On Saturday a little over a week ago (the 15th of this month) I went up (by invite) to the north-end Lululemon store to be their window yoga model. Your Lulu's do this too, yes? Just in case they don't, the idea is that yoga practitioners bend in the mannequin-window for an hour or more, doing whatever, basically functioning as inspiring moving advertisements (I got free gear from LL in which to bend).
Now, I see clearly how this is bold-face capitalism, and how it plays into a simplistic promise of "if I buy that gear, I too can bend like that!" Those are both silly. Nonetheless, I had a fantastic practice, definitely one of the best of the new year, in a window space that was maybe six inches bigger than a Manduka black mat, on each side.
I did Primary and up through Bharadvajasana, was able to drop back and stand up (but had to fingertip the glass as I still come up heels-up, which is a bit ballistic), and especially at the start of seated, had some of the biggest vinyasa take-it-ups probably ever in my practice history. Like this: from Tiriangmukha, direct to Lolasana, and then back. From Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimo, into a half-lotus arm balance, no leg contact. Freaky stuff. This vanished by the Marichis, but it's nice to know that it's hiding in there (ever suprising, this annamaya-pranamaya relationship).
There is a marvelous photo of me in a not-quite-full-expression Setu Bandhasana, with these two white teenagers outside doing the knees-bent, arms-wide, mouth-open gesture which I title "Can't Touch This!" They look so campily gangbanger. I doubt I'll post the photo in here, but it's pretty amusing and it's been shared between the store and me and Cityoga on Facebook. I like that it's not some arm balance or standing posture, you know? Setu Bandhasana is a posture that on the one hand doesn't look "advanced" but it's also so uncommon that it has a high "freakshow" factor: you're not gonna see THAT one in a ToeSox ad or a Yoga Journal cover anytime soon. Keeps people off-balance as to how to respond to it.
So I am sore in a bunch of places: the left shoulder is sore right on "top" of the collarbone/shoulderblade connection. Two fingers pressing there sets off a nervy pain which, if I don't do vinyasa carefully, runs down the front of the shoulder joint where the pecs meet the shoulder musculature proper. Jumping back is pretty much precluded, which is fine.
I am also sore at the left sit bone, but I only feel that if I add in the Tim-Miller-style front splits after the Prasaritas, so I just cut those and I don't have to worry about this in any forward fold in Primary or Intermediate. Easy.
I am also sore, but only in Kurmasana, at about the third lumbar vertebrae, and this, I worry about. As I come down into Kurmasana, there's a bruised feeling, like someone hit me with something, right there at L3-ish. Supta Kurmasana also has this sensation. I've been trying to really extend the spine and sacrificing the straight legs in the first posture, to back this off. I've totally abandoned the Intermediate entrance to Supta and yesterday I only bound the hands and didn't even worry about the feet, but still had pain. Grr.
I figured this was from putting the right foot behind my head (because that's the ever-tight hip) but in the window yoga, I did a whole buch of Miller-inspired foot-behind-head preps, including a bent-leg reclining FBH (Kasyapasana mod) and Visvamitrasana (side plank compass pose; is it officially called Vasisthasana now in the ashtanga lineage?) and there was no pain in any of that, so it seems to be Kurmasana specific. How strange.
Finally, the right hip (samskaric business, chronic tightness a lot of the time) is really cranked up about something: it's not "sore" in the way that practitioners use that term, but it's really tight, as if the gluteus max is gripping the top of the pelvic bowl for dear life. This says "ego" to me, the way the ego death-grips whatever it is it thinks it needs to survive. Ashtanga practice is not ideal for stretching this, and I even feel it in Padangusthasana and Down Dog. Now that's WEIRD tightness. Pigeons and double-pigeon (particularly with forward fold) are the main stretches here, and those postures have ALWAYS been the main stretches for the specific ways my glutes tighten up.
I've said here a number of times, that the ego is not an enemy, not something to be fought or destroyed or denied. I had a dream a long time ago, sometime when my kid was still under two years old (he'll be three, THREE, in May: time warp, anyone?), that dealing with the ego is like being in a hospice where you give comfort to all of the avatars of yourself, your old afraid self, your younger angstful self, all these selves, you have to ease them all into passage.
So the ego for me is about negative emotions, mostly, or at least that's where I see it the most clearly. The reputation of the ego in popular culture is aggrandizement, "egotism," we think someone "with an ego" is very self-inflated. Then we apparently love to see these people "fall," so we love political scandals or to see Donald Trump lose a deal or whatever it is.
This is all playing the ego for drama.
As I said in the "teaching and teaching" post, but obliquely, I get a sort of performance anxiety when in a workshop, unless I'm workshopping quite a bit, making exposure to senior teachers more "normal." When that only happens once or twice a year, as it's about to with Kino's visit here in March, I get all anxious about both
a) if the SCENE will represent, so we can (what? look cool? get famous?)
b) if my practice will BE THERE, so I can (again, what? look cool? get famous?)
And today, when I cut practice short after a really intense Parivrtta Parsvakonasana, with shoulder soreness acting up, I could feel the ego chattering away about how I won't be able to do my "whole practice" when Kino's here, so I'll miss some kind of opportunity, et cetera et cetera.
So I've decided to use this grasping-toward-fame (or whatever it is, grasping in any case) as a way to turn down the ego. It's nice that the ego in this case is so totally overt about what it wants, because now I know just how to go the other way.
It won't matter what or if I achieve; I'm sore, a lot of things hurt, some poses are giving me mysterious soreness that makes me a bit anxious (hi lumbar spine!) and I'm teaching well and people are coming to the yoga room, and the intensity of my practice doesn't affect that in any way I can discern.
I had this shoulder soreness when I was in Seattle in summer 2010, and as I remember, with light-to-no practice, it gradually went away, but it was around for a few months. I've had some shocking stretches in Kurmasana/foot-behind-head back in the day, but I don't remember this "bruised spine" feeling back then, so that's just taking care and maybe substituting for the full posture.
And that's where this all is, now. Proceed!