Friday, July 10, 2009

137/190 - Breakthroughs

8:15 pm with Amy

My flexibility was off the charts, at least for me. And it was like that basically from beginning to end.

Half Moon -- I was down below 45 degrees with my arms, almost down to 30 degrees above horizontal. The form was right on, the stretch was along the outside curve and under my shoulderblades, right where it should be. This was a good start, but I had no idea what was coming.

Backbend -- I don't know how far down I went. When I came up, I didn't know what planet I was on. Amy was laughing at me, and said that's the way she feels sometimes when she can see the floor. After class she said she thought I was looking at the floor, I was bending that far back. My neck still doesn't bend that well, so I was still only seeing the ballet bar (I think). But my elbows were solidly locked, and my knees were as well, and this is by far the furthest I've gone with proper form.

First Forward Bend -- I could have locked my knees if I wasn't a bit afraid of hurting myself. My chest was really pressed on the thighs. Again, I felt like this was farther than I've gone before but I've got no way of proving it.

Standing Bow -- I made two parts without falling out at all. I hit another new high on the right side. The right side of this pose has been coming along for me. Better, I hit a dramatic new high on the left side, with my ankle over my head. On both sides, I could feel a really deep stretch in my shoulders. So, here I had breakthroughs both in stamina and in depth.

Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee -- This is the one I can really objectively measure. In all four parts, I went into the pose with my front leg locked. I kept it locked throughout, with my forehead easily on the knee, and even creeping up higher. I went in and out absolutely straight, with arms locked. I kept palms together and forward throughout. Here, it was not only a breakthrough, but for today at least, I was at the full expression of this pose. Amazing stuff.

The floor series didn't have the same shocking results, until the end. Fixed Firm was basically gone because of my right knee. Half Tortoise was so-so. Then Camel was great, very strong and with a really great feeling of compression. Cobra was also very solid. And then:

Rabbit -- My forehead usually comes down to touch my knees. Today I tucked more, and it came almost to four inches above my knees on my thighs. When I rolled forward, it was like the back of my head was on the ground. I frankly didn't know what to do with my spine bent so much. After class I asked Amy and she said she didn't know for sure, but would find out. Until she does, if I find myself with that kind of flexibility again, I should ease off.

So that's like a half dozen breakthroughs in a single class. Go figure. Is it the challenge? Is it the full moon? Is it my lack of sleep and some relaxation that goes with being generally tired? Or maybe, its going back to the evening class for the first time in a while?

The day 189 meditation is about contentedness on the mat. Today is probably a bad day for me to focus on this. When the practice is treating you to breakthrough after breakthrough, its pretty easy to be content. I'll say this much, however. These breakthroughs didn't come because I pushed for them. Rather, they came with almost utter ease. And for this day, at least, I was not at war with myself in any way at all. That's what Gates says lies at the heart of being content on the mat.

Before, I've sometimes fallen out of poses when I've made astonishing advances. I got to a certain point, and I start thinking to myself "Holy shit, I can't believe I'm doing this." And then I'm not. Today, there was none of that during the poses themselves, even in Standing Bow. Instead, the moments of utter astonishment came after I had done the poses, not during them. During the poses, for whatever reason, I was just staying with the poses and with my breath. And so, maybe today is a good day to bring up contentedness after all.


thedancingj said...

Damn, that is one awesome class! Congratulations to you!! :)

You've got one up on me in the standing separate leg forehead to knee, by the way... I STILL usually have my leg bent, at least on the first side, and there is no way that my forehead is going higher than my knee. That is quite AWESOME for you!

For rabbit, I might be able to answer your question (though you should check and see if Amy comes up with the same answer as me)! You do not want the back of your head on the ground, even though you WILL see this done sometimes at championships, even from VERY high level competitors. That is a lot of pressure on your cervical spine. The correction that I was given once, when I started going in that direction, was to move back to having the top of my head on the floor and look for more of a stretch in the lower and middle back. The ideal expression is EVEN rounding in the total spine. You know how in backbends it's easy to do the whole backbend in the lumbar spine (like my picture - arrrgh) and miss out on the middle and upper regions. In forward bends it's opposite - easy to bend cervical, harder to bend the rest - but I bet it's the same concept.

But ANYWAY, all nitpicking aside, it sounds like you are doing AMAZING and you certainly deserve to be very content. :)

Bosco said...

Whoa! Whoa!!

You are doing things that I simply do not think are possible for me. 45 degrees; seeing the back wall; knees locked. No way!

If there was a time that you thought none of these things were possible, that gives me some hope for the future.

Nice work, you should be pretty damned content about all that. I hope it will stick.

Duffy Pratt said...

Thanks for the advice on Rabbit. If this improvement sticks, I will follow it. I almost never feel anything in my cervical spine in that pose. Its mostly way down near my tailbone, and sometimes in the middle back.

I've always thought my half moon was pretty good for a guy, but it's taken some big steps recently, mostly in form. When I started the backbend was pathetic and I would have said what I am doing now is impossible. And as for the knees locking in the first forward bend, when I started I couldn't grab my heels with my hands no matter how much I bent my knees. So yeah, that one was basically impossible too.

thedancingj said...

Love love love it... such great progress. I always wish that people had before and after photos to prove how far they've come, but no one wants to take those "before" photos cause they have NO idea what is in store for them!! "Just think of it..."

Duffy Pratt said...

That's an interesting business idea. A studio could offer a photo session for a little extra at the start and end of one of the unlimited packages, or the start and end of a challenge. You would need a decent photographer with some understanding of yoga, but I bet almost every studio has a professional photographer, or a really good amateur, among the ranks.

Anonymous said...

Duffy-- "seeing the ballet bar"!!?? ankle over you head in standing bow? head touchingthe knee? etc etc. Exciting stuff! Sounds like you had an amazing class. I really enjoy reading your blog. There is a perspective and enthusiasm that reminds me of myself at the onset of my practice. I had to learn to love the yoga room. I know that you have been making so much progess, that and the changes in body are most certainly incentives to keep going. I KNOW YOU GET THIS ON SO MANY LEVELS, you are truly practicing YOGA.
keep up your prctice and enjoy "the little hot room on 59. we have a good life here."