Thursday, February 12, 2004

I just got back in town from a short visit back home. I had to go back to Oklahoma City for a funeral. I hadn't been there since my dad's funeral four or five years ago. You kind of need to have a really good reason to go to Oklahoma City. I figured I wouldn't have much chance to practice in that time unless I was able to force myself to do it at my sister's house, where I was staying. I booked my flight so as to be able to get in a first series class before I left for the airport. I knew there was a guy, Andrew Eppler, who taught ashtanga at a yoga studio in the college town of Norman, OK, about 20 miles south of OKC. My wife had taken a class from him the last time she was visiting my sister. I didn't think I'd be able to get down there though. I hit the internet and did some searches for yoga classes in OKC. I found a couple of options. One of them had a teacher named Christina, who it turns lived with Alan Little while he was in Mysore about a couple of years ago. I've never met Alan, but I've come to know him to a degree through his writing on those Yahoo and the EZBoard ashtanga message boards and from reading his Mysore diary and going through his personal web site. I figured if Alan liked her enough to live with her while in India, then she had to have something good going for her. I called her and left a message telling her I wanted to try and make it to the Mysore/self-practice that she holds at her house on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She left me a message that there was also an evening Ashtanga class on Wednesday at the studio. So, it turned out that I was actually able to practice all three days of my trip.

The led first series class on the morning I left was a little on the cold side. Even though we are in Southern California, the morning temperatures have been in the upper thirties lately. The heat is not left on in the studio overnight. They do turn it on when they come in for the pranayama class that starts at 6:15AM. That doesn't really warm the room up that much though on a cold morning. For some reason, there weren't that many people in class, only 17, so we didn't have the usual quorum to generate body heat either. I knew going into Kurmasana that Garba Pindasana was gonna suck: not enough sweat to let the arms slide though the legs easily. I was able to smear just enough sweat from my head onto my legs and arms to get them through but I was barely able to get my hands to my face, much less up by my ears or the top of my head for the rolling around. We didn't do anything extra in that class. I can only remember going to that class a couple of times ever in the past, but both times he threw in a couple of extra things, like doing Marichyasana E and F. We did do ten back bends, because it was the tenth of the month it turns out. This is a class that Tim practices with us, so he was doing each back bend too. At the end, he dryly noted that it was a good thing that it was the 10th and not the 29th. I have been screwing up my stand up attempts lately. I spazzed on this one too, so he came by after getting everyone else up and assisted me to standing. Most people will help someone up by gently pulling forward on their hips or thighs. Tim has a neat kind of assist in which he will put his hand on your chest and bring you up using pressure with that hand alone. Unlike the typical assist to standing where the assister ends up doing most or all of the work, the hand on chest approach requires the student to do most of the work with your legs. It also helps you keep your head down and your back and chest in the appropriate arch.

On Wednesday, after the memorial service and the after service get together were all done, I snuck away and did the evening class at the Yoga Studio OKC where Christina teaches some of her classes. The Wednesday class was taught by a guy named Alan. He told me the class would be a little different than a typical ashtanga class. The folks in OKC for the most part are guided by Andrew Eppler, an Ashtanga teacher who follows the approach of his teacher, B.N.S. Iyengar. There were some minor variations in vinyasa in the standing poses. The rest of the class was pretty much a typical prep class. Most of the poses were done. The poses omitted were the ones that are typically omitted in most of the prep classes I've gone to, namely the bound lotus poses, marichyasana D, setu bandhasana. Surprisingly, we did do janu sirsasana C, which many classes do leave out as being "too challenging" for their students. We only did three repetitions of navasana but they were longer holds than most classes would have, so my abs didn't mind stopping after three. We did do kurmasana and supta kurmasana, again these are often omitted in other classes. I think I was able to get the big toe of my left foot under the heel of my right foot in Supta K. The teacher then came by and crossed my ankles the rest of the way. I tried to let him know he could go ahead and bring my feet all the way up behind my head onto my neck but I knew he didn't know me or my practice and would not likely give that kind of an adjustment to a stranger. After finishing the first series poses we moved to back bends. I thought that he said, "Go ahead and do two sets of five back bends". I wondered why people were holding them so long. Usually, when faced with the prospect of doing ten backbends, people are pretty willing to come down after just a few seconds. I was thinking back to the long Navasanas we had done. "Man," I thought, "These folks are serious." It turns out that instead of "two sets of five backbends", he actually had called for two "sets", or reps, of backbend to a count of five. Whew. That I can do. Then he said, "Okay, now just do the three stand-up and drop backs or hand stands or whatever other back bending poses you want to finish with on your own." Uh oh. Sure enough, they all started doing drop backs, etc. I meekly did a few more simple back bends. I am not worthy. I am too scared. We finished with a somewhat truncated finishing sequence, did some bhastrika pranayama and had a nice long savasana. The instructor was a very nice a guy named Alan. He kept trying to refuse my class fee, since I was a visitor and all. He doesn't know me very well. He had a very nice floaty practice. He did most of the class with us, getting up from time to time to help adjust or coach someone in the postures, often getting up at the most undesirable of times, like during each rep of Navasana. All in all a nice class, especially since I didn't even know it was available until the day before when Christina clued me in.

We finished Alan's class at around 7PM. I went back and did the post-funeral meeting with family stuff then went home and to bed. I had a mysore class to go to at 6:30 the next morning. In addition to leading classes at The Yoga Studio OKC, Christina has been trying to get a Mysore type thing going. It's a new concept there and hasn't really developed a strong following. Yet. She holds it at her house a couple mornings each week. Fortunately for me, one of those days was this morning. And it was early enough that I could get it in, get showered and still make it to my flight without rushing. Before I left San Diego, I called her to find out where her house was to see how much travel time I would have to plan for. It turns out she lives about five houses down from my sister. Weird stuff. So, this morning I got up, showered, dressed up in just about every piece of clothing I had (it was 25 degrees there) and headed over to her place. When I walked in, I wasn't sure I had the right house. First thing I saw was a guy wearing a sarong type skirt thing, so I figured I was in the right place. The guy turned out to be Andrew Eppler. After some brief early morning chat, we all moved upstairs to her practice room, which was fortunately heated to about 95 degrees. I was a little unsure about how to proceed. I knew that she was an Ashtangi, but I didn't know if she did things guruji's way or if they all did things in BNS's way. Like quite a few of Tim's students, in mysore classes I tend to throw in a few extra poses and research poses. I didn't want to come across wrong though. I decided to go ahead and do the samakonasana and hanumanasana sequence that we usually do after the prasaritas. When she didn't do them I thought I better cool it with the extras. Then Andrew did do them. In fact, he did a whole lot more stuff, including pressing up from prasarita into handstand and then into ashtavakrasana on both sides before he ever touched back down. So, given that lead I just did my normal mysore practice. One thing was real obvious early on: I don't float. Andrew was doing these nice soft jump backs from down dog and descents from hand stand. We were practicing on a wood floor on the second floor. My landings sounded like land mines going off. We all practiced on our own. It was more of a group self-practice than a mysore type class but that was all I was looking for. Nothing really great stood out about my performance, though I was able to get my feet crossed on my own in Supta Kurmasana. Not very well mind you but they were crossed. My Kapotasana still sucks. I need to get back to working on that. I had been grabbing the knuckle of my big toe on my own at one point and now I can barely even touch my toes. I gave Dwi Pada a go but didn't get it on the first try so I gave up and did a quick finishing sequence. While I was in savasana I listened to Andrew do his pranayama. He had some pretty long retentions going there. I was without a clock to guide me and I didn't want to be the guest who stays to long, so I tried to move fairly expeditiously. They both finished before I did but I managed to get done with everything before they got done with their post-practice pranayama and meditation. I knew they had some stuff to do, work to get to, etc., so I left and grabbed a quick shower at my sisters before heading to the airport.

I wish I could get my sister to take classes with them. I think she would really benefit from it in many ways. Well, she knows it's there.

Have to quit, I'm being challenged for computer time by the rest of the tribe.

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