Wednesday, December 23, 2009

From Liz: Prelude to a Resolution

Ayruveda has been a tough sell with me. I bought asana wholesale, and have been quick to fall in line with mediation and pranayama. Not so much with the ancient science. But as I've fought my way through various hormonal changes (pregnancy, post-pregnancy, adjusting to life without birth control pills) and life stresses (baby, home, househunting, etc....) it's resonating a lot more. I now believe that I am vata-kapha. And I'm that blend that leaves me at once lazy, and flighty. At least when I'm out of balance.

Another disclosure: I make very earnest New Year's resolutions. I fully intend to keep them. This year, I've got two so far.
1) Chew my food more thoroughly. This is an effort at consuming only what I need.
2) Make my asana practice a morning practice. I have made excuses thus far, and Terrible Toddler has been my scapegoat. I mean, how early can I possibly get up when I have to run after him all day? Well, I suppose as early as other ashtangis.

Saving my practice until the noon naptime has had its perks. I'm awake, more open, caffeinated. But I'm also dragging half of the day behind me at this point. I've cluttered my brain with the worries and wants of several hours of (semi) consciousness. And I've also been snacking and drinking coffee.

I look at other blogs and tales of advanced practice. Most of these practitioners rise at dawn to get to the mat. It's chicken-or-egg: does getting up early make you more disciplined, or are the people with the discipline to get up early simply more natural yogis?

I know this: I need structure, and I need change. I have skidded off into a rut, and need to shake off this inertia in order to move on. The kapha is dragging me back under into depression, and the vata is keeping me from focusing on the life-raft.

And speaking of depression. Your post inspired me to do some shopping. We'll see how this works out.

Also, remind me to tell you about my Dahn Yoga experience. And yes, I did take the class before reading this. Hahaha. It's a good thing I'm thick-headed enough to resist cult-indoctrination. Either that, or they just didn't want me badly enough.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

From Anna: Shining light in all the right places

In honor of your last post, I taught a fingertip awareness oriented class this morning. I have found that asking my students to energize through their fingertips never inspires much visible action. But asking them to extend their arms as though they begin all the way at their hips is rather effective. Also, when having them walk their hands out from Uttanasana to Down Dog, I borrowed your image of the fingertips as antennae, probing and exploring their way to the top of the mat. Just as you advocated, it kept their shoulder-blades on their backs and their heart-center's open - it was a lovely thing to behold.

Doing all of the fingertip work led to the arms. I am constantly amazed by how much work there is to find in your arms if you TRULY straighten them and hug the muscles onto the bones. Standing in Utthita Hastasana, turning the palms to face away from you, and then pressing down through the air as though you were moving through molasses, or pressing down on 50 pound weights will give you a solid workout. Do it 3 times and you may break a sweat. Good times.

Speaking of truly straight joints, one of my teachers was recently talking about the importance of fully straightening our elbows and knees and in particular, HOW to open the backs of the knees. She then got onto the topic of Light Therapy and how it's being used on the backs of joints to minimize and treat depression. It was the first I had heard of it, but Google provided me with an abundance of evidence that shining bright lights can reduce chronic pain, heal diabetic ulcers, and even re-set the body's circadian rhythms! No idea if any of it is true but I figure I'll keep my joints straight as can be while the medical professionals sort this one out.

Light: making the world go round, protecting the integrity of our joints, and now, curing the blues!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

From Liz: All the way to my finger-tips.

It's funny that you mention lengthening your toes. I just got a pair of those toe-stretcher things (they look like this, but are a cheaper drugstore version). I put them on once, found them excruciating. I'm not sure my feet are built for them. I'll give them another whirl.

I have noticed that after years of yoga, I have prehensile toes. I can write my own name with both feet. I'm bi-pedextrous, dude. How's that for a siddhi?

But I'm on to a new trip: my finger tips. I've been imagining them as antennae, little vibration receptors/deflectors. They are the extremes of my extremities. They are the final frontier of my annamaya kosha. Coming up onto my finger-tips in a lunge, obviously the classic place to access their power. Not that these fleshy pads are magic in themselves. It has less to do with their own inherent sensitivity, and more to do with how lightening up on the finger-tips forces a re-distribution of weight. Instead of collapsing into palms (outer-palms, at that), I hold from my core, extend through my limbs, while plugging them into their bone-sockets. My shoulder-blades are on my back, my heart is open and lengthening forward.

Most importantly: meditating on my fingers prompts me to distribute my energy more evenly. One of my patterns is to huddle into my core. I obsessively tend to my center, my limbs are the neglected step-child in my practice. So in the interest of sparking the full length of my nadis, I breathe down my arms, into my fingers. It makes for a tastier savasana, a cleaner sweep of the energetic body.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

From Anna: Spread Your Toes (all the cool kids are doing it)

I love me some fointing. Actually, the term I've heard quite a bit is 'floint', which has a similar ring to it. As a hyper-extender, it's an extremely helpful tool in general, but it's in the inversions that it really rocks my world. The activation created through the length of the entire leg is rather remarkable, if you're into that sort of thing, which I am. I even floint the foot of my front (bent) leg in pidgeon, as it seems to release the knee just a tad more...

In thinking about our feet, my thoughts turn to good ole' toe spreading. When I first began yoga and the teacher would ask us to lengthen and spread our toes, it felt as impossible and inaccessible to me as wiggling my ears. For some time, I was a manual toe-spreader - but the minute I released my toes from the fervent grip of my fingers, I would lose 90% of what I had created. Anyone who knows me is aware of my ridiculously short fingers and toes but this wasn't an issue of length, it was a matter of harnessing some control.

Over time, I didn't give up, but I shifted my attention to other bodily projects. When teachers would cue the actions of the toes and feet I would give it my best shot but my hopes weren't very high. More often than not I found myself looking down at my feet thinking that it was time for a pedicure. After I started teaching I would even instruct toe lengthening and spreading, I just hoped no one was looking for an impressive demo. As seems to be the case more often than not, it finally happened when I stopped waiting. One day not so long ago, I looked down at my feet and my toes were longer and more spread than ever before. They were like little fingers that I could direct at will. Now I can't stop spreading my toes and want to do it all over town.

If only the ability to spread my toes would translate to opening my hips, I'd be all set...