Diary of a Lazy Ashtangi – Week 7, 8 and some of the Yamas & Niyamas.

Yaisa meditating on the beach

“Seeking out people and experiences we would normally avoid provides a fertile place to learn new things about ourselves and about life.”  –  Deborah Adele, The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice

Sunday 23 October
No luck this first day of the Ashtanga week. Stefano has got a bad case of gastro and is in bed so I have to prepare the house for this afternoon’s pot luck all by myself.

I am expecting a handful of local yoga teachers for lunch and though I don’t have to cook much because every body is bringing food, I still have a few things to take care of. I prepare a lemon-ginger-honey lemonade, clean the living room, prepare a quinoa asparagus salad and lay out the beautiful silverware that came in the boxes with my stuff from Holland.

It reminds me of the times that I used to entertain people almost on a weekly basis, cooking five course dinners for friends, rolling 200 pieces of sushi or throwing a party for sixty souls. Oh well, it’s nothing that fancy today, but enough to not have time to practice!

Monday 24 October – 11.30 am
After teaching the Ashtanga class, it’s finally time for my own practice. I didn’t get up early enough to practice before the class but now the studio is nicely heated up, so I decide to practice here. Like last week, I stop after Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, not wanting to over-exert my hamstring or whatever muscle it is that feels tender.

I am surprised at how good I feel about not going all the way. Two years ago, I would probably not have considered doing less than a full practice, when I did get onto my mat that is. Five years ago, I would most likely have pushed it even a bit further, going deeper and stronger.

Is it experience and wisdom that have taught me to listen to my body, to allow myself to rest when needed and to accept that being able to take it easy is just as valuable as knowing when to push through?

Or is it simply old age that forces me to slow down?

Either way, Ahimsa, non-violence, no harming, the first of the Yamas, the first limb of Ashtanga Yoga (the philosophy, not the asana practice) seems like a good one to keep in mind at this time of my life!

Tuesday 25 October – 6.55 am
Tuesdays are good for my routine. We are not fasting so I get up in time to make a juice for Stefano and as soon as he is out of the house and I have cleaned the juicer, I get on my mat. Again, I limit my practice in order to give my leg some healing space and take a beautiful long savasana. By restraining myself, I feel that I am giving and taking just what I need. Brahmacharya, the fourth of the Yamas, promotes moderation. And it works. I feel ready to conquer the world after this beautiful practice.

Wednesday 26 October – 7.30 am
Today I decide to do a Yin session and promise not to go easy on myself. The step from Yin to Restorative is easily made, but I stick to my intention. I do all my least favourite poses, such as Saddle and Frog and while I hold them, I practice surrender. Surrender to the pose, surrender to my body, surrender to the energy that surrounds me. The intensity of the poses become bearable thanks to this practice of Ishvara Pranidhana, the fifth Niyama which is about surrender to the higher power.

Thursday 27 October – 9.00 am
Stefano and I had a little squabble yesterday and I am not in the mood. I know it’s going to be okay, it always is, but right now I choose not to practice, be grumpy and stay in bed until it’s time to get up for work.

Satya, the second Yama, means truthful in feeling, thoughts and deed… Am I being truthful to myself? Am I saying the truth to Stefano? Why am I upset, really?

Friday 28 October – 7.00 am
After yesterday’s hiatus, I decide not to slack today, even though Stefano and I have not made up yet. He tried to, before leaving to work, but I was a typical obstinate Aries, Pitta, woman, whatever you want to call me.

During the practice, I realise my leg is still bothering me in certain poses, so I go easy and stop after the standing sequence. I spend lots of time on Urdhva Danurasana though. As advised by Prem and Radha, the teachers I practice with in Bali, I use blocks against the wall to ease into the shoulder opening. I pay particular attention to my legwork, engaging them properly so that I don’t worsen the injury. I feel positive and energised.

In the afternoon, I have an inspiring session with a group of entrepreneurial and creative women where we discuss our life’s objectives and areas that need refinement. I decide then and there that Stefano deserves my apology. At the end of his working day, I call him and ask if he wants to meet up for a beer. In the sun, enjoying a locally brewed beer, we kiss and make up. It’s a beautiful day.

Svadhyaya, the fourth Niyama that is about self-study: by observing myself, my behaviour and the consequences of my actions, I bring about change, in this case for the better. I think we could all use a little bit more of that…

Saturday 29 October
By now you should know that if I have an excuse not to practice, I use it. Official Ashtanga rest day today!

Sunday 30 October
By now you should know that if I have an excuse not to practice, I use it. Yes, again. But today is a big day. I am running a Yin Yoga workshop and I know that even if I would have managed to get up in time to squeeze in a practice before heading to the studio, I would not have been focussed. So I don’t even try.

The workshop turns out a success and I so grateful that I have the opportunity to give and receive through yoga. For me, yoga is health of body and soul, a feeling of youthfulness and energy, a never ending and never boring journey of self-discovery.

Santosha, the second Niyama which translates as gratitude, is what I feel and hope to practice more of in my life.

Monday 31 October – New Moon
Aaaah… that explains the low energy levels of the past couple of days! After teaching the 9.30 am class, I sit down on my mat and meditate a little. At noon, I have an appointment with the osteo, who confirms that it could be an adductor injury, although very light as it doesn’t hurt when I sit, walk, run or do any of the regular daily activities. It only bothers me when I actively swing my leg out to the side or bend towards my left leg while opening my chest to the side (not something an average person does on a daily basis, I admit). All I can do it be careful and mindful with my practice.

Tuesday 1 November – 7.30 am
The day after new moon. You can believe in it or not, but I feel like I have more energy than the days before. It could also be because I fasted yesterday.

I decide to test my limits and extend my practice by including a few seated postures. When I reach Janu Sirsana B and try to sit on my right heel, it really hurts. I very inelegantly palpate the tender area and finally pinpoint the exact source of the pain. I almost get sad and frustrated about it all. Just recovered from a shoulder injury and now this lingering issue for weeks.

But I need to let go of my greed, of my attachment to the practice as far it will harm me. Yes, there are others out there that have progressed in their practice much faster than I have. Yes, there are people out there that do poses that I might never reach. Yes, it’s one step forward, two steps back sometimes. But thou shall not covet thy neighbour’s asana: Aparigraha, the fifth Yama, is all about non-attachment.

Wednesday 2 November – 7.00 am
Today I choose Yin. I breathe through long held asanas, trying to release tension from the back of my legs and lower back in 10-minute Squat, a very gentle Dragonfly pose, a deep Butterfly and reclined spinal twists. I don’t know where the time goes, but before I know it, it’s time to go for the restorative massage that I booked. Yin and massage. Not a bad way to start the day!

Thursday 3 November – 7.30 am
Today is fasting day again so I am not up at the crack of dawn to make our juice before Stefano goes to work. Nonetheless, I get up early enough to practice before my 9.30 am class. Since I am not doing the entire Primary, I only need an hour or so for the Surya Namaskaras, Standing and Closing. I am pleased to notice that in Urdhva Dhanurasana, my shoulders are feeling open and strong. I have come a long way since the injury that led to a frozen shoulder. I am grateful for the practice as it has greatly helped me recover my health in that department. Now fingers crossed for the leg!

Friday 4 November – 7.30 am
Tuesdays and Fridays are my no excuse days. I am up early to make a juice, I have no early morning class to teach and these are the mornings-after-fasting, so plenty of energy. Now that the temperatures are getting warmer, it’s all much less of an issue for me to get started in the mornings. I have a great little practice.

True, much of the yoga practice is a question of inner discipline. That is Tapas, the third Niyama. But my Tapas, my drive, my inner fire, certainly burns a lot better at 30 degrees Celsius than at 20. Summer can not come early enough as far as I’m concerned.

Saturday 5 November
An Ashtanga-free day, but yoga-filled nonetheless. Teaching two Vinyasa classes and then off to a friend’s garage sale of which the proceeds will go to her sweet dog that needs an expensive brace to walk. Karma yoga, right? I spend the rest of the afternoon pottering around the garden. What a feel-good day!

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!