Thursday, March 25, 2010

578: Ending Moments.

To the Thursday Night Crew,


To Spirited C,

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

576/307 Consistency.

I have this sneaky suspicion that there is something to this regular consistent practice.

Wednesday last week D re-added supta vajrasana.
Yesterday bakasana was added <-- not that I can figure out how to "Sprung nach vorne, Balance auf den geraden Armen, die gebeugten Beine in der Luft*" nor do I have the correct / adequate strength yet.
But progress is being / will be made.

And oddly enough, I'm finding supta vajrasana quite enjoyable.

Dare I say it?
I'm starting to enjoy 2nd series.

*jump forward balancing on straight arms, bend legs in the air,

* * *

I realize that I haven't spoken much about the workshop out in Charlottesville with John Campbell. I probably burnt out a bit on talking about it. Suffice it to say, it was an amazing experience - he truly is a fantastic teacher. Not one of those "big names," but certified and more importantly simply and honestly a solid teacher.

There was a lot of depth to what he had to say and his adjustments. And when I did pause my practice it was interesting watching him work with those there who were unfamiliar with Mysore style and the students who were more advanced. But of the two, it was really good watching/hearing him work with the beginning students. In lecture it was really good to hear him talk about the practice and the philosophy surrounding it - giving a depth to the practice which the academic in me believes is really important.

He talked a bit about how he goes about teaching Mysore style - really taking the time, spending the time to lay the foundation for the rest of the system. First week is sun-salutations A/B and the basic finishing postures. Period. Then going in to how this is a very conservative system, rooted in how things were traditionally/culturally taught - by pure memorization, something that is not valued in contemporary society. A lost art if you will. He gave the example of young children in India begin taught the Vedas, before they could even begin to fathom their meanings they learn the exact words and the exact pronunciations and intonations (like learning the vinyasas). Which of course also lends itself to learning Sanskrit and going back to the original texts to be able to understand the nuance of word and phrase choice.

In terms of asana there were nuance differences, but such is the nature of this practice or any other practice. A student picks up the habits and nuance of their teacher whether they like it or not, ultimate fidelity will always be lost unless going to "original" source material.

His work with me on tiriang mukhottanasana (a/k/a chakra bhandasana) on the Saturday was amazing and still dumbfounds me that my body/back could get that depth. He had me ultimately at my upper calves, straight legs standing by lightly holding me up by his fore and middle fingers pressed lightly on each ASIS. He really exploited my back flexibility by use of breath. I wasn't cranked and yanked into the pose. Of course, I freaked out and my breath got choked when I realized where I was and sprung up slightly bewildered.

Ultimately, the weekend showed just how important the correct vinyasas
with solid breath are as the mechanisms for delivering a solid asana within the sequence.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Back & Hit the Ground Running.

What a solid weekend!

Somewhere along the line I think I had forgotten why I fell for this practice. This past weekend reminded me - the grace and strength, the intelligence of the sequence and system, and the philosophical undertones.

But first and foremost, it still comes down to the grace and strength.
Note that I don't say bendiness.
Bendiness does not strength and grace make.

While giving the whirlwind 55-min recap to Aikidōka Sunday night, I realized just how much I learned in such a short time. Come to think of it, I hardly paused for a breath. Ultimately, I came out of the 250+ miles traveled refreshed ready to settle into and working with Ashtanga. None of this mucking about and flitting around, save for some sporadic play here and there to keep things fresh, fun, and the asana tight.

Further to the philosophical bent which is obvious given his pedigree, John Campbell was really into vinyasa. So that's what I've currently tasked myself with - I figure if I can really get things synched-up, maybe I'll begin figure out that whole moola bandha issue. Obviously, I have been flitting around because of continual frustration at my lack of both strength and general anatomical integration for jump back/throughs and inversions and hoping beyond all hope that someone somewhere would provide some immediate magic answer.

Abracadabra-presto-chango-*poof* Jumpback!

I know I'm not moving efficiently through the vinyasas and this just bugs me.

I'm coming to terms with the reality that I have a
long way to go on the bandha issue.
It would be nice if I could muscle my way through this. That doesn't seem to be an option. Besides, I've always had a penchant for doing things technically proper - which usually takes a bit longer at the onset.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Perpetual Motion Machine

I begin to wonder if that's the fate of modern life.

From one thing to another. Every cyclical, upward spiraling - connected. Circles intersecting for a fleeting moment on a regular basis or just sporadically. Speeding up and slowing down like the well heeled soles of a tanguera on the floor of a milonga, moving with her partner, synched with the staccato notes of the accordion.

But also like an accordion, cramming and stuffing life into a small space and time.

* * *

This weekend I'm going to try not to even think about what class I'm registering for next session at UnityWoods or how balancing Ashtanga and Iyengar works. I've loved every moment of just practicing Ashtanga this week in preparation for the weekend.

Of course I have been running around all week - cramming 5 work days into a normal 4. Shopping, cleaning, cooking, and laundry when back at my apartment, collapsing into bed after short but sweet and warming evening conversations.

Tomorrow will start some pause - forget about everything.

Just the forecasted rain, my iPod and a 3 hour drive.
A weekend with no internet and spotty mobile service -
A weekend of Ashtanga and philosophy.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Day 21: Three Weeks Gone.

The flexibility in my hand is not quite back but close, the swelling is minimal, and maybe just a dull ache. All major improvements from 21 days ago. Twenty one days of running the gambit. Initially impetuously halting practice, then tentatively and humbly returning to a modified practice, frustration with not healing faster, and today another return to contentment.

Intuitively I think I'm starting to understand what D has expressed to me on multiple occasions about not mucking about "with all those different types of yoga." Just doing one. Allowing the nuance and intelligence to appear. To some extent, I don't think I was/am allowing that to happen. Sporadically making my way to AYC in fits and spurts - collapsing in sheer exhaustion the day after a class at UnityWoods.

What was I really becoming so hell-bent on getting to?
All in the name of what? Really?

Just as life is really not all about the Benjamins, sometimes I need to remind myself that this is not all about the poses.

Consistency and quality over quantity any day.
The poses are merely markers.

I can begin to see why teachers within any of Krishnamacharya's students' methods tend to ask their students for fidelity. There is a system. Systems are put in place for a reason. The reason only becomes apparent when you actually immerse yourself within that discipline - and usually things happen faster. Work at something with a disciplined approach and shifts will occur.

Go off and play. But return with fervor, perspective, and respect.

Looking at the major branches of asana practice (on face) derived from Krishnamacharya, his students, the fathers of these branches were probably taught in a way specific to their respective strengths and weaknesses. The mark of a brilliant teacher.

Balance needs to be found and the systems should be self regulating - naturally coming to an equilibrium.
That's a lesson learned on the first day of HS chemistry and is still applicable.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Day 19: Follow-up Honesty.

I'm winged and I can't get my friggin' butt off the ground.
Even if I wasn't winged
, it would be the same.

Yes, this is the obligatory weekly doom & gloom post.

Day 19: Connectivity & Compartmentalization.

A long, long time ago, back in second semester of my senior year of college, I had the wonderful opportunity to study figure drawing with Bunny Harvey (yes, that is her name). I loved the skeleton project and at home drawing assignments, there was always a way I could conceive of the connections between that and work in architecture studio - something along the lines of Ashtanga and Iyengar - she tenderly nurtured that.

When it came to working in class with our wonderful model Lib, for some reason, unless the cosmos properly aligned I could never get her body to consistently appear as whole.

The top half of her body would be gestured/sketched/rendered well, as would the bottom half.
However, probably 50% of the time it looked as though her body had been cut in half and haphazardly sewn back together. (Fwiw, the one day we had a pregnant model that was the one day filled with consistency and thankfully I could align all the seams properly.)

Fast forward to 2005, I decided to take a life drawing course at the Corcoran.
Same body sewn in half issue - but much worse - the top and bottom halves of the body might as well have been drawn on two separate newsprint pads.

Instead of torturing myself, the teacher, and the models, I dropped the class.

Plodding my way through primary and sitting in
marichyasana-a this morning, shoulders down my back and chin lightly grazing my right knee, I realized something - quite profound. For me, for the most part, the asanas in and of themselves prove little quandary. The micro-muscular movements are there, engagement of the various bhandas while in a pose are there. There is strength and counter forces and intelligent use of flexibility. This is why I probably enjoy Iyengar so much, as most classes/sequences are asana-centric.

Sure I can sit in a pose.

But ask me about vinyasa, I become all left-footed.

Grace flies out the window. There is no connection between my top half and bottom half, let alone the breath of my body.

How do I find connectivity?

Lightness within a dense Eastern European-Anglo female frame?

Movement with breath that's not robotic?

The main reason I started practicing Ashtanga was because of the grace, the vinysasas.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Day 18: Rumination.

Chopin's 200th birthday was March 1.
He passed away at the age of 39 from TB.

What did he accomplish in this time? Many highly complex solo piano pieces.

How does one accomplish so much in so little time?
Would that even be possible in today's society?

Are we suffering modern sensory overload?
Too many distractions coupled with too many things we feel we have to do?

When in reality there are truly only a few simple things at the core...

Practice is the one time of my run-of-the-mill-day where everything else disappears. All that other stuff?
Just evaporates.

* * *

Today practiced my first almost-fully-unmodified primary in almost three weeks now - fairly easily, smoothly.

Maybe a little gingerly - but good ntl.

No thoughts. No whims. No pressure.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Day 17: Equipoise & Convalescence

Checked in with the osteopath last Thursday - with another round of x-rays. All is healing quite nicely - he was actually quite impressed with how much my hand improved in the span of a week. Amazing what following doctor's orders, castor oil wraps and modifying practice will do...

Currently, no splint - just mindfulness. A tiny set-back might have been suffered in the name of the men's national ice hockey team - but a little pain in the name of one's country during the Olympics isn't such a bad thing.

It will still be another week before I can begin to speculate to get back into hand-balancing. That being said, easing back into the groove has been relatively smooth. Somehow I feel a bit stronger for all of this - spent a lot of time working with the core, not relying on the arms and have dialed it back a few notches, maybe found a bit of renewed contentment with practice. Also have discovered some new limits to my body by holding poses longer, focusing on breath and with modification finding a little bit of play. Sure, there is still some lingering aggravation and frustration with not being able to do everything.

But, right now, there is no rush to get anywhere.
Don't get me wrong, by no means am I becoming complacent.