Friday, May 3, 2013

Day 1: Stage 2 - Big Win. Because life is a work in progress

Starting again.  Every day we wake up and start again.  Today I decided to start my disciplined Ashtanga practice again.

It has been almost a month since I last wrote in this blog.  Thank the yoga-gods that isn't the last time I actually practiced.  In fact I have been practicing as much as I ever have. But sadly, my Ashtanga asana practice has been losing steam over the past month.  The focus required for a disciplined practice has been washed away and overrun by the basics of keeping a full life moving forward while living in Haiti.

It isn't that I don't have time.  It isn't that I don't have the energy.  It isn't even that I am not practicing and doing asana every day.  What is missing is focus and discipline.  Exactly what I need in my life overall and exactly what the Ashtanga practice has to offer. 

So here I am on Friday May 3rd, ready to re-engage and re-immerse myself into the will of my focused and disciplined practice.  I practiced this morning a full focused two hours and it was awesome.  Doing the sequence in order and on point created a powerful coming home feeling that is still sitting with me.

There were three 'wins' in the practice.  The coming home feeling has to be called a win, as it reminded me that this isn't something I 'should do' this is something I 'want' to do.

The second win was still being able to bind Marichyasana C, super glad that my haphazard practice over the month kept my hips and shoulders open enough to maintain where I left off.

The third big win was that I actually lifted both legs of the floor in dandasana. Something I have been trying numerous times in almost every practice as I work toward the strength I need for jump-throughs.  It was only a half a second, but I did it more than once.  That feeling of doing something that I have been trying to do day after day for weeks on end goes into the win column of life.

I know life isn't all about the wins - but damn I love to feel good about work I am doing on my yoga mat and in my life.  Day 1, Stage 2: Big Win. Because life is a work in progress...the tagline for Project Zen where I currently teach in Haiti.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Days 18-23: Finding Rhythms and making time to do the practice.

Back in Haiti. 100% here. Not so 100% with the practice.

It turns out it's just a little bit harder to commit to a daily practice when I am teaching a couple of classes a day and have other demands on my time. My grand plan had been to practice everyday after I teach a 6:30am-7:30am class.  Well that grand plan has been messed up by one thing or another almost every day.

Flexibility comes in handy. I am proud that I have practiced 4 out of the past 6 days, even if not at the planned time.  It's not too shabby for someone finding my rhythm living in a developing country.  I would really like to make that morning time work, and will keep trying.  And of course will keep finding my mat at other times if the mornings won't work.

All last week I continued my love affair with the Janu Sirsasana poses. I am getting so close to comfortable in all three versions.  It's cool to see how an (almost) daily practice can impact the pose experience so quickly.

When I was dabbling in Ashtanga over the past year, I couldn't imagine how anyone could ever sit on their heel or turn their foot at that angle and be OK.  But now just over 3 weeks of regular practice of the Primary Series postures and I am already seeing great improvements in how many of the poses feel.

This is not to say I have mastered the basic Primary Series postures.  Not at all. There are still a few postures that are fully beyond me: Bhujapidasana, Supta Kurmasana, Kukkutasana, Setu Bandhasana. Now that I wrote them down, I'm somewhat surprised that there are only 4 in the category of 'not doing that one right now'.

I love the practice and I love writing about it.  So tickled about the experience and watching it unfold.  Thanks for letting me share!


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Days 15,16 & 17: In Transition, Costa Rica to Haiti

Day 15 was my last day in Costa Rica. I almost didn't practice. In the morning I took it easy, and had a big breakfast and was ready for a rest day.

Then I realized that I'd be traveling all the next day and so that would be my rest day.  And Flor, my new Costa Rican friend, also wanted to practice.  So we got on our mats together in the late morning and had a lovely practice.

We had practiced together on the first few days, but then our schedules weren't matching up. It was very sweet to have her by my side for my last practice in Costa Rica.

Day 16 was a rest day and the day I left Costa Rica.  The departure wasn't quite as sad as the days leading up to it.  The travel all went smooth and I felt happy to be returning to Haiti to teach more yoga and to continue to deepen my own practice.

Day 17. In Haiti. Struggling. I started to practice at the studio this morning and had to stop. I just didn't have the energy. Transition. Where is my yoga deck? Where is the ocean? Why am I here and not there?

I left the yoga studio mid-afternoon. I walked into my new house and bumbled around. Is this really home?

Finally at some point I realized the best place to answer all of these questions is on my yoga mat.  There is no answer, and that is what I remember when I get on my mat.

It is all about the experience of whatever is present. It is all about letting the questions and the unknown be what they are and being present with them in a way that lets them sort themselves out in their own time.

Transition.  I was there, and now I am here. On may mat in a different place doing the same postures, counting the same breaths and finding my sense of home. In me, wherever I am, even in transition.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Day 14 - Three Janu Sirsasana poses, I get it!

When I first started dabbling in Ashtanga, I could never understand why there are three different Janu Sirsasana poses.

The A version is so sweet and comfortable, a great stretch. I didn't get why someone had to ruin it by telling me to sit on my heel and keep my toes pointing forward for B and then trying to twist my ankle and break my toes for the C version.

In this intensive time, I've been giving each version a little more attention and it is paying off. This week I finally feel the different hip stretches I get from having the bent leg in each of the positions.  I am still working on making them comfortable enough to fully get the stretch, but it is definitely better than it was. I get it, and I'm excited to keep working on it to get it even more deeply and comfortably.

The sadness of the retreat reaching it's end is gone today.  Thankfully acceptance has arrived. And just in time, because tomorrow is my last day here.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Day 12 & 13 - Tears and Rolling Toes

My practices the past two days have started in tears. I'm  sad I only have a few days left here in Costa Rica. The three weeks here have been three of the most powerful, peaceful and inspiring of my life.  A big part of me wants to stay and live in this gentle loving environment forever.

But there is another part of me, stronger right now, that calls me back to Haiti.

One of my teachers Peg Mulqueen wrote recently in a blog post titled La Petit Mort about the search to, "understand why we must face constant challenges, battle our way upstream, and continue on a path that is risky and not so much fun sometimes."

When I read her blog this morning that was when the tears started.

The tears are again simmering just below the surface as I write this.  I really do want to take an easy and comfortable path. I desperately want to settle down in a sweet place like this in Costa Rica to just surf, do yoga, get a little part-time job to make ends meet.

Reading Peg's post this morning reminded me that it's just not my path right now.  

There is still work I need to do in the world, and for now that work is in Haiti.  My work is in Haiti, and the path forward is my soul's journey home.  The saddest part is that my soul feels more at home here at Boca Sombrero on the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica than it has ever felt anywhere.  But it's just not the time for me to be so 'at home' yet. I still have work to do to allow me to be fully ready for it.   And that makes me cry.

I started my sun A's in tears and they were gone by the time I got through my B's.

For the first time in a practice I finally had the courage to fully flip over my both sets of toes at the same time. I've been dabbling at it and trying here and there.  Today it finally set in, I did it in nearly every transition from Urdhva Mukha Svanasana to Adho Mukha Svanasana. I was so afraid it'd hurt my feet that I'd been making it much harder than it needs to be.  Today I just relaxed them and it happened quite easily.

I'll try to carry that lesson with me back to Haiti. If I can just relax into the work, just maybe the way will be smooth.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Days 10 & 11 - I love it, but I forgot it. Ardha Baddha Padmottansana

Here I am in Days 10 & 11 and feeling stronger than ever.  I am hitting a sad wall that my intensive retreat time is coming to and end.  I almost cried today as I walked to my mat.

The near tears were a mixture of sadness that the time is ending and immense gratitude that I have taken this time to deepen my practice.  I am excited to see what unfolds in the coming days as I wind up here.  And even more excited to see how it progresses when I return to Haiti.

Yesterday on Day 10, I was practicing intently, enjoying both the amazing space I am practicing in and the sensations arising as I moved into each posture.  I was just finishing a deep set of the Utthita Hasta Padangustasana A, B, C movements and it dawned on me that  I hadn't done Ardha Baddha Padmottonasana since about Day 3. I had completely forgotten about it.  I really love the posture, so it was a wonderful gift to have back in my practice.

I love the way my hips and thighs feel in Ardha Baddha Padmottonasana. I have open hamstrings so the forward folding is accessible.  I love the feeling of my foot hooked into my hips flexors and the grand opening that happens in the outer hips as the forward fold deepens with one of the legs tucked in.

It is one of those poses that has come easily since I first tried it.  But I can also recall not being able to bind the hand-foot until I bent over. I also recall my foot being much further down on my thigh.  So it is a posture I have always enjoyed, and am enjoying witnessing it as it deepens.  Today I briefly kissed my chin. It was a light butterfly kiss as I was just about to release the posture.  Practicing self-love for real.

Until tomorrow!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Days 8 & 9 - Keeping at it, Kurmasana

Distracted. I am so in love with doing a strong yoga practice and surfing everyday that all other aspects of my life have fallen to the side.

Day dreams. That's about all I can muster for my to-do list.  Between yoga and surfing I day dream about things I 'should' or 'could' be doing to get my life organized and prepared for returning to Haiti...and then I go sit on the beach or walk in the jungle.

It is thrilling that I'm not distracted from my new Ashtanga practice. Everyday I am on my mat for 2-3 hours and it feel luxurious and amazing.  What a privilege to have this kind of unstressed practice time for myself.

While I'm on my mat, that is one of the times that my to-do list dances around in my head. I've noticed that my mind is emptier while surfing than it is while doing yoga.  I think it is because surfing is still so new.  There is also the fact that there is water and waves that need to be navigated and assessed.

As I write that, I realize that it is my thoughts waves that are being navigated and assessed on the yoga mat. That is the practice.  To see the thoughts and to bring them back to breath and posture.  The physical postures are an extension and embodiment of that focus.

This morning while I was walking on the beach I saw an huge mama turtle.  She was majestic and ancient.   Starting my day seeing a huge turtle was a powerful totem for the work I am doing on Kurmasana or Tortoise Pose.  She was so awkward as she was working her way across the rocks to get back to the ocean, it made me feel better about my awkward attempts to get into the pose.

Kurmasana is still a total work in progress.  My hamstrings are plenty open enough for it, but there is some core tucking that needs to happen that I don't understand yet.

I got worried that I about hyper-extending my elbows by not getting my arms far enough under my legs. So now I am doing more of a prep pose that is followed by some hip and hamstring opening.  I am going to read some about that part of the series soon, and maybe even look at some youtube video tutorials to get some tips on how to move into them safely.

I did get the Marichyasana C bind today, it felt awesome to see it again.  We'll see if it is still there tomorrow and what else shows up on the mat and out on the waves.  Regular life will be waiting on the other side of this paradise.