mulling things over

Workout resolutions

A friend of mine was talking today about how she was beating herself up for not working out as regularly as she had intended.  But then she said that it had been pointed out to her that humans for most of the life of humankind have never really worked out deliberately.  We’re hunter-gatherers, fundamentally, so we reached and stretched and ran and lifted as a matter of our survival.  And we appreciated opportunities to sit around and store up fat for lean times.

This perspective puts our wishes to establish a practice in a new light.  Establishing a practice is HARD and not necessarily natural.

I just have to think about this for a while, because on the one hand it could suggest that I don’t need to establish a practice.  On the other hand, we aren’t hunter-gatherers any more.  Establishing a practice is still hugely beneficial. And I love yoga.  I just need to be nice to myself about it.

mulling things over, self-talk

Getting established

It’s the nub of the whole project.  We love yoga, love it, love it, love it. And yet we can’t get a practice going.

A friend of mine works at a trauma center where (among other things) they are doing research on yoga and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The value of yoga to people with PTSD is clear.  Now the difficulty is getting people to do it. Somehow the home practice wasn’t being established in most of the students.  The people running the study tried upping the number of classes per week (each class is called a dose), but that had minimal impact on whether students practiced at home.

Going to class once or twice a week is a very good thing, but it’s not an internal practice.  And a serious practice is internal, or at least it is for me.

I’ve been taking classes almost without a break for 11 years, and for perhaps 8 or 9  of those years I’ve had some sort of home practice.  Yet it still feels precarious.  One little break in the routine—out of town company, or the flu, or an early morning doctor’s appointment—and I can slide right off the mat for a weeks.

I think I need to do some research on habitual behavior. I brush and floss my teeth without fail, cook and keep my kitchen clean daily, do the sudoku puzzle in the paper every morning.  How can I make my yoga practice as solid?

general blather, mulling things over, resources

Brain yoga

Yesterday only Dana came over for our Friday practice.  We had done practice for study last week, where we were both trying to figure out why we can’t get our sitting bones to our heels in Adho Mukha Virasana (downward facing hero). We still weren’t able to do so after the practice, but it was a very enjoyable session. (I’ve written before about practice for study.)

So this week we decided to work on practice for study for Garudasana (eagle).  Neither of us can get our foot wrapped around the standing leg.  I was not feeling well – fighting off a cold and dealing with an upset stomach – so I didn’t want to do anything too strenuous.  As it turned out, we designed a practice for study for Garudasana, using a big pile of yoga and anatomy books, and didn’t DO any of it.  At the end we did Kapotanasana (pigeon), lunge, Supta Virasana (reclining hero), and Savasana (corpse).

Next week we’ll actually do the practice.  But the studying part was really fun, interesting, and satisfying.

Garudasana
Supta Virasana
general blather, mulling things over

Step away from the mirror

The only time I see my reflection when I’m doing yoga is if I happen to be doing standing poses near the TV and see, oh, maybe part of my hips, but my face is not generally pointed to it on purpose.

I’m traveling at the moment, and the only place in the hotel room that works for yoga is the bathroom.  The bedroom rug seems disgusting, even though this is a nice place, and I didn’t bring a mat.  The bathroom mirror is quite large.

This morning I did standing poses and was so distracted by my reflection that I ended up turning around and practicing facing the door and the wall.  In addition to seeing how cockeyed my hips were, I realized my attention was completely external, focused on that woman facing me.  I had none of the internal feedback I normally get.  It was as though I had stepped outside of my body.

My son and husband took years of Tae Kwon Do.  Their dojang had a mirror filling one entire wall.  You could see students, particularly the younger ones, watching themselves throughout their practice, and not practicing very well.  If you can’t see yourself, you have to be inside, paying direct attention rather than secondary attention.

general blather, mulling things over

Miscellany

YoMo is chugging along nicely.  I’ve had some days where my practice has been pretty darn lame, and some where it’s been pretty strong.  That’s normal.  And I’m keeping up reasonably well on the twice-weekly emails.

The big thing I’m learning right now, both from YoMo and from my developing pranayama practice, is patience and kindness to myself.  I know, I’ve said this before.  It just keeps coming around to me.  What I’m doing is practice.  I’m getting much better at not chastising myself  (for hurrying through practice, letting my mind wander, forgetting to do my focus pose, etc.).  Instead, I can be friendly to myself, and notice all the things I’m doing fine with.  I balanced in Virabhadrasana III (warrior III) for more than two seconds!  I’m working on Lolasana (pendant, a pose I have considered outside the range of possibility)! I don’t fall asleep in Savasana (corpse) any more!  And so forth.

Virabhadrasana III
Lolasana
Savasana
mulling things over

Ritual

I am well indoctrinated by my Yoga Center teachers. Once in a while I skip the beginning and ending bits of my practice.  This never happens in class, so I hate skipping them at home.

I start off with my hands in Namaskarasana (prayer position), eyes closed.

Sometimes I chant the invocation to Patanjali.

Sometimes I chant for peace (Om shanti shanti shanti om). The first shanti is for peace within me, the second is for peace in the circle of the people I know, and the third is for peace for the world.

Sometimes I am silent.

At the end of my practice I feel wrong if I don’t rest in Savasana (Corpse) for at least five minutes.  Then I sit with hands in Namaskarasana again.

Sometimes I speak or think what Margaret used to say at the end of class: “Bow head to heart.  Surrender ego to compassion, and honor the divine within.”

Sometimes I chant for peace.

Sometimes I am silent and grateful.

Namaste.

mulling things over

Savasana

Savasana
Savasana

Savasana (corpse) is a pose that seems so simple that it could hardly be having any effect. Beginning yoga students joke about it being naptime, and yes, sometimes it is.

I always feel great after yoga practice.  I can’t remember ever coming out of a class feeling dissatisfied, even when the class has been really hard for me. The same is true for my home practice. Of course it has a great deal to do with the whole practice, the sequence, the selection of poses.

The largest reason for those feelings of peace and energy is Savasana. It’s the last and longest pose, and the one that allows our bodies and minds and nervous systems to completely unfold.

It’s in Savasana that I’ve become aware that we are all breathing one breath.  The crazy guy who shot George Tiller?  Same breath as me.  The Dalai Lama?  Same breath as me.  The children starving in Darfur?  Same breath as me. You and me? Same breath.

Don’t skip it.

mulling things over

Effortless effort

Trisha sent me an article from Yoga Samachar, the IYNAUS newsletter, by John Schumacher, titled “Effortless Effort.”  It’s an idea that comes from the Yoga Sutras that translates as

Perfection in an asana is achieved when the effort to perform it becomes effortless and the infinite being within is reached. –(11.47)

I only read the article a couple of days ago.  It has stuck in my mind ever since.  Schumacher makes the point that one way to reach effortlessness is persistent practice.  So I’ve been thinking about that in terms of my whole practice as opposed to individual asana practice.  He also talks about developing “a quiet, receptive mind.” This comes after persistent practice of asanas.  As the poses get easier, you approach the possibility of that quiet receptive mind.

In my practice yesterday and today, particularly in the poses that I have done a million times, I made a point of calming my mind and slowing and softening my breathing. Although I am not quite there in poses that are still a struggle for me, just entertaining the possibility of effortless effort through a quiet mind is a big step forward.

mulling things over, self-talk

Early morning group practice

The Yoga Center has started a 6:00 am guided practice. It’s led by Katie, who is a new teacher. Today was the first day. It was a wonderful way to start the day. Some yoga experience is required, which means that Katie doesn’t need to demonstrate much or make corrections. She told us what we were going to do, and then did it with us, talking our way through.

I can only go to one of the two weekly practices, phooey.

Is it cheating that I have structured yoga on four of the seven days of the week? I don’t think so.
Sunday – home yoga by myself
Monday – ditto
Tuesday – guided practice at the YCL
Wednesday – class with Kim
Thursday – practice with Jill and Holly
Friday – practice at my house with Dana, Priscilla, Kate, and sometimes Beth and Phyllis
Saturday – home yoga by myself.

Pretty good support for my daily practice.

mulling things over, self-talk

Focus poses and why some stick better than others

I just figured out why, in January, when I did Upavistha Konasana (seated wide angle) and Supta Virasana (reclining hero) almost every day, Upavistha Konasana didn’t improve nearly as much as Supta Virasana did.

I’m adding Parivrtta Trikonasana (revolved triangle) as a focus pose this month.  It’s such a difficult pose for me that I need to do a fair amount of prep for it, starting with Trikonasana (triangle), then Parsvottanasana (stretch to the side), some twists, e.g., Marichyasana, before I can manage it.  It’s also helpful to do it against the wall or lying down.

Similarly, I simply couldn’t do Supta Virasana without preparatory poses – lunges, Virasana (hero), maybe Ustrasana (camel).

However, I can approximate Upavistha Konasana without a lot of prep.  That doesn’t mean it’s good, but it means I don’t work as hard to get to it.  Therefore, I did not improve much in that pose during January.

I can think of several prep poses for Upavistha Konasana:  all wide angle standing poses, particularly Prasarita Padottanasana (standing wide angle forward bend), Malasana (garland), and seated poses.  I guess this is my assignment to myself to do the prep work.

Upavista Konasana
Upavista Konasana
Supta Virasana
Supta Virasana
Parivrtta Trikonasana
Parivrtta Trikonasana
Utthita Trikonasana
Utthita Trikonasana
Parsvottanasana
Parsvottanasana
Standing Marichyasana
Standing Marichyasana
Virasana
Virasana
Ustrasana
Ustrasana
Prasarita Padottanasana
Prasarita Padottanasana