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.

My teacher seemed to only notice the modified portion of my practice. She arrived at the side of my mat after I my unsuccessful attempt to do a modified karandavasana (legs crossed but not in lotus). Much to my surprise, she didn’t come over to congratulate me for my return to kapotasana or my solid pincha mayurasana. Instead, she came to ask me WHY I was modifying “so many poses.” She went on and on about the benefits of primary series and seemed to be saying that she didn’t want me to do intermediate at all. I listened and did my best not to protest or resist her advice. Instead, I explained that I didn’t want to over stretch my hip during this early stage of my healing and asked for confirmation of what she was asking of me. She went on to show me how, even in primary series I could find stability without stretching the hip. But as she demonstrating how this could be done, she modified each and every pose — including the ones that I am no longer modifying.

Now I was really confused .It seemed like the reason she wanted me to do primary was because I was modifying in intermediate, yet now she was suggesting that I modify my primary too. Surely, I must not be understanding her message.

I clarified one more time, but this time with specificity. Was she asking me to only do primary series? I added that I generally was limited to primary on the two days each week where I cannot come to the room and save intermediate for the time where I have her guidance. The conversation ended, as I recall, with nothing really changing. Apparently she was just trying to understand what was going on with my back.

Today, I returned to the room and went straight to intermediate after the standing poses and was mindful about modifying, or including “additives and preservatives” to the practice. I also did all the vinyasas as per the tradition. Besides doing each side separately before going into full bhekasana and not walking my hands to my heals in kapotasana, I didn’t modify until I reached eka pada sirsanana. Although I was tempted to skip the leg-behind-head poses entirely, I opted to bring my foot to my forehead and then my ear to honor eka pada, I skipped dwi and only brought my feet to the top of my head for yoga nidrasana. I did tittibhasana A, B and C but used a towel instead of clasping my hands to minimize the intensity. The next modification came at karandavasana. I took this in sirsasana and did one leg at the time as she taught me in the learning phases of this pose. Then, I did mayurasana and nakrasana to the best of my ability and move to backbends and closing.

I was happy. I hope that my teacher was as well.


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