breath, kindness, mulling things over

Beginning, middle, end

At the beginning of home practice I like to do some sort of centering to be present on the mat.  Yesterday in our group practice we chanted “om” three times.  Just as we inhaled for the first time, the phone rang. My husband wasn’t home to answer it.  “Let’s just keep going,” I said.  The ringing didn’t impede our centering.

In the middle I try to pay attention to what I’m doing.  It seems fine to chitchat when practicing with friends, although we never (or rarely) do so in class.  Much of the chat has to do with what we’re doing anyway.  We help each other with alignment, remind each other to breathe, comment on how the asana feels. It’s gentle and companionable.

At the end it’s time to come back to the world.  Sometimes we say something more than “namaste”, and sometimes not.  Most often I think something, such as:

  • All one breath
    or
  • Bow head to heart, surrender ego to compassion, and honor the divine within
    or
  • This is perfect, that is perfect, from the perfect springs the perfect.  When perfect is taken from perfect, perfect remains.

I am doing yoga for my body, most certainly. I am also doing it for awareness of that one breath. If we know we are all breathing the same breath, how can we fail to be compassionate?

general blather, mulling things over

Oh, shame on me

I haven’t posted here in a week.  I don’t have a great deal to say except that my first yoga teacher, Margaret, was back in town over the weekend and I went to a two-hour class with her on Saturday.  It was outstanding in many ways, not the least of which is that I am so comfortable with her teaching style.  She’s straightforward, detailed, matter-of-fact, and has high expectation.

I almost didn’t go because I’ve been thinking I’m not quite ready, my shoulders are still funky, I’m scared, and other excuses.  Then I did go, and realized that I’m so close to back to normal that I could go to any class.  I’d be stuck with some limitations, but those are all the same limitations I’ve dealt with all my life.  Woohoo!

mulling things over

Savasana

During home practice, whether I’m practicing alone or with friends, it never fails that something happens during Savasana.  The phone rings.  My husband decides to make lunch in the kitchen above us, clunking around and possibly singing to the dog.  The dog comes downstairs and licks my face.  The doorbell rings.

This must be a lesson in going with the flow and laughing about it.

hard stuff, mulling things over

Benchmarks

Lately I’ve been very pleased to see how much better I am.  This time last year I was really a mess.  I couldn’t bend my joints very well, all my yoga was pretty much just lying down, and I was exhausted.  No gardening.  I avoided the stairs.  Anything that put weight on my joints was out of the question. My hands were too swollen to wear my rings.

In the last few weeks I can see that I’m just about back to normal.  I can sit on a low block in Virasana (hero), which is where I was before I got Lyme disease.  I can straighten my arms over my head, and I can do Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog) again. I might even be able to try Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand).  

I had no idea it would take this long to recover, and sometimes I thought I would never recover – that I would be disabled for the rest of my life.  I am deeply and enormously grateful.

mulling things over, self-talk

Being in the pose

I’ve noticed that when I practice alone I tend to start thinking about the next pose before I’m done with the current one.  It’s worse if I don’t make myself a written list of what I plan to do.  There I am in my Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog), thinking about whether I should do Ardha Chandrasana or Parsvottanasana after Trikonasana.  

My new bit of self-talk is a reminder that this is what I’m doing right now.  Next is next and will take care of itself when the time comes.  So what if I forget to do a twist in the sequence.

For some reason I lost the habit of writing down my plan.  Time to return to it.

breath, mulling things over, poses

Good practice, good breathing

Kate and Dana just came over for our Friday morning session.  Often we do restorative poses because one or the other of us has some sort of issue (headache, sore joints, etc.).  

Today we did a little bit of everything:  body rolling to start, then alternating Adho Mukha Svansana (downward-facing dog) and Uttanasana (standing forward bend), then a few standing poses, including Ardha Chandrasana (half moon) for balance, then some seated poses, the ones that are well nigh impossible for Kate and me, and dead easy for Dana – Upavista Konasana (seated forward bend), Baddha Konasana (cobbler) and Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend), then what we referred to as a lying-around pose, or Supta Virasana (reclining hero), and then Savasana (corpse).

In Savasana, my brain was chattering away a mile a minute.  I was thinking about several people I know who are in some pain (physical and/or emotional).  I kept reining myself in, reminding myself to breathe.  Finally I thought “breathe in black, breathe out white, bless them all.” I took a deep breath and then the timer rang to signal the end of practice.  It was good.

Adho Mukha Svanasana
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Uttanasana I
Uttanasana I
Utthita Trikonasana
Utthita Trikonasana
Utthita Parsvakonasana
Utthita Parsvakonasana
Ardha Chandrasana
Ardha Chandrasana
Upavista Konasana
Upavista Konasana
Baddha Konasana
Baddha Konasana
Paschimottanasana
Paschimottanasana
Supta Virasana
Supta Virasana
Savasana
Savasana
mulling things over

Yoga Journal

Yoga Journal has been running an interview on the back page of each issue for a while now.  This issue’s interview is with Aadil Palkhivala.  Here’s my favorite part. Italics are mine.

Ninety percent of yoga asana is a waste of time. The asana must be done to prepare the body to hold the light of the soul.  Most people just want all of the stuff the ego likes: a firm body and ways to impress people.  We should be striving to find a real connection with the Divine.

I love that.

mulling things over

Stretching is good

I see it’s been a while since I posted here.  I haven’t done any yoga since last Wednesday.  I had a cortisone shot in my shoulder, and they told me to rest it for several days.  Resting drove me crazy!  I hadn’t realized how much I rely on stretching – yoga or otherwise – to make myself feel better.  I had to keep my arm down by my side.  It ached, and all I wanted to do was extend it up over my head or out to my side.

I’ll do a short practice later this morning.  Aaah.

mulling things over, poses

Friday practice

I have to confess that this week has been a bust as far as yoga practice is concerned.  I did a teeny practice on Monday, went to class Wednesday, and then practiced with Dana at my house yesterday.   Priscilla has been out of town, and Kate has been busy or sick.  

We did hip openers and some chest openers.  I’m having wrist, elbow, and shoulder trouble again, so I really need that chest opening.  One of the excellent things about Supta Virasana (reclining hero, one of my do-it-all-the-time poses) is that it stretches the psoas and the upper chest at the same time.  As we did it, we talked about the phenomenon of this pose making forward bends easier and stretchier afterwards.  I tend to think of Supta Virasana as a quad stretch.  I forget about the psoas, that great big muscle that runs along your spine and splits into two to attach to the inside of your hip.

If the psoas is tight, it prevents you from flexing your hips.  Of course.  This is one of those things I knew but not quite in such an illuminating way.  

There’s a good article on the Yoga Journal website about psoas release, written by Liz Koch, author of The Psoas Book.  See, I have that book.  Why did I forget this information?

Dana, get ready.  We’re going to do some of this stuff next Friday, lunges as usual as well as Eka Pada Rajakapotanasana (one legged king pigeon pose, for which I don’t have a thumbnail picture).  

Supta Virasana
Supta Virasana
Lunge
Lunge
general blather, mulling things over

No evaluation

Some time ago I had an exercise routine where I got up early every morning and spent 20 minutes on the stair machine. I realized that if you do something every single day at the same time, you don’t evaluate it.  You just do it.

The parallel is in brushing your teeth.  I brush my teeth every day.  I don’t think about it. I don’t think, “Oh, goody, I don’t have to brush my teeth today,” or “All right, I guess I’ll brush my teeth today.”

Routine is good.