Diary of a Lazy Ashtangi – Week 4.

Eyes on me during yoga practice

In 1989, the New York Times describes how the protected Bengal Tigers in the Ganges Delta regularly used to kill people. Someone came up with the idea of wearing a human mask on the back of the head. It was explained that many species use a similar technique to fool predators. Butterflies, beetles and caterpillars have patterns that look like big eyes in order to deter their enemies. It appeared that no one wearing a mask was ever attacked anymore. The tigers must have felt being watched…

Source: New York Times

Sunday 2 October – 9.30 am (feels like 8.30 am)
Friday at dinner, I told Stefano how much I actually like it when he is around while I practice, how it makes me feel “monitored”, even if he is not watching at all. A few minutes later, he asked me if my scanner and printer does full colour without explaining that totally off-topic question. After dinner, he got out his colouring pencils, started drawing, went to the scanner, got scissors out and 30 minutes later, there were pairs of eyes stuck all over the living room, a.k.a. my practice space. Proud of his artwork, he said “Now when you practice, you will feel eyes on you all the time.”

I bet you this is the most creative form of support any yoga practitioners has ever had. How much can you love a man?!

So today, even though yesterday we had a heavy dinner with wine, a late night watching several House of Cards episodes and slept an hour less due to daylight savings, my practice feels great.

Is it because it’s the day after New Moon, when energy blossoms again? Is it because for the first time since I got back I don’t need to turn on the heater and the sun is shining outside? Or is it because a dozen pair of eyes are looking at me from all corners of the room?

Monday 3 October – 9.30 am
The start of today’s practice is pretty good, after a nice sleep-in on this Public Holiday. After all, I know I am being watched. But as soon as I get to Trikonasana, I stop. I hate to admit it, but I think I have got a new injury.

For a couple of weeks now, I have pretended it was nothing. But the frozen shoulder is still fresh in my memory. I chose to ignore a little pinch in my shoulder after falling off my scooter and four months later I couldn’t even scratch the back of my head or shave my left armpit anymore. It took me over a year of rehabilitation to get to the level I am at now, which is almost back to my pre-injury flexibility and strength.

I decide not to go down that road again when I feel my body’s alarm bells go off in Trikonasana. I feel a strain in my left leg when I flex and externally rotate my hip with a extended knee. It’s most sensitive in Trikonasana A and Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana but I also feel it in forward bends. I palpate my bum, my thigh, my sitting bone but can’t figure out which muscle is giving me grief.

I stop my practice and get behind my laptop for research. After a while, I conclude it could be one of the adductors or perhaps one of the external rotators. Rest is recommended, so I shall do that and look for treatment. Any recommendations?

Tuesday 4 October 2016
The wind is blowing hard outside, I can hear the rain slapping against the house and it’s cold. Maybe I’ll do some gentle muscle strengtheners later for this bloody muscle injury, but for now, I’m staying in bed for an extra hour.

Wednesday 5 October 2016
No early morning practice today, firstly because of my leg that is still giving me grief and second because I’m off to do a gentle Hatha class after teaching a beginners Ashtanga class. Life of a yoga teacher… 😉

Thursday 6 October 2016
I decide to give my leg more rest. Obviously continuing with my Ashtanga practice for the past two weeks did not improve the situation. I need to adapt my tactic so again no practice today. That in itself is not much of a game changer but the fact that I do not feel guilty about it is.

I do have to teach an Ashtanga class and a Vinyasa class today though. The first one doesn’t worry me, it’s a lead class for students that are already familiar with the first part of the Primary Series so I don’t need to demonstrate. The Vinyasa class however, might be tricky. I will just need to be very careful and be creative with sides when I demonstrate.

Friday 7 October 2016
Going to a restorative yoga class today. I can’t think of anything that my body could better use than that!

Saturday 8 October 2016
No practice of course and my leg seems a little less sore today… but I do end up working in the garden for the entire afternoon after teaching two Vinyasa classes in the morning.  Let’s see how I feel tomorrow morning!

Diary of a Lazy Ashtangi – Week 3.

“These days we spend more time taking selfies than learning about the self.” – Joseph Rain.

I took these selfies last week. Just to make a point, which is that yoga selfies REALLY annoy me.

One cannot possibly take selfies while practicing yoga. I had to take at least 10 shots of myself before and after my practice just to look like before and after my practice. Seconds before these pictures were taken, I was adjusting the camera on the window sill and setting the timer. While these pictures (and the rejected ones) were taken, I was smiling a little more, a little less, lifting my chin a little more, a little less, pulling my top down a little more, a little less. And this is standing in a simple Samasthiti. Not in an impressive handstand, incredible twist or any other contortionist pose.

So unless a photographer is doing a photo shoot while you are concentrating on your yoga practice, any picture a.k.a. selfie of you in any yoga pose, is fake. It’s not yoga. Just like my pictures above. They have nothing to do with yoga. Even if I would have been in an arm balance, headstand or split, it would still not have been about yoga. Neither do your yoga selfies, you insta-stupid.

Just wanted to make a point. Now let’s get to it. Inhale – Exhale… My practice diary.

Sunday 25 September – 9.30 am
Last night was all about catching up with friends who came to visit from Sydney. I made boerenkool met worst – the Dutch traditional winter dish – with kale from our garden, we drank Moscato wine brought by our neighbour and we topped it off with grappa that Stefano bought in Italy. Then we had some strawberries with coconut icecream and some more liquors (yes, plural). It was a grand evening.

Needless to say that my performance on the mat today is lousy. In fact, half an hour into the practice, as I raise my right leg for Utthita Hasta Padangustasana, I suddenly feel completely drained of energy and collapse into Savasana. I console myself with the fact that as least I made it to the mat.

Monday 26 September – 8.00 am
I roll out my mat full of good intentions then go into the kitchen to drink a sip of water before starting my practice. That’s when I spot Stefano’s two liter water flask on the table and I realise he went to work without it. We are fasting today, so his water would be pretty essential. Therefore, change of plans; I will practice this afternoon. I call Stefano and offer to bring over his bottle to work, taking the opportunity to distribute some flyers around that area to promote my yoga classes.

In the afternoon I first try to finish a copy writing job that takes more time that I expected. No time to practice. Well done Yaisa, well done. But at least I got the writing job done. And I made sure Stefano didn’t die of dehydration. Those good deeds won’t go by unnoticed, will they?

Tuesday 27 September – 7.15 am
Looking back on the two past days, I start without any expectations. Ekham inhale. Dve exhale. One hour and 45 minutes later, I am in Savasana, full Primary done and dusted.

Why can’t all days be like this?

I know why. It’s because it’s the day after. The day after a fasting day that is. It’s amazing how light, agile and energised I feel after not eating for a day and two nights. I am so happy with what intermittent fasting is giving me!

Wednesday 28 September
Hatha class! It’s a style I never liked much, but it’s growing on me. It will never beat Ashtanga though…

Thursday 29 September – 7.15 am
Stefano is at home, another day off because of the biggest storm in 50 years raging over South Australia. So while I practice in the living room, he rummages around the house and is talking on the phone in the other room. Although it’s a bit distracting, I don’t mind. I like the company. I have good energy and feel well motivated from beginning to end. Despite the upcoming storm, my day starts well!

Friday 30 September
Restorative yoga class later this morning, so no Ashtanga practice today, although I feel I could squeeze one in before. I decide not to as I feel that allowing myself the agreed breaks throughout the week will make it easier to keep up a regular practice.

Saturday 1 October
New moon on Saturday, there is no valid reason to do an Ashtanga practice today. Another week has come to and end, where has the year gone… Last quarter of 2016, here I come!

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.