Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Our teacher has been out of town for the last two weeks. We had all thought he would be back by yesterday, certainly by today. When I walked in to the shala this morning, he wasn't there leading pranayama. "Hmmm," I thought, "that's weird." I know the pranayama group expected him to be there because they had put down a blanket for him to sit on. I'm not really regular enough to know if he misses pranayama that often but I get the sense that that is usually the one thing that he doesn't miss. So, it was a little odd to not see him there. I watched as other people filtered in while the pranayama class slowly wound down. People kind of looked around and would get this unsettled look on their face when they realized he wasn't there. It's not like we need him there to practice. With all the workshops and seminars he's involved in, he's actually gone quite frequently. This was just an unexpected absence, "Could Tim be sick?? Did he make it back okay??" You could almost hear our concerns. But, right as I bent over into my first sun salutation, he strolled in. You could instantly feel the mood of the room change. Curious that we are like that.

My practice today was one of those flash sessions where I do the standing sequence through Parsvottanasana, then I do what second series poses I've received, then the finishing poses. It took me just under 60 minutes to get it in today. I thought I was moving through things maybe too quickly but two or three people who started after me were well ahead of me by the time I got done. Go speed racer, go. Timing-wise, it worked out great. Today was one of those days that I had to be at work by 9:00. I got there without a lot of rushing and with a few minutes to spare. Not enough time to get in a shower too, but you can't have everything.

When I do a rush class like that, I don't really have any spare time for doing 'research' poses before my more challenging postures. I just have to do them straight, the way they're actually supposed to be done. I actually like that better. It takes less energy. I don't always do them the best that I can do them but I'm not sure they're really that much better when I do throw in a bunch of extra stuff. I did do the Samakonasana and Hanumanasana sequence that I usually do after the Prasarita poses. I really need to do those any chance I get or I regress very quickly. Those were the only extras though. I wasn't hurting in my back but I haven't regained much of what limited back flexibility I had at my peak, such as it was. My Kapotasana was less than great but Tim did get me pulled into a place where I was grabbing near the base of my toes (before my hands slipped that is). My Dwi Pada Sirsasana was equally disappointing. I had been able to get both feet up on my own the last couple of attempts. I had also developed a gradually improving balance, meaning I could get my hands off of the ground for a half a count or two before tipping in one direction or another. A big part of developing that aspect of the posture, for me anyway, has been in working on countering the pressure that my legs are putting on my shoulders and neck by pushing back firmly with my shoulders and attempting to lengthen my back. Kind of seems like that would be self-evident, but when doing this pose, it's involving enough that rational analysis often gets the short shrift. It's also fairly exertional. I often find myself gulping for air when I come out of it, even if I felt reasonably in control while in the pose. I noticed the last time I did the pose that I wasn't always breathing, especially when I was trying to get my second leg back and over the first ankle. I guess I was otherwise occupied enough to forget to breathe. As it might seem to the observer, not breathing in a strenuous pose makes it unlikely one will be able to do the pose very well or for very long. These details just sort of come to you with experience. It's an arcane science. At any rate, no great progressions today. In that pose or any others either. I did stand up in a reasonably stable fashion after only three backbends, so that's coming around, again.

I've wondered from time to time to what degree what I write here, or over on EZBoard, is read by the people with whom I practice. I know a few people read it because they've mentioned it to me directly, but only a very few. I will occasionaly get a hint in conversation with other folks that they may have read something but I usually can't tell for sure. It doesn't really matter, or maybe better put, it shouldn't really matter. The goal of the blog wasn't really to be an entertainment or educational tool for others. It was just meant to be a journal, not necessarily private, not necessarily public. I try to write my impressions but I do find myself trying to make what I put down be interesting to others rather than just a recording of my brainwaves. When I'm in class, I'll often think of something I want to tell about, some interesting perspective or funny occurance. Unfortunately, I usually forget what it was by the time I ever get around to hacking away at the keyboard. Because this is something that is read by others, or that could be, there are some things that I choose not to write about. Not everything needs to be said.

I debated about going to pranayama this morning. I was awake. I had planned on getting up and showering earlier than usual. If I wait until after my wife has finished all of her showering and bathroom stuff, I don't get to class with much time to stretch out. So, today I decided to be the first one in the shower. Since I was up anyway, I thought to myself, "Why not do pranayama?" Because I was scared to is why. It's been so long, I knew it would be hard. I just didn't want to go through the mental aspect of running out of air, wanting to breathe, trying to maintain control, etc. I just wanted to stretch before class, do as much as I could in the time that I had and get to work in enough time to avoid the stress of making people wait. I want to get back into doing pranayama. Unfortunately, I still won't be able to do it regularly. If I can't do it regularly, I know I'll have a hard time ever developing any skill at it. I'm afraid, though, that if I don't get back into it, I may lose the opportunity to learn it well. The class is already changing quite a bit. Tim seems to be shortening classes and adding in some chanting more than just the one day a week that he used to do it. Turns out though that today may have been an ideal day to start back. I counted a few of the retentions while I stretched and they seemed shorter than what I remembered under Tim's direction.

Opting to not go to pranayama has been more than just a fear thing. It's a time thing too. I've drawn heat for thinking of trying to learn how to teach classes when I already spend as much time away from my family as I do. Going to pranayama regularly means I will almost never be there in the mornings. I am almost never there as it is because of when my work starts, so doing pranayama with any regularity wouldn't help. I feel pretty guilty when I come in to stretch out before class and the people I practice with are there doing the pranayama. I also feel sick about losing what ground I had originally made in the practice. It's much harder to me than asana. To have to go back over that..., it's like having to re-learn how to forward bend after tearing a hamstring, frightening.

Tomorrow I get to go to Mysore class. Hope I don't get killed at work tonight.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Earlier this week, it wasn't looking too good for me in terms of getting time on the mat. But, as sometimes happens, the yoga gods smiled and opportunities arose. In the past, I wouldn't practice in the mornings on days when I was scheduled to be in the clinic. The schedule for those days starts at 9:00, so I could never get in much of a practice and still make it to work. While I was laying in bed early Monday morning, it hit me that I could go and just do the second series portion of my practice. That would take me an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes, max. I could practice and still make it to work. It wasn't the best practice I've ever had, but I got something in. The low back tweakiness I had a few days previous was less but still lurking. I did my backbends and decided it felt good enough to try a stand up. My first attempt resulted in a bailout due to the usual culprit, I raised my head too soon. So I went back for another try. That time I did one of those things where, rather than coming up to standing, you accidentally roll right onto your knees. I decided it wasn't going to be the day, called it quits and went to closing. The teacher came over to squash me in Pascimottanasana and said, "No drop backs?" I told him I had to get to work, my back hurt, I was lazy, take your pick.

Nothing going for Tuesday. I was in the OR during the day and worked that night. It was reasonably slow. I just had to get up at around a quarter to four to do a couple of C-sections.

Since I didn't get off from work until around nine in the morning, I went to the Wednesday evening first series class. I'm not really sure what adjectives to use to describe it. Maybe messy is the best one. It was definitely something of a spaz attack. It seemed like I fell out of just about everything. I lost my balance on both sides of Utthita Hasta Padangustasana, though in different places, I almost did an endo in Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana. I stubbed my foot on my first attempt at a jump thru when we started the seated postures. I even fell out of a jump back from Uttanasana to Chaturanga during the Sun salutations. How do you do that? I was trying to do a press up and float back and I over cooked it in shifting my weight forward. Once the weight gets the momentum going forward past the balance point, it's pretty hard recover and get the body moving back toward the feet. I realized I was about to do a somersault so I did a mini-cartwheel instead. I figured that would be less embarrassing. The sequence was so overtly out of place that I started laughing out loud. Style points champion for the night. There were a couple of other screw ups that I can't remember right now. I was sort of giggling at myself most of the class. I was maybe a little distracted mentally. There were two people in the class that I hadn't practiced with in quite a while and I was curious to see how they did. I knew, however, that the one person who I could see normally kept a very focused approach to practice. I didn't want to be distractive by looking over too much so I had to suppress my normal willingness to look around. That was probably my undoing. Paying more attention to not looking around than to what I was doing, very wobbly making. Unfortunately, my low back discomfort re-arose in that practice. It wasn't really too noticeable early on but by the latter half of the class, I could tell that Setu Bandhasana and the backbends weren't going to be much fun. Fortunately, the teacher only had us do three Urdhva Dhanurasanas. I walked up the wall on the last one, rather than try to stand up or be pulled up to standing. When I was showering earlier in the day, I had decided to once again attempt to improve my back range of motion by dipping backward as far as I could. At one point in the past, when I arched back, I could see as far as thirteen tiles down from the top. When I tried it Wednesday, I think I got to where I could see eight or nine. Three steps forward, ten steps back. I couldn't bend very far when I tried it but nothing hurt when I did it. I think that's what made me tight later in practice though.

I didn't expect to be able to practice today at all. The person I was helping in the OR had told me we had three tough cases. They all went reasonably smoothly though, so I was able to get to this evening class too. This class used to be a first series class but lately the teachers have been throwing a few improv type things in. Tonight, when asked what they wanted to work on, people said shoulders, hips and arm balances. Hmm. We had a wide array of ability levels in the class, though it was a fairly small group. The teacher did a pretty good job of giving us stuff that didn't push anyone too far but that still pushed us. We did a lot of pre-lotus type hip opening postures. Then we did Eka Pada Galavasana, which we entered from down dog rather than from tripod headstand. We also did the hip opener in which you go into a lunge pose. You then grab the forward ankle with the opposite hand, twist the body toward the side of the forward leg and drop the opposite shoulder forward and down to the ground, ideally on the outside of the forward foot. If possible, you then put your head under your leg in an Eka Pada Sirsasana type position but while in the lunge. I guess it's really more like Kasyapasana in a lunge position. To exit from that, you then go into Vashistasana for five counts then balance on the arms while you rotate the leg back into a Koundinyasana B position and go into chaturanga. For the shoulders, we did a series of Viparita Dandasana variations against the wall. We then did Pincha Mayurasana. I was expecting to struggle in these because of the recent back problems I was having. Instead, I was able to lift my head and chest back and through my arms better than I ever had before. Usually when I press and try to extend my legs in Viparita Dandasana, even a supported variation against the wall, I can really feel it in what I think are my quadratus muscles in my back. When I extend into it, I have a hard time internally rotating my thighs enough to get my legs straight and my knees to touch each other. Tonight, I felt that area actually relaxing and opening rather than tightening and resisting, as it usually does. When we got around to doing back bends, we were low on time, so we only did two. Even with that minimal prep, I was able to stand up. I don't think I've ever been able to stand up after only two backbends before. I don't think I've ever even tried to stand up after only two backbends. Tonight was just an "on" night for my back and shoulders I guess. The improv stuff really seemed to help. I do those same things as prep for
kapotasana when I do mysore class but it's never seemed to help like it did tonight. Maybe it would if I did them right before backbends.

I was supposed to not be able to practice tomorrow but I am not needed to help in the OR until 10:30 so I get to sneak in an extra class. My wife is going to be assisting in mysore class tomorrow for the first time. She's helped out at most of the other classes at the studio at one time or another but this is the first time that Tim asked her to help with Mysore. She's stoked.

The other day, some one posed a question over on the EZBoard site about how to enter Chaturanga Dandasana. I wrote an overly long response about the 'proper' way to do this. Someone pointed out that I sure sounded like I thought I had my stuff together. In class yesterday, I thought I'd see what I actually did. Turns out, I don't do most of those things that I said you should do. Enough giving advice.

I've had a good couple of weeks. I've gotten lucky and had more chances to practice than I had hoped. Every dog has their day I guess. As any mathematician can tell you though, every stretch of good luck is balanced eventually by a comparable amount of the opposite. I just don't know if I've already had that or if it's still yet to come.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Today was the first practice day after Friday's vernal equinox (it occurred on Friday the 19th here on the west coast) and yesterday's new moon. I worked last night, so I went to the Sunday morning led first series class. The class wasn't as crowded as usual, probably due in part to our teacher being out of town this week. I had a fairly easy night of call, I was in bed by 1:30AM, so I wasn't worn out. I had a surprisingly good practice. I say surprising because my last two practices were thrown off by some low back pain. Today I didn't feel any problems in the opening up-dogs so I didn't give it too much more thought for the rest of the practice. It did feel a little tight and edgy with the vinyasas after the Marichasanas but that is fairly typical for me. When I got to Urdvha Dhanurasana near the end, I found I had regained most of my prior "depth" of movement. I was able to get up on my own on our sixth and last one. In the mysore classes of Thursday and Friday, I was uncomfortable enough that I just did three backbends and then a chakrasana vinyasa to the closing sequence. If I can just give the area some time, these little tweaky kind of discomforts usually go away pretty quickly. I'm hoping that continues to be the case here. This is going to be a week of very few practices so it should get plenty of rest.

The last two times I've tried it, I've managed to hold that press up position after Utkatasana for the whole time while people were doing their Bakasana transition. I'm still not doing a pure press up, I don't think. It feels like I'm minimally hopping my toes off the floor before I've got all the weight in my arms and shoulders. It's hard to fully commit to that kind of weight shift where the feet are just pulled up off of the floor by the weight moving past the midline. It's way better than it was though. Due to lack of confidence, I used to spend almost the whole count negotiating with myself on the move. By the time I ever got up, it was already time to jump back. Now at least I'm holding it long enough that I'm able to work on stuff like maintaining the balance point and on getting better arm extension.

I was pretty pleased with the rest of the practice. Nothing seemed very off. The postures that I've been going back and forth a bit on lately, like getting the ankle cross in Supta Kurmasana and getting better leg extension in my standing and supine padangustasanas, were all on today. No landmark breakthroughs but no hang your head in disgust performances either. I though my Supta K was the best I've done so far on my own. I felt like I would have been able to use my right ankle to drag my left leg in the direction of moving over my head, except I was too tired to give it a try. Just thinking of it was an advance though. In the past, I would just have been thinking how much I wanted to get up and get a drink of water and catch my breath.

I've been working a bit on doing better in my binding in the Marichyasanas. For a long time, I was able to do all of them, I could get into the pose and could bind far enough that I could cup the finger tips of each hand together. So, I left it at that and didn't try to do a whole lot more. When my teacher adjusted my Marichyasana D a few months ago, I realized how many things I'm not doing correctly in that pose. So, I decided to go back a few squares and work on getting better fundamentals in all of them. Now I'm able to bind to the wrist in the first three but I don't think I've ever bound D to the wrist on my own. I get put there by the teachers of the class most of the time now though. One result of the deeper bound position is that my twist is usually better than it used to be in C & D.

So, now for this week, the interesting thing will be to see how much I lose from having a low practice frequency. I had gotten pretty good at accepting that aspect of my practice. That's just how it usually was. Having a fairly active few months has now made it harder to feel satisfied and accepting. In fact, I find myself daydreaming of fanciful scenarios where I get to practice as much as I want, even every day. The Walter Mitty version of yoga.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

I've managed to set up a week in which I get to do mysore practice almost every day. Well, Tuesday through Friday anyway. Weird thing is, I don't remember setting it up when I did my schedule a few months ago. I must have though because I took portions of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday as vacation. I took two hours of vacation off tomorrow so I could practice at 7:00 and get to work to start clinic at 10:20. Of course, as so often happens, when I manage to get a bundle of practices like this, my main teacher leaves town half way through it. Tim left for his Maui workshop and will be gone for the next ten days.

My practices so far have been all over the map. The first one on Tuesday was reasonably okay but nothing great. I remember spending a bit more effort than usual trying to be floaty with my jump backs during the Surya Namaskaras, trying to get closer to a jump back, etc. One high point was getting an assist in Utthita Hasta Padangustasana. I was able, with the assist, to get my leg fairly high on both sides. Not Trivikrmasana range but up there for me. I thought Tim kind of raised his eyebrows a bit as if to say, "Hey, better." Maybe not, I am somewhat prone to over reading that kind of thing. Wednesday's practice was mediocre. I just felt tired the whole time. I didn't sleep all that well the night before. It's getting warmer here. I kept waking up, either too hot with all the covers on me or too cold from taking them off. Lots of little things in practice were marginal. I couldn't hold the handstands after Navasana for more than a picosecond. I didn't get my feet crossed in Supta Kurmasana. I would have made it eventually but I ended up getting assisted into the pose. Still, I was having to grunt and groan to even get them close so I had definitely backtracked. Kapotasana was abysmal--only got my hands to my toenails. Worst of all, when I failed to keep my balance in Dwi Pada Sirsasana and my legs slid up from behind my head, Tim commented to my wife who was practicing next to me, "He's regressing. I may have to take a pose back from him." That whacky Tim. What a droll jokester. I did manage to stand up from my fourth backbend, though it was one of those where you end up catapulting forward towards the mats of the people who are set up in the middle of the room. I must have unknowingly over done it one of the backbends. Later in the day, the lumbar area of my back began to get increasingly sore. Today, the stiffness and soreness in the back totally screwed my practice up. Every up-dog sucked. It hurt to let my hips drop down. Purvottanasana and Setu Bandhasana were do-able but I wasn't into holding either of them for a normal five count. Kapotasana was likely my worst ever. I didn't want to do any of the usual prep routine that I go through. I waited until the teachers were all helping someone else so that they would hopefully not make it over to me in time to help me actually do the posture correctly. Unfortunately, they were quicker than I anticipated. I never even got to my toes, even with an assist from the teacher. I gave up on the normal exit from Kapotasana and just sank back to the mat. I did just three back bends then chakrasana'd and went straight to Pascimottanasana, no drop backs etc. I did have a better Dwi Pada though. I got into it by myself. I stayed in it. I balanced for a second or two at a time but never for long enough for it to actually count as a balance. I was also able to have my feet on the floor while in Yoga Nidrasana. Still, in balance, a downer of a practice. I'm glad Tim wasn't there to see it.

There was a guy across from me who was doing a nice third series. He looked familiar but only in the sense that I may have seen him somewhere once ever and I'm not even sure if I did at that. With most of our more advanced students out of town, he kind of stood out. When he was attempting Ganda Bherundasana, it seemed like everybody stopped to watch. It was a pose he couldn't quite do fully but made an admirable effort. He had asked for an assist from one of the teachers, which I'm sure made her a little nervous. One, he was older than the average student, with grey to white hair. Two, she had probably not done that adjustment on too many people. Three, she had probably never adjusted him in anything that dicey ever before. Lots of room for catastrophe in that pose. One interesting thing about practicing at a place like Tim's is that you get all kinds of folks that come through. You can't help but wonder about some of their stories. There's just not too many people doing third series that well. Of the ones that do, a tiny fraction are of this guy's generation. Most are young hardbodies. He was an older hardbody. Very admirable practice.

Some of the usual teachers have made their way back from India and from other travels. A couple of them will be moving away for good, one to Costa Rica and later to India and the other to Bozeman, MT. Flux, it's the normal state of affairs.

I decided, after attending my third teacher training course, to actually try and start doing some assisting in classes so that I don't forget what I had learned in Tulum. Given my day job, it's not likely I'll be moving into the yoga teacher profession any time soon, but I do think I can be a good teacher. I have always been reluctant to think about getting involved with assisting or teaching because I didn't think I had the background that you should have. I have an acceptable mid-second series practice. I go to class as regularly as is possible. I've been doing Ashtanga for almost four years now. I've been to three short seminars on teaching asana. Hardly first line stuff. I don't know how much you have to have behind you before you attempt to teach. The most awkward thing is sitting there in the back of the class, waiting to adjust people who I had been practicing next to the day before. I can feel the vibe from some of my peers, the "What's he think he's doing? He's one of us, he's not a teacher." We'll see how it goes. I think I have some value to add though. I teach every day in my normal job. It's always been a part of what I do. I'll have to find out if it's something I should do with regards to yoga. Much like in my practice, one difficulty for me will be getting opportunities to do it regularly. It's not something that should be done just every once in a while. The insight and touch necessary to do it well only come with regular practice.

Time to pop an evening motrin and get to bed. I've got one mysore class left in the week

Sunday, March 14, 2004

I managed to insert a small site tweak over there on the red sidebar. I saw this module for the current moon phase on another blog. It seemed to be just the thing to put in a site like this. If you click on the link within the module, it will take you to a site has a set of free HTML codes for modules that you can just insert in your web page. I thought it would be a simple cut and paste of the code into the template, but html is not meant for simple minds like mine. After initially finding only a small empty black box, I had to go back into the template and set the code up into patterns that resembled the surrounding baseline code for my site. That's what passes for coding for me. After a few trials and errors, it somehow popped up into its current glory. If it's still working tomorrow, I'll consider it a successful coding session. Sometimes when I open the web page, the moon phase window does not fully open. If I hit the refresh button a time or two it will eventually come up. Must be some problem with Blogger. I sometimes have the same problem with the picture in the upper left corner.

We went to a Krishna Das workshop yesterday. This was held in our yoga studio. It was set up to be a smaller, more personal type performance than usual, in that it was limited to 108 people. He has no problem filling venues that are larger. The time I had seen him before, it was in a larger venue. While I very much enjoyed that performance, I was looking forward to being closer to the performers. Satsang sessions like this are very much an interactive type experience. It's much easier to become directly involved in the energy when you're sitting a few feet away from the performers than it is to be watching from thirty or fourty rows back in some auditorium. I invited a few people from work. There's only a few that would be inclined to try something like that. Of those, only one wanted to come. But, she brought her partner and her 70 year old mom as well. I hope they enjoyed it. For me, I guess I had expectations that shaded my enjoyment a bit. I wanted there to be mostly chanting with some interspersed breaks for discussion, story telling, etc. Instead, we chanted a few songs, then he talked for close to an hour. We did another song or two, then he mostly talked the rest of the time. My friends left after two hours. Since we were all sitting on the floor, I can't blame them. But, I wish they could have had a few more chants of differing rhythms to experience before they left. I would have preferred to hear him talk about the chants themselves, what they were about, some of the history behind them. Instead, he mostly went over his life, his experiences when he was in India with his guru, some of his perspectives on life in general. All good stuff, just not in the balance that I had been wanting or expecting.

My wife finally got her wish and was given a new posture. As is often the case, she said it was anti-climactic. It can be frustrating to stay in one spot if you think you are doing things okay, or if you're not sure what you need to do to move further. She stayed the course and waited to be told when it was time. Her daily practice used to consist of all of the first series and as much of the second series as she had been given, She's moved far enough into the second series now that she no longer does the first series poses, except for Fridays, when it is traditional to only do the first series poses.

I got a pose as well. I've been working on Dwi Pada Sirsasana since last Thanksgiving. Working on it as best I can anyway. It's a hard one to get facile at when it is only practiced intermittently. Obtaining and maintaining the needed flexibility in the hip is one thing, but learning to get the balance part is equally difficult and maybe harder to develop with only occasional attempts. While I still have a hard time getting that second foot behind my head on my own in Dwi Pada, I am able to do Yoga Nidrasana reasonably well. When Tim was adjusting me in the pose the day he gave it to me, I was trying to assess how it felt and what muscles I needed to let go, etc. I must have closed my eyes while doing this because while he was stooped over me he asked, "Are you feeling relaxed?" I looked up at him and, after thinking about it, I had to say that I was. It was fairly non-exertional. I was working mostly on how I was positioned. My wife had told me that the feet are supposed to be on the floor in Yoga Nidrasana. Mine tend to be a few inches up in the air. So I was thinking about what shifts of weight to try that might get my feet closer to the floor. I guess this is my "rest" pose before I get into the serious stuff that follows.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

So, another three or four weeks have sneaked by. At least I'm still practicing, when and where possible. Mostly, it has been one first series class or another. I have had three or four mysore classes and last night I went to the Intro to Second Series class. The usual potpourri.

My son did well after his surgery. I was expecting him to have a lot of post-operative discomfort. I remember how much it hurt him when he had tubes put in his ears a few years ago. He never had any discomfort after this procedure though. The hardest thing has been keeping him from doing stuff, like recess, playing soccer and just normal roughhousing. I can just see him running into something or getting whacked by a ball and having his ear seperate along the suture line. He's done well though, so we got clearance for him to go back to soccer if he wears some kind of ear pad.

We've been getting kind of jealous of everybody we know going to Mysore to study with Guruji. We're exploring the possibility of going but it's really easy to find reasons not to. First and foremost is the kids. Take them, or not? It's five or six thousand more dollars if we do. Plus, they are not the most adaptive of kids. I have hard time seeing them finding a diet to their liking in Mysore. How long could we be in Mysore with kids before they went stir crazy and made it impossible to stay longer? For that matter, how long could we go for if we didn't take the kids? We could leave them with my wife's sister for a while, or send them off to summer camps of various sorts (another several thousand dollars), but it's not like we really want to be away from them for very long. I would favor taking the kids. At some point, they need to get some insight about life in the real world (so do I). They also need to be edged out of their personal comfort zones. If I were going to go, I would want to be there for as long as possible, two or three months at least. Financially, and work-wise, that would be very difficult to pull off. My wife does not seem too interested in going for a stay that long. I question the rationality of spending so much money if we are only going to be there for three weeks. Hard question to answer. My wife does need to go to India at some point soon to return her father's ashes to the Ganges. Unfortunately, that is on the other side of the country from Mysore, so that would take that much more time out of any trip that we could take. Could we justify going to India and really only spend time in Mysore? What value would that have for our kids? There's just so much more for them to learn about the country and its history. So, we dither on, doing nothing except thinking about doing something.

It's been a different feel lately at our studio with so many of the more senior people gone for one reason or another. Of the four or five people that I can think of that regularly do third series or beyond, all but one are in Mysore or are out of town for several months. I don't know if it seems different to anyone else or not. Not having that top end there just seems to have subtracted something. There's tons of folks doing second series and first series. But the big kids are all away on a field trip it seems like.

That whole thing about second series sort of gets my wife's craw. Traditionally, you are given poses as the teacher tells you that you are ready for them. In our area, most folks just pick up the first series poses by going to led classes. The allocation of postures really doesn't occur, for the most part, until second series. Also, to get postures, by definition you have to be going to mysore classes. I wasn't given any poses in the second series until I had been going to classes for about two and a half years. I didn't get to that many mysore classes and it took me at least that long to develop any facility with the first series. I have gradually gotten postures over the next year and a half. My wife has followed a similar but more accelerated progression. She goes to mysore classes pretty much every day. What bugs her are that a lot of people decide that they are just going to do seond series poses. They don't wait until Tim says to them, "Now, you do pashasana" They just start doing them because they feel like they are ready or that they want to. So, she'll be stuck at a pose for several months, grinding away and will look around the studio and see a handful of folks who can't get their foot behind their head or who can barely grab their toe in kapotasana yet who will be in there doing the whole second series. For some reason this bugs her. I think it bugs her more that it doesn't bug me. If they want to rely on Tim for guidance, like we have done, well, that is the way that he was taught and that is how he teaches. But, if they choose to make their own path, choosing to use his studio as a place to practice and to use him to help them get into postures that they can't get into on their own, he gives them the rope to do so. If someone is clearly out of their league in what they are trying, he will generally gently encourage them to back off. He doesn't usually let people go off doing third series, but not too many people try to pull that one off on their own. In general, I couldn't care less what somebody else does for their practice. It doesn't affect me, it only affects them. It only bugs me if they are distracting others or making Tim look bad.

I have started to get a slightly better range of motion in my back bending. The last couple of kapotasanas, I have gotten myself to my big toes and the teachers have pulled me into where I can grab my feet just past my big toes. My backbends are better and I have stood up each time lately, though with typical gracelessness. A class or two ago, after going back and putting my hands on the floor in the last assisted drop back, Tim told me to put my head down on the floor between my hands. Then he had me move my hands back past my head and put my forearms on the ground. He then told me to push up into backbend. "I can't..." was out of my mouth before I even tried. I got my arms to about 25-50% of the way extended then collapsed back down. I don't know if I could do more or not, I just wasn't mentally ready to find out. As it was, I was dizzy when I got up to my feet. I'll have to give a few more goes. Little progressions work better sometimes. But, sometimes you need to be shown that leaps and bounds are possible.

I've gotten my ankles crossed the last several attempts at Supta Kurmasana. In my last class, I even was able to grasp something other than my finger tips, I got hold of one palm. I still can't intuit what I need to do to hold the balance in Dwi Pada Sirsasana. This is one of the poses that people almost always get an adjustment in, usually because we suck at it so badly. When I am put into it, I can hold the feet in position reasonably well, though my head does begin to graually tip forward from the pressure of the feet/shins. I can't balance though. I usualy tip forward. Once that happens, my feet release and slide off of my neck. This last time, I tried to err in the other direction by leaning back to counter the forward tendency and... I fell backwards. Over and over again. Tim kept bouncing me back up but I never found it. I don't think it's so much how deeply a person is in the pose. Some people who do this are pretty scrunched up and bent forward, yet they can hold the balance. More reps, more reps.

Tomorrow, Sunday led first series. I work tonight and have eaten junk all day. We'll see how it goes. I just want to maintain an even keel with my energy and do better on back bends.