poses

Malasana, Evy

I love Malasana (garland).  It’s such a great stretch all down your back, and so good for those adductor bones.  Someday I may be able to get my heels to the floor.  Or not.  I don’t care – I’ll keep doing it.

Jill’s granddaughter Evy, age 13 months, sometimes comes with her mother Holly to practice with us. She’s into it.  So are we.

I had to crop this so as to include Evy.  Look at how nicely curled up Jill is!
I had to crop this so as to include Evy. Look at how nicely curled up Jill is!
I use a blanket under my heels for stability.  When my shoulders are feeling OK I can wrap my arms around and grab my ankles.  Not today, though.
I use a blanket under my heels for stability. When my shoulders are feeling OK I can wrap my arms around and grab my ankles. Not today, though.
poses

Upavistha Konasana (seated wide angle)

I hope my readers aren’t getting sick of seeing these photos.  For Jill and me they’re very instructive.   It’s hard to get them right, though, because we’re trying to get poses where our alignment is good, no distracting junk is in the background, the photos are in focus, and we’re not looking grim.  Keeping the face and neck relaxed is part of breathing properly and being at ease in the pose – effortless effort.

This pose is very difficult for me because my hips and hamstrings are so tight.  If I do it on the mat away from the wall, it’s a struggle to keep from flipping over backwards like a bug.  All my focus goes into working with my hands and arms behind me.  If I sit up on several blankets then only my heels touch the floor.  Using a block at the wall gives me the benefit of being able to sit upright with the entire backs of my legs getting feedback from the floor.  I can pay attention to extending out through my heels and stretching those adductors.

Even here I'm not quite vertical in my trunk, but working on it.  Notice that my feet are way out on the second mat, and compare to Jill.  I'm not whining about this, just pointing out how wide the differences are between bodies.
Even here I'm not quite vertical in my trunk, but working on it. Compare the location of my feet, way out on the second mat, to Jill's in the next picture. I'm not whining about this, just pointing out how wide the differences are between bodies.
Jill is very upright here, and the flexibility in her hips and hamstrings is evident.  Incidentally, in the other pictures her feet were upright, not tipped back, but the photos were otherwise bad.
Jill is very upright here, and the flexibility in her hips and hamstrings is evident. Incidentally, in the other pictures her feet were upright, not tipped back, but the photos were otherwise bad.
I picked this photo and the next one so you could see that we really have a good time in our practice and are not all serious and tense.
I picked this photo and the next one so you could see that we really have a good time in our practice and are not all serious and tense.

(I also posted this batch of photos so my sister in Massachusetts could see my new haircut.)

poses

Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog)

We have been using blocks in Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog). I’m finding it very interesting. It makes it possible for more weight to go back into my legs. My hamstrings are so tight that I am usually totally bearing down in my arms. My heels never even come close to the floor. In this variation, I can get closer.  I often use a strap around my elbows to lessen the strain on my arms.  It helps, but it’s a hassle if you’re doing variations and/or sun salutations.  It keeps getting in the way.

Jill told me to inhale and then lift my sitting bones.  It made a visible change.
Jill told me to inhale and then lift my sitting bones. It made a visible change.
Look what a nice angle Jill's legs and arms make.
Look what a nice angle Jill's legs and arms make.
poses

Handstand

I decided recently that I could work on Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand, or, translated more directly, downward facing tree) with great respect and tenderness for my shoulders and wrists.  So I’m doing just a little bit each day.  My tight hamstrings prevent me from kicking up into this pose and others like it.  Another student at the Yoga Center told me he has overcome this with practice.  I had stopped even trying, so one of my tiny bits of practice is to just work on the kick.

On the days when I’m not practicing the kick, I get into the pose by climbing up the wall.  We have a spot under the staircase that is just wide enough for climbing up.

Jill and I have been taking pictures of one or two poses at a time.  I’m finding it very helpful.

Here I am in the doorway of the Yoga Center storage closet.  I'm pretty well propped with the doorframe, a strap around my elbows, and the wedge under my wrists. It looks to me as though my neck is not relaxed, and I'd like to get my upper back in a bit.  I'm delighted that I can get this far again, though.
Here I am in the doorway of the Yoga Center storage closet. I'm pretty well propped with the doorframe, a strap around my elbows, and the wedge under my wrists. It looks to me as though my neck is not relaxed, and I'd like to get my upper back in a bit. I'm delighted that I can get this far again, though.
poses

Vasisthasana

Woohoo!  I did Vasisthasana (side plank) this morning for the first time in a year and a half. It was going to be my focus pose when I got sick last year, so now I can take it up again.  I’m going to take it very very easy on my shoulders so I can keep doing it and getting stronger.

Vasisthasana
Vasisthasana

My version does not involve holding my foot up.  I have not yet been able do to that standing or lying down, so I’m not even trying it while balancing on one arm and one foot.

Still, yay!

poses, self-talk, YoMo

Focus pose

When we did YoMo in January, I chose two poses that are really hard for me to work on during that month – Upavistha Konasana (seated wide angle) and Supta Virasana (reclining hero).

Supta Virasana improved enormously, as I’ve described recently.  Upavistha Konasana, not so much.  So during this June YoMo I’m going to work on it some more, and I’m going to add Parivrtta Trikonasana. In that pose I have trouble staying upright, trouble twisting enough, trouble keeping my hips in the right place, oh, just trouble all around.

This method works well for me.  I really like delving into one pose and paying attention to every aspect of it. I am also always delighted by my improvement.  

I just don’t know about Upavistha Konasana.  My hips have a lifetime of stiffness.  I’ll keep trying, though.

Upavista Konasana
Upavista Konasana
Supta Virasana
Supta Virasana
Parivrtta Trikonasana
Parivrtta Trikonasana
hard stuff, poses

Addressing a difficult pose

I was rooting around in my old posts for this blog and found one I saved as a draft in January and then forgot to post.  So here it is.

At the end of class yesterday a couple of other people doing YoMo and I talked about how it’s going.  (This was just what I hoped would happen – that people would share their experiences of home practice.)  

One person bemoaned her inability to do Virasana.  This morning I was thinking specifically about Virasana, and then more globally about how to work on a pose that is particularly challenging.  I think that following a Practice for Study approach might be helpful.  That’s where you start with an attempt at the target pose (and in the case of poses that are especially hard, you start very propped), and then do a pose that contains some component of the target pose, and then the target pose again, and then another related pose, and then the target pose again, and so on.  For Virasana, Parighasana (gate latch) might help because you’re on a knee but upright, and so that would work on the front of the shin and ankle.  Vajrasana (thunderbolt, ow, ow, but good) is another possibility.  (Sorry, no thumbnail pic for that one.  It’s where you kneel with your feet together and sit down on your heels, trying to keep your ankles together. ) Utkatasana (chair) and Malasana (garland) are other ones that might be good to help with Virasana.

Another approach, which could also be done simultaneously with Practice for Study, is to try the target pose every single day, with as much propping as necessary.  In the case of Virasana, it could be that you’d put lots of padding under your legs, with less under the feet so that they can drop down.  So maybe kneel on three folded blankets, with your feet not on the blankets.  Then put rolled-up washcloths behind your knees, or maybe a rolled-up sticky mat.  You could be sitting up almost straight, with a pile of blankets or a couple of blocks, or even a footstool or other piece of home furniture, under your sitting bones.  (When I came back to class, at the beginning of having Lyme disease, I couldn’t sit lower than on six folded blankets.  Very demoralizing.)  You might even have to lean forwards a bit, with your arms on a chair.  And then after all that propping, try sitting for only, say, three breaths.

Then as you can and very slowly over time, remove props and add time in the pose.  One breath more.  Then two.  Then one less blanket. And so on.

When I work on my most difficult pose, Upavistha Konasana (seated wide angle bend), I also do Prasarita Padottanasana (wide-legged forward bend) and Viparita Karani (legs up the wall) with legs open wide, because they use the same leg position, and gravity is my friend in both of them.  I do others that work on my adductors and my hip flexors too, of course. 

Virasana
Virasana
Parighasana
Parighasana
Utkatasana
Utkatasana
Prasarita Padottanasana
Prasarita Padottanasana
Viparita Karani
Viparita Karani
breath, poses

Ten breaths

I used to time my poses with my Palm, using a nifty little add-on called PocketDoan, which is a highly configurable timer.  It has some perfect sounds on it, like chimes, bells, and wooden clackers, which are much nicer alerts than buzzers and beeps.  I still use it for Savasana.

But now in most poses I use counted breaths.  Ten breaths (that’s one inhalation and one exhalation) are usually 45-60 seconds for me.  It’s a calming way to hold the pose and keep my attention in the right place.