Friday, September 30, 2005

Dear Yoga Chickie,

Why so hostile, about me and the wife, yo? Me and Demi, we had a Jewish wedding and followed all the traditions, right down to the breaking of the glass at the end, a'ite? That's more than I can say for you, yo, you dis da Ganesha puja, bending instead, you know what I be saying, dat be true, Yoga Chickie, yo.


AK from LA

Dear AK,

Actually, my post that talks about you, Demi, Madonna, Esther and Hamentashen (I left out Britney because she put on 65 pounds during her pregnancy - GO GIRL! - and she might be really sensitive to being made fun of right now...) as being examples of "appropriation of culture" was intended to be tongue in cheek. It was supposed to be so OVER THE TOP that it would illlustrate what it is that Yoga Chickie finds to be absurd about the notion of claiming "ownership" over Indian culture, Hindu culture and the Eight Limbs of Yoga, including the Asana limb.

Even as a Jew, Yoga Chickie is not particularly upset or even moved by the idea that non-Jews are aping Jewish ceremonies and traditions. They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery. If there was anything to "steal" from the Jews and the Jewish religion, perhaps Yoga Chickie would feel differently. By analogy, Yoga Chickie is not really upset or moved by the idea that non-Indians (etc.) are aping Indian (etc.) ceremonies and traditions. And Yoga Chickie freely admits that she is one of those who does the aping: she teaches yoga, including quoting and interpreting passages from the Yoga Sutras, including chanting in the Sanskrit language. Like the non-Jewish Kabbalists, Yoga Chickie does not adhere to every aspect of Judaism, nor does she adhere to every aspect of yoga tradition. That being said, Yoga Chickie is quick to acknowledge that the traditions are important, and that changes from the tradition be recognized and given context. As such, she ends each of her yoga classes with the following request: that her students bow forward in a gesture of honor to the traditions of yoga practice.

If anyone thought that I was angry about Hamentashen, let me just dispense with that notion here and now. The more Hamentashen I can find in the spring, the better. I don't care if it's baked by rabbis or by nuns. I often bakes some in my own non-Kosher kitchen.

As for my "monkey mind" - first of all, I really dislike the negative reference to monkeys. I am a huge fan of Hanuman, the great monkey God-warrior of Hindu mythology. He was brave, and he was patient, and he loved his master, Rama so much that he was willing to spend, literally YEARS on a quest to save his life and to bring back his love, Sita (who Hanuman may or may not have been in love with, himself). Hanuman did what was thought to be impossible: he leapt across the sea. He did it out of love, he did it with devotion, he did it with perseverance. It has been said that from the moment Hanuman began his leap until the moment he touched down in Sri Lanka, years passed, and during that time, Hanuman's hair went gray. I think that we all could benefit from being a bit more like this particular monkey, Hanuman.

Putting aside the word "monkey" and just focusing on what is meant by "monkey mind" (the term, "monkey mind" refers to a mind that is distracted, a mind that is spinning and leaping jumping like a monkey), I don't think that writing in a journal, or a public journal like a blog, is the sign of a monkey mind any more than writing a novel, poetry, music or engaging in any form of creative expression is the sign of a monkey mind. And if it IS, then bring on the monkeys. The world would be a terribly boring place if we all became too blissed out to engage in creative expression.

What I write here is, for better or for worse, creative expression. Like it or not, like me or not, if you are reading this blog, it is because I entertain you. If using my mind to spin creative riffs on whatever happens to be flitting around in my fertile mind is wrong, then I don't want to be right.


Thursday, September 29, 2005

Since we're on the topic, I'm thinking about doing some suing myself...

First on the list is Mr. and Mrs. Ashton Kutcher, a/k/a Demi and Ashton. I was flipping though one of this week's rubbish rags and saw a photo of the two of them in full costume, dressed as babies, to celebrate PURIM at the L.A. Kabbalah Center. Neither of them is Jewish, and yet they are blatantly using the Jewish religion's holiday to garner publicity. Do they even know what Purim is? Do they even know that it's not one big secular costume party? Do they understand that Purim is a RELIGIOUS and JEWISH CULTURAL celebration of Jewish triumph over potential holocaust brought upon by the words of a biblical-times Hitler character named Hamen?

I think that might call for a lawsuit.

And that reminds me - I noticed last spring that Hot and Crusty, that ubiquitous so-called "bakery", was selling "Hamentashen", a special triangular-shaped, fruit-filled cookie eaten by Jews traditionally on and around Purum. The cookie is intended to work as a mockery of Hamen's tri-cornered hat. But it also tastes pretty damn good, especially if you are partial to apricot jam. So, Hot and Crusty, which is not a Jewish institution is profiting from the suffering of the Jews and the triumph of the Jews over Hamen, thanks to one hot-chick named Esther, who knew how to "work it".


Yes, Esther used her feminine wiles to talk the Ahasuerus, King of Persia, who happened to be her husband, out of exterminating the Jews of Persia. Pretty, sexy Esther, who neglected to tell said husband that she was a Jew, but who took her life into her hands by approaching her husband, the King, without a "summons" (an act punishable by death, even if committed by the King's wife). Which brings me to Madonna. Does she realize what she is co-opting when she decides that her spiritual name shall henceforth be Esther?


And going off the topic of theft of Jewish intellectual property, let's not forget that Madonna has been known to appropriate the British accent as well as a British way of life as a bid to better her image?


The only problem with suing in these cases is that everything we're talking about here is in the "public domain". Even ACTUAL copyrighted works end up in the public domain eventually. I believe the duration of copyright is life of the author (whoever created the work, regardless of whether it is a book - the word "author" is used by the U.S. Copyright Act to indicate anyone who creates a copyrightable "work", whether music, art, performance piece, movie, etc.) plus 100 years. Or something like that (I don't feel like doing the research on this - I am so done with that part of my life. In any event, copyrights eventually expire. So, I am kinda thinking that the story of Purim has probably reached its expiration date. And I'm kinda sure that no one can claim ownership of a Hamentashen anymore. Or the rights to the name, Esther. Or the right to use a British accent or to live in the Cotswalds with a couple of hounds and a horse.

Even if it just feels WRONG!

On the other hand, let's say that someone opened up "Joe's Jew Temple" in Toledo, Ohio, and let's say that the Temple hosted "Cheeseburger Fridays" and "Sunday Clambakes" and celebrated Christmas and Labor Day as its highest holiest of days. I would say that there would be some issues there of misrepresentation. And SOMEONE might have a leg to stand on in suing Joe for misrepresenting his "Temple" as an actual place for Jews to worship. I am not sure if there is a governing body for the Jewish people who could do so, and I am quite sure that Israel wouldn't have standing to sue Joe. But someone, perhaps "congregants" who were "misled" into worshipping at a place that turned out not to be a Jewish house of worship, might be able to sue. Is it a trademark claim? I don't think so. Trademarking is a way of identifying a product (Servicemarking is a way of identifying a service). It has to be unique, and it has to be owned by someone in order for anyone to sue anyone for an infringement. I just don't think that applies here.

Does it apply to the government of India attempting to create ownership rights in poses that are probably in the public domain? Does it apply to the supposed appropriation of Hindu (or Buddhist or Sikkh, for that matter) customs being used in the U.S. to enhance what may or may not be essentially a really good workout? It just doesn't seem to make sense.

OK, kill me now.


Wednesday, September 28, 2005

What are we to make of this?

Apparently, India is thinking about suing our asses for theft of their intellectual property ... and by intellectual property, I mean yoga.

From an article published by the Washington Times:

"We know of at least 150 asanas [yoga positions] that have been pirated in the U.S., the UK, Germany and Japan," he says. "These were developed in India long ago and no one can claim them as their own."

In an effort to protect India's heritage, the task force has begun documenting 1,500 yoga postures drawn from classical yoga texts -- including the writings of the Indian sage, Patanjali, the first man to codify the art of yoga. The data is being stored in a digital library whose computerized contents will soon be made available to patent offices worldwide.

"This is a very good idea," says B.K.S. Iyengar, the 86-year old yoga guru credited with having introduced yoga to the West in the 1970s. "Yoga is an essential part of our heritage, and India has to protect it."

The worst "culprits" are Indians based in America, where yoga has become a $30 billion-a-year business -- a growth fueled by celebrity adherents such as Madonna."

For once Yoga Chickie is speechless. What is there to say? Surely something is missing here, something has to have been taken out of context...surely no one can sue anyone on the basis of copyright or trademark infringement for using yoga poses or the teachings of Patanjali...



Do all "days from hell" start out with an "I feel fat"?

No one, other than an anorexagenic modeling agent could look at me and call me "fat". Yet today, the Chatterer did just that. And by "Chatterer", I mean my "mind", the part of me that is not my "essence" but, rather, a home-grown, life-experience-enhanced pretender to the "Self" resting calmly within me and patiently observing this poser, this pretender, this Citta-Vritti-manufacturing "Chatterer".

So, the Chatterer took one look at my body today, and condemned me for eating six Mallomars last night. The Self looked on with equanimity, knowing that this too shall pass. The Chatterer set about trying on clothing at 7:15 a.m., checking to see if anything had grown tighter (subtly, but definitely, yes). The Chatterer began concocting plans to turn this problem around fast, ways of eating, ways of exercising. The Self calmly watched, knowning full well what she needed.

The Chatterer took my Self and my Body on a stressful trip downtown to Shala X today, that began with the good intention of not driving when there is a national call for gas conservation. Good intentions aside, it doesn't help when you are so scattered that you can't remember what you did with your Metro Card. And it doesn't get any easier when the Second Avenue Limited busdriver grinds the bus to a halt while you scrounge around in your wallet for loose change, causing all of the other bus riders to begin grumbling loudly, preparing for mutiny. Not wanting to be the cause or the object of any violence, I skulked off that bus and began searching for a newstand that sold Metro Cards.

Ticktock, ticktock, time goes so quickly when you can't get your act together, and the Chatterer was plenty angry at herself for allowing this to happen. Finally, she found a store that sold Metro Cards, and she got herself onto the Second Avenue Bus.

The Chatterer fell into a brief delusion at that point, one in which she believed that all would be well, and nothing would now stand in the way of her getting to Shala X by 9:30 a.m. Delusion quickly gave way to suffering, as the reality of heavy traffic made itself apparent. Still not ready to surrender to having done all that she could do and simply letting the rest happen, the Chatterer, sat on the bus, annoyance boiling over as a woman in the front of the bus began harassing a woman who was standing in front of her. What did this have to do with the Chatterer? Why nothing! Of course! But suffering can manifest itself in many forms, and in this case, it was irritability. When 9:30 a.m. had come and gone, with the bus was still crawling down Second Avenue, and the bus stopped to pick-up a wheelchair rider, the Chatterer threw up her hands in aggravation and stormed off the bus. She figured, it's time to cab it.

Ah, more delusions. There were no cabs, and as the Chatterer kept shooting her cuffs to look at her watch, and as the time kept crawling toward 9:45 a.m., and as the Chatterer approached the next Limited stop, the Chatterer began to fret about how she was going to practice yoga with all of her stress, with all of the aggravations of the morning piled up into her consciousness. How was the Chatterer going to practice if she only had 45 minutes in which to get adjustments, and she had wanted to have a nice, slow, MELLOW practice (which would take closer to an hour before Finishing)....?

The Self finally spoke kindly to the Chatterer: Come as you are, the Self said. Come as you are. You don't wait to be in the right mood for yoga. You don't need for the "ride" to be smooth. You lay down your mat when and where you find it, and you practice yoga in the moment. If you do that, what is happening here and now won't matter in THAT here and now.

The three of us (Self, Chatterer and my Body) got to the shala at 9:45 and had a nice, slow, calm, 8-breaths per pose practice. There was no adjustment in Mari C as a result (Sir left the room at 10:30, and class was officiall over, although the students are allowed to finish on their own), and yet the Body found its own way to feel the twist, to open the shoulders, to touch the fingers together behind the back. The Self was more present than the Chatterer could ever remember in an Ashtanga shala, although it is hard for the Chatterer to say, since the Chatterer was fairly quiet during the entire practice, making space for the Self to emerge.

Sir did walk back into the room at one point to reprimand us for continuing beyond Mari C (as research FOR Mari C). The Chatterer was a bit miffed by that because as far as the Chatterer was concerned, Sir had left the room before the Body had even gotten to Mari C, so what business was it of Sir to stop the Body once class was over? Nevertheless, the the Chatterer got hold of the Body (the Self was nowhere to be found) and made the Body be obedient. We went right to Finishing Series, which was nice and relaxed (so, apparently the Self quietly padded back in), and then we left.

There were several messages on my phone when I (we!) emerged from the Shala. One was from a photographer who wants me to come to a casting call for asana modeling. I laughed and told him, "Do you realize I am only five foot one inch tall?!" He said he thought so, from the photo he had seen of me (the one that New York Yoga is still carrying on their web site). They pay $75 an hour, and the photos are used as stock footage for wellness programs at banks and other large companies. If The Husband doesn't need the car tomorrow, I guess I could go down to Brooklyn to my very first (and probably ONLY casting call ever).

The other was David Kelman at Yoga Sutra, who asked me to take over the Thursday morning 10:00 a.m. Vinyasa class! Hooray! A daytime class!! A quality studio!!

But as Ralph Waldo Emerson would say (and I am paraphrasing as I am simply too lazy to go get the actual quote), "Your fortunes turn, you get a job, some other good thing happens, and suddenly, you think your life is made! Well, think again. Only YOU can bring yourself peace."

Ah, shucks, having said that, I felt compelled to go and get the actual quote. Here it is:

"A political victory, a rise in rents, the recovery of your sick, or return of your absent friend, or some other quite external event, raises your spirits, and you think good days are preparing for you. Do not believe it. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles."

from "Self-Reliance"


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

More Lance's not about the juice...

I stumbled upon this excellent blog called Cancer News Watch this morning as I procrastinated from getting my butt to practice, and I wanted to share the link as well as an incredibly thought-provoking Post about Lance Armstrong and why he is not necessarily fit to be the "poster boy" for cancer survival. This has nothing to do with his supposed (and completely unconfirmed) use of athletic performance-enhancers and everything to do with the type of cancer that he survived (testicular, which is one of the most curable cancers known to man) and his access to the state of the art of state of the art medical care.

It's funny - I have ALWAYS thought this about the Lance Armstrong mythology, especially when people kept dropping off copies of "It's Not About the Bike" and expecting me to get inspired to open my own can of WHOOP-ASS on the beast. I appreciated the thought, I really and truly did. But truth be told, I never identified with Lance because while testicular cancer is considered completely curable, breast cancer is not (even if one survives long term). To illustrate, one need only look to The Husband, who is a testicular cancer survivor. He sometimes even FORGETS that he is a cancer survivor. So, all else being equal, and assuming that you don't KNOW my husband and his ability to compartmentalize and rationalize, that is pretty telling...

Unless you've been living in a cave (and some of you have, or at least wish to, right?) you must have seen enough pink in store windows and enough advertisements featuring older women wearing bandannas to know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And even though I HATE being beaten over the head with pink, pink, pink and more pink, and I generally shun all the majorly folksy breast cancer events because I don't feel particularly sisterly about being a member of this "sisterhood", I do think it would be interesting to share some information here over the course of October about breast cancer, and perhaps cancer in general. In my own style. So, don't expect big hugs....although I might surprise you.


The infamous "Botox Article" from the days of yore

I referenced this article in my post regarding Internut Psychology, saying that back in 2002, it could be found on, where it had been originally published. But then it occurred to me that I haven't been on Parentwise in quite a while, and my friend Dana, who founded and ran the site, is now a television news reporter for News 12 Long Island. Thus, I wondered if the article was even still available. Turns out that Parentwise is now password protected, but there's always the old "cache", and sure enough, I found it.

And so...for your reading pleasure (or as excellent fodder for the "Yoga Chickie is a vain poser" argument), I present to you: Botox and Me: Or, My So-Called Face.


The Comeback .... not coming back. And I am really sad to hear this.

In case you never watched it (and with only 1.5 million viewers across the country, it is likely that you never did), The Comeback was Lisa Kudrow's post-Friends vehicle. Neither comedy nor drama nor sitcom nor reality show, The Comeback was probably a victim of its own esotericness. No one who watched it really knew what to make of it, and I am including myself in that, at least for part of the season.

The Comeback dealt with the self-described "journey back to herself" of Valerie Cherish, a fame-obsessed, impossibly self-absorbed, 40-something former sitcom star-turned-has-been, who gets a shot at making her "comeback" on a sitcom in which she is relegated to the Mrs. Roper role (from Three's Company): the aging, nosy, unappealing upstairs neighbor. And as if that were not enough humilation for an actress who can't stop reminding everyone around her of how big of a star she was approximately two decades ago, her contract requires that she have cameras follow her around 24/7 for purposes of a Reality TV show called "The Comeback".

Watching Valerie try to put a non-humiliating spin on the indignities of life in "the biz", and even worse, watching Valerie refuse to acknowledge that she even needs a comeback at all (how can one who believes that she has never stopped being a star, need a comeback?), made me wince. And from what I read on HBO's bulletin boards, it made others wince as well. Wince, cringe, blush, cry. This was a testament to the power of the writing and the acting. Valerie was not Lisa Kudrow, but it was easy to forget that because the acting was so sublime, so subtle, so on-target.

But this was also the Achilles heel of the show. One watched it expecting to laugh. One didn't expect to be invited into a sensitive story of pride, vanity and ambition. Nothing about the look and feel of the production even vaguely hinted at the Comeback being anything but funny and feel-good. But as it turned out, all of the laughs were on the main character, Valerie. And by "laughs", I guess what I really mean is nervous titters. It was HARD to watch Valerie dress up in yoga clothes and attempt Tree pose so that she could appear on the cover of a Yoga Journal-like magazine, when in truth, Valerie didn't even practice yoga. At all. It was HARD to watch Valerie walk in on a group of writers lewdly and viciously making fun of her, while she stood blinking back her tears, holding a basket of cookies she had baked for them. It was HARD to watch Valerie lecturing to her young, sexy, up and coming co-stars on "how to make it in the business", especially when one of those co-stars was being featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. It was HARD to accept Valerie's jealousy over that same co-star's being stalked by a deranged fan.

But hard as it was to watch (and I don't think it was any harder to watch than Larry David's cringingly antisocial antics), it was good television. And now it's gone. I wish I had blogged about it while it was still "alive"...maybe if I had gotten one person to watch it, they would have gotten one person to watch it...and so on....

Sigh...Rest in peace Valerie Cherish...


Monday, September 26, 2005

Internut Psychology 101

Some of the back-and-forth on my blog of late has gotten me thinking about the psychological intricacies of internet communities...

Back when I was at Tufts, the Psychology Department offered courses on engineering psychology and industrial psychology along with the more garden-variety social psychology and abnormal psychology courses. Given the changes in the world landscape since my late nights in the Gott Room at Wessell Library (as well as drinking dollar beers at Nick's Beef and Beer in Somerville, doing Aerobics on the Hill and other silly things that kids in college do), I've started to wonder: Do universities now carry courses about the psychology of internet communities?

Wouldn't you think that there would be some interest, nowadays, in how internet communities develop and form pecking orders? How people react when given a forum in which they can anonymously rant, rave, ask for advice and endlessly complain? In the 10 or so years I have spent as a participant on the web, I've noticed certain patterns, and such patterns have left me is it that every internet community ends up with a group of "alphas" and a group of "deltas"? Who ends up an "alpha"? Why are some people shunned and made to feel like outsiders? How does the selection of the "alphas" in any given internet community differ from the selection of "alphas" in a real-life, non-anonymous community? Do the people who "troll" for controversy on the internet troll for controversy in real life as well? Or is there some other dynamic at work?

I have been pondering these questions in some form or another since early 1994. That was the year that I discovered the internet while working as an attorney at Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler, an intellectually snobby midtown law firm that had a large intellectual property practice. One of my first clients there was an internet firm called "Reach Networks," which, from what I can tell, no longer exists. At the time, Reach was hired by large companies (like Big Eight Accounting Firms...remember those?) to create "intranets". But Reach was also amongst a very small and select group of ISP's that had a presence on the net very early on in the game, when Yahoo and Netscape were private companies, when Google didn't exist, and when Prodigy and CompuServe were still forces to be reckoned with. These were the days when it was unusual for a company to have a web presence, when it was virtually unheard of for an individual to have a web page, and when "blogging" did not yet exist (except in the form of "journaling", i.e., talking to onesself, on usenet forums).

Reach's internet presence was The Transom, which was very much like AOL except way, way, way smaller. It was a private, online community that one had to pay for, and it provided internet access as an INCIDENTAL (!!!) benefit. The MAIN attraction of The Transom was its message board community. It is the only message board community that I can think of that REQUIRED its members to use their real names. I don't know how they pulled this off, but somehow they did. As a result, members had to be incredibly self-conscious and to monitor what they wrote fairly carefully. Nevertheless, we still had our share of scandals and in-fighting.

Amongst the early members were Daniel Radosh and a group of his very cooly intellectual media friends, many of whom were Spy magazine refugees. Remember Spy?? The Transom had a similar sensibility. And I was soooooooo not an alpha member of this group.

The days of The Transom were the days of Usenet's reign over the world of internet "bulletin boards":, and stuff like that. Anyone remember those days? I remember someone telling me around this time that soon we would be buying our groceries off of Prodigy. This made no sense to me at all. It sounded like crazy talk! It never happened, of course, at least not via Prodigy (what happened to Prodigy anyway?). But here we are in 2005, and Fresh Direct is virtually the only way that my family buys groceries these days.

Fast forward to the year 2002. Usenet was long gone - or at least it no longer had any sort of prominence on the web. In its place, were giant internet communities with "bulletin boards" or "message boards", communities as large as iVillage (with hundreds of message boards on hundreds of topics), which is where I found the Breast Cancer Support Board when I was first diagnosed. I had already used the Trying to Conceive Support Board years earlier and the March 1997 and May 1999 "Playgroup" Boards after I had my kids. So, it seemed logical to tap into the iVillage Breast Cancer resources now that my time for that had come. Unfortunately, I didn't yet know about other communities like the Young Survival Coalition that might have been more appropriate for someone like me (young, fit, ethnic, urban, angry), so I just stayed with the iVillage group.

Until I was run out of there on a rail.

Yes, I was the persona non grata of the iVillage Breast Cancer Support Board. I am sure there have been others before, and others since, but at the time, I was the girl to despise. I came to the board, scared out of my mind, awaiting the final results of my biopsy, but knowing full well that the "suspicious" fine needle aspiration already told me that I was looking at a cancer diagnosis. The ladies on iVillage were quite supportive at first, wishing me "B-9" results and telling me to "just breathe" (which, even before I discovered the calming aspects of yoga, made good sense to me). They told me they would pray for me, and I believe they did. It didn't matter to me that they asked Jesus to help me, and my religion doesn't recognize Jesus as our God. It didn't matter that I had nothing in common with these women, most of whom were old enough to be my mother or even my mother's older sister, most of whom had never seen the inside of a gym, let alone a yoga studio, most of whom lived in depressed rural communities in the middle of the country, most of whom were nothing like me at all, on any level, in any way, shape or form. All that mattered that there were people out there, people who didn't even know me, people who promised to hold me up with their invisible hands.

Unfortunately, trouble began brewing almost immediately after my official diagnosis came in. At that point, it became harder and harder for me to coast through the "denial" phase of my grieving process (grieving for the healthy me that would never get a disgusting disease like cancer). Instead, I found myself running into the brick wall of "anger", although it was so subtle that I didn't even recognize it. All I knew was that I couldn't believe this was happening to me, and Goddamnit, I didn't want this to be happening to me. Not only did I not want to die, but I didn't want to have to suffer all of the indignities of the treatments that might keep me from dying, particularly because they might NOT keep me from dying, and THEN what? I would lose my breasts, lose my hair, gain 20 pounds and a steroidally-induced moon face and then die anyway?

It wasn't fair, and I was PISSED.

One day, soon after I was diagnosed, but before I had begun my treatments, I posted on the board that I was really upset because, among other things, I didn't want to "end up bald and fat" and then die anyway. Thus came to a close, my salad days on the iVillage Breast Cancer Support Board...forever.

Let's just say that hell hath no fury like a bald and fat woman scorned. I was EVISCERATED by the ladies on the board, who told me that I had some hell of a nerve caring about my appearance when there were women DYING of breast cancer right now, this very minute, women with children, women like me except that THEY didn't give a hoot about their hair or their weight. I tried to explain myself: "But you don't understand who I am, what I am like...I am young and fit, and my appearance has always been part of who I am!"

The battle cries only grew louder, and understandably so...I mean, I was trying to fit in, and yet I was setting myself apart...I wanted them to like me, but I was telling them that they couldn't possibly understand me and had nothing in common with me at all. I was called shallow and vain (which can be an accurate assessment, at least at times, I know), and I was accused of ageism (which is NOT accurate). I protested the ageism accusations, explaining calmly that breast cancer in young women is actually a different disease than breast cancer in older women. Aha, they responded, so you're saying that you have some special sort of disease?! That you have some sort of greater RIGHT to survive it than we have?!

I decided to take a different tack. Instead of focusing on myself, I decided to focus on the way this might impact my kids. I posted that I was concerned that my kids would be frightened when my hair started to fall out, when I started to look different, and I was wondering how I should handle this eventuality. But this only served to further stir the pot. One woman wrote to me that she would gladly be wheeled to her son's soccer game in a wheelchair if that's what it took for her to get there, and that I ought to be ashamed of myself for allowing my vanity come between me and my children. WHA? Did I say that?

I guess I should have just skulked away at this point, licked my wounds and found a group that "got me" a little better (like Young Survival, for example). But I couldn't accept that a group of women who had breast cancer wouldn't accept me as one of their own. Up until that point, there had never truly been a group of people who simply wouldn't accept me. If I wasn't an "alpha", I was always friends with the alphas. I was always a part of things that I wanted to be a part of. So, this whole dynamic made no sense to me, and I couldn't accept it. Instead, I kept trying to make them like me. But everything I said drew criticism and hatred.

Eventually, I got kicked off the board by the powers that be at iVillage. It was put forth by some of these women that perhaps I didn't even HAVE breast cancer. Perhaps I wasn't even female. Perhaps I was a "gay man living in a mental institution", they posited. But my absence from the board did not stop the hatred. Even though I could no longer post to the board, I kept reading it, and every time someone new came along with something to say that didn't hit these ladies as "right", it was assumed that it was ME, in another guise! One day, one of the ladies on the board found a way to discern my real name and publish on the board the name of the law firm where I had most recently worked as well as links to some writings I had published (one of which was pretty damn funny, actually: Botox and Me, or My So-Called Face, which was published on the now-defunct I wasn't even on the board you can imagine how creepy this was for me.

But I digress...I guess the purpose of my tale is to show that anyone can be the "delta" in an internet community (in any community, really), and it's not always those who tend to be "alphas" in life who become alphas in the internet communities of which they become a part. I would imagine that the internet is a perfect place for all people to be "equal" at the outset - looks don't count, social status doesn't count, being "cool" doesn't count, being "smart" doesn't count (as much - we do know that SPELLING counts for something), how much money you make and how you make it don't count. On the internet, it's something else, something that may be much more intangible, something that I can't really define at the moment, that makes you either fit in....or not.

So, where are the scholars of this? Perhaps at the New School? The Learning Annex? If not the Tufts Universities of the world, then where?



Can you imagine trying to be in Sirsasana (or Sarvangasana, for that matter), with THESE in your face?

WHY, dear God, WHY would anyone do this to herself?


To Sir with love

Practice didn't exactly rock the house today, but it was good, and Teacher, who I think I might start calling "Sir" on this blog, just like Adam's Tae Kwon Do Teachers are called "Sir" and "Ma'm", was very kind to me. He even gave me some R&D work to do to open up the front of my chest, which he thinks is the root of my Mari C difficulties. More later. Right now I have to have to have to run to take Addy to Tae Kwon Do before HIS Sir and Ma'm get all bent out of shape, and not in a good way.


I am an Answer!

I can't believe this, but I am actually an "answer" on If you search "Lauren Cahn"...this is what pops up.

I am shocked because I never submitted anything about me or this blog to And the Author description is quite nice. I have no idea who wrote it, but thank you!

A listing on's a little more than being on google and a little less than being in the encyclopedia!


No one is calling anyone a nut...

But it seems that some clarification is needed.

Here is the comment that seems to have gotten a certain good-writer/good-speller (the "Good Spelling Commentator") a bit peaved:

"Hey Chris...thanks for going to bat for me on my're sweet. Don't let Anonymous get to you....the internet is full of nuts. When you're not nuts (as opposed to no news or nose news), it is hard to imagine that others are. But sometimes a nut is just a nut....Lauren (and now I am sounding like one...)"
Please note, that this comment appeared not on THIS blog, but on Wandering Mind, Chris's blog. The comment was inspired by something (an) Anonymous (not sure if it was The Good Speller) wrote on MY blog REGARDING Chris, which wasn't nice and which constituted an ad hominum attack (I am SURE I spelled that wrong) - an attack on the person, himself. I deleted it, and felt like I should say something to Chris to make him feel better in case he read it before I had deleted it - because based on the way Chris has defended me on my own blog, I make the assumption that Chris is sensitive to insults and barbs from anonymous sources.

I was not saying that the Good Spelling Commentator was a nut. I was speaking generally of "inter-nuts", which are everywhere, and I went so far as to say that I was beginning to sound like one, myself. I think anyone can, given the right context.

As for the Good Spelling Commentator: I am HAPPY you commented on my spelling. Let's just set that one straight for the record, a'ite? What I do object to is commentator-to-commentator insults and in-fighting. If anyone is going to be the brunt of insults on my blog, it is going to be me beause at least I wield the power to delete if I get really, really upset about something (I do try not to abuse that power and let the less-than-glowing comments fall where they may).

As for "K", who has commented here anonymously before because I recognize the writing style, I am left with the feeling that it is better if I just don't respond to you at all because any response is going to simply exasperate you more and further convince you of whatever it is that you are already convinced of regarding me, my opinions, my vanity, my writing style. That is not to say that I mind your commenting here freely, K. Please, go right ahead and keep on commenting. Your perspective is obviously quite different from mine, so surely it is something from which I can learn.


I'm going to practice.

I'm going to practice.I'm going to practice.I'm going to practice.I'm going to practice.I'm going to practice.I'm going to practice.I'm going to practice.

I need to just step away from the computer and go. Now, go. GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Go DAMNIT!!!!

I'm going to practice.I'm going to practice.I'm going to practice.I'm going to practice.I'm going to practice. Alright. Now, then. Now, I mean. Not then. I need to just get my ass off this chair and go get my car and drive down the FDR. I can be there in 15 minutes, which gives me an hour to practice, not including Finishing. I can do it if I leave now. OK, what time is it now? Damn, it's already 20 after. I really need to go.

OK, last sentence. No clicking on any bookmarks. Just hit Publish and go.


Sunday, September 25, 2005

Sunday blues

Ever have one of those days where nothing feels quite right, where your practice is just missing that special something, where your computer crashes, and then even your error messages generate error messages?

I was on the fence about practicing today. I woke up every couple of hours last night, so it wasn't a great night's sleep. But I woke up with only a minorly sore throat, and I wasn't completely fatigued. So, at least there was something to debate internally. Practice or not practice? Practice won out, but not without quite a bit of passive aggressive procrastination on my part.

Eventually I made my way down to Shala X, having first dropped off the Husband and Kids at Sports Club/LA for some family sports fun - rock climbing, hoops, etc. Since Hebrew School was at 11 a.m., I had to be back for the Kids by 10:45. I arrived at the Shala at 9:30, and after searching out a spot amongst the maddening crowd, I got right to it. And nothing felt quite right. My hamstrings never quite surrendered. My feet didn't want to root in the Virabadhrasanas. My Ardha Baddhas never felt like they were massaging my internal organs - my foot lodged somewhere low on my groin instead. And where were my bandhas? I mean, seriously, WHERE WERE THEY? I had no lightness, no lift after the first or second Surya Namaskar A. My jumpbacks were really step-and-skip-backs. And then....the dreaded Marichis struck again. Everything was tight. Nothing wanted to give, even a little. I got through A, and half of B, and then on my second B-side, it simply wasn't happening. And where was Teacher? Why wasn't anyone helping me? Was I being shunned? Did I do something wrong? Does everyone hate me???? These are the vrittis that wove a tapestry of YUCK through my mind as my practice slid downhill and crashed on the rocks below.

Teacher finally made his way over to me after I got B on the second or third try. It was time for C. Yeah, we managed C, but it didn't feel good at all. It didn't feel like I had been making any progress at all... a week's worth of work was gone from history. I know that the asana journey is not linear, but still! This felt like a slap on the face...or rather, on the ASSana.

And then on the second C-side, it got worse: Teacher reprimanded me for not surrendering to the adjustment! "When you get an adjustment, you need to let me do all the work and just relax; otherwise, you undercut the work I am trying to do." WHA? I felt like a child getting her knuckles rapped by a Catholic School nun. Who even SAID I was supposed to let Teacher do all the work? Where was the memo about that? I felt ashamed and embarassed, and when I was done, I rushed through my backbends so that I could get the hell out of there because I felt like I was in the way of more worthy students.

I am just being honest here....this is what I was, doesn't it?

My finishing series was so fast, I think my neigbors must have suffered whiplash. No stiff Savasana, three breaths in Sarvangasana, a breath in Halasana, another in each of Karna Pidasana, Urdhva Padmasana and Pindasana and I just completely skipped Matysasana altogether. Uttana Padasana was a mere approximation, and it lasted for less than a breath. I did sit in Badha Padmasana for quite a while, sort of watching my neighbor to the north effortlessly jump forward and backward and bind in all of the Marichis.

I felt sad.

Then I laid on my back for about thirty seconds (I won't even call it Savasana) and then fetal position and then sat up in padmasana (left leg first) to recite the closing mantra. I made it back to Sports Club/LA in record time - 9 minutes from Shala to Sports Club, dropped my kids at Hebrew School and then made my way to midtown to have a head shot taken at Yoga Sutra.

At least that came out well. Matan, the photographer, is mighty talented, I must say. Things started to look up at that point, I guess, because while I was getting ready to go back uptown my phone rang. It was The Husband, telling me that Adam had been "discovered" by the Synagogue cantor for his "shofar-blowing" skills. Adam has been practicing blowing the shofar for a couple of weeks, and today he brought our family shofar with him to Hebrew School so that he could show off a bit. Well, the powers that be took notice and asked The Husband if Adam could be on the "Shofar Team", which is the group of people chosen to blow the shofar in the Main Sanctuary on Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippur. This is a major honor.

Remember: Adam is only SIX!


Saturday, September 24, 2005

If a tree falls in the woods....

and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Brian, age 8: "Yes, of course. A sound doesn't have to be heard to be a sound."

Adam, age 6: "Yes, because it's so loud that we can hear it anyway."

When they put it that way....


Weekend at Cheney's

I just read that Dick Cheney had six hours of vascular surgery today to repair two aneurysms, one in each of his legs. I wasn't really surprised to hear about the surgery, so much as I was surprised to hear that Dick Cheney is still alive. As reported by the Houston Chronicle:

"Cheney, 64, has had four heart attacks, quadruple bypass surgery, two artery-clearing angioplasties and an operation to implant a special pacemaker in his chest. The pacemaker starts automatically if needed to regulate his heartbeat."
Seriously. I thought that surely he was dead by now...

I know it's not really cool to make light of another person's ailments, but I have to admit that I keep thinking of that movie, Weekend at Bernie's, which involved a dead guy being propped up and puppeteered by a couple of young party-boys, so it would look as if he were still alive...


Keep it real...but keep it civil...

Yoga Chickie has never met a controversy she didn't like....but when my commentators start to fight amongst themselves, aside from getting a Zach Braff complex, I start to get the uncontrollable desire to get up on my little soapbox and preach about playing nice.

Remember, I have ze powah to hit ze delete button...and I did...

Keep it coming, ya'all. But if you start to diss each other, I am going to have to kick some yoga butt.


Speaking of pronunciation...

I want the final word on "Samasthiti" (I KNOW I am not spelling it right, so in the words of the comedian, Judy Gold, who is also a mom at my kids' school and who hosts the charity benefit there each year, "Shut the f--- up"). HOW is this word pronounced? I have heard Guruji say "Sa-MAS-ti-TI", and I would think that would be the way to go. But I have heard Sharon Gannon say "Samas-TEE-Tee". And I am sure I have heard countless others, including "Sa-mas-ti-hee-tee-tee".

So, someone out there...please shed light!

And that reminds me: Is it "Par-Vree-Tee" or "Par-Vree-Ta"?
Is it "SHVAnasana" or "Svanasana"?
Is it "ooordva" or "Erdva"?

I think I know the answers, but maybe not so much?

Feel free to chime in.


Stoopid girl

It's a good thing spelling doesn't count on blogs. Or maybe it does, just a little. The thing is, if I wasn't so goshderned lazy, I would just get into the habit of using blogger's spellcheck capability, thus eliminating the risk of embarASSment altogether.

Now, for a sensational slide down the slippery slope of spelling stupidity, for a full-fledged fun flight of fancy on the flagrant foul of my fledgling feat of word-flinging: Alliteration.

And gadzoinks, gosh-dangit and urp; smack me upside the noggin...the correct spelling of "that word" is:onomatopoeia

I love all the comments here...I am ADDICTED to them, really. I think I would rather comment on your comments than on anything I ever have to say, myself. The good, the bad, the ugly...anyone who knows me in real life knows that it is hard for me to resist stirring the pot a bit, so I can totally understand when others do so.

So, just thinking about the concept of spelling....why is it so apalling to be caught in the act of misspelling? Personally, I think it is far more embarassing to be caught in the act of mis-pronouncing, because to me that implies that one is a pretender, a vicarious liver of life. One can read all one wants, but if one has not lived the life one is reading about, one cannot properly pronounce words like "respite" ("res-pit", not "RE-spite") and "redux" ("ray-doo", not "REE-DUX"). But maybe that is just my "stuff".

A writing replete with misspellings possesses its own implications about the writer - perhaps that one is NOT a reader, that one is merely a poser, using big words with which one is not truly familiar, which implies a bit of fraud. Of course, in this day and age, with spellcheck easily accessible on nearly every writing platform, poor spelling may indicate something even worse...a lazy writer, an inconsiderate writer! Someone who can't be bothered to make her writing accessible to others.

Or it just might be a glitch....



P.S. I didn't spellcheck this. And I didn't even check to confirm the pronunciations of respite and redux. The Yoga Chickie is living dangerously today (and she didn't practice, since it IS Saturday, and her sore throat was even worse today...thinking about calling the doc for a Z-Pack. One of the little-known benefits of having a cancer-diagnosis under your belt is that forever after, if you want drugs, all ya gotta do is ask).

Friday, September 23, 2005


My throat HURTS!! And my stomach is all wonky. And I ate a scone for breakfast, and I never even eat breakfast anymore. But whatcha gonna do when your stomach feels all blechy?

No practice for me today. I was going to have to miss my mysore practice at Shala X anyway because I had a thing in Brian's classroom, but I was going to try to go to Erika Hildebrandt's half led primary at Yoga Sutra at noontime. Unfortunately...well, whine whine whine.

Does anyone practice when they feel like crap? Am I supposed to? Still not clear on that....

Brian's classroom thing was a "Book Group". The book was Lemonade Sun, a collection of poetry, which every Third Grade kid at the school was required to read over the summer. Once the school-year began, the kids in Brian's classroom were given a set of questions to think about, like "What did the book make you think about?" and "How did the book of poems differ from other types of books you have read?" They wrote their answers down as a way of preparing for the Book Group.

Today, being the big day, the parents were invited into the classroom, where we sat in small groups with our kids and discussed the answers to the set of questions. At first, we talked about the type of language the poetry used (lots of aliteration, lots of onamotapoeia). Then somehow, the discussion veered into more philosophical territory....about the nature of poetry, comparing and contrasting it first to prose in general and then to any sort of work of fiction or non-fiction. After some lively debate (the Husband, a man who has not read a word of literature since Freshman Year of college, told the group that "poetry is all fiction, as it is never factual; another mom demanded, "But what about "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere?"), we came to the conclusion that poetry is really about the "form", rather than the "content".

Since I wrote poetry in college (I even won an award from the Academy of American Poets), I found this very intellectually stimulating. Thus, I was surprised when the groups, one by one, gave a summary of what they had discussed amongst themselves, and discovered that every other group talked about "lemonade" or "sun" or "summer" and stuff like that. My friend and fellow mom, Ann, and I giggled when we realized that we had actually subjected our little Third Grade Book Group to a college-level discussion of post-modern literary theory...


Thursday, September 22, 2005

Self practice with laughter

So, due to my teaching schedule today, I was unable to go to Shala X. Instead, I squeezed in a self practice in the Mysore room at Yoga Sutra. It wasn't my most intense and focused practice, but it was a lot of fun. David K, the founder of Sutra was practicing as well, and there was a student (the Horse Trainer) who wanted to watch him (since he practices third series), or rather watch and chat. And then Christopher showed up, and the four of us ended up chatting as David and I practiced. Christopher gave me pointers in Prasarita Pado A and Triang Mukha Pada Paschimo, and the Horse Trainer (a pretty accomplished student herself) gave me an assist in Mari C after she and Christopher noted that my fingers were touching (!!!!!). Later Christopher noted that I need not worry about Mari C because it is nearly there!!! Mari D, not so much. I finished all of Primary, since by the time I got past Mari D, it was just me practicing. When the cat's away....Anyway, it felt great. I am looking forward to learning the poses after Mari C, one on one with Teacher at Shala X, but for now, it's fun to practice them on my own when I am practicing by myself.

I am loving the Finishing sequence lately. LOVING Badha Padmasana. LOVING Pindasana. I feel like my surgery (the repair of my abdominal diastasis) has really made a huge difference in my practice. I hope the stitches hold together....

Breast Cancer Survivors class was really a blast tonight. We had six students, two of whom were new, one of whom didn't even have breast cancer - she just wanted to be there because she has a family history and she just had some breast surgery (not for cancer). We are sharing the Mysore room, thanks to Christopher's generosity and the general generous spirit at Yoga Sutra. Namaste Yoga Sutra!!! You guys really put the yoga back in yoga....

If I sound tired and disjointed, it is because I am!

Bedtime for Yoga Chickie...


Why all the changes?????

Did EVERYONE change their blog format this week? I am clicking on all my favorite links - REW, KJS, Facing Inward, Driste...and nothing looks like I am expecting it to. Is it just my computer? Or is everyone's blog re-formatted suddenly? Is mine?

I don't do well with change....


Another 108!!!

Next month...another 108 Sun Salutations at Yoga Sutra!

"On one fine day this fall, participating studios all over the U.S., the UK and the world, will host a "Great One-Oh-Eight" to benefit those in desperate need in India, particularly children and the elderly. The charity is "Operation-Shanti", and for more info about the cause, visit Operation-Shanti.

The date is Saturday, October 22, and the time will probably be late afternoon. More details to come....

Busy busy day today!!! I am writing this from David Kelman's office at Yoga Sutra!!! Off to teach another class...

More later,


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Teaching Updates

This week I am teaching a few group classes, all at Yoga Sutra NYC, and all on Thursday!

10:00 a.m. Vinyasa, all levels
1:15 p.m. Vinyasa, all levels
7:00 p.m. Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors

Hope to see you!


Inducting the Newbies...

Today I did half of my training to be a volunteer in the Resource Library at Columbia Presbyterian's Oncology Floor. It used to be the Breast Center's Resource Library for those newly diagnosed with breast cancer. But there are so many other kinds of cancers being treated on the floor, and so many patients who need the support and assistance when they first come in with a diagnosis...the natural evolution was toward a full-service Resource Center.

I still have another three hours of training, a monthly meeting and six hours of internship, plus I need a full physical and two separate tuberculosis tests.'d think they were doing me a favor. But I suppose that all of this will just ultimately serve to increase my commitment to the cause.

After my training session, I came home and literally forced food down Lou the Beagle's throat. She is totally off her feed, and her ribs were starting to show through her fur. This is NOT okay for a baby puppy. I am going to be placing food on the back of her tongue until she is willing to eat this crap herself. Who could blame her? Kibble is absolutely NASTY. Plus, she has these teeny tiny little teeth, so everything is all mashed up and mushed up anyway. Not a lot of fun to eat food that's practically already been digested.

Oh, and before my training session, I had a wonderful practice at Shala X. Teacher gave me wonderful, wonderful adjustments in Mari A, B and C, and it looks like I am really, really close to getting Mari C on my own. After we finished, Teacher told me that he thinks that this heavy-duty Mari A through C approach is going to give me the breakthrough I need on my binds, and everything else will fall into place after that. I completely agree (although Mari D could still be a big hurdle...but maybe with C in full form, D won't be so difficult?) and am loving that I am moving slowly through the series again. Learning one tough pose at a time is plenty. I have absolutely NO anxiety anymore before practice. I just come in and do my thang.

Saw an old friend at the shala, someone I used to know from my Bikram days. Last time I saw her, I was probably nearly bald, and she was putzing around after a Bikram class in Supta Kurmasana and Badha Padmasana. I knew someday she would become an Ashtangini...and I was right!

Hey...yogis and yoginis out there...can someone comment here with some good advice on how to jump forward from downdog? One of my students really is trying hard, and it's not fully happening yet. She wrote about it in a comment to an earlier post, and since I have to run to get my kids from school now, I can't write something up on this until later...So, until then...any advice?



Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Existential Mommy

First, let me say that I LOVE being a mom. I am ALL about being a mom.

Now, I need to admit something: Every evening, at dinner time, I get this feeling of dread regarding what is to come. Dinner, homework, washing-up and bedtime. It sounds so simple! It sounds so easy!! But NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dinner consists of me trying to get my kids to eat SOMETHING other than pizza, mac and cheese and hamburgers. I broiled these wonderful baby lamb chops the other night (please no comments from the vegetarians/vegans out there....), but my kids wouldn't even touch them. It's like that nearly every night, unless I cook up one of the aforementioned favorites. And vegetables? Uhuh. Adam will occasionally eat some cauliflower, and Brian likes salad. But for the most part, dinner is a highly unbalanced meal. And that doesn't give me the good mom vibes, you know?

But the worst is yet to come...homework. Adam is in first grade, and Brian is in third. If you don't have kids, I doubt that you will believe me when I tell you that they each have close to an hour of homework every night. Most of the teachers at their school give out a packet of homework assignments on Monday, and the kids can pace themselves over the course of the week. Every night, they are expected to read for 20 minutes to a half hour, depending on the grade. And then there is the written work on top of that. Math worksheets, social studies, puzzles (anagrams, crossword puzzles, card games...sounds like fun? Not so much...).

Here's a tidbit from Adam's homework packet: One of Adam's assignments this week was to compile a list of AT LEAST eight words that have the sound "eeeee" in them. They can be spelled "ee" like "tree" or "ea" like "steam". First grade! I wasn't taught to READ until first grade! But this is the way things are now.

Not that I don't totally appreciate the incredible education my kids are getting. But every night, as I look at what is on the homework sheet for that day, as I open up their backpacks to see if anything additional came home or if there are any "book publishing parties" or "presentations" coming up this week that I have to add to my own calendar, I do feel this heart-quickening feeling of dread.

And when I finally finish with the meal negotiation, and they finally finish with the homework assignments, they are allowed to watch some television. And then I have to coax them into their pajamas and get them to put their clothes in the laundry, and I am still usually left with a playroom that has toy cars strewn about and half-built block buildings littering the floor. Keeping that room and its gazillions of toys organized is a job fit for Sysiphys.

Actually, the whole daily process is a bit Sysiphysian. Who was it that said that Sysiphys found meaning and pure consciousness in his unending rock-rolling? Was it Sartre? It could just as well have been Patanjali. I try to tell myself that. On good days, like today, I sit patiently with the kids and remind myself that this is a practice, a daily practice, and that patience and calm is going to make it feel better than fighting it. It's what I do, after all. It's pretty much all I do. So, why not keep rolling that rock up the hill with a calm, easy smile, or at least without rolling my eyes?


I'm such a poser

I took a nice hot bath this evening, and afterwards, I did some twisting Research and Development (R&D). And then...I bound in Mari C, on my own, on my good side, which for me is the second side!!! Yay!!! I had to write this, in case I ever forget that I did this on my own.

Sometimes I think I will never move past Mari C. Ever. 10 years from now, there I will be...Mari C: "OK, I think that's good for today." Please....tell me that won't happen....I love my Bujapidasanasa and Kurmasanas....I love putting my knees behind my shoulders....and someday, I know that I could really love putting my leg behind my head....if only....


Taking my sweet time....

Fixed my technorati issue - don't know how that happened, not gonna worry about it, other than i am pretty sure that at some point, i was asked by technorati to give them my blogger password, which seems weird, but whatever, in any event, i just changed my password - and now I can focus on the nice morning that I had today.

I am enjoying my new routine, getting up in the wee hours, walking Lou the Beagle, making a nice, hot breakfast for the kids (scramled eggs, toast and strawberries today), getting them to school by 8:30, heading up to the East 84th Street Deli for a large black Hawaiian Hazelnut cuppa (it is such incredibly awesome coffee that I go five blocks out of my way to this random corner deli in order to indulge) and then heading to Shala X. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, I have the luxury of taking the bus because there is a late Mysore class, in case I miss an earlier one. So, I get to read the paper, look at my calendar, make a phone call or two. On Mondays and Fridays, it will have to be me and my gas-swilling (15 mpg!!!! oy!!) SUV.

Ran into a friend and fellow yoga teacher, who I used to see all the time whenever I was at Shala X. I'll refer to her as the Student, as she is currently working on her doctoral degree. She and I chatted for a few enjoyable minutes, and then Teacher asked us to come inside. I was embarassed because I didn't realize that Shala X was following an hourly class-time format now. So, the Student and I got started 10 minutes into the session, and it was kind of cool, because we were both started at almost exactly the same time. She actually started about one Surya A ahead of me, but she must take longer breaths because I soon found that we were in the same poses at the same times.

That is, until we got to Janu Sirsasana. Without even knowing it, I was starting to slow down. I thought that my days of dawdling my way through the poses leading up to the Mari's were over. But apparently, there is still some proscrastination going on, purely by reflex. It is completely unintentional. You see, I really ENJOY Mari A and B now. And I am excited about C because it truly is HAPPENING.

Teacher gave me a wonderful assist in Mari A - bringing my elbows in close, making sure that my wrapping hand was gripping my (incredibly sweaty) wrist. I did B on my own. I feel a bit off balance in B - I want to get my forehead to the floor right at the midline, but I feel myself leaning over to my lotus side. But it still is a good pose for me now. Teacher let me take on C by myself for a bit, and I guess he saw that my fingers were touching behind my back, so for the first time EVER, I got a very simple assist to bring my hands to touch, and the rest of the adjustment was about twisting my torso deeper. And deeper. And deeper. I felt like I was going to spin all the way around, a la Linda Blair in the Exorcist. When he let go, I held it for another five breaths.

And then I wasn't sure what to do. Was I supposed to go on to where I used to practice to? Or was I supposed to consider this to be my stopping point. Yep. The latter. And that is SOOOOOOO SOOOOOO good for me because this way, I am going to really learn Mari C, without getting distracted by all of the poses that come after. I am going to learn Mari C once and for all!!!

Hence, I am enjoying taking my sweet time.....

Another benefit - I have more time in which to savor the finishing poses. No more rushing through. I am LOVING sitting in padmasana (lotus), so the more time I have for that, the happier I am right now.

After class, I helped cut some fresh flowers for a mala that Late Session Teacher was planning on making and presenting to Ganesh. That was kind of nice. It did turn out that the flowers were kind of half dead from the inside out, so it didn't seem like such a great offering to Ganesh afterall.

Since I feel good physically and I am loving, loving, loving my practice, I upped my "class card" to the full monty: 6 days a week.

Yoga Chick-itsa!

Technorati hacked my html code???

Just got home after a really nice practice at Shala X, followed by a couple of errands (new dogfood for Lou the Beagle, who is very very picky and has not been eating well, some school supplies at Staples, a new lamp for my desk), clicked on my blog and found that Technorati had invaded my sidebar. This is very weird. How did that happen?

I am going to look at my html code and see if somehow, changes got made.



Monday, September 19, 2005

Oh yeah, and my practice...

Shala X was warm and sweaty this morning. Teacher was cheerful and welcoming. Teacher asked me when was the last time I practiced, and I told him I had been there Thursday and did only Standing Poses and Finishing, and that I had practiced at home and went through Garba Pindasana but skipped Navasana and Bhuja Pidasana. He told me to go ahead and practice to wherever it felt right for me today, which turned out to be Mari C, and he agreed.

My twisting is still in need of major help, although it could simply be that I am not fully recovered from my abdominal surgery. I can't say that there is really any problem with my ability to bind anymore. Binding has become like putty in my hands. And so, it is the twisting that is the uphill battle for me....patience....time....practice....

So, let's see, highlights and lowlights: My Surya Namaskar B has lost some of its smoothness. I think I just need some time to reacquaint myself with it. It just feels kind of jagged to me right now. Got my hands to the floor in Prasarita Padotannasana C with a minimum of gentle help from Teacher. All of the seated poses and my vinyasas in between felt "right". Until Mari C. Then I lost my breath, I needed help to get the bind (I was soooooo close on my own, but I still needed help to get the actual solid bind). And I did my first, tentative Urdhva Dhanurasana (full backbend). One was enough. I couldn't believe I even did one! My finishing sequence was nice. I bound in Bhadda Padmasana, which was really cool.

I think I am going to get a 6-day a week instead of the 3-day a week I bought. It wouldn't be a bad thing to be there nearly every day, even if some days I take it very easy.

Oh, and then I had my six month check-up at the oncologist. All is well. Nothing to report, and no news is good news. Next appointment in six months, unless it turns out that I have signs of osteoporosis, which could very well be. In that case, I will need one single infusion of a drug called Zometa in order to help me keep my bone mass (remember, I have the bones of a 69 year old woman at this point - menopause, thank you very much).


I Heart Sociopaths

What is it about sociopaths that I so enjoy listening to their problems, getting wrapped up in their issues, and dispensing advice that will inevitably be ignored?

Since historically, I have had many male friends, although far fewer since I have been married, I could say that I am a magnet for sociopathic men, men who follow their own sets of rules and who find a way to rationalize it whenever society rears its ugly head and challenges them on their actions. But it's not just the men...there are women of this kind too that have ingratiated themselves into my heart at times. And ultimately, it's really not that I am a magnet for such people. Indeed, they will try to win over anyone who comes into their path. It is more that when they find me in their path, I choose not to repel them.

There are those out there who will instantly recognize the drama queens, the chronically-victimized, the big-talkers whose big-talk seems to go endlessly in circles without making the slightest bit of sense, the too-good-to-be-trues, for what they truly are...and they will walk away without getting pulled into the vortex. I remember a friend of mine sat listening to me talking on my cell phone to Sociopathic Friend Number 2 (discussed below). She only could hear my end of the conversation, and what it sounded like was something like this:

"I only invited her to come along because she was standing right there when we were talking about our plans.....No, I didn't tell her where we were going yet....Um, I feel kind of weird about that....I just don't know if I feel okay about doing that....Hey, what's the harm in one more person coming with, the more the merrier, right?...No, I am not trying to upset you...Of course I am not trying to screw you over, why would you say that....."

When I finally hung up, my friend said, "Why do you let her spin you around like that? Just set limits. Better yet, cut her loose." I am hoping to be so wise someday, to see the drama, to sniff it out before it knocks on my door and to keep that door bolted shut with a big ole chair against the doorknob.

In the meantime, here is a sampling of the sort of people I have allowed through the door, at least in the past:

Sociopathic Friend Number 1: Male, current age: 41. Handsome, affable urban nomad who, together with his wife, created an aura of romance around his marriage and what seemed to be their somewhat sketchy and mysterious shared history. He dazzled me, my husband and many others with stories of international adventure and wheelings and dealings in real estate and the stock market and with his fluency in four languages (actually, we have no proof that he spoke more than two...we have only his word, which is not worth much, as it turns out), exquisite taste in homes, home furnishings and Clive Christian-designed kitchens, and his puppy-like devotion to his wife. Like Daisy and Tom Buchanan, their voices sounded like money. But it was an illusion. Turned out that Sociopathic Friend Number 1 had a talent for swindling his own friends out of their hard-earned savings. How else to fuel his and his wife's taste for the all of the best that life had to offer? Friend Number 1, who is no longer a friend, and who has been on the lam for the past two or three years, recently surrendered to the FBI on charges of wire fraud, conspiracy and violations of securities laws.

Sociopathic Friend Number 2: Female, current age 41, although she has been known to lie about her age, among other things. Former Wife of Friend Number 1. It seems that Sociopathic Friend Number 2 knew all about her husband's illegal activities and chose to turn a blind eye. Up until the point in time when Sociopathic Friend Number 1's illegal activities drew the attention of the authorities, Sociopathic Friend Number 2 enjoyed a life of seemingly inexplicable and at times somewhat unseemly luxury (a mink scrunchy once adorned her ponytail). There were many who were envious of her husband's devotion and tendency to shower her with expensive jewelry and designer clothing.

Unfortunately, Sociopathic Friend Number 2's life was not nearly as happy as it looked. While wearing the jewels and the Madison Avenue clothing lavished upon her, she secretly entertained flirtations and full-blown affairs with supposed "friends" of hers as well as an employee of her husband's. However, when the authorities began to investigate her husband, Friend Number 2 had an easy out with regard to her affairs: what else could she do to cope with her husband's many betrayals, including the ultimate betrayal, the turning to a life of crime? Turns out Sociopathic Friend Number 2 may have been a co-conspirator in her former husband's crimes. Sociopathic Friend Number 2 is no longer a friend.

Sociopathic Friend Number 3: Male, age 30. Cheating on wife since their first year of marriage, three years ago. When I expressed my disapproval of his trolling the internet for new women, rather than confronting his wife about their marital issues, he assured me that he knew I was right and was going to change his ways. A week ago, he told me that his wife found out about his latest paramour - a girlfriend he has had for the past six months. It is so painful for him! They are in LOVE!! It is the only BEAUTIFUL relationship he has ever had! His wife is devastated, and she has kicked him out. Despite his "LOVE!!" and "BEAUTIFUL!!" relationship with his paramour, he is now in the process of begging his wife's forgiveness. Why? Because THIS is not the "way" he wants his marriage to go down.

Sociopathic Friend Number 4: Male, age 37. Former friend, we lost touch long ago. Married with kids. Recently became reacquainted when he found me through the internet and attempted to draw me into a sordid internet-sexy-chat-thingy. I hesitate to say "affair" because, you see, he does not consider that to be an affair. Like Bill Clinton, Sociopathic Friend Number 4 has certain rules and regulations by which he can organize and rationalize his indiscretions. If it is only on the internet, it is not cheating. In person is not cheating either, as long as kisses are not shared and there is no genital-to-genital contact. Otherwise, it's all good.

Sociopathic Friends Numbers 1 and 2 are long gone from my life, although it interests me to hear the shocking details (why am I shocked though??) of their continuing plunge into the depths of self-orchestrated misfortune. Sociopathic Friend Number 3 is still peripherally in my life, as I have not found a way to cut him off since each time I try, he tells me I have a nerve abandoning him and judging him when he is at his lowest point ever. Sociopathic Friend Number 4 overstepped his boundaries one too many times, and is now history.

I am getting better at cutting loose the drama-laden detritus of my life. But it has been a long, strange trip.

Oh, and by the way, certain details have been changed to protect the privacy of these not so innocents.


Sunday, September 18, 2005

Thank you everyone who came to Yoga For Hope...

We had 12 wonderful, generous yogis and yoginis, and we collected over $200 for the Red Cross's Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

I was worried that leading 108 sun salutations might be monotonous or tedious, but it was anything but! Our alternating sets of 12, and our not holding downward facing dog except on the sixth and the 12th of each set (actually child's pose on the 12th), really kept things moving and fresh. Words of wisdom from Ralph Waldo Emerson, Helen Keller, Samuel Johnson, Flora Edwards, Albert Schweitzer and Woodrow Wilson (and a few motivational words from Michele and myself) helped set an intention for each set.

In the end, it only took 70 minutes to complete all 108! So, happily, we had time to hold a juicy Paschimotannasana (seated forward bend), Sarvangasana (shoulderstand), Halasana (plow pose), Karna Pidasana ("pressure on the ears" or "knees around the ears" pose) and a bent-kneed Jatthara Parivartanasana (lying down twist) before taking a 10 minute Savasana (final resting pose, a/k/a corpose pose).

Michele was kind enough to give everyone a hands-on adjustment in Savasana. Thanks, Michele...Thanks also to David Kelman and the wonderful Yoga Sutra NYC family for making this possible....

And thanks to everyone who made this a wonderful event....



How to get through 108 Sun Salutations...


First of all, you don't have to finish all 108. You can do as many or as few as you want. It is your intention, and most importantly, your presence, that counts.

Second of all, you don't have to worry about keeping track. That's what Michele and I are there for.

Finally, to keep it fresh and to keep it moving, Michele and I are going to break it up into nine sets of 12 salutations, holding down dog only in the sixth of the 12, and then holding child's pose in the 12th of the 12. Each set of 12 salutations will be imbued with its own intention, usually in the form of a short quotation from a wise mind (for example, the Dalai Lama, Helen Keller, Coretta Scott King). The overarching theme will be "helping others" (or in yogic terms, "karma").

We look forward to seeing you at Yoga Sutra tonight!


Friday, September 16, 2005


I practiced at home today, and it felt great, especially because I had just taken a hot, hot bath and didn't bother dressing for the occasion. Now that's what I call hot naked yoga.

And now that I have your attention...PLEASE join me and Michele Sonier for 108 Sun Salutations at Yoga Sutra (501 Fifth Avenue) this Sunday at 6:00 p.m. Admission is by donation (your choice, suggested minimum is $15), and all proceeds go to the Red Cross, earmarked for Hurricane Katrina Relief.

For more info, please click on Yoga For Hope...

Many thanks!


(P.S. I wasn't kidding about my practice today. I did skip Bhujapidasana because there was just no way I was going to be able to hold that pose with no clothing for traction.)

The wild, wild west

Yeehaw, Yoga Chickie IS a western girl, after all. Someone once asked me, WHY the name? So, indeed, why the name? Well, if you know me in person, you know why the name. It's just me. What it sounds like, it is, and I am.

I have a daily yoga practice, but you'll never find me living on an ashram (hell, I get snitty if I go to a hotel that doesn't have a marble bath). Sometimes I take my kids to Burger King, and sometimes, I indulge in a junior whopper (without the bread). I love reading Namarupa, but I prefer the photos in Yoga Journal. I studied 19th Century transcendentalism and 20th Century Post-Modernism in college, but I really enjoy watching reruns of Friends. I am introspective and focus a great deal of my attention on improving myself as a person every day of my life, and yet I am every bit as vain as my plastic surgeries would suggest (right mom?).

I am a Jew who studies Buddhism (a member of the Jews for Buddha, along with several others with whom I studied at Om) and who eats shellfish. I am a Jewish female who doesn't cover her head in synagogue or sit apart from the men. I have never visited a "mikvah" (a place where Jewish women on their moon are required to go in order to "become" blessed and clean). I am an intellectual snob who reads all the gossip rags. I went to Strollercize when my first child was born, not for the exercise, but to socialize. I went to the rarified "New Mothers' Luncheons" at Hi-Life, but breast fed my baby over Citrus Chicken Salad and maintained a California-Hippie-esque family bed while my babies were nursing (each one, over a year).

Most pertinently, I am a yogini and an Ashtangi, and yet I live in the West, and I practice within the parameters of my Western life. I indulge in consumerism, blatant, lavish consumerism, despite the fact that yoga requires non-greed. I drive an SUV, which eats gas like Pac-man on speed, despite that yoga requires non-harm. I tell my kids that the tooth fairy left them the money under their pillow, despite that yoga requires non-lying. I study myself (svadyaya), as yoga requires, but sometimes I allow myself to indulge in a bit of denial.

And all of these paradoxes, I acknowledge, and I embrace.

From the moment we are born, we begin to define ourselves. And I believe that many of our struggles come from the curve balls life throws us that challenge our definitions of ourselves. You think you're a great student, but you get a C on a paper. Struggle ensues. You think you're a great artist, but you can't sell your canvas. Struggle. You think you're a healthy person, but you get sick. Struggle. You have this image in your mind of yourself as a 25 year old, but you grow older. Struggle. Midlife crisis. Porsche. Divorce.

In my opinion, a healthier way to live is to recognize where the self-defining becomes self-limiting and to embrace the paradoxes that we inevitably experience. I don't have to "go back to Bikram" just because I don't practice Ashtanga EXACTLY the way Guruji teaches it in Mysore. I can practice Ashtanga to the extent that it makes sense within the parameters of my life.

We all do it. Some of us are more willing to admit it to ourselves. And some of us are simply more willing to admit it in a public forum.


For Nobodhi, in particular...

and for anyone else who is experiencing problems accessing the bottom portion of my blog...I don't know what is causing the problem, but I have thought of a ways you might get around it. If you have not done so already, click on the permalink to the post you want to read so that only that post's web page appears in your browser window. That way there will be far less text for your browser to handle.

Let me know if that works!



Thursday, September 15, 2005

Before the "after" photo,

there was me, bloated and heavy from steroids, and wearing a shaggy blonde of nine wigs in several different colors, styles and textures (my favorite was the long, layered strawberry blonde, the silliest was the shoulder-length set of highlighted, dark-rooted corkscrew curls that I called the "Carrie Bradshaw"). The above photo was taken by my mom in the hospital waiting room, not too long after I finished my last chemo, as I waited to be called in for my bilateral oophorectomy.

And there was me with a buzz cut and a nostril pierce. The above photo was taken about two months after my last chemo when my hair had started to grow back all short and punky. The little diamond nostril stud is only visible if you actually click on the photo for a close-up. It did not go over well with the Husband or the Friends, by the way.

I kind of miss that little diamond stud. The buzz cut not so much. The blonde wig not at all.


My other kids

I feel terribly guilty that I have posted photos of Lou the Beagle, but not Brian the Brain and Adam da Man.

And so, here they are.

Brian is the redhead, in a "thinking" pose in the photo above.

Adam is the cut-up performing his rendition of an "armpit fart", in the photo below.

Shala X

I had a WONDERFUL practice at SHALA X today!!! Main Teacher was so supportive and told me to begin slowly by covering only Standing Poses today. Assistant Teacher helped me in Uttita Hasta Padangusthasana, which I really needed because my scarline is keeping me from straightening my standing leg as I extend my other leg. After Standing Poses, I went to Finishing Series. And all was good. Not just good, but DELICIOUS!!!!!!!! Warm, sweaty, delicious Ashtanga Yoga!!!!!!!!!!!

Assistant Teacher, whom I had never met before, told me that for now, my yoga will be "going slow, being patient". I can dig it.

I think that for now I am more comfy not mentioning anything or anyone concerning my practice by name. I am really desiring some privacy on that front, despite how much I love talking about my actual practice.

A couple of clarifications now, to address a particularly bitchy comment I received on my last post from someone who seems to have pretty strong convictions, but not strong enough that he or she was willing to identify himself or herself by name:

1. I am not responsible for the assumptions and misunderstandings of others. Assumptions and misunderstandings happen in other peoples' minds. I do what I can to report things accurately. The rest is up to the reader.

2. I have NO problem with Eddie or any of his students. I very much LIKE almost everyone I have ever met at Ashtanga Yoga New York. I respect their choices while realizing that it probably wouldn't work well for me, at least the me that I am today. Perhaps another few years of yoga, and I will welcome their way of doing things. Who knows?

3. I don't believe that respect OR EVEN POLITENESS require that I embrace any particular way of approaching Ashtanga. And neither respect nor politeness require me to keep my mouth shut about it on my own blog. I guess you could consider me the Bill Maher of Ashtanga Blogging: "yogalitical incorrectness" may be expressed, and heretofore unbroken taboos may be broken.

4. I don't need everyone who reads my blog to like me (although I really love to be that so wrong?). I would hope that my readers read my blog with the understanding that we are all different, and that is why, thank God, we have so many choices in terms of where to practice and with whom. I would MUCH rather invite intelligent discussion and debate than be "liked". I'd like to be liked as well. But given the choice, I would rather provide good reading!

5. If you find my words one day to be inconsistent with my words the next day, then EXCELLENT!!!!!!!!!! I am not a politician making promises; I am a human being making statements about how I feel on any given day.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesman and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do." My readers, I wish for you to EMBRACE inconsistency as your horizons broaden, and may your horizons NEVER stop broadening.

Off to teach my Jewish Octegenarians....


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Extreme Makeover = Back to Square One

So, it is three years ago this week that I had a double mastectomy at the age of 36 (surgical treatment for invasive ductal breast cancer, Stage IIB, multi-focal of the right breast in the form of three separate tumors, two grossly positive lymph nodes, micromets in third lymph node, tumor grade being 3 out of a possible 3 in terms of aggressiveness, and good grades don't get you anywhere in breast cancer).

Following the surgery, I had six months of chemo, six weeks of radiation, 15 months of biologically targetted therapy, a bilateral oophorectomy (much of this overlapping) and a lifetime supply of an aromatase inhibitor called Arimidex as well as yearly infusions of a bone-builder called Zometa. In the course of all of that, I experienced total hair loss (I had a great selection of wigs - nine in total, and then my hair grew back, yay!!), weight gain as a result of steroids and metabolic changes (at least 20 pounds, but I lost it finally, no small feat, and much of it is attributable to Ashtanga), capsular contraction of the right breast (nothing we can do about that, unfortunately), loss of fertility (whatever), loss of skin-tone (now that pisses me off) and more I can't even remember at the moment.

I struck back with breast reconstruction (2002, with revisions in 2003 and 2005), lipo (lower tummy and outer thighs 2003 and upper abdomen and inner thighs 2004) tummy tuck with diastasis repair (2005) and lots and lots of yoga, especially Ashtanga yoga.

The result? I look exactly the same as I did before I was diagnosed.

Back B.C., I used to have those "I feel fat" days that most of us have, I used to envy super models their long legs and bony shoulders, I used to hate my hair (thick and wavy, instead of fine and pinstraight). But even though I look the same now as I did then, suddenly, I feel as if I won the lottery.


Aintshe Dainty?


Lady Lulu Belle Schoenfeld,

a/k/a/ Lou The Beagle

,whom we already love so so much....

that as Brian and Addy say, "it's more than anyone can show."

accidents all day today!!!! She is so smart! Typical redheaded girl!


It's not's me...

I need to clarify something regarding yesterday's post, Ashtang Pranam: I am not judging, criticizing or in any way denigrating any student for his or her devotion to his or her teacher, (Ashtanga teacher or otherwise). What I was saying is that I feel a sense of personal frustration because I don't see how I would ever be able to attain that level of devotion, myself, and that is going to make my practice of Ashtanga all the more difficult (and it makes other areas in my life more difficult as well).

As REW wrote in her comment to me, I emailed her a week or so ago, asking why she felt she had to ask her teacher (Eddie) if it would be a good idea for her to teach yoga at her law firm. It became clear from Rachel's sparkling-clear answer that it wasn't that she felt she "had" to ask him for his blessing; it is that she WANTED to teach IF she had his blessings. Her devotion came from within herself, and not from any sort of intimidation. I responded to her with a wish that I too had a teacher who inspired such devotion. I do not in any way disrespect Rachel's or anyone's devotion to their teacher. It is simply something that I am not currently experiencing....and by the way, I actually wasn't thinking specifically of Rachel's teaching dilemna when I wrote Ashtang Pranam- my thoughts were percolating over the course of the day as a result of a number of things that I read on the web, including some blogs, including some EZ Board stuff and including an email from a friend regarding pressure she perceives from her teacher to move toward veganism....thus, not specifically about yoga or Ashtanga, but tangentially related (ahimsa, etc.)

Julie makes an excellent point - that the desire to ask for poses is something that the Ashtanga system helps us to quell, through the stilling of the citta vrttis (mental fluctuations/a.k.a. head noise). And I suppose that in general, the act of surrendering IS a part of the process in learning the Ashtanga system, in moving toward mental stillness and unification with the higher power within ourselves (the divine self).

The reality is, all of this talk on my part is probably not much more than the result of anxiety about not practicing and anxiety about getting back into my practice. For the past six weeks, I have been reading about others' practices, workshops, pujas, lectures, and it feels like I am totally out of it. And how will I ever get back into it? Seven weeks ago, I was as ensconced in it as anyone else who blogs here - when my teacher suggested I take off a few pounds, I took off TWELVE. When my teacher suggested I do supported fish as a research pose, it became part of my everyday routine. And now, it is nearly impossible for me to imagine that sort of trusting reliance on the words of the teacher.

I must have Ashtangamnesia...

When I get anxious, I begin to experience feelings of aversion. It's just the fear talking. I need to let go of fear, get back to practicing and just let things develop.

I really appreciate everyone's comments.


Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Ashtang Pranam (8 Limbed Prostration)

It is one thing to trust one's teacher. It is another thing to prostrate myself to the teachings, advice and opinions of any one person, no matter how learned they are, no matter how trustworthy they are, no matter how much I respect them.

I am not sure if it is (1) the wisdom gained of experience (I turn 40 in less than two months, over the course of my years I have had good teachers and bad teachers and teachers who disappointed me and teachers who have pleasantly surprised me....I could go on....), (2) my natural tendency to question everything (innate, or possibly the result of being the child of two lawyers) or (3) my education and training as a lawyer (which had far less to do with case law and far more to do with inquiring into everything deeply and maybe not finding answers, but definitely finding better questions). But there has always been something that prevents me from completely giving myself over to ANYTHING, without question.

I am not particularly religious, although I consider myself Jewish. It is mainly a love of my Jewish culture, including the way we interact with our families, the way we celebrate our holidays, the inspiring stories from biblical times, the inspiring stories from the modern day. It is not so much that I know how to pray to my God as a Jew, because in fact, I really don't. Yet somehow, I have come to understand that I definitely DO believe in a "God" thing - whether it is a bearded old man in the sky (I doubt that), or some higher power that is beyond my comprehension (including the possibility of an UN-animated force within nature that causes thigns to happen for no particular rhyme or reason, which I do not consider to be a Godless way of looking at things).

And the way I feel about "God", or whatever, is that he/she/it is the only one who has access to all knowledge, who has witnessed everything, and is ultimately the only TRUE teacher (satguru) of anything that can be taught. Or, as the Jivamukti yogis say at the end of each class: Om Bolo Sat Guru Bhagavan Qui...JAI! (God is the ultimate teacher...Hallelujah!)

I have come to trust in the higher power, or at least to understand that whether this higher power is benevolent, vicious or even insane, there is precious little, if anything, that I can do to change the course of things as they happen. My only power over this higher power is in my ability to accept things as they are. According to Buddhist philosophy, that power is the difference between suffering and not suffering. So, when bad things happen, pain may be inevitable, but the suffering can be minimized through acceptance, which is to say prostration to the higher power. Works for me.

Which brings me back to this notion of prostration, and to whom we prostrate ourselves. Like I said, in my case, it is rare (or maybe it has never happened) that I prostrate myself to any one person, giving myself over completely to their teachings. There was never a time in my life when I didn't question my parents. There was never a teacher in high school or professor at Tufts or NYU with whom I always accepted the teachings without question. At NYU, I would have been eaten alive if I did. Even as I am training my dog I see this - I am going with my own instincts as opposed to the insistence of the breeders and the doctors who insist it has to be done differently.

As Ashtangis, we are asked to prostrate ourselves to the teachings of Guruji, even if those teachings don't always ring true for us, even if those teachings seem antiquated or mysoginistic or what have you. And it is wonderful to have something to trust in, something that doesn't really change much, ever. We are told, practice, and all is coming. To me, this is the ultimate in giving onesself over to the system. Do your practice, and all is coming: a somewhat vague statement in that it isn't clear what it means to "practice", and it isn't at all clear what is included in the "all" that is coming, or when or how it might come. But a broad statement just the same: ALL is coming. And that must be good.

Probably by writing this, I am suggesting to some that I am no Ashtangi. If I were, then I would surrender to the teachings, and stop all the questioning. And that is exactly what I am questioning. I am questioning the lack of questioning that seems to be expected of us.

OK, now, to get myself in even more trouble, I will go even further and say that there are students of Ashtanga out there, who hang on every word of their teacher and who won't make a move if it involves yoga, even tangentially, without speaking to their teacher first. There are students who seem uncomfortable admitting to being angry or to having questions about some of the rules, some of the constraints. There are students who seem uncomfortable in even asking their teacher, "What do you mean by that?" "Why are you giving me that advice - it doesn't fully make sense to me on an intellectual level?" or even, "How am I doing?" because that would seem to indicate a lack of faith, either in the teacher or in the system as a whole. The words "When do you think I might get the next pose" cannot even be formed by the lips, even as they roll around in the brain like any other chatter that is in need of stilling.

If the pressure to do/not do any of these things is coming from the teacher (and I don't know if it is), then there appears to be at least a borderline abuse of power, at least in my opinion. The student comes into the shala, tired, vulnerable, needing spiritual succor, and the teacher provides a sanctuary. But if there is a fear that the teacher will abandon the student, give up on the student, if the students questions the teacher or the system, and the teacher encourages or even nurtures that fear, then there is a problem.

I am almost ready to go back to my Ashtanga practice. And I want to practice in the studio that feels the best, that smells the best, that looks the best, that has teachers that will give me the best teaching, to the extent that any human teacher can do so. But I don't want to give up my autonomy. I don't want to feel as if I can't ask the questions I want to ask or express doubt or lack of clarity on something that my teacher offers. I don't want to be told that I can't practice three days of the month because of a phantom period that I don't even get - since I have no ovaries anymore and no longer menstruate - but the system requires me to take a Ladies Holiday anway. I don't want to be told to leave a puja because I am somehow unclean because I am a woman. I don't want to be told that x, y or z is good for my practice but not feel the freedom to ask, "hey, so why is that, anyway?"

In the past five weeks, I have not been practicing, and instead, I have had the opportunity to read about others' practices and to read about the shalas where people practice and the teachers that may or may not be seen as gurus by their students (guru, satguru, same difference as far as I am concerned). I have been thinking about where I want to practice when I am able to practice again, and frankly, I am really feeling anxious because I don't think I fit in anywhere.

I am never going to be that girl who prostrates herself to the teachings of any one teacher, who takes comfort in eliminating, rather than broadening the fuzzy edges where ambiguity lies. I am going to have to ask questions. I am going to have to not worry about offending my teacher because I need to practice at a different shala for a workshop or because I have a doctor's appointment at my regularly scheduled shala time. I am never going to be that girl.

But I want to practice Ashtanga. I just don't know where do it anymore.


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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