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?!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Teaching yoga is dangerous.

Ashtanga gods are just laughing at me. Next time I need to hide my intention to go to Mysore, just in case. Then jump out of the bed, drive there and find myself practicing. Without preparation or talking about it.
So no, I did not practice today. Because yesterday I got a mighty kick into the eye from a student getting into a handstand. I subbed a very lovely class of rather advanced students and tried to introduce a trick from David kyle' workshop - doing a handstand with one hand on a block (kind of a prep for a one-handed handstand). It feels very weird trying to get into the pose and the students were having problems with it. I was running around, helping to get up. So I leaned forward over this student and in a moment was flying backwards, stars in my eyes. Her heel drove my glasses into a socket of the eye, creating a gush - not very long, but reaching the bone. Blood was pouring down like I was beheaded or something. Good thing it was close to the end of the class, so we settled pretty soon into savasana, with me holding the bag of ice on top of my eye and trying to sooth everybody to let go of the stress of this yoga class.
I might have had a slight concussion, since there was a headache on and off today. In addition, I look a lot like a victim of spousal abuse. But all in all it could have been worse. I taught handstands for a long time and never had any problems, but this was a valuable lesson - one can never be too careful when kicking is involved. :D

Monday, May 3, 2010

I wonder if I broke my neck a little.

Two and a half weeks without Mysore practice. A new record for me. Nothing to be proud of, of course.
Anyway, as soon as my course ended and I was feeling all happy and relaxed, the allergy season caught up with me. One day it was particularly bad, and I took a benadril pill. Should have known better - it has a very strong sedative reaction on me. I slept without movement all night long on top of my arm and with my neck twisted. Woke up with a numb arm and a crick in the neck. Not a big deal, I thought, happened before, should be OK in a couple of days. By noon the pain in my neck moved down between the shoulder blades and stayed there. Painful to breathe, impossible to twist, hard to be sitting, standing or lying down. Took a day off work, used heat and cold, Epsom salt, ultrasound, MSM, China gel, castor oil, Pain wave, you name it. Helped a little, but not by much.
Massage with Keith confirmed it - the muscles along the spine in the upper back spasmed again into a garland of impressive knots, of varying shapes, sizes and locations. It is hard to be so structurally unsound. Bleh.
The smart thing to do would be to go and see if there is anything wrong with my cervical vertebrae, since it it the second time I am getting into this particular trouble. But my willpower is paralyzed at the moment, and I will dwell in a state of denial for a little longer, I think. There is still acupuncture to explore, massages to receive, tennis balls to roll on, right? Let everything fail before I submit myself to the cold eye of an X-ray machine. Silly, but I am just too afraid that somebody will tell me that I can't do yoga or should take it easy or some other nonsense.
So tomorrow I will start with a Primary and ease my way into a regular practice again. Who says that I am not a careful person?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Press into your feet and unclench your butt. Then hang freely back and catch your heels. Yeah.

Things seem to be easing up a little. Only one lecture left, plus a final exam and a seminar with graduate students. I can feel it on my tongue - the taste of freedom. At work - finishing a couple of experiments and then the lab will move to a new place. Lots of paperwork, physical exam, visa issues, but who cares. Can't possible be more time-consuming than my current state.
In spite of a constant lack of time, I managed to do two fun things lately. First, I went to a shooting range and learned to shoot guns. All kinds of different guns, including an automatic machine gun. Second, I signed up for a self-defence class, which also proved to be fun and kind of useful. No, I am not joining a gang or uncovering my inner warrior princess. It is just one of my dear friends is going to one of the world's "hot" spots to work for a year. I guess her anxiety is manifesting in signing up for these weird activities. I had my reservations, especially regarding shooting. But for a rabid pro-gun-control person, I had a lot of fun shooting cardboard targets. Go figure.
Took a jivamukti workshop at Flow Yoga. I liked David Life a lot, but still have very conflicted feelings about Sharon. I mean I like her, too, but her "artistic" nature just rubs me the wrong way. I will never be a great yoga teacher, because never in my life I will be able to say with a straight face something like "Feel the dead spirits emanating from your hip joints". She seemed to be really obsessed with death, too, having recently lost her brother and a cat. I do not know, just can't take it seriously.
Then there was a very excellent Inversions workshop with David Kyle. Loved it! Learned so much! I still can't hold a handstand in the middle of the room, but for the first time in my life I see a glimmer of hope. Can be done!
My yoga last week was practically non-existent. I did do a daily yin practice keeping my NY resolutions, but not a single Mysore class. Ugh! But this week David Keil is in town, which means daily Mysore no matter what. So far so good, I managed not to make too big of a fool of myself.
Learned a new bit - separating feet from buttocks in Kapotasana. Not a physical separation, but a mental one. As in pressing into the feet while keeping the buttocks relaxed. Not easy for me, let me tell you. My whole being screams for clenching the butt, trying not to snap in the middle and die. But as always, my whole being is wrong. Un-clenching the behind softened something in the back as well, and kapotasana felt better. David also strongly objects to my way of dropping down on the head, then lifting up by straightening the arms and crawling to the feet. Time to overcome the fear of kapotasana hangings and try to catch the feet without the safety of the floor. Life is hard.
Anyway, the crunch is not completely over yet, so I better get my unclenched ass moving. I hope everyone is enjoying the Spring. Mwah!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Supta vajrasana.

A combination of being fat and having T.Rex-like arms is not conducive for successful supta vajrasana. I need at least 3 additional inches of the arm length. Or lose 14-20 pounds. It seems that former is easier somehow.

Still no time to blog or read, but there is light in the end of the tunnel. And boy, it is beautiful outside! Trees are blooming, birds are chirping. We survived the winter!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

New toy.

Another quick note to let you know that I am still alive. I am, but barely. Do not anticipate any free time until the semester ends, and then happiness will start. Or at least I hope so. Hard to live in the moment when there is no time to breathe.
On a happier note, I have a new toy - yoga trapeze. Got it from here: yogabody trapeze Makes me happy.

Anyway, back to the composing an exam. I hope you are all doing well!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dropback challenge, continued.

Yesterday my new attempt to do Iyengar-style dropbacks was not too successful. Managed 7, which was better than last time. But qualitatively speaking, they were totally unsatisfying, stiff, hard, and just icky. Tried it today again, and discovered that doing all the sun salutes beforehand (as oppose to lame-ass table pose warm-ups) helps a lot. Duh.
Still, nothing earth-shattering, just a little progress. Twice - 5 dropbacks at a time, then once - 3 dropbacks (13 in total). Needed rest in between the batches. Obvious lack of stamina, but it should improve as I continue practicing. I got a glimpse of what Grimmly was talking about - a sense of rhythm and meditative quality of the whole thing. Just a glimpse of what to look forward to, but enough for motivation.

Looking at my own dropbacks, I just discovered how much I bend my knees going both down and up. On the positive side - feet stay in pretty firm, just splay a little. This week I will concentrate on hangbacks and see if that helps with going down smoother.

On the other note, we just endured a pretty nice snow storm. It is very pretty outside! Need to go and dig out my car. It will be fun trying to find it - they all look like big white lumps. If only I remembered where I parked on Friday...

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dropback challenge

Grimmly's post about Iyengar, comments about Patricia Walden and dropbacks prompted me to try dropbacks instead of whole practice today. I know, Saturday and a moon day, bad. An it did go not as well as I hoped for. After a warm up and some backbending preps I managed just 6 dropbacks in a row and then completely pooped out. I do not even have a video evidence of this, because my camera turned on its own (in total disgust, I think) and recorded only arms and a strained red face. But I do have a couple of clips of the backbend preps.
The first one - the dangers of home practice to our pets:

On the second - I can see that practicing kapotasana increased the flexibility of my hips, which improved my UD a little:

So this is today and two years ago:
The difference is really microscopic and mostly in the hips (knees are a little straighter), but oh well, I'll take it. Maybe upper back, too?

It is snowing out here. I hope this is the last of winter we see this season.
Happy weekend!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I am grateful...

Just a quick note to keep this blog alive.

Being busy is nothing new for any of us, but it feels like I have never been busier in my life. Well, last year at the same time, when I started teaching immunology for the first time, it felt close. This year the teaching is a little easier, since it is a second time around and I insisted on having fewer students. But the day-work stuff picked up both speed and volume tremendously. The lab I am working in is transitioning to a different institution, which means we need urgently to tie up loose ends and fulfill all our obligations to collaborators. There is so much to do that sometimes I can't even start in the morning, just trying to decide which problem to tackle first.

But I still practice yoga every single day (Thank you, Kaivalya!). I also made a pact with myself not to skip any poses during my practice (my favorite skipped ones - dropbacks, because "me tired...") - thank you, Grimmly! Being a part of a blogosphere not only gave me lots of new friends, both virtual and "real", but also taught new things and provided with amazing inspiration. Thank you, everyone! Ugh, it all sounds like I am saying goodbye, which I am not. Just needed to express my gratitude.

Anyway, I think I figured out how to start my work day, so I bid you all to have a wonderful day!

Monday, January 4, 2010

First week of the year.

So far so good. Yoga every day. Even twice on Sunday - mysore and a vinyasa class I teach. I made a list of poses for my home practice, mostly to clean-up poses I do not do well (such as sloppy jump-backs and throughs, lifting into Upavista konasana B, and so on); also kicks into handstand and samakonasana stretches. It is a little eclectic, but after sun salutations it seems to work OK. I also need to add at least 30 minutes to my night sleep, this part did not work yet.

Also on the agenda - keep the food logged into chronometer, do not go over 2000 cal - still good, too. At the moment 80% raw, 20% cooked; 100% vegetarian.

I love the energy of the new beginnings. New Year is my favorite holiday because of that. Only wish this energy could sustain a little longer than it normally does. Oh well, whatever. I will enjoy it while it lasts.

Things are picking up at work, keeping me really busy. My boss is leaving for another institutions, and most of the lab are going with her, including me, sometime within next 6 months. Which means we need to wrap up all the projects we can finish and publish, publish, publish. It is also time for my side job to kick-in - teaching immunology this semester. Thank God for my New Year jolt of energy, without it I would just die in anticipation of the time crunch. So far, though, a feeling of invincibility and unlimited power is hovering on the back of my mind, keeping my step light and me - smiling.

On unrelated note - I have this strange urge to see Avatar again. I liked the movie a lot, but did not expect the desire to see it again. Weird.

Have a great day, everyone!


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