25 October 2010

YTT Week 3 - Saturday

Week 3 was inversion weekend. I went into the weekend knowing that I currently don't have the strength to get into most of the the big inversions (Salamba Sirsasana, Adho Mukha Vrksasana, Pincha Mayurasana, Salamba Sarvangasana). And that's ok. They haven't been part of my practice - ever, in most cases - so I wasn't about to expect myself to get up the first weekend we work on them.

Saturday was a major shoulder opener warmup to prepare for headstand, handstand, forearm balance). I am constantly amazed at how physically challenging yoga can be.  I used to practice yoga simply to stretch my body and still my mind.  In the past year, trying to combat my chronic back problems, I have started to look at yoga more as therapy: a way to get stronger, gain awareness of my body, and learn to prevent further back injuries. Yoga can be whatever you want it to be.  Simple stretching?  Sure.  Strength building? Yep. Meditative practice?  That too.  Connection to the universal Divine? Yes, even that if that is what you seek.

So, back to Saturday.  As usual, it was pretty much the hardest physical practice I've ever done. Every day in this training is more challenging, and all I can do is try to keep up. I did my best, which was ok. Not as good as I would have liked, but I can only push myself so hard to keep up with everyone else before I run the risk of injury. And it's just not worth that risk.  After the first weekend of YTT, I decided I would make an effort to just not notice how far "behind" I am everyone else physically, because my journey is my own, and it really doesn't matter how my Vira 2 compares to someone else's Vira 2, or that I have to go to my knees in my Chaturanga Dandasana every.single.time.

But telling yourself you won't notice that everyone else is on the third round of SNA without a rest or modification while you yourself are taking breaks every time we get to Adho Muhka Svanasana and actually doing it...well, clearly I didn't succeed in not noticing since I'm writing about it. Knowing my abilities and limits thereof does not mean it wasn't a challenge to watch the rest of the class get up into all of the prep and full poses, while I could barely hold the prep poses. The thing is, when you have one pose you can't do in a class, it's not too big of a deal. But when there are two, three, even four poses for which you aren't ready, it feels like a sign that you don't belong. It's like repeatedly ripping off a bandaid; the problem just keeps getting shoved in your face over and over again. And it hurts. That was me on Saturday. I felt like I shouldn't be there. I kept having to fight back tears of frustration at not being able to do anything. As we moved into our cooldown I still struggled with the tears and for the first time during this challenge seriously considering getting up and leaving class (for a while). I don't really care that I cry in class (every single class so far, aside from the anatomy weekend, of course). I hate being disruptive. It's one thing to cry a few tears that wipe easily away, but on Saturday I was into the wracking sobs type of crying before I managed to control it.

It was a tough day, physically and emotionally.

10 October 2010


Our third weekend of yoga teacher training was our anatomy weekend.  Being the geek that I am, I enjoyed the information and especially the graphics.  A lot of it was review for me, but the best part about anatomy taught by a yoga instructor is that she relates the information to yoga. This is the action of this muscle in this pose, etc.  Check out the cover of this book, which our anatomy instructor highly recommended for further understand of the way muscles work while doing yoga:

It's simply amazing to take basic practical knowledge and then physical put it into practice. External and internal rotation of the hips are my current obsession (which is probably not surprising when you consider that overdoing the external rotation of the hips puts stress on the low back, my biggest "problem" area).  Even if I never move into yoga teaching as a career, this training has been worth the time and effort simply for the incredible amount of knowledge it's given me on working with my own body. Granted, that information is only any good if I put it into practice - I have been, but I need to remain diligent and banish complacency!

So today I learned that I hyperextend my elbows. This is SO exciting to learn!  It may sound ridiculous to be excited about such a thing, but the knowledge will help me to practice yoga more safely and allow me to strengthen my upper body better because I know how to work with it instead of just dropping into a position without awareness. I've long struggled with poses that involve upper body strength because my upper body isn't very strong - and it turns out that part of the trouble is because rather than fully working the muscles, I tend to "lock out" my elbows and make the joint do some of the muscular work.  This is BAD and can lead to joint injury! As well as weak shoulders and arms. My "prescription" so to speak is to always have a microbend in my arms in poses such as Adho Muhka Svanasana and to concentrate on rotating my arms so that the "eyes" of the elbows face one another.  I have SO much to work on putting into my practice between this, learning to lift in my palms (to protect the wrists), spiral my inner thighs back (to increase space in my low back), it's like a whole new yoga practice to learn!
After class today I met my husband and son at a friend's for a BBQ dinner.  I monopolized the conversation for some time about yoga. LOL  I was just on a roll! I am so excited about this change in my life... I really am not sure what it will come to at the end of 6 months of training, but I do know that in just these few weeks what I have learned has already made a significant difference in my yoga practice and my life. I am so grateful for this place and time in my life, and to have this opportunity to improve my health and awareness of my own body so that I can heal my back. I would not be here if it weren't for the support of my amazing husband; he's given me the gift of time to devote to this study and the chance to change my life, and I couldn't be more thankful to him.  

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” JFK

Who deserves your gratitude today? What action does your gratitude inspire?

05 October 2010

YTT Week 2

I wrote this on my laptop as hubby drove us from YTT to Disneyland after class on Saturday. I thought I'd posted it already!  But apparently hadn't, so here it is, a bit late.

My theme for this training is courtesy of that great master jedi, Yoda.  Pardon me as a geek out a bit here. This quote from Star Wars 5 (The Empire Strikes Back) just reverbs through my mind.

“Do or do not. There is no try.”

Maybe Lucas had read Patajali’s Sutras…
Our Friday night was full of the history and philosophy of yoga, finishing with Patanjali’s sutras 1.1 through 1.6.

Saturday we practiced externally rotated standing poses, including Ardha Chandrasana and Virabhadrasana II. Lots of forward folds, which felt fantastic on my back, and fewer Surya Namascars than the previous Saturday, which my wrists appreciated. We finished our practice with a modified Salamba Sarvangasana. Even before that pose, I was feeling tears come on from the awesomeness of a few of the earlier poses in the practice. I kept waiting for them as we worked from the shoulder stand to Savasana – I’d somewhat expected the tears as soon as I came out of the modified Sarvangasana. But they didn’t come on until after Savasana. Weird.  I just sat in a supported child’s pose for a few minutes and cried. Not really sure if the awe of attaining poses that I’ve never tried for was the source today, or if there’s something else going on.  It felt like that was the cause, so I’m going with that as the explanation. (Yikes, listen to me analyze everything. It’s all those engineers at my day job rubbing off. LOL)

One of today’s poses was Vrksasana. I have done this for years, though it’s never been one of my “go to poses” since I tended to avoid balance poses (because I wasn’t good at them… which is actually the precise reason to go them *sigh*). Anyways, so one thing I used to do in this pose that was wrong was placing my foot on my knee. I didn’t press my foot into my knee, just rested it there. Which is probably why I could never balance well in the pose, since the actions of pressing the standing thigh and the raised foot together is what gives stability to the tree. As it is, my flexibility limits where my right foot will go; it just won’t stay on my left thigh. So on that side, after attempting a few times to coerce my foot onto the thigh, I placed it on my calf and continued on with the pose. However, while standing on my right leg and raising my left, I was able to get my foot to my inner thigh and keep it there reasonably well. That was really cool, because it’s not something I’ve been able to do previously.

We did my favorite pose today – Ardha Chandrasana (half moon). We did it against the wall and then again on our mats. Although this has been my favorite pose for a long time, I have never done it without the support of the wall.  My goal was always to just get into the pose and let my hips open, so I wasn’t too concerned about the balance component of the pose.  However, learning how to get in and out of Ardha Chandrasana the correct way was very cool, and is especially important for doing the pose unsupported. When we took it to the mat, I used the blocks to get into the pose and only managed to get into the full pose with the top arm extended on one side. Despite that, it was so cool to get there on the mat and get into the pose. I managed far better than I expected, which is probably an indication that I am mentally limiting myself – if I think I can’t do it, obviously, I can’t. Which is why there are no can’ts for me in this training. I will do everything to the best of my ability. Just trying isn’t good enough… “Do or do not. There is no try.”

I received a card from my secret yogini (think secret Santa concept…). It was so sweet and it’s awesome to have the encouragement. Everyone in our class is so great and supportive, I am really fortunate to be in this place and time and sharing this experience with them.

Also, since I have to miss Sunday's class, I have scheduled a makeup with Jackie, and today at the end of class Dede suggested we do our makeup together since she is missing the same day too. I hate to miss at all, but I think it will be great to have a shared makeup session.