Monday, 30 April 2012

Blogger or Google +??

Anyone changed from Blogger to Google +? Anyone know the difference and the more superior blogging experience?! ;)

Monday, 23 April 2012

3 different foot positions for forward bends, who knew?

So I was just browsing Gregor Maehle's Ashtanga Yoga Practice and Philosophy book looking for some hints and tips for upavista konasana as in a matter of just three weeks have gone from almost having my chest to the floor to not being able to bend past the 80 degree mark. I have a really tight right hamstring. I cannot put the tightness or discomfort down to any one single incident but all I can think of is that it must be a repetitive strain injury from doing forward bends incorrectly.

Forward bends have never been easy for me, I guess from years of having an appalling posture. But I've very slowly gotten better at them and deeper into them, utilising tips from Ray Long from his Daily Bandha (excellent blog and newsletter to which you can sign up to). Anyway, so Maehle gives a practical tip for foot positioning to protect the hamstrings in forward bends. There are 3 positions:

1) Dorsi flexion - top of the foot is drawn towards the shin. To be used in the else intense types of forward bends where the hamstrings do not bear the weight of the torso, such as dandasana and marichiyasana c.

2) Plantar flexion - pointing the toes away from the shin, gives maximum protection of the hamstring and should be used in the most intense forward bends such as hanumanasana and tittibhasana.

3) Somewhere between the previous two positions, extending through the heel and through the bases of all the toes, this should be utilised in paschimottasana, ardha baddha padmapaschi, tiriang mukha ekapada, janusirsasana and upavista konasana. He even says "and very importantly in upavista konasana".

So maybe that's where I am going wrong?!! Maybe I'm pulling the top of my foot too far back toward my shin in all these postures!! I will utilise these new positions from now on and update you about the progress of the healing hammy.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Hanging out on the hinge..

Been practicing along with Richard Freeman's DVD for a couple of weeks now as I have had minimal perseverance past navasana recently and his pace and lovely voice seem to just carry me along for the second half of the series, effortlessly.

Practicing the backbends Freeman style, as he taught at the Confluence, has made a big difference to the sore back I've had of late. I've obviously been hanging out on the hinge too much and not opening the upper back. It's really helped. It's also helped when going into backbend to just come up onto the tip toes for a few breathes, get the bandha right then lower the heels when the bend is felt in the right place, which is the thoracic spine. Feels much better.

Today I felt really stiff. Last night I did full primary with James, a really great practice and some great handstand practice too, which I can't wait to get on to at home. I might almost have it nailed!! So anyway, I got out ol' Ramaswami's Vinyasa book and got down to VK. I started with a few suyra A's, moved on to some 'on the feet' asana, then moved on to some hanumanasana prep from one of the sequences in the back of the book. Got down to just 2 inches from the floor on the left side....4 inches on the right (still have a really tight right hammy).

Finished off with a few postures from the lotus sequence as last night James said I was putting too much work into the ankles (which is why they're buggered at the moment) and not enough into the hips. The 'getting into' the lotus is so important in getting integrity in the posture it's amazing. I've let this slip for a while now and my ankles are paying for it. Pulling the hip right back before closing the leg and then lifting high into the belly, making sure the foot is facing upwards is so important. Funny how you just let things slip for a while once you've got a posture...

Saturday, 14 April 2012

"My legs are too long for Navasana!"

Yeah, so my friends keep reminding me that I said this not too long ago! Funny though..

But, it's been like 4 years and I still cannot do navasana comfortably. In navasana the body is like a weighing scales, it has to be balanced both sides to be able to stable right? If I raise my arms in the air in navasana I can lift my legs nice and straight into the "perfect navasana posture" (except that my hands are not in the "oar" position!). 

And if I bend my knees slightly I can hold my upper body up-right, knees at eye level and it feels comfortable, so strain. I can even lift my legs and hold abayha padangustasana, engage the relevant muscles and release the toes and then hold navasana, but I've been told because my toes are not at eye level this is not navasana. So I lower the toes to eye level and my legs become the lever which tips the balance of the scales and down they go!

So what do I do? 

Do I do the high toe navasana, which looks like the version Kino does? Or do I risk straining the back to have the toes at eye level? 

One of John Scott's philosophies is "form follows function" - what a posture looks like is not as important as the function it is supposed to have on your body. But I'm being told different by some teachers. So this brings me to the question of does form really follow function in ashtanga? 

Answers on the back of a postcard!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

One of those days?

Practice today was awful. After 3 great practices along with Richard Freeman I decided to go it alone today. My right hamstring is unbelievably tight for some reason, really doesn't want to play ball.

I video'd myself doing the sun salutes to see how my jump backs are going but only wound myself up by the fact my forward bend was horrendous. I just have such a stiff, rounded upper back. It looks ugly. I look ugly.


My jump backs from standing were better, i'm trying to let my head be the lowest point of the body to the ground before I shoot the legs back, it feels better, like it's getting there. The jump back from seated was awful. Maybe I've worn myself out doing such long practices this week? I couldn't lift the body, I even landed on my belly during one half, arsed attempt.


I gave up the jumpbacks and decided to settle for the whole seated sequence without them. I then lay in savasana for a while until I thought I'd have a go at Hanumanasana, as I'd seen a few photos of people in it this week and wanted to know whether I was anywhere near it.

I've only attempted this posture 3-4 times in my life. I did some deep lunges for a while, played around with the bandhas in them then had a go on both sides. Surprisingly...really surprisingly, I got down with both legs straight just 1 inch off the ground with the left leg forward!! Who knew!?! The other leg wasn't so good, but not terrible, especially seeing as I'm suffering with a pulled hammy. Not sure how exactly I did that. Overuse maybe.. What seemed to help me get it was confidence. A tilt of the pelvis in the right direction, pulling up on moola bandha, stillness and hollowness above the public bone, letting go of fear little by little to let gravity pull me lower, releasing my hips little by little. Felt good.

Anyway, so there it is...crap practice, looking hideous, then just giving a little time to something new made all the difference!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

"Turn on the lights of the pose" (Richard Freeman)

So it turns out some of my "lights' have been off for some time!!

I love that when you finally discover them though, they can transform your practice.

Revelation 1: I haven't been properly flexing my hip joint in forward bends, the seated ones especially. I've been just lifting the kneecap of the outstretched leg and therefore only working one part of my thigh. When you engage the psoas (I think it must be the psoas, my anatomy isn't that great) it strengthens the whole thigh, fixing the leg in place and enabling a deeper forward bend.

I've been working on my jump backs. Realised that I have the arm strength, that's fine, but I'm finding it hard to pull legs through...why? Because I can't yet hold my legs into my body...why? Because my hip joint/psoas isn't yet strong enough! Something to work on. I realised this when watching Kino's video tip on jumping back where she gets you to just hold your legs into your body with your arms stretched up in front of you.

Revelation 2: Flexing the ankles in padmasana. I've been entering the posture with pointed toes as one teacher showed me. but if you then flex the ankles/feet this automatically engages the hips (and the knees closer together) deepening the posture. Then remember to with on moola bandha and voila, a comfortable padmasana!!

Have a very happy Easter :)

Monday, 2 April 2012

Moksha.. Chicago

So I recently spent a week staying with friends in Chicago. Why did not one tell me this city was a yoga paradise?! If only I'd known sooner, I could have filled every day with yoga from the minute I woke up until the minute I went to bed! And I could've gone to a weekend workshop with Ray Long... sooo gutted I missed that :(

Nonetheless I had a great time. Really my type of place. I booked in for a week of Mysore sessions at Moksha Yoga and was assisted by a couple of great teachers Noah and Alexia. Got some really great adjustments too. One involved sitting on my feet so I could drop back and come back up to stand without help. Another got my shoulders right to the floor in kurmasana as if I'd been doing it all my life.

I wish I could've packed up and moved there...really. I also found a fantastic restaurant Native Foods, a vegan restaurant which did amazing dishes, I even bought their cook book. I've even made their vegan cheese! Out of cashew nuts?! Who knew?!!

But I really overdid it with the drop backs in class. It wasn't until I got home that the pain started, just an irritation of the SI joint I think, so I've laid off them since. It might have been doing them with straight legs when I'm used to bending the knees slightly, who knows.. I've given them a rest this week anyway, to be good to myself. It seems to be working.

I've been trying to practice handstand instead. This is not going so well. I can't hop up to the wall yet, I think I'm getting my hips higher but I can't tell, there's no-one around to tell me how I'm doing. They feel higher and I can feel them tipping towards the wall with concentration of moola bandha. More than before. However, this small increase in lift is still not translating to my jump-to-stands or jump-throughs and is disappointing. Maybe one day.

My home practice has gone a bit awry recently what with the travelling and being busy at work. Haven't got over the jet lag fully either, it's been awful. Thank god I've got classes I can go to when self-practice isn't happening. Although I do need to just get back on the mat at home and spend a bit more time with the postures. Led classes are just too fast to get in there completely...