Monday, December 22, 2003

Sheepishly, I must admit to a total yoga-nerd weekend. On Saturday night, a friend and I crashed at another friend’s house up in Orange County. That night, we ate Indian food and rented a movie. Very, very low-key.

It was really fun to hang out with two people I’ve met through yoga — there was none of the displacement I usually feel when I’m out with friends. I really felt a sense of belonging.

It’s hard to come to grips with the fact that ultimately I’m not as interested in partying and socializing as I used to be. What part of that comes from my practice, and what comes from a natural hermetic tendency? It’s all too easy to shutter the windows, bar the door, and stay in for the night — every night.

On Sunday, we rose at 6. I was up a little earlier, because I was sleeping on the couch. The couch was shorter than I was, so it had been a fitful night, accompanied by a feeling of being perpetually short-sheeted. I showered. Someone made a coffee run, so I fueled up on espresso. We all climbed into the car and headed for LA. Tim’s been gone for a few weeks, so we opted to practice at Noah Williams’ and Kim Flynn’s studio in Silverlake, LA.

We arrived at quarter to 8. The space is tucked upstairs in a strip mall. There’s no sign, either on the door or the main sign out front. The room is small, and maybe holds 20 or 25 people. It’s a great place to practice. The room has hardwood floors and a very efficient central heating system. The walls are yellow-orange; one side has two large prints of Guruji, and another has a small altar with a photo of Vishnu and a statue of Hanuman.

Noah was in savasana when we arrived, and Kim was finishing her practice, so I didn’t get to talk to them. They knew one of my friends from Mysore, and I’m sure Noah would recognize me from Tim’s; he and Kim had just been down to Encinitas over Thanksgiving. From what I gather, they don’t generally take drop-ins, but I figured it would be okay to just start practicing.

I knew from the first forward bend that it was going to be a spectacular practice. My nauli was incredible — when it really works, it’s like an airtight vacuum-seal and everything I’ve ever read about prana and apana suddenly makes absolute sense. I felt incredibly open, and was vibrating from the combination of caffeine and intent. After all, we’d woken at 6 and driven over an hour just to be here.

So my practice was incredible. Noah’s and Kim’s is traditional ashtanga, so none of us practiced Tim’s little embellishments, i.e. hanumanasana and samakonasana after prasarita paddhatonasana, or vrksasana between navasanas. I was feeling rather energetic, though, and after the fifth navasana I pushed up and through into vrksasana — it felt like I was light as a feather, and a string pulled me up. That’s never happened before.

I also got the best single adjustment in supta kurmasana I’ve ever received. I was face-down on the floor, and Noah came over and pulled my legs together like he was tying a giant knot. It was a very firm adjustment, the most firm I’ve ever gotten. For some reason, I have to move very deeply into that pose to actually work into it. Noah just has a strong touch. It was incredible.

Back bends were exceptional, too. For the final backbend, Noah weighted down into the tops of my knees/thighs, and said, “Don’t lift your head until you’ve stood up.” I rocked back and forth three times, and on the third time curled upright. I believe “Wow, thanks” was all I could say.

After practice, we all compared notes — apparently, everyone had received fantastic adjustments in supta kurmasana. The two ladies I was with, who are practicing second series, had each had some intense help with kapotasana from Kim.

She had not let them put their heads onto the floor. “Once your head touches, that’s it,” I heard her say. So the girls would lean back, drop their hands to floor, and grab their feet without putting their heads on the floor.

At this point, Kim would grab the girls’ hands and put them on their heels. This was accompanied by a panicked gasp or groan from each. It sounded very intense. But each grabbed their heels and put their heads on the soles of their feet. Wow.

One of my friends says that kapotasana is one of the most intense poses in yoga because it reduces you to a state of total and absolute vulnerability; you become vulnerable in a way that every strand of DNA in your body is encoded to resist. You’re totally backwards, your airflow is restricted, and your heart and chest are totally exposed. It’s rather intense, and that’s without the energy that shoots directly up your spine when you come out of it.

The most incredible part of yesterday’s practice: the sense of wellbeing, lightness, and equanimity from the morning practice, which ended at 9:30, carried over the entire day.

So with the highs, there must be lows. I was a little apprehensive about this morning’s practice, because I knew there was no way it would be as good as yesterday’s. Coming from a super-heated room, where I practiced later than usual in the day, and after I’d been awake for hours and was hopped up on caffeine — I knew I was in for it.

The first surya namaskar felt a little weird, in the sense that my muscle memory was still tuned to yesterday. But I adjusted quickly, and the rest of the practice flowed smoothly. It was a little less frenetic than yesterday’s, but equally as rewarding. By the end I was pretty beat, and entertained the idea of skipping dropbacks. I persevered, though. I only did six backbends, then did dropbacks. They weren’t that great, but it’s coming along.

I did try to push up into vrksasana from sitting: no go. But the battle is won, because I know I can do it.

I wonder how this week is going to be at the shala? Today was semi-crowded. It is a holiday week, after all, so I’m expecting a lot of the evening class people to start attending in the morning. Also, the family people start attending in the morning, too, because they don’t have to be at work, or get the kids up for school.

Tim’s back in class on Friday, although apparently he gets in tomorrow. The studio is closed Tuesday and Thursday, however, so that’s two days off this week! Practically a holiday.

After Tuesday, I have 10 days off work. I love getting up, practicing, and then heading home or to the smoothie shop. Hustling off to work right after is not high on my list of favorite things. I do have to do a bit of writing, but I’m taking my laptop home. I figure if I put in two hours a day for two or three days, I should be able to get it all done. It’ll keep me motivated during break, too.

Also, I bummed a juicer off a friend. Even though Hatha Yoga Pradipika advises against fasting, I’m taking the next few days’ rest to try out a three-day juice fast. “The intelligent want self-control; children want candy.” Someone e-mailed me that quote. We’ll see if I can make it, and how practice on Wednesday is affected. I’m hoping for an incredible sense of lightness and increased spinal flexibility, in addition to the release of the so-called “toxins.”