This could, with that title, easily be one of those posts that shortly ends with a euphemism about "making it through with the regular pattern of the practice" or somesuch. But in part because I'm writing it, it's not going to do that.
I haven't done the same practice twice yet, in David and Shelley's room. I've tried to, but I haven't managed it. Much the same as my current home practice. It's not that I make up sequences or do different series each day, or that I'm counting every little tic and modification. What I mean, specifically, is that I was trying to build a Primary-to-Intermediate practice back, and then when that didn't work, I tried just hopping right into Intermediate, but that too is subject to grief and energy in the hips, which makes (and always has, really) me cut practice short wherever I can't maintain the energy of it.
So this isn't really about "which sequence" or "how many poses" or anything like that, no consideration of "the method" or "classical practice" is intended or should be inferred.
Here's what I can recall about my practices in the Swenson Mysore room so far:
Sun: Primary and to Ustrasana, which hurt. Hangs but no drops.
Mon: Grief practice. Slow agonizing Primary to Supta Padangusthasana.
Tue: Even griefier practice. Primary to Janu C in almost 2 hours.
Wed: Primary to Navasana and Intermediate to Eka Pada Sirsasana.
Thur: Intermediate through Karandavasana. Dropbacks with standups.
Fri: Primary series, with one dropback which DS then turned right into assisted.
Sun: Intermediate to Ardha Matsyendrasana. Griefy practice. No drops.
There are many axes on which to cut up these practices, and we should be careful wielding that scalpel so that we don't kill the patient. Don't overanalyze.
1. The "best" days, strictly in POSES DONE terms, are Wed/Thurs of Week One.
2. The least griefy day was Thursday.
3. My best focus on breath and attention was Thursday.
4. Intensity of grief does not correspond to series done.
5. Practice does not get more difficult (griefwise) as the week goes on.
6. Practice also does not get less griefy as the week goes on.
So we cannot associate grief with a given pose or a given series. I walk into the room with it, either a little or a lot, and it's completely unrelated to day of the week or poses committed. If I'm having a griefy day, I have a griefy practice.
Grief strikes in the psoas and the gluteus maximus on the right side. That's where it all always happened: the half-lotus struggles, the backbends, any pose struggle that I have had that's not as simple as "hamstrings longer," it's all been in that hip. Samskaric business lives in there.
Particularly here, and also at home since my dad passed, I've noticed tightness in the psoas where it attaches to the lumbar spine. It impinges my forward folds in sun salutations, and so I feel the grief physically, right from the first "dve fold" and then often I REALLY get it in "trini look up." Most days in the Mysore room, it takes at least two Surya B's, and more like three, to get it juicy, and I still feel it big time in poses like Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (more across the glutes) and in all of the Prasaritas.
The regular poses are a bit restricted: Padmasana, any twist, and backbends unless I can get some juicing of the psoas beforehand (that's why I'm currently loving the Intermediate and also taking a bridge pose regularly before my Urdhva Dhanurasana pressups).
It's also weirdly hard to breathe in the Mysore room, maybe because it's stupid hot, but I have to ask for it. For example in Prasaritas, I have to fill my head with the command, BREATHE, and then I feel my head touch. In Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana, same thing. BREATHE, ok now balancing. Once a series is underway, if it's not a slow, painful griefy practice with laughter/crying breaks, I can usually get the breathing pretty well in gear.
There are more unhappy practices than joyous ones here; feeling the grief exit my muscles is PAINFUL, but after that, it feels good, a sort of warm, enervating good, like the musculature will not contract. After Supta Vajrasana today got all over my psoas to a degree that I'd never felt before, I couldn't get my core muscles coordinated for Bakasana, I just couldn't get it together to come up. That's strange because I can Bakasana ANY time I want to, I barely even have to think about it.
So one question is, I lose the breath when the body expresses grief. How does or should that fit with "keep the breath"? Is it "ok"? See the questions? And no, let's NOT go into the whole "tradition versus individual" line. What I do in the Mysore room is breathe and feel until I can proceed. I'm not being overzealous in taking a given posture, I'm being overrun by the physical expression of an intense emotion.
Another question is, shouldn't I just take nicer, easier Primary? No, I've tried that for years since I became a parent. I can grieve in Primary as easily as Intermediate, and practice has to be cut short. Grief makes NO DIFFERENTIATION between say Kapotasana and Janu Sirsasana A. When it strikes, it's like a lightning storm outside while you're bending inside. The poses don't cause it, it's like a natural expression that coincidentally occurs while you're bending. Let's be clear: I do believe that the yoga makes it easier for the grief to find expression, but NO PARTICULAR POSE sets it off.
For what it's worth, I haven't had a grief attack in Kapotasana here, but I have had one in Janu Sirsasana A, and thus the comparison.
On Kapotasana (and slightly off-topic): I got my first David adjustment in that on Wednesday, and I put my fingertips on the arches of my feet. On Thursday, I grabbed the sides of the feet well above the toes. This morning, I grabbed the pad of the foot over the toes. A bit less each day, and that's OK. My ego wants the heels, but I know that when I go back to cooler less-adjusted practice in Indiana I'll lose the heels even if I get them here, and so that doesn't matter. The ego is just a voice that likes to shout out its dissatisfaction with whatever you've got. Inner critic.
The first adjustment made me feel "valid" in the posture. It gave me the pose, to put it in classical terms. David didn't interrogate me, didn't give any comment or any vibe that I "shouldn't have been there." The pose was mine, I wasn't overreaching. I was afraid, and he said simply, "Relax," and we did the posture. He used to haul me up from B after 3 breaths. This morning he left me there for all five and let me come up myself.
So while I've yet to get the full expression, I feel very much that I "have" the posture, and what this does is back off a long-term questioning shame and anxiety about whether I should be doing Intermediate: not whether I CAN or not, but whether I SHOULD or not. I've known for YEARS that I "can" do Intermediate as long as I modify the core postures. But can doesn't matter when you feel like a spy sneaking the poses, doing some perhaps criminal home practice and you're never sure, you have to stay in the dark and throw down the Pincha exit.
David gave me security, almost like a license, and did it with that single nearly commentless adjustment. The ease is ocean-big.
I wish now that Good Will Hunting hadn't replicated the scene where Williams simply repeats "it's OK" until Damon's hardman character breaks. Now it's camp, we cite it and ruin the sincerity of it. But in accepting my grief (which ISN'T easy) and in accepting this sequence, there's a lot of "it's OK" and it's never far from tears that bring relief.
On Thursday I took three "Strikes" at Karandavasana and couldn't grok both the lotus and the balance; that's my hip-out-of-wack thing acting up. I used to be able to knit that bad thing and I even lowered it a few times without touching the knees to the floor. So I took my three strikes and asked David for an adjustment, which was quick, effective and marvelous, and then I went to backbends.
I feel like I know what to do; I feel like I know where I am in the ashtanga sequences, know "what my practice is." You know, if you read here a lot, how much I've worried about that, how I want a Mysore room to give me an answer and how it never has. This one adjustment locked it down.
David adjusts my core postures (currently including Pasasana which with feet flat I can barely bind going right but bind with relative ease going left) and I think that if I wanted to sample past Karandavasana that'd be ok too. But I feel like my official practice, one I can feel perfectly fine doing, is Intermediate to Karanda. This suspends for the moment the question of whether I can do those poses without needing a grief-out beforehand, but as I started here saying, that's not part of my practice as it stands; that's a part of my practice AS IT IS PRACTICED. The grief does not mean that I "should do Primary," it means that I'm going to have extra challenges with whatever sequence I'm doing, Primary Friday or not.
Something makes me cry or laugh here everyday, and I only mean that species of laughter which is actually crying. I told J on the phone that the yoga wasn't about advances or breakthroughs but about griefing it out, because I don't have to put my emotions "through my mind" when I'm bending, they can just come right out unannounced. That's what my practice here is about, that's what this vacation is about.
Soon I'll include some of my Facebook notes, one in particular seems to be getting quoted and handed around quite a bit on the 'book, where David talked about keeping the yoga alive and messy and not making it like a preserved nature sample on a wall (that last comparison is mine).
But thank you David Swenson, for that adjustment and for acknowledging that I'm dealing with a lot of stuff and it's going to come out most loudly in your Mysore room. Thank you.