Friday, September 12, 2003

I think I ate too much for lunch yesterday. The whole practice last night I felt sludgy and full. I was about as not into practicing as I can be. Several times, I found myself thinking, "I really wish I wasn't doing this tonight." I almost never think like that. I might dread getting tired or get unmotivated because some area is stiff or something has backtracked, but I usually don't repeatedly regret being there. I'm still glad I went and did the practice though. That much less ground to make up with my next practice, which may not be for a few days yet.

The Thursday evening class is listed as an Ashtanga Prep class. There's a variety of ability levels in the students who make it to that class. We do all the poses in the first series but the teacher will let people do variations if needed if they can't do the full posture. He'll also tell people that if they need to, from time to time they can go directly into the second side of a pose instead of doing the vinyasa between sides. Last night, just about everybody was skipping the vinyasa, so maybe I wasn't the only one who was feeling less than full speed.

The weather is already starting to edge into Fall mode. The evenings are noticeably cooler. That change notwithstanding, it was surprisingly warm in the room last night. I think it felt warmer because we're having unusual humidity right now. I was expecting the yucky feel I started out with to result in a stiff practice but I stretched and twisted okay. The only exception was the backbends. It took me three reps to feel I was getting the shoulders in the correct rotation. I never did feel good enough to try a stand up so I just used the wall to walk my hands up after the last rep.

A few posts back I made mention of one of the students who I've taken classes with who recently had a heart attack while in class. Yesterday, after class let out, I was in line for the bathroom. I was listening to a couple of guys talking nearby. One of them is a triathelete. He was talking to an older guy, who it turns out is also a runner. His particular type of running pleasure is to do centuries--one hundred mile long races. He was saying that he had done two or three centuries last year and one or two fifty mile races too but had to interrupt everything when he had a heart attack last winter. ??? Does not compute. Doesn't make sense that you could run for 100 miles yet still have cardiac vessels clogged enough to have a heart attack. Now I'm going to be sweating every little semi-short of breath episode, every chest wall discomfort and upper arm pain even more than I was already starting to do. Maybe I should do a cleanse or something.

Next practice for me, if the yoga and hospital rounding gods allow, will be Sunday morning.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

I've lost that typing rhythm again. Lately, the last thing I've wanted to do after practicing is to sit down for an hour or two analyzing and recording the experience. Just lazy. Plus, the practices I had this week were so non-descript.

I had a mysore class last week, I don't remember what day it was, I think Thursday. I have to have my little schedule book to be able to function chronologically. The only thing that stood out that I can remember was that I did manage to do a drop back and also stood up after the drop back. Big woo. I'm sure there must have been something else that happened that might be interesting, but I honestly can't think of anything.

I did the Improv class on Saturday. For the first time in quite a while, I was non-plussed by the class. We did a bunch of twists, some familiar ones like Ardha Matsyendrasana, some less commonly seen. It was a different class. I got more fatigued in it than I had in most of the previous improv classes I've gone to in a month or so. I just didn't enjoy it as much for some reason. Maybe I was in a non-receptive mood that day or something.

On Sunday I did the led Second series class again. I had told a friend from work that I would cover his back up call for him so he could take his current fling to a hoity toity resort in Laguna Nigel that open up recently. This is the one call where we do have to be available on a beeper. Every other kind of call is an "in-house" call where we're there in the hospital for the duration of call. On the back up call, we don't get called in that often, usually only if someone calls in sick or if the whole world is trying to give birth at one time. I called L&D before class to make sure the odds of getting called in were low but I had to take my cell phone to class, just in case. That's sort of a crime against nature in the yoga world. Sometimes we'll be in class and somebody's phone will go off in the area where everybody drops off their shoes and stuff. When they get up to answer it, Tim will boom, "That had better be God calling." I set up my mat next to the door so that if it did go off, I could get it and be out the door in just a few seconds, hopefully minimizing the disruption. Fortunately, it remained a slow day on L&D and I wasn't needed. The class itself was a mixed bag. My backbending was marginal. I think the twisting the day before tightened me up a bit. I was only able to reach the front of my toes in Kapotasana. Plus, when I came up to kneeling from the straight arm portion of Kapotasana, I felt that kind of crunch sensation in the low back, like I had used the lumbar area too much. I've been able to avoid that sensation completely till now, though doing so has probably led to a slower progression towards back bending capability than I might have achieved if I was willing to go at it harder. The forward bending portion of the class went much better. I did okay with the leg behind the head poses, though I'm still nowhere near getting Dwi Pada Sirsasana by myself. I've been trying to get into it using a couple of cheats that my wife suggested: using a fold towel under my butt to minimize tipping over and using the wall against my back to stabilize myself while I struggled with getting the second leg back and over the first. I didn't get it in the time we had but I got closer than I ever have before. The Tittibhasanas went well too. I was able to bind, to the fingers anyway, in B. I didn't get my legs straight. I can tell that's going to be a long term project. My hams aren't loose enough or long enough or whatever to be able to pull that off. Most of the rest of the class went according to plan. I wasn't as tired as the preceding week, so I was able to make a better effort at some of the latter poses. I didn't fall out of any of the handstands. I think I kind of cheated in Mukta Hasta Sirsasana C though. I always tip over as soon as my legs approach the vertical point. I usually have my arms straight out to the side, in line with my collar bones. Today, I watched a couple of people near me go up before I tried it. They had their arms and hands pulled back into a slight tripod positioning. I moved my hands back and gave it a go. It's certainly more stable but I don't know if it's kosher. I also think I tweaked one of the heads of the deltoid of my left shoulder trying to lever my way up by holding counter pressure in my arms. It didn't hurt at all that day I noticed it that night. I though maybe it was sore from golfing that afternoon, but then realized if my shoulder was going to be hurting from golfing, it would likely be my right one, not the left. It's settled down okay, so I doubt I did anything serious. I'm going to be a little more cautious the next time I try that headstand though.

Today I went to mysore practice. This was one of those classes that I get the privilege of going to by dint of working the night before. Fortunately, I got a ton of sleep. I had what was probably one of the best all around classes I've ever had. Nothing exemplary took place, no real breakthroughs, I just did most things as well as I am able to do them. No rough edges, no balky areas of the body, no running out of steam half way through. No regrets or "if only's". I had a couple of good handstands after Navasana reps. Most of the handstands I only held for a half a second. But in the two good ones I stayed up for a few seconds easily then did a reasonably slow descent to Chaturanga, just like the big kids. My Kapotasana had good depth for me. I had no assist today, just little old me. I was still able to get past my toes. The tightness in my shoulders still prevents me from achieving a good form but the back and groin portions of the pose are getting better. I debated on whether to put a towel around my toes to help me simulate a bind in Supta Vajrasana. Instead, I opted to try and keep my grip on the toes as long as I could, then released to grab the arm of the person helping me while I finished the pose. Back bends were not fatiguing at all today. Funny how that comes and goes so completely. I stood up after the fourth backbend. It was a better than average stand up. I wasn't as far up on my toes as I sometimes get and I didn't over rotate or under do the stand up so my momentum came to a stop with my weight right over my feet. Dropping back down quickly regressed into a fret-fest though. After a few aborted attempts, I slapped myself mentally and made it down with my best (still not good) form to date. I did make it back up to standing after the drop back. Now I've just got to work up the gumption to do three or four drop backs in a row.

That's been the story for this week. Tomorrow is a moon day, so nothing happening. The next seven days, I've got this special call coverage that's going to pretty much limit my practice for that week to only pranayama classes at 6 am. I might get lucky and get out in time for an evening class but the odds are low. So the writing may be sparse for a while again. This time the excuse will be legit, unlike this week and a couple of weeks ago, when I can only claim laziness.

Monday, September 01, 2003

I'm working today, Labor Day. Somewhat apropos for an obstetrician to work on Labor Day. I finagled a favor or two and got the morning covered so that I could go to mysore class this morning. Now I'm finishing off what is left of the shift. Splitting a shift is not the way we usually cover calls but it's working out well for me, so I may see if I can set up something similar the next time I have to work on a Sunday or a holiday.

Yesterday I went to the led Second series class with my wife. My two youngest kids were at sleep-overs. We faced a little dilemma about what to do with the remaining child, my ten year old. If we make her go to a class, she'll usually grudgingly do the postures. If we give her the option, however, she never wants to go. Since we weren't able to arrange anything for somebody to watch her for us, we needed to figure out what to do. I figured by age ten, she ought to be able to stay home on her own for a couple of hours but the notion is a new one and we still don't really feel all that comfortable with it yet. In the end, she tagged along with us. She started out not doing any poses but when it got to the stuff she likes, the backbending, she jumped in. After that section of the series, the challenges of the postures go up and they're not quite as much fun for her to try, so she watched the rest of the way. She loves watching the class do Tittibhasana C and Nakrasana though. She thinks we look hilarious. We probably do. If you ever want to understand the concept of the ravages of time, watch a ten year old do the second series. With no attempts at doing any stretching for something like a year, she is grabbing her heels in Kapotasana and is bored doing it. For me, after doing yoga as faithfully as possible for three plus years, it takes a crew of powerfully built teachers just to crank me into a spot where I can grab so much as my toenail. We won't even bother discussing the ease with which my kids can do drop backs and standups. Quite humbling.

My second series wasn't as good as my previous experiences have been. I don't know why but I was fairly tired, as early as the standing sequence. In looking for an excuse, I have decided to again blame diet. Maybe I was just calorie deficient. I didn't eat any dinner the night before. I just had a bunch of cashews (yes, of course they were salted). For the fruits/vegetable portion of my meal, I had a couple of popsicles. I don't think I can justify that excuse under closer examination however. My wife has been juice fasting for four days now and she isn't having any energy problems. She's binding like a maniac now though.

I did okay in the single leg behind the head postures. When we do this portion of the second series in this class, we usually do some research poses first. The sequence of research poses that are done will vary from class to class, sometimes we don't do any. Usually, we will do a downward facing version of Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana. Then we'll often do a pose Tim calls Virabhadrasana C. In this pose, you go into a deep lunge. Then you grab the ankle of the forward foot with the opposite hand. You then sink into the lunge further, twist toward the forward leg a bit and try to get your head as far under the forward leg as you can. If you can do it, it ends up looking like a standing version of kasyapasana in which you have both feet on the ground. From that, we lift the front foot and transition to Visvamitrasana then back to Chaturanga Dandasana. Then, yes there's still more, we'll jump through, lay back and bring our lower leg up and lay it across our chest with the heel in one armpit and the knee in the other. It's kind of the supine version of the Adho Muhka Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana we had done earlier. Then, we'll go into Kasyapasana. Then we rock up and do the normal sequence for that side for Eka Pada Sirsasana. Then we do it all over again for the other side. I was able to do Kasyapasana without having to keep one hand on the foot behind the head. I still can't get the straight leg down to where it's touching the ground but I'm not that drastically flexed at the waist. I could grasp the foot of the straight leg with both hands during the forward bending portion of Eka Pada Sirsasana, again not needing to hold on to the other foot for dear life. I still can't figure out what it is I'm doing on the lift up to the vinyasa that causes me to lose the foot though. I must be dipping my head and/or rolling that shoulder down and in. The obligatory breakthrough for this class was my being able to bind for the first time ever in Tittibhasana B. I wasn't able to completely straighten my legs but, by the time I got around to that, the five count had already been called so I didn't have enough time to explore the feel of it to see what I needed to do. After that sequence and the next two postures, I was pretty spent, so I didn't have the best of form the rest of the way through the class. I only fell down in one of the head stands though, so that's an improvement. I was tired enough that I had no intention of trying a drop back. I did stand up on the last back bend but that was gesture enough for that day.

Today's class was a mysore class. I wasn't able to get the morning freed up for practice until yesterday evening. Since I ended up calling my mom so late to see if she could come over early to watch the kids, I didn't want to make her come over at 5:30AM, so I told her to just come around 6:30 and I blew off the 6:00 pranayama class. I got to the practice room while they were still doing the pranayama, so I just stretched for a while. My wife usually hustles through the standing poses and the first series fairly quickly. She usually has passed me by before I get to Utthita Parsvakonasana . Today, I stayed with her until somewhere around Navasana, then she dusted me. I got a deeper than average adjustment in Supta Kurmasana. Rather than just crossing my ankles, Tim made sure my shoulders were under my legs and he spread the feet apart a bit to help the hip stretch. I had seen a video of Tim and Ana Forrest a while back that showed both of them pressing up to a handstand from Tittibhasana. When I have felt strong, which hasn't been very often, I would try to see how far up I could get my hips when I was jumping back to Chaturanga after pressing up to Tittibhasana from Supta Kurmasana. The notion being that some time in the future I would hit that magic bandha moment and actually be able to spread the legs up to a handstand too. JMS recently posted a link to a similar video sequence over on the EZBoard site. I have a ways to go. Given the relative frequency of my practice this week, I was reasonably flexible today. I was still disappointingly fatigued but I bent in both directions and twisted fairly well. I've abandoned my foam block for a heel lift in Pasasana. I've been able to bind okay doing this. The heels are still an inch or so away from the floor but it's coming. I got a double dose of Kapotasana today. I did my usual research sequence then did the pose. Tim's assistant came over to help me get deeper. The woman next to me got up to help as well. They got me to a slightly asymmetrical placement. My right hand was at the base of my toe but my other hand only made it to the side of the big toe, I couldn't even grab it. The straight arm portion of the pose kind of sucked too. I came up and went through my vinyasa for the next pose. At which point Tim came over and announced, "I think we need to give this a second try." So I went back down again. This time, they got me to my deepest one ever. Both hands were at what felt like the middle of the soles of my feet. Maybe they were a little shy of that, but they were in that area. Tim is the best adjuster I've ever had. Among other things, I need to do more groin work to keep progressing in this pose. I've been being lazy on that area. Back bending today went okay. Not too tired. My stand up was middle of the road marginal. I screwed up my drop back. I was so scared I would land on my head again that I kept my arms completely locked. When I landed, the momentum caused me to bounce up and forward. Because my knees ended up being fairly bent at that point, I ended up bouncing right up into a kneeling position. After realizing what happened, I stood up and tried it again. This time I got down in a messy but reasonable fashion. No extraneous limbs or body parts impacting in unintended ways. I lived once again. I couldn't get up after the drop back though. My arch felt bad and I thought I was going to tweak something. I laid down, re-set up in a back bend and came up one last time. Tim seemed to think that it was pretty weak to bail out on the stand up after a drop back. I guess once I have a better handle on making the landing, I can learn to use the momentum to rebound back up more easily.

I've got to go to the ER to see a patient so I'm going to post this and proof it later.