Practice has been great this past week, in the sense that it's been very nurturing. Friday, during my standing sequence I felt a wave of exhaustion come over me, an unsettling feeling of depletion that felt unfamiliar on my mat, something I haven't experienced in a long time. I noted the sensation, and finished the practice I had planned, but Saturday's practice was meditation only, thirty minutes. My daily meditation practice has become very rewarding, and I'm finding that I'm drawn to additional brief meditations (5-10 minutes) throughout the day. I don't use any special mantras or visualizations. I just close my eyes, focus my gaze on the third eye, begin ujjayi pranyama, and watch the breath, listen to the breath, focus on the breath. To be honest, I haven't read much on the topic or done any guided meditations beyond the brief sessions in an asana class, but my interest has been piqued.
I've been really working the backbends for the past week or so, paying close attention to the upper spine, both in the bends and the twists. After a couple days of strong backbends, I gave eka pada urdhva dhanurasana another try.... and whadya know? Success! (note: I am conflicted by my own use of the word "success" regarding my asana practice, but isn't it important to have certain goals in mind? And keeping the breath a priority, of course, having arrived at these goals, what do we call our arrival if not achievement?) After playing with just lifting the knee and experiencing the initial shift in weight onto my shoulders, I went for the full extension. I found that bringing the grounded foot toward the center of the mat before lifting the leg aided in the stability of the pose. Bringing the knee of the lifted leg across the body initially before extending the leg made things go a little more smoothly, and arching the head back to look at the floor behind my hands also seemed help me maintain lift and focus while supporting the extra weight of the lifted leg. I think the key here is essentially drawing everything in toward the center line, particularly the core, inner thighs and shoulders.
My jump backs are coming along. Some days are better than others, which is also still true with the jump throughs, but consistency is developing. I've been bringing my hands a little closer together for the jump backs, though still not quite beneath my shoulders to allow space for my feet to swing through. I still need a little extra push from my toes once I get the feet through before jumping to chaturanga most of the time, but I have been able to do it in one motion on a few separate occasions, albeit landing in a very wide-armed chaturanga, so I know it can be done. My jump backs from the arm balances are fantastic, though. I've been playing with gaining height in the hips for effortless propulsion into chaturanga. If not always beautiful, they are always a hell of a lot of fun -- I smacked my chin on the mat pretty hard putting a little too much flare into a jump back from bakasana the other day. Luckily, with the Manduka, it's no big deal -- just a nice, gentle ego buster.
Today I practiced my first forearm stand in a Yoga Today class called "Non-harming Ahimsa" with Sarah Kline. I had toyed with the idea in the past, even coming so close as setting up near the wall, but it just felt so strange on the back of my shoulders that I never felt comfortable kicking up. I've done a lot of work on inversions since then, and overcome a few mental blocks in the face of perspective-benders, so I felt ready to give it a try when the instructor suggested it. I moved my mat to the wall, of course, and walked the toes in, mindful of the bandhas. It took a few awkward kicks, but I made it to the wall, and actually felt pretty okay once I got there. I took my feet away from the wall for a couple of breaths, and it was alright. Just to seal the experience, I paused the class and practiced it one more time, with a little more control. New asanas are fun, but I'll have to be careful with this one. I can still feel the effort in my upper back and shoulders. I think a little more preparatory practice is in order.