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Hard graft

August 18, 2014

The backbends are coming back, on a dry (not sweat saturated) mat, I can push up in to Urdva Dhanurasana and on a good day I can even stay up and walk the hands in a little way. Dropping back from standing is becoming a little more consistent, going back straight is making landing on both hands at the same time happen.

Between all the strengthening physio exercises I do and the challenging hands on physiotherapy sessions the arm is getting stronger and gradually getting much better range of motion. The unexpected problem is that little 2 inch scar, on the front of my Pelvis where they took the bone graft, it’s hardly visible. It’s become very sore from being stretched, considering it’s now almost two years since I last did backbends this deep, really stretching open the front of the body again, I’d actually forgotten about that scar, but I sure remember it now!

AYL Shala practice is on Wednesdays this month through necessity , no trains on the weekends. An unexpected bonus with Ruth teaching, assisted by Emma, just like when I was first going to AYL. Surprisingly quiet there, lots of help, especially with my re emerging second series, Ruth is great with Pasasana and Bhekasana, deepest Bhekasana bend since L gave it me. Three nice dropback landings before Ruth sent N over to do assisted ones. At least they let me try on my own now.

The last time I practised with Ruth was just before this years surgery, when I was still struggling, so lovely to get an SMS on the way home from her saying “well impressed with your recovery”.

Fridge Magnet Drishte

August 6, 2014

Drop backs are improving, safe landings are up to 66%, 2 from 3, though i seem to have a habit of landing on my head for the second one. I realised its because I twist to the right as I go back. At the Shala being assisted L or E keep me straight, but home alone after I have followed the line in the ceiling, I start to twist when there’s no line to follow, landing on the right hand first, my head then lands before the left hand has a chance to land.

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Simple but effective!

When I’m dropping back on to my block so I can practice standing up again, I do the same thing, but no longer “Fridge magnet drishte” is the answer, the block is jammed against the wall below the radiator, a line of fridge magnets down the radiator give me something to follow, so I go back evenly. Hopefully the right twist habit will eventually be replaced by a straight drop back.

Maybe the online yoga shops are missing a trick, they should be selling portable drishte lines you can hang from anywhere.

Touch down!

August 3, 2014

At 7am I thought I wasn’t going to even make it to AYL at all, first train cancelled, next 2 “Delayed”, let alone do something I hadn’t done in 606 days in that room.
I Finally arrived an hour later than usual, luckily a spare space between two of yoga breakfast friends.

Nice slow practice after the rush to get there, I really need that Prasarita C assist, the complete opposite movement to the physiotherapy. Getting in there an hour later means the room is even warmer, great for the Marichyasana’s and left to it in Supta K, nodding approval from L as she assisted next door.

A nice squashing in Baddha Konasana. Intermediate is now as good as it ever was, Emma helping my Bhekasana, though my hand slid off, getting the chest lifting assist helps open the upper back for closing.

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Took my time with Urdva Dhanurasana, push up, drop to my head, walk in and push up, my left arm still needs to be able to walk in and rotate a little more,it’s also not quite as straight as the right arm so tends to slide still, but no pain or discomfort, so all good.

Teacher and Assistant both engaged elsewhere gave me the chance to hang back, then realise I was quite open, keep going, keep going, stretch the arms, hands out, TOUCH DOWN. The first dropback in the Shala since the day before I broke my arm 20 months ago. I managed two more, before Emma arrived to do the assisted ones. Standing up probably won’t come until I can walk the hands in another 6-8 inches.

So after thinking I wasn’t even going to get there I left with some unexpected progress. A pity just as I’m getting somewhere at last that next Sunday is Moon day and the rest of August the rail line is closed down. Grrr.

Hits and misses

July 28, 2014

Some days practice is better than others, infinite reasons have a bearing on how it feels, from what and when I last ate, the weather, heat, humidity and if I’m at the Shala with it’s shared energy or slogging away on my own at home.

Yesterday was a Shala day, moon day here was Saturday I’m glad to say, the Shala was quieter than usual, school holidays and Louise being away I guess. The humidity was lower and practice felt easier, mostly left to it by the sub teacher, a steady, focused progress through to Bhekasana in 80 minutes.

Urdva Dhanurasana has progressed quite a lot in the last two weeks, like a growth spurt, from barely being able to lift to now being able to push up, then come down on to my head before walking my hands in a little. My left arm still isn’t straight and I suspect from the outside looking in it all probably looks a little lopsided and mis aligned. I still lack the strength to stay up for long, but up is up and hopefully as I gain strength and the physiotherapy gets me more mobility in the shoulder it should improve.

Last week Louise thought I was going to drop back, her encouraging words made me think I must be near, it’s not the bend, but the landing I’m afraid of, so during the week after playing around and experimenting at home I have managed to land one each day, though my strike rate isn’t good, my head has taken it’s quota. I’ve continued with the method Isa taught me in Lisbon to get a better bend in the upper spine, I’ve started adding in some hip flexor stretches to try and be at least more five to one than ten to two. Nearly 600 days it’s taken to get back to this point, I wrote a post for yogaclicks about “cleaning my window” which was when I discovered just how long it’s been since I did a drop back on my own.

Thought you were going to do it!

July 20, 2014

Thanks to signal failure I got to the Shala late this morning, just one spot left, by the mat cupboard with the wall in front of me. The humid weather meant sweat started running while I put my mat down, let alone before I did a Surya A. Double down dog squashes stretching out the kinks from sitting on a hard floor for a few hours last night. Louise always does my Trikonasana so she stretch my arm out and rotate the shoulder for me, she followed up with Parsvakonasana twist.

Seated is back to being all doable on my own, Inna was waiting behind me as I manoeuvred in to Mari D, but once she saw me bind she left me to it. Bhakasana exits were impossible, the slippy sweat made it impossible to keep my knees on my arms and jump back. Supta K was assisted by someone, it feels like a free pass. All those years of struggle to get my arms through in Garbha are a bad memory, in that heat my arms slip through without any effort.

The Shala had suddenly thinned out when I got to closing, I knew nobody would be waiting to start so I took my time doing Urdva Dhanurasana, the more I do the better they get, after 4 I could push up, though i suspect it’s probably lopsided. I stood up and did a couple of super hang backs, my upper back seemed to be really open today, the second one I could see the ground and was stretching before I pinged back up, Louise was waiting at the top and said “I thought you were going to land, you should have kept going”. It’s only a matter of time. I’ve managed it a couple of times at home, but only with hip flexor failure and ten to two feet. I think Louise was letting go earlier on the way up, I was having to work my legs harder to get back up.

The Finishing Room was rammed full so I ended up back in my spot to close, rare for it to be that way round.

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Spiky balls

Great to see Helen down to the Shala, after practice 5 Ashtangi’s sat around a table in Pret trying out her new Rumble roller and spiky massage balls, we got some strange looks!

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Rumble Roller

Almost straight

July 15, 2014

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Practice has been consistent since my week in Lisbon, doing the new type of dropback without Isa assisting me has been interesting, well it showed just how much she much have been assisting, even if it didn’t actually feel like it at the time. It takes quite a few goes on my own to get the control and bend in the upper back to land on my Bolster and on a good day on to just one layer of blocks.

AYL was beyond a sauna, I thought the early morning rain would cool it down, but it just seemed to make it more humid and sticky. Once inside the heat was tiring, Louise had opened all the top windows but it made no difference. The rivers poured in standing, little waterfalls off my elbows. Some poses are easier when it’s like that, Supta K and Garbha without having to look for the spray bottle. Some are made much harder, Isa had got me doing the Bhakasana exit in Lisbon which I’ve continued, but in that heat my knees just slid off my arms before I had a chance to get my toes and heals together, narrowly avoiding nose splat.

The postures are pretty consistent again now, though with doing all the vinyasas again I’m still not back to the stamina levels I need. Louise usually assists my last pose Bhekasana, when she let go I was wiped. I was hoping the flexibility I had in the heat would let me drop back on my own, but I didn’t have the energy left to control it and was glad when help arrived, the hang backs weren’t bad though.

I think everyone felt the heat, after practice five of us sat round a cafe table, we all had that knackered, spaced out look.

Monday is now physiotherapy day, weekly private physio is much more intense and invasive than a once a month 20min session with the NHS. It’s certainly more effective, she always begins with a session of digging her thumbs in to the back of the shoulder area to loosen it all up before she starts on the front. The scar has healed nicely after all the stitch problems, just as well, as she then pushes her palm harder and harder in to the scar area while at the same time my arm is raised and pushed backwards. Breaking down what scar tissue there is. There comes a point where the arm won’t go any further, it’s not painful, it just won’t go, but each week she seems to get it a little further, my arm is almost straight. She said it’s not just a case that the fracture is fixed and the muscles and tendons are working again, part of the restriction seems to be that the Humeral head and the shoulder bones have ended up closer together, effectively they don’t have as much space as they did pre fracture to move around in. The left has around 80% of the range of motion of the right. Hopefully in the 7 sessions left she will have me functioning again.

A private

July 7, 2014

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The culmination of my week in Lisbon was meant to be the workshop with Dena on Saturday morning, alas Dena’s travel plans were changed at the last minute and it was cancelled. But Isa kindly offered to give a couple of us who had come especially for Dena a private with her, the closest I’ve come to doing a “private” was a few years ago when I was the only one to show up for what turned out to be the last ever Friday night led primary with Easter. I had already learned a lot from Isa and jumped at the chance, it turned out to be 3 of the most informative hours I’ve spent on that old blue mat.

Isa basically took us through a led primary but with stops to show us things and for us to ask questions. Afterwards I tried to write down as much as I could remember,the little nuggets of wisdom that I hope come to mind when I’m back home or at AYL.

Prasarita poses- to put more weight towards the toes, rather than the heals.

Parsvottanasana- wider stance to give more stability

Purvottanasana- visually check to see the hands are parallel and slightly behind before lifting up

Forward bends tilt slightly to be more in line over the straight leg

Janus when entering bring the leg up with the Knee facing up, then hold the foot to put it in lotus, this helps protect the miniscus. Janu A 90 degrees, Janu B 85 degrees.

Marichyasana’s – palms should face outwards once the hands are able to bind at the wrist.

Navasana – hands at same level as knees, for the lift between the head/chin should be up, so the weight doesn’t go so far forward.

Bakhasana – in the exit from Bhuja / Supta K, toes and ankles touch before jumping back. Ok I probably should have known this, but in a Mysore room you tend to get adjusted in the crossings, then left to exit alone. With my arm’s situation I haven’t been trying Bakhasana jump back and if I had would probably have been doing it with just the big toes in contact. I was amazed to be able to jump back with so much control, I was fully expecting nose splat.

Supta K Isa assisted each of us individually, as it was the other persons “last” pose, she can’t bind or cross, Isa did it with me first to show her what it looks like. Deepest Supta K ever before Isa talked me through the exit, lift in Dwi Pada, Titibhasana, my arm isn’t strong enough for a no foot down in to Bhakasana, but got the jump back, as I landed the other student actually applauded!

Baddha Konasana – my thighs go to the floor quite easily, so I needed to use the for arms to press down on the thighs more.

Upavistha Konasana – hold sides of feet, wide legs, arms should be straight, thumb presses between big toe and next one. Pelvis up and over to get chest lower, head to floor! Upavistha up, shoulder blades comes towards each other, look up. Isa actually got my chin on the ground which is something I’ve never done.

Supta Konasana – wide legs, in Mysore and at AYL my legs are always narrow because of the space available, she told us to have them wide which did make the coming up and over seem much easier.

Supta Padangusthasana- chin to leg, opposite hand lower down on thigh, leg to side hand comes higher to press the pelvis down.

Ubhya and Urdva P- to come up with straight legs really press the toes in to the floor on exhale, then inhale to come up, when you get to the point of balance point the toes, this helps to put the brakes on. Shoulder blades move towards each other once balanced. Toes point.

Isa has helped my backbends a lot this week, it really shows how much getting daily assistance can make progress much better. She may be a traditional Mysore teacher, but this week she has had me using blocks to push up every day in to Urdva Dhanurasana, not so much to make the pushing up easier for my arm, but for me to then work towards taking my chest towards the wall and really opening the thoracic spine again from its 15 months of hibernation. The difference has been amazing.

Her method of dropbacks without stretching the arms overhead has also been a huge change, mentally and physically, but once I began to trust the method I really started to feel the difference, I just need to relearn to keep my arm straight for landing. That’s been hard, with my original straight arm dropback the arms were already stretching and ready for touch down, but with this new method of incrementally moving the arms past the ears it’s an extra stage to remember to get them straight in time.

She taught us far more, but those were the points that resonated with where my post injury recovery practice is at this time. Hopefully I will be able to repeat this week with Isa again sometime soon.

Garbha with sunburn

July 4, 2014

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More street art

Casa Vinyasa was pretty busy today, another good practice with adjustment in the right places. Being Friday it was primary only, but Mysore style which still suits me better with my arm taking time to get in to some of the seated postures.

Mari A assist which seems to help the next 3 be much better, Supta K left to my own devices, after I had got stuck in Bhuja, I couldn’t lift back up and had to extricate my left arm, which was starting to complain. Garbha P I realised just how much the back of my legs must have caught the sun yesterday! Lots of water to get my arms through my sore crossed legs. Garbha spray is the new sun burn relief, who knew?

Getting adjusted in the bum balances every day is interesting, Isa has added some little thing each day, Urdva P today was about where to hold the feet, lower than where I normally do, also the correct exit vinyasa, rather than the normal crash to the floor.

Closing backbends with blocks, then another full session of 5 dropbacks, then 3 half way, then another drop and stay. It’s a pity this is ending so soon, my upper back is really opening back up with Isa’s assistance. She hardly does anything to get me back up because with her method of going back I’m landing nearer my feet.

I’m beginning to think a month here would be better than going to Mysore.

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Metro art

Tomorrow was supposed to be the workshop with Dena, but her travel connections changed at the last minute and she won’t make it to Lisbon in time. It’s still been well worth coming here, practice has been super and exploring the city has been fun.

I stayed out of the sun today, I did the complete opposite and went in to the metro to explore the spectacular tile art that adorns many of the stations.

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More tiles

I did emerge back in to the sunshine and went for a ride on the #28 tram which goes through the narrow steep streets of the Bario old town, an interesting ride taken on a whim with no real idea where I was going.

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No28 Tram

Yoga and Belem

July 3, 2014

Lisbon is lovely city to come and practice, very scenic, very hilly, but with excellent cheap public transport and the sun is shining. The Shala is only a 5 minute walk from the Hotel.

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Trams

Day 2 at Casa Vinyasa, a lot busier today, but lots of adjustment and advice still from Isa and Anna. My practice is taking a lot longer in this environment, nearly 2 and 1/2hrs today. The usual assists in standing PPC and UHP. Seated help again in Tiriang M, Mari C and Isa’s trademark Supta K assist, it’s worth coming here just for that! Supta Konasana Isa reminded me to widen the feet, I’m so used to not having space at AYL that I automatically have my feet only mat width apart, but the up and over is so much easier with wider legs.

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Casa Vinyasa

Another intense backbend session, I’d already made sure the Salabhasana and Bhekasana were as open as I could make them, Isa had me doing UD with the blocks again before we got to dropbacks, it makes such a difference getting this assistance every day rather than once a week. Her method of not having straight arms going back is making the upper back bend much deeper, which takes the intensity out of the lower back, by number 6 I was half expecting to see my feet.

I actually remembered all of closing today, Savasana is probably where I’m taking longer than usual, for one thing there’s nobody waiting either to start or finish and two there’s no clock in sight, I can’t remember seeing a clock in there, so no idea how long I’m having, I only moved today when Isa’s baby wanted her mum.

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Belem

The Hotel serves breakfast until nearly 11am, so even with a long practice, a chat after and the walk back I’m still in time, mini pain au raisin and chocolate croissants go down a treat after all that effort.

This afternoon I did some sightseeing, I took the train to Belem to see the Tower and the Monument of the discoveries, walked miles and caught the sun.

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From Casa Vinyasa to Casa Chocolate

Casa Vinyasa

July 2, 2014

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Casa Vinyasa in Lisbon has to be one of the most beautiful Shalas I have ever come across anywhere on the planet. It’s on the top floor of a mixed use building with views out to the sea and surrounding hills. It’s like practising in a Stately home, but one where you are allowed to touch the objects, not to mention break sweat.

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The View

In Mysore, where I met Isa nearly 3 years ago, the adjustments were the same most days, but in her own Shala Isa’s adjustments come throughout the practice and are beyond just being good, having 12 people to adjust instead of 60+ probably helps! but nothing is rushed, if it takes 10 breaths to get your body to where she knows it can go so be it. Isa is assisted by Liz, who is also superb, not just a DD squashing but movements down either side of the spine to open everything out.

Loads of help today, much of it very different from how I’m used to being adjusted, not just in the time taken, but where the pressure was put, having the bent foot stood on it Janu A. The alignment of the hands in Purvottanasana, very much about grounding and being stable in each posture, especially the potentially lopsided ones like UHP and Tiriang Mukha. Bhuja assist from Liz, which was a nice surprise before she helped me exit via. Bhakasana, even if it was a bit of a plop down, I’ve not done that in 16 months.

In Mysore it was Isa’s Supta K assist that was the best one ever, so when I was in Kurmasana I quite expected her to creep up behind me, but no hands came so I bound myself up and came out via Dwi Pada and saw Isa sitting on the stool next to me feeding her baby having watched me do the whole thing. She said the rotation in the shoulder is fine and she didn’t need to adjust it.

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Isa and Kaillani

Lots of reminders which I don’t usually get, such as the hand position in Navasana and the feet in Setu B. The adjustments just kept coming, Supta Padang was intense, it’s a rarely assisted posture where you can take it easy when left to your own devices and then Urdva Mukha Paschimottanasana . I also got my first Krounchasana assist since I got that posture nearly two years ago.

UD on a not very stable old blue mat was a struggle, sliding hands and not enough oomph left to push up, Isa had me use blocks against the wall and then assisted my upper back to open which felt fab! I wondered about doing drop backs, not having done them since Monday, but after the Urdva Dhanurasana assist I was very open so I did a hang back to test and I could see the mat, as I came up Isa was waiting for me, how do they do that, just appear in front of you without you seeing? A different instruction today, not to stretch the arms up at the start as Isa says this means you land further from your feet as it stops the back arching. So instead hands at the for head, hips forward, then keeping the arms bent move the hands past the ears and finally straighten the arms for touch down. It felt really stable, though Isa was doing a lot of the stabilising, 3 down and up, 3 x half way then two more to the floor and up, wow didn’t expect to do that today.

Moving for closing is optional, most people seem to stay put, so I did too, then promptly forgot Sirsasana!

Chai after with Isa and Liz, just like being in Mysore.


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