For the past two weeks, I've been on a sabbatical, of sorts (hence, the new blog, I suppose). Because of the days of the week which the winter holidays have fallen on this year, I have worked just 2 days over the past two weeks. I went back to the grind Thursday night, and the difference it made on my practice was unsettlingly obvious. I began my practice yesterday, after working the night before, feeling heavy and strange. My shoulders felt as if there were no blood at all circulating there. They did what I asked of them, but the lack of sensation, which lasted through most of my surya namaskaras, was odd and unfamiliar. My experience during the salutations shaped the rest of my practice, as it almost always does. I find that the ritual of the salutations reveal my strengths and vulnerabilities to me on any given day, be it hip or hamstring tension, shortened breath or wandering mind, or, occasionally, all of the aforementioned... and more. As varied as my practice may be, I believe ritual is an important tool in one's yoga practice. We must have a constant in order to evaluate ourselves.
Shoulder openers. GOOD GOD, ya'll! What are they good for? Absolutely nothin'! Or at least that's what you'd think, looking at my practice habits. For someone with habitual neck and shoulder tension, I don't do nearly enough of them. I attempted to atone for this yesterday. After some warrior I, II, triangle, extended side angle, and half moon, I did a fun little garudasana-to-flying pigeon sequence as follows:
garudasana (5 breaths)
inhale, utthita hasta padangusthasana D, keeping garudasana arms (1 breath)
exhale, lean forward and swing pointed leg back into virabhadrasana III with garudasana arms (5 breaths)
inhale, swing leg forward to utthita hasta padangusthasana D (2 breaths)
inhale, reach arms up, bend standing leg, bringing ankle of extended leg to upper thigh of standing leg (one-legged chair, maybe? I did it in a class, I swear.)
exhale, fold forward, ground hands, inhale
exhale, flying pigeon (5 breaths)
vinyasa, repeat other side.
I also did some prasarita padottanasana A, C, with cow-face arms on each side, and D. I couldn't help but undo some of that opening work with a couple of arm balances, including a bit of compass-to-eka hasta bhujasana-to-astavakrasana. My practice doesn't feel complete without arm balances. Arm balances, at this point in my practice, center me more effectively than any other type of asana. They create the distinction between average yoga, and damn good yoga.
I know what you're thinking: "Cut it out with the arm balances, already! They're no good for your tight shoulders!" See? I know.
It's an addiction. It's an addiction, within an addiction, really. You could say, I get high on flying (you know, with all the bird names for the uh... poses... with the arm balancing). Was that cheesy? It was. I'm sorry. Maybe I'll set a late New Year's resolution to take shoulder openers more seriously.