Archive for August, 2010

8 more today!

August 30, 2010

Very civilised 9am start to practice today, though I suspect Cary was there way earlier to have the heating cranked up, my glasses steamed up when I walked in. Nice to be there early for a change, which meant a chance to talk about practice. She was asking people how they thought their practice changed in the winter months, in the chilly UK for most people its a case of temperature, my upstairs just doesn’t reach Shala heat levels.

So practice was a dripping one, but great for it, though skidpan yoga was again a challenge. Much better binds today in the Mari’s, though this didn’t translate into Pasasana for some reason, which was abysmal despite Cary’s best efforts to introduce my fingers to each other, I just kept losing the balance, we decided after 3 attempts on each side that it wasn’t going to happen today.

Backbends were good again though, 4 x Urdva Dhanurasana, followed by 4 drop backs, then another 4 with Cary helping me back up. Much more control, I seemed to be able to hang a notch lower before gravity won, but that’s 16 dropbacks in 2 days without concussion :-)

After practice brekky at LPQ in Soho, the raisin toast was superb, not to mention the Pain au Chocolate, yoga does allow me to indulge my sweet pastry tooth, though there was a raised eyebrow across the table when I started on the heavenly rock like sugar lumps! Jaime is very observant, noting that I seem to have lost weight since I last saw her, its been completely unintentional, I only noticed it myself when I went back to work after the Stockholm workshop and found my work trouser belt needed to be done up 2 holes tighter. I am slightly concerned that I don’t eat enough, which is why yoga sometimes wipes me out, but I just don’t have that much of an appetite.

After brekky a trip to the movies with AC to see “Salt”, her opinion was “twaddle”, I wouldn’t quite go that far, it started plausibly enough and the action chase scenes were great, but it lost whatever plot it did have after that and the ending left open for a sequel, which I don’t think I’ll bother to see.

So back to work for a rest tomorrow, its been a busy fun holiday weekend.

An 8 dropback Sunday!

August 29, 2010

An unexpectedly good practice today. When I started off the hamstrings felt were very tight in the Surya’s and I thought this is going to be one of those practices that you have to get through. So I made a decison in Padahastasana to just think about the breath and not worry about the posture so much, but wodya know once I started doing that the muscles and tendons seemed to find millimetres of hidden length, I was going ok until PPC when C told me to widen my stance on my new and still not sticky mat, it was all I could do to stop my feet sliding away as she pushed my hands towards the floor. I was thinking about my feet so much that I forgot about the agony she was subjecting my shoulders to!

Seated felt more stable, well my bum is wider than my feet, though I ended up having to wipe my mat before jumping back, to try and give my wrist a firm position, yesterday’s slippery jumpbacks annoyed my wrist. Seated  always surprise me, doing the double sided ones up to Mari D seem to take forever, then suddenly its the fun stuff Supta K and before you know it the dreaded bum balances, though I got assisted in Urdva P today.

I tried Pasasana on both sides on my own then help arrived to bind me, the second side my fingers are tinglingly close to getting it together, I think I need some at home experimentation with a belt.

Some stronger Urdva Dhanurasanas, with a bit of rocking, then 4 safely landed dropbacks, before Cary came over to help, but we are now back to the point I was at in March (before the wrist problem began), ie where I go back on my own and she only helps me back up. 3 down and up followed by the cross arm half way thing, then another down and walk in, stay for 5 and back up. The observations from Susan and Dena about finding length between the hips and ribs and keeping the hands in prayer above the head as I go back, seem to have given me back the extra control to able to land my hands, rather than anywhere will do so long as they get there before my head, though I am still landing too far back. But 8 safely done without getting concussion or annoying my wrist.

I know I tend to almost switch off after dropbacks, my mind starts to turn to the croisants and tea, I can hang out in Halasana and have to make myself finish it off, Cary as usual reminding me about nose drishte in Matsyasana and Utana Pidasana, she’s always on my case for that one LOL.

So by the end it turned into a satisfying practice, so glad I made the effort to get up at the crack of dawn and slog in to the city on a bus and train. Lovely yogi breakfast after too. Same again tomorrow :-)

Awake so I went

August 28, 2010

As I hope, (Trains and replacement buses permitting), to be practising at my usual Shala both Sunday and holiday Monday, I was in 2 minds about christening my new mat at the local place this morning. After umming and aaahing over a toasted tea cake I thought I have to go past the place, so may as well go. Being a holiday weekend it was quite quiet and there was a sub teacher. At least being quiet I got a place towards the front, out of the draught of the door and was able to keep the heat I generated.

It didn’t take long for my new mat to get slippy in a warmer environment, but I hadn’t had time to wash it.  The Prasarita’s felt like they would turn into Hanumanasanas, I was glad to get through standing having been left alone to plod through, I liked the way the teacher changed sides of the room so she wasn’t in my eyeline as I tried to balance in UHP. Seated were better, but there was one face plant as I jumped back in the vinyasa and my hands lost all grip with the mat. The slippy mat did make Supta K nice eand easy, though the exit wasn’t great. At this point I decided to grab the yogitoes, so I could concentrate on the poses and not ice skating.

The one advantage of the local place is that I get time, no sense of fighting the clock to be done before they turn the lights out. I went to the wall to try the backbend experiments, then teacher had me do a new one on my front with the arms outstretched holding a block, its surprisingly intense on the upper arms, she followed this with doing a backbend over a block, before I finally did 3 x UD’s then another where I added the walking in as far as I could and rocking. I do notice that with the rocking business that either my hands work their way back or my feet go forward? My wrist was aching with all the slip sliding, so I gave dropbacks a miss.

Home to wash my mat, there was definitley a filmy layer that reacted with sweat on the mats surface. So its been washed manually and in the machine and is now drying, hopefully in time for the morning.

Next weekend its all about yoga, the workshop with Kino. In years gone by having such an intense weekend looming I would have rested in the week leading up to it, trying to preserve my energy, but nowadays I figure the more I do the better my body will cope with it and the more I will hopefully get out of it. So its the shala for the next 2 days, followed by 3 days of home practice. Friday will be a practice rest day, a massage in the evening after work and hopefully a good sleep before Kino puts us through our paces.

Another year

August 27, 2010

Birthday eve practice, full primary with nothing left out, not even Garbha, a decent attempt at Pasasana and some good backbends and 2 dropbacks, I can still do this demanding practice as the years tick by. It’s a good time of year to look back at where my practice was this time last year, I was struggling with the intensity of dropbacks, seemingly light years from doing it on my own, little did I know that just a month later on an aussie beach I would do it on my own for the first time. Now I can do it, well the percentage of head crash landings is down at least and I am actively working on the standing up again thing. I was also officially given Pasasana in this last year too, something I never thought would happen. So though I don’t feel like my practice has progressed much I know it has. Practice is solid and is still largely the thing that keeps body and soul together.

Well today is the beginning of my 47th year on the planet, last night I did my last practice on my old blue mat, which has served me well for about 10 years, I can do things on that mat at the end of its life that I could not have contemplated doing when I first bought it all those years ago. That mat has some serious airmiles under its belt, its first foreign trip was to France back in 2000, when I first started to develop the ashtanga habit, after that its been to all kinds of places Sweden, Germany, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Thailand, Bali, Australia and Singapore to name but a few. This as well as hundreds of hours in London Shala’s. But its literally so thin now that it’s time has come and for my Birthday my sister bought my new Sadhana Mat. I just unwrapped it and rolled it out, surprisingly its about 5cm wider and longer, but the most noticeable difference is the weight and thickness, only now do I realise just how thin old bluey was. I can’t wait to give it its Shala christening on Sunday, though I may go local again tomorrow if I wake up.

Do old yoga mats go to yoga mat heaven I wonder, Susan suggested taking it to Battersea dogs and cats home, my only problem with going there is that I would probably go in with a mat and come out with a puring Tabby fur ball, I’m not keen on Dogs, but Cat’s I love.

I forgot Garbha!

August 22, 2010

A nice sweaty practice this morning, it was really humid outside and it was raining when I got to the Shala too. Not quite as packed as last Sunday but still pretty busy, demoted to the 2nd row again, but a nice spot next to Jen.

I was on time today which meant I could take my time, but I was surprisingly fast through standing, maybe I just relaxed knowing I didn’t need to rush and make up time and just flowed through, only the odd prod and hand tweak in standing.

Lovely assists in Mari C & D, the assist in C really helps D feel much better, I wasn’t expecting help in D but it was nice when it came :-) Bhuja was good and Supta K, but the exit was rubbish, I still don’t trust my wrist when the weight distribution over it changes. And I confess, I forgot Garbha completely, only realising when I was doing backbends, but I wasn’t going back then! Baddha Konasana assist wasn’t painful today unlike last week, I had done my 5 breaths and was thinking of coming out, but then felt Susan lay her towel over my back and start pressing on the thighs so went with it, nice squishing.

I know I keep saying it but I am sure Pasasana is coming, I am finding some balance, even if my feet are not flat and am getting a much deeper twist, Susan managed to join my fingers up on both sides today :-)

No wall space initially when it was time to start backbends, so I had to do my Urdva Dhanurasanas where I was, I had been hoping to have time to repeat yesterday’s wall experiment. Dropbacks were more hit than miss today I am glad to say, 3 safely landed after a bit of hanging about, then the Smoke alarm went off, so we all stopped not knowing if we were going to have to vacate the building, at which point I realised I had forgotten Garbha, but I wasn’t going back at that point. Eventually the din was turned off and I did another dropback, but the disturbance had ruined my focus and I was getting tired, so I ended up passing the point of no return completely out of control and crash landing as Susan winced. I have a mental rule now both at home and at the Shala that I don’t finish on a crap backbend, luckily Susan then came to assist for 3 more, cross arms and a stay down and walk in, though my mat was so slippery it was a palm spam forward and 2 back. My new mat comes next week for my birthday, hopefully with traction control.

From starting off with lots of time the rest of closing was done in a bit of a rush, but done, nothing else left out. A nice practice with some good assists and advice as I left the building about not doing backbends at home when I’m not warmed up, they can piss your wrists off!

Extra unscheduled practice

August 21, 2010

I wanted to practice today, but I wanted a practice free of the phone ringing, free of people asking me things mid asana, free of my own distractions, I just wanted to do it. So I decided as it was a warm humid morning to go back to the local ashtanga class which now happens in the Quaker Hall. I usually find venues which are not primarily yoga Shala’s to be draughty, I had done classes here before a few years ago and knew about the  2 doors that seem to open on their own letting the breeze in, I knew about the teachers ways, she has people doing 2nd who can hardly do Primary and in some cases don’t even know the sequence. Not that I care these days what others get up to.

She just let me get on with it while she helped a couple of beginners and her regulars until PPC. I seemed to have a nice flow and I was quite pleased she didn’t break it, even while adjusting Triang Mukha and Mari C. When I do get an assist in Mari C, Mari D always seems to be easier, as was the case. I was virtually in Supta K on my own when she came over to rebind my hands.

Despite a few around me playing around in 2nd, apart from my legitimate Pasasana  and a semi Krounchasana stretch I resisted the temptation to do more of 2nd, even though I know the sequence and know that as a follower of NG she probably would not have minded. I’m a goody goody these days LOL :-)

A few decent Urdva Dhanurasanas, then she took me to the wall for more UD’s with the heals of my hands against the wall, pushing up and trying to bring the chest towards the wall, quite a good exercise which I may have to try elsewhere. As I was by the wall I stood up and started playing around dropping back, I do this until I start to feel the hips moving forward and the control appearing, but I didn’t get to experiment for long before I got 3 assisted ones before the rest of closing.

So a nice solid practice and home for lunch. After an unscheduled nap this afternoon zzzzz… I was stiff and started playing around doing more backbends, futon dropbacks etc just to undo the stiffness, alas I wasn’t warmed up enough for the one dropback attempt which resulted in my “Safety pillow” saving my head and pissing my wrist off on landing, what was it Dena said to me the other week “No accidents!”


Ragged

August 19, 2010

This time last week I had just completed a wonderful mysore week with Dena and was on my way home. A week later I have managed to practice 5 times, though only managed to do full primary twice, once at the Shala and once at home, the other 3 I have at least got to half way Navasana and done dropbacks.

The full primary I managed at home was actually better than the one I did at the Shala on Sunday, probably because I hadn’t had to run through the underground to be on my mat and it took over 2 hours. All I can say is that I have got on my mat everyday, though as the week has gone on I can feel that my practice has become ragged, I have been doing it, but I know its not been what it can be. Last night I got to Marichyasana B and just felt drained.

The only part that has got better as the week has progressed is dropbacks. During the workshop I managed a few on my own and got assisted every day, but they felt like it was still quite a long road back to where they had been prior to the (still annoying) wrist problem. On Sunday I managed a couple on my own, but was tired by the time Cary came to assist and if I am honest she did most of the work. The answer came from Susan, who had watched my Sunday dropbacks and pointed out that my arms were too wide and that perhaps it would be better to have hands in prayer stretched above the head and try and keep them there on the way back, in the hope that they land narrower and my head doesn’t get there first. I have tried this every day since she mentioned it, good spot Susan.

As I said, I was physically done after Mari B last night and decided to do closing, Urdva Dhanurasana was a mental trial, but eventually I managed my requisite 3, trying to walk in. Time to stand up and do some hang backs, followed by my new game of dropping back onto my Futon bed, which stands about 18 inches off the ground, Unlike the door when I do hang/drops down that, my hands land in the same position as on the floor on the Futon, which means I can rock and bring myself back to standing. From being shattered at Mari B, I had found some reserves of energy from somewhere! So I thought just one dropback, to keep the habit if nothing else, this ended up being followed by 5 more, progressivley getting more control and remembering to try and keep my arms relatively straight when I land. I seem to have better landings when I have a target, this seems to stop me landing too far back, which really annoys my wrist. So as well as the “just in case” Pillow I lay a small towel 2 feet behind where I stand and try to aim my hands either side of that, which makes for a narrower landing and a deeper bend. Number 5 was the best one, number 6 was safely landed but a bit tired, I was running on empty by then, but it is beginning to feel as if I am getting the control back.

Different teachers see different things, with Dena pointing out the need for there to be more space between my Hips and Ribs and Susan spotting the arm width my backbends are coming back.

Where did they all come from?

August 15, 2010

After a week of yoga in a swedish Sauna it was back to my home Shala this morning. I was a few minutes later than usual, thanks to TFL, I was literally running along BG Road when a voice from across the street told me to slow down, “Morning Mel“! Once inside I thought I must be really late, there were loads more pairs of shoes than usual for a Sunday, it was already pretty packed. Cary greeted me and asked me how Stockholm had gone, I remarked about how busy it was, she beamed, she’s good at that.

I found a space next to Jen in row 2, not a row I have layed my mat in before and got going, having taken Friday off and only done half primary yesterday and some backbends it was a bit of a struggle today, my hamstrings screamed in the forward bends. I tried to remember Dena’s instructions about trying to find more length between my ribs and hips in the Trikonasanas, I think I subconsciously speeded up in standing, conscious that this week I didn’t have 2 hours plus to do practice in, knowing that I do slow down a lot in seated.

Being in the middle of the room I was much more aware of those around me than I usually am, aware that one person was 4 or 5 poses ahead of me and I caught them up and one person was 4 0r 5 behind me and they over took me! No wonder Cary kept coming to give me drishte reminders!

Still they kept coming in, mats were moved up to fit another one then another one in, I think 12 is about the most I have ever seen on a Sunday, it was nearer 25 today, amazing! So not much assistance today, but when it did come I was in Supta Kurmasana, then a painful squishing in Baddha Konasana, my left foot hated it, usually I can go with the pressure, but today I found myself trying to almost push back against it. In Pasasana my fingers are getting ever so near, 2 weeks ago Cary barely managed to get my fingers to bind, today it was nothing like such a struggle for either of us.

I was hoping after doing backbends yesterday that today’s would be ok, Urdva Dhanurasana is always a struggle, especially the first one, but subsequent ones got better. Dropbacks were not great at all, despite going to the wall and playing with that first before setting up the crash landing equipment, I tried hard to reach up and instigate the length, but my back just didn’t seem to have the bend, my other problem is my arms, I just don’t seem to be getting them straight, well they start straight, but then by the time they land they are bent and I am glad I put down the safety blanket. I kept playing as Cary assisted others, I think my mistake was to keep playing, as by the time she got to me I was getting tired and even with assistance I found it really tough today.

It turned out to be quite a long practice, which is fine, but my body and mind struggled today, unlike last weekend I don’t get another go tomorrow, well I do at home, but it just aint the same as being at the Shala, with the heat and energy. After practice brekky, it had to be done 2 Pain au Chocolate’s today at Hurwundeki!

You maybe noticed I made a discovery, I found a new “Button” on the wordpress dashboard, I have no idea if it has always been there, but it sure is nice to add some colour to the previous B&W postings.

A final thought sent by H. in response to my asking a few days ago on what page is the answer to life to be found in the book. “life is not a question, it’s not a problem to be solved, but a mystery into which one dissolves oneself” Kabir.


Cafe’s and backbends

August 14, 2010

I had to get back on my rapidly decaying mat today, without it being dry, its been too rainy to risk the washing machine since I got back from Sweden, so it was just a case of laying it out. It felt good to stretch and to try and find that length between my hips and ribs that Dena said I lacked and need to find, I can feel what she means especially in hang and dropbacks. The further I can stretch up and get that separation the deeper bend I seem to get, I know dropbacks will come back, they are almost back. So after some rocking on the floor in Urdva Dhanurasana and some dropbacks down the door I decided to try a new tactic, I dropped back onto the bed which is only a Futon about 2 feet off the ground and then managed to rock and push off and stand up again, oh well just another 2 feet to go then.

The other day Maria in Dublin commented on my post after I wrote about the need for a blog, website or something to list Cafe’s where ashtangi’s hang out. Well after practice as the rain came down outside I decided to try and do something and started with one of our Shala favourites Hurwundeki. The new blog is Called World Ashtangi Cafes, hopefully we can add to it as time goes by.

Day 6 – Led

August 13, 2010

Our last morning in that hot, humid, sweaty space, tomorrow will feel empty. Today’s practice began as usual with pranayama before we did the silent practice to Navasana, trying not to be the first or the last to move, with full vinyasas between postures. No adjustments, no voices, no giving birth noises, just the communal sound of the breath and the occasional laugh when anyone forgot to come to standing, though practising opposite Dena was an incentive to get it right. Closing was completed, followed by a short Savasana and chanting. As is the norm we then sat in a circle and each said something, thanking Dena for her wonderful teaching, the energy of our fellow practitioners and just residing in having a place for our practice free from the hustle and bustle we are now going to return to.

Dena left us with the thought, that she believes our yoga is more than the postures, it’s not about our individual practice, getting the next pose, it’s about our Sangha, the community of practitioners around the world, the way it brings us together to share something special. Through the sanskrit names we share a common language that makes it possible to lay our mat on any part of the planet and do our practice.

Practice finished at 11.30 and I had to be checked out of the Hotel at Noon, oops, so London mode on the Stockholm underground, you can always see the Londoners on foreign metro’s we are the ones who walk and run up and down the escalators!


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