Monday, March 17, 2008

Advanced Yoga with Nina Pileggi at Sunset Yoga Center

With much courage I attended the level 3 class this evening. Tonight I was as humble as I could be. I was rusty and apprehensive. The class is nearly full and I am at the back rather than the front at my usual spot. I am nervous. We go through the usual call and response invocation of OMs and Patanjali prayer. We start with adhomukha virasana and then to adho mukha svanasana (dog pose). My left leg hurts, I still can't fully stretch it. Then to chaturanga dandasana. I can't do it well at all, but I have to keep going. We are preparing for back bends, so Nina gets us to do the back pack pose with a belt. This is where you wrap the straps around your shoulders and upper back. You then pull the straps down as if you have a back pack. Your shoulder blades are pulled down, the trapezium muscle is pulled down and your shoulders naturally roll back. It gives the actions that are needed for many poses including back bends and you get a perfect upper body Tadasana. It is also an amazing therapy exercise for stiff neck and shoulder pain. One of the first therapy exercises I did with Nuvana. Yes I have seen many sorts of pain - shoulder, back, hip, sciatic, butt.

I can never get the straps to wrap correctly so Nina helps. Then we try the hand stand - adho mukha vrikshasana. My favorite. But I bomb. Nina has to spot me. I am tired already. Where is my ego when I need it !!! We then do the head stand. I did it longer than I ever had. We then transitioned to back bends on the chair. And this was the highlight of the entire class - Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana or Upward Facing Two-Foot Staff Pose.

We used a chair by the wall (with a mat and blanket on the seat), back of the chair facing the way. Sitting in the reverse form (chest facing the back of the chair), I lowered myself on the seat with shoulders slightly over the edge of the seat and then pushed myself away from the wall. You get the coil in your back and look at the world turned upside down and faces panting on the other end of the studio. I wish I could have video taped this moment. Your world upside down in a back bend kind of way! Carolyn you are right - this is why we yogis don't get sick. It is the inversions and back bends.

This was the first variation. We attempted the shoulder action, learn't in the strap based Dandasana. That helps get the coil. Then came the harder variation. Blankets were placed on the floor and then you had to lower yourself till your head touched the blanket. Then the hands came down into the headstand. I couldn't do it. I felt I was choking and the reaction was to come right back up.

Nina says "stay in the previous pose - you haven't been attending classes for a while". Ah! there goes my ego again. I am tired and back bends open up my heart chakra. I hold back my tears. She asks if I was OK. The ego comes back and I say "yes I am OK". Another student also felt the same as I did. She felt like she couldn't breathe. So I am not alone in this. The fear had set in but my inner voice said "let go of your fear and just observe, breathe and have patience. Let it come slowly". I was reminded of the progression I experienced when I first accomplished the hand stand on my own. Its progression stupid!
Then the belts come to the chair legs to help you pull down. I put three blankets and could lower my self. My head touched - Bingo! The confidence was back and the ego was still in check. I cannot over-extend and kill my right glute this time. The short girls on both sides are completely down on the floor with their heads and hands around the heads. They did it, despite their very tight shoulders and height. Everyone is crowded over them watching Nina help one of them through the progression.

It motivated me to let go of the fear and try again. I go down again as I push my shoulder blades down (or up as I am upside down) and my back coiling as I push down further. I shove the blankets out of the way and there goes my head all the way down to the floor and the arms come down and the hands cup around the head. I DID IT! While everyone momentarily watches my moment of accomplishment - I am humbled but fearless at the same time. All the pain and discomfort was worth the moment in which my arms, head and hands touched the floor and the back coiled. I was in Dwi Pada Viparita Dandansana heaven - even if it only lasted a few seconds. There was a surge of energy in my body - i am back in the groove of yoga. Bud, a teacher at the center and a student of Nina commented "it was great to see you progress into the complete pose!". Go away Ego but thanks Bud for the compliment - it made my evening. Thanks Nina for a wonderful class! I have the badly needed energy and fearless mind for a very hectic day tomorrow.

Here is Guruji practicing the same pose and additional back bends reminiscent of today's class! I spent hours sitting on the stairs next to this hall this summer watching him and others - awestruck and inspired. Enjoy this beautiful moment of yoga with guruji and memorable sounds of India.


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