Saturday, 3 March 2012

Maya (illusion) and fear

Maya (Sanskrit माया māya), in Indian religions, has multiple meanings, usually quoted as "illusion", centered on the fact that we do not experience the environment itself but rather a projection of it, created by us.

The ashtanga system never fails to impress me in its capacity to demonstrate the duality of my existence. 

The practice is a constant reminder of what I think I know to be true and what is actual. 

So I have begun to practice the second series and last night was the first practice at the Buddhist Centre with James Critchlow. I practiced up to Mari D of primary then into second and got as far as ardha matsyendrasana before my time run out, sadly. In post last post I mentioned laghu vajrasana and kapotasana, which Id tried on my own in the week and failed miserably to get into. Then I made a yoga rope and found a way to lower myself into it quite safely, although I didn't manage to get the head to the floor. Kapotasana was a completely different matter though, I couldn't find a way into it and my upper back seized up, preventing my from lifting my arms overhead and doing anything in the posture. I was very fearful of my back breaking, or my discs herniating or my thighs not holding out and me landing on my head. But most of all I was absolutely convinced that my body would not go into the posture. However....

...All my fears were proved to be pure illusion (maya) as James lowered me into laghu vajrasana with ease, still holding my thighs and then to kapotasana where it felt easy to place my hands on the floor! James then pulled each wrist in towards my feet and I held onto my toes. Once in the postures I felt an amazing release of the fear which was creating tension in my body and holding me back from attaining the posture and I managed to work a little deeper. James said he could feel the release physically. He also said that he knew what my spine could do and knew it was fear holding me back. He said the longer he teaches yoga (and he's been teaching since the 70s) the more he believes that it is therapy for the rest of your life. 

As an aside...James was telling some great stories last night about his journey of teaching. Apparently back in the day, the 90's probably, he got David Swenson over to do workshops all the time in Birmingham, before he he turned yoga superstar.  He's been teaching as long as David and knows him well. He was also telling us about when he first heard of ashtanga, he as doing Iyenga at the time and couldn't believe there was another form of yoga, then he met someone who'd been to Greece to practice this dynamic form, similar to what Iyenga students know as 'jumpings', then he met Derek and Radha and that was it. He was teaching Iyenga and then slowly his Iyenga class became an ashtanga class. He says his first proper full primary led class lasted 2.5hrs as he'd keep forgetting what was next... I guess there weren't cheat sheets back in the day! Sounds like good times.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

An amazing experience in baddha konasana...

So I've been experimenting a lot with the konasanas, baddha, upavista, from the primary series and the effects of mula bandha and pelvic floor work on the hips in these postures. I've worked out that if I engage ashwini mudra (or squeeze the anus as Tim Feldman puts it!) and pull up on the perineum muscle, then something happens low in my sacrum which allows my hips to open in baddha konasana and for me to bend further forward in upavista.

However, today I was having problems in getting both engaged at the same time and my hips felt stiff. So I was wriggling about in baddha, and trying to open my feet and engage the necessary bits at the same time, then everything clicked into place I had this powerful feeling from my tailbone right up through the spine to the middle of my shoulder blades. A feeling like everything along the spine was completely in alignment and working together. I must have spent about 15 breaths in BK, just completely absorbed by this amazing feeling. I can only describe it as perfect alignment or a feeling of clarity and stillness.

I don't normally describe any of my yoga experiences in esoteric terms, but as I don't know what exactly happened this morning, I can only describe it as maybe unblocking some granthis?! It felt as if there was definitely space for energy to travel upwards to in between my shoulder blades. So maybe that was it...granthis, being unblocked. Maybe I even experienced a little bit of kundalini rising?! But it definately stopped right in between my shoulders, at the back of my heart. Maybe that's why I can't get to grips with the deeper backbends, because I have a huge blockage at my heart centre! Aaargh! Who knew?!!

Laghu Vajrasana...this is war!

Amazing what yoga props you can find at your local B&Q isn't it?! This contraption cost me 11 quid, not bad eh?! 

I've been meaning to get a yoga rope for ages, just haven't got round to it. But Sunday's brush with second series backbends and in particular my complete inability to even lean back in laghu vajrasana, pushed me to get it sorted, and quick! It has turned out to be extremely handy, now I can practice some of second at home. As well as laghu, I also tried kapotasana, an asana which I've always thought looked beautiful and have wanted to master for ages. However, turns out my upper back is as stiff as a board :( I can see now why Kino says that you may be ready for second if you can drop back... I bend a lot in the lumbar and a lot less in the thoracic spine and these second series backbends make this stand out A LOT. 

The other huge issue I have with kapo is the reaching back with the arms. I am absolutely petrified of putting my arms back, even just in prayer position up to my forehead! It's unbelievable! I thought I would have been OK, what with being able to drop back quite happily now. But no! It's crazy, I'm nearer the floor so there is less distance to fall back, yet as soon as bring my hands in line with my face my entire back stiffens up and I cannot go anywhere! 

I know people say that these deep backbends release a lot of underlying feelings, so what does not being able to put my arms up and back mean??! That I cannot open my heart? Or is it just that my bone structure will not allow me to get the movement in the shoulders necessary for the arm position? I suppose the next few weeks of practicing second series will soon answer these questions...