Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Mother of Invention

Today, I bailed on the morning Mysore and waited until after the Standing Series Workshop to do my own practice. That meant no assist in Supta K. And so, necessity gave way to creativity: I put a block at the front of my mat, put my feet on top and got into the posture. No, I couldn't, didn't even try, to bind my hands, but with my feet higher than my head, my arms were FREE!!! Had someone been there to help me, I think it would have been a cinch today. Of course, we'll never know.

But even more importantly than the Supta K obsession (which has been duly noted by my Standing Series classmates, to my amusement and consternation), I just friggin LOVE learning. I am in heaven for the entire duration of the workshop each day because it's a chance to flex my intellect along with my muscles.

Like today, we had a long discussion of the breaths involved in the long set of vinyasas from the last breath in Ardha Badha Padmotannasana all the way to the jump-through-to sit.

Sounds obsessive right? I mean, who really thinks of such mundane things? Well, I do. And it's kind of bothered me for the past two years that from Utkatasana to Chatturanga, there is no "Inhale and look to the third eye", but there HAS to be SOME inhale between the last EXHALE of the "state of the pose" and the EXHALE that is Chatturanga. A similar issue arises in the Virabadrasana sequence. Next time you practice (um, tomorrow), see if you know what I mean.

So...the philosophical question: do you cheat yourself out of the last exhale of the state of the pose? Or do you ADD an inhale right after that fifth exhale. In theory, that's the question, at least. In practice, pun intended, it takes many people a lot more than one exhale to get from Utka to Chattaranga. So, for the moment, the definitive (for me) solution, from the Samasthiti after Ardha Badha:

INHALE the arms up
EXHALE uttanasana
INHALE look to the third eye
EXHALE chatturanga
INHALE jump to Utkatasana
(EXHALE and THEN breathe five times, including the last exhale)
INHALE stay there
EXHALE fold over BENT knees
INHALE lift the feet off the floor with hands flat on the floor (or attempt to)
EXHALE chatturanga
INHALE updog
EXHALE downdog
(EXHALE and THEN breathe five times, including the last exhale)
INHALE turn to the other side with arms still up and driste still up
EXHALE fully into Vira A on the other side
(Breathe five times, including last exhale)
INHALE open up the arms and hips to Vira B
(EXHALE and THEN breathe five times, including the last exhale)
INHALE to switch sides
EXHALE into Vira B on the other side
(Breathe five times, including last exhale)
EXHALE hands to the floor
INHALE lift up into a version of flying crow
EXHALE jump back
INHALE up dog
EXHALE down dog
INHALE jump through to sit!


Other discoveries:

  • My hip flexors are TIGHT. Lori noticed it in Parsvakonasana and mentioned that she noticed it in my backbends outside of the workshop. It's not really news to me. I know I need to be working on flexing my hamstrings and softening my quads in backbends. I just have absolutely no idea how. She suggested, what else, Anjanasana (lunges with the shin down), which I teach in almost every vinyasa class, but which I have almost completely stopped practicing. Time to start again.
  • I've been working on the wrong thing in Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana. or more specifically, the Parsva version of it (where the leg is to the side, and the driste is to the other side). I have been trying ot get my leg higher and higher. What I really need to be doing is creating space and softness between my hippoints. Again, the hip flexors, and that snakey psoas. I am looking forward to being given the Supta version of UHP because then I will have gravity to help me keep my opposing butt cheek down as the leg sweeps out to the side.
  • The non-binding hand comes to the hip on the "INHALE to come up" in Ardha Badha. SO much better than letting it fly free. I was always like, what am I supposed to DO with this thing, this appendage? It makes so much sense because the hands ALWAYS come to the hips to come up when they are not bound in the standing forward bends.

I am so glad that I went back to basics this week. Sadly, tomorrow is the last day. There is some chance that I will rejoin for more modules when I come back from Steamboat. Lori is generously trying to work that out. But there is always the Husband to deal with whenever the wallet must be pillaged....we shall see....



Anonymous said...

Okay, I've got to call you on this one:

EXHALE fully into Vira A on the other side
(Breathe five times, including last exhale)
INHALE open up the arms and hips to Vira B
(EXHALE and THEN breathe five times, including the last exhale)
INHALE to switch sides
EXHALE into Vira B on the other side

Wrong. From Vira 1 it's 5th exhale, ihale straighten front leg, open out arms and then exhale bend front knee into Vira 2

Also, in the transition from utkatasana, that fifth exhale takes your hands to the floor and you jump back to chaturanga all on that exhale. Sad but true, and doable too. Not that any of these things are things that should be agonized over. When most folks begin ashtanga, they need extra breaths in surya b, most notably switching from down dog to vira 1 and back again. This is fine, so long as they strive to drop those extra breaths once their fitness level has increased. Workshops are great! Lino Miele is really the expert on what breath goes where--if he's ever in town, go! He's a lot of fun.

"YC" said...

Hi Laksmi!

Thanks....I am aware of the Lino method as are my teachers. But for whatever reason, this is the way they've decided to do it at my shala. I think it makes good sense. On the Viras, no one wanted to lose that fifth exhale to a transition, I guess. On Utkatasana, yeah, the way you describe it is the way I have been practicing it for the past two years. Again, after much discussion, my teachers decided to present it such that you don't lose that fifth exhale in the state of the pose. I think it will make my "liftup" much stronger because I will be able to inhale into it.

I am sure that if anyone besides you bothers to read the whole agonizing litany of inhales and exhales that I wrote, there could be a lively debate/discussion about how these transitions are to be made. But I don't know if anyone is going to have the patience!


Anonymous said...

true, I can be somewhat officious, so not many will read the whole thing and get all regimented about it like me! In fact, t had a little discussion with me about which side to do first for krounchasana--out of that came the confession that yes, ashtanga has changed over the years, nothing is written in stone, and it's best not to get too hung up about it. Have fun skiing!

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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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