Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Someone asked me recently to write about my practice. So here goes...

But first, a few disclaimers, not necessarily in order of importance:

1. This is not intended to be a recommendation or anyone else's practice.
2. I do not have a 9-5 job, children, or a spouse who wishes I didn't love yoga so much.
3. What I am about to describe is my current practice and not what it was a year ago or what it was in my first few years of practice.
4. I have very few interests or passions. I am essentially a pretty boring person if you do not like yoga and want to talk about that.

All right. So-My particular constitution is pitta with strong influences of vata. I am a fire (pitta) waiting to get worse when a wind blows on it. (vata) Because of these tendencies, in general, I focus on establishing calm, with special attention to opening my hips and seating my femurs to keep apana vayu flowing healthily and to keep my prana seated. I have bcome obsessed with baddha konasana, uppavistha konasana and supta padangusthasana 2.

I look at my practice over a month. The first day of the month is when my period starts. I practice restorative asana for the first 4 days of my period. If my cycle lingers on, I practice forward bends, do a lot of work with weighting my thighs in Supta Padnagusthasana 2 and virasana, eka pad supta viarasana. I am very conservative when I am menstruating now- no standing poses, no inversions, no twists that cross the body, no unsupported back bends. I lay low. I rest in my practice since my life is rarely restful. I enjoy the tent. I would never go to class on my period because very little of what is done in a public class would be consistent with my protocol for the week. (Having said that, if it happens to be a weekend where I have the opportunity to study with John, I would bend the guidelines since those are rare opportunities.)

The week right after my period I usually feel great. I work on standing poses. Right now I start almost every practice with Supta Padangusthasana 1-4 with 2 minute holds and my bottom leg weighted with 160 pounds. (2 45-pound plate, 2 35-pound plates.) After that I do eka pada supta virasana with same weight on the virasana leg. I practice sirsasana and sarvangasana at least 10 minutes each every day. If I have more time, I do all of the variations. If I am pressed for time, inversions are all I do, regardless of what "week" I am on, unless, of course, I am menstruating.

The week after that, I focus on back bends. I make sure that at least once during this week I do a full 3-hour go-for-all-the-advanced- back bends kind of practice. I practice stringing together my drop backs and standing up in groups of 10+, I go for the eka raja kapotasana series, I practice natrajasana and scorpion, etc. (very nice to alternate those two poses back and forth as the hamstrings get very tight from scorpion and you can open them back up with natrajasana. Thanks, Meg!) Okay- other than that day, I do lots of upper back work, lot of chest openers with a chair and lots of dwi pada viparita dandasana on the chair. I love back bends but I know they are heating and so too many is not good for me. I rarely, if ever, practice arm balances on my own anymore. During this week I do less headstand and I focus on sarvangasana, ardha halasana and viparita karani. (my two new favorite poses of all time.)

The week after that and until my period comes, I am forward bending to keep my heat low so that my period comes on time. This week I lengthen my time in inversions, I work on my inversion variations. During this week I will rarely practice any vinyasa at all. I keep my forward bend practices almost entirely seated.

This is the monthly overview.

I practice pranayama, meditation, puja and chanting pretty much everyday when I am home.

As far as asana goes, I try to practice 5 days a week for at least 2 hours. I love to practice and when I get to practice every day that is a great and wonderful thing but if I make it into some sort of rule then I am inevitably frustrated when life thwarts my best of intentions or if I make another choice one day. At least one day a week I make sure I do a 3-hour practice. When I do my practice depends on what my schedule has in store for me that day.

When each week comes, I look at my week and make a general plan. When I can, I plan longer practices on those days when I have more time. Many times, I practice what I will be teaching later. If I have to travel and get on a plane I try to plan any vigorous practice that week well before air travel and try to get myself as mellow and grounded as I can before I take a trip.

Obviously some days when I have the most time, I am tired, in which case I use the time for a more gentle, restorative practice. When I am tired I almost always start with inversions and then go from there.

I am sure there is more but that is it for now. Those are the guidelines I use right now. I guess that was a lot, which must be why I have such a feeling of being dumbfounded when people ask me what I do for practice. Oh, anohter thing. I go into my studio to practice with a sequence written down the way I go into most classes. I didn't always do that but I find it helps me use my time more productively. Also, I am a timer- fiend. For me, the timer is almost as essential as a sticky mat and Light on Yoga.

Wow- this was too long. Sorry guys. But if you actually made it this far to get the apology, I am impressed.


Anne-Marie Bowery said...

Happily, I also like yoga and enjoy talking about it.

This is good.

ari said...

Talking about your practice is the new black. seriously.

Jill said...

Whatever interests, is interesting.
-William Hazlitt

Fanny said...

No apologies needed! I read with keen interest. It's fascinating to me to hear about people's personal practice. I very much like the idea of thinking of practice as relating to one's monthly cycle, and of planning ahead to use one's time more productively. I might just explore this in my own practice.

tabitha said...

i think it is wonderful and inspiring! thank you!

Krishna said...

Thanks for sharing about your practice. It's such a personal thing.

I miss your classes, but I'm doing a different kind of yoga over here growing this little baby of mine. I've started blogging about it. http://www.themungbeans.com/bliss/

Don Livingston said...

Wow, that was a great description of your cycle of practice. As a man I particularly appreciated your comments on how you coordinated the practice with your menses, particularly the part about easing up the week before to prevent delaying the cycle. That wouldn't have crossed my mind. Thanks!