August 6, 2015
I kicked off week 6 of my Yoga Revival with an outdoor yoga session. I have a slight nagging pull in my right upper hamstring from when I “came out of waterskiing retirement early in July.” I feel its presence when bending forward, and so I brought a tennis ball to my yoga mat to massage it along with all the muscles in that lower back and buttocks region. It is a meditative challenge to breathe through such deep massage, and I followed this with gentle hamstring stretches – laying on my back, using a strap while extending each individual leg straight up, then about 45 degrees to the side.
I was happy to feel extra flexibility when I began my standing asana practice. Along with the sound of birds and breeze in the trees, my warm up helped create a grounded feeling that only deepened through my whole 50 minute practice. I have used the tennis ball to knead out sore muscles in a couple of practices since Sunday, along with a brief warm-up using a strap – with similar positive results. I find keeping it brief is helpful, because when I get too comfortable, it becomes harder for me to get going on my sun salutations – which require fortitude, tenacity, and sweat.
Since getting back into a regular yoga practice at the beginning of the summer, I have spent more time doing the “in between” poses that sometimes have been neglected in my yoga practice. I do have some of that type A inclination to jump into things quickly – that fervor over Pattabhi Jois’s call to action – “99% practice, 1% theory.” But I find an extra breath with a lift here, and a pressing down there – is always beneficial. And so in between my first forward bend, and jumping or stepping back to “Chattarunga,” I am conscious to take a moment to lift my knee caps, press down with my heels, and lift my toes and my sternum, while looking up – before going into a deeper forward bend. Sometimes I go up and down like this 5 times before continuing.
And there’s no question – my asana practice is a good warm up for sitting meditation. I try to end all of my asana sessions with at least a 5 minute sitting meditation, followed by sivasana. So my well-used 15 year-old sari zafu was with me, and I ended my practice with a sitting meditation, followed by sivasana.
I’m still trying to work out my life schedule in a way where yoga fits in more naturally and automatically. These days I generally cram it into my very busy life with some difficulty. But even crammed in, I always feel better from yoga practice, and a little warm up goes a long way.