18 January, 2012

Back into the flow of things

Today was Power Vinyasa with Cassandra.

It feels good to be back at Urban Yoga Spa. I think I said that the other day too, but it remains true. Home is home. I was very much looking forward to doing the flow series, as I think it had been just under two weeks since my last Vinyasa class. It's snowy in Seattle, but the classes are still packed. I think there's no small coincidence that a practice like hot yoga, so focused on intention and commitment to self, would draw a huge crowd even in the most formidable of conditions.

Cassandra pointed out that we've already done the hard part just by getting here.

I was interested to see how my back would do with the different poses. My concerns coming into the day were things like the Warrior poses, Upward Dog, and the various back bends like Wheel (which I full expected to be omitting from today's workout).

My intention for the class was to just stay in it. Stay fully in the moment. Not just fully in the experience of each pose, but aware of the messages my body is sending me, because my back is far from 100% and I do not want to do anything that will cause a major setback.

Today was not a day of fantastic hydration for me during the course of the day, but it turned out to not be a problem. I think that the breathing and relaxing, and the intense focus, and no panic have been major benefits to my practice. I realize that this is just one layer of many, and that setting a focus for a series of 5-10 classes does not a yogi make. But it's a step in a direction, and I am seeing the rewards of it already. Class is less devastating.

Cassandra often says "try to resist the urge to create drama." In my practice, as well as in my life, this phrase rings so, so true to me. I am sure it is a universal experience for anyone who is willing to stop and recognize it. But the drama that we experience in our lives, on our mats, in our jobs, in our relationships; that drama is all created by the thoughts that we synthesize around the events that are happening our lives. Standing in a pose that is uncomfortable, tiring, sometimes boring, hot, wet, and recognizing that all of those sensations themselves are not that bad until we get that internal dialog going: "I can't stand this anymore!" and then suddenly, it becomes intolerable.

Enough of my aside...

Today's class was good. Felt good to be really using the upper body muscles again. That's something that is not as prominent in Hatha or Bikram yoga. It also felt good to be flowing. But there were a few poses that made my back very... alert. I found that Warrior II (which is hard for me anyway) was really tight today. It is surely in part from not having done it for almost 2 weeks, during which time I hiked, kayaked, swam, and walked around on snowy, icy sidewalks. Just being in the pose put a little strain -- but not pain -- on my lower back, and it was clear that bringing my hips all the way around was not going to happen.

Warrior II was surprisingly not that difficult, which may be because I'd been doing a bit of it in both the Bikram and Hatha, but also because I probably am not forcing my hips tucked under (something I am allowing to be "bad form" at this time, since there are other parts of the pose that I am still working on, leading up to the hip alignment). However, at the end of the Warrior II --> Side Angle --> Reverse Warrior --> Chataranga series, I found that "cartwheeling the hands to the earth" needs to be done with extreme caution or I'm going to do damage to my already sore back. There was a little weird twinge in Upward Dog if I allowed my weight to rest down too far. Solution: keep the weight up a little bit.

Poses like Half Moon (the Vinyasa version) and Warrior III were really shaky for me today. Just had no stability on the standing leg. On either side. I gave it a brilliant college try, and had fun with it, but it was just very shaky.

Oddly, in some ways, I feel like having that lower back pain made the class easier rather than harder for me. I couldn't let me mind wander, and I couldn't drift out of the moment, because a lapse in focus would be damaging.

Today, the sweat was stinging my eyes. Badly. It becomes hard to not let it be a distraction. The best I could do was not let it interfere mid-pose, but I needed to do some violent, but brief eye-rubbing at a couple of moments to get rid of that burning sensation.

The big surprises of the day were that Camel pose was doable without any problem. Wheel pose happened for me too. And Happy Baby was nowhere near as tight as I'd expect after two weeks away from it.

After class, my back is a little sore. But I've not been taking as much ibuprofen, and the pain is not bad.

My commitment to this blog is to not keep talking about my back. I promise.

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