Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Summit Doesn't Differ From the Dark Valley and the Valley Doesn't Differ From the Kitchen Sink

Back injury flaring up again. Probably triggered by long, harried bike rides across town with a bag packed full of clothes, books, yoga mat and water bottles. Do I have a house? I haven't seen it lately. Like Zen Muffin said, when I am home I say Don't BOTHER me, I'm trying to RELAX. I wrote that two weeks ago; now I'm moving out of my house. More on that later.

Thought of the first time I went to a hot class, (hi john!)and how much pain I had because of the degeneration. Remember feeling nervous for the class, I could hardly bend down without my back freezing me in place. Realizing the importance of stomach muscles. Ha! I've spent most of my adult life letting my belly hang out, trying not to suck in, like hey I love my body, you love it too. Now I get lectures from my yoga instructors to suck in, suck in, suck in. On a bad day I take it personally--okay that's a lie. I take it personally all days.

Like most I've written, this post is spanning several days. On Saturday I took a friend's dog on a long, winding hike up Gregory Canyon/Green Mountain, pausing at the top to call Zen Muffin to talk. The view gave me no clarity, looking back where I'd been just made me look farther back--two years or more since I moved into the house I'm leaving this weekend. In yoga I am, unexpectedly, addressing the ways I do observe myself now. Judgemental and accepting. We did an asana practice a few weeks ago with ear plugs and blindfolds, which was challenging not only to my balance but also to my sense of self in my yoga practice. During Dhanurasana I thought my legs were not as high as they are when I can see them in the mirror, even though I could feel with my body that they were. Waking up to how often I rely on my image for validation. Not just in yoga. Hello, story of my life.

Because of my back I've had to modify some postures. The pain comes and goes and it's hard to say what posture triggers it, and so I've been trying to be safe. There is a lot of emotion in modification. An instructor I really admire and love at CP said having injuries gives you compassion. I don't know. I'm also on Z-Muffin's cleanse and thus far I feel the same, except maybe a little lighter. I should say I have not had much compassion for myself recently. Today is the last day of April. T.S Eliot had something to say about April, the cruellest month. I would not say cruel here, but I submit instead change, which feels cruel when what is changing is something you wish would stay the same. Physically I can feel and see changes in my body. I feel longer, leaner, stronger. My mind is worried today, it is on most days since I decided to move out--prone to exaggeration and dramatics. Last night was an inversion and arm balance workshop and everyone had the attitude of playtime. Yoga sandbox. I began feeling light, happy, excited. Ended by falling out of handstand and blurting out "I KNOW how to do it, I'm just AFRAID!" to Erin. I guess my anxiety caught up with me. Then I felt stupid for the rest of the night. Sometimes I don't want to let go of my expectations, sometimes the disappointment feels good. Like a measure of how badly you wanted something. Anyway I know I'll get handstand to stick. I did peacock, which was surprisingly easy. Again with the core. Hello, abs. I think I have freakishly strong forearms.

Last night I dreamed Laura Kupperman and I were talking about our back issues, and she said when you feel pain just keep lifting your heart, push your heart out over and over again, and then Yoga John showed up with some line about imagining a string attached to my heart being pulled up to the sky. I woke up feeling happy, and late. After her class today my body was buzzing. Now it's six hours later and I've cried twice. Keep lifting my heart, keep lifting my heart.

What is my point? There were other things I wanted to write about, but perhaps they are points we're all destined to miss. I'm looking for change, seeking it out, and I'm still attached to so much. My fear of going upside down even makes me feel nice sometimes. It's just easier. Maybe my fear will give me compassion, too.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Nothing you can do about it

Right now I’m on day five of a seven-day cleanse. I’m not allowed wheat, sugar, dairy, yeast, or vinegar, and I am eating according to a pretty strict schedule. Not only that, I’ve seen a zillion types of practitioners, like a naturopath, an herbalist, a chiropractor (I regret this one), a therapist, and a regular doctor. And there’s more to come. I’m hoping balancing out my body will help balance out my mind. At the very least, it will eliminate one possible cause of my craziness. That is, if my body is perfectly healthy then that leaves…my mind.

I talked to my grandma this morning, and she said she’s never stressed and never has been. She said, “I guess I always thought there was nothing you could do about it,” it being life. I have a lot in common with her but here we diverge and maybe that’s a result of the times. Now there are so many choices. There is an endless, overwhelming number of options. This is the problem. Now, one must learn to be a good choice-maker. Maybe my grandma is just seeing the past through rose-colored glasses, but maybe there’s a truth to be found there. Choice makes us unhappy unless we have the skills to listen to ourselves.

I realized that maybe I've been using the noble concept of the power of choice to AVOID what I really need to do. Like, I often choose the milder bridge pose rather than go up into a wheel backbend because I get a sore low back after wheel. When I do this, I think “how mindful and conscious I am, and responsible for my own body! Yay me.” But gradually I started to realize I was missing out on the exhilarating, detoxing feeling of wheel. So I asked Uschi last week about the low back pain. She said she used to feel it too and that if it’s just dull it’s probably ok.

Cut to Kira’s class today. We did some stuff that for me brought up feelings of anger, pain, frustration…so when wheel came I just wanted to curl up and feel sorry for myself. But somehow something happened to that sadness and I let go of my thoughts for a split second, removing the element of choice. Almost like the physical version of the resigned feeling that makes you sigh and say “ok fine I’ll do the dishes.” And then you do and afterward it actually feels good. My lower back didn’t hurt and I was really happy I did wheel. It saved the class for me by somehow dissolving some of my self-pitying energy. And effects like that are why I do yoga.

The lack of choice provides a constrained environment in which what I really want becomes more obvious. And allows me to differentiate between what I want and what’s good for me (more sugar? bridge pose?).

Maybe finding out what I want is step one and step two is finding out why.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Scissor (side crow) Sisters

More coming soon, but this just in: I did crow! I called Zen Muffin to tell her and she said she also mastered it this week. I don't think I mastered it, by any means, but this pose has been a big block for me. I've always been convinced I lacked the physical strength to do it, and have just backed out of it or not even really tried. But yesterday morning without even really thinking about it, it happened. I wasn't in total control of it, but still. Some things that helped: keeping my knee firm against my upper arm(on the outside of my knee) and rounding my back a little bit. It was a really excellent experience.

A new entry soon with deep thoughts, clever witticisms and elaborate descriptions of human emotion.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Yogery Continues

I went to Kira's 9:00 am soft vinyasa class today. she said, "you don't come to yoga to realize that you have no tight spots, you come to find them." so that sort of put me in a mood to find the places in my body and mind where i was stuck. that reminder helped me to be less afraid of 'digging in' or experiencing discomfort.

for two days in a row last week i gave cardio exercise my best shot, with a run one day and a hike the next. the run was fine, and the hike was fabulous. but somehow i ended up with a really sore tailbone/coccyx area and now it hurts to bend forward. i don't like having exercise-induced joint pain. i am a huge baby about it. but kira started us out bending forward in badakonasana (seated bound angle), and i could really feel it in my low, low back area. if it weren't for the comment about 'finding tight spots,' i would have probably just felt miserable and waited for it to be over. maybe i would have unconsciously adjusted myself so i didn't feel such an ache. instead i just LET it hurt. it almost made me want to cry but not because of the pain which was actually better than feeling nothing. just because of how tense i'd been about it.

i resonate with a lot of things kira says but then when i leave the studio i don't know how to bring these ideas into the rest of my life. i guess becoming aware of my patterns in yoga, such as this tendency to subconsciously avoid pain, will help me notice the same patterns in the other areas of my life. it's one thing to relax, say, my hips into a lunge, but how do i relax in my LIFE and think less? i mean, i THINK i'm a pretty laid-back person most of the time, but maybe i also tend to confuse 'relaxed' with 'avoiding.' like, 'don't talk to me about that, it will mess with my relaxation.'

on a side note, i must not be that relaxed if i am having a sudden, insatiable desire for a $200 hair dryer. that's how much i hate my hair and how far my inner child wants to go to make it shiny and pretty. bad yogini! how can i honestly do yoga and still be this superficial?