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.
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