Thursday, September 17, 2015

Once I could do it...

Another practice, this time at 530am thanks to my husband's alarm and a nice juicy thunderstorm.

It was pretty good.  Oops, no judgement.  It was time on my mat.  The chatter in my head was a little quieter, perhaps because I was there earlier and there were fewer people in the shala.

Well, I'm working on my back bending, my drop backs, and my get back ups.  I need my teacher A LOT.  She practically pulls me back up to standing.  I feel bad for her...what a work out she's getting!

I used to be able to do this drop back/stand up thing.

That was about 5 years ago (ignore the 80's music, please!) before I injured both shoulders in a yoga/crossfit hybrid class, before I had a total hysterectomy, before I started working as an hospice nurse.

Can I do it again?  I'm not so sure.  I'm over 50 now and spend a good part of my days hunched over patients or charts.  

I want to do it again.  But after my surgery, back bending felt weird.  I mean really weird, inside, like things were pulling in ways that they shouldn't.  I didn't even attempt any sort of back bend until I was 6 months post-op, but when I, things had changed.  After a couple of months of gentle passive bends over balls, pillows and such, I attempted my first urhva dhanurasana it felt awful.  I mean really bad, tight, weak, awful.  But I persevered and slowly, slowly it started to feel strong again.  But still kinda tight.

Then I started my mysore-style practice. I discussed my 'medical' history with my new teacher and she was understanding and said patience, perseverance were in order.  She watched me for a few weeks or so then asked "Are you ready to try dropping back?"  I said, yes!  And we did.  And it was great.  And then I started to really concentrate on deepening my back bends.  Then I got a back spasm which dissipated quickly.  Now we were back to assisted drop backs.  She assists with half drop backs X3, then to the floor, walk in, hold 5 breaths, and come up.  That is intense, but good intense. 

So will I ever be able to do what I did 5 years ago?  Don't know.

But I think the bigger question is: should I want to?  Should I be striving for that?  Trying for that 'goal'?  Isn't that exactly what we are not supposed to do?  Aren't we supposed to just do the practice and 'all is coming', no goals, no aims, it's not about the results, it's about the journey?

I think, for me there is a sweet spot between the aspirational aspects of the practice: the working towards/wanting to do a certain asana, like drop backs and the surrender to the process, the experience of the journey without a clear or specific end place.  It's a razors edge for one side can lead to injury, frustration, pain, discouragement.  The other, ennui, passivity, complacency.  

I think that one day I will be able to drop back and stand up on my own...that is my goal, but in the mean time, I'm going to work really hard at staying in the present and enjoy the process of re-learning that asana.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I've been reading a lot lately... a lot.

I've been reading a lot of stuff about ashtanga yoga, the practice, the method, the theory, the injuries, the spirituality, the asana... I've been doing exactly what I think I probably shouldn't be doing and here's why:

All this reading and information, correct and otherwise, is creeping into my practice.  My knee hurts: do I have a torn meniscus?  My butt hurts, am I slowly tearing my quadricep tendon?  I should practice lifting up and jumping back; what did Kino say about that or Laura?  Why am I still just doing primary?  Didn't I read somewhere that it's good to start some intermediate poses after 'mastering' primary?  I've been at this for almost 10 years (0k, on and off); haven't I mastered primary?  Why am I thinking so much?  Get back to the breath?  Is my breath correct?  I'm not concentrating; what did I read about boredom...

You see what I mean?

In "House Recommendations" by Angela Jamison from Ashtanga Ann Arbor (a wonderful, insightful, and informative booklet) she writes:

        Filter: Most Ashtanga information on the Web is made by, and for, distracted minds.

Yep, that's me, a distracted mind.  But also a hungry mind, but hungry for what?  Knowledge?  Inspiration?  Connection?

I think that for me, probably all three.  I look at Ashtanga websites for inspiration and to reach out to a larger community of ashtangis. But why?  All I need do is look to those who practice with me every morning to find inspiration.  And aren't they my community?

They are and yet my busy mind seeks out more information, more images, more, more, more.

It is becoming exhausting and the affects of all this 'knowledge/information/inspiration/community' has started to impact my practice.  And though I'm trying not to judge that impact, my sense is that it hasn't necessarily been a positive thing.

A daily mysore-style practice is a wonderful thing that is at once nurturing and challenging.  I've been at this now for 2 months and it is breaking me down as it is building me up.  I'm beginning to see connections to psychological issues/blocks and certain asanas.  For the first time, the practice has helped me heal or relieve a discomfort.  I think I am calmer, and also so much more aware of my emotions, my body, my energy.  But all these lessons are happening on my mat, at 6am, at the shala, with my patient, gentle teacher, and my fellow practitioners.  Not on the internet.

I realize that I have been heavily binging on Ashtanga theory and need to cut down on my diet.

Because nothing is going to teach me more than what I experience everyday, on my mat...