For yogis only

I don’t keep up with many of the yoga blogs anymore, but among those that I do peruse regularly, I have noticed a dropoff in posting.  One, in particular, has had virtually no yoga posts at all in the past week or so.  Whenever someone posts like a lunatic about this pose, that pose, this strategy, that strategy, yoga yoga yoga, blah blah blah and then screeches to a halt, I gotta wonder: what’s going on?  Are they injured?  Disgruntled?  Oh, wait, that would be me.  But maybe I am not the only one who simply gets tired of writing about the same poses on and on and on and over and over and over.

I haven’t written about asana at all lately, so, I figure it’s time to set the record straight, in case anyone is wondering:  Yes, I am still practicing.  I was supposed to meet a Facebook friend at the CT Shala last week, but I couldn’t wake up, and I ultimately attributed it to the fact that I cannot stomach showing up at any Shala right now, where I would have to explain that I want no assists due to my still healing hand/wrist/thumb, that my jump throughs are kind of inconsistent for the same reason, that I have NO Urdhva Dhanurasana at all, for the same reason.  But it was more than that too:  I like to do my practice exactly as I need it on any given day.  Today, for example, I needed to do about 20 Surya Namaskar A’s to start out.  I just kept doing them until I felt as loose and sweaty as I wanted to be.  There always seem to be some variations thrown in to reflect what I feel that I need on any given day.  And I hate to give those up just to practice in a shala.

Is that rigid of me? Attached?  Maybe.  Or maybe, I just like the joy I get out of something that is incredibly harmless: moving my body the way I want to.  So, maybe rigid, maybe attached, but still, I had to be true to myself.

Where is my practice these days?  I have decided to put all of my focus on leg-behind-head poses.  Since I still can’t push up into a backbend without the wall for support due to my bum right hand, I have decided to give backbends a rest.  SO, what I do is, I frame my practice around Primary, and when I get to Mari D, I often add in a Pasasana for added shoulder flexibility.  Then I move straight onto Kurmasana, hold it for a loooong time, until I feel soft.  Then I work on Supta Kurmasana, which is quite painful to my hand unless I have someone to rotate my hands into the exact right position for me.  Lately, I have had someone.  Either the husband or one of the boys.  When I don’t have someone, I usually take Yoga Nidrasana and then go back to Supta K, hoping to have softened things up some more.  Then, no matter how things go in Supta K, I always do Eka Pada Sirsasana on both sides, along with some softening-up stretches beforehand.  I think I am making some progress in these, which is nice and contrasts with the backbend hell, where there never is any progress and each day holds its own (usually not good) surprises for me there.

After I am holding Eka Pada Sirsasana satisfactorily, I will get back to attending to backbends.

After the LBH sequence, I just finish up Primary, and I sometimes add some of Second Series’ backbends, or not.  Then a quick finishing.  It’s been good this week.  Practiced five times in total.

I would like to practice four or five times next week, and make sure to run at least once.

So, that’s where things are.  Yes, I’m still practicing.  But I am getting further and further away from anything resembling Ashtanga, and from anything you might consider “shala ready”.



22 Responses to For yogis only

  1. Grimmly says:

    I used to find that my LBH was better in Primary before supta Kurmasana, all that great hip opening. In 2nd I would take five minutes to run through some of the Primary hip openers after Ardha Matsuyendrasana. Strange but there’s all this prep for Kapo in 2nd but hardly anything for LBH. In Vinyasa Krama there are a number of Half lotus asanas then Maha Mudra (great seal) and Akarna dhanurasana (archer pose). After the Archer you straighten the bent leg and hold it up straight for three to six breaths before going back to dandasana, then do you do Eka pada Sirasana, really great prep and makes so much sense. I’m getting much deeper into it now and feel more comfortable while I’m there.

  2. bindifry says:

    ah, but there’s a rub. lbh postures destroy your urdva dhanurasana unless you keep it up, and even if you do, it’s really tough. so if you truly want to open your back, the last thing you should do is avoid bbs & push heavily in supine extreme forward bends, which are all of the lbh postures.

    letting your wrists heal makes sense, but i would definitely plug on through much of the postures that happen before the eka padas. they will help strengthen the upper back & protect you in the eka padas cause that’s the same part of the back you have to lift in order to sit up straight & lift the head.

  3. susananda says:

    I have to chime in here too, with the disclaimer that I’m not dissing anyone’s practice, there are benefits to ‘going one’s own way’, which both of you (YC and Grimmly) have found. However, there are also benefits to following the system the way it was designed to be practised, and if you practise it in your own way instead, then yes it may make less sense.

    So G, what you have to remember is that within this system, you don’t just decide one day to start working on 2nd instead of primary. Instead one pose at a time is added onto primary until your teacher splits you at pincha. So for the first months (likely many months) that you are doing these LBH poses, you are doing the whole of primary first. If that isn’t enough hip opening prep, then I don’t know what is. I agree that akarma dhanurasa and YC’s ‘compass pose’ are excellent preps, so are kurmasana and supta k, upavistha, supta parsvasahita, etc.

    By the time you get split and go directly from parsvottanasana to pasasana, you have likely been doing LBH from eka pada through tittis for over a year and your body has accepted the poses to the point where you can stick your leg back there at any time of day or night, warmed up or not. So if you follow the system, you are never left without sufficient prep, but if you just dive into second as a complete practice one day then no it will not make sense and nor is it intended to.

    Also Bindi makes excellent points…. the importance of developing both bandha and back strength in order to hold the body up against the tremendous pressure of the leg cannot be overstated. That is why salabhasanas, bhekasana and dhanurasana are meant to be practises for months before even attempting LBH, they are excellent back strengtheners which prevent neck and lower back strain in LBH.

    I also agree with Bindi about not laying off the backbends unless you want LBH to kill them. But practising with a hand injury is very tough, and I wish you luck and joy in your practice however you decide to play it, YC.

  4. Grimmly says:

    Take your point Susan about building up to asanas over time in the Ashtanga, developing back strength etc but that wasn’t really my point. I’d been practicing a year and a half before I started LBH and YC a lot longer than that I believe, we’re not talking about just jumping in. My point was that in 2nd series itself, on a day to day level, there’s not a lot of prep for LBH as opposed to a lot for Kapo. Jump out of bed Standing (OK I admit hip openers here), 20 minutes of back bends two twists and then POW ! Eka pada Sirasana, POW! Dwi pada Sirasana And POW! Yoga Nidra. Just saying a couple of prep/warm up/open the hips gently poses would have been nice here, no?

  5. susananda says:

    No no, you’re missing my point. I know you’d been practising for awhile, and with great dedication I might add. BUT, unless I’m forgetting something, you never practised primary + up to eka pada (all in the same practice I mean) for any length of time, did you? Or at all? That’s the way the method indicates. Do THAT for a year, you have all the prep in the world. And then you don’t need prep anymore. I’m totally happy now going straight into 2nd at 6am and don’t feel anything ‘missing’ before LBH. And no, I couldn’t LBH before at all!

    So you may not WANT to do that and it may not even be the best for you. But if you follow the method I’m this way, it does work. Likewise it seems mad that 3rd series practitioners go straight from suryas to LBH with no standings even, just two other poses first. If I tried to do that now, I’d certainly feel that more prep would be nice!!! But after a couple of years of 2nd + part of 3rd every day, I’ve no doubt I’ll be ready to do precisely that. The previous series is your prep – within the SAME PRACTICE until you’re ready to drop it.

    I hope I’m making sense. I’ve nothing but the greatest respect for you and your practice, but you didn’t follow the ‘primary + part of 2nd every day till you get split pincha’ route, so you can’t really judge its effectiveness. To me 2nd all on its own makes perfect sense now.

  6. susananda says:

    Excuse the spell check typos…..

  7. yogachickie says:

    You know, it is easy to prove that the system works when it has worked for YOU. When it has failed to work for you, it is easy to accuse you of not working hard enough, not trying long enough, etc.

    How old are you susan? What is your physical background? How narrow is your pelvis in relation to your shoulders? How much time do you spend sitting at a desk?

    Everyone’s body is different. The system does NOT work just because you do it by the book. I did exactly what you describe – primary to eka pada – for a long time. I made little progress in anything past pasasana. That is MY experience. Just because you had a different experience doesn’t mean that it works for everyone.

    Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

  8. Grimmly says:

    Juat checked Susan and i did the split thing for about three months. Started 2nd Dec2008 Did it straight through a few times but settled into Primary up to Bakasana for about three months and then up to Karanda for another couple of months after that. So maybe six months the ‘systemish’ way.

    Was wondering though if you or anyone else, would come out and say that if you did it the ‘correct’ way then you wouldn’t NEED any extra prep on a day to day level. Interesting. I can put my leg behind my head cold, my hips are open enough now BUT I stick by it, I find it easier, deeper and more comfortable in Primary after Kurmasana than in 2nd and that makes so much intuitive sense to me that it does. And for that matter it seems logical too.

    Hang on oven timers gone off, got to finish making my fish finger sandwich.
    Ok back.
    Maybe it’s as YC says a body type or age thing, not as young as I was maybe my body likes a little extra prep. My comment to YC was because she’s been struggling with LBH a little and I was offering a suggestion from VK.

    Worries me when you talk about the system. The systems response to individual differences seems to be hold them back at a pose…for months or years, or try ‘adjusting’ IE pulling/pushing them into a pose. I’ve not had any adjustments, no pulling, pushing, twisting and seem to have progressed OK. Chucking in a couple of extra hip openers to make a difficult pose more comfortable just seems like good flexible teaching to me. He does it before Kapo and throughout most the ‘System’ in line with his teacher, was just asking why not at Eka P.
    Doing a post on LBH today at my place

  9. susananda says:

    Haha…. I knew you’d go for me YC, despite every effort to tiptoe round you. Well, serves me right for having a discussion with G on your blog. My comments were actually mainly for him, as it’s my experience you don’t react well to other people’s opinions (hence I rarely comment here).

    I’m 41 by the way, and couldn’t do eka pada until a couple of years ago, so you can’t accuse me of not knowing anything about it because I have a natural talent for it, like you did when I tried to help you with your backbending. And I do spend time sitting at a desk, more than you do, and did it full time for many years. I haven’t measured my pelvis and shoulders, but I have seen people of all sizes and shapes do LBH with prowess.

    My main point was for G, who is one of the most amazing practitioners I’ve met, having taught himself karanda et al, but who didn’t follow this prescribed route (nothing wrong with that at all) and therefore has a different experience from those who have. I’m sure he will take my comments in the right spirit too, as he’s a reasonable man, whereas your rabid defensiveness is amply documented.

    I’ll say it again though, still sincerely wish you luck and joy in your practice! Even though I never have and never expect to hear a nice word from you!

  10. Grimmly says:

    Have noticed of late that everyone is a little touchy. Seems every other blog I look at something has kicked off and from something so minor. And this is YOGA. god know what’s going on in the Health care blogs.
    This practice, we forget how personal it is, advice can seem like judgements and criticisms. We defend our practice, our systems ourselves. I had something similar at my place last week. The smallest thing misinterpreted because I didn’t include a question mark. When I wrote it my face had a half comical teasing, quizical expression which just didn’t communicate on the page. Luckily we both trusted each other and no harm was done.
    Rabid defensiveness was a bit strong no, YC prickled a little perhaps but certainly not rabidly defensive. So someone thinks they’re being criticised and snaps back a little and that gets read as an attack and we attack back and it gets nasty and it’s all such a waste because were just practicing yoga, YOGA for heavens sake. And now you two wont feel able to comment on each others blogs, something might kick off somewhere else and it seems so sad as you both have a lot of experience, I’ve learned a lot from both of you, please don’t do this.

  11. yogachickie says:

    I would not be defensive but for the fact that I am being called upon to defend my practice on my own blog.


    Anyone who thinks that yoga is one-size-fits-all has absolutely NO business teaching it or advising on it or writing about it with any authority.

    Grimmly, yeah, it’s yoga, but the reality is that yogis are no better or worse than any other members of the human race.

  12. susananda says:

    Grimm, I very rarely comment here anyway, because YC just goes for everyone who does traditional ashtanga. She loves you because you have a non-traditional practice, but many people have been bitten and stay away. It doesn’t bother me whether she cares to consider what I say or not, it’s only because of you that I commented. The only time I tried to help YC, she told me I didn’t know what I was talking about.

    Anyway, I’m sorry I missed that you did the split for awhile. Bad memory… middle age 🙂

    Yes, I’m coming out and saying that I don’t want or need any extra prep on any given day. I can go deep without it and my practice is long enough, I don’t want to be fiddling around with preliminaries. I now have nine LBH poses in my practice not including A-B-Cs etc. Eka pada IS the warmup.

    I’m not a fanatic and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with throwing extra stuff in or improvising…. just not in a mysore room. I practised freestyle at home for years, ashtanga with variations etc, all on my own.

    I also was afraid of being pushed by teachers and cranked into poses, and that kept me from mysore practice for a long time. Being held back, however, I don’t mind at all – it’s a demonstration of patience, plus one can always fool around with stuff at home!

    Bottom line, I’m lucky to have found a teacher I love and a practice that works for me. I hope everyone else, including YC, can also find (or already has found) and enjoy a practice that works for them and, if they want one, a teacher they love.

    It worries me when you talk about the system too, because truly you haven’t tried it as intended, with a teacher (note: I recognise that YC has), and yet you are critical of adjustments and being held back.

    I will do an LBH post too, if I can get around to it.

    Finally, I’m sorry for ‘snapping back’. I don’t want any trouble and shouldn’t have come here…. I knew that giving an opinion here would cause trouble…. but now that I have, I’ll say what I think. Nothing is kicking off, it’s a minor bubble in the blogosphere. Sorry if this has diminished your opinion of me.

  13. susananda says:

    And YC I agree with your statement (the one in caps), and I was not trying to PROVE anything. I was merely trying to state the corollary, that one cannot say the system DOESN’T work, if they haven’t tried it according to the way it was set down. Again this was not aimed at you, but at the comment by G that 2nd appears to have insufficient LBH prep.

  14. susananda says:

    And YC you don’t have to defend your practice… I thought I made it quite clear that I was NOT attacking your practice. Ugh, so frustrating! That’s what I meant by defensiveness.


    Sitting in my office chair now, going to close this damn window and do some work.

  15. d says:

    Nice thread ladies and gentlemen. Practitioners like Nancy Gilgoff say they were taught the sequences at the same time back in the day. 2nd series was taught at the beginning as a compliment to ‘primary’. SKPJ did change how he taught over the years but we are left to draw our own conclusions as to why.
    But that notwithstanding, I’ve studied enough to know that only practicing, for instance, Primary Series for years can damage the lower back and knees. Oy vey here in NYC they have such a need to be perceived as authentic, yet senior ashtanga practitioners have all modified and essentially done their own thing with how they teach and practice. Go speak to Chuck Miller, Maty Ezraty, Tim Miller, Richard Freeman and many others who have been practicing for decades. It’s really here in NYC where you see the purists. So many f*cking injuries here it’s just unbelievable.
    One senior teacher told me we were supposed to get to a place where we don’t need teachers anymore. I think YC is a really good source of inspiration. You can still learn and do your own thing.

  16. Maria says:

    “Anyone who thinks that yoga is one-size-fits-all has absolutely NO business teaching it or advising on it or writing about it with any authority”

    YC Thank you Thank You Thank You. This is exactly how I feel. One system , whatever it may be, one style, one method does not fit every body.
    I also believe that when one is an experienced yoga practitioner, or has been a runner/sports man/woman; a dancr or whatever, where you have a high sense of your own body awareness, someone who does not know your body does not have the authority to pull or push or order you into doing a pose in a particular “traditional” way. Some teachers, who I belive have yet to mature in their approach, or let some of their own ego go try to do this students. I completely respect and admire people who have 6x per week tradition ashtaga practise, and enjoy it and feel that the system works for them . That is great. But it is not for every body. Yoga shouls fit the body, not the other way around. Yoga is an aid to help one live their life. and it is not all about asana.
    I practise ashtanga regularly and I love it on the days i do it, but if i want a mellow practise i practise mellow. If i want to do a flow type of practise I do that. If I want to take anusara class, I do that. Some weeks i dont do asana at all if i dont feel like it. And I wasn’t struck down by lightening.

    Keep writing YC I love your posts. I hope the wrist heals up soon. peace.

  17. hensofhanford says:

    yc never gets mad at the men, susananda. only the women

  18. yogachickie says:

    What men? What men come here and attack me?

  19. susananda says:

    Yoga is not one size fits all

    Ashtanga is not the best practice for everybody

    Teachers who force students into postures or treat everyone as if they had the same body are bad

    Just to clarify my position.

    I did not come here and attack you YC. As usual you went on the attack first.

  20. Susan says:

    I have to say I read Lauren’s post with enjoyment. She seems to be letting go of the rigid process that is ashtanga to find her own yoga practice. I think that this is very positive and motivating time for her. Sometimes you have to knock things down and around,and dissect them to really get into the meat of the thing. When it happens that you get there and your belief system falls apart, you get disillusioned and even angry and defensive. All these things you were taught that would be a path to freedom actually became a path to unhappiness and disappointment. It’s upsetting to say the least.

    To come here and espouse upon the system that she is in the process of leaving and then get mad because the writer of the blog gets defensive is just silly. Lets be grown up and own our bullshit…

    I totally support Lauren in her questioning and self discovery in the “simple joy” of moving her body. But then, I to have gone through a similar process in my practice of ashtanga. Pretty much skipping the postures limb altogether.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: