This has been a pretty good week for getting to practices, better than most. The only day that I haven't been able to practice so far was yesterday. I had hoped to get to the evening class yesterday but didn't finish in the OR until after 8PM, so it became a rest day.
Sunday's first series class was a fun one. I got to meet some folks who participate on the EZBoard ashtanga site who were in town for a meeting, Jumpthrusomeday and her husband. There were also a couple of other EZBoard ashtangis who I've known previously but hadn't seen in a while, JMS and Suburbfreak. Suburbfreak is the person who has put together an ashtanga blog aggregator place, Ashtangi.net. She doesn't get to come to practices at our studio much yet because of work and family conflicts but I've practiced with her a couple of other times, both at my studio and at the place she usually goes to. JMS has been in Mysore for the last four months and I think this was his first practice at the studio since he got back. Beyond those on-line contemporaries, there were several other people who I'd never seen before, so it was a lookie-loo's dream. I didn't spend much time gazing though. I glanced over a few times to see how one of the visitors did. He had the look of a yogi. He was thin, had tattoos, he just looked like he had bandhas. As it turns out, he could levitate with the best of them. I couldn't see enough to assess his overall ability, but everything I saw looked pretty rockin'. My practice was okay, nothing great. If there was a negative that stood out, it was that I didn't do very much in the way of trying to do jump backs. My shoulders felt tired or weak or something and I just wasn't getting my lower body elevated as well as I usually do, which isn't very elevated. I lost motivation to keep trying eventually and just did enough to get my knees to my hands and then rolled over the rest of the way.
I had to go to LA to help another surgeon do some cases on Monday. He offered to let me stay at his place in Santa Monica Sunday night so that I wouldn't have to get up at 4:30 to drive up there Monday morning. I wasn't going to do that initially. I had no problem driving up when I've had to do similar things in the past. When I was checking the Yoga Works web site to look for classes that I might be able to get to on Monday afternoon, I found that there was a Sunday afternoon Mysore class at their Beverly Hills studio. Hmmm. Yes, that would be two practices in one day, but if I did just second series in the Mysore class, it would be kind of like what I do when I do my entire practice in a Mysore class. Plus, I would get the chance to check out another Mysore class, to see what it was like, what the teacher and the group were like, get the beta so to speak. So, I got greedy and asked my wife if I could go up that evening. It was inconsiderate because it left her alone with the kids for the next two days. So, upon witnessing my hubris, the gods stepped in to put things right. I didn't get on the road until almost 2:00 PM. The class was scheduled to start at 4:00. I hit a traffic jam at what is normally the most open part of the drive up there, Camp Pendleton, not 15 miles from my house. "Oh crap", I thought, "This is going to take me three hours." It cleared up once we passed the immigration check point though and I was able to average almost 80 mph the rest of the way, on a Sunday afternoon no less. I got to the studio at about 3:30. Perfect. Just enough time to get in early, do a little pre-class stretching. I followed another guy in and went to the desk to pay my fee for the Mysore class. "Oh, sorry. We don't have a Mysore class here at all," I was informed. "But you have it on your web site." I whined. "Sorry, that schedule's out of date." Oh, I see. Well, that makes it okay then. "I drove all the way up here today just because you said you had this class," I groused. I knew it wasn't the desk people's fault, so I was trying not to project my anger at them. "Well, I can give you a coupon for a free class," the person at the desk replied. I didn't need a hand out. I needed a class. She added, "There is a Mysore class at the Santa Monica studio that started at 3:30. You could make it there for most of that." I didn't remember there being any Mysore class at the Santa Monica studio. I had checked that first when I was looking on the computer at home, but hey, the schedule was obviously not accurate so things just might still work out. I motored over to Santa Monica as quickly as I could, stewing over the fact that if I had known it was at the Santa Monica studio to start with, I would have been able to make it there for the entire class. I pulled into the SM studio lot a little after 4:00 and went up to pay for the class. "Oh, We don't have Mysore class at 3:30. It's a led first series class. By now they're probably through the standing sequence and maybe into the seated postures. It's too late to go in." It's hard to be a good yogi when you're really pissed off. I had now missed any chance at making to a class at either studio. I debated going all the way back to Newport beach to attend a 6:00PM led first series class that a friend of mine teaches. I didn't really need to do first series again, but if I drove all the way up there, I was definitely gonna go to some kind of class. I asked the desk people if the had a Newport schedule so that I could confirm the class before driving back there. "No, We don't have their schedule. It's not the same group." I guess it's not really Yoga Works, even though the studio was bought by Yoga Works and has the Yoga Works name on the door. Corporate ownership of yoga studios was clearly proving itself to be a user unfriendly approach. I decided against going back to Newport because I would have gotten to my host's home in Santa Monica way too late. The helpful desk people suggested I go to a level 2 & 3 class at the Yoga Works Main street studio. Very wary by now of any suggestions that I might get from people who work the desk at Yoga Works, I asked what a level 2&3 class was. That could mean anything. I had been to one of those at an Orange County studio a month or so ago and it was basically a Power yoga class. The desk person told me, "Well, it's a 2&3 class." Oh. Thanks. The teacher was supposed to be really good they promised me. So, I trooped over there to see where it was. The class didn't start for another hour and a half so I phoned my host to tell him I'd be late. Then I sat in the car and read some magazines until it was time to go in and pay. Fortunately, this class did exist. It was indeed a flow or power yoga class. We basically did standing poses and lunge stuff for the first hour. Then we did a few other poses, Hanumanasana in headstand, normal Hanumanasana and Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana. When all was said and done, I didn't feel as bad as I had when I drove up to the class. The teacher seemed very informed and experienced. I got a good stretch out of it and it was not just first series all over again, so I was happy to have had the chance.
The next day, we finished surgery about 2:30. I checked in with my wife. Since she was still pissed that I had blown off family to go up to LA early, I figured I'd head back home but she told me to go ahead and go to class. So, I went back to Santa Monica again for the afternoon Mysore class. The last time I had gone there, I found that people can go in and get started before the scheduled class start time of 4:00PM. This time, I went in about 3:20 and paid. There were already three or four people waiting to go in and set up their mats. We waited for the class that was in progress to finish at 3:30, then we went in. By then, there were probably at least 15 or 20 people there. Bunch of cut throats, these Santa Monicans. The past couple of times that I had been there, I noticed that some of the better practitioners tended to cluster down at the far end of the room. So, I put my mat down there. I wanted to see what they were doing. I got a bit of the sense that I was in somebody else's territory, maybe I made somebody practice away from their usual spot. I hope not. I wasn't trying to do that territorial disruption thing. There's just a few people I wanted to be able to see. One of them ended up across the room from me. I'm pretty sure I met and talked with her briefly when Guruji was in Carlsbad in 2000, but I can't be sure. She has appeared in print a couple of times, so I knew she had a practice. I hadn't ever seen her practice so I was hoping to learn from her if I got the chance to glance over from time to time. There was also another person who I had caught glimpses of when I had gone there before. This person had some things that stood out that I wanted to see if I had seen correctly.
Despite getting a prime viewing spot in the hottie corner of the studio, I didn't get to see too much. I was trying to do my practice as well as I could, all things considered. The all things was that I hadn't eaten all day, except for a slice of lemon loaf cake at Starbucks that morning. I also had only eaten once all day the day before, despite having done two practices that day. I didn't eat that morning. Once I learned I might be able to get to an LA class that afternoon, I didn't want to eat, figuring I could eat in the late afternoon once the class finished. Since I ultimately finished class around 7:30 PM, I was pretty starving. I found out that three practices in two days on a meal of ravioli and a slice of lemon loaf is hard to do. I was actually having a pretty good practice, in terms of flexibility and strength. I just started to lose energy eventually. I was feeling like a flashlight that is starting to lose battery power. Perhaps foolishly, I had decided to do all my poses, first and second. I didn't want to walk in as some stranger new guy and do just second series, since that could be perceived as presumptuous, especially when I am something less than facile at many of those poses. I meant to go faster in my first series poses than I ended up doing. I think I just feel into my normal rhythm and didn't notice how long I was taking, or how much energy I was using until I started to run out.
My first series poses, I did pretty well for me. I got a few adjustments in some of the early seated poses but I don't think I did anything poorly. One of them was to change how I was positioned in Marichy A, but I was misaligned, something that I usually do need help with in those poses. My biggest worry when I go to other places is that I don't want anybody to get a bad impression of my teachers from looking at my practice. I don't want them to think, "God, who's that guy's teacher?" So, I tend to try to keep a better form, a better focus, etc. When I'm doing an away practice. That attention to detail and the energy of being somewhere new tends to result in some pretty good practices, for me. I can't think of anything in the first series portion of that practice that I was unsatisfied with.
I started to hit the wall about three poses into second series though. Pasasana was great for me. I think I could have easily been adjusted into a wrist bind. I tried to get it on my own but I still can't quite keep all those things balanced and I started to tilt forward. I was happy with how the backbend postures went, especially since I had to do them without any of the research that I have become accustomed to. During Laghuvajrasana, I first started to realize that something was amiss physiologically. I started to get a big cramp in my foot as I came up. I guessed that maybe I was lacking some electrolytes from the poor diet but kept on going. In Kapotasana, I was able to get the soles of my feet on my own and, for once, was able to get my elbows around and down to the floor. I again did the spring up to handstand that we normally do after those three back bending poses, but the next time I go there I probably won't. Nobody else there does it. When I lowered from handstand down to Chaturanga, the teacher came over and said something to the effect of, "When you're in Chaturanga, your shoulders are supposed to be moving away from the floor." When I do a normal Chaturanga, I do try to do that. I have to admit though, that I've never really worried too much about landing in perfect Chaturanga form as I dropped to the floor from handstand. I did try to land in a more ideal form when I came down after doing the second one. Not sure how it looked but she didn't say anything more to me about it. When the teacher helped me with Supta Vajrasana, she made me come back up. I had been holding a towel that I had wrapped around my feet. "Why aren't you grabbing your toes?" she pressed. "Because I slip off," I answered. Seemed to be a simple and inarguable answer to me. Then I had to truthfully add, "It's easier too." So, she mad me grab my toes and go back. My fingers gradually slid away, as I knew they would. I was soaking wet and tired. She had me come back up. She suggested I try to do it by putting the towel over my feet and grasping my toes and the towel. She then looked at me and I think she realized that I was too spent and said, "Next time." I thanked her for her insight. My foot behind the head stuff was as loose as I've ever been. I got into Dwi Pada almost as easily as I could get into lotus. I was starting to take longer and longer rest breaks between poses though. I debated cutting it short. I had thought for some reason the class was supposed to end at 5:30 and it was already 5:05. I kept going though. I got my legs crossed pretty easily in Karandavasana but I had no hope whatsoever of limiting the drop down to the ground. I just didn't have enough gas left in the tanks to offer much resistance to gravity. After that I did my backbends and quickly finished since it was almost 5:30. As I lay back in Savasana, it struck me that nobody else seemed to be finishing. I asked the girl next t me when the class was scheduled to end. Turns out it finished at 5:55. So, if nothing else, I had plenty of time left for a long Savasana. I wish I had paid better attention. I could have slowed down the second series stuff that I kind of rushed through to get done in time.
I was really spent after that class. I got tired just walking down the stairs to my car. I got a pecan bar at Starbucks and a giant lemonade at Jamba Juice and I'm sure my glucose levels increased exponentially in the next half hour. It's probably a good thing that I didn't get to practice the next day. I got cramps in different places several times that day in the OR, so I don't think I was back to my typical state just yet.
In Mysore class today, I did the second series poses. I was happy to see I had maintained most of my range of motion. One area that I did have a struggle with was Samakonasana. I hadn't done it in a while and it felt like it. The sensation that I feel in that pose is hard to describe. It's not pain, like dropping a brick on your toe pain. It's kind of an intense anticipation of discomfort that seems to swirl around but not come completely into focus as pain. If it just outright hurt, I wouldn't be doing it. It's the edgiest feeling thing I can do though. The only that comes close, in terms of mental discomfort is the mental processes that I go through in those rare times that I have tried drop backs. That's also an exquisite torture for me. Speaking of which, a friend of mine who just got back from Mysore did drop backs on his own today. It killed me to see that. He has a very strong practice but I've always thought that we had comparable backs. Nothing horrible but neither one of us was ever going to be asked to demo backbends for the cover of Yoga Journal. When he left for Mysore a few months ago, neither one of us was dropping back. He had started standing up , which I had just figured out to do a month or so before. So, to see him easily dropping back today made me shudder. It meant that I had to do it too. In fact, Tim was standing right in front of him and gave him approving looks (I guess they were approving. With Tim, you can't always tell what his facial expressions mean). He then turned and looked right at me. That was a look I had no trouble interpreting.
Okay, time for bed. I'll have to proof later. Mysore class tomorrow, so the good fortune of the week continues.