I Felt Great!!!
I've been busy and was not able to update my practice journal lately. Finally, I had some time today. Over the last few weeks, I was easy on back bends, mainly Urdhva Dhanurasana and Kapotanasana, to let my middle/low back to heal. Instead of focusing on deep back bends, I put more emphasize on the breath. It helped to keep my middle back and heart lifted while preventing me from collapsing. The breath tended to be shallow (especially the inhale) when doing deep back bends and twisting poses. The deep inhale expending the rib cage really helped open the front chest and avoided dumping the pressure to the spine (area between thoracic and lumbar vertebrae). I started going deeper back bends and doing drop back this week because my back was finally feeling better.
Somehow, my body felt great today (not complaining). It was pretty open this morning. I was able to twist and back bend deeper than what I normally did. I had no clue why, but the body was supposed to be different everyday. For example, today was second time that I could clasp fingers in Pashasana without help. I was able to do Kapotasana A & B without back pain. I could drop back and come up from Urdhva Dhanurasana with ease. I made progress in Bakasana B. The body was acting to my favor.
Besides working on back bends, Bakasana B was another focus in my practice. Instead of jumping from Adho Mukha Svanasana, I walked my feet closer to hands (shorter stand) and hopped to Bakasana. I normally hopped about 5 times in my daily practice. Not until this week was I able to "stick" in Bakasana without toes touching the ground (after several hops). Today, I did it in the second hop. I was quite excited about it.
I have been immersed in the excitement of how open my body was. I hope my body will remember how deep I went into the asanas today. I hope it was not an one time thing. Lots of hopes... Maybe I should just be happy and grateful that I am able to practice yoga.
Listen to The Body!!!
Over the past week, I have been focus on taking care my back, particular the area between thoracic and lumbar vertebrae. I have been avoiding deep back bend. I couldn't do it even if I wanted to. I focused a lot on lengthening the spine, lifting the chest and opening up my front body.
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My mid-low back has been bothering me for almost a week now. I knew I was doing something wrong in the backbend, especially in Kapotasana. It was a such deep backbend posture that without proper muscles engagement could easily lead to an injury. I saw the physical therapist last Wednesday. He suggested me to work on opening the front body rather than improving spinal flexibility/mobility, which I had enough for now. He checked the capability of my hip flexion versu leg extension, and found out that the degree of my leg extension was limited compared to the hip flexion. That meant my front body was tighter and prone to collapse around mid-low back area to get into the deep backbend. This was true when seeing myself in Ustrasana. I saw creases around mid-low back area, which was an indication of me "dumping" pressure there and replying the spine to support. In order to protect my back, I had been working on engaging thighs, pushing the hip forward and lifting the upper back and sternum up more. These works would help to take the pressure away from the mid-low back. Maybe I had to back up from Kapotasana or any back bending pose for now, but I knew the works I was doing would pay off one day. My teacher told me last Thursday, "Don't get too attached to the shape of Kapotasana, but work on finding the bandha and lifting the spine up instead."
We all have to listen to our body, not to muscle through asanas if they don't feel right.
Oh No...I have Lateral Pelvic Tilt!!!
I had to take it easy today. My lower back was in pain (L1, L2). It hurt in spinal flexion (forward bend) as well as extension (back bend). I had no idea what happened. For that reason, I only practiced the Primary Series this morning and skipped the Second Series (mostly back bend).
Besides dealing with the back pain, I also tried to "correct" my lateral pelvic tilt. I noticed my left hip was higher than the right in Prasarita Padottanasana last Friday. I remembered the chiropractor told me once that I was lopsided (right leg was shorter than left), which must be related to the pelvic tilt. In addition, the Chinese Doctor mentioned my pelvis was tilted last year, which was the cause of my left lower back pain. Over the past 6 months, I thought the problem was fixed (because my back pain went away), but I was too optimistic. It started to hurt again and this time was both sides, not just the left. Time to take a closer look of my pelvis in the practice.
This picture was taken by my friend last Friday during my practice. I was surprised to see how my right hip was lower than the right.
I mentioned on the 5/1 Practice Journal that my body was not symmetrical. It was more noticeable in some asanas than others. For stronger / better side, I tried to back off from my maximum range of motion in the pose to match the weaker side instead of pushing the weaker side to catch up. Playing catch-up would never succeed because the strong side would continue getting better. Of course, the weak side would improve too, but there was always a gap to between the two sides. I knew my Adho Mukha Svanasana was also crooked. I leaned toward the right side more than the left. I had to press the left hand down to the ground more than I normally did to bring myself to a neutral position. Virabhadrasana I and Trikonasana were the other two poses that I could feel the difference between sides too. I didn’t have a chance to discuss the problem with my teacher today, but I will do so next time. I want her to spot me in Prasarita Padottanasana to check whether my pelvis is leveled. This is at least a start to correct the lateral pelvic tilt.
I was googling for exercises to correct lateral pelvic tilt. I will start incorporating those movements in my daily routine. My biggest problem is from sitting in front of the desk for ~8 hours a day in a horrible posture. I really have to correct my bad habit and to improve overall body alignment.
Time to Open My Shoulders
I was listening to the Podcast, Yoga Talk Show, yesterday on my way home from work. That episode was Corrective Exercise (episode 214). They were talking about how we could do some simple exercises when sitting in the office to release tension around the lower back, neck and shoulders. I was more interested in the shoulder stretch because I had relatively tight shoulders. One of the exercises mentioned in the show was to reach the arms out to a T, and simply rotate both arms to turn the palms up (external rotation). The exercise really helped to keep my front body open and undo shoulders rounding forward from sitting in front of the computer all day.
I decided to incorporate the shoulder rotation to my practice this morning. In the standing sequence, instead of having the palms facing down when arms were out to a T, I turned my palms up. I wanted to keep my front body open and scapulae down away from ears. I loved turning my palms up as it brought good sensation (stretch) to my neck and shoulders.
Here was what I did. From Samasthiti, I stepped the right foot back and brought the arms out to a T with palms facing down. Then I turned the palms up preparing for the next poses such as Trikonasana, Parivritta Trikonasana, Utthita Parsvakonasana, Parivritta Parsvakonasana and Prasarita Padottanasana. Basically, I entered these poses with palms up rather than palms down. Although this was not how Ashtanga yoga was taught, there was no warm to play around and to figure out what worked for my body the best. I also added Gomukhasana arm to my practice before Kapotasana. Gomukhasana was such a great pose to open shoulders, which was a must for the deep back bend.
I realized there was something that I need to work on today. My eyes!!! My teacher was joking that she needed to hire someone to draw a cartoon picture of me doing Kapotasana. My eyes were super tense that I rolled my pupils way up and only the whites were visible. I actually caught myself doing that a lot when photo shooting. I will start working on softening the parts of my body that do not need to be tensed during the practice.
Just want to share the picture of me in Trikonasana. You shall see how tense my face is and how my eyes are rolled up.
Is It Normal to Be Asymmetrical?
Am I the only one with the asymmetrical face and body? I noticed my right eye being smaller than the left one few years ago when looking at my own pictures. Then I realized my face wasn't symmetrical. Whenever I tried on sunglasses in stores, only my right cheek touched the frames. I thought those sunglasses were not even, but what were the odds of all sunglasses not even?
Moving to my body. I thought I was symmetrical as I practice asana on both sides. The truth was I am stronger in one side (right side) and flavor the same side than the other. As a result, one side became stronger than the other resulting in imbalance. Since I haven't been putting effort in improving the weak side, the difference was getting more profound.
I chose to improve my weaker side in various poses today. The poses included Virabhadrasana I and Marichyasana A, B, C and D, in which there were noticeable differences between sides. In Virabhadrasana I, the right side had been more challenging for me. It was hard to square my hips (right hip back and left hip forward in this case). I felt my right hip was stuck and didn't want to move back. I still haven't figured out how to improve Virabhadrasana I on the right side yet. In Marichyasana series, I could bind deeper on the right side than the left. For example, my left hand could easily grab the right wrist on the back in Marichyasana A on the right side. As to the left side, my right hand only reached the left fingers/palm. The pictures below shows the different between sides in Marichyasana A.
Arms in Marichyasana A and B:
Internal rotate Marichyasana arm and reach forward inside the Marichyasana leg, then bend the elbow and hook the leg. Next is to reach the opposite arm behind to clasp hands.
Arms in Marichyasana C and D:
Reach the arm that is opposite side of the Marichyasana leg from the outside of the Marichyasana leg forward and internally rotate the arm. Then bend the elbow to bind the leg. The following step is to reach the opposite arm behind to clasp hands.
I got another new pose, Bakasana B, today. Instead of jumping forward into a squat before going into Bakasana (Bakasana A), I had to jump into Bakasana from Adho Mukha Svanasana for Bakasana B. This was my first time trying to do it and, of course, I failed. My toes would touch the ground first before I was able to get into Bakasana. I ruled out two reasons why I failed. First was fear. I was afraid of face planting. Second was lack of the arm strength and body control. I still couldn't do hand stand, so I didn't have control to bring the knees to armpits from Downward Facing Dog. This pose would probably take me awhile to figure out. Gotta keep practicing!!!
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