Teacher gave a great assist in marychasna A. It felt squishy and I was able to get my chin to my knees. Something about placing weight on the bent leg and righting my body helped.
I thought of writing about observations of how people enter the shala and prepare to start practice each morning. These are just perceptions, so they may not be reflect the whole truth. And besides, my mind should not be thinking of these things...
La Espanola taps her bare feet as she was going to lance into a flamenco as she walks to her spot. Snow White enters graciously and quietly. Of course, we, her seven dwarfs are already practicing. Horseback rider trumpets in as if to the tune of a John Phillip Sousa march and loudly drops the mat and rug on the floor. We bow. His practice is really the strongest of us all. The Writer enters quietly, then you hear the familiar clank of the beans in an eye pillow hitting the floor. (She was very gracious the other day and helped me in Supta Vajrasana when Teacher was busy at the other end of the studio.) La Margarita lets everything clank to the floor then goes into the quietest of meditations. Because of her I meditate a little before practice as well. Muscle Man, who has a beautiful practice, thinks doors have a habit of closing themselves. They don't, and they need to be closed in order to keep the warmth of the room inside. Some people labor with unrolling their mats. Others go grab an occasional prop - such as a wooden block (Don't call it a "block", said Bhavani Maki in a training, call it a "brick", because "block" implies you have reached an obstacle in your practice. But if I call it a wooden brick, wouldn't that not make sense, since bricks are made of mud, not of wood?) Others grab a belt. More clanging. Then the breathing reaches a crescendo as more people commence their practice. Now that sound is important and is part of why we practice together. We remember through the breadth that its our mantra and it gives us focus. Thank you all for your energy. You keep me interested in showing up.
I'm having too much fun with this post. I hope my fellow practitioners don't mind me putting these constructs out there. Please suggest other names for my constructs, if these are deficient. Someone asked me what names you all may have for me. I don't want to think about that. How about Ricanyogi? Hugs.
Okay, so this morning I waited for the bus that takes me to do my groceries at Whole Foods. The bus stop is located in front of a TV station. I suddenly saw a vision in red coming out of the station. Maybe she’s an anchor woman, I thought, but if so, why is she dressed so impeccably from head to toe? Anchor people sometimes are dressed to the nines from the waist up and in jeans from the waist down, since the camera only sees the top part. This woman was so impeccably dressed that if she is a star or someone otherwise famous, the Fugglies would not have written about her. She had 9” heeled red shoes with a matching purse, a Channel-style suit in red, and hair so stiffly made up it moved as one unit as the wind moved it. I thought she was going to be be received by a chauffeur in a Mercedes Benz, but she walked over to the Bentley/Lamborghini dealership and took the bus like the rest of us mortals. Lucky bus riders.
The Fugglies’ website is one I read every three months when I need to laugh a little bit, even though I’m spiritual and don’t watch TV. Seeing the website has the same effect that reading People magazine has to my sister – it takes your brain’s focus away from whatever worries you have in your life. Who would be worried about problems when reading about Paris Hilton’s fashion faux pas at the XYZ awards gala?
The writers are clothing obsessed screenwriters in Hollywood who write about the fashion faux pas of movie stars. For example, they love Christina Aguilera’s current style, fashioned by Donnatella Versace. Do I really care about that? Not really. But it’s impressive that someone can carry herself with so much style, as the singing star and as the lady in the red dress I saw coming out of the TV station this morning. But frankly I felt more comfortable looking at the normally dressed ladies who boarded the bus with me to go to the grocery store.
Okay, so last night my dear friend, Lucas' mom, invited me to go to dinner and to attend the symphony. Lucas is a teenager thoroughbred horse, who is quite beautiful, but has troublesome knees due to his past racing career. He lives in a ranch in Petaluma and I recently heard he’s happy to have found a girlfriend, a mare in the same ranch. Lucas' mom is a graceful lady to whom I owe returning to eating vegetarian and learning how to do it the vegan way. Being vegan, to her, is quite simple. She’s a lady with great values, but since she may be reading, I’ll stop, or she’ll be blushing about my gushing.
So as I was saying, we went to eat at a favorite hangout, Golden Era Vegetarian Restaurant. This is a fabulous Buddhist Vietnamese restaurant. There is nothing in the menu that is lacking in perfection when it arrives to your table. In three years of eating there occasionally, I’ve tasted a variety of delicious meals. One of the servers tells me that the quality is due to the obsession of the owner, who is really fuzzy about maintaining the level of quality. We shared a Buddha bun - a steamed dim sum filled with tofu, bean sprouts and other veggies, a wonton soup – vegetables and wontons in a light broth, and “salmon” teriyaki – soy “fish” cakes with spinach in a teriyaki sauce. I did not eat dessert. Earlier in the afternoon, it was cake day at the office and I had three small pieces of cake.
Those monthly birthday celebrations seem to occur sooner each time. My mom says that in her current life experience, events seem to happen sooner. Maybe it’s an effect of aging. When I was a kid it seemed it took forever to get to high school. The cakes in the birthday celebrations, I have learned, have the effect of raising my body temperature. It’s probably from the margarine used in the frosting, a source of trans fats. At least I’m serving myself three thinner pieces rather than the larger portions of before. And I’m only doing it once a month. Well, it’s behavior not so in sync with caloric restriction, but it’s not too bad.
So Lucas’ mom and I then walked to the symphony hall to hear the San Francisco Symphony play Berlioz’ “The damnation of Faust.” What a spectacle that was. It was incredibly presented, with an enormous orchestra with triple and quadruple of instruments, a choir of 140 men and women, a chorus of 43 girls and a chorus of 40 boys. It’s a fable about someone being depressed and giving in to temptations from the devil, who promised love. It’s quite sordid. Faust gets to meet the girl of his dreams. He leaves, then she waits for him and accidentally poisons her mother by giving her the equivalent of sleeping pills to keep her quiet so she can wait for Faust to return. She is condemned to the gallows. In return for her redemption, Faust sells his soul to the devil. What’s to be learned from this plot? Don’t give in to deceptive temptations that lead to overindulgence. Well, I told Lucas' mom, in Buddhism the devil is called Mara, and one addresses it by saying, “What are you trying to do, Mara, tempt me into doing something bad?” I told this to her as we were walking by the Civic Center Hall where today the Dalai Lama is speaking. So the Buddhist themes continue.
The plot of Berlioz’ work reminds me of a great independent film I saw a few years ago called “Sin Noticias de Dios” or “Don’t tempt me”. It stars Penelope Cruz, Fannie Ardant, Gabriel Garcia Bernal and Victoria Abril. The general manager of heaven and the general manager of hell send emissaries to earth to recruit a boxer who is to die in a fight. Heaven is Paris, where meetings are held in a cabaret in which a chanteuse entertains. Hell is an underground prison under a metro in Spain, where prisoners queue up to be fed hamburgers and fries. That should make fellow CRONies laugh. The movie is in five languages. The language of heaven is French, the language of hell is English, the language of earth is Spanish. The chanteuse, an angel from heaven, sings in Portuguese. The emmisaries speak among themselves in Latin.
As we left the symphony, there was a male couple leaving the hall that caught my attention for their sartorial details. Everything about them matched, except their height - identical beige suits, bolero hats, tricolor shoes. They even sported matching beards. I guess they have lived together so long that resemble each other to the point that they look like twins.
Does going to the symphony give one the feeling of wanting to hug the world? I mean, everyone in the bus ride to the grocery store this morning looked interesting to me. Normally I’m in a Buddhist, non attachment stance, not paying attention to people in the bus. But this morning, even the tourists seemed fascinating. I enjoyed hearing the impeccable French spoken by two couples.
Okay so this is a rambling post. I called it “everything and nothing at all” because it reminds me that when I was younger I was embarrassed to tell someone that, “I have a degree in philosophy, which is good for nothing”, to which he replied, “or good for everything.” You can tell he worked in public relations – seeing the way to turn things towards an optimistic view. I read this in a card posted on a former colleagues' desk - “I used to be insecure. Now I’m not sure.” This statement is quite Buddhist because in our practice you have to move to a point of not knowing. Meditation gets you there. Well, maybe I just needed to rest – I slept very little two days in a row and this morning I caught up. And blogging is a way of sharing the thoughts that my brain concocted today. My body may have gotten rest, but my brain didn't stop spinning stories.
Lucas' mom gave me a fun assignment. I’m a good student; I’ll follow through. I’ve been out of the dating scene, so my assignment is to look for the card of someone I promised to have coffee with. It turns out we have a lot in common, including architecture and Buddhism. If nothing happens, at least it will turn into a friendship. Well, I haven't told her yet. I looked for the card this afternoon and it’s nowhere to be found, so I’ll have to get out of my comfort zone and yelp.
Now if anyone would care to share tips on hip opening preparation exercises that would make getting my legs behind the head easier I would appreciate the input. If you know of someone who has blogged about it, could you let me know? Namaste.
Someone actually stopped me at the farmer's market yesterday, which I pass through on the way back from practice to ask me what my bag's label read. He thought I was carrying a folding chair. When I explained it was a yoga mat, he said it must be a mega yoga mat. He wasn't entirely wrong. I find that the heavy manduka mat weighs too much, so I carry a Manduka purple travel mat. But I find that too thin, so I sandwich it with a sticky mat by another manufacturer, probably Hugger Mugger. Both of those together are bulky but weigh less than the traditional black mat.
My practice was nice. I've gotten to be able to place my feet in pasasana on the ground without rolling up the mat under them for support. We westeners have trouble squatting with our feet fully flat on the floor. I would not say I can do it perfectly, but it's getting stronger.
Teacher adjusted so that the hands got closer to the feet in kapotasana A. As he got my hands closer to the feet and I lifted my body, I noticed that my head was getting closer to the ground. I'm not sure if I understand the pose sufficiently, but maybe the crown of the head does have to touch the ground when the hands reach the feet in this asana. Of course, when you lift to kapotasana B in preparation to get out of the pose, your head is in the air. I am no longer feeling pain in the back when doing this pose, so my back must be opening up. That's great.
Related to the opening of the back in kapotasana is that I also experience it further in the upward bow of urdha dhanurasana. So when teacher assists with drop backs, my arch is much better.
The teacher today is a psychologist. She says that the medical community likes to lump a lot of problems under the common word of depression, but that she prefers to call it lowered mood states. The spiritual side of changing from that state is to pay attention, with loving kindness to what is happening in our bodies. We may be sad, or anxious for some reason. We feel we are on a freeway in which we missed our exit, or on a train that missed its stop and from which we can't get out. We typically do this when we dwell inscesantly on a problem. A spiritual solution to move to a happier state is to practice certain things. For example we can pay attention to the breadth. We can recognize that our shoulders are tightening, that our chest is tight. We can make an effort to change those things. Calm down, relax the muscles, breathe. By moving to a more peaceful relaxed state, we can move to a state in which better decisions can be made. We all know we can make better decisions when we're calm than when we're on a harried state. I would have added - well that is why yoga is good for us. It can move us to a state of calmness.
But going back to the title of the talk - let me see if I can summarize what she meant in a few words. We have conditioned ourselves through repetition to believe certain things, about others, about ourselves, about our environment. If these perceptions are attached to strong feelings, we believe they are true. But the sum total of our experiences don't make up who we are. We are constantly changing and evolving.
Those are pretty thoughts, so I though I would link to a beautiful site that sells hibiscus flowers. These grow in the ground where I come from. The owners of the site also practice CRON, but I digress.
In urdha mukka paschimottanasana, I tend to be lop sided, as if the right leg where longer than the left. They really aren't. A massage therapist told me once that people sometimes have like a torque of energy in their bodies that make them twist a bit. So in my case it seems I tend to twist to the left. Teacher seems to have observed this, since she recommended that I push the lower back muscles forward (torquing towards the right) so that the highs, knees and feet can be parallel.
While in paschimottanasana, she recommended that the hamstrings be let loose and the quadriceps lift upwards. Hmm. I hope I got that right about the quadriceps but it makes sense, since my hamstrings tend to contract and resist in forward bends of any kind.
She assisted me in urdha danurasana, which felt like a breeze today. Anyone care to predict how soon I'll come to standing by myself? I seem to have the movement, the lift, the proper arching of the back. [your estimate here] Yea, right. My hands need to get closer to the feet, though. Practice.......
Well, this challenge with coming to standing kind of remind me of how I got to do Chakrasana. I was having trouble while learning it. I simply would forget lifting with my arms at the last moment, when you need to do so to complete the somersault, and would bonk my head. Then I was on vacation and practicing at a shala in another country, and the teacher observed what stopped me at the last moment in Chakrasana, and said, "you need to push with your hands at the last moment." Something clicked, I was able to do it, and since then I have been able to do Chakrasana. Possibly the same will happen to Urdha. Every baby step has been leading to the time when I will do it and my body will say, "Oh, that is what I was supposed to do. That's great."
From the yoga perspective, I practiced Second Series, despite the fact that I missed yoga yesterday. Typically my Second Series is stronger if I have been consistent in my practice during the week. My work demands this week, and stress caused me to miss practice twice. In any case, the practice was OK.
I'm thinking about blogging about architecture in a separate blog. CRON and yoga, from my perspective, are complementary. On a separate blog I could list favorite buildings, architects, etc. I'm producing some of the most beautiful drawings I've ever produced. Unfortunately, I cannot post them since they are owned by the company, and represent projects in design, which means they are known only by the client, the design team and the government entities who give authority for the projects. So maybe I'll just have to philosophize about architecture and not dwell on my own.
That spike in my body temperature on Monday morning to nearly 97 was after consuming, well, ahem, should I use the dreaded word? - binging, on mozzarella cheese. This is not the low fat, part skim milk, low sodium variety. It's the Mexican Oaxacan string cheese with 100% milk. I buy the rich "die by cheese" mozz from my corner convenience market. I've entered into CRON. It's full of sodium and fat, hence the spike. Actually, all of those other spikes in the last three months occurred on the day after I consumed either this cheese or three pieces of cake offered at the monthly office cake day. I should probably ban the cheese from my diet forever. The problem is I don't find low fat mozzarella at Whole Foods, where I shop. I'm primarily vegan, so I rarely eat cheese. I do hear from fellow CRONies that there are some low fat, low sodium varieties out there, available probably at Safeway or Calas, the other grocery stores available around here. But in any case, I know myself. If I buy even the healthy variety, I will have no control anyway, so I have to just stay away from it. I have never exercised any control in front of string cheese, if there were no people watching me. Maybe if I have another lapse, I'll take a picture of the offending food next time and post it here.
Here is the link:
http://www.bandhayoga.com/ It is a wonderful website to explore. Samples from the book are located here. My only warning is that because the drawings are of skeletons with only the muscles being discussed illustrated, it can be spooky. Spooky in the way the exhibit “The Universe Within” was. I went to see that exhibit because a teacher observed that my right iliopsoas muscle was possibly constricting in urdhva muka paschimottanasana, because I tend to look lopsided when my legs are lifted in this position. Not knowing where the psoas was located, I went to the exhibit and learned.
Today's was a quiet practice. I concentrated on using the breadth as a mantra and thought of "not-thinking". Whenever a thought arose, I reflected, "oh, how nice, a thought" and let it pass like a cloud. The floor is beckoning my head in the forward bend of the prasarita padottanasanas. Soon, I hope, my head will touch the floor in these. I can now grab my hands around my feet in forward bends and the janus sirsananas. In pasasana, I was able to have my feet on the ground without needing to roll the end of the mat for support while squatting. Teacher observed that my breathing was good in supta vajrasana. Eka pada on the left side and Dwi Pada made Teacher and I laugh at my struggles. Frankly, I tried to understand what V. meant in her blog, Mind Bending about Dwi Pada, when she reflected that "Apparently, I’m trying to pull my leg too far beyond behind my neck, and should instead just try to lodge the thinnest part of the ankle against it. " She goes on to comment further that if she tries that, her leg pops out sooner. The same thing happens to me. I think that the back needs to be straighter, because we tend to curve the back to get the leg behind it. But I have no idea what the "thinnest part of the ankle" means. That could be because English is my second language. Sometimes Teacher has to demonstrate something if I look puzzled like I did not understand. But that is another story. For another day.
Urdha Danurasana was fun today also. I'm getting the hang of the shifting of the legs backwards then forwards just before you're supposed to come up to standing.
David Williams is teaching a 3 day seminar in town. I didn't go because I'm on a budget. But I always start my practice with an exercise for the stomach that I learned from him 3 years ago. It is done while standing and while on the knees. The stomach is brought in and out as if it where a basketball. This wakes up the bhandas. He said it is more important than doing stomach crunches in a gym.
My biomarkers today are excellent. It's funny because it's been a hectic week working long hours at a very fast pace, helping another project other than my regular one. I met the deadline and people where pleased with the drawings I produced. Perhaps the biomarkers show the effect of "deflation" in the body - a relaxation of the body after completing a lot of hard work. Most probably they are the result of a good CRON week, although my yoga practice was spotty. Yesterday I did half the Primary Series so that I could get back home to finish a drawing. Today Saturday would be a day of rest from yoga, but I think I may take a led class. That way my mysore practice tomorrow will be stronger.
The teacher that Sunday explained that Tibetan Buddhism is most aligned with yogic traditions of India. He said that in his tradition the two ways to practice are either yogic or monastic. I asked him what yogic practice meant in his tradition, given that my practice is Ashtanga yoga in the mornings, followed by meditation in the Zen tradition of zazen in the evenings. He answered that yogic versus monastic in Tibetan traditions is the difference between form and emptiness. The heart sutra says, "form itself is emptiness, emptiness itself form." Yogic actions refers to form while monastic actions refers to emptiness. What this means is that a person who is a committed lay practitioner, as he is in his tradition, is following certain forms without physically joining a monastery. But others make the sacrifice of joining a monastery, where they take vows and basically empty their entire life of attachments. Both are ways to practice.
I drew a philosophical analogy to what happens in Ashtanga practice. I'm not deriving this opinion from scholarly research, but from observations. Could one say that those of us who have been practicing for several years and are really dedicated to the practice are yogic? I think so. We refer to each others as yogis and yoginis. We're observing certain practices daily. What about our teachers? Could we not say they are seeking emptiness? There is no structure such as monasticism in this practice, unless you seek an ashram, and there are few of those in our country. But couldn't you compare the dedication of teachers to Ashtanga to the dedication of monks in monasticism? It's just an analogy. Some teachers work hard to obtain certification to teach by the Yoga Alliance. That is probably a basic requirement for them to teach in a studio in the US. However, teachers in our tradition take the extra steps of studying with senior teachers who have been sharing this method for over 30 years, and if it is possible financially for them to do so, go study with the Master, who has been teaching this over 70 years, and his family, in India. Doesn't that dedication compare to the dedication of monks in a community? Granted, Ashtanga is not a religion. I'm only drawing philosophic analogies here.
This all reminds me of something that speaker said. It is said we are in the age of information. We're interconnected electronically through the web, so that news are distributed instantly all over the world. But what is being shared mostly through these means is ideology. In conclusion, with this post I'm sharing my own bits of ideologies regarding Ashtanga practitioners and teachers.
One of my fellow practitioners is a floater. When he returns to standing from downward dog, you don't even hear the feet land. I think this is from lifting the hips as if you were going into a handstand, when you're returning to standing. It reminds me that John Scott told one of my first teachers that any time your hands are on the floor, you should ground them as if you were going to go into handstand, which in order to do you need to lift the hips up. So maybe that explains the floating action.
In Bharadvajasana Teacher today emphasized the lifting of the chest and turning after each subsequent lift. In Ardha-Matsyendrasana Teacher emphasized the importance of aligning the bent leg with the direction of the edge of the map, keeping the hip of the other leg moving forward. David Swenson says this is a pose with a lot of rules of opposition. It kind of reminds me of architecture, where you have bending and flexing stresses in structural members and moment connections to resist the forces. So for me at least, it's "architecture pose".
Another observation L. made a few weeks ago was that I mustn't collapse my back in the Eka Pada poses. So I have been remembering to keep the back straight even when bringing the legs behind the legs.
For some reason today, my chest was really lifting in Urdha Danurasana. The best tip that Teacher gave me today was to demonstrate the action of the hips before the legs are supposed to bring you back to standing. The hips have to rock back, then quickly forward, and in that action your legs should know that they need to lift you. The hands are straight all the time here. They are not supposed to be bent.
Phew! Coming to standing, then dropping back in Urdha Danurasana. I've never know an asana that has so many details to break down and learn. But I'm getting the hang of it. It reminds me that when I was in ninth grade, I saw on television gymnasts getting on metal horses and doing headstands, somersaults, etc. So when I was in the gym and saw a metal horse, I placed my hands on the two grab bars, shifted my weight and attempted lifting my legs into a headstand. I managed to do so, and at the same time came crashing on my head on the horse. I was slightly overweight at the time and my muscles where not developed. My school chums took me to the infirmary for treatment of my head wound. I think I got two stitches. The lesson learned was that one can do a lot of things that gymnasts can do, and in reference to our practice, what other dedicated ashtangis can do. But sometimes it requires breaking down the steps, starting with little steps while the body adjusts and learns what it has to do. Then after a lot of practice and continuous advancement through little steps, one finally begins to do the full expression of the asanas.
I came home early from work after having worked a lot of overtime. I was tired and bug-eyed. But I decided to see what I would learn if I entered into Cron-O-Meter the supplements I take daily, and add it to my typical daily menu. I am posting the nutritional results. Doing this exercise, I was left with the quandary of not knowing what the three letter abbreviations for amino acids mean in C-O-M. I probably made the mistake of entering lecithin as leucine. I did not find anything to match under amino acids or minerals for Biotin, Taurine or the enzyme Alpha-Galactosidase (the main ingredient of Beano.) Of course I’m not a nutritionist or scientist, so this is a fun tinkering experiment. I did anticipate that by supplementing I would be surpassing the RDA daily minimum requirements for vitamins. I seem to be overdosing in copper with dosage at 600%. I will look into the source of that or its potential dangers. I am not surprised that Vitamin D is low; that is discussed often in the list. In any case, as a vegetarian, I think I need to supplement. Although I was tired when I started doing this exercise, it has left me refreshed mentally – I can’t say my eyes agree, but I will go to sleep early tonight.
Non graphic summary of the nutrients
Energy 1713.7 kcal 101%
Protein 121.5 g 135%
Carbs 208.2 g 132%
Fiber 52.5 g 138%
Fat 57.8 g 145%
Water 1568.9 g 42%
Vitamin A 8284.9 IU 276%
Folate 1454.8 ug 364%
B1 (Thiamine) 4.9 mg 410%
B2 (Riboflavin) 5.7 mg 436%
B3 (Niacin) 41.8 mg 261%
B5 (Pantothenic Acid) 6.1 mg 121%
B6 (Pyridoxine) 3.2 mg 250%
B12 (Cyanocobalamin) 26.2 ug 1093%
Vitamin C 1151.4 mg 1279%
Vitamin D 4.1 IU 2%
Vitamin E 14.7 mg 98%
Vitamin K 157.9 ?g 132%
Calcium 1678.7 mg 168%
Copper 5.9 mg 661%
Iron 25.8 mg 322%
Magnesium 1234.7 mg 294%
Manganese 7.0 mg 304%
Phosphorus 2416.5 mg 345%
Potassium 5182.0 mg 110%
Selenium 185.2 ug 337%
Sodium 1550.9 mg 103%
Zinc 17.5 mg 159%
Saturated 9.8 g 49%
Omega-3 3.1 g 193%
Omega-6 15.7 g 92%
Cholesterol 13.0 mg 4%
Ironman sometimes has to miss going to the shala also because of needing to be at a jobsite early. He recommends doing half of the primary series, until Marychasna D, or a quarter of the series, or even some sun salutations. So I took his advice today.
I found it useful to tell myself, "OK, it's going to be tough. You have to practice at home." So I played games with myself so I would do it. I left the mat unrolled the night before. In the morning, when starting to practice I lit a candle, lit some insence, did my dedications and practiced a short practice. David Williams says that Guruji recommends that one practice the first 5 of the standing sequence (the essential asanas) and at least the last three of the closing sequence (seated positions) when one is travelling and unable to do a full practice. This keeps the body in shape so that it doesn't lose its yoga mode. Does that make sense?
Deborah was wondering why the CRON community is not blogging much. Yes we're really busy. I also suppose that Easter is a time to spend with the family and that takes us away from blogging.
Now I need to go to the office...
In Kapotasana, Teacher adjusted by gradually bringing the arms closer to the feet and I lifted my body as much as I could. Bringing back the body after extending the arms was a breeze - the legs really wanted to bring the body back up today. (I think bicycling is actually helping those poses in which the legs have to bring me back up because the muscles are stronger, just my opinion.)
Teacher helped me on Eka Pada Sirsasana on my left, the tight side. With that adjustment, I was able to keep the left foot behind the head in the next pose, Dwi Pada. But I kind of lost the pose while bringing the right foot behind the head so that both would be behind the head. However, it was the closest I've been to balancing by myself and bringing both legs behind the head. So then Teacher adjusted for Dwi Pada. I was wondering if my neck would be okay and wondered how my body was able to breathe while wrapped thus
In Urdha Danurasana, Teacher tried a small adjustment today. I spread the legs a bit wider than my purple Manduka travel mat, and also just flared the feet a bit instead of being pigeon toed. There is something to this. QuietStrength is another of my fellow practitioners with a similar body type and he tend to come up to standing with his feet a bit flared. I have heard that this is sometimes allowed in India, although the preferable way is that the toe point inwards, somewhat pigeon-like. But perhaps for some of us whose legs are built a certain way, this can work. In anycase, I learned today about the grounding and strenght needed in the legs, which have to bring you up from upward bow.
I'm remembering recent nuggets of good advice from my teachers. Some of the advice came from fellow practitioners, who are also my teachers.
- "Wherever there is pain, address it with breath."
- "Deepen the breath during the entire practice, even in between asanas, when you are preparing for the pose."
- "Keep the nervous system calm."
- "Find the balance between effort and ease."
- "Don't bend the hands when doing drop backs (you might hit your head if you do.)"
- "Oh, you're doing the Egyptian Warrior pose." (I got that coment from Tim Miller during a worshop when my hands were pyramid-like, not close together as they should be in Virabhadrasnana A during Sun Salutation B. He squeezed my elbows together to collapse the pyramid. I wonder if he knew I was an architect and pyramids are a basic form. )
- "Keep the elbows together while in Urdha Danurasana (upward bow)."
- "Keep the elbows together while in Urha Mukka Svanasana (upward dog) as practice for
the similar position of the elbows in Urdha Danurasana."
Fellow practitioner Ironman commented that when doing Second Series, instead of stopping through the standing sequences after Parsvottanasana, it's better to do all of the standing series, because it strengthens the legs. Leg strength is important for bringing you back up in Laghu Vajrasana and Kapotasana, and in the many inversions that follow. He also commented that men who bicycle or ride motorcycles, because of the crunching forward bending motion of those sports, tend to have more problem with backbending asanas and in coming up to standing from Urdha Danurasana. That makes sense to me. I bicycle daily to work and seem to have some difficulties with coming up to standing from Urdha. In any case, since I'm currently up to Dwi Pada in Second Series, I still practice primary series up to Navasna before starting Second. I think that when I get to Pincha Mayurasana, the teacher will separate the practice and I will be able to start Second earlier, after Parvvottanasana, or the standing series.
By the way, I was taught the entire Second Series originally 4 years ago. But I was doing substitutions for those asanas with which I had trouble, or doing them poorly, so in keeping with the current fashion of not moving on to the next pose until you have done a pose correctly, I am currently in the middle of Second Series. I can't wait to move on, but my body has to get used to the practice.
My sister sent me these fun images. I have come up with some concepts as to how they might relate to the yoga practice daily at the shala. In the practice room there are people of different ages and practice levels. Some have an impressively beautiful practice, exuding grace in movement, as the big fish in the first image. Perhaps it's from talent developed by honing the skills over time. Others have beautiful practice too, but less developed, as the small fish in the image. Sometimes, someone shares something they have learned at an ashtanga intensive workshop, as the penguin is talking to the other enraptured penguins, in the image on the lower left. I think people who share their knowledge in blogs also are like the penguin telling his story. At other times at the shala, the practice is just plain fun, with laughter and energy. Those days sometimes happen after a week of constant practice, where we feel as strong as King Kong. It's when one feels one should hear someone do a Tarzan yell while doing Viparita Chakrasana. One is having fun, as the mushrooms playing on the seesaw on the top right image. Then, most days in the shala, we're just together practicing, being a community, like sheeps in a herd, following the guidance of the shepherd, our teacher, as the sheep in the image at lower right.
Those two highs in my resting heart rate on March 2nd and April 1st occured on the days after cakes were offered in the office in the monthy celebrations of birthdays. I typically have two pieces of cake and some wine. I think the accelerated heart pressure is directly related to the spike in sugar consumption. Typically my
diet is devoid of sugar. It's a good reminder to limit the consumption of these desserts.
Was it worth it? Absolutely. I had never heard Koolhas speak. He was incredibly stimulating. He was funny, articulate, sharing stories that really made you think. My favorite recollection is that we architects are always on the side of challenging and looking for solutions, when most of the world wants to accept the status quo and not change. We are doers, when others are reactionaries. He showed some of his innovative buildings under construction in China, and his entries to competitions around the world. He explained the research that went into designing some of his buildings. A friend of mine that is working on a PhD in architecture says that most of this verbiage regarding the design of a building is BS. However, the verbiage really sells the client on the architectural ideas.
I had visited his student center at ITT in Chicago and had been impressed with his use of ramps and innovative use of materials. Now I can't wait to go see his Seattle Public Library.
These days I practice in the shala in the mornings. When I used to practice at home sometimes I would do a yin yoga practice on moon days. The shala I go to during the week holds classes on moon days, but I don't like to do a routine that is different if others are doing ashtanga with vinyasas, so I just stay home and sleep on a moon day.