Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sharath in Sydney: Week 2, Day 4

Today, we were told that we'd be allowed to watch tomorrow's intermediate class. YAY! ...of course we'd have to sit at the back of the hall and not make a sound (wonder if I'll be allowed to take pictures?) Apparently they got up to the last pose before the 7 headstands yesterday, so maybe we'll be in for a treat with the full intermediate series tomorrow? *rub hands together in glee*

By the way, if anyone has any questions they'd like to ask Sharath in this evening's conference, put them in the comments! I've gotta have them by 5pm Sydney time (GMT +11hrs) TODAY! I'll only have the balls to ask ONE question so I might ask the most interesting one.

Got some nice updates and observations today, will put them in point form to TRY and be brief.

1. Pre-workshop chatter
A lady spoke about how Sharath's a lot stricter in Mysore. She first went there when Ashtanga was still pretty new to her, spent FIVE MONTHS there, but he wouldn't progress her past Marichyasana D. Not until she got the full bind first.

In the Sunday led classes in Mysore, she said people would be stopped during the Primary series if he felt they weren't ready to go further. Whereas during this workshop, it seems like he's letting everyone practise the full Primary even if they're not ready. He's a lot more playful and humourous during the Primary practice, but a lot more serious with the Intermediate "cool kids".

He not only stops people often, but also says stuff like "this is why you must come to Mysore". Awww... *Bitch Slap!* (I'm joking, of course.) I think it's pretty funny he says that. It definitely makes me want to go to Mysore... which I suppose is partly why he does these tours. Rockstars sell more records when they go on tour, but Sharath gets more people back to the source when he goes on tour. :)

2. Bhujapindasana

(Photo credit here)

Following on from yesterday's obsession and all the lovely comments and advice in the comments section... I was thinking A LOT about this yesterday. To the point where I kept replaying "youtube chick"s video and visualizing me jumping straight into it like her (and Liz), rather than fussing with it from standing. I was so excited, post-dinner last night I tried it in the living room - bare hardwood floor, no mat. And thought of Liz saying "no chickening out". So I went for it.


Of course I knew it was a bad idea. I wasn't warmed up, I'd just eaten, and even something inside me said "Don't do it". But enthusiasm won over wisdom.

I landed straight on my bum, and now I've added a new fear to achieving this jump: it's not the elbows that are likely to break, but my wrists!! Fortunately, nothing broke, everything's still intact... but I think how I'll get to this jump now is through BABY STEPS.

My new thing with this now is jump feet forward and immediately from there hop up and cling thighs to arms. NO FUSSING. Just 2 steps: hop feet in front of hands, then hop thighs up. IT WORKED! So I'm hoping through this, I'll eventually build up the nerve to bring it from these 2 steps into 1 smooth jump. (Disclaimer: this is completely not an orthodox method, just my way of figuring this out)

What clicked for me was watching Liz's and "youtube chick"s (oh dear, I hope she never reads this, the term is not in the least meant to be disrespectful) hops... I always thought your thighs were supposed to be really high up your arms, but realize now they don't HAVE to be.

Bhuja's a pose that never really bothered me - from the get go, I'd found it pretty easy to get into the final asana so never really thought too hard about it (hope that doesn't sound arrogant. If it does, pls read about my Sirsasana struggles first before you judge me!) So it's kinda cool that I'm trying to take myself out of my comfort zone with this pose and see if I can take it to another level.

Also, I've got forehead on the floor now, I'm working my way to getting chin on floor. Today, I just got midway and squished my nose into the mat. Distance judgment FAIL.

3. Kukkutasana & Uthpluthi head position
Holy drishti! Very interesting adjustment from Sharath today. I was holding in Kukkutasana, looking down with drishti at my nose... he walks past, and gently puts a finger on my head and pushes back, tilting it back more. (I seem to have this problem - he's done this before with me in Upavishta last week, and again today verbally said "Head up" in Ubaya Padangusthasana)

Just because drishti's at the tip of your nose, I was always looking... well, DOWN, and I guess that meant my chin was tilted down too. (How was I supposed to know? Look at your nose - your nose is below your eyes, so I'd naturally tilt the head down!)

(Photo credit here)

So just a simple lift of the head (but still keeping eyes on the nose) made the pose feel kinda different. How different? I can't tell yet, but wait till I tell you about Uthpluthi.

So when we got to Uthpluthi, I got thinking: I wonder if I should try the same "chin up" head position? ...well, since Kukkutasana and Uthpluthi are almost kinda, sorta similar. Today, on an energetic level, Uthpluthi felt like a whole new different pose altogether for me.

Goodness knows why I kept looking down - maybe I was trying to engage jalandhara bandha. You see, this is when a little bit of knowledge is dangerous... I remember reading somewhere about how Guruji stopped people practising kapalabhati breathing in this pose coz many would get light-headed or not know how to control the kundalini energy generated in this, and somehow in some warped way I thought "I'd better engage jalandhara and keep the kundalini within". Oh dear. That sounds so daft now, but I'm glad I'm realizing better now. HAHA.

When I lifted the chin up (but still keeping nasagrai drishti), suddenly I felt an upward surge of energy. It wasn't like the pose became physically easier, but it FELT like I had a boost from under me shoot straight up. WOW. Pretty rad.

On average, I've held uthpluthi till between his 6th - 7th count (that's 8sec per count, sometimes much longer if he's being cheeky). Today I held till 7, and had to come down to rest for a bit before going back up again. So it's not like the pose became physically easier, but it became easier to concentrate on the hold itself than trying to shut out the monkey mind AND try to hold.

Interestingly, I was ultra mellow after today's Uthpluthi. Usually when it comes to the closing chant, I'm so out of breath and still panting that I can't even complete the first "Om" in the chant. Today, it was easy, breezy and felt exceptionally centred. WOW! WOW! WOW! What a difference just a simple tilt of the head makes.

After class, I asked Sharath where head position is in Uthpluthi, and he also confirmed - straight ahead. Drishti's at the nose, but head position is straight (that's chin up for me!)

I've talked too much today (I feel like I'm talking when I'm writing)... so I'll leave you now with a picture from the trenches... this is my huge-ass bruise from Garba Pindasana. It's about 2 days old now. I get them every now and again. When I first started getting arms through my lotus, the bruises started a lot higher nearer the shoulder. But now that I'm getting more of arms through, you can see it's come lower, nearer my elbow. (I dunno why this would be interesting, but it takes a yogadork to know one, and I would find this random picture interesting myself). :p


  1. LOL, I love the bruise photo. I remember when I first got those I was very concerned. I asked my teacher, "Is this at all normal?", showing her the "big ass bruise", and she laughed and said "yes, don't worry about it, completely normal". She added that the tissues toughen up after awhile. Reassuring, yet disturbing at the same time.

  2. Yeah, it's funny the "yoga injuries" you get. I don't mean "injury" in the serious sense, but y'know, the bruising and stuff. I used to get scratches all over my left wrist and would wonder what the heck those were from... um... they were my right toenails scratching past my left wrist during the jumpthroughs! POWER TOENAILS indeed. :p The GP bruises only ever happen on my right arm, and I've been sticking my arms through lotus for a year now. Maybe I'm just a sensitive flower. :)

  3. Huh? (about the bruises). Never seen that happen before!

  4. When I first started Ashtanga, I was doing some martial arts and wrestling (yeah, I'm rough), so I came to the practice bruised! I think I've bruised myself jumping into Bakasana when first learning it, but other than that... nothing like that Garba bruise! weird!

    Your approach to Bhuja is really smart. Hope I didn't suggest something a little too radical. ha! You'll get there.

    The chin up thing is so powerful, isn't it? My teacher really goes over that- reminding us that if we look down during certain poses, it literally drags the energy down. You're not the only one who thinks your head is back far enough and then you're told to look back even more! I get that... The more open I get across my chest and through my throat (sounds weird), the more comfortable I am with really getting it back there!

  5. I guess every body is different? I've got a torn ligament in my right knee as well, so maybe the way my leg sits in padmasana is slightly different from a regular leg? I dunno... or maybe I'm just trying too hard to squeeze my hands to my face!! HAHAHA. I'm able to tuck my head and have my arms wrap over my tucked head - hands reach my ponytail behind. But I can't seem to get my hands flat on my face or even touching my ears! So maybe I'm just trying to squeeze in too hard.

  6. Hi Skippetty

    Thanks for your posts. I'm also attending the workshop and I'm enjoying reading your impressions because I reckon they're most of the things that are rattling through all our heads.

    What I like the most from what Sharath says every day is "Don't Hurry". I I think you can apply this to the practice and daily life in general and it is an awesome reminder. I have been at it for 12 years and it takes time to understand postures, understand your body, understand your mind. At first I wanted to get poses right away - and I was constantly getting injured. Some postures have taken years to get, most of them I won't ever get. It really doesn't matter. I just keep practicing and even though I'm doing the same thing over and over and over again - every time is different, every time is a learning and every time I feel better for having done it.

    There's a great site for ashtangis that has the ins and outs and ups and downs on all aspects of practice. I don't know how active it is anymore but back in the day there was a lot of input and there is quite a bit of information and advice on various asanas. For bhuja you might want to have a look at this link as I recall the comments helped me quite a bit:

    Thanks for taking the time to post. I'll try to find you these next couple days- I asked someone if they were you today but they looked at me like I was a crazy lady ;)



  7. Need to catch up on your last couple of posts, looking forward to that.
    re Sharath. i guess i want to know if he thinks that dropping back is essential for progressing to intermediate or preferable or if it's up to the teacher to decide.
    I'm also interested in how he talks about the river that flows through Bramcharya through Krishnamacharya and Jois. there have been changes and reintepretation in the practice, within the last thirty years even since it's encounter with the west, but what does he think remains essentially the same. What is the essence of this practice.

    be interested in hearing what he has to say if anyone asks anything like that.

  8. Hi Skippetty - thanks for sharing all of this, keep it up! It has been fun checking each day...I also get the little Garba P bruises and have Power Toenails! I'm working on Bhuji too, that hop is scary (I can't do it either) but your idea of hop feet in front, then up never even occured to me. Seems like a good place to start, going to try it out :-)

  9. Hey Sue, I'm usually somewhere near the front. Look for:
    (a) the Chinese girl in a ponytail
    (b) the electric blue water spray next to my black mat
    Haha, this is so funny, like looking for the blind date without the flower in the pocket. Come say Hi!

    Hey Grimmly, sorry that your comment came in after the conference ended already... but see today's post on Conference #2 notes. It might answer your question on the dropbacks? Re: reinterpretation of the practice... interestingly, going back a generation, there have been many other great teachers that came through Krishnamacharya and all are teaching different variations of the physical asanas. Iyengar, Jois, Whitwell, his own son Desikachar... so don't even talk about reinterpretation within the Ashtanga system, what about reinterpretation through Krishnamacharya's lineage? I don't think there's a "right" or "wrong"... more like what does it mean TO YOU? Afterall, Sharath says the aim of yoga is to attain higher consciousness... we learn to control the mind through first controlling the body. BUT... not to get into the whole "Sharath Says" business, I personally feel it needs to be ultimately about what it means to YOU as the individual. *can of worms open*

    Hey KMB! Glad you're getting something from my internal rants. Hehe. Writing all this stuff down actually helps with my internal process, so if anyone else gains from it too - BONUS! :)

  10. The Bhuja Faceplant? Been there, done that and OUCHIE. I still can't get my chin to the floor.

    Garba Pindasana always seems to get me on the left medial epicondyle. And for some reason, when I'm dressed for ice hockey, my left elbow guard always bumps that sore spot, so it's a double whammy.

    I'm loving your reports from the workshop. Makes me wish I had the time and money to do it while he was here recently. Next time. Or maybe Mysore.

    Have fun watching Intermediate!

  11. Ouch Kai! I had to look up where the medial epicondyle is. Sounds like it hurts! (worse than the funny bone)

    I wasn't sure if I could hack it out for the full 2 weeks but forced myself to commit to it or I'd just waffle through a week and be done with it (but I'm just a waffler like that). I'm glad I did it, feels like a mini personal triumph! And if I hadn't blogged about it, I probably wouldn't have gotten as much out of it either coz writing about it has made me think about it a little harder. Glad you don't find it self-indulgent. :p


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