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

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