Beating Back Laziness

Some days my time on my mat is effortless (more or less).  It is a pleasant time of solitude, in which time seems to fly.  The yoga poses are ones of ease and I am able to melt into them with each breath that I take.  It is an enjoyable practice and is the type of practice that I hope to repeat.  Of course, a perfect practice does not dwell within us every time; it’s not meant to be.  Growth does not occur when everything is easy and smooth.  Perfect.

Last week, I had the class where everything was difficult.  Instead of having a lightness to my practice, every time I jumped forward and back, it was as if I was flinging  a bag of cement from one end of my mat to the other.  You can imagine how exhausting it is throwing over 100 pounds of cement around!  While I was doing my sitting postures, I began to lose heart.  I just didn’t feel like doing it anymore.  I wanted to bail on the jump-throughs.  I had been half heartedly doing them for a bit and now I wanted to quit them altogether.  No one would notice, right?

As I sat there, looking around to see what my teacher was doing; “would they notice if I bailed the vinyasa between sides?”, I began to have second thoughts and I made the conscious decision that I would not bail.  I decided that this was my defining moment.  Not every practice was meant to be easy and today I would have to beat back the laziness.  I took a deep breath, planted my hands and heaved my heavy-ass body backwards and took my vinyasa and hopped back through and landed with a thump.  One vinyasa down.

As I took a deep breath and folded forward, I couldn’t help but lament at the fact that I was trying to bend steel.  What happened to my malleable muscles?  My muscles were warm, that wasn’t the problem.  It was as if my body just didn’t want to let go. It was holding on for dear life, refusing to release something.  I didn’t know what it was at the time, but now that a few days have passed, I now have some perspective.  What I didn’t know was that I had a migraine coming and my body was already building up tension and going into self defense mode.

I did learn a valuable lesson that day about my practice and I learned a lot about myself in the process.

  • Not all practices are going to be easy; THAT IS OKAY
  • Tough practices test your:
    • Physical endurance
    • Mental willpower/determination
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Learn to listen to your body (why is this practice so hard)

As I sit here on the couch, fighting back another migraine, I know that I will have many more good days than bad days on my mat.  When the bad days do come, I’ll be prepared to fight; beat back the laziness, fling around that heavy bag of cement and bend steel.

Reason #345 why I practice Ashtanga yoga 😀

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I Will Survive…

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I made it through my first week!  It was like my own personal hell week  with all the chaturangas I put my body through.  I was pretty sure I was going to collapse on my mat, but my body held strong (YES!) With that said, I’m pretty sure I rolled up an arm along with my mat at the end of class at least once (because it fell off).

Despite my struggle, I could feel my body getting strong as the week went by; having a yoga practice four days a week is paying off!  The vinyasa sequence got SLIGHTLY easier and by the second day of me doing utthita parsvasahita, I could actually hold my leg up without my hip flexor screaming for mercy.  It turns out that the first day I was using my flexors instead of activating my core muscles and keeping them engaged during the entire posture; basically I was overworking them.

I find it amazing that despite the fact that it is a mysore room and Elizabeth is watching everyone doing their own thing, she has the ability to see all.  I don’t get away with much- she is an amazing yoga instructor.  One day I was struggling and I happened to be breathing with my mouth open during my sun b series and she caught me (oops) and gave a reminder to keep the mouth closed.  She also seems to constantly remind me to keep my arm over my head during utthita paravakonasana b.  Each day I’ve been learning at least one new asana and I work to hone what I learned the days before.  I do a lot of repetition to help drill the series into my little brain.  This week I learned all the standing Ashtanga yoga postures of the primary series.  Next week we will be working on backbends.

Although the 84 mile round trip is not ideal and it makes for a long day, being gone from 7 in the morning until 8 at night, I have to admit that I am really loving this!!  I genuinely look forward to the end of my work day, and the drive on 95, though icky, is worth it to get to get to my yoga practice.  I use the drive time to attempt to decompress and by the time I roll out my mat and find myself standing on it, I can’t help but feel like I’m home.

The heat of the room is like a hug to my soul and the rhythmic breathing of those around me is like music that soon lulls me into my own practice, only broken by the occasional thump and direction by Elizabeth.  My inhales and exhales, though ragged at times, lets me know that I am alive.  As my muscles tire and my mind begins to wane, my willpower takes over. I smile, because now I know… I will survive.

I Am That

imageAfter an anxious day and a difficult time trying to not think about my “new path”, I finally was able to leave work today at quarter of five to head up to Philly. I had to make sure to get there no earlier than 5 or I’d get charged an arm and a leg for parking. Anytime after 5 is $12 unlimited and since I’m driving up there four days a week, I need to save the cash whenever possible.

Once there, I made the three block walk to the shala and climbed the three flights of stairs to find Elizabeth, the instructor, waiting for the 5:30 class to start. Since I’m so early, I could change, eat a small snack (bad yogi) and relax for a bit before our class started at 6. She said starting tomorrow, I could start early if I wanted, but today I had to wait to learn the beginning part.

Before we went into the Mysore room, we signed a waiver and and we were handed over a sheet of paper, which was to be our primary series cheat sheet. This was going to be our saving grace, but she told us not to rely on it, as we would be doing bits and pieces over and over again in order to help us memorize the sequence.  When you start Ashtanga, everyone begins with the Primary Series.  Some people say that it is the most physically demanding and many people never get past it!

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When 6 o’clock came, I took my first step into the Mysore room as an official Ashtanga practitioner. The first thing I noticed was the heat; how could you not?  It smacked you in the face as soon as you walked in!  I found a spot along the back wall, which was reserved for Ashtanga beginners and I, along with two others, began the program that will set us off as fledglings in the Mysore room by months end; how exciting!

It was louder in the “quiet” room than I anticipated. Lots of thumping and jumping, along with some small talk thrown in. The energy in the room was almost tangible. I loved it! You could almost feed off of it. It was a totally different vibe than any vinyasa class I’ve been in.

We went over our sun salutations and some standing postures today- stopping at  utthita paravakonasana. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be dead tomorrow. I’m so sore from walking around all day yesterday in these heavy leather combat boots and my shins and hip flexors are practically screaming. Throw in a yoga practice and I’m as done as a turkey dinner!

I still stand by something I heard several years ago. The cure from being sore from yoga is… MORE YOGA! I know I’ll probably be sore and achy for a bit, but that means I am stretching and strengthening muscles, tendons and ligaments! That’s a good thing! I need to amp up my asana game.

I did receive a few good corrections/assists today. One I really want to try to pay more attention to is that I need to put more weight into the entire palm of my hands, especially during chaturangas. Evidently, I put more of my weight on the outer pinky edge. I can feel a big difference when I change it, so this is one of my first major hurdles.

Well, this is all for now. A journey begins with a single step and I took mine. ::sigh::  The first step is the hardest one to take. You have to create the momentum to get yourself going. Once you’re moving, it’s easier to keep moving in the direction you wish to move. I know where I wish to go. I know what I wish to become. I am already there. I am that.

The photo was taken from one of the rooms at the shala.