Practice Report: 2nd Series and Shoulder Woes

Last night, I returned to home practice for the first time in three weeks.  After all that luxurious Mysore-style during the Swenson TT, with a teacher standing by at all times to assist, home practice feels like a lot of work.

Coracobrachialis shown in purple
I've been nursing a tweaked right shoulder since Friday, and yesterday morning it started to feel worse.  I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to practice at all and spent the day analyzing exactly what type of actions caused me pain.  Internal rotation of the arm coupled with either a downward push or an upward pull triggers acute discomfort.  When the muscle feels especially inflamed, it is also painful to lift the arm at certain angles.  A bit of research has revealed that this is probably my coracobrachialis acting up from habitual inward rotation of the right arm.  Mindful attention to the sensation there for the last couple of days has provided me with a good amount of feedback regarding all the little things I do throughout the day that place unnecessary strain on that shoulder.

While it is uncomfortable and sometimes frustrating to deal with injury, it is these periods of self-healing that reveal the most to me about my body and the way I carry myself.  I have always emerged from minor muscular injury with greater awareness and therefore,  a cleaner, lighter practice.  When the body talks, I listen.  I just wish it would speak up a little sooner.

After icing the shoulder for a bit in the evening, I decided to roll out the mat and see what I could do, figuring I'd probably do a few Surya Namaskara, the final 3 finishing postures, and call it a night.  But by the third Surya A, my shoulder felt loose and my body was pumped so full of prana that nothing could have stopped me from going on.  It turned out to be my first full big-girl 2nd series practice at home.  And it was fantastic.

Pasasana and Krounchasana are a jolt without all that 1st series warm-up.  I had a tough time binding and balancing Pasasana since my heels are nowhere near the floor, but I didn't want to wrench the shoulder, so I settled for an unbound expression with a rolled towel under the hovering heels.  Krounchasana is flat-out intense on the hams and glutes as the first forward bending posture of the sequence, but after that, it was smooth sailing through the backbends.  Despite the relatively cold room (I checked:  it was only 70 degrees when I rolled out the mat), I had a clean, drenching sweat going by Dwi Pada.

Dwi Pada is a circus, by the way, without someone to assist.  I gave it my best, but truthfully, until my left leg will stay comfortably behind me in Eka Pada, I think I'll be skipping Dwi Pada for a longer stay in Yoganidrasana to help me get there on my own.  My hips are opening nicely.  It's only a matter of time.

Tittibhasana is no problem.  I am still refining the walk.  It is difficult to coordinate the body and breath for those big steps forward and back, but the rest of the Titti set is under control.  I like that I get to practice both expressions of the Titti arm balance -- with the hips lifted, legs parallel to the floor for the first round and with the butt dropped and legs up for the 5 breaths before the exit.

Pincha Mayurasana is where things get complicated.  I'm not supposed to use the wall to which, I admit, I have allowed myself to become rather attached.  I can balance just fine on my forearms after a bit of wobbling and toeing the wall, but without that initial bit of stabilization, I have a tendency to go up and over.  During the Swenson TT, there was always someone there to stick an arm out just in case.  Sometimes I needed it, sometimes not.  At home, however, there's nothing and no one to prevent me from going over, so Pincha becomes a mind game.  Last night, I faced the problem by laying out floor pillows at the top of my mat so that, if I fell, I wouldn't come down on the unforgiving floor.  After several half-assed 'fraidy cat kicks, I finally went for it with conviction, kamikaze-style.  As it turned out, I didn't fall but suspect that, in the coming weeks, I will.  And I had better get comfortable with the idea.  Once I manage to get over the fear factor of Pincha, it's on to Karandavasana, where I expect to be stuck for quite some time.

I really do enjoy this 2nd series practice.  It has a totally different feel without all that exhausting Primary beforehand, so much lighter and more energetic.  Somehow, the whole practice took an hour and forty-five minutes last night even though I focused on a circular, unbroken breath as David instructed (which really has made an enormous difference in my energy levels), but that's still a good deal shorter than my previous Primary + Intermediate routine.  The relative brevity and playfulness of the Intermediate antics is liberating.  I am excited to endeavor in this new phase of practice.

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