2.16.2010

Headstand = Damn Good Yoga


I received a kindness from a fellow blogger yesterday. Jamie at On the Mat, who is apparently also a relative newcomer to the yoga blogosphere, was gracious enough to pass along the Sunshine Award to me here at Damn Good Yoga. I'd like to send my most heartfelt thanks to her over at On the Mat, and I'll be giving my 10 bestowals some thought before I pass the award along.

As for the yoga, it's been damn good, of course. Last week was the first in 3 or 4 months in which I took 2 days off, so I've been trying to atone for this over the past couple of days with some long, intense sessions. The 'rest days' were spent necessarily hunched over my desk trying to churn out some decent writing for one of my classes. As a result, I've got some nasty tension in my hips and shoulders that has needed working out.

My practice on Monday was very long, almost 3 hours, and involved an intense standing sequence that worked into my hips from all directions. I started with warrior I, warrior II, and extended side angle. Then a vinyasa and back to warrior I for a few breaths, then warrior II, trikonasana, and ardha chandrasana. I've been practicing bending my knee and grabbing the foot for a backbend here lately, and I am loving it. When I can find a sense of ease, the opening in my chest is glorious, and when I come out of the pose, I've noticed that my breath is especially long and full. Another asana I've been working back into my practice is parivritta trikonasana. My experience in this pose is considerably less glorious, however. I've always hated this standing twist, particularly with my right leg forward. I can't seem to ground sufficiently through the back leg here. My left heel, in this instance, wants to come up off the floor, sending me forward, which ends up putting a lot of weight on my left hand in order to remain balanced. I have experimented with wider and narrow stances, and also with the position of the back foot relative to the front foot, bringing it further to the outside to enable a better squaring of the hips... but I haven't seen much progress. I stopped practicing the asana altogether for a while, but I've recommitted to twists lately, and this one is a bugger that I'm determined to get comfortable with.

Tuesday's practice was very nice, and a little different. I headed to the mat with the self-imposed time limit of an hour and 30 minutes to complete my practice. I did not meet that goal, running over by an extra 30 minutes, but the intention kept me focused and moving. I decided to forgo any one-legged standing balancing sequences, except for a simple vrksasana followed immediately by utthita ardha dhanurasana, both of which have been absent from my practice for quite a while. My seated sequence was nice, with a couple of extra seated forward bending twists. I skipped the usual set of navasanas and practiced compass pose into astavakrasana instead, then did some leg-lifting type stuff before savasana to get my core work in. Handstands were fun today. I've been playing with the handstand kicks I learned in class last week, which are a bit awkward, but more reliable than the way I had been practicing. Headstands,also, have become a highlight that I look forward to in my practice every day. The sensation of the blood rushing to my head, and the heat rising in my body, followed shortly, if I find a point of balance, by a distinct cooling and sense of equilibrium is an experience that really draws me into the present, and makes me appreciate my body all the more.

4 comments:

  1. Handstands are always fun. Not sure I'll ever master them, but it's fun trying!

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  2. Yes, the elusive handstand... for now I'm just sort of throwing my body against the wall, then straightening out to balance. Strange behavior, to be sure, but fun.

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  3. I wish I had your problem of not being able to fit my practice into a self-imposed time period. I have the opposite problem of rushing myself. I'm not good at pacing and I don't hold poses as long as I do when I'm with a teacher. Hmmm!

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  4. I did some intensive Iyengar work with a teacher on parvritta trikonasana, and this is what helped me...

    Divide it into two parts, a forward bend, and a twist.

    1) Work the forward bend first, using the wall or placing 2 yoga blocks (or harry potter books!) either side of your front foot for support and balance. Stay there for at least 5 breaths, keeping a micro-bend in your front knee and strongly engaging the back leg as you draw your hips even and lengthen the spine. For extra back-leg work, brace your back heel against the wall. Re foot positioning I find it helps to establish the back foot first, and then reposition the front foot, moving it to the outside to help square your hips a bit more.

    2) Then work the twist: from your forward bend, elongate the spine and lift your outside hand. Place your hand on the sacrum, with your fingertips pointing back and your elbow up. Breathe. Inhale and elongate the spine, exhale and twist from the middle of your back. Take 5 breaths here.

    3) Keep pressing firmly through the hand that is on the block, and finally stretch your upper arm upwards as an extension to that energy. Feel the flow from the bottom hand up and out through your upper fingertips. Take 5 breaths here, and then gently come out of the pose, brining your hands down first, and then inhaling up to standing. Or, bring the back leg down and go into crescent moon pose - one of my fav. vinyasas!

    :) Enjoy your posts as always Misanthropic!! And, I agree: headstand = damn good yoga!!

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