Wednesday, August 31, 2005

This is what happens when I don't practice yoga

I sit at my computer, I read the news on the web, and I get all pissed off at utterly banal stuff like this: Donald Trump handpicking the cast members, um, I mean, job candidates for The Apprentice, Season 4. And by "handpicking", I mean "doesn't he just wish that his hands were doing the picking". According to today's New York Times:

"We have an ex-stripper who is tough as nails," he said. And then there is Jennifer Murphy. Mr. Trump, who claims a certain expertise in the area, described her as "one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen."

He said some of the show's producers advised him against selecting her: "They said she was too beautiful. I said, 'Excuse me, there is no such thing as too beautiful.' They said, 'Donald she's so beautiful, she's not credible.' I said, 'No. 1, she happens to be smart. No. 2, she's very beautiful - congratulations, she's going on the show.' There wasn't going to be another 'Apprentice' 3 thing where I end up with a cast where I have to pick people to work for me and I don't believe in them."

Mr. Trump admitted it wouldn't be easy to consider firing a bona fide beauty queen. "I try to be objective," he said. "But beauty is an unfair advantage for certain people. When they came up with the wonderful statement, all men are created equal, never has there been a more false statement. It sounds brilliant; it reads beautifully. But some people are geniuses. Some are beautiful."

Finally...a Reality TV show that is based on reality! I mean, let's face it, when I was in the corporate world, the ex-strippers got all the promotions. And all the female partners in my law firm were beautiful because who could turn them down? Who wouldn't believe in a lawyer who was beautiful? I know that when I need a lawyer, accountant, financial adviser, what have you, I stick with the hotties. Like Trump says, some people are geniuses, some are beautiful. And who wants their business handled by someone who isn't photogenic?

Like I said, banal stuff. I need MENTAL STIMULATION!!! And "Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl" is SO NOT doing it, regardless of what Darren Star thinks.


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Buyer beware....

This really annoys me. And I have to write about it, even if I get eviscerated for it. So here goes:

I am no longer teaching at New York Yoga, and I am not teaching any Intro to Yoga Workshop there. Yet my name continues to be attached to the Workshop that begins September 11. NYY has updated the Workshops page more than once since we agreed to part ways, but my name continues to appear. There is something decidedly shady about this, although I can't quite figure out what it is.

When Skelator* and I fell-out, I was instructed to "keep it quiet" and not make any "noise" about it. I honored their (somewhat strange) wishes and deleted the post from this blog in which I told the story of what had happened. But now I see that Skelator and crew are continuing to pretend that "this never happened". I have no idea why, but like the request to "keep things quiet", it all seems pretty shady to me.

You just know I am going to delete this post tomorrow. But until then, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.


*General Manager and supposed Olympic Skeleton hopeful

Human Nature?

Looters and natural disasters seem to go together like biscuits go with gravy. Not everyone partakes, of course. But there are always those who seem to feel that when the forces of nature rebel, it's time to rebel against society as well. There are those who will say that looting is necessary to their survival in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. But when MSNBC reports that "some in the crowd splashed into the waist-deep water like giddy children at the beach," you have to wonder...are we just savages underneath it all?



Cough. Okay, cough again. Okay, again.

And that is how Dr. A confirmed that the bulge above my navel is a "seroma" (fluid-filled pocket between tissue). He palpated my tummy, and asked me to cough. Like that hernia test for guys, but without the intimacy. On my begging, Dr. A drained some of the fluid - about 30 cc's (I think 2 tablespoons), but not all, so I still have a small bulge. It's as if there's a small, slightly deflated water-balloon under the skin of my tummy, in the space between my bottom ribs.

It's been three weeks since my tummy tuck and breast-reconstruction scar-revision and port removal, and I am still not "permitted" to exercise, although now I AM "permitted" to go about my day-to-day business. It's going to be three MORE weeks until I am released to exercise, but even then, I won't be allowed to do anything that "strains the abdominal muscles" for a "few months". What does that mean? I never really feel any strain on my abdominal muscles, but most people who do the things I do WOULD feel strain. Take Navasana, for example. Normally, I feel NOTHING in Navasana. But I see that other people really struggle with it - can't get their legs straight, can't hold themselves up without grabbing their legs. For some strange reason, even with my previously damaged abdominal muscles, Navasana presented no challenge for me at all (I don't know what it is going to feel like now...). But I am SURE that Dr. A would faint if he saw me doing Navasana.

I guess I am going to have to play it by ear. Perhaps now Navasana WILL be uncomfortable, so then it will feel natural NOT to do it.

But what about Chatturanga? What about Uddyana Bandha in general?

Well, for now, at any rate, I am home with my kids, without a babysitter, so I won't be going to the shala to practice. I will probably stretch, like I have been, without vinyasa-ing. Then when the kids start school, September 8 (one more week), I will go back to the shala and explain my situation...and go from there.

One thing about this seroma, I have to say, it is making it impossible to eat full meals - when I get full, my stomach presses against my abdominal wall, pressing the seroma outward, stretching my skin....ouch. I have quickly learned to eat very small amounts. I have not been on the scale since a bit more than a week ago, but judging by my clothes, it would seem that I have probably lost a few more pounds, which is fine. I don't think I want to lose any more weight though.

Still waiting to hear about my little baby puppie-pie, Lou. I can't wait to see her again!!!

On a more distressing front, I've been emailing with Michele, the yoga teacher who assists me at my Yoga For Breast Cancer Survivors class...her family is in New Orleans, which is being hit hard by Hurricane Katrina. Eighty people are believed to have died amid the destruction in Mississippi, and the following was reported by MSNBC. regarding New Orleans:

“The city of New Orleans is in a state of devastation. We probably have 80 percent of our city under water, with some sections of our city the water is as deep as 20 feet. We still have many of our residents on roofs,” he said. “Both airports are under water.”

Bodies have been reportedly floating on the water, although no deaths have been confirmed as of yet. Luckily, so far, Michele's family seems to be okay, but not necessarily their worldly belongings and their lives as they have known it up to this point.

It's times like this (well, actually, it's a LOT of times besides this as well), that I wonder how God could let this sort of thing happen. It's the sort of thing that biblical stories (e.g. the Flood) were built on. But in the bible, there's an explanation, even if only imagined. Here, in this case, it feels as if we are left on our own to make sense of what can only be called senseless. Yoga (as well as modern-day psychotherapy) tells us not to bother asking "why" but to accept the unexplainable as inevitable. But it's hard.


Monday, August 29, 2005

Jill...if you are reading this...please don't discuss it with your brother...YET....

For some time now, my kids and I have been talking about getting a dog. Off and on, I've contemplated what kind of dog to get. Rescued or pedigreed? Small or smaller? Male or female? Then last week in Fire Island, we met a wonderful, adorable Beagle, with big brown eyes rimmed with black and the sweetest disposition, and Adam and I were hooked (Brian doesn't much care - he would much rather I have another baby, and preferably a girl, but, well, that just isn't happening).

So, I did a bunch of research and confirmed my first thought - that a Beagle puppy that I can raise from babyhood is a wonderful choice because I am around most of the time now, and even when I teach or take a class, I still come back home afterwards (as opposed to spending long days in an office). More on the plus side: Beagles don't shed much, don't have much body odor, are wonderful with children, are "pack dogs" so that they learn to love the entire family (as opposed to favoring just one family member, which would inevitably be me, to the consternation of my kids), are active, intelligent and even clever (or so I hear), have a fairly long life-span and just are so damn cute as puppies that even my grouchy ole Husband will be seduced.

I have been searching for a local breeder but haven't found one that I am comfortable with. It seems that there are a ton of Beagle breeders throughtout the midwest, but not so much in New York/New Jersey/Connecticut (and it also seems like there aren't a lot of pet beagles around here either: lots of Yorkies, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Chitzuhs, Maltese, Boston Terriers, and Labs, but not too many Beagles). I was starting to wonder if I was going to have to rely on trust and just reserve a puppy sight-unseen from a distant breeder and have it shipped, which sounds like a really scary thought.

And then today, just for fun, Adam and I went to Pets on Lex, just to see if there were any cute dogs we might play with while we waited to satisfy our Beagle-jones. Inside, a Cavalier and a Chihuahua were frisking it up together, and I started chatting up the sales clerk in the hopes of getting him to take one of them out to play for a bit. "So," I asked him, "how come you never seem to have any Beagles in here?"

Well, as it turned out, a teeny, tiny, two-month old Beagle had arrived there just this morning. They had just picked her up from the airport! At first, the clerk wouldn't even show her to us. "She's not ready. She just left her mom less than 24 hours ago, and she hasn't had any of her shots yet," he explained.

"Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease???? Can't we just see her? My son is in love with Beagles..."

After a brief discussion with the owner, the clerk brought her out to us. And she was soooo soooo sooooooooo cute, it hurts to even think about it. Tiny, but with big, puppy paws, big floppy ears and gorgeous hazel eyes. She nestled in the crook of my arm and burrowed her face into my chest. She was a little squirmier when Adam tried to hold her. At one point, we set her down on the floor, and I started talking to her in mommy-eze, and she cocked her head and looked at me right in the eyes, and then cocked her head the other way, still maintaining that intense eye contact.

More begging ensued, and the shop owner agreed to let us a put a deposit down to reserve her, pending her trip to the vet tomorrow. At both Brian and Adam's request, she is being named after "Lou the Beagle", the main character in the movie, Cats and Dogs. So, her name will be "Lou" (short for "Lulu", at my insistence). In fact, they refer to any Beagle in general as "A Lou". I hope they understand that THIS Lou won't be talking to them in the voice of Tobey Maguire.

Now, there is just the tiny little detail of getting The Husband on board with this. He actually is theoretically okay with the idea of having a dog - as long as I am the dog's primary caretaker, which of course I will be, since The Husband works like 12 hours a day. The issue will be, as it always is, the speed at which I run off and do things. He says that I "motorcycle"everywhere...zoooooooming here....zoooooming there.....I know he has a point. But as anyone can tell who reads this blog on even a semi-regular basis, I am INTENSE. When I get an idea in my head, I have to go, go, go with it. Most of the time, my instincts are good and have brought me success. Of course, yoga (and particularly Ashtanga) teaches us to be patient and mindful and methodical. But I really want this dog. Must. Have. This. Dog. I'm in love!!!

Back to the real world....I have so much to learn about caring for a new puppy!! Must go read now...


Sunday, August 28, 2005

Hot Naked Mari D (click here)

And a little naked Bharadvajasana thrown in for good measure.

Sorry...sometimes I can be SO immature.

But seriously, I stumbled onto this site while searching for photos of Vatyanasana, which was mentioned on the EZ Board today. It's interesting, to say the least. Lots of wild drawings and artwork, plus a number of asana photos featuring Ian, the guy whose site it is. Ian does seem to have a fairly advanced practice (in fact, I liked his Vatyanasana better than the one on my ole asana photo fallback site, Ashtanga Yoga Info, because it shows more of the pose). So, I was was taken aback to see that his Urdvha Mukkha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog) looks like this...

I really really want to give him an adjustment or two. Perhaps someday that too will be possible via the web.


It's called "Yoga Chikitsa" for a reason...

After my vinyasa-less Primary Series practice yesterday on the beach (minus Setu Bandhasana and other backbends - that is just WAY too over the top at 19 days post abdominoplasty, even for me), my seroma has significantly diminished in size!!! I am so thrilled. How much more could I possibly love this practice?

And yes, I hear myself extolling the physical effects of the practice. But this is not about "how skinny can my tummy get", but more about the physical-therapeutic propererties of the practice. Assuming it is not purely coincidence that the fluids in my tummy seem to be draining right after practicing nearly all the poses of the Primary Series, a/k/a Yoga Chikitsa, a/k/a Yoga Therapy, I would have to guess that the practice helped unblock some physical and energetic channels, permitting the healing fluids of my body to drain more effectively.

Anyway, even if I were giving the practice more credit than what it is due, what's the harm in doing so?


Saturday, August 27, 2005

Yoga Beachy

Since last Sunday, I have barely written about my asana practice....mainly because there has been no asana practice of which to speak. The last time I did a full-on practice was before my surgery (August 7, I think), and last Sunday was the last time I approximated a full-on practice. Over the course of the past week, I have been pretty leery of doing much of anything except walking and occasionally riding my bike (at less than 5 mph) as I have developed what appears to be a "seroma" at the top of my abdomen - a collection of fluid that has nowhere to go because it gets stuck between scar tissue and sutures and tissue swelling. In my case, this is not much of a surprise, as I know that I tend to swell up at the slightest trauma. It's not unusual to develop a seroma after a tummy tuck, although I think it more commonly occurs in the lower belly, sometimes leading to what is called a "Ken Doll"effect, if you get my drift.

It started to develop last Tuesday, right after I had my JP drains removed. Also, no surprise. That is exactly when these things tend to develop - right after the drains are removed, leaving the excess fluid with nowhere to go. Over the course of the next several days, I was still not allowed to stand up straight, so there was a bend in my abdomen anyway. But when I was finally given permission to stand up straight, the "bend" in my abdomen didn't go away. Instead, there was this bulge above my belly button. As the days went by since then (it's been roughly 10 days, I think), the bulge got bigger to the point where it is the size of a 4-month pregnancy, except at the top of the abdomen instead of at the bottom.

Not pretty, right?

One day, just a couple of days ago, it suddenly dawned on me: this can't be right. So, I called my plastic surgeon, who as it turns out, is away for the week as well. The doctor covering for him didn't give me much comfort and told me that she really couldn't answer my questions without seeing me. She then told me to stop walking around so much and to stop trying to do my normal activities. This upset me, and didn't sit right with me, since I FEEL absolutely normal; why should I be essentially bedridden? But still, I tried to do as little as possible the next day, which is pretty difficult when you're on an island with no automobiles and only your feet to get you from point A to point B.

I next spoke to a different doctor - a much more senior plastic surgeon in the group - and he was MUCH more comforting. He explained to me that this could be easily remedied by aspirating the fluid when I come into the office next week, and that until then, just go about my business.

And so I did. And the bulge has actually diminished a bit, although it is definitely still there.

But long story short, that is how I came to being on the beach today, stretching out a bit and gradually inching my way toward practicing most of the Primary Series. First, I was chatting with the Husband, and I casually picked up my right toe with my "angustha" grip and improvised my way through Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana. Then the next thing I knew, I was folding over into Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana. Soon, it was Triangle, Revolved Triangle and Revolved Side Angle, which, by the way, is WAY easier to do on sand. The Husband decided to take the kids over to boogie board near the life guard, and I stayed on my towel, by now seated and folding over into Paschimotanasana.

When I got to Mari A, I noticed that a woman was staring at me unabashedly. She was a few years older than me and in fabulous shape. I smiled and said, "You too?" She said, "Yeah, I'm a yoga teacher. " Turns out she doesn't practice Ashtanga, and she had already done a vinyasa practice early that morning. But next thing I know, she brings her towel over to sit facing me, and she's asking, "So, how do I get into that pose, Marichyasana A?" And that is how I came to practice from Mari A through the rest of the Primary Series with a woman I had never met before, sitting on the beach in Fire Island.

And I bound in Mari C on the left side. No strap, no towel. Just me. And I can feel that Mari D is not too far down the road on the left side. The right side still doesn't settle into that "sweet spot". But I can tell it's improving. The surgery has somehow left me more supple, more flexible. I think that the damage to my abdominal muscles from my pregnancies was much more of a hindrance than I had thought. In spite of the fact that there was a three-fingers-width tear between the right an left side of my rectus abdominus muscles, I was still powerfully strong in my core. But what I didn't realize was how much this tear impacted on my flexibility - my ability to twist and bind. At least that is what I am thinking is going on now.

What it doesn't explain is why my padmasana (lotus) feels so comfortable and why I was able to bind in Pindasana (embryo pose). It does help to explain why I was able to grab both feet in Baddha Padmasana though.

Me and my yoga friend had a great time, and I was shocked when she told me that she is over 50. A testament to yoga's fountain of youth.

And I feel fine right now. I can't wait to have my doctor aspirate this water balloon I've got in my tummy, but other than that, I feel fine...and I am so excited to get back to practicing regularly, including vinyasas!

Tomorrow, it's back to the mainland, back to reality, back to school, etc. I have so many things to do - go shopping with my kids for new backpacks, for school clothes, for sweat socks (they constantly complain about whatever socks I bring home for them, so this time I am taking them with me), plan a cocktail party that the Husband and I are having in three weeks, go to training to be a volunteer at the WAR Room (which is the Resource Room and "Welcome Center" for breast cancer patients at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. "WAR" stands for "Women At Risk", by the way. All of the War Room volunteers are breast cancer survivors, and their job is to usher in the newbies and help them see that they too can make it...), finish up an article for My Guru Guide about Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors, teach a couple of yoga classes.... tired.....


Friday, August 26, 2005

Ashtanga-cize?: a new poll

In light of this week's discussions on body image, I've been thinking about something Vivage wrote in a comment, to the effect that body image issues are just another form of citta vritti - a fluctuation of the mind.

Thinking in those terms, it seems to me that whenever somone goes in for plastic surgery or cosmetic dentistry, whenever someone takes part in any sort of fad dieting...perhaps whenever someone goes into the pharmacy to purchase Oil of Olay, Clearacil or any one of those new anti-sagging/collagen-boosting creams that promise to reduce the appearance of cellulite...perhaps even when someone gets tattooed or pierced....there is an attempt to quiet those fluctuations through an external source (call it an "external makeover), rather than through the eight limbs of yoga (which would hopefully produce more of an "internal makeover" by eliminating the NEED for any sort of makeover, altogether).

So let's assume for the moment that you've shunned such "external makeover" tools, opting instead to celebrate your body exactly as it is, in all of its aging and changing glory. And let's assume also that you also practice yoga (safe assumption here). Many people do, in fact, discover yoga initially because of yoga's reputation for helping to sculpt a beautiful physique; however, those who stick with it over the long haul usually do so because of the way yoga helps to cleanse, purify, relax and calm the mind, paving the way for "union" with the true self (the self that is often obscured by the chatter of the mind). Of course, asana practice enhances our practice of the remaining seven limbs of yoga, as well as vice versa: A clear mind helps us to get to the mat; getting to the mat helps us to clear our minds. And round and round we go. Even the Yoga Sutras acknowledge this in their discussions of the obstacles to yoga, which include illness, laziness, even the failure to acheive and maintain Samadhi (connection with the true self).

But aside from the way that asana practice is inextricably intertwined with the the other seven limbs on the path to stilling the fluctuations of the mind (i.e. yoga), I wonder, how many of us are practicing yoga with at least a hope of improving or maintaining our physical appearance simply for its own sake? Thus, my latest poll asks the question: if there WERE no physical (external appearance) benefit to practicing your yoga, would you still practice as much as you do?


Warning: Professional Breather on Closed Course - don't try this at home

It's cold at the beach, and I decided to come on back to the shack (just kidding about calling it a shack - it's actually super nice here) and close out the Pranayama Poll: "Pranayama: Dangerous or Just Hot Air". Final tally:

65% (11 votes) believe that Pranayama could be dangerous
35% (6 votes) believe otherwise.

Stay tuned for the next poll...on Ashtanga and body image....


Lance Armstrong: I Aint No Dope

Well, the backlash was inevitable. Just as Lance Armstrong is about to walk into the sunset of his retirement (at 33!!!!), squeaky-voiced, Q-tip skinny, rockstar moll by his side, just barely missing a collision with overexposure....the French biking authorities are accusing him of doping it up. Specifically, they are saying that they found traces of "Erythropoietin" in a 1999 blood sample.

Did he or didn't he? Only his oncologist knows for sure.

For those who don't know, "Erythropoetin" is a growth hormone produced in the human body which helps to stimulate the growth of oxygen-rich red blood cells. For athletes, "EPO", as it is commonly known now, can be a powerful doping agent, one which improves performance by increasing oxygen uptake and respiratory capacity.

For cancer patients, the synthetic version, known as "Procrit" helps to battle chemotherapy-induced anemia. I used to inject myself with it weekly during the six months I was on chemo. It's powerful stuff - although not powerful enough to have prevented me from needing a transfusion at one point - but powerful nonetheless. You may have seen the ads on TV for "Procrit". That's what we're talking about.

This Lance Armstrong story confuses me because there seems to be very little talk about when Lance last took Procrit and how long the half-life of the drug is in the body. Perhaps this is a non-issue...perhaps Procrit doesn't stay in the system long enough for this to be a possible defense? Or perhaps having traces of Procrit in the blood from past treatments for cancer is nevertheless verboten in the bike racing arena? I do know that I saw Lance on ESPN early this morning, and boy did he seem angry, and all I could think was, "Methinks the Lancey doth protest too much."

But that's just speculation.

I honestly don't particulary have any special place in my heart for Lance Armstrong (I don't like people JUST because they have or have had cancer; in fact, I have met plenty of mean-spirited, petty, and all-around rotten people who have survived cancer - who were probably just as mean-spirited, petty and all-around rotten before they were diagnosed - and I don't feel any warmer towards them just because we share the same diagnosis). I especially don't like his relationship with Ms. Crow, mainly because they flaunt it all over the media, and it makes me feel sad for Lance's ex-wife and kids (okay, that's my stuff talking, but still). But I'm not looking to disprove his accomplishments either.

I mean, dope or no dope, the man can pedal. And he looks pretty "fly" in yellow...teeeeeeeeeheeeeeee....

I guess I just would like to know the deal...and then again, maybe I don', that is.


The shell not taken

As I may have mentioned a few days ago, I recently got this idea in my head to amass a large array of sea stones so that I can create a "walking mosaic". Over the past few days, I've been collecting these lovely smooth stones, and I've even recruited my kids to help me. Between the three of us, we've collected somewhere around eleventy-billion sea stones - mostly white oval-shaped stones of varying sizes, but also quite a few gray, ivory and black stones as well - all beautiful and all exactly what I had been looking for. Right now, they're all sitting in a bucket on the front porch of this house, begging the question: how will I ever get these home to NYC?

No matter. As long as I was here, I was still going to be searching for more sea stones. So, late this afternoon, when the Husband took the Kiddies out to shoot hoops, I armed myself with my Ipod and several plastic baggies and made my way to the beach. Usually, when I walk the beach in search of sea stones, I head east, where the island is more heavily populated, and where there are jetties to calm the water: calmer water means less erosion; less erosion means larger, more impressive-looking stones. Usually, the areas around the jetties are virtual treasure troves of sea stones, as well as sea glass and shells. But as I said, I already have collected so many sea stones that I'm not even sure how I'm going to get them back to the city. Thus, I decided to walk westward, where the island is sparsely populated, where no one has thought to build jetties, and where the sea stones would be a rare find, rather than an embarassment of riches.

On my way westward, as I was searching for sea stones, I kept seeing these amazingly white shells glittering at the surface of the sand - tiny little pearly white shells, shaped like a clam shell or maybe a scallop shell but infinitely smaller and infinitely more beautiful in their pure pearlescent whiteness. A number of times I stopped to pick one up, only to let it drop back onto the sand because, after all, I was there to collect sea stones, not sea shells. Along the way to the village of Atlantique, where I finally stopped and turned around, I must have seen fifty or more of these beautiful shells, but I didn't pick up even one. I was on a mission, and that mission was noble: to create a wonderful and functional piece of art. So, I wasn't going to allow myself to be distracted.

But when I was nearly halfway back to Corneille, it hit me that perhaps I was missing the point. A tiny pearly white shell called out to me, and this time, I picked it up and tucked it into a new, empty bag. It finally dawned on me that perhaps I could make something wonderful with these tiny jewels. Perhaps I had been searching for the wrong thing all along. Perhaps this whole obsession with sea stones was foolish - they were so heavy and cumbersome, while these shells were so dainty and pretty and luminous and light. But now I only had one. Frantically, I began searching for more. Then, strangely, after finding a few more of the shells, I began noticing sea stones again - more than I had noticed when I was looking for them specifically. '

I felt strangely calm. And I began to collect both: the sea stones that I had originally set out to find, and these tiny little sea shells that I had ignored for so long but that were right there under my nose. There really was no reason for me to keep hammering away at one, at the expense of the other.

Sometimes you have to look away to see things clearly. Sometimes you have to stop looking in order to find what it is you were looking for. Sometimes, you have to be willing to open yourself up to the possibilities of "the shell not taken"....


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Answers to Questions Regarding Yoga and Body Image

As I was saying yesterday, "Anonymous" posed some interesting questions that I would like to try to answer, regarding yoga and body image.

Like Anonymous, I agree that yoga is a body positive excersise that teaches us to appreciate whatever body it is that we have, big or small, old or young. I would take it a step further and say that yoga can even teach us to appreaciate a body that has failed us in some way or another, through injury or illness.

But that is not to say that if our body fails us by getting injured or ill, that we should simply accept it and do nothing about it. If one tears their knee cartilage, should they accept that? Or should they have surgery to repair it and hopefully go on with whatever it was they were doing before? Likewise, if our body becomes ill, we aren't going to accept that without a fight, and sometimes the fight leads to disfigurement. Sometimes that disfigurement can be accepted, but sometimes it need not be.

In my case, when diagnosed with breast cancer, I began a battle against my body. "Cut them off!" was my first battle cry, as coldly as the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, screaming at her henchmen to "cut off their heads!" Then it was "blast that mother-f-cker with all the chemo you've got." Then radiation burned it all to the ground. And if that wasn't enough, I went to war with the hormones in my body, removing my ovaries, eliminating the source of estrogen, which had been feeding my tumors. I was left physically scarred, which was pretty much unavoidable, and emotionally scarred, which was pretty much unavoidable too...except there was something I could do to help myself feel better....and that was yoga. I discovered yoga as a daily practice (as opposed to an occasional stretch) because nothing that I had done to stay fit before the breast cancer felt right anymore. I was desperate for something that would allow me to move my body that wouldn't leave me feeling MORE angry and MORE stressed out (unlike, say, running, or kick-boxing, which left me feeling agitated).

I went to a Bikram yoga class on the suggestion of my sister-in-law and yoga-accomplice, Jill. At Bikram there were mirrors, which was often terribly painful for me. It forced me to confront my hairless head, to have to look at my bloated body and to sit still with myself for 90 minutes. But what happened during those 90 minutes of "moving meditation" was that I began to regard my body as something other than a mortal enemy, something that had betrayed me and mocked me in the mirror. I began to regard my body as amazingly functional. I began to gravitate toward the postures that I found the most difficult because those presented me with the chance to focus on my body as a working machine, a tool for focus.

But that can't be the entire picture, right?...because I did have plastic surgery, which would seem to indicate some basic lack of acceptance of my body as it is. The thing is, it may not be so clear-cut as all that. At the time of my double-mastectomy, I was encouraged to have reconstructive surgery - my very first plastic surgery. I was told that studies indicated that women who had reconstructive surgery tend to do better mentally AND physically than women who don't. That made sense to me, and in any even, I never for one second considered having my breasts removed without replacing them with new ones.

But once you go down that first step toward remaking yourself physically, you start to realize that you are on a slippery slope. Reconstruction is not a one-shot deal. In many cases it involves a tummy-tuck, for example, as a source of new breast tissue. In my case, my tummy did not have enough fat to create even one breast, let alone two, so I opted for tear-drop-shaped saline implants (silicone was not an option back then - three years ago this month) that would be gradually inflated with saline over a period of months. What that meant was repeat trips to Dr. Ascherman to add more saline, and then when I grew unhappy with having these large fake breasts, to remove saline. And it meant scar revision, to eliminate excess flaps of skin at the scarline. And a couple of other surgeries that I am not entirely comfortable describing here right now. But trust me, my plastic surgeon became a near constant companion in the years following my breast cancer diagnosis, whether I wanted him to or not.

And then the slippery slope began to call out to me. My treatments for breast cancer had left me with excess fat around my middle. Why shouldn't my "reconstruction" address that as well? How was this any different from getting surgery for torn cartilage, I thought to myself.

It was an easy choice to opt for liposuction, and that is what I did. The only problem was that my treatments for breast cancer had also left me in menopause, which meant that the collagen in my skin was deteriorating on a rapid basis, leading to a lack of elasticity in my skin and a general trend toward sagging - especially in places that had been stretched out in the past (like my abdomen, from two pregnancies). So, a year after my liposuction, my belly was fairly skinny. But the skin hung away from the muscles like the folds of an accordian. And I felt like I had the body of a 90-year old woman instead of the body of a thirty-something woman.

Why should I have to deal with that? I know that I could have "accepted" it. I know that yoga helped me to live with it as long as I did. But when I knew that there were options - options that I ironically could have taken at the outset (tummy tuck) had I been in WORSE physical shape than I was when I was diagnosed - I realized that making that next step - having the excess skin removed, having my ripped-apart stomach muscles repaired - it simply wasn't the huge step that one who was not in my shoes might have felt that it was.

Anonymous posed the question "Why did you give into societal pressures that force women to think they have to have the bodies of 20 yearold fashion models?" My answer is that I wasn't giving into societal pressures at all. I was simply trying to get back to where I was before I was diagnosed with cancer. It is one thing to accept an aging body. It is another thing to ask myself to accept that ILLNESS has caused my belly to age prematurely and that I have to live with it when really, I didn't have to live with it at all!

Anonymous also pointed out that "Most women are naturally curvy anyway and dont have flat stomachs." Agreed. In my case, menopause had taken AWAY my natural curves - padding out the areas around my waist and wittling down my hips. My surgery gave me back a more curvy appearance, like a woman of my own age.

Anonymous asked:"Why would you subject yourself to such a painful surgery that u really didnt need?" Because it isn't painful to me - it is NOTHING compared to the other stuff I have been through, physically and emotionally. So, the question actually presumes a fact that isn't true - it wasn't really a painful surgery at all, relatively speaking. It was just par for the course in getting back to where I was before I got diagnosed with a disgusting disease. Just like getting cartilage repaired is par for the course in coming back to running or skiing, etc.

Anonymous also said "Personally it just seems so contrary to what i thought yoga is supposed to be about. I just don't get it. It would be upsetting to me to have a yoga teacher that would go under the knife to change something that i thought can be changed with a steady yoga practice, or am i just fooling myself? (Is this a common yoga teacher practice?Also aren't you worried about the post op problems one can have from having such a procedure?) If i was your student i personally would feel kind of duped.."

The thing amount of steady yoga practice could have repaired my damaged stomach muscles or brought collagen back to my skin to eliminate sagging around my middle. A steady yoga practice like mine only served to highlight the problems. The more fit my muscles got, the more saggy my skin appeared. I realize that there are students of mine who might be upset by my willingness to undergo plastic surgery. But those students are probably the same students who would tend to be upset about my having had breast cancer and not come to my classes as a result. The two are inextricably intertwined. I know in my heart that there are students who are uncomfortable with what I represent - a young woman who was fit and healthy and still got a dreadful disease. I know that there are students who are SUPER-comfortable with me for exactly the same reason. I can't please everyone. But I can be honest and hope that I can reach someone, from exactly the vantage point of who I am and what I believe.

I hope I answered your questions....


Yoga and Body Image...

Today, I got the following comment on an earlier post:

Anonymous said...

one of the reasons i really enjoy yoga-- is that it's a body positive excersise that teaches you to appreciate what you have, big or small. Yoga chickie-- why did you give into societal pressures that force women to think they have to have the bodies of 20 yearold fashion models?most women are are naturally curvy anyway and dont have flat stomachs. I'm not criticizing, it's just that You seem like such a positive person, why would you subject yourself to such a painful surgery that u really didnt need? Personally It just seems so contrary to what i thought yoga is supposed to be about. I just don't get it. It would be upsetting to me to have a yoga teacher that would go under the knife to change something that i thought can be changed with a steady yoga practice, or am i just fooling myself? (Is this a common yoga teacher practice?Also aren't you worried about the post op problems one can have from having such a procedure?) If i was your student i personally would feel kind of duped... I guess thats just me though. But to each is own i guess.. because you write in such a clear concise fashion I would love to hear your opinion on this-- i think it could be very enlightening for a lot of people.
I think these are really excellent questions, and I want to answer them. I am heading to the beach now with the Husband and the Kiddies but I promise to post about this later. In the meantime, two brief thoughts, which I present for "Anonymous" but also for anyone else who has ever felt disillusioned by the imperfections of those from whom they seek answers (to wit, a yoga teacher):

1. Yoga teachers are only human beings: we make errors in judgement at times, we contradict ourselves at times, we don't have the answers you're looking for at times (although I hope I can answer your questions here in a satisfactory manner). I can't speak for every yoga teacher here, but I am sure that many will be quite frank with you about their own foibles and quirks. In my opinion, a yoga teacher who can't or won't do that probably IS trying to dupe you.

2. Yoga can be therapeutic, it can improve your mental and spiritual state, it can provide you with at least some level of enlightenment (depending on how you define enlightenment), it can help you lose weight (or gain weight if that is what your body needs)....I could go on. BUT...for better or for worse (probably for better), yoga is not a panacaea. It cannot solve all your problems, although it can help you see those problems that won't seem to go away as "less problematic".

Thanks for the great topic. Can't wait to come back later and tackle this!


Taking it easy today...

Yesterday, I felt alarmingly swollen. I called my doctor, and his assistant told me it is totally normal to have a lot of swelling following all of the work that I had done (muscle repair, creation of a new belly button, stretching of skin, internal and external incisions and stitches). She said that this was particularly true with a patient as small as me (only 5 foot 1 inch). However, when I told her how much walking I have been doing out here, she said that she couldn't even imagine how I was able to go about my regular daily activities, let alone walking all over this Island. Many people at two weeks post-abdominoplasty are still walking with the aid of a walker, or simply not leaving their houses at all. So, I guess for now it doesn't matter how good I feel. I really want the swelling to go down. I have an appointment with my doctor for a week from yesterday, and I would like him to not have to drain any fluids from my abdomen (with a hypodermic needle...ouh). So, I am going to as much as possible be sitting today, with my feet up. Now, to get the Husband and kids on board with that....


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Still not over Six Feet Under....

Please note: this post is chock full o'spoilers.

The series finale of Six Feet Under was an unbelievable comfort and release after an entire season of horribly depressing episodes that I watched the way one watches a train wreck. First there were those two adorable, long-suffering foster children of Keith and David, who clearly wanted very much to be loved and to be a part of a real family but who acted out because they didn't know how else to ensure that they would be the ones to push away the love of their foster parents, rather than vice versa. I cringed nearly every time these two boys were on screen. Then there was the parade of people from Nate's past who died untimely deaths - his high school friend, his first love - each one helping Nate to come to terms with the fact that his mortality was absolutely assured and it was only a matter of when. Add to that, Brenda's miscarriage, the bad AFP-test in her second pregnancy, the growing tension between Brenda and Nate, the unraveling of Billy's mental state, the cringe-worthy fights between Ruth and Claire, Ruth's systematic dumping of George into a sad little condo on the advice of her pseudo-hip-knitster friends, and Claire's sad but realistic induction into the "real world", where your art isn't always (or even often) appreciated and you can't always get the work that you want.

And then...just in case all of this wasn't depressing enough, Nate "narmed" during his one adulterous night with Maggie (despite that we had long ago breathed a sigh of relief that this AVM thing was a thing of the past), and then died after having a deliciously, mouth-wateringly delightful and loving conversation with Maggie in the hospital and seemingly making peace with everyone else in his life other than Brenda, thus forcing us to ask the uncomfortable question: what terrible ugliness were Nate's loved ones spared by virtue of Nate's death? Not to worry, as for better or for worse, there was plenty of other ugliness left to go around, as Ruth beat herself up for being off on some crazy walk-about through the wilderness, shooting imaginary boyfriends dead with an imaginary hunting rifle when she could have been at her first-born's bedside, and as Brenda berated a sheepish Maggie for "f-cking my husband to death and then bringing over a quiche". Not to mention breaking Brenda's front-door flower-pot in the process.

And all of this heartache is only what lay on the surface. Simmering beneath the surface of Six Feet Under was always the not-too-thinly-veiled apocolyptic themes of the battle between man and nature, and the battle between God and man. In the world the Fishers inhabited and in which the Fishers tended to the dead, all that would seem to be comforting and benevolent inevitably was revealed to be holding imminent danger and certain death. A night of partying with girlfriends meant decapitation through the moonroof of a limo. A hike in the canyon meant a fall into a chasm. A jog in the park meant mauling by cougar. A transcendentalist vision of Quakerism ("I sit in silence and wait to be filled with God") became the final religious solution to the question of how to worship a God that may or may not be there at all, paving the way for a Quaker meeting to be the catalyst for Nate's "narming" with his pants down. And the final battle wound inflicted upon the Fisher's God: Nate had a Jewish burial (let's face it - a "green funeral" is basically nothing more and nothing less than a Jewish burial, sans plain pine coffin), over which Rabbi Ari was to have presided had Ruth not had her way (besides, Nate had recently "beome" a Quaker, as Brenda pointed out, thus making the Jewish burial a sacrilege of two religions). But not before Ruth turned on her own smug and mincing minister at the funeral, informing him coldly: "God is an asshole."

Then there was George...formerly-womanizing, child-abandoning, bomb-shelter-dwelling, mental-illness-concealing George who became Ruth's "loving companion" (according to Ruth's obituary), yet who most strangely, and somewhat sinisterly, did not age even a day in the span of 20 years' time. Thus, as Ruth lay dying, a withered and white-haired virtual apparition, attended to by a white-haired and wrinkled David and a George who looked exactly as he did when we saw him last, we can only imagine that there must have been a picture of George Sibley hidden away in some attic somewhere that showed George aging in real-time, a la Dorian Gray. Come to think of it, how many other wives had George outlived? What sort of pact had George made, and with whom? And why?

And finally, there was Ted, the most enlightened, kind-hearted, honest, unselfish and decent human being ever to become involved with Claire, let alone to appear on the show, and what was he? A lawyer! Oh cruel fate. A lawyer as saint and savior.

As the final episode began with newborn baby Willa Fischer's unnervingly quiet life-death struggle, it seemed that there was only more suffering to come. But then the white screen appeared, telling us that not only had Willa survived, but she lived but lived far enough into the future that we couldn't even project when her death might arrive. I felt an incredible wave of relief, as it seemed to me to be terribly unfair to imagine that Nate's child wouldn't make it, but more importantly, it teased me into asking myself if perhaps I liked Nate more than I thought I did, since I wanted his legacy to spite of the fact that every time he appeared to Brenda in recent episodes, he came as an angry and mocking spectre.

But, of course, this was merely Brenda's projection of Nate, the husband who had cheated on her in his last hours of life, who had given up on their baby and their marriage. Others such as Ruth, Claire and David projected Nate more benevolently. But as Brenda made peace with the Nate of her imagination, I began to wonder about the nature of the imprint that we leave on this earth long after we are gone - which is just another way of looking at "karma".

It was Nate's voice that set Brenda free to make peace with Ruth, and despite that it was Brenda who created that conciliatory Nate-voice, it was the real-life existence of Nate and the vibrations that his existence left on earth that enabled Brenda to create Nate-the-benevolent. It was Nate's voice of courage and follow-your-dreams that inspired Claire to pursue a photography career in New York, even when the path to that career no longer seemed clear. It was Nate's brotherly voice that comforted David in his darkest moments of post-traumatic-stress. It was Nate's love for Maggie that brought Ruth peace about Nate's final hours. And it was Nate's child with Maggie (Maggie's scene at the doctor's office seemed to imply that she was pregnant with his child) through which Maggie would finally have get to have another child, as well as a small piece of Nate. A new life can never replace an old, but it can be something/someone to live FOR when all else seems lost.

The final moments of the episode may or may not have been Claire's projection of imagined events in the future; they may or may not have been what "really" happened to the characters. Yet what is important is not whether these things really happened but that everyone ultimately meets the same fate: death. As Claire angrily admonished her cube farm coworkers as she stumbled out of the office for the last time, "You're all going to die someday."

But the tears I shed as I watched each death unfold were not tears of sadness - they were tears of relief at the way the cogs of life's wheels just seem to work together. Ruth died with George and David by her side, ushered to "the other side" by her vision of Nate. It was at Ruth's funeral that Claire and Ted found each other again twenty years later, and they remained happily married and deeply in love for the rest of their lives. When Claire died in her bed at the age of 102, she was surrounded by photos of Ted that she had taken when they first became lovers, and her death may have been attended by one of her nieces, Maya or Willa. Brenda ultimately remarried (did anyone notice that her second husband's last name was...NATHANson!) and had another child, but Maya and Willa kept her close to the Fishers, and she always took care of her brother, Billy, who ultimately, and predictably, bored her to death with his talk of "emotional closure, blah blah blah, Brenda, Brenda...are you listening..." (I had to laugh at that). Brenda's death, like Nate's, begged the question of whether we do actually have some level of choice in when we we finally let go of life, at least on a moment-to-moment basis.

It seemed unfair that Keith died a violent death, but it was good to see that he was running his own security company, and that he left behind his beautiful sons, Durrell and Anthony and three grandchildren (see the Obituaries). Still I wondered what the implication was in the fact that Keith was the owner of a company that provided security for others, and yet he was ultimately unable to maintain his own safety. It could have simply been one of life's cruel, existential jokes. Or it could have illustrated the randomness of fate.

David went on to find love again, but ultimately at the moment of his death, he was surrounded by his family at a picnic (or possibly, a family reunion) and was ushered into the beyond by his vision of Keith as a young and beautiful man. His vision. Not the ghost of Keith. The shadows that inhabited Six Feet Under were never more than a projection on the part of those who saw them. Six Feet Under NEVER posed the possibility of heaven and hell or any sort of conscious afterlife. In fact, looking back at the episodes, it seems that a constant theme was that death is the ultimate loss of consciousness and absolutely final and that we embalm our dead and have viewings solely for the benefit of our loved ones, not so that we will have a body in which to inhabit when we "return". But as Nate explained to no one in particular as the family assembled to wish Claire bon voyage as she departed for a new life in New York City, "You can't take a picture of what's already gone."

Well, apparently, it is our very, very human nature to try. But in the end, the "picture" is what remains in the hearts and minds of those who are not yet gone, and that picture has the power to change the course of lives far into the future. Our death may be tragic, our death may leave a void. But it does not leave a vacuum. One might take the view that Six Feet Under presents a depressing and empty view of death: we live until whatever point in time at which we just so happen to die, and death is nothing more than a complete and total loss of consciousness. However, if you are able to see the connection between ourselves and every other living being who dwells on this earth, whether now or well into the future, you begin to see that notwithstanding that loss of consciousness, your actions while here on earth and the consequences of those actions continue to exist long into the future, long after there is any person on earth who is alive to remember you specifically.

And THAT is karma: everything, every action has a consequence, a vibration, an energy that ripples around throughout the universe, taking on a life of its own. Sometimes to illustrate this, I ask my students to listen to the silence after chanting "Om", to press their thumbs into their breastbone and feel the vibrations in their chest. We make our sound, and even though the sound is gone, the vibrations remain. Like the vibrational silence after the chanting of "Om", the ripples that our existence leave in the sea of lives around us and even the lives of future generations are just as significant as our existence, itself.

What an incredible series finale. Thank you, Alan Ball.


Monday, August 22, 2005

Somewhere, beyond the sea....

So, here I am on the deck of the house we rented in Fire Island, which, if you are not from the New York area, is probably something the likes of which you have never seen. For all intents and purposes there are NO CARS here at all (and I only qualify that because way over at one end of the island there is a public beach called Robert Moses State Park that can be accessed by car via the mainland, Long Island, but the rest of Fire Island is not accessible via Robert Moses State Park, and vice versa). So, in order to get here, you take a boat from Bay Shore, Long Island, and when you arrive, instead of a parking lot, there are rows and rows of little red wagons that people use to bring their stuff to and from the boat (and also to go food shopping at the little grocery stores). In order to get to your house, you walk along sidewalks which ARE the "streets". People can ride their bikes, but the speed limit is something like 5 miles an hour, and no one has anything but a one-speed old-fashioned bike here.

Where we are, in Corneille Estates, the "sidewalk" consists of a boardwalk, surrounded by wild vegetation - long grasses, reeds, pine trees, wild flowers. There are a lot of deer here, and they roam around freely. Right now, as I sit here on the deck, there are two deer walking around eating leaves in the backyard.

We got here early this morning, and basically have been walking around all day, checking out where to play tennis, where to shoot hoops, where to kick around a soccer ball (for my kids, don't worry, not for me). At one point, I decided to take a walk all the way over to Ocean Bay Park, which is three towns over and which was THE PLACE TO BE when I was 25 years old. A bunch of my friends and I took a "summer share" in a really divey house about 10 feet from the beach. What I discovered was that the house is long gone - destroyed in some storms that wreaked havoc on the Island a few years ago. On the way back to Corneille, I decided to walk on the beach instead of the walkways, picking up white and black stones that hundreds of thousands of years of polishing by the ocean have rendered almost like cabachon jewels. As I held them in my hand, I had this idea....what if I were to collect literally THOUSANDS of them and then create a mosaic out of the ENTIRE floor of my terrace at home that would not only LOOK beautiful but would also act as a sort of "reflexology path"....

Anyway....back to reality....

We ran into some people we know from the city, mostly people whose kids go to school with my kids. One of them told me that there are daily yoga classes in Ocean Beach (next town over). I don't think I will be going, but I do think that I will be taking out my mat tomorrow and seeing what feels good. As the Kundalini yogis say, "Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo" - I honor the teacher that is within myself. I have to believe that "she" knows best.

I have to run to go grab my little wagon now and head over to the grocery store to pick up some stuff to barbecue for dinner. I really intended to blog about the final, and incredibly AWESOME episode of Six Feet Under, which Mom and I spent a half an hour deconstructing today, because to me it really captured my own interpretation of the notion of "karma"...but I will have to save that for later or tomorrow....

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Please don't tell Dr. Ascherman...

...or my mom...or my friends...or anyone who might yell at me....but today was my first "full" Ashtanga practice.

This morning, after posting a bit of Buddhist wisdom on here, I longed for the physical practice. So, I took a warm bath and then laid out my mat right on the carpet in front of the sofa where my little Addy was watching Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends.

My intention was to do nothing more than hold each of the nine vinyasasp of Surya Namaskar A for five full breaths (except Chatturanga). To my surprise, I felt no strain at all in any of them, including chatturanga. I was feeling so good physically, and so happy, that I decided that I could actually handle going to the shala to practice.

Now, the thing is, even though I am gravitating toward AYNY and had originally planned to go there at 7:30 a.m. this very morning for the first wave of the Mysore practice, by the time I realized that I really could DO this, it was already past 9:00 a.m....and I felt uncomfortable showing up smack in the middle of prime time at AYNY on a Sunday, when I had never been there on a Sunday before, when I had never practiced with Eddie as my teacher before, when I was going to have to come in and give my whole song and dance routine about where my practice was at now, where it had been at before, why I was going to have to be modifying poses, the fact that I had had abdominal and breast surgery less than two weeks all felt overwhelming to ME. I couldn't imagine how overwhelming it would be to a teacher who had never taught me who was busy with a shala full of students whose practices he knew, who had been practicing regularly with him all along. It seemed to me that I would have had a lot of nerve to ask for that kind of attention and focus from any teacher, particularly one who didn't know my practice at all....Thus, instead, I went to where I have been on many other Sundays, where the teacher knows me and my practice, as do his assistants: AYS.

I lingered outside a bit in the kitchen area when I arrived, and when Guy noticed me, he came out to speak to me. He expressed his surprise that I was there, saying that it had seemed like such a short time since I left to have surgery. I told him that it actually WAS only a short time, much shorter than I had anticipated, but that I was feeling much better than I thought I would be feeling and that I really longed to be in the shala, feeling the energy, being around other ashtangis. I also told him that I anticipated a very modified practice, although I wasn't sure what that meant exactly (perhaps a couple of slow Surya A's, maybe a B and then cut to Savasana). Guy asked me some questions about what my doctor had told me, and we disussed my three-year history of coming right back to yoga, and exercise in general, after each of my major surgeries (double mastectomy, laparoscopic oophorectomy, breast implant exchange (after blowing up an implant in a yoga posture that shall remain nameless...cough..viparita a Bikram class...cough, cough....). Ultimately, he said that he was fine with my practicing there but that he hoped I would understand if he gave me no adjustments. I told him, of course...I was just grateful to be there at all. So, I paid my drop-in fee and found myself a nice spot on which to lay my mat.

Standing at the front of my mat in Samasthiti, I chanted the invocation and began my practice. My first Surya Namaskar A was delicious. Each movement deeply connected to one inhale or one exhale. It felt amazing. Peaceful, graceful, even. The first time I jumped back, I felt incredibly light, like I was being carried through the air by some benevolent force. My first Updog was really just a small cobra, but then I found that as I warmed up, I was able to straighten my arms and draw my shoulders away from my ears for Upward Facing Dog. Downdog felt great...yay!. My feet and hands felt incredibly rooted, and yet my body felt light. I didn't jump forward more than once or twice, and though I felt light, my mind weighed heavily with worry about whether this was something I really should be doing. Bottom line, it didn't. So I stopped doing so. I ended up doing four Surya A's and two Surya B's. After two B's, I decided it would be best to stop vinyasa-ing for a while and just practice the standing poses.

I always enjoyed the standing poses before, but sometimes I guess I have viewed them more as a means to an end, rather than something to enjoy for what they are. In the nearly two weeks since I last practiced Ashtanga, I have grown to feel differently about them. I have looked at my calves and noticed the way the muscles have grown sinewy and defined in a way that they never were before, even when I spent three years running 50 miles per week and training for marathons on the hills of Central Park. I have felt my hips and pelvis feel tight and crampy from not practicing Warrior I and II and even Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana. My two Surya Namaskar B's today gave me a taste of Warrior I, but I was really looking forward to holding them for the full five breaths.

But even before I got to Warrior I in the Standing Sequence, I was surprised by how open and relaxed I felt in Parsvotanasa, and even more remarkably, in Prasarita Paddotanasana C. Even Parivritta Trikonasana was nice. I initially intended only to turn toward my front leg and hold onto my shin with both hands. But then there I was placing my palm on the floor. Parivritta Parsva Konasana, not so much. But the best thing was that I felt fine about it. I also was prepared for a difficult time in Ardha Baddha Padmotannasana (Bound Half Lotus in Standing Forward Bend), because I have always had a difficult time with it, and why should today be any different?

Well, it was. I was surprised to note how incredibly soft and relaxed my hips felt as I easily found half lotus and reached around and bound. It was like my stiff joints and muscles had been swapped out when I had my surgery and replaced with sweet, soft, buttery joints and muscles. How could this be?

After the entire standing series, I still felt great and hungered for more, but I was careful and limited my vinyasas - only doing a few more, and only between poses, not between sides. I got through Janu Sirsasana C (in which I also just kind of melted into the pose) and had a quick internal debate - whether to continue or not....

But to be honest, I already knew that Marichyasana A would be fine because I had practiced it in the bathtub that morning, easily binding close to the wrist. And since I had so much "sukha" in the Ardha Baddha poses, I really felt fine trying Marichyasana B. And it was like A. Sweet.

For C and D, though, I barely attempted to twist. I could tell that it was quickly getting to be the time when my practice was becoming not so much a practice anymore, but more like a contest, or something I was playing at. And besides, twisting is going to be the toughest part of my recovery since my midline has been stitched together vertically.

On the other hand, I have to say that the vertical zipping up of my abdominal muscles may just ultimately be the gateway to my being able to twist much more deeply, as soon as I do heal. I notice that certain poses are just plain easier without the drawing-outward of my ruined abdominal muscles. Not only has it visually had the effect of nipping in my waist, but I think it is really pulling things inward in a way that will help to assist my spine in twisting. We shall see....

I went on to test my oost-surgical baseline of core strength a bit in Bhujapidasana and then just collapsed into Kurmasana. Time to wrap it up, obviously. Since I have been working on Bridge pose (backbend without the shoulders coming off the floor) at home, I was ready for it. After five breaths, I moved the top of my head to the floor, bent my elbows, placed my palms beside my ears and just stayed there, taking slow easy breaths. Then I picked up my mat and went to finish in the back of the room.

Finishing consisted of a vinyasa into Shoulderstand, which I held for about three breaths, Halasana, which I held for MAYBE one full breath and then rolling up to sit in Padmasana: lotus pose.

Padmasana was so sweet that I couldn't even bring myself to come out of it after I finished my eight breaths folded forward an my eight breaths with Jnana Mudra (for the non-Ashtangis out there, picture the OK sign with the pads of the index finger and thumb touching, the other three fingers together and straight, and the palms resting on the knees facing out). My feet were flexed and my thighs were parallel, and I just stayed there, lids low, breathing, focusing on my breath. I have no idea what was going on in the room for most of it. Then the guy catty-corner to me started practicing Marichyasana C (very nicely, I might add), which caught my focus was broken...or I let my focus break, really. Which brought me to Uttpluthi...and that simply was NOT going to happen. I wouldn't even dare to try. WAY too much abdominal work there...ask me again in a few more the was Savasana time.

If you haven't fallen asleep reading this, then first of all, namaste, and second of all, I want to stress that the amazing thing about all of this is just how "okay" I felt. I didn't feel upset or guilty or sheepish about having to modify some poses. I didn't feel embarassed about skipping vinyasas. I felt like I had license to do what my body needed to do.

I wonder if a purist would even call what I did an Ashtanga practice. I do know that it was yoga. And I know that I am feeling truly lucky.


Buddhist Wisdom

The mindfulness of in and out breathing, of body contemplation, of keeping consciousness of the moment, is a noble occupation and a sublime way, leading to independence of mind and to wisdom.

-Samyutta Nikaya

(From "Buddha Speaks," edited by Anne Bancroft, 2000. Reprinted by BeliefnetBuddhistWisdom, a partner, by arrangement with Shambhala Publications, Boston)


I really just wanted to say that. And I needed an exuse. But I have a good one. Apparently, Madonna will be able to use pranayama in helping to heal from her fractured ribs. This article that I found God knows where at this Godforsaken hour (what am I even doing UP at this hour?) quotes some doctor in the UK as saying that Madonna's yoga breathing skills will help her to stay healthy as her ribcage heals. Makes sense. See, breaking a rib or three will make it very painful for one to take deep breaths. And if one is unable to take deep breaths, one is less able to clear the lungs of phlegm (isn't there a nicer way to say that?) and bacteria that adheres to said phl...nevermind, you get the point. So, if Madonna already has the capacity for deep breathing, then she may be able to keep those lungs of hers moving enough to avert infection, in spite of the discomfort caused by the broken ribs.

I know, I know, 8 out of 11 readers surveyed said....that pranayama could be dangerous. But remember, Madonna was practicing she was apparently onto Third Series, which means that she would have been taught pranayama....I believe....

More importantly, tonight Mom and Dad were in the city to see Doubt, a play on Broadway starring stage legend, Cherry Jones. Basically, it's about a priest accused of molesting a boy, and the nun who gets involved in investigating the claim, but I think (at least according to Mom), it's more about the nature of truth, itself. Anyway, afterwards, they came over to see us - me and the boys (all three of them). Then they took Adam and me out for some sushi (The Husband wasn't hungry, and Brian was watching some sporting event on television - he is an eight-year old sports FANatic....If it even remotely resembles a sport, Brian will watch it - I'm talking everything from football to cricket to bowling...I think he'd even watch Skeleton (world's stupidest, most you choose to call it that...I mean, jeez, these people get into the Olympics for sleigh-riding???) if it were on TV). But I digress...

So, the four of us went out for sushi in the neighborhood, and as I sat there and watched my six-year old scarf down raw and seaweed-wrapped tuna, salmon, yellowtail and octopus, I was absolutely floored. I don't think I even heard of sushi until I was 20. At six, I think the most sophisticated cuisine I was enjoying was spaghetti and meatballs, and I am told that spaghetti was invented in China, so, there goes the authenticity of that.

No, Mom, I don't blame you for not exposing me to such culinary wonders as sushi and curry. The only ethnic restaurants I even remember existing in West Orange and Livingston were Joe Jung's (home of shrimp in lobster sauce and chicken chow mein), the Villa Diablo (home of garlic bread and chicken parm), Eppes Essen/Tabachnik's (home of the Eppie Special - a four-inch high piling of tongue and turkey and coleslaw and russian dressing on caraway rye...ah, now that is a memory...much better than my memory of lox, eggs and onions....ech...) and Mt. Fuji (home of the griddle-as-table, knife-wielding performance-artist waiters and Japanese stir-fry). Am I missing any?

Back in the day, I used to go to Shop-Rite with my parents and beg them for Pop Tarts. These days, my kids go with me to Whole Foods and beg me to pick up some Chicken Tikka Masala. But come to think of it....they beg me for Pop-tarts too...


Saturday, August 20, 2005

Down downdog!

Today I tried to move through an entire Surya Namaskar A. Samasthiti ("Equal Standing") feels like it is getting better, at least as far as standing up straight with my tailbone pointing down and my chest not collapsing between my shoulders, although it feels as if my abdomen is all bunched up towards the top, near my ribcage. It feels like I ate a really big dinner. Only I haven't eaten anything. Not sure what that is other than swelling, and I hope it goes away soon. Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Hands - hands above the head) is way off the map right now. If I straighten my arms, they jut forward at a 30 degree angle. If I pull my arms back toward my ears, my chin starts to jut toward my chest. I am really surprised that abdominal surgery is doing this to me. It cannot be the breast surgery - that was so minimal! So, it must be the tummy tuck. But WHY? Who knew that the abdominal muscles had so much to do with drawing the arms upward?

And there is also some unexpected abdominal involvement in Uttanasana - the standing forward bend. My hamstrings feel great - no real loss of flexibility. But I guess I was naive to think that my super-long hamstrings (not long legs, mind you - just nice long muscle fibers) would take care of all the work in Uttanasana. When I fold over, I can't draw enough length in my torso to feel stable, even when I place the palms of my hands on the floor.

Inhaling to an extended spine (also known as "flat back", although I really don't ever see a flat back when I am teaching, except maybe in downward dog) felt like a great relief. But then even as my mind told my body to jump back into "catvari" (chatturanga - the bottom of a pushup), my body was having none of it. I crawled my way into a very tentative plank and then collapsed my knees to the floor. My chest followed. This doesn't discourage me has been less than two weeks since my surgery, and this was my very first attempt. I have been down this road before, and I know that what happens on the first day on the mat is NOTHING like what will happen even the second day or the fourth day or the second, patience...

Still can't get into an honest Upward Facing Dog. As soon as I felt my shoulders collapsing inward toward my chest, I changed gears, bending my elbows, lowering my abdomen and accepting a nice, honest low cobra.

Downward dog felt like a stab in the navel. So, it was "one, two three...ooooookay...that's not a good kind of pain."

I didn't finish my Surya Namaskar A. I didn't even take Savasana. My first impulse was to check for swelling because each day in the past several days, I have woken up to a nice flat abdomen (except for that puffiness at the top) only to watch it swell as the day goes by and my activity level increases, and I really don't want to swell up today since I have a lot of stuff to do, including a meeting in the late afternoon with Jiva Wellness regarding getting involved in a corporate wellness program...should be interesting!

Which reminds know the saying, when one door closes, another opens, or its corollary, when a door closes, check for open windows....well...I am feeling pretty joyous as the universe shows me what is behind doors number two, three and four, since door number one proved to be ...well...let's just say, not exactly the right door.....Stay tuned for updates on my involvemet with My Guru Guide and a possible Guide to Yoga in NYC in the works....

Of course, nothing is certain, but all is possible....


Friday, August 19, 2005

Dear Madonna, get well soon, okay?

Poor Madonna. Apparently, Lourdes and Rocco's mom got a bad boo-boo when she was out riding horses in the English countryside. She probably would have done better if she had just kept relaxing in that London Kabbalah Center instead of getting up on a horse she had never ridden, but that's all water under the bridge now, and Madonna is now recovering from three broken ribs, a broken collarbone and a broken hand.

I don't know if Madonna still practices Ashtanga - I do know that sometime last year, she took Duncan Wong with her on tour (I only know this because Duncan used to teach Ashtanga one-on-one to a friend of mine, and yes, I am aware that Duncan does more than just teach Ashtanga, so who really knows if Madonna was still practicing/is still practicing?). But hearing of Madonna's injury made me remember that photo spread in Vogue Magazine in which Madonna demonstrated Eka Pada Sirsasana (or something sorta like it) in fishnets and her skivvies, which I present to you for your viewing pleasure.


My first post-surgery practice...

...if you can call it that...

It consisted of me in Samasthiti chanting the invocation. Then, me in Samasthiti on the floor for about 10 breaths. Then me raising my arms over my head for about one breath (OUCH!). Then me in Supta Baddha Konasana for about 10 breaths. Then me trying to raise my arms over my head again....and being a bit more gentle this time, interlocking my fingers and turning my palms away from one another.

Then...I carefully place my hands under my lower back and walked my legs up to shoulderstand. I know that sounds extreme - but my back has been in flexion for 10 days now, and it feels GOOD to be in any pose that brings my chest toward my chin. I tried to get down to Halasana, but could manage maybe one breath there. Then I turned over and tried sphynx pose...ouch...and switched to baby cobra instead. That actually felt fine, so fine that I pressed up to what might have looked like an Upward Facing Dog but wasn't....

Lesson in Satya: I was able to totally FAKE an Upward Facing Dog, but my shoulders were practically glued to my chest. It may have LOOKED like an Updog, but it definitely wasn't. And what good is that going to do?

Then I turned over and lay down to rest in Savasana. Not sure how much time passed there. But it felt damn good.

Not a classic Ashtanga practice - but it was something, and afterwards, when I sneezed, I could feel that I had strained my abdominal muscles a bit. So, time to back off for a bit. Until Sunday...

At least now I won't feel weird walking into the shala...


Cialis (the Viagra for those who want something different from Viagra)

I know this is totally unrelated, but I just heard a story that involves sex but isn't sexy, and so is interesting without being titillating, and basically, I just feel compelled to repeat it....and based on who told it to me, it was already so attenuated, so "a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend" that I figured that if I re-told it here, no one would likely recognize themselves, and no one would likely object.

Here goes - A 40-something woman, upon stopping home from work to pick up something she had left at home, heard her answering machine beeping. Thinking nothing of it, she hit "play" only to find that the local pharmacy had left a message for said woman's husband: "Hello, Mr. So-and-so, this is XYZ Pharmacy, calling to tell you that your prescription for Cialisis ready for pick up." If you didn't know already, Cialis is a drug for erectyle disfunction. If you look at the link to the website, you'll see a middle-aged couple acting lovingly toward one-another. You'll also see it clearly spelled out that this drug is for being "ready when you want during any 36 hour period." (yikes!) Anyway, the thing was, this woman and her husband had not been having much sex in the past few years. In fact, they hadn't had sex since before 9/11/2001 (I don't know what the relevance of the date is, only that it is an easy date to remember). Bottom line: Wife thinks Husband is having an affair and confronts him. He claims it was for her, in case they decided to try having sex again. Apparently, this became grounds for divorce - and was used in court as proof of infidelity.

Urban legend? I don't know. But an interesting tale, nonetheless, in the age of this new class of drugs for "ED", God bless you Bob Dole. I can't imagine that the husband wasn't having an affair, given the set of facts - but a prescription for Cialis does seem like a spotty bit of evidence to me in a divorce case.

Any thoughts?


...the land of the free...and the home of the...beast...

REW passed this article along to me today. It came from State Senator Liz Krueger's website, and it gives the alarming news that the Upper East Side's breast cancer rate is 10 percent higher than other areas of the city (other than the Upper West Side, which is also 10 percent higher). There are many possible explanations, including the fact that perhaps there are more Ashkenazic Jews here on the Upper East (and Upper West Side), or perhaps the population up here is slightly older than in other parts of the city (after all, I was 36 when I was diagnosed - maybe there are many more thirtysomethings up here on the Uppers). Apparently the East 79th Street Association is looking into whether it has something to do with hospital emissions (we have a LOT of hospitals up here, threading throughout our streets). In any event, thanks REW, and let this be one more reason for you to keep up the search for a nice place in Soho...

In other "news", the latest Chickie-family health crisis du jour is my brother-in-law has had a WICKED headache for the past two weeks that came on with a sudden, alarming intensity and has not really relented since it began. Last night, he had a brain MRI, which showed no abnormalities - no masses, no bleeding. Today, the radiologist is going to do another read of it to check for a hidden, I guess, aneurism. But so far, it looks like my BIL is okay. Don't know what the headache is from though, and pain is never fun. So...we shall see.

As for my practice...if you were reading the comments yesterday, then you'll know that REW was helping me to come to a decision to return to Eddie's shala and talk to Sarah about my current physical condition and perhaps stand, chant and then take savasana. I actually think this is an amazing idea since today is the first day Dr. Ascherman is letting me stand up straight (I actually was walking around the UES yesterday afternoon pushing a stroller with nothing in it, as a sort of makeshift "walker" so that I could walk hunched over without straining my lower back...the funny thing is that on the Upper East Side, this is not at all strange because women are often picking up their young tots from playgroups and playdates, arriving with an empty stroller and leaving with a child...). As I was waiting with my kids for the camp bus today (last day!), I tried to stand in Samasthiti, and it is CHALLENGING when your abdominal muscles are impaired (in my case by surgery to tighten up the gap between them). I don't think I really actually was IN the pose at all - my shoulders were slouchy, my tailbone was pointing back instead of down, and my legs were NOT active. If I tried to adjust one of these elements, then the others went to pot. So, bottom line is I know that I can get a lot out of just standing in Samsthiti, chanting, perhaps trying Urdvha Hastasana, maybe even an Uttanasana.

But guess what - it's a moon day, i.e., no Ashtanga practice. Now, it wouldn't be the first time I went down to practice and found the doors locked, smacked my forehead and said, "MOONDAY!" But REW reminded me before I made the trek....phew.

Instead, I think I will practice Samasthiti on my own a bit. Later on, a yogini friend from Montreal, whom I met while practicing at Guy's is in town, and I hope to get a mani/pedi with her. And THEN, one of my students and I will probably meet for coffee. Why is it that I am ALWAYS around my yoga friends? This vexes the Husband quite a bit. He wishes I would be more of a "lady who lunches", but it just never seems to happen that way. He has gone so far as to say that he doesn't want me to practice Ashtanga downtown if it means I am missing out on meeting the non-yoga friends for lunch or shopping. We had a little "discussion" about that, and as I am sure it is quite apparent to anyone who might be reading this that the Yoga Chickie is no shrinking violet, it will come as no surprise that this is no longer an issue on the table for discussion....

One last thing, for now at least...I am happy to say that I rediscovered my I-Pod Shuffle again. The last time I used it was a few weeks ago when the I-Pod cable was still working at New York Yoga, and so it is currently programmed with some of the music I use for teaching vinyasa yoga....Enigma, Thievery Corporation, Air (with this link,you can listen to tracks - try Femme d'Argent...delicious sound). And I am loving my tunes right now. IVDP also turned me onto some great music that could put you in the mood to get your body moving in a Far Eastern kind of groove - it's Streaming Bhajan Radio. Worth checking out....


Thursday, August 18, 2005

What is Surya Namaskar B?


So beautiful it almost hurts to watch....


What is Surya Namaskar A?


Any questions?


What is a tummy tuck?

A friend of mine, who I have spoken to on the phone but have not seen since my surgery, asked me a really astute question today about my surgery. She wanted to know where my new belly button is. I explained that I still have the same belly button on the INSIDE but the old "outside" has been pulled down and closed up. A new external belly button was created on top of the "umbilicus" - the actual stalk of the belly button, the thing that feeds you when you're a baby in your mother's womb.

I thought that was a great question, and one that no one has ever asked me (and one I had never thought to ask. So, I am linking to the explanation of Abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) on the American Society of Plastic Surgeons Website.


The Yamas of the Yoga Biz....

I am not sure when this article, entitled "Yogis Behaving Badly first appeared, but I stumbled upon it today when I was looking up a question about Bikram Yoga for a friend of mine. I surmise it is more than a year old, based on some potential content that is not included, but I think it is worth a read. I won't say more than on....


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Newsweek Scoops Other Publications by Bringing Lung Cancer to the Attention of the Public!

Oh, wait.

Wasn't it there before?

The current media darling of the "suffering sweepstakes" crowd (fickle as it is) appears to be lung cancer. Let me be the first to say, I am ALL for it. My dad is currently battling locally advanced, super-aggressive lung cancer (in a very short time, it had spread "everywhere BUT" to another organ) -and seems to be doing super-well thanks to an "old school" combination of Carboplatin plus Taxol chemotherapy drugs and a new biologically-targeted therapy (i.e., one that does not kill healthy cells but tricks the bad cells into self-destructing), Tarceva. It is obviously a terrible, deadly, evil disease.

But what I am not for is the seeming backlash against other cancers, like breast cancer, as if no one dies from that, as if it doesn't strike young people (and much younger than lung for the most part), as if those who get breast cancer are not stygmatized in their own ways, just as those who get lung cancer.

The Newsweek Article starts from the premise that lung cancer kills more people annually than breast, prostate and colon cancers combined (some 160,000 Americans each year). That is AWFUL. And it doesn't just strike the "pack-a-day crowd", as they put it, see, for example Dana Reeve. In addition, the prognosis for a lung cancer patient tends to be truly dismal: something like 85% die within five years, but most of them will have died before one year has passed from their diagnosis. Making things even more disturbing is that there is no "clinically proven" diagnostic tool that has been PROVEN to detect lung cancer reliably in its early and still curable stages. Most people are diagnosed when they already are at my dad's stage - and my dad was one of those who was a non-smoker and had annual physicals, INCLUDING, a chest x-ray. One year, his lungs were clean, the next, he had a lymph node sticking out of his neck, which led his doctor to order a "Spiral CT Scan", which immediately informed us of my dad's condition: lots of tumors, all over the abdomen, no cure in sight. It has never been clear to us whether my dad is Stage IIIb or Stage IV, and frankly, we don't care as long as he does his protocol and gets better (which his scans say is actually happening.... no tumors anywhere except for the tiny, original primary tumor in the lung, which could be excised via radiation if it doesn't end up disappearing on its own...knock wood, or as we Jewish folks like to say to ward off the "evil eye" of assuming too much good fortune..."kinahura").

But in the news and in the media lately, there has been an undercurrent of resentment towards those who are in the "popular crowd" with regard to cancer - those with breast cancer, for example, which one doctor told me gets more research money devoted to it than ALL other cancers combined. Those with testicular cancer are arguably in the same crowd - their cancer is amazingly curable, even without resorting to chemo. Yoga Chickie's own husband was treated for testicular cancer three years ago, at the same time that the Chickie was fighting breast cancer (notice how I embed this factoid's not something that the Husband talks much about as he perceives that there is a stigma against anyone who would be so "weak" as to "allow themselves" to get cancer....which, sadly, is probably true, a sad fact that I have been mulling over quite a bit lately as my yoga teaching career veers off-course a mere month after my asking a certain uptown studio that must remain nameless if they might consider offering a yoga for breast cancer survivors workshop, with me as its teacher...thus officially outing myself....

(Brief break in monologue for another shout-out to Yoga Sutra for being the first studio in NYC to offer Yoga For Breast Cancer Survivors as a REGULARLY SCHEDULED WEEKLY CLASS!! YOU GO David Kelman and Christopher Hildebrandt!)

I am told by the girls on the General Discussion Board for the Young Survival Coalition that there is television commercial aimed at raising heart-disease awareness (the "Red Ribbon" disease), which commercial spotlights a woman grieving her late sister, who "had mammograms every year only to end up dying of heart disease, the silent killer" or something like that; you get the point. I am also told by the Young Survival ladies that lately, breast cancer patients/survivors are being sort of "ganged-up on" at support groups for having the "easier" cancer, for having the cancer that has a better survival right. Excuse me, but, uh...WHAT??? If we have such a really great survival rate, I sure wasn't pointed to that info in MY brochure.

And even the Newsweek article includes the following quote from a lung cancer survivor (aged 37, yes, this is terribly unfortunate):

"What was difficult was people automatically assumed I smoked. You'd never say 'How'd you get it?' to someone with breast cancer.'"


How many times have I had to field this VERY question or some other variation on it??!! "How'd you get it, did you have a family history?" "How'd you get it, did you have mammograms?" "How'd you get it, did you do self-exams?" "How'd you get it, were you older than 30 when you had your first child?" "How'd you get it, did you breastfeed?" "How'd you get it, did you take birth control pills?" The object of the questioning seemed to be to establish that the Ask-ee had either a family history or had done something that made breast cancer more of a probability than for the Ask-er. When the answer is, as it is for me, "No, I didn't have a family history of breast cancer," the Ask-er will often re-ask the question: "Really? No breast cancer in the family? NO ONE?" This is NOT the answer the Ask-er was hoping for.

It has always seemed to me that the point of these questions is to create distance between the Ask-er and the Ask-ee. If the Ask-er can find a way to distinguish herself from the Ask-ee then the Ask-er can walk away, saying, " least that won't happen to me because I have no family history" or basically, just fill in the blank after the "because". It's not something that I have no sympathy for (can you parse through those double negatives?). If you read my
memoir, Beauty and the Beast, you would know that I was TOTALLY one of those people who would look at women with breast cancer and say, "She's kind of fat, so that must be why she got breast cancer, and I'm not fat at all, so I won't get breast cancer or "She didn't have kids until she was 40, so she got breast cancer, and I was pregnant by 30, so I won't" or "She didn't nurse her children, so she got breast cancer, but I nursed for 2 full years, so I won't". But in the end, all of that comparing and contrasting simply fueled my anxiety about becoming ill, and it certainly did not keep me from getting breast cancer, as it turned out.

In truth, I feel a great deal of sympathy for anyone who has cancer, but especially those who have cancer and who ALSO feel isolated or stygmatized by their disease. I don't know what it would have felt like to have a disease that no one talked about, that had little research money spent on it (although, lord knows, I could still get a disease like this someday - having one bad disease doesn't insulate you from all don't necessarily get only one challenge per lifetime....). I look at the Yoga For Breast Cancer Survivors Class that I give at Sutra, and I wonder if there are women out there - men even, who wish there was such a class for them. All I can say to that is that my class may be called "Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors", but it is open to anyone who wishes to come - whatever your personal struggle...and we all have them. Two of my students actually don't even have breast cancer, I think I mentioned earlier - they just have their reasons for wanting to be there, and we all respect that.

Getting back to the original theme of this post - lung cancer and how it is portrayed in the media - if there has not been enough coverage on lung cancer up until now, then at least now there will be. But I suspect that there has always been plenty of coverage, plenty of attention, plenty of talk, plenty of lawsuits against the Tobacco Industry. When I was a wee girl of three years of age, I was already badgering my grandpa, Benjamin Epstein, to quit smoking because it is "Dirty, Disgusting and Dangerous" (he did quit smoking eventually, live to be 87 and saw his photograph become the cover art for one of Philip Roth's novels).

I was THREE when I began my attack on Grandpa's smoking habit. It was 1968, I think we had one television set in our house, and I didn't even read yet. But I knew. I don't think it makes much sense to pretend that any of this is a shock, any more than it is ALWAYS a shock when someone young like Dana Reeve is diagnosed with ANYTHING vile and evil and it is ALWAYS a shock when ANYONE has to suffer any sort of illness. Smoking is bad. Lung cancer is something that can happen to anyone. Smoking puts one at higher risk. But so does living and getting older.

So, is lung cancer due an "overdue moment in the spotlight", as Newsweek asserts? I can't honestly say that this rings true for me at all - seems to me like lung cancer has been in the spotlight for as long as I can remember. But if recent news of the death of Peter Jennings and the illness of Dana Reeve can bring research dollars to early detection, then have at it...


Copyright 2005-2007 Lauren Cahn, all rights reserved. Photos appearing on this blog may be subject to third party copyright ownership. You are free to link to this blog and portions hereof, but the use of any direct content requires the prior written consent of the author.

About Me

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Northern Westchester, New York, United States
I live by a duck pond. I used to live by the East River. I don't work. I used to work a lot. Now, not so much. I used to teach a lot of yoga. Now not so much. I still practice a lot of yoga though. A LOT. I love my kids, being outdoors, taking photos, reading magazines, writing and stirring the pot. Enjoy responsibly.


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