Monday, 28 May 2012

New Blog

I am back in the land of the blogging but have a new blog -  Ashtanga Yoga Liverpool Blog.  Hope you come and  join me there.  I will leave this blog here for now but intend to post on the new blog.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

dusting the cobwebs away

Here is a bit of a practice update.

Kapotasana- last time I blogged about this, I was cutting out the additional prep that had snuck into home practice. I was doing 3 kapo hang backs, 3 kapo B's, then 3 kapo A and B standard.  Blimey!  That was mental and physical torture, it also disrupted the flow of my practice.  I gradually cut out the prep and had cut it out completely by March.  Woah, not much blogging going on from me, evidently.  What surprised me was that my body adapted. I was able to grab my heels without the prep and still do.  I guess it is similar to what happened when my practice was split, my body was used to primary as a warm up but with time it adapted.  Clever body.  I still repeat the pose if I don't get it first time, a maximum of 3 times.  Sometimes I get in on the first attempt, but this is mostly if I am in a Mysore class as it is warmer.  Kapotasana, remains a physically demanding pose for me, but there is definitely less drama about it.   Overall I guess I am becoming more flexible but it varies day to day, month to month and so I care less.  I just do it and move on.

My practice is getting longer, slowly.  I was given nakrasana a couple of weeks ago.  It is funny how much adding one pose can do.  Adding yet another strong asana to that section which requires physical and mental strength, has made me find more ease and less intensity.  Yes this is a strong practice but it's nice to find the softness and surrender to it's ebb and flow.  I am not talking about sloppyness here, the integrity has to be there and the strength but also some softness.  I hadn't explored this in intermediate before, it was something I felt in primary but intermediate requires so much of me, my practice was intense but now as it gets longer I am surrendering more, it's an interesting space.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Karandavasana landing and urrm up?

It's been so long since I blogged it is difficult to know where to begin.  I started writing a summary yesterday but it all sounded so dry.  The details without the life.  How can you sum up two months in one post.  So I am going to start again and focus my post on karandavasana.  For anyone who does not know this pose or for anyone as geeky as me, here is a video of karandavasana in a led intermediate class in mysore.

It's a hard pose, no kidding!  I love it though, it suits my character.  I'm very determined and I am fairly patient, most of the time;-).  I am also fairly strong which makes kapotasana harder as I have tight shoulders (that is opening up too now though).  I will happily chip away gradually building strength and learning to co-ordinate the movements which is more challenging but also kind of fun.

So I am working at this at home which can be a challenge as I can contine to do the same wrong thing again and again and again, you get the idea, lots of falling!  Last week I landed it for the first time on Wednesday and again on Thursday.  On Thursday my partner videod it, as he has a new camera and happened to be
around.   It was good to be able to watch it again, but it wasn't as good as I thought it was, lol.  What made the difference and enabled me to land was a tip from a teacher to move the shoulders up and forward.  Prior to this I would land slowly and then slide off my arms.  However as I am thinking about my shoulders I am not curling as much as I can and should in order to land it well and consitently.  This week I tried to do both and mostly failed, today when I was exhausted, last intermediate of the week, I managed to land on my fist attempt and it was a bit lighter I think.  Kino gave me a great tip re curling to draw the ribs in, this really helped so now I need to combine both the curl and the shoulder action.  This is all very physically orientated but to me it is excellent mindfulness training, you have to be totally present in karandavasana there is no room for daydreaming!

So once I land I'm all chuffed for a moment and then the question arises, how do I get back up.  I am doing one of my karandavasana attempts so I only go half way down hold that and then see if I can get back up from there as outlined in Ashtanga Yoga - The Intermediate Series: Mythology, Anatomy, and Practice (Ashtanga Yoga Intermediate Series) But when I am down I want to use the muscles I need to develop to build strength so that one day, however long it takes I can come up.  This was the approach I took for jump backs and after years of sending the s ignal, a kino would put it, my body responded.  Today I tried lifting the pelvis on and back toward me chest, using the strength of the pelvis.  Is this the action.   If anyone reading can do this and can explain what they do and from where that would be fab.

Bye for now.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Landing the elusive duck

Kapotasana went away last Wednesday and has only just came back today, the flexibility of my spine varies greatly.  I was frustrated with kapotasana because the rest of my practice feels so meditative.  However, I realized here is the power of this practice, I have to do something really challenging and calm my mind. This gives the practice some real life application because life sometimes has it's share of challenges.  I often feel that is how I cope with them that show how much the yoga is really working.

I love karandavasana.  I am not able to do it by any means, I am still working on my landing and enjoying the process.  My hips have oppened up, about one month ago, making leg behind the head deeper and getting into lotus in karandavasana less of a mission. At first it felt like it took a day just to get in, it still is a mission but an easier one so I have been working on my landing.

It is fun!  Here is how it is going and what I have learned so far.  It is a difficult pose and have decided to take it one step at a time.  When I was first given it, I was overwhelmed, I wondered how on earth I would work in this at home.   My teacher told me to just try and get into lotus and balance, that made it more accessible, I had something that seemed possible to work toward.  When I could do that every day and I was balanced I started to try to go half way down.  To do that you have to gradually shift the weight back, like you do in headtand when coming down.  The hard part is learning how much weight to shift and to teach my body a new movement, which comes down to practice.  I can do that now, after that I go down too quick and land on my arms but slip straight off.  So that is where my work is I try to stay in the place where I am still in control and gradually expand that. 

Last night I watched kino's dvd in slow motion.  I think I have worked out what I do wrong and what to do next, now  I need to teach my body..........  Once she got half way she began to curl but he kept her pelvis in the same place until she was almost down. I think as I begin to curl I bring my pelvis toward the midline, thus shifting  the weight to far back and losing the control.  The next part, the landing is more complex but I am not going to work on that yet.  One step at a time.

When I was last at the shala, I got lot of helpful advise on this.  One of my teachers told me I needed to practice being in the down position, which I could do with assistance.  I was like said err great but I can only come to the shala once a month now, (I was going every week last year).  I suggested I could try and get into the down position from the floor, I  learnt how to do this on kino's workshop.  However, although I can get up from the floor one side at a time, the second side is always to low.  So I tried to get into the down position another way, also from kino's dvd.  I come into pincha but with my head on the floor i.e headstand, the get into lotus, lower down and then lift my head and land.  I practice it after I have had 3 goes at the regular karandavasana.  It is more stable so easier to control but I have still only landed it twice.  Once last week and once today, today I held the down position for ten breaths.  It was okay but there was no way in the world I was getting back up, head on the floor or not, that will take a long time!!!  I am enjoying the process as I love the mindfulness in motion as well as the mental and physical strength that this pose requires.

Sunday, 30 January 2011


It's been a while.. hi!  This post is going to be a tad asana centric.  I've thought about posting it a few times and keep deciding it'd make a dull read but I obviously need to write it as I keep thinking about it.  I went to see my teacher a couple of weeks ago and had a great time, I learned lots which is still informing my at home practice.  I really wanted to go to kinos workshop in March as he is doing an extra mysore class and a workshop on adjusting primary on the Monday.  I felt that she may have some good input for me as I continue to work on karandavasana.  I really wanted to go but wasn't sure if I could afford it, so I decided not to go to London in February (I usually go at least every 4 weeks).  My teacher is in Mysore in February anyhow. I am also in a bit of a groove with my home practice right now, I have lots to work on and have some ideas about how to do it.  So I won't be in London until March, the week before the kino workshop.

The advantage of working at home on a pose is you can do some naughty prep work for a challenging pose if you like.  The disadvantage of working at home is that you can do some naughty prep work for a challenging pose if you like, it can get out of hand, lol!  When I got split (started practicing just second series),  the thing I found the hardest was kapotasana at home.  It would come so quick, I would barely be awake and I would be so cold, my feet like ice blocks.  I mean it is not an easy pose anyhow, but you need to be warmed up.  So I developed a prep routine, 3 kapo hang backs, then 3 kapo B's, then 3 normal kapotasanas.  That warmed me up!!!!

Working at kapotasana at home with a tight upper back is challenging and I am grateful for my kapotasana prep for allowing me to get to the point that I can grab my heels by myself.  I think it would have taken years without.  At the shala it is warm enough and I usually do 2 kapotasanas, one assisted and one solo.  Anyhow in January the procrastinations began...I take a break between each prep, I hold them for one minute and it is intense.  The procrastinations went something like this  "this is not astanga"  "this is taking too much time"  "this is way to much prep" blah, blah, blah went my mind.

My mind is usually fairly quiet during practice but during kapotasana prep I would let it go.  I've been meditating a lot recently and I soon realized I needed put this practice to use to reign in my wondering mind by focusing on my breath.  I also realized my mind had a point, it was too much, it was messing with the flow of my practice, and I now have other poses that need my energy.

So I am on Kapotasana prep cut back.  Each week I remove one prep pose from my routine.  I am now in week 3,  so today I did 2 hang backs and one kapo B before my 3 kapotasanas.  As a result I make more of an effort on each one, I am also very determined on my final kapo, and am still getting to my heels on the final one, every day bar one.  I have much more energy too, so it going well.  It is also giving me something to focus on while I am without a teacher for the next month. 

I am also working on the karandavasa landing, and it is getting better but is not there yet, I love it though....that's another post perhaps....

Sunday, 9 January 2011

The power of now

Over Christmas I read The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckart Tolle.  I loved the book but I am not intending to review it here but to share what I have noticed in my own reflections.    I have wanted to read this book for a while and it did not disappoint.   Over the holidays was a good time for me to read it as I was away from my everyday busyness and able to put it all into practice and reflect on it.

I realised that it was time I brought my spiritual practice into my life more fully.  Time to be here and now as much as possible in life and to stop creating emotional attachments.  Afterall all we ever have is here an now, why live elsewhere! Meditation in life as opposed to meditation and life as two separate practices.  I realize this is all very obvious but I don't think I have actually practiced this fully before.  I have had moments of being completely present in my life which have been amazing glimpses.  I am definately more present as a result of both my asana and my meditation practice but I have until recently not noticed when I am not present outside of my practice.  I guess I have practiced and then let it spontaneously effect my life.

Christmas was a great time to practice this.  I noticed that the moments I avoided being in fully were not the amazing ones or the difficult ones but the mundane, day to day stuff.  I guess you could call it boredom, wanting to be elsewhere and literally being elsewhere in my mind.  Ugh!  I hate to admit this.  I have an aversion to saying I am ever bored as I have always felt that if I say I am bored it actually means I am boring. However as I have observed myself lately I have noticed that there are some moments, I don't want to be in.  Noticing this and  allowing myself to be there more fully, transform these seemingly mundane moments into the extraordinary wonder that they really are or sometimes I have just noticed my aversion to something instead of mentally avoiding it.  I guess this is why washing up is often given as a time to meditate and be fully present.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Back home

I am back home after my winter retreat in Wales, well it was a family visit but it felt like a retreat because we were snowed in most of the time.  When we arrived we couldn't quite get up the hill to my mums house so we had to abandon the car (managed to parked it) and walk the last bit with all our stuff.  I had planned to see more of my friends but the car was stuck and we were in such a beautiful spot, it was lovely to be stuck.  So relaxing.   We had some wonderful walks along the headland in the snow, it was so quite ours were sometimes the only footprint to be seen.  The snow melted the day before our drive home, it was so strange to see green again!

During all this time for reflection I have had lots of time to think about the practice.  You know the saying it's not about the asana.   I love Nobel's post about this and am grateful to him as he put into words a lot of my thoughts.  It  took me years to be able to do certain poses, supta kurmasana for instance.  Now that I can do this pose with ease, I am not that changed, but the process of trying, failing, tunning in, striving, letting go that taught me a great deal about myelf.  So it is I think in part about the asana, just not about achievement of the asana. I  think, my yoga practice is an opportunity to practice being in the here and now.  At the beginning of my practice I sometimes make a silent commitment to myself to stay present. I feel that the asanas themselves help to release emotional and mental tension in my body which enables me to be more present off the mat.  So I do think the asana themselves are useful but if you can't do this or that, it doesn't matter and in fact it's great, use it as a tool for inner transformation.  It's actually not the tight yogi's that have a hard time I think, if your tight, you have to surrender and accept your now pretty early on but if your flexible you can go right on striving and expecting until you eventually find your wall.

I think it is inevitable that I get involved in the story of my asana practice.  I have always felt that honest reflection is important part of my path even if it doesn't seem to evolved.  I like talking about asana, I like breaking it down and working toward certain poses, the main reason for this is because I find the process transformational.  I spend a lot of my time doing asana and it is part of my day to day experience and therefore in my head.  Where am I going with this, well I just wanted to write a current state of practice report because I felt that my practice was hard, wasn't changing, etc. etc and then wondered why it mattered, which of course it doesn't but I want to record the current state of practice anyway, just for kicks.  I wrote the practice report a couple of days ago and I found that it has changed more than I realized.

So practice.... while I was away kapotasana was more hit and miss than normal.  Since I have been able to do it by myself I have made it to my heels everyday usually on the third attempt.  While I was away there were two days where I just couldn't make it to my heels even on the third attempt.  I knew this would inevitably happen at some point, but I was worried I had gotten too attached having worked so hard to get there but I just moved on, so I was pleased with my non-attachment, spiritual materialism?
   Pasasana- wrist on first side, wrist on second side, sometimes.  Love the opening on the back shoulder.  Boxing day was another story, bounced out of it on first attempt, I was so bloated, Christmas pudding I think!!

I like the backbends that lead up to kapotasana but they go so quick.  Really enjoying dhanurasana right now,  I can get a lovely stretch there and often hold it a little longer. Kapotasana, who knows, depends on???  Mostly I am getting to heels on second or third attempt, I have had a couple of practice where it has been really open.  I have realized it is much, much easier when I am more flexible as in it takes less energy.  Still doing repeats etc so kapotasana feels like a separate practice in the middle of my practice.

Supta vajrasana- I love, now.  My shoulders welcome it.  Bakasana B has been less consistent since my back opened up, mostly because doubt has crept in but my back is still recovering here. I can still land it though, not always on the first attempt but I did this week :-)  The twists are a welcome break and a chance to do some jump throughs and back which I do with as much control as I can.  I recover here.

Leg behind the head, I can get my legs there but my dwi pada isn't great.  Can't seem to get right leg back without letting left leg lift a little.  With assistance I can point my toes solo once in but alone my feet have to cling to one another like long lost friends at a party.

Tittibhasanas are fine until C the final one, that hurts!  My legs subtly ache all the time, I think this is why???

Pincha, depends, I think it is a flexibility thing I can get up easier when I am more open.  I can balance fine whilst up.  I've not been working on the exit because I hurt my toes landing too hard on the shala floor.  I can do it but sometimes the landing is a bit heavy and sometimes I only get one hand in place, any tips on landing gently, bandhas I know, is that it, bandhas and pray?  My toes are better now though so I am going to start doing it again.  

Karandavasana- I love this pose but it but it sure is hard.  At home I practice in the middle of the room no walls are free.  On a good day I can get into lotus by myself tighten it, hold that for 5 quick breaths and then release.   Think my lotus is opening up which is making this easier.  At the shala,  I get assistance and can on a good day mostly if not completely get down by myself but at home I am very much building the foundation.  My partner is great at assisting if he is about.  Today he assisted me as he walked past, it was like being at the shala.  I do it 3 times because I am a loon!

Mayurasana, is getting better, I can hold it for 5 breaths but only just, I think it's close!  Have I been saying that for a while, lol.  What's helped is slowing down, and gradually leaning into it trying not to make any sudden movements. That's my last pose and I am happy to end there. 

I want to work on keeping my feet my feet more parallel in drop backs but as you may have noticed I have a lot to work on already!  So for now I just do the standard drop back routine, I can keep my feet  parallel on the drop if I try so I do but  but not on the stand up.  A project for the future perhaps.

I have been writing this post in stages, so it's long, sorry.  If you have made it this far, well done and thank you for reading, since it is now new year, happy new year.  Whatever it brings may you enjoy every moment as it is.