Saturday, May 31, 2003

Yesterday was a day off from work. It came sandwiched between two days/nights of being on call so I wanted to do some stuff to take advantage of what free time I had. It was a cool cloudy day here, a nice respite from the unremitting sunny brightness that attracts people to this area. Since the kids were in school, I called a friend who tends to be able to do stuff at the drop of a hat and we played a round of golf. Well, he played. I mainly lost a bunch of golf balls and made big holes in the golf course. We both have always sneered at golfers who ride in carts or use those little pull cart thingies to tote their bags. "Real" golfers walk the course and carry their bags. That's how the game is supposed to be played. Right about the 16th hole, I was getting a little sore and achy. I think he was too. We were both kind of bracing our lower backs as we trudged up this small hill. We walked by a foursome of older guys breezing up the other fairway with their new pull carts. We looked at each other and knew. Our time was coming. Besides, the pull carts they have these days are really pretty cool.

My wife was able to pull some strings and get me a pass to this hoity toity health club where she sometimes teaches classes. They have a full first series class on Friday nights that's taught by one of Tim's more senior students. I knew I was gonna be stiff from golfing but I really wanted to practice, moon day or not, because I have to work today. In medicine, there's this unwritten rule called Intern's Law. It goes something like, "If you have the chance to eat, sleep or go to the bathroom, do it. You never know when you'll get another chance to do so." That's kind of how I approach practice. If I get a chance to go, I go. There's too many times when I'm not gonna have the chance to do so.

The practice room at this club is very different from my usual study place. It's all bright and fresh, slightly cushioned laminate floors, and.... wall to wall mirrors. Horrors. Last thing someone like me needs is even more visual distraction. It's actually really nice to be able to see my alignment in some poses. I now know where it is that my hands actually are in prasarita C, as opposed to where I thought or hoped they were ("Surely they're just an inch or so away from the floor?" Not.). I have confirmed that my virabhadrasana B is nowhere near the powerful warrior-like pose it could be. I also learned that some things aren't as bad as I had feared. My chest and shoulders are more open in my up dogs than they feel. But, I had to really work at keeping my attention where it was supposed to be and not use the mirrors to better look around the room. That took a lot out of me.

It was neat to be with a group of people that I was mostly unfamiliar with. I had seen one or two of the women in the class at a different yoga studio. One person in the class studies with Tim regularly but I didn't even know she was there until we were walking out. I met suburbfreak in the class. I had met her once before at a yoga demonstration when she came up to me and asked if I was okrgr. I didn't know how to respond at first. Nobody had ever asked me that. We talked for a bit about yoga and getting kids involved in doing yoga ( I had to admit I had little advice to offer there, since I can't drag my kids to a yoga class unless there's been some major quid pro quo offered.) I've never previously practiced with her though, despite the fact that we live within a few miles of each other. I didn't recognize her when she first came in the room but we figured out who each other was after a while and were able to chat a bit before we got started with class. I only got a few glances of her out of the corner of my eye during class but she is quite flexible and her practice appeared very smooth.

The class itself was quite nice. The room was a little cooler than I'm used to, but not too cool. I think the class was only for 1 1/2 hours, so it seemed like we didn't hold some of the poses as long. As a result, I felt stronger than I usually do. That was the first time in quite a while that I didn't get up and get a drink of water somewhere along the line. Everyone there seemed to know each other. They were a friendly group. The usual general mix of skills, body types, ages etc., but only a couple of other guys besides me. The class wasn't too large, I think about 14-15 people. I had some very good adjustments from the teacher. Since it was a smaller class, she would usually adjust a person for the whole count of a pose rather than moving between several people in one five count. The teacher is one of those who have a natural grace about their movements. Not the sorta theatrical dancer/ballet motions that some people feel the need to put in, just a natural fluidity and smoothness. It's a quality that I attend to because I don't perceive it much in my practice. Maybe some day.

Time to do some work, an admission just came in. Somebody who isn't in labor but who really wants to be. S'okay by me.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

No posts after practice with Tim last night. I got home around 8 pm. I sat around with the kids for an hour, then after they went to bed, I laid down of the sofa for a bit. My wife has seen this sort of thing before so she knew what was coming. At her suggestion that I should just go to bed if I was tired, I replied, "I'm not going to sleep, I'm just resting." When I woke up an hour or so later, I decided to take her advice.

Yesterday there were only 14 or 15 people in Tim's class. He has two assistants who help him with this class. So, with a teacher to student ratio of 1 to 5, we had an ADJUSTA-PALOOZA. I didn't get all that many from Tim but I did get a lot more adjustments than usual. I had a real deep adjustment in Ardha Baddha Padma Pascimottanasana. Like most people, I tend to have the shoulder of the binding arm much higher than the other shoulder. The assistant worked with me on getting extended down the leg and with getting my shoulders level. It was a good squash. The two assistants have very different styles, which was interesting. The guy tends to have a fairly firm hand and is very good putting you where you haven't been able to get before. The woman approaches adjustment with a more subtle, guiding technique, often indicating with just a light touch on your back or shoulder or hip where you need to be directing your energy to put yourself into a better position. I liked getting both approaches.

Having that many teachers with that few students made for a more tiring practice than usual. When a teacher is helping, I tend to try my best, or hardest, at doing that pose. That even applies when they are hovering nearby. If Tim or one of the other teachers is moving past, I find myself trying just that little bit more to do the pose even better than I might normally. That works great when they come by on occasion. When one of them is next to me on just about every other pose, it starts to take its toll. I kind of felt a little sorry for the woman next to me. She was new to our area. In general, it seems that people who are new to the studio tend to get more than an average amount of the teachers' attention. That was true for her, in spades. One or another of them was helping her every third pose it seemed like. Interestingly though, she had gone to the afternoon mysore class that immediately preceded our class, so this was her second class, back to back. A bold and curious thing to do, but even bolder and curiouser, when she was introducing herself to Tim just before our class, she mentioned that she had just finished doing the other class. Now that was an upfront, honest thing to tell him, it's just not something that I would have done. I don't know how he took that but I would be willing to bet that he didn't think it was the best thing in the world to be trying to do. At any rate, no quarter was given. He asked her at one point, I think it was at backbends, if she was tired. She replied that she was. He walked on. You get what you ask for. She did well though. She didn't look any more tired than I felt.

For today's practice, I had low expectations. I was in the OR all day. The last case was taking a while so I was sure I wasn't going to get out in time to make it to class. But, we got done with just enough time to chance it. Fortunately, traffic was just average so I got there with enough time to touch my toes a couple of times before we started. Despite having been on my feet all day and having a minimal pre-stretch, I was almost as flexible as I was yesterday. I did forward bends with no problems. The areas where I could tell a difference, where I wasn't up to par, were ones requiring binding. Not sure if my limitation today was in the shoulders or in my twisting but the ardha baddhas, the marichy's, supta kurmasana, baddha padmasana all were below my norm. Today was the first time in a long time that I couldn't get both big toes in baddha padmasana. I struggled and strained for the second toe for a couple of counts then gave up and just folded forward. It wasn't worth missing the pose just to get my toe. I was very happy just to get to class. That I wasn't hurting and having to strain just to get into postures made it even better. The only negative was the savasana. It couldn't have been three minutes. I shouldn't complain. I had to be at work again at 8 o'clock so it's probably better that we didn't stay down any longer.

I left class with my hair all soaked from sweat. I had a little less than 30 minutes to get the 25 plus miles to work, so I was going a little faster than is allowed and I had the top down. When I got to work, my hair was fixed in this wind blown mess that was as refractory to combing out as a perm. Fortunately, I can just slip on one of those hats we wear in the OR that covers up your hair until I can get a shower.

For us'ns in SoCal, tomorrow is the moon day. New moon. I hadn't planned on attending any classes at other places. None of the teachers at Tim's studio teach on moon days. My wife told me about an evening class tomorrow that is taught by one of Tim's students that we both like and respect very much. So maybe I'll go to that. We'll see.

Monday, May 26, 2003

I tend to flip thru the other ashtanga blogs that I have links for. The one by abby recently made note of that curious nature of ashtanga to constantly surprise us with what we least expect. Like her, I had entered a practice slump recently. For me, there was no particular reason for it that I could figure out, just all of a sudden, I couldn't to things as well as I used to. Then, once I was convinced I was a general spaz, for some reason I started being able to do things again. No hint of what it was that now enabled me to keep my balance or get thru a practice without feeling unusually tired. Today in class, despite it being a prep class, I was doing some things as well as I ever have. It's sort of spooky the way the practice keeps you guessing.

Holiday practices tend to bring lots of visiting students. My wife said mysore was very crowded today. Even the noon class that I went to today had lots of new faces. I don't know why I like that a lot, but I do. It just changes the feel of the room a bit. While it is interesting to see the practices of other people that I am not familiar with, I tend to look around much less than I used to. In Sunday's class, I was beside someone who I had wanted to practice next to for some time. I knew she had a good practice overall, but was not familiar with her second series practice. I wanted to see what I looked like compared to her. I don't think I can remember one thing about her practice. Nor the person who was on my right. Second series is like that though. I tend to just be aware of what I'm doing. While the forward bending of the first series is supposedly an introspective process and the backbending aspects of the second series supposedly exert a more opening, extrovertive influence, I find that I am much more aware of what is going on around me during a first series practice than I am in a second series class. I guess the forward gaze in all those seated postures tends to allow the undisciplined to be distracted by the view of the others in the room doing their practices. In the second series, the gaze is often down towards the floor or up at the ceiling or toward the wall. This helps keeps an internal focus, where it should be, not checking out stuff like whether or not that girl who can almost put her head on her feet in forward bends can backbend too, etc.

We're kind of debating here what to do about the various yoga conferences coming up. We're scheduled to spend a week in Mt. Shasta with Tim in August. My wife had also asked for a yoga trip for her upcoming birthday. Originally it was going to be the Yoga Journal Conference in Estes Park, CO. Then, the idea came up to instead spend a week in NYC, seeing the sites, taking class at one of the studios there and visiting some yoga friends. Then I heard about the Krishnamacharya festival in San Francisco, for which two of Krishnamacharya's students, Guruji and Desikachar, would be speaking. As a result of that stateside visit, Guruji announced he would be extending the trip into another world tour, including two weeks here in our area. Now I don't know what the hell to do. Too many options. We can't do them all, unfortunately. I'm sure we'll do the Guruji classes here, but I'll let my wife decide what other trip she wants.

I learned an interesting beginner's trick on the trapeze the other day that incorporates a yoga-like posture. It's one of those things where you swing on one bar a few times then transfer mid air to the arms of a catcher on another bar. In this one, you hang down from the swinging bar in a sort of dhanurasana type position until you let go and fly over to the catcher. It's called the bird's nest.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

For practice today, my wife once again kindly let me have the favored 2nd series class. No arguments or protestations that, no, no, she should go. I was gone. I was pretty pleased with how I did. I have gotten less fatigued these last few times I've done this class. Now, having said that, I'll probably collapse in exhaustion in my next class. My assessment points for how I'm doing are usually pasasana (how wet with sweat does the t-shirt that I drape over my legs to minimize arm slippage get?), ustrasana (am I so tired from dhanurasana and parsva dhanurasana that I don't even want to kneel upright?), and tittibhasana (am I so spent that I have to come out of the postures and catch my breath or can I do my version of all five with out a break?). After those, I don't worry too much about how I'm doing energy-wise.

One pose that I'm getting a little better at for having been able to do it a few more times now is vatayanasana. For some reason, I still can't get enough balance on the first side to be able to get my arms crossed and then lifted. I can do the second side okay though. My foot is still a bit too far from the ardha padma knee but I'll take the little victory. After my troubles and trials with pincha mayurasana last week, I was determined to hold it, no matter what. He once again said, "25 breaths" so I went up and stared at the floor. I heard a few other exits but no release from Tim. After about 14 or 15 breaths he started to say something. I had been holding up okay but I was anticipating that he would give us the command to come down, so when he started going on about something, I was already part way out of the pose. No way to recover, so I blew it again. Next time, my toes are coming down last in the class.

I'd love to have some kind of picture of what I'm doing in some of these poses. I have no where near the sense of what I'm doing in 2nd as I do with the poses in the first series. I'd love to know how far my feet are from my head in vrischikasana (which we do right after karandavasana), what it is I'm actually doing in bakasana B, etc. . There's more than a few postures that I don't do that well, but most I do okay in. When I started doing the first series, there were tons of postures I couldn't do at all. That changed over time, so hopefully my 2nd series inabilities will get better too. I played a game for a while, trying to figure out which posture would be the last one I would be able to do in the 1st series (it's supta kurmasana). We'll have to see for 2nd series. It's quite a ways off, if I ever am able to find out. My money is on karandavasana, but I suck at badha hasta sirsasana C too. Just gotta get in more mysore classes so I can get the reps. Won't happen this week though. The work schedule is not favorable. I think the one day that I could have gone is the moon day. I hate astrology.
While I stood around the front of the shala this morning waiting for someone to come by and unlock it, I passed the time reading the various flyers and notices on the door. While reading the one giving the dates for moon days, I discovered I had made a mistake in my earlier posting about the upcoming moon. For some reason, I had it in my head that the upcoming moon was going to be a full moon, even though I knew that as I wrote the post there was a full moon that was being eclipsed. Doh!. Fortunately, either no one read that post or if they did, they didn't catch the error, or if they did, they were too kind to point it out. So, having proved my complete lack of knowledge of astronomy and astrology, a correction is in order. This month, we have two new moons. The frequency of that event is comparable to that of blue moons apparently. It is less clear if there is a commonly accepted term for the second new moon. This site listed a few different names. In older times, the definition of a month was the time from one new moon to the next, so every month had two new moons. Something I read said that Islamic calendars follow this pattern also.

I'm gonna take the kids and blow a bunch of dough on that trapeze thing so I'll have to post something practice related later.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

The ashtanga disability crisis is averted, for now. Practice today was better. It was the Saturday improv class, so I still don't have a feel for how I'll do with the regular first series. At least whatever I was doing wrong didn't become so persistent that it became ingrained. Little mercies.

I got off work a little later than I wanted, due to sleeping in longer than I had planned, so my stretch out time was a bit shorter than I would have liked. It all worked out okay though. Once we got going, I was able to stretch the stiff areas acceptably. We did a lot of the same things today that we did in the Thursday class that I felt lost in. This time, I was able to hold the Pincha Mayurasanas without too much problem, so I was able to let go of that worry and just deal with the postures.

When the teacher asked the group what they would like to work on today, we got the usual requests: hips, quad stretches, shoulders, etc. I wonder what the most unusual request they have ever gotten is? In one of these classes, I once asked for some focus on vinyasa, since I suxxor at it, but I got kind of a less than enthusiastic glance from the teacher and we didn't really address it. It's probably something that doesn't really translate to a fluid led class type of setting.

The teacher did do most of what was requested today. One person asked for abs, but we didn't really do much for that area specifically. We did do the anjaneyasana series to open the hips (just once repetition for each variation per side this time). Then we did some work to address backbending. First was a bridge pose, setu bandha sarvangasana, to get those muscles working. Then we did some viparita dandasana stuff. We started off in a back bend base. After lifting the hips, we moved the hands and arms into the position they would be in for head stand and then moved the feet farther away to straighten the legs and enter viparita dandasana. Then we worked on lowering down into viparita dandasana from headstand. We also did a similar dropping of the feet backwards to the mat from pincha mayurasana. Next, we did a bunch of postures to begin opening the hips and the thigh adductors, eventually leading up to kashyapasana and eka pada sirsasana. Then a few back bends, a hand stand and we closed. All in all, the class flowed pretty well. I kept up the heat the entire class, sweating the whole time. And now, my mood is waaay better post practice.

Don't know how the rest of the holiday weekend will turn out. We're not doing anything special that I know of. We might try the trapeze thing again if it's not booked up. Kind of expensive though.

Friday, May 23, 2003

My last couple of practices have been less than satisfying. Once the practices have gotten going, I just haven't been feeling in synch for some reason. I could bend okay, I wasn't stiffer than I expected to be. I just seemed to struggle with some postures that I usually wouldn't have much trouble doing, especially with postures that entailed bandha control. Wednesday evening, I just didn't have it at all. After a while, I seemed to be the last one getting into each posture (it was a led 1st series class). The farther the class went, the worse I seemed to do. I kept wobbling and bobbing in the postures like ubhaya padangusthasana and Urdhva Mukha Paschimattanasana. I wasn't sure why things changed. I had been reasonably pleased with my practices lately. Sometimes, when you go into a class with expectations, the opposite seems to happen. As I drove home, I chalked it up to being one of those practices that just happen from time to time.

I had hopes that things would be better the next morning for Tim's Improv class. No such luck. I did okay until we started doing a series of pincha mayurasana poses as we worked towards doing viparita dandasana and viparita chakrasana. I can normally do pincha mayurasana ok. I sometimes take a few attempts to get up and I may fall out of it from time to time, but I can usually get it okay. Yesterday, I fell through to a somersault every time I tried it for something like five postures in a row. This was the first time that I ever found myself getting frustrated enough in class that I became overtly angry. Fling the tennis racquet, slam the golf club angry. By the time I did get up and hold the pose, the rest of the class was doing things well beyond where I had just gotten. Having failed to do something I thought I was easily capable of doing, I had no confidence approaching the even more advanced backbending stuff that we were then supposed to be trying. Fortunately, the class slowed down a bit, my anger dissipated and we tried some really different stuff, like yogi dandasana, that got my head going in a new direction. I didn't feel as bad when just about everybody else in the room couldn't do the pose either.

I've only gone to that class twice. It's a more advanced class. I hadn't gone in the past because I didn't think I should be going if I can't be doing what most of the class is able to do. It bugged me that I was showing a practice that didn't belong when I knew I should be able to do it. The getting angry bugged me even more. It spoiled the rest of the morning for me. Now, why it should bug me that I might not be that good at an advanced class when I'm not an advanced student is the question I've had to address. It implies a certain degree of arrogance, which I thought was something I would not be very susceptible to, at least not with regards to my asana practice. So, another couple of lessons being imparted. Maybe it's good that I'm working today. I wish I could go to a mysore class though. I think that would get me back to basics and get me going better mentally.

It's easy to accept inability to do poses when there is an overt flexibility limitation. If I had closed hips, I would not get angry at not being able to put my foot behind my head. But, the internal limitations are less obvious. If my body is flexible enough to do a pose, but my bandha control and my mental focus are not sufficient to enable me to do the pose, it maybe is easier to slip into the unrealistic type of thinking that leads to frustration and even anger.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Okay, now I'm a little sore. My neck is sore from when I landed on it trying to exit the trapeze bar. My abs were stiff today. Don't recall ever having stiff abs before. I guess the swinging must have worked those muscles without me being aware of it. My trapezius (duh) muscles and shoulders were sorta tight today too.

While I was in savasana today, I was thinking of something that I thought would be interesting to put in the blog . Course, now I have no idea what it was. So much for the concept of focus. Sometimes I think helpful things in savasana, sometimes I just daydream, probably like most people. At least I hope that happens to other people and not just me.


I think I have a different fantasy of what is "supposed" to be going on in savasana than others may. I guess I heard somebody propose this concept and it made sense to me. Maybe I extrapolated it from Tim Miller's Alchemy of Yoga article. In the course of the asana practice, the practitioner undergoes a variety of changes as a function of his/her activities. First, and maybe foremost, is the change of attention, from a general awareness of everything around to a more internal focus. The student gradually trades the distracted awareness for one that attends to how the body is doing internally, both physically and energetically. As the student moves thru the asanas, some physical changes occur that we are all familiar with. We become more flexible and we generate considerable internal heat. The flexibility helps remove the distractions of the physical body, we can repose in comfort. The generation of heat is sort of like the body as a combustion chamber. The body is distilling the prana, the internal energies, purifying them, readying them for later use. The breath acts as the bellows, adding fuel to the furnace, creating a greater, more effective heating of the internal energies. The visual I think of for what is going on energetically thru the course of the practice is of a small team of barracudas that circle their prey, a school of some small fish. They herd them into a smaller and smaller and more concentrated ball of fish. Then, when they are packed in as tightly as possible, they take turns, knifing thru, getting huge mouthfuls in one pass. The exertion and focus of the practice is concentrating our energies inside us just like that balled up school of fish. Then, the finishing sequence allows us to begin to slow the physical aspect down while maintaining the focus of attention and keeping the prana or energy in its newly concentrated state. Then, once in savasana, we let everything else go. We no longer attend to our breath, we cease our exertion, we stop trying. We let what happens happen. We focus on whatever we are focusing on as we rest and release our attention to anything else. The energy, no longer needed to drive our bending, no longer held in and concentrated by the practice, can be applied to a single point of focus, our internal thoughts. Or maybe, even better, our internal thought. That's how I view it, the process of generating, concentrating and then applying energy to as narrow a field of attention as possible.

But, until I'm educated otherwise, my understanding is that we shouldn't necessarily be trying to control what that point of attention is. To do so is actually a diffusion of the focus. The trying to control a thought pattern would become a secondary, distracting focus. The attention should be on whatever our mind goes to. Over time, by applying the energy to a narrow point of focus on a regular basis, we possibly begin to learn how to engage the other arms of ashtanga: pratyahara -- sensory withdrawal, dharana -- concentration, dhyana -- meditation. Ergo, the "All is coming" aspect of asana practice.

Course, I may have misunderstood things. I discussed my understanding of savasana with somebody once. They agreed with some of it and some they didn't feel was accurate. They may be right, since half the time I forget what I was thinking about before I'm out the door of the shala.


And that wasn't even what I was thinking about today. I just felt the need to go on a tangent. Happens to me sometimes. Looking back over my previous posts, I guess it happens a fair amount.

I've had an unusually good run of practice luck this week. Four practice days in a row, today being the fourth. I went to the noon Prep class today. I get off work at 8:00 and mysore starts at 7:00 most days, so when I've been on call over night, mysore class is usually not an option. For today, the remaining options were the prep class or Tim's intro class in the evening. I like the prep teacher a lot. Much like in Tim's intro class, she gives a lot of very helpful verbal cues on the fundamentals of the asanas. We don't do all the postures in the first series, and we do some postures that aren't in the first series, but it all adds up to a stronger first series practice. It's kind of like an athlete breaking down their sport, say baseball for example, into parts and working on the segments to help refine the overall performance.

I was glad to be able to do the first series prep today. After doing improv on Saturday and 2nd series on Sunday, I didn't want to go another day without some forward bending. I can't practice tomorrow because I'm on call again. So, it helped to get this in today.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

Trapeze rocks. See below after the obligatory practice recap.

Today, a time to be humbled once again. Class with the big kids. Nadi Shodana--second series class. I'm far from being skilled at the first series, but it's been a while since I was the least accomplished person in a practice. In this class, I'm not even close. Everybody there today could bend. Even so, there's some things I can do that some of the others couldn't. Strangely, I can do yoga nidrasana without too much problem, but I can't do dwi pada sirsasana, tittibhasana B or even supta kurmasana.

I've gotten pretty familiar with the first half of the series, Ardha Nadi Shodana, since that's what we cover in the Intro to second class that I make it to once every month or so. I also do up to kapotasana when I can get to mysore practice. But, not doing the sequence with any regularity, I am unrefined, to put it gently. Energetically, the second half of the series puts the first half to shame. I guess if you do those postures day in and day out, like anything else you get efficient at it and don't get as worn out. I, however, get my butt handed to me. I think I was able to do ujjayi breathing in maybe a couple of postures. Each time I do the class though, I feel less and less like a spaz. All is coming. Slowly. I think the entire sequence is do-able, with the exception of karandavasana. That one will be the real gatekeeper.

I was an easy foil for Tim today. When we did pincha mayurasana, he said, "25 breaths." Everybody kind of chuckled but he didn't give any reassuring reply, so up we went. After 5 breaths, no call to exit. By ten, I was starting to shake, so I figured, there's no way I gonna make a full 25 count and I exited. Upon hearing my landing, Tim, who had likely been waiting for some wimp like me to bail out, called out his displeasure then said, "23..., 24..., 25, come down." Sneaky, veeery sneaky.

My wife and I traded off the kids today. I went to the 8:00 2nd series while she did the morning wake up routine, took the kids who slept over home, etc. I took the baton after my class was done while she did the 1st series class at 10:00. We then made our way to the trapeze place. Kids are kinda weird. You tell them, "Hey, guess what? I found this really new, different fun thing you'll probably love. We get to go on a trapeze, just like at the circus!" The replies? "Can't my friend come over instead?", "I don't want to do it. No. I'm not taking off the dress and putting on shorts.", and my favorite: "Why?". "Just get in the ****ing car!", I gently replied.

Of course, the trapeze was a big hit. There was an initial little bit of nervousness climbing up that skinny ladder to get to the platform up there, but nobody chickened out. Like most things in life, there's more to swinging correctly than you would guess by just looking. My first time off, the guy is yelling, "Forwards, Backwards, Forwards!", meaning swing my legs all the way to the front, then the back, etc. By the time it dawned on me that I was the one he was yelling at, I had already done two full pendulum swings. Then, after figuring out what it was I was supposed to do, it took me a full swing just to do one of those leg swings. You're supposed to do all three of the front/back/front sequence in the time it takes the swing to go from one end to the other. We all caught on gradually over our subsequent attempts. After a couple of the confidence building swings, they allowed us to try some more challenging things, like making a back flip on the dismount drop or hanging upside down by your legs and making a transfer to another guy an a separate swing. The two older kids were too spooked to try the hanging upside down thing but they both did real good with the back flips. My son got a double flip on his last try. My youngest did try the hanging upside down thing, but she chickened out just as she almost got her legs hooked over the bar, so she spent the rest of her attempts just swinging and making the drop. It is a very safe set up they have, though I'm sure there's plenty of ways to get hurt. When I tried the back flip thing, I went around about a half a turn too far and landed in the net on my neck. It didn't hurt, but the guy had this concerned look when I got up, like it should have hurt. The entire swinging area is netted in, including a trampoline-like catch net under you to fall onto. They also have you in a harness with a guy rope that the guide can tension to slow or stop your drop when you let go. The biggest injury I got was stepping on a sticker walking around the area barefooted. It was a bit expensive, 45 dollars, but we were doing it for two hours straight. I think we more than got our money's worth. So, of course, all of my "I don't want to" children now want to go every day. That ain't likely gonna happen, but we'll try to do it some more. I can't be having my son do a better dismount than me, just ain't right.

After all that, I had had enough for the day. I was sunburned and a bit worn out from the day's exertions. The kids still had to go to a soccer kick-around/skills clinic, so I bailed out, took a shower and got ready for work. Ah, work. A less than perfect finish to a really nice day.

Saturday, May 17, 2003

Well, after some dicey negotiation after waking up today, I was allowed to go to the morning improv class. I had to promise to skip savasana and to not stop by Starbucks on the way back home so that I could make it to most of the oldest's basketball game. I can do without the post-practice ice tea I've gotten accustomed to. We finished early enough that I was able to stay for savasana, so it was a steal.

The room was a bit cool today. I didn't figure out why until about halfway thru the surya B's. The room had actually felt a bit warm while we were stretching out, so I had turned down the heater before we started class. Then, during the suryas, I noticed it seemed to be getting cooler and cooler. There even seemed to be a sort of draft moving thru. I finally caught on that the ceiling fans were going full blast. I got up and turned them down. Unfortunately, I adjusted it down too much and they slowed to a stop, so I had to get up again and turn them back up a bit so that there would be some air circulation. By then, my rhythm was off, I had cooled down and I wanted to turn the heater back up. I was afraid that I might piss off the people whose mats were in the area of the heater though, so I just left it as it was. The whole heater thing is a lesson in politics. Some people want it cranked to immolation levels. They then put their mat right next to it. Suggestions later in the practice to maybe turn it down a notch are poorly received. Other people object to it being on at all. I guess they don't need any help getting the internal heat going. Not many of them seem to really sweat very much though. I should have just left it as it was in the beginning.

We did a couple of sequences early on that made up for the lack of external heat. Instead of doing standard Surya namaskara B's, we did what they call Surya namaskara B plus. In this one, each time you go into the virabhadrasana portion of the sun salutation, you hold it for a full five count. Try that sometime when you're at a loss for ways to generate body heat. Then after we finished the B's, we did a series of postures called the anjaneyasana series. Anjaneya is another name for Hanuman, the great leaper. The poses help stretch the groins. The first one is the pose that others might be most familiar with, anjaneyasana A, the lunge pose. We started out in that pose, with our arms extended out laterally, then gradually (very, very gradually over a full five count), we lowered our hips until our back knee came down to the ground. After repeating for the other side, we then did another four variations. But, instead of just doing each variation once, each time we added one, we did all the ones that preceded it too. So by the last variation, we were doing the lunge, lowering to the floor over a five count; then raising our hands over head and lowering our hips further and steadily leaning as far backwards as we could for a five count; then parivrtta anjaneyasana, where in the lunge position, we twist toward the forward leg side and wrap the opposite arm over the thigh then back thru the legs to bind the other arm and hold the lunge/twist for a five count; then we unbind and while still in the lunge position, grab hold of the foot of the back leg and fold it forward towards the hip, like is done in bhekasana, for a five count; then we did hanumanasana for a five count. Then we did it all for the other leg. There's a few other variations that we didn't do, thank god. After all that groin work, it almost felt like we'd have to re-learn how to walk. Have to say, though, the up dogs feel completely different after doing them.

The Saturday class has a pretty wide mix of abilities, so the rest of the practice, which consisted of some backbend research and the late second series postures, slowed down quite a bit while the teacher demonstrated the postures and some alternatives for the benefit of those who hadn't tried them before. It was fun to do that stuff, but the drawback to that kind of class is that it's just about impossible to maintain the heat with all the stopping and starting. That's why my wife doesn't like those kinds of classes. I'll take 'em any time I can get 'em.

Compared to yesterday's practices, I didn't feel as loose today, maybe because of yesterday's practices. That sense of capability that sometimes occurs is such an fleeting thing. It's hard to know what drives it away. Was it the pizza we had at the after soccer party? Was it the previous day's double practice? The staying up till nearly midnight trying to figure out a way to make yet another practice day seem interesting in my blog? I think I once previously online somewhere made reference to the probable true culprit: JBL syndrome. Just Bad Luck

Hopefully, I can get it together for tomorrow's class. My wife let me have the led 2nd series class. She does most of those poses each day in her mysore practice, so she generously let me take it. After class, I'm gonna see if we can do that trapeze thing. I don't know if we'll have time, I have to work tomorrow night. For now, I haven't showered yet, so time for a personal hygiene moment

Friday, May 16, 2003

Apparently, there was a bit of confusion out there about the moon day. Several folks I talked to were under the impression that the moon day was today, probably because of notices like this stating the full moon would occur at 3:36 AM on 5-16-03. In some parts of the world that time is correct. But, as is noted on that calendar, and several others that I've looked at, the time of the full moon is given in Universal Time, or Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). That's the time that it's full way over in England. Where I live, it occured on 5-15-03 at 8:46 PM, as shown here.

This is an interesting month, moon-wise. Yesterday, we had the first total lunar eclipse visible in North America in the last three years. And, we have a blue moon coming up at the end of the month, something that occurs roughly every two or three years.

That's about the extent of my astrology/astronomy knowledge. Our teacher will sometimes ask us at the end of class if we know what astrological events are in the offing. I always give him this vacuous look that quickly communicates my absolute ignorance. I've never given that whole astrology business much credence. At first glance, it just all seems a little too self-centered to me. Sort of a pre-Galilean perspective, that the objects of the universe revolve around we humans. I know there's much more to it all than that. I've just never had the curiosity to look into it. I do admit to being psyched out by it a couple of times. I remember him talking about a particularly malefic celestial event last year, a conjunction between Mars and Saturn. He went on and on before class about the potentially harmful influences of this alignment. By the time we finally got started, I was too scared to really try anything for fear of injury. It was my stiffest practice almost since the first day I ever tried yoga.

Astrology does seem to strike a chord with people who do yoga though. I wonder why that is. Is it the personality type of a yogi? Is there something that makes them open to exploring non-traditional, non-mainstream viewpoints? Or is it a desire to delve more fully into other aspects of Indian culture? Doubt I'll ever know. Bunch of whackos if you ask me.

Hey, that was a joke, you whackos.

So, on the first day post full moon, the highly dangerous full moon energies still buzzing about, I did another double. I did the noon first series led class and the evening Intro to 2nd series. It's really not that much more than I do in a mysore class. In mysore, I finish after kapotasana. In the Intro class, we only do four postures beyond that. Still, it's not the kosher way. I had my reasons for doing it but they would sound a little foolish if I tried pleading them before my teacher. But, he's out of town for a couple of days. Both classes today were taught by the same person. He gave me a little double take when he walked in for the second class, but he sort of smiled and moved on to other things. There's not really much of a "my-way-or-the-highway" approach in the folks who teach around here. There is a preferred or correct way to do things and there's also an acknowledgement that, for better or worse, not everybody is going to take that correct approach. Instead of needing to force the issues and exert control, they choose to keep working with those scalawags like me. Usually, over time, we evolve to follow the better path.

Today was a clear, warm, sunny day. And the heater was on in the room, so generating internal heat was no problemo today. I had pretty good flexibility, for me anyway, in both directions today, forward bending in the first class, and backbending in the second. I also didn't get as tired as I thought I would. I think being more flexible than usual made it easier to not waste energy.

I did try my handstands after navasana at the front of my mat, rather than going to use the wall as a backstop. I didn't really do it any better than usual, but I do agree that is what I'll need to do to make the next progression into stability and prolongation of the posture. I'm ready to roll, Jason. Literally. Now, if I can just find some way to make progression in samakonasana. I can tell that hanumanasana will come , if I just get enough reps. But, I really have my doubts about samakonasana. I think it's going to be an arm balance for me for quite some time. Since we usually end up doing it three times (after prasarita D: samakonasana, then hanumanasana right side, then sama again, then hanu left, then the final sama), my arms are shaking by the time we're done. That posture is definitely the edgiest one for me. I get this sense that any moment something's gonna go SPROING in my groins. Fear rules in that posture.

Well, it's late. Give my bonanza of practicing today, my chances for tomorrow are slim. Lots of sports activities for the kids in the AM. One of the people who practices in our studio runs a trapeze that you can take turns on. The circus kind of trapeze. Death defying stunts and all that. I'm gonna see if the kids want to go do it this weekend some time. We'll see how it goes for practice on Sunday. I'm sure my wife will want to be the one who gets to go to the second series class. You never know though. Sometimes celestial events occur that prevent you from doing what you want to do.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Moon day. Practice not, for lunacy reigns today.

So, lacking anything better to do, time for a new QotD:


Do you practice on moon days? If so, do you feel any difference in your practice from any other day? If you don't practice on moon days, why don't you?

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

We're having funky energy here in SD. Maybe it's the upcoming lunar eclipse. Yesterday it was just me and the saga with my keys. Today, the entire county had it's morning commute screwed up when a crane fell over and took out some power lines right next to one of the major interstate interchanges in the north county. The freeway there was closed for several hours during rush hour(s). Everybody flooded alternative highways into town and into the various other job centers around the county. The overflow put all of them into gridlock. My commute is usually about 30-40 minutes in the morning. Today it took me 90 minutes. There's a fine line between traffic balance and chaos. One little domino tripping and it can go south real quick. One time it hailed here during a unusually heavy rainstorm that came right at the evening rush hour. Everybody just stopped. The freeways became parking lots for a while.

Practice this evening was good. My hoped for flexibility carry-over from yesterday's practice was there. None of that "supple" nonsense, but I was comfortable doing forward bends. Class wasn't too crowded. Apparently there were a lot of folks at mysore this morning, so maybe that led to a smaller group for our class at 5:30. The group tonight was a good mix. Some really good practitioners, some folks who were new to yoga or to ashtanga, the whole gamut. We had an unusual surprise, we did handstands after each navasana. I had just messaged suburbfreak that Tim just about never does hand stands in his led classes, so of course tonight we do. It's not very often that he does it, usually only if the class is relatively small. The rest of class was pretty mainstream. No real breakthru's or firsts. It was just nice to have enough flexibility to be able to BE in the postures as opposed to exerting the energy in mainly attempting to get into the postures. The effect is very different. It leads, for me anyway, to a much more introspective experience.

We moved thru the series a little faster than average. We were done by 7:15. Tim gave us a longer than average savasana. This of course was ruined by the folks who felt the need to get up and leave after only three or four minutes of savasana. I don't get it. If they had stayed for the full savasana, they would have still gotten out earlier than we usually do for that class. What emergency had to be attended that warrants disturbing everybody else's rest? I'm never really satisfied with the length of the savasana that most of the other teachers I go to give us. Tim is really good about making them long and relaxing. Tonight, we stayed thru two songs. Even with the others rolling up their mats and leaving to attend to important matters, it was a very nice finish to a good class.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

I managed to get done with work early today so I motored up to Encinitas for evening practice. I was too late to have enough time to go home, shower and then get to the studio and still have enough time to stretch out a bit, so I decided just to go straight to the studio. One problem though, today there was no traffic. I got there almost an hour before class was to start. After changing in the car (I'm gonna get arrested doing that some day. At least this time I wasn't driving while I was changing. I only do that if I'm running out of time before class), I kind of stood around the locked door pondering my options (none) and decided to just stretch out on the sidewalk for a while. Fortunately, one of the folks who has a key to the studio pulled up to drop off some supplies, so I was able to get in. I had the place to myself for about 40 minutes. I put Wah! on the CD player, her "Savasana" cd, and had a nice gradual stretch out.

Since I was standing in the OR all day, I didn't expect this practice to have any particularly memorable moments. And it didn't. Even with the chance to stretch out pre-class, there's just so much looseness I can pick up in one day. Each forward bend had to be entered gradually. I was able to get out there but I had to take the time to work the hamstrings and to try and withdraw the psoas muscle up and in. The twists were probably my least good thing today. Not a big issue, it's always going to be something. At least this wasn't a regressive practice, the kind where I can tell I've lost a week or so of progress due to stiffness or even the kind where I can feel myself getting stiff as the practice goes along, so that I am worse at forward bending by the end of class than I was in the suryas. This was a 'staying even' class, setting the stage, hopefully, for an even better evening class tomorrow. After that, moon day. Sux. Friday..., teacher leaves town. Sux.

In some of the evening classes, like this one tonight, the teacher will have us do handstands after navasana. This is a posture for me that's in the category of "I know I can do it, but I just can't do it". I can get up ok. If I don't have to hold it, I can even do a reasonably graceful exit down to chaturanga. It's the maintaining of the balance point that I fail at. I'm gradually getting a better sense of how the shoulder, ab and back muscles affect the movement around that spot. But, I come to that knowledge usually by overdoing one aspect or another, which causes me to come down. If I do enough trial and error, I'll gradually accrue some kinesthetic awareness and be able to do it better. Or so I keep telling myself after falling out of 5 handstands in a row. Again.

Had a day of flux today. My first two OR cases went very quickly. We were almost an hour and a half ahead. I even had visions of being done by 2 pm, being able to pick up the kids at school, earning valuable spousal brownie points, etc. Then I realized I couldn't find my keys. I went up to my office, rifled thru my desk and my carry around bag several times, went out to my car, retraced everywhere I had been that day, but no luck. so here I was, potentially going to be done by 2 or 3 o'clock and locked out of my car with no way home. I didn't want to do it, but after my third search of my office I had to call my wife to have her bring me a set of keys. She had finished her morning practice at a little after 11:00 and had to get the kids at school at 2:30, so she wasn't real pleased to find out she had to drive 40 minutes each way just to bring me a key. No free time after class, no lunch, no shower, no errands run that needed running. She already thinks I'm scatterbrained, so this didn't help. Then, while she's on the way, my third case was tougher than I wanted it to be. We still got done well ahead of schedule but my energy for the day had taken a complete 180 turn. I slowly went upstairs to pick up my spare key from my desk where my wife had said she'd leave it. Instead of the spare key, there was a note from my wife saying I owed her big time and..., my keys! Slack jawed with confusion, I called her. "Where did you find them?" I asked. "Dangling from the lock in your office door, where you left them, you ****ing idiot!" was the reply. Or something along those lines. While I'm on the phone trying to apologize, my nurse walks in and she is just rolling with laughter at the unadulterated airheadedness. I hate it when that happens. Up, then down, then up again, then down, my mood for the day was feeling a little bipolar. But, there were a couple of bright spots. I did get to practice on time. And my wife gets a new FI story to tell her friends about me.

Tomorrow's practice is not a sure thing. I'm the sick call coverage person, so if someone calls in, I have to cover their call, meaning no practice. Any bets on the health of my dept mates?

Sunday, May 11, 2003

Today was Mother's Day. I hope everyone had as beautiful a day as we had here in SD. I spent yesterday trying to scrabble together the appropriate gestures, or at least what passes for appropriate from me. As per our usual household protocol, I had been given guidelines on what was desired by the applicable parties. For my mom, fix her printer. For my wife, peace and quiet. And a digital camera. The latter was really for my daughter, but we do need a new camera, so my wife decided to sacrifice her option of a gift so that my oldest would have something she could learn to use for her school projects. I brought the camera home with me from work. I sat with my daughter and got it up and running and showed her a few things. I had to go to practice then so I told her to work her way through the rest of initial instructions on how to shoot pictures, review and erase them, etc. When I came back from practice a couple of hours later......., it didn't work anymore. GRRRRR. Wouldn't turn on, wouldn't turn off or anything else. Made a nice paperweight though. I dicked around with it for a while while they were swimming over at my mom's. Naturally, I dropped it on the sidewalk while pulling out my keys. It left a nice scratch that totally precluded me returning it for a full refund. Plus, I bent the door to the battery compartment. GRRR. GRRR. I was able to get the battery door working again. And later this evening, I tried a different pair of batteries than the other 5 or 6 pairs than I had tried previously and now it works fine. For now. GR.

Speaking of practice, today's class was the Sunday led first series class. It was quite warm. I was still working in the same mode as I was Friday morning, when the room was quite a bit cooler. Didn't work today. I started to wear out, in my arms and shoulders mainly, by the mid seated poses. I had been feeling pretty strong in my last few classes, so on my way to class I had envisioned new levels of focus and effort. Instead, I got up at my usual place (usually just after garbha pindasana) and went to the bathroom to get a quick drink from the sink and to try and get some semblance of steady ujjayi breath back. I do this knowing how weak I am for doing it. Yet, I indulge myself each time. Kind of like someone trying to diet, yet willfully choosing to have a sinful dessert or snack each day. It's a battle I'll fight another day.

We had a fair number of new faces today. I think maybe that's why Tim decided to play with us a little. Every class is different. Sometimes, it's a pretty straightforward class, varying little from the format that any ashtangi would recognize. On occasion, he is a little freer than usual with his witticisms and insights and will get us all laughing, sometimes out loud, sometimes internally. Other times, he will be more instructive, giving technique advice to the class thru the student he is helping. Once in a while, like today, he just plays with us a bit. In navasana, for the fifth rep, rather than counting out a five count, he decided we should all sing "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" for a while. While we sing it we're supposed to wave our arms back and forth as we "row" our navasanas. Hyuck, hyuck, geeze what a kidder. You want to talk about wheezy thin voices..., today's version was especially lame. Later, in urdhva dhanurasana, instead of counting the reps, we did it alphabetically, with each letter, A, B, C, etc meaning some Sanskrit term, as in "A, 'Atta', meaning 'now', so..., Go up! NOW!" Now, this is well and good and creative and all, but the people who have been to his improv classes know that when he does the letter method of counting, he often goes up to J or L. So, I was kind of wondering if he would try that here instead of the 5 or 6 reps the class is used to getting, but he had mercy: "F, as in Final...., Go up! Stay up, until someone comes by to help you to standing."

As is usually the case after a class that pushes me, savasana was nice today. We had some really nice music to listen and relax to. Tim will often play music in the background for savasana, although sometimes the CD player won't read because of the humidity from the condensed sweat. I know some people may not music like that, but I really do. The song he played today is wonderful for savasana. You sort of feel yourself drifting along with the slow rhythm of the chant, not to get too poetic or anything, but almost like a leaf on the surface of a pond or waving in a light breeze. I can't remember the name of the disc. I actually ordered it the first time I heard him play it, but I seem to have lost it before I was ever able to play it in my car. What's new?

I put up a coupla few pictures of me transmogrifying postures (over on the left there). I don't really have too many pictures of me doing stuff. I don't put these up for any reason other than to be able to see where I am right now. Well, actually, I'm better now, these actually show where I was a year or two ago. I know full well there's a lot of things I need to be doing better in most of them. Maybe my daughter will do a spread of the entire first series. Once we figure out how to work this Mother's Day gift, and how to keep it working.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Today is a work day, so I'll have no practice news or amusements to pass on. Tomorrow is Mother's Day, so I may be doing the morning brunch thing and miss out then too. We'll see.

I originally posted this link that was purportedly for a a petition from the Spanish arm of Amensty International to try and prevent the stoning death of a Nigerian woman convicted of adultery. I found it on gleefulfreak's web site.

I later read a posting on EZBoard which gave the text of a NY Times article claiming that the letter did not come from any representative of amnesty international and that background information given on the link was inaccurate. It also stated that representatives of the woman at risk felt that the e-letter writing campaign was misplaced do-gooderism by dufus westerners without anything better to do.

at risk of being that, i'll instead link directly to the amnesty international site which does ask readers to send a letter to the nigerian government (and they provide a boiler plate letter you can just copy to send). This is their standard operating procedure for injustices that they highlight on their site, not just this one. It may all be too much trouble or require too much ethical and moral analysis. but if you want to send a letter, that's one way to do so easily.

Friday, May 09, 2003

I had an interesting day overall. The highlight, of course, was going to mysore class. Followed shortly thereafter by the low light, a ticket for floating thru a stop sign on my way to work from practice. My fault completely. I was on the cell phone checking with my nurse to see what I had coming up when I got to work, so I was too tuned out to see him just sitting there waiting to tag fools like me. Pity too, I think I was right around the 5 year mark from my last ticket. Time to look into traffic school, though apparently you can do that on the internet now. I wonder if a cottage industry has evolved yet of people willing to do it for you for a fee.

I was a little worried about being stiff for this practice, given that I had very little stretching in the preceding week. I got up early and crashed the 6:00 am pranayama class so that I could quietly stretch out a bit before we started our class at 7:00. It worked OK. I was stiffer than I would have liked but definitely loose enough to challenge myself in most postures. Worst "body part" for me today, and really anytime that I have to miss practices, was the prasarita/upavishta muscles. I did do a few upavishtas before class and that helped. If I hadn't, my prasaritas and my kurmasana would have sucked.

I got a little air-headed a couple of times too. I completely forgot to do ardha baddha padmottanasana in the standing poses. Usually if I zone out and forget a posture, I realize it as I'm moving on the the next one. I can then go back and get into the proper sequence. This time I didn't catch on until I started doing the seated ardha baddhas. "Why am I so stiff with this?" I wondered. Then the light bulb came on. By that point in the practice, I couldn't go back and pick up where I screwed up. Or at least I chose not to. It would have eaten up too much time. I guess I'm a little more time sensitive, because I try to have enough time in the two hours we have available to us to do the first series postures and to also get in the second series poses I have been given so far.

In addition to forgetting the ardha baddhas, which is not unheard of for me, I got out of sequence after krounchasana. I almost skipped shalabasana. I don't know why I have a problem in class keeping those first few second series poses straight. If I'm not practicing, I have no problem remembering the sequence. But every now and then, like today, I'll zone out and just blank on what to do next, "Crap, what comes first, shalabasana or bhekasana?" Or, "Oh man, which leg is first in krounchasana?" I realized right away that I was about to skip it though. I had been doing supta virasana as a prep for bhekasana. I got a good adjustment in that from my teacher. As I vinyasa'd out of it to do bhekasana, I realized something was wrong. My wife was across the room from me. I kind of mouthed a question to her to make sure I got the sequence right. She gave me that disgusted look I usually get (she correctly thinks that people who are doing second series postures ought to at least be prepared enough to know which postures to do, if not be able to do them) and told me to do shalabasana. I cranked those out a little quick so that hopefully the teacher wouldn't see me and realize what a dufus I was and hold me back until I managed to get a clue.

Other than those little stumbles, the practice went fairly well. I didn't get all that tired today. I'm not sure if that's because I've started developing more stamina or if it was because the room is chillier in the morning. I was able to get a good sweat going but I didn't get that sensation of getting too hot or too sweaty that I sometimes get when the room is real warm. I wasn't tired at all, even thru the backbends. Usually, I'm pretty marginal by that point. Today, I was able to focus while en posture and I was able to try using different muscles to get into the the bend more deeply. I was able to do the teacher assisted drop backs much more smoothly than usual too, with most of the effort being mine rather than the teacher's.

Surprisingly, my best posture today was kapotasana. I was expecting to have lost a fair amount of ground since I haven't done the pose since my last mysore class almost three weeks ago. I did some research poses before going into kapotasana, but instead of doing the viparita dandasana stuff that I usually do, I instead worked on the floor against the wall trying to stretch my shoulders. I then did some groin opening stuff. Then, I went into the posture. My teacher was right next to me so he and another teacher both assisted me from the get-go. I was able, with their assistance, to grab my feet past the "knuckle" of the big toes, for the first time ever. More significantly to me, I was able to be put there, including the positioning of my shoulders, without it being a dicey struggle. In the past, I would huff and puff and gasp and grunt out loud with my protestations of exertion and extremis. My wife had to point these noises out to me. I wasn't too aware of doing it, being otherwise mentally occupied at the time with trying to reconcile myself with the possibility of shredding my shoulder. I think having a little more in reserve today allowed me to be able to relax a bit more than usual and let myself be positioned without unconsciously resisting it as much as I might have in the past. After making a progression like that, I find myself doing the "If only" song and dance. "If only I could do this more regularly, who knows, maybe some day I could...." You know the rest of it.

The other thing about today's practice is it was one of those where you sort of look up at some point and realize, to your surprise, that you're almost done. You've been aware, in a sense, that you were doing it all along, but it just seems to slide by. Then at some point, you slip back into normal awareness and bing!, "whoa, dhanurasana already?"

For some reason, I don't get into savasana as well in most of my mysore classes as I do with the evening classes I go to. I still get a relaxed feel out of the class, but not the same deep level of smoothed-out-ed-ness that I like. I guess some of it is the distraction of people starting to work their way out of the room as they finish their practices. I just don't think I let go of my thoughts as well in the morning. Maybe I just need more practice at it.

Other than the little pow-wow with the gendarme on the motorcycle, the rest of the day went very well. I saw a few folks in the clinic in the morning, then helped another doc in the OR in the afternoon. Got done in time to speed back up the coast in time to make the last 5 minutes of my daughter's arena soccer match (arena soccer is soccer played in a walled off playing area. It's just like indoor soccer, but this one is actually outdoors). They looked pretty good in the short bit that I got to see, so I was surprised to find that they got smoked pretty badly. I also missed the part where my daughter did an endo and smacked head first into the artificial turf. She apparently got a little dizzy, so it must have been a good one. Then we all went to a nice dinner for my mom's birthday. Don't ask me how old she is because I have no clue, shameless excuse for a son that I am. I'm betting 70+ or something. Happy birthday mom, and many more.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Score! I was able to jiggle my clinic schedule enough to be able to go to mysore class tomorrow morning. Can't wait to show how stiff I've become. I wonder if the teacher ever takes postures back from you? "Hmmmm, something's changed here. You stop at Upavishta stiff man!"

I wonder if my tendency to stiffen up is a function of aging or if it's an individual trait. I like to think it's the former. In my fantasy world, If I hadda just started this yoga stuff years ago, I could have been a contenda. Even if I had started just when I moved here to San Diego 13 years ago. I would have been in my early 30's. I would have had a lot more freedom and time to devote to it than I do now, not having kids yet. I would have had 13 years with a great teacher. Woulda coulda. Never happened, never will. I know there are lots of examples of people picking up yoga later in life and going far with it. That's my other fantasy. That I could somehow get the time to give the practice my full attention, put into it what I could to see what I can achieve in a best case scenario. I guess the proper yoga approach is to make the here and now the best case. Make the most of the situation I have and not dream of some greener yoga pasture. And I do try to do that. But I still play the lotto when it gets big, just in case.

Whoops. I was trying out some various things and inadvertently deleted the Question of the Day. I'll repost it. My apologies to those who took the trouble to respond. I think maybe I should go with a question of the week or month. I'm not sure there are enough interesting things to ask each day. Since I deleted the responses people made, I'll try and recap them, to the best of my memory and maybe add another question or two so that people can add in if they want


What posture do you most want to be adjusted in? Least want to be adjusted in? Most fear being adjusted in?

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

This week is shaping up to be a carbon copy of last week--practices few and far between. It's too bad since my teacher will soon be leaving town for a week to go to another one of those week long yoga retreats in Brian Head, UT. I don't seem to be getting a whole lot of face time with him this year. The practice goes on though. I have to be reasonably pleased with where my asana practice is, at least compared to where it has been the last three years. My practice won't impress anyone, but I don't think I make anyone laugh out loud either.

I asked the question of the day about adjustments (see below) because I was thinking about that the other day in savasana. I don't often get a lot of adjustments. I guess no one person really gets a lot of adjustments. It probably seems to everybody that all the other students are all getting more adjustments than they are. I don't really make too much out of being adjusted or not. My postures are imperfect, of course. Adjustments are great to get but I can usually carry on without them. I will usually try and mentally go back to past adjustments to try and do postures better. I also tend to pick up on adjustments being given to others, busybody that I am, and I see if they apply to me as well. But, lying there after class, I was reviewing how I had done that day, how the practice felt overall, the adjustments I got, etc. I got to thinking about what prompts a teacher to make an adjustment. Probably a lot of the time, they see someone who just is not in the posture correctly. Other adjustments are given to put someone who is close to a posture further into it. Sometimes, they are given to demonstrate the full depth of what is possible in a posture. For example, a student may be able to do marichy D, but the teacher will help them go even further by deepening their bind and then help twist the spine more than the student would likely ever be able to do on their own, maybe as far around as Noah Williams gets in this shot. He's the one on the right side of the picture whose hips are facing the front of the room and whose chest is facing the back of the room.

Anyway, as I lay there, I wondered how much difference there was between what a student felt they needed or wanted and what the teacher felt that student needed. The teacher can see things that we are not aware of and we can feel things that the teacher may not be able to pick up on. Also, that we "want" an adjustment may not mean to the teacher that it is something that we "need". There are adjustments that I really like to get, but never do. Sometimes, I want the adjustments in postures that I do ok, to see what they feel like at the next level. Like in Roy's comment, there's not really anything that I wouldn't want an adjustment in.

It will be interesting to see what other people feel.

I've wasted enough time here at work. Time to go home.
Have a good night.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

I've put in a comments section. here's hoping it's functional. I wanted to put in a "Question of the Day" or similar spot where people could give opinions on ideas or questions. Something similar to what Suburbfreak has on her very elegant blog site, but I haven't been able to figure out how to do it yet. I may not be able to. Burb, if you read this and have any pointers let me know. I think I may be a little limited by the comment provider I'm using, backblog. I'll keep working on it

Monday, May 05, 2003

Just a quick entry today, it's already late and I have a full day tomorrow. First, thanks to jumpthrusomeday for the feedback on class with Tim at the NW Yoga thingie in Seattle.

I worked all day yesterday, so no practice. Not even some lame stretches in the call room. Today I went to the noon class. They just added the noon classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday a few months ago, maybe in the Fall. They work out great for me, timing -wise anyway. When I've worked overnight on a Sunday, there's not really any other class I can get to on Monday, except for the Intro course. Also, they provide an alternative for the other two days, if I'm off but won't be able to make it to my usual evening class for some reason.

Today's class is called a Prep class. The teacher will sometimes do an abbreviated 1st series, which she did today. At other times, she has done an Improv type class. As usual, I definitely appreciate doing as much of the normal first series sequence whenever I can. If I just do a bunch of Improv type classes, I still start to lose it in my hamstrings. I need to be working those areas regularly to make any headway. So, even though we didn't do really do any of the second half of the first series postures, it was a class that helped me a lot.

Every teacher seems to add their own unique positive to doing practice. This teacher is very good at verbal cues. Some teachers, if they try and describe what to do or what to be thinking, in fact just add mental clutter rather than insight. Our teacher today is one of the best at passing on just enough information to help me understand what I need to do or what I am doing, and not so much discussion that it becomes chatter. It's sort of like the return to fundamentals that I get in that Intro class. It's very easy to start to slip into some bad habits. It's good to have her making me go back and fine tune even the most basic aspects of a posture. Sometimes, in reading various message boards and articles and what not, I get the impression that in some circles, Ashtanga is considered to be something of a slapdash kind of affair where the emphasis is on the movement and breathing and following the system and not so much on technique and refinement. I think we get a very good foundation in technique and, in most things, we do our postures with as much attention and focus on structure as any Iyengari.

Tomorrow will be a practice that is dependent on the whims of the OR gods. Can I finish in time to get to evening practice? The default expectation is no. Some days though, the winds blow fairly and things fall into place, so you never know.

Saturday, May 03, 2003

It's raining in Southern California, fancy that. Well, it's what passes for rain here. Most other places that have real weather would call this spit, but we'll take it. I thought the rain would cause people to sleep in. I was expecting a smaller than usual class but we had enough people that the later arriving folks had to fit themselves in by putting their mats down in the middle.

Interestingly, most of the people who were at the pranayama class that ends just before our class left. I guess they're the ones who get in the legit 5-6 classes a week and don't feel the need to augment with a Saturday class.

Our class today was an Improv class. Our main teacher, Tim, is away at a Yoga conference in Seattle. One of the classes Tim is giving there is on Hanumanasana.

Borrowed from Tim's website

To prepare for this, he apparently spent the better part of his recent Improv class doing prep and research poses for hanumanasana. Our teacher today decided to share that experience with us. She worked our groins over good.

I need that kind of work. My hip flexors are fairly tight. They're also an area for me that doesn't keep any degree of flexibility unless I'm constantly working on it. I think I've actually once, only once, gotten into hanumanasana far enough that both of my legs were down to the ground.

The hips are kind of interesting. There's so many actions involved there. At the start of most Improv classes, the teacher will ask what areas of the body the students would like to work on that day. Almost invariably, somebody will call out a request for "hip openers". "Okay", you can almost hear the teacher think, "Open what? The hip flexors? The extensors? The adductors, abductors, transductors, rotators, etc.?" The hips are involved in some way in just about every pose. Which makes it easy for the the teacher. Any posture they want do will probably qualify as a hip opener.

I can do some "hip" things reasonably well, like baddha konasana, or janu C, I sneak in the occasional viranchyasana B (the one where from Janu C, you roll the foot over so that the toes are pointing out behind you while you sit on the heel) if the mysore teacher isn't looking. I can stand in tadasana with my feet angled back at an almost 45 degree angle. But hanumanasana? Maybe someday. Back bends, especially coming up and dropping back? Another work long in progress. Samakonasana? Maybe some other lifetime. There are people I know who can do just about the opposite of me. They can slide into hanumanasana cold. They go into samakonasana with about as much effort as I exert in crossing my legs. Yet, some of them can't do Janu C, or their knees are flapping in the breeze in baddha konasana, etc. Everybody has something, especially with the hips. Probably the resting degree of internal or external rotation determines someone's areas of expertise/weakness. My legs externally rotate naturally. When I walk on the beach, my foot prints point way out. Others who may be more knock-kneed or whose hips rotate more internally will have a different range of motion.

Anyway, back to class today. After we did all that hip flexor stretching, we did some shoulder work. I figured we were leading up to kapotasana. I was looking forward to that because I have been making gradual but steady progress in that one. I was hoping that extensive hip work would allow me that extra range to be able to get a good grip on my toes. But, we didn't go that far. We did do some back bending work, just not kapotasana. One interesting adjustment we all did together ( this was an interactive class at times today) was in dhanurasana. Here's a link to Lino doing something very similar. When the adjustor lifts, it puts a real good stretch into the back.

After we did back bends, we did another "team" adjustment exercise where we sort of helped each other drop back into a backbend. I felt kind of bad about that, because I get pretty sweaty. I changed shirts to a dry one, but I imagine the ladies who got stuck with me still felt a little slimy. This one required three people. One student, and two adjustors. The student started off in a standing position. The two adjustors linked arms behind the student and placed their arms against his/her back. Then they provided gentle support as the student leaned back into a backbend.

It was a good class all in all. Improv classes are a little different than normal classes. For one thing, you never really know what the sequence is going to be, so it's hard to be able to play those "I'm gonn go all out here" or "I'm gonna conserve some strength for later" games. You just have to go along and see what develops. It always seems harder to me to keep the internal heat up in these kinds of classes though. There's a fair amount of verbal cueing and talking thru postures, even stopping the class for demonstration by the teacher as needed. The stop and starting kind of causes a loss of intensity or something. I still like them though. They're a lot of fun, they open your eyes and body and they humble you as well.

But, this was my third class in 24 hours, so I'm starting to feel a little sore. Famine to feast. The gluttony, the gluttony. Hopefully, I can do some more tomorrow. For now, it's motrin and bed

BTW, if anyone reads this... AND they are going to that Yoga conference in Seattle, if you go to Tim's class, post something on it over on EZBoard

Friday, May 02, 2003

I just got back from the sock hop. All three of my kids were in different dance skits with their classmates. It was fun to see the kids having so much fun doing it. After all those dance lessons, I guess some of it has paid off. They had no fear up there and really enjoyed doing it. They stayed in step and moved well. Looks like my dancing genes are recessive. Good thing.

Well, it's been a while since I posted. I got tired of explaining why I had no practice to discuss. I finally got some in today. In fact, given that I hadn't had a real practice in almost a week and a half, I went to two different classes today. First up was the mid day led first series class. I had originally planned on going to the Intro to second series class in the evening, but I was feeling really stiff and felt the first series class would be more appropriate. My wife had kind of set things up with the kids for the day on the presumption that I was going to be at the evening class, so..., I figured why not. I really wanted to get back on track with my backbending too. So, I chanced the possible negative effect of two practices in one day, especially in such close conjunction with the new moon, and went for it. It went fine. I guess that I needed to do the first series and forward bending and I wanted to do the backbending. I've gone to two classes in a day a couple of times in the past. One time, early on, I went to a couple of health club type classes in one day. Can't remember why I did it, but it was no big deal. The other time, I was going to San Fran for a meeting. I went to mysore here and did up to navasana, then booked it to the airport. After I got in to Oakland, I rented a car and went to 7th Heaven in Berkeley. I took a led class there with Leigha Nicole. Unfortunately for me, she decided that since Lino Miele had recently given a workshop there, we would do a full vinyasa class. After all the up and down dogs from the morning and the evening, my wrists and shoulders let me know that it was a little too much. Tonight's class went okay. I got a little more tired than I might normally, but I still did okay in most of the postures. I was kind of disappointed to still be so stiff though. It's not the kind of thing I would do regularly, And probably never when Tim is around. Some people do go to his morning class and then also the Intro to second class in the evening. But, he usually lets them know it's not really kosher. He won't tell them NO, but he lets them know gently that's it's probably not the best idea. Then he has us all hold bhekasana while he adjusts each person in the room, one by one. Point taken.

There was a big dent in the drywall on one side of the yoga room. Apparently, somebody chakrasana'd almost right thru the wall. Usually, the dents or holes in the wall that show up from time to time are from people keeling over while trying to do head stand near the wall. There's this one patched over area that's actually referred to by the name of the person who created the hole when they crashed trying to do some of those twisty head stand variations. We were debating if the new hole was as big as K********'s old cave in. It's close but not quite. These wall crushers always seem to luckily occur in between the studs. That would kind of suck to land right in the one spot where the wall won't give. I guess you would see a pair of cheek marks on each side of the stud rather than one big dent. My day is coming, I'm sure. I haven't toppled in headstand in a while, but I have gone down in some of the seven headstands and in pincha mayurasana.

It's interesting how doing practice can change your outlook so much. After going that long with almost no practice, going today just sort of evened me out. There's usually that physical sense of the rough edges of the body being smoothed out when you're done with a class. But also, there's the change in mood. The physical "rightness" tends to fade out pretty quickly. Just sitting here has tightened me up quite a bit. I still feel pleasant though. Both of the savasanas today were good ones, nice and long compared to usual. Good music quietly playing in the background. Nice sunny day to put the top down and cruise home. Things just seem right sometimes after practice. It is nothing overt, it's always hard to describe, harder to explain. But, it is nice to have been able to practice again. Hopefully, this coming week won't be as hard to keep things going as last week.