I thought I went in hydrated, but I must have been mistaken. I had a smoothie a couple of hours before class, so I should have had enough energy. Sometimes its hard to put my finger on exactly what went wrong, or maybe nothing did and this advanced series is just much harder than I thought. But today, it really kicked my butt. I was down in Savansana for about the last 15 minutes. I had trouble with breath control throughout. I tried to give it my best, and for today at least, I think I really gave it my all.
But its also possible that I'm just not ready for this. I took steps to protect my left knee, and that doesn't seem to be a problem. In many of the poses, I feel sort of foolish, because I am so far away from anything that might resemble the pose. The main trouble seems to be in my shoulders, which simply will not open up enough to get into many of the poses. The other difficulty, at least today, was stamina. That part I know I can improve. But even so, I may not be ready for this yet. On that, I will defer to Libby. If she says I should keep it up, I will.
Now back to our regularly scheduled programming. In my progress review, I was up to the balancing series.
5. Standing Head to Knee: When I started, I could barely grab my foot on either side, especially on the left side, and my thumbs would not go under the foot, I sort of cupped it in my fingertips. Then I would hold it for as long as I could, sometimes as long as 5 - 7 seconds, before I would fall out and start over. Now, I can hold my foot in the first part typically for as long as 40 seconds and have even made it for a full minute on each leg. I can kick out my lifted leg and hold it for some time. My record is for the full second set on each side. My right lifted leg gets fairly close to locking the knee. The left leg is still a ways off.
6. Standing Bow Pulling: I couldn't get into the set up on either side, mostly because of tightness in my shoulders. On the right side, that would mean not being able to balance with my knees together. On the left side, I basically couldn't consistently grab my ankle -- it was a hit or miss thing at best. When I did try to charge my body forward and kick back, my knee would fly out to the side in a sort of bizarre version of the funky chicken. Then I would fall out to the side. Now, I don't have any problem with the set-up. I can charge forward, and typically get to the point where I can see my lifted foot over my head. When I fall out, I generally fall forward, which is good. And I have held the pose with a locked knee, and without falling out, for almost the full minute on each side. I still have a long, long way to go before I do a standing split, but there is hope, and I feel like I'm making progress on it.
7. Balancing Stick: I was taking too big a step forward when I started. It messed up my balance. My standing leg didn't lock, my elbows bent, I looked down in the wrong direction, and my lifted leg didn't come up very far. Just in the last few classes, I've started taking a smaller step forward to get into this, and its making a world of difference. I now am concentrating on keeping the standing leg locked. I'm getting much closer to forming a T, but I still don't feel like I stretch as much forward and back as the pose demands.
Now the Separate Leg Series.
8. Separate Leg Stretching: When folded forward, I could barely reach my big toes to pull back on. My guess is that my head was somewhere around 1.5 to 2 feet off the ground. Now, I can almost get my hands under my heels. Sometimes I am there, but it depends mostly on how wide a stance I take. It feels like my head is only a few inches off the floor, but realistically, its probably somewhere between 6-9 inches. I roll forward and keep my knees locked, but the progress in this pose, since the challenge, has been pretty slow.
9. Triangle: To be truthful, I didn't do much triangle to start with. I would try to do one of the two sets, but it was just as likely that I would be too exhausted. When I did try, my stance would start too tall, and then I didn't have the leg strength to hold the stance and my legs would start to slide apart into more of a split. This made the pose even more exhausting. And I doubt there was anything very triangular about what I was doing. Now, my stance is much lower, but it could still use some work. My arms are pretty good, but I could probably work more on twisting the torso and stretching up with one arm and down with the other. But, if I'm not too tired, this pose is in pretty good shape.
10. Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee: When I started, my belly was the enemy of this pose. I basically couldn't get my head on my knee because the belly was in the way. And when I tried, everything got so cramped up that I found it almost impossible to breathe. I hated this pose. Gradually, its become one of my favorites. I can either push to try to lock the knee, in which case I tend to lose my balance and have to bring my hands apart. Or I can concentrate on locking my elbows, staying in prayer, and keeping my forehead high on the knee. Once, on the right side, I actually got everything together -- compression in the rounded spine, balance with hands in prayer, and a fully locked knee. It's much harder to lock the knee on the left side. But this pose is coming along.
And to finish the standing series:
11. Tree: I haven't had any problem ever getting my foot high on my costume, or in getting one hand to prayer position. The question is balance, and that's a day to day thing. For a while, my right foot hurt so much that I pretty much could not balance on it, but I've worked through that. Today, I had a breakthrough. In advanced series, Libby says there's no nonsense about gradually coming into prayer. Instead, she said to put pressure on your foot actively to hold it in place and just go into prayer, forcing your foot not to slip. And it worked! I stayed in prayer, with my foot reasonably high, on both sides. Now I need to work on getting that same tension with my foot even higher.
12. Toe Stand: Of course, to begin with, this pose is just a pipe dream. I first tried it somewhere around my third or fourth class. I had to reach my arms out about 4 feet in front of me, and was amazed that my leg didn't break when I went down. I don't remember if I got up using my leg and hands, or if I just rolled out of it. The last few days, I've been able to get one hand up into prayer position and hold it there for about 10 seconds. I haven't gotten close yet to feeling anything like balance on the one foot. One day...