“One of the most joyous things we can do is to find our place, the land where we belong. Having found our place, we snuggle into it, learn about it, adapt to it, and accept it fully. We love and honor it. We rejoice in it. We cherish it. We become native to the land of our living.”
Carol Deppe

The Resilient Gardener

Yoga Practice (& Allergy) – Summer 2019

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Approximately 7 or 8 weeks ago first, slight & subtle signs of allergy appeared: slight wheezing in the breath, itchy eyes, itch throat. Until then, practice was regular and on gradually increasing in intensity and vitality. At that point I decided to stop the intesifying exploration and moved into a holding pattern. I was ancitipating the arrival of more challenging allergy symptoms and aspiring to stay as long as possible with a soft and containing relationship with practice.

Shortly after that I experienced a drop (with no noticeable allergy symptoms yet) in the quality of practice followed by a surprising recovery into a stable and vital practice. The overall framework of the practice has remained unchanged,  the closing ritual has evolved. This is the asana part of the practice as it was until ~ two weeks ago (when the allergy symptoms did appear):

Standing TOTAL: 40 breaths
tadasana R4 10.2.10.2 4 breaths
uttanasana R2+S2 10.4.12.6 6 breaths
parsva uttanasana R2+S2 / – 12.4.12.8 12 breaths
trikonasana (uddhita + parivrti) ALT4 + [ALT4 + S1] 8.2.10.2 12 breaths
utkatasana + ardha utkatasana R6 8.2.10.2 6 breaths
Kneeling TOTAL: 6 breaths
adhomukha svanasana S6 8.0.10.0 6 breaths
Lying TOTAL: 16 breaths
raised leg variations 10.2.10.2 8 breaths
dvipada pitham R2 – S4 10.2.12.2 8 breaths
Inverted TOTAL: 14-16 breaths
sarvangasana S10-12 8.0.8.0
8.0.10.0
8.0.12.0
10-12 breaths
halasana S4 8.0.10.0 4 breaths
Backbending TOTAL: 20 breaths
bhujangasana R4 8.0.10.0 4 breaths
bhujangasana + bent knees R4 8.0.10.0 4 breaths
ardha salabhasana R4 + S1 8.0.10.0 8 breaths
salabhasana (incremental) R4 8.0.8.0 4 breaths
Seated TOTAL: 48 breaths
dandasana R2+S2 12.2.12.2 4 breaths
janusirsasana R2+S2 (midrange + micro) 10.4.12.4 12 breaths
matsyendrasana R6 8.0.10.0 12 breaths
mahamudra R12 / – 4×12.2.12.2

4×12.4.12.4

2×12.4.12.8

20 breaths

At the enf of April, my teacher advised exploring a 1:2Pranayama ratio – and this was the practice I settled on:

8.0.8.0 x6br prailoma ujjayi
8.0.16.0 x6br pratiloma ujjayi
8.4.16.4 x6br pratiloma ujjayi
8.4.16.8 x6br pratiloma ujjayi
4.0.8.0 x6br pratiloma ujjayi
4.0.4.0 x4br ujjayi

I also practiced a peak of 8.8.16.4 and a few times felt comfortable exploring 8.8.16.8 … but usually that was too much. Soon after the initial signs of allergy appeared I gave preference to BK and settled on the above routine.

A separate chanting practice during the day has grown to cover Yoga Sutra chapter 1 sutras 1 – 22. I have started revisiting a study of Samkhya. Though both of these activities are fragile in the presence of allergy.

That asana sequence held up surprisingly (to me) well up until ~two weeks ago – when more demanding allergy symptoms kicked in. In past years, allergy symptoms eventually (sometimes instantly) collapsed my practice.  However this year, in addition to some “natural” medicinal supports, I am also taking antihistamines with the intention of using them as a support to allow me to be in a continuous relationship with practice. The asana part of the practice changed gradually (though fairly rapidly – over a period of ~10 days) and is now settled at this:

Standing TOTAL: 22 breaths
tadasana R4 10.2.10.2 4 breaths
uttanasana R2+S2 10.2.12.6 6 breaths
parsva uttanasana R2+S2 / – 10.2.12.6 12 breaths
Kneeling TOTAL: 6 breaths
cakravakasana R2 – S3 10.0.12.0 6 breaths
Lying TOTAL: 16 breaths
raised leg variations 10.2.10.2 8 breaths
dvipada pitham R2 – S4 10.2.12.2 8 breaths
Inverted TOTAL: 8-10 breaths
sarvangasana S6-8 8.0.8.0
8.0.10.0
8.0.12.0
6-8 breaths
halasana S2 8.0.8.0 2 breaths
Seated TOTAL: 24 breaths
dandasana R2+S2 12.2.12.2 4 breaths
janusirsasana [R2+S2] + (midrange + micro) + S4 (static mahamudra) 10.2.12.6 20 breaths

In Pranayama the 1:2 ratio was too demanding (I was able to hold it for a while, but felt it depleted and unsettled me) and so I switched to a 1:1.5 ratio instead:

8.0.12.0 x6br pratiloma ujjayi
8.0.12.4 x6br pratiloma ujjayi
8.4.12.4 x6br pratiloma ujjayi
8.4.12.8 x6br pratiloma ujjayi
8.0.8.0 x6br pratiloma ujjayi
4.0.4.0 x4br ujjayi

It takes longer (2+ hours instead of 1) than usual for my morning breath to settle and allow for good practice. I feel grateful to have access (established before allergy set in) to good BK and (still!) to shoulderstand (sarvangasana) – both offer a space of dee[, quiet energetic settling.

I have felt a change over recent years in the dance between practice and allergy. I attempted to create a kind of chart to illustrate the changes I have felt. I tried to chart my experience of the past 3 years + a more general impression of how it was it years before that. This is what I came out of that experiment:

In the past I used to crash quickly … practice would quickly deteriorate (sometimes even sharper than the green line indicates … there could be a triggering day or event … and I would collapse) and be away from practice fo 8-10 weeks. In recent years the crash has been delayed and somewhat softened … but still I would hit rock bottom and be away from practice for quite a few weeks. This year (so far) practice, as a whole, has held up much better (even though the end of May felt like a sudden crash).

I then decided to look with more discernment and resolution at the different aspects of my-self. I felt that different qualities were affected in different ways and at different times:

This graph shows:

  • When the initial dip took place everything was affected.
  • That the an overall sense of vitality was slowest to recover and has now been most impacted.
  • I feel tired in body and there is a (relative) sense that flexibility has been replaced by rigidity. I felt that my body held up fairly well up until the end of May … then there was a rapid and noticeable diminishing.
  • My focus and attention feels diminished … but not like it was in past years. The quality of presence in sitting after practice comes and goes but has not been what it was a couple of months ago). In the past I would not have had the capacity to write this post at this time.
  • Breath has fluctuated but remained mostly at my service.

I am glad to be able to continue to be in a meaningful relationship with practice. It would not be possible without the help of the anti-histamines. I am curious how the coming weeks will be, the quality of recovery that will follow and how this will echo into future years.

 

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