Friday, October 29, 2004

I feel like I did last year when I stopped posting for few months--very uncreative. I don't want to post just to post. I want what I put down to be at least semi-interesting. But, I don't seem to be getting interesting ideas. I was talking to the wife of my teacher once. She mentioned that when he was in Mysore early on in his 'career', he started a diary or journal. He kept at it for a while but ultimately abandoned it because every day's entry was just like the previous one. I get into that position sometimes too. Sometimes, I have just the opposite occur. I get more ideas of stuff to talk or write about than I can keep track of. Other times, like now, I feel like my brain is on hold. Let's see what I can do.

I had a rare day off today. Not off after working the night before, just good old fashioned off--at least until this evening when I am on call. Therefore, I was able to get in a rare weekday Mysore class at 7:00. I found out early on that it was going to be a stiff kind of day. Just doing my warm up routine while the others were doing pranayama, I was feeling tightness at the hamstring insertions, in my shoulders, even stuff that I don't normally think about required some caution. I had originally planned on doing my second series stuff but, with the degree of stiffness I was perceiving, I decided to do first series. I planned to do my second poses if I loosened up while doing the first series poses. By doing all my poses like that, I wouldn't have enough time to do any research stuff to help with my back bending. That worked out okay because the one area that didn't seem worse than usual was my back. It wasn't good, just no worse than usual. The advantage, as I saw it at the time, was that I was likely going to be low on time and energy and would probably have to put off doing some of the closing stuff, like drop backs. You have to make your cuts where you have to make them.

I was practicing near a couple of my teachers and some other really good practitioners. I tried to do a reasonably good job and avoided a lot of the slacker stuff that I slip in to at times. I dearly wanted not to have to do Hanumanasana and Samakonasana. I was tight in those areas and I hadn't done either of them in quite a while. I knew it was going to hurt and I was going to have regressed in how far I could go in both of them. I did them anyway. They hurt but I didn't have to face the guilt that I would have if I had skipped them. A potentially ominous trend was starting--conscientiousness. As I did the standing poses, I was still debating whether to go ahead and do the first series or to veer off after Parsvottanasana and do my second series poses. I didn't really want to do all of the first series poses but I felt like the second series poses were going to suck if I didn't, especially the foot behind the head stuff. I was doing poses in roughly the same timing as the teacher near me and she was doing first so I decided to go ahead and at least do the first series poses. Maybe that's all I'd get in, I thought hopefully. I did start to feel and do better as I went on. Without trying to move quickly, it seemed like I got through most of the first series in just a short while. It actually took me longer than it usually does, so I must have been focusing inside better and not noticing things, like pace. I also wasn't getting very tired. The room was pretty cool, it took me a while to get some sweat dripping. As I neared the end of the poses, the person next to me started their backbends and finishing poses. I wasn't ready to quit, so I went on into my second series poses.

Nothing was really great in the second but most of the poses were surprisingly better than I expected. Since my hamstrings hadn't felt too loose in the first series, I expected a bad Krounchasana. It was actually better than usual. I'll never understand how this stuff works. One pose that wasn't very good was Kapotasana. I was barely grabbing the tips of my toes. I held it for a short while and then started to move my hands into position for the straight arm portion. The teacher was just stepping in to adjust me as I began to move out of the pose. I sank down to the floor and started to mumble how today wasn't a good day. I looked at him though and decided to try it again with his help. Couldn't be any worse. He got me quite a bit further than I was able to do on my own. A friend had recently suggested to me that, rather than doing all those research poses that I usually do before Kapotasana, that I should instead just do the pose three times. I think that will probably work very well. When I do those classes up in Santa Monica, I don't do research and I do most of the back bending poses okay. I get quite a bit out of the research stuff though. It's very clear to me that doing the lunge stuff against the wall has led to me getting much better range of motion, enough that I was able to get into Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana on my own on one side recently and have been able to be put into something close to Raja Kapotasana a couple of times. If nothing else, doing all of that work has made doing the poses seem like less of a big deal. In doing the research for Kapotasana, I've already done poses that maximally bend my back, so doing Kapotasana becomes just another progression, not some edgy, fear inducing pose.

I've really been intrigued by the notion of going into lotus while in handstand. I saw one of the better guys in our studio do it after Kapotasana and then lower down to Urdhva Kukkutasana before settling to the floor for Supta Vajrasana. That seemed like a great thing to be able to do. I've managed to get into lotus while in handstand once ever, and then just for a second or two. I couldn't quite get it today. I tried a couple of times but didn't want to waste too much time or energy. I could get balanced enough to get one leg in place but would lose it trying to get the other leg positioned. I landed a nice, soft Bakasana B. Couldn't hold it for long, but it was a good landing. I've got to get filmed some time to see what it is that I do right when I can land that pose and what it is that I do wrong on the days when I just can't pull it off. I surprised my self by getting into Dwi Pada Sirsasana on my own, on my second try that is. I still felt stiff when I was doing the Eka Pada versions, so I though I'd have to get help for Dwi Pada. I managed to get the foot slipped into place without too much of a struggle. I was in a pretty scrunched up position though. I couldn't get any extension of my head and neck going. Even after getting an adjustment, I felt my legs were overpowering my neck. I didn't even try to balance once he let me go after the adjustment. I knew it wasn't going to happen.

Karandavasana was the same old same old. After I tried it a few times, Tim helped me through a version of it. Afterwards, he gave me a rare suggestion of what I need to do differently. Tim is not one to carry on much. He's a man of very few words. The impression is that the practice is something to be learned and developed through experience and personal insight, rather than through a paint-by-the-numbers description. So, to get a review of what I was doing and what I should be trying to do was unusual, though gratefully received. It's so hard to know what it is one is actually doing. It's often not what we think we are doing, or are trying to do. When I'm trying to bring my knees down toward my armpits, he suggested that I need to arch much more than I am to activate the bandhas. As it it, I'm apparently going down relatively straightbacked and have no lift to counteract the weight of my lower body as it drops past the vertical. As he is wont to say, I need to suck it up.

After doing three backbends in reasonable form, I had to make a decision: put off doing the dropbacks versus trying to do them. I only had about twenty minutes left before it would be time to leave. The last time I tried to drop back, it took me nearly twenty minutes just to get three drops backs done. I kept chickening out. Then I started to get dizzy when I leaned back, etc. etc. I decided to go ahead and try it today. I had a really good arch going on my first try but I let myself off the hook by coming out of it. That really pissed me off. It was just going to make each subsequent try that much harder to do. I managed to let myself go and dropped on my next try. I cursed audibly after landing though. It was really flat and uneven, one hand landing a half a second before the other. The next two were similar but I was able to do them with a minimum of fuss. I've got to get my arms coming down more directly though. It feels like I'm un-arching as I release back, maybe due to a perceived poor range of motion in my shoulders. Rather than make them come on through, I'm letting my body go to where they are. Getting the dropbacks out of the way so quickly was really energizing. I hadn't felt very tired up to that point, so I felt pretty good with that out of the way. I did my tic-tacs on my own. I can't come back up and over to standing when I drop into back bend from hand stand but I think I'm getting a better idea of how I need to do it eventually. Trying to come back up from that is not as uncomfortable for me as attempting to come out of Viparita Dandasana. That one really makes my back feel too scrunched when I try to lift back over. It feels like I have to do all the work with my back muscles. In Viparita Chakrasana, when I come back over, or try to, I feel like I can use my arms and shoulders more and can drive my chest further. I couldn't do Vrshikasana worth squat today, but I haven't tried that one too much on my own yet.

There were several people in class today who had gone to Tim's seminar in Tulum last winter. I met them for breakfast after I managed to wrap up all my stuff. I was the last one done today. I only went fifteen minutes over. One of Tulum folks is a guy from Milan (I think), who lives in NYC right now. He had come out west to do some climbing in Joshua Tree but the recent rainy weather turned that into a less than fun experience so he came to Encinitas to practice until the weather got better. He's a great guy, very upbeat fun personality. I'd love to be able to practice with him regularly, I'd learn so much, or at least I'd hope that I could. He does some things so easily, so powerfully. In Tulum, with one small suggestion and demonstration, he was able to get me started on being able to make the lift up that comes after Utkatasana. One of the other people I met with at breakfast would normally practice in our studio but she has been out with a bad knee injury. That injury has now progressed into a related inflammation of her hip as she tried to rehab. So, she's been out of the studio loop almost since February. That would be a very bitter pill for me to take. They were sitting with a couple of Tim's regular students who had also been in Tulum. Kind of neat to be able to get a group reassembled like that.

Well, It wasn't much but it took up a fair space. Tomorrow looks like a soccer day again. Sunday should work out for practice though, hopefully second series

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Wow, it's been almost two weeks since I posted last. That flew by quickly. I had a bad week after that last post. Pissed off my wife, hurt my back when I practiced on a moon day, got out of work late and missed part of one of my few classes, locked my all of our car keys in my car, just a bad week all around. But, if you don't have a bad week every now and then, it's difficult to fully appreciate the good ones.

So far, this week has been better. I guess the heavy rains, which surprised most of us Californians, have washed away the bad vibes. On Monday, I was in LA for a meeting. I was done by 1:30 so I checked in at home and got the okay to go to class that afternoon in Santa Monica. I don't know for sure what it is, but the last three practices I've done there have been among my best. I think it's a combination of being able to practice in the afternoon instead of the early morning, practicing among a group of very capable strangers and, maybe most influential, doing all my postures. I think doing all of the the first series poses helps me do the second series foot behind the head poses much better. When I try to do Dwi Pada at home, where I usually just do my second series poses for Mysore class, it's always a struggle. I get into it on my own maybe half of the time and rarely on my first try. The last couple of times in the Yoga Works class, where I've always done all my poses, I've just slipped right into it. Badda bing, badda boom. I do get a bit more distracted at Yoga Works though. Too many people and practices to look at. I was definitely a lot stronger this time than the last time there. I made a point of eating a big meal the evening before and had a couple of rolls that morning. I gave Karandavasana four tries. I was going to just do three but I thought I felt a twinge of getting the move that I wanted to do on my third one, so after I dropped out of that one I gave it one more go. Nothing better, unfortunately. At some point, it's probably counter productive to keep trying when it's not working. When I was a student and a resident, when we had to place intravenous lines in a patient, they would give you up to three chances. If you didn't get it in by your third attempt, you were supposed to get someone else to make the next try. The frustrations that occur from not getting it apparently lead to a self fulfilling cycle of failure. So, if I'm struggling with a pose and I've got the time and the energy, I usually give a pose three, maybe four tries, then I move on. Driving back home after class really sucked. It took me an hour and fifteen minutes to just to get from Santa Monica on the coast to downtown LA, a distance of maybe 15 miles. It picked up as I turned south but, even in rush hour, the whole commute usually only takes me a little over two hours at the most. This was a little over three.

Tuesday evening I did the led First series class. I can't recall much about that class, which is not uncommon for me. Many classes for me do have some experiences, good or bad, that stand out for a while. If I don't get them written down though, they drop off of my memory board and are lost for good. Some practices, of course, don't really stick out. They're just more of me doing more of the same. They're good at the time but nothing to write here about.

Wednesday morning I had off so I got to go to the morning Mysore class. Other than doing a really weak Karandavasana, the stand out event of that practice for me was determining if I was going to do drop backs or not. I hadn't really had many opportunities to attempt them again. I had pretty much gotten over the tweak of my quadratus muscle, or whatever muscle was causing my lower right back soreness, that popped up in a led first series class the week before. By the time I got to do this Mysore class, my back bends were reasonably good. In a way, I was hoping they would be bad so that I wouldn't have to face the drop backs. I tried to do the drop back a bunch of times and chickened out each time. The first time I tried it, I got a little dizzy and had a headache once I stood back up. That screwed me over for the next few tries. I did all kinds of things to try and break the trend. I walked around the room, nearly tripping over a couple of people in the process, I went into Balasana, Uttansana, you name it, I tried it. I even called over one of the teachers to give me a visual spot and tell me if it was okay to release and go for the floor. I almost did it but couldn't. I finally managed to make it back after god knows how many tries (as much as I would have liked to, I didn't use my rule of only three attempts on this pose). The guy I was next to the time I was able to do them was again practicing nearby. When I first got up to make my attempts, he was nearing the end of his practice. By the time I managed to get all three drop backs and stand ups done, the other guy had finished all of his second series poses, his back bends and drop backs and was half way thru his finishing poses. It probably took me twenty minutes to work up the nerve to do three drop backs. They were piss poor too. I had poor arm extension on all of them and compensated by letting my body go out into a flatter angle. I've got to work on trying to get my arms extended out before i drop back. I'm just afraid that if I start out with them extended that I'll get dizziness if I arch back. Only way to find out is to try it I guess. Next time. Maybe.

Today, I went to the morning Improv class. Tim usually teaches that class but he's still out of town, watching the leaves turn colors in New England or something. The person who does the Saturday Improv class taught in his place today. I came out of class feeling as good as I ever have after a yoga class. All the right buttons got hit. I had made one of my typical arcane requests at the start of class, this time for a collection of poses from the ashtanga sequences that are linked only in that their names all fit into a common theme: poses named after birds. There really isn't any natural connection between most of these poses. They come from all four of the series, though most of them are in the Second Series. Given the number and difficulty of the poses and the complexity that would go into arranging a class around them, I originally hadn't intended to ask for them in this class. When Tim leads the class, he usually only lets each person ask for one pose. The teacher who gave the class today is very good at Improv but I didn't think it would be fair to ask for something like that in a situation where she is substituting for Tim. When I first came up with the idea, I had planned to ask her if we could do it some day in one of her Saturday Improv classes. But, she looked over at me today like she expected me to challenge her with something. I blocked on anything else, so I made the request, not expecting that we'd be able to do much of it. In all, there are seven poses named after birds, but several of them have multiple variations and the variations are usually harder than the base poses. She managed to do almost all of that, even some of the hardest ones, omitting only a couple of variations. I have to say, I don't know that anyone, even Tim, could have done a better job coming up with a class on the fly that incoprorated all of that and have it flow as well as it did. It was a request that could have easily resulted in a really choppy, hard, unrewarding class but she came up with a sequence of poses, prepatory poses, transitional poses etc., that just had a great combination of challenge, tempo and fun. I got worked in all the places that I really need to improve in. I even had an asana first. I was able to get into Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana on one side in the correct way, grabbing the toe, then rotating the arm through and overhead. I've always had to use a towel or a strap before. I don't want to gush too much, that's gotten me in trouble before, but I really respect what she did with the class. Today was one of those yoga high days for me. They come all too infrequently, so Ali, thanks for making that happen. I wish I could remember the sequence and be able to do it a couple of times each week. That would be great for me right now.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

I know what I'm going to do for Halloween this year. I'm going to go as a drop back. Today I was next to another guy and we were both attempting to do drop backs. After watching us for a bit, Tim walked up and said, "Boy, you're a couple of scary looking guys." That's me baby, horror incarnate. But, I did them. All three of them. I was setting up my mat at the start of class when the person who helped me out the very first time I was able to drop back came into the room and set up her mat a few spaces away. It's been a little over a year since she talked me into making that first successful drop back and I don't think I've seen her more than a few times since then. I thought that it had to be some kind of omen that she would come to class when I was once again trying to do drop backs. Maybe the gods sent her there to act as my drop back muse. After I did my poses and backbends, I looked over to where she was set up. The person next to her was taking a short pause so I asked her if we could switch spots. She looked puzzled but agreed to do it. I got a few weird looks as I moved into the new spot but I wasn't concerned with anybody else. I was trying to drop back. So, once in place, I interrupted the closing sequence of the woman who had helped me once before and asked her if she would help me again. She also looked a little confused but I gave a very brief explanation of how the only other time I was able to do this was when she talked me through it. She seemed agreeable to help, after all, what I am doing is more important than what anybody else might be trying to do, eh? At any rate, once I knew I had her to tell me it was okay, I didn't think about it any more. I was going back and that's all there was. I arched and, after one or two minor repositionings, I released and went back. The landing was a little heavy but acceptable. I stood up, something shy of smoothly, and set up to do it again. Last year, when she helped me do it the first time, I only did it once then I moved on to the closing poses, satisfied with my victory. This time I wanted to do it the right way, which means three drops and stand back ups. She stayed with me, kindly interrupting her practice to reassure me that I was in a good position and telling me when to let go. I landed the second two a little funny, hitting down with my right hand a half a second before the left came down. The second rep was a little on the flat side and my arms were bent too. I didn't hit the old cantaloupe though, so I kept moving. If I did anything right today it was not stopping to think. I just kept going. I can't thank her enough. I don't know why I felt more comfortable with her telling me it was okay when others have tried to tell me the same thing. I just felt reassured as soon as I saw her come in. Having her nearby worked, so I am totally indebted. Next time I won't make people move their mats around or have them stop their practices just to help me. Unless I really need to.

The rest of the practice today? Kind of got overshadowed. I don't remember a whole lot. I tried to get a wrist in Pasasana again but failed. That's hard. One little wiggle of my finger to try and get farther down my wrist sets off this whole domino of teeters and totters, with the resulting need for all kinds of re-balancing counter measures. It's a total work out of the lower body in one essentially undetectable movement. I think to get my wrist I'm going to have to melt off an inch or few of "bad fat" from my midsection. I remember feeling pretty loose in this when I was doing that class up in LA on almost no food for two days.

I had a pretty good feeling Kapotasana, even if it wasn't any deeper than I've done in the past. It didn't feel as edgy and I didn't struggle as much as usual in the straight arm portion and in the come back up. After doing the pose, I went into handstand and tried to go into lotus while up. Tim will call this out sometimes in his Intro to Second class or in his led Second class, knowing full well that only a couple of people can do it. I had to re-try the handstand a couple of times. At one point I did get both feet into lotus but it was a transitory thing. As soon as I got them in, I started to tilt over and my butt started down. I had to bail out quickly because that's a lot farther to fall down to the ground onto my butt than it is in Karandavasana. Still, I was able to maintain the handstand well enough to at least go through those gyrations, so it's coming. The lowering from Adho Mukha PadmaVriksasana in a controlled fashion down into normal lotus is more than a ways off. So is lowering to Urdvha Kukkutasana. Never hurts to explore though.

Once again I couldn't get Bakasana B. I almost couldn't hold the A version. My knee slipped off of my arm when I first went into A. I wiped off all the sweat and was able to hold the re-do. I tried B about three different times but never got the right weight shift or the right flight path and never came close to landing or holding it. There's days. I wanted to see if I could hang onto my toes in Supta Vajrasana if I used a towel over my toes for traction, like the teacher at Yoga Works had suggested to me. The person helping me did all of the work but I was able to get down for the first five count and still hold on. It was pretty uncomfortable along the inner aspect of my right wrist though. My left hand slipped off as I started doing the five up and down movements so I just did the rest of the movements holding on to his hands like usual. Another hard pose to figure out what needs to change to make it go better. Is more external shoulder rotation needed? A deeper lotus? More back arch? All the above? I'll keep trying it as long as it doesn't hurt the wrist.

I think that may be it for me this week for practices at my main studio. Tomorrow is a moon day, so no classes then but I can go to the class my wife teaches at another studio. Don't know about that though. Some whacko has been driving by the place screaming out "Cult" and other stuff at people who go in and out of the studio, I guess maybe to try and intimidate them. He apparently also wrote or painted the word "Cult" on the outer wall of the studio and on the public sidewalk out front. The owner intelligently added the letters u, r, and e to his graffiti. They have an idea of who the person is based on his car's license plate. My wife said they think he has a family member, a daughter or something, who had gone to some classes at the studio. You never know with these kind of people. I might get a chance to practice later in the week if the work schedule gods play along. Unfortunately, my teacher will be out of town giving some conferences in Boston and Shelburne Falls, MA (wherever that is).

I just remembered that Tim has just put together a very nice Ashtanga calendar for 2005 with photos of him and some of his teachers doing various asanas. If you look really closely at the September picture, you can see my wife's knee and what she claims is her chest. You may need to actually buy one to get a good enough look though.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Yesterday, I got to do the led Second series class. I've managed to get to the point where I get tired but not exhausted in doing that class. I think I actually get more fatigued doing Tim's led First series class on Sundays than from doing the led Second series class. Hard to pin down why that is so. I can remember going to some of those Intro to Second series classes on Friday nights a while back and being totally gassed by the time we got to Parsva Dhanurasana. Not that long ago, I'd be so out if breath before trying to do Karandavasana that I would wait until Tim had helped almost everybody else in the room before trying it myself. There's still poses I can't do in the series, but exhaustion is no longer the thing that makes me unable. I guess there's a familiarity with the actions that develops over time, leading to less wasted energy.

In Karandavasana, I''m struggling right now with figuring out how to bend my hips after I've gotten my legs into lotus. It seems like I should be able to get into lotus, then flex at the hips and draw my knees close to my chest before I lower my hips and raise my head to enter the pose. Instead, I can't find whatever action it is that independently flexes the hips. As soon as I begin the flex, my hips start dropping down. If I bring the knees all the way in to my arms/armpits, my hips come all the way down, to my mat. If I could just get my hips fully flexed first, I seems like I could then work on gradually lowering and raising back up in a step-wise fashion. A new work in progress. The various strength movements and counterbalancing actions are difficult enough to work out on their own, but doing them inverted is even harder. I've never been that astute of a thinker in an inverted state. Couple those relative deficiencies with my lack on bandha control and the result is what I do now: my butt taking a one way, ever accelerating trip to the ground.

In terms of day-to-day variations, yesterday was a poor inversion day for me all around. I fell out of three of the seven headstands. I think that's a first for me. I still don't know what was different or what I did wrong. I was up there one minute, the next I was out of balance one way or another and on my way over and down. I did get into Dwi Pada Sirsasana on my own, a first for me, I think. I've done it on my own in Mysore class settings but I don't recall ever doing it in the led class. I'm not sure if it is "better"to be able to do one pose and not another, but somehow falling out of half of the headstands seems more incapable or more inept than not getting into Dwi Pada.

In the interest of sparing others the discomfort that goes with making the same mistakes that I do, I want to encourage any readers to not get up and get a big drink of water right before doing the closing sequence. I don't know why I did this. I've been pretty good about not taking rest breaks recently. For some reason, I got up for a bathroom break right after back bends. I guess I thought I deserved it. It wouldn't have taken too much forethought to realize that I still had all those squished up, inverted poses like Halasana, Karnapidasana and Pindasana to go yet. I learned the hard way once before to not get a drink before doing intense forward bends like Kurmasana, so I should have known to wait until I got through the last little bit. Uggh. I felt like I was doing that stomach pump thing that they do in the old movies when trying to revive somebody who had nearly drowned. That would have been the perfect topper for that class, to end up hurling all that water if it had gotten pushed up out of my stomach. Thank God for an intact lower esophogeal sphincter.

We went to a birthday party this weekend for our teacher's daughter. Lots of folks from the studio were there. One of the guys, who's wife also practices, asked my wife if I get into trouble a lot too. Apparently, I'm not the only one who can sometimes irritate his spouse just by going to practice. I was able to go to Mysore class on Thursday and Friday also, giving me four Mysore classes for the week. My wife missed several classes this week because my mom, who normally watches the kids in the morning so that she can get to Mysore, was out of town. In addition, the kids got out at noon because the afternoons were set aside for quarterly parent-teacher conferences or some such thing. As a result she couldn't go to any of the noon classes. She taught classes most of the evenings, eliminating any chance to practice in the evening. Hint to readers: where possible, avoid cheerfully pointing out how you managed to get to Mysore class almost every day when your wife hardly got to go at all. They don't like that.

I mentioned in my last post that I've been feeling some internal pressure to do drop backs, since many of my peers are now able to do them. I decided that I had to re-face this bugaboo and start doing them again. In the last year, I've been able to bend back reasonably well for me, certainly well enough that I should be able to drop back. That, of course, has nothing to do with my inability or unwillingness (same thing) to drop back. I don't try it anymore because I'm scared of injuring my spine if I screw it up. I did do it for a while, a very short while, but stopped after I messed up and landed on my head a couple of times. Not forcefully, no discomfort or anything, but just enough to confirm for me that there was danger there. Since I had many other things that I needed to be working on, I put dropping back into the closet and worked on everything else. I'm now re-considering the movement because I have to do it at some point and the people around me are able to do it. So, I'm letting my fear get too strong a hold on me perhaps. I really do dread doing it though. The notion that I was going to try it hung over me like a cloud for the entire class on Thursday. My best chance for doing it was in my first attempt. I arched back reasonably well. I could even see the back foot or so of my mat. But, as is often the case, as I inched towards that moment of the leap of faith, I couldn't let it go. I pulled out and stood back up. Needless to say, I didn't get any braver with my next few attempts. I just got more and more frustrated with my inability and my unwillingness to release and drop. After one of my bailouts, one of my friends who has been working on doing the same thing came over to me to say something. I was so frustrated and angry though, that I brushed her off and walked away, ostensibly to cool off a little . I just wanted to pout and feel sorry for myself. I felt even worse after acting like a jerk towards someone who wanted to help. The next day, I didn't do any better. I gave it three honest tries, even getting my arms partially extended downward from my starting position of the hands in prayer at my chest. Not happening. It just feels like I'm not far enough over and am too high to let go. It feels like I'll have to drop too far and will be going too fast to be able to stop myself. So now, next time, I have to face the same demons again. It really is like there are demons back there when I look back to my mat. Swirling around above my rug are Death, Quadriplegia, Life Long Ventilator Dependency, Abandonment to a Nursing Home, to name a few. I know I'm making much too much of a deal out of it. I am capable of doing it. There's no doubt in my mind that if I were placed in a life or death situation in which I had to drop back, I could do it, and I could do it cold. I just struggle with taking the risk in a lesser situation. It goes against my grain to take that kind of risk easily. It's interesting to compare my perceptions of the ordeal of dropping back with the views of those who struggle with just the opposite. They can drop back without a second thought but can't work up the nerve to let go of the earth and stand up. I guess part of the fun is stretching the mind. As I said before, looking back and contemplating the drop is about as much fun as a prolonged attempt at Samakonasana, but with mental discomfort instead of physical.

Since my week was so replete with practices, my wife advised me that I wasn't going to the Saturday Improv class. I was to go watch my kids' soccer matches. I went to my oldest two kids' matches. My youngest was playing at the same time as the oldest, so I missed hers. Apparently, their team did really badly. The other two did pretty well. My son got hurt a bit. Hurt himself actually. He was in as goalie for the half. He dove to try and make a stop and somehow ended up whacking his thigh just above his knee with his forehead. He was convinced that he had broken his leg but apparently had just gotten one of those deep thigh bruises. He did try to go back in one time but it started to hurt again so he came out for good. That boy knows how to milk something like that though. Even though he was walking to the car with just a slight limp, he was sure he needed to get the pair of crutches we had stowed away in the garage or somewhere at home. He actually took them to a birthday party for one of his teammates that evening. The party was at a Cyberstore, where all the kids can play on-line games together, like Battlefield 1942 or Counterstrike. When I came to get him, one of the other dad asked me about the crutches. "Yeah", he said, "He told us he was hurt, but he seemed to be doing that Dance, Dance Revolution game just fine." That's the video game where you step/stomp onto various spots on a pressure sensitive mat based on cues that are scrolling on a video screen in front of you. It gets going faster and faster with more and more complex moves the farther into it you go. Doesn't work too well when you're on crutches though. I guess once you're into the zone of it all, you can just put the pain aside. He still tries to convince us that he hurts but the limping seems fairly situational, like when he's told to take out the trash or do something else that he doesn't want to do. Chip off of the old block.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

This has been a pretty good week for getting to practices, better than most. The only day that I haven't been able to practice so far was yesterday. I had hoped to get to the evening class yesterday but didn't finish in the OR until after 8PM, so it became a rest day.

Sunday's first series class was a fun one. I got to meet some folks who participate on the EZBoard ashtanga site who were in town for a meeting, Jumpthrusomeday and her husband. There were also a couple of other EZBoard ashtangis who I've known previously but hadn't seen in a while, JMS and Suburbfreak. Suburbfreak is the person who has put together an ashtanga blog aggregator place, She doesn't get to come to practices at our studio much yet because of work and family conflicts but I've practiced with her a couple of other times, both at my studio and at the place she usually goes to. JMS has been in Mysore for the last four months and I think this was his first practice at the studio since he got back. Beyond those on-line contemporaries, there were several other people who I'd never seen before, so it was a lookie-loo's dream. I didn't spend much time gazing though. I glanced over a few times to see how one of the visitors did. He had the look of a yogi. He was thin, had tattoos, he just looked like he had bandhas. As it turns out, he could levitate with the best of them. I couldn't see enough to assess his overall ability, but everything I saw looked pretty rockin'. My practice was okay, nothing great. If there was a negative that stood out, it was that I didn't do very much in the way of trying to do jump backs. My shoulders felt tired or weak or something and I just wasn't getting my lower body elevated as well as I usually do, which isn't very elevated. I lost motivation to keep trying eventually and just did enough to get my knees to my hands and then rolled over the rest of the way.

I had to go to LA to help another surgeon do some cases on Monday. He offered to let me stay at his place in Santa Monica Sunday night so that I wouldn't have to get up at 4:30 to drive up there Monday morning. I wasn't going to do that initially. I had no problem driving up when I've had to do similar things in the past. When I was checking the Yoga Works web site to look for classes that I might be able to get to on Monday afternoon, I found that there was a Sunday afternoon Mysore class at their Beverly Hills studio. Hmmm. Yes, that would be two practices in one day, but if I did just second series in the Mysore class, it would be kind of like what I do when I do my entire practice in a Mysore class. Plus, I would get the chance to check out another Mysore class, to see what it was like, what the teacher and the group were like, get the beta so to speak. So, I got greedy and asked my wife if I could go up that evening. It was inconsiderate because it left her alone with the kids for the next two days. So, upon witnessing my hubris, the gods stepped in to put things right. I didn't get on the road until almost 2:00 PM. The class was scheduled to start at 4:00. I hit a traffic jam at what is normally the most open part of the drive up there, Camp Pendleton, not 15 miles from my house. "Oh crap", I thought, "This is going to take me three hours." It cleared up once we passed the immigration check point though and I was able to average almost 80 mph the rest of the way, on a Sunday afternoon no less. I got to the studio at about 3:30. Perfect. Just enough time to get in early, do a little pre-class stretching. I followed another guy in and went to the desk to pay my fee for the Mysore class. "Oh, sorry. We don't have a Mysore class here at all," I was informed. "But you have it on your web site." I whined. "Sorry, that schedule's out of date." Oh, I see. Well, that makes it okay then. "I drove all the way up here today just because you said you had this class," I groused. I knew it wasn't the desk people's fault, so I was trying not to project my anger at them. "Well, I can give you a coupon for a free class," the person at the desk replied. I didn't need a hand out. I needed a class. She added, "There is a Mysore class at the Santa Monica studio that started at 3:30. You could make it there for most of that." I didn't remember there being any Mysore class at the Santa Monica studio. I had checked that first when I was looking on the computer at home, but hey, the schedule was obviously not accurate so things just might still work out. I motored over to Santa Monica as quickly as I could, stewing over the fact that if I had known it was at the Santa Monica studio to start with, I would have been able to make it there for the entire class. I pulled into the SM studio lot a little after 4:00 and went up to pay for the class. "Oh, We don't have Mysore class at 3:30. It's a led first series class. By now they're probably through the standing sequence and maybe into the seated postures. It's too late to go in." It's hard to be a good yogi when you're really pissed off. I had now missed any chance at making to a class at either studio. I debated going all the way back to Newport beach to attend a 6:00PM led first series class that a friend of mine teaches. I didn't really need to do first series again, but if I drove all the way up there, I was definitely gonna go to some kind of class. I asked the desk people if the had a Newport schedule so that I could confirm the class before driving back there. "No, We don't have their schedule. It's not the same group." I guess it's not really Yoga Works, even though the studio was bought by Yoga Works and has the Yoga Works name on the door. Corporate ownership of yoga studios was clearly proving itself to be a user unfriendly approach. I decided against going back to Newport because I would have gotten to my host's home in Santa Monica way too late. The helpful desk people suggested I go to a level 2 & 3 class at the Yoga Works Main street studio. Very wary by now of any suggestions that I might get from people who work the desk at Yoga Works, I asked what a level 2&3 class was. That could mean anything. I had been to one of those at an Orange County studio a month or so ago and it was basically a Power yoga class. The desk person told me, "Well, it's a 2&3 class." Oh. Thanks. The teacher was supposed to be really good they promised me. So, I trooped over there to see where it was. The class didn't start for another hour and a half so I phoned my host to tell him I'd be late. Then I sat in the car and read some magazines until it was time to go in and pay. Fortunately, this class did exist. It was indeed a flow or power yoga class. We basically did standing poses and lunge stuff for the first hour. Then we did a few other poses, Hanumanasana in headstand, normal Hanumanasana and Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana. When all was said and done, I didn't feel as bad as I had when I drove up to the class. The teacher seemed very informed and experienced. I got a good stretch out of it and it was not just first series all over again, so I was happy to have had the chance.

The next day, we finished surgery about 2:30. I checked in with my wife. Since she was still pissed that I had blown off family to go up to LA early, I figured I'd head back home but she told me to go ahead and go to class. So, I went back to Santa Monica again for the afternoon Mysore class. The last time I had gone there, I found that people can go in and get started before the scheduled class start time of 4:00PM. This time, I went in about 3:20 and paid. There were already three or four people waiting to go in and set up their mats. We waited for the class that was in progress to finish at 3:30, then we went in. By then, there were probably at least 15 or 20 people there. Bunch of cut throats, these Santa Monicans. The past couple of times that I had been there, I noticed that some of the better practitioners tended to cluster down at the far end of the room. So, I put my mat down there. I wanted to see what they were doing. I got a bit of the sense that I was in somebody else's territory, maybe I made somebody practice away from their usual spot. I hope not. I wasn't trying to do that territorial disruption thing. There's just a few people I wanted to be able to see. One of them ended up across the room from me. I'm pretty sure I met and talked with her briefly when Guruji was in Carlsbad in 2000, but I can't be sure. She has appeared in print a couple of times, so I knew she had a practice. I hadn't ever seen her practice so I was hoping to learn from her if I got the chance to glance over from time to time. There was also another person who I had caught glimpses of when I had gone there before. This person had some things that stood out that I wanted to see if I had seen correctly.

Despite getting a prime viewing spot in the hottie corner of the studio, I didn't get to see too much. I was trying to do my practice as well as I could, all things considered. The all things was that I hadn't eaten all day, except for a slice of lemon loaf cake at Starbucks that morning. I also had only eaten once all day the day before, despite having done two practices that day. I didn't eat that morning. Once I learned I might be able to get to an LA class that afternoon, I didn't want to eat, figuring I could eat in the late afternoon once the class finished. Since I ultimately finished class around 7:30 PM, I was pretty starving. I found out that three practices in two days on a meal of ravioli and a slice of lemon loaf is hard to do. I was actually having a pretty good practice, in terms of flexibility and strength. I just started to lose energy eventually. I was feeling like a flashlight that is starting to lose battery power. Perhaps foolishly, I had decided to do all my poses, first and second. I didn't want to walk in as some stranger new guy and do just second series, since that could be perceived as presumptuous, especially when I am something less than facile at many of those poses. I meant to go faster in my first series poses than I ended up doing. I think I just feel into my normal rhythm and didn't notice how long I was taking, or how much energy I was using until I started to run out.

My first series poses, I did pretty well for me. I got a few adjustments in some of the early seated poses but I don't think I did anything poorly. One of them was to change how I was positioned in Marichy A, but I was misaligned, something that I usually do need help with in those poses. My biggest worry when I go to other places is that I don't want anybody to get a bad impression of my teachers from looking at my practice. I don't want them to think, "God, who's that guy's teacher?" So, I tend to try to keep a better form, a better focus, etc. When I'm doing an away practice. That attention to detail and the energy of being somewhere new tends to result in some pretty good practices, for me. I can't think of anything in the first series portion of that practice that I was unsatisfied with.

I started to hit the wall about three poses into second series though. Pasasana was great for me. I think I could have easily been adjusted into a wrist bind. I tried to get it on my own but I still can't quite keep all those things balanced and I started to tilt forward. I was happy with how the backbend postures went, especially since I had to do them without any of the research that I have become accustomed to. During Laghuvajrasana, I first started to realize that something was amiss physiologically. I started to get a big cramp in my foot as I came up. I guessed that maybe I was lacking some electrolytes from the poor diet but kept on going. In Kapotasana, I was able to get the soles of my feet on my own and, for once, was able to get my elbows around and down to the floor. I again did the spring up to handstand that we normally do after those three back bending poses, but the next time I go there I probably won't. Nobody else there does it. When I lowered from handstand down to Chaturanga, the teacher came over and said something to the effect of, "When you're in Chaturanga, your shoulders are supposed to be moving away from the floor." When I do a normal Chaturanga, I do try to do that. I have to admit though, that I've never really worried too much about landing in perfect Chaturanga form as I dropped to the floor from handstand. I did try to land in a more ideal form when I came down after doing the second one. Not sure how it looked but she didn't say anything more to me about it. When the teacher helped me with Supta Vajrasana, she made me come back up. I had been holding a towel that I had wrapped around my feet. "Why aren't you grabbing your toes?" she pressed. "Because I slip off," I answered. Seemed to be a simple and inarguable answer to me. Then I had to truthfully add, "It's easier too." So, she mad me grab my toes and go back. My fingers gradually slid away, as I knew they would. I was soaking wet and tired. She had me come back up. She suggested I try to do it by putting the towel over my feet and grasping my toes and the towel. She then looked at me and I think she realized that I was too spent and said, "Next time." I thanked her for her insight. My foot behind the head stuff was as loose as I've ever been. I got into Dwi Pada almost as easily as I could get into lotus. I was starting to take longer and longer rest breaks between poses though. I debated cutting it short. I had thought for some reason the class was supposed to end at 5:30 and it was already 5:05. I kept going though. I got my legs crossed pretty easily in Karandavasana but I had no hope whatsoever of limiting the drop down to the ground. I just didn't have enough gas left in the tanks to offer much resistance to gravity. After that I did my backbends and quickly finished since it was almost 5:30. As I lay back in Savasana, it struck me that nobody else seemed to be finishing. I asked the girl next t me when the class was scheduled to end. Turns out it finished at 5:55. So, if nothing else, I had plenty of time left for a long Savasana. I wish I had paid better attention. I could have slowed down the second series stuff that I kind of rushed through to get done in time.

I was really spent after that class. I got tired just walking down the stairs to my car. I got a pecan bar at Starbucks and a giant lemonade at Jamba Juice and I'm sure my glucose levels increased exponentially in the next half hour. It's probably a good thing that I didn't get to practice the next day. I got cramps in different places several times that day in the OR, so I don't think I was back to my typical state just yet.

In Mysore class today, I did the second series poses. I was happy to see I had maintained most of my range of motion. One area that I did have a struggle with was Samakonasana. I hadn't done it in a while and it felt like it. The sensation that I feel in that pose is hard to describe. It's not pain, like dropping a brick on your toe pain. It's kind of an intense anticipation of discomfort that seems to swirl around but not come completely into focus as pain. If it just outright hurt, I wouldn't be doing it. It's the edgiest feeling thing I can do though. The only that comes close, in terms of mental discomfort is the mental processes that I go through in those rare times that I have tried drop backs. That's also an exquisite torture for me. Speaking of which, a friend of mine who just got back from Mysore did drop backs on his own today. It killed me to see that. He has a very strong practice but I've always thought that we had comparable backs. Nothing horrible but neither one of us was ever going to be asked to demo backbends for the cover of Yoga Journal. When he left for Mysore a few months ago, neither one of us was dropping back. He had started standing up , which I had just figured out to do a month or so before. So, to see him easily dropping back today made me shudder. It meant that I had to do it too. In fact, Tim was standing right in front of him and gave him approving looks (I guess they were approving. With Tim, you can't always tell what his facial expressions mean). He then turned and looked right at me. That was a look I had no trouble interpreting.

Okay, time for bed. I'll have to proof later. Mysore class tomorrow, so the good fortune of the week continues.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Not a whole lot of yoga action to recount this week. I had that prep class on Monday and then I jiggered my schedule a bit to make it to a Mysore class on Wednesday. I also made it to most of one of the evening classes, which was an improv type class, but that's been it. While it might seem providential to have a week with minimal practice when I'm nursing a sore spot, my back actually feels best when I practice. It's at its most noticeable when I'm least active.

The Wednesday Mysore class felt pretty good. I was able to do a little stretching while the pranayama group was doing their thing. I debated doing the first and second series poses, but I hadn't done much backbending in a while. I knew that my backbending was coming back to normal and I wanted to keep that edge as sharp as possible, so I decided to do the second series poses with research. The discomfort that I had developed the previous week wasn't really a bother in anything. Trikonasana was actually the pose in which I noticed it the most. After that, I don't recall the sore area coming into play at all. I was pretty stiff in Samakonasana and Hanumanasana, not from anything to do with my back, but rather from not having done those two poses in a while. I was tentative in Krounchasana, expecting that it might be uncomfortable, but once I had eased into it, I just felt the usual tight hamstring sensations. I quit anticipating any problems after that and just did a normal practice.

I hadn't done any of the back bending research stuff for a while because of my previous low back pain but in this class I was able to do them all with no problems, including the ones against the wall that I typically find intense and uncomfortable, even when I'm at my strongest. One of those is sort of a supported Raja Kapotasana. You move to the face the wall as closely as possible in an up dog position. Your hands should be right up against the wall. The next move is put your chest up against the wall for support and then slide your hands up the wall until the arms are fully extended. Once you can do this okay, the next step is to arch your back so that your head moves away from the wall. You can then bend the knees and reach the feet toward the head and the head toward the feet like in Raja Kapotasana. Then, if able, you can move your hands back to grasp your knees or shins or whatever you can get hold of and keep that pose for a few breaths. Getting back away from the wall is the hardest part. The tendency is to want to get up as soon as possible. If you release the legs and simultaneously try to push off of the wall with your chest to get up quickly, your face rebounds into the wall. I think I've commented on the impact that this pose has on the nether regions before, so I'll leave that discussion alone. The other Salamba, or supported pose, is a Viparita Salabasana variation. In this one, you go into a handstand near the wall with your front facing the wall. The feet normally go against the wall. I guess you could do the rest without having the feet against the wall, but if you were able to do that, you probably wouldn't need to be doing all this researching. Anyway, once established in a handstand, you lower the body down until the chin, shoulders and upper chest are on the floor. That position is held for a few breaths. It can be taken a step further by bending the knees and trying to move the feet closer to the head and arching the head up towards the feet, eventually even grasping the legs like you would do in Raja Kapotasana. An alternative to the handstand entry to this pose is to use the "inchworm" technique. In this style, instead of starting off in handstand, you lie down with your feet against the wall. You then push off with your hands and inch your feet and legs up the wall a foot or so at a time until you get into the starting position. It's not quite as elegant an entry as the other way but that's not really what matters. The other wall research that I do is for stretching the groin. I guess the position is something like Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana, but instead of the forward leg being bent with the calf on the ground, I do it in a lunge position, with the back leg being supported up against the wall. In the last few months, as my back has gotten a little looser, I've felt that I was arching enough that I should be getting close to where my hands should be getting near my foot, but I could never feel it. I assumed I just wasn't arching as much as it felt like I was. One day one of the teachers came over and moved my hands over to the side about three inches. I was able to grab my toes and foot. I was there but I just had my back foot out too far to the side to know it.

There's something uplifting or energizing about being able to once again do something that you couldn't do for a while because of an injury or a soreness. I was finding I could again arch back without concerns or fears and with a reasonable degree of chest openness. My back bend poses all went pretty well. I was just moving my hands up onto my toes in Kapotasana when Tim stepped in to assist me. He still couldn't get me to where he had me a couple of weeks ago but I'm near the base of the heels again, or it feels that way.

If any pose should have been harder to do because of stiffness or pain from my most recent back tweak, it would have been Dwi Pada Sirsasana. I initially felt the twinge when I was doing Kurmasana, so I was curious to see how Dwi Pada would go. It went about like it's gone the last few weeks. I am not able to get the second leg in position on my own on first try or so. When put into the pose by Tim, I had no discomfort and didn't feel any stiffer than usual, so who knows what the defect is.

My last pose has been Pincha Mayurasana. After I did that one, I didn't feel like stopping. I was feeling stronger than usual, with not an iota of fatigue. I think I was pumped up from being able to do back bends again. I did Pincha a second time, trying to do a straight-backed variation, eliminating the usual arch. The goal is to be straight enough that you can look up and see your toes. I fell out of that one. Then, still feeling frisky, I tried to do Sayanasana a few times. Tim occasionally will do this one in his Improv classes, so I wanted to see if I could work out some of the balance issues that go with the transition from the forearms to the elbows. I never got close but I did get my hands and wrists off of the floor one time before I went down. Tim was nearby, and after I went down to my feet, he asked, "Oh, no Chatwari?", meaning why didn't I exit Pincha Mayurasana in the desired fashion? The desired way is to go directly from the pose into chaturanga, a dynamic move in which you have to shift the weight from the forearms to the hands before the feet ever touch the ground. I explained that I hadn't been trying Pincha just then, that I was messing around with Sayanasana. "And Karandavasana?" he asked. Oh no, I assured him. I hadn't tried to do that one. I wasn't trying to jump ahead without being given postures. I was just playing around with poses that were clearly out of my range before I did my backbends and closing poses. That, in my distorted logic, is an allowable transgression, the former is not. "No," he said, "Karandavasana you do." Huh? Oh. New pose. I'm slow sometimes, but trainable. I didn't do it too well. He had to winch me down and back up as usual, but I tried it four or five times before moving to my finishing. I was surprised at my lack of fatigue. When I have done the full second series in the past, I'm usually fairly tired by the time we get to Karandavasana. When I've finished my attempt at doing it, I'm often near cagging. This time, I felt like I could have kept trying for as long as there was class time. I eventually stopped because I thought I might overdo it and hurt my shoulder in some way. I wasn't gonna get it that day, so might as well save it for later. Wow. I've waited to get here for some time. I guess there shouldn't be a goal, in terms of getting postures, but we all have them. For me, the two goals were Kapotasana and Karandavasana. Now I have the chance to see if I have what it takes to learn how to do the pose. For me, Karandavasana is a separator pose. Most people can do the other second series poses, if given the chance. Most people that I've seen can't do Karandavasana. Me included. Should be fun.

After I did my backbends and Viparita Chakrasana sequence, Tim did assisted drop backs with me. I was still feeling that unusual sense that I had more in reserve, so after the last drop back down, instead of going into Urdhva Dhanurasana and standing up like usual, I tried to do something Tim had attempted with me once in the past. Back then, when I was getting ready to do my last backbend, with my head still on the ground, he had me slide my arms along the ground towards my feet until my elbows were even with my head. He then wanted me to press up into a backbend. I couldn't do it that time. I was barely able to get my head off of the ground. The arch was too intense, I wasn't able to get any lift out of my shoulders. On Wednesday, I was feeling like I could do things, so instead of standing up from Urdhva Dhanurasana on the last drop back, I lowered my head to the ground and tried to shift my hands and arms back on my own. My shoulders are my limiting step here. I couldn't get them to let me move the hands back very well. He moved my hands for me and rotated my arms a bit to get my forearms on the ground. I pressed up okay but my hands were closer together than I'm used to. I felt unstable but I was able to get up and felt no discomfort or compression in my back. The arms weren't straight and I'm sure the form looked horrific overall but, I'm getting there.

Wednesday was my wife's birthday. Several of her friends from the studio and I had planned to surprise her by going to the first series class she teaches on Wednesday evening. When push came to shove though, none of us were able to make it. When they missed the class, the other people decided to drop by the house later that evening to visit and to ooh and aah at all the awesome gifts that I got her (meaning the ones she decided that she wanted and got for herself and then had me wrap for the kids to give to her). While talking with her, one of them turned to me and said, "So, John, you're starting to look like Richard Freeman there lately." Come again? I mean, I know I've been working hard this past year at improving my yoga practice, but, really, I never thought any one else would be able to tell the difference, much less compare me to... "Yeah", she added, "With that thing you've been doing with your hair lately, you look kinda like him when he has that ponytail in those videos." Oh. "Uh. Yeah, thanks," I replied redfaced, "That's nice of you to say." Sometimes, I even amaze myself with my clueless-ness.

I work tonight but should be able to go to class tomorrow morning. Round two with Kurmasana. We'll see who wins this time.

Monday, September 27, 2004

A new day, a new pain. Such is the life of a graying ashtangi. The mid line sacral soreness of the last week or so has resolved completely, for now (last phrase thrown in to appease the gods). In my last two classes, I have been able to back bend with relative impunity, with nary a twinge of discomfort. However, (such an ugly foreboding word is however) I now have a brand spanking new ouchie to feed my morbid imagination. As I began to lay forward into Kurmasana yesterday, I felt an unusual tightness in the area of my right low back and along the rear edge of my pelvic brim. I did the pose and the rest of that practice without any real discomfort or stiffening, but I was a little more sore later on and more so today. I thought initially I may have strained the quadratus muscle, but the way it feels today, I'm thinking more along the lines of problems in the Sacroiliac joint/ligament. It doesn't feel bad. It feels far less limiting than what I was complaining about last week. That doesn't mean it couldn't become more of a chronic thing, it just doesn't feel too threatening yet. Tomorrow's a moon day, a good opportunity to rest it, but we'll see how it feels.

Funny, our teacher occasionally will enlighten us with various tidbits about upcoming astrological events. Before class on Sunday, he mentioned that Mars and Jupiter were forming one of those conjunction things in which two or more visible heavenly body appear to cluster close together in the night sky. The bodies in play this time included Mars and Jupiter. So, he told us we might expect a practice marked by "fortunate action", since Mars is the planet associated with action and Jupiter is associated with fortune. He did go on to warn that we should use caution so as not to overdo things, as irrational exuberance might also arise with such a combination. I hate it when he tells us stuff like that. I've never given astrology much more than a sniff of disdain, but I swear, whenever he tells us about a given day having potentially negative implications, I get all nervous about getting hurt. One day he told us about Mars and Saturn coming together, the little malefic and the big malefic. Major badness looming. I was almost neurotic in my caution that day. I think I even walked my feet back to chaturanga rather than jump back. Yesterday, I didn't really think about what he had said about the planets until afterwards while I was in Savasana. I don't think I was being unusually exuberant when it happened. In fact, I was in my usual slacker mode, just settling down into the pose as he was getting to the second count or so.

As for the other "unfortunate action" from that practice, those weren't real farts coming from me. They were mat farts. You know what I mean. You're laying there on your back and your sweaty body sort of forms a seal with the mat. As you move into a different position, air that has become trapped under your redundant body folds gets pressed out , generating the loud, greasy, post-frijole kind of noise that causes everyone to overtly not look at you out of embarrassment. I did that Sunday class without a shirt, since I had forgotten to throw a tanktop in the trunk when I left for work the night before. Without a shirt, my body was sweatier than usual and seemed to glue to the mat whenever I lay down or rolled back into some inverted pose. I think people around me figured out that they weren't real when it happened three or four times in a row. I hope they figured it out. They weren't farts. Honest! I don't fart in class. Just once. That was it. Years ago.

I also seem to have resurrected my blog jinx. In one of my recent entries, I mentioned that I had had a good twisting and binding day. Yesterday, though, I was barely getting to mid-palm on some of my Marichyasanas, even the ones that I have been able to bind my wrist on for some time now.

But, I did have a really good back bending day (away damn jinx). My arms felt really straight and I was trying pretty hard to shift my weight as far out over my shoulders as I could. When I did my stand up (just one, I wasn't trying to be greedy), my feet never budged. No shift of the toes out to the side. No steps back or forward for balance. Came right up. Simple and sweet, just like those gumby girls do all the time.

Today I was scheduled to assist a partner in the OR all day, but her last two cases got cancelled. We finished the only case by 10:30 so I called my clinic schedulers and told them I was going to take the afternoon off. I then scooted back up north and went to the noon First series prep class. I got there about 45 minutes early but the studio door was unlocked. There was somebody there that was just finishing their practice. She let me come in and do some stretching before my class started. I was back in cautious exploration mode. Standing in the OR that morning had made my low back even stiffer than it had felt when I got up this morning. This was low back tightness that impacted twisting and, to a lesser degree, forward bending more than back bending. The poses that felt the edgiest were Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana and Marichyasana C. Janu A didn't feel too bad at all, which I thought it would if the discomfort were to be due to SI joint issues. Who knows what I really did. Hopefully it will become as moot as last week's twinge.

Last night we watched that show where they completely rebuild someone's home for them. My kids and wife love these makeover shows. This was the season opener and it was a two hour show about a guy who lives about three miles from us. He is a recent widower, his wife died four years ago. He has eight kids and the nine of them all lived in a tiny three bedroom, one bathroom home. It was a very emotional show. The local community really came together to help the show bring the thing off. They scraped the house and rebuilt a huge (4600 sq ft) new home in just seven days. The contractor who did the building, an acquaintance of the family from church or something, had never even built a home before. His business was commercial construction: building banks and mini-malls and stuff. It was just amazing how great a job they all did, the people from the show, the contractors and builders, the volunteers, the neighbors. If you get a chance to see it or tape it, I'd recommend it. Not that often that you get to see such pure, honest goodness.

Full moon tomorrow. Maybe this time I'll heed the astrological warnings and avoid practice. Maybe. We'll see how it feels tomorrow. Besides, the kids and I have to shop for a present for my lovely wife. Her birthday is on Wednesday. How old is she? Old enough to bring her shins to her head and her head to her feet.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Ahhh. The unadulterated pleasure of being able to do an up dog or a backbend and not have to go into it cringing out of fear that it's going to be too sore. The back is returning to a more normal state. Some practices have been near normal, others let me know that something did happen there and that I better be aware. I gotten back to a full range of motion in just about all of my backbending poses except for Kapotasana and Vrschikasana. In Kapotasana, it varies from day to day but the last couple of times I was able to get to my toes or just past them on my own and could be pulled farther by an adjuster without any discomfort in the back. The last time I was adjusted in it, the thing that felt limiting to me was my shoulder. I probably was tense out of worry about what it would feel like and the shoulder didn't release as well as it has in the past. Vrschikasana hasn't been even close to where I got to when Tim was adjusting me in it a while back. It almost feels like there's a wedge of resistance in there preventing me from developing any arch. I've only done it twice since my little back thing happened though so I can't really expect it to be too good. Having only done it twice in almost three weeks, it would likely have been as stiff even if I hadn't tweaked the back.

I felt pretty good at the start of Thursday's Mysore class, so I decided to do all my poses, First and Second. Because that takes a while, I wouldn't have time to do any of my usual Second series research poses. That was okay with me. I didn't really want to over do it with a whole lot of research stuff. Can't say my practice really suffered for not doing it either. I felt pretty good on a couple of the twists too. I almost got to my wrist on one side in Marichyasana D, on my own, something I've only done once ever. I was also able to wriggle my hands a bit to attempt a similar depth of binding in Pasansana but started to tip over so I stopped and just worked on the positioning of my knees and on trying to get my heels down a bit. They're still an inch or so up from the ground. That's a hard pose. So many actions and counter actions going on at one time. I was cruising along later, happy in that I was doing better on most of the early backbending poses. I had just finished Ustrasana. After that pose and after the next two, we go into a handstand then vinyasa down to Chaturanga. I had just finished one of my best handstands ever after Ustrasana. My wife got up from where she was practicing on the opposite side of the room and walked over to me. "Cool" I thought, "She saw that and is gonna tell me how solid it looked." She leaned over me and whispered, "Did you forget to do Dhaurasana?" Uh oh. Crap. So I had to go back and do those two poses and then do Ustrasana again. But my handstand rocked the second time too. One thing I have somehow lost the ability to do is Bakasana B. I've floundered around the last five or six times I've tried it. In my Wednesday practice at work and again on Thursday, I was trying to do things a little differently in my jump throughs. I had seen a guy at Yoga Works go from down dog into a Lolasana position. He was balanced on his hands with his head and shoulders forward and his back parallel with the ground. He kept his knees close together and up against his chest and would hang there for a second before unfolding his legs and passing them through into a sitting position. Almost like being in Bakasana but with the folded legs suspended under the chest rather than balanced on the arms. I thought that would be a good thing to try to get some of that core stuff going so I tried that a lot. Maybe doing so caused me to shoot my bandha wad and I didn't have enough left when I needed it for Bakasana B.

I'm not sure why but the last few times I've done all my postures, I haven't had the kind of exhaustion that used to really limit me when I got to the end. That really has helped me in all those foot behind the head poses. On Thursday, I did Dwi Pada Sirsansana on my own and balanced. And, as I usually do, I lost my ability to hold the balance after Tim put me into it more deeply. That kind of bugs me because I don't want him to back off of adjusting me in it. I had a pretty good Tittibhasana sequence on Thursday. I think I got my legs as straight as I've ever done in Titti B. My recent tumbling episode has made me a little tentative in doing C and D but they're getting better gradually too. There's a video of Guruji leading a second series class at Yoga Works from years ago. In that video, Chuck Miller walks across the room, then around behind a guy on the other side of the room, then walks backward back to his mat while bound in Tittibhasana. He was walking as easily as I do when standing upright. I'd love to be that sure and that mobile. The other thing I've got on my wish list is to be able to jump into Tittibhasana A position. I don't know if anyone else in my studio does that yet. Maybe that one guy with the disgustingly great practice but I'm not sure. Even if he doesn't, I'm sure he could if he tried.

After finishing my poses I felt pretty good but didn't know how doing Viparita Chakrasana would feel. In all of the other back poses, if it didn't feel right, I could just come out of the pose. If it didn't feel good as I started to go over from handstand in V.C., to bad, so sad, there's no stopping it once gravity has taken over, not for me yet anyway. I did two attempts on my own and had no discomfort, just a lot of impact noise as my feet came down. Tim came over and helped me through the sequence. It didn't feel too much worse than it had the last time I did it. The only thing that was clearly worse was Vrschikasana.

Friday I had to be at work at 8:30. I somehow convinced myself that I could go to the 7:00 mysore class, just do my second series poses with no research and be out of there in time to get to work. That's with a 40 minute commute. I probably would have done it too if I hadn't done the Samakonasana and Hanumanasana researching sequence that we do after the Prasarita poses. Those two are so uncomfortable that they take me a while to get through. Lots of mental conversations and bargaining going on. I wanted to do them, even if it meant I had to truncate some other parts of the practice because, more than any other aspect of my practice, if I don't do those regularly, I lose ground. I've gotten to where I can get all the way down on my second side in Hanumansana and almost all the way down on my first side. I've made slow progress in Samakonasana too but still have much pain ahead of me in that one. The discomfort from doing those postures is enough to make me want to do them every chance that I can so that I don't lose ground and have to make it all back up again. Because of my time concerns, I wasn't really holding any of the poses for the normal length of time. I was doing Supta Vajrasana when the people next to me were still doing the standing poses. Tim came over to help with that pose and said, "You look like you're a man on a mission today." I knew there wouldn't be any new poses coming my way when I hurried through like that. Ater my last pose, I did three backbends, made it up to standing and then did the last three poses and a quick savasana. Time out of the shala door: 7:45.

Needless to say, practicing like that didn't give me the usual post-practice feel. As unlucky as I was on Tuesday with my operating schedule, I was equally lucky on Friday. A case got cancelled, a couple of others got moved up and miracles of miracles, we got three major cases in and done by 4:30. I sprinted to the car with the intent of trying to make it to the Intro to Second series class if it was okay with my wife. She was tied up at one of the malls buying clothes for the kids so she said to go ahead. I strolled in to the studio and put my mat down. I was walking back to my mat after a quick run to the bathroom to put some water on my rug when Tim spotted me and said, "Hey, John. Weren't you at practice this morning?" As in, "You know this isn't how it's supposed to be done, why are you here?" but in a much nicer way. I suggested that the morning class didn't really count, that it had just been an "insurance" practice in case I didn't make it to the evening class. He just smiled. The evening class normally goes as far as Ardha Matsyendrasana. He will sometimes flesh the class out with various researching poses. We didn't do anything extra that night though, except for Eka Pada Bhekasana. I usually wish we didn't have to do that one because it doesn't feel like it does that much for me but does use up energy that I'd rather have available later on. That night though, I was glad to do it. Bhekasana has been one of the hardest poses for me to do as I've been getting over this tweak in my back. We didn't get to do Samakonasana or Hanumanasana, none of the groin openers, nothing else. We did use the extra time to do some chanting though. I hadn't done any of that in a while so that was nice. It also felt better to have done all of the finishing poses and to have a real long Savasana. I felt like I had practiced when we were done with that class, even though the actual practice time wasn't much more than what I had done that morning.

Today, I watched some of my kids' soccer matches and went to the Improv class in between games. I can't remember what all we did, I'm pretty bad about that. I think I'm probably not destined to be a teacher because I can't seem to retain sequencing very well. We did do a bunch of lunges and groin openers and several handstand variations. Impressively, she made everyone do the handstands at the front of their mats, not against the wall. I think that's what ultimately works best. The wall sometimes creates an unbreakable dependency.The wall is worse than nicotine, worse than Lay's potato chips, worse than heroin. I wasn't going to make any Improv requests today because I've been making requests my last few classes there. Not many suggestions came up though. So I decided to go ahead and throw in my six bits. I had been looking at some poses the night before so I indirectly made my suggestion by asking how many Dhanurasana variations there were. She ended up doing most of them. The ones we didn't do were either too challenging or not that interesting or didn't really fit in with the flow of the class. I was able to find ten of them, but I didn't have my copy of Light on Yoga to check for others. Of the ones that I could find, we did the following: Dandayamana Dhanurasana (a Bikram name for a variation of Natarajasana), Dhanurasana, Parsva Dhanurasana, Padangustha Dhanurasana, Eka Pada Dhanurasana (similar to Padangustha Dhanurasana but grasping only one foot, couldn't find any pictures) and Urdhva Dhanurasana. Other ones that I found that we didn't do were Akarna Dhanurasana A & B, Parivrtta Akarna Dhanurasana, Eka Pada Urdhva Dhanurasana and Parivrtta Urdhva Dhanurasana. I'm sure there's tons of others or at least many other sub variations but we did do the poses that come in the ashtanga sequence, except for Akarna, which is a bit lame.

I'll have to do more later. Have to scrub on a case.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

After tweaking my back last week, I was starting to wonder if I wasn't beginning to see the effects of having had too many birthdays. I didn't practice the next two days after my mysore class last Wednesday. I went to the Saturday Improv class not really knowing how it was going to go. I was still feeling the discomfort at other times, like when rolling over in bed at night or when tossing the football with my kids, but it seemed to be gradually fading away. Fortunately, in that class people asked for twists and other stuff that didn't really make me push the envelope with that area of my back. I didn't do too well with backbends though. I made no attempt whatsoever at standing up and just nodded my head back when she had the class attempt drop backs. That wasn't in the cards. All in all, I was happy that it seemed a little better and that I was able to get through another class without making it worse.

On Sunday, I could have gone to either morning class, the Second series or the First series class. I don't know why I chanced it but I went with the Second series class. I got there early and did a half an hour of warm up. With that I could tell I wasn't gonna be doing much better than I had the day before. I set my mat up over near one of the corners, out of the line of sight from where my teacher usually sets up. As chance would have it, one of the people who had recently told me that I had been making some progress in backbending set up right next to me. After having to listen to me moan and groan my way through that class, I think she now probably has second thoughts about my bendiness. I was able to do most everything just fine, just not the poses I knew I would struggle with. Bhekasana was funny. I had my feet pretty close to the ground but I was unable to generate any lift with my upper body. It was almost like the opposite effect was happening, my chest and shoulders seemed to be forced straight down into the ground. I could really feel the sore area in the sacrum in that pose. The three main backbending poses were hard. I was better than I had been on Wednesday but bad enough that I shouldn't have been in a class like that if that's all I could do. What's worse, when going back in Laghuvajrasana, I felt this grinding kind of sensation in the lateral side of my knee, like something was in the process of rending but hadn't torn free yet. There was no discomfort but I could tell there was some weakness in that area. That really got me worried that I might be having a domino effect with one injury leading to other injuries potentially leading to incapacity. I didn't even try very hard at doing Kapotasana after that. I knew the back soreness was going to be enough to keep me from being able to get enough arch to get my hands to my feet and I didn't want to do what ever it was that my knee was warning me to not do. Everything else in the class was no problem though. I didn't do any better or worse than I would usually do. Actually I did do Vatayanasana better than average for me. I don't do this pose very often and I don't do it that well but for some reason, I do one side of this much better than the other side. My first side is much worse. Once I get my arms crossed, I can't seem to keep my balance and get them raised upward. I almost always keel over in one direction or the other. I don't have that much of a problem with keeping balanced when doing the left side. I don't know what I did or didn't do, but for that class, I was able to get my foot fairly close to my knee, get it angled out towards the side and also get my arms raised up on both sides. I ran out of time though. It took me almost the whole five count to get in position. And I did do something worse too. I almost fell out of Baddha Hasta Sirsasana B. That's right, B! The easy one.

I wasn't feeling bad about the practice when we were all through. I was glad to be able to get through it. I was concerned about what that sensation in my knee might mean but there was no discomfort, no swelling, no squishiness or instability, so I didn't think I had injured it. I was just worried that I might be more likely to injure it. The back thing wasn't finished yet but it was getting better. In hind site, I should have done the First series class. That would have helped me a lot more.

When I got home, my daughters and a friend of theirs who had slept over asked if they could do the lemonade stand thing. I didn't want to at first but realized that there was no reason not to help them do it except laziness. They had done the whole thing once before so they were fairly quick to get it all together. They trundle all their stuff into town and set up on a table outside of the restaraunt owned by the parents of the friend who slept over. The little village we live near isn't bustling by any means but the place they had was right near the intersection that gets a lot of weekend sightseers and pedestrians. We didn't use real lemons this time. The girls wanted to mosey up to our neighbor's property and appropriate fresh fruit from the small grove of lemon trees that they have. Nope, no lemon stealing on my watch. It was Chrystal Light for this business venture. Once they had their stand set up and ready to go, I made a store run to get some extra lemonade mix, some cups, etc. While in the store, I decided to get some fancy cookies that they could sell also. At 50 cents a glass for the juice and the same price for cookies, they grossed $55. Not bad for a few hours work. After we were all done and were splitting up the proceeds, I didn't go into the concept of net profits with them. They still made money but it wouldn't have seemed as neat for them if they had to subtract all the costs for the cups and cookies and napkins, etc. I ended up making at least three trips to the store to get more cookies. Each time I got in and out of the car, as I twisted sidways and pushed off with my foot, I could feel that sensation of weakness in my knee. I became fairly conscious of how I was using it and started being real careful about making that knee do anything without being supported in some fashion.

The next day, I had one of those meetings in Pasadena that I have to go to every month or so. Given how I had felt the day before, I figured another day of rest would be in order. The lure of getting to go to a Mysore class was too great though. We finished the meeting around noon so I motored over to Santa Monica and strolled around looking for something for my wife's upcoming birthday (At her request. I'm not that thoughtful typically). Finding no interesting stores, I sat in my car and listened to a few of the CD's I had just bought while I waited for the afternoon Mysore class. I didn't think I would get much of a chance to warm up because the folks at the front desk had told me earlier that there was a class in the room that finished right before ours was scheduled to start. Despite that, I went to the studio about twenty minutes early because I was tired of sitting in the car while the guy manicuring the lawn next to me drowned out my music with his various power tools. Sure enough, there was no other class in the room. In fact, most of the floor was already taken up by people starting their Mysore practices early. Grrrr. I set up between a couple of guys who it turns out had pretty good practices. I must have done something to rub one of them the wrong way, I think, because I got this vibe the whole class, like I was crowding him or doing stuff wrong or something. Maybe not. Maybe he was just intense. I know I irritated him when I leaned over in mid practice to ask if they did things a certain way at that studio (whether or not they did handstands after some of the Second series backbends). He was polite but I don't think he was in a conversational mood right then.

I was pretty leery of doing this class with how my backbends had been going the past week. This was Maty Ezraty's class and in the past I've gotten the impression that she doesn't really like to see things done incorrectly. She wasn't there that day though. The teachers who were there pretty much left me alone. I did get an adjustment on one side in Janu Sirsasana A, more or less a "Hi, how are you? I don't know you so I'm just seeing how you're doing" kind of thing. I also got one of those Savasana adjustments, where they stretch your legs out a bit, adjust the position of your hands and arms, press down on your shoulders, rub your eyebrows, stuff to help you relax. I like that kind of stuff, though I don't usually get it. One thing which didn't feel great though was she moved my feet from their normal externally rotated position to a position where my feet were pointing up and then pushed down on the top of my feet, guiding my toes down towards the floor. One, that's not the normal resting position for my feet and legs and two, pushing down like that put too much weight on my heels and created an uncomfortable sensation in my Achille's tendons. Still, I appreciated her trying to make me more comfortable.

I started the class off a little cautiously. I figured I'd probably be sore still and would just do First series. My up dogs were a lot better though. Something changed, what I don't know. As I progressed through the poses, I realized that I was doing most things as well as I can do them. I did forget to do Supta Konasana. Everything else went really well though, even Setu Bandhasana. I finished the first series with about 45 minutes left for the class so, feeling pretty good, I pressed on. Normally, when I'm doing both First and Second series poses, I take a quick water/rest break after I finish the last pose in the First series. I wasn't close to being tired that day though so I moved right into second. The backbending stuff was clearly better. Not back to baseline but waay better than the day before. When I dropped down into Laghuvajrasana, I was just waiting to feel or hear something in my knee again but it went perfectly normally. I even got my fingers to my toes in Kapotasana, which amazed me because the day before, I barely got my hands to the ground, much less back to where my feet were. I didn't land Bakasana B on my first two tries but managed to get it on number three. Any other day I probably would have quit after the first couple of failures and just done the A version again. That day seemed to be an 'on' day though so I wanted to keep trying. The foot behind the head stuff was my best ever. The only disappointment was not getting the jump back part of it. Sometimes I can do it but sometimes I mis-do things and the foot slides off the back of my head and chops straight down toward the ground like a guillotine. As I was setting myself up to enter Dwi Pada Sirsasana, I decided to try and move the second leg back a little more quickly than I normally do. I was thinking that my more deliberate approach in times past may have been what was keeping me from getting my feet hooked over each other. Once I had my left leg in place, I made to really go for it with the right leg. I didn't really have to though because it slipped right into position with almost no extra effort or extraneous wiggling to and fro. I don't know what it was about that class. It just went better than I could have hoped for. Even backbends went well. I was able to stand up after my third one. Poorly done, with the need for a quick step back to keep my balance, but I made it up. The day before, rather than try to stand up on my own, I had opted to walk my way up the wall after our sixth backbend, and even with that much warm up, I barely made it up the wall. Whacky stuff this ashtanga.

After class, I was in one of those too rare post-yoga highs. I drove all the way home to San Diego through LA rush hour traffic and never even noticed it. I was listening to my new music, just oblivious to everything else. Too oblivious it turns out. I had forgotten to check in with my wife. She called me when I was about 30 miles from home and let me know my blissfulness was not shared. The good vibe held up through the next day. I really wanted to practice that day. It was my OR day and when things go well, I can usually get out in time to make it to the evening led First series class. It was not to be though. A scheduling snafu put a long case for another surgeon in between my two cases and I didn't get out of there until around 7:30 that evening.

Today, I was on call and it was a slow day, so I practiced at work. I usually don't do that but I wanted to get something in after missing out yesterday. I also wanted to get myself as loose as possible because I get to go to Mysore class tomorrow morning after I get off here. I was again only going to do First series. I didn't feel as loose as I did on Monday but I didn't expect to. Even with a space heater on full blast and with a Santa Ana blowing, the hospital air conditioning kept the room cool enough that I didn't sweat too much. I moved through the First series and decided to keep going, planning on stopping when I got to a point where I wasn't doing a pose well or when I ran out of motivation, whichever came first. I didn't do Kapotasana well at all but I felt okay to keep going so I finished all my usual poses. I then went ahead and did Pincha Mayurasana and as much of Karandavasana as I can do. Never hurts to get some practice in. I only had one phone call in the time I was doing my practice so it worked out okay. That is unlikely to be repeated any time soon though.

We'll have see which back shows up tomorrow morning. If I don't feel discomfort, I may do what I did Monday and today, all of First and my Second poses. Maybe . We'll have to see.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Despite doing no yoga yesterday, my low back discomfort hadn't gotten better enough. I was still pretty tight today. It wasn't as tight as the day I first noticed it but more bothersome than I hoped it would be. I hurried through a couple of things because I know I looked so bad in them, I didn't want anybody seeing me do them and think that that's how I actually did the poses. I had to work at nine this morning, so I only had time to do my second series poses, with no research and none of the extra backbending stuff before closing (thank god). First series would have felt a lot better but I didn't have enough time for it. I was able to do marginally acceptable up dogs, but they looked pretty straightbacked I'm afraid. I did a shallow Salabasana, again not as frightful as the other day but still something I'd just as soon not be seen doing. Bhekasana was similarly ugly. Not only was I arching less than I usually do, and I usually can't get much arch, but it felt harder to get my feet down too. I think I was having a generally stiff day, in addition to having to work around a reluctant low back. The two Dhanurasana poses went okay with minimal discomfort. Ustrasana, though, was bad and made me realize the next two poses would bring Tim or his assistant over if they saw me doing them. I was wrong about Laghuvajrasana though. I guess since there's less arch in that pose, a stiff back is somewhat compensated for. Kapotasana was essentially undo-able. I couldn't arch anymore than I would normally do when doing Laghuvajrasana with straight arms, meaning almost no arch. I tried it a second time, hurriedly out of fear of attracting attention, but to no avail. I can't remember if I tried the straight arm part of it before coming up or if I just kind of bailed out and wiggled my way back to a kneeling position. Disheartening given the progress I had perceived in my backbending and in that pose in particular in the last few weeks. I'd even had a couple of people come up to me recently and comment how my backbends weren't anywhere near as bad as they used to be. Actually they phrased it much more nicely than that. They implied that they were actually looking good. I'm just not allowed to say things about myself like that.

After surviving that portion and managing to do it without generating any assists, the last few poses went pretty normally. I wondered how Bakasana B would go. I figured a sore back might come into play when I was approaching touchdown but I did it fine. The Eka Padas were stiffer than normal, not low back but everything else, hips, knees. I think it was just one of those days. Maybe is was the 1/4 bag of Natural Cheetos that I woofed down right before going to bed. Nah, they were Natural Cheetos. Dwi Pada Sirsasana went the same as it has the last few weeks. When trying to get the legs crossed, I was able to get the foot of the right leg hooked over the toe of the first leg but I couldn't get it to slide any further down for the life of me. It was stuck right at the knuckle of the big toe of my left foot. Damn bunion. When Tim re-did me, I felt more scrunched up than usual today too. I held the balance though.

Then came dork time. I did my first three Tittibhasanas okay. I bound, not real deep but I was connected. When I was setting up for the D variation, I had my heels pretty close together and was working on trying to get my shoulders a little closer to being back through past my legs. Next thing I know, I'm falling forward. I guess I leaned too far or wiggled when I should have waggled or something. I frenziedly tried to get my arms back from inside my legs to try and catch my fall. As anyone who has ever tried this pose can probably imagine, getting unwound in time to stop a fall was not happening. I think the actual points of impact were one elbow, the other knee and my head. You couldn't possibly do it more ingloriously if you choreographed it ahead of time. I really wish I could have seen it. I could just read my teacher's mind, "Hmmm, that was interesting. Maybe I should take some poses back from him after all."

The backbends were kept to a minimum. I did one Setu Bandha Sarvangasana and three weak Urdhva Dhanurasanas. I don't think I was able to get my arms straight on the first back bend. By the last one, I was able to straighten my arms but I realized half way through it that I was able to do so only by unconsciously going up on my tip toes. I called it quits there and moved through the closing sequence. Even if I was having a limited range of motion day, I had to be at work in about 45 minutes, so I didn't have time to do any more than that anyway. One excuse is never sufficient. A good slacker always has reserve reasons for why they can't do the necessary work.

In the past, when I've had soreness in this area of the back, it has resolved over a few days to a week. I don't want to push it and make it something more disruptive than it is right now. I don't think I get to practice the rest of the week anyway, maybe on the weekend, so more rest may help.

I need to learn how to do stuff with my hair. I've let it grow a little longer than usual. Now it gets in my face and I have to constantly wipe it away to get it out of my eyes and mouth and stuff. It's a practice distraction that I don't need. I have more than enough of those as it is. The hair is longish but not long. It's barely long enough to tie up in the back, in a style that our governor, Arnold (I used to pose nude for gay men's porn magazines) Schwarzenegger might describe as being "girlie-man". Tying it up does help keep it out of my eyes but then all the sweat runs down right into my face. I also have to take down the whatever it's called, ponytail?, when I do closing because it sits kind of weird when I go back into shoulderstand and stuff like that. It works great in the car though. My hair was starting to really whack me in the eyes when I had the top down. Even if I wore a hat, the hair in the back would reach. To protect my eyes, I had to wear sunglasses too, even at night. Now, though I might look a bit schoolmarm-ish, I can drive with impunity. At work, I normally wear one of those blue hats that they wear in the OR. I wear it all the time though because my hair just looks out of control most of the time. Today, I went without the hat, just my dashing little stallion tail. Everyone made a point of telling me how nice or how pretty my new hair style looked. Our Gynecologic Oncologist passed me in the hall. He did a marvelous job of stifling his laughter. Bunch of troglodytes. Someone did suggest that I try french braids though. I'll have to ask my daughter how to do that.