"No medicine cures what happiness cannot."
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
These words by Gabriel Garcia Marquez have nothing to do with the topic of this post. I'm just on a Garcia-Marquez-quoting streak; unless one of you has had enough and tells me to stop, I will probably begin my posts for the next few days with a Garcia Marquez quote :-)
On with the topic of this post. In the last couple of weeks, after returning from Kino's workshop, the idea of splitting my practice and doing second only has come up on my radar screen more than a few times (right now, my daily practice consists of full primary and second up to pincha mayurasana).
As I have mentioned in a couple of earlier posts, Kino offered to give me Karandavasana during the Richmond workshop. She also suggested that once I start working on Karandavasana, I can stop doing primary everyday, and just work on second. At that time, I declined, citing knee-tweakiness issues (for more details, see this post). I basically told her that while I have no problem getting into padmasana and all its different variations in a seated or standing position, provided I pay careful attention to alignment (in practical terms, that means using the hand to close the knee joint first before moving it into padmasana), I don't have the particular flexibility that is needed to close my knee joint without using my hands. Speaking in asana terms, this means that I can't get into padmasana without using my hands to manipulate my feet into position.
Kino's suggestion is that I should work on getting into padmasana without using my hands from Sarvangasana (shoulderstand). The idea is that in this posture, one can try to get into padmasana without using the hands, but one also has the option of recruiting the hands to help out if needed--an option which is, of course, not available in either Sirsasana or Karandavasana itself, for obvious reasons. So getting into hands-free padmasana from shoulderstand serves in this way as a "training wheels" version of getting into karandavasana: Once I can get into padmasana without hands in Sarvangasana, I can then move on to actually working on Karandavasana.
Frank has also helpfully suggested that my not being able to get into padmasana upside down without my hands probably has to do with lack of quadricep flexibility. I think this is an interesting suggestion, although on some level, this doesn't really add up: I can bring my heels (and on "good" days, even the entire soles of my feet) to the ground in Bhekasana.
But something really interesting happened during practice this morning. During the finishing sequence, I tried to bring my right foot into half-lotus from shoulderstand again. I managed to get the right knee joint to close without using my hand, but when I moved the right foot towards my left hip crease to go into half-lotus, the knee joint opened up again (why wouldn't it stay closed? Mysterious...). So at this point, I basically have a right leg that is in a half-assed version (excuse the language, but there's not other way to describe this) of half-lotus. I could either (1) recruit my hands now to close the knee joint, like I usually do, and then bring the left foot into padmasana, or (2) bring the left foot into padmasana with the right foot still in this half-assed half-lotus, and risk tweaking one or both knees. For some reason (I was feeling adventurous today), I chose (2). I brought the left foot into padmasana with the right-foot still in that half-assed half-lotus. For a couple of seconds, there was some discomfort in the right knee as it shifted back to accommodate the left foot, but that sensation passed, and I ended up in padmasana. Not a particularly deep padmasana (mainly because of that not-fully-closed right knee joint), but recognizable as such, nonetheless.
What all this means is that, at least in purely objective terms, I have fulfilled the criteria that Kino has set for me to start working on Karandavasana (and get off doing primary everyday). No excuses now, right?
Well, maybe... At the risk of sounding very lame, I'll share a couple of things here. You can decide whether these are excuses or valid reasons.
So here's the story: Around this time last year, I had also gotten to the same point in my practice. I had started working on Karandavasana with my teacher in Milwaukee, and had splitted off from primary at that point. Due to several reasons, I injured myself in a couple of places: I tweaked my right knee joint in karandavasana, probably because I couldn't close that knee joint fully while going into the pose. In addition, I also messed up my SI joint big time: This has nothing to do with karandavasana. It probably happened because I over-zealously tried to put my leg behind my head on days when my hips weren't open enough. My teacher also suggested that another contributing factor to these injuries could also be due to the fact that I was in the process of moving to Minnesota at the time. Moving and other life changes bring up strong emotions, which usually leads to bad judgments on the mat... I wish he had told me this before the injuries occurred, but oh well....
Anyway, to cut a long story short, because of these injuries, I had to scale my practice back to primary only: In fact, in the first few days of my injuries, it took me more than two hours just to get to Kurmasana, and jumping back was impossible, because it pulled on those muscles near the SI joint that had been inflamed, resulting in excruciating pain. (Note to reader: If you happen to be new to Ashtanga and are reading this blog, please do not be frightened away from Ashtanga; things like this happen only to certain reckless people... You can easily avoid these injuries if you practice with care.) After a few ups and downs, it took me about three months to get back to the point where I could do kapotasana again, and another two or three months to get back up to Pincha Mayurasana. Which is where I've been for the last couple of months. My SI joint has, for all intents and purposes, recovered, knock on wood (I still sometimes feel a little "off" sensation in the left SI area at the beginning of practice, but I have since found ways and means to work this out). My right knee, as I mentioned, has recovered to the point where I can get into padmasana and its variations with proper attention to alignment. But Karandavasana... ah, Karandavasana opens up a whole can of worms...
Of course, I suppose none of the above is in and of itself a good reason to not at least try working on Karandavasana, objectively speaking. But well, maybe I'm not always objective.
Ha! That was a lot of talking to myself. And I still don't know where I'm going with all this. I suppose the question in a nutshell is: To Split or Not to Split? Or: To Karandavasana or not to Karandavasana?
Well, I think I'll end this post with some other interesting news. I was looking at my stats earlier today, and I discovered that somebody has discovered my blog using the search keywords: "A man who does yoga is not a man." Funny, isn't it, considering that he stumbles upon the blog of a (not)man who does yoga as a result of this search? Just thought I'd share.