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Saturday, May 20, 2006

mad props

getting older sucks.

this past week, i'd been nursing an achy lower back and a sore shoulder. the back is a chronic on-again-off-again thing that i've had to deal with for some time now; i'm convinced it's due to a combination of bad posture, too much time in front of the computer, and tight hip muscles. as for the shoulder, it's the price i had to pay for whacking golf balls at the driving range last week without having stretched properly beforehand. and it sure didn't help that it was the first time i had picked up a golf club in three months.

i had a massage therapist work on the sore spots last tuesday. despite her best efforts, they were still sore the next day. as well as the next, when i took a power yoga class with rudy mettia, who decided to focus on, wouldn't you know it, shoulders and hips. and no, the pains didn't get worse, but then again, they didn't get any better.

after playing nine holes of golf at a local par-3 course on friday morning, and realizing that i was scheduled to run eight miles with a friend saturday morning, i decided i needed to pamper myself friday evening. so i took a restorative yoga class with saraswati browne at yogaworks montana.

i could tell right away that she was an iyengar-trained teacher. the invocation to patanjali that she had us chant at the start of the class was a dead giveaway.

that evening, we did no push-ups, no chaturangas, no up dogs, no down dogs.

since there were only about half a dozen students in her class, she opted to get REALLY creative that evening. when all was said and done, we had each used SIX blankets, FOUR chairs, TWO bolsters, TWO blocks, and ONE strap. and our yoga mats. not all at the same time, mind you, but it was close.

we did some basic stuff to get warmed up, then it was time to get the show on the road.

1. mad prop pose #1 - supported shoulderstand and halasana

ingredients:
4 metal folding chairs
2 blankets
1 sticky mat

- place all chairs so the seats are facing each other (imagine one at 12 o'clock, another at 6, the others at 4 and 8).
- fold both blankets lengthwise and stack them at the foot of the 12 o'clock chair.
- fold the sticky mat and place it on the seat of that same chair.
- sit on the chair facing backwards, with your legs over the back of the chair, then carefully slide down the front until your shoulders are on the blankets, holding on to the back legs of the chair for support.
- once there, put your legs up in shoulderstand; release the legs and lay your arms to the side if comfortable.
- after a few minutes, push your legs back in halasana, supporting your feet with the 6 o'clock chair.
- after a few more minutes, move your feet apart to the opposite edges of the chair, then carefully move each foot to the 4 and 8 o'clock chairs, assuming a wide-legged shoulderstand.
- when you're ready to come out of the pose, move your legs back to shoulderstand, carefully lower your feet to the chair, then push the chair back until you can bring your legs to the floor.
ahhhh....

2. mad prop pose #2 - supported supta badakonasana

ingredients:
2 bolsters
6 blankets
1 strap
1 sticky mat

- with the sticky mat now back on the floor, lay one of the blankets over the mat.
- put both bolsters side-by-side horizontally at the top of the mat, separated by a few inches.
- fold up a blanket into a small square and put it on top of the uppermost bolster. your head is going to end up on this bolster/blanket.
- fold two blankets into long rectangles and place them to the side of the lower bolster. your back is going to be supported by this bolster, your arms are going to lay out to the side over the folded blankets, and your shoulders are going to hang in the space between the two bolsters.
- sit on the mat/blanket just below the lower bolster. get the strap, make a loop, put the loop over your body, sit in badakanasana, then place the strap so that it goes under your feet, over your knees, and behind your lower back. roll up the remaining two blankets and place them under your thighs and shins to support them.
- now slowly lay back, and enjoy.

3. mad prop pose #3 - supported savasana (i was so relaxed at this point that i'm not sure if i'm remembering this correctly)

ingredients:
2 bolsters
4 blankets
1 block

- leave the blanket over the mat. turn one bolster so that it's now lengthwise somewhere in the middle of the mat. this will support your back.
- move the other bolster so that it's laying horizontally below the first bolster. your knees will go over this one.
- fold up one blanket and put it at the top of the mat (or the bolster). your head will go here.
- move the arm blanket rectangles so that they're in the right place for your arms.
- now sit between the two bolsters, lay back over the lengthwise bolster, put your head on the folded blanket, your knees over the horizontal bolster, your arms on the folded blankets to the side, and have someone put a block under your feet (or set it up yourself right before you lie down).
an optional eye pillow is the perfect addition to this pose!

once we came back to a sitting position, we chanted a few oms, exchanged namastes, and were ready for the weekend ahead...

... and when i woke up this morning, both the aches in my lower back and my shoulder were gone! did the class have anything to do with it, or did they eventually resolve themselves?

i'll let you decide...

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