4.13.2011

Vinyasaaahhh...

Last night I broke the month-long Ashtanga streak and opted for a Vinyasa practice instead.  It was getting late.  I'd had very little sleep the night before and the prospect of Primary plus 2nd through Ustrasana (I was given more of 2nd on Monday) seemed a little daunting.  I begrudgingly donned my sports bra as I gathered up my strength and resigned myself to 2+ hours of Ashtanga hell when I suddenly realized:  Hey!  I can do whatever I want.  Yoga is yoga.  I should practice in the way that best serves me.  And Ashtanga likely would have killed me, so I went an entirely different route.

It was divine.  So lovely to be on the mat in this way again, never knowing what comes next, just listening to the body for direction.  I started out with 5 minute holds of Adho Mukha Svanasana and Sirsasana.  I used a timer, a first in my asana practice, and I really liked it.  It was challenging to be at the mercy of the timer rather than a predetermined number of breaths.  Just when it started to feel like the longest five minutes ever, the bell would go off.  I haven't done any practice with long holds (except for Sirsasana -- 5 minutes is normal, it just seems longer with the timer) since I hopped the Ashtanga train, so it was interesting to see that I haven't lost that strength and in fact felt stronger than before.

I practiced lots of luxurious hip openers, big, sprawling hamstrings stretches, and some pretty arm balances that I don't get to do much any more.  I also focused on some asymmetrical backbends (i.e. upright variations of Eka Pada Rajakapotasana and Hanumanasana) to build strength for my 2nd series poses and release the psoas.  I noticed in these postures that I seem to be developing a major imbalance between the right and left sides.

My right psoas is very tight, which I was already aware of, but my right sacral region is clogged, for lack of a better word.  It just feels like there's some extra junk in there, marbles and pebbles mixed in with molasses, obstructing extension at the base of the spine.  I'm wondering if Ashtanga is making my one-sidedness worse because prior to the Ashtanga experiment, I had made some major headway in building symmetry between the two sides.  Could it be that modifying all lotus postures on one side (because of the beleaguered knee) is leading to chronic imbalance?  I hope not.  I'll have to observe this more closely.

And all of this brings me to drop backs.  With all of that psoas-stretching I figured it would be nice to see how my drop backs and stand ups were affected, and since I had my phone in the room with me because of the timer, I figured I might as well get a video and see what exactly is going on there.


It was strange to see the drop backs in relation to the way they feel.  The floor appears to be much closer to me when I'm in the process of dropping back than it actually is.  I'm dropping pretty far to the ground, but it's definitely getting better because the landings feel much softer on my wrists this week.  I can feel that the control necessary to create that softness in the landing is coming from the thighs.  I just need to develop that strength.  (By the way, my legs are not freakishly long as they appear to be in the video.  It's the angle, I guess, and the fact that my feet are not in the frame.  I'm actually pretty short.)

So that's my web video debut.  A bit behind the times, perhaps, but better late than never.  I may make this a regular thing, so if you're into watching other people do yoga, come back and see me.  I'm looking for advice here, so if you've got any feedback on the backbends, please leave your thoughts in the comments.  Let's polish these backbends together!  :)

8 comments:

  1. I think your dropbacks look fabulous!!! You might try playing around with your hand placement when dropping back. Sometimes if I start with the palms together near my forehead or slightly above the head, it forces an extra lift in the upper-chest on the inhale before starting to drop back. Getting this lift-up has been super-helpful to me in feeling like I'm creating space in the spine before dropping back.

    By the way....beautiful art on your arms. :)

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  2. I think you've got a great start to your dropbacks! You've got a lot of strength in your back and I think it's good you hang for a bit before dropping all the way. I've seen people literally swing their arms up and just flop backwards--it's kind of scary.

    I think, with all the mindfulness that you have when you practice them, they'll improve easily. One suggestion, try bending your knees a little bit when you're reading to drop your hands to the floor, might soften the drop--at least, that was my experience. Have fun, can't wait to hear more!

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  3. Yay video ! Those are nice dropbacks, i'm watching and everything seems to be in place, legs are strong, hips forward, really nice curve in your back, lots of controll, can't figure out why your not closer to the floor. Arkie's probably right a little more thoracic perhaps to bring the arms over more. Did you ever catch that Vinyasa krama tadasana sequence video I did. there are three standing back stretches with the hands behind the back. One hands together over your backside, the second clasping your elbows and the third with your hands in reverse prayer, kind of like utthita parsvottanasana but a back stretch with your feet together. I find that really helps me to bring my shoulders back and lift my chest, just a thought.
    Practice sounded really nice.

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  4. Very nice!!! loved the video, how wonderful. It looks great to me, then again I do not drop back yet, but I see the control you maintain all the way to at least the mid way before you drop and that is great! looking good..

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  5. Thanks for all the feedback, guys!

    Arkie - I will give the higher starting hand position a try. The same was recommended to me by one of my teachers, and I know more thoracic curve is what I need to shorten up the final backbend once I drop to the floor.

    Tara - Good suggestion on bending the knees. I tend to forget about that as I go for the drop. As for hanging back: I asked one of my teachers if it's ok that I take 3-5 breaths to drop back, and she said yes, that it builds strength and control. However, when I worked with a sub on Monday, she said not to hang back for too long because it can stress the low back. In fact, she wouldn't even let me drop back on my own because of it. I tend to agree with you, though. The hangbacks are helpful and I don't feel any pinching in the low back, so I'll probably keep working them slowly like that for now.

    Grimmly - I don't think I've seen the video you're referring to, but I'll head on over to your space and check it out. Sounds like exactly what I need. My shoulders are the most resistant place in my body. Opening the fronts of the shoulders and chest has been a long struggle, but I think that's why I'm not landing with my hands closer to my heels. I just can't pull my arms back any further because of tightness in the shoulders/armpits.

    Claudia - Thanks! :)

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  6. The second video on this page has it about half way through.

    http://vinyasakramayoga.blogspot.com/search/label/2.%20OYF%20P.4%20Hasta%20vinyasa

    That's taken pretty slow, there's a ten minuyre version of the tadasana sequence that i do every morning before I start my sury's here

    http://vinyasakramayoga.blogspot.com/2010/08/vinyasa-krama-yoga-10-min-tadasana.html

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  7. When i hurt my medial meniscus on my right knee it totally affected the right hip for a long time- i am still feeling it, so when that knee heals i bet it will all open up for you! beautiful vid!

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