Continuing Adventures of Yogi Vagabhanda

Oh, the energy at Broome Street Temple! Though Eddie Sterne was away (during our NYC visit), the place vibrated with sincere and intense energy.

My first day there I practiced next to two women who were doing 2nd and 3rd Series respectively. I kept my eyes and mind focused on my own mat....while being blown away by their ability and at the same time feeling very supported by their fabulous energy in my own humble practice. Yes, humbling—in the best possible way—is a visit to Broome Street Temple!

I was able to practice there for four consecutive days. I did only First Series and honestly, it felt so great, each day going deeper into the experience of each pose—and feeling better. 

For a long time I believed I would never go beyond First Series and I was quite happy and comfortable with that. Then, in the space of one week three teachers including my main teacher at the time said I was "ready" to move on. 

But no! Wait! 

Then mental adjustments, transitions, and within no time, I felt the ambition of a yoga student hungry and in a hurry for more poses. PROGRESS (and let's face it-the fun of a new challenge), dontcha know?!  

After last week especially, know once again I can be happy with First Series forever. The desire to push forward is superseded by the contentment and exploration of going deeper and deeper. 

It's just a beautiful sequence of poses, and it was wonderful being in the midst of such focused energy.  
(Full disclosure - at home I still love mixing it up and doing pincha mayurasanabakasana, etc.)

I was assisted several times by a fabulous little French woman. She just seemed to know exactly what to do with me and others, and gave lots of help with my lapsed back bend. (Home practice has had its slacker aspects.) 

Someone else assisting even lay with weight of her whole body on my back during forward bend (after back bends). I waited for the pain to start—but nothing! This same assist was what hurt my back the first time.

It would be a mistake to assume my back is completely "better,"  because I've had that belief proved wrong so many times this past year and a half. I'll just say when the circumstances are right, the room warm enough, etc there is no back issue. 

I also think I'm using my abdominal and other muscles more. 

That is, my muscles are developing a balance between using the obvious ones and ones less used, For example using abdominals to AND back muscles to lift from a forward bend. Okay and also what we've always been told.... using the BANDHAS and the breath! Surprise!! 

Next week: workshop with David Roche (he's 68!) in Charlottesville, VA and whatever I can find even remotely related to Ashtanga in Champaign-Urbana, IL.



The Vagabond in Yogi Vagabhanda

Lots of yoga in California. 
In Encinitas, Sharath's short and powerful talks, demeanor, and classes were inspiring. He seems wonderfully at ease, natural, and unpretentious in his role as the head of the AYRI. I liked how accepting he and Saraswati were, while at the same time pushing us appropriately.  The counts in lowered plank of vinyasas seemed SO long and my body shook with the effort of maintaining some poses. All good! I'm looking forward to India in October!
From Encinitas we drove to Santa Barbara where I did a lazy (due entirely to my energy!) Mysore class at Ashtanga Yoga Santa Barbara. Most everyone from that shala it seemed had gone to Encinitas for the 2nd week of workshops. 
Then on to Menlo Park at Yoga Is Youthfulness. Did one led class and had the good fortune to have a Mysore class with David Roche the next day. It is great to work with someone who is close to one's age! The little contact I had impressed me with his ability to assist and his powers of observation. Hope to work with him again, (perhaps in Charlottesville in early June.)
During our silent retreat at Lake Tahoe, I practiced daily, surprisingly with several accomplished Ashtangis—in silence of course—before the first meditation at 7:30 AM. One day in particular blew my mind. Believe I had squeezed in the entire first series before meditation where the body vibrated and sang as mind emptied. 
Is this why yogis practice? More on that topic later. 
The air is "thin" at Tahoe's altitude so I was often out of breath with a pounding heart. Did a led class in Reno—still well above sea level—at Studio Eight with Carol, a disciple of Tim Miller. Loooong, slow counts and all of Miller's add-ins. Sometimes my breath was 3X as fast as hers. It was fabulous! 
Now on to Eddie Stern's in NYC. He'll be out of town while I'm there, but the energy there is always good. May try Guy Donahaye's shala in the East Village one day if I can find it.
Finally - one of my bugaboos/struggles since beginning this practice has been uthita hasta padangusthasana. Have long suspected that ringing in my ears has affected my balance and the one thing I think is age related. 

Below is part of a NY Times Q&A column written by an MD in his fifties and practitioner of Iyengar yoga. It seems to support my inner ear theory. Also below is link to the entire column which may have content of broader interest.

Yogi Vagabhanda 
Excerpt from NY Times article: advice-on-practicing-yoga-in-middle-age-part-1.

Q. I am 55 and began yoga two months ago. I go every other day, but I still have problems with the balance poses. I did not have these issues in my youth. Is it typical to have more balance issues as you get older? — AJT, Madison
A. Most arteries become more brittle, and are more easily injured, just as the skin gets more delicate with age. Shoulder stand, plow, and poses like the gate should be trimmed back from their extremes for safety after the age of 70. The vertebral artery actually figures in nourishing a number of neurological structures critical to good balance and coordination, so it is worth our care. Our sense of balance can also be degraded with age decreased sensitivity to changes in direction and momentum in the semicircular canals(offshoots of our hearing apparatus that detect changes in speed and direction of movement), decreased proprioception (lowered awareness of position and relative location) in the joints and in one's feet, and less acute vision. These are the three determinants of balance: the inner ears, proprioception and vision.
Do the precarious poses against or very close to a wall. The wall is a wonderful, supportive teacher.