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.

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