Sunday, July 29, 2012

summer reading

My attempt to read Kino's book has been delayed for a couple months, til more are printed. I decided to buy Guruji instead, which I have been savoring this week during my breaks from my training. I am only about a quarter way through it, but I especially enjoyed David Swenson's interview. His circuitous path to his asthanga practice really resonated with me. I always have this image in my head that people who are great teachers find this practice early on and don't stop practicing once they start, and that they don't try other styles of yoga or other things altogether. I hope I get to study with him at some time.

I ordered some books by Ellen Langer on mindfulness and learning, and of course more books by Moshe Feldenkrais. What I need now are some good novels to read.

I am a bit braindead from the 9 day Feldenkrais training. Hopefully, I will manage a post on that later this week. It has been a week of kinesthetic dreams, mostly yoga and/or family related. I discovered today during the training, that I can fall asleep lying on my side with my arm up in the air; made me feel like a little kid again.

Practice today was good, but heavy. I felt weak, even though I had a rest day on Saturday. The highlight of the day was that I managed to walk my hands in during my last backbend. It is not the depth of the backbend that I cared about, but that I could lift my hands one at a time to move them (no snaking them along my mat). I must be getting more weight in my legs at last. I have been able to stay an extra breath or two at times this week, and I want to build up my time in my backbends to strengthen my legs. My balance also seems to have returned this week. I did UHP by myself twice this week, and it went pretty well both times. I think I just fell out once each time, before the last bit on the second side. I don't know if it was the Feldenkrais, or maybe a bit more sleep, or both. I hope it continues.

My rather uncontrolled jumping through has also been scaled back to jumping with crossed legs and working towards having some control when I land (maybe next lifetime?). I miss the flowing sense of jumping through with straight-ish legs, but after impaling my feet on my mat, I can live without it for long while. Plus, it gives me a little more energy for the rest of my practice, which I could definitely use. 

Lastly, I am slowly realizing the importance of the breath to the practice. This is what I most want to work on now.

Monday, July 23, 2012

more thoughts about disorientation

I guess I have always liked moments of disorientation..not drunken where am I moments, but anything that makes me think twice about which way is up. We spend our whole lives oriented to gravity, so that when something overrides it, it is a pretty memorable event.

The E, F/ V station at 51st and 5th ave has a very long escalator with a diagonal ceiling that will challenge your sense of which way is up. I used to enjoy the feeling that up was at 45 degrees to where it normally is when I rode this escalator.

I have never been to the santa cruz mystery spot..but it is another good example of this phenomena.

When I was little, I used to love spinning spinning spinning in one direction, and then suddenly going the opposite way (or just stopping) and feeling the room seem to spin around me. As an adult, however, that feeling somehow doesn't feel so fun anymore, as I remember from a recent dance class.

I remember the first time I did a headstand by myself. It was at home, maybe 5 years ago, and I watched a video on it, and said to myself: I can do that..and tried it. I was up at the wall for maybe 5 seconds, and it totally blew my mind. It was hard to believe that being totally upside down would have such a startling and disorienting effect on my perception. I was transfixed for that brief moment. After all, I could bend down and look through my my head would be upside down, yet this did not have the same effect. My nervous system simply couldn't understand the paradox of how I was essentially "standing", but upside down. Subsequent attempts at headstand never had that effect on me. My body now understood what that new orientation meant.

With the feldenkrais method, it is those moments of disorientation where you actually learn, That is the nervous system, or the brain, learns. These moments reveal our missing pieces in our self image. We just don't normally have too many of these experiences after childhood, because our families, friends and society become more important than what we actually sense and feel in our bodies. I had a one on one session today, as part of my training, and at the end had the wonderful and intense feeling of my feet feeling heavy, grounded, really fixed to the floor with the weight balanced across them, while the rest of my body felt so much lighter than it normally does. I hope I can carry some of that feeling onto the mat tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

disorientation, double bhuja and injured again

Twice this week my pinkies touched the floor (assisted) in prasarita padottanasana C. The first time (Sunday) was so disorienting: I felt like I was standing on the ceiling and reaching down to touch the floor. Afterwards, I actually had to ask my teacher if that was the floor! It made me think how infrequently we let our sense of control go, because knowing your orientation in space is a sort of control. It was a total surprise to me, but I guess my arms and hands were quite a bit closer than I thought. I tried to pay attention to it this week, and could not tell much: it is hard to determine how close my arms are to the ground once I am partially upside down. 

More work on bhuja this week, namely trying to do the exit. I asked my teacher a question about it, and was rewarded by having to try it again. Keeping my arms a bit wider and making sure my hands are straight (I tend to turn one out in my down dog) helps a lot with the pressure on my wrists, while trying to squeeze my arms with my thighs is more of an idea than an actual action. Since I have gotten bhuja, my body has reacted with a round robin of new sore areas, after every practice. The latest was sore sides, which was probably also from my improved (mostly) jumping through. I finally started to get the vinyasa to flow more, and to be able to jump through (bumpily) more consistently. I was really starting to enjoy this new feeling of a more dynamic flow in my practice. 

The downside of the jumping through, is, however, missing the mark! I really bruised my right foot, in the line of the pinky toe, when I dragged it through in my landing, somewhere around mari B. Before that, I was finally feeling like my wrist isses were under control, my ankle had healed and I was surviving the rocky first weeks of bhuja and jumping through. The yoga gods give, and they taketh away. Yes, it is hours later, and I am over the first mental panic over this. I am very happy tomorrow is a moon day. Hoping the ibuprofen will help, and that I didn't somehow give myself a stress fracture.

Finally, I watched Kino's video about the experience of practicing in Mysore. Oh, I do want to go at some point. I have felt that way since I started this practice, but also fear it being too much for me ( if I would only not push myself so much, even inadvertently, I might not constantly be injuring myself). My favorite part was her talking about how being in Guruji's presence made her physical pain from an old injury go away once and for all. She spoke of how pain is really something in the mind, that the mind creates (both the physical and the mental kinds), and is a pattern that can be changed both with practice and especially in the presence your teacher. It reminds me that I can still practice with an injury, especially as injuries bring up the trifecta of fear, anger and the desire to give up.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What it means

Saturday, I went to union square farmer's market with M. We had a great time looking at all the produce and plants, and I bought some nasturtium plants. Every time I look at plants, it gives me a longing for more space to grow stuff in (or outside of) my apartment. It is so much harder to keep plants alive in an overly hot apartment in the summer. Plus, I keep trying to grow edible plants- this year basil, lettuce and nasturtiums, which are always harder to grow indoors. Last summer's swiss chard experiment was a dismal failure.

While we were wandering through the market, an Indian man stopped me to ask where I had bought my shawl, because he wanted to find fabric like that to have a shirt made. I had bought this shawl along with a few others on the street, over a year ago..and haven't seen any in Manhattan since. I told him he would probably have to go to Jackson Heights.

                                                                  the writing on my shawl

He told me what the words on my shawl meant - hare rama hare krishna (ok, I hope I have the photo the right way around), sounding it out for me as he pointed to each letter. Then he showed his companions, doing the same for them. A really lovely moment.

Nice to finally know what it means.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

learning to fall

Last week, I got bhujapidasana, much to my surprise. I guess navasana, while not easy, and still a long way from good, is not killing my hip flexors so much anymore. When I started on that pose, I would feel so sore and weak in my hip flexors afterwards that I could barely hold up my legs to step back (jumping was out of the question). I am learning the value of falling from bhuja, falling being something that generally I want to avoid in my yoga practice (and in my life). Sometimes I think that worrying about falling takes much more energy than doing the pose.

So back to bhujapidasana: I managed to jump back from bakasana for the first time ever, with my teacher watching me (the next day was a total fail as I assumed I would continue to get an assist in it). I do have a tendency to fall on my butt, either getting into the pose, or lifting my head back up (even with my feet on the ground). What I have discovered is that if I am relaxed about it, falling doesn't hurt my wrists (while taking it too seriously, and falling out, does hurt them). Falling makes me feel like a little kid again...oh, I fell, whoops! Hee hee. I must be more relaxed all over - it is the first time I have connected not worrying or maybe also not over-efforting to a more steady practice, even with the falling. I think it is better for me to fall sometimes than to hold on for dear life, in order to stay balanced.

I have no worries about falling out of this pose, in contrast to a certain other standing pose that shall remain nameless. Maybe one day (soon, perhaps? though most likely, not), I will learn to bring this level of acceptance of my practice into the other pose, and more importantly, bring this level of equanimity to my life off the mat.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Self Reliance

I have always been the sort of person who wants to do as much as I can for myself. That is part of the appeal for me both for practicing yoga and for learning feldenkrais method.

I don't like going to doctors, nor going for acupuncture and other alternative therapies. Some of that is due to not finding an acupuncturist I really like, I suspect. Still, acupuncture seems to never quite work the way I would like for injuries. Massage has been mostly good, and feldenkrais has been excellent for some things (my ankle for instance where nothing else worked..and it worked without being a painful method in itself..did I mention  that I really don't like pain?).

This book -  The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook - is AMAZING. The website for the book gives a lot of examples from the book so you can get a feel for it.

 Click to enlarge

A characteristic of trigger points is that the pain that you feel is not necessarily in the same location of the trigger point! Although when you massage the trigger point..oh, that spot will be tender.(But this method is way less painful than going for a massage)

I bought this book last month and have already used it for various gimpy areas: my wrists/forearms, my shoulders, and a weird lower leg strain which turned out to be a trigger point in the calf. The illustrations in the book are easy to understand, and the methods for massaging these points are not too difficult..a tennis ball or two is all you need for many of them. What is great about this book, is that it gives you a way to control the massage pressure, since you work on yourself and it gives you the tools to prevent soreness from getting out of control. That is really nice for me, since each new pose or new attention to the vinyasas = new achy areas much of the time.

I had a great result with it this week, on my right shoulder/underarm area, which was wicked sore after getting bhujapidasana (surprise!) on Sunday, and playing smackfu in Central Park later that day. By Monday night it was so sore, that I would normally have thought of going for a massage and taking a few days off practice..but I used the book, and by Wednesday morning, the pain was almost all gone, and I could complete my full practice (and tonight..I don't feel sore)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

say cheese

It was pointed out to me today that I should try to relax my face, and try to smile, when I practice, because it would make things easier. This was during my usual (these days) tussle with UHP. Even with an assist, my sense of balance seems to have gone on vacation as has my ability to be really present with the pose. For the rest of standing and seated, I tried to relax more around my face and jaw. And you know what, it helped. It didn't transform my practice into anything amazing, but I felt like it took less energy and that the very bumpy vinyasas were a bit smoother. All this on less sleep and in a hotter room than on Wednesday. Sometimes the practice really is a mystery to me, but it was a welcome change from my recent practices which have seemed like they were so much work!

It is interesting how smiling is the solution to so many things: it can improve your mood (and the mood of others), make you sing those high notes, and apparently, it also gives your yoga practice more ease.

We'll see if this carries over to tomorrow.

Carrying on with the theme of relaxing my face and my jaw in particular, I finally did a feldenkrais lesson on relaxing the jaw. Wow. I never realized how much tension I had there, I mean I knew it was tense at times, but not that it was tense all the time. My neck and upper back feel more relaxed too. I will definitely repeat this lesson.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

fireworks...expect delays-use an alternate route

A spur of the moment excursion downtown with my friend E to see the fireworks, the official fireworks for the fourth, while the unofficial ones (one of many in the city) are going on right down the block from me. Equally impressive in their own way. We did manage to avoid the massive crowds at least, and ended up sitting on the concrete dividers along the west side highway.

No matter how old you are, fireworks make you feel like a little kid again. That is what my friend E said to me tonight, and I wholeheartedly agree. They really bring out that sense of awe and wonder at the world. Watching the fireworks explode, appear to hover, flicker and fade really brings your attention into the present. I tried to take some photos with my phone, but this became too much of a distraction from watching the fireworks. The phone camera also has a rather frustrating gap between when you press the shutter and when it takes the picture, making for many surprise photos.

Practice hasn't been very focused lately, as in inwardly focused. Too much heat and humidity, lack of sleep, lousy (or nonexistent) drishte, leading to, ahem, too much awareness (and occasionally awe) of other people's practices..well, that is a bit like fireworks watching.

happy fourth of july.