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.

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