Friday, September 18, 2009

From Anna: Letting it go

No victims. I like it. It's short, sweet, and emphatic. I am prejudiced both as a yoga enthusiast and your close friend, but I think you are absolutely capable of having an impact on something greater than yourself. And even if you aren't, there's no harm in trying... In fact, if I squint, those cosmos are looking a teeny bit dented already....

I don't have one particular mantra that I use day in and day out, although that consistency is appealing. But something I've been doing more often than not, as I set the tone and prepare to practice is telling/asking myself to let IT go. Whatever IT is that day, and I'm sure you would agree that IT is always changing. This affords me the time and space to notice if I've already formed expectations or apprehensions (guilty), a general opinion of my practice (guilty), and provides an opportunity to move past it.

Now, if you think that your "no victims" mantra is cheesy, then grab some crackers and get ready for this. I am a huge fan of spending a few moments actively, consciously breathing out what I am trying to let go of at that moment. If it's something that I can easily articulate I will even say it out loud (although it's a silent process more often than not.) It's difficult to explain but watching/feeling/letting the IT leave my body, empowers and settles me, readying my mind and body to practice.

Plus, I love to practice in the morning. It's an opportunity to begin the day with intention, discipline, and compassion and my body has always responded well to a morning practice. This breath-based tone-setting of let-go-it-ness, is the perfect way to start not just my practice, but my day.

I know you practice in the afternoons because of Terrible Toddler's schedule, but is that your ideal time of day or a consequence of parenthood?

Friday, September 11, 2009

From Liz: No Victims.

This will be short. I've just incorporated a kind of tone setting intention into the beginning of my practice, a personal mantra/dedication. It's a little cheesy and vague on the face of it: "no victims." But it has been serving me well in practice and off the mat. In fact, it has kind of become the bridge between the two realms.

Obviously, I'm not the first to use a mantra to start my practice. But when I thought of what I'd like to use, sanskrit or otherwise, this is what bubbled to the surface. Humble Husband and I are buying a house, and feel kind of at the mercy of inspectors, brokers, contractors, etc; so setting the intention of not being a victim has been really important. Also, mothering a toddler is kind of kicking my butt right now. I need to remember that Terrible Toddler and I are on the same team: he is not my enemy. And in my ashtanga practice, I need to remember not to be a whiny girl, a victim of my own biology, thinking, "I can't do jump backs, I'm too weak in my upper body and I'm tiiiiiiiiired..." This practice serves me, and vice versa. This is my choice and I will deal with each issue and challenge as it arises. I can tell that I'm getting into a weepy victim place easily enough; it manifests physically as a sloppy drishti. So I tidy it up, focus my eyes and pull myself together, and off I fly.

Finally, it's kind of a non personally specific mantra, my way of offering this intention outward: "no victims," means not me, not you, not anyone. It makes this both personal therapy, and service (at least I'm flattering myself into thinking that my physical prayer is making a tiny dent in the cosmos).

Now that you are out of your brief hiatus: how do you set the tone when you step on the mat?

And btw, are you ever going to call me out on my cardio fixation??? ;)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

From Anna: Anatomical Adulation

Although in general I wholeheartedly agree with your transference/resistance theory, I think in this case it was something much simpler. Immediately after putting it down in writing, I shifted from my dry spell to a wet one and returned to a daily practice. I find it interesting that my lack of schedule remained the same, as did my resistance level to whatever else is going on in my life... Essentially nothing changed other than admitting to myself and to you that I had slipped. Amazingly enough, just articulating the fact was enough to invite a tremendous shift. Since one of our intentions with this dialogue was to hold ourselves accountable for and in our respective practices, I think we both deserve a pat on the thoracic spine.

I have much to respond to about the overlap of styles but will save that for another time and instead get into the nitty gritty of your brand new quadratus-lumborum-wrapping party trick. After reading your post, I had to try it for myself and needless to say, you are not alone in your excitement.

My enthusiasm made me google-crazy which is how I came across a fascinating article discussing the psoas and quadratus lumborum working in tandem to stabilize the lumbar spine during seated breath work. This article, which includes stunning illustrations of the muscles moving in the body, is aptly named "Activating Your Accessories." It discusses how the contraction of one evokes the contraction of the other, which sheds new light on your observation that working that deep musculature also initiated uddiyana bandha. Furthermore, wrapping the quadratus helps to draw the floating ribs downward, an action that is both applicable and imperative if you return to the original asana in question - eka pada sirsasana.

So I sat in sukhasana and to be quite honest, couldn't feel my psoas engaging. I pressed down on my knees while trying to lift them up - as the article suggested - and I definitely felt something but it would be a stretch (no pun intended) to say that it was my psoas. Perhaps you'll have more luck. I was, however, able to feel the work in the inversions and forward folds that you mentioned and I am eager to continue applying my new awareness.... Throw in a cup of coffee and it's a seemingly perfect Wednesday afternoon activity. You can thank me later.