Wednesday, September 26, 2012

it's easier if you get it right the first time!

 Well, dating has gotten no easier since I last tried it. oy vey. I still make some of the same bad bad decisions that led me to stop trying to date over a year ago. It also reinforced my feeling that people I meet when I go tango dancing are (probably) not people to date. I guess that was no great surprise. Still, the attention was sort of nice, though I feel no better at handling a situation where the other person is much more interested in me than I am in them. (I have got a long long way to go here!) On a positive note, I got to hear some awesome music at the Metropolitan Museum: the Danish indie band Ekterklang.

Sometimes I truly envy my cousins, who are high school sweethearts..and still together, 20 years later. Seems so much simpler. Get it right the first time; stop wondering if there is something better lurking just around the corner, instead of focusing on what is right in front of you.

Back to the mat.

Those re-attempts at the bhuja and supta K exits, as well as the last bit of garbha, are just plain exhausting. Yesterday, I must have tried a dozen times to lift up into the last part of garbha. My attempts had been mostly mad roll/hops onto my hands..and sent me bouncing back to the floor almost immediately. By the end, I couldn't even lift and leave my knees on the ground; it was that bad.

Managed my first lift up at the end of garbha today. This time I lifted slowly, and that made all the difference. I could feel a bit of an arch in my upper back (same in uth pluthi) I also had a bit of a break before it, as I managed to beach myself twice before my teacher rescued me (and watched me as I beached myself one more time!). I also managed the exit from Supta K on the first go (no falling back on my butt which is my usual first exit attempt), which amazed me too. My feet still missed my mat, but I think they were close to it. I am getting a bit more that action of moving my chest forward as I send the feet back. I also realized today  that I can practice this every time I work on my jump (a.k.a. lift, drag and scramble) back. Moving the chest forward is scary; it feels like the last thing a sane person would want to do, but actually makes the jump possible. Getting stuck trying to hold myself up is a lot of extra effort, both in my practice on the mat..and off.



Friday, September 21, 2012

soon means soon

I feel like I have a backlog of ideas that I want to post about..and a lack of time these days.

I have also been tango dancing a couple times in the past week.

But first, practice report:

Got a new pose this week: garbha pindasana. Definitely less scary than kurmasana and supta K. Funny part was the day before my teacher gave me the pose..she tells me that we will start working on garbha "soon". Now soon to me didn't mean tomorrow..I was thinking, oh, a couple weeks from now, maybe. I even told her that the last couple poses she gave me seemed to arrive when I had completely given up on thinking I would get the next pose anytime soon. (I remember thinking I'd be on navasana all summer, and lo and behold, I got bhuja the very next day). Maybe I had let go of the expectation of getting a new pose, or of the expectation of somehow succeeding at the current pose anytime soon. Letting go of expectations seems to be a theme in my practice.

Day 2 of garbha was interesting. I didn't beach myself at all. Not sure how many times it took to make the 360 turn. My lotus, on the other hand, seemed to have a lot less space for my arms than the day before! Lifting up is a mystery, I seem to be resistant to the balance point, though I surprised myself that I have enough strength when my teacher puts me at that point. Then she lets go, and I plop down. Definitely a work in progress. She had me start working on the jumpback from the lotus..whoa, I have no idea how it will be possible for me to eventually balance on my elbows, in order to raise the knees and pop out of the lotus. I sort of slide out of lotus and back to chautauranga.

A new pose also means new sore back and shoulder muscles. Still trying to work with my gimpy right shoulder/neck combo. It doesn't seem to affect my practice much (yes, wondering greatly if I should be doing less..the trouble with practicing at a shala..much more temptation to do more), but it never leaves for long. I figure I will get stronger and it will be less of a problem, but that will take a while. I am hoping this weekend will loosen it up a bit.

Now for the tango

I used to dance salsa a lot a few years back. I learned a bit of tango, but never enjoyed dancing it as much as I thought I would. The people were weird and maybe the intimacy of the dance itself was something I was not completely comfortable with. The truth is, I stopped dancing pretty much completely a couple years ago. I got tired of the salsa scene in New York; I used to dance with a friend of mine, and when went our separate ways, it was ever as fun again. Last Saturday, I decided to check out a really nice outdoor tango event in Central Park. I had planned to take the lesson, but I somehow didn't see where the lesson was being held, and plunged straight into dancing with people. I had a blast. I know I truly tortured my first few partners (I was nervous and remembered very little) but if I could quiet down inside, I could follow. Technique..well, that will take lessons, and a lot of practice. I was surprised how fun it was, even when I would sometimes trip over my own feet or my partner would step on my toes. My attitude about doing it "right" had completely relaxed from what it used to be. And I have a date this Saturday with someone I met dancing tango. All this very soon after I had announced to my friends that I would like to start dating again (though I was not thinking that dancing would lead to dating, as it never really did with salsa). Soon seems to always happen sooner than you think.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

fantasy vs. reality on the mat (and off it)

I have had a bit of writers' block since my last post.  I can definitely feel the moon today too...had all sorts of plans for today, and I think I will take a nap after I post this, then see how I feel.

I got to see the first ever bit of video of myself practicing yoga..not at my current studio, but at the Jivamukti master classes back in January. It wasn't horrible..though I did make a really funny face in upward dog (let's hope it was mostly because of the adjustment I was receiving and the weird case of performance anxiety I was having at the time! More likely it was me not breathing. I felt like I could not move fast enough, and it was making me crazy).

I am visible at 1:58 (bending down, while everyone else is in chautauranga) and again at 2:02, being adjusted by star teacher dechen thurman (yup, uma's bro).

These days, every time I get on the mat, I am confronted by the difference between how the practice feels and how it most probably looks to an outsider. Parivritta parsvakonasana, for one. Each day, I think..oh this is so deep a posture today, then I look down as I exit it, to see how my front leg is hardly bent at all, and that my arm is in front of the knee rather than wedged against my thigh. Personally, I find this amusing. I am so relieved to be past where I was in the spring..where the posture made me want to puke, plus, I am realizing that change happens so slowly, that I should focus more on my breath than on how deep I can bend that front leg.

The jumpback is another place where fantasy seems to run away with itself. Now, when I say jumpback, I mean placing my hands down, lifting up to almost lolasana (feet initially off the ground) and then dragging the feet through the arms, etc. How on earth to keep the feet off the ground at this stage??? Much more practice needed. Earlier this week, I had the distinct feeling that I had made a lot of progress and that this transition would be possible. Maybe I was placing a tiny bit less weight on the feet once I got them through the arms, and maybe I managed once or twice to transfer my weight forward just a mite sooner than normal..which led to the feeling of doing a modified jumpback, a la Kino's terrific video. The next day, reality struck (back) and I was again back to my normal lift, scoot and then run out of energy - needing to use my feet and legs a lot to get back to chautauranga.

I guess what interests me more than whether I can do these postures and transitions, is that feeling of being quite deep in a posture. That feeling has no apparent correspondence to the physical reality of the posture (or maybe I have no business comparing it to say, the picture of the asana in a book or what I see in a video or see someone else do at the shala). I don't think I am comparing myself too much, or, let's say, it is at least a good bit less than when I started. I am becoming more aware of my body, and aware of my misconceptions about my body (and the mismatch that often occurs between my thoughts and actions). I'd like to say that reality is winning over fantasy..but perhaps the best I can say is that it is gaining some ground.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

how to finally start an ashtanga practice..although not at home

how i started ashtanga practice..

After reading Mayaland's great post on how to start a home practice, I thought I would share my own yoga journey. I really admire people who have a home practice, because I am not sure if I could manage that..for now, I need a teacher and a place to go for practice.

In my late 20s, I walked into my first "ashtanga inspired" vinyasa yoga class in Portland, Oregon. Back then, there was no mysore practice in Portland, though the teacher hosted some sort of self-practice morning time at the studio, which was a mere 3 blocks from my apartment. Back then, however, the thought of going somewhere early in the morning seemed nuts. (now I would kill to be so close to my shala..ok, maybe kill is a bad word choice, but you know what I mean) And while I loved the vinyasa class, I was also completely mortified by it at times. For one, I sweated in it..which was soooo embarassing to me (the room was not remotely warm...this was the northwest, remember), and the breathing that my teacher did and tried to teach us..just the sound of it scared me. Plus the fact that I was a total weakling who could barely hold downward dog, or hold my arms up in warrior 2, let alone perform the mysterious chatauranga. A few times in those first classes, my teacher would demonstrate chatauranga next to me to show me how to do it..though I had no core or shoulder strength to do it. Still, I went to class each week, and even practiced some at home, without a mat. This was also before everyone owned a yoga mat..let alone a manduka. Eventually, the teacher moved the classes to another neighborhood and that seemed too far to travel for class. I continued with vinyasa classes at the nearby studio, and at least was happy that I was practicing regularly, even though it was a hodgepodge of vinyasa and hatha classes. Eventually, I met someone, and the yoga kinda disappeared from my life.

Then in my mid 30s, I bought Richard Freeman's into to ashtanga? video (yes video...i seem to always be behind in technology). Just the sun salutations exhausted me. I am not sure how many times I used the video. Interestingly, I don't think I ever watched it much past where I was practicing to. I guess I am not really a video or dvd practice person. It is either completely on my own, or with a teacher.

Attempt number 3..ok, not ashtanga at all, but just the am/pm yoga dvd that a friend of mine used every day for her practice. I would use it as a warm up and then do a little on my own afterwards..somehow the spacey music seemed good at the time.

Attempt number 4: vinyasa yoga at a studio in nyc. Whoa, my butt was seriously kicked. Maybe yoga is too hard for me.

Attempt number 5: vinyasa yoga at that same studio, maybe 3-4 years later. Still hard, but I figured out that if I practiced a little at home, it made the class a little easier. This then morphed into a year and a half at Jivamukti, working my way up from 2 beginner vinyasa classes each week plus home practice 3 more days per week, to a 6 day a week practice. I finally learn the elusive chatauranga, headstand, and to jump back in sun salutations.

Attempt number 6: A little over a year ago, I had tried to just do the sun salutations from primary series at home. I thought maybe I could gradually learn  at least the standing portion on my own, while I continued to practice at Jivamukti. Total fail: it was too hard on my shoulders, still, and I got so out of breath..and this wasn't even doing the surya b's. It was pretty disheartening.

Much of the inspiration for me to try ashtanga again came from the yoga blogs I read. The blogs I enjoyed the most were all ashtanga yoga related blogs: My Yoga Blog, Grimmly's blog, Yoga in the Dragon's Den, and many others. I loved reading about how people did their practices, both at home and with a teacher. Reading these, made me realize that it might be possible for me too. I must have listened to every one of Kino's podcasts. I too, wanted to hear about the practice from a woman's perspective. I was especially interested in how to develop strength in practice, and I am not just talking about physical strength.

One reason that going to a shala works so well for me, is that, besides having found wonderful teachers, I am fairly flexible but not particulary strong or good with endurance. When I tried to use a video in the past, it was completely the wrong pace for me. I need someone watching over my practice a little bit so I don't hurt myself (not that it always works out that way) and so that I didn't give up, especially at the very beginning. For the first 3-4 months, I would have some anxiety every day as I stepped on the mat- could I even do all of standing without wiping myself out. Many days, hearing other people breathing and practicing gave me the reassurance that I could go on with my practice. Now, almost 8 months into my practice, I no longer worry about completing standing..but most days I am still awfully happy and a little bit relieved to sit in dandansana.