Ahhh. The unadulterated pleasure of being able to do an up dog or a backbend and not have to go into it cringing out of fear that it's going to be too sore. The back is returning to a more normal state. Some practices have been near normal, others let me know that something did happen there and that I better be aware. I gotten back to a full range of motion in just about all of my backbending poses except for Kapotasana and Vrschikasana. In Kapotasana, it varies from day to day but the last couple of times I was able to get to my toes or just past them on my own and could be pulled farther by an adjuster without any discomfort in the back. The last time I was adjusted in it, the thing that felt limiting to me was my shoulder. I probably was tense out of worry about what it would feel like and the shoulder didn't release as well as it has in the past. Vrschikasana hasn't been even close to where I got to when Tim was adjusting me in it a while back. It almost feels like there's a wedge of resistance in there preventing me from developing any arch. I've only done it twice since my little back thing happened though so I can't really expect it to be too good. Having only done it twice in almost three weeks, it would likely have been as stiff even if I hadn't tweaked the back.
I felt pretty good at the start of Thursday's Mysore class, so I decided to do all my poses, First and Second. Because that takes a while, I wouldn't have time to do any of my usual Second series research poses. That was okay with me. I didn't really want to over do it with a whole lot of research stuff. Can't say my practice really suffered for not doing it either. I felt pretty good on a couple of the twists too. I almost got to my wrist on one side in Marichyasana D, on my own, something I've only done once ever. I was also able to wriggle my hands a bit to attempt a similar depth of binding in Pasansana but started to tip over so I stopped and just worked on the positioning of my knees and on trying to get my heels down a bit. They're still an inch or so up from the ground. That's a hard pose. So many actions and counter actions going on at one time. I was cruising along later, happy in that I was doing better on most of the early backbending poses. I had just finished Ustrasana. After that pose and after the next two, we go into a handstand then vinyasa down to Chaturanga. I had just finished one of my best handstands ever after Ustrasana. My wife got up from where she was practicing on the opposite side of the room and walked over to me. "Cool" I thought, "She saw that and is gonna tell me how solid it looked." She leaned over me and whispered, "Did you forget to do Dhaurasana?" Uh oh. Crap. So I had to go back and do those two poses and then do Ustrasana again. But my handstand rocked the second time too. One thing I have somehow lost the ability to do is Bakasana B. I've floundered around the last five or six times I've tried it. In my Wednesday practice at work and again on Thursday, I was trying to do things a little differently in my jump throughs. I had seen a guy at Yoga Works go from down dog into a Lolasana position. He was balanced on his hands with his head and shoulders forward and his back parallel with the ground. He kept his knees close together and up against his chest and would hang there for a second before unfolding his legs and passing them through into a sitting position. Almost like being in Bakasana but with the folded legs suspended under the chest rather than balanced on the arms. I thought that would be a good thing to try to get some of that core stuff going so I tried that a lot. Maybe doing so caused me to shoot my bandha wad and I didn't have enough left when I needed it for Bakasana B.
I'm not sure why but the last few times I've done all my postures, I haven't had the kind of exhaustion that used to really limit me when I got to the end. That really has helped me in all those foot behind the head poses. On Thursday, I did Dwi Pada Sirsansana on my own and balanced. And, as I usually do, I lost my ability to hold the balance after Tim put me into it more deeply. That kind of bugs me because I don't want him to back off of adjusting me in it. I had a pretty good Tittibhasana sequence on Thursday. I think I got my legs as straight as I've ever done in Titti B. My recent tumbling episode has made me a little tentative in doing C and D but they're getting better gradually too. There's a video of Guruji leading a second series class at Yoga Works from years ago. In that video, Chuck Miller walks across the room, then around behind a guy on the other side of the room, then walks backward back to his mat while bound in Tittibhasana. He was walking as easily as I do when standing upright. I'd love to be that sure and that mobile. The other thing I've got on my wish list is to be able to jump into Tittibhasana A position. I don't know if anyone else in my studio does that yet. Maybe that one guy with the disgustingly great practice but I'm not sure. Even if he doesn't, I'm sure he could if he tried.
After finishing my poses I felt pretty good but didn't know how doing Viparita Chakrasana would feel. In all of the other back poses, if it didn't feel right, I could just come out of the pose. If it didn't feel good as I started to go over from handstand in V.C., to bad, so sad, there's no stopping it once gravity has taken over, not for me yet anyway. I did two attempts on my own and had no discomfort, just a lot of impact noise as my feet came down. Tim came over and helped me through the sequence. It didn't feel too much worse than it had the last time I did it. The only thing that was clearly worse was Vrschikasana.
Friday I had to be at work at 8:30. I somehow convinced myself that I could go to the 7:00 mysore class, just do my second series poses with no research and be out of there in time to get to work. That's with a 40 minute commute. I probably would have done it too if I hadn't done the Samakonasana and Hanumanasana researching sequence that we do after the Prasarita poses. Those two are so uncomfortable that they take me a while to get through. Lots of mental conversations and bargaining going on. I wanted to do them, even if it meant I had to truncate some other parts of the practice because, more than any other aspect of my practice, if I don't do those regularly, I lose ground. I've gotten to where I can get all the way down on my second side in Hanumansana and almost all the way down on my first side. I've made slow progress in Samakonasana too but still have much pain ahead of me in that one. The discomfort from doing those postures is enough to make me want to do them every chance that I can so that I don't lose ground and have to make it all back up again. Because of my time concerns, I wasn't really holding any of the poses for the normal length of time. I was doing Supta Vajrasana when the people next to me were still doing the standing poses. Tim came over to help with that pose and said, "You look like you're a man on a mission today." I knew there wouldn't be any new poses coming my way when I hurried through like that. Ater my last pose, I did three backbends, made it up to standing and then did the last three poses and a quick savasana. Time out of the shala door: 7:45.
Needless to say, practicing like that didn't give me the usual post-practice feel. As unlucky as I was on Tuesday with my operating schedule, I was equally lucky on Friday. A case got cancelled, a couple of others got moved up and miracles of miracles, we got three major cases in and done by 4:30. I sprinted to the car with the intent of trying to make it to the Intro to Second series class if it was okay with my wife. She was tied up at one of the malls buying clothes for the kids so she said to go ahead. I strolled in to the studio and put my mat down. I was walking back to my mat after a quick run to the bathroom to put some water on my rug when Tim spotted me and said, "Hey, John. Weren't you at practice this morning?" As in, "You know this isn't how it's supposed to be done, why are you here?" but in a much nicer way. I suggested that the morning class didn't really count, that it had just been an "insurance" practice in case I didn't make it to the evening class. He just smiled. The evening class normally goes as far as Ardha Matsyendrasana. He will sometimes flesh the class out with various researching poses. We didn't do anything extra that night though, except for Eka Pada Bhekasana. I usually wish we didn't have to do that one because it doesn't feel like it does that much for me but does use up energy that I'd rather have available later on. That night though, I was glad to do it. Bhekasana has been one of the hardest poses for me to do as I've been getting over this tweak in my back. We didn't get to do Samakonasana or Hanumanasana, none of the groin openers, nothing else. We did use the extra time to do some chanting though. I hadn't done any of that in a while so that was nice. It also felt better to have done all of the finishing poses and to have a real long Savasana. I felt like I had practiced when we were done with that class, even though the actual practice time wasn't much more than what I had done that morning.
Today, I watched some of my kids' soccer matches and went to the Improv class in between games. I can't remember what all we did, I'm pretty bad about that. I think I'm probably not destined to be a teacher because I can't seem to retain sequencing very well. We did do a bunch of lunges and groin openers and several handstand variations. Impressively, she made everyone do the handstands at the front of their mats, not against the wall. I think that's what ultimately works best. The wall sometimes creates an unbreakable dependency.The wall is worse than nicotine, worse than Lay's potato chips, worse than heroin. I wasn't going to make any Improv requests today because I've been making requests my last few classes there. Not many suggestions came up though. So I decided to go ahead and throw in my six bits. I had been looking at some poses the night before so I indirectly made my suggestion by asking how many Dhanurasana variations there were. She ended up doing most of them. The ones we didn't do were either too challenging or not that interesting or didn't really fit in with the flow of the class. I was able to find ten of them, but I didn't have my copy of Light on Yoga to check for others. Of the ones that I could find, we did the following: Dandayamana Dhanurasana (a Bikram name for a variation of Natarajasana), Dhanurasana, Parsva Dhanurasana, Padangustha Dhanurasana, Eka Pada Dhanurasana (similar to Padangustha Dhanurasana but grasping only one foot, couldn't find any pictures) and Urdhva Dhanurasana. Other ones that I found that we didn't do were Akarna Dhanurasana A & B, Parivrtta Akarna Dhanurasana, Eka Pada Urdhva Dhanurasana and Parivrtta Urdhva Dhanurasana. I'm sure there's tons of others or at least many other sub variations but we did do the poses that come in the ashtanga sequence, except for Akarna, which is a bit lame.
I'll have to do more later. Have to scrub on a case.