Yesterday, I had something of a Russian roulette type dilemma. I was hoping to make it to a 5:30 PM class but didn't get away from work until 4:45. A Friday evening commute could take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and 20 minutes. You never know how long it might be until you hit the last 10 miles of the ride, where the back up tends to occur. If I knew I couldn't make the 5:30 Intro to Second series class at my normal studio, I could pull off the freeway early and go to a led first series class given at one of the local health clubs. Yesterday's traffic jam flow was hard to read. I could tell I would be late for the second series class, but couldn't tell how late. I had to commit at one point to going on and taking a chance on getting there too late or going with the sure thing first series class. Of course, I committed to the higher risk course and pressed on northward. I got there not excessively late. I walked in as they were starting Surya Namaskara B. By the time I got settled in, mat spread, towels arranged, sign in done, etc, they were starting the second rep. He usually only does three reps of the B's but fortunately he did a total of four last night. I had been standing in the OR all day, so I was plenty stiff when I made those first few movements. By the time of the last one, I was a little more fluid and not grimacing as much with the up dogs. The rest of the standing sequence got me up to speed.
The class was pretty sparsely populated. I think there were only 10 students there. Class sizes in general have been down it seems lately. It's okay by me, no crowding of mats on top of each other, the ambient temperature is warmer now so less need to rely on extra bodies to generate studio heat, more chance for adjustments. The last time or two I've made it to that class, he had pretty much eliminated the research poses that he used to give us and had just done the straight sequence of the first half of the second series. Last night he did add in most of the research stuff. I have no idea what goes into those kinds of decisions. We didn't do Samakonasana and Hanumanasana, to my disappointment. Hard to believe I could be disappointed at that since I do so badly in those poses. Trying them, with my level of inflexibility, is pretty uncomfortable and drains me energy-wise. I do want to do them though, because I have progressed and if I don't do them I quickly lose hard won range of motion. We started with a research pose for Pasasana he calls Salamba Pasasana. In this one we move near the wall, maybe two feet out, facing the middle of the room. We squat to the level of horizontal thighs, then twist to the side, then straighten the back arm with the hand against the wall and the armpit of the forward arm over the opposite knee. Then he talks to us for a while about the nuances of the pose while our thighs gradually progress to failure. Then, with already shaky legs, we switch to the other side and do the same. After this warm-up, we did the full posture. My finely tuned system of delaying and wasting time comes in really handy there, allowing me to get some fresh blood back into my legs before joining the rest of the group in their lactic acidosis. Before Bhekasana, we did some Anjaneyasana, or lunge pose, variations to stretch the groin muscles. We also did some Virasana variations. We then did Eka Pada Bhekasana on each side before moving into the full pose. Having set this trend, I knew we were going to have to do Kapotasana research too. Not that I don't need it. I definitely do need it. And I always feel better after I've done it. I just hate doing it. The shoulder stuff we do is okay. I need that a lot and it is not too tiring. It's just the second round of groin stretches we do against the wall that kill me. The shoulder stuff last night consisted of variations on Viparita Dandasana. In these, we first do a normal headstand three or four feet from the wall. You let your feet come over and place them against the wall at what would be about hip level high. You the press firmly into the feet and forearms and raise the head from the ground, attempting to arch and look backward as much as possible. Then you lower one leg the floor and repeat the lift and arch for each side. Then, both feet to the floor with another round of lift and arch. With both feet on the ground, you raise one foot up into Eka Pada Viparita Dandasana, then the other. Then, you walk your feet back up the wall a bit and push off to come back down to Balasana, or Child's pose. That sequence usually gets your pulse up a bit. We then moved against the wall and did a series of lunges while kneeling on one leg. The ones where you arch back and try to grab your foot, in a sort of kneeling, wall supported version of Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana suck all of the life out of me. Fortunately, we didn't do the back bending research pose I have the hardest time doing. I don't know what it's called but it could be seen as a wall supported prep for Raja Kapotasana. You lay down on your stomach facing the wall. Then you move your upper body up the wall until only the lower body from the hips on down is still touching the floor. You then lift your hands from the floor and raise your arms and hands overhead against the wall. I doubt the preceding description adequately conjures up the degree of discomfort inherent in this pose. Even if I had a loose back that wasn't spitefully resisting the back arch created by the pose, the weight of the upper body is projected down directly on the nether regions, and therefore directly upon nature's little wonders. I begin hyperventilating about this one several poses in advance. For the non-male ashtangi's there's no relief, because the chest is absorbing a lot of compression too. Other than those few inserts, we pretty much just did the normal first half of the second series.
After all that, Kapotasana went okay but I've still got a ways to go. I got to my toes on my own and Tim pulled my hands to a spot past my toes and helped me get a better positioning of my shoulders and elbows. My elbows are usually well off of the ground and splayed out laterally when I try on my own. When he cranks me into a deeper position, my shoulders roll in a bit and my elbows come in toward the floor. I learned I have evolved into some poor form in Ardha Matsyendrasana. I have been letting my forward foot slide too much past my knee. When I tried to keep my toes back close to the knee, as instructed, the difficulty went up significantly. Back bends went well and I stood up with reasonable form. I know by now not to count on any of this lasting. The back is a dodgey part of the body for me. I plan to just keep nudging it along, trying to give it a bit more attention than I have done in the last few months.
I work tonight, so no second series tomorrow. The first series class will likely be crowded as it will be the first one since Tim got back into town. It also comes the day before a moon day so that may get people into class as well. It's also the first day of Daylight Saving Time. Tim says that every year, somebody will walk up to class an hour late, not realizing they forgot to make the clock adjustment. That could easily be me, given my usual degree of absent-mindedness, but being at work should allow me to stay on time.