Update

So, this year I had a new year’s resolution to get back into exercise and yoga, and blog about it. I have hit one out of three, and on the second I’ve done ok but not as well as I want. On blogging, well since my last entry is Jan 2, you can guess where that went.

It’s funny that often, when one makes a personal commitment, the universe throws us a bunch of reasons why not. It’s like a test.

Well, the exercise has been going well. I’ve been running at least 3 times a week on the treadmill, and I’ve been building my base speed gradually. I can run for at least 45 minutes at about a 13 min/mi pace (no incline).

Usually, I do the following in about a week:

  • An “interval” train, which basically consists of running at about target heart rate (148-150 bpm) or slightly higher, interspersed with about 1 min bursts of speed.
  • A long, easy to moderate jog to build up endurance. (Zones 1 and 2, if you’re keeping track.)
  • A shorter, more moderate (Zone 2 1/2 or 3) run, with inclines.
  • If I can manage it (when I can’t, it’s more time constraints rather than physical limitation), I do the third another time.

The yoga hasn’t been faring as well, though I have much improved over my practice from last year. I went to 3 classes in Jan and one in Feb, and practice about twice a week.

I’ve started a bit of crosstraining as well. Now that the weather is nicer, I’ve gone out on my bicycle. One of the roads near my neighborhood has 4 consecutive challenging (for me) hills, so I try to hit that. It’s very much like the interval run. Once I’ve mastered that and it becomes easier, I can try climbing out of the valley the hard way. But I imagine I have plenty of time and growth before that happens.

As for blogging the results, well, you can see the results for yourself.

    Making friends with the pigeon and the practice of life

    One of the most beautiful poses is the pigeon. Going into the prep seems to be the bane of many beginning students — you legs are in a rather awkward position and your weight keeps them there. I used to dread any word beginning with ‘p’ in a yoga class.

    About two years ago, I did the full pose for the first time. It was only for a second before my foot flopped back down and kicked the floor, but it was enough to give me the confidence. The shining moment came at the end of about 10 hours of practice in two days, when my muscles where very loose. I could not repeat on the other side.

    For the next year and a half or so, I would still take tentative steps with the pigeon, but with the memory of that one moment. My dread for the ‘p’ word waned, though the pose was still crunchy.

    Earlier this year, during the third class of the Anusara immersion, we did the full pose again. Since I hadn’t taken 10 or so hours to warm up, I thought I would easily take it as far as it would go, but not try to force anything. I used a strap to pull my foot closer to my head, and lo and behold I was able to grab my foot! I swung my other hand up and grabbed my foot again. I went into the full pose, and with a gentle reminder, even put more of the backbend in my upper back. Then I repeated on the other side.

    Since then I’ve walked with the pigeon on a couple of other occasions in my own personal practice. Today, I fully realized that I enjoyed the pose, and during the climax of today’s class, I worked it without a strap and stayed in the full pose for a few breaths.

    When you see me, you probably wouldn’t think of the word “flexible.” After all, I sit in a chair at a computer most of the day and lead a rather sedentary lifestyle. However, with patience and dedication, I’ve worked to a few of the “milestones” of the physical practice — pigeon, astavakrasana, forearm balance, and headstand. In the end, I suppose the milestones don’t matter that much. However, they are a reminder of what goes on in the weeks and months beforehand — a reminder that dedicated practice and patience are the keys to achieving goals. Going further, milestones are a reminder that milestones aren’t even the goal of the practice, but rather that the practice is an end in itself, and, ultimately, the practice of life is all there is.

    And the practice deepens

    The great thing about doing a yoga workshop is that my practice tends to deepen a lot. A lot of times it’s like reading a book I’ve read thousands of times and finding something new.

    This past weekend was just like that. It was the second weekend of the Anusara immersion I’ve been attending. We learned quite a bit about lower body anatomy, including a bit about what can go wonky in standing poses. The great part about this talk on anatomy is that during the talk we actually did some poses and felt the muscles and bones (and their effects) that were discussed. It also kept us moving during what could have been a soreness-inducing period.

    Also covered was how to start and maintain a home practice, including how to sequence poses. Our homework assignment, of course, is to create a few sequences and try them. A home practice also affords the opportunity to take things learned in class and experiment with them in many different ways. Because face it, you don’t have the opportunity to experiment that much with pelvis tilt in triangle pose during class.

    Finally, we covered setting the foundation of poses using, you got it, lower body anatomy.

    If you’ve been going to yoga classes for a couple of years, I highly recommend trying a workshop on something that you would like to explore further (e.g. backbends or hip openers) and then work on it through a home practice. After all, it will probably be the only way I will ever get kapotasana (unless I want to go for an Astanga second series class).

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    Sanskrit for bird of paradise pose

    Once upon a time, I thought the bird of paradise pose was baddha urdhva parsvakonasana. However, I either was wrong or was getting the pose name from another system. In Anusara (and Iyengar?) it is Svarga Dvidasana. (Or something close to that.)

    An auspicious beginning

    January 27 was Yoga Day, and a very auspicious beginning to my first Anusara immersion. Despite falling ill with the latest craze in preschool viruses, practice was blissful. I even found a way to incorporate falling ill into the practice. When you fall ill, you really have to learn to respect your new boundaries. Just the acceptance of the new boundaries is part of the practice, and probably the hardest part.

    The immersion is about 1/3 philosophy and 2/3 practice. That’s a bit heavier on the philosophy than 1% theory, 99% practice noted by Sri K. Prattabhi Jois, but, then again, 12 hours of straight asana probably would have taken everybody out. The most beautiful part of the Anusara system, to me, is how they take the Tantric cosmology and embody it in the asana practice. Everything you do in the poses is designed to be a reflection of Beauty and The Divine, even if our own self-vision is, well, not so perfect. It’s the intention to reflect Beauty that drives the practice. Before each asana practice, we set our intention, and that fuels us throughout. One of the stated goals of Anusara is that every student ought to leave class feeling better than going in. With few exceptions, that’s been the case for me.

    We ended this weekend with Yoga Nidra, which is a delightful guided relaxation that is extremely restful. It’s probably the reason that I’m still going at 9:30 pm, even though I only had 5 or so ours of (not-so-restful) sleep last night due to illness.

    I get to do 5 more weekends of this. Rock on.

    Ask and ye shall receive

    My hips felt very tight this morning, so in yoga class I asked for hip openers. By the end of class, my hips were about as open as they ever have been. Let’s see what opened them:

    • lizard pose: like a runner’s lunge but down on your forearms, forward leg hugging the midline
    • the various standing poses, of course
    • 500 variations on baby cradle (bent leg close to chest)
    • pigeons, pigeons, and more pigeons
    • astavakrasana
    • and last but not least, yoganidrasana. Unfortunately, my 30-something belly got in the way before I was able to finish it.

    The termite and the elephant

    See this “beautifully written piece”:http://leapinglanka.blogspot.com/2006/10/white-elephant-versus-termite-yoga.html on two different ways of practicing yoga. Perhaps you have done both. I know I have.