Wednesday, February 24, 2010

From Anna: (un)Lock and Load

I know exactly the kind of moment you are describing and they are rare and delicious. Just reading about it makes me crave one of my own! You asked about personal practice discoveries and it just so happens that I'm on the brink of one. Here are some background facts:

Fact 1: I have notably hyper-extended elbows.

Fact 2: When I was studying with senior teachers more often, they were ON ME about my elbows. Through mindfulness, the use of props, and a strong desire to be a good little yoga student, I managed to correct it quite a bit.

Fact 3: As you know, the combination of moving to a new city and a heavy weekly teaching schedule led me into the classic rut that we were warned of from the start: The more you teach, the less you will practice. Or, if you will allow me to rephrase: The more you teach, the less often you will attend classes and the more your practice will start to shift. My home practice does not touch the regularity or diligence of yours (sigh), so as I continue to lovingly cultivate it, my asana practice is largely based in attending a smorgasbord of classes in my area. That's all fine and well, but very few (if any) of the teachers, hold me and my joints accountable. This has proven calamitous for my elbows, and lo and behold - they have gone back to their unruly ways.

Now, as a teacher, I am utterly embarrassed to admit this, but it wasn't until this weekend, when a friend/teacher came by to unlock my elbows in Adho Mukha Svanasana, that I even realized just how lazy I've become... (not in my entire life silly! Just with the hyper extended elbow situation...)

In the short time since then, I've done my best to send breath to those joints and straighten my arms without locking my elbows. This certainly isn't earth shattering stuff but revisiting this particular type of mindfulness has reinvigorated my practice. It's been especially interesting when jumping/floating my feet up to my hands. By adding the teensiest, tiniest of a bend to my elbows (read: unlocking the death grip), I have found a buoyancy I had previously witnessed only on youtube clips. This morning I got so much lift that I wasn't prepared for it, and almost fell forward into a somersault. Clearly I need to tap into some Uddiyana Bandha and infuse my flight with some control and precision.

This whole unlocking of the elbows discovery has been more than a point of interest on my mat. It's been a reminder that sometimes we can deepen our practice by making thing simpler instead of more complicated. This is knowledge I've had all along, needing to add a microbend was by no means a newsflash. But hearing it then and applying it now feel like two loosely related but completely separate experiences. Looking for inspiration all over town, and finding it by simply bending my elbows... Wow. It sort of reminds me of one of those contrived and totally predictable movies where the family discovers that what they've been looking for has been there all along.

But today, for me, it doesn't feel cheesy. It feels surprising, exciting, and deeply comforting.

How about your lovely self? Any personal discoveries lately? Has sticking with the morning practice allowed enlightenment to ensue...?


  1. Nice posting. Do you know about these yoga books?

  2. Hmm. I am not familiar with these books but thank you for mentioning them. I am always on the lookout for interesting yoga reads so I'll definitely check them out....