1.28.2010

Mindfulness and Inversions Revisited

Practice the past few days has been pretty damn good. Stepping onto my mat every day is getting easier and easier. Not that I don't face resistance from time to time, but the comforting regularity and consistent progress I have experienced since I began practicing daily (six days a week) is enough to keep me coming back for more. It helps to have a loving and supportive person in my life, who will often look at me sleepily sprawled on the couch in the evening and ask, "have you done yoga yet today?" To which I will usually respond, "hmmm? No, uh... I was just about to go do that." And whether or not it's really true when I say it, I make it true by getting my lazy ass to the mat.

Committing myself to a daily practice has required me to be more mindful and flexible in all areas of my life. I must be more aware of how I spend my time, and more flexible in my allotment of it in order to have sufficient time to practice without infringing on my studies, work, or relationships. I must be mindful of what I eat and drink, of how much, and when, so I don't consume more than I need or have to practice on a full stomach. And I must be flexible of mind, so that I may be able able and willing to practice in any state of mind or body (almost. There are exceptions. Say... a broken foot, or swine flu).

Perhaps the most significant benefit of all is that my daily meditation and asana practice is the only time I have each day in which I can justify completely letting go of the concerns and criticisms that hound me mercilessly the rest of the day. I tell myself that this chunk of time that I have dedicated to my practice is fully occupied, and there is no room for interference. Much of the time, this becomes my mantra. As thoughts arise, and lead me on a treacherous path to other thoughts, I find my way back to silence, reminding myself that worries serve no purpose here.

Anyway, so practice has been good. I've been having extended practices for the past few days (2+ hours), really taking my time, and working deep into the poses. I have been reintegrating inversions, which has been going really well. For some reason, headstand is much easier than I remember it being a week ago. In place of the inversions, I had been doing some extra seated twisting postures and core strengtheners for the past week. Maybe this core work made the difference in my stability. Also, I was reviewing what Mr. Iyengar has to say regarding sirsasana in his Light on Yoga (linked to in the sidebar), and something he wrote struck me:

"In Sirsasana, to balance alone is not important. One has to watch from moment to moment and find out the subtle adjustments."

This is entirely opposed to the way I had been approaching headstands. I thought that my goal was to balance on a single point, steadfast and unmoving. I had been trying to achieve a literal point of stillness. Apparently, I've been going about it all wrong. I have been kicking into handstands against the wall the past couple of days, which is also somehow easier than I remember it being last time I practiced it. Yesterday, my kicks were pretty graceful, with no crashing against the wall. Today, the kicks were a bit sloppy, but once up, I was able to balance away from the wall for several seconds before needing to bounce a heel off the wall to regain stability. I'm still struggling with shoulder positioning in both headstand and handstand. In sirsasana, I know I need to keep lifting and broading through the shoulders, but I can't seem to retain that action very well just yet. Regarding handstand, Mr. Iyengar says simply to "extend fully through the arms." It sounds easy enough, but isn't there something to stabilizing the shoulder blades against the back, or drawing the armbones in?

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