Primary Friday: A Lean, Mean Ashtanga Machine

How bizarre is this image?  Click for full effect.
I had a really nice practice in T's Mysore room yesterday.  It was a small group this week, just 6 students in the room, which means T was able to keep diligent watch over all of us.  We practiced hard and were rewarded with some extra attention.

Thursday was my rest day, so I was feeling a little rusty at the start.  The beleaguered knee was very stiff; I'm still modifying all lotus postures, from Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana to Tolasana, and expect to be doing so for a long time.  I've had to cut back to six Suryas when I attend class, three As and three Bs, instead of the full ten to accommodate the addition of my 2nd series poses, which I forgot to do yesterday until T looked at me and said , "2nd?"  I guess I was excited to get on with the backbending.

Pasasana is pretty much a disaster.  My heels are a good two inches from the floor.  Teacher S doesn't want me to prop them up because she says my achilles tendons will never lengthen that way, but T rolled up a blanket yesterday and put it under my heels.  Binding feels impossible.  With help, I can get my fingertips to touch but I can't hook them yet.  I'm wondering if I need to stop doing pull-ups and chin-ups, which I do once a week to balance all the triceps strength that Vinyasa yoga develops (and because they're incredibly efficient forms of exercise).  Sometimes when I'm binding, it feels as though the biceps of the wrapping arm will tear right off the bone.

Krounchasana is okay.  My hammies are pretty long, so pulling the leg in is no problem, but neither of my knees are able to flex completely, so I can't get the sit bone of the bent leg to come down to the floor.  I worry a bit about the bum knee in this pose.  It feels good to stretch it this way, but it also feels like one wrong move and it could be reinjured.  At home, I sit on a dictionary.  In the Mysore room, I practice very, very carefully.

T gave me Shalabasana yesterday, which S had given me on Wednesday, so they're still right in step with one another.  I love Shalabasana, especially before Urdhva Dhanurasana.  It seems to really prepare the muscles of the back body nicely for spinal extension. 

The first push up to Urdhva Dhanurasana is still wrought with intense sensation, particularly in the sacral region, but after that it's all smooth sailing.  Drop backs and stand ups are now practically routine.  It just seems to happen in spite of any and all negative thinking that may arise in the process.  Standing up goes something like this:  rock once... Holy shit this hurts...  rock twice... I'm going to fall and bust my ass this time, I know it... rock three times and Here goes nothing!  Then a flash of light and I'm standing at the top of my mat.  It's a good time.

Drop backs are getting better really quickly.  After watching a few of the pros do it on youtube, I realized that the way to land more softly and in a shorter backbend is to push the hips forward over the toes.  This way, the hands land closer to the feet and, rather than coming down hard on the wrists, the hands land fingers-first and there's a momentum that follows to bring the chest forward which, eventually, will be what helps me drop and stand in one breath.  Eventually.

My body is stronger and leaner from this Ashtanga experiment.  My abs and arms are taking on a lot of tone and I've lost the weight I gained back after teaching training.  My upper abs are sore today.  Not sure if it's from the Ashtanga practice or from the extra-curricular arm balancing and backbending work I did when I got home.  I took a bunch of Asana of the Week photos last night, so expect some fun poses to be featured in the near future.

(image source)


  1. Love hearing about your journey into 2nd series! And can't wait for the new pics of the leaner meaner (j/k) you!

  2. Hi Domestic - 2nd Series is going to throw me for quite a loop, I can already tell. Should be fun to write about.

    Oh, and PS:
    I voted for you in the YJ contest. Gorgeous photo of you and the baby! Good luck!

  3. Oh my gosh! So honored! Thanks! :) I couldn't decided between that one, and the one with the splits (on my site). I am not so happy with the way my photo got resized on the YJ site. It looks blurry. Oh well. Thanks again!