Monday, October 29, 2012

Yoga Lesson - Q4 2012

I took a private yoga lesson on 10/26/12. These were my take aways:

1. Knowing the fundamentals of yoga is not the same as applying them. I need to drop my thoughts, move with my breath and let the yoga work. I am past the point where progress comes from analysis or force of will. Discussing barriers with my instructor was very helpful, because she has the experience to point me back at the basics. As she says - "let the pose do you".

2. I came in with a complicated, comprehensive model of breathing, pulled from my yoga anatomy book. While my interest in theory was humored, real progress came from troubleshooting two poses:

2.1 Quarter moon - My breathing pattern was - lift my arms and take a deep breath, then bend over while trying to take another deep breath. It turns out I have to breathe out before I can breathe in again...

This is a recurring problem in my poses. As I start moving, I'll take a deep breath in, but only let a shallow breath out. It makes getting more air very difficult. Then I get dizzy because I am holding my breath. The instructor tells us to breathe out, but I seem to have a listening problem.

2.2 Dancers - My breathing pattern was - take a deep breath in, lean forward, pause, take another deep breath in, lean forward some more, hold my breath till we get released...

Again, I have been holding my breath. At least with this pose I kind of knew I was doing it for stability. My instructor had me watch how she breathes through the pose. It was much different. She exhales upon grabbing her foot, moves into the pose with a single deep inhale, and then uses an exhale to settle her body at the full expression of the pose. The settling was visually obvious, and I could even hear her joints cracking as her body released. It was a strong demonstration, and left an impression of what moving with my breath can eventually become.

Playing around with these ideas in a subsequent class, I found I struggle most with breathing in poses where inhaling is easy, but exhaling is hard. Typically these have a point where the torso is stretched out, like in hero's or even a seated forward fold. Forcing the air out by contracting my diaphragm seems like it may help, but I need to play with it more. Focusing on exhales definitely made my core sore.

I was given the homework to breathe mindfully for 5 minutes every day. So far, I have an F.

3. We went through the two problems I've encountered during my vinyasa:

3.1 Pain in my right thumb - We played around with down dog a little, but could not find a better position than gripping the mat with all my fingers. It seems likely I am over loading my hands, but I have not found range of motion to make my hands "light" yet. Even after 6 months, I am still letting my shoulders move towards my ears instead of taking them down my back. Gah.

3.2 Skin tears on my big toe - I was hoping we could find a movement problem that leads to these, but it seems occasional tears just come from moving barefoot in a warm, humid environment. My solution of using new skin when the tear is bad is ok.

We also covered some basic questions relating to the asanas.

4. Half moon - It seems the trouble I've had stacking my hips comes from transitioning into the pose incorrectly. I need to actually launch forward into the pose from warrior 2, like the instructor says. Instead, I've been standing up, going halfway into warrior 3, and then trying to rotate my body open. I am not strong enough to enter a full half moon that way. My instructor did it, so it's not impossible, but I'll do better if I focus on transitioning from warrior 2.

5. Triangle - I need to use the block. It's not a crutch. I need to use the block. It's not a crutch. I've been told this before.

6. Face side wall, fold forward - Folding forward allows the legs to open wider than they can while standing. I should let this happen and use it to move into a fuller expression of the pose. I'll have to move my feet back in to stand up, but that's ok.

7. Wheel - My alignment is fine. The only reason I cannot do the full pose in class is because I am tired. This is one of the rare movements where I can just try harder. The class following my lesson, I got up into the pose. I think it will come more easily if I focus on the opening of my hips and torso, instead of on the press up.

8. Half pigeon - My foot tingling during the pose is not all that unusual. As long as my foot is flexed, I should not worry about it. Temporarily rolling over on my hip to reposition my front leg is ok.

9. "Touch your elbow" arm balance - This is hard, I'm not ready for it yet and I don't need to worry about it. I figured maybe I could use upper body strength to force it, but guess not.

10. Tree - While this pose may end with my eyes focused up, I should not start there. The process of stabilizing my body with my gaze straight ahead, then looking up as I lean back, is important. Treating a pose as a process instead of an end goal is probably one of those important, basic concepts I will take a long time to synthesize.