Thursday, March 22, 2012

Green and green

Pollen explosion this week in the city, as everything is blooming a month earlier than it should. This morning felt like a perfect moon day..foggy pollen filled air that seemed to stay put. The forested park by my apartment looks like an abstract painting, perhaps with a Rothko-ish sensibility, with all different shades of green and brown. I love seeing it every morning.  There is something so compelling about that short window of time when the trees transform from budding to blooming. Every spring, I wish I could create a time lapse video of it as it changes from grey and brown to green and green.

Luxurious practice Wednesday afternoon. I was the second one in the room, and somehow the afternoon practice was just what I needed. (Allergy hell prevented me from anything even approaching the idea of morning practice ) I stayed a bit longer in many of the seated poses, just enjoying my time there on the mat, and a little wistful to realize my practice was almost done. By the time I finally turned to face the back of the room in Mari C, the room was full. I got the rest of the shoulderstand sequence; it is so nice to be learning inversions in this practice. Especially shoulderstand, which is one of my favorite postures, and according to Yoga Mala, makes your voice melodious too.

I don’t know if my energy was different, but I got a lot more assists than usual, including one to help me catch my wrists in Mari A (I can normally catch wrists or touch the leg, but not both). Funny how a seemingly not too intense assist can create such an intense change in the experience of the posture. I always wonder about that moment when the teacher sees that you are at a place where you can deepen the posture, and go to a new limit, even when you already thought you were at your limit.

Afterwards, I strolled along Broadway, eating strawberries, and savoring the insanely warm evening.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

peanut butter and jelly doughnuts

One of the reasons I love living in new york city. They tasted like a slightly sweeter (ok, maybe much sweeter) peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Last night, my friend and I celebrated the unseasonably warm day...with a long walk through lower manhattan, and doughnuts.

Since I last wrote, I have been at the shala on monday and wednesday; two practices that could not have been more different. Monday I woke to the sound of jackhammering on the sidewalk, to make spaces for street trees outside my building. The sounds of construction followed me to my practice: there was some noisy demolition/construction going on next door. Monday ended up being a short and worry filled practice, with me worrying about my injury, and feeling frustated and needy about wanting more in the way of teaching and/or assistance. I remember going through this phase with led vinyasa classes, wanting more assists and thinking, why can't I get assisted in this or that pose, like the world revolves around my practice. (Is blogging my new outlet for this feeling? I don't know)  I don't know quite when I began to let that go (not that it doesn't still come up sometimes). Interesting too that as my attitude sucked, so also did my breath. These short practices have been much more trying and tiring emotionally.

Wednesday, I decided that I would test out the ankle again and try to do more of my practice (ok, yes, patience not a virtue of mine, but also I have this nagging feeling like the very poses I am avoiding are what I most need to do to heal this once and for all..though it may be a long recovery). Somehow my breath was much smoother (rest day in between? better attitude? better diet?) despite not enough sleep, which gave me confidence to continue. I ended up doing my full practice, and it felt ok, though I am nervous about doing that every practice from now on.  My main distraction was the clock in the room. I was running late already, and I kept checking to see how much time I had (though my "rushing" practices are often no shorter than non-rushing practices)...oh well, there is always next time.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

back at the shala

Not today though..overslept, or rather, slept in like normal, but the time change made it too late for the shala. So vinyasa class it will be today.

Friday night, when I walked to the grocery store, I noticed for the first time an old building lit up on the hill by Highbridge park. (Yes, this part of Manhattan is quite hilly, especially in the parks) Practice can be like that, noticing something "new" although that "new" thing was there all the time. It is my attention that makes me see it.

Friday was my first day back at the shala. The only highlight being getting my head to the ground in prasarita A and D, most likely thanks to the massage I had the day before. For the first time, I was almost sad that the sun salutations were over when I was coming to the end of them for the day. Perhaps the result of deciding beforehand on a shorter practice? Usually, I feel relief that I have gotten through all of them. Only two more...whew..

Practice was short, no sense pushing things right now. I stopped after parsvottanasana, and after a week's break, my vinyasas in some of the poses were definitely a bit off. This is probably where I will stay for the next week or two. The hardest thing for me now is letting go of wanting to do my whole practice, which would aggravate my injury, when I am there, but to stop instead at a sensible place. And with a calm mind.

When I was a child, my mother had chronic pain which limited her life so so much, and every time I have a, maybe not so small, injury, it brings me back to this. Of course, it is not the 70s, and I already active anyway, and I am not her, but none of that matters in the moment. oh yes, breathe.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

what is essential is invisible to the eye

Had to sneak in some St. Exupery. I have been feeling a good bit like Eyeore lately, however. Funny how injuries can really push all your buttons; that is what I am learning from this. Reminds me how much of  beginner I am, in terms of the emotional or psychological aspects of the practice.

No venting about my injury today. it has been a tough couple weeks of trying to care for my foot and still practice in some way, and that may continue for a quite while longer. I have to remind myself that what my practice looks like on the outside is not really important. 

I have gotten a lot of inspiration to practice, and specifically to practice ashtanga, from reading other people's yoga blogs (the interesting ones almost always seemed to be by ashtangis...hmmm), and seeing how their practice grows and transforms them. gives me some hope, as i am just at the tippy tip tip of the iceberg here.

So just a general thank-you to the yoga blogosphere today..keep blogging.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

some yoga is better than none

My early morning habits completely disappeared overnight. I knew I wasn't going to the shala, and managed to sleep in til 10, for the first time in over a month. As a result, no time to practice before I had to leave for my acupuncture appointment. So I practiced when I got home this afternoon. I did some more research online about my injury, and I am pretty sure that I can't do anything weight bearing on my foot (so no surya's no standing sequence, etc) while it heals. Thus I had a highly modified practice.

I tried to put my feldenkrais skills to use..and visualized a couple sun salutations and worked on breathing..then I did the seated sequence up to navasana, minus vinyasas (and purvattanasana). I might have to modify mari B and D to lose the half lotus on the right (to protect my ankle), though mari A seems to put the most pressure on my right ankle. I will have to figure that one out. My mari D is pretty laughable right now; it was interesting to try it, both with and without the lotus. I could manage two of the five navasanas, only one of which had sort of straight legs.

The advantage of home practice is that it gives me time for exploration, I can repeat, modify or use props if needed and add/omit postures. The focused breath and energy of shala practice is sacrificed, though, as was the feeling of the primary series. Without all the vinyasas and sun salutations and standing poses, it was a very different animal, much less dynamic. Still, it felt very freeing to practice at home today.

Then I went on to a modified closing sequence, practicing poses that I knew already, and omitting anything that would aggravate my foot. I love shoulderstand, for the energy I can often feel in my chest and spine in this posture, and sorely miss practicing it at the shala. I discovered that pindasana is a major bandha developer. I am using a blanket for this part of the sequence, so I balanced in padmasana for the first time-- though I think my back was not very straight, as I couldn't straighten my arms.

I am also trying to work on my breath, as my teacher told me to, while this heals...made for an interesting padmasana today (how does one keep up that sort of breathing throughout the practice, let alone, for the 10 breaths of the posture?).

I feel much better to be able to practice at all. Some yoga is better than none..

Friday, March 2, 2012

short and shorter..

Practice today was short. I stopped at the end of the standing sequence. I woke up with my ankle still sore, and I just did not want do more damage by practicing too much on it. I was really sad to have to stop so soon; Yes, I secretly hoped that my leg/ankle would feel better with practice, as sometimes happens, but not today. I felt it on the second side of parsvottanasana, and that made me realize enough was enough for today.

I have to truly rest it for a couple weeks, so home practice it will be. No vinyasa for at least a week. I wish I had been more patient with the injury at the beginning. I have been using my uninjured leg too much, to take more weight than it should, in all the vinyasas, and I am starting to feel the same issues on the formerly -good- side..and that is hard to correct at this point.

When I read posts, like David Garrigues' on how to modify the practice for carpal tunnel, etc. (link here), I see the flexibility of the ashtanga system. In an actual mysore class, however, maybe such flexibility is not possible? Perhaps, if I had been practicing longer at this studio, my  shin splint issues would be taken more seriously, and I would be taught how to modify my practice to not aggravate it further. I will miss the energy of the studio for the next 2 weeks, but I think it is the most kind thing I can do for myself, and my practice.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

touchdown...and two steps back

One of those mornings when I really was not sure about practicing. i felt like I  had zero energy, as I rode the subway down to the studio.  I guess I count as someone who practices even when my body says no way, though I did let myself sleep in a bit. I do notice that when my energy is low, it takes a few minutes for my breath to sort of kick in, so that I can hear it enough to focus on it.

The highlight of practice today was getting my head to touch the ground in prasarita A. It was the second time I managed it this week. The first was sunday, though more of a plopping down, which initiated a total pose collapse (no somersaulting over) then, but today I had more control.

My leg/ankle, however is a bit sore again..UHP by myself (my teacher is trying to wean me off depending on her assists..though, I wish it was not now, while my ankle is not fully healed). the good side went well, and then the second side..the injured side. not so great. Thank goodness she came and assisted me halfway through it. Later that day, when I told my massage therapist, who has been treating it the past couple weeks, she had a field day with me. How can I truly heal it if I have to put so much stress on it in UHP, which upset me, but she is right.  So that raises a question: how do I deal with not being able to do something in the middle of my practice? am I allowed at a shala to skip a side because I am injured..or do I just practice up to the that case, going from ending at marichasana C to just practicing up to UHP? If I was practicing at home, I know I would just skip the second side UHP and go on..but is that ego on my part? there is so much to learn and explore within the standing poses, so I should be happy just to practice to there.

My teacher told me, when I first injured it, that it was ok to do less..but never defined what that less would look like. and I feel like this is not a matter of changing for a few days, but more likely for a few weeks. In the past, with injuries, I managed to work around them, practicing at home, skipping poses, using props, and/or doing easier versions..but that was in vinyasa classes.

I also feel that because I just started this practice I am somehow (and I guess, unfortunately) more attached to doing as much as I can. Just giving up jumping, made me sad. Honestly, though, I think my body is happier for it. I need that energy to have my practice flow more. Sometimes doing less really is more productive.