Yoga enlightens me (or not) with dreams

I was at a spaghetti western yoga retreat in a courtyard of one of those beautiful Spanish style villas. With a pre Dirty Harry Clint Eastwood. There we were, Clint Eastwood and me and a bunch of other people, in this lovely courtyard, doing sun salutations, and it was so nice, the light of the sun a lovely soft yellow, the birds tweeting softly, the flowers blooming softly in the quiet and lemony pastel sunlight. I was having a question about technique when I began to wake up and as I woke up I looked around at the still vivid scene, becoming consciously aware of it, believing I was there, and thought, “Wow! It never occurred to me in a millions years that I’d ever go to and like a yoga retreat and it certainly never occurred to me in a thousand billion years that I’d be at a yoga retreat with Clint Eastwood in a beautiful Spanish courtyard! Yoga really will take you some great, unexpected places!” A nano second later, realizing this was but a dream, my not very awake mind that was still soaked through with the radiance of it all took a long look at the scene and believed it held great education, and that mind thought, “Yes, certainly the answer to my wrist problem is here if I pay full attention to what I now see in this dream.”

Then there I was on the bed, the dream receding, left with my wrists that began to annoy me Saturday.

I thought I was holding my hands just perfect the past seven weeks, the creases of my wrists perfectly parallel to the front of the mat and my fingers aligned just so and my knuckles digging in and the finger pads clawing the mat just as I thought was supposed to be done. The heels of my hands had begun to hurt (not while I was doing the yoga, but would hurt later) and I felt they were taking too much weight but I was clueless for I thought I was holding my hands properly and I was having no problem with my wrists, just the heels of my hands where that outer bone is were becoming painful. There was no pain at all during the yoga, no pain at all with weight bearing or wrist extension or flexing. None! Zero! Zip!!

Then Thursday through Saturday I did lots of simple data entry on the computer. Hours and hours and hours of it. Which has never been a problem in the past as I’ve always been good at protecting my wrists. I’ve spent years typing fiction and sometimes doing data entry and whenever I’ve had a hint of a problem I’ve backed off and been fine the next day. So careful I’ve been…but data entry is a different thing from typing fiction. Typing fiction you’ve plenty of time to sit and ponder what to write next. With data entry there’s more risk.

I had not done simple data entry since beginning the yoga.

I also, on Saturday, did a very different routine that at the end turned out to have some arm balancing postures that I shouldn’t have attempted but I figured there was no harm in attempting. Such as the Crane pose. I have to say though that I backed off promptly. There was no wrist pain (was still not having the wrist pain yet) but I realized this was something I shouldn’t have tried for a while yet and went on to something else.

But Sunday wham there I was with painful wrists that yelled when I tried to extend them. Plus, I still had the CRUD which took us down toward the week’s end and any pain was augmented by it.

What happened I think is I have been holding the hands, if mindfully, incorrectly, despite my best efforts, too much weight on the heel, and the data entry brought the problem fully to the fore.

I did some research and find that one is supposed to cup one’s palms so that the hollow is off the floor with a little space between the heel and the mound of the hand, which I haven’t been doing, I’ve been flattening the whole hand to the ground while trying to dig in the finger knuckles and keep the index finger flat. Plus I read that practicing on a mat on a rug can be a problem, causing the heels of the hands to sink and bear more pressure. We have thin rugs on the floor and I thought a thin rug under a mat would be all right. Perhaps not. From now on I’ll be rolling back the rug and using the mat directly on the wood floor, which I should have been doing anyway. Or I’m going to take my yoga practice to the front nook, with all the plants, where there is only a small rug under a chair to fold back.

A problem could also be that I’m double jointed so that my fingers and wrists can have a tendency to really hyper extend. And I mean really hyper extend. Which means I guess it’s really bad for me to have the rug under the mat. Like I said, it’s a thin rug but it does compress some with pressure.

So until the wrists feel better (hopefully this won’t take long as I didn’t experience any pain in the wrists until the past couple of days) I’m going to give the sun salutations a rest and work on some other postures then reintroduce the weight bearing gradually, working my hands a bit differently according to the above, and also do some supplemental wrist and forearm strengtheners. For now I may also pick up a wedge on which to rest my hands while I build up more forearm strength, if that is part of the problem, that I don’t yet quite have some of the needed muscle.

Man, and I so like Downward Dog and Plank position! I hated them at first. Now I love them. They’re two of my favorite postures.

Time to cultivate some real love and appreciation of other postures.

P.S. Found this tonight on the wrists.

Neophyte yoga practitioner unable to simply pick up legos anymore without her body forcing her to rethink alignment

See, I’m being nice and polite and not writing about it constantly, but I’m 21 days into the yoga now and it’s interesting. Others in better shape would be soaring along but I’ve got years of bad desk habits that the yoga is first dealing with.

At this point, Marty says I look secure, like I’m doing yoga instead of (as he puts it) attempting to do yoga, that I appear sure and steady, but I know that however I look on the outside to him, in all my postures I’m still a baby and learning about them and just a micrometer of a step away from where I was three weeks ago. I know that my postures too probably leave much to be desired.

It’s interesting because I’m experiencing shifts in alignment and balance with it, my entire body undergoing a process of rearrangement which carries into every day life with all that I do. As I move around doing the most basic things I feel my body and mind engaging, thinking about how I’m using my body. It is as if right now I always have two choices, to either enter or come out of a move in the old way or use what I’ve learned in yoga. The old way isn’t working for me any longer. The balance has shifted over to the new but I’m still in transition, the muscles causing the shift into the new alignments but also needing to catch up with the new alignments.

All my motions seem now to have three stages. I will think about how to go into a move, then in it I am mindful of what I’m doing and exactly where I should be, and then I have to make choices in alignment for coming out of the move. Which is a little strange and unsettling, that for the time being, with those muscles rearranging, I find myself having to think about virtually all of the smallest most ordinary moves, and I end up making the choice for the way I might move while doing my yoga less out out of mental selection than my body seeking that new engagement yet still transitioning. This has become fairly accentuated in the past couple of days and I expect it to continue for a while. Instead of rising up from a squat any old way, I have to think about what I’m doing…think about my feet, my ankles, my shins, my knees and thighs, my pelvis and spine and shoulders and head.

Yes, even my pelvis. I am constantly aware now of where my pelvis is as I move. These little shifts in alignment with the groin and pelvis that are made during the sessions, I was wondering what their importance was as I did them, but now I find myself adopting those shifts in my every day motions and thinking about where my tail bone is going.

My feet are gripping the floor differently.

I pulled a muscle in my upper back a while ago–nothing to do with yoga, this happened before I started it. The muscle will stop hurting for a couple of weeks and then I’ll tweek it and it’ll start hurting again, a cycle which has gone on for a while. However when I’m doing the yoga I never even feel it. I knew that my desk posture was possibly a real point of aggravation. Today it was hurting again and my body as if mindfully began assuming postures more suited with what I’m doing in the yoga, using those muscles and ways of handling and holding myself, the stress in that area alleviating greatly, the result being that I hold my upper back and shoulders differently. It is a push-pull. As if being pushed out of one way of holding myself, being pulled into a new way.

As I said, this is all a little unsettling right now because of the stage of transition I’m in. And I wonder how all this will play out, how I will be moving two, four, six months from now. It took me three weeks of yoga at an hour and a half a day to reach this point…y’know, a full grown toddler.

I know I don’t believe this would be happening if I had simply been doing postures and not really working on muscles and alignment in those postures. Instead I think I would have been carrying the old way of moving into those postures and this pull into using new alignments in every day life would likely not be occurring.

This feels to be an important point of transition and I’m hoping that the next couple of weeks of road trip doesn’t throw it off. I’m bringing along my mat and a number of yoga podcasts. If I find myself unable to do a full hour and a half in one session (which I like best) I have also a few 20 to 40 minute podcasts and I can split my practice up into morning and evening.

Put a sock in it (and does one really need yoga pants to do yoga)

Yes, I’m back to trying yoga after a year’s hiatus (or should we say a false start a year ago). I have been digging around and finding yoga instruction that was much better than what I had before. Not like a drill sargent. Have only been at it a few days but Monday night, with a cheap cheap audio I’d found online that day, via an emphasis on breathing into poses I was liking it, feeling like this was more what I’d been looking for, a chance to just be in a posture instead of it seeming like a series of disconnected stretching and balancing exercises, and was very surprised that I was even able to do a downward dog with heels on the floor the way this particular audio led into it. How did that happen? But there I was, despite my being a wobbly beginner, finding my heels on the floor by breathing and stretching that straight spine and sucking in the abdomen. And it felt so easy. And I’m doing my best to not push as the last thing I want to do is hurt myself. By the end of what seemed a very fluid practice I was blissful smiling and feeling so unexpectedly nurtured that, though I tell myself such an ancient art should be able to be pursued without making a money hog of it with unnecessary paraphernalia, I started thinking of things like a yoga mat and an honest-to-god pair of yoga pants. Charcoal gray. Not so I’d feel all yogi like but because my jeans, though I wear them big and baggy, were feeling constricting with some of my very basic beginner poses.

Anyway, Tuesday evening, after the 45 minutes of Hatha and lots and lots of breathing concentration I was feeling marginally more at ease after an out-of-kilter day. Things did feel slightly better though H.o.p., while I breathed and worked on postures, was continually calling to me to take a look at this and that and this and that, but at least not mocking me as he had done in the morning, which had, before doing our language and science and etc., sent me all disgruntled to stare instead at the kitchen sink which was, indeed, stopped up again, just like it was stopped up again yesterday, and unstopped, and the day before that and the day before that.

Though not writing (still), but feeling a little better after the 45 minutes of Hatha it had occurred to me that now was a good time to go ahead and get the vacuuming done as the floor was cleaned up.

Last week Marty remarked on how this vacuum was wearing well after our going through vacuums like crazy, one vacuum breaking after another. I agreed.

Tonight, I popped in the earbuds of the iPod and proceed to vacuum. Within ten to twenty seconds I smelled something funny…like something burning. Cut off the vacuum and flipped it over and there was one of H.o.p.’s old socks jammed up in it. And the smoke poured forth.

A sock. I guess it got sucked up when I pushed the vacuum under the couch/futon.

Long after I extracted the sock, the smoke continued to pour, and I sat and watched.

But it was one of those days, despite my uhm four days of endeavoring to find serenity via yoga. Off kilter and disjointed. Nothing productive happening. All effort for naught, for naught.

I’ve decided the yoga pants can wait but I may go ahead and get a mat.

The idea of yoga practice being a time of sacred space is going to have to include, as part of that sacred space, a ten year old laughing at my fumblings and doing his energetic best to distract. Even if I say, ok, you try this position out and see if you can do it, and he replies oh there’s no way he could do it, he still laughs uproariously over my efforts. “You’re wobbling! You’re wobbling!”

If I don’t cease to be high entertainment in a week, I’ll have to accept my yoga routine as a comedic act.

I will put a tip jar at my side.

Yoga

I’m trying yoga. At home. With DVDs. The kind where you go, “Wait, no, wait, I like this pose, I can do it, let me really feel it before you race on to something else!” I’ve only been doing it a week (well, I did it for a week a month ago then stopped). Whenever they hit Mountain Pose I just want to stay there for the next ten minutes…while H.o.p. runs around me or dances all over in front of me. Sometimes he runs over to grab me around the waist to “help” me balance, if I start to lose it on one of the single-leg poses (not very infrequently) but quite often I’m doing just fine and all his running over and grabbing me does is start to throw me off balance, and I say, “Thanks! You’re a big help!” anyway. “Whew, I’m so glad I was there to save your life!” H.o.p. says. Other times, like when I’m doing the Downward Dog pose (when will my heels touch the floor?) he is all around and underneath me like I’m a jungle gym. I figure it’s a part of the exercise.

My intention is to gather some of the mental benefits, which is why I chose it, plus, what I really want right now is the kind of exercise that comes with just standing there on one leg with your arms overhead where I can feel exactly what my body is doing instead of losing it in a flurry of activity.

Right now I feel better after I’ve done it only in the kind of way you feel better when you know you’ve done something for the day that you ought to do. Well, maybe a little more. Not during but after. I must be experiencing some kind of blip in feel-good hormones because afterwards I’m less consumed by inevitables.