Monday, December 10, 2012

Damn, yo! More than a year has gone by!

Hello again, old yogafriends.  I haven't posted in over a year and almost completely forgot about this blog.  I was reading some old posts today and realized that I have really come a long way since August 29, 2011.  I eventually got Marichyasana C (took almost six months) and I'm REALLY close on Mari D.  Well, maybe not that close.

Bhuja Pidasana was, for at least two months, a slapstick comedy routine of alternately banging my forehead and then ass against the mat.  While I'm sure it was hilarious for all of my yogafriends, eventually I figured out how to avoid yoga concussions and broken teeth - you move your ass BACK when you bend FORWARD to touch your face to the mat!  That gives you enough balance to hopefully not faceplant as shown below.

Kurmasana and Supta Kurmasana are, predictably, shitshows of pain and stiffness.  Working too hard at these intense forward bends has resulted in a lower back strain which occurred about a week ago and is only now beginning to fade.  My teacher has admonished me sufficiently for not practicing ahimsa in regards to my own body.

I have more to say and more to share, but I think this post is done.  I very recently upped my practice from 3-4 times a week to the full 5-6 times.  Still waiting on the results, but so far things seem positive, except for the previously mentioned back strain.

Monday, August 29, 2011

it's been a long time... i shouldn't have left you.

Hello blogreaders. It has been a very long time, and much has happened.

I haven't been posting because I got a new boss at work - he has been working me pretty hard and I haven't had any space left in my brain for blogging after work is done. The past month has been exhausting. Working late, working weekends, working working working... At least it pays the bills.

When I haven't been working, I have been preparing for a kung fu tournament coming up this saturday! I have been training really hard, and between training and working, I'm afraid yoga has been pushed to the side a little bit. I began the month of August with a plan to only to maintain the yoga I had and not push things at all.

Yoga is pretty ironic. As you may remember, I have been really working hard at getting consistent binds in Marichyasana B. When August began, I decided to stop caring and stop getting frustrated with Mari B. Instead, I'd just do my time and attempt the binds and be completely unattached to the result. The first practice that I approached with this mindset was actually pretty incredible. Without being attached to the postures, I found myself focused solely on breathing properly and deeply, and using the postures as tools for relaxation. My forward folds were not as deep as usual and overall the practice was not as physically demanding, yet it was satisfying in a different way. When it was time for Marichyasana B, I inhaled slowly, exhaled softly, reached, and my fingers met without any effort. That which I had been straining for months to accomplish I finally reached by letting go of the effort. Yoga really is a unique practice.

Anyway, as the month went went on, I became consistent on both sides in Mari B and moved on to Mari C. I can't get the bind on Mari C without considerable wrenching on the part of my poor yoga teacher, who I outweigh by at least 40 pounds. But at least I'm not frustrated by the whole thing anymore. I haven't been practicing that consistently either - just once last week, and I missed practice already today. But I have been getting good sleep, eating properly, working hard, and training my little kung fu heart out.

Yoga will still be there when I come back to it in earnest.

Monday, August 8, 2011

a confession...

I didn't go to yoga today... and it felt so delicious.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Wedding and A Marichyasana B

I got married last sunday! I have been really busy for the past few weeks due to the wedding and whatnot which is why I haven't been posting or practicing as much. Now that the wedding is a week and a half behind me, I finally have the time and presence of mind to be able to reflect on my practice.

If you've been following the blog (and not just looking at the pictures) you might remember that I have been having a lot of trouble with that damnable Marichyasana B. For the first few months of being stuck, I took the opportunity to cultivate a non-grasping attitude and to smother my selfish ambitions. However, a couple weeks before the wedding I started to get frustrated and angry. The binding seemed so far away that I thought I'd never be able to get it on my own. I started to loathe that part of my practice, and performing Mari B three times on each side felt like treading water in the ocean while swallowing a spoonful of terrible medicine and being mauled by a seafaring gorilla. I resented my stiff fat body and its inability to perform binds that everyone else in my class can perform with ease.

After the brief post-wedding honeymoon (during which we got into a car accident while en route; long story) I got back to the shala feeling much refreshed and relaxed. I think the relaxation helped a bit as I was able to bind two out of three times on the left side without any assistance! This was heartening as I had only been able to perform that once before at Manju's workshop. It made me realize that as long as I continue to practice, I will make progress even if it is slower than I want. I believe Jois said something about that...

Also, as I was doing a gmail search for something entirely unrelated, I came across this chat transcript with my very close friend who is an authorized mysore teacher in san fran, dated March 8:

me: i think i'm like maybe
2 cm away from fingers touching on one side
in Mari A
and like maybe 8 cm on the other

Somehow in my frustration with Mari B, I had completely forgotten that I experienced a similar difficulty with Mari A which I overcame through steady practice. When I read that, I felt a sudden relief mixed with a tinge of shame - why had I been doubting myself and the practice? And worse - why did I let that doubt turn into anger and frustration?

I still don't have the bind, but I am making demonstrable progress. Today I bound on the left side 3/3 times, and although I still feel miles away on the right side, I know that I am making progress.

Ironically, I spend a lot of time telling students in my kung fu classes that the tree of martial arts is slow to climb and yields its fruit reluctantly. I also am constantly telling them to relax their trapezoids. I need to listen to my own advice!

PS. Does anyone have any advice on how to turn the foot out in Janu Shirshasana C? I can never really seem to firmly plant my big toe, and my foot is nowhere close to perpendicular to the floor. I just don't really see how to get more rotation without twisting at the knee...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

two more yogamans

Any idea why it feels like my back is literally burning when I do this posture? It feels like so much heat.

So hard to bind...

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Tale of Two Temperaments

As I have mentioned before, I started yoga out of curiosity but also as a way to improve my kung fu. The two have synergized really nicely and seem to go hand in hand for me.

However, something happened recently which really made me aware of how different the two disciplines are. I was teaching a mixed age kung fu class, and one of the students asked me about some ground techniques, namely, how to choke someone on the floor with your legs. I asked a newly minted instructor for some help demonstrating and so we got on the floor to explain the "triangle choke". For some reason, this other instructor (who is about 18) decided to turn the quick instructional demo into a wrestling match (what a hothead!) and so he picked me up and dropped me on my neck a few times. This only succeeded in really pissing me off, so we grappled some more until he gave up. My neck hurt for days afterwards, including during my manju workshop.

This made me pretty angry. He shouldn't have engaged in free sparring of any kind in that context. Children were running around and could have been hurt! Also, I hate having to deal with unnecessary injury. Aches and pains are part of the deal when practicing martial arts, but I try to protect myself to minimize such things. I vowed revenge.

Sure enough, an opportunity arose for me to exact retribution for his misdeeds. We were holding controlled sparring sessions, so I got in line and just happened to be paired up with the hothead who injured me. I am ten years his senior but still well within my prime and easily defeated him. I finished the fight with a nice jab to the stomach which left him bent over gasping for breath. I went home feeling satisfied that we were even and regaled my friends with a tale of domination over my opponents.

The very next morning I woke up early and went to yoga. As soon as I started on my standing postures, I realized that my mind was struggling to adjust to the change in pace and attitude. My practice was really unfocused as my aggressive mindstate sharply contrasted with the peaceful yoga practice.

I don't feel bad about what happened in kung fu. While I am a vegetarian and try to practice ahimsa in regards to all living creatures great and small, I think that the violence of kung fu is primarily a method of sharpening and controlling the mind. Kung fu is a practice for pacifists, and learning to use your body as a tool of violence is ultimately a meditation on the nature of peace. In essence, I think some of the goals of yoga and kung fu are identical - we all strive to cease the vibrations of the mind. But the path to that goal is so different in many respects, and sometimes I find it jarring to practice both.

PS. after i beat his ass earlier this week, he and i have cooled things out and are once again friendly colleagues. it's like in elementary school where you fight with your friend and then ten minutes later it's back on the bikes.

Friday, June 24, 2011

damn yo, that was a rough week

My dirty little yoga secret is that I don't actually practice 6x per week. I only go to class on monday, wednesday, and friday. Sometimes I practice on saturday (!) if I skip a class during the week, or I'll practice on a moonday. Sometimes I'll skip class and not make it up at all. During my second yoga class ever, the teacher (who subsequently left the school and who I saw only that one class) told me two things: Trust the Practice, and Do Not Skip Days. Sorry, Patty!

Last Sunday I made a goal to attend yoga class every day this week as an experiment. I wanted to see if I could really wake up at 5:15 five days a week while also practicing kung fu, commuting via bicycle, and working 8-9 hours every day.

Turns out that it is possible, but not pleasant. I have been constantly exhausted this week, I was sick on thursday, I have had a bit of shoulder pain, and somehow my jaw got strained. I have been drinking tons of coffee and have been grouchy in the evenings. I consider these to be growing pains.

On the other hand, the yoga has been damn good. I still haven't made a ton of progress on marichyasana b but I finally managed to work out the jumpthroughs! They are still pretty shitty - my feet drag along the floor a lot and it feels like i'm jamming my legs through my arms rather than jumping through - but now I have a place to start and a clear path to progress. I spent a lot of time Tuesday night lying in bed visualizing the jumpthroughs and the very next day I achieved victory!
Larry Bird once said something really great about practicing shots in his mind, but I can't find the quote so who knows. I might be making it up.

I don't know if I'll try to go 5 for 5 next week, but I consider the experiment a success. The week has been a difficult road, but I think I learned something important about yoga and about myself - and I guess that is all that matters.