Archive for the ‘Self Practice’ Category

um, yeah right.

But seriously, I will. And if Julie can make it back, so can I.

I’m not going into all that happened in the past 6 months, just believe me when I say that we’ve been busy. Busy, happy, and well.

Well, maybe I’ll add just a little. Ash got his first pumpkin on Halloween.

He was dressed as a penguin, and seemed pretty happy to be one. See for yourself:

He learned to crawl, he began pulling himself up on things, he “creeps” but isn’t walking on his own yet.
He said his first words, “Mama” and “Hi.” He’s added a few others since then.

We picked out our first Christmas tree.

We threw Ash his first birthday party, a week early. He ate his first cupcake.

Ash’s first cupcake from Jenna Cox Congdon on Vimeo.

I go back and forth about whether I should do all my blogging here, or start a new blog over there, and I think I’ll just keep it all here. There’s just too much history to leave it all behind. And I fear that starting a “non-yoga-blog” will allow me to slip even farther away from my yoga practice… In some strange way.

So now that I’ve mentioned it, the almost-non-existent-yoga practice, the elephant in the room, at least for me, I guess I’ll muse about it just a bit. Now that my yoga studio is a baby’s room and the rest of my house is littered with baby toys, laundry, and other evidence of the life that I just can’t shut out no matter how hard I breathe or how focused my driste is, I have a tough time making it on to my mat. I’m squeezing in about one practice a week, and most of those are not Ashtanga, they’re just quick little vinyasa practices or focused yoga “workouts”. In between all those, I’ve begun running again. It’s an exercise I can do with my son, thanks to the Bob Stroller a friend gave to us. I’m enjoying it, for now, but I’m committed to someday making it back to a daily Ashtanga practice…

I know that it will have to be an early morning practice, something that used to be so easy but now seems completely out of reach. 5:00 am. Ouch.

But for now, baby steps. Today, sun sals, standing, finishing. By January 1st, I hope to phase into full-primary 3 days/week.

And have I mentioned how much I hate backbending? Can you believe I just said that? Me? The one who would come over to your house, have a glass of wine, and end up somehow in Vrischikrasana or Kapotasana “just for kicks”? It’s true. I can now relate in some small way to Julie and Lauren and I can tell you that surgery changes everything. Yes, that’s me up there in that photo in Kapotasana. Before the C-Section. Now? I can barely scrape my toes with my middle finger in that pose. Ankle grabbing, something that I’ve been able to do since the day I was given the pose, is worlds away, in any pose whether it’s Kapotasana or Urdvha Dhanurasana. Every backbend feels like my midsection is going to split open. Not only that, but my sacrum is set differently somehow after the pregnancy. So there’s that too. The days of busting out exhilarating ankle-grabs and shin-grabs and relishing every moment of drop-backs are gone. Even just a simple Urdvha Dhanurasana is an exercise of panic-control. I expected to feel different after child-carrying and birth, but I figured it would be in my hips. No big difference there, except for some mild shortening of my IT bands due to the running.

I look back on the days of my daily self-practice with wonder. Who was that person? How did I do that? Can I ever get back to that place? And while part of me beats myself up over wandering so far from that place, another part of me accepts it, relishes the fact that I’m able to let go of it all in order to enjoy the other facets of my life that I feel deserve my focus so much more right now. And maybe that’s part of it. I tend to be a little single minded and obsessive about things, as you all know. So my current obsession is… being a mom? Hope that one’s not a passing phase… 🙂

Other than all that, I don’t have much to say. I’m out of practice, in more ways than one. But I have a good excuse. And speaking of my good excuse, I have to go wrap his Christmas presents now…


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Back to the mat yesterday for full primary…

I’m sort of curious how other ashtangi mothers handled their transition back into practice post-partum? I don’t feel strong enough to take on my full practice through my second series poses, but pre-pregnancy, my instructor had me splitting at Navasana on those days when I felt too tired or rushed to fit in my whole practice. Or I could just keep on with primary, and add on my second series poses as I feel ready… Thoughts? Please share!

My body composition has definitely changed from what it was before my pregnancy. Since the water weight disappeared, I’m more willowy, I guess. The waist is a good inch smaller than it was before. Less muscle mass. A little skinnier, but softer too. Maybe because of this, my shoulders are a lot more open. Wrist binds (which were once a bit of a struggle) are now effortless, even in pasasana.

This is not at all what I was expecting post-pregnancy, but it certainly is a nice surprise.

Of course, I’m a lot weaker now as a result of this loss of muscle mass. I don’t really mind, but the “party trick” transitions are practically impossible now.

I dread twists that compress my breasts. Unless I’ve just pumped, that is.

Yesterday I stood up from a backbend for the first time in probably 6 months? Scary. I took a step or two back on the first one to regain my balance. Dropbacks were scary, too. Less effortless, less comfortable, less “hang time.” But it was a thrill. I skipped my ticktocks, but held a handstand for 6 breaths. The bandhas are slowly coming back. In fact, Uddiyana feels tighter, more pronounced. Again, maybe because of the lack of muscle mass?

Time on the mat is a little more sacred. It’s a rarity these days, and yesterday I felt like it was the only thing I had that was purely “mine,” not shared with my husband or my child.

Oh and as a side note, Tay has started practicing yoga fairly regularly. He uses podcasts from yogadownload.com on my iTunes and probably uses my mat more than I do these days. Just as I told him it would so many times before, he says it really helps his hands and wrists (carpal tunnel syndrome). I don’t say “I told you so” out loud though. I’m just happy he found his own way there.


On the baby front, Ash has his frenulectomy today. Hopefully it helps with the breastfeeding. He is SUCH a slow eater. He’s started smiling here and there, and a few days ago he actually laughed. He’s over 11 pounds now, out of all of his newborn clothes and almost into some of his 3 month clothes. He’s quite a little chunk.

Sometimes he cries for an hour or two without reason. Tay and I take turns holding him, bouncing him, rocking him. Usually the moby and gripe water trick works, but sometimes it takes a while. I eat my dinner standing up at the bar, shifting from one foot to the other. Of course, these trying times are totally forgotten the next morning when he smiles and coos as he jumps up and down on my lap (with my assistance, of course).

I was getting my hopes up for that magical 3 month time, when a baby’s personality starts to shine and the smiles are more social, and when the fussing starts diminishing a bit… but then I remembered that we have a bit longer to wait with a preemie. He’s 11 weeks, but his “adjusted age” is just 6 weeks.

Even so, he’s definitely a little character.

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I know, it’s a little early to think about names… but talk about a big decision! I mean, just consider how much a name can determine for a child. After all, Tay was almost named “Mountain.” I’m not sure I could have fallen in love with a man named Mountain.

We’ve got our girl options pegged and narrowed down to two choices, but boys’ names? Drawing a complete and total blank. And when one of us does think of a possibility, we can’t seem to agree on anything. I think part of the problem is that our last name ends in “-don”, and so many boys names end the same way… I love Shannon for a boy, but there’s that pesky “on” ending. Oh and alliteration. I’m not a big fan, so while I love names that start with C and K (Cameron, Kyle, Cory, Carson), our name starts with C so those are out as well. And then the other problem is that Tay apparently knows too many guys, because every time I come up with something, he says “no, that reminds me of so-and-so.”

I’ve been quilting like crazy, something about the precise measurement, cutting, and piecing together all of these beautiful fabrics really appeals to me. After trawling through fabric stores throughout San Luis Obispo County, San Francisco, and Scotts Valley, I finally came up with my final combination. And now that all of my blocks are pieced and I can see how it will come together, I’m so excited I can hardly wait to finish. I’m a little stuck now on some tricky measurements, but luckily I have quilting class tonight to get me back on track!

I’ve already started to gather fabrics for the next quilt. I bought two different sets of fabrics, one with primarily blues and greens and one with pinks, browns, and golden yellows. So before I complete my fabric selection, I’m waiting til the end of the month so I can know what I’m having. So exciting! It would be rather convenient to have a girl, as then I could use my “boy” fabrics to make a quilt for good friend A’s son… Ah yes. This is just like me to base my gender preferences on current fabric selection process.

The belly is starting to show, although I’m still in that realm of “pregnant or bloated.” This weekend we floated up the Salinas river (it flows north) with a bunch of folks, and I felt extremely self conscious in a bikini at first, until Tay pointed out that almost all the other women had larger bellies than I did… and they weren’t 4 months pregnant. Oops. I took a prenatal yoga class last night and one of the girls was just 2 weeks ahead of me. I couldn’t help but be envious of her buddha belly. Again, I’m faced with my impatience!

I was quite surprised that I actually enjoyed the prenatal class. I knew it would be much gentler than my normal ashtanga practice, and I also know that the instructor is very… cerebral… and shares a great deal of her knowledge during her classes. In the past, when I’ve taken vinyasa classes from her, I’ve had difficulty dropping in to my breath because of this, but yesterday was different. The instant camaraderie with the small group of women was nice, and the modified practice felt really good. I know I’ll continue with my ashtanga self-practice, but I’ll definitely do the prenatal thing once a week.

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I wrote this a few days ago, but pressed the wrong button and didn’t publish it… Oopsie!

Fact of the day:
I’m moving all over the place now, but you may not feel me yet because I’m so small.

Right you are, little one. I still haven’t felt any movement down there although within the past two days, the belly has gone past the point of “slightly bloated” and moved into the realm of “preggers.” I’m hoping my recent online maternity order arrives soon.

One of my friends told me yesterday that I carry myself differently now, and that it was really sweet to see. She couldn’t elaborate much on that, but I suppose I could speculate that I may seem a little more serene or pensive.

After I finished writing yesterday, I practiced. I was tired of my own excuses. It was a brief practice, but it felt good to breathe and escape my thoughts for a while. I skipped the balancing standing poses and just practiced up to baddha konasana. Backbends and dropbacks have been feeling quite strange lately, as if there isn’t enough skin around my abdomen to allow the bend to take place. I don’t bother walking my hands in towards my ankles as that seems way out of my realm right now.

A word on modifications… I’ve been stepping back instead of jumping back, and I’m not as diligent about my jump-throughs, I just make sure I land softly. I leave my legs slightly apart in forward folds, and I don’t stretch 100% in any of the poses anymore. In Parivrittta Parsvakonasana, I rest my left hand on my right knee, and reach my right arm back to grab my left thigh. In Marichiasana C and D, I bind the same way as in A and B, and then twist to the opposite direction, as it feels incredibly uncomfortable to shove my knee into my belly when I attempt the correct pose. In Pasasana, I squat with my legs wider, and wrap around one knee, as per another pegnant ashtangi’s advice. I skip Shalabasana A through Parsva Dhanurasana. And I no longer reach ankles in Kapotasana. I don’t even try. I’m happy to grab the toes, and attempt to find some grace and softness in the pose and in my breath. And I feel that belly stretching.

I’ve been skipping Supta Vajrasana, but what’s new… I rarely attempt that pose at home anymore. I haven’t attempted Bakasana B in quite a long time, it just seems out of reach. Maybe I’ll try it one of these days, but I’ve just been repeating Bakasana A instead. I don’t have a problem with Bharadvajrasana, but haven’t quite figured out what to do about Ardha Matsyendrasana. Right now I just don’t twist very far into the pose or I just skip it when I’m feeling tender.

When I’m very tired, I skip a few vinyasas between sides.

If anyone else has any suggestions or experiences, please share! I found along the way that there are so many differing opinions on what is appropriate and what is not that I ended up forging my own way with my own levels of comfort.

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Every morning I’m learning something new about my body. I’m learning something new about each of these dozens of poses I’ve practiced for years and years. Small changes in approach, internal shifts and small movements to minimize pain.

I’ve never been that much of a stickler on alignment. Well, of course I’m all about injury prevention, but when (for example) my instructor said to bring my chin to my shin in Krounchasana, I never questioned whether or not my spine was perfectly straight or if I was sinking down into my sacrum rather than lifting up out of it. And now I must. So the chin is often inches from the shin and the pose is incomplete, but the spine is straight and the breath is soft (not ragged with pain), and so it feels good.

Same in Janu Sirsasana, Paschimottanasana, pretty much every forward bend. If my lower back is overly curved, there is pain. Pull the chest forward, pull out of the low back and sacrum, strong uddiyana bandha = soft breath, no pain.

And in backbends, I can no longer depend on the ease and flexibility of my lower back and just hang out and love every breath. Instead, I have to focus. Internally rotate thighs, release glutes, press into shoulders, engage front body, oh! Here we go again! Release glutes!! Engage front body!! Press into shoulders!! INTERNALLY ROTATE THIGHS!!!

Because if I don’t, it hurts.

Similarly, I can no longer hang out in my dropbacks. I used to languish in that long, slow descent. No longer. It’s become all about bending the legs and getting the hands to the floor without jamming the sacrum.

This is exciting. Sure, it’s not necessarily what everyone wants for themselves… injury is never fun. But each morning is an opportunity to learn something new to help me out of pain.

I leave for Portland tomorrow. I’ve mapped out and scheduled my shala visits for the following four days. And I’m extremely excited about that, too.

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Practice is easier these days. Not that it feels effortless or anything like that… far from it. It’s just easier to get on my mat and commit the time and energy to myself and my yoga practice. At first I wasn’t sure what was different, why it had suddenly jumped itself up to the top of the priority list, but I think I’ve figured it out.

There are people around me who want or who have a yoga practice.

These people have come out of the woodworks of late, but within a week, five people had expressed interest in yoga… I went from 6 months of complete solitude and isolation to this: two practices with friends this week, and two personal yoga instruction sessions. Hoo-Ray.

I had no idea how lonely I felt in my practice since we moved until just recently.

One of the studios back in our old town opens up under new ownership this week.  AW mentioned something to me about an ashtanga class, so I checked out the schedule. And lo and behold, an old practice friend is teaching Led Primary Series on Sundays. Some one else picked up the torch I once so reluctantly carried. I definitely plan to support this class when I can. In fact, as soon as I hit publish I’m sending an email out to all my former students to let them know that Ashtanga is back in SLO.

Hoo-Ray once more.

Still dealing with the hip instability. On an entirely conscious level, I’ve been avoiding my next visit to the shala in Santa Barbara. Dreading it. I tell Tay that I just don’t have time, but the truth is… I’m afraid of Eka Pada Sirsasana, the next pose, and what it might do to the sacrum. Would it reset things? Or would it completely shred the remaining threads of neutrality I so desperately cling to? Will it be a doorway to more pain? Or a pathway back to pleasure?

I guess there’s only one way to find out… Lucky for me, I don’t see a possible SB Sunday for another few weeks. I can stay here in my semi-comfortable place for a little while longer.

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Some yoga this week. Slowly returning to my practice, although I haven’t ventured past primary series for some time. Just those poses alone are a journey these days… the result of too many lazy mornings containing nothing physical beyond trudging to the coffee maker and pressing the ON button. And then continuing on with my day sans yoga.
Oh well, at least I’m getting back to it. None of my little motivational tools are really helping. The google calendar alerts on my cell phone at 6 a.m. are often completely ignored. The yoga clothes I set out every night before bed can easily be put away the next morning in favor of work clothes without so much as a second thought. Even the self-berating seems to get me nowhere. The only tool that works these days is to just suck it up, stop with the excuses, and practice.

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