Primary Friday: Then and Now

Drawing by Francesca Romana Brogani
Nearly ten years ago, I practiced yoga for the first time.  It was Sun Salutation A, alone in my parents' basement on a cheap, slippery mat with David Swenson's spiral bound Practice Manual propped open at the top to guide me.  Even though, at the time, I did not go on to continue with the practice, my experience with Swenson's book instilled in me a special reverence for Ashtanga and great respect for those who engage in it.  Funny that now, all these years later, after the many nimble twists and turns my life has taken, I find myself in the very same position.  Every Friday, I grab that same copy of Swenson's manual that I paged through with wide eyes all that time ago, and lay it open at the top of my mat.

So Swenson's teachings have been with me all along.  His book was my first exposure to yoga.  The lessons therein hinted to me the hidden depths of the practice and planted the seeds of curiosity.  Now here I am, wading into the Ashtanga waters with my once-weekly Primary and still finding more to learn from this very same book.  Not only that, but last week.... teehee.... I signed up for a 40-hour Ashtanga First Series immersion.... teehee teehee.... with David Swenson himself!  BOOYAH!  It's not happening until October, but I am so excited.  And a little bit star struck.  I've watched his DVDs many times.  The Boyfriend and I once sat together in silence, broken only by the occasional outburst of disbelief, through the entire Advanced A and B Series.  Suffice it to say I think Swenson is just super and I CAN'T WAIT to study with him.

But on to my practice:  it was good.  I thoroughly enjoyed the 10 rounds of Surya Namaskara, as usual.  I am finally able to comfortably hold the reverse prayer position of the hands in Parvsottanasana without my outer forearms screaming in pain.  In fact, this position is starting to feel pretty great on my shoulders and upper back, which is altogether new.  Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana B is feeling more symmetrical these days.  Generally, my right hip abductors have a tendency to cramp in this pose, but all was well this week.  Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana D is getting stronger.  I am coming closer to Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana and Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana using modifications.  Neither pose feels quite so awkward anymore.  Trianga Mukhaikapada Paschimottanasana is another pose that seemed extremely awkward and unstable the first few times, but I'm starting to get the hang of it.  It feels much improved when I focus on keeping the shoulders balanced and level, rather than trying to fix the pose in the hips.

Bhujapidasana was a relative success.  I got my forehead down to the floor, stayed for 5 breaths, and managed to haul my way back up with some unsightly struggle and maybe a grunt or two for the titti-bakasana exit.  It's a work in progress, getting better all the time.  The seated sequence was much improved as a whole this week.  I've pretty much got the sequence memorized, and I'm introducing a couple of the postures I chose to skip entirely in the beginning.

The trapezius pull from last week is completely healed, but it did cause me to bring more attention the positioning of my right shoulder all the way down to the distribution of weight in the hand.  I know that I tend to hunch my right side.  I'm constantly reminding myself to relax the shoulder down, both in my practice and throughout my day.  Maybe this quasi-injury will be the wake-up call I've needed to be more mindful how I use that side.

Finishing was okay.  I'm having trouble with Urdhva Padmasana, apart from the fact that I can't bring my legs into lotus upside down.  I do the pose in half-lotus, but I can't yet bring both hands to the knees for very long.  I worry for my neck in this pose, so I don't push it.  Just give it a go and move on.  The 3 Urdhva Dhanurasanas felt good this week.  The first was a little sketchy, but the third was notably more open.  I practiced full lotus legs in Padmasana without pain, then lifted for 10 breaths in Tolasana.  Savasana was divine and not rushed for a change.  Like I said, a good practice.


  1. The first time I did lotus easily, was in urdhva padmasana. I still find it the easiest place to do lotus since there is freedom of the legs without the floor in the way. So, just a thought if you are going to try lotus anywhere, here is the place! (But back off with a neck injury)

  2. Over the past few weeks, I've slowly been able to reintroduce full lotus legs into my practice, but Urdhva Padmasana is a special challenge, even apart from the leg position, which I can't seem to get without the use of my hands. I've always had trouble with any type of shoulder stand. In fact, Sarvangasana used to cause me serious headaches, which may be why I'm apprehensive about any of the shoulderstanding postures.

  3. Hmm, yeah, I can see how shoulder-standing could be a bit challenging. I use my hands to get into urdhva padmasana too. I guess I am lucky I have always felt completely at ease upsidedown :)

  4. It's not being upside down that bothers me, it's the extreme flexion of the cervical spine. I find practicing Sarvangasana with a folded blanket or mat under the shoulders and upper arms solves this problem, but I don't bother to use props in my Ashtanga practice.