Wednesday, September 22, 2004

After tweaking my back last week, I was starting to wonder if I wasn't beginning to see the effects of having had too many birthdays. I didn't practice the next two days after my mysore class last Wednesday. I went to the Saturday Improv class not really knowing how it was going to go. I was still feeling the discomfort at other times, like when rolling over in bed at night or when tossing the football with my kids, but it seemed to be gradually fading away. Fortunately, in that class people asked for twists and other stuff that didn't really make me push the envelope with that area of my back. I didn't do too well with backbends though. I made no attempt whatsoever at standing up and just nodded my head back when she had the class attempt drop backs. That wasn't in the cards. All in all, I was happy that it seemed a little better and that I was able to get through another class without making it worse.

On Sunday, I could have gone to either morning class, the Second series or the First series class. I don't know why I chanced it but I went with the Second series class. I got there early and did a half an hour of warm up. With that I could tell I wasn't gonna be doing much better than I had the day before. I set my mat up over near one of the corners, out of the line of sight from where my teacher usually sets up. As chance would have it, one of the people who had recently told me that I had been making some progress in backbending set up right next to me. After having to listen to me moan and groan my way through that class, I think she now probably has second thoughts about my bendiness. I was able to do most everything just fine, just not the poses I knew I would struggle with. Bhekasana was funny. I had my feet pretty close to the ground but I was unable to generate any lift with my upper body. It was almost like the opposite effect was happening, my chest and shoulders seemed to be forced straight down into the ground. I could really feel the sore area in the sacrum in that pose. The three main backbending poses were hard. I was better than I had been on Wednesday but bad enough that I shouldn't have been in a class like that if that's all I could do. What's worse, when going back in Laghuvajrasana, I felt this grinding kind of sensation in the lateral side of my knee, like something was in the process of rending but hadn't torn free yet. There was no discomfort but I could tell there was some weakness in that area. That really got me worried that I might be having a domino effect with one injury leading to other injuries potentially leading to incapacity. I didn't even try very hard at doing Kapotasana after that. I knew the back soreness was going to be enough to keep me from being able to get enough arch to get my hands to my feet and I didn't want to do what ever it was that my knee was warning me to not do. Everything else in the class was no problem though. I didn't do any better or worse than I would usually do. Actually I did do Vatayanasana better than average for me. I don't do this pose very often and I don't do it that well but for some reason, I do one side of this much better than the other side. My first side is much worse. Once I get my arms crossed, I can't seem to keep my balance and get them raised upward. I almost always keel over in one direction or the other. I don't have that much of a problem with keeping balanced when doing the left side. I don't know what I did or didn't do, but for that class, I was able to get my foot fairly close to my knee, get it angled out towards the side and also get my arms raised up on both sides. I ran out of time though. It took me almost the whole five count to get in position. And I did do something worse too. I almost fell out of Baddha Hasta Sirsasana B. That's right, B! The easy one.

I wasn't feeling bad about the practice when we were all through. I was glad to be able to get through it. I was concerned about what that sensation in my knee might mean but there was no discomfort, no swelling, no squishiness or instability, so I didn't think I had injured it. I was just worried that I might be more likely to injure it. The back thing wasn't finished yet but it was getting better. In hind site, I should have done the First series class. That would have helped me a lot more.

When I got home, my daughters and a friend of theirs who had slept over asked if they could do the lemonade stand thing. I didn't want to at first but realized that there was no reason not to help them do it except laziness. They had done the whole thing once before so they were fairly quick to get it all together. They trundle all their stuff into town and set up on a table outside of the restaraunt owned by the parents of the friend who slept over. The little village we live near isn't bustling by any means but the place they had was right near the intersection that gets a lot of weekend sightseers and pedestrians. We didn't use real lemons this time. The girls wanted to mosey up to our neighbor's property and appropriate fresh fruit from the small grove of lemon trees that they have. Nope, no lemon stealing on my watch. It was Chrystal Light for this business venture. Once they had their stand set up and ready to go, I made a store run to get some extra lemonade mix, some cups, etc. While in the store, I decided to get some fancy cookies that they could sell also. At 50 cents a glass for the juice and the same price for cookies, they grossed $55. Not bad for a few hours work. After we were all done and were splitting up the proceeds, I didn't go into the concept of net profits with them. They still made money but it wouldn't have seemed as neat for them if they had to subtract all the costs for the cups and cookies and napkins, etc. I ended up making at least three trips to the store to get more cookies. Each time I got in and out of the car, as I twisted sidways and pushed off with my foot, I could feel that sensation of weakness in my knee. I became fairly conscious of how I was using it and started being real careful about making that knee do anything without being supported in some fashion.

The next day, I had one of those meetings in Pasadena that I have to go to every month or so. Given how I had felt the day before, I figured another day of rest would be in order. The lure of getting to go to a Mysore class was too great though. We finished the meeting around noon so I motored over to Santa Monica and strolled around looking for something for my wife's upcoming birthday (At her request. I'm not that thoughtful typically). Finding no interesting stores, I sat in my car and listened to a few of the CD's I had just bought while I waited for the afternoon Mysore class. I didn't think I would get much of a chance to warm up because the folks at the front desk had told me earlier that there was a class in the room that finished right before ours was scheduled to start. Despite that, I went to the studio about twenty minutes early because I was tired of sitting in the car while the guy manicuring the lawn next to me drowned out my music with his various power tools. Sure enough, there was no other class in the room. In fact, most of the floor was already taken up by people starting their Mysore practices early. Grrrr. I set up between a couple of guys who it turns out had pretty good practices. I must have done something to rub one of them the wrong way, I think, because I got this vibe the whole class, like I was crowding him or doing stuff wrong or something. Maybe not. Maybe he was just intense. I know I irritated him when I leaned over in mid practice to ask if they did things a certain way at that studio (whether or not they did handstands after some of the Second series backbends). He was polite but I don't think he was in a conversational mood right then.

I was pretty leery of doing this class with how my backbends had been going the past week. This was Maty Ezraty's class and in the past I've gotten the impression that she doesn't really like to see things done incorrectly. She wasn't there that day though. The teachers who were there pretty much left me alone. I did get an adjustment on one side in Janu Sirsasana A, more or less a "Hi, how are you? I don't know you so I'm just seeing how you're doing" kind of thing. I also got one of those Savasana adjustments, where they stretch your legs out a bit, adjust the position of your hands and arms, press down on your shoulders, rub your eyebrows, stuff to help you relax. I like that kind of stuff, though I don't usually get it. One thing which didn't feel great though was she moved my feet from their normal externally rotated position to a position where my feet were pointing up and then pushed down on the top of my feet, guiding my toes down towards the floor. One, that's not the normal resting position for my feet and legs and two, pushing down like that put too much weight on my heels and created an uncomfortable sensation in my Achille's tendons. Still, I appreciated her trying to make me more comfortable.

I started the class off a little cautiously. I figured I'd probably be sore still and would just do First series. My up dogs were a lot better though. Something changed, what I don't know. As I progressed through the poses, I realized that I was doing most things as well as I can do them. I did forget to do Supta Konasana. Everything else went really well though, even Setu Bandhasana. I finished the first series with about 45 minutes left for the class so, feeling pretty good, I pressed on. Normally, when I'm doing both First and Second series poses, I take a quick water/rest break after I finish the last pose in the First series. I wasn't close to being tired that day though so I moved right into second. The backbending stuff was clearly better. Not back to baseline but waay better than the day before. When I dropped down into Laghuvajrasana, I was just waiting to feel or hear something in my knee again but it went perfectly normally. I even got my fingers to my toes in Kapotasana, which amazed me because the day before, I barely got my hands to the ground, much less back to where my feet were. I didn't land Bakasana B on my first two tries but managed to get it on number three. Any other day I probably would have quit after the first couple of failures and just done the A version again. That day seemed to be an 'on' day though so I wanted to keep trying. The foot behind the head stuff was my best ever. The only disappointment was not getting the jump back part of it. Sometimes I can do it but sometimes I mis-do things and the foot slides off the back of my head and chops straight down toward the ground like a guillotine. As I was setting myself up to enter Dwi Pada Sirsasana, I decided to try and move the second leg back a little more quickly than I normally do. I was thinking that my more deliberate approach in times past may have been what was keeping me from getting my feet hooked over each other. Once I had my left leg in place, I made to really go for it with the right leg. I didn't really have to though because it slipped right into position with almost no extra effort or extraneous wiggling to and fro. I don't know what it was about that class. It just went better than I could have hoped for. Even backbends went well. I was able to stand up after my third one. Poorly done, with the need for a quick step back to keep my balance, but I made it up. The day before, rather than try to stand up on my own, I had opted to walk my way up the wall after our sixth backbend, and even with that much warm up, I barely made it up the wall. Whacky stuff this ashtanga.

After class, I was in one of those too rare post-yoga highs. I drove all the way home to San Diego through LA rush hour traffic and never even noticed it. I was listening to my new music, just oblivious to everything else. Too oblivious it turns out. I had forgotten to check in with my wife. She called me when I was about 30 miles from home and let me know my blissfulness was not shared. The good vibe held up through the next day. I really wanted to practice that day. It was my OR day and when things go well, I can usually get out in time to make it to the evening led First series class. It was not to be though. A scheduling snafu put a long case for another surgeon in between my two cases and I didn't get out of there until around 7:30 that evening.

Today, I was on call and it was a slow day, so I practiced at work. I usually don't do that but I wanted to get something in after missing out yesterday. I also wanted to get myself as loose as possible because I get to go to Mysore class tomorrow morning after I get off here. I was again only going to do First series. I didn't feel as loose as I did on Monday but I didn't expect to. Even with a space heater on full blast and with a Santa Ana blowing, the hospital air conditioning kept the room cool enough that I didn't sweat too much. I moved through the First series and decided to keep going, planning on stopping when I got to a point where I wasn't doing a pose well or when I ran out of motivation, whichever came first. I didn't do Kapotasana well at all but I felt okay to keep going so I finished all my usual poses. I then went ahead and did Pincha Mayurasana and as much of Karandavasana as I can do. Never hurts to get some practice in. I only had one phone call in the time I was doing my practice so it worked out okay. That is unlikely to be repeated any time soon though.

We'll have see which back shows up tomorrow morning. If I don't feel discomfort, I may do what I did Monday and today, all of First and my Second poses. Maybe . We'll have to see.

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