Diary of a Lazy Ashtangi – Week 2.

“I swing between procrastination and being really thorough so either way things aren’t getting done quickly.” – Freema Agyeman.

Sunday 18 September – 9.00 am
Unsure of how my practice is going to unfold after three days of rest, I procrastinate a little by cleaning up the living room first. Stefano observes me in wonder and asks where my sudden OCD behaviour comes from. My excuse is that I need a clear and clean space to practice so that I don’t get distracted.

Once I am out of things to put away, I get on my mat and am pleased to feel that it’s going well. I warm up swiftly. During my Surya Namaskara B rounds, I think about Gregor Maehle. In his book Ashtanga Yoga – Practice and Philosopy he writes “Do Surya Namaskara B until you start to perspire. Five rounds should be  sufficient under average conditions, three in the tropics and up to ten in colder regions.”

I do six rounds and flow through rest of the practice flows without hesitation. The three days of rest did me good.

Monday 19 September – 8.00 am
Yesterday afternoon, I spent five hours in the garden, ploughing, wheelbarrowing, weeding, potting and seeding. Needless to say that I feel a little bit sore this morning as I climb on the mat.

I start very slowly and am distracted. By the dust gathering under my couch and by the raven knocking on the window. By my lack of motivation and by my to-do list that suddenly seemed extremely urgent. I almost stop after Navasana, but give myself an imaginary kick in the butt thinking about the sad diary entry it would make if I quit for such lame reasons. Surprisingly, the rest of the sequence goes pretty smooth. I guess the diary thing works.

Tuesday 20 September – 7.00 am
Why is it so damn hard to get up early in the morning? During the teacher training course in Bali, I was getting up at 4.00 am, earlier than the roosters without a single complaint.

This morning, when my alarm clock goes of at 5.45 am, I moan, groan, toss and turn and finally drag myself out of bed at 6.00 am. With my squinty eyes, I shuffle into the kitchen to make our fresh juice. Stefano leaves the house by 6.30 am, so that’s my juice-deadline. By the time he is gone and I have washed the juicer, I am awake but freezing. So I take a nice hot shower, which I can’t seem to end. Every time I make a move to get out from under the steaming flow of water, I retract. It’s just too cold out there.

But finally here I am, on the mat. I breathe, I flow and soon, all is forgotten.

Wednesday 21 September
No Ashtanga today. I go to a friend’s Hatha flow class. No need to think, no need to count. Just being guided and breathe. Wonderful.

Thursday 22 September – 7.20 am
From the moment the alarm clock goes off at 6.00 am, I am procrastinating. We are fasting today, so I don’t need to make a juice but I still want to get my practice in before I head off to teach though. Yet, I snooze my alarm clock twice, I take a reaaaaaally long shower and I remember that I need to print something for my students so get behind my laptop.

By 7.20 am I am finally on the mat and decide to turn my laziness into an experiment. My practice takes close to two hours and I am always incredulous when I see other people doing a full Primary Series in less than 90 minutes. When I get to Navasana, some are already in Sirsasana and it is not like I am dragging my feet.

So today, since I have to be done by 8.50 am, I decide to see if I can do my full practice in 90 minutes. It doesn’t feel like my practice. I don’t feel any depth and I don’t warm up. Yes, I sweat but it feels like a superficial kind of sweating. My muscles don’t loosen up and my joints feel tight in all the asanas. Still, I keep going, breathing twice as fast as I usually do. I don’t go too deep in the poses, wanting to be careful. Until I reach Pindasana. I try to adjust my shoulders while I am upside down with my legs folded in Lotus towards my chest and my arms wrapped around my legs. When I bring my legs down to get into Matsyasana, I feel a muscle in my neck spasm and tighten.

I am done in. One hour later, I feel like Sylvester Stallone, I can’t look over either shoulder, nor up or down. I teach two classes nonetheless, I am after all quite experienced already in teaching with an injury. In the evening Stefano gives me a wonderful neck massage but I go to bed swearing that I will never again try to hurry through my practice. It was definitely a bad idea.

Friday 23 September – 10.30 am
My neck feels slightly better and I am lying on my mat, but for a beautiful restorative class with another yoga teacher. I had planned this already, but with all this tension happening in my neck, it’s even more of a blessing.

Saturday 24 September
Day off, yay!

Diary of a Lazy Ashtangi – Week 1.

Sunday 11 September 2016 – 10.00 am
After three months of practically no alcohol, meat nor dairy and lots of local, fresh Asian food, I am back home and have some catching up to do. After a Saturday with meat and cheese galore, a few glasses of wine (more than I had during my entire stay in Asia) and a GoT Season 6 binge-watching session until 2.00 am, I find myself on the mat on a late Sunday morning.

The heater doesn’t work, it’s cold in the living room. From the first Surya Namaskara A, I know it’s going to be a struggle. I feel sluggish, cold and stiff. I decide to go easy on myself but it takes all the energy I have to stay in the flow and plough through the practice. For some reason, my shoulder and neck muscles feel super tight. After a meagre attempt at Shalabasana and Halasana, I finally give up and go straight to Yoga Mudra. During Savasana, I feel despair arising. Are all my self-practices going to be this hard from now on?

Monday 12 September – 8.30 am
Discouraged by yesterday’s practice and feeling the cold as soon as I stick my nose outside of the covers, I linger in bed a little bit longer than intended. By 8.00 am, I have gathered enough courage to get up. There is a plan of action: pre-heat the living room (and pray the heater is working again) to a blasting 23 degrees Celsius (we don’t want to do hot Ashtanga yoga, now do we?), take a steaming hot shower, put on leg warmers, wrap on a woolen wrap vest and get on that mat.

From the first Surya Namaskara A, I know it’s going to be fine. Yesterday, I had a super healthy diet, with roasted artichokes, potatoes and stir-fried broccoli and cauliflower leaves from our veggie patch. Okay, I had one campari soda and a bit of cheese from the farmer’s market too. However, we went to bed at 10.30 pm and the heater is doing it’s job again. I feel rested, strong and energised.

Well, a little distracted perhaps.

Inhale grab wrist around foot… Perhaps I could write a blog about this. Exhale there… About how the exact same practice can be so different from day to day. Inhale there, look at toe… Perhaps I could keep track of a few practices and then write a blog about what makes me fail and succeed in my daily practice. Exhale fold forward… Oh wait, that’s it! That’s what I need to do! Five breaths here… Yes! I’m going to keep a practice diary and publish it as a weekly blog. Inhale look up… That’s the commitment I need to make to get on my mat every day. Exhale there… Well, not on Saturdays of course, nor moon days… Inhale release, cross legs, pick up… And on the days I go some else’s yoga class, I won’t have to do Ashtanga either, let’s not exaggerate. Exhale jump back, Chaturanga Dandasana… But at least, if I commit to writing about it, I will put myself out there. Inhale Urdhva Mukha Svanasana… The more people I tell about my intention to practice every day, the more chance that I will actually do it. Exhale Adho Mukha Svanasana… Yep, I will blog it every week. Inhale jump through… And today after practice I will write the intro article. Exhale into Dandasana… Wow, I feel so much more open today. Inhale prepare for Marichyasana A…

Tuesday 13 September – 7.05 am
At 9.30 am I am teaching a Vinyasa class, so I need to get my ass in gear. We went to bed at 10.30 pm last night, so getting up at 5.45 am is not too hard. The living room gets heated up while I make our cold pressed juice and after my liquid breakfast, I hop in the shower to warm up. By 7.05 am I am on the mat.

I feel good.

Somewhere halfway the practice, I notice a weird twinge on the left side of my back when I come up in Urdhva Mukha Svanasana. It could be the latissimus, the teres or perhaps the serratus anterior. I experiment with different opening angles of my shoulder as I breathe into Upward Facing Dog. Rolling my – previously frozen – left shoulder back and down and externally rotating my left upper arm more, results in no pain. Basically, I need to open the front of my body more. Problem solved. Full practice, full satisfaction.

Wednesday 14 September – 4.30 pm
There were no bookings for my 7.30 am class this morning, so I thought I would use that time to do my own practice. Unexpectedly, one brave student showed up, despite the raging storm that is still blowing over the Fleurieu Peninsula, so no morning practice for me.

At 4.30 pm, I finally manage to get on my mat, in the Old Church where I’ll be teaching a 6 pm class. I need to hurry. It’s freezing cold. The heater is blowing right at me but I can’t seem to warm up. My toes are frozen and hurt when I jump back and roll over them in the Vinyasas. I struggle through the whole standing sequence too. After the Paschimottanasanas I give up. I am still freezing, I can’t focus and I have a zillion other excuses to stop.

In the evening at home I discover that my period started. Aha, that explains a lot.

Thursday 15 September – 6.35 am
After a nice warm shower, the living room is heated and I am ready to start. Trying to get into better habits, I remove my rings before practice and I notice that my fingers are bloated. The one on my middle finger won’t even go off. Never mind, let’s get to it. vande gurunam…

Warmth makes such a difference, I feel good. I breathe through the Suryanamaskaras and get ready for Padangusthasana. As I grab my big toes, I feel my ring rubbing against my second toe. The bloated fingers are probably due to my menstruation… Wait? Shit! I am having my period! Why am I practicing? I should not be practicing… I completely forgot!

I stop, dead in my tracks. What to do? Continue? Stop? It was going so well… After mimicking a Madame Tussaud artefact for about 30 seconds, still half holding my big toes and blankly staring somewhere in between my feet, I decide to stop.

If I am to keep up a regular practice, I must take the “imposed” rest days. By taking Saturdays, full moon, new moon and menstruation days off, I will have enough breaks and no excuse to skip practice on other random days.

So I sit down, practice some meditation, pranayama and by 7.35 am, I am behind my laptop to make this diary entry. I actually already wrote it in my head during my attempt at meditation. Terrible meditator I am.

Friday 16 September
No practice today: still on my cycle and I am going to a Restorative yoga workshop that I booked a couple of weeks ago. Couldn’t have planned it better!

Saturday 17 September
Full Moon on Saturday: double whammy, no practice for sure! I am teaching two Vinyasa classes though, so I breathe through a few sun salutations and poses after all. Looking forward to tomorrow’s full practice again. Really? Really.

Diary of a Lazy Ashtangi – Intro.

Diary of a Lazy Ashtangi – Intro.

As I am flowing through the Primary Series in my living room, I suddenly have a brainwave: I need to keep a yoga practice diary and blog it.

Recently, I have been worrying about how to keep my daily Ashtanga self-practice going. After a year long struggle with a frozen shoulder (not yoga related!) and hence a long break from Ashtanga yoga, I am finally able to go through the full Primary again.

For the past three weeks, I have practiced under the guidance of two of my favourite teachers, Prem and Radha at Ashtanga Yoga Bali. Tuesday was my last practice with them. The weather was warm but not too hot. I felt focussed and energised. The vibes in the shala were in tune with how I felt. I almost shed a tear when I sang the closing chant. It was a great practice.

After travelling home on Wednesday, I allowed myself a day off. On Thursday, I went to a friend’s Vinyasa class and Friday, after sleeping in, I finally climbed on my mat again. It felt good, but not as good as my last practice in Bali. I was missing the energy of the shala, the presence of the teachers and fellow practitioners. Saturday no practice of course, but a few glasses of wine, a delicious meat stew made by our neighbour, lots of cheese, up till late and what do you know, when I finally made it to the mat on Sunday around 10 am, I felt like crap. The heating system in the living room wasn’t working, I was cold and unable to warm up. My body felt tight and rigid. Energyless, I skipped a part of the closing sequence and I was frustrated from beginning to end.

Am I really going to let all the progress I had achieved go to waste? After three weeks of daily practice with dedicated Ashtanga teachers who – as usual – re-polished my alignment and gave me all the practical modifications I need for my still rather tight shoulder joint, am I really going to fall back into my undisciplined routine?

It’s time for a change.

I will from henceforth commit to a daily practice again – Saturdays, moondays and “ladies’ moondays” excepted. Also, since I really don’t want to be an Ashtanga fundamentalist, I will allow myself to skip an Ashtanga practice if I go to another yoga class – Vinyasa, Hatha, Yin, anything. Variety is the spice of life, after all.

However, as my husband and several others close to me will attest, is it not the first time that I set that intention. And frankly, my self-practice track record is deplorable.

So here is where this morning’s brainwave comes in.

Instead of committing to just the practice, I will commit to writing about it. By creating a potential world wide audience for my acte the présence on the mat with my blogs, I will pretend that the entire world is watching over my shoulder. Even if not a single soul reads my blogs, I will feel the pressure of having to show up. I will ujjayi breathe my way through the practice feeling the piercing eyes of an anonymous crowd following my moves.

And perhaps, as a bonus, I will inspire some other lazy Ashtangis out there. Maybe, my stories will help others to find strength, knowing that they are not the only ones struggling with the discipline of a daily practice.

So here’s to the birth of my weekly blog, the diary of a lazy Ashtangi.

See you on the mat!