In Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, BKS Iyengar posits in his explanation of the sutras on pranayama that “the implication here is clear [clear as mud] that the sadhaka who had to struggle initially to cultivate a yogic way of life by self-discipline and study, now [after the practice of pranayama] finds his efforts transformed into a natural zeal to proceed in his sadhana.” So there’s hope for those of us who are dunces at self-discipline. I came across that juicy tidbit last night. (I got about half way through the second pada last summer when I set the book down, not to be touched again for a year. . . I’m all out of novels at the moment.) So this morning I did my full pranayama practice (which really only takes about 15 minutes) before asana, and it was fantastic. I felt motivated, I felt – – could it be? – – zeal! Thank you, Mr. Iyengar. I’ll be doing my pranayama regularly from now on.
Mysore practice a few days a week combined with home practice a few days a week is one thing. All home practice all the time is going to be quite another. I’m going to have to muster up an uncharacteristic amount of will power or figure out a good system or something. Because the yoga’s not just going to do itself (except for on those rare days of amazing, magical flow. . . aaah). I need a plan.
AYS being closed and gone forever, I’ve weighed my options and decided to go the all self practice route, at least for the time being. On the mysore ashtanga front here in Seattle, the other option is to practice with Mr. Troy at Velocity dance studio, which sounds like a fabulous option indeed, but- – it’s weird- – I feel like I’m not ready for a new teacher. I guess I’m kind of greiving the loss of the teachers I’ve depended on for just over a year now- – in fact, it feels kind of like getting out of a strange breakup. I need to break free and go it alone for a while. (I had no idea I was so emotionally involved.) The idea of having some space to turn inward and really observe myself and my practice sounds very attractive right now. In fact, I’m craving it.
But that doesn’t mean it will be easy. However, I am lucky enough to have a fantastically supportive partner who cares about my yoga practice because I care about it so much, and he’s volunteered to be my project supervisor of sorts. I’m supposed to do my full practice with the twosies three times a week and at least an honest effort at something the other three days and report back to him. Presumably he will give me a scolding if I don’t meet my goal or something. At any rate, it’s helpful for me to be even slightly accountable to someone besides myself.
This might also be a good time to re-integrate pranayama into my daily practice. The lead teacher of my yoga teacher training, Paul Dallaghan (look at him–isn’t he cute?), is a longtime student of O.P. Tiwari, and as such prescribes individualized pranayama practices for each of his students at the end of training.
Which of course means I never took it very seriously. I was travelling in SE Asia for four and a half months after training! By bicycle! I didn’t have time for extra practices (I told myself). But now feels like a good time to pick it up. Really and truly, I have this feeling in my bones that the next few months are going to be a great time of discovery. . .
I love home practice. It’s peaceful, it’s cozy, and it allows me to participate in all kinds of super-criminal ashtangi behavior. Plus, I get to do yoga with my favorite person ever, Mr. Z, who is occasionally whiney whilst performing asana, yet has been patient/trusting enough to actually let me teach him yoga from the ground up. Anyway, my little brain/ear/nervous system problem prompted me to turn to a gentle home practice for a few days, which reminded me how lovely it can be to practice independently. Ahhh.
Well, in my last post about a week ago, I proclaimed that I would do my full practice with all the twosies all week long. Unfortunately, I ran into a few hitches in my plan. First, I ran into Ladies’ Holiday–duh, I should have seen that coming–it’s like clockwork. Second, however, I ran into a truly unforeseeable hitch–a mysterious yet seemingly benign neurological disease that is as of yet unnamed. Really. It’s quite strange–I’ve been getting waves of intense vertigo with no accompanying symptoms, besides feelings of fatigue. I’ll just be minding my own business–sitting in my office, for example, or buying groceries–and all the sudden it feels like the room is spinning and shaking. It feels a bit like being drunk, only without the associated pleasantness. Sometimes it lasts all day.
(Not so good these days.)
So. . . in lieu of my usual health care strategy–waiting ’til it goes away, which didn’t work this time–I actually sought a bit of professional help. The only professional help I can afford, that is–community acupuncture. Having never received acupuncture before, I went in not expecting much. Not expecting anything really, because although I have some faith in the principles of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, I’ve heard that it sometimes takes multiple treatments before any noticeable effects take place. Turns out, it was AMAZING. The acupuncturist set me up in this big cozy reclining chair and stuck me full of needles (ok, just 9 total) and left me to marinate in the needley goodness. For the first 20 minutes or so, I just felt like I was rocking in a boat–I was feeling especially dizzy that day–but then it just stopped. Just like that, the waters calmed. I slowly began feeling more energetic and more clear-headed than I had been in days. The acupuncturist came and de-needled me, I put on my coat and scarf, put my $25 into the pay-box, and I walked away feeling fantastic. The clarity only lasted about 24 hours, but it was a great relief. Thank you, CommuniChi! I’ll be going back this week.
I’ve been doing some old-ladyish yin yoga at home, but this morning I finally felt able to return to yoga and do my twosies. I tried to generally take it easy and be careful about my neck, a possible misalignment of which I suspect may be the source of my vertigo problems. So far so good.
There’s some genius, I believe, in the proper ashtanga vinyasa count, including taking precisely five breaths in each standing and primary pose. This fast pace may be a bit anomalous in the world of yoga/asana, but it works. Before I started adhering to these guidelines, it would take me about an hour and 45 minutes just to complete primary. I would take about six long breaths in each pose, and I would take extra breaths to get into poses–and I usually left practice feeling pretty wiped out. At the time, I suppose, that worked for me. But now I really enjoy flying through my practice at the prescribed pace. I’ve developed a need for speed. Now I’m practicing full primary plus the first few poses of secondary (up to dhanurasana), and I’m spending extra time on backbends, and I’m done in about an hour and a half, with savasana. And I leave the shala feeling GREAT–energetic, clear, light.
I’m really, really enjoying my practice these days. I’m so grateful for ashtanga yoga.
Last Tuesday, I was having a really hard time practicing during mysore class, probably due to low blood sugar and/or pms. It was getting toward the end of my practice and I felt like I wouldn’t have any energy left to walk out the door when I was done, so I skipped the last few postures of primary series. Skipped postures! This is something I have NEVER done during mysore, so I was feeling a wee bit criminal as I scurried away into the back corner of the room to start on my backbends. And then Surfer Dude calls out my name from half way across the room. Oh shit, I think, I’m going to have to explain myself and it’s going to sound really pathetic. He walks over and as I’m thinking of a way to explain that I’m really not a big old cheater, he asks if I want to start second series. Ha! My guilty conscious was all wrong, as usual. Now I get to cook up some second series magic at the studio, instead of just doing my renegade postures at home- – yeah, I’m ready. I was to start next Monday, after the moon day.
But the auspicious part (to me) is this: This Monday, after tacking on my four new second series postures to my usual primary, I stood up from my backbends without the use of a pad! Wa-haa! I just sprung right up, nice and clean, and it felt as if I had been doing it all my life. I think it was a combination of factors- – including having had a break for ladies’ holiday, drinking some coffee and juice before practice, and most importantly, having been practicing this damn trick for months- – but I think the little confidence-booster of moving on to second series helped me do it. Silly but true.
So now I’m on the path of longer practices, getting up earlier, and having new kinds of soreness in my body. I love it! After having been in yoga-is-such-a-chore mode for a while, I’m definitely back in yoga-is-so-fun mode. How refreshing.
I love practicing on moon days. I’m not supposed to practice at all, so I can do anything I want! Ha ha ha!