12.30.2011

Primary Friday: Yoga Chikitsa

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in Samasthiti
I so love that the final day of the year will be a Saturday.  The obsessive compulsive in me is hugely gratified by the synchronicity of a week, month, and year coming to a close at once.  We must be tidy.  Must be neat.

The final practice of 2011 was a soft evening Primary, throughout which I couldn't help but think back to my first Primary explorations at the beginning of the year.  What a journey it's been!  Earlier this week, I wrote about the larger impacts of the practice and how it's changed my life.  Today, I'll write about how the posture practice -- the asana -- has evolved my body, attitude, and understanding.

On a physical level, there has been substantial change.  I am longer and leaner.  Hips and thighs are noticeably more toned.  Upper body strength has developed in a nicely balanced way; I am looking less like a linebacker and more like a yogi every day.  With this scaling down of excess bulk, I have found that the mobility of my shoulders has improved tremendously.  As a result of this opening, neck complaints, previously a common problem, have fallen by the wayside.

Even as my hips have narrowed and toned, so too have they been opened through the Primary practice.  When I first came to Ashtanga, lotus was a red zone.  Both knees were tight and unstable and, at the time, I seriously doubted I would ever assume a comfortable lotus or half-lotus position.  I spent months modifying postures, developing awareness and, slowly but surely, my lotus bloomed.  In fact, in my final practice of the year, I managed Urdhva Padmasana with no discomfort whatsoever for the very first time.  Here's to the efficacy of patience in practice.  Karandavasana, here I come.

Perhaps the most significant physical opening I experienced this year was in the backbends.  The drop backs changed not only my body, but my psyche, my inner state.  The sensation of those first few drop backs early in the year were quite a wake up call, reminding me not only of the imbalances to which I'd grown blind, but also that sometimes it becomes necessary to move through the pain rather than around it.  I know pain talk in the practice is often shunned outside the world of Ashtanga, but what I felt learning to drop back was pain, and it was necessary and good.  The Intermediate backbends picked up where the drop backs left off, super-toning my back, thighs, and buttocks, teaching me to support the lower half while softening the upper half in order to open the chest cavity and thoracic spine.

Through the discomfort, my body was healed and my heart was opened.  I learned to accept risk, and to care for and carry myself in a whole new way.  It's the yoga chikitsa, the only therapy I know.  And now I look forward to the New Year and all that it brings.  This will be the year of nadi shodana, the nerve cleansing.  Based on the jarring effects that Intermediate has had so far, I suspect there is much that lies in store.

12.28.2011

The Game

With the New Year fast approaching, I can feel myself dropping into a less ambitious, more reflective state.  Asana practice has continued to be erratic, but interestingly, I have ceased to be bothered by this.  Instead, I have allowed my practice to become flexible and simply valued whatever time I have.  This has made all the difference.  Certainly, it makes things more pleasant in my head; but even physically, I am less affected by lack of practice when I choose to remain soft and in the mindset always.  This is another one of those lessons I must learn over and over again.

The year 2011, now almost to a close, has been incredible.  It was only January that I first began to practice Ashtanga in the tradition of Pattabhi Jois.  I strongly believe that this practice has been the driving force, the impetus, behind the enormous change and --  dare I say it -- the growth that I've experienced over the course of this past year.  Many times, I saw the storms on the horizon and feared my tiny vessel would be overwhelmed, but found instead only more deftness in life and more capacity for joy.  Ashtanga has provided me with an indispensable set of tools with which to face adversity.  I love this practice with a passion and will be forever grateful.  Thank you, Guruji, for disseminating this wealth of information so prolifically.  And thank you, David Swenson, for planting that seed at the dawning of a decade that will soon loop back upon itself, the circle nearly complete.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Not long after Ashtanga won out as my daily practice, replacing the meandering Vinyasa experimentation I had previously employed, I found the courage to leave my dependable job of many years and take the plunge into full-time teaching with little savings to back me up and no guarantee of regular work.  In order to survive, I further simplified my life, edging off the non-essentials.  In so doing, I created a clearing in which for opportunities to land.  And they did.  Well-paying gigs just fell into my lap, and soon I had a pretty full schedule teaching yoga.  A dream come true.

Then my partner and I broke up.  After seven years.  It was hard, but not that hard, and not long after that, when I moved into my new apartment to live alone for the first time in my adult life, I felt as though I had literally stepped into the light after years and years of darkness.  Such lightness, such relief.  I became aware of the thousands of ways in which I had compromised myself to sustain that other person, and rather than feel regret or self-loathing for having done so for so long, I have taken enormous pleasure in rediscovering myself.  Intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and sexually.  It's been a wild, wonderful ride.

Just weeks after the break up, I had the pleasure of studying with David and Shelley for the first time, two weeks of morning Mysore and pranayama.  The intensity of this experience felt very much like a gauntlet through which to pass in order to better understand the culture and the practice of Ashtanga -- baptism by tapas, if you will.  Those two weeks with Swenson burned through any lingering pain from the separation and put me more finely in tune with my self-abused body.  

But when I turned that attention inward, I found something amiss.  Swollen lymph nodes all over.  Night sweats.  Fatigue and chronic ketosis.  These symptoms sent me to seek a medical opinion, an opinion which turned out to be a potentially leveling blow:  it looked like the "C" word.  Cancer.  At age 25.  I spent weeks undergoing tests and an invasive biopsy, waiting and waiting and waiting for the final word.  During this interval between the first and last mention of the worst-case scenario, I fell into the most vivid, perceptually expansive state I have ever experienced.  It was a death meditation and it was bliss.  I glimpsed the moment of transition.  I felt the final breath and it felt more perfect than anything I have ever felt before.  I was changed.

Somehow so appropriately, just a matter of weeks after the announcement of a benign result, I returned to the feet of my teachers, humbled and scarred, but also emboldened by the peace that I had found.  Another three weeks of intensive study with David and Shelley in the company of many fine students and teachers enabled such extreme growth to take place that I am still processing the enormity of that experience.

And, as if that weren't enough for one year, just days after the completion of the Swenson intensive, I was fired.  For a variety of reasons, I suppose, but among them, my "intense energy" and my dedication to the tradition of Ashtanga while masquerading as a proponent of fitness-based Vinyasa flow.  It felt wrong and it was wrong.  But this not-entirely-unexpected turn of events really opened the flood gates.  I was consumed with creative passion.  I poured kerosene on every bridge I never wished to cross again and set them all ablaze, then set off into the uncharted territory deep within.  I haven't yet emerged from the densest of the brush, but I remain unscathed, and though this creative awakening has been painful, it has also been enriching and expansive.  It has softened the boundaries of my world and illumined the dark corners, revealing a depth of possibility as yet unseen.

The coming year holds a special promise, it beckons me to enter with a glint of unforgiving mischief in its eyes.  It humors me flirtatiously, ushering me in as if this passage were a matter of my choosing.  Though I am not fooled by this performance, I will be coy and play the game.  Not yet, 2012.  Not just yet...

12.23.2011

Primary Friday: Another Chance for Morning Practice

Primary was soooooo good this week; not technically perfect by any means, but perfect in it's purpose and effect.  Surely, many pairs of Ashtangi eyeballs will roll at this next comment, but part of the reason my practice was so great was that I did it right away in the morning.  I crawled out of bed, did nauli (my new favorite activity), had a cup of coffee and a big glass of water, and unrolled my mat.  No fuss, no time for reluctance or negotiation.  Just practice.  

I did notice that my sweat smelled a little extra funky without any food in my stomach (see this post for backstory on that).  But after my experience today, I might just give this morning practice thing another try.  My body was noticeably lighter and my mind clearer.  Rather than be bothered by the regular resurfacing of moments past from throughout my day, I enjoyed a mentally quiet practice with just the occasional glimmer of anticipation at the joyfulness of the day to come with my practice already under my belt.  Very nice, indeed.

Once again, I am in Wisconsin with the folks and siblings this week, so I won't spend too much time here discussing the idiosyncratic ins and outs of my Primary.  Suffice it to say that practice was good.  And now, I'm going to go enjoy my family and give them the fullest of my love and attention.  It is my wish that you all might be so lucky as to do the same.

Happy Holidays!  

Asana of the Week: Setu Bandhasana

(NOTE:  Do not attempt this posture without the close supervision of a qualified instructor, especially if you have any history of neck injury.)

Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Posture) is the final posture of the Ashtanga Primary series before the finishing sequence.  As such, there is an inherent temptation for students to rush, skip, or approximate this distinctive backbend, which is different from any other backbend in the series in that it encourages external rotation of the legs.  The primary action in this posture is the extension of the cervical spine, which must be approached with care and attention to avoid injury.

To enter Setu Bandhasana, lie down on your back and turn your feet out with your knees bent and heels together like Charlie Chaplin (see right).  Then, as if setting up for Matsyasana, lift your head and chest and drop the crown of your head back to the mat with the chest lifted.  Cross your arms over your chest and, with an inhalation, slowly push into the feet to lift the hips from the floor.  Roll forward up the centerline of the head until the hairline or forehead touch the mat.  Gaze down the tip of your nose to soften the face and throat.  Breath deeply into the chest for 5-10 breaths.

Throughout your stay in this posture, be aware of the sensation in the neck.  We want to maximize spinal extension without crunching or compressing the cervical vertebrae.  To do this, try to envision your cervical spine in the posture.  Use gentle muscular contraction to create a support structure for the neck, as if each little vertebrae is held securely in its place by 360 degrees of controlled muscular tension.  Resist the temptation to lift the arms away from your chest.  Keep them down and pull the shoulders back.  As you feel ready to move deeper into the posture, try pressing the legs straighter.  Eventually, the legs may come completely straight with the inner legs together.

To exit, exhale as you slowly roll down the the centerline of the head.  Take a moment on your back to gently rock your head from side to side and release any compression in the neck before lifting your head away from the floor.

12.17.2011

Floaty Exits and Jump Back/Jump Through

I've had a few video requests recently, mainly in the interest of clarifying some of the elements of my own practice that I've written about, so I took the opportunity after practice last night to grab those for you.  Because I care.

First, for DeborahS, the Ashtanga "floaty" exits from Utkatasana and Virabhadrasana II.  I'm not great at these.  Mine are more "hoppy" than floaty most of the time (like a good IPA... wink, wink), but this should give you some idea of what I mean:


Next, I've had a couple of requests for a video of my own jump back/jump through since I emphasized the difference between the straight arm and the bent arm approach several weeks ago.  As I said, my jump back is slow and more labored than I'd like.  I believe that the straight-arm jump requires less effort, but I don't seem to have the wrist flexibility to bring my weight forward enough into the hands to accomplish it.  At least that's my theory.  I'm open to your insight:


As you can see, the jump back is especially slow now that I'm carrying a few extra pounds, but at least I'm jumping back again.  As for the jump through, this way is quick and easy and unceremonious.  I was playing with the crossed-leg jump throughs a few months back because they're supposed to build more strength, but gave up on it in favor of the simplicity of the straight-leg approach.  

Comments?  Questions?  Other requests?

12.16.2011

Primary Friday: The Good News

I am finally emerging from this blasted winter funk!  As the week went on, with each day the practice felt less and less like torture and more and more like home.  Today's Primary was actually quite nice.

I started the week with my current Intermediate practice (to Pincha, with Kapo twice and Pincha twice), but aborted Intermediate entirely no later than Tuesday as it became clear that 2nd series was not at all what I needed.  I needed therapy.  I needed Primary.  And Primary is what I've had, straight up and uncut since Tuesday.  It's been lovely.  Oh, how I love my Primary...

However, I can't help but wonder if this whole episode of the past few weeks, or even the entire month, is a direct consequence of my Intermediate exploration.  The nerve cleansing, the prying open of the body.  I have put myself in some pretty vulnerable positions recently, both professionally and personally, something I have spent my entire life avoiding.  This resulted first in a level anxiety unseen since adolescence, followed almost immediately by rapid weight gain disproportionate to the changes in my diet and activity level.  (Note:  I'm not trying to be dramatic about the weight gain.  It's like 5 pounds.  It'll be gone by next week.  It just came on so fast.)

It occurred to me today that the weight gain may have been an unconscious effort at self-preservation.  I have taken cover under my own flesh to recover from the overexposure of the past month.  The good news is that Primary seems to be aiding my emotional and physical recoveries.  I am feeling much better.  The bad news is that I haven't done a full week of Intermediate practice since I-don't-know-when.  And -- call me paranoid -- here is where I get suspicious:  Teachers have been pushing me into Intermediate practically since I took up the Ashtanga.  But any time that I have moved forward into 2nd series, obstacles have arisen that have forced me to step back... or have they?

Maybe all of this is just self-sabotage.  Intermediate is the unknown.  It is fearsome and incomplete.  Primary is my cozy little home, with every breath accounted for, every moment a part of the meditation.  Why would I ever want to leave?  Have I been rationalizing my own plateau into existence, holding myself back, afraid of whatever else might be revealed?  I don't know, but it's a compelling explanation.

12.15.2011

Asana of the Week: Laghu Vajrasana

Laghu Vajrasana (Little Thunderbolt Posture) is a remarkable little posture in that it illuminates the role of the legs in protecting the spine during backbending and brings the crux of the spinal extension out of the lower back and up into the thoracic and cervical spine.

To enter the posture, begin in a kneeling position with the knees hip-distance apart.  As if preparing for Ustrasana, take a moment here to lift the chest and bring the pelvis forward of the knees.  When ready, take the hands back to the ankles and grip firmly with straight, strong arms.  Pull the pelvis forward, lift the chest, and with an exhalation, drop the head back and lower the crown or hairline to the mat, keeping the arms straight throughout the transition.  Do not take weight into the head.  Stay for five breaths.

The quadriceps and psoas must work strongly to control the spinal extension as the head is taken back.  Without committed activation of the legs throughout the entry and hold of this posture, you will not likely make it out the same way you came in.  The proper exit from Laghu Vajrasana is more challenging than the posture itself and must be kept in mind throughout your stay in the backbend.  After five breath cycles, inhale as you scissor the inner thighs and push with all your might into the hands and tops of the feet to pull yourself back up to the starting position.  Remember to keep the head back as you emerge or the low back will collapse and the burden on the thighs will be increased, causing a tendency to fall back down.

If it is too difficult to take the head all the way to the mat, build control by lowering only part of the way with the exhalations and lifting back up on the inhalations, continuing the motion rather than pausing for five breaths in order to ensure that the legs stay active and the breath is moving.

12.11.2011

Sunday Small Talk

Sunday practice is always sort of a grab bag.  I never really know what I'm going to get until I jump on in there and feel around.  I am still on the receiving end of some karmic heckling for my negligence but, thanks to my first oil bath in nearly a month, today's practice was a clear improvement on the shenanigans of last week.

I practiced Intermediate to Pincha.  It was nice.  Pushed myself to move a little faster through the backbends without all the dawdling I sometimes allow.  And you know what?  It's easier if I don't stop.  I had this realization with the Urdhva Dhanurasana repetitions a good while back and it applies just the same to 2nd series:  pump the breath to power through the backbends.  It's only when I stop and try to slow the breath and slow the pulse that the nervous repercussions take place.  If I try to rest, I start to feel winded and the whole thing is overblown.  On the other hand, if I just keep moving, keep breathing, I'm through the whole backbending barrage before I know it and everything is fine.  Must try to remember this.

The hips are slowly opening up again, but my shoulders are stubbornly immobilized.  Both internal and external rotation is unusually limited.  I can't bind anything.  I've never had a problem binding Tittibhasana -- at least not within the context of Ashtanga -- but Thursday, all I managed was a desperate, painful clinging of a few fingers and today, not even that.  I used my towel.

I don't quite understand it, but I've got loads of tension lingering in my neck and shoulders.  I had that tension headache for days after the long drive home from Wisco and a little gremlin has been wandering from right trapezius to left every 2 days ever since.  Don't get me wrong; the oil bath on Saturday was magical, my feet and legs feel completely renewed, but the neck and shoulders are still a little messed up.

And, while it's true that I have been indulging more than usual in the food realm, I haven't been eating that much... so why does my belly look distended?  It feels as though my metabolism has slowed to a crawl and my entire torso has been inflated.  I think I'll blame the weather.

12.09.2011

Primary Friday: Where's my Cookie?

I did it.  It wasn't pretty, but I did it.

This has been a hard week.  I am really so astonished at how drastically my practice has been affected by... well... By what exactly?  I'm not sure.  It's got to be the combination.  I've gone periods of time on minimal practice, I've put on a little extra weight here and there, and I've certainly gone astray in the dietary realm at least a few times in the past, but I can't think of a single thing that's impacted my practice so badly as the trifecta of stress, sedentary days, and rich foods that have taken over my life these past few weeks.

Fortunately, gimpy as I've been all week, the Ashtanga has helped me get back on track and moving forward.  Income has been secured.  Personal projects are well in hand.  Relationship confusion has faded to the background and food choices are more rational by the day.  Don't you worry about me, friends.  I'm on top of this.

Primary today was nice.  The weather was moist and warmer here and I kept a steady pace, so the heat was more than adequate. I worked up a good, clean sweat.  Stayed an extra breath in some of the forward bends, namely Ardha Baddha Padma and Trianga Mukaikapada because there was some serious work to be done in the hips and hamstrings.  Binding is still an issue, so the Marichyasanas are a compromise.  My shoulders are unbearably locked up and my back is feeling funny.  I assumed both of these issues were caused by the driving, but if a week of practice hasn't fixed them, I'm not so sure.

Occasionally on Fridays, I like to do some alternative backbending work in leu of drop backs.  Today, I did 9 rounds of Urdhva Dhanurasana in sets of three for five breaths each, giving extra focus to the rotation of the arms and legs.  Then a final round for fifteen breaths without coming down, walking the hands in every five breaths.  This was good work.  I really felt it in my quads and psoas at the end.

I am whole-body sore from the return to full practice.  I've been working myself hard on the mat and spending almost every other minute at my desk, a dichotomy which undoubtedly contributes to the soreness.  Tomorrow will be a welcome rest.  I have a feeling things will feel very different on Sunday.

So... practice week completed.  Where's my cookie?

12.08.2011

Asana of the Week: Padangusthasana

Padangusthasana (Foot Big Toe Pose) is a nice forward bending posture which makes use of the connection made between the hands and feet to engage the arms and legs.  The physical connection here keeps the energy circulating within the body so that what appears, at first glance, to be a sleepy forward fold is all lit up with prana.

As the first posture in the Ashtanga standing series, Padangusthasana lengthens the hamstrings, releases the backbody, and encourages gentle extension of the cervical spine in preparation for more the core-intensive forward bending of the remainder of the series.

Alternate view
Prepare for Padangusthasana standing with the feet planted at hip's distance.  Bend down and take your big toes with the first two fingers and thumb in yogi toe lock, bending your knees as much as necessary to make this toe lock possible.  Keep the wrists lifted and the bandhas engaged.

With an inhalation pull your arms straight, lengthen your spine and look forward.  Exhale to fold, bending at the hips to keep the spine long.  Fire up the quadriceps to lift the kneecaps and encourage the hamstrings to release.  Lift your shoulders toward your waist to make space for the neck to extend.  Feel the crown of your head coming closer to the floor with every exhalation and bend your elbows straight out to the sides as you gaze softly down the tip of your nose.  Stay for 5-10 breaths.

12.07.2011

Dream Big

I had a dream last night that I could bind and balance easily in Pasasana.

image source

But even in my dreams, my heels are nowhere near the floor.

12.06.2011

Ouch

My body is teaching me some hard lessons this week, mostly concerning the consumption of beer and ice cream.  In spite of my inability to get my nutrition back on track after spending the Thanksgiving holiday with family, I had hoped to jump right back into Intermediate on Sunday.  But after an honest evaluation of Saturday's Primary performance, moving forward seemed unwise.

I took it one pose at a time and practiced full 1st plus 2nd to Ardha Matsyendrasana.  It was the longest practice I've done in a while, but I badly needed every bit of it.  The backbends weren't as hard as I had feared, but jump backs are still completely AWOL and I haven't bound Marichy D in a week.  I don't have a scale, so I can't be sure, but I feel like I'm carrying an extra seven pounds and all of it in the belly.

Ever since the drive back from Wisconsin, my mind has felt much better but my body is falling apart.  In addition to the expanded waistline, the right side of my back is flaring up from an old injury and both shoulders are threatening revolt.  My neck is tense, my hips are tight, and somehow I've got what feels like a shin splint on the left side.  It's a mystery.  Or not.  I've been dealing with some extra stress and the short days of the season make me anxious.  We've had cold, dark rain in Austin for the past few days which compels us all to stay inside.  On top of that, the practice has been relatively sparse and since I am not yet teaching yoga anywhere, I am spending a lot more time writing at my less-than-ergonomic desk.  All these things are weighing in and I really feel unwell.

Yesterday I didn't practice, and since I don't have to justify myself to you, I won't.  But I got back on the horse today and tackled Intermediate... sort of.  It was hard.  Really hard.  I probably shouldn't have bothered.  Pasasana was bound on neither side.  Krounchasana was an eyebrow raiser and Kapotasana a struggle as I clawed my way to my pinkie toes and hung on for dear life.  By this point in the practice, the urge to purge was ever present.   I didn't even attempt the actual the LBH postures, instead opting for exclusively reclining variations for fear my spine would snap under the pressure.  Even the bind in Tittibhasana was accomplished only with the aid of a towel.  Pincha took at least 5 attempts with just as many tumbles.  I'm in rare form, friends.  Rare form, indeed.

But you know what?  It was one of the best Savasanas I've had in a while.  I lingered.  I focused and felt real release.  Of course, I'm glad I practiced.  But tomorrow, it's Primary --  at least the first half -- before jumping into any Intermediate.

12.03.2011

Primary Saturday: Syncopation and The Rain

Practice was irregular throughout the two weeks at my parents house in chilly, rural Wisconsin.  It's always difficult to keep up the routine during travel, but even more so when that travel involves reuniting with family and friends I have the fortune to visit just once or twice a year.  Old habits take over and I find myself in a string of big, hearty meals, long, lazy afternoons, and some very late wine-soaked nights.

Add to that a touch of recklessness and a big ol' schmear of insomnia and you'll understand that practice was necessarily whittled down to the essential.

No regrets.  But two weeks of debauchery bookeneded by a pair of 20-hour drives has taken its toll.  The dog and I returned to Austin Thursday.  Jet lagged from the drive (is that even possible?), I failed to summon the energy Friday to do more than a minimal practice (10 Surya and the final 3), so did my full Primary today.  It was quite a shock.

I felt comically out of sync.  No jump backs.  Jump throughs were hit or miss.  No binding in Marichyasana D.  I've had a tension headache since we hit the road on Wednesday, somehow related to the muscle pull I inflicted upon myself shortly after my arrival in the Midwest.  The whole right neck/upper back/shoulder area is afflicted, but I'm surprised the headache hasn't faded yet, especially now that I've had a chance to sleep and do my practice.  I am still using the arnica cream, which does seem to have some effect on my range of motion without discomfort but, overall, I am not impressed with its performance.

The day is grey and rainy here which makes it especially hard to get moving.  Almost failed to drag myself away from my favorite chair and a good book, but I'm glad I practiced.  Intermediate will be interesting tomorrow.

12.02.2011

End Scene.

Distance seems to be a great solution for the desperation and delusion.  That, or there's something in the air up there in Wisconsin because as soon as I passed into Iowa, I felt better.  Entirely in possession of my faculties.  All systems go.  I drove the 1300 miles home in high spirits and held my mula bandha the whole way.

What I've learned from this most recent episode is that, while I'm a pro at letting go (fluent in the "fuck it"), I have a lot of trouble not grasping for it in the first place, whatever "it" may be.  And yes, I have many theories and I've drawn many connections between this experience and the Ashtanga but I hesitate to elaborate, lest I be known as the crazy, obsessive Ashtangi.

But it may be too late for that already, so here it goes:

The difference, energetically, from 1st to 2nd series is significant.  First series is scrappy.  Second series is sexy.  I feel the practice in my pelvis.  At the risk of sounding dirty, there's a lot of deep work at the root.  In all of the extremes that 2nd series takes us through -- extreme backbending, extreme hip rotation, and extreme forward bending -- awareness of the root is key.  Mula bandha anchors the extension of Kapotasana, traps the apana of Dwi Pada, and steadies the precarious walk of Tittibhasana.

I think I mentioned this a week or so ago, but Titti really turns me on.  More often than not after the exit, I feel hot and high, as though all my blood is sloshing around in my pelvis and all the rest is really secondary.  Pincha is a special challenge if I don't give myself a moment to level off.  I've noticed this heightened root awareness since the split to 2nd in October.  Though I had been practicing much of Intermediate in addition to Primary prior to this, there is definitely something distinctive about the effect of the backbends -- and, indeed, the practice as a whole -- independent of all the core warm-up that Primary provides.  The sensation is rich and the body is still fresh.  More mindpower is required to quell the reluctance.

Second series necessitates a heightened presence as we are asked to take the body to opposing ends without the slash-and-burn of 1st.  Without that heat, we are called upon to draw from a deep, intuitive understanding of the body and a clear, attentive mind.  Because we are not numbed by the rigors of Primary, Second series is more sensual.  Second is also the more playful practice, and I am feeling this effect full-on.  Spontaneous dancing.  Fits of laughter.  Bouts of mischief and good-natured antagonism.  It's all there.

But enough about me.  Let's talk about you.

How's your practice coming?  Surviving the holidays?  Ready for the new year?  On that note, considering my recent meanderings into the realm of the ultra-personal, I'd like to know what you want to see from Damn Good Yoga in the coming year.  Do you want more instructional/informational content?  Videos?  Features?  Product reviews?  Or are you quite content to read about my personal practice forevermore and see how my real-life neuroses manifest in text?