Had another damn good practice before work last night. I treated myself to a quick 10 minute pre-practice meditation in a supported reclining bound angle, which is always a nice way to ease into my practice when I'm not feeling so gung-ho.
I took an hour-long nap before hitting the mat, and stiff shoulders and low blood pressure made the transition into my asana practice a little rocky. The first few down dogs were labored and heavy, and my hands felt like they were slipping, which doesn't happen much anymore now that I practice with my Manduka e-Qua towel on my mat. But, as usual, I felt fine-- better than fine, even-- by the time I got into my surya Bs.
I had a nice, sweaty standing sequence, paying close attention to the alignment of the hips in the virabhadrasanas, still looking for the imbalance that's been giving me trouble in twists. Facing these knots around my hip joints has become an obsession. The sensation is changing. It's evolving from a painful wall to more of an intense but not entirely unpleasant heat that spreads and softens from deep within the hip. I worked on opening the front of the hips and thighs in some pigeon and crescent moon variations, incorporating a few shoulder stretches by bending the knee, grabbing the foot, then swiveling the fingers forward and pressing the foot down. My intention was to prepare myself for hanumanasana, which I have neglected to work into my practice, as of late.
Hanumanasana felt pretty good. The difference in sensation between the two sides is diminishing, and though I didn't feel that reaching the arms up for the full expression would be appropriate, I stayed for 6 long breaths on both sides with hands in prayer position, lifting through the chest and keeping the legs active. I read Grimmly's post yesterday about entering hanumanasana by setting the front heel first, then walking the rear foot back into position. I tried entering the pose this way, and liked it very much. I think it allowed me to be more precise in the positioning of my hips.
I practiced gomukhanasana on the floor before my urdhva dhanurasanas, and it was a very good prep for opening the armpits and front of the shoulders. I practiced three urdhva dhanurasanas for eight breaths each, and allowed myself only three breaths to rest between lifts. The progression of mobility in the shoulders and spine was obvious from the first to the third backbend, but the full expansion of the chest in the final UD made breathing a little more of a challenge.
Jump throughs have been coming and going. I never use blocks, simply because I don't want to bother with them, and sometimes I just can't find the lift I need to get my legs straight through without brushing the floor. But that's alright. It's coming, with practice. I seem to be able to best jump the legs through when I don't think about it too much, just exhale into a downward dog, then lift and float through on the inhale. If I settle into downward dog for a few breaths to rest before jumping, the odds that I make it through without crashing are greatly reduced. I'm not sure why that is. Maybe my down dog gets longer as I settle into it, making the jump through more challenging. Or maybe I'm just over-thinking it when I give myself time to do so.
Handstands have been really good this week. Since I switched to the donkey kick method, I'm finding full extension in the legs and sometimes, my balance, before my heels come to the wall. I seem to lift up instinctively this way, sometimes finding a handstand when my intention was simply to practice quickly balancing on the hands with the legs tucked. I've been playing with the distance of my hands from the wall before kicking up, gradually moving further away to allow myself more space to play with balance and discourage me from using the wall. I'm already tempted by the idea of trying a handstand in the middle of the room. But I'm not quite ready. Very tempted to try it, but not yet.
My headstands have been feeling very stable, though 'rooting' through the tailbone is proving to be a challenge. I find my balance is greatly aided by practicing with a "flointed" foot, or pushing through the ball of the foot and flexing back through the toes. This foot position keeps the legs very active, which in turn seems to stabilize the hips. I may, in fact, be ready to start practicing headstand away from the wall, at least once in a while, so I don't get too dependent on it. I'll try it soon.