Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Renewing the Practice

Since i've been pregnant a lot of my yoga students and friends have asked how it changes my home practice. Pregnancy definitely changes my practice but it's hard to explain. there is the general change that i'm off twisting and i start modifying my poses as i start growing. (no more bow pose already and soon i'll be off cobra and locust too). but there is a far deeper change too.

last summer i went for a 10 day yoga retreat in indonesia. it was amazing and life and practice changing. it was perfect for just before starting to teach because i felt like my practice got very strong and there was a certain attack or fire quality to my practice that i didn't have before. finally i demanded more from myself both in class and at home and i saw big change in my practice as poses began to reveal themselves to me. i felt young, vibrant, fearless, strong....

as soon as i got pregnant in january, that all changed. suddenly i felt very very fragile and somewhat afraid. it is my first pregnancy and suddenly it felt like my body was out of control. i couldn't trust my body, i couldn't push my body. i felt like i was sick all the time but really wasn't. and psychologically i was so afraid i would do something in my practice that would cause me to lose the baby that i backed way off.

all that attack and strength was gone. i was left feeling tired, worn down and pretty scared. the yoga that was my comfort was now sort of a threat. but i knew yoga wasn't going to hurt me, i knew which poses to avoid and all the books said to do yoga. so for the first three months i just pushed through. i never got actual morning sickness, or major mood swings, just the general feeling that things were different. and so i kept on going. more restorative days and much more rest. it was a different sort of practice to rest so much and it was difficult psychologically to deal with the change. what if my old practice never came back? what if this lasts forever????

but luckily the first trimester doesn't last forever. by about month 3 i started feeling better. and now 4 plus months in i'm feeling much more like my old self ... just with a balloon in my stomach to work around. recently i've started to feel more brave again in my practice. and i've started working back to building my strength up. i remember during my teacher training the woman who taught prenatal said something like 'it doesn't do them any good to give pregnant women a break, they need the strength to get through labor and they need to be strong once the baby comes. it's better to let them work and rest, work and rest, just like the rhythm of labor' and that has stuck with me.

yesterday i put the labor principle into action. i worked HARD in my poses, held them longer than normal and concentrated on breath and just gave myself little breaks in between. in the months i took it easier i lost my chaturanga so now i'm working hard to bring that back. and to bring back the arm balances i'd barely grasped. it's time to be serious because taking a break and eating bon bons all pregnancy isn't going to serve me when it's all over. today i'm tired to my bones and muscles from the practice and then teaching all evening, but it feels good. it feels good to have worked it feels good to be hungry from it and it feels good to be as proactive as i can in preparing myself for labor and beyond.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Keeping it Going

Like most everyone who commits to a home practice, i definitely struggle with getting into ruts. i tend to only practice the same poses over and over. while that's great for laying the ground work for going on to more challenging poses in class, it doesn't really take me any further in my own practice. and i don't get the sense of mastery over those more difficult poses that i would get if i practiced them nearly every day. this is ESPECIALLY true for inversions and arm/hand balances. i do practice inversions somewhat regularly at home but definitely not for any real length of time (not much more than 5 breaths for handstand, and forearm stand and maybe 20 for headstand and shoulder stand.) and arm balances tend to be limited to vasithasana and then attempts at other ones maybe once a month.

so then last week i watched/listened to a John Friend DVD i got for christmas but haven't had the energy to try out. i'd already practiced that day but wanted to check out what he had to say and see what the poses in the sequence are so i'd know when i do have the energy to try it. plus, he's just so amazing to listen to. thank goodness for modern technology. much of this DVD is focused on arm balances and he talks about how most people skip them in their practices because they require so much energy and full-bodied integration. and i was sitting there saying ... yup that's me. and of course, because i skip them in my home practice, i definitely don't teach them in my classes... so i'm setting up my students to skip them too. NO GOOD. time to get into action.

then on monday i got to take class when i usually teach and was able to practice with a teacher i truly enjoy. after class we were talking about the same thing... about falling into a rut with poses and feeling uninspired. one of the other teachers nearby said she knows a teacher who keeps a running spreadsheet of poses and checks off a pose when she practices it. K, the teacher i'd studied with, said she loves excel and was going to go home and do it. and i just brushed it off.

but then i got home, i had some free time and i started to see the value. So on Friday afternoon i spent less than an hour plugging in all of the Level I and Level II Anusara syllabus into an Excel spreadsheet on my computer. i practice in my home office and i realized i don't actually have to print it out i can just keep it on the computer (No extra paper). the nice thing about it is that just by reading through the syllabus i got class ideas and personal practice ideas and i was reminded of poses i skip simply because i'd forgotten about them.

so this month i'm keeping a tally and we'll see how it goes. hopefully the effort up front will pay off in the long run with a better rounded practice by the end of the summer.