2.28.2010

The Joy of Falling

One of my favorite things about practicing yoga at home is that I'm able to be bold and, if necessary, fall. As adults in our society, most of us don't often have the opportunity to get out and play, to experiment with our bodies in relation to the world around us without fear, the way children do. We've learned that the world is a dangerous place. That falling is failure, and it hurts. So we move slowly, conservatively. On the mat, we have the opportunity to be liberal with our bodies.

My mat is a safe place for me to experiment and play near the edges. Every time I fall out of a pose, I laugh. I have a good chuckle, even though I may not have achieved my intention, because for a fleeting moment, I completely lose control. The forces of the world take over, and as I'm tipping and tumbling, all I can do is wait. Wait for my body to hit the ground. Wait for the opportunity to try again.

I once fell practicing a tight arm-pressure balance. I tipped over and rolled across the floor like a tumble weed, my legs still tightly wrapped around my shoulders, giggling all the while. When first practicing handstands against the wall, I would slowly and gracelessly collapse into a sweaty, inverted pile on the floor. I have bounced my face off of my mat once or twice learning various arm balances. And my hands have slipped out from beneath me during urdhva dhanurasana, dropping me to the floor like a sack of doorknobs with an anticlimactic thud (that one hurt a little bit).

Falling is hilarious, disorienting and exhilarating, and in these moments of chaos, I take the opportunity to learn about the limitations of my body, laugh at myself, and simply wait for the world to restore my illusion of control.

2.27.2010

Sarvangasana is Pretty Alright

When I first began practicing yoga three years ago, I followed a basic hatha sequence in the Woman's Book of Yoga and Health by Linda Sparrow. It included all the fundamentals: warriors I and II, triangle and revolved triangle, extended side angle, bharadvajasana and marichyasana III, downward dog, etc... It also included headstand and shoulderstand-- 26 poses in all, though I omitted a few were either boring, or caused me too much discomfort.

Learning the asanas at home, practicing without a teacher, I have learned many yogic lessons the hard way. When I began my practice, the limitations of my body, and mind, infuriated me. I was strong, damn it! Maybe a little out of shape, but I was no blob. This yoga thing was supposed to be relaxing. Instead, I found myself fighting my way into the asanas, trying to go a little deeper with each practice, and completely disregarding the pleas from my body to have a little compassion, for Christ's sake! As a result, my practice made my body stronger, but also caused me a great deal of pain... and not the nice 'opening' kind.

Because I have suffered from frequent headaches for most of my life (though very rarely, these days), as a green yogini, headstand seemed out of the question, even with a wall there for support. There was absolutely no way, in my mind, that my head and neck would be able to comfortably support the weight of my body without seriously painful repercussions. Shoulderstand, on the other hand, was less scary, more approachable with the back of the head resting there on the floor, my perception not entirely overturned. I practiced it regularly... though I often came away from my practice with lingering, dull headaches that would last for the rest of the day. At the time, I would get headaches nearly every day, yoga or no, but these headaches were distinctive, and it took me a too long to figure out what was causing them: shoulderstand.

As I began to practice more regularly, I learned to relax and listen to my body. I stopped practicing the same sequence every day, and only practiced what felt good to me. This meant dropping shoulderstand from the repertiore almost entirely. I would practice it very occasionally, mostly out of curiosity, but it has never been comfortable. I attribute this to an awful imbalance in my shoulders caused by a habitually defensive posture. I have a tendency to hunch my right shoulder up and forward and drop my left, always, as if readying to protect myself.

Shoulderstand is the asana that brings this habit into full view. I can feel my right shoulder inching its way toward my ear against the mat, clenching, feeding a line of tension along the right side of my neck and into my jaw. I've been battling this tension by working on forward bends, and a few backbends, with my hands clasped behind my back. In this position, I can zero in on the hunching action in my right shoulder, and relax it down. Regular practice has yielded obvious results.

I tried shoulderstand a couple of weeks ago, and there was clear improvement. The first five breaths were perfectly comfortable and stable, but everything fell apart after that, comfort-wise. Last night, I tried it again, and I'm willing to say that it was pretty okay. I stayed for ten breaths. My elbows did not splay, nor did they seem to want to. I mindfully kept my right shoulder relaxing down and back, and maintained length in the neck without trouble. There was noticeably more stability in my pelvis, likely due to all the headstand and handstand work I've been doing. And no headache. I was very pleased, and lowered down into a plough pose after, which was also quite comfortable. Maybe it's time to work sarvangasana back into the mix.

2.25.2010

Back on the Mat and Donkey Kickin'

Aahhh... it's good to be back on track. Practice has been great the past couple of days, catching up on missed opportunities. Tuesday's practice was intense, with a very thorough standing sequence. Practiced lots of standing balancing poses, and worked in a few extra standing twists. After bringing everything to a climax in a crescent warrior- warrior III- half moon- revolved half moon- standing splits sequence, I settled into a nice long forward-folding pigeon to recenter and transition to the floor. So wonderful. After a couple of forward bends, navasanas and seated twists, I practiced a compass- astavakrasana- eka pada koundinyasana II flow, which I haven't done in a while. I've also been working on transitioning from bakasana to a tripod and back a couple of times. It's quickly helping me develop better control in my core and shoulders. My arm balances are getting really nice and easy as of late. I've been enjoying the freedom this boost of strength has given me by playing a lot in the air.

Last night I transitioned to flying pigeon after a standing garudasana sequence, and it was an entirely different experience from the last time, as I recall. Much less taxing, much better lift in the bandhas. Stayed for five steady breaths, and came through a vinyasa with ease. Jump throughs were right on last night. I floated straight through every time. That doesn't happen often.

Handstand practice was delightful, as well. I've been practicing kicking up with both legs at the same time, first tucking the knees while jumping onto the hands, then straightening both legs together-- I believe it may be called the 'donkey kick' method. I'm not sure if this is the preferred approach, but it seems to work better for me. It feels slower, cleaner, and more controlled without the asymmetrical swinging motion of the one-legged approach. It also seems as though the bandhas can be used more effectively this way, since the donkey kick motion requires so much lift. Any thoughts? Is one way better than the other?

2.23.2010

Yoga Deprivation and a Damn Good Meditation

I hate to admit it, particularly so soon after commenting on consistency and motivation, but it happened again last week: just five days of practice. I had a big assignment due for one of my classes, which demanded most of my time away from work. I took Thursday as my 'rest day' in order to get a big chunk of work done, thinking I'd be able to fit in a practice on Sunday... but alas, it was a no-go on the yoga. I did fit in a quick but intense 30-minute upper body workout of pull-ups and push ups before work (10 overhand pull-ups, 15 push ups, 10 underhand pull-ups, 15 push ups, and so on...).

I had planned to make up for it yesterday with a nice, long practice... but, again, I failed to make this happen. I managed to squeeze in a practice with a 60 minute Yoga Today class, led by Adi, entitled "Cultivate willpower with core exercises," which was brief, and lacking in backbends. I made the most of it, though, working on my vinyasas (lift ups, jump throughs, some jump backs, and always, bandhas). It was a decent class, with good focused core work, but I can't say it was satisfying for me. I had taken this class before, several months ago, and I remembered it being especially challenging. This time around I was pleased to note that I hardly broke a sweat, and I was beefing up the sequence with dynamic vinyasas. It's nice to see clear evidence of improvement once in a while, even if it means going through the motions in a boring class.

So, I have been staying active, even though my practice has been a little short-changed. It's the meditation that I'm missing most. No meditation on Sunday or Monday has taken its toll. I can feel the accumulation of junk-thoughts in my mind. The mass is growing denser. It needs to be released.

On the subject of meditations, my meditation practice Saturday night was astounding and indescribable. I hesitate to try to put it into words, for fear of trivializing the experience. Let me just say that I completely fell away from the world, and hovered in the vacancy. Then I was violently sucked back into the physical, with accompanying imagery, and propelled into my asana practice, my mind still wind-blown from the experience.

2.20.2010

10 Damn Good Blogs

After giving it some thought, I have compiled a list of 10 blogs I'd like to recognize here by passing along the Sunshine Award. It seems that this award has made the rounds already, so at least a couple of these will be duplicate recipients, but all of these have enlightened and inspired me in some way in my practice.



1. AnthroYogini - This woman is smart, determined, and damn fit from the sound of it. I enjoy reading about her journey.

2. Yogini with a Twist - An infrequent poster, lately, but she offers some wonderfully thoughtful musings on yoga, and life, and yoga in life.

3. Yoga for Cynics - For your daily dose of cynicism, visit Dr. Jay, who describes himself as "the kind of doctor who, in case of emergency, can explain Faulkner while you die" (Ha! Gets me every time). But be warned: the good doctor laughs in the face of proper punctuation.

4. Prana-Logue - This blog is an ongoing conversation between two yoga teachers. There are some in-depth discussions here on alignment and practice in general, such as this post on lining up the bones.

5. Yoga Gypsy - This yoga teacher knows her stuff, and is generous in imparting her knowledge.

6. Being with Yoga - I just found this blog, but the writing is lovely. Some beautiful thoughts are being communicated by these two yoga teachers.

7. Ashtanga Vinyasa Krama at Home - Grimmly is one hell of a serious student and dedicated home practitioner. His posts always inspire me to hit the books before I hit the mat.

8. On the Mat - I'm sending the award back to Jamie at On the Mat for her frank musings on her personal practice.

9. The Reluctant Ashtangi - Another dedicated practitioner and teacher, whose daily accounts of her experiences on the mat are always honest and inspiring.

10. My Embodiment: Misadventures and Adventures of a Psychotherapist in Yoga School - The name pretty much says it all. An interesting read.

2.18.2010

Home Practice Motivation Tips

Yoga at home can be hard.  At the studio, there are the judging glances of other yogis and yoginis (probably not, but it can seem that way) or the raised eyebrow of the instructor to keep you on task, but at home it's a little easier to just skip it.

Maintaining a consistent yoga practice at home is tough; it requires significant dedication and motivation. Often, I find the dedication is there. I want to do yoga, but the motivation is lacking. I start to rationalize: "I don't really need to do yoga today. I do yoga all the time. I can take my rest day early this week. I'll find time on Sunday," and so on and so forth. But I have developed a few strategies that help me transition nicely into my practice on days when that nagging reluctance tries to keep me away.
  1. Simply put on your yoga clothes. No pressure. They're comfortable, right? Just slide into your yoga duds and see what happens.
  2. Start slow. Allow yourself to begin with an open-ended meditation. Sit on a cushion, or get comfortable in child's pose or a supported reclining bound angle. Just breath. If you choose, this can be your practice, but in my experience, I'm ready start moving after a brief meditation. If you feel so inclined, move on to some sun salutations, giving yourself permission to end the practice once you've completed however many are comfortable for you. Carry on with this "just one more" attitude. It's gotten me through many a reluctant practice.
  3. Be accountable. Engage your spouse or a good friend, and ask them to check in with you about your practice. If this is not a viable option for you, start keeping a practice journal, or better yet, a practice blog. I have tried keeping practice journals in the past, but have not been diligent enough to document any progress. My experience blogging about my practice, however, has been very motivating. The idea that someone out there might be reading about my practice, and maybe even relating to my experience and rooting for me in my efforts, is hugely inspiring.
  4. Insulate your yoga space. Play unobtrusive music while you practice to drown out distracting noise. If you are averse to music during your yoga, I've found that the airy hum of the humidifier in my yoga space works beautifully for blocking out the boyfriend's music in the other room, all the while improving the air.
  5. Make space for your practice in your home. You don't need much. Be it a whole room or a quiet corner dedicated to your practice, designate a space that you can keep clean and free from interference. Set up an altar, with candles, or don't. All you need is a clean space with enough room to stretch out and unroll your mat, but try to keep it sacred, even if only in your mind.
  6. Make space for your practice in your life. Commit time to your practice. Make it a priority. It's much easier said than done, but most anyone can carve out at least 30 minutes a day, or a few times a week, if they have the desire. Be flexible. If you can't wake up at 5:00 AM, try practicing after work, or before you go to bed. Practice at different times on different days, if you must. Just do it often. The more you practice, the easier it will become.
I hope this helps anyone who might be eyeing their mat gathering dust in the corner.

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.

2.13.2010

Odorous Yoga

I finally made it back to the studio this week. After almost three months of hauling around the intention, but lacking the motivation, I finally decided to just go to the Thursday evening power yoga class. And it was damn good. The class was led by an instructor I have not experienced before, and she gave us a really nice practice. The room was not overly hot, and she was generous with her time, going over the scheduled hour by 10 minutes or so. The class was comfortably populated by about 15 hard working, talented yogis, almost half of which were men, which I always consider to be a good sign. I'm not a misogynist, I promise you. My logic here is that it's easy to get a bunch of women to do yoga these days. It's a little harder to rope the men in, or so it seems. An instructor with a gender balanced student body can indicate a grounded, versatile, and well balanced teaching style, in my humble yogic opinion.

At least it was true in this case. The class started out nice and slow, with ample opportunity to warm up the spine and shoulders. A few slow salutations, then some long holds in warrior I and II before moving into a well rounded and flowing standing sequence. The instructor's cues were strong and clear, and I particularly appreciated her focus on intention, which she reinforced by informing us of what was to come next in the sequence before actually cuing the asanas, which assisted in maintaining a nice, smooth flow throughout the practice and allowed each student to move in their own way. She walked around the room throughout the class, not demonstrating many poses, but watching us carefully and making alignment points. I felt her light hand on my back or saw her feet by my mat several times throughout the hour. She offered several optional progressions to go deeper if desired, and we played with handstand kicks on both sides, which was fun.

I have just one stick in my craw to discuss here, and it does not reflect on the instructor. In my vicinity during the class, somewhere, someone had not showered in days. This person, whoever it was (I was not able to pinpoint the source), was absolutely ripe. Overripe. Beyond ripe, they were downright rotten. It was a struggle at times to maintain the ujjayi breath. Warrior I was especially rank. By the end of the class, the stench was thick in the air. Last night at work, I was still smelling it, scrunching my nose and asking my coworkers anxiously if they detected the awful stench. I don't mean to be prudish, but it seems to me, as a courtesy to the other students, and particularly to the instructor, who may be obligated to get a little intimate with his or her students, that one should bathe before attending a yoga class... or, at the very least, have bathed in the past couple of days. Yes? Granted, it's a culturally relative matter of etiquette, and I realize in many places no one would bat an eye. But here in the West?

2.10.2010

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.

2.03.2010

Quiet Streams of Thought

Had another good, long practice this morning. Meditation was nice, and my mind was wonderfully still. Streams of thought sprung from time to time, but they were quiet, background thoughts, nothing like the deluge of doubts I was hearing yesterday. Moving into the asanas, I felt a bit heavy. My legs were tired from the tough standing sequences of my last practice. My right hamstring was really tight, so I worked in some extra standing and seated forward bends.

Backbends were interesting today. I tried grabbing my foot for a backbend in ardha chandrasana again, confident after my exhilarating success yesterday, and I fell out after a couple of breaths on the first side. Determined, I found my way back into the pose, and stayed for four more breaths before a messy return to warrior II. Bridge felt really good, but the first urdhva dhanurasana revealed some nasty tension in my right armpit and shoulder. I worked through it slowly, at first shifting my weight lightly back and forth, then pushing strongly into the hands and feet on the inhales and drawing in on the exhales. The second UD felt much better, so I played with coming up on the toes and walking my feet in. I've also been playing with head positioning and gaze in urdhva dhanurasana. Before I attended any yoga classes, I had always looked at the space between my hands in this pose, completing the curve in the spine. I have since been instructed by people supposedly trained in these matters to let the head hang loosely and find a gazing point at the wall behind me, rather than between my hands. Having done both, I have to disagree with this approach. The pose is much more satisfying looking up and back, opening the front of the neck and throat. Today, looking between my hands in the second UD, I felt sure I was about to see my feet, and it felt awesome.

I practiced shoulderstand for the first time in quite a while (a few months, maybe). It started out pretty well. I felt light and comfortable for the first five breaths, but the next five were a struggle. My elbows splayed to the sides, and I had trouble keeping my shoulders beneath me. Apparently, I still have some work to do. I followed with a brief fish pose, then went into a headstand by the wall for twenty breaths. No handstand practice today. I finished up with a tolasana that felt like it could last forever, if I were so inclined.

2.02.2010

Pins and Needles

Now that classes are in full swing, any free time I had has dwindled to essentially nothing. My infant blog has been whimpering at me pathetically from a dark corner of my mind this week, and even as I write this I can't shake the thought that I should be doing homework instead. But the practice itself, in spite of this, has been going strong. In order to accommodate my studies, I've been forced to limit my practice to 60-75 minutes on days that I have to go to work, and am attempting to balance this by extending my practices on days that I don't work to about 2-2.5 hours. My body seems to be responding well to this alternation of 4 days of quick yoga, and 3 days of intense work (yoga work, that is). My balance in both standing and arm balancing asanas has been especially steady, maybe because my muscles are less fatigued, though I do miss the long, leisurely sessions I took every day during winter break, and hate having to watch the clock while I practice.

Last night's practice was pretty damn good. I spent the first 25 minutes in meditation, which is a long time for me. During the meditation, my right leg fell asleep. Fortunately (or not, I haven't decided), I didn't notice this until I straightened my legs afterwards and tried to roll out my ankles. The right leg was completely numb from the ass down. I stood up, thinking it would get the blood moving more quickly. Wow, but PINS AND NEEDLES! I stood there helplessly, trembling and trying to put some weight on the dead leg.

The focus of my practice last night was opening the front of the body with asymmetrical backbends. I tried bending the extended knee and grabbing my foot for a backbend after five breaths in ardha chandrasana, something I have been prompted to do in studio classes but have never attempted, and it felt great. The balance strengthened the outer side of the standing leg and hip more than the traditional pose, and I was able to stay for five steady breaths on both sides. Very cool! I'll probably be working that into my practice more regularly. I need more backbends toward the beginning of my standing sequences. They really elevate the energy level.

I continued opening the front of the hips with a long crescent warrior, followed by revolved side angle with hands in namaste, then back up to cresent warrior for one breath, lizard pose, then lifted into albatross for five, then a vinyasa to repeat on the other side. Also practiced crescent pose with the back knee on the ground, arms reaching up, hands clasped, thumb and forefinger pointing up and back to broaden the shoulders. Toward the end, I threw in some pigeon variations, working on opening the fronts of my hips and thighs, getting closer to binding the foot in my elbow. I am feeling some significant tension in my right hamstring today, though, from all the compression yesterday, so it'll be forward bends for today's practice, I suppose.

Full lotus is getting more comfortable with my regular tolasana practice. It always feels fine while I'm lifted, and I try to keep it tight, but when I sit back down the pressure on my ankles can be a bit much, so I usually just sit for 3-5 breaths there. Maybe it was my long sit in half lotus during meditation, but last night I was able to sit comfortably in full lotus after tolasana for ten long breaths, and my ankles felt fine when I came out. Progress.

Headstand is coming along. I'm more comfortable feeling out my balance without touching the wall, and trying to approach it as Iyengar suggests, by "watching from moment to moment," and feeling out the "subtle adjustments." I mentioned reading this in my last post, and as I thought more about the phrase, I realized it applies to every asana, and really every moment in life. He is simply saying to be present, and aim for stillness of mind so that one may react to any situation appropriately. Isn't this why we practice yoga? To come closer to achieving our highest potential by living in every moment?

Speaking of potential, my handstands are getting better. I'm still not kicking up reliably, but I can always get up to the wall three or four times. Last night I tried looking down (or up?) between my hands, and it seemed to help with my shoulder positioning and sense of balance overall. I haven't done shoulderstand in a while. I should probably work that one in tonight. I wouldn't want to become unwittingly ill-tempered (isn't that the ancient wisdom? Too much headstand and not enough shoulderstand makes one cranky? La Gitane? If you're out there, I know you've got this one).