1.12.2011

Ripening


My practice is maturing.  My body is opening.  The hours, the sweat, and the patience is paying off.  In some ways, this is happening exactly as I expected, in others as I never could have imagined. (image source)

Over the course of the past year, I've committed to my practice in a big way:  6 days per week, 2-3 hours per day, with very few exceptions.   The results are beginning to show, shaping my time on the mat and directing the currents of my mind in a new way.  My body has become powerful and my practice precise, making space for the subtleties to reveal themselves more fully.  I have honed my focus on the breath and done pranayama daily.  I have felt the weightlessness of the correct coordination of mula and uddiyana bandhas.  I have been suspended in mid-air, paused in impossible positions, my consciousness practically positioned in my pelvis.

Ujjayi pranayama has become the driving force.  Inhalations and exhalations have grown steady and long without interruption, nearly equal in duration and sound, a quality I had come to accept might never be a part of my practice, even after three years of tender cultivation.  I remember quite distinctly when I realized this had happened: it was just after the conclusion of YTT.  I was sitting, quietly breathing, preparing for my practice, and I noticed that the ujjayi inhalations had finally come.  It was no longer a struggle to let the air drag through the throat.  The breath became sweet and long, the sound encompassing my mind and carrying me gently through the postures.  The simple act of breathing was suddenly a profoundly pleasurable experience, and it has only become more so in my esteem.

I had another such breakthrough today.  I've been doing some extra study on the Ashtanga approach to floating which I've been working toward semi-successfully in my own practice for several months.  My jump throughs and seated jump backs are perhaps not as graceful as they could be, but reliable.  It's the floating to and from standing that has eluded me, until now.  I had been gathering bits of theoretical information here and there over the past couple of days, taking notes from Swenson, Maehle, David Garrigues, and, of course, Grimmly, who I believe founded his blog on this very principle of floating and lightness.  In addition, I watched a 90-minutes class by Kathryn Budig today at Yogaglo which emphasized lightness in the vinyasa, and I guess all of that extra theory and anatomy knowledge rattling around in my brain made all the difference because I managed to get the float forward to Uttanasana for the first time.

I came to the mat with the intention of working with special emphasis on the bandhas and doing some extra floating work.  I began straight away with the Suryas, cultivating awareness deep in the pelvic region and lifting the navel up and in, up and in.  I subjected myself to some detestable pilates-type abdominal strengtheners for several minutes, then spent a good deal of time upside down in various headstand and forearm stand variations focusing on supported stability and maintaining those locks.  Then it happened.  I just flew, my lower half weightless in space until I decided to slowly release the feet down.  And it happened again, and again, and again.  I couldn't believe it.  I kept throwing in extra forward folds just so I could jump into them in slow motion and cement the memory of the action in my body and mind.

And yet, it's entirely possible that I won't be able to float tomorrow.  It's happened before.  Something clicks one day, and then it goes away.  Every practice is a fresh start, for better or worse.  The value of the work is in the moment, in what I learn about myself through my navigation of the practice, not in what I achieve.  So, when I step on my mat tomorrow, I will inhabit the moment uninhibited by the past and I will not confuse the power of intention with the filter of expectation.

3 comments:

  1. Reading about your practice always makes me want to take mine up a notch, not because yoga's a competition but because it is obvious how much you get out of it. I've been doing just an hour a day but the regularity of the practice has made a huge difference to what my body can do with ease.
    I've not tried Ashtanga because it never appealed to me but, from reading about it here, I am beginning a class when I return home to Australia in a couple of months. Thanks for the inspiration.

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  2. Hi Brigid - I'm happy to hear my practice has inspired you. I don't think Ashtanga or Power flow yoga is for everyone, but when I began to incorporate elements of Ashtanga in my practice, my health and fitness level really transformed for the better. My practice ascended to a whole new level.

    It works for me, and I would encourage you to give it a try to add some dynamism and endurance, but please don't think that it's the only way to deepen your practice.

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  3. Thanks Megan. I think Ashtanga would be a great complement to the Classical and Iyengar yoga that I have practiced for years. Ashtanga sounds like a great strengthener, which I'm in need of as I'm flexible but lacking in strength! I'll try it and see how I go :-)

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