Friday, January 15, 2010

Private Practice

I have had headaches for six or seven years. Terrible headaches that assert themselves. Like a scrim stretched across the proscenium arch of my reality, they erect a film between me and the day I want to have. Some of my headaches were caused by a rare eye condition (narrow-angle glaucoma) diagnosed and surgically treated nearly three years ago. Before that, I would go temporarily blind in my right eye when these headaches occurred -- often while inverting in yoga class. Blindness and excruciating pain in handstand. Hmm. Maybe my fear isn't completely unfounded. But that's been taken care of. The stress factor and endless hours at the computer monitor, not so much. The headaches continued.

Sick and tired of losing half my weeks due to chronic pain, I chose to eat a vegan diet, beginning on 1/1/10. I've been feeling fantastic. And I went a record nine days without a headache. I was so bummed when it happened; I'd thought that maybe I'd solved the mystery and cured myself. Still, three headaches in 16 days is much better than the three per week I'd been having. Yesterday was one of those days, though. A sick headache made my entire body hurt, and I could neither think straight nor hold a coherent conversation. I finally gave up and slept from four pm until eight this morning. Today I feel hung over and draggy. My limbs are heavy and spaghetti-like. And I'm sitting here blogging, rather than taking my first plank position in Sherman's Sunday morning class at YogaWorks, my favorite ninety minutes of the week.

There are so many reasons I miss being there this morning, the foremost being the impending end to my YogaWorks membership. I joined Pure West when they opened last month, and I'm looking forward to broadening my practice, while continuing to study with Sherman. But so far he's only on the schedule two days a week, so I will probably spend money I don't have to continue practicing with him on the weekends. Those classes have become a cornerstone of my life. Despite that, there was no way my fuzzy head and Gumby-post-headache body could have managed ninety minutes of power yoga this morning.

I hate these headaches. But I have faith that the new diet and the rededication to my practice are going to help my body cure itself. Meanwhile, I'm going to Restorative practice at 6 tonight. On a day like today, that counts. And I could use some healing touch.

In the meantime, I had a few interesting practices this week. On Wednesday, I woke up with pain in my shoulder and right lower back. Reflecting on Tuesday's Anusara practice: for whatever reason, I used a lot of force in that class. Odd, because it wasn't incredibly challenging. I particularly recall using the wall to help with Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose) -- ordinarily one of my favorite asanas. In theory, pressing the raised foot into the wall should have reproduced a feeling of floating, but I found myself shoving one hand into the floor, unable to find the place where the bottom hand is weightless. I was earthbound, most of my weight resting heavily on my bottom wrist and hand. Something was terribly off in my pose, but I couldn't figure out what it was. (My attitude?)

When I got to Sherman's Wednesday morning class, I planned to take my mula bandha experiment further, but within minutes I abandoned the idea. My breathing was quick and heavy, so I switched my focus to cycling the breath in and out for the next ninety minutes. It was such a chore to catch my breath, however, that within fifteen minutes of the start of class, I again switched my intention: this time to survival. The class was as good as always, but as my own teacher - I wasn't all there. Looking back, I could have surrendered to that experience, but I fought it instead.

Perhaps that's why I fell on my butt in Trikonasana (Triangle Pose). That's right. I tipped over backwards in Triangle. Who does that? Sherman says to go the edge. I did. And the edge moved. For the rest of class, the edge played keep away. When I got to Savasana, I could hardly believe I'd made it without a crash helmet.

On Friday, I went back to class with trepidation. When I entered the room and headed for my preferred Pure Studio One spot: front row to the left of the teacher, away from the door, but not hugging the prop cubbies -- it didn't feel right. There was a cozy spot in the back row, tucked into an odd architectural corner, that was calling my name. The words "private practice" came to mind. Ordinarily, I like to stand in front so I'm not distracted by other people, but the idea of a yoga corner to myself, with no one watching, was exactly what I needed on that morning. So I nestled into my space, and began. Every time my mind wandered, I just came back to myself. It was perfect. And perfectly healing.

I've been working on Vasisthasana (Side Plank Pose). For years I hated Side Plank. I tipped forward and backward -- mostly backward -- struggling to find that arch from bottom ankle to bottom shoulder, while occasionally shooting a glance at the ceiling which would inevitably send me crashing to earth, where I'd waste a few breaths, avoiding as much of the asana as possible. But sometime last summer I discovered that I could finally look at the ceiling, send my hips high and balance. Part two, however, grabbing your big toe and reaching your top leg to the ceiling -- Ha. Then one day I surprised myself with the thought: "I'll put my top leg in tree" -- and did. On both sides. Who knew I could do that? Encouraged, a few weeks ago, I decided to see what would happen if I grabbed my big toe and aimed my top leg toward the ceiling. I did it, shocking myself. But I couldn't operate my hips -- they were shoved way back, butt sticking out -- I don't know how I stayed balanced. When I tried to aim my hips forward and underneath, I hit the ground, feeling encouraged. I tried the left side -- no go. Either that leg is far heavier, more susceptible to gravity or possessed. I can't move it to save my life. But Vasisthasana has now become one of my practice benchmarks. An asana I try every practice, knowing that one day it'll work as long as I keep showing up.

I was happy that Friday's class went in the direction of Pigeon Pose and its cousins. I wonder if I'm the only one who sends out (unanswered) psychic signals when I'd like an assist. It's been a while since I've gotten that extra help on seated forward bends, probably because I'm so flexible. But flexible yogis need assists too! Especially when one side of your back feels like it's made of cast iron. I was bent forward in double pigeon, sending breath to my right lower back, which was knotted into a fist, so deep into the asana that I didn't realize Sherman was behind me until his hands were on that exact spot, lifting my torso out of the congested area, freeing up whatever was stuck in there. When I left class, the pain was gone. It occurs to me that that's why I ended up with a headache the next day. It's possible I didn't drink enough water to flush the toxins out of my system. Whatever was making its home in my lower back was evil. Maybe it found its way to my brain.

This week I plan to try a couple of new things. Yogi Charu's 12:15 Monday class at Pure was recommended to me, so I'm going to check it out. And next Saturday I signed up for an inversion workshop. Gulp. At least I know I won't go blind.


Anonymous said...

I fall sometimes out of triangle pose too and feel embarrassed as well! where were you for yogi charu's class this morning?! P.S.- you are teaching me so much about yoga through your blog. mostly theory and inspiration... thanks:)

Anonymous said...

Jeremy! Thank you so much! Your comments mean a lot to me. I plan to be in next Monday's class for sure. I was sidelined by deadlines this week. See you at Pure! L

Anonymous said...

I was wondering where you were on Sunday! I always miss you when you are not there. Also, onyour recommendation, I tried Peacefood today! It was excellent! Maybe one day we can have lunch there after class.


Anonymous said...

looooove peacefood!!!


Anonymous said...

Julia, absolutely!!!! See you this weekend! L