Escape to the Mat

It's been an emotionally draining week, and, as usual, yoga has been my only escape. Financial worries and relationship strife (don't they always go hand in hand?), on top of my school work, have been weighing heavy on my mind. In addition, the winter weather has been getting me down. Working nights, it's hard to catch any sunshine at all during the winter months. On the bright side, Texas winters are short, I'm still cold/flu/allergy free (see I'm a Little Neti Pot for more information), and the home yoga is damn good (and free of charge!) all the year round.

On Sunday, which is normally my designated rest day, I opted to spend an hour on the mat doing some restorative yoga. I don't often do solely restorative practices, not because I don't recognize their value, but because once I get on the mat, even if my honest intention is to stick to yin yoga, my ego almost always steps in. It whispers at me convincingly: Go on, do some salutations. You know you want to, you always do. How about a few warriors. You can do it. Don't be a yoga bum. Then the next thing I know, I'm lying in a sweat-soaked savasana, wondering what happened to all that gentle yoga I was planning on.

Sunday, however, I was successful in suppressing my ego by keeping the room darker than normal, turning on only one small lamp rather than the bright light I normally practice by. The darkness was helpful in quieting my mind, and the effects of this nurturing experience were evident in my practice the next day. The stubborn tension I've been feeling in my hamstrings was completely gone on Monday, and the long seated forward bends I practiced Sunday also softened some knots in my mid and upper back.

Monday's practice was long and drawn out. I spent almost three hours on the mat, probably because I didn't want to face anything else in my life at the time. I recently got the webcam working on my laptop after a year or two of it being defunct, so I decided to record a few of the sequences to see how they look versus how they feel. I must say, seeing myself practice is strange and surreal. Everything appears to be in slow motion. As I watch myself, I can't help but think how it all looks so easy. Why does it feel so hard? I suppose because of the invisibility of my pounding heart and racing mind. I'm considering utilizing my "new" webcam to post videos of troublesome poses or sequences, in the hopes of receiving some advice, but I'm still a bit apprehensive about putting a face (and body) to the blog.

Anyway, my handstand kicks are coming along this week. I'm getting better at smoothly lifting up to the wall. I've come to really enjoy this part of my practice, playing with my balance in handstand. It's very liberating and invigorating to one who has feared being upside down for so long. Headstand is coming along, as well. It really has been a different type of experience the past few days, much less of a muscular effort. I'm getting more comfortable putting all my weight on my head, rather than pushing into the forearms for support. I've also been able to balance without touching the wall for 10-15 breaths, while maintaining a genuine sense of ease. Major progress. I just wish, now, that I had had the gumption to start practicing full inversions (beyond shoulderstand) at home a couple of years ago. My thinking had been that I would start practicing inversions when I felt ready to attend classes in order to receive the appropriate guidance. Now that I have attended some classes, and have still not received any semblance of help with inversions (envision 20 yoga students repeatedly toppling over onto their heads and necks, with no wall for support, and the instructor carefully assisting only his prize student), I have taken the matter into my own hands. And it's going well, if I may be so bold as to say.

Practice last night was Power and Concentration with Adi at Yoga Today. It was a good class, slow and deliberate, loaded with standing balancing poses, and a few arm balances to boot. As a home practitioner, I can't emphasize enough the void that the online classes at Yoga Today have filled in my yoga practice. On days like yesterday, when my mind is a mess of emotional and intellectual mush, when I know if I try to lead my own practice I'll just end up sitting there on my mat depressed and confused, a video class is the perfect way to force myself to carry on and stick to my 6-days-per-week commitment. As far as I'm concerned, any yoga is damn good yoga.

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