Initially, I had decided to skip Primary altogether and have a nice Vinyasa practice instead so I could freely accommodate my knee, but as I laid out my mat, straightened my towel and began to spray it down, I was reminded of something I wrote earlier about Ashtanga: that the power of the practice is in stepping on the mat every day, and every day finding a way to make it through. Depending on how and what we practice, we may be forced to tap into our deepest reserves of energy and concentration just to get through the series. We may trudge through a practice that, outwardly, appears to be something entirely different. But therein lies the potency. We learn to adapt. We learn, inevitably, that we have resources beyond our comprehension at the ready. Expectations are wasted on the present. We learn to let them go. With this knowledge, I began my practice. Five Surya Namaskara A, five Surya Namaskara B...
As you may have guessed, it was amazing. Heavily modified and amazing. All lotus and half-lotus postures were modified on BOTH sides. I'm taking a big step back here (a "step back" in the sense that I'm considering the larger picture, not in the sense of achievement or lack thereof). I shouldn't have rushed the lotus postures in the first place, so I'm proceeding with caution.
Starting out, the knee was pretty stiff, but it quickly began to feel better rather than worse as I moved through the standing sequence. A good sign. With the seated sequence I found that, after two days of relative rest, my jump-throughs and -backs were especially strong. I've been cleaning up the vinyasas by placing the hands closer to shoulder-width and concentrating on keeping the knees together. This seems to aid in the application of the bandhas and is particularly effective in adding height to the jump-backs.
Practice flew by. Before I knew it, I was backbending. The Urdhva Dhanurasanas were perhaps not the deepest I've ever done, but they felt great. I came down to the crown of my head for one exhalation between repetitions, walking each hand in a step. With the third press up, I walked everything way in and after five breaths, rocked three times and came up to standing with the help of the wall. Then I dropped back and began the process all over: walk it in and rock... 1, 2, 3... except this time, on the second rock, I came up. Inadvertently. Without the wall.
I gathered my bearings as I came to terms with what had just happened. I stood up from Urdhva Dhanurasana. A first! Then I took a couple breaths, dropped back and did it again! I dropped back and stood up four more times, just to be sure I had it down. Overall, they were pretty smooth. My heels lifted slightly as I first began the climb, but they came down right away. After the first stand, which sent me on a little jog forward, my feet remained rooted and parallel. Beginner's luck? We'll see.
I wonder if it wasn't the extra rest day, giving me time to drop the expectation of failure, that made all the difference. As I said, the first time it happened, I didn't even intend for it. So now I've still got the bum knee, but it's not as inhibiting as I thought it might be. My Primary is still the lovely practice it was before that unfortunate crack, and dropping back and standing up have both come into reach. In response to this turn of events, I'm considering adding the first four postures of 2nd series. One of my teachers did say I was ready. She also said that the ability to stand up from the backbends is traditionally considered the sign of readiness for 2nd series.
So.... I'm ready, yes? We'll see.