We're back to hot and sunny here in SoCal. Last week we actually had a rainstorm, practically unheard of here in the great western desert. Of course, it came right during evening rush hour. At the same time some crank dealer was tying up one of our major commuting highways after one of those high speed chases. After crashing his car, he closed the freeway in the middle of the evening commute by holding a gun to his head and threatening to kill himself. Despite the clamoring of the increasingly angry log jam of commuters for him to please go ahead and do so, he held out for four full hours before finally inhaling a self inflicted bullet. Jaded as I am, I always think of Mr. Darwin at times like that: survival of the fittest.
The family is up north a ways at that soccer tournament. After I practiced yesterday morning, I drove up to see one of the games. I then drove back home so that I could practice this morning before driving back up for this afternoon's game. Then I will drive back home again this evening. If my daughter's team wins both games today, they play again tomorrow, so the family may end up staying another night. I'm not going back up, I work tomorrow. Hopefully this will be their tournament. They've been in the finals of several in the last couple of years but I don't think they've ever won one.
Yesterday, after work, I hurried over for the morning Improv class. The teacher said that she wasn't feeling full speed so the class may not be as hard as typical. When asking for suggestions of things to work on, one person offered partner poses. Uhhg. It was an interesting class though. We did a lot of groin stretching and Hanumanasana research. One of the guys who typically goes to the evening classes and the Saturday morning class always asks for that pose. A couple of weeks ago, he apparently started to feel short of breath in class. When taking a break didn't help, he left. Turns out he was having some problem with his heart. He ended up having to have surgery. The teacher yesterday decided to work on Hanumanasana for him in absentia. The first partner pose we did was a Samakonasana stretch. One person sat with their back to the wall in an Upavishta Konasana position and spread their legs into as wide an angle as possible. The partner then sat between their legs and used their feet to gently apply pressure to the legs to help spread them wider. We later did a couple of poses I had never done or seen done in any Improv class before. After some hip openers, we did Viranchyasana A. If you saw the issue of People magazine that had a short blurb on male yoga teachers, it's the pose that Tim Miller was doing in the picture on the contents page. You place one foot into half lotus. You then put the other foot behind the head, like in Eka Pada Sirsasana. Even if you can readily put your foot behind your head, doing so after being in lotus is a very different proposition. I think only one person in the room was able to do it. She made it look easy though. She even did the next phase of the asana in which you lift up and place the lotus leg in the armpit while keeping the other leg behind the head and hold it there for five breaths, like in Urdhva Kukkutasana. We did Bhekasana next then we repeated it with the use of a partner to help us get a deeper expression. The partner would put their weight on the buttock or the legs of the person in the posture. They would then push on the elbows of the person in the pose, directing the forearms vertically down towards the floor while gently pulling back on the shoulders to raise the chest further from the floor. After that prep work, we did one called Vamadevasana II. This is sort of a combination of Padmasana and Bhekasana. One leg is folded in front of you with the heel of the foot near the hip of the opposite side. The other leg is extended back behind you. You bend the knee and grasp the foot of the trailing leg and push it towards the hip like is done in Bhekasana. You then lift the foot in front and press the soles of both feet against each other. That's the goal anyway. A little later we did Dhanurasana then repeated it with the partner stepping between the arms and lifting the person up and off of the floor by their heels. We also did some twists, including a few different ones than usual. One we did was deceptively difficult. I have no idea what the name for it is. I guess it's a variation of Bharadvajasana. In this pose, we started in a kneeling position, then sat back toward the floor. Instead of sitting on our heels, we sat so that the heels of both feet were off to one side, right next to the hip. We then took the arm that was on the side opposite the side the feet were on and wrapped it behind our backs and grabbed the crook of the elbow of the other arm. We then twisted away from the side that the feet were on, looked to the rear and tried to place the hand under the knee, like is done in Bharadvajasana. It doesn't look like it would be hard but it was one of the most difficult twists I have done. I'm still feeling it this morning. After all that, we did closing poses. No backbends at all, much to my chagrin. It was a really fun class. It was difficult in some ways but not the "totally wasted, out of energy" kind of difficult. It had a lot of new stuff that was fun to try. That particular teacher is also one of the best at working us on fundamentals is doing asana.
Today, I went to the second series class at 8:00. This was probably my best second series class so far. I got tired but not exhausted. That's a first. At the start of class a friend from back east showed up for class. She is a long time student of Tim's. She is a teacher back east now. She has a great practice. She is very disciplined. She does things the right way, no cheats, keeps the dristis, etc. When she was here last year for Guruji's visit, I asked her about Pasasana. At our studio, a lot of folks, including my wife and myself, use rolled up mats or some other lift to place under the heels when doing this pose. I asked her if that's how they do it back where she teaches. She looked aghast at the notion. "Oh, god no" she said. "First get the heels down, then binding. But nobody uses props." Since then, I've always felt like a bit of a wuss for relying on my little foam block. Today, I decided to go ahead and go without it, seeings how she was almost right across from me and all. I did okay. I bound, just the fingers, but still bound. I couldn't get the heels down all the way but they weren't that far from the floor. I was hoping the foot behind the head stuff from yesterday would help me in the Eka Pada and Dwi Pada Sirsasana poses but I didn't do all that great with them. I can get the eka padas ok, though sometimes my foot will slip off my head on the second side when I do the forward bend. I can't ever get the vinyasa out though. Each time I press up into Chakorasana, the foot slips off of my head. I did better through the Tittibhasanas today. I didn't have to stand up in the middle of doing them and catch my breath like I usually do. I still haven't bound in Tittibhasana B but am getting closer. Another first for me today was being able to cross my legs into lotus while in Pincha Mayurasana pose, in preparation for trying Karandavasana. I didn't get much farther than that though. There's so many vectors of effort going on as you start to lower the knees to the armpits, it's really hard mentally, not just physically. I was trying to lean my butt back past the midline to counterbalance the weight of the knees as they start to come down. I got part way down but lost my focus and ended up dropping down to the floor. Tim was right next to me helping some one do Karandavasana. When I plopped down, he kind of laughed and said, "Oh, many people dropping. Gravity is winning. Gravity, it's not just a good idea. It's the law." When he helped me do the pose, I tried to make an effort to really lift my head and shoulders as he helped settle the knees into the armpits. I lost control over my rear end, however, and it dropped too low. He was holding on to me, so he just had to lift a little more to get me back up. I exited out to chaturanga reasonably well. We're supposed to sort of pop up a bit using our arms as we bring the feet towards the floor so that we can shift from our forearms to our hands and brake the descent of the feet, ideally landing softly on just the hands and feet. Mine was something along those lines. The rest of the practice was less good. I fell out of two of the seven head stands, both of the C's: Mukta Hasta Sirsasana C and Baddha Hasta Sirsasana C. I've always had a hard time with those two so no big surprise there. Over all I was happy with how I had done so far. For back bends, we did two sets of three. I was able to get up on the last three, with decreasing levels of gracefulness each time. I thought for a second about doing the drop back, I had plenty of energy but I wimped out once again. I didn't want my friend to think I was a total poser if I splatted on my face instead of landing it. I'm sure she wasn't even looking, that's not her style, but it seemed like a good excuse at the time.
A good weekend of yoga for me. My wife is gnashing her teeth though. Because of the soccer tournament, she doesn't get to practice for three whole days in a row. That's a hardship for her. Boo Hoo. Welcome to my ashtanga lifestyle. That's a good week for me, only missing three days in a row. It's not a fair weekend for her though. She has to stay in a dinky hotel in Costa Mesa with three kids and sit in the sun all day watching 10 year olds play soccer for three days in a row. Not the most relaxing of weekends. I just checked my schedule. I don't get to go up and watch the last game today after all. I'm on call tonight. That sucks. I enjoyed watching the game yesterday and was looking forwards to today's playoff game. I offered to call in sick or something but she vetoed that. Quarterly taxes are due soon so working is a priority