Sunday, October 02, 2005

Speaking of non-attachment...

I made it down to practice this morning, somehow, despite having spent a late and decadent the evening at Wolfgang's Steakhouse with the Husband and our friends, The Fun Couple. I met Mrs. Fun Couple when we were first time moms, and we were sat next to each other at one of "Ronnie's Lunches", an Upper East Side tradition for new moms. It was a word-of-mouth thing, and if you were lucky enough to be in-the-know, you knew to call Ronnie and book a spot for when your newborn was about four weeks old. Mrs. Fun and I had our firstborns within two weeks of each other at separate hospitals and had never seen each other before in our lives. She went to University of Maryland for undergrad and worked as a commercial artist for a major magazine. I went to Tufts and became a lawyer. She wasn't going back to work. I was. But the babies brought us immediately into synch, and Mrs. Fun and I became fast friends. Babies can truly be "the great equalizer" to emotionally vulnerable, newly and unexpectedly lonely first time moms. At least initially, anyone with a baby roughly the same age as yours can be your friend. After a while, that changes. But Mrs. Fun and I have been friends ever since.

Mrs. Fun happens to be one of my favorite human beings. I don't think she even knows this. She is just a really good person, wrapped up in a funny, fun-loving, mellow, and physically adorable package. Mr. Fun is really great as well. And the fact that Mr. Fun and Mr. Yoga Chickie bonded immediately has helped keep the friendship alive, despite that our children aren't the best of friends (they happen to be in the same third grade class this year, and they like each other; but they probably will never be really good buds, although, who knows?). See, when your kids are very young, you tend to hang with the people your kids hang with. Or you make your kids hang with the people you hang with. It sometimes is hard to tell the difference. But when they get to be about, I don't know, maybe five or six, you pretty much have to let them play with who they want to play with, and you have to make your own friends once again (and you get to make them despite who their kids are).

Mr. and Mrs. Fun and the Yoga Chickie Families have spent a couple of summers together, renting a cabana at the Clearwater Beach Club in Long Beach, Long Island. Eventually, the Yoga Chickies got tired of the beach club and started renting houses in beach communities, while the Fun Couple continued to really enjoy the beach. But still, the friendship has continued. Now, our kids are in school together, and we all belong to the same Synagogue (a change the Yoga Chickies made this year, when we switched from Park Avenue Synagogue, a highly traditional Conservative synagogue, to Temple Shaaray Tefila, a member of the Reform movement, but with a slightly traditional bent; I tell you this info intentionally, to give you a sense of the way "traditions" play out in religion, religious worship, and the choice of where and how to's not just yoga that has all the factions).

I guess I like reminiscing about our frienship with the Fun Couple. They really are a hoot. And Mr. Fun is now a client of Mr. Yoga Chickie, Esq., which is cool. So, last night we went to Wolfgang's, which is a fabulous steakhouse on Park Avenue South , arriving at 8:30 p.m., and beginning with cocktails. I had a peach martini (Chopin vodka plus peach Schnapps). Dinner began with big, heavy Ceasar salads with big plates of Canadian Bacon strips (who would have thought Canadian Bacon could be so incredibly delicious?). Then, porterhouse steak for four with steamed asparagus, creamed spinach and giant potato "chips". Oh, and there was wine. Two bottles of Pinot Noir, one was sort of weak, but the other was really nice. And then a shared hot fudge sundae.

Was practice good today?

What do you think?

It started out tough enough because I could not locate my own mat, which I am unfortunately quite attached to. It is a Tapas mat, and I friggin LOVE it. It is just the perfect amount of "sticky" so that it doesn't slide on the floor, but just the perfect amount of "slippery" so that my feet don't drag when I am feeling a bit heavy on the jump-throughs. Searching for my mat, a whole bunch of mats tumbled down onto my head, and I cried out. Then I thought about not going into the practice room out of sheer embarassment. Then I realized that was absurd. So, I grabbed a mat from the rental pile, and put it on the floor. As I unrolled it, I knew I was making a terrible mistake. The mat was threadbare! It had places where there were literally footprints carved out from constant pressure, probably over the course of years. There was no "give" to the mat. After Surya Namaskar A, during which I found my eyes darting around the room, checking to see if someone else was using MY mat, I put a towel down on my mat, hoping that would make me forget my mat woes.

Mission not accomplished. I got through only two Surya Namaskar B's and got flustered and just stood there in Samasthiti and breathed, long, deep breaths, trying to calm down, trying to detach from my attachment to MY mat. Instead of completing the next three B's, I just went right into the Standing Series. Madamoiselle gave me a beautiful adjustment in Prasarita Pado C, getting my hands gently to the floor over my head. I didn't even notice when she stepped on my hair, which she pointed out to me, and which pointing-out broke what was left of my feeble focus so that I turned to her and confessed, "I didn't notice you stepped on my hair because all I can think about is the fact that I can't find my mat. I know it's attachment, but I don't know how to break out of it."

Just hearing her tell me, with compassion, that she understood how frustrating it is to not have your own mat to practice with, but that I could use the situation to practice letting go, really helped me to let it go. I felt calm. Before I began my practice again, I went out to see if there was another mat that might be less gross and distracting than the one I was currently using. And guess what? My own mat had somehow materialized. There it was. Waiting for me.

I came back into the room beaming, and Mademoiselle said, "See? You let it go, and then it came to you..." I HAD to hug her. Was that weird?

With the mat issue resolved, I still had my food hangover to deal with (not so much a booze hangover - I think I only had about a third of a glass of wine, out of those two bottles). I just felt loguey and stiff and sloppy. I got into every pose that I tried, but it didn't feel like yoga so much as "doing poses" and doing pushups in between. The beautiful thing about practicing Ashtanga is that tomorrow is always another day. So, today kinda sucked. There's always tomorrow. Next week. Next year. Every day can't be the same, on any front, yoga included. Momma said there'd be days like this, momma said. Momma was right.

That being said, I think I could potentially be in for a long stretch of not-so-glowing days because of Lou the Beagle. She is a LOTTA WORK, man! Some nights, I am up with her every two hours. And I am still hand feeding her, lest she get too skinny. And last night she vomited and had diarhea all over her crate, which I had to clean up this morning (another stress from before 7 a.m. that leeched itself into my practice). This afternoon, I am taking her to a new vet to see if there is something really wrong with her. Or if this is just the new puppy blues....

And no practice-focused blog entry of mine would be complete without at least a mention of the dreaded Marichyasanas. And so, let me just say that Mari A, Mari B and Mari C were very very deep, thanks to assists that Sir promised me when we spoke on Friday (I didn't even mention that conversation here...I told him I was frustrated by my body's difficulty with Mari C, and he promised me that if I came every day, he would help me through it...he also suggested that this was my yoga, my challenge, to have patience and compassion and to keep my yoga practice a source of pleasure, not stress). My first C side wasn't quite as deep as the others, but the second side was wonderful.

I think this is a period I am just going to have to get through. I have been through much worse. This is all good. I need to allow myself to see it that way...



Susan said...

I left a comment and it disappeared.
Stinky loaner mats.
One time and I learned my lesson.

Anonymous said...

great post. One question though: I thought vegetarianism was an important part of this practice? Or at least to get some of the diifcult postures in ashtanga? I once overheard heard a very well known traveling teacher tell a student that eating meat was probably one of the reasons they were having problems in mari C & D--because it takes the body so long to process meat, and if the body is not empty the twists in that pose are almost impossible. Also meat eating,with all of the hormones, and drugs that are prevalent in meat these days, supposedly makes the body stiffer. Not to mention the whole Ahisma debate. What do you think of this?

yoga chickie said...

Ah, good question. I know a number of yogis, including ashtangis, who are vegan, not merely vegetarian. For some, it is a choice based on ahimsa. As to that, I am not personally convinced that man was not intended to eat the flesh of animals - God created the food chain early on in the bible (first he provided fruits and vegetables, then animal husbandry), and it makes sense from an evolutionary perspective as well (eat or be eaten). I know others disagree. And then there are those who wear face masks so as not to ingest insects (I kid you not). So, on the Ahimsa "spectrum", eating meat may or may not be the right "stop" for any given person.

For some, it is a religious thing. Hindus do not eat cow. But I am quite sure they eat lamb and chicken and fish and cow-products like milk and butter and cheese. For others, the choice to not eat meat is based on the view that a vegan lifestyle is healthier.

I don't know anyone who would admit to shunning meat solely because doing so enhances their practice, because such an admission would be tantamount to saying, "I pick and choose my values based on what those values do for me." And that sort of thing tends to spoil the "yoga" in a yoga practice.

I do have to say that I have heard that eliminating meat from the diet can enhance twisting, generally. I am not sure if this is solely because of the long digestive trip meat has to take, as opposed to being the result of a combination of factors, including the "stiffening" properties of animal flesh.

I wonder also if those who choose to eliminate meat from their diet ALSO tend to make other lifestyle choices that would improve their yoga practice For example, one who chooses to go without meat might also weigh proportionately less than a meateater. Another example: one who chooses to go without meat might be more mindful in general, and more mindful of his body, in particular, which can also improve the asana limb of yoga practice.

My personal experience is that eliminating meat from my diet entirely leads pretty much straight to anemia. I tend toward the anemic, and I don't take supplements, so I rely upon food for all of my nutrients. I have tried eliminating meat for long periods of time, mainly when I practiced at Jivamukti, but I did not find that my twists improved.

I also think that the rule that meat takes a long time to process is not one that is true for everyone. For example, I know for a fact that it's not true for me. How do I know? Because I have had two colonoscopies. Each time, I had to completely purge my intestines using a heavy-duty saline-based laxative. Usually, the "cleansing process" takes all night. In my case, I was done within three hours.

THAT being said, let me confess to you that I began my morning today with visit with my friend "Fleet". There was no conceivable way that I could practice Ashtanga after a carnivorous night without getting rid of at least some of the "carnage".

I have noticed that the more I practice, the more I am sensitive to the foods I eat, and the less "well" I feel after eating unhealthily. So perhaps, I will find myself eating less and less and less meat over time (I already eat very little as it is), just as I have found myself drinking less alcohol and eating less and less at night, etc.

Sorry if this answer is more of a brain dump than a coherent theory.

Let me know if there are other questions...or if you would like to offer your theories.


Anonymous said...

hmmm. Interesting answer, good logic, though i worry for you about using fleet to speed up things before your practice--but you know your body better than anyone else. i am actually a vegan and was a vegan even before I started practicing ashtanga. for me veganism works-- i did it more for health reasons than ethical ones-- I had horrible allergies, bowel issues and skin issues that cleared up right away the moment i stopped having any products that came from animals-- but it was a gradual process, i had already been vegetarian for quite awhile.
veganism is definately not for everybody-- and sometimes it's really hard-- especially if you travel. One of the things i always liked about jivamukti is how they made veganism seem like a pathway to the spirit eventhough at times they could get a little over the top with it. the other thing about veganism and vegetarianism in general is that it is very easy to be just as unhealthy on a vegan diet as it is on a meat based diet. there are different types of veganism-- punk rock veganism( which is basically things that are technically vegan but still somewhat processed,) green veganism-- more focus on furits and veggies exclusively, raw veganism etc etc..., etc etc.. that i have found and for me what works is a combo of raw and green veganism, with protien powder shakes thrown in -- that actually had to happen because i found my ashtanga practice was wearing me out.

And also not all vegans/vegetraians are neccesarily skinnier than thier meat eating counterparts.

The other thing about meat eating-- i'd be a meat eater if there were not so many issues with meat in this country-- pesticdes, steroids, etc etc...i have heard of indian yogis talk of the virtue of milk, cheeses, ghee etc etc, but honestly i think this has a lot to with the fact the meat industry in that country was at one time and maybe still is, very different from the mass production nightmare that exists here.

all i know is that for me vegetarianism/veganism works. I am less sluggish than i used to be while on a meat based diet and have fewer illneses and skin issues as a vegan. but it took me a while to "tweak" it and i think everyone has to find a way to do this inorder to make it really work or else you could run into problems-- anemia etc etc....and though i don't know for sure I pretty confident that my strict vegetarianism makes my practice a little easier than if i was a meat eater.

i just wish people in general wouldn't be so judgemental about what folks put into thier bodies. I don'tcare if people eat meat and sometimes people like to make me feel strange because I choose not to. It can be annoying and sometimes turn social occasions into annoying antisocial ones.

NYC is a very easy place to be veggie. My fav place right now is Pure food and Wine. It's expensive but it's worthit and the desserts alone are to die for.

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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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