Thursday, February 16, 2012

Yoga is like Sex

In my late 20's I worked as an educational interpreter in a public High School. I provided Sign Language services for 2 students during their freshman year.
Algebra, Creative Writing, World History, Intro to Computers, P.E., Reading and Biology.
I have many vivid memories of that year. It was the year of the Columbine shooting so people, emotions and events are etched into my brain. I'll never forget the role of mitochondrion thanks to 4th period Biology lessons on the parts of a cell and this catchy little earrworm.

Intro to Computers was my favorite class, not because of the subject matter but because of the teacher and the way he presented the material. His stature and presence reminded me of a late 1960's Burl Ives and he taught these kids, and me, far more than how to type.

The first 3 weeks for these kids was excruciating! Imagine sitting each day at a desk in front of a monitor and keyboard and NOT being able to touch it. First they learned about the machine, then they learned about the processes they would be mastering during the year. They spent time on theory and did some quizzes (with pencil and paper). There wasn't a whole lot to interpret during these first few weeks, mostly busy work for the kids so the teacher and I got to know each other. He and his wife were in the process of purchasing a new SUV, a shiny new Lincoln Navigator with all the bells and whistles. Everything I know about buying a car I learned from this man and I've been told...I'm quite a shrewd car shopper. This guy knows his stuff....he knew what he was doing making his kids wait to use those computers too!

The day finally came.
Oh the joy and exclamations that rose from the class when they got to push the power button!
"See how excited you are?  Sometimes it's good to wait...remember that" he said with a wink.
"Everything worth having or doing is worth waiting for, everything."

A few chuckles, embarassed eyes and whispers later and they were all focused on the task at hand utterly ecstatic to be typing  a s d f j k l ;

My week on the mat has been like the keys on a Qwerty keyboard. Each day I've been working to move past Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana and each day I've gotten a bit further.
Yesterday I was able to bind both sides with assistance from my teacher, this morning I reached the fullest expression of the pose on my right side without help but my left side toes are just past the reach of my left hand.
In Ashtanga, when you are learning the series in the Mysore method, you work on a posture by repeating it 4 or 5 times.

This is ONE vinyasa

Stop and take that in for a second... after Surya Namaskar A and B, the basic sequence, the primary series standing postures and moving into the seated postures (all with a vinyasa sprinkled in between to keep you warm) you work on the current pose 4 or 5 times. Let me expand on that notion...once you get to the seated postures you do a vinyasa between each side of each pose. That's a whollotta chaturanga!

So back to this morning's practice. Since I cannot yet bind on both sides and take the fullest expression of the.pose.affectionately.called.stuck ...I did it 5 times.
The right side came relatively easily and put a grin in the corners of my eyes. Three times and 6 vinyasas later...and I touched my left big toe with my left finger for the very first time! I SWEAR I heard the opening riff to a Madonna tune! I wriggled and reached and even poked my bottom lip out...I can't grasp yet...but I TOUCHED it and that touch.was.awesome! It was so worth the smile spread from the corners of my eyes to every inch of my face. My teacher says I'm close, I may even have it tomorrow...but I'm not thinking about tomorrow when there is so much to revel in today.

So the lesson
Don't rush
if it's worth doing
it's worth the wait
and it's sooo much better when you finally get there

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I do not like to be stuck

With Bandha, Drishti and Ujjayi your body becomes a temple when breathing and asana, tension and concentration come together into one unit. So with Ujjayi, Bandha and Drishti you create the foundation of your practice, and the spiritual dimension of Ashtanga Yoga develops. (source)

The spiritual dimension of Ashtanga has taught me that...
I don't like to feel stuck

movement: V handshape to the throat

Funny, because the ASL sign for the concept "stuck" is also one of my least favorite signs...only because it means so much more than the English word "stuck" but people still say the word rather than the idea...but I digress.

We started our 3rd week of Ashtanga practice yesterday. We've been progessing swimmingly through the poses and have moved into the seated postures of the primary series. We left off with Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana on Friday of last week so we fully expected to be moving on when we returned.

Nope. Keep working on this one until you get it.
Grr, I don't want to, I want to learn the next one
I "get" this one, my hips just don't allow the fullest expression yet....
Hubs was even MORE aggravated about it.
He's looking forward to some of the quad stretches and grumbled about being stuck.

Admittedly, I did too. On my way to work I grumbled
After each grumble, I reminded myself to let my ego just step aside because this is a practice.
It worked, by the time I made it to work I was appreciative and looking forward to the extra time it will take to truly experience the benefits of this pose. I mean, I've been practicing downward facing dog for 11 years and the nuances I've found in the past 3 weeks have made a huge difference in my practice.

photo credit

Monday was a grumbly day for my mini me too.
And I, as a mom, was stuck.
My hands were tied.
There was nothing I could do.
I was caught between a scylla and charybdis.
Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana
(HA, next time I see that sign I'm gonna voice THAT!)

This morning we worked through our practice and stopped at the last pose we learned, the one I affectionately call stuck. It was a great practice, I felt strong, worked up a good sweat and waited for today's teacher to tell us what to do next.
"On Tuesdays, we take it easy. Once you've moved through the standing poses and get to the seated postures of the primary series, we don't teach anything new on Tuesdays. Krista (my fave yoga teacher of all time and the owner of the shala) doesn't teach new postures on Tuesdays, neither does her this is an opportunity for you to work where you are..."

So we did, I went back through my seated postures because I had forgotten one the first time.
I did my back bends and closing postures...and had an AHmazing Savasana.
Hubs even said so...we joked about being grumbly yesterday and today being just fine.
We did not move further into the series...but we did progress!

It really wasn't any different than yesterday
but it was
I'm still in the same place
but I'm not stuck

My mini me got up this morning, dressed herself up in a snazzy outfit and faced the day...with whatever it may bring. She knows it's okay to be sad...but I don't think she'll let herself be stuck.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Fundamentals First

Today is day 3 of Ashtanga for the hub and I.

We've learned our poses through the fundamental asanas (standing series).

Whoo whee...I could feel my feet towards the end of our session! Definitely time to invest in a new pair of my favorite sandals.

So my memorization trick for the day to get me through what I know so far

That could be a nursery rhyme for baby yogis :)

Suryanamaskar A
Suryanamaskar B
2 forward folds
2 triangles
2 side angles
Wide Stanced Forward Bend:
hands to the floor, hands on hips, hands clasped shoulder stretch, big toe peace fingers :)
Pyramid (which make me think of 'walk like an egyptian')