Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Ashtanga and visualisation

I've been meaning to post on this topic for a while now, but haven't got round to it. More recently I've also been doing a bit of renovation of the house, sorting out the guest bedroom and turning the dining room into a yoga practice space, which has involved selling all of the furniture in it... Sorry Mum, dinner round yours from now on, yeah?!!

Anyway, I'm de-cluttering my life...who needs all of this stuff anyway? Guess it'd be different if I had a family, but I don't, so, out it goes, dinner table and chairs, electric fire place, dining room paintings, the list goes on! I can't wait to post picture of the before and after :o)

SO I haven't practiced for a week due to chaos and my friend's wedding, but today's practice in the midst of dust and crap was suprisingly great. My body was uber flexible and I suprised myself as I got a really deep (head to shin) forward bend in the first surynamaskara. Now, I've never experienced this before, especially after a week off, but I'm putting it down to extra oestrogen, courtesy of the time of the month... Funny how the body changes isn't it? I can't even predict how my body will be anymore, I've even become allergic to sanitary products recently, how strange is that?! It's amazing, if something needs to change, it will find a way of telling you...

Anyway, so back to ashtanga and visualisation. I first realised the power of visualisation when I returned from my Portugal retreat and started to slow my practice down, to try to *really* heal my knees. In all the seated postures which previously aggravated them, I started to really go inside the joints which were working and try and feel where the tension was, where it needed releasing, where the *work* was going on and where it wasn't. By doing this, I realised that I could concentrate the *work* into the joint away from the knee. So, for example, in the Mari sequence I focussed on the hip working, instead of pressing the knee and strangely enough the work went to the hip and not the knee and low and behold, the hips started to release and the pain disappeared from the knee.......

The other way I've noticed visualisation working for me has also come from the teaching in Portugal. I was given assists, particularly in trikonoasana and parsvakonasana and the warriors. The assists were so-called 'resistance assists' where you'd push a part of your body into the hand or other part of the teacher's body, ultimately so that this would act as a lever to open your body up in a particular way (I've also seen this taught by Brian Cooper). For instance, in trikonasana, the teacher would ask you to press your outstretched hand into their solid hand which would open your chest... Once your body realises where it should be, you can visualise and recreate the pressing into an imaginary hand and you will get the same effect... something I have found really simple but quite amazing! Have a go and let me know what you think!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The posterior Stretch with Ramaswami and other stuff...!

It's been a while since I posted but have done a load of home practice since then. I'm also back to my Friday Self practice class with J at the Buddhist Centre Birmingham, my teacher V's teacher and it feels great. V's away at the moment, has been for 3 weeks, so it's been ALL home practice apart from the resurrected Friday.

I have however taken over one of V's own classes in the week whilst he's away; I've done 3 so far and the numbers are growing every week which is really good news, kinda makes me think I must be doing something right! Yay! It's great for my own practice too, as I feel as if I have to practice in a way, especially immediately before class, in order to get focused and centred in order to to be able to teach exactly what I know. So my home practice has been boosted to 6 days a week.. the day off normally depends on energy, but is normally the Saturday or Sunday. I'm generally practicing straight after work too, like literally, coming home, having a cup of tea and straight on the mat. This takes me up til about 7:30, then I can make food, relax and do other stuff. I'm loving it :) Had some great news today...they're trialing home working, and given the speed I work at this could leave a lot of time in the morning to be able to do my practice and take my time, with no rush to get to work, park the car etc.. fab news, and my name is already down on the list! It also means cooking will be easier and more structured, two good meals a day, planned and executed and enjoyed!

SO practice... today I've done ashtanga up to the seated sequence then had my first go at Ramaswami's seated posterior stretch sequence from the Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga. I have to say that it was so much easier than the last sequence (asymmetric) that I practiced. I actually made it to the end of this sequence..not without a struggle mind you! I have to say that my work on padmasana is reaping me benefits...many more than I would've believed. This has changed my mind about padmasana being taught in the primary series... I've read a lot that this is an advanced posture which beginners should not practice, and I can understand why, cos of the unopen hips and the subsequent strain on the knee. However, you must persist with it to be able to do a lot in the 2nd series, in fact you must persist to do the kurmasana and konasana sequences in the primary. I think once you have padmasana under your belt then a lot more postures are open to you. The posterior sequence is great for the leg behind the head practice too.. my hips felt sufficently stretched (esp the posterior section) and I was amazed at how quickly and easily I managed a deep kurmasana and supta k, without doing the whole of the ashtanga seated sequence. I have to say that I can now get the leg behind the neck, still working on how to hold it there, training the hip muscles, but at least they've found their way :)

I did the whole of the posterior sequence then went on to finish with back bending. My back bending after all that forward stretching was difficult, purvottanasana was even further away than normal after doing all the forward bending, including kurmasama! Wow.. hard stuff.

But it did seem to open the hips a lot in prep for the back bending. I've been taking Richard Freeman's advice pushing up in the back bend just above the pubic bone, which has made an unbelievable difference..I feel as if I'm propelling my pelvis to the ceiling, feeling so high off the ground, such a great feeling. I'm even dropping to my forearms on the third back bend to prepare for kapotasana, trying to free up the inside of the forearms and strengthen the front of the shoulders, although Kapo is so far away.........

I'm loving my practice at the moment, not one bit seems to be a chore :)

Thursday, 4 August 2011

The importance of foundations..

This morning I practiced along with the Richard Freeman Primary Series DVD...with Richard in his lovely grey shorts against the oh-so-eighties blue and pink mountain-range backdrop (clip above)! Anyway, I haven't practiced with a DVD for a long time as I mostly self-practice and lately along with some music, such as stuff by Craig Pruess and other chants which sets a nice rhythm. However, I really enjoyed Richard's talk through and pickd up some lovely phrases and tips, especially one which clicked with me for the first time.

The cue to is whenever a leg is outstretched, so in samasthti, seated or lying postures, push away through the instep of the outstretched leg. I find this 'switches on the lights of the posture' (think is this actually a Freeman saying) by turning on more of the core muscles of the leg (don't ask me which ones!) which are important in keeping that 'strong' feeling and also stops the foot from rotating outwards.

I then thought, this also internally rotates the thighs slightly, which when bending forwards allows the sit bones to open more; this combined with scooping out the lower belly using uddiyana bandha allows for a really deep and comfortable forward bend.

The tip complements the cues I learnt in Portugal using spiral dynamics in downward dog. Slightly spiral the hands towards each other, almost imperceptibly; this externally rotates the arms so that the arm pits are turning to face each other; this then flattens the shoulderblades which are then free to slide down the back. I saw that I had a small curve in my thoracic spine in downward dog and by utilising this cue it irons out the curve perfectly. The little twinges I used to have in my right shoulder have also disappeared since using this technique, it's magic! Also, in downward dog, pushing into the instep slightly rotates the thighs towards the midline of the body to create space at the sacrem allowing you to push the tailbone to the sky! You just have to try it!

I think people underestimate the importance of the correct foundations and even now, 4 years from the beginnings of my practice, I find these techniques which have transformed my practice unbelievably! Every day I am amazed by the subtleties of a yoga practice!

Does anyone else find RF's 'lip licking' a bit off putting?! :)