Tuesday, October 30, 2012

post hurricane home practice

My experience of the hurricane was mostly annoyance beforehand - why are they closing the subway- again!, and also - why are they cutting my feldenkrais training weekend short! followed by slightly stir crazy feelings waiting for the storm to show up. Yeah, not too yogic, I know. I did take a lovely walk with T in my neighborhood late Sunday night. No sign of rain, yet almost no one was out, and very little was open: the 24 hour supermarket by my apartment building, the bodegas, and twin donut plus (wonder what that plus refers too..). Where I live in upper manhattan, the storm was mostly a lot of spooky sounding wind (that's what I get for living on top of a hill and facing northeast). My apartment sounded like it was making haunted house sounds

..aaaaooowwwooooohhhhhhhh.... aaaawwwooooooooooollllhhhhhhhhh

Maybe it was the radiator pipes or some such thing. I only hear it when it is very windy. I must admit, I am a complete wimp about this stuff, and had to retreat to the only part of my apartment at times that didnt have a window. Still, Irene last year seemed worse in that respect.

I know I was lucky: I didn't even lose power and there is no flooding in this area of the city. I just have the inconvenience of no subway for a few days as well as a few days off from work. Though what seems like a holiday for me, is not for many in the city and in the metro area.

So, back to the mat:

Today was my first practice after 3 days off, as ladies' holiday showed up on Sunday. I could have even taken today off, but I felt like I really needed to practice. I had a bit of a weepy start during the standing poses, but things evened out for me after that. I managed to fully bind supta K on my own, the trick for me seems to be - don't worry about looking ridiculous in order to get the hands to bind- sort of a rocking back and forth to get my arms and legs in position - sort of reminds me of the side to side in parsva dhanurasana, and then once I grab my fingers, waiting till there is space for my ankles to cross. Last part is the relief I feel when I lift up. The exit was, well, fuggeddaboutit..somehow I am terrified of trying those exits at home, as if the furniture will attack my feet or something. 

I have been thinking a lot about the recent terrific post at the confluence countdown, on holding students back, and I guess what was interesting to me was the idea of getting something enough to move on, vs. mastery (or maybe I should say meeting a certain phyical standard - ie. binding in mari D) in order to move on. I would definitely say my teacher falls into the first camp rather than the second. I also see people working into second without needing to stand up from a backbend (whew). I have noticed with the poses in primary, that each new pose seems to help, almost by osmosis, the poses before it. For my practice to look pretty, that would take years, but that is not really all that important to me. Stability, stamina, even-ness of breath, bandhas(whatever they are), and quieting my eyes and my mind, all seem much more important than whether I can do a pretty lift up and jump back from supta K. There is plenty of time for these things to improve, if i just try my best to pay attention to what I am doing.

hope everyone is safe and dry.

Monday, October 15, 2012

when you least expect it

no, not a new pose. my supta K exit, such as it is, came back today. Probably just a one-day thing, like a sunny day in the middle of a grey week, but it took me by surprise.

Practice at the shala, doing all the vinyasas, took less time than yesterdays' home practice. I guess being at home makes my already slow practice even slower. I really don't understand it at all. Skipping vinyasas between sides seems to leave me more tired and somehow is never faster than doing all the vinyasas. Clearly the ashtanga gods don't want me to rush..ever.

I am debating trying to practice at home this winter, for both financial and commute reasons. I feel like I spend my life on the subway, which seems to be a fact of living here (unless you are a lucky soul who lives down the street from either your workplace or your shala). I am really torn about it. On the one hand, I love the energy of the group practice (although I have also been bugged by a number of things there too), and I love having wonderful teachers there. But I am also worried that tend to do more at the shala than I would at home, which perhaps is the cause of many of my injuries this year.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Phooey on no wheat..and first home practice

Yeah, I give up. Didn't even last 2 days. No wheat may be better, but is practically impossible for me. I consider it a luxury for someone who is either rich, or lives in the suburbs, where you can go right home after practice.

So be it.

I had my first home practice this morning, as the shala's holiday hours didn't work for those of us who don't have today off. I was really concerned about making a lot of noise at 630 in the morning (my old apartment floor isn't exactly quiet), but it turns out that I was less thumpy in my landings than I thought. Quiet landings only happen after a rest day, then things get progressively louder. I gave myself an easier practice, skipping vinyasas between sides, which strangely took just as long..if not LONGER. Yeah, must be that I slow down on my own, especially as I get to the mari's. I did take time to try supta K a second time, and lo and behold, I could grab my hands and cross my feet. It took a little maneuvering, but I know it is possible on my own. I need to clear out more space in my apartment before attempting the exits. I am still fearful after all my toe/foot injuries. It will come, eventually, or not.

Garbha was good, and I managed to lift up (well, almost) directly from the rolling. No performance anxiety before I started the rolling. I wonder if it is that mindset change..no longer having an internal drama which marks really integrating the posture (even if I still can't fully do the posture). Recently, UHP is no longer causing me great drama, and I am somewhat steadier than before, though doing both sides without falling out at least once hasn't happened yet. But just the thought of not having an assist for it is not worry inducing (or the thought of falling even with an assist!). Funny how certain asanas can create such worry and fear! I mean they are only asanas (easy to say this now that practice is long over).

I just started placing my palms down (as much as possible) in the suryas, and I notice that this seems to give me better energy in the suryas. I have also noticed that doing a simple hip opening stretch  before practice also seems to help my breathing in the surya B's, namely my nemesis-the nefarious inhale into warrior 1. Since I have been trying to learn tango, my right hip is much tighter at times, and I can sometimes feel it in my knee. Stretching before and after practice seems to help.

It was nice to see the sunrise, one of the benefits of facing east-ish. And also nice to hear my own breath. and to have breakfast at home afterwards.

And I managed to somehow be later for work than usual..so much for the idea that practicing at home will save me time!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

appetites, and no wheat day 1

My first night of 8 hours sleep in, well, I can't remember how long. So needed. I was tempted to just sleep some more. It was refreshing not to wake up famished, as I usually do on Saturdays. Probably due to ladies holiday this week. While I keep thinking that yoga is supposed to reduce my appetite, the opposite seems to be the case.

For me the phsyical cravings I need to learn to ignore are for sugar, even some raw fruits and especially dried fruit..are too much for me. I will never understand juicing. I cook for myself a lot, which helps greatly. This also allows me to indulge in 2-3 trips a week to the different farmers' markets in new york, which have to be some of my favorite things in the city.

I read a lot about how people tinker with their diets to practice ashtanga, and I have been doing this too. Today is day 1 of my attempt to do a wheat free week. I am already wheat free at home..but it is so damn hard to maintain it out and about in the city.
I found this sweet hazelnut-rye slice at hawthorne valley farms stand today. Finding no wheat snacks at the farmers' market is tough.

What I have also been thinking about lately is tinkering with the practice to adjust it to my constitution, because I want to stay a vegetarian and do this practice. If I have to eat meat (to maintain my energy levels) to do this practice, perhaps this practice, in its current state, with all the attempts at lifting up and jumping back and then jumping through is not for me.

When I started this practice, I had no previous experience as a gym rat. My previous 1 1/2 years practicing at jivamukti seemed to have little effect on my ability to do this practice. I could not even do 5 surya A's in a row without stopping to take extra breaths, and without becoming drenched in sweat. My practice has come along way (physically at least) in the past 8 months. When I started, I was very concerned with whether I could learn to complete the primary series. Now, at garbha, I am less concerned about the speed at which I am taken through the series. I need to build strength and stamina, which takes time, especially in my mid 40s. And especially if I want to do other things too.  For me, this is the hardest challenge with practicing ashtanga: how much is appropriate for me. I still wonder if I am charging ahead too quickly.

So maybe the appetite that has abated a bit is the one to finish this series in a year, or ever. It is a silly goal, though hard to let go of. Do I need to learn to stand from a backbend? Yeah, it looks cool (in a slightly terrifying way), but I will not be any better as a person for it. Some postures will never happen for me, like grabbing my ankles in a backbend or possibly kapotasana.

In addition, some new appetites have developed. For instance, learning a new dance -tango. Meeting more people and maybe also doing volunteer work, if I can find something (oddly difficult in the city). My feldenkrais method training, which I (almost) accidentally started a year ago, I have come to realize, is truly a good fit for me. I still have concerns about learning it well enough to become a good practitioner. All these things developed in part from my practicing ashtanga, and are much more important to me than whether I finish primary series or intermediate, etc.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

pms practice


Today felt like I was practicing blind. Not that I can feel much energetically on a typical day..but today was..almost nothing. I felt heavy, tired and all my landings were with a thud. I even cried during practice (another telltale sign). On days when I know ladies holiday is imminently approaching, should I shorten my practice? I am surprised that now, after 8 months of ashtanga, I can tell the day when my period start by the quality of my practice..when this was never the case before. While I completed my whole practice this morning, I wonder if I should do less, when I feel less in my body. I think I might stop earlier if I was practicing at home. Somehow at the shala, I feel compelled to do more, like a tired child running around in circles to stay awake. I am just happy I survived my practice without any new injuries..though my wrists and forearms have been mysteriously sore all week, and today was the worst.

At least I celebrated later with a mini chocolate bundt cake (which I gobbled up before thinking to take a photo of it) at the local coffeeshop. I finished reading Maya Lassiter's book: Children of the Fallen. Fun, fun read. She really knows how to write interesting and convincing teenage/young adult characters.

Looking forward to sleeping in a bit tomorrow. Now I know why it is called ladies' holiday. Whew.

Monday, October 1, 2012

breathing, feldenkrais and primary series

Now that I am starting my second year of training to be a feldenkrais practitioner, I am finally supposed to do the lessons in Feldenkrais' book - Awareness Through Movement, so that I can learn to teach them to others, being, for the moment..the members of my study group. It can be really hit and miss doing the lessons from the book by myself. Sometimes things just connect in amazing ways, giving you a real A-HA! moment, and other times (more than I would like to admit), I can still feel completely lost trying to imagine or perform a movement. It is very much like practicing ashtanga, in that it is a very internal practice. I miss the energy of my fellow trainees, when we are all together in the training. Creating a home feldenkrais practice, along with my ashtanga practice (which is thankfully at a shala), is a lot at times.

The lessons often have interesting results, some of which I won't notice til the next day, in my yoga practice.

Today was one of those days. Sunday, I did a lesson on breathing. Breathing lessons (and eye lessons) are very easy to fall asleep from, and as usual, that almost happened! Then, something interesting occurred: I started to realize that the way the lesson instructed me to breathe, and the positions it had me try with this type of breathing, were very similar to what happens in the primary series. Now Feldenkrais himself was an expert at judo, so clearly he understood mula bandha, though never called it that. The breathing technique was simple - inhale and expand your chest in all directions then puff out your stomach as you exhale (yes, weird but it works). After doing this lying on my back, on my stomach, - trying to breathe into one side of the chest and "out" the opposite side of the stomach. This asymmetric breathing reminded me an awful lot of the seated section in primary series.  The lesson continued by with breathing on your side, sitting up, kneeling, basically to experience breathing with the chest in different (mostly rounded) positions, to get you to breathe into the sides and the back rather than just into the front, as we typically do.

At the end of the lesson, I felt a lot more awake (after an hour of deep breathing) and my breathing felt much easier and deeper, and at some points in the lesson, I could feel myself breathing into the back of the body and sometimes feel the beginnings of mula bandha arising from my breath (for me, a sense that the inhale connected all the way down my spine to my anus in a lifting action, though more as a movement than an energetic charged feeling).Normally, in my practice I have been attempting to simply (hah!) imagine it, which is how my teacher suggested I work with it.

No, no great amazing mula bandha revelations during practice today. I could, however, feel my breath was deeper at times, especially considering my lack of sleep the night before. In shoulderstand, I could suddenly feel myself really breathing into my chest rather than my belly, something I often find almost impossible (maybe since I am not using a blanket to prop up my shoulders..this being the only prop usage that I actually miss from vinyasa classes). Oh, and I felt amazingly energized after practice, until about 4pm, which also surprised me. Usually on days where I have not slept enough, I can get really tired and/or feel really cold an hour or two after practice.

I will definitely be revisiting this lesson.