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Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Day 11 Karandavasana Richard Freeman's two week challenge

"This pose is quite challenging and takes at least two weeks of practice."
Richard Freeman Ashtanga yoga The Intermediate series DVD


Much happier with my final KaranD position. Shoulders are a little further from my hands and it feels more comfortable. I still need to make my lotus tighter and deeper and curl it in closer to my arms but that will come.
I've also been coming down slower and with more control, though not so much in the video below, which was around my sixth this morning and I was getting tired. I wanted to do a close up though and from this low angle, so I could look at it more closely.

So it's better, it doesn't look far off, but how the hell do you get back up again. You can't start uncurling from that position, somehow you have to get your hips up so you can begin to uncurl the lotus.
I've tried to bring the shoulders up, tried moving back through, Tried Susan's, bringing the knees towards each other, pushing down on my hands........ nothing moves, it's all locked up.
I've been watching the YouTube video's I listed earlier over and over, but can't see where the return motion begins. What info I do find on Karandavasana online is pretty scarce and mostly deals with getting down into it rather than getting back up. The most you get, as usual, is the ubiquitous "engage the bandhas" ...... OK, then what?

But shouldn't complain, am actually more than happy with where I am now and wont be too disappointed if I don't get it. It will come, and that will be a good day. In fact am becoming confident enough now that I'm able to come away from the wall, couldn't have imagined that a week ago. So thanks Richard for the motivation.

So I cant go back..... but what if I swing/push forward a little to create some momentum and then swing back.....Hmmmmm

Monday, 30 March 2009

Day 10 towards Karandavasana

Day 10 much the same as Day 9.

Trying to get my lotus tighter and deeper and work on bringing it in closer to my armpits. Also trying to slow my descent . The main problem though, seems to be that my arms collapse as my lotus comes down past parallel with the mat, such that my shoulders are almost resting on my hands. By the time I land it I'm all squished up, which doesn't give me much chance to generate any movement back up.

From the YouTube videos I've seen the head and chest come through at the last moment just as you land. Going back up you seem to begin there, the reversal of that movement seems to begin to generate some motion to help you up. Need to create more space to move.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Day 9 Towards..... coming up from Karandavasana Slow-motion

It's one thing landing Karandavasana when you practice the asana on it's own, quite another when you attempt it in it's correct place in the series. Already getting tired by the time karandavasana comes up in 2ND. Took me three goes too, the first two I came down too quickly and bounced off my forearms. This is the third attempt. Still came down a bit fast but managed to land it. Sure I'm not supposed to be that squished though. Had a mild attempt at bringing it back up again. the picture on the left is as far back up as I managed, pretty lamentable.

Susan suggest a tighter lotus and and pressing the knees towards eachother to help generate the lift, so will try that tomorrow.

I'm reminded too of this from David Swenson,
" It is imperative that you maintain opposing forces of lifting and lowering at the same time. This means that as you are going down you are simultaneously lifting up yet with slightly less effort. This will control your decent. The bandhas are your support line. Once your legs touch the arms you must maintain and equality of both lifting and lowering. If you allow your weight to sink at this point it will be impossible to climb back up. To come up, add energy to the lifting mode and decrease the sinking force. "
David Swenson : Ashtanga yoga. "The practice manual".

Just had to give the pressing the knees towards eachother thing. Maybe a little bit of lift, going to have to think about this, but starting to think it might be doable.....but by next saturday?

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Day 8 Towards karandavasana - The goose has landed.

Day 8
The eagle.......well goose, has landed. Not pretty, not much control, in point of fact, it was more of a controlled fall on to my arms, but landed all the same.
Took three attempts. the first I landed on my backside, which was fine because it got rid of all the fear about what happens if you fall in lotus. The second attempt I landed on my arms but couldn't hold it. The third, I landed, managed to hold it and also realised I don't have a clue as to how to get back up again.

Key difference was overcoming the fear and also getting a sense of the point of balance. As you come down you feel like your on a knife edge between toppling backwards. But that just means you have enough weight behind to counterbalance the lotus coming down.

Karandavasana Youtube movie links etc

Sharath 1 min in

Russell Case


from Ashtangaboi

from Reynoldl

from govindakai's video ( Update, Laruga center)

Greg Nardi adjusting


My later Richard freeman 14 day Karandavasana challenge
This is a Morricone version of this post

Day 14 Towards Karandavasana ; Richard Freeman's Two week Pepsi challenge, Final day

for Patrick

A Fistful of Dollars suite Ennio Morricone

Update: Bit embarrassed now by the music but at the time there was an in-joke that I've forgotten and hey, this was 2009

"The people we trust with our privacy are the ones who really listen closely, but don’t hang on to a detail. The trust-worthy know that next year you will have a different mind, and they won’t hold on to anything but compassion for your future past selves."

from here

"This pose is quite challenging and takes at least two weeks of practice."

Richard Freeman Ashtanga yoga The Intermediate series DVD

 Final day and I don't appear any closer to coming up, and yet I can feel it's all becoming a little more controlled each day. I know it will come, sooner, rather than later.
And Richards statement in the video, 'This pose is quite challenging and takes at least two weeks of practice' , if he means getting into the pose then, yes, you can do it in two weeks of focused practice, or even a little less. Coming up from it, though, surely takes more time. Dropping back into Kapo is one thing, reaching the heels, another.
I find I'm not disappointed, very happy with being able to get into it and how much more balanced my intermediate feels. It's a wonderful asana, I have this image of one of those speeded up movies of a flower opening and closing and opening again, am beginning to fall in love with Intermediate.
Now I want to let it do it's thing, deepen and grow in me, and just get on with my practice for a while, without focusing on any particular asana. 

See Day 1 for idea behind all this

I came back to Karandavasana a month later for another week intensive and finally got it back up although with a chin plant

A few weeks later the exit started to come together

Black and white Ashtanga movies

Been having fun with my Movie editing software.

I like this effect but not sure why. Seems to capture how I feel about my practice sometimes. Yes, there are those rare, wonderful, transcendent, meditative moments, where you feel light as a feather and fly through the series. The rest of the time home practice, for me anyway, feels like hard graft, hot, sweaty and solitary, though I love both aspects as much.

Jump back


Baddha Padmasana , Tolasana and Uthpluthi




Marichiyasana sequence

Friday, 27 March 2009

Day 7 Towards Karandavasana

"This pose is quite challenging and takes at least two weeks of practice."
Richard Freeman Ashtanga yoga The Intermediate series DVD
One week down, one to go.

Felt I'm making some progress with this at last. Managed to get the kind of body alignment I was after with my head up that I was getting yesterday with my head down.

It's an effort but should get easier over the next couple of days. Think with this alignment I should be able to get my lotus all the way down to my arms. Whether I'll be able to take it back up again is another matter.

I was watching Richards DVD again and in Pincha Mayurasana he says "Look at a point on the floor between the elbows"....really? I was looking closer to my thumbs.

Think it's what made the difference with my alignment though. Hard to jump up with the gaze there, so I'm looking mid forearm to jump up, then take my gaze back to between my elbows which seems to straighten everything up. I try to make sure my gaze doesn't wander beyond my thumbs.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Day 6 Towards Karandavasana

"This pose is quite challenging and takes at least two weeks of practice."
Richard Freeman Ashtanga yoga The Intermediate series DVD

If nothing else my Pincha Mayrasana is getting stronger. Forming my lotus a little better too. Still keeping it shallow while I build confidence. Sooner or later I'm just going to have to bind it good and tight and be done with it.

Second attempt in the video I lower my head to the ground after forming the lotus while attempting to bring it down. Apart from making it more stable I'm able to align my body much better (first picture below) Must be able to find a way to keep that same alignment while coming up off the head. The second picture is of the third attempt as I attempt to bring the lotus down. Looking at that alignment you can see I just don't have a hope and I crash and burn a moment later.

Want to play with the position in first picture. Go up to Pincha M, fold my lotus, lower my head to the mat and bring it down to where I am in the picture but then play around with lifting back up onto my forearms while trying to keep the same alignment.

This is the kind of thing I'm after, but look how straight the arms and shoulders are.

First time jumping into Bhujapidasana and Tittibhasana

This was a nice surprise. Jumped further than I intended into Tittbhasana and ended up on my arms. Usually I would jump to the side of my hands settle my legs on my arms and then move into the asana, had never figured out how to do the jump straight in. Tried it on Bhujapidasana and landed that as well. Both times I landed too low down the arms which made the asana awkward but now I have the basic technique I can work on landing higher up the arms.

March Kapotasana

Coming up is much easier now, especially the closer in I have my hands. Also keeping the hips engaged all the time and never coming to rest helps. Noticed how I started to take my hands over from my forehead, but then allowed them to go out again. Want to try to keep them tighter, keeping them close to my head all the way down, and try to stay focused on my hips and trying to keep them above my knees.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Day 5 Towards Karandavasana

Starting to get worried now. Day 5 and very little progress. Feel like I'm miles away from bringing my Lotus down to my arms. Strangely enough I'm less worried about taking them up again.

My Pincha M needs to be more stable but I'm trying to get into my lotus quickly while my arms are still feeling strong. Had thought I'd be able to practice this a lot but I find after two or three goes my arms are too tired to continue and I have to take a break.

Looking at Swenson and Freeman as well as some videos on YouTube, I see that I seem to need arch my back and stick my backside out more to counterbalance the lotus going down.

Got some time now, might throw another couple and see what happens.

Remembered reading somewhere that using a strap can be helpful. I get the idea, definitely more stable with the strap, but I just felt like I was about to dislocate my shoulder or something so am giving up on that idea. Not a fan of props anyway.

Remembered too, Susan writing about drishti in a previous comment on this asana. Very helpful for keeping balance. Rather than keeping balance by moving your body, which makes you even more unsteady, just moving the gaze back or forward seems to have the same effect but with more subtlety.

I'm keeping the lotus quite shallow so I can get out of it quickly if.....OK, when I fall. Not too concerned about the lotus, think I can get in and bring it down a little way, but at the point where I fall out of it above I just don't see how I can go beyond that point and curl it down to my arms. Maybe I need to practice some more with the Pincha arms handstand.

DAY 4 Towards karandavasana

Richard Freeman's 2 week Pepsi challenge.

Seems I need to explain the Pepsi challenge for the less ancient yogi's among us. It's not as one thought, that Richard Freeman had sold out to Pepsi, and if you could nail Karandavasana in two weeks you'd get a year supply of Pepsi. No, Pepsi challenge was a blind tasting test in the 70's to see if you could tell the difference between Pepsi and Coke (you could of course). Challenge collocates strongly, for my generation, with Pepsi. Thus I refer to Richards challenge "this pose may take two weeks of practice" as a Pepsi challenge.

Think Joy is right, the tripod headstand variation is not the same at ALL. But have to say that the Pincha headstand variation (video above) is closer and a more stable base to work on curling that lotus in good and tight than Pincha Mayurasana, for that reason I think it's worth while playing with it for a bit.

Monday, 23 March 2009

March Jump back Jump through. Raging Bull effect

Thought Black and White might make a change. There was a nice grainy, jumpy, 1930's effect too, but thought that was pushing it a bit far. This is my Raging Bull look.

Progress on the Jump back this month? Sorted out the breathing confusion I was having with my Jump through. Now I begin inhaling as I look up, shorter swing forward before the jump and start to exhale as I come down from the half handstand finishing the exhale as I lower. Seems to be working much better for this style. Bad form Sir

Other progress has come from, finally, practicing alternating the leading leg, important for being able to jump through straight into the asana. Thought that might take ages to learn as my left leg seemed completely locked, but only took a couple of practices to change the habit.

Hadn't noticed until this close-up how much my hands jump around.

DAY 2 Karandavasana, Sirasana Variation

Patrick suggested a Sirasana variation for Karandavasana rather than the tripod headstand

As he says it's closer to karandavasana in that it's much less stable and there's more of a curling in of the lotus.

Wasn't sure what happens next. Perhaps it's possible to unlink the fingers, try to bring the head up which would be pretty much Karandavasana no? Then put the head back down, link the fingers and take the lotus back up.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

DAY 1 Karandavasana "This pose is quite challenging and takes at least two weeks of practice." Richard Freeman

Richard Freeman's Pepsi challenge

"This pose is quite challenging and takes at least two weeks of practice."
Ashtanga yoga The Intermediate series DVD

Two weeks? Yeah Right.

Richard's instruction.
Elbows parallel, Forearms parallel
Thighs over front of the Diaphragm (When in Pincha Mayurasana)
Exhale firmly to coil the body
Shins as high up the arms as possible
Keep the nose back behind the line of the thumbs (Found this interesting)
Keep the heart open.

Kind of playing with it here, feel a bit like a boxer circling his opponent. Trying to get an idea of the physics involved, weight distribution etc. The first part of the video is a half serious attempt at Karandavasana, the second part is playing with getting my lotus onto my arms from the ground (the Fido approach) to get an idea of where I want to end up.

Clearly my Pincha Mayurasana is weak. I don't think I'm straight enough, too much of my upper body weight is behind my arms and that's probably why I have that banana shape, as I use my legs as a counterweight.As soon as I move into lotus there's just too much weight behind my arms and it drops me back down. I need to be straighter and rock steady here with full control.

Probably shouldn't even be considering Karandavasana until it is, but can't help having a little sniff at it. Besides it's always a good reminder of how important it is to get the earlier poses right, as the particularly challenging poses are always built on some that have gone before. Pincha Mayurasana here obviously, but also getting into inverted lotus in Urdhva Padmasana from finishing sequence and of course going up and down with control in headstands.

While working on improving Pincha Mayurasana, the other elements of Karandavasana can be practiced using the more stable Tripod headstand version.

Two weeks says Richard, surely he's kidding, but lets give it a go, everyday for the next couple of weeks and see what happens.

Friday, 20 March 2009

March Holiday practice, Some Intermediate progress

Music Michael Franti.

Just some fun messing around with Quicktime Pro, which is growing on me, a surprisingly powerful little program. Can always cut and paste the improvements in as they happen. Interesting playing around with this and putting different backing tracks on and seeing how your view of the practice changes. Is it a refuge, a metaphor or perhaps a preparation, a coping skill. Does it reflect, disguise, conceal, disclose. Aletheia, Phusis or Eidos

Below is one for M

Nietzsche's Sand bath

Sorry it's a bit dark

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Reflections on holiday practice.

Last day of my holiday today.

When I started it, I wanted to imagine that I was on some intensive Ashtanga retreat in Goa or somewhere, practicing twice a day, Primary in the morning, Intermediate in the afternoon. Probably been practicing around four hours a day and I feel it. I want to say that my body aches all over but "aches" has such negative connotations and it's not unpleasant. That said wouldn't want to do this for more than two weeks or so. Don't some Yogi's go on such retreats for two or three months at a time, madness! Managed not to strain anything though, I think alternating primary and intermediate works well, after all the back bending of 2nd, Primary, the following morning, was just what I needed.

I wanted to become more comfortable with Intermediate. Up till now I've only done it on my day off, on Sundays and occasionally in the evening and/or sometimes tacking the first or second half onto my primary. However, I got up and practiced all of Intermediate this morning as if it was a work day and it was fine, took just over an hour (inc. Freeman's shortened standing and finishing).

I can get in and out of all the asanas now (jumping in is still rough but jumping out is OK), though it isn't always pretty. Supta Vajrasana I used to take the time to get my knees under the sofa, now I just try and get into a deeper and deeper bind and at least make an attempt at the solo rock back and up. Rocking back (falling) is fine, rocking up......well may take some time. Will be a while before I can catch my ankles in Kapo but am happy with being able to hang back and walk in as well as being able to come up now (actually I have some ideas about the ankle catching, posts to come).
Dwi pada is barely there but at least I can hook my feet now and can work on getting deeper into it. Noticed on the video that my calves are perhaps stopping me getting my legs further over my shoulder, perhaps rolling them to the side will help.

Pincha Mayurasana is a big project for me now, I can jump in, legs together, OK but don't think it's very straight. Want to develop a lot of control here as it's key to Karandavasana (at the moment I'm doing a tripod headstand version) and Vrishichakasana ( I heard they don't practice it in Mysore in Intermediate anymore, but I'm leaving it in, one of the joys of home practice).

Supta Urhva pada Vajrasana is the next really tricky one for me though I almost got it yesterday, just losing the toe at the last moment. At least I got the feeling of rolling over my arm, which felt fine.

Headstand I've never found to be a problem, especially with all that "pelvis in space" work I've been doing. I can float up in all seven OK but tend to float down as well. I just don't see the point of that toe breaker of a drop though I saw someone drop quite slowly and with a lot of control, might work on that.

So a more relaxed, flowing intermediate was one highlight. Coming up from Kapotasana was another and hooking both feet behind my head (kinda) in Dwi pada an added bonus. Have become quite comfortable with dropping back and tend to come up again more times than not.

The tick tock. Hmmm, was fun playing with it. Managed to get the tick OK but I think the tock is dependent on developing a good deep controlled Vrschikasana C which is why I've left Vrschikasana B in my Intermediate.

The other nice thing about this holiday is that I've had the extra time to include some Vippassana meditation after Tolasana and before savasana

Things I want to work on now:

Obviously just develop a more flowing, controlled 2nd in line with the breath. But in particular, and things I'll probably be posting on.

  • Improved, smoother drop backs and coming up. Catching the ankles in kapo

  • Karandavasana

  • Vrishchikasana B and C working towards the tock of the tick tock.

  • and the ever elusive press to handstand.

Quite a long, wordy (for me) post, but I realized I started Ashtanga two years ago this month, as a response to being burgled, and it's good to look at where I am now. Kind of thing everyone else seemed to be doing at new year.

PS. OH, and something for M

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Managed to come up from Kapotasana

No exuberant celebration this time, think I surprised myself and was trying to work out what had made the difference.
Last post I was writing about trying to keep my hips above my knees, even starting off a little forward of my knees. Tried that here and it was much improved. Manage to keep my head off the ground and walk back to my feet before lowering. I think I managed to come up because my legs were straighter.

I dropped back a couple of times at the end of my practice managing to come up nicely once. Drop back was improved too, as with my kapo, I'm becoming more able to take my hands over without losing it. I think it's Susan's hands in prayer to the forehead thing, feeling quite relaxed there and able to start hanging back a little further each time. Also I remember her saying something about breathing and not over filling the lungs (forget the context). Have been doing that in Kapo and dropback, again much more relaxed and thus controlled. Yay!

Friday, 13 March 2009

Kapotasana : taking the arms back to grab the ankle?

Feeling like things are happening with my Kapo at the moment. Able to go back much slower now bringing my arms over and almost hanging before I land. Might have something to do with trying the hips forward of the knees approach or perhaps the legs and feet parallel. Supposedly a lot of disagreement about the hips/knees thing. I figure my hips are going to go back anyway so if I can start with them further forward to limit the effect than that's all to the good.

Trying, too, to keep my elbows in though without much success. Just taking them over my head now in my chair, both elbows in and out to check the effect. Really hard to keep them in but when you do something happens, what is that? Is it bringing the chest up more, somethings going on. Elbows out everything just seems to stop but elbows in there's the feeling that there's more to come. I know I know this isn't very clear. Here's a slow mo of the arms going over from the video above.

I'm going back slow enough, I'm pretty much hanging, there should be time for me to reach back for my ankles but something is stopping me reaching back further, what is that. I'm thinking Elbows In might be the key. I suspect it brings the chest up even further and allows you to curve around more. need to visit YouTube.No, scratch that, just watched Owl's glorious Kapo on flickr and her elbows are out wide, yet her legs are up straight as you like. When I go back my hips go back too, taking me further away from my feet. How then to keep the hips above the knees.

How about this from Anna Nuotio her kapo starts 2:45 in. She seems to kind of jut her hips forward just as she bends back.

"Hips above knees, hips above knees"

A close shave in Intermediate

I'm usually pretty good at getting on the mat, but not this morning. Bit tired, up late last night trying to work out trains/timetables etc. Had been tempted to go into London early to take a led/counted Ashtanga class this morning but would have had to get up around 3:30. Engineering works, Grrrr.

Plus I ache all over. Was having so much fun working through intermediate yesterday that I didn't notice the toll it was taking. Did I really need to have ten attempts at kanandavasana and four Kapo's. Heaven knows how many times I tried jumping into Bakasana to try and land it higher up the arm. There's nothing pulled, or twisted, or tweaked just feels like I've been ten rounds with Tyson,..... the early Tyson.

So have cranked up the central heating and turned on the electric heater and am now waiting for my "shala" to trap some heat. After all this work on Intermediate yesterday I want to practice with Richard Freemans Intermediate DVD this morning, try and get into the rhythm of it.

That's the intermediate, where's the close shave?

Decided with summer coming it was time for a shave and bought myself a new razor.....THE razor.

If getting both legs behind my head in Eka Pada Sirasana for the first time yesterday was a high, first shave with this razor was even more so.

I was giggling to myself for heavens sake. But it's just a razor! Oh no, I beg to differ. It has six blades, SIX. five on the frount and a thoughtful extra one on the back. It has 15 micro fins, but they are mini microfins. And it VIBRATES. This a is weird, tingly sensation, yet quite pleasurable. It glides, oh it glides. At first I thought the blade that came on it might have been one of those fake ones with no actual blade. I mean this is only my third shave after having a beard for the last year, it normally hurts a little but not here. Picture Lino Miele gliding over the mat and you get an idea. This is the Lino Miele of razors.

Yes I know the adverts make you cringe as does the price, but wait there's a recession, whose going to pay fifteen quid for a they dropped it to seven, and you can pick up the blades cheap now on ebay. (Damm, there goes my years supply of blades from Gillette for this plug).

Oh and it's black.....shinny black. Ahhhh just got it that's why they call this one the Stealth. Stealth bomber, so desu ka.

Another comparison with Ashtanga. After your practice high, there's the come down when you realize you have to wait till the following morning before you practice again. Same with the new Gillette Power Fusion Stealth, oh yes, "the best a man can get" Razor.

Or like me, this week, you can practice and shave twice a day.

So now do I practice first or shave first?

Appear to have solved my Jump through breath problem

Following up on top couple of posts on this thread I seemed to have got over the inhale/exhale confusion I'd got myself into with my jump through.

I've reduced the swing up to my toes in prep for jumping up, but start my inhale there as I look up. I keep inhaling all the way to the top of my Half handstand and start to exhale just as I come down and through and lower. Seems to be working well, much more relaxed and thus more in control.

Kapotasana progress

Really happy with my Kapo today. Again referring to the "cheat sheet" and trying to keep my "feet straight, shins parallel and big toes pointing straight back", plus the hands in prayer to the forehead, though I keep forgetting to keep my elbows in. Managed to keep control of the breath here as I went back wish I could do the same in my dropback. Looking at the video I get the feeling I should be able to start reaching back to try and grab my feet or at least my toenails before I land

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Progress in the Eka Pada Sirasana series

A million things wrong with this I know, but was so excited about a couple of bits that I had to post it. First that I've almost got the jump into EPS A , jumping my leg around my arm. Was miles away from this just last week, but the work I've been doing this week in my Primary of jumping back and through with alternate legs has started to pay off.

It's not pretty, but I'm getting my legs a little more over the shoulder, though my back is still more than a little Hugoesque

But best of all, for the first time, I'm able to get both legs hooked behind my head (sort of) without rolling over and having to use the wall to prop me up to get in it. Was so excited I forgot the namaste.

Dwi pada Sirsasana has got to be one of those poses that you never think you'll be able to do. Still wonder if I'll ever be able to do it with a straight back, but then how many times do we say that in Ashtanga and prove ourselves wrong.

Been rereading this excellent post from Susanada. It's like a cheatsheet with all these great tips, hints suggestions for what's working for someone at the time of writing (been great help with kapo). On Titibhasana she mentions keeping the feet straight (parallel) and super straight strong legs. Tried it and it helped. Any excuse to post this joyfully absurd and yet frankly, disturbing asana.

Working through each Asana with Susan's "cheatsheet" has entailed doing everything pretty much three times or four times, two hours went by and I was only up to Picha Mayurasana. I've been wanting to focus on the forearm stands so decided to split my practice and come back to the second half, backbends, dropbacks and tick-tocks later this afternoon. Really enjoying having the free time to work on all this.

And one that didn't go so well........

You can see from the picture that this was not going to end well.
I think where it went wrong was as i was trying to bring my head and chest through into vrshchikasana my arms began to bend a little and of course as I went over they just bent further and further offering no support
I actually don't mind these so much. Landing on your head is probably what we're most worried about, but when it happens it's not as bad as you fear. Sounds worse here because of the floorboards.
Thought slow motion would be amusing.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

More tick tock work, sans wall

Tried to give myself some more space. Ticking was fine but couldn't figure out why I was having such a hard time Tocking. Hard enough with my legs spread like this, legs together, another ball game altogether. Had taken the wall for granted in the last post and forgotten all about it. No wall here (or at least a bit of a stretch), starting to sink in how tricky this is. Back to the drawing board.

For now I'm thinking I need to practice tocking back over in any way I can to try and work out how the body weight is getting shifted....going to be awhile before it's pretty.

The exclamation after landing was because I was quite tense when I landed, need to relax more so I don't feel any jarring.

Just watched a couple of Youtube videos and think I get the idea. Vrshchikasana appears to be the key. There seems to be some rocking to get some momentum (as in coming up from regular dropbacks) and then as you jump up you seem to have to bring your head and body through into vrshchikasana. The good news then is that you dont need to jump all the way over just up into your vrshchikasana.....the bad news is mine is pretty sad at the moment.

Still this makes sense. To work on Vrshchikasana without relying on the wall I need to feel confident falling comfortably into UD anyway, so worth practicing. Haven't really tried this with the one I should be working on, the forearm vrshchikasana from Intermediate. Must be easier tocking back over in that one and will be good prep, except my handstands are much stronger than my forearm stands.

That's where we start tomorrow, forearm tick tocking.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Towards Tick Tocks : Handstand to Backbend

Continuing along the path towards tick tocks (don't know why, but keep hearing Austin Powers in my head Going "tick tock baby yeah"). Decided to skip the shoulder stand and/or headstand to backbend and go for the main event.... in stages. This worked for dropping back so should work for building confidence here too. And in the end I think it is just about confidence and overcoming the fear.

Seemed to work OK, decided not to push it at the end and just do this for a couple of days to gain confidence. The more confident I'm feeling the more I'll feel able to get into a nice Viparita Chakrasana and lower more slowly and with more control. I'm assuming that Viparita Chakrasana to UD is the tick and flipping back over again is the tock. The tock looks like being the tricky one but think this approach shoud work for that too. Think I'm going to have to rearrange my "shala" though to give me more space.

About time I did this drop from handstand to backbend. Forgetting about the whole tick tock project for a moment this should make me confident about bringing my handstands off the wall as well as my headstands, been dependent too long.

A big hello to the person who searched for "grimmly jump back guy" from Osaka (my old home town) today.

Holiday practice

Holiday practice began today and I'm imagining I'm in Goa or somewhere on an Ashtanga intensive. Up early for Primary in the morning and Intermediate in the late afternoon. the latter of which I've just finished and am feeling so knackered that I can hardly keep my arms up to type.

In my primary I'm finally working on Jumping Back and Through with alternate leading legs. I need this for Intermediate and it's long over due, something I wish I'd done from the beginning. Did better than I thought I would this morning but jumping into asanas is still pretty lame, especially with my left leg leading, something it just refuses to do.

I carried on through to Kapo and did a couple of dropbacks, coming up once, before finishing. Kapo and dropbacks were hard today, probably because of this cold. I stayed in bed with it yesterday and had to stop every five minutes through practice this morning to blow my nose.

Managed to consolidate my Come up from Laghuvajrasana though.
Look (0v0) sunshine!

It seems to be coming from the Vastus lateralis rather than the Quadricept,on the right just above the knee at least that's where I'm feeling the ache and where I'm focusing my attention.

Intermediate was pretty much OK up until Karandavasana, all very much work in progress from there, fun but exhausting. Still can't bind in Dwi pada Sirasana without falling over and having to prop my back against the wall but it's much closer, especially now the weather is getting warmer and I'm getting more sweaty.

The video below is of trying to work out the shoulder stand to backbend that Patrick suggested from the Sweeney book as a stage towards the tick tock. Again just working out the basic idea of how it would work before I dive right in.

Starting to have second thoughts about the tick tock thing. Been throwing in a Viparita Chakrasana on all my jump backs to standing in the Surys this afternoon and the thought of allowing that drop into backbend scares the bejesus out of me, am in no rush. Probably because I've always had my wall as a security blanket, practicing at home. I'm sure that for many the drop to backbend from handstand isn't such a big deal as it's the standard safe way to fall and doing it from Viparita Chakrasana is only a small step up from that.

Just remembered I tried it once after watching a Yogagarden Youtube video on coming off the wall Anyway gave it a go and this is what happened.

Haven't tried it since.

Hi to M. Hope you had a good flight, give my love to the family x

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Coming up from Laghuvajrasana and Improved Kapo

Seem to be on a bit of a roll with coming up at the moment. I think a lot of it is to do with believing that you can. Knowing I can come up after dropping back now probably had a knock on effect to Laghu.
Going into Laghuvajrasana I was thinking about a comment I received recently regarding coming up from Dropbacks. It suggested dropping back, just to fingertips, but not committing completely to the Dropback, but rather come back up again from the fingertips and repeat.
So I tried that with Laghu, going back just beyond the place I'm usually committed and then coming most of the way up again and then dropping back all the way but trying to keep that tension in muscle memory of the coming back up. I didn't stay down for the five breaths but came up again directly after landing.....I think it counts no?

The second part of the video is a Kapo employing Susans "Namaste to third eye" that she was posting about this evening, though in relation to Dropbacks. Thought it might work with Kapo too. HUGE difference, able to drop back much closer to my feet and if I played with it a bit I think I could reach my ankles this way. Didn't even attempt to come up on this one though.

The final part of the video is an attempt to use Susan's Dropback approach. I really struggle hanging back with my arms outstretched, so the hands in prayer to the forehead seemed a good half way house, it is too. I'm able to go back much further than with my arms outstretched and able to keep breathing. I bailed though at the last second because I just felt I was too far from the ground from what I've become used to. Definitely the way forward, another couple of attempts should give me the confidence with it that I need

Nice practice tonight can't wait for the morning.

Friday, 6 March 2009

10 days off.....Tick-tacs????

My holiday starts Saturday. I had planned on working towards the Drop back and having a reading week. Getting the dropback early has thrown things out a little. Can't keep posting the infinitesimal improvements daily, comments have already been made. So need to come up with something else.

I'm thinking 10 days of full intermediate (lately I've been doing Primary on up to Kapo and into backbends), get comfortable with that second half. I have the Richard Freeman's DVD to practice along with, never got on with his primary but his intermediate is excellent.

And in the afternoons....and for posting here, I'm thinking of having a go at Tic-Tacks, (Tic-Tocks, flip flop flapping there a consensus on what to call these?) with the aid of Matthew Sweeney's new book Vinyasa Krama. Could be an absolute disaster but an interesting one perhaps, should be fun at least.

Strange but I just couldn't picture how it works physically, as if my arms would twist out of their sockets trying to flip over. The video below is my attempt to work out the basic idea....broad brush strokes if you will.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009


It's all in the gaze....

* Thanks to Nietzsche' (17) for demonstrating Drishti and the avoidence of monkey mind

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Dropping back and Coming up, best so far and comparing before and after

OK, last one of these for a while, promise.

But finally a nice one.

NO Air punching,
NO Yippie-ki-yay ing,
NO collapsing,
NO swaying about all over the place
NO running back and forth over the mat

Below are two videos in slow motion the first one is from 24Th of February before I came up but one of my best attempts. The second one is the one above in slow motion. Thought it would be interesting to see them together and try to work out what made the difference. It's still happening too fast for me to be that aware of what I'm doing. My feeling at the moment is that it's pretty much just confidence and improved coordination but take a look.

Backbend work: Hangs, Drops and Ups

2 x hang backs, 2x dropbacks and 2 x come ups

Some Sweeney hang backs to the wall. Want to be able to drop back with arms outstretched in a controlled manner. At the moment when I take my arms over I tend to stop breathing and just drop the rest of the way. Some improvement in that here, after the Sweeney exercises.

Coming up not as sweet as the first one on Sunday but at least I'm up and gaining confidence.

Just to keep things in perspective : 2nd attempt at coming up

Could tell in the rock forward just before I attempted to come up that something wasn't right. Don't know why I tried it anyway...hubris?

Ashtanga keeps you humble.

This was right after the first successful one (posted yesterday) and I made a real hash of it. It didn't particularly bother me though as I knew I'd rushed it. Main thing is I know now that I CAN do it and that I'm not going to pass out in the attempt.

Several months ago I'd been watching the Grand Prix and when the adverts came on I decide to practice some backbends over the table. Going back was OK then I started coming up. Next thing I knew I was waking up on the floor, laying on my side my glasses a bit squished. I thought I'd been having a nice nap, but was confused as to why there. The Grand Prix had started again so I must have been out a minute or two. Slowly I began to remember what I'd been doing. Scared me a bit and I've had it in the back of my mind ever since.

The only time I feel feint now is when i try hanging back with my arms over my head, but forcing myself to overemphasise the breath seems to help.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

I came up ! ( First time coming up from Urdhva Dhanurasana )

It just kind of happened, totally unexpected.

So what's the key?

Perhaps that there isn't one.

I'd decided to work hard at coming up during my holiday a week from now. Until then I'd planned on laying some groundwork, Drop back everyday, work on breathing and the rocking back and forth. That's pretty much what I was doing here but on that third rock forward I came up a little more than I expected and it felt good, lighter, so I just went for it and up I came. Perhaps you can tell that I was rather pleased about it. (bit embarrassed about that bit, not very Zen of me, but couldn't edit it out without cutting short the coming up).

I think attempting to come up after dropping back is to be recommended. I've been dropping back everyday this week and have become much more confident with it. The more you do the slower it all seems to happen and the more time you have to feel what's going on. Also I haven't felt any strain on my back at all this week and when I came up just now it was pretty much effortless. In contrast, last month when I was trying to come up from UD without the drop back I felt a lot of strain in my back and it was as if I was trying to force myself up.

Excited about it, but looking at the video it's untidy and lacks finesse, hardly any control to it. Still lots of work to do, want to be able to hang back with my arms over my head and breathe and perhaps come up hands over head too.

Thank you to everyone for all the advice, suggestions and encouragement in your comments

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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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