Monday, October 11, 2004

Yesterday, I got to do the led Second series class. I've managed to get to the point where I get tired but not exhausted in doing that class. I think I actually get more fatigued doing Tim's led First series class on Sundays than from doing the led Second series class. Hard to pin down why that is so. I can remember going to some of those Intro to Second series classes on Friday nights a while back and being totally gassed by the time we got to Parsva Dhanurasana. Not that long ago, I'd be so out if breath before trying to do Karandavasana that I would wait until Tim had helped almost everybody else in the room before trying it myself. There's still poses I can't do in the series, but exhaustion is no longer the thing that makes me unable. I guess there's a familiarity with the actions that develops over time, leading to less wasted energy.

In Karandavasana, I''m struggling right now with figuring out how to bend my hips after I've gotten my legs into lotus. It seems like I should be able to get into lotus, then flex at the hips and draw my knees close to my chest before I lower my hips and raise my head to enter the pose. Instead, I can't find whatever action it is that independently flexes the hips. As soon as I begin the flex, my hips start dropping down. If I bring the knees all the way in to my arms/armpits, my hips come all the way down, to my mat. If I could just get my hips fully flexed first, I seems like I could then work on gradually lowering and raising back up in a step-wise fashion. A new work in progress. The various strength movements and counterbalancing actions are difficult enough to work out on their own, but doing them inverted is even harder. I've never been that astute of a thinker in an inverted state. Couple those relative deficiencies with my lack on bandha control and the result is what I do now: my butt taking a one way, ever accelerating trip to the ground.

In terms of day-to-day variations, yesterday was a poor inversion day for me all around. I fell out of three of the seven headstands. I think that's a first for me. I still don't know what was different or what I did wrong. I was up there one minute, the next I was out of balance one way or another and on my way over and down. I did get into Dwi Pada Sirsasana on my own, a first for me, I think. I've done it on my own in Mysore class settings but I don't recall ever doing it in the led class. I'm not sure if it is "better"to be able to do one pose and not another, but somehow falling out of half of the headstands seems more incapable or more inept than not getting into Dwi Pada.

In the interest of sparing others the discomfort that goes with making the same mistakes that I do, I want to encourage any readers to not get up and get a big drink of water right before doing the closing sequence. I don't know why I did this. I've been pretty good about not taking rest breaks recently. For some reason, I got up for a bathroom break right after back bends. I guess I thought I deserved it. It wouldn't have taken too much forethought to realize that I still had all those squished up, inverted poses like Halasana, Karnapidasana and Pindasana to go yet. I learned the hard way once before to not get a drink before doing intense forward bends like Kurmasana, so I should have known to wait until I got through the last little bit. Uggh. I felt like I was doing that stomach pump thing that they do in the old movies when trying to revive somebody who had nearly drowned. That would have been the perfect topper for that class, to end up hurling all that water if it had gotten pushed up out of my stomach. Thank God for an intact lower esophogeal sphincter.

We went to a birthday party this weekend for our teacher's daughter. Lots of folks from the studio were there. One of the guys, who's wife also practices, asked my wife if I get into trouble a lot too. Apparently, I'm not the only one who can sometimes irritate his spouse just by going to practice. I was able to go to Mysore class on Thursday and Friday also, giving me four Mysore classes for the week. My wife missed several classes this week because my mom, who normally watches the kids in the morning so that she can get to Mysore, was out of town. In addition, the kids got out at noon because the afternoons were set aside for quarterly parent-teacher conferences or some such thing. As a result she couldn't go to any of the noon classes. She taught classes most of the evenings, eliminating any chance to practice in the evening. Hint to readers: where possible, avoid cheerfully pointing out how you managed to get to Mysore class almost every day when your wife hardly got to go at all. They don't like that.

I mentioned in my last post that I've been feeling some internal pressure to do drop backs, since many of my peers are now able to do them. I decided that I had to re-face this bugaboo and start doing them again. In the last year, I've been able to bend back reasonably well for me, certainly well enough that I should be able to drop back. That, of course, has nothing to do with my inability or unwillingness (same thing) to drop back. I don't try it anymore because I'm scared of injuring my spine if I screw it up. I did do it for a while, a very short while, but stopped after I messed up and landed on my head a couple of times. Not forcefully, no discomfort or anything, but just enough to confirm for me that there was danger there. Since I had many other things that I needed to be working on, I put dropping back into the closet and worked on everything else. I'm now re-considering the movement because I have to do it at some point and the people around me are able to do it. So, I'm letting my fear get too strong a hold on me perhaps. I really do dread doing it though. The notion that I was going to try it hung over me like a cloud for the entire class on Thursday. My best chance for doing it was in my first attempt. I arched back reasonably well. I could even see the back foot or so of my mat. But, as is often the case, as I inched towards that moment of the leap of faith, I couldn't let it go. I pulled out and stood back up. Needless to say, I didn't get any braver with my next few attempts. I just got more and more frustrated with my inability and my unwillingness to release and drop. After one of my bailouts, one of my friends who has been working on doing the same thing came over to me to say something. I was so frustrated and angry though, that I brushed her off and walked away, ostensibly to cool off a little . I just wanted to pout and feel sorry for myself. I felt even worse after acting like a jerk towards someone who wanted to help. The next day, I didn't do any better. I gave it three honest tries, even getting my arms partially extended downward from my starting position of the hands in prayer at my chest. Not happening. It just feels like I'm not far enough over and am too high to let go. It feels like I'll have to drop too far and will be going too fast to be able to stop myself. So now, next time, I have to face the same demons again. It really is like there are demons back there when I look back to my mat. Swirling around above my rug are Death, Quadriplegia, Life Long Ventilator Dependency, Abandonment to a Nursing Home, to name a few. I know I'm making much too much of a deal out of it. I am capable of doing it. There's no doubt in my mind that if I were placed in a life or death situation in which I had to drop back, I could do it, and I could do it cold. I just struggle with taking the risk in a lesser situation. It goes against my grain to take that kind of risk easily. It's interesting to compare my perceptions of the ordeal of dropping back with the views of those who struggle with just the opposite. They can drop back without a second thought but can't work up the nerve to let go of the earth and stand up. I guess part of the fun is stretching the mind. As I said before, looking back and contemplating the drop is about as much fun as a prolonged attempt at Samakonasana, but with mental discomfort instead of physical.

Since my week was so replete with practices, my wife advised me that I wasn't going to the Saturday Improv class. I was to go watch my kids' soccer matches. I went to my oldest two kids' matches. My youngest was playing at the same time as the oldest, so I missed hers. Apparently, their team did really badly. The other two did pretty well. My son got hurt a bit. Hurt himself actually. He was in as goalie for the half. He dove to try and make a stop and somehow ended up whacking his thigh just above his knee with his forehead. He was convinced that he had broken his leg but apparently had just gotten one of those deep thigh bruises. He did try to go back in one time but it started to hurt again so he came out for good. That boy knows how to milk something like that though. Even though he was walking to the car with just a slight limp, he was sure he needed to get the pair of crutches we had stowed away in the garage or somewhere at home. He actually took them to a birthday party for one of his teammates that evening. The party was at a Cyberstore, where all the kids can play on-line games together, like Battlefield 1942 or Counterstrike. When I came to get him, one of the other dad asked me about the crutches. "Yeah", he said, "He told us he was hurt, but he seemed to be doing that Dance, Dance Revolution game just fine." That's the video game where you step/stomp onto various spots on a pressure sensitive mat based on cues that are scrolling on a video screen in front of you. It gets going faster and faster with more and more complex moves the farther into it you go. Doesn't work too well when you're on crutches though. I guess once you're into the zone of it all, you can just put the pain aside. He still tries to convince us that he hurts but the limping seems fairly situational, like when he's told to take out the trash or do something else that he doesn't want to do. Chip off of the old block.

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