Monday, December 27, 2010

A little practice report, interpersed with some ruminations about the practice

Practice this morning was great. Did primary and second up to supta vajrasana (don't feel up to messing with all the second series leg-behind-head drama). Here are a few "practice highlights":

(1) When I started practice this morning, my SI joint was feeling a bit... (how should I put this)... off. I could feel that familiar and not so nice sensation of its being slightly out of place as I was stepping into Virabhadrasana I on the left side in Surya B. There was also that slightly "off" feeling in the lower back as I jumped forward from downdog into uttanasana. But somewhere between the beginning of the seated postures and Supta Kurmasana, the problem corrected itself. I know this because I was able to do the dwipada sirsasana entrance into Supta K without any "off" sensation in my lower back. Reminds me yet again that primary is first and foremost a therapeutic practice (yoga chikitsa, "yoga therapy").

Reminds me also that the important thing is to practice, no matter what postures I can or cannot do on a given day, no matter how comfortable or uncomfortable the practice is. In her most recent post, Loo says,

"I made it to the shala this morning and it helped settle me down. Reset my internal gyroscope. I got on my mat and just breathed in, breathed out. Moved my arms this way, moved my legs that way. Found myself responding to the rhythm and coming back to a sense of normalcy..."

Thanks for the beautiful words, Loo! They really capture what I feel about the power and beauty of the practice. I am also reminded of something my teacher once quoted Guruji as saying: "The only bad practice is no practice." Over the course of the last couple of years of my journey of practice, postures have come and gone, and the practice is easier on some days, harder on others. But the practice is like life: It is a river of breath that flows from moment to moment, day to day. To step on the mat is to step into this river and allow it to carry me wherever it flows. Heraclitus famously said that you can never step into the same river twice. In the same way, no two practices are alike. The river of our life/practice changes and morphs everyday. But we have a choice: We can choose to tune in to this powerful river, be conscious of where it is flowing, and try to harmonize our lives with it. Or we can choose to be blissfully (or not so blissfully) ignorant of this flow that is greater than our individual egos, and yet so deep within ourselves.

(2) I hope I'm not jinxing myself by saying this, but I really feel that I am getting quite close to being able to lift up into handstand after the fifth navasana. A little back-story is in order here. A few evenings ago, I was clowning around with trying to get into handstand from bakasana. My girlfriend saw what I was doing, and suggested that I first try shifting my hips so that they come directly over my shoulders before trying to bring my knees off the arms. I tried and didn't succeed, but I could feel how this way of approaching the transition would be useful. So today, I remembered this little tip after my fifth navasana. Instead of simply trying to straighten my arms up after lifting my butt off the ground, I also tried at the same time to shift my hips so that they come more in line with my shoulders. And then I extended my legs backwards. And, wonder of all wonders, my legs actually stayed in the air for about 2 or 3 breaths before gravity pulled them down to the ground. I can't tell how far away from the ground my legs were when they were in the air (didn't have a video camera handy), but my proprioception (or, at any rate, however much of it I have) tells me that they were avout 45 degrees from the ground. I hope this is true. Pretty cool, eh?

(3) During dropbacks and standups, I tried to remind myself to have the same level of openness in my front body that I had in kapo. You see, I think I suffer from "kapo-tunnel-vision". I'm not quite sure how else to put this, but basically, I have no problem opening my front body enough in kapo to grab my heels, even if I have to hang for quite a few breaths to get my body to open up. But once I'm done with kapo, my mind/body tends to tell itself, "Yay! The hardest backbend of the practice is over! Now I can just chill out and relax!" As a result, I tend  to just kind of plop down into the dropbacks. Because I don't open my front body enough, I always have a little trouble trying to re-find (is this even a word?) the front-body muscles that I need to stand back up. So it usually takes rocking back and forth a few times before I am able to stand back up. But today, I kept reminding myself to open my chest first before dropping back. It really made a difference. I still had to walk my hands a little closer before I could stand up, but it felt easier. During the third dropback, I walked my hands all the way to the heels, and the distance didn't even feel as long as usual. Some day, some day, I will have a totally effortless dropback and standup. And then I will be the king of the yoga universe [Insert evil kungfu master laugh here].


  1. "kapo-tunnel-vision"
    HA HA HA!!!! me too!!

  2. I'm glad you like the term and empathize with my condition, Evelyn :-)