May 1, Wednesday:

Personal practice.

It’s back on, baby!

Lately I have been yearning for a more authentic practice. At the studio, if it’s not Janus it’s done. But I’ve been putting up a lot of blocks, and have not been visiting Janus lately. I am not sure if I burned myself out or what — I’ve just opted for self-indulgent me-time.

But yoga cannot be denied, for any day I do not practice, it is all I think about. Nary ten minutes goes by without me thinking about it.

It isn’t a choice. I am pulled. Magnetized. As far as yoga is concerned: I’m ’bout dat life.

My body craves it. My mind fights.

This afternoon I practiced. My mom found a $4 mat at a thrift store. It’s not Manduka, but it’ll do just fine.

Ah, the difference! The authenticity of a personal practice compared to a studio — at least Addicted to Yoga’s studio — hits you right off the bat. Five Surya Namaskara A’s. Five Surya Namaskara B’s. Breath with movement. Gaze to the navel.

It is awesome not feeling any pressure to adjust the pace of my breath based on the tempo of the instructor’s counting. Awesome not to feel like I’m standing out because I’m ahead or behind. And it’s awesome to feel the nuances of my body, my breath, my muscles, and my mind, without any external distractions and noise.

During those three months I was only abiding by personal practice, I remember writing in my logs on an almost daily basis on how difficult the Sun Salutations were, on how loathe I was to practice them.

How things have changed! I am starting to really enjoy them!

I rarely lose my breath in the midst of Surya Namaskara B anymore. My hip has opened up a bit, and I get a nice, long, powerful stretch throughout both the back leg and the bent front leg as I work toward getting the front thigh parallel with the ground. Back pinky grounded into the mat. Bandhas engaged, balanced throughout the posture, gaze to the fingertips.

Smooth! More and more I feel the rhythm of the practice. It’s not just a series of poses!

The fun really starts once I start sweating bullets. Coming out of Downward Dog as I gaze to the horizon, the drip drip of the sweat hitting the hardwood floor. Rivulets, even.

Waiting naught for instructors’ cues. Transitioning via my own breath from one group of poses to the next.

(Recently I learned that, in Downward Dog, when you inhale look to your hands, you’re “supposed” to look to the hands, jump to the front of your mat, and gaze to the horizon all on the same inhale; at the studio we broke it up into inhale look, exhale jump, and the tempo felt increasingly foreign to me.)

Feeling the increased difficulty of the Standing Series. Extended Triangle Pose? I’m down! Utthita Parsvakonasana? Press that thigh into the shoulder, increasing pectoral rotation! Parivritta Parsvakonasana? More of a challenge!

Parivritta used to kick my ass! It still does, but now I see improved proficiency. Those hips are opening, slowly but surely.

And then my arch enemy / mortal nemesis: Padottanasan Prasarita A-D. I wrote quite a bit about how brutal these felt, particularly on my ankles and feet. Well? They do not feel the least bit easier. A major hurdle. My least favorite poses of the entire series.

The Standing Series does not let up. Right after that you jump into Parsvottanasana. It may be tempting to relax a bit and catch your breath, but it’s a more “technical” pose in the sense that  your attention is “split” between squaring your hips and opening your chest.

BOOM! Balancing. On Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana A, the right side, I was literally quivering. Extend out to the side. Five full breaths. Let me tell ya, those five breaths feel the longest during the balancing. A lot of parts to remain aware of: bandhas, of course; chest high; shoulder relaxed; leg kind of sort of (?) relaxed. It is a taxing pose. One of my favorites!

Loathed the Utkatasana / Virabhadrasana A & B series, but now I respect the hell out of them. One of the most physically taxing groups in the entire series. Probably the most taxing. Technique on all three is absurdly challenging. Core is particularly stressed. Quadriceps and hamstrings burning. Sweat undoubtedly pouring.

Relief! Primary Series.

I am finding the Primary Series more mentally challenging than physically. Slightly ironic considering I am probably objectively more physically “capable” in the standing series (I am still a ways away from wrapping in lotus or half-lotus, for example).

The pace slows down. Vinyasas introduced between every posture. And I personally do two vinyasas: the first one a variation, where you cross your legs and lift yourself, with your arms by hips. Bandhas engaged as you pull your knees toward your abdomen. This helps you work on jumping back/through.

After that I come forward for a normal vinyasa.

Physically I do not mind the vinyasas, but they certainly seem to drain my mental. By the time I got to Marichyasana A I was ready to call it quits.

I sifted through the “Short Series” to see which poses I should prioritize, opting for Navasana (x3), Baddha Konasana, and then the entirety of Finishing Sequence.

To that end I essentially (and “unconsciously” / without purpose; I originally intended to do every single pose, not skipping anything) picked up where I left off from last personal practice: I was at Janu Sirsasana C.

Now I know how important Finishing Sequence is, so I’ll never skip that. Just getting back to Janu C + all of Finishing Sequence (about 12 poses in Finishing?) is a big step up. But I think I’ll at least be able to add the Marichyasanas, Navasana, and Handstand.

My favorite pose? Sirsasana! LOVE IT!

It’s hard to pick just one as my favorite. Matsyasana, Baddha Padmasana, Padmasana, Downward Dog, and Virabhadrasana B… Dandasana! Paschimottanasana!

Least favorites: Prasarita Padottanasana A-D; Purvottanasana.

One day at a time. I got through today. Thoughts churning. A lot of toxins expelled. A lot of worry. Take tomorrow as it comes.

May 2, Thursday:

None

Normally my off day, but I said to myself I can do at least Sun Salutations on any day, amirite?

Next time.

May 3, Friday:

Mix of procrastination and legit busy-ness.

By the time the evening rolled out, I was like… sigh. I did do Sun Salutations. That alone is enough for a good workout / dripping sweat / feeling a whole lot better.

May 4, Saturday:

Practice at the studio. On Saturdays Polina goes through the entire Primary Series. Well, she skipped the Paschimottanasana A that follows Dhanurasana. Dunno why she always skips that. And she skipped the final three lotus poses. Wut?

Polina is aggravating me more and more. I’m constantly comparing how much better personal practice is v anyone-not-named-Janus’ studio practice.

My unlimited yoga runs out May 8th anyway.

I didn’t feel that good after practice.

May 30, Thursday:

After taking most of the last month off (unwillfully), the past few days I have eased myself back in it. Sun Salutations. Nothing more. Just breaking a healthy sweat. Trust me, 10-15 minutes of methodical sun salutations, particularly in Southern California heat, will have you dripping with more sweat than a typical one-hour workout.

Very cleansing. When I shower after yoga, much more dirt comes off my body. It is truly purifying, so much more so than anything else I could hope to do. Yes, it’s extremely hard work. Life is perfect like that. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

I figure I’ll ease myself into things for June. I want to just jump right into the whole Primary Series. But the Salutations alone are absurdly challenging. My body has a lot of repairing to do. A month will be fine. Listen to your body and take your time.

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