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.