Wow, it's been almost two weeks since I posted last. That flew by quickly. I had a bad week after that last post. Pissed off my wife, hurt my back when I practiced on a moon day, got out of work late and missed part of one of my few classes, locked my all of our car keys in my car, just a bad week all around. But, if you don't have a bad week every now and then, it's difficult to fully appreciate the good ones.
So far, this week has been better. I guess the heavy rains, which surprised most of us Californians, have washed away the bad vibes. On Monday, I was in LA for a meeting. I was done by 1:30 so I checked in at home and got the okay to go to class that afternoon in Santa Monica. I don't know for sure what it is, but the last three practices I've done there have been among my best. I think it's a combination of being able to practice in the afternoon instead of the early morning, practicing among a group of very capable strangers and, maybe most influential, doing all my postures. I think doing all of the the first series poses helps me do the second series foot behind the head poses much better. When I try to do Dwi Pada at home, where I usually just do my second series poses for Mysore class, it's always a struggle. I get into it on my own maybe half of the time and rarely on my first try. The last couple of times in the Yoga Works class, where I've always done all my poses, I've just slipped right into it. Badda bing, badda boom. I do get a bit more distracted at Yoga Works though. Too many people and practices to look at. I was definitely a lot stronger this time than the last time there. I made a point of eating a big meal the evening before and had a couple of rolls that morning. I gave Karandavasana four tries. I was going to just do three but I thought I felt a twinge of getting the move that I wanted to do on my third one, so after I dropped out of that one I gave it one more go. Nothing better, unfortunately. At some point, it's probably counter productive to keep trying when it's not working. When I was a student and a resident, when we had to place intravenous lines in a patient, they would give you up to three chances. If you didn't get it in by your third attempt, you were supposed to get someone else to make the next try. The frustrations that occur from not getting it apparently lead to a self fulfilling cycle of failure. So, if I'm struggling with a pose and I've got the time and the energy, I usually give a pose three, maybe four tries, then I move on. Driving back home after class really sucked. It took me an hour and fifteen minutes to just to get from Santa Monica on the coast to downtown LA, a distance of maybe 15 miles. It picked up as I turned south but, even in rush hour, the whole commute usually only takes me a little over two hours at the most. This was a little over three.
Tuesday evening I did the led First series class. I can't recall much about that class, which is not uncommon for me. Many classes for me do have some experiences, good or bad, that stand out for a while. If I don't get them written down though, they drop off of my memory board and are lost for good. Some practices, of course, don't really stick out. They're just more of me doing more of the same. They're good at the time but nothing to write here about.
Wednesday morning I had off so I got to go to the morning Mysore class. Other than doing a really weak Karandavasana, the stand out event of that practice for me was determining if I was going to do drop backs or not. I hadn't really had many opportunities to attempt them again. I had pretty much gotten over the tweak of my quadratus muscle, or whatever muscle was causing my lower right back soreness, that popped up in a led first series class the week before. By the time I got to do this Mysore class, my back bends were reasonably good. In a way, I was hoping they would be bad so that I wouldn't have to face the drop backs. I tried to do the drop back a bunch of times and chickened out each time. The first time I tried it, I got a little dizzy and had a headache once I stood back up. That screwed me over for the next few tries. I did all kinds of things to try and break the trend. I walked around the room, nearly tripping over a couple of people in the process, I went into Balasana, Uttansana, you name it, I tried it. I even called over one of the teachers to give me a visual spot and tell me if it was okay to release and go for the floor. I almost did it but couldn't. I finally managed to make it back after god knows how many tries (as much as I would have liked to, I didn't use my rule of only three attempts on this pose). The guy I was next to the time I was able to do them was again practicing nearby. When I first got up to make my attempts, he was nearing the end of his practice. By the time I managed to get all three drop backs and stand ups done, the other guy had finished all of his second series poses, his back bends and drop backs and was half way thru his finishing poses. It probably took me twenty minutes to work up the nerve to do three drop backs. They were piss poor too. I had poor arm extension on all of them and compensated by letting my body go out into a flatter angle. I've got to work on trying to get my arms extended out before i drop back. I'm just afraid that if I start out with them extended that I'll get dizziness if I arch back. Only way to find out is to try it I guess. Next time. Maybe.
Today, I went to the morning Improv class. Tim usually teaches that class but he's still out of town, watching the leaves turn colors in New England or something. The person who does the Saturday Improv class taught in his place today. I came out of class feeling as good as I ever have after a yoga class. All the right buttons got hit. I had made one of my typical arcane requests at the start of class, this time for a collection of poses from the ashtanga sequences that are linked only in that their names all fit into a common theme: poses named after birds. There really isn't any natural connection between most of these poses. They come from all four of the series, though most of them are in the Second Series. Given the number and difficulty of the poses and the complexity that would go into arranging a class around them, I originally hadn't intended to ask for them in this class. When Tim leads the class, he usually only lets each person ask for one pose. The teacher who gave the class today is very good at Improv but I didn't think it would be fair to ask for something like that in a situation where she is substituting for Tim. When I first came up with the idea, I had planned to ask her if we could do it some day in one of her Saturday Improv classes. But, she looked over at me today like she expected me to challenge her with something. I blocked on anything else, so I made the request, not expecting that we'd be able to do much of it. In all, there are seven poses named after birds, but several of them have multiple variations and the variations are usually harder than the base poses. She managed to do almost all of that, even some of the hardest ones, omitting only a couple of variations. I have to say, I don't know that anyone, even Tim, could have done a better job coming up with a class on the fly that incoprorated all of that and have it flow as well as it did. It was a request that could have easily resulted in a really choppy, hard, unrewarding class but she came up with a sequence of poses, prepatory poses, transitional poses etc., that just had a great combination of challenge, tempo and fun. I got worked in all the places that I really need to improve in. I even had an asana first. I was able to get into Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana on one side in the correct way, grabbing the toe, then rotating the arm through and overhead. I've always had to use a towel or a strap before. I don't want to gush too much, that's gotten me in trouble before, but I really respect what she did with the class. Today was one of those yoga high days for me. They come all too infrequently, so Ali, thanks for making that happen. I wish I could remember the sequence and be able to do it a couple of times each week. That would be great for me right now.