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.

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