Thursday, June 28, 2012

navasana revisited, and laundry

Nice to practice today before the heat set in..not so nice to blog at home with the a/c off (I refuse to use it unless there is a really bad heat it sounds like a loud subway car most of the time)

My nosebleeds have returned this summer. ugh. They plagued me for years, and the past winter and spring have been a complete reprieve from them. Might be time to start using the neti again. Happened during practice today, which freaked me out a bit. You also know you are dedicated ashtangi when you hope you can finish your surya before the nosebleed becomes apparent.

Today's highlight was navasana...that "hold the legs" tip that my teacher gave me really works. At first, I thought holding the legs meant sort of pulling them closer to my upper body, which is a LOT of work. I would end up with tired arms and legs, and no clue how to keep the legs straight without holding them. I just realized, however, that if I sort of pull/push my legs towards my pelvis (anchoring my thigh bones into their sockets), then I have more stability, my very weak and sleepy inner thigh muscles wake up a bit, and lo and behold...straight leg navasana is possible. I discovered this Wednesday, and was very happy that I was able to repeat it today. I even managed the last one without having to hold my legs. Cumulative effect, perhaps? The other interesting thing is that it seems to make uttana padasana easier. No real effect on UHP though, yet.

Lastly, laundry.

My laundry practice: rinse any soaking wet item in the sink at the shala first-with soap if possible, before packing it up, and then pre-soak with white vinegar and HOT water before hand washing. No smelly detergents are needed. 2-3 capfuls of vinegar in with the clothes (I soak them in a little bowl in the I do 2 batches in this per day.) and 10-20 min. Then I hand wash like normal. Magic.

When I finally go to the laundromat (a more frequent event than before I started practicing yoga), I add some color safe bleach to and that takes away any residual smells (those synthetic quick dry towels are the hardest to deal with).

Oh, and if you sweat a lot, like I do...wear as much cotton as possible.

Monday, June 25, 2012

three impossible things

Glad that's over.

That pretty much summed up practice today. No energy combined with an amazingly sore body today. I think I must have gotten dehydrated overnight from my fan which I usually don’t run on a night as cool as last night. Ironic, since I pretty much survived the heat wave intact, well, a bit brain addled on Friday. It was the cooler humid air, however, which did me in. I managed UHP on the first side by myself, then the second side completely disintegrated (I even looked around to see if I could muster up an assist, and had brief thoughts of, oh, maybe I can just skip this side since my teacher isn't looking..)

I am continuing along with my clumsy jumping through to seated. I need to work on keeping the legs bent more when I "land" or maybe I should say skid or slide, so I wont feel like I am blasting off the mat. I have added a few "scooting my feet under" and hop hop hopping back from seated. I so doubt that I will ever be able to lift myself up and jump back properly..but this is a tiny step forward. And it suits me...why get stuck on step one before starting step two if step one seems impossible..

The one exciting development for me, is that I am starting to feel my inner thighs waking up and connecting down to my feet in backbends. I must have spent a year at Jivamukti trying to hold a block between my thighs during backbends to develop this no avail. This new feeling in backbending just started recently, since I have been working on navasana with straight legs (it feels like the bent leg modification never leads to straight legs or develops the same sort of strength). I wonder if this is what will finally make it possible to come up to standing (another seemingly impossible thing!).

Lastly, I have been really interested in Nobel's recent posts on inner body awareness and practice. Today I tried to see how much inner body awareness I could observe in savasana. Lo and behold, I could feel a lot of my upper body but not so much my legs/lower body. This is sort of analogous to how I think I am using and overusing parts of my body in practice (and perhaps too my rather ungrounded feeling of late). I can't even imagine having this sort of complete presence throughout my practice, but it is something interesting to move towards. Focusing on my breath allows for partial internal awareness at times. The other sort of presence which I do notice during practice is one where my limit is reached (and not surpassed), say in a standing posture, and my thoughts are much quieter than at other times.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

the laws of physics must be obeyed

I am still wondering if I will dissolve into a puddle of sweat later this week during practice. While it wasn't that hot in the shala today, it was mighty humid.

Progress on UHP has ground to a halt because of the humidity. What goes up- my leg- must come down...before it should, of course. Managed my first real jump through to seated with crossed legs, proving that there is enough space between my arms for my legs to fit through. I had my doubts before. Not sure it will ever work in the other direction. The key for me is to flex my feet when I jump. Until now, I had been ignoring my feet, leaving them pointed apparently, and often battering them against my wrists if I wasn't careful. Still feels weird to try to flex them, but it is is something I can work on.

Regarding the heat: my teacher told me I can do less suryas if it is really hot, and also skip vinyasas (this probably only really applies to me..since I overheat so easily, it will take me a long long time to develop stamina in the heat). I really want to avoid that slightly dizzy/nausous feeling during standing poses that occasionally happens, now that it is warmer out. It happened a lot initially, especially during standing twists. My main tactic to avoid overheating thus far is to stay in all poses longer if possible 7-8 breaths, especially if they are forward bends. Amazing how much difference that makes.

Hoping to brave the heat later to go hear the Philip Glass Ensemble.

Happy solstice. (I too thought it was tomorrow)

Summer reading recommendation:
 I just started reading Maya Lassiter's Toby Streams the Universe
 Toby cover 250
Great fun-- I can't wait to see how it ends. And dangerous!  I almost missed my subway stop a couple times because I was so engrossed in the story. Plus, there is an ashtangi character in the story too, which is very cool.

Monday, June 18, 2012

pre moon day moonday

Decided to take an additional rest day today because of new gimp: a sore calf which was not happy after Sunday's practice. While my body needed the rest day, my mind stubbornly resisted..(despite the fact that Sunday morning, it was all I could do to get myself out of bed and onto the train to the shala). I am hoping that my forearm/wrist will get some needed rest too. I need an attitude adjustment when I don't practice on an actual practice day. Have I become addicted to my practice in 6 short months? Possibly.  One the bright side, I have probably made some improvement in my ability to take care of myself. I simply must learn not to overdo so much. Though this new sore area seems to be from non yoga stuff (hopping on and off my chair while I reorganized my closet)..and then aggravated by all the jumping during practice. So no jumping on it for a few days, at least. A bit frustrating, since I had only recently regained all the jumping in my practice.

The yoga gods give..and then they take back. At least temporarily.

I am also thinking about trying to practice at home a few days a week and at the shala the other days. The reason for this is two fold..I hope I would take it easier at home with no one watching me, and it might be a bit easier on the schlep factor..not having to carry wet clothes to work. It is hard to schedule a 5 day practice week with shala commutes between moondays, Saturdays off and my Tuesday sleep-in.

Sunday's practice was good, despite a couple nosebleeds and really low energy beforehand. The shala was really quiet. I tried the new navasana strategy: hold the legs straight (as close to straight as possible) for a couple breaths then let go for a couple breaths. Easier than before, but still almost impossible to keep the legs straight when I let go. I have the same trouble in UHP, when I have my leg out in front. The signal to keep the leg straight seems to get lost between my brain and my toes! I think I roll my hip out when I bring my leg up, which throws me off balance when I move my leg to the side, and especially back to the front. How to fix that, I am not sure. UHP is by far my most volatile pose..good one day, atrocious the next.

Friday, June 15, 2012

it's almost easier with straight legs

oh no, not another post about navasana

So, while many people seem to have much drama either learning to stand up/drop back, or in kapotasana...I have drama in navasana. While I can watch videos explaining how to do it..and there are a couple good ones of late: one by Kino and a new one by David Garrigues, I feel like this is a pose that will just take time..and practice. There is no magic bullet to create strength. It is a gradual process, and always seems to occur more gradually than I would like.

And no, I still can't manage much with straight legs in this pose..shaking all over..check. My teacher told me to hold my legs when they are straight, and then let go for a breath or two...apparently I am sinking back more than I thought, even with bent legs. She said it is almost easier this way, with the legs straight because my upper body will be closer to my legs. I'm all for easier. Didn't feel much easier, but I was able to manage it a couple times. Helped that she was watching me the first know, that extra effort thing that naturally happens when your teacher thinks you are capable of something, even if you yourself don't believe it.

I guess I will see how this works out for me next week in practice.

I have been working the past week on lifting my upper body when I inhale and imagining anchoring down through my hips-sort of giving myself an imaginary adjustment by imagining my hands pushing down on my hip bones, like in UHP. This was my teacher's way of describing uddiyana bandha. My teacher gave me this instruction in UHP last week, when I was pms-ing and had absolutely no balance or stability, and it does help (and completely change the feeling of the pose) when I remember it. I have been noticing that it seems to apply to almost every pose, although I can't maintain that feeling for more than a few breaths at a time, if I can feel it at all in the pose.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

why is it so hard to do less?

Lately, when I am on my way to the shala, I tell myself to go easy on my wrist: do less vinyasas as this would better for me in the long run. Once I start my practice, however, this inner dialogue goes out the window, and I go through the whole thing. I sometimes skip a couple vinyasas in the maris, but I know I should skip even more, until my wrist is really feeling better.

This morning was the same. Managed to skip 5 vinyasas..and uti pluthi (lifted up, decided it was not the best for my wrist and came right down..not sure if that was the problem all along). I am much less sore than yesterday, but still nowhere near- normal.  

Is it the energy of the room (which seems pretty low key), my own ego, and/or a sort of autopilot that switches on during practice? I think it is mostly ego, and fear: fear of losing any hard won strength, even at the risk of further injury. Hmm...definitely not very yogic sounding. (and if I am doing it with this simple but annoying injury..where else am I doing this sort of thing in my life..oh, not a topic to contemplate here) I am not pushing through pain so much as feeling more tension in my arm/wrist than should be there..and sometimes feeling sensation or discomfort when I let my weight onto my wrist in certain ways...which I try hard to avoid. Working around an injury makes practice more tiring because of the constant attention to it, sometimes at the expense of spreading the attention around to the rest of my body and breath.  With summer (assuming this year has a real summer) coming up, I also need to not exhaust myself with my practice. Hot weather has never been easy for me. I want to have energy to take dance classes and/or go to outdoor dance events.

Back to the issue of doing less. I have the same trouble at times with the feldenkrais: it is oddly more challenging to do less. Doing less means paying more attention to what you are doing, and that can be both surprising and truly exhausting. But I also know from the past 9 months of training, that I have gained so much from learning how to do less, in this context. My body is more flexible, I feel like I move more easily, and it healed my ankle injury.

This weekend, I am thinking of taking a feldenkrais workshop -the Challenge of Pleasure-with Alan Questal. From the description: Did you ever think it could be a challenge for you to have more pleasure in your life? Or could you imagine experiencing greater pleasure when you are faced with a challenge? Pleasure and challenge, experiences that are too often exclusive of each other, will be the focus of this two-day workshop.

I am getting acupuncture and a massage late on Friday, so it may come down to how rested I feel Saturday morning.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

navasana musings

This morning, during navasana, I tried to remember some of Kino's tips in her video (see my last post). Maybe it helped, although I can't feel my thigh bones dropping down into my hip socket. But I was able to straighten my legs a bit at the end. This might be the most effective strategy for me. Instead of trying to get into navasana initially with straight legs (and probably a rounded back from leaning too far back on my sit bones, thus ending up with a very sore lower back), it is probably better for me to get the upper body to lift as much as possible and sit bones balance the best I can with bent legs, then try to straighten the legs for maybe 1 breath for each time. More than that is way too much at present. I was shaking all over just to do the 1 time with 1-2 breaths of straight(er) legs on my last navasana. One thing I am realizing, is that the seemingly illogical instruction of lifting the upper body when I inhale makes some poses feel lighter.

I have still never have seen anyone else at the shala do more than 3 navasanas. hmmph. I am so done after this pose..I can't even imagine going on at any time in the near future, and with the state of my wrist these days, it's a good thing too. The wrist gimp has replaced the ankle gimp...and the wrist thing is way more irritating.

The other bright spot in today's soupy practice was that I managed to do UHP on both sides by myself. No falls, and all parts of the posture done on each side, even if rather clumsily, especially in the last bit. Yay me. So I guess I know that it is possible for me to do this myself. Being in the corner of the room definitely helped. I need some major drishte mojo in this pose...I can get distracted so easily -- my mind so wants to give up on this posture every single day, and I have to talk myself into focusing.

I am adjusting to my new manduka travel mat. I like it, practicing on it sort of feels like changing to a really good mattress after sleeping on a lumpy futon. Hasn't solved my wrist problems, but I think it is better for it than my jade mat. Still haven't gotten around to bringing in my new mysore rug. It's been so humid, I wonder if it might not be feasible for practice here, as I sweat so much, that I think I would have to bring it home each night (and lugging it around, let alone what could I do with it at work...). Might just be too much for the summer.

Friday, June 8, 2012

navasana and fireflies

Yesterday I met up with my friend E and we had dinner and walked around the west village. It was a great night to be out, and we stopped to watch the fireflies flitting about in the park. Seeing fireflies in New York always takes me back to my childhood, seeing them in the back yard, catching them (oh dear, definitely not good for the fireflies) and putting them in a jar because I loved to see them light up. Still do. I wonder where they go the rest of the year..are they funny bugs that dont light up except in the summer months, or do they just live short lives, bringing light into the semidarkness.

Navasana is one of those poses I am definitely in the dark about. How I can ever straighten my legs one day in this pose, seems well beyond my reach.

I happened to find this Kino video on navasana. Mind you, the variation is not what interests me now, but what she says about lifting the legs. Or, more accurately, not lifting the legs but dropping the head of the thigh bone down into the socket. That even sounds easier to do...but can I even feel that head of the thighbone at all..hmm. I did like how she did this with one leg rather than both at once. I hope I can manage to remember some of this when I practice this afternoon.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Practice yesterday was awful. From almost the very start of practice, I couldn't get the thought "what did I get myself into?!" out of my head. Especially as I could see someone working on pincha in front of me...oh, it looked so hard (I haven't tried pincha in a couple months..used to be able to balance at the wall, but never in the middle of the room, not by myself). I wondered to myself, why am I doing this, and as I was all pms-y and otherwise in a poor mood, I had no good answer but to continue on.

UHP was an unqualified disaster. Ever since adding navasana, my legs are jelly, and my mind unfocused (ok that could be other things) and both of these equal UHP fail. Even with an assist. I think I would be better off without the assist, the wobbling would do me good and force me to focus, rather than to pray not to wobble much when the teacher assists me..

The only bright note to an otherwise weak, heavy and weepy practice, was that I managed to feel a twist in mari D for the first time. Second side only, but it was something. Usually, all I can manage to do is breathe and try to keep my arm from popping off my leg. On both sides, my lotused knee never reaches the ground and the other knee is always far from upright..much much work to do here.

If the weepy thing continues later this week, I will have to seriously think about practicing at home. The shala is too small, and I feel too exposed if I am going to be emotional. Hope it is just something to do with PMS.

No practice tomorrow for LH, and instead of catching up on my sleep (so exhausted the past week), or reading a book (I have 3 in progress), I have been up checking the election results. Walker and the recalled state senators all keep their seats. Unbelievable.

Monday, June 4, 2012

first there is a mountain

I just finished reading Elizabeth Kadetsky's bittersweet book, First there is a Mountain. The book chronicles her life as it intertwines with her practice of Iyengar yoga as well as her experiences with the Iyengar family in Pune. If you were expecting a glowy yoga changed my life book, this is not it. It is a reasonably thoughtful but journalism-esqe portrait of Iyengar and the institute at Pune.

My favorite parts of the book were her stories about herself and her family, and her constant sense of not truly belonging to either side of her jewish/christian family. It is this sense which fuels her interest in yoga, and in Iyengar the man, because she sympathizes with his story as an outsider. Even his ability to communicate is fraught with complications- he speaks a different first language than the people of Pune, and even of the rest of his family. Ironic for a style of yoga that seems incredibly dependent on language to express alignment information.

She continually brings up Iyengar's successes, yet his ongoing disappointment that yoga is not appreciated and practiced seriously by Indians. She likens it to a re-playing of colonial attitudes - that westerners take over the yoga but misunderstand and appropriate it, as with other eastern ideas and practices. One thing I did not appreciate before reading this book, was how hard it must have been for Iyengar to come to the west. He encountered racial prejudice in his travels, and had to deal with power issues of working for the cultural elites of Europe.

The other thing that is quite sad to read about is the rivalry/feud that Iyengar has with Jois. Did this go both ways?

One caveat: the author's interest mainly lay in physical asana practice and in researching Iyengar's life. I kept wishing she was more interested in the other limbs of the practice, because I would have loved to read her reflections on them.