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

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