Sunday, August 06, 2006

A fork in the road

I practiced with Sharath today because I was just too tired to get up and get to the shala, and I was enjoying the ability to sleep as late as I wanted, what with the kids away this weekend and all.

Had to pause the DVD after Surya Namaskar A because he only does three, and I like to do five. Same with Surya Namaskar B. Paused it again to breathe longer in Parivritta Parsva Konasana and Prasarita Padotannasana C. Then I breezed through the Primary Series right up to Marichyasana B, at which point I paused the DVD again for each posture up to and including Supta Kurmasana so that I could take the time I needed to get into them, rather than rushing (having that extra time to get into postures before someone rushes over to help you is a definite advantage to practicing at home, particularly when you don't feel that you really need the help).

I decided to do Bujapidasana twice because Sharath does it so quickly, and I just LOVE the sensation of holding each part of the posture. The second time, I got my chin to the floor and really felt my tailbone lengthening. Getting up again from "chin down" is difficult though.

Before Kurmasana, I did a bunch of prep work, mainly variations on Badha Uttitha Parsva Konasana and Tittibasana D (I believe...I don't feel like looking it up on, but I'm talking about the one where you are standing up and binding your hands behind your back), using a belt of course in the latter posture. Kurmasana was lovely. Supta K, well, you know. The Husband helped me by pressing my elbows closer together, and he said my fingers were a mere inch apart. Of course, when I crossed my ankles, one inch grew to seven inches. Ah well.

At that point, I plowed through the rest of the Primary Series with Sharath, without pausing.

It felt AWESOME.

Then Urdvha Dhanurasana three times, then Drop Backs. I have to say that it is the most amazingly gravity-defying feeling to drop back. The way it feels when my hands touch down sofly is incredible. It's such a soft landing, and being in Urdvha Dhanurasana after dropping back into it feels way better to my hands and wrists than pressing up from the floor. It's as if my body is better able to find the perfect position for my hands when coming from standing than when pressing up. Perhaps it's because I have too much time to think as I lay on the floor deciding where to plant my hands.

After each drop back, I tried to stand up, but I always ended up on my knees. But the knee-landing is far cleaner than it was last week. It's like I end up in a perfect Ustrasana, only with my toes tucked under. So, yes, I am well aware that the problem is that I am bending my knees and lifting my heels too much. But what to do, what to do...

What to do? I used my yoga ball to mimic the feeling of coming to stand up from Urdvha D. It was helpful. But I can tell that I am still a ways off from doing it on my own without the prop.

After that, I got myself into Urdvha D from headstand, forearm stand and then handstand. I am finding this R&D incredibly helpful for opening up my chest and shoulders, and for strengthening my bhandas and my legs. And it is quite a confidence builder to be able to control my body in these, well, according to my husband, these contortions.

Then it was back to the DVD for the finishing sequence with Sharath. All told, it was about two hours of practice for me.

And I came to a decision. This might come as a shock. Or maybe not. But here goes: I am going to self-practice until the day after Labor Day. I love the shala and the community there and the energy and Mark (Guy is away for most of the month, and then I am away - in Montreal - no seriously! - from the third week until Labor Day). But right now, I want to be doing my practice the way I want to be doing it. I feel that I am building up my stamina this way - taking it to the next level. And I feel that I am taking my flexibility and my bhandas to the next level as well. And maybe that is breaking the rules. Maybe it's not the way it was intended.

But maybe it IS. My understanding is that the Ashtanga system was intended to be taught by a teacher and then self-practiced. I am at a place in my practice where no amount of assistance in Supta K is going to help me, and I just need to work through my blocks myself. When I go to the shala, I rush through when I feel that I am not going to finish in time to get my Supta K adjustment. And sometimes I don't finish in time in SPITE of all that rushing. And I end up not having had the practice I really wanted, and still not having bound in Supta K. Plus, I want to work on my backbending. And I feel funny doing so without having been taught it at the shala. So for now, for the month of August, it looks like I am going to stay at home.

This is going to be very interesting for me. I am excited and nervous to have made this decision.



Moonelixir said...

I'm a big fan of your blog who lives in Montreal. I hope you really enjoy your visit! There is a really neat shala here if you have the time... it's Darby and Shankara's shala, the Sattva Yoga Shala. I took a workshop with Dharma Mittra there and loved the vibe there. Anyway, hope you have a ball in Montreal!

Karen said...

dont you think that speeding up your practice to get the poses you want is going to make things worse once you go back to "shala x"?And why don't you trust your teachers assement of your pace? I know you teach yoga, but isnt he more of an ashtanga specialist?

Just curious?

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Northern Westchester, New York, United States
I live by a duck pond. I used to live by the East River. I don't work. I used to work a lot. Now, not so much. I used to teach a lot of yoga. Now not so much. I still practice a lot of yoga though. A LOT. I love my kids, being outdoors, taking photos, reading magazines, writing and stirring the pot. Enjoy responsibly.


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