in my hips and as I approach it I often consider bailing out before seated, but manage to keep going although I feel like I rush it, hoping not to get adjusted or called out by C to bend my legs more deeply (it's too hard!).
Forward bends are DEEP and I'm trying hard to concentrate on bandhas (everywhere of course, but particularly in paschimottansana) grounding through the pelvis and working on getting chin to shin. I asked for help again with my dreaded Janu sirsasana B this week as it continues to be painful on the right side, C seemed genuinely surprised when I showed her the mark that has developed on my foot and referred to it as a "weird injury"!! As I showed her the problem I realised that the pain comes when I lean forward to take the foot, she suggested that as my body was talking to me that I listen to what it's saying and stop just short of the point where it's hurting. I said I could feel that if I had more bandhabandha strength than anything else. Triang mukha continues to be a challenge though it seems to have lost much of it's emotional content, but perhaps because I am not really pushing it. On days when my bandha focus is better this one seems better too, but B never misses his chance to adjust me in it on his days assisting, due I suspect to the fact he knows about my meltdown. I did wonder this morning why that didn't "clear it", I always thought that if I finally allowed the tears to come I would have burnt away the samskaras and been free of it, so not sure why this hasn't worked in my favour yet? In any case I am done with analysing it to try and gauge what the emotion is, I'm just aware that there's something there.
I'm working on going straight into the Maris from my jumpthrough, or at least with little hesitation, and have had a few days of wrist-binding in D this week. Adjustments in C feel delicious, it seems to be so easy to turn what feels like 180 degrees and take hold of my inner thigh, in B and D (and all half lotus postures) I am being cautious with my right hip/knee and taking a few breaths of cradling the leg before diving on in. Bhuja is...well, bloody difficult, but my new strategy is to lower down reeeeeeally slowly maintaining control, which means I get about halfway down in 5 breaths. Avoiding a faceplant/bum-landing means no head on the ground for now. Or I try it twice, once this controlled way (trying to avoid the wild swinging back and forth which sometimes happens) and once with the head down, where I inevitably dive down and then get trapped, leading to the crash-landing exit.
Kurmasana and supta kurmasana have benefited most from my new daily schedule. This morning I had a firm grip on the rib cage with the legs in kurmasana and felt like the legs were all-but straight/flat, and I am halfway between comfortably getting my forehead and my chin down. If I try it twice the second one always feels SUPER strong on this rib-squeeze. And on Monday I was given a little gift to keep me motivated when I managed to bind my fingers in supta k all by myself! True the feet were not crossed at the same time but this is just step one (and the self-binding has been absent ever since). In the days that followed I have just missed the bind and have had assistance some days but not others, with C getting me to try and cross the right foot over left and then ram my head down under the locked feet, on some days she lifts my legs up and I hold for a breath or two in dwi pada. I asked her what it takes to get the foot to cross as it feels impossible (like learning to fly or something) and her answer was WILLPOWER! As she said, it's just not logical, the only thing that will get it there is sheer determination. My exit is getting stronger too, though up into titibhasana is improving, but coming into bakasana still has a long way to go - I can bring my right leg around but not to the back of my knee (it's sort of resting at the side I think) then as the left leg comes around the toes just meet the floor and I go into a sort of squat...where I recover briefly while I consider that backbends come next!

The next thing on the list for C's bootcamp this week is my headstand. Given what a battle it was to get up into the inversion I have been happy just to get on with it these past few months, but she has now got me working on floating up into it. She gave me the balasana back massage one day this week and after she finished I became aware she was on the floor beside me. When I eventually roused myself (quite zoned out by the stage) she told me to come back up, walk my feet in ("no more! even closer!") tuck one knee into the chest, and then try to float the other leg up. "No jumping!" Another WTF?? moment (like learning to fly), there was no way my toes were coming up without a little hop! A few days of trying this and I found that one leg would lift a few inches and felt magical when it did (it actually FLOATS! Who knew?!) eliciting a noise of surprise (sorry Susan) but the other side stubbornly refuses to lift. And getting into a full inversion in this way is another story - I have a few tries then go back to my usual tucking the knees in then shooting the legs up version and hang out in headstand. A few days into these experiments C comes over in balasana and this time says "halfway down?". Bootcamp I tell you! I told her I can't do it (haha - I never tried, it just looks too hard) so she suggested I can bend my knees down then try to straighten one leg at a time. So I go back up into headstand (struggling to get back up) and as soon as I try to bend the knees it all happens too fast and I think I'm going to go over the top. Slowly is the key apparently. Too tired I vow to try again the next day. Yesterday I went to the wall to experiment with both new tricks and without the fear of going over I walked both legs in and BOTH legs floated up - I can't explain how great it felt, though admitedly I felt too far forward on my head and the legs clunked against the wall and I came back down again. Still, it's a start - and the same with halfway down, I gave it a whirl at the wall, it's just all about getting used to the feeling I suppose and this is just week one.
This practice, there's always so much to work on! Led class tomorrow, love that group energy. More soon on how all this yogaing is changing the off the mat stuff too! 


  1. Yay a practice report, yoga geeks unite. Great to hear about how your getting on, on the mat, look forward to the off the mat report too. X

  2. Thanks Helen, hope I didn't send you to sleep! x