A lot has happened since I last posted, which boiled down to the never ending cough lurgy that continues after waiting in the rain for two hours to see Florence + The Machine, a back problem and my mother seriously sick in hospital for 14 weeks. I’ve been tired with seemingly nothing good around the corner.
Flo was fun.
Then a few weeks ago I found out that Lucy Scott was coming back to the local Shala, I missed both her previous visits with shoulder surgery. This time she was coming for a whole week of Mysore practice, rather than just a flying weekend visit. But it was limited to only 10 students in each of the morning and evening sessions. I booked my place hoping the lurgy would be gone ( it isn’t) the back would feel better (it’s getting there) and that Mum would be home (she is).
Lucy seemed to suss everyone’s needs out on the first day,then spent 4 days giving us what we needed, not necessarily what we wanted. Working with such a small group she was able to spend time with each of us. After my first Surya she asked about my shoulder and among other “projects” she spent the week trying to give it more movement and comfort within the practice.
I learned much more from the week than I expected, especially as I’d never practised with Lucy before, so this post is partly a reminder for me of what she taught me and to make the scribbled daily post practice notes in to something useful.
I’ve written the notes/corrections in posture order to try and make some sense.
She started to make me work on getting my hands flat in Surya Namaskar to lengthen the hamstrings as opposed to just my fingers touching the floor in Trini. Then to point the feet in upward dog, rather than them doing their own thing, twisting and falling outwards. She demonstrated what I was doing and the detrimental effect it was having on my back. She also said when I (eventually officially) get to the kneeling intermediate postures the feet are the foundation for those and not the knees.
Ardha Baddha Padmotanasana my weight was heading to the left, to me it felt level, I had no idea I was so lopsided in that posture, over two years of compensating for my shoulder has built layers of mental and physical perceptions that need redressing. Lucy had me micro bend my leg so my knee was over the ankle, to start to relearn where my centre line actually is, as opposed to where my brain thinks it is.
Angle of bound hands in the seated forward bends, hands a third of the way down the feet, with the head (Drishte) looking at the feet rather than down. Shoulders back and going down, instead of round my neck.
Forward bend exits don’t come straight up, come through with the chest to help open upper back.
Mari A & C straight leg foot up vertical, bent leg toes press and push down the straight leg.
Garbha Pindasana she had me take a much tighter Lotus, before showing me the angle my hands need to take to get through the seemingly far too small gap, she also gave me homework exercises to help open my hips more.
Lucy Adjusting (Pic Credit Cathy H)
Lucy is “old school” and actually reminds me a lot of Dena in the way she teaches, she counts the vinyasas and is in the habit of asking students how many vinyasas a posture has (Thanks Karen Kelly for that photo of the 2S Vinyasas scores you posted on FB).
By the time I got to intermediate each morning there were usually only 2 or 3 of us still going, which meant Lucy did all my 2S postures with me, counting correct vinyasa as we went. 12 Pasasana, 20 Krounchasana, 8 Salabhasana, 7 Bhekasana.
Karen’s vinyasa crib
Salabhasana I need to work more on having the legs, toes pressing toward each other, my hands need to be nearer my hips in “B”, and as someone else once told me it’s not a neck bend!
Lucy had asked who my regular teacher is and where I practice to, so Bhekasana as at AYL was my last posture each morning. Each day I ended up doing it at least twice, her aim being to teach me the two ends, pressing down the feet and raising the chest more than it’s usual 4 inches off the ground. She had me try a new way of grabbing the feet to try and help my still weak left arm by taking the feet as if going in to Dhanurasana , but holding the insides of the calfs then moving the hands over the feet to push on the toes.
On the last day she added a surprise, as she walked away from assisting Bhekasana she told me to take Dhanurasana, first by doing it with the chest flat, then with the thighs pressing while lifting the chest and then the proper full 7 vinyasa version. Good to see what the future holds after three years of Bhekasana.
So by the time I got to backbends each day I was already tired.
My perception of straight!
Backbends are where my perception of normal is most warped. She took a photo to show me how twisted I am in Urdva Dhanurasana, I had no idea my hands were that wide either. After I had done 3 x UD on my own she would then adjust me in all kinds of ways, mostly it was aimed at trying to correct my perception of where was straight, to find my middle line again, sometimes the aim was to help my shoulder find more space and movement. Most days after UD she would have me put my left hand in the position for UD then manipulate it by pressing in to the front and back with the sensation of moving something across while gently loosening the whole scapula and neck. I certainly never expected this kind of help and adjustment.
Lucy straightening me up
Before dropbacks she had me do an exercise for my back, drawing the feet in to the point that I was on my toes, then pushing the palms forward in to the heals pushing the knees forward, while slightly lifting the back, then repeating Urdva Dhanurasana on a Bolster, the difference in the sensation of openness was marked.
Dropbacks with Lucy are done with a purpose and she does different versions, some days it was just the regular assisted down and up, though on every one she told me to wait for the breath before starting to go back again.
One morning she had her assistant holding me at the front, while Lucy went behind me and as I went back instead of grounding she had me pushing my hands in to her hands, trying to resist her as if pushing away from the floor. Then she did full drops, the assistant said my legs and Pelvis were engaged until the point when the weight was going for the ground, she said I then lost the connection.
It was good to be told at what point I lose the connection and engagement. Before Paschimottanasana Lucy has you hang in standing forward bend, then gives a great squash.
Still going while most have already finished.
At AYL I’m used to be being left alone in closing, but when there are just two yogis left standing Lucy takes you through the whole deal, counting properly, no chance of day dreaming about breakfast. She teaches headstand with the head on the wrists and not on the ground, I find the usual version hard enough, so this was a killer just getting vertical, then she spotted the tension I hold in my stomach and told me to relax it without losing the other connections holding me up.
No let up to the end Baddha Padmassana , Uth Plutihi, at least she can count to 10 quicker than Sharath does!
It’s been a while since I last did 6 in a row in a shala, the collective energy helps you get through, the little habits disappear, practice is tidier, that said with the short pranayama at the start and chanting at the end, every day was two and half hours, but well worth it.
All 10 made it to the end.
I certainly hope Lucy returns or that I get a chance to practice with her in a small group again.