“One of my goals in life is to do the slowest Primary Series anywhere… rather than the quickest”. Richard Freeman

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Winter practice.

Motivation tested despite all the tricks of the trade. Heating on a timer, candles at the ready to fool one into believing the room is warm and cosy. Everything prepared, mat, yoga towel, spray bottle filled, practice clothes washed and hung over the radiator. Everything primed and prepared, no excuses...? Oh, but there are always excuses....

'Aches in the joints from old injuries, perhaps I should stay in bed this morning rather than risk the knees.'

'Twinge in the hamstring, perhaps another rest day?' Conveniently forgetting that I've been working through this particular twinge for the last six months.

'It's too cold to be a really good practice, so why bother, might as well just give it a miss this morning, it'll be warmer tomorrow.'

The heating is turned all the way up, space heater directed at the center of the mat, yet still the cold creeps up through the floorboards and around the mat though nothing gets through the raft like Manduka.

'Don't think past the Sury's', and when they're done, a full five of each, resist the urge to jump straight to finishing.' So many mornings the thought comes up, I never seem to go with it, yet it keeps trying, keeps tempting.

'Standing, just stretch out some of the night aches and call it a day, a rest day, why not, your owed a few moon days.'

'Primary or Intermediate? I'd planned on 2nd but can I face Kapo when it's this cold, when I feel so stiff? Primary then....but then, hang on a moment, if I do 2nd I can quit standing at Parshvottanasana...'

Second then, because I can't face the last half of standing and I like the thought of bunching up into a warm ball for Pasasana. But then there's Krounchasana and the frustration of still not being able to get my leg straight, not in to mood for directing loving kindness at that pose. 'The cold isn't helping any, I'm stiff, hamstrings tight....is it too late to switch to Primary, I mean I'm already seated right...'

And I'm so not in the mood for stupid Salabhasana, here it is, decision time, if I'm going to bail it''ll be here. And yet Salabhasana is such good prep for Mayurasana. 'It's cold, I'm not going to be so sweaty, should nail a good peacock, perhaps even swan necked..... so breathe, count the breathe, focus on the count, make the Ujayii louder.'

In the end it's the breath, always the breath. Those tiresome poses I tolerate, Salabhasana A to Parsva Dhanurasana, it's always the breath I rely on to carry me through. By the time I come out of the other side the mind is quiet, the breath focused.

Kapo goes well, not so deep but the hang feels comfortable, don't feel like coming up but perhaps one more. On the second my hands are on my feet and I come up smoothly. So a third then, I find my feet right away...'my heels, did I just graze my heels', hang a little longer, hands are drier, so are my feet, spider hands up my heels, two fingers over the top...'hooked, I'm hooked', pull in, get the elbows down and breathe.

After coming smoothly up and while jumping back '.... I could have gone deeper, grabbed my ankles even, damn why didn't I remember to push my hips further forward, my ankles, my ankles damn it.'

And then it's work, set up for Supta Vajrasana focus on the count, work through Bakasana, the floaty, smoothly landed one comes and goes but I'm relaxed about it.

The twists, my favourites and you thought it would be the, oh so cool arm balances. Love the feeling of being so grounded, breath focus strongest here, good bandha focus too. Perfect lead into the LBH which feels comfortable enough now that I'm able to keep with the breathe and bandhas. I lose count of the breath at fifteen or so in Yoganidrasa. Ego raises it's head then 'damn that was a fine Chakrasana'.

By then of course the cold is forgotten, I'm in the practice, only mildly peeved at my failure to get as high as I want in Titthi. Karanda is OK, down and up, still not pretty and I wonder for a moment if it's going to improve or if I'll have to start all over from scratch. Some delight in Mayurasana, no swan neck but I'm more pleased with myself than a yogi probably should be, it's coming along.

As amused in Nakrasana now as I was in Titthibhasana B.

Mind fades away again through Vatyanasana, Parighasana and Gomukhasana, back with the breath and the bandha no need to focus on the count, body knows what to do, on automatic.

Supta Urdhava Pada Vajrasana still work in progress, try to picture Kino's approach. it's better, almost there.

Headstands, never been a problem for me, the exit was for awhile but never floating up and staying there. If I have time I'll thrown in some leg as well as the hand variations.

If the Kapo was good then I'll come up from Urdhava Danurhasana if not I'll do five UD's one drop back and move on to finishing. Not so interested in backbends at the moment.

Finishing is a joy, strong bandha focus throughout especially Uddiyana in the inversions.

Before Utpluthi I do kapalibhati, 36 strong exhales, lift up another 36, lower, arms up and on my shoulders for a final 36. (Liz would hate this).

Time is short so I run through the Pranayama mantra three times then ten minutes of Viloma Ujayii with deeply sucked in Uddiyana and a Nauli kriya at the end. I check the time again, ten minutes for meditation at most, promise myself I'll make up for it when I get back from work.

Sitting I focus on the breath entering and leaving the nostrils for five breathes and then try to follow the breath and let drop any location focus. I become aware of the buzz and play on the edges of it, not enough time to let it come on too strong but I notice myself smiling anyway.

The deep Tibetan chant comes out of my itouch and I lay back for my two minute Savasana and notice the chill coming up through the floorboards around me.

25 comments:

  1. You did it!

    I am still laying on the bed. Super Troll has temporarily departed to get another part. He was huffing & puffing in there like he was going to expire.

    Will he or won't he manage to make it flush? That is the drama of MY morning. I had the audacity to actually USE the toilet before his arrival too. Hey. He said he could fix it.

    Meanwhile I'll be losing $ to actually practice if I come through. But my room is about 80 degrees. Goodbye freezing and depressing, 49th St shala! (and good riddance).

    Sorry I'm rattling on.

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  2. Rattle away Boodi, feel free.
    Yep though tis was yesterdays practice. just finished todays. Sitting down to a cappuccino and an egg lightly fried in olive oil on a crumpet. It's the best, the yolk soaks into the crumpet, recommended post practice nosh.
    Did 2nd then 3rd to Purna M.(almost got it, starting to work out where the counter forces are). Don't think I want to do 3rd four days a week but once is fun, some great asanas and besides your India posts will make more sense this time if I practice it a little.

    Envious of your warm flat, though I suspect it might be too much in summer no?

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  3. Hi Grim, lovely post!

    On a tangent, I wonder if you would talk more about 'working through' a hamstring twinge for six months? I developed a twinge at the top attachment of one hamstring back in Nov, took three days off, went back to primary at about 50% on all forward bending i.e. instead of flat back and face almost to shins in Pasch/uttan/janu/etc I'm holding the shins, back slightly rounded, and working the quads (ala Tim Miller's yoga journal article). No pain this way, but when I try a practice at, say, 75%, that is, holding toes and gentle bending at elbows, the pain starts to return and I back the heck off. I'm terrified of these stories of people struggling with a hamstring butt-pain for a year or more. I'd be interested in hearing your approach/avoidance/whatever. Melanie Fawer talks about 'working around' the pain, so I guess that's what I've been trying. Also some trigger point work with a lacross ball on the hamstrings, which is miraculous.

    (One good thing I've found of taking out the hamstring stretch from so many poses, is that there is a lot more going on than forward bending in them that I had kind of failed to notice in the press to fold myself in half. Fun to play with that stuff instead.)

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  4. I am in awe at your moment by moment recount of the mind tricks... it is difficult in the winter! but you did it, congratulations!

    I managed to go to the shala this morning in spite of having most of the thoughts you were having (only appied to primary). I command you on practicing on your own...

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  5. i really needed to see this. was just about to bow out because my feet are cold on my wooden floors even with my manduka trying to create coverage. gonna light the candles and give it a go.thanks for the inspiration

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  6. I'm just starting out a home practice, and I have a question - what time do you get up in the morning to practice? Did you start out at that time right away, or did you start with shorter practices and wake not so early?

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  7. Wow, didn't really expect anyone to make it all the way through this post.

    Thanks Maya, re the hamstring, sounds like your taking a good appraoch already. it's one of those things i've had for so long now that I don't remember when and how it happened. I do remember that it wasn't too bad, not a tare so much as a bit of a pull. I remember laying off the right side for a few days or at least any forward bends. I did a lot of what your doing, kept the leg slightly bent, forehead to knee rather than chin.

    From Maehle I got the idea of pointing my toe which is supposed to give the hamstring the maximum protection. Strangely i found walking helped and left the bike at home for a couple of weeks.

    I'm probably back able to do full postures now, same for both leg but stil feel the slight twinge in the right hammie, a little warning, reminder if you like to be mindful.

    I heard caster oil wraps are supposed to be good but never got around to trying it.

    Thanks Caludia, I used to be pretty focused through most of Primary but as with 2nd there are little pockets where the mind wanders, Navasana of course, bhuja and the later supta's, less so now with the supta's. The jump back and through kept me focused in Primary, Full vinyasa did the same in 2nd but I've dropped it now to give myself more time for some PCM at the end.

    Glad it helped NYC, have found it tough this last week and kind of felt obliged to say so. Candles do help huh, you gave me an idea perhaps I'll lay down some spare mats tomorrow to keep the cold from coming up through the floor, wont be pretty but in the candle light should be OK. Come to think of it I'm reminded of pictures of the Shala in Mysore with all the mats and rugs on top of each other.

    Hi Kittin, thanks for stopping by. there are some posts I've called 'Developing a home practice' that go back to when I first started, here's the link

    http://grimmly2007.blogspot.com/search/label/developing%20a%20Home%20practice?updated-max=2009-05-10T07%3A33%3A00%2B01%3A00&max-results=20

    I used to use David Swenson's book in the beginning. Do you have it? it's essential : )
    he has variations for all the asana and best of all some shorter versions of the practice in the back. 15, 30 and 45 minutes. I did the 45 minute practice for a year or so until i found Sharath's DVD. He's quite quick and following it i could do the whole practice in an hour. These days i get up at 6am and practice from 6:30 until 8;15
    Back then I think i used to practice from 7:30 on a work day but I lived very close to work. Sunday and my day off I would practice later. For a while I used to practice in the evening a couple of times a week instead after i got back from work.

    Good luck with your home practice, for me routine was key. It's hard to build the discipline at first, routine can help there, same time same place, same everything. Even if your not in the mood get on the mat just for some Sun salutations and then perhaps a little standing, and then perhaps a little seated.......

    your questions are always welcome, don't think twice about asking them, if I can't help with them someone around here probably can.

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  8. Grim- you mean I'd hate Utpluhti? 36 breaths in it? Or the pranayama? I'm confused!

    What I'm not confused about is that I do hate Utpluhti.

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  9. Hey Liz, was thinking about your post a while back about the guy who was doing loud kapilabhati breathing and flying across the room in Nakrasana... Or was that Karen?

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  10. The ashtanga Dallas style one.

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  11. Have the opposite problem here - temperature got to the lowest of 28degrees celsius last night and was 30 degrees at 5 this morning. Everyone at the shala had a bad night's sleep. At least we don't have to worry about heating right now. BTW the maximum temperature today is going to be 42 degrees. ( Not sure what that is in fahrenheit - over 100 ? )

    Interesting that you do kapalabati breathing at the end of practice, we do kapalabati whilst in utplutihi for theoretically 100 breaths ( I usually get to around 50 ).

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  12. Yup. That's how I get through winter/dullness/tiredness. I give myself permission to quit after sunsals. Usually once I get through sunsals the fog has lifted and I don't have to keep fighting with myself. Standing on the mat and thinking about starting a 2 hour practice? Recipe for quitting.

    great post. Also glad to see I'm not the only one who hates salabhasana. That's second only to parsva dhanurasana.

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  13. oooooohhhhhh... yes. well, if you do it at the right time, I'm okay with crazy breathing. I only turn yoga police when someone is doing something annoyingly out of place (ex: breath of fire during drop backs). ha ha!!!!

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  14. grimmly, I have not read you enough to know--is there a shala near you? Do you get tired of practicing on your own? Seems like you are a 'true yogi', in the cave occupying solitary sense. (word verification is 'madotion'--I think I like it and I think I will say that it means 'an angry motion'.)

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  15. God Floss, where the heck are you that your pulling 30 degrees at 5am?? Ramaswami suggests 108 Kapalibati breaths at the end of the practice employing different hand positions. I split it in to three, 36 before Utpluthi, 36 during and 36 after. I did the 100 breath thing early (breath getting quicker and quicker throughout : ) but once I nailed the jump back I figured I was strong enough and getting enough strength work doing that throughout the practice. Probably a good idea to up the count though with 2nd series as the the Jump back and through is lighter.

    Thanks Lew for not leaving me hanging out there alone as a salabhasana hater.

    Hey Dana. I live outside London, it would be possible to go in for Sunday am practice though probably only twice a month. Now it's turned into kind of a 'thing' though. I'm interested in the degree to which you can practice without having any assists or adjustments.

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  16. Oh, it all sounds so familiar! And the excuses have been winning the last two days! Guess I needed to see this too. Just been to the dentist, now having a coffee (not what you're supposed to do afterwards but oh well!)... then home for a primary. Or just some suryas :)

    Was going to ask where you got 36 from. The more traditional way would be to use multiples of 27. Everything in 27, 54 or 108.

    Oh and walking absolutely helps hammie tears, best thing for them.

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  17. What a great post! If I were write a similar one today, it would be very short - "To practice or not? I think I need more sleep today - zzzzzzzzzzzz". Feel ashamed after reading yours. :O

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  18. Hi Grimmly,

    I am from where the Ashes was lost/taken/given away this year ( then again we struggled to put away the Windies ), and I am in a city with a certified teacher but not where Skippety is. Think that's enough clues :)

    My Maehle book just arrived in time for Christmas :) Am now doing LBH warm ups in between making chocolate truffles.

    I was intrigued by what he said regarding sacrum nutation. Because my teacher is forever telling mr to move my ASIS towards each other, didn't realise that's the same thing. Note to self to try that in kapo !

    And merry christmas to you !

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  19. Merry Christmas Grimm! Hope the sea bass worked out :)
    xx

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  20. Hey Susan , merry christmas to your too. Sea bass worked out well, Sea bream tonight (went a bit mad in Borough market).
    The 36 comes from Ramaswami and so i guess krishnamacharya. Lots about 36 of course, the 36 tattvias, Oh and time gets divided into 36 feeeling about the past, 36 about the present and 36 about the future.

    Thanks alfia, tomorrow's another practice, no?

    Of course Floss, didn't we chat about cricket on YC's site once? No doubt you'll win it back when your on home turf....perhaps

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  21. Yum, the words Borough Market alone make my mouth water :)

    Didn't know that about the 36, I guess any, um, quotient (?) of 108 is kosher. I also thought there were 25 tattvas, but just wiki'd it and turns out it's 25 in samkhya, 36 in shaivism. Huh! The 36 feelings about past, present and future sound intriguing. Nearly picked up Ramaswami's book yesterday, but it's quite a heavy one to carry back and I can get it in London... couldn't resist the Maehle though!!

    Just stuck up a pic of me about to get knocked out of mayurasana by a dog :)

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  22. Ahhh you got your hands on the Maehle, be interested what you think about it. I love your Mayurasana/dog picture. You seem to be online more in Canada, coming across your comments everywhere : )

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  23. Home wifi allows one to feed one's iPhone addiction even in another country :)

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  24. Hi Grimmly. I've been lurking on your blog for the past few weeks, and I have to say, you've been quite an inspiration. Sometimes a home practice can seem aimless and lonely (go figure), but seeing your dedication and progress has been great. You have reminded me to trust myself a little more, and not to be afraid to try something crazy once in a while. Keep it up!

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  25. Thanks for this M.Y. nice to hear that this week. Good luck with the new blog.

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A Reminder

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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