At the beginning of the summer, I had dreams of being able to lift up and float back to chataranga dandasana in the both the surya namaskaras and from the seated poses, float through to seated from adho mukha svanasana, drop back into urdva dandasana and come up on my own, and so much more. Ignorantly, I was sure that my ability to practice consistently through the summer IN the mysore room would allow for this magical growth. Of course, it’s never quite how you figure it in your head. I did a great job of practicing 6 days each week all summer long.
But all is yet to come — at least all that I previously dreamed of.
It’s okay. I am proud of the hard work and dedication that I have put towards my practice. Both strength and flexibility has developed in every part of my body. I’ve built up my endurance and have found neutrality in poses previously causing me panic. In addition, I now feel like I have a path on which to navigate to begin to change areas of my body which I previously thought were unchangeable. For instance, I now feel that I am able to create more awareness of the right side of my body where I previously had very little due to residual effects of an autoimmune response which lead to neuron sheath demyelination that occurred in my early teenage years. Although I do not have any more feeling in my right foot than before, I have gained awareness of the anatomy and alignment upstream of my foot that plays into the positioning of the foot. The awareness of the patterns that need to be broken, regardless of whether I can actually feel that my foot is turning out, creates an important chain of self checking from the foot to pelvis and visa verse. I still have the assistants coming over to straighten my turned out foot and I continue to wobble in my standing balance poses like the earth is quaking below me. I’m working on it.
Establishing a 6 days a week practice routine has benefited me greatly in many ways. When I am unable to complete my morning practice, I miss it all day long. And now that school is back in session, and I am being pulled in more directions, my practice is all the more important. Responsibilities require me to be creative with my time to make it all work.
This morning, for example, I was showered and ready to go by 5:30 am. My son’s alarm does not sound & shake until 6 am. So instead of sitting idle, I began my practice at home. By the time I’d completed both surya namaskaras, his alarm was going off. After making sure that he was awake, I left home. In mysore, I repeated the surys and more easily moved on to the rest of my practice.
Tomorrow is a different story, a different game. It’s my turn to shuttle my son and the other students in our carpool to school. I will have to get on my mat extra early AND move through the sequence without any extra fuss to get in a good practice.
This is just the beginning of the struggles to keep up my practice. My son is already struggling to keep up in a highly academic environment. As the school year intensifies, I will need to find more and more ways to support him. It will be all the more important for me to practice being patient and attentive on the mat and in my role as mother.
And so I practice, practice, practice. I am motivated, for in the end, I know it’s good for me…and my son.
The moment when you surrender to a bit of fear,
finally dropping back into urdhva dhanurasana on your own…
is the moment you realize that you can’t stand up for yourself.
In fact, you don’t even have a clue as to how to begin.
And the moment when you slide down the foam pads to your butt…
is the moment you see your tendency to crumble under pressure.
Ashtanga sure is humbling!
I’ve heard that back bending can wake up the emotions — often in a tearful way. To the non-yogi, this whole business of “heart opening” may sound a bit wild minded but I can assure you that the stuff is powerful and real.
Understanding the why is less important than being aware that it just is. This past week, I have resumed my work on dropping back from standing into urdhva dhanurasana then returning to standing. Like in the beginning stages of learning to ride a bike, I am pretty reliant on having an assist in both directions. Although it is still scary, knowing that someone “has your back” lessens the fear factor.
In the mysore room, we have these foam pads which can be stacked against the wall to decrease the distance the yoga practitioner has to drop back onto. Even with an assist AND the foam pads, dropping back is still scary. There is a lot to remember: bandhas, rooting into your legs, keeping your hips forward, lifting your spine up out of your pelvis and your sternum (breastbone) up towards the sky…all while stretching out your arms and letting your body fall backwards. Although I have done it before, on my own even, every attempt feels like the first. Scarier even.
On Tuesday, after being assisted three times, I was left to go it alone. I stood there in front of the blocks, lifting up, and back, up and back, up and back, and…never quite going all the way down to have my hands land on the pads. Each time, I would look for the spot where my hands were to land, not quite see it, and chicken out. After many minutes, my teacher came over and helped me. Then she left again and told me it was time to do it all by myself. Memories of my dad trying to convince me that I could ride a two wheeler without training wheels OR HIM holding the back of my bike came to mind. I smiled. Them came the memory of me falling when, while riding my two-wheeler, I soon discovered that he was no longer running beside me. I’d was doing it, but only because I was sure he had my back (or bike in this case).
It was the same but different. I took the memory and reminded myself that I was riding my bike all by myself. I then told myself that I didn’t need my teacher to hold my back any more than I needed my dad to hold that bike. Of course, I wasn’t 100% sure that this was true but I tried to convince myself. My teacher, from across the room, as well as my fellow mysoreans in the room started whispering, “you can do it.” So… FINALLY I did it! Then, I quickly moved to close my practice. Mission accomplished.
My practice took a severe slide backwards in the past couple of weeks. A culmination of many things including my recovering ankle sprain and a little overdoing it following an amazing weekend workshop with Kino Macgregor. All this was the likely cause of my hamstring issue to flaring up which prevented me from attending to the chronic tightening in my low back. I’ve been miserable and my practice has suffered along with me.
But wait a minute. Suffering? Have I really been suffering? Most assuredly, I have not.
I am fortunate to have learned a thing or two from all of my prior struggles with injury. Instead of pushing my body, with hopes that I can continue to perform my asanas at the same level as before, I search for contentment in learning new ways to be in the pose. These modifications are not any easier per se; the practice still stirs up your “stuff.” I’ve shed more tears in feeling inadequate and unable to meet the demands of what my life is asking of me these days. Of course, this is the same stuff that I face off the mat.
And that is truly the magic of this practice. Isn’t it?
On Friday, I was unable to make the Led Primary. By the time I found focus in my home practice (read: actually stuck to the series without stopping to foam roll or other stretch), I was out of time. I chalked it up to me practicing not practicing.