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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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