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.

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