Thursday, May 31, 2007

Blood on the Mat

At practice, my teacher will watch me sometimes struggle over and over with something I'm not getting, getting more and more aggravated, swearing sotto voce, eventually wearing myself out. Then he'll wander over and remind me that to achieve a state of yoga, one needs to act or perform with a state of dispassion, with non-attachment.

Yesterday, I was doing my umpteenth try at Karandavasana. After toppling over once again, I noticed a smudge of red on my rug. Hmm. That's blood. My rug had worn a raw spot on my elbow, enough that I was bleeding a little. That's cool, that's a mark of valor, right? I'm not too attached, see, my elbow is becoming detached.

Yesterday was a do over day. I couldn't get in a number of the second series poses on my first attempt. Bakasana B, Dwi Pada, Tittibhasana B, Karanda, all took at least two tries to get into, some of them a lot more. That got old real quick. I had this new plan where I would stop practice whenever I got to a pose that I couldn't do. The down side was that I was eventually able to do each of them, so I had to keep going. Karanda was the least successful. I'm satisfied if I can land it, but once again, my landing consisted of bouncing off of the ground and rebounding back up onto the arms. Not one of the more accepted approaches. Tim even came over to remark that he'd never seen that particular strategy before. Just goes to show how little he watches me. I've done that a bunch of times.

I did get towed back into my ankles for Kapotasana but it wasn't as easy and carefree as the other times. Not sure what was different but I had a lot more compression in my low back as the hands got pulled back. No pain and I haven't developed soreness afterwards but it was definitely at the edge of what I was willing to go for.

I may get a practice tomorrow but probably not. I work tonight so I can't get there until 9:00. My wife made me a doctors appointment for 11:00 though, so even if I do get in an abbreviated practice, I'll be going to the doctor all sweaty and what not from practice. I don't know what the appointment is for, I think it could be a general physical. I had one of those once and I was fine, so why do I need to do another one? It's about time for me to have to start doing all of those health maintenance tests, like regular prostate exams, colonoscopies, all that good stuff. Can't wait.

Laxboy didn't play and his team got beat pretty good. They had to call a goalie up from the fifth grade team to play in his place. The kid got used pretty good. There's a huge physical difference between fifth graders and eighth graders, so I thought the kid was heroic for even agreeing to do it. Hopefully Jake will have healed enough to be able to play on the east coast tournament he has in a couple of weeks. He's milking the injury for all he can in terms of missing school but we're not going for it any more.

Have to go to sign out rounds and pick up the beeper. I have coverage for the ER tonight, so no telling how things will go

Monday, May 28, 2007

Today, I got almost as far on my own (after research) as Iyengar in the bottom left picture. Then, with assistance, I got as far as the bottom right pic.

I knew going into the back bending part of second that I was going to be able to get to the heels. The feel was there. Everything prior to that had been going about as good as I can do it. I was real close in Samakonasana. Never been that close. My calves were down. When I finally sat back and let my butt go down, my legs looked pretty close to 170 degrees. It was a good one. I got down on both sides in Hanumanasana. That one, at the risk of calling in hamstring jinxes, is gradually coming back. I also had my best pasasana to date. I got a finger or two up to my wrist on the first side and on the other side, I was barely off the floor with one heel.

It should be clear by now, that great for me is often not even doing poses correctly. It's just doing it or them better than I usually can. Some classes are high points because I manage to do just one thing better than I ever have, finally clearing some long standing physical or psychological hurdle. Today, I was hitting my all time best on a number of the second series poses.

After rocking thru Kapotasana, I let myself think ahead to Karandavasana. If I could just land Karandavasana, never mind anything else, this would by far be my best class ever. Needless to say, I plateaued. I got Bakasana B, but it took me a few tries. I did an acceptable Dwi Pada Sirsasana but my legs slipped down my arms when I tried to vinyasa out and my feet hit the floor before I could get them back.

When I got to Karanda, I sat for a second and tried to get the feel back. To no avail. I didn't really get the landing. I hit my arms but slipped off. I was able to bounce my knees and snug the lotus back onto the arms. The form was sucky though. I had to be forcefully pulled up from the tuck and couldn't even vinyasa out. Oh well. I was still completely stoked about the class. I decided to give Karanda another try so that I could at least try what Jason long ago recommended. I wanted to do a partial lower and try to get it back up. Since my lowers to date have barely been in control, I don't have a good sense of when my knees get to the horizontal or even lower. I need to work on getting them down as far as I can while staying in control and then get them back up. I asked the teacher to tell me when I got them to the horizontal plane. I did get them there but that is right past the edge of where I was able to control it and I blew out of it. At least now I have a point of reference to lower to and come back from.

Jason was back at practice today. The guy is tougher than woodpecker lips. He had his other knee operated on a few days ago. Back in the studio with sutures still in his knee. He was behind the pillar so I couldn't see much of him but I think he was doing a lot bandha work. I looked up at one point and saw the person across the room from me paused in mid drop back, looking over at Jason with a quizzical look on her face. I glanced over to see what caught her attention. He was in this weird hand stand with his operated leg extended up but his other leg held out to the side in this weird bent chicken wing kind of position. Ardha Kukkupada Vrkshasana?

My son managed to totally wreck his lacrosse season yesterday. He was over at a friend's house and somehow managed to open a slice in his lower leg that took 18 stitches to close. He's his school team's only goalie and their first playoff game is tomorrow. His competitive club team is scheduled to make a trip to Maryland to play in a tournament against the east coast kids the second week in June. That's when his stitches are due to come out. He had also gotten a friend of his to join him at the Johns Hopkins lacrosse camp the week prior to the tournament. I don't know if he'll be able to do any of that now. "But dad, I didn't mean to." God, I hate those words.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

I went to the Sunday morning led second series today. It wasn't the comfort fest that last week's led first series was. Tim started off by asking if anyone knew what significance today had in Christian religions. Not one person had a clue. Buncha heathens all of us. He informed us that today was the Feast of the Pentecost. When we all nodded like unknowing fools, he went on. It's the fiftieth day after Easter and ten days after the Ascension. Yeah, yeah, sure, I remember learning about that once, I think. And? Having been to Tim's classes for a while, I knew there had to be some kind of practice related hook coming for him to go into this kind of detail. He went on to explain that on this day, the Holy Spirit came down and baptized the apostles. With fire. Oohhh. Snap. We get it now. We're gonna sweat today.

Tim used to do a number of backbending research poses before doing Kapotasana. Sometime, a year or so ago, that fell by the wayside and he would just bull through Kapo, even when people requested research. Today we did the research. That was fine by me. I've been trying to get a deeper Kapotasana. The only way I'm going to get close to the heels right now is if I've done the research for the shoulders and groins. Without doing research right before the pose, I think I can get to mid foot, maybe on a really good day getting up to the joint that sticks out below the little toe. With research, I can sometimes get a finger joint or two onto or over the heel. My first attempt today, without assistance, was disappointing, mid foot at best. I went into it a second time when I knew he'd have to come over and help. He got my fingers over the heels. Still a far cry from the ankle grab I had last week but I'll take it.

Most of the rest of the class was acceptable. I dithered a bit too much before Bakasana B, so right as I was launching he called five. I also wasn't real stable in Karanda. Both of the times that I tried it on my own, I over tilted right after I got into lotus and had to come down.

We had done a fair number of forearm balances in the Saturday Improv class, so maybe my shoulders were tired. Who knows? Today felt like one of those days when I'd have enough center to be able to lower my knees down with control, but I never got that far. The Improv yesterday was taught by one of my favorite teachers from when I first started at the studio, Kim Toledo. She's been out of the loop for the last several years raising two small children. I've been to classes where she practiced, but this was the first time she's taught a class that I've been to in a long time, maybe four years. She has the practice that I have always most wanted to emulate. She is extremely graceful in her movements, something that doesn't typify my practice at all. Even when she hasn't been around, when I'm doing stuff and trying to make it better, I think of how to make what I do seem more fluid, like her practice.

The Improv was a fun one. She did the request approach. Nothing too wild was asked for. Someone did ask for Natarajasana, which I hate. I'd much rather work on doing eka pada raja kapotasana or raja kapotasana than trying to get the foot while balancing in Natarajasana. Too much going on at one time.

Friday was a full practice for me. I got there early, right when pranayama was starting. I ended up having about two and a half hours to do stuff. I did first and my second poses and as much research as I could fit in. I ended up, once again, only doing three simple backbends and blowing off the rest of the backbending sequence and closing poses. I had worked pretty hard and was feeling tired and just didn't want to push on. I don't think Tim adjusted me once until I got to Bhekasana. That pose is kind of a given adjustment, if he or the other person are anywhere near. If you want to dodge an adjustment in it, you have to be crafty in timing when you go into it so that you can be done before they get over to you. Earlier, when I was starting back on my second poses, I wanted no part of an adjustment there. Now things are less melodramatic and most of my former range of motion is coming back, so I didn't mind the help. Tim helped me with my first Kapotasana. I usually do one go with out any research. Then I do all that backbending research crap I listed in the previous pose. I then give it an 'after' try. The research is usually good for a shift in hand position of at least half of my foot length. Tim came over to help and the other adjuster, Andrew, came as well. Andrew is the one who got me to my ankles last week. They were going to wishbone me. Tim pulled me in enough to get my fingers securely over the heels, but not thumbs and not even close to the ankles. When I came up, I wanted to say something to Andrew about having lost so much distance in just one week, but I didn't think Tim would take it the right way. In the past, like just last summer, to get my fingers over my heels would normally have been an alert the press kind of an accomplishment. Whining about not grabbing ankles would have been the epitome of hubris on my part.

I did land my Karandavasana. Twice. Don't know if I've ever done that before. The first time was a little crash-landie, but I was in there and stable. I held it and waited for someone to notice. No one did. I cleared my throat. And waited. I cleared my throat loudly. And waited. And then I gave up and rolled out onto my butt. "What a waste" I thought, "No way I'm gonna be able to that again." I had to give it another try though. As my knees came onto my arms, I almost rocked backwards to lose it but but managed to get my weight forward and settled in. By then, Andrew had come over and he helped me back up. I guess my arms had had it because my elbows splayed out and my hands slipped inward, making stability in Pincha hard. I held it Pincha just long enough to dismount and finished up the last two poses. All in all, it was apractice I was quite happy with. I did a lot and was pretty worked.

Well, one of those endless 'details about practice' postings. I have to go check a wound that's bleeding so I can't fill in with interesting anecdotes or stories about my kids and whatnot. Next time.

Friday, May 25, 2007

When Enough Just Isn't Enough

At various times, I do these extras. I doubt I ever do them all. When I'm only doing first or only doing second, I tend to do most of the ones that go with each series. Lately, if I'm doing both first and second, I do less. I don't have enough energy to do most of them. Some of these poses I don't really DO, I just attempt to do. Many of the names are sanskrit neologisms, made up names. I know I've gotten some of the names wrong because I can't remember exactly what name Tim made up for them.

1) samakonasana and hanumanasana, after the prasaritas
2) press up to tuck handstand vs do bakasana A, after utkatasana
3) eka pada bakasana A, after virabhadrasana B
4) viranchyasana B, after janu C
5) handstands, after each navasana
6) urdhva kukkutasana C, after garbha pindasana
7) kandasana, after baddha konasana (done only occasionally)
8) press up with wide spread legs, after supta konasana

9) virasana, ardha virasana, urdhva moola ardha virasana, supta virasana (in our studio, virasana/supta virasana is a normal part of second series, the part of the korunta eaten by the ants), done before bhekasana
10) back bending research (usually done after the first attempt at kapotasana)
10a) adho mukha pincha mayurasana
10b) adho mukha pincha mayurasana with extended arms, A, B & C
10c) salamba viparita dandasana (viparita dandasana with feet against the wall)
10d) salamba eka pada viparita dandasana (one foot on the wall, the other on the floor)
10e) viparita dandasana
10f) eka pada viparita dandasana
10g) salamba eka pada raja kapotasana (lunge with the forward leg, the knee of the back leg on the floor against the wall and lower leg up on the wall, hands reaching back to the foot)
10h) urdhva hasta raja kapotasana (lying on floor with the lower abd/chest against the wall, arching back, possibly bending legs and grasping knees)
11) urdhva kukkutasana D (urdhva kukkutasana from handstand), done after the ashtau up from kapotasana
12) poorna matsyendrasana, done after ardha matsyendrasana
13) eka pada sirsasana research, done after matsyendrasana
13a) adho mukha eka pada raja kapotasana
13b) parsva adho mukha eka pada raja kapotasana
13c) parivrtta adho mukha eka pada raja kapotasana
13d) supta eka pada raja kapotasana (lie on back and bring bent knee to same shoulder and foot of the bent knee to the other shoulder)
14) kasyapasana, sitting up into eka pada sirsasana (the typical entry for eka pada sirsasana at our studio)
15) sayansana, done after pincha mayurasana (rarely)
16) vrshikasana, done after karandavasana, from forearm base
17) urdhva sirsasana, after ardha sirsasana
The Who am I Meme

1. I grew up in Oklahoma, but I've never worn a pair of cowboy boots or owned a cowboy hat, I hate country music and have ridden a horse maybe four times in my life.

2. I can do a caesarean section in less time than some people need to do a circumcision.

3. I've taken off in a lot more airplanes than I've landed in.

4. I'm a convict.

5. I've only had white cars. Ever.

6. I have a history of rodent abuse.

7. I once worked in the zoo.

8. While I know many people and am friendly with almost all of them, I have few friends.

9. I've always wondered about number 8.

10. My love for my wife and my kids is enough for me. Screw number 8.

yes, that's ten. i don't like to obey the rules that much (#11). as noted in other places, most blogs that i read have already done this or have been asked, so the chain slows down here. I wonder how back trace-able these meme things are? can you actually walk your way back thru the different layers of tag lists to find the originator?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

have to give this embedding thing a try. here's a video i hadn't seen yet. it has one of tim's first yoga teachers, gary lapodota. they're doing the knee poppers from fourth series and raja kapotasana. if anyone can make out what guruji says after he tries to cram tim into raja kapotasana, post it in the comments. my audio is pretty sucky

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Cure for What Ails You

Led first series. Who knew? No research. No added-on 'fun' poses. Just the basics. It worked for me anyway. Had a really good class Sunday morning. It all felt quite do-able. Granted, I got there an hour early. I got off of work at 8:00 and class wasn't until 10:00. The kids were fine at home. So, I went to the studio early. I watched the folks in the second series class do some of the harder poses. Then I sat down and did my little pre-class stretch out.

THe class wasn't too crowded. Tim is away on one of his weekend workshops, to Nova Scotia this time. As the teacher who led our class said, "Wherever that is." When he's away, the numbers drop off a lot. The room was nice and warm though, thanks to the efforts of the second series class. There were a number of people I've never seen before. And they all seemed to have strong practices--Bhujapidasana to Tittibhasana to Bakasana capabilities.

For my practice, there was nothing I felt bad about. It all felt pretty good. I finally managed to get a legitimate Supta K. Not a toe tucker but a legitimate ankle cross. It took me a little bit of futzing about to get into it but , i finally got it back.

Have to keep this post on the short side. I've been called to the OR.

Friday, May 18, 2007

What Is the Point

Today was so bad, if I wasn' there, I woulda left.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


No practice today. I did go yesterday. That made it six in a row. Just like the big kids do every week. I opted to just do first series. Mostly, I was being lazy. I could have gone on to do second. I finished first series and still had about 50 minutes to go. I had worked the night before though and just didn't feel like doing everything. I decided to use the remaining time and energy to work on back bending.

After each back bend, I made myself walk it in further. After the first couple of hand shifts, I had to start lifting my heels to be able to get the hands in closer. I could eventually get the heels back down. To do so, I had to really lift up through my shoulders. It's was getting pretty edgy by number 6 though. I don't think I was able to get the heels down on that one and there was a lot of compression building in my lumbar area. I wanted to know how close/far my hands were from my heels. I can't see my heels, so I can only presume. It "feels" like they'd be close but that kind of thing is usually wishful thinking. Prior to that last attempt, I checked to see where on my mysore rug my feet were positioned. When I did the back bend, I looked to see where my hands were (I have a striped rug, so I can use the different colored stripes to mark where I end up). They were about a foot apart I guess.

Sensing that was as far as I was going to get on my own, I did the unassisted stand ups and drop backs then had the teacher help with the assisted variety. I usually don't do the assisted ones, primarily due to sloth but also because I haven't felt they would add much to what I was doing on my own. When I did them yesterday, I felt as loose there as I ever have. After the last drop back, I tried to move my hands in more, hoping the teacher would get the hint that I was trying to get in position to go for an ankle. I had to lift way up on my toes. The teacher said, "You're getting really close" but did not try to get me in the rest of the way. That told me I wasn't really that close. When I came up, I asked him how close I was. He held his fingers about a foot apart. Crap. I was hoping for a few inches.

In reading some blogs, I've learned that there are those who can grab their ankles in back bending but who don't claim to have a great kapotasana. I've even seen a few people who had what I initially thought were very flat back bends be pulled in to their ankles. Given that, I understood that ankle grabbing from urdhva dhanurasana does not carry having an incredibly bendy back as a pre-requisite. I figured if I could be pulled in to my ankles in Kapotasana, surely I could get my ankles from backbend too. Not yet anyway.

I was able to get my supta K. Sort of. I usually bind my hands first, then go for the ankle cross. I guess I was so worked up about getting that left foot under the right that I totally forgot to do the hand binding. I got the feet in, mentally thought to myself, "Yeah!", then realized my hands were lying loosely on the floor. I tried to get them together but there was no way. So, I had to uncross my feet and go back and do the hands first. By that time, the teacher was there and I guess he presumed I was incapable, so he grabbed my hands and pulled them in to bind. I couldn't really just let go and then rebind on my own, so I kept them together and tried again to get the feet crossed. I did get my left toe under, just the toe but that's enough to count. Given the hand assist, technically I still haven't gotten it on my own though.

The whole practice felt much more like the one I had last Wednesday, lots of ease. Most of the poses were on. When I did the Samakonasana and Hanumanasana sequence that we do after the Prasaritas (samakonasana, hanumanasana right side, samakonasana, hanumanasana left side, samakonasana), I got pretty close for me on Samakonasana. I was able to touch down on both sides in Hanumanasana. Usually I can get down on the left but the right is still very fearful for me. It always will be. I hurt my hamstring doing Hanumanasana on that side at a time when I had been getting all the way down and even folding forward without too much in the way of histrionics. Losing some of the fear definitely makes the whole practice more peaceful. It's been a while since I had that post-practice calmness. Still no euphoria, but I'll take the calm.

Had to work early today and I am on tonight, so no practice for a while. Tomorrow's screwed secondary to voodoo. I might have a chance to go on Thursday and/or Friday though. This is starting to add up, $15 a shot. I wonder if I can convert to a monthly rate for this month. Then I could go the rest of the month for free. Or maybe that would jinx me. Maybe I should just keep paying the daily rate and keep doing first series and I'll get to practice as much as normal people.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Start Making Sense

If anybody 'gets' this yoga stuff, clue me in. My best 2nd series practice this week was the one I did on Wednesday. Prior to that try, I hadn't done second in months. I had really only been doing all of first for maybe three weeks. I did a combined practice that day, so I was relatively low on gas going into the second series poses. And yet, I did great, for me. I did fine in Pasasana, where before I was sometimes barely getting fingertips, I did an ok Kapotasana, I landed Bakasana B, I bound in Tittibhasana B and I lowered into Karandavasana with a measure of control. Life is good, no?

Today, after two good nights of rest, I went to led second series. Given the surprisingly capable outings I had had in the days preceding, I had no reason not to expect at least a middlin practice. Instead, it was my worst second series this week. I couldn't land bakasana B, but I don't have that back completely, so no panic buttons there. I did the Eka Pada Sirsasanas but the depth of the leg wasn't what it had been--bad omen for Dwi Pada. Sure enough, for the first time this week, I couldn't keep both legs up. Later, in Tittibhasana, no binding. That was the cruelest cut. I had thought I had lost enough weight that I didn't have to deal with that demon anymore. I couldn't get any more than one digit to interlock and was too sweaty to be able to pull that any further in to get a better bind. Landing Karanda is an increasingly fading memory. Today I stayed up in the pose just fine, but couldn't get any levity on my descent. Lots of knee to arm impacts, leading to some especially nice bruises on my left arm and elbow. That's always good. If I can't do it, I can at least have some wounds to show for it. The rest of it was nothing great, nothing bad. There must be a cosmic expectation meter out there that ensures inverse outcomes commensurate with how people think they will do in yoga. That's what I get for breaking my rule about not doing second again until I can get my first series poses back. Tomorrow, back to first.

Unless I have to take Jake to the doctor. He's cultivating a chest cold. Hurts too much to cough deeply enough to clear his throat. Having some trouble breathing. Of course, there's no way he could manage to go to school tomorrow. Too sick. No problem with doing two different lacrosse practices today, in addition to Pop Warner football tryouts.

I heard that Jason and Tara, a wonderful couple who practice in our studio, are not just going to Portland for six months soon, they are moving there for good. I also heard, less officially, that another couple, again both highly skilled ashtangis, may be moving away too. That's a huge power vacuum. Those four have amazing practices, smooth, powerful, very light. All of them inspire. Things do change.

I started classes at Tim's in June, 2000. My wife and I had a talk the other day about how many, or how few, people are still practicing regularly at Tim's that were there back when we started. Many of the old timers, the studio 'seniors', have developed a degree of facility in their accrued time with Tim. Most of the others I can think of have moved to the top of the skills heap, many of them doing third or being quite capable second series people. In the same time frame, I have managed to achieve a remarkable degree of stasis. I think I got my first second series pose after I had been going to the studio for a couple of years, something like the Fall of 2002. I slowly picked up poses over the following months and years, getting my last pose, Nakrasana, almost two years ago. And I do it well. I think anyway. I just can't do the harder preceding poses all of the time, and have never come close to doing Karandavasana. Probably just as deciding, I don't have the life that is conducive to progression. I think sometimes I am perceived as not wanting to do the work. There is probably an element of that in me, but my perspective is that I am slow because I don't have the opportunity to do the work. When I am there, I do work at it.

I think one of the attractions of Ashtanga for many of us is the open endedness of the asana challenges. No matter what you manage to achieve, there's always the next pose and the next series of poses. I think that has passed me by. I'm reaching, or have reached my asymptote, the point of no improvement, no progression. Then what? I know the inevitable age related regression in ability is ahead of me. But, barring injury, I think that is still a few years away. I'm doing some of my postures as well as I've ever done them, even the some of the more challenging ones. Answering what's next will be something of a mind shift. Can't look at it anymore as what's next posture-wise. If a wall is permanently hit, what do you do next? Pranayama? Meditate? Just do what I do now until I can't anymore and then do what I can then? Wait for the next go round? Well, I guess I could start doing some ab work.

Hope everyone had a nice Mothers' Day. I didn't do much more than get some flowers for my wife. But they were some really nice peonies. You almost never see peonies in florist shops here, so I jumped on them. She bought the gift she wanted a week or so ago. There's a general consensus in my house that's it's better if I'm not involved in the shopping. Going out to eat? No one likes to do that anymore. She spent the day with my youngest at a movie, while my oldest sat at home nursing a headache and watching TV and while I sat watching Jake chase a bunch of balls and whack his buddies with a stick all afternoon. Sick lad that he is. Probably not her most rewarding mother's day ever. We all do love her, so maybe that helps. Sometimes not having to be doing stuff is enough of a gift. That's usually all I ever want for Father's day but I'm probably in the minority in that respect.

At work once again tonight. That's why I get to have a chance, just a chance mind you, to practice tomorrow. I've got a feeling it's not going to happen though. The yoga gods don't normally allow me six in a row. I'll probably be doing pediatric clinic pranayama with the jakester. Have to get it done in the morning, if possible. Wouldn't want him to miss afternoon lacrosse practice. Cough.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Shot My Wad

Have to write something. Too much yoga to not say anything. Four days now. Mysore the last three and the Saturday morning Improv this morning. Tomorrow, my first go at full second since maybe last summer. I don't remember when I last tried it. I might even have a chance to practice Monday morning. As Tim said to me when I left class Wednesday, it seems like I'm moving out of a long term retrograde.

After Wednesday's full spread of postures, on Thursday I figured I wouldn't be full speed, so I did second only (with research). I don't remember much about that class except that I did not have much in my middle. In my preceding practices, I had been feeling incrementally stronger on my attempts at lifting up to vinyasa back. Half the time, I had been getting my feet to or almost thru my hands before they hit. Not on Thursday though. Just couldn't get it up. I had a hard time holding up my Pincha Mayurasana too. Must have tried to do Karandavasana five or six times before I ever got as far as trying to lower. Kept unbalancing one way or another. I tried, but the control wasn't there. The day before, my shoulders felt rock stable. On Thursday, I was Mr. Weeble. No Sthira. No Sukha either.

I had plenty of time Friday morning, I didn't have to be in to help at work until 10:30. I went to the studio early again, warming up to the breath of the pranayama group. I was figuring I'd be too tired again to do much, so I planned on doing First and then see where I was at. I got within a toenail of slipping my left foot under my right in Supta K, but the right wouldn't have it yet. No one came by to do me the rest of the way, so I just laid there, feeling like a squashed cockroach. Lest I make it all out to sound like incompetence, it does feel like I'm getting most of the poses back.

As I neared the end of First, I got something of a second wind. I decided to go ahead with the first half of second and then, if I had time and energy, I could do the Eka Padas, or whatever else I felt up to. I usually regret going on to do second once I start to do Pasasana. That pose can really be an energy suck. That and Salabasana. I just don't want to work that hard that early in the sequence. So, I cheat and minimize my holds in one or the other of them. Or both.

I did have a good backbending day. My initial Kapotasana, I got to something like mid foot, maybe as far as the bone that sticks out at the base of the little toe. After doing that Kapotasana, I usually take one of two forks. If I'm out of time, energy or motivation, I usually either quit right there or do the next three poses and then close. If I'm still feeling strong, I have a sequence of research poses I do that work my shoulders and groins and then my back. I can usually tell by the research what the final Kapotasana is going to be like. On Friday, in a couple of the research poses, I was hitting new highs. Given that, I was hoping to maybe get to that holy grail of backbending, the heels in kapotasana. I've been pulled into it once, getting a finger or two over each heel. I didn't want to pulled into it. That doesn't count. I wanted to get over my heels on my own. I think I got close but my finger was just up to the curve, not really around or over the heel. I tried one more time on my own but only got to the base of the heel. I let my head come down too soon and couldn't get my hands far enough up my feet to allow me to walk them in the rest of the way. Not willing to let it go, I nodded to Andrew, Tim's assistant, asking him to come over and do his thing. I had my hands in pretty deep when he took over and he easily got me the rest of the way. Usually, when I get pulled into it, it's at the extreme edge of what I feel I can tolerate. This time, I was at ease. it felt like when the instructors each get on one end of you and both pull you in opposite directions, what they call the wishbone. It feels remarkably good. That's how this felt. No straining, easy breathing. My elbows were all the way down. Even the B portion felt easy. But after those four attempts, I was ..., depleted. After each of the backbends in second, we normally do an "ashtau up" vinyasa, doing something along the lines of a tuck or full handstand, then dropping down to chaturanga. I came up from Kapo B and just sat there on my heels for a minute. I didn't think I could get up off of the ground. There was just nothing there. I managed to do the next couple of poses, but decided after a few futile attempts at Bakasana B to hang it up and enjoy the fruits of the day.

Today's Improv class was a nice recovery. She had us do a fair amount of core work, but nothing that drained me. I clearly over did some things earlier this week, but when I get positive practice reinforcement like I did this week, I tend to push it. Ruled by the id. Hopefully, the mojo will be back for tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Born Again

Should have paid the monthly fee this month. Made another practice today and I should get to go tomorrow as well. I had clinic scheduled for this morning. A few months ago, I told my schedulers that for any day that I'm scheduled to be in clinic for the morning, to start me at 10:00 instead of the normal 9:00 start. I have to work thru lunch to make up for that extra hour but it's worth it. Plus, we never really get lunch any way. Tonight, I'm in the hospital overnight on call, so i get tomorrow off. And mysore starts at 9:00 so, between today and tomorrow, I get two mysore classes in a row.

I went to this mornings practice early. The pranayama people had just gotten going when I walked in. I really don't like to go in when they're doing pranayama if I can avoid it. It can be a distraction sometimes to have people moving around when you're trying to maintain mental control in pranayama with Tim, when every message in your brain tells you you're dying from acute hypoxia. The wooden flooring isn't anchored to the underflooring that well. When you walk on it, it squeaks. I did a short bout of stretching to get loose and began practice at about 6:30. I took Savasana at 8:50. I did all my poses, except I ran out of time, so I just did the three back bends and skipped the rest of closing except for the last three poses.

That's the first time I've done all of first and all of my given poses in second in forever. Well, not quite all. I forgot to do the standing Ardha Baddha's. I've come to accept these inadvertent omissions as the normal sequelae of geezerhood. I still can't get my ankles crossed on my own in Supta K. I had to spray myself again to get into Garbha Pindasana. Everything else in first was okay. Other than the lift out of Karandavasana, I can't think of anything in second that I wasn't able to get. I was able to do all of the Tittibhasanas, and bound B reasonably easily. I got myself into Dwi Pada Sirsasana, though it was ugly. That one I could tell pretty quickly that I was out of second series shape. Tim came over to adjust me in it after I got the second leg crossed behind my head. It took him a while to get settled in and get me how he wanted me. When it came time for him to let me go on my own and balance for the five breaths, my neck was starting to collapse forward out of fatigue. I was surprised that I was able to do those two poses though after a long layoff. I also landed Bakasana B, after only four or five tries. I could have had it on the first try but I over cooked it and went too far. I landed Karandavasana the first try, another pleasant surprise. I thought I was going to be too tired but I was able to focus on holding the lift and let the duck come if for a reasonably soft landing, not one of my usual, "Look out below, Incoming!!" type drops from on high. I was tired by the end, but was pretty satisfied with how I did.

I also did all of the researching poses for the second series backbends and did Hanumasana and Samakonasana. Usually, in the past, the few times that I have tried to do all of those poses, I wouldn't do the researching too, as doing everything takes too long and is pretty fatiguing. I would typically reserve doing the researching if I was only doing second series. I wasn't expecting to be able to hold up for all of that, but I never got that message from my brain that usually tries to convince me to abort the session early. Don't know why and don't know if it's going to be something that's reproducible.

I've got to figure out how to approach tomorrow. I won't have time to get to all my second series poses if I do all of first, like I did today. I'll only have two hours at best. So I can flash the first series poses, or I can truncate the series at some point, or I can just do second, or I can see how much I can get in without doing any of the research (well, I going to keep Samakonasana and Hanumanasana). I had promised my self I wouldn't start doing only second until I had my first series back. But, I was so pleased with how second went today. I was expecting to have to fight my way back thru it a pose at a time. Some of the poses today seemed to go even better than when I was doing them last summer. Who knows why this stuff happens.

Got a couple of Tim comments today. First he strolled by while I was doing my version of Marichyasana D. As lame as it looks now, just four weeks ago he was having to winch me into it. He looked over at me as I made my bind and said, "Ah, some reducing has happened!!" So nice to have your adiposity pointed out. Later, I was being assisted back up from Karandavasana. Once I was back up and out of it, I didn't have a real stable forearm base and had to struggle a second to get balanced so that I wouldn't fall out of it before making an attempt at the vinyasa. He told the person on the mat next to me, "He really showed true grit on that one, eh?" I must have been making unconscious noises, grunts, wheezes, groans, what have you. He walked off saying, "Yep, true grit, he's the John Wayne of Yoga" It was funnier sounding when he said it anyway.

Anyway, the good vibe from a good practice is still with me, twelve hours later. I wish they could all be like this, but, they aren't. So, for now, motrin, try to get some sleep tonight and we'll see how it goes tomorrow.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


If there really is such a thing as too slow of a day at work, and I don't believe such a thing exists, then this would be it. My production for the entire day consists of doing two circumcisions. That's it. Nothing on L&D. There's only been three patients who have even come in all day, all easily handled by the mid wife and the resident on call. I'm getting paid to sit here and get gradually stiffer as the day goes on. I'm on call tonight too. There's no way that things will be like this for a full 24 hours. After shift change at six, I'll try to do some simple stretches in my call room. That will bring them in for sure.
Damnation and Ruin

Jake's team lost. These guys haven't lost a game to anyone in two years. The normal coach didn't even make it to the game. Must have been busy. One of the high schools kids who helps as the assistant ended up doing the coaching. He played everyone pretty equally, which means he didn't play them to win. On the bright side, it's one less thing for Kiran to have to lug him to next week. The serious lacrosse team is starting up their practices now, so, in a way, it's good to be done with that other team. Doing three teams at once would have been too much, even for Jake the lax fanatic.
Do Over

Second attempt at this. First time out, I was rolling out a bunch of thick paragraphs whining about weighing too much, not being interesting enough, blah, blah blah. I quit before I even finished it. I had no interest in it even as I was writing it. Self-flagellation is the most boring form of expression there is.

I did get to practice eventually this week, i made it to a couple of improv classes. One was Tim's Thursday Improv, and then also Alison's Saturday class. Alison's class has always been an evolutionary thing. At one point, she pretty closely followed Tim's model of allowing the student's some input on what poses to try or what areas of the body to focus on. Despite a long career in practicing and teaching Ashtanga, she has also kept her self exposed to other influences and approaches. Her approach to the Saturday class always seems to change a little when she has come back from a new workshop or a visit to another teacher. I haven't been to one of her classes in a while. When I had last been going, she had been attending a number of advanced anusara workshops. She had been adding in some of the Anusara stuff to her own class but without any of the flowery oral diarrhea that some of the Anusara teachers use. The class yesterday was a fairly simple one. No audience suggestions, just her leading us thru stuff. We did a fair amount stretching of the hip flexors, but not with the same old interminable lunges. We used to do so many lunges in her class that I got to where I couldn't stand to hear her, or anyone say, "Now step your right leg forward between your hands..." She finds ways in her class to stretch things that don't usually get stretched in ashtanga, but that when they are done, do help quite a bit when doing the ashtanga poses.

For some reason yesterday, she had us do sayanasana. This is one of my favorite "can't do it yet" poses. It's a pose that feels oh so close to being do-able but yet remains out of reach, in part because I get to try it once or twice a year. I have figured out a few things about the pose. It's an inverted balancing pose that originates in Pincha Mayurasana. Once stable in Pincha, you then lift your hands and arms from the floor and place your hands on your chin, balancing on your elbows alone. The difficulty in balancing is that it is hard to figure out the counterbalancing move. What occurs is not that intuitive, at least to me. The tendency as one lifts one's hands and arms is for the center of gravity to shift such that the legs and hips drift back towards the direction you are facing and you start to fall back down to the floor. To actually get the hands up to the chin, you have to extend your feet out more behind you to counter that weight shift. When you're trying to do the pose, however, you think that the exact opposite is going to happen. Since you are going up onto those pointy little elbows, the belief is that you are almost certainly going to tumble over onto your back. So people (well, me anyway, but looking around the room, I'm hardly alone) tend to tilt the wrong way as they lift the hands. Once gravity starts to happen, it's all over, the feet go right back down to where they started. Very frustrating. I did get my chin for a second or two once yesterday but it was really just a delayed fall. Tim suggests that you let your knees bend before trying to bring the hands up. Leads to the same kind of counterbalancing effect. But then you have to unbend your knees once you get your hands up. I've seen some really good yogis not be able to do this posture, or at least do it very poorly. I know of two people who have completed all of fourth that really only get the hands up when they do this pose. The forearms are almost flat on the floor. I love poses that I sense I might be able to do better than people who are better than I am. I want to get this pose. And yes, the elbows don't feel real good when you're in it.

In Tim's class on Thursday, one of the requests was for Viparita Dandasana. Since there weren't a whole lot of other requests, Tim decided to let this one ride for a while. We ended up doing about five or six variations of it. Between all of that and then all the stuff on the forearms and elbows on Saturday, the skin on my elbows was getting rubbed raw by the rug I put over my mat. By the end on Saturday, I could barely feel my elbows though, they were numb.

Musings from my earlier aborted post: if losing ten pounds has allowed me to do this much better in my practice this past couple of weeks, imagine if I could get back to what I weighed when I started residency, or better, when I started college. I don't think I want to get back down to what I was when I got out of high school. I weighed 125 when I took my physical to go into the army after HS. I was always that skinny, scrawny kid. The monkey boy who could climb up into the gym rafters to get the balls that got stuck up there. No mas.

I've got to call in and check on how the boy is doing with his lacrosse games. He won his first game today, the one where he's the goalie. He took a shot to his thumb that may be serious though. He's now playing in a playoff game for his other team. On this team, he's one of the attackmen, the guys who get the most chances to score. It's the semifinal playoff game. They beat this team by one in two overtimes last week, so no telling how it's going to go.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Bad Man!! but, while you're up, will you get me a slice?

I think I've got this losing weight thing pretty much down.

Today after class, I had a late breakfast with my son, ingesting a waffle with butter and maple syrup and one and a half side orders of bacon. and a glass of fresh squeezed grapefruit juice.

This afternoon, while everyone else was out doing errands, I ate a third of the fresh baked cookies someone made. I tried to pick which ones to eat so that it wouldn't like any of them were missing.

L&D erupted this evening and I got called in to help cover it. When I got there, it was clear it was going to be sketchy for a while and it didn't look like anyone was going to be getting breaks or dinner. I ordered pizza, the ultimate seratonin releasing drug for dealing with stress. Only two slices for me though, on account of how I'm on this mission to lose weight. One slice of pepperoni, and one slice of sausage, onion and jalapeno. That's always a good one to burp with when you're scrubbed and your face is covered by an OR mask. Really clears the lacrimal glands.

Once back home, I resumed the not quite juice fast by drinking a glass or two of organic grapefruit juice. Gotta stay healthy.
Swing...., and a Miss

I knew that, after bragging about how consistently I have been practicing for the previous two weeks, I was due for a correction. Every possible opportunity has been pulled out from under me lately. The schedule change for the OR wiped out Friday morning. Had to miss Friday evening class for kid issues. Same for Sunday morning and afternoon classes. But, today was a lock. Today, I knew I could practice. I worked last night. I was totally off today. Mysore didn't start until 9:00. Today was my day to get it back. Despite not getting away from work until 8:25 for what is usually a 45 minute drive, I got up there before the 7:00 class had even let out. The best of omens walking up to the studio: I couldn't see inside because the windows were all fogged up. It was was going to be hot and sweaty today. Booo-yah. I walked in the studio entryway, packed with people waiting to set up for the 9:00 class (how much better can this get?) and saw my wife and.... my son? It's a school day, What? "Hi dad, my shoulder still hurts, so I'm going to do yoga today." Uh, okay buddy. We went in and set up our mats up three across, family style. "You're going to do first series today, right?" my wife asked. Sure. Meaning, I guide my son thru what portion of the practice he can do. Surprisingly, I didn't mind, because for once he seemed motivated to try doing the poses correctly. Well, many of them. Some of them.

We did the suryas, which is what he had the most trouble with. Somehow, he hurt his left pectoral area while dancing at Jason and Tara's wedding. "Dancing?" I asked, uncomprehendingly. "Well, freaking", he said. Oh, I nodded, uncomprehendingly. He added that he did do the worm once, so maybe that was what did it. At any rate, he had a hard time lowering down to or holding chaturanga. I told him to just go down to his belly and to do cobra instead of a full up dog, using his back to lift rather than push with his hands. I think it helped gradually.

He has always sucked at most of the standing poses. He usually loses all motivation to do things well in this section. I think his native hamstring and adductor stiffness make this section painful and unrewarding. He knows he's not doing the poses well. He only wants to do the things that he can do well. We're in revolved triangle, struggling to get his hand down onto a block and he looks over at Tara doing Pasasana or something and tells me, "I can do that one easy." He did okay today though. He tried to do most of them. I think he didn't want to do Prasarita C but he did everything else. Later, in the seated poses, the monotony of the forward bends began to get to him. What kept him going was the fact that he can smoke me doing jump backs. I decided we'd stop after Navasana. He did all the closing poses fine, including a reasonable headstand, with assistance.

I apologize to anyone who was near us today who might read this. We made so much noise telling him what to do and what to stop doing, it had to be distracting.

God, there was all kinds of people there today. Jason and Tara right in front of us, (honeymooning?), Casey and Charisse just across the room, Andrew and Jessica two mats down, Julie over in the Shakti side of the room, bunches of people I'd never seen before. And the glorious heat. Oh well. Next time.

After class, Jake and I went to the pancake house. He made me eat a waffle and a side of bacon, and further, he also made me eat the uneaten pieces from his side of bacon. I think he was full from all the whipped cream that came with his chocolate chip pancakes. I should have brought it home to the dog or something, but it was bacon.

I've got to decide what to do about the hair. I've been informed by the style police (the person who asked me to grow it long in the first place) that I look stupid. Great. I don't seek to look fashionable or stylish or all done up. My only goal with regards to looks is to not look stupid. My hair has some natural curl or wave or whatever it's called. I normally keep it tied up in a ponytail most of the day. The simplicity of that is that I only have to brush my hair once a day: shower, brush, ponytail, done. The downside is that the part that is past the hairtie thingie stays all curly, kind of a shirley temple coiling up thing. The part closest to me gets straightened out by being on stretch all day with the hair tie. So, when I go with my hair down after it's been up for a while, half of my hair is straight and half is all curly. But, when i brush it out, it's not just curly. Instead of being all coiled up in one collective ringletted ponytail, when it's brushed out, it becomes this mass of frizzy looking chaos at the ends. I'm sure that does look stupid. But it's taken me too long to grow it out just whack it off. I don't like to keep it up all the time, it gives me headaches sometimes. I'd rather let it stay down all the time, but that's hard to do with the car top being down. It doesn't work that well at work either. At work, I can keep a ponytail fairly discretely tucked away under one of those bouffant-ey OR caps. If it's not tied up, it's hard to pack it all away. And it's noticeable. I'd rather my hair not be that noticeable at work. Not everybody wants a doctor with long hair. It can rub some people the wrong way. Maybe I can try keeping it up with those sticks the Japanese samurai guys used to use. Plus, I'm starting to get those bands of grey along the sides of my head like the Paulie guy on the Sopranos. Free streaks. The longer hair is like the rings of a tree. "See way back here at the ends, my hair is still all brown. But over here, notice that gradual onset of grey maturity. And up close, silver baby, pure silver." For now, I'll do nothing. It's not that often that anyone sees it anyway. Once I get to where I've got the longest hair of anyone I know, then I'll cut it. It's no fun if you can't make a game out of it.

Time to get ready to do the afternoon kid chauffeur thing.