Sunday has been coming to my house to practice yoga for over two years now. She has arthritis in her hip that hurts bad enough that for several years already she has been going in to the doctor to get Cortisone injections. I didn’t realize these injections are a procedure that includes an anesthesiologist and a very long needle. I hear ‘shot’ and I think flu, something I can get at the neighborhood pharmacy. Apparently not.
Sunday has not felt the pain enough to go in for her cortisone for over two years now. I did not realize the relief that slow regulated movement can do for this kind of pain. I am like, really proud that something I do for her can make such a difference.
This last Sunday, so yesterday, I was determined to give a successful yoga hour. Something that will stay with Sunday for the whole week. As an instructor I have been feeling bad that two weeks ago when she came by to practice yoga I did some pretty perfunctory poses, and called it good. I just didn’t take the time to feel it. It’s not that I didn’t want to feel it. My mind was tired. I was feeling drained. I know, because I’ve been there, that the drained feeling can be totally recharged with yoga…but I didn’t go there. I don’t know why. I’ve been feeling guilty of not taking care of Sunday for two weeks.
Determination is a good thing. I don’t care what you are doing. If one is determined to make a difference…it happens. It has to, there’s no choice. The difference in Sunday, and my own body from our practice is fantastic. It is palpable. We started with our wrists, as I know her wrists get tired throughout our hour and a half together. We did gentle seated twists as we sat in easy pose with our legs crossed. The leg crossing agitates Sunday’s knees and legs and ankles so I don’t linger. But we do breathe into each posture. Every breath is sent to release the muscles and ligaments that are responding to the posture.
Our back, our back and spine and vertebrae are of absolute importance to me. I know it is important for Sunday to open the hips – and this release lasts all week for her. To me it is important that all the parts still work together and the back is a conduit, a firing rod, the stake in the ground that is best as a strong, straight staff that connects smoothly with the hips.
Sunday and I spend some time in cats and cows rotating the hips in a stable pose. I know her wrists are starting to feel the burn as we move on to Bird-Dog pose for the Psoas muscles (find Ray Long, MD, FRCSC web page for Bird-Dog – Link here). Just switching up the right and the left arm is enough to keep us going. Once we are done with Bird-Dog twice each side we relax into Child’s Pose and roll our wrists as they rest on the mat overhead.
Every week is different. This week as we come up on our knees from Child’s Pose we moved into Gate Latch Pose (Parighasana) and Sunday felt the hip opening. Personally, I don’t feel the opening. I had thought this a bland posture. For Sunday, this posture is huge wonderful. I wanted to be sure she didn’t collapse her side body, and that the hips were squared up and all that. Sunday was simply glad to feel the hip flexion and the rotation.
So, to fast-forward here to our wide legged forward fold, we had our blocks in front of us as we folded over at the hips. Sunday and I place our hands at our hips so we can feel the pivot action centered right there. I’m sure I was yacking on and on about keeping the back straight, don’t worry about how low you go, etc…take hold of the block when you get close and adjust it to the right height to use the block for stability as we hold and breathe into the posture. Sunday moves her block to a comfortable height. We stay here for a while breathing and talking. Sunday tells me she’s not feeling this posture in her hips, she’s feeling this posture in her shoulders. Huh. For me this is all a hip and legs posture. But Sunday is feeling it in her shoulders? I can take all the teaching classes there is time available for, but I learn way more from actually teaching. I learn more from my students. I wonder that it is ingrained faster when I hear things from my students. Today (Monday) I tried to recreate the scene, but to feel the posture in my shoulders. I haven’t found it yet. I get close to feeling the posture in my shoulders when my back is rounded, but nothing worth mentioning. I don’t know what I would do different. Maybe we can start next week with shoulder releasing postures.
In fact, for Sunday we did move on to postures like Eagle Arms (Garudasana – arms only, in a seated position) to release the shoulders.
Overall, Sunday and I enjoyed a deep practice. We both felt strong, energized and relaxed when we were done. Savasana’s focus was on how happy each of our body parts are. The ankles are happy to be stronger than when we started our practice. Our hips are pleased to feel such release and relief. Our shoulder blades are loose and melting with joy into the mat to relax…etc. It was a fun Savasana.