Friday, December 23, 2005


I love when a day that starts so reluctantly, so grumpily as mine did today, transforms. It doesn't have to transform into the best day of my life, just a nice day, a day where I get done what I need to get done and even maybe manage to squeeze in some extras, like a trip to the dog run and catching a movie that I had not even heard of until today.

I suppose the turning point was my decision to do my practice at home, even though I didn't feel much like practicing. My body has been TIRED lately (the coldness and darkness of winter is not agreeing with me, nor does it ever), and my lower back has been feeling the work I've been doing to really get into my twists. Sometimes I am even questioning what sense there is in a yoga practice that feels good when I am doing it but leaves me walking like I've got a rod up my spine the rest of the day. I'm even questioning it now, even as I write this. But I am hoping that this is just a phase, that the stiffness and achiness I am feeling up and down my back and across my sacrum is just a pothole on Ashtanga Avenue....because I really like the way it feels while I am practicing. I just hate the way it feels when I wake up in the morning and can barely stand up straight, and when that feeling returns in the late afternoon...

But for now, I am halasana-ing on (plow-ing on, that is, for you non-yogis out there).

Today I did full primary at home because (a) I know full primary, (b) I did a full led primary class on Tuesday night and (c) the poses that FOLLOW Navasana really make my back feel better - especially, and I mean ESPECIALLY Garba Pindasana. Damn, does it feel good to wrap myself up in lotus, slide my arms through and roll around on my spine. It is AMAZING. For the same reason, but with a little more ease in entry, I also love Pindasana.

I don't know how long I am going to be "peaked" at Mari D and Navasana (I didn't say "stuck", and I lump the two together because Mari D is primarily the reason I am not moving past Navasana, since I still need help to do more than bind with my fingernails in D, although I AM growing my nails now...), but I can't help but begin to feel curious about exploring the "forward bends on steroids" poses (Bhuja Pidasana, Kurmasana and Supta K), where the shoulders must be tucked behind the knees for anything real to start happening. I suppose my interest in these poses stems from the fact that my forward bends are so bendy, so they seem to be the next "edge" for me. I was reading on the Yoga Dancer Asana Index about Eka Pada Sirsasana,which is maybe as much as a lifetime or two away for me, but I found some of the text which talked about what it means to "play your edge" to be very intriguing. To wit:

"[P]laying the edge skillfully requires unwavering concentration and calm awareness. It transforms your practice into a meditation, and to my mind, is one of the primary differences between practicing yoga asanas and "exercising."

"One possible result of playing your edge is that you might find yourself practicing increasingly difficult poses. For example, you may have become flexible in your forward bends to the point where you can rest your torso on your straight legs with ease in Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend). In terms of flexibility, Paschimottanasana no longer brings you to your edge."

"To find your flexibility edge, you might need to practice Kurmasana (Tortoise Pose).

"Seen in this light, the practice of more advanced poses is not some ego-gratifying game of one-upmanship or a spiritually materialistic approach to acquiring more and more difficult asanas. (Bumper stickers notwithstanding, I suspect that when we die, the person with the most poses doesn't win anything in particular.) Instead, if you're committed to playing the edge in your practice, doing advanced poses may simply be a natural and appropriate progression."
Anyway, after my nice, long, lovely practice, I watched said movie that I had not even heard of until today: YES. That's what it was called. It starred Joan Allen as a woman from Northern Ireland who was brought up in the United States who finds herself living in London in a beautiful, sterile home and in a dying and passionless marriage to an uptight British guy. Angered by her husband's betrayal of her (less angry about the fact that he slept with her best friend than that he did it in their marital bed), she finds herself open to a passionate affair with man from Beirut with whom she has nothing in common other than the fact that both are refugees from countries with violent political histories. The man left his life as a surgeon in Beirut so that he wouldn't have to choose between saving lives and political agendas. The woman became a scientist (actually, a molecular biologist) so that she wouldn't have to choose between the God of her Catholic upbringing and the atheism of her communist favorite aunt.

The movie's plot is fairly mundane - your typical "adultery is an excusable response to an unhappy marriage" story. However, the dialogue is irresistable - it is written entirely in Iambic Pentameter. It took me a while to even realize it as there was almost NOTHING artificial about the way the characters spoke, despite the occasional rhyming of lines.

It was like a music-less opera, incredibly beautiful and expressive.



suziecolumbus said...

Yoga Chickie: thanks so much for this particular post; it was great as usual, and for all your posts over the entire year. I read you every day religiously and I relate to you as a mother, a yogini, and an ashtangi lawyer.

Best wishes for 2006.


yoga chickie said...

That is incredibly sweet suziecolumbus! Thanks, and best wishes to you as well!



Anonymous said...

why not try following your teacher's advice for once and just practice half primary. And move on once he/she deems that you are ready. YOU ARE NOT READY. It seems to me that you are having severe soreness and stiffness because you are pushing to hard, regardless of what a website that really knows nothing about you and your body says about "playing the edge".

Ashtanga is a great system, but it can destroy you physically and even mentally if you don't listen to people that have been doing it for a lot longer than you have.

Put your trust in your teacher and lighten up on your body before you get really hurt.

If you can't surrender your asana ego to this practice, then try another yoga type that doesn't make it
so hard for you. I think Ashtanga seems to create this wierd inner struggle for you on this issue. And I don't think it's worth fighting. Yoga is doing good things for you and you should just continue on it's path, but maybe just not in the Ashtanga system. There are plenty of other yoga styles out there that may be more compatible with your personality type.

If you can't do this, then get to Mysore so you can experience Sharat or guruji possibly stopping you at Navasana. I've seen them do this to folks that thought they were super advanced. Very good lesson in ego attachment to asana progression.

sorry to blab. But I guess I'm just trying to say that you are on the road to severe injury if you keep at this pace.

om shanti.

yoga chickie said...

But you don't know me or my practice either...I find it dismaying that anyone would come onto my blog and discourage me from doing what I clearly want to do at this time - which is to practice Ashtanga, which I think is VERY compatible with my personality type, and that is all that really matters: that I want to practice Ashtanga, and I am.

I don't practice the entire primary series generally speaking - I went to a led class, and then I did my own private practice today in my own home. I violated no one's tradition. I made my back feel better. Plain and simple.

I feel that your comment was not intended to be mean or petty. But I don't agree with it. With all due respect.


a concerned friend said...

I'm really sorry, I wasn't trying to be mean or petty at all, thanks for not taking it as such. I actually do know your practice pretty well, I am a colleague of yours, and should have just said so. I blabbed on to much and just forgot to mention that.

I came on to your blog because you gave me a personal invitation to do so... please don't put me down because I am just writing out of concern for you.

With all due respect you are 40 years (hoorah to you for making it!!!) old, you are not a 16 year old gymnast. You don't need to brutalize yourself physically to be able to practice ashtanga well. I know this because I have been practicing for a very long time. I wasn't trying to discourage you. I think yoga is great for you, but I think you are fighting a really silly fight with this practice. And if you don't look at it with a more clear headed perspective you could get really hurt. That was really my point, sorry it got lost in late night long windness!

You haven't studied ashtanga long enough to really understand. I pray that you don't find out the hard( and painful!)way.

( Also in regards to people that don't know your practice: If you don't want these people to come on your blog and make comments, don't publicize it, as it is on your website and there are plenty of yoga people you've already personally told.)

A concerned friend

Anonymous said...

hey L--

I totally agree with whomever this person is who posted these last comments. I do think their response is a little overly (ashtangi) intense but it speaks some truths for sure. I don't think they were trying to discourage you, but I think they were just trying to be honest.

I know you are probably annoyed, but be glad that there are people out there that care enough about you to point out such things.

You are doing the yoga community a great service by letting people voice thier opinions on your space.

Happy holi"daze":)!!!

samasthiti said...

You know, there are different ways of practicing ashtanga. Richard Freeman doesn't believe that you need to finish Mari D to progress in the series, and Richard Freeman hasn't had his ashtanga license revoked by Guruji!
Freeman( I am told), actually lets people practice the whole primary series even without these "pinnacle" poses. He also lets said people practice 2nd series. Now, I know a lot of ashtangis are going to, and do, disagree with his take on ashtanga, but if you look at the history of the practice, it has changed even in the way that Guruji teaches it. Now, what happens when he dies and Sharath takes over, he will change it also. It is an organic practice, it is alive through teachers and students all over the world.

Now, I think it all might boil down to finding a teacher that you resonate with totally. Not just one who lets you do what ever you want, that's not a teacher.

Also, I do understand about playing your edge. It does need to become physically challenging over and over again. When it is, it forces you to be in that moment in that pose completely. You have to concentrate to find ease and composure. Otherwise you are doing Bhoga yoga, yoga for pleasure. That's not the point. We do yoga to find supreme happiness, some of us have harder physical work ahead of us than others. Some of us need harder poses to find that meditative aspect of the practice. The aspect that gets us out of our heads.
And we all know Lauren could probably use a little of that!

So, as I blather on in the wee morning hours, I just want to say that no one really knows anyone's practice. Really we are looking at the outer form. If Lauren hurts herself, she will learn a lesson from it like we all do. But it's up to her and her alone to find her limits and to explore her yoga.

Also, I am completely offended by the age comment. So when a woman gets to be that age she needs to be more careful? Brutalizing yourself? When did 40 become old?
I mean Oprah says 50 is the new forty, so she's back at 30 now and I am 28!!!

Anonymous said...

WHOA!No one here said 40 is old. What does Oprah have to do with this? She's a pretty bad reference to use I would think.
40 is not "old" but it's definitely DIFFERENT! You have to take that in to consideration when "playing your edge".
And YC is not Richard Freeman and should not be compared to such. She has been practicing this system for less than a year.... I have studied with Richard and find your comparison offensive.

I agree with the previous writer whole heartedly :No one needs to hurt themselves in this system in order to learn it's lessons and reap it's benefits. Don't take offense where there is actually none being directed!

yoga chickie said...

To answer A Concerned Friend's Comments:

1. 'I came on to your blog because you gave me a personal invitation to do so... please don't put me down because I am just writing out of concern for you."

I am not putting you down. I am simply not agreeing with everything you wrote.

2. "With all due respect you are 40 years (hoorah to you for making it!!!) old, you are not a 16 year old gymnast."

I agree with Susan...So what I am 40 years old: what on earth does that have to do with the practice of Ashtanga? There are no rules about what a 40 year old body should be doing, and the powers that be in Mysore believe that you can take up Ashtanga until you are 77!

Look, let's not turn THIS into a fight...I do NOT think you meant the statement to be offensive. That said, I think that statement reveals a LOT about you. It tells me you are a man, first of all. Second of all, it leads me to believe that we have had this discussion in person. Why not just identify yourself as who you are when you write to me on here? I identify myself on YOUR blog, for heavens sake. If you stand behind what you write, then put your name on it. I won't out you here, but please, I discourage anonymous comments, even though I allow them.

3. "(Also in regards to people that don't know your practice: If you don't want these people to come on your blog and make comments, don't publicize it, as it is on your website and there are plenty of yoga people you've already personally told.)"

I totally WANT comments on here that I do not agree with. I WELCOME a strong and vocal dialogue here. That is why I published your comments, and didn't simply hit delete. I don't mind you or anyone else disagreeing with me, although it is my own teaching style (and mothering style) to never discourage anyone from trying to do anything they WANT to do, even if it wouldn't be my personal wish for them or my own personal choice myself (as long as it is legal and not overtly harmful, which Ashtanga is NOT.

I believe that you and I have disagreed in the past about the issue of "going to your edge". I strongly believe in "playing with the edge" - testing it, checking it out, maybe stumbling a bit beyond comfort to what is GOING to cause aches the next day. That is not injury. That is muscular development. I believe in a playful and joyful practice, but NOT a strictly "Bhoga" practice, as Susan puts it. Sir at Shala X encourages a pleasurable practice, and it is pleasurable to me to stretch to my limits. For that matter, my own medical history has left me with chronically achy joints, and stretching "beyond" the point of comfort releases endorphins such that I do not feel that achiness in my joints (instead, I feel it in my muscles, if at all). My doctor is amazed at how LITTLE achiness I complain of in my joints compared with her other patients. I believe it is the yoga.

Finally, you say you "know my practice", but unless you are my Ashtanga teacher, then you really DON'T know my practice. One of my Ashtanga teachers said to me the other day that she thinks I am going to quickly finish up with Primary (this was in response to my happily saying, "I am going to be working through Primary for a good long time."). Another one of my Ashtanga teachers said to me this week, "You're like the bionic bendy woman" (in response to nothing. I was simply getting in Mari D with minimal help from her).

So please, get off my case! With all due respect.


yoga chickie said...

"With all due respect, sir, I have known Richard Freeman, I am a friend of Richard Freeman's, and Yoga Chickie, sir, is NO Richard Freeman."


I don't believe Susan was saying that I am anything comparable to Richard Freeman. I think she was saying that Richard Freeman condones the practice of full Primary by those like myself who can't bind Mari D reliably (yet). Back in the summer, Sir even said to me that he thought that the practice of Bhuja Pidasana, and the Kurmasanas, would be helpful to me in opening my shoulders enough to bind better in C and D. Eventually, he took those poses back because it became clear that we needed to work on the TWIST - the shoulders are good. The twist, not so much...and there you have it.

Perhaps, my concerned friend, you need to be teaching sounds like you have some definite ideas about how you think it should be done, and I bet that there are a LOT of students who would love to learn it from you. Again, if you are who I think you are, you are a VERY popular, and highly respected teacher, and you could bring a lot to the table, including many many years of experience. You probably would not be a good fit for me as an Ashtanga teacher, but you would be a great fit for a great many who are looking for the individualized practice that you are capable of bringing to them...



samasthiti said...

I know YC is no Richard Freeman! Good Lord!
He is a certified teacher under AYRI and his style is probably questionable to some "purists", that's all I am saying.
Gee wiz, I don't think Richard would be offended....

And as far as Oprah goes..It was a joke. You know trying to lighten this discussion up.

yoga chickie said...

It's all good....

Uma Oprah Uma Oprah Uma Opra


yoga chickie said...

oh, and Deepak Chopra too...

Have a merry, happy, joyous, peaceful!


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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