This particular posting has been something of a saga in trying to actually get it published on the blog. I originally wrote it while on call on Friday. I lost the original when I tried to publish it. As soon as I hit the "publish" button, I got one of those messages saying the web page had expired or something to that effect. All that work gone. I eventually re-wrote it, but rather than risk losing it again trying to post it using the computer system at that hospital, I e-mailed it to myself to publish later at home. Unfortunately, when I checked my mail at home, it didn't get there. I think I forgot to put anything in the subject line. I think the mail service I used to check it at home blocks messages that have blank subject lines. Fortunately, as a back up, I e-mailed it to my main work address as well . I'm there today, finally copying and pasting the message to get it up, two days after composing it. As much as I want to re-do most of it now that I'm re-reading it, I'm going to leave it as it is, warts and all. It needs to be put to bed, it's had a long road to travel already. So here it finally is:
I'm spending my pre-holiday Friday on call at the hospital. It hasn't been too busy (yet), only one delivery to date. Since I hadn't put up anything in a week, I thought I'd go over my practices. I put together a posting that was fairly long, even by my standards. Unfortunately, something about the hookup here at work is screwy because all of that work disappeared as soon as I hit the "publish" button. After being pissed off for an hour or so, I decided to give it another go. One good result of the snafu is that I will probably make this try shorter and more to the point, less for readers to have to slog through, hoping to find a point.
I hadn't intended to stop posting for a whole week. One never intends to I guess, it just happens. This was an unusual work week for me, so that may have had something to do with it. I have been on call overnight every other night. After working for 24 hours, I'd be off the next day, giving me the chance to get in some yoga.. It's been kind of a binary existence: on/off, on/off; work/bending, work/bending. When I'm on call, sometimes that time is busy, sometimes it's slack. This week had a couple of days that were busier than usual. I usually don't take naps or go to bed early after I've been on call, even when I've been busy. This week, however, I went to bed an hour or two earlier than usual on a couple of occasions. I guess I'm losing that edge I once had.
Despite working a lot, I did get a fair number of chances to practice, four in all. Last Friday, I was due in the OR at 8:30, so I opted to go to a Mysore class at a different studio that begins at 6:00. I just did First series, with no extras. The need to rush-rush to get it in and get me out in time to get to work on time detracted from the practice vibe somewhat but it was good to be able to practice. The teacher is a former student of Tim's. He's an advanced practitioner and an experienced teacher. I've gone to a couple of other classes at his new studio and liked both experiences. I think it's not a bad idea to go to a class with someone other than your normal teacher from time to time. Working under someone else's hand provides a fresh perspective to your practice. Perhaps a different emphasis is given to an alignment, or a different posture than usual is adjusted, something will always be different about it. It helps draw you out of the potential staleness that can develop when you always do the same thing. It also hones your appreciation for what you do have. That has never failed to be the case for me.
One adjustment that this teacher gives me is a little unsettling. My left hamstring is just getting over a mild but bothersome strain. Since this is the second time I've tweaked it, and I don't know what I did either time to cause the pain, I'm a little antsy about pushing it. Parsvottanasana is a forward bend that I tend to go into gradually because I can feel the tension a lot in that hamstring. In this adjustment, as I go into Parsvottanasana, the teacher bends over me, from behind, and uses his body to apply weight to the forward leg. The effect is to create an eccentric contraction of the hamstring, in which the muscle that is being stretched is also contracting. Eccentric contractions are supposedly very good at strengthening muscles but they have some risk of injuring the muscle if not carefully done. A friend of mine who practices in our studio was injured doing an eccentric contraction in a different posture. I think he had surgery yesterday. I was already gun-shy about my own hamstring and knowing about that injury made me even more skittish, so it took a lot of concentration to not tense up as the guy pressed down on me. The adjustment came out fine, but the edginess of it cast a bit of a pall on the rest of the practice.
That practice, while feeling good to do, was the only one of the week that I didn't come out of with that "Ashtanga high" that occasionally happens. In general, my practices the last couple of weeks have been very positive. The relative frequency of practice has been really telling. In most aspects of my practice, I'm approaching levels that are near my better efforts. There are plenty of things that I'm still not up to speed on, but the trend has been so forward that it's been all positive reinforcement. I came out of practices this week in that positive mode that makes the rest of the day breeze by and makes you count the time until you can go again. There's a feeling of confidence and enthusiasm. Despite having made no progress in some areas, jumpthrus for example, the general feeling I've had is one that even those kinds of achievements are feasible. The "feel good" aura is good enough to almost be foreboding. One minute you are thinking how things are going great. The next, you envision something slipping in to mess it all up, maybe an injury, some conflict or another that takes your out of practice for a while. Once you get into that groove, you don't want to lose it. It's called grasping, I think.
I went to the led First series class on Sunday. I didn't get off of work in time to make it to the led Second series class. Knowing that I was going to do First series on Sunday, I guess I could have done my Second series poses when I did that Mysore class at the other studio on Friday. In recent years, it has been traditional to do First series on Fridays for Mysore practice. Since it was a new place for me to practice at, I didn't want to vary that much from the traditional. If I had had enough time, I would have done all of First and then done my second series poses but there wasn't. I only had time to do one series or the other. Even though I don't get a lot of chances to do my second series poses, I didn't mind at all. It led to an even better First series practice on Sunday. Nothing in particular stood out as great, it all just seemed reasonably good. I guess Supta Kurmasana was less than great. I was able to bind okay, though a bit on the shallow side. It was one of those where the bind is of the fingertips over each other. The kind of bind that slowly and inexorably pulls apart the longer that you stay in the pose or if you try to do much wriggling around to get your ankles crossed. I was able to get my feet crossed on my own. By the time Tim came over to get my feet crossed behind my head though, my hands were getting pretty weak. When he lifted my feet, my hands 'sproinged' apart. I mentioned that to Tim. He let my feet go and re-bound my hands. But then he walked off. I guess he didn't want to keep going back and forth between hands and feet, adjusting one only to have the other pop apart again. Next time. Maybe.
The two Mysore classes I had this week were both great. I did my usual Mysore routine, which is my second series poses along with sundry research poses to help me with Kapotasana and the foot behind the head poses. One of these days I'll go back to doing all of first and my second poses. That's great for building strength and endurance. For now though, I'm happy to focus on getting better in the second series poses. On Tuesday, I did the handstand that we do after Kapotasana. While up, I tried to do the move into Padmasana and then the lower down to Urdhva Kukkutasana. I was able to get my legs into Padmasana, I think only the second time I've ever been able to do that. I was in a really shallow Padmasana though and I lost the balance as soon as I tried to lower down. On Thursday, I was hoping to be able to get right back into Adho Mukha Padma Vrkshasana and maybe land the descent. Thursday's class was more crowded than classes have been recently. We had mats down the entire middle of the room, putting us mat to mat, not just on our sides but front to back as well. Practicing right in front of my mat, there in harm's way, was Tim's wife. I gave the handstand into lotus thing a couple of quick tries but didn't want to push it. There's no gain in landing on your teacher's wife's head.
The inversion risk thing came into play again at Karandavasana time. While I haven't gotten much closer at landing the pose, I have at least started to get back some of my ability to not fall out of the pose as easily as I was doing when I wasn't getting to practice much. I've also gotten less tired by that stage of the practice, allowing me to make more tries and to make stronger attempts with each try. My first go up in Karandavasana on Thursday was not a great one though. I started to lose my balance as I tried to shift my hips to get into lotus. I almost teetered over towards Carol, Tim's wife. I squeaked out a warning to her but managed to drop down to my head, averting a tip over. I looked up and saw her kind of grinning at me, as if to say, "OK, now I know to watch out for you." I did better on my next few attempts. After failing to go all the way into the pose a couple of times, I tried to do a partial move and just lower my legs down to horizontal then raise them back up. I almost made it back up but unbalanced myself and fell out of it. Being able to control even that much of a lower is a big deal for me and figuring out how to raise back up is even more so. I wanted to go right back up and try it again to see if I could get the move but Tim came by to assist me into and out of the pose. "No, no, no," I pleaded, "Not yet." He shook his head and wandered off to help someone who was more receptive. I tried a couple of more times but I guess I had shot my wad by that point as I never got back to the point where I could try to do the move again. The next time that Tim looked my way I nodded for him to come on over. After helping me do the pose, he said, "You are very stubborn sometimes." "Not as stubborn as my body," I muttered. He then added, "Being stubborn isn't enough. With Karandavasana, it will only get you half way."
I recently resumed doing the Viparita Chakrasana sequence of tic-tacs. Although I've only done them about four or five times since restarting, it feels to me that I'm doing them better than when I last did them, back in December. The first couple of times I dropped over after restarting it, I came over pretty hard and loud. My more recent tries have been much softer and quieter, at least from my perspective. Last week I asked my wife how they sounded and she said, "Oh yeah, they're loud." But she was talking about the ones that Tim helped me with. I think I let him take over too much of the doing and I didn't control the drop well enough. The ones I had done on my own before that were much quieter, but she hadn't noticed those. She just recently has started back with doing Viparita Chakrasana as well. Since her surgery for her breast cancer involved dissection of the armpit to remove lymph nodes, she hasn't tried to do that pose until now. I'm sure the first time was nerve wracking, not knowing what would happen to the repair as she came over from handstand. She said it felt fine once she had done it though. Since she is now getting back to a more normal place in her practice and in her life, I thought I'd take the chance of needling her a little, something I'd never do if I thought she wasn't at full speed. When Tim helped her drop over, after her feet landed, I called over in a faux-Tim voice, "Oh, very loud!" The landing wasn't loud at all, but I thought it was a little louder than mine. Seeings how she said my landings were loud, I thought she was fair game now that she was back in the arena. Fortunately, I don't think she heard me poking fun. At least she said she hadn't when I asked her later on. I think if she had, I would have been dead meat. I'd like to think she's back to a place where I can make jokes with her. After such a dark time of getting diagnosed and then treated with surgery and then chemo, she's now coming back into her former self. You can see it on a daily basis, in her practice and in everyday aspects of life as well. She still has a bit more radiation treatment to go, but even with the skin breakdown that she's getting with that, sort of like a second degree sunburn, she's feeling much, much better than she has in months. I'll hold off on the joking in class though. That's something she would have always smoked me for.
Tomorrow, I should get to go to Improv class. Sunday I work again, but Monday is a holiday, so hopefully I'll get to go to Mysore class again. After class tomorrow, I get to go over to my mom's place and help her take her dog to a rescue program to hopefully get it adopted. She's got a young, very strong and very energetic Boxer. He is way too powerful for her. While he is very exuberant and loving, at some point he is going to accidentally injure her. She had accepted that he needed to find a better home. Her tiny townhouse was not the best place for a dog of that size and energy level either. She had given him to a neighbor who asked to have him but he brought the dog back this week. I guess he wasn't ready for the energy either. So, it's very upsetting for my mom to go through this. I'm sure she feels she is in some way abandoning the dog. Nothing could be further from the truth, but that's how we think I guess. Hopefully, the local Boxer rescue folks can find a good home for him.