expectations



One morning, while en route to yoga, I questioned why I was even going. My body ached something fierce and my mind was far from finding acceptance with how I was feeling. It was hard not to set an expectation for a “bad practice.” I reminded myself to have an open mind and not judge what was to come. After all, that *is* the point of the practice: the same sequence of poses, done in the same order, 6 days per week unfolding in a new way each time.

The radio played as I creeped along the freeway. I shook my head, surprised to find traffic so heavy this early in the morning. Ahead of me, the clouds (both dark and light), caught just a hint of the sunlight. It was beautiful and immediately made me feel grateful to have slowed down just enough to notice. Just like that, my mind shifted and I smiled thinking how easily the bad can be turned  into something just a little bit better.

As for my practice, I do not recall how far into it before I became aware that I was no longer feeling any signs of discomfort. I guess, like the sunlight behind the clouds, the body to which I awakened also had a few surprises for me. A short while later, even though the pain had left, I told my teacher that I wasn’t sure how deep of a kapotasana I had to offer. A few deep slow breaths into the pose, I felt a sudden wave of release. She had said, “Let go,” and so I did. I let go of fear, my need to protect my heart, and I let go of expectations…at least for a time. And this too was new, for I’ve been holding on to a lot lately.

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Learning to Count



During my preparation to teach the class that would ultimately decide if I was certification-worthy or not, I began working on learning the traditional vinyasa count in Sanskrit. Over the years, I have committed to learning the Sanskrit name of the poses in my given practice. For me, it is part of the practice; in a sense, learning the name is like taking ownership of the pose. Although I have made a point to know when and where the inhalations and exhalations occur, learning the traditional count was never something I felt compelled to learn.

Until… I was asked to substitute teach the Led Primary class at a newer yoga studio in the Bay Area. The led class occurs weekly at many studios and serves as a complement to the students’ regular Mysore practice. While the student follows their own breathing pattern during their Mysore practice, they learn efficiency when asked to keep their practice married to the teacher’s count (which may be faster or slower than their usual pace). In this led class, the teacher calls out the names of the poses in Sanskrit along with traditional vinyasa count and, often, not a lot of other verbal cuing. Because the student already knows the sequence, there doesn’t need to be a lot of other direction.

So, I set out to learn it, naïve to the complexity that I would soon face. I quickly learned that it is not as easy as 1-2-3… There are poses which used to begin with a full vinyasa beginning from ekam (1) standing at the top of the mat, arms rise, and so on. These poses now have only a half vinyasa where the count begins with the student jumping through to seated from adho mukha svanasana (downdog) and therefore the count begins at sapta (7). That was the least of my confusion. There were other instances where the count reverted back somewhere in the previous number sequence, sometimes repeatedly, other times only once. After a few days of carefully reviewing various recordings and writings of the practice, I became completely overwhelmed to the point of tears. It wasn’t until my teacher shared with me that “traditional” count was not at all traditional in the sense that every teacher doesn’t call it out exactly the same. She advised me to just learn when and where the inhale and exhale goes for the test out and even upcoming the led class. Then, keep working on learning the count and, over time, it will come.

And, while I don’t believe that learning the vinyasa count makes you any better of a student, I wonder if learning it somehow energetically creates a stronger bond to the flow of the practice in a similar way to my commitment to learning the names of the poses as a way to “own” the poses are part of MY practice. It’s just a thought. What do YOU think?

what is yoga?



During this morning’s practice, I asked my teacher if it was better to keep both of my hips grounded in Marichyasana D –OR- let the back hip float but ground the knee instead. Reaffirming that the primary goal is the twist and the bind that are the priority. Having no issues there, yet not able to ground both the knee and the hips simultaneously, I asked her my question again. She responded again, saying that in all of Primary Series the objective healing comes from the concentrated abdominal squeezing action more than anything else. “Bandhas”, she said, “You don’t find them. They find you.”

Thinking back to a recent conversation around Garbha Pindasana, I asked if that is why we are encouraged to thread our arms through our lotus. She smiled, and walked away.

A few poses later in my practice, I retrieved the water bottle and worked on the pose as best as I am currently able. Although the water did a nice job of allowing me to thread, the tighter ball I was in made it challenging to stay on my mat while rolling around in the circle before trying to lift up into Kukkutasana. I struggled but stuck with it trying to keep my mind on the moment instead of where it has been for the past week: Stuck in a conversation about using water to thread the arms.

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mindful modification weaning



I found myself unable to get to mysore for most of last week for a number of reasons. As a result, my time on the mat was drastically reduced. I returned to the room on Sunday feeling oddly energized in spite of the hour “lost” to the time change. I began in the usual way with my surya namaskaras and standing poses, then moved to the early part of the seated series. I did all of my vinyasas, jumping back and through to the best of my ability as per the ashtanga tradition. At that point, I moved into intermediate to assess how my body would respond to adding back some of the poses I haven’t been doing for some time (namely kapotasana). The plan was to move into the pose with mindful observation, careful not to overdue it.

I surprised myself and touched down for the first time in several weeks. My teacher, who was leading the weekly led practice for all comers had her hands full with a large group of students that included the latest teacher trainees. Unlike most Sundays, she did not have an assistant. I have no idea if she even saw that I was moving into intermediate. I opted to leave well enough alone and stop just prior to all of the leg -behind-the-head poses.

I returned to the room on Monday, feeling brave enough to continue to explore some additional poses from intermediate. With my Spartan Race on Sunday, I opted to modify them so that I could gauge my body’s tolerance to them in a stepwise fashion and be insured not to open my hips to the level of instability they have been at up until now.

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Taking it slow



It’s been a while since I have written here. I was been given quite a few new poses and was plowing ahead in my practice with determination to learn these new poses. The realization that the end of second series was coming to a close, with just 7 headstands left in the sequence, both excited me and made me nervous.

I wish I could say that I have mastered the poses leading up to these new one, but I haven’t. And I was okay with that until….another sacroiliac injury hit. Now, I am barely doing any yoga as I let my body heal. In the poses that do unfold on my mat, I notice a heightened awareness of how my body responds to even the most subtle of movements. I am learning a lot as I find ways to modify my approach to my practice (poses, props, and omissions). It is my expectation that I will come out on the other side of this injury armed with a lot of new knowledge.

In the meantime, I am reminded to take it slow in my return.

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