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The last month or so I've been solo training (suburi and other exercises) a minimum of 30 minutes every night, usually going closer to an hour. The back of our house faces west so every night around dusk I walk out the door and if the weather is good, I am greeted by subdued warm hues and the first few stars. Venus in particular shines brightly and it has been a kind of greeter, welcoming me back to another bit of practice. The newly-regular familiarity of it has added to a sense of my shugyo, meager though it is. The weather has been more cloudy as of late and the other night the sky was overcast except for a patch where Venus was nestled brightly. It shown like a pinpoint of fire, an echo of sunlight, burning through the deep, darkening, blue. I've been really enjoying this time of my day. It's become a time where I work on what little study I've acquired, have random thoughts and insights, and, in short: enjoy the sensations of the world in and around me.
The last few days, more and more I've been working on my hips. I'm noticing some effects from a lifetime of soccer and skiing. As a right-footed soccer player, I have some common postural issues in my lower back tied to the fact that my left foot/hip is more used to being planted while my right is more used to muscling through its path around that left hip and leg. My right leg, hip, and lower back feel particularly "big and tight" and I'm working on making them feel "dense and relaxed;" trying to focus on centripital forces within the body...to whatever effect I'm able, at any rate.
I also think my tight lower back comes from my soccer playing as I notice the tightest area tends to contract when I get into running mode. My butt tends to stick out a little as my lower belly drops and extends forward. This reminds me of the fact that sensei has consistently told me I'm arching my back too much...even when I think I'm in a neutral position. I've been making it a point to get in touch with my vertebra by literally touching them and massaging along the length of my spine as much as I can. I've found several incredibly tender locations along the length, but the bottom of the spine is all kinds of messed up...I'm guessing along the bottom 5 or so it's particularly strained.
Of course, as soon as I start to relax (or try to) one area, I notice strain building in other areas, particularly behind my heart/solar plexus area and neck/shoulder girdle. So my solo practice, which presently makes up about 80% of my training time, is focused on moving with less strain in these areas and trying to make a cohesive sense of how they interrelate. After 30 minutes or so I start to feel light and "together," but I've noticed my legs have been getting a little tight from focusing on rotating them about the major femoral axis. Too much muscle: I notice I have to keep reminding myself to use less muscle and more of what I'm calling purity of movement. I'm trying to maintain very strong "down" intent so my weight rests on my bones (again, as I'm currently thinking of it), but I find this puts large loads into my feet and ankles, and, if I'm not careful, my knees. I get some great stretches through my legs by working on that spiral actions, but again, mostly when I think of "pure" movement, which I have to relax in order to access.
I notice I forget most of the insights I've been having while practicing, but this is what's stuck from recent efforts. I'm very curious how tonight's keiko will be since I have been working on my own so much. I'm anticipating that I will be very tight, but I am hopeful.
Vee vill see...
Ogenkide and gambatte y'all.