The Bulge, the pop, the Hip, the crack

September 19, 2017

The bulging disc in my spine, the excruciatingly painful pop in my back, the stuck unhappy Hip, I finally gave up and went to get cracked by Karen the Osteopath.

I had assumed that the bulging disc was mostly to blame for all my other woes, but no, apparently what I have is a bone spur, which although annoying in Garbha Pindasana and anything else where I'm on my back isn't actually pressing on anything or doing anything detrimental, just need to keep an eye on it.

She also noticed that my T11, T12, L1 and L2 section moved as a lump, not individually, but as usual after asking me to bend backwards and seeing how far I can go, even when I'm not trying to drop back (I was tempted 🙂 ) she's like "and your complaining!". She also tested my hip flexors and was quite surprised how open a 53 year old hip can be, thank you Baddha Konasana.

So what is the problem with the pop and the hip, well it seems a few little things have come together, my 12th rib wasn't located in the right place, there is slight injury to the cartilage in my rib causing the popping on the exit from Supta Kurmasana, the deepest forward bend in primary. After a good cracking things are back in place, but rib cartilages can take quite a few months to heal. This type of rib cartilage injury she told me is caused by impact or going beyond the comfortable range of motion, well there's been no impact so I'm pretty sure it was the extra work I was doing in Supta K and its proper exit down in Cornwall, as I'm pretty sure the popping pain started soon after.

Supta K will now only get an outing at AYL where it's hot, I'm more open and flexible and the assistance in that posture doesn't involve being sat on.

The hip and lower back issue is caused by 2 elements, firstly the short distance between the top of my pelvis and the lowest ribs, so the muscles are strong, but very short and on the left side unable any more to compensate for what I'm doing higher up to compensate for the shoulder fracture and surgery of the last few years.

Secondly where the surgeon harvested bone from the top of my pelvis for the bone graft it left scar tissue and as I wasn't allowed to do much for nearly 6 months, even the tissue that healed in place has got stuck.

So now I know, the thing you can see and feel and worry is going to be a huge problem turns out to be no issue at all, but the tiny things you can't see and didn't know existed are the big issue. It's been 3 weeks of trips to Karen, week one she worked on the muscles of my back, week 2 she went to work on all the joints, finding the errant Rib, week 3 it's been very intense treatment on the hip and pelvis area, working far deeper than any sports massage therapist has ever done, deeply held lumps of scar tissue have been prodded, elbowed, thumbed and battered in to moving and separating.

It hasn't been comfortable, after the first session I literally fell out of bed the next morning I was so stiff. Week 2 wasn't so bad after the joints were realigned and cracked. On the Sunday after I felt like I had so much extra space in my back when Emma assisted my dropbacks and I could really feel the T11-L2 section curve.

It's been an expensive and uncomfortable 3 weeks of treatment while continuing to practice. It turns out the traction stretching I'd been doing was exactly the right thing, weird how the body knows what it wants. I need to keep stretching, avoid the popping, can I get away with missing Supta K out at AYL? Keep using the heat pad, the nasty spiky ball and the Theracane. Maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel.


The week after the week before

August 30, 2017

Realizations more than changes from the week with Lucy, less but more focused information this time, not so many projects to take away and work on. The older I get , I turned 53 this week, the more I realize the need to preserve my energy, to work in a better way. Lucy week was still intense, I slept 12 hours on Friday night, working at the practice in this way is doable for a week, but unsustainable in the long term.

After resting on Saturday and a convoluted commute to AYL on Sunday I wasn't expecting much, I always go to AYL on my birthday if I can. In that room with its yellow walls and quiet energy practice happens, I need that mental space, no information overload, just the odd adjustment as I plodded slowly through. Without so much information and adjustment there's more energy left for my bit of intermediate and despite a week of not doing dropbacks, I managed to drop back without giving myself concussion. Amazingly despite some apprehension the full assisted sequence with Louise felt quite easy. An unexpectedly good practice, though before I turn 54 I would like to stand up from a back bend again.

The changes my shoulders need to make take a lot of the mental energy, pushing down more with the left hand in poses like updog to take the torque out of my spine, sending my shoulders downwards in everything as much as I can, this is the project. As well as being a physical project it's also a mental project, putting more faith in my left arm and shoulders strength, the fear that it will collapse or give way is still there.

I was pleased with my birthday present to myself, a shirt from Sharaths tour, even though I didn't take part this time, brilliant design with the coconut and the little feet, a nod to AYL. They should put the little feet back on the floor, I miss seeing those.

A week of shoulder awareness

August 25, 2017

This week with Lucy she has been a mission to even me up. It's been about awareness of the shoulder blades. It's been about finding a better balance between left and right.

5 days of full practices to Laghu, Lucy had me doing Laghu in Cornwall just in case you were wondering why I was going beyond my usual official Ustrasana finishing point.

It's more than just a week of yoga with Lucy, of information and insight, it also feels like a week of therapy for my shoulder. She adjusts the posture, but often at the same time manages to manipulate the shoulder, she has a gift for finding where the restrictions are. At times it's not exactly comfortable, no pain no gain, but hopefully avoiding future suffering. Heyam Dukham Anagatam and all that.

No big breakthroughs, no new postures, but a new awareness and realisation of what needs to move, what is yet to return in terms of sensation and what I should be doing.

The problems in my back all stem from the shoulder and my perceived lack of strength, with may just be fear, my protective tendency of leading with the right arm in everything where pushing up needs to happen, such as updog and Urdva Dhanurasana. Relying on the right arm has been twisting my spine, all those uneven vinyasa. Every day Lucy has assisted my backbends, some days having me over blocks, some days using the wall, but the last couple of days it's been trying to push up with both arms at the same time. I just didn't think my left arm had the strength or stability in that position, it's still not as strong as the right, but perhaps it does have enough strength and stability to push up.

C said my shoulders are in a much better position after this week, no longer scrunched up around my neck and ears, its taken a lot of mental awareness to stop that happening in every posture, adding to the length of my practice as I stop to evaluate what my shoulders are doing.

No new poses this time, though unlike a year or so ago when I was getting frustrated stopping at Bhekasana , I think physically and mentally what I have is enough with the additions to Ustrasana. It's been good to get so much help and advice with the 2nd series this week.

Losing the attachment

August 23, 2017

Lucy was on me before we even started today, she had me on the wheel and digging her thumbs in the scar tissue at the back of my shoulder and was doing it again in Parivrita Parsvakonasana. I'm up for anything that will help. After yesterday I was extra mindful of sending my shoulders down my back.

I like that she's leaving me alone in Supta K, the exit today was a bit breath takingly painful. Some of the things Lucy picks up on are amazing, Lucy was assisting Baddha Konasana and wanted me to squeeze the elbows in, the right arm does it, but the left I don't have the sensation in the right place to be able to do it, like the brain sends the instruction but nothing happens. The nerves and scar tissue from all the surgery that in daily life are not limiting, in yoga you find out what is yet to return, if it ever does.

Lucy assisted more of my 2nd today, Krounchasana slightly bend the knee , Salabahansa squeeze the knees together and Ustrasana before assisting my pre UD bridges. She was saying that for the dropback-standup to happen I need more even UD's, I've developed a pattern of pushing up mostly with the right arm in UD with the left kind of following, so I'm immediately putting a torque through the spine, so she had me on bricks and against the wall, then off the ground trying to push up evenly.

3 still going by this point, so she stops to do the closing chant for the people who need to leave then tells me to make sure I do full closing! I'm shattered.

J. Kindly said she thought I had lost my attachment and looked happier in my practice, she reckons she can see a difference. I'm not sure, I'm just so knackered by this point I haven't got the energy for attachment or caring what it looks like. C said my shoulders were in a better position, people seeing things from the outside that I don't feel, see or realise.

Well that's day 3, my rug is saturated, I wore the "Powered By Yoga" top today and I could see the imprint of the letters in sweat on my rug!

Lucy Crawford Part 3

August 22, 2017

You know it's been a hot practice when you are laying in Savasana contemplating breakfast and the second group start to arrive, unaware we were still in there, as the door opens you hear "Jesus Christ it's hot in here!".

Day 2 of a 5 day mysore week with Lucy Scott, my 3rd week working with her this year.

Day One also happened to be a moon day, so I took it easy, though we all still did our full practice. Lucy watched quite a lot, seeing where we are in practice and in our body's.

Apart from a deepening of Mari C and having me try to control the up and over in Supta Konasana and the odd verbal comment like narrower feet in The Prasarita poses Lucy let me slowly plod through. I thought she was going to assist Pasasana but she left me once I bound myself.

Lucy is on a mission with my left shoulder, it's inability to allow the left hand to press down enough in Urdva Dhanurasana, the hand slides.

Day 2 was more what I've come to expect with Lucy, lots more help, but always with a purpose, you never feel like she's adjusting you because she's in the vicinity or it's your turn. Prasarita C making my shoulders leave my ears, then in Utkatasana she tells me the looking up is actually then making the left shoulder lift and that's going in to my back making it twist. This is where Lucy is great, she sees the body and sees what it's doing, what it's effecting further down.

Bhekasana assist getting the left hand pointing forwards and lifting the chest. Ustrasana she says is stronger.

Day 1 Urdva Dhanurasana quite a deep assist, trying to open the shoulder. My shoulder has made an amazing recovery and is far more mobile than the Medical profession said to expect, but it still lacks a lot of the movement it had in certain positions, its ability to allow the hand to get under the shoulder in UD, this is Lucy's mission. Day 2 UD after doing 5 on my own she has me first on bricks pressing my hands in to the wall, then lifting up off of a Bolster. I'm toast, well I'm dreaming of toast!

Closing was assisted as well Shoulderstand and Halasana and Savasana in overtime as group 2 were starting to arrive. Well they can't complain it's not warm!

Sharath influx

August 14, 2017

Sharath is coming to London this week, I decided not to take part this time, partly because of the horrendously expensive peak train fares on the week days and also because we don't actually have trains early enough to get there on the weekend days. Then there's the question of what I would actually get out of a week of led primary with 150 other people. I've done lots of led classes with Sharath, in London and in Mysore. I get that it's about the count and the amazing energy in the room and Sharath himself, who has a wicked sense of humour.

London is the last stop on his European tour and not only attracts U.K. based Ashtangi's, but also many from abroad. The visitors have arrived, I walked in to AYL yesterday, the shoe rack was overflowing, both the main room and the Finishing/Starting room were full, so J and I sat on the shoe rack to wait. That's the first time in 7 years of going to AYL on a Sunday that I've had to wait to even start in the Finishing room.

After 10mins or so and some shunting up, space closing of mats in both rooms J and I started, the visitors unaware of the system or not realising L had called "one more" and it was their turn to move next door, had to be prompted to move.

I ended up next to an Italian girl in the main room, Sharath is going to be an experience for her, I wonder if she will survive, she seemed to have only the vaguest idea of the standing sequence going from Prasarita D via a vinyasa to Upavistha Konasana and missing out everything inbetween. I truly hope she has an amazing experience, Sharath always seems more lenient with the primary people, not stopping them as he would in Mysore.

Usually I'm in my own little world plodding through in the one mat wide section, but it was quite distracting and I was quite glad when L told Miss Italy to take her mat and water bottle and do closing. I shunted in to her spot away from the radiator and found my rhythm. The one mat wide section means you tend to get left alone, more time for experimenting with Philippa's straight leg hang back backbends before L came over for assisted.

Weirdly the Finishing room was nearly empty, my favourite spot near the window was free, so closing, sitting and Savasana in the sunshine.


AYL's magazine finally arrived, Pushpam #3 on Dukha, suffering. The cover is a stunning black image of Ganesh, though on a lighter note there is a brilliant Boonchu cartoon of the cult of the yoga asana selfie.

Back to Conference

July 31, 2017

After half a week in Utrecht it was back to AYL, practice in my space, followed by yogi breakfast, 7 of us crammed around Pret's tiny tables, before heading back to the shala for Conference with Hamish.

You just never know what you are going to get, H has his own style and Conference is always a surprise package. He started with a memory game, listing 8 words for us to try and remember, which he would return to later, when he tested our memory, which highlighted how you can have a false memory by him saying a word associated with the original list, but which wasn't actually on the list!

H said he doesn't teach formal pranayama until students have finished intermediate, so what we did next was just "breathing". He got us to count our pulse, he then had us do a simple breathing exercise, then check our pulse again, which demonstrated the calming effect breathing has on the physical body. Everyone can sit and simply breathe.

Hamish talked about Vedanta and how the end of the Vedas are the Upanishads, having us try to remember and recite Chapter 2, verse 48, "
yogasthaha kuru karmaani sangam tyaktvaa dhananjaya |
siddhyasiddhyoh samo bhootvaa samatvam yoga uchyate"

The 2nd slokka he wanted us to remember was 2/16 "heyam dukham anagatam" avoid future suffering through yoga. Much easier to remember 🙂

After the hard work he told us Pushpam is coming, showing us a print of the cover and a cartoon Boonchu has done making fun of our asana selfie obsessed yoga world.

H finished by showing us some of the books that make up his yoga bookshelf at home, which included Barbara stoller miller yoga discipline of freedom and Tao of Pooh. I've got the Tao of Pooh, must read it again.

Utrecht days 2-3

July 29, 2017

Two days of long practices, even longer breakfasts and a bit of afternoon exploring.

Over the course of these 2 days Philippa adjusted, changed little habits and answered people’s questions. On the last day the studio had someone taking photos of Philippa teaching, interesting to see what my postures look like, I was quite surprised to see that in Dhanurasana my thighs are off the ground.

Standing she mostly left me alone, apart from widening my stance. Seated it was little things like the standing foot position in the Marichyasana poses, my drishte in Navasana and jumping through, or my lack of jumping all the way through. P got me to have the hands wider in downward dog and have my feet pointing back to try and slide through, a work in progress and very much in it’s infancy after 5 years of not doing it.


The other jumping experiment in to Bhujapidasana got better, though it felt like I was crossing my feet in the wrong place and was in danger of nose splatasana. Then of course she wants me to do the getting the legs in to Bakhasana without touching down, which is another whole project.

After the painful Supta K I’ve had the last few weeks, I’ve been doing an exercise to traction my back, separating the discs and making space, Supta K exit has become much less painful

Supta Padangusthasana

Supta Padangusthasana on Friday Philippa gave me a superb adjustment getting my foot to the ground, this never usually happens, mainly because I think I can’t do it and at AYL there isn’t usually the lateral space to try it. But when P put me in it I noticed my leg wasn’t as high up which may be the way to go, space permitting.

Although I’m nowhere near getting my heals down in Pasasana without the help of the rolled up mat tactic, the having one foot forward a bit is letting me bind it and try and find the balance, it was very disconcerting the first day when she took my “cheat” away, but I’ll keep trying.


The exit for Krounchasana is also a new project, Philippa watched as I disentangled the bent leg as normal, then crossed and jumped back, instead she had me cross the straight leg over the bent one, put the hands in front and jump back from there, which was completely doable to my surprise.

Dhanurasana is better than I thought, now I’ve seen what it looks like, I asked Philippa about the hands, more specifically my habit of the fingers being on one side of my leg and the thumb on the other, all on the same side is the way to go, though I need to experiment with this in Parsva Dhanurasana, otherwise my arm gets trapped and I get beached.

Ustrasana, she had me taking the Pelvis forward a little as well as having her feet in my back to adjust it. It’s been very useful to have some feedback and advice with the 2nd series poses.

The backbends haven’t been as painful this week, but not as deep. Philippa had me doing Urdva Dhanurasana on my own, then with her assisting, she says, like Harmony did, that in need to walk in further and make it more stable to get the dropbacks back.

Urdva Dhanurasana

Dropbacks she has had me hanging back with straight legs, it’s the front of the body, the legs. After I had done a few of these yesterday she told me to do a dropback to the floor as she watched, my legs lose it around the point of no return and go outwards, I did manage to get my hands on the floor before my head, but it was a close run thing!

It’s been a great three days of practice, lots to take away, but I’m not as physically wrecked as I was after the week with Lucy.

Trying on some clogs

The afternoons have been fun exploring with Suzanne, as well as Utrecht we took in Gouda one afternoon and had a boat trip on the canals of Amsterdam.

This was a very spontaneous trip, but it worked out great

Utrecht day 1 – can’t you jump in to Bhujapidasana?

July 27, 2017

Yoga Moves

This was a very spontaneous and unexpected trip across to Holland. I didn’t know it was happening until Monday night and by 9pm Tuesday I’d flown to Amsterdam, got a train to Utrecht and finally met up with my NY yoga friend and blogger Suzanne. A very late night chatting.

Wednesday dawns, well the alarm went off, luckily not too early as we have a start time of 7;45-8:00, so time for a shower and tea before the 5 minute walk to Yoga Moves Shala, where one of the 2 UK certified teachers Philippa Asher is teaching a Mysore week.

I hadn’t practised with Philippa since before I broke my arm, but we had met in Mysore since then.

A slow plod practice after 3 days off. I expected to be stiffer, but it was easier than I expected. Wider feet in the standing side bends, a very gentle PPC assist. Seated lots of information, verbal cues like pressing and demos, lifting up on the knuckles to get the right foot position for Janu C, press the foot down in the Marichy’s.

I get to Bhuja, step my hands around my legs and go in to it as usual. Philippa asks why I don’t jump in to it? Then proceeds to show me, starting with having not jumping forward with parallel feet from DD, instead kind of be on the toes with the bases of the heals together in a “V” and jump around the legs, which in theory ends up with you being in the right place to cross the feet.

Pasasana I roll up the start of my mat as usual and I can hear “no, no, no, we work with work we’ve got”, I had forgotten quite how “traditional” Philippa can be. Instead she had me take the foot of the go around side forward slightly, this could take some work, wobble wobble!

Urdva Dhanurasana she’s telling me to take my time more,mi thought I took long enough already, but nope, after doing it on my own she has me do the pressing on to her feet version, before I stand up for dropbacks. Sometimes you can use instructions being given to someone else, who was being told to only go for the mat when she could see it, landed phew without crashing it. Then Philippa has me doing long hang backs with hands in prayer, trying to keep the legs straight, that’s HARD,


As expected I was one of the last to finish, but luckily there’s no class straight after so Savasana can take as long as I want, only briefly interrupted as the 2 of us still in the room did the closing chant with P. But a better practice than I expected after 3 days off and travelling, lugging a rucksack.


A big part of coming here was to hang out and explore with Suzanne, she had already found a nice cafe for breakfast before we explored the city on a sunny day, we walked a lot of miles, taking photos of the architecture.

A big shout out to Cindy for her blog post about the Ashtanga tribe.

Post Lucy

July 20, 2017

Since the week with Lucy in Cornwall practice has been hard, it's like returning from Mysore, practice flows in heat and good conditions, but back in the real world of work and life in general the body finds it much harder to get with the program on a daily basis. My back and Hip are driving me nuts, at the local shala last week I couldn't even get up in to Urdva Dhanurasana, though the next day at AYL I could, heat, help and a different mind set, so many little things make every practice different.

And just when you want to get in the flow Sunday moon days abound. Maybe it's time to return to the dark side this Sunday, rather than turn over in bed, I need my Sunday practice, not to mention the croissant that follows. P is back at TLC I see

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