10/12/17 Be Grounded
I was back from my yearly Taiwan trip last night and back to the Mysore room this morning. It's been awhile since I practiced in the room. I missed the vibe and energy there. I took it easy today as it was my first day back from vacation. I only practiced the Primary Series to ground myself. It was a great practice, exactly what I needed after 11 hour flight.
10/16/17 Ready to Eka Pada Sirsasana or Not?
I was more than ready to get into my regular practice with awesome backbends (aka Kapotasana) and Eka Pada Sirsasana preparation. It's been too long since I got assisted in Kapotasasa and I missed it.
Today was one of the longest practice I've ever done, more than 2 hours long. To be honest, I wasn't really practicing the full 2 hours; instead, my teacher came and helped me quite a bit. She gave me lots of tips and advises on how to self correct certain asana alignments or deepen the postures. A lot of the focuses were on backbends and hip openings.
For backbends, She put lots of emphases on why I should keep my neck long, not to drop my head until the last minute, etc. When dropping the head too early in a backbend, I could easily lose the front body engagement and missed the opportunity to open shoulders. I felt a great shift in my backbend when keeping the gaze up until the last minute.
Since I have been prepping for Eka Pada Sirsasana for a while, she said to me today that the only way to learn the pose was to DO IT. So she came and helped me get into Eka Pada Sirsasana A & B. I was helped to get into variation A once and today was my first time to try B. Even with her help, I couldn't get into the full pose, but at least I got the sense of the asana. It wasn't easy and I had a long way to go.
Yoga is a lifetime practice. I don't expect to nail all asanas in a day or I will miss the joy of this journey.
10/18/17 A Breakthrough in Pasasana
I woke up 20 minutes earlier than usual today. Maybe I still had some jet lag. Since I was already up, I decided to start my practice early.
I have been practicing Pasasana for almost 10 months using a 2" thick block under my heels. I could bind on the first side most of times, but struggled on the second side. Today, the assistant came and told me that it was time to get rid of the block. I was thinking in my head that no way I could do it. Little did I know, she was right. I was able to bind and balance with my feet on the ground on the first side and with some help on the second side. I was shocked. I didn't think I could do it, but I DID it.
Sometimes, we are just too comfortable to stay in our comfort zone and refuse to step out.
Often times, we underestimate our capability and make no progress in our practice or at work.
Always, we'd be amazed by the outcome if we are willing to make the change and acknowledge our abilities.
10/31/17 Deal with Injury AGAIN
I pulled my left QL muscle over the weekend. As a result, I had to be careful with my practice today. I went to see the Physical Therapist yesterday and he helped ease the pain quite a lot. Luckily, he didn't think there was anything major and suggested me to practice with caution.
So I went to the Mysore room this morning. I felt the pain mostly when I did twist asanas or poses required me to life the left leg. Other than that, I was fine. Besides modifying my practice, I also skipped some asanas including jump back and jump through, Bhujapidasana, Kurmasana, Supta Kurmasana, Garbha Pindasana and Kukkutasana in the Primary series. I did practice the Intermediate Series up to Kapotasana. Of course, I didn't do the full Kapotasana. I was surprised that my back loved back bends. I thought my bad would disagree with Salabasana, but it turned out my back felt great while in back bends. I had a small chat with my teacher about my injury. Apparently, her back was similar to mine, which our backs loved back bends but not so much for twisting. She asked me to really engage my core while doing twisting poses as well as back bends to protect my back. She made me realize how little did I engage my core. Even my Physical Therapist suggested me to do my deadlift so strength my back muscles and tighten my core to stabilize the lumbar spine.
After finishing my practice, my back felt amazing. It was definitely not as painful as it was before the practice. I am glad that I did the Intermediate Series. Those back bends really help a lot.
Way overdue on publishing my Sept practice journal.
9/1/17 Home Practice
It's been a while since I did a full 1 hour and 45 minutes practice at home. Home practice required lots of discipline and dedication. There were too many distractions. On the flip side, I had more freedom to explore. I could investigate certain poses or body parts and deep dive into those areas; while in the Mysore room, I had to follow Ashtanga sequence. For example, I focused on the shoulder opening for the back bend today. I was able to do extra "warm ups" to stretch my shoulders before Kapotasana. Another bonus of home practice was that I could shoot some videos for the Instagram Yoga Challenges as my body was already warm.
I enjoy taking videos and pictures because I can see how my alignments are. I don't practice in front of the mirror as it tends to throw alignments off and causes distraction.
9/5/17 Preparation for Kapotasana
I learned a new way to warm up the upper back and shoulders to prepare for deep back bend today. I tended to drop the head first when going to the back bend, which could lead to lower and mid back collapsing. The teacher showed me a trick by keeping the head up with gaze at the nose first last week when going to Kaposana. By doing so, I was able to keep my upper back and sternum lifted and further open the shoulders. I started practicing this way before going into the Kapotasana. She pointed out today that I should keep my gaze at my nose for few breathes before entering any back bends including Ustrasana and Urdhva Dhanurasana. I really appreciated the tip she gave me. I felt I could get into deeper back bends.
I slowly but surely see the progress of my back bends!!!
9/13-14/17 Special Workshop (Mysore Practice) with Atsuro Chiba
Atsuro Chiba was in town this week. My friends highly recommended him, so I decided to attend his Mysore classes these two days. Recently, I am more open minded about taking other teachers' classes. I believe every instructor has something to offer and I can learn things from them.
Atsuro seemed to be a very calm person. I could sense his passion about yoga. He was knowledgeable in anatomy of asanas and great at adjusting students to take them deeper into poses safely. I did my normal practice these days, Primary Series till Baddha Konasana B and Second Series till Eka Pada Sirsasana preparation followed by finishing poses. His adjustment was one of the bests I've ever received. The way he adjusted students was different to what I used to in a good way. He definitely pushed me further and took me outside of my comfort zone. If he adjusted me on one side, he stayed next to me and waited the second side so that I wouldn't be "lopsided."
There were quite a few astonishing adjustments that I would like to share:
Janu sirsasana C -
I had been struggling with this asana since day one. My ankles were never conformable in the pose. Recently, it started to hurt my upper calves where I could feel knots on both sides. Atsuro instructed me square my pelvis. Apparently, the side of the hip with the bent knee was further back than the other side. While he was helping me to square the hip, I found this pose became even harder and unapproachable. I felt the limitation of the ankle flexibility. With the squared hip, I could not really fold forward. Note, I've propped myself on a block. He made my realize that there was lots of work for me to do.
Marichyasana C & D -
He sat next to me and helped me to get into a deeper twist with a deeper bind. In Marichyasana D, he grounded my non-marichysasa leg down and got me into deeper twist. It was such a good sensation. I wish I could express the feeling by words. He was able to take me deeper into the poses, where I've never been to in the past. He magically created more space between my vertebrae to allow deep twist to happen.
Supta Kurmasana -
I got assisted in this asana a lot. My hips were pretty open, but for some reasons, my legs couldn't go behind my head. Either my hips lacked of mobility or outer thighs were too tight, or both. I have been rolling my outer thighs and I hoped it would help. As to the mobility, I started adding additional hip stretch toward the end of my practice before the finishing sequence to prep for Eka Pada Sirsasana. In the past, I've never been able to cross ankles and hook my feet in Supta Kurmasana, but Atsuro helped me to get there today. I had no idea how he did it. My ankles were crossed and feet were rested on a block. Though I couldn't clasp my fingers behind my back, I was very excited about the progress and achievement.
It was another asana that I needed help. One a good day, I could bind on the first side (I couldn't bind in the second side without help yet), but normally, I could only get my fingers to touch unless the teacher came and helped me. I wondered if it was because of Atsuro's adjustments in Marichyasana C & D, I was able to bind and clasp fingers with ease on both sides. And of course, he came and helped me to get even deeper into the pose. Another big break through for me.
I didn't usually get assist in this pose, but I enjoyed it a lot when I did get help. Atsuro told me that my legs were too close to each other and I needed to separate the knees further apart. As he helped me to lift up the chest, I was surprised that there was so much more room that he could lift me up. I couldn't see how high I went, but I could feel it was VERY HIGH. I remembered my teacher told me to use the back muscles more to lift up. I tried, but there was so much I could lift by myself. Just another area that I need to work on.
One of my biggest fear. I always took a deep breath before going into Kapotasana to prepare myself. There was a voice in my head saying "here we go." In this pose, I could touch toes by myself when I didn't get help. With help, I could catch the arches of my feet, which was deepest Kapotasana I've done. I was shocked when Atsuro took me to a much deeper Kapotasana today. When he came to help me, I thought he would help me to catch the arch of my feet at most because that was what I was used to. I was so wrong. He came with an intention to help me "cup" the heels. I was so not prepared for that. I could feel how deep that back bend was. Muscles, tendons and fascias were stretched out so much so that I thought I was going to break into half. That said, there wasn't any uncomfortable or disturbing pain. It was just a DEEP back bend. I didn't feel much of stretch on my back. most of the tightness came from my front body, psoas, hip flexors and quadricepses, in addition to shoulders.
I might have mentioned before, back bend is not about the flexibility of the spine. The emphasis should be on opening the front body and improving shoulder flexibility.
Urdhva Dhanurasana -
After Atsuro's help on Kapotasana, I thought he would leave me along in the wheel pose. No, that was not the case. He helped me open the shoulders while I was already in Urdhva Dhanurasana. He put his hands over my scapulae to lift my chest up and forward (away from feet). I thought my arms were straight, but he found room to further straighten my arms without hyper-extending them. There was tremendous amount of external rotation action in shoulder girdles. I felt the road block, shoulders, while he was assisting me in this pose. In a such deep back bend, I felt the tightness of shoulders preventing me from going any deeper.
I appreciated what Atsuro has taught me with his hands. He silently pointed out all the areas that I needed to work on. He proved what I was capable of. He helped me to reach another mile stone in the practice. It was amazing to see the progress I've made along my Ashtanga journey.
8/14/2017 Never Under Underestimate Ourselves
My body was so tight today. I wasn't sure whether it was because I ran yesterday for 3 miles or I haven't practiced yoga for 3 days. Or it could be both. I recently started running to improve my cardiovascular. Last time I ran regularly was more than 15 years ago. I was never a runner and disliked running. I wanted to get back to running to increase varieties of exercises. I have been doing Tabata, HIIT and strength training besides yoga for almost one year now. It was time for to try out new thing.
I felt low in energy when walking into the Mysore room. I could feel the soreness and weakness of my body. I was thinking of practicing the Primary Series only today. As I finished the Primary, I felt like I could still keep going. Then I told myself I would stop by Ustrasana. After that, I still felt like I could continue practicing. Because of that, I ended up doing all the poses in Secondary Series that I've been given to Ardha Matysendrasana. I was surprised how strong the mind could be. By telling myself that I had more energy and I wanted more, I was able to finish the full practice, more than what I normally did. I usually skipped poses from Upavistha Konasana to Setu Bandhasana.
Never underestimate what we are capable of!!!
8/22/2017 My First Eka Pada Sirsasana
These two weeks have been emotionally difficult for me. My teacher is resigning from the studio where I practice. It's a shocking and sad news too all of her students, including myself. Regardless what happens in the future, she is my teacher, my mentor and my dear friend forever. This Friday will be her last day in the room holding the place for us. I value every moment of my practice with her, under her guidance.
Today was a special day for me. Not only was it my birthday, I also had a break through in my practice. My teacher guided me into Eka Pada Sirsasana today. What? Getting my foot behind the head? I never thought I would be able to do that. Or maybe I would need few more years of practice to get there. She taught me how to warm up my hip and get into deep hip opening and external rotation. During the warm up, I could feel how tight my outer hip and outer thigh were. Those were the areas that she had asked to me put more attention on. Indeed, they did need more love, lots of love. After the warm up, she sat behind me to help me getting the foot UP and BEHIND my head. It was no joke. With her help and support, I was able to bring the foot up. Although it wasn't the most comfortable asana, it was my first time. I was quite excited about the progress I've made throughout my Ashtanga Journey.
8/25/2017 A Rough Day to Practice
Today was the last day of my teacher holding the place for us. It was one of the most difficult days to practice for me. I was doing well until she entered the room as I was about to get into Kurmasana and Supta Kurmasana. These were the asanas which I got her assist often. When she came to help me, I could feel her gentle touch and her adjustment that was full of love and care. At that moment, I couldn't help but crying. My tears were out of control. Soon after that, she called for the group chant. It was the hardest chant ever. The room was full of silence and sadness. Finally, someone broke silence and started the Om. The chant was mixed with tears and runny noses. It was probably the worst chant we've ever done, but the most heart toughing and beautiful one.
I tried to get myself back together by focusing on the practice, but it could only help so much. As I was ready for Supta Vijarasana, she came to help me. Here came my tears again. Then she said to me "I am not dying. I am still around." Indeed, she would be around. She just moved on to the next chapter of her journey and I should be happy for her.
I don't like changes. I am comfortable with where I am, but changes may not be a bad thing. Sometimes, things get better with changes. Maybe my teacher has resigned from the studio I practice at, but my friendship and mentor-ship with her do not end here. And of course, my practice will continue.
8/28/17 A Fresh Start of The Practice
First day in the room after my teacher's resignation. The vibe and energy were different today, but it was not necessary bad. I missed couple folks who used to come practice early. I was the first one there at 6AM and no one showed up until 20 minutes later. I had full attention from the assistant, which was nice. I was worried that not many people would come to practice today, but I was glad that more people showed up later. The teacher was a sub. She had been subbing in the past, so I was quite familiar with her style. Although her style was different to my teacher, she gave good advice and adjustment.
I was slowly adjusting myself and creating space within to accommodate the change. It is important to find the teacher that I am connected to, but it is MY practice, not my teacher's. Regardless what will happen next, I will carry on what I've learned, keep practicing and welcome the future with an open heart.
8/30/17 A Fresh Start of The Practice
I cried today during the opening chant. I wasn't sad or anything, rather I was emotional. The teacher who led the chant was my very first yoga instructor. I knew her since 2012. It was she who inspired me along my yoga journey. It was she who I did my 200 hour RYT with. It was a bless to have her as my teacher, my mentor.
I am blessed and grateful.
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