Tuesday, November 10, 2009

206/313 - Married to your Breath

Sunday Off
Monday 6:30 pm with Connease

Often I will go into the room 5-10 minutes early. This lets me do some of the pranayama exercises Gates recommends, and also lets me get acclimated. And that's what I intended yesterday. I lay down on my mat and settled into some deep breathing. I still wasn't feeling all that well, and wasn't at all sure how I would respond to class, so the acclimatization seemed even more important.

I woke up as Connease was just starting Pranayama. I had fallen utterly asleep, and came awake with the kind of start that I remember from school days, where the head starts to drop and then BAM -- awake again, and startled all at once. The jolt basically killed the gradual relaxation I was looking for. And then, I had to consider whether I would rather take the class or simply go back to sleep on my mat.

Class was hot and hard for me. I skipped a set of Triangle, and still felt like I had nothing left by the end of standing series. Floor series was one of those classes where I alternatively felt totally exhausted, and then felt like a bit of a slacker. In short, there was very little balance or ease in the class. I had a good set of Standing Bow, and did nicely in Standing Seperate Leg Head to Knee. Otherwise, I simply felt off, and I think that all stemmed from still being a bit sick.

The remarkable thing is that after class I felt really good. No traces of sickness, lots of energy, no pain in either of my knees. So, even though the class pretty much sucked, it also turned out to be exactly what I needed.

Speaking of my knees, I have a new theory. I recently noticed that my knees are not quite as bow legged as they used to be in the resting pose. And my elbows get a bit closer together behind my legs in the first forward bend. I think my legs may be getting straighter, and that's what's causing the shifting pains in my knees, from one knee to the other, back and forth. When I first started, I had fairly constant pains in my feet, even though my plantar fascia-tis went away very quickly. These pains were definitely the result of my feet getting better and stronger. Now, I think the same sort of thing is happening in my knees, and this makes me think there is nothing seriously wrong with them.

I love the day 279 meditation. Gates says that when we start asana practice we take marriage vows to our breath. But its a strange marriage, because the fighting comes first, and then we get the honeymoon. In my experience, the relationship is even stranger than that. In some poses, breathing is quite easy and natural from the start. In others, with some understanding of the pose, its pretty easy to develop an easy breathing rhythm, at least most of the time. For me, poses like Triangle, Awkward, and Half Moon fall into this category.

Then there are the poses where it's just hard to figure out how to breathe. For me, this includes Rabbit, Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee, the first backbend, and Locust. I'd love to get to the point where I could even call on my breath to help me out in these poses, but more often than not, breath simply eludes me in these poses -- especially Rabbit and Locust.

Amy has always told us, breath first, then form, then depth. Gates reminds us here that we may often need to remind ourselves to return to a relaxed, regular breath. And makes me think again how brilliant the floor series is for adding the savasanas between poses. Each one of these is a call to bring your breathing under control. To make it natural and flowing. To slow down.


thedancingj said...

Hehe - good analogy! Sounds like Bikram. "Indian marriage, no choice, very quick." In other words, two systems are brought together whether they like it or NOT, and then they are forced to cooperate and eventually become happy! Makes sense for the breath and body. Happens in other things, too - heart and lungs in triangle come to mind. Though honestly, I've been doing this yoga for years now and that concept has JUST started to make physical sense to me. Hmm. Very sneaky, Bikram...

Duffy Pratt said...

I've wondered a few times about Triangle being a "perfect marriage of heart and lungs." The opening up in Triangle makes it very easy to breath in the pose. But it also requires a ton of work for the heart. I tend to notice how hard I'm working in Triangle only after the pose is over, or during the setup, but not in the pose itself. And I've thought that that is what he may have in mind.

bikramyogachick said...

hmm. Now you've got me thinking about breathing. I have always struggled with doing the 80/20 breathing properly. I think I'm doing more like 20/80. :)

thedancingj said...

Duffy, that sounds exactly right! You must be ahead of the learning curve. ;-) The "new" thing for me is that lately, when I'm stretching my arms apart, I can feel my ribcage literally getting wider, so it really FEELS like the lungs are opening up while the heart is working harder. It's the same thing I feel in half moon when I "open up the chest like a flower petal blooming."

Michelle - hee! Some of them ARE kind of 20/80! That's the "exhale breathing," right? The forward compressions are like that. But ya know... when in doubt, just breathe how you can and don't worry about it. Usually the posture will end up telling you what you need to do.

Duffy Pratt said...

I just did a google search on 80/20 breathing and the only things I come up with are Bikram sites. That doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with the 80/20 technique, but it does suggest that its not something that other styles do (or at least not by that name). I tend to agree with J on this one, the 80/20 technique can help in some poses, but for the most part the goal is simply to breath as normally as possible.

Thanks for the comment about the connection between opening up in Triangle and in Half Moon. I don't have any trouble with identifying the feeling in Triangle. So maybe I can take that knowledge and use it to improve my Half Moon. It's amazing how connected all sorts of different poses are, and how you can use something you learn in one pose to help with another.