Friday, October 19, 2012

So I am driving home today. Turning to our small street, I am passing by a pleasant little house with a cozy front yard. In the front yard I can see a little white-haired old woman. Moving with a lot of grace, she is practicing with a sword - a real, big sword. Huh?

Monday, October 15, 2012

It was a long time since I was here. The current state of affairs is not very cheerful - I slightly broke my back in August 2011 (a hairline fracture of a sacral vertebrae). It took forever to heal, and I am not sure it has healed completely yet. Once in a while my back muscles kind of seize up, knotting into tight knots. These knots are painful first, but then they just stay, not really relaxing for a long time. Strong massage inflames them and they become painful again, so it seems not to be a good solution. Acupuncture did not help either. Anyway, this kind of sucks, because I could not really do yoga or much of any other activity for a long time. Result - 25 gained pounds and loss of much of the acquired strength and flexibility. I did do some of the yoga poses, but not much and not regularly. So today I finally did a full primary again. Feel great, but also very sad. My practice took a giant step back, to the level of a beginner. Lost most of my binds, especially in Marichiasana D and supta kurmasana. Twists did not feel good, so I tried not to push too hard. Urdhva Dhanurasana was pitiful, but I did not expect much. Was actually happy I could lift at all. Whew. But forward bends were intact, like nothing happened at all and there was no a year-long hiatus. I think I would have just stopped Ashtanga practice forever, thinking that I would re-start one day and never actually doing it. But what motivates me now is that I signed up for a teacher training and a Mysore week with David Keil in January. Now I need to bring myself into a semblance of a yoga practitioner. I just need to remind myself not to do anything stupid and not to re-injure anything. My doctor suggested also to add some weight training to increase structural stability of my spinal column and to balance the flexibility of the hips. Gold's gym, here I come! :)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

TIA, migraine, David Swenson and David Keil.

A week before Christmas I woke up in the morning and decided not to go to Mysore. I do not remember what was the exact cause, but this unfortunately happens to me rather often lately, so I don't think it was anything extraordinary . I prepared my food for the day, woke up Victor and took a shower. In the shower I was kind of daydreaming - something about my family back in Kazakhstan, my brother and my late mother. I got out of the shower and realized that I couldn't snap out of my day-dreaming mode. It felt like my day dream had ended, but I was not back in my mind for some reason. Victor was asking me some questions, and I answered them(all of which I do not quite remember now), and even though I did know the answers to his questions, I just sounded my normal ignorant self. So I started thinking "what am I supposed to do now? Uhm, I guess go to work. What am I supposed to do there?" That was a more difficult and distressing question to which I did now know answer. I tried to ask Victor, but he felt justifiably puzzled. I tried to assess my overall state and realized that my left side of the face had a kind of tingly-numb feeling. "Sh*t, I am having a stroke!" That was my first thought. The second - "Here goes my yoga practice". Both made me very sad, but for some reason I did not feel fear or anxiety. The memory loss and disorientation lasted about five minutes, and after that I informed my boss that I was not coming today and rushed Victor to get a taxi and go to ER.

We spent around 10 hours there. After all kinds of tests, including a CAT scan, MRI, MRA and multiple prodding and poking I was discharged with a diagnosis of TIA - transitory ischemic attack. It did not sound too serious, but after proper googling I found out that TIA is considered to be something like a "mini-stroke", caused by clotting and is a good indicator that a maxi-stroke is coming. Victor asked me then - OK, now what can you change in your lifestyle to make the possibility of a stroke smaller? You really should have kept a couple of vices for a case like that. There is just no way one can lead a healthier lifestyle than you do!

To make a long story short, my current diagnosis is a complex migraine ( which is indefinitely better than TIA). I had migraines my whole life and thought I got rid of them 6 years ago when I went cold turkey on all caffeinated drinks. But apparently migraines stayed, though a pain of a headache was gone. Otherwise it seems that I am ridiculously healthy. My neurologist was shaking her head and bitterly complaining how difficult it was to diagnose a person who did not have a single thing wrong in all the tests performed. So yay, I think. I still need to keep a diary for the neurologist and eventually have to take a some kind of anti-migraine medication, but this is nothing compared to the life of constant expectation of a stroke.

So here. I did not want to write anything before I would know for sure if things are OK or not. Now back to our camels, um, I mean yoga.

First of all David Swenson's workshop this weekend. It was awesome. In addition to being a yogi who can fly, the guy is also a comedian. He was really funny and I think he would make better money working as an entertainer. I did learn a lot, though. One of the things he said got stuck in my head firmly - do your practice at 80% capacity. If you do at a 100% all the time, you will be sore all the time and one day you will push ( or your teacher will) a little harder, go over your 100% and hurt yourself.

Now, after David Swenson's weekend, which left me sore all over (I guess even when you work at 80%, 6 hours of yoga a day is a bit too much), I am doing a week of Mysore with David Keil. First of all - there are too many Davids in my yoga life. Second - ouch! There is just no 80% in David Keil's vocabulary. The first two days went like a blur. Today, my feeling of joy of practice was tinged a little with self-pity when I started doing my urdhva dhanurasanas. Low back was sore since kapotasana, energy level was below zero and I was contemplating weather I could sound pitifully enough to get out without dropbacks. Then David said - Alfia, stop doing backbends, do eka pada shirsasana instead. Gulp. The most difficult part was to keep balance in a forward bend, but still the pose is doable. The exit was far from graceful, but oh well. Anyway, the point is that the bruised and fragile feeling in my lower back was gone! Apparently it just needed this stretch of having a leg behind the neck and all was cured. Wow. From now on, eka pada is my new favorite pose!

Unfortunately, when I am back at my regular Mysore studio, my last pose is still bakasana. I think I will get a split with David Keil faster than I will get eka pada with David Ingalls. That is OK, though. My practice is so long now that I am not really looking forward to making it even longer during my normal practice. Once in a while I will just practice at home, doing just the second series up to the last pose given by David Keil, and it will make me secretly happy

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thursday musings

The weekend starts with Thursday finishing poses - or something like that, quoting dear Linda. I nearly survived this week. Practice today was good, though not quite as good as it was yesterday, but this is expected with Thursday practice. My whole right arm aches again - pressed too hard to lift in Lagu Vajrasana and felt a pang of pain in the elbow. I was so careful these days and thought I learned all "dos" and 'don'ts" of this particular injury, but alas, I was wrong. Back to ibuprofen and icing...
David Keil gave me two new poses yesterday - bharadvajasana and ardha matsyendrasana. They felt like nice easy twists, with an added bonus of relieving back from a kapotasana shock. I wonder how I can coax our David into giving me these as well? I guess I should just start coming to shala a bit more regularly than I did lately. This week is definitely a good start to a more rigorous practice in 2011.
I will miss David. I wonder if I can call him as one of my teachers? I took a couple of workshops with him and did one-week Mysore trainings three years in a row. He knows me by name. Does this give me the right to say "I studied with David Keil"? How does it work, this student-teacher relationship anyway? When you see yoga teachers biographies, they like to list "big" names as their gurus. This is not something that I want to do, but find it intriguing. For example, I took several workshops and mysore practices with Kino McGregor as well, but I do not believe she remembers me at all. I guess I can't count her as one of my teachers, right? Teachers should know their students. On the other hand, I do not really remember every single student I taught yoga or immunology. Does it mean that I was not their real teacher? Oh boy, this is confusing. Better go and start working!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mysore week with David Keil

Turns out that my elbow injury is a partial detachment of an annular ligament. Weird injury - I can do a lot of hard things on my arms, but there are some movements that hurt a lot. Movements with resistance, I should add. Like moving forearm up and down is OK, but brushing teeth is not. Working with a mouse for a long time causes elbow to ache. Practicing yoga - too, but to a lesser degree. I think if I am more careful in all the binding poses, especially pasasana, avoid a headstand and be gentle with dropbacks, I should be able to practice. Which is great, because David Keil is in town! Practiced with him this morning. He has a talent of turning the scary moments of ashtanga into very nice ones, so overall the feeling after practice is quite exhilarating. Awesome adjust in kapotasana - I have not been practicing the second series for 2 straight weeks, but kapotasana felt like a manageable pose with his help. It feels like I am getting a nice jump start on my 2011 yoga year. :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Safari in Florida

I hurt my arm in Florida. Being a "strong Russian woman" I am not always smart in applying physical force. This time I pulled my heavy suitcase, which was also stuck somehow, and something in my elbow gave in. Surprisingly, I still can do chaturanga, but can't brush my teeth. Go figure.

Anyway, let me tell you about safari we went to on our last day in Florida. We did not have very high expectations for a twenty-dollar trip without a guide (well, we were given a CD as a guide) in the middle of nowhere. But surprisingly, we had a couple of adrenalin rush moments. Go figure!

So we started our trip after a stern admonition not to roll down the window at any moment and not to run down anyone. Saw lots of birds and animals, mostly horned variety:

Passed lions, which was not very exciting, because they were behind an additional fence. Then this creature appeared in front of the car:

Little thing, with crooked horns, who knew it would cause so much trouble? Anyway, it was slowly and calmly walking in front of the car, making us crawl behind. If you look at the picture carefully, you will see rubber bands, stretched in the gates between the zones. So supposedly, they were holding the animals inside. Not very effective, let me tell you. This little creature crossed it in 3 seconds, only jumping up once in panic, when one of rubber bands touched it. Perhaps it was not quite as calm about a huge car behind it, but anyway. It just continued its calm walking in a new zone, which was African planes.

We slowly drove behind, because the stupid thing was walking right in the middle of the road. We saw a herd of zebras far ahead and thought "hey, move faster, we want to see zebras!". Well, in a moment all zebras stopped eating and looked at us kind of scarily. My friend said "One might think they have never seen a car before" and at this moment, all zebras started running towards us. 40 or 60 of them. All at the same time. We stopped the car and tried to remember if our rental car insurance covered trampling by zebras. At the very last moment the herd divided and run on both sides of the car:

Turns out they were not after us, but after the trespasser. The stupid thing was a third of a zebra side, why they felt so threatened? No idea. Anyway, the zebras are now running around in great agitation, and I think the stupid thing escaped into its own zone. At least I hope so.

So having escaped the zebras, we moved a little further and discovered that a bunch of rhinos abandoned their mud baths and came out to see what the commotion was all about:

Let me tell you, this was really scary. Five or six of them piled up on the road, blocking the car. Each of them the same size as the car, if not bigger. All of them turning the head from side to side, which felt very sinister. And the CD guide is droning at the very moment: "please do not stop your car close to the rhinoceros, because they are very aggressive". Having heard that we silently tried to remember if our rental car insurance covered bodily harm. Luckily, one of the safari workers saw our predicament and started unloading his zebra-striped truck with rhino's food. Rhinos thought about it for a moment and decided that having a snack would be merrier than trampling our car and slowly moved toward the food. Phew!

The rest of the trip was not quite as exciting. Just a couple of more pictures:

Cute giraffe:

And the ugliest bird on Earth:

Now, back to the important stuff. Do I risk practicing with a damaged arm? Or should I go for a run? Decisions, decisions...

Monday, November 8, 2010

It is practically a vacation.

Wanted to go to practice on Monday morning. However, since I am a lazy bum and did not pack my bags yesterday, I had to do it in the morning instead of yoga. But I packed my yoga clothes and a mat, so things are nicely set.
Getting to the airport and flying to West Palm Beach was a breathe. The weather was not as warm as I expected to, but still nice (better that frigid DC in any case). So there is no explanation why I was so incredibly stiff this morning. I do not remember time when I was so very stiff. I literally had a hard time reaching for the floor in a forward bend, and updog felt like torture. Finished primary, and did Urdhva Dhanurasana, which probably reminded a press bench the most. A thought about drop backs did not even cross my mind, which is a good thing, because I would have hurt myself for sure. So strange, I do not have a satisfactory explanation for a dramatic loss of flexibility. Last time I practiced on Sunday, and practice felt wonderful.
My friend from work and I love the hotel we are in! Our room has a full-stocked kitchen, a living room with a large HDTV, and a bedroom with two king-size beds and even bigger HDTV. This hotels also provides a free breakfast and a free dinner, the latter includes wine and beer. It is located in a shopping mall with everything one needs in a walking distance and a huge grocery store across the street. So I will have no problem with my raw veg food at all! The hotel is also located in a very pretty and well manicured area, though a little too far from the beach.
The training is taking place at the Scripps Institute, which is also pretty, in spite of being an active research facility. Everything feels brand new, clean and shiny. A huge landscaped area around, with palm trees, ponds (with fountain in the center and turtles) and all kinds of vegetation which I have never seen in my life. I do not think I want to leave on Thursday...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I am still alive. Kinda.

Winter is coming. It it still pretty outside, but cold... Good thing I am going to Florida for four days (work training, but who cares about training when it is 82 degrees outside?).

There is something about writing in the blog - it makes you stop and think about your life. Stopping and thinking is definitely missing from my life lately. I am trying to get back to a semblance of being awake and not just moving on auto-pilot.

On the other hand, I am still practicing yoga. If you do not believe me, here is the proof:


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Two days in a row of really good practice (knock-knock-knock, spit-spit-spit). I even got bakasana today. Well, did not really get. I was going through my regularly scheduled supta vajrasana suffering and asked David in frustration if I was going to get stuck in this pose forever. I really did not mean to ask for a pose, but he readily gave me bakasana. Since being nice is not really in David's nature, he added that is did not matter if I was going to get stuck in SV or bakasana, because I would get stuck there for sure. Such a typical David! Still love him. :)

I think I did not mention my hip problems here. I got a bursitis of the hip joint due to my sucky jump through. I used to land heavily on the outside of my right foot every time I jumped through, felt the jolt in my hip and thought to myself "oh, this is not good". It really was not good in the end, when the outside bursa inflamed, with pain spreading to the butt and to the knee through the IT band. Massage and acupuncture are slowly making things better. Meanwhile I thought that my jumpback improved, because I no longer felt the jolt in the right hip. But today the realization struck me - I just learned to land not on my right foot, but left one instead! I am listening attentively to my left hip now and planning a weekend marathon reading of Gimmli's archives on learning how to jump back and through.

My new work keeps me just as busy as my old one. For some reason it seems a little more meaningful, so I do not feel drained and unhappy. It would be good to have some time to write and to read blogs, though.

Monday, August 9, 2010

On yoga and running.

It has been too long. At one point I lost the urge and the need to expose my yogic inner workings (read - constant complaints) and left this blog hanging cold and abandoned in the cyberspace. However my life finally got into a semblance of a routine and this urge reared its ugly head again. I mostly miss reading other people's blogs, not writing in my own, though.
It has been exactly three years since I started Mysore practice. The result - I am addicted to the practice emotionally and a little broken physically. Get this - I decided to start running, so that I would increase stamina, which would help me with my yoga practice. The thinking went this way - if I practice yoga daily, I can't function the rest of the day - too darn tired. My practice is not enough cardio-demanding and I do not build stamina fast enough. So if I start running (swimming, biking), my cardio health will improve and I will be able to do my 2-hour long practice every day. There is something that bothers me in this logical conclusion, but the lack of mental clarity prevents me from dealing with this problem at the moment.
Anyway, I went to the Fleet Feet and had running shoes fitted, orthotics inserted, socks and water bottles purchased. The guy at the store was asking me some really uncomfortable questions, like "How much do you currently run?" - hmmm, zero. "How long have you been running?" - easier to say how long I have NOT been running, which is exactly 20 years. "Are you training for a marathon or a half-marathon?" - yeah, right. Both. It was hard to explain in detail that my exercise-induced asthma prevented me not only from running, but just climbing two floors up without losing my breath completely, and that because of yoga and some clever pharmaceutical advances I finally feel good enough to start running, OK, jogging again, and so on. So I told him that I am I am training for some unspecified event in an undefined time point, which is all might be true, eventually.
So the big moment happened yesterday. I got into my brand new running outfit (completely different from any of my 349 pieces of yoga apparel) and went running to the neighboring high school stadium. A quarter of a mile track. Several runners trotting along. Cool pre-dawn weather. Boy, running felt heavy. My beautifully fitted shoes, light as a feather just a day before, weighted 5 pounds each. I run and walked, then run again and walked again. Fellow runners of all ages were passing me over - once, then twice, then three times. By the time I reached the first mile mark, I thought my life was just not worth living. Caught some concerened glances from the passerbys, but really did not care much. The only thought that was pulsing in my head in rythm with my carotid arteries beating was - after three years of intense yoga practice, is this all I can do? So very pathetic...
Good thing that I got Tova's massage later in the day. Practice on Monday was not hard at all! Asana's felt light, graceful and beautiful just by their nature, in comparison with heavy stomping produced by me a day before. And I am still feeling fine, even though I normally crash by the end of work day on Monday. Is it possible that one-mile run actually worked and increased my stamina? I know, I know, not plausible. But I will take any help I can get. So I will go running tomorrow again. Maybe I will be able to actually run this whole mile?!


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