24 Sep 2011

Krama Time

Usually take Saturdays off but was itching to get started on the Vinyasa Krama Asymmetrical sequence. Found the time for an evening practice. Have been working on dwi pada in the intermediate sequence of Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga for years and years now. From having very very stiff hips and thinking the legs behind the head poses would forever allude me, I have made progress, when all the stars align and conditions are just right I can do it, but with no consistency. So it's time for a new approach. I have dabbled, in times of injury, with this Krama sequence. It's challenging, but have never stuck with it long enough, always hop back into my old routine as soon as other stars align and body feels better.

So I shall say this publicly. I shall practice my usual Asthanga Vinyasa rountine in the morning as tradition dictates and practice Vinyasa Krama in the evening.  I intend to do this as consistently as possible. 

Found my inspiration here  Grimmly's leg behind the head tutorial. Which is also where I got this wonderful cheat sheet to get me going until I commit it to memory.

I practiced the asymetrical squence on twice on both sides up to Ekapada Sirasana (one leg behind), it felt good on the second go both sides.  Am excited to continue this.  Vashitasana the second picture on the top row, I found incredibly challeging.  I could lift up, very ungraciously, but could not keep a hold of that toe.  Also Utpluthi with half lotus and extended leg....killer. 

Good recipe for practice here, felt good, gave desired effects, allowed lots of bandha work, and challenge poses to aspire to. Excellent stuff.  Much gratitude to Grimmly for providing inspiration, not to mention excellent photos.

23 Sep 2011

Autumn Equinox

Early morning yoga, side of a hill, fresh air, the sound of running water and insects.  Pretty good start to the day. Equinox, balance.  Last year I was trying to balance home, work and yoga.  This year am working on the balance with people and alone time.  Been a while since I took off to the mountains alone.  Nothing like it really.  Equinox, time to prepare for winter. Also a busy time, people running round like squirrels trying to get every thing done.

Tim Miller wrote a lovely equinox post.  Here are some of the bits I liked:

Time for perfect balance of opposite forces.

Yoga Sutra 11:47 Balancing appropriate effort and surrender we become absorbed in the infinite

Irony of asana practice is that we use a physical methodology to ultimately connect us to something within that isn't physical.

Amidst all the changes we experience in our asana practice, what we are looking for is he one thing that remains constant.

Would love to meet Tim-ji one of these days.

21 Sep 2011

Dry Practice

With a plunge in temperature from 35degrees celcius to a mere 15 practice has sadly lost the sweat and bendiness.  Just the other day I was drenched, sweat pouring into and stinging my eyes.  Today I had to do extra sun salutations just for the warmth.  Shock to the system.   Yesterday was my first attempt at Kapotasna in about 6 weeks.  Not the deepest, no chance of heel grasp today, but on the path to recovery. Felt good.

The neck, shoulder blade, whiplash thing is taking its time to pass.  For a while I only practiced using my legs, no upperbody movement, needed to let it rest.  After that, like an allergy test, I introduced asana back slowly slowly to check where the aggravation was.  The only time I feel a twinge now is jumping through and the last movement after coming up from back bends, bringing my head up.  Still stiff which has afffected legs behind the head,  shoulderstands are coming back very very slowly.  Surprisely hand stands and pincha are strong.  Thoroughly enjoying a long head stand and working on a little pranayama.  Need to work on a pranayama program to follow for the next few weeks.
Oh the ups and downs of the ashtanga asana path.  This is the ultimate test in patience.  Take it slow, carefully and let the healing continue.

19 Sep 2011

Mountain Worship

I have been in the mountains recently.  I'd forgotten how much I love being in the mountains.  I body boarded at least once a week for 6 months of the year for the past 11 years.  This year the sea is too far and wave forcasts aren't matching my work schedule.  So I decided to have local adventure.


Dewa Sanzan is the old name for Yamagata. 
I have fallen in love with this place again. It was love at first sight, from my first morning opening my curtains and seeing white peaks in the near distance. There is so much to discover. This area also has the longest history of mountain worship.

Dewa, is home to three of the holiest mountains in the Shugendo Sect.  Shugendo is a mystical, spiritual tradition, it is a combination of native japanese shintoism, buddhism and tao. Shintoism is basically a form of nature worship, to put it simply.  It's recognising the spirit in everything. Natural beauty was revered.  The Shugendo thought enlightenment is attaining oneness with the kami (spirit).   They strive for awakening through experience.  Through understanding the relationshop between man and nature.

The Dewa Sanzan
羽黒     Haguro  Black Feather
月山   Gassan     Moon Mountain
湯殿山 Yudonosan 

Today I visited Yudonosan.  The shrine dates back 1400 years.  It was raining, which for me made it all that  more pleasurable.  Mist drifting through the forested mountains, the sound and feel of rain, and not to mention less people due to the weather. A tranquil spot. a beautiful few hours spent.  Sadly photography is strictly forbidden, and there is code of not speaking or even listening about this place. So I shant break this rule.

But it is set deep in the mountains, receive purification and walk around barefoot in the rain.  The shugendo, mountain ascetics. Right here, training, practicing.  I've know this all along, but my interest in this discipline is growing deeper and deeper.  A friend well versed in Buddhism said this tradition was in essence similar to  yoga.  Interest perked, and this week I shall be spending my time mainly in the mountains and on the mat with a small spattering of work. The week after gets crazy busy.

4 Sep 2011

From darkness to light

Found this old photo taken while I was at university.
Reminded me how dark I could get, how my interest in yoga come about in that first week of university, how I had no idea where to start, what to do, how to practice, or even what practice was. 

So like the stereotypical student, I experimented... Are the students today lucky to have so much information to hand on the net.  They can find anything with a click of a mouse, or more likely with a touch on a pad on how to practice?  Does it help people speed up the process, or is the process part of aging? A process learned from experience.  I've always sought experiences.  In a way I'm glad I found things out the hard way, it may be slow but unforgettable.

Love this chant, I feel it to be so true for my practice. The first time I chanted it in India I had no idea what I was chanting, but I liked the sound and loved the teacher doing the chant. 

asato ma sad gamaya                             
tamaso ma jyotir gamaya                        
mrutyor ma amritam gamaya   

From ignorance lead me to truth             
From darkness lead me to light
From death lead me to immortality

— Brhadaranyaka Upanisad, 1.3.28