Thursday, April 29, 2004

The EZBoard ashtanga message board appears to have changed its web address when they did their recent server switch. a couple of the folks who wrote comments here gavethe following URLs as the new functioning addresses. Significant screw up if you ask me.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

I looked at my "hit count" for this page earlier today. I was getting nearly twice as many hits as usual. They were coming from a pretty wide array of sites as well. I figured out why when I tried to open the EZBoard site for my daily reading. That site has been down all day because they are making a server switch. I guess since the EZBoarders have lost their usual source for daily ashtanga blather, this site has been serving as a fill in. Unfortunately, I haven't put anything up lately, so they've been doubly SOL. Since there's no telling when EZBoard will come back up, I should make some contribution here. It kind of bugs me when I want to read something and there's nothing to read, so I should do unto others.

I've only been able to practice two times since my last entry. On Saturday, I went to the improv class and today I went to mysore practice. The improv class was manna from heaven. I couldn't have asked for a class better designed to meet my current needs. I've been trying to develop some capability at doing Viparita Chakrasana, the "tic-tacs" from handstand into backbend and back to handstand that people sometimes do in the backbending sequence before doing the closing postures. As I moaned about in several previous entries, it's a very dynamic sequence that is difficult to think about what's going on while you're trying to do it. With most of the rest of the poses we do in the first and second series, things are static enough that you can mentally look at what you're doing and figure out things. You can make all kinds of adjustments back and forth to see what works and what doesn't. That isn't very feasible in V.C. though. At least not for me, not yet. Too much is going on too quickly, and it's all pretty edgy stuff when you haven't done it much. The teacher of Saturday's class asked what people wanted to work on. When nobody offered anything more creative than, "you know, the usual stuff" she told us she would come up with the theme. And, fortunately for me, it was a very organized step-wise build up to Viparita Dandasana, a pose that has actions similar to what I have been trying to learn how to do in Viparita Chakrasana. We did some of the usual standing sequence poses that she warms up with. For core and balance work, she had us do several variations of Ardha Chandrasana. Then we went right to groin stretches--a series of lunges, splits, etc to open the front of the groins. Then we moved to shoulder work, eventually progressing to Pincha Mayurasana variations. From there, we moved into a progression of back bending poses. At the time, it looked like we were doing an extensive build up to Kapotasana but the ultimate pose turned out to be Viparita Dandasana. We did a lot of variations of it, initially with the feet on the wall, then several with partner support in lowering to the mat without the wall, then some on our own without the wall or a partner. I got a great stretch of my back and shoulders. I also got a much better sense of the weight shifts that I need to be working towards. In the past, when I was in an unsupported Viparita Dandasana, I would usually make an attempt at coming back up to headstand. It would typically amount to little more than a futile hop of my feet upward. They would never get much more than a couple of feet off of the ground. I have never come close to taking the weight back into my back and shoulders. One of the things I learned in Saturday's practice is that I will never get up that way because all my weight has been behind me. I'll never get up until I can get my weight pushed forward past the midline where my head and hands are in contact with the floor. I did some pushes in that direction but I don't yet have the chest or shoulder opening necessary to get far enough forward with my weight. But, I do have a better idea of what I should be doing. The same will apply to Viparita Chakrasana, both in dropping over and in coming back up. I've got to focus on finding and eventually moving around that balance point. After doing all that back and shoulder work, the backbends we did at the end of that class were the easiest ones I have ever done, and we did them in the fashion that usually kills me, where you only come down far enough to touch your head down momentarily between each rep. That was a very reinforcing thing to have happen. Do the prep and the range of motion will improve. The postures will come.

After that great preparation class, I did nothing for the next four days. I never said I was smart. It could have been worse. The week originally was set up such that I wouldn't get to a class until next Saturday. Yesterday afternoon I checked my clinic schedule for this morning. A couple of the early morning appointment slots hadn't been booked yet, so I converted them and made arrangements to go to mysore class this morning. I had originally planned to go to Pranayama class too. After pranayama, in mysore class I was going to do my full sequence of first series and second series poses as assigned so far. I was feeling pretty stiff this morning though. I decided to use the pranayama class time to get in some hamstring and back stretches. As I stretched out, I decided to go with just the second series poses in mysore class. I planned on using the extra time to do all the prep poses I could remember, including the same Viparita Dandasana sequence that we had done on Saturday, to see if it would give me a better Kapotasana and Viparita Chakrasana. I was pleased with how they went. The improvement would have only been discernible to me, the poses would have looked no better to an onlooker, but it was a clear improvement nonetheless. In Kapotasana I felt a deeper back arch as I went back over. I was able to get my hands further along my feet than I usually do when I'm going on my own. When the teacher adjusted me a little further, I didn't feel the usual build up of tension in my shoulders. I don't know how Tim perceived my attempts at Viparita Chakrasana. To me they didn't feel as out of control as they were the last time he helped me try it. He still ended up doing most of the work but I sensed that I was understanding which direction things should be moving, even when I wasn't able to get them there. The rest of the practice today was middle of the road-ish. I was stiffer than I would have liked but not excessively so. The work before class helped. I got assisted into Dwi Pada Sirsasana. Once in the pose, I really felt like I had a good chance at balancing today. I was trying to push back against my legs with my shoulders and arms. I was right on the balance point and began to drift back a bit. I was thinking the guy who adjusted me was still there behind me and that I would be able to rebound off of him back up into the right spot. He had moved away though. I ended up rolling backward all the way down to the ground and out of the pose. Ignoble.

That's about all I can come up with today. I guess I could have chopped it up into a few more paragraphs to make for easier reading. Nah. No other classes for me until Sunday morning. Next week looks grim too.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

I am only going to get in one practice this week. Monday was a moon day, so the studio was closed. Tuesday, I didn't get out of work until way too late. Wednesday, I had a meeting to go to in the LA area that began at 11:00. I was able to do mysore at 7:00 then scoot up and get to the meeting just a few minutes late. Driving for two hours, then sitting in a meeting for three and a half hours, then driving back for another two hours is not the most ideal post-practice activity, but at least it was post-practice activity. No practice today or tomorrow because of work constraints again. Possible practice Saturday, but not Sunday. Looks like I'm having to start paying the piper for all those "extra" practices I got in a few weeks ago.

Wednesday's practice was the first time I have tried to do all of the first series, all of my allocated second series poses and also do the newly added Viparita Chakrasana and Vrschikasana. The only aspect of the backbend sequence that I'm not doing is the unassisted drop backs. I'm still convinced that I'll die, or worse, if I try them. Intellectually, I know I can do them but viscerally I feel there is great risk. They'll come eventually when I actually start trying to do them, but I'm willing to tilt at other windmills for now.

I was expecting that doing my full practice would tire me out so that I would be even worse at doing those two new postures than I was on the other two times I tried them. That wasn't the case though. I had my usual degree of fatigue, but didn't feel empty. I actually pressed through my arms and hands pretty well. I didn't have my arms give out at all, though one time I was a little weak on one side, causing me to do a Leaning Tower of Pisa impersonation. While I couldn't really parse out what was going on, it did feel like the person assisting me was doing more of the work for me, holding me up, lowering me and lifting me more than Tim did. In a way, that's good. It gives me a chance to feel the desired arc of movement, to approximate the necessary degree of flexion in going over, to learn how to keep the center of balance in the right spot to avoid stalling out on the way back up. It was kind of a walk-through rather than a dress rehearsal. With Tim, I get the sense that he will support me as needed, but only that. The expectation is that I'll do as much of it as possible, ideally getting better and more independent each time. I'd rather take that approach but I realize I need to be guided a bit, at least until I can develop some sense of what I do and what I need to do.

There was a small covey of people who came into class a few minutes after I got going with my postures. Since the spaces along the walls were already filled, they set up in the middle of the room, fairly close to me. I didn't recognize them but my wife later said she had met one of them last year. They all had nice practices, with most of them doing second series on that day. Since they appeared to be a group, after class I asked the teacher who they were and where they were from. He said they were all from Wyoming. He said they were planning on studying with Tim for the month and were camping at a nearby beach campground while they were in town. That's about as fundamental as it gets. Drive across the country and camp at the beach for a month to study Ashtanga with Tim.

I went to pranayama class that same morning. Since Tim wasn't leading, I knew that the retentions and the lengths of the breaths would probably be easier to handle. I was able to get through without any extra breaths. I had thought one of Tim's classes that I went to last week was going to be an easy one. It seemed like the retentions in the first third of the class were really short. I figured he planned on doing an abbreviated class and then would do some chanting. As we moved into the alternate nostril stuff though, it got harder for me and I ended up having to blow my nose a couple of times (a less than subtle way of sneaking an extra breath or two). It ended up being a normal class. It's interesting to look at what it is that throws me off. Usually, it's not that I'm sitting there slowing running out of endurance in a retention. There's usually some error in controlling the movement of air in the inhale or less commonly the exhale. The air is sometimes sucked in too quickly in the beginning, causing a "running out of room" sensation that prevents a smooth, prolonged inhalation of the desired length. Having to stop the inhalation prematurely makes the retention harder and the subsequent exhalation and its retention harder still. If I can't get the rhythm and control back in the next round with a relaxed inhalation that relieves the sensation that I'm getting too much CO2 built up, I end up having to give in and take a breath sometime soon thereafter. The control of the diaphragm is the part that comes with practice, especially on the hard days with the longer breaths. Longer breaths with average retention lengths is harder than average breath lengths with longer retentions.

I'm starting to see a few more AYRI logo-ed mysore rugs around the studio, as more people drift back from studying with Guruji. I have one but I didn't earn it the old fashioned way. My teacher brought one back from his recent trip to study with Guruji and gave it to me for Christmas to replace an old worn out rug that he got tired of seeing me practice on. I use it in a rotation of three rugs that lets me wash them each time I practice without wearing any one rug out too much from constant washing and drying. I feel guilty with it though so I put it down so the logo is upside down and at the back of my mat. That's my signal that it was obtained but not earned.

Not a whole lot to record lately since there's not a whole lot of yoga happening. I may have to start filling in with glimpses into my personal life, as per my wife's suggestion. Something about only writing about my practice in my Ashtanga practice journal doesn't sit right with her. She likes the other bloggers' stuff better. The way I see it, taken as an aggregate, the ashtanga blogs are a meta-blog. Each version a different view inside.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

I've inadvertently outed myself. One of the teachers who fills in while Tim is out of town taught class today. She has read this blog because I got nailed a few times when I was slacking. She saw me futzing and wiggling around in Krounchasana, trying to get my hip just so before moving head toward knee. "Hey John, hurry up or you'll miss it" she announced while giving me one of her smiles that said, "I'm on to you." Later, I got up to get a drink while they were doing Parighasana, a pose I can do but not very well. I don't want to get up for any of the poses that come before that because I don't want to bail out for a rest break on a hard pose. I guess in my warped mind, it's less bad if you bail out in a pose that is do-able. I should have just stayed and done the stuff. I wasn't hurting that bad. Just old habits. So, I saunter out after a quick drink and a splash of water on my face and find that they're still on the first side. Hmm. As I tried to unobtrusively get back to my mat and down into the pose, she said, "We waited for you." and held the pose for a ten count, on both sides. Note to self: making everyone else have to hold poses for ten counts while you take a rest break is not a good way to make friends in the shala.

The woman next to me today pulled off Karandavasana. She's only the second woman I've ever seen do that pose. I've only seen three or four guys that can do it, maybe less. She looked as good in doing it as anyone I've seen. Smooth lower down into the pose, kept her hips up above the point of no return, didn't let her head dip down to the ground and did the push back up without any of the exertional histrionics that most of us inadvertently make, despite the fact that we're doing it assisted. As for me, well, I got my legs into lotus. That's about it. On my third try, I should add. I haven't done it enough to have a sense of the weight shifts that need to occur to get the folding of the hips and then to get the lowering into the state of the pose.

I got my first sunburn of the season today. After class, I went to my daughter's arena soccer game. That's where they play in an arena like in indoor soccer, but the arena is outside. They slaughtered the other team 17-2. That's with the coach making them attempt to do lots of passes and stuff first. I think the other team was a B team because they weren't even close skill-wise. After that we went to the Encinitas street fair and wandered around for a few hours. I can't believe how tired I get doing that. Something about shopping wears me out more than practicing. I took a 30 minute nap before getting ready for work tonight. I was lucky. If the phone hadn't rung, I could have been napping for a lot longer.

Tomorrow is the new moon, so no practice. I haven't looked ahead to my schedule this week so I have no idea if I get many chances or not. We'll take them as they come

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Tonight's practice was a little different than most. I worked last night. I got some sleep but not as much as I would have liked. Somewhere along the line today, I started to develop a headache. It wasn't severe, it was just there in the background. It got a little better after some motrin and a nap but it was still hanging around. I was worried about how it might affect practice tonight since it's basically going to be my only practice opportunity this week. I've practiced with a similar headache a couple of times before. One time the headache went away as I practiced. The other time, I had to stop practice because the headache got worse and worse with each forward bend.

Since I was off today, I was able to take a long shower before heading over to the studio. I got there a bit early so I could stretch out. I hoped to get a read on how moving around would affect the headache. I couldn't really tell. Some of the things I do for warm up seemed to really exacerbate the pounding for a short while. One thing that brought it on was my stretching of my back by laying down with a small ball, moving it to different spots along my spine for passive stretching. The forward bends didn't seem to make a difference. Exerting seemed to be the trigger. If I could relax into doing something, no problem. If I had to winch myself into something, I would feel more throbbing when I came out of it. After my stretch out, I could feel the headache a bit, so I just laid down and rested for a while. Tim wandered by and looked me over as I rested in what I guess looked like a Savasana position. "Hey, John. You starting practice at the end? Doing the class backwards tonight?" Of course, I then spent the first half of the practice wondering what it would be like to actually try and go through a practice in reverse order.

Since bearing down seemed to make things worse, I decided not to try and do any of my attempts at floaty transitions in my Surya Namaskara vinyasas. The down dogs had me worried that the inverted posture combined with the effort of the pose would get the headache going but I did okay there. In fact, as I progressed through the standing poses, I got some hints that I was having a better than average practice. When we moved to the seated poses, I found I was able to do a better job than usual of getting my feet and toes back through my arms on my vinyasas back to Chaturanga. I wish I knew why that seems to come and go so. Some days I feel like I'm right on the cusp of doing a complete jump back, other times I can't do much more than Lolasana, with no hint of a jump back.

I wasn't trying to find my limit in any poses. Fortunately, right now my hamstrings are loose enough that I can lay forward so that my abdomen and chest lay on my leg without exerting. Tonight, I just tried to find a reasonably lengthened position and left it at that. I learned that the more I extended my neck, the more noticible the headache became. I just kept my gaze down through my shins. The only poses that really made the headache worse were the Marichyasanas. As soon as I would bind I would feel a pressure building up.

Tonight we did handstands after each repetiton of Navasana. In my Saturday Improv class, the teacher had us work on Viparita Chakrasana by going into a handstand and then drop over backwards till our feet came to the wall. After stretching there for a bit, we would push off the wall with our feet, propelling us up and back over to Uttanasana. Rather than just do handstands tonight, which I knew would make the headache worse, I did that practice sequence each time I got up into Vrkshasana. The fourth time, I moved a bit farther away from the wall, intending to go all the way over. I got my balance a little screwed up though and didn't quite make it over, I hung out in something less than Vrschikasana for a second or two but came back down rather than going over because Tim had called for the last Navasana. I did flop all the way over to the floor on the last handstand. I was way too stretched out though, with almost no arch, so I wasn't able to stay in an upright backbend position as I landed. My feet slid out and I sort of ended up on my back with my hands in backbend position. The mission was accomplished however. I learned I can go over from handstand on my own with out major injury. Just had to get over that hurdle before working on technique.

The one pose I worried the most about, in terms of the headache, was Supta Kurmasana. When someone adjusts me in the pose and lifts my crossed feet onto the back of my neck/head, it puts a lot of pressure directly on my forehead. Fortunately, tonight I had my ankles crossed on my own so no one tried to bring them up and over onto my head. I did an okay lift up into Tittibhasana, though my leg extension was embarrassing, but I didn't get my butt high enough to make the vinyasa back without my feet hitting the floor. I was able to jump back to Chaturanga out of Bhujapidasana though.

The class was not that crowded but I didn't get that many adjustments. One reason is that one of the two people assisting Tim was my wife. Something about adjusting me weirds her out, so she has opted to leave me to the others. The adjustments I did get were both interesting and quite helpful, though not necessarily comfortable. I had thought I had a reasonably sound Setu Bandhasana. I had thought my leg extension was good, they feel straight to me when I'm doing it. Tonight, one of Tim's senior students who was helping assist stood with her feet just outside my knees and gently pressed inward to more completely bring my knees together. My legs were fairly straight, but they were rolling externally creating a space between my legs. Bringing my legs together really increased the back involvement. Later, when doing backbends, Tim came by and stood at my feet. While I was up in the pose, he pushed my knees towards my head, well away from where they had been. That moved me much more over my arms. I felt a completely different degree of compression in my chest and shoulders. I didn't know what to expect but was unsure of myself enough that I let out a loud whoosh of air to let Tim know that I was feeling close enough to the edge. My next back bend, I tried to replicate what he had been doing to me. I felt much better in that back bend. I felt like my hips and chest were higher than they had been previously. So, of course, I flailed out when I tried to stand up from this better backbend. I haven't missed on a stand up attempt in several weeks now, until tonight. It comes and goes, that much I've learned. All in all, I perceive my backbending to be much farther along than it had been a couple of months ago. No residual discomforts, seeming to improve the range of motion a bit each time I try, I'm slowly getting it back.

The rest of the practice was uneventful, though the inversions had me worried. They didn't have much of an effect on the headache. I opted not to press up into Urdvha Sirsasana though. No need to push it.

That's about it for me for this week. I have an outside chance at an evening practice tomorrow, but it's following an afternoon in the OR so odds are against it happening. Friday practice is not happening. I'm going to a "Dads and Donuts" breakfast with my youngest at her school in the morning and then I work until the next morning. I should get to practice Saturday and Sunday though. In fact, I may get another shot at the Sunday morning second series class. My teacher will be out of town, unfortunately. It's still great to go to that class, even if he's not there. The first four or five times I did that class, I only did it when Tim was out of town. I didn't think he would want me to go to it yet but I wanted to see how I would do, so I snuck it in while he was gone. In fact, the first time I ever went to it, almost exactly two years ago, I had a really weird change in perception while doing the class and for most of the rest of that day. I've never had a similar occurence though.

Forgive me if I opt to proofread this later. I'm tired and still with headache so I'm going to bed

Sunday, April 11, 2004

As weeks of yoga go, this last week was a mix of great opportunities and unexpected challenges. I managed to practice every day other than Monday, the moon day. Thursday I went to morning mysore class after I got off of work. I had originally planned on doing all of first and what second series poses I've been given so far, my usual mysore class approach. I ended up choosing to just do the second series portion of it though. I had felt really good doing that approach on Wednesday. I also wanted to be able to have as much energy in the system as possible for doing the Viparita Chakrasana sequence again. On Friday, I was able to get in a shortened practice before going to work, so I did the same thing again. Saturday, I did the Improv class and today I did the full led second series class with Tim, my first time going to that class in several months. I'm getting fairly spoiled with all these practice chances. I wish it could be my norm but it's not going to last. I going to ride it for as long as it lasts though. The farther along I can get, then less far back I will back slide when I get to one of those times when I hardly get to go at all for a few weeks in a row.

I was a little surprised, in all honesty, to have been given Viparita Chakrasana last week. I didn't think I had hit the level of practice that would result in it being given. I have no idea what leads to one being given that sequence but what ever it is, I didn't think I was there. I had thought that people had to be doing drop backs and stand ups, or some such gatekeeper pose. Maybe it's just when he gets tired of seeing you do the same thing all the time and wants to see something new. At any rate, getting it was a little un-nerving because I hadn't really had much of a chance to do it before. One of the other teachers had done it in a couple of her Improv classes but that was it. So I was very unsure of myself that first time. I don't think too well when upside down. I'm not that kinesthetically in tune in any position, but when upside down, I'm really clueless. I had to go through the motions the first time to get a sense of what actions I was supposed to be doing. Afterward, I had no clue what I had done, much less what I was supposed to have done.

It's sometimes tough, mentally, to do poses like that. A similar difficult pose for me is dropping back into Urdvha Dhanurasana. It's psychologically difficult enough for me that I quit doing it. I learned when I first started trying to drop back, and re-learned this week with Viparita Chakrasana, that the only thing more difficult than doing a mentally and physically challenging pose for the first time is doing it the second and third time. Then your mind has even more information with which to mess with you. I sat around after my practice each day to watch others do that sequence as they finished their practices. Unfortunately, there's so much happening so quickly that I wasn't able to pick up much at all. Just that nobody died trying to do it.

My attempts at Viparita Chakrasana on Thursday and Friday were not much better than on the first try Wednesday. Tim is there helping me do it. My ignorance of what to do, combined with my level of inflexibility, dropped most of the work in his lap. For some reason, I was weak in my hand stands, especially the part coming back up into handstand from Urdvha Dhanurasana. Something about the shoulder rotation led me to have bent arms as I came back up and I would get the sense that I was going to give out and collapse down. I also got dizzy a couple of times when doing the part where you rotate all the way up to standing. I used to have a problem with getting dizzy when I was first trying to learn how to do Kapotasana. When I would lean back and put my hands against the wall, it felt like I was going to pass out. I haven't had that happen for quite a while though, over two years. This wasn't quite that deep of a dizziness but it got my attention. It didn't happen each time. I think it was just the first one of those. It made it hard to really relax when doing Vrschikasana though. As I would set myself up in the pose, with Tim trying to help me create some back arch and get my feet closer to my head, all I could think of was, "If I get dizzy enough here that my arms collapse, I've going to hit the floor neck and chin first with all my body weight." Needless to say, with that kind of mantra, relaxation was not coming.

In Saturday's Improv class, I asked the teacher before class if we could work on the pose. I think she must have heard and/or seen my performance the day before because she laughed and said sure. We did so many handstands in that class, I'll have no excuse for not being strong enough to maintain the handstand. We must have done twenty or thirty handstands working on various things. She showed us a really good sequence of stages working up to and through actually doing Viparita Chakrasana. I feel much less fear at the notion of doing the pose. I still don't feel like I know exactly what to do. I do feel less clueless though. Maybe I was able to pick up enough in that work up that I will be able to sense what I am actually doing the next time I try it for real, and maybe even make some adjustments as I doing it. I've got to try it on my own too. Someday.

The practices on Thursday and Friday weren't as "on" as the one Wednesday. I think that was just one of those days when the body is in the right groove. Most everything I did in the classes after that was status quo. No great advancements, nothing done noticeably worse. I have been a little disappointed to not land Bakasana B again since that Wednesday, but that is something that I usually get only about fifty percent of the time. I've had the sensation that Samakonasana is slightly better but I doubt that there is a measurable difference. The last couple of attempts at it felt different internally in the hip sockets and in my adductors. Instead of insisting to me that there was no hope, they seemed to allow for possibility.

Today's practice was the capper on a second series week I guess. To get to go to that class is both a treat and a trial. I get to try out the full second series sequence so rarely that getting to go is like having a birthday when you're a kid. Since I don't do a lot of the postures in my mysore practice yet, I haven't developed much facility at doing them. I'm just about up to the hardest sequence of poses. When I get to go to the full led second series class, I get a better idea of the demands that await me. I've gotten a little less wiped out each time I've been able to do this class, today included. I was totally drenched after class but I felt I did much better than I used to do with that harder section. The Tittibhasana sequence used to just shut me down. I did it okay today. I held Mayurasana without tipping over. I didn't fall down in Pincha Mayurasana. I was just about to get my legs crossed in Karandavasana when Tim came over to help me do the rest of it. The portion of the pose that you do after getting the legs crossed is, to me, the real measure of a second series practitioner. Not a lot of people can lower down into the state of the asana. Even fewer can ever get back up on their own. Karandavasana is the holy grail of the second series. It's unique is a way. It doesn't matter if you're really bendy in one way or another. That ain't gonna get you down or back up in that pose. You have to have really good control of your core muscles and your bandhas. So, I practice floating into Bakasana B and trying to press up and hold after Utkatasana. In those classes where we do Adho Mukha Vrkshasana after Navasana, I think I'm going to start to work on lowering in a controlled fashion to a cross legged seated position too.

I still can't do that fundamental bandha move, the jump back. There are occasions where I can do it from a lotus position, like after Garbha Pindasana or even more rarely after Uth Plutihi. To do it there, I have to do an exaggerated pendulum swing to get enough momentum to get my butt moving upward as it moves back past my arms. That is not a bandha move really, maybe only the last few inches. Today, I perceived a direct challenge to do the move. We had just finished Uth Pluthihi. My teacher, who was set up right across from me, looked me straight in the eye as he called for the jump back to end the pose. I went for it but I didn't make it. I got my legs through but couldn't get any lift going so my knees landed just behind my hands. Usually, I can do better when I think I'm being called on to do something. He probably had no such thing in mind, I just create these kinds of scenarios sometimes in practice. "Tim's looking at this, he's never seen you do this, he probably thinks you can't do it, etc."

I've had a nice run of second series work. Now it will be back to normal first series practices for a while.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

A bad, bad thing happened in practice today. Fitting, in that the events that preceded it all seemed to be going so well. Just two days ago, I wasn't even thinking that I would be able to practice today at all. I was going through my schedule for the week and saw a chance to make a couple of small changes that let me get to Mysore class this morning. so I jumped on it. That would give me three weekday practices this week. I was able to do led first series last night. I knew I would be able to do Mysore class tomorrow because I will be off from work after being on call tonight. Friday was not looking too good because I have to assist some other folks in the OR. You can never plan on how long something like that will take. Better to count on not making it to practice. Then, sometimes you get pleasantly surprised.

I decided last night that if I could get myself out of bed, I would go to pranayama practice this morning at 6:15AM too. The last pranayama class I went to was back in the Fall, in September I think. What I remember the most about pranayama classes are the mental struggles that I had. I don't think I ever made it through a full, unabbreviated session without having to take at least one supplemental breath. In fact, I remember being extremely proud the day that I took only one breath. Given the long layoff, I fully expected to be back to square one, trying to unobtrusively sneak in extra air within the first few rounds. So, I lay in bed this morning almost talking myself out of going. If I could have gotten back to sleep, I probably would have skipped it. I could tell I was not going to be able to rejoin the unconscious world though so I showered and drove to the studio. As we were getting ready to start, Tim looked over the circle of students for a few seconds, as if to size up the group. I have the bad habit of seeing events as if they happen because of me, but I can't help wonder if Tim didn't take it easy on us today when he saw I was there. I wouldn't dare call it easy but I expected to suffer more. I expected to have to mentally force myself through some of the retentions before I would let myself take the desired extra breath, just to prove to myself that I could go that little bit longer. Instead, it seemed that the retentions and the lengths of the breaths were both shorter. I did take an extra breath or two, but I thought I'd be taking gobs of them. Maybe I was being histrionic in my recollections of the prior difficulties but I'm sure the others in the group would concur this was not Tim at his most severely challenging. Don't get me wrong. I was rejoicing. In fact, I had to reel myself back in a couple of times because my attention was getting distracted when I started to get thoughts like, "hey, what's up? I'm maintaining!" "Are the counts shorter? Let me start counting." "What if I make it all the way through?" I didn't start working to get through the retentions until I let myself get distracted like that. I may have just had a good day too I guess. I had one or two of those before. I wondered if this was the case when my legs didn't hurt when I uncoiled from sitting in lotus after the class was done. Usually, it would take me quite a few steps to be able to walk without limping/staggering. Today, not so stiff. After the long layoff, I have forgotten most of the words to the chants at the end: "Mumble, mumble, namo, mumble, mumble namo...." It was a nice welcome back practice, even if Tim did dumb it down for me.

Since I had done full first series just 12 hours before, and since I was going to get a chance to do Mysore tomorrow too, I decided to leave out the first series poses and just do the second series stuff. Since I didn't have to get to work until 10:00, I didn't have to rush through any of it. I could do as much research as I felt up to doing. I have to say, I felt a lot stronger in almost all of the poses doing it that way. I never ran out of gas. I did most of the research poses, leaving out only the groin stretches before Kapotasana. Even better, I didn't feel like doing the research poses was robbing me of the strength to do the actual poses. I wasn't going to do the groin stretch/hip opener that we sometimes do before Eka Pada Sirsasana, but I felt good and there was plenty of time, so I went ahead and did that one too. It was a fun practice. Most of the time practice is very rewarding, you feel great afterwards, etc, but it is not always "fun" to do. I did enjoy practicing today.

One advantage of doing the more abbreviated form of my practice is that I can do Pasasana early on, when I am not yet drenched in sweat. I usually have to drape a cotton shirt over my knees to give my wrapping arm enough purchase that it won't slide off of the knees. Today, I was doing it just skin on skin, which since my skin was still dry, gave even better grip than the shirt does when I'm sweaty. My back is typically stiffer in the morning than it is later in the day. Usually, doing the rest of the first series poses gets me warm enough that by the time I get to any backbending, I'm as ready to go as I can get to be. Today, while I didn't feel rubbery, my back didn't feel especially stiff either. I got adjusted deeper than usual in Kapotasana. It felt like I was as far along my feet as I ever have been. Now, that's not really that much further down than what I do on most days--maybe an inch or two more. But as any back challenged person could tell you, the degree of effort needed to move deeper in Kapotasana is exponentially related to the distance that you move. I think I was making sound effects today, I can't remember. I was focusing on the inside of my shoulder joint.

My attempt at a headstand after Kapotasana sucked but that's about the only real bad thing I did today. The guy helping me in Supta Vajrasana was able to keep my hands on my toes while I got all the way to the floor. My knees had come off of the floor, I had minimal back arch and I couldn't even begin to get myself back up to sitting. But, I held my toes all the way down, only the second time I've ever done that. It's more accurate to say that he did it than that I did it. He did most of the work, pushing my feet in towards my groin with his feet, helping me keep my hands close to my feet, winching me back up to sitting when I was unable to generate any movement. Team effort. I had a good float into Bakasana B too. The good vibe trend continued as I got into Dwi Pada Sirsasana by myself. Balancing still not coming, but a little better today. Momentary balances between the Weeble's wobbles.

After finishing up my poses, I did four back bends and stood up. I did so without half-falling back down or stumbling forward with misdirected momentum. Tim was helping someone nearby and commented, "Oh. Smooth." That was kind of a joke, meaning 'oh, not like you usually do'. Smooth-er would be a better description.

As I stood waiting to do assisted drop backs, reveling in the energy of what had been a great practice for me, a dark black cloud seemed to move over the room. Tim slid into my view and, instead of getting into position to do drop backs, he stood over to one side and asked, "How'd you like to do a new trick today?" Uh oh. Then, as the black cloud closed in and surrounded me, something that I had managed to avoid for four years happened. Tim gave me Viparita Chakrasana. "What? Viparita what?" I looked around to see who he was really talking to. It was me. I probably wouldn't have been as fearful if my wife hadn't psyched me out with all of her horror stories of doing the pose. And she has a very flexible back. I bumbled my way through it. It was worse than it had to be. I screwed up most of my entries into handstand trying to think ahead to what movements I would need to do to get my feet on the ground without avulsing my back muscles from their insertions. By the last couple, in addition to having to help lower me into and then lift me back up from the back bend position, Tim was having to get me into handstand too. Then, I think just to entertain my wife, he told me to do Vrschikasana. Mine doesn't look anything like that one by the way. Yin and Yang. There's a price to be paid. "Having a good day? Great, now pay me, baby." Viparita Chakrasana. It's a cruel, cruel world.

Tomorrow, I have to decide whether to do the whole first series and the second poses too or to just do the second again, like I did today. I had planned on doing the first and second. Now, I have to reconsider. I want to have enough gas to be able to do some of Viparita Chakrasana myself, or at least to try to. We'll see how call goes tonight. I'm looking for any excuse to go easy on myself now.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Practice today, the evening led first series, was so uneventful that I can't come up with anything remotely interesting to write about it. Since I blathered on for as long as I did yesterday, I figured today I would take a break and instead submit some humor sent to us in an e-mail by a dear friend who has just returned from Mysore. That's her in Trikonasana and here again, the second hottie from the left (the first hottie on the left is my wife). Welcome back Ms. Jones.

Joke #1

You have two cows.
You sell one and buy a bull.
Your herd multiplies and the economy grows.
You retire on the income.

You have two cows.
You worship them.

You don't have any cows.
You claim that the Indian cows belong to you.
You ask the US for financial aid, China for military aid, Britain for
Warplanes, Italy for machines, Germany for technology, France for
Submarines, Switzerland for loans, Russia for drugs and Japan for equipment. You buy the cows with all this and claim of exploitation by the world.

You have two cows.
You sell one and force the other to produce the milk of four cows.
You profess surprise when the cow drops dead.
You put the blame on some nation with cows & naturally that nation will be a danger to mankind. You wage a war to save the world and grab the cows.

You have two cows.
You go on strike because you want three cows.

You have two cows.
You reengineer them so that they live for 100 years, eat once a month and milk themselves.

You have two cows.
They are both mad.

You have two cows.
You don't know where they are. You break for lunch.

You have 5000 cows, none of which belong to you.
You charge others for storing them.

You have two cows.
You redesign them so that they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk.
You then create cute cartoon cow images called Cowkimon and market them worldwide.

You have two cows.
You count them and learn you have five cows.
You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.
You count them again and learn you have 17 cows.
You give up counting and open another bottle of vodka.

You have two cows.
You have 300 people milking them.
You claim full employment, high bovine productivity and arrest anyone reporting the actual numbers.

Joke #2
Last month, a world-wide survey was conducted by the UN. The only question asked was...
"Would you please give your honest opinion about solutions to the food shortage in the rest of the world?"

The survey was a huge failure because...

In Africa they didn't know what "food" means.
In Eastern Europe they didn't know what "honest" means.
In Western Europe they didn't know what "shortage" means.
In China they didn't know what "opinion" means.
In the Middle East they didn't know what "solution" means.
In South America they didn't know what "please" means.
In the USA they didn't know what "the rest of the world" means

Monday, April 05, 2004

I sort of feel obliged to post today. It's a moon day, so no practice. I'm on call on a fairly unbusy day, so far that is. I practiced yesterday. So, no good reason not to make some kind of a contribution. One of the useful features of this blog is the ability to check from time to time to see how often people are coming to the site. I have no way of knowing what individual is coming of course. I can only tell how often my page is viewed, what site the viewer came from if they came to my site from a link on another site, how many hits from a given referring URL, etc. Given that info, I know that I have been linked to by a few sites, namely the ones I have links to over on my side bar. Lately, I've been getting between 70-100 hits a day. Many of these are return hits of course, from people clicking on a link of mine, then navigating back to my page. Still, there is some following of my output. When I was reading some other Ashtanga blogs, I remember that it bugged me when they would lag in their postings. I wanted to be able to read something new as often as possible. Last night, I went back over many of my earlier postings. I was chagrined to see how often I had neglected to post anything about practice, sometimes for over a month straight. If I were trying to follow along as a reader, it wouldn't keep my interest very well to have to go that long between vignettes. It won't help me too much in the future, when I'm older and grayer and stiffer, to look back on this journal and find gaping holes in which there is no way to know how I might have been changing, progressing, regressing, what my thoughts were. So, I guess I'm feeling an aspect of duty to keep a better record. I don't know that I'll be able to keep it fresh but I'll at least try and keep it going.

I worked on Saturday so my first chance to practice was the 10:00 led first series class on Sunday morning. The kids were sleeping over at my mom's. My wife was at the 8:00 second series class. Since I had nowhere that I had to get to before class, I could take it easy and laze my way through my rounding, showering and my drive from work up the coast to practice. I got there about a half an hour before class, just the right amount of time. I can get a few stretches of my hams and adductors before having to do the real deal in class. The other first series class attendees begin wandering in over the next thirty minutes. Since it's a fairly large class usually, we tend to take up most of the sidewalk with a disorganized queue. It's a good chance to socialize a bit with familiar faces, check out what new visitors may be coming, enjoy the sun a bit now that spring is coming on strong.

Given the large group that attends the class, when the doors open to let out the earlier group and let us in, there is sometimes a mini-scramble to get in, get the extraneous clothes and belongings set aside, sign in, go to the bathroom if needed and get a mat down before all the floor space has been taken up. I don't really have a particular place that I try to get to. My approach in site selection tends to vary each time. Usually, I just put my mat somewhere near the center of the room and get in the bathroom before a line forms. I try to avoid being way in the back because people tend to crowd in there, even of there's more space closer to the front. Sometimes I will have been talking to somebody out front and will want to practice near them. Other times, like yesterday, I want to be close enough to someone to see what their practice is like. I don't 'stalk' a new person, trailing them around the room until they set up and then covertly sneaking my mat in behind theirs so I can spy out their practice. I'm not that bad. But if there is a space open and I see that someone of interest is nearby, I would probably pick that space over another space. Yesterday, the young bendy guy from out front and I both ended up next to each other, not by design, we just both ended up unrolling our mats in the most vacant area at the time. Unplanned, but I was then set up for one of my, "let's see how I compare to this guy" sessions. There were a few other people I had hoped to be able to check out but only one of them was in my view and I don't remember seeing them do anything during the class. I'm actually not as bad at the looking around, voyeuristic type thing as I make myself out to be. I often intend to see how someone is doing and end up never looking over. Just too absent minded. I get distracted by practice sometimes and forget to look.

While my wife complained that the room was pretty chilly for the second series class that finished right before us, it seemed pretty warm and muggy by the time we got in there. By the third Surya Namaskara B, I already had a stream of sweat dripping off of my face. I was pleased to see it wasn't just me. The guy next to me and the ones I could see behind me were glistening also. I got confirmation on the young guys flexibility when we did our first up dog. From the degree of his arch, it looked like he could probably see his heels. He could also twist pretty good. When I did take the time to see how I compared to him, overall I thought I wasn't too much worse. I was hanging in there, or so it seemed to me. Later in the day, I asked my wife, who had assisted for the first portion of the class, what she thought. She laughed at the idea. Granted, the guy could twist in Parivrtta Parsvakonasana such that both nipples were facing the ceiling, so he could jump from down dog directly into Bhujapidasana without ever touching his feet to the floor until he got back to Chaturanga, so he could jump back , etc. etc. I guess I didn't notice him as much as I thought I would. When I do check people out, and I do, it's usually to see what they do better than me. It's also to see if there's anything that I do better than them. So I tend to check out their Janu Sirsasana C, Marichyasana D, Utthita Hasta Padangustasana, Supta Kurmasana, basically the postures that tend to be the hardest. Not that I am able to do them all that well, I'm not, it's just that those are the ones where there is a chance of some equalization, some hint that I'm not that much worse than somebody who is good. What would we all be like if we could just function without our egos for a few weeks, I wonder.

Tim had us do all three variations of Baddha Konasana. He hasn't done that since Guruji was last here. In the past, Tim would often let us move directly from Ubhaya Padangustasana to Urdvha Mukha Pascimottanasana without taking an intervening vinyasa. Sometimes he would mix it up and have us vinyasa and roll up again but often not. Lazy practitioner that I am, I would always granted myself a similar reprieve when i would do a mysore-style practice. So, I never developed the ability to roll up and hold the balance for Urdvha Mukha. I worked on this embarrassment a bit at our recent workshop in Tulum. I've now taken to trying to do it with the correct vinyasa whenever I'm not in a led class. I still can't do it but I'm getting a better idea of how to do it. Tim seems to be making us make the vinyasa more now too. Good thing, keeps me honest.

Another thing that I can't do, and I'm convinced this is really something that I will never be able to do, is to spread my toes. I think a lifetime of wearing shoes has so atrophied whatever muscles and nerves may be involved in that action that it will never happen. I can struggle and strain to the point of getting a cramp in my feet and toes and I will get maybe one toe to slide aside from its neighbor by a millimeter. For just a second or two. Tim mentioned that someone, Sean Corn, or somebody like that could so widely spread all their toes that they could intercross all the toes of one foot to the other as they went forward into Bhujapidasana. That would be pretty cool. I try to spread them while I am in shoulder stand. That's the steadiest pose for me to try it in. Tim says we should be doing it when we are in things like Upavishta Konasana B but whenever I try it in a pose like that, it makes me fall out of the pose. For now, it's not one of my greatest priorities. At one time I had thought I would never be able to do nauli kriya , the churning of the abdominal contents by contracting the muscles of the abdominal wall. At first, I had enough overlying insulation that I couldn't see if there was anything occurring. Later, as I got a little better at doing Uddiyana Bandha and could semi-draw my abdomen in, I still couldn't get any kind of coordinated muscle action going. If I actually swirled my hips around like I was doing the hula hoop or something, I might be able to get some movement but not just from using the abs. Somewhere along the line, in doing the practice, doing the pranayama, I developed a little better control. I try it from time to time, off in the bathroom where no one can see me. One day in the shower, I got a little swirling going on with my abs. It was like watching something occur that I had no control over. I was only able to keep it going for a few seconds before I lost the feel of it. I can occasionally get it back but not on demand. The thing that I need to develop is the ability to recognize what to be relaxing, as much as it is what to be contracting. Anybody can contract all that stuff. Letting go only what you want to let go is the hard part. Since I don't really try to do it that often, I haven't really expected to be able to do it. I was amazed the first time I saw it happening. It is something that helps develop a finer sense of bandha control though.

Tomorrow I have an outside chance at an evening practice. All depends on how long the cases take in the OR. Other than that, I should be able to get in a mysore class on Thursday since I work Wednesday night. I'll edit this later, I'm finally being asked to do something today. Your health care dollars at work for you.

ADDENDUM: I'm adding this a few hours after posting the rest. This is a good example of me forgetting a topic I wanted to write about while I was busy doing the rest of the post. The one thing I really wanted to put down for posterity and I totally forgot about it. As my side-by-side comparo with the young, flexible, strong, etc. guy next me progressed, I was starting to look for spots to do something that he wasn't doing, or something that I could at least do as well as him. I had a little of an advantage: I don't think he normally does the same practice we do. I know he wasn't familiar with our transition out of Virabhadrasana B because he went straight down to Chaturanga instead of doing our version of Eka Pada Bakasana. There were a couple of other minor things that made me wonder if he normally did something similar to first series but not necessarily the same thing. Any way, back to the minor point I forgot to make. I figured I might have a chance to look capable with the vinyasa out of Supta Kurmasana. At our studio, the desired/expected exit is to press up into Tittibhasana then vinyasa back to Chaturanga. I didn't know if he would make the same exit or not, but at least here was a spot where I could try to look like one of the big kids. I knew if I was going to make the vinyasa correctly I was going to have to get my legs up pretty high on my arms. I was so wet with sweat that my legs wanted to slide down off of my arms. I had already tried and failed to make the same transition when I did the vinyasa out of Bhujapidasana. My legs just slid right off. I usually can do better with the vinyasa coming out of Supta K. I pressed up into Urdvha Dwi Pada Sirsasana. After pressing up, I uncrossed my ankles and started make the shift towards Tittibhasana. In my effort to keep my legs up high, I lost my control of the movement, my center of gravity (aka my butt) slipped forward and I somehow ended up almost somersaulting backwards through my arms. After a rapid drop to the ground to avoid total ridicule, I crawled into Chaturanga while Tim gave the class his impression of the move: "Oh! Some exits were not correct!" If the guy next to me saw it, he kept a straight face. He had no problem making the move, by the way.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Yesterday, I had something of a Russian roulette type dilemma. I was hoping to make it to a 5:30 PM class but didn't get away from work until 4:45. A Friday evening commute could take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and 20 minutes. You never know how long it might be until you hit the last 10 miles of the ride, where the back up tends to occur. If I knew I couldn't make the 5:30 Intro to Second series class at my normal studio, I could pull off the freeway early and go to a led first series class given at one of the local health clubs. Yesterday's traffic jam flow was hard to read. I could tell I would be late for the second series class, but couldn't tell how late. I had to commit at one point to going on and taking a chance on getting there too late or going with the sure thing first series class. Of course, I committed to the higher risk course and pressed on northward. I got there not excessively late. I walked in as they were starting Surya Namaskara B. By the time I got settled in, mat spread, towels arranged, sign in done, etc, they were starting the second rep. He usually only does three reps of the B's but fortunately he did a total of four last night. I had been standing in the OR all day, so I was plenty stiff when I made those first few movements. By the time of the last one, I was a little more fluid and not grimacing as much with the up dogs. The rest of the standing sequence got me up to speed.

The class was pretty sparsely populated. I think there were only 10 students there. Class sizes in general have been down it seems lately. It's okay by me, no crowding of mats on top of each other, the ambient temperature is warmer now so less need to rely on extra bodies to generate studio heat, more chance for adjustments. The last time or two I've made it to that class, he had pretty much eliminated the research poses that he used to give us and had just done the straight sequence of the first half of the second series. Last night he did add in most of the research stuff. I have no idea what goes into those kinds of decisions. We didn't do Samakonasana and Hanumanasana, to my disappointment. Hard to believe I could be disappointed at that since I do so badly in those poses. Trying them, with my level of inflexibility, is pretty uncomfortable and drains me energy-wise. I do want to do them though, because I have progressed and if I don't do them I quickly lose hard won range of motion. We started with a research pose for Pasasana he calls Salamba Pasasana. In this one we move near the wall, maybe two feet out, facing the middle of the room. We squat to the level of horizontal thighs, then twist to the side, then straighten the back arm with the hand against the wall and the armpit of the forward arm over the opposite knee. Then he talks to us for a while about the nuances of the pose while our thighs gradually progress to failure. Then, with already shaky legs, we switch to the other side and do the same. After this warm-up, we did the full posture. My finely tuned system of delaying and wasting time comes in really handy there, allowing me to get some fresh blood back into my legs before joining the rest of the group in their lactic acidosis. Before Bhekasana, we did some Anjaneyasana, or lunge pose, variations to stretch the groin muscles. We also did some Virasana variations. We then did Eka Pada Bhekasana on each side before moving into the full pose. Having set this trend, I knew we were going to have to do Kapotasana research too. Not that I don't need it. I definitely do need it. And I always feel better after I've done it. I just hate doing it. The shoulder stuff we do is okay. I need that a lot and it is not too tiring. It's just the second round of groin stretches we do against the wall that kill me. The shoulder stuff last night consisted of variations on Viparita Dandasana. In these, we first do a normal headstand three or four feet from the wall. You let your feet come over and place them against the wall at what would be about hip level high. You the press firmly into the feet and forearms and raise the head from the ground, attempting to arch and look backward as much as possible. Then you lower one leg the floor and repeat the lift and arch for each side. Then, both feet to the floor with another round of lift and arch. With both feet on the ground, you raise one foot up into Eka Pada Viparita Dandasana, then the other. Then, you walk your feet back up the wall a bit and push off to come back down to Balasana, or Child's pose. That sequence usually gets your pulse up a bit. We then moved against the wall and did a series of lunges while kneeling on one leg. The ones where you arch back and try to grab your foot, in a sort of kneeling, wall supported version of Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana suck all of the life out of me. Fortunately, we didn't do the back bending research pose I have the hardest time doing. I don't know what it's called but it could be seen as a wall supported prep for Raja Kapotasana. You lay down on your stomach facing the wall. Then you move your upper body up the wall until only the lower body from the hips on down is still touching the floor. You then lift your hands from the floor and raise your arms and hands overhead against the wall. I doubt the preceding description adequately conjures up the degree of discomfort inherent in this pose. Even if I had a loose back that wasn't spitefully resisting the back arch created by the pose, the weight of the upper body is projected down directly on the nether regions, and therefore directly upon nature's little wonders. I begin hyperventilating about this one several poses in advance. For the non-male ashtangi's there's no relief, because the chest is absorbing a lot of compression too. Other than those few inserts, we pretty much just did the normal first half of the second series.

After all that, Kapotasana went okay but I've still got a ways to go. I got to my toes on my own and Tim pulled my hands to a spot past my toes and helped me get a better positioning of my shoulders and elbows. My elbows are usually well off of the ground and splayed out laterally when I try on my own. When he cranks me into a deeper position, my shoulders roll in a bit and my elbows come in toward the floor. I learned I have evolved into some poor form in Ardha Matsyendrasana. I have been letting my forward foot slide too much past my knee. When I tried to keep my toes back close to the knee, as instructed, the difficulty went up significantly. Back bends went well and I stood up with reasonable form. I know by now not to count on any of this lasting. The back is a dodgey part of the body for me. I plan to just keep nudging it along, trying to give it a bit more attention than I have done in the last few months.

I work tonight, so no second series tomorrow. The first series class will likely be crowded as it will be the first one since Tim got back into town. It also comes the day before a moon day so that may get people into class as well. It's also the first day of Daylight Saving Time. Tim says that every year, somebody will walk up to class an hour late, not realizing they forgot to make the clock adjustment. That could easily be me, given my usual degree of absent-mindedness, but being at work should allow me to stay on time.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Today was a full on back-popping day. Not the quiet, settling in kind of pops that happen when you stretch your back just the right way. These were the ones audible a few mats away. The ones that cause the person adjusting you to suddenly hesitate as they try as suss out if that was a good pop or if they just partially severed your spinal cord. The first one came as I was being twisted, Linda Blair-like, in Marichyasana C. Next, in Kapotasana, I was given the old two-on-one adjustment, where there's one person on each end of me, each pulling in the opposite directions. After it popped, Tim and I both uttered a surprised "Huh!", Tim's trademark response to situations like that. It did feel good. That's one of the best feeling adjustments around. If you ever get the chance, try it some time. The only draw back is you have to be struggling in Kapotasana to start with. The last pop came when Tim was helping me do my drop backs at the end. I'm too 'ascared' to do them on my own so I make him do them with me. After the last one, he has us go down into Urdvha Dhanurasana and either come up on our own, or more typically, he will assist us up to standing in one fashion or another. Today he did the one-hand-on-the-chest variation. As he shifted my weight forward and directed me up, out squeezed that last clunk from my spine. No pain in any of it, just my back saying hello I guess.

When I make the mistake on commenting here on the progress I'm making in a given posture, I then go on to totally hack at that pose the next five or ten times out of the gate. Today, I couldn't come close to maintaining a balance in Dwi Pada Sirsasana. I even tried to balance when I came up from Supta Kurmasana, when I should have been more rested. No go there either. So I'm learning my lesson. From now on, I won't be announcing how much better I'm doing at anything. That way, I may actually be able to do something better.

I think I just don't know how to move through the poses quickly. I try to do it but I always seem to end up finishing the first series around the same time. Today, I actually fell behind my normal transition time from first to second series by about ten minutes. What the hell am I doing in all that time? I do waste time with a variety of maneuvers but today was no different than any other day. Where did that time go? I hate to feel time challenged in the latter stages of the practice. By definition, the poses near the end are the ones you are usually least good at. I want to be able to spend as much time as I need on them, re-doing them if necessary, maybe doing a research pose or two to help me get better over time. When every one else is in Savasana and I'm still five or six poses from the end, I feel like I've just got to blow through it so that I don't keep the teachers too late. I vote for a three hour Mysore class.

One of the most intriguing aspects of ashtanga yoga is that each person seems to have some things that they can do and some things that they have a harder than average time with, even the more advanced practitioners. My teacher, for example, has a very smooth, VERY powerful practice, amazingly open hips and hams. But, his back is not in the same league. He can do the poses, but it's not the same thing. I am similar but from the other direction. I can do a thing but am challenged in most of the rest. My hips rotate externally better than average, but my hams, my adductors, my back, my shoulders, yada yada, don't compete. I usually don't comment too often about other people's practices. It's obviously an area in which it would be easy to offend, however unintended. Today we had a visitor practicing who had a great second series. There really wasn't anything in that sequence that wasn't done well. Very high end. After finishing the headstands at the end of second series, the person then began third series. Incongruously, there was a pose early on that the person just wasn't able to do. It was a double-take kind of situation. Having visually caught glimpses of the person's ability from time to time as I did my practice, I knew full well that this person was capable of doing most, if not all of the third series well. Then I saw the pose and it was..., "Hmm, what's up with that?" I just didn't understand how they couldn't do it. It didn't seem possible. We all have something. It's part of the deal.

The folks who went to Mysore are all back now. The teachers who went are sometimes incorporating the current traditional method for poses when they lead us in classes. Baddha Konasana B, or C? No problemo. Holding the outside of the feet when doing Upavishta Konasana B instead of the big toe? Okay, that's different but eminently do-able. My all-time least favorite update? No rest breaks between repetitions of Urdvha Dhanurasana. Whine. Snivel. I'm sure most people most places already do this the correct way but we usually get a short reprieve between each rep. Now, we are having to face the prospect of lowering from back bend just to the top of our head and then going right back up for the next rep. Where's the justice in that? There's no time to contemplate how you did, how you hope to do, no strategizing and negotiating with your different body parts to try and get a little deeper intro the pose, etc. No way to waste time so you end up only having to hold for three counts instead of the normal five. Just boom: up-5 breaths, dip, up-5 breaths, dip, up-5 breaths. And then, what? We're supposed to stand up? With no time to let the back relax a bit? No more trips to India for anybody! There's a reason for status quo. Don't knock it.

I've been playing around with one of those streaming music sites. I don't download a whole lot but it's a great way to learn about music that you don't know. My wife can't stand anything that I like, of course. In the OR, I either want no music at all or something low key and relaxing. I need to not be distracted. Some people like to have cranking music there but I can't handle it. One of my co-workers, knowing I prefer such lamer fare, told me about a group called Thievery Corporation. The genre is called downbeat, or something like that. I listened to a couple of the discs on Rhapsody while on call one day and liked it. So, while in a Barnes and Noble store to look for a book, I stopped by their music section to see if they had one of the CD's. Now I know what all the file sharing nonsense is about. They wanted $18 for a single disc. To use a quote from Eddie Murphy, "Get the F--- out of here!" I had no idea stuff costs that much. I'm usually not allowed to do much in the way of shopping so it came as a bit of a shock. When CD's first came out, something like 15 or 20 years ago, they only cost $15 dollars. Screw 'em. I'll just listen to streaming music