Thursday, June 30, 2005

"D" stands for Drama

Ah, Marichi D....what is it about you that makes me so anxious, so keyed up, so poised on the brink of disintegration? And I mean that literally - my practice is feeling so "integrated" right now, each breath defined, controlled, meditative, each spread of the arms, each lunge feeling lengthier, more expansive. And then I find myself nearing the end of the Janu Sirsasanas...and I begin to float away from the present moment. I begin to worry. Will I bind? Will I need help in Marichi B, and if so, what will that do to my confidence in C? And ultimately in D?

I realize so much more than I ever have how each pose leading up to D helps D to happen. And while it is totally cool to see how it all works together, it begins to stress me out as early as Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana. If I can't bind and fold over and hold the bind, then what does that say about what is to come? The sweat begins to pour off me. I see the drama. I acknowledge the drama. I try not to hate the drama. But I really don't want the drama.

This is not to say that I am not loving loving loving my Ashtanga practice. I do. And today, it was really a breakthrough day for me at Guy's. I got there before 9 a.m., I stretched a bit (which actually is NOT a good thing - what I need to do is have the courage to just begin; I mean, at what point is stretching really practicing out of order? At what point is stretching really just nothing more than procrastination?), and I began.

I can tell a lot about my practice from my second and third Surya Namaskar A. If my jump forward is light, I am off to a good start. And then in my Surya Namaskar B's, I know that things are going well if my Virabadrasana I's are long-legged and steady. I look forward to Padangusthasana and Padahastasana and am trying not to overdramatize Trikonasana and Parvritta Parsvakonasana. I finished the Standing Series in less than a half hour today, and that also tells me something about my focus - that it is there, that I am on, that I am not leaking energy, leaking prana.

I still need help binding the left side of Marichi B, but A is 95% under control now - it is just a question of binding lower and lower on my shin. Marichi C is really starting to happen for me too. I can ALMOSt do it myself. I really really want to. Mark said that my Marichi D was the best he has ever seen it today. I wasn't so sure about that, but at least I was more aware of WHAT was making it difficult for me to hold the bind without slipping my arm off my top leg - uddiyana bandha needs some work.

And then....it was time for Bujapidasana. And I nailed it twice, including the transition. I thought perhaps Mark would give me Kurmasana, but he said not yet, although he acknowledged that I was on a roll. That was cool. I had energy to spare, and my finishing sequence was really tight and integrated. My uttpluthi is almost unshakeable. And this is quite a surprise given that two weeks ago, I could barely stay up for two seconds with my palms flat (I was cheating, using my fingers, holding my hands out to the sides...all the tricks). Now, my palms are flat, I am squeezing my padmasana tighter with each breath...and it feels really great.

But back to this whole thing of getting poses and progressing. Some observations I made today helped me to formulate some thoughts about it all. First the observations:

- The large-bodied black woman who binds super-easily in Marichi C isn't even close to binding in Marichi D. I had even asked Mark - why can she bind so easily when she is carrying more weight than me? Now I see that we all have our challenges and our so-called "blessings" (is it really a "blessing" to be able to "do" a pose without having had to practice it a lot thought? hmmmmm...)

- The incredibly long legged, skinny woman in front of me, who plowed through every bound pose with the same ease with which I plow through anything involving a simple hamstring stretch, snuck a really, really fast and weak Bujapidasana in before moving onto Kurmasana and the delicious bound version, Supta Kurmasana, which, of course, she nailed. Mark came over to her and asked her to repeat her Bujapidasana for him, which is when I saw that her current level in Buja is nowhere near her level in any of the bound poses. For me, Buja is pretty easy-breezy. Makes sense, of course - Buja would favor a short-limbed, strongly muscled person more than it would a long and lanky "binder". So, she is basically in Buja where I am in the Marichis. She can do it with help, but it is not really "stopping" her from moving on.

- The really handsome, tall guy who practices at the same time as me every day had a really challenging day today. He kept stopping and resting and sitting and breathing heavily. We all have bad days.

All of these observations made me realize that it is best for me not to move on so so quickly, because each pose has SO MUCH to it. If I am busy trying to learn Kurmasana and Supta Kurmasana, what is going to happen to my progress in Marichi D? So, despite that my Navasana is totally good, and my Buja is really nice, I can see why my teachers wouldn't want me to move on so quickly to the next pose (Kurma), which really leads right into the NEXT next pose (Supta Kurma), which is counterposed by the next next next pose (Garba Pinda). I mean, these three all go together, so it really is not a simple matter of getting one. They all run together, and it is a LOT to absorb.

I will miss Mark a lot when he leaves. I will have to get used to an entirely new teacher. This scares me a bit. But it will be a good challenge.

YC

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Splitting my time....

Because of my teaching schedule, I have been forced to split my time between Guy's place and Eddie's place (it's funny - throughout all of this Mysore stuff, I have yet to practice with either one of them due to their travels). And actually, it has been going really well as a result. So, yesterday, I was at Guy's place, practicing under Mark's tutelage, and today, I was at Eddie's place, practicing with Sarah as my teacher. They are very very different. But they are both so incredibly amazing. For some reason, I am finding that I am a bit more focused and contained at Eddie's. Things go pretty smoothly, and I have energy to spare at the end. At Guy's place, I have been quite scattered the last two times. I am hoping tomorrow goes better. I think the difference is probably primarily the time at which I am practicing - I am NOT a morning person, and at Guy's place, I am forced to get my act together much earlier (9 a.m.). At Eddie's place, I don't need to get my act together until 11 or even later. Could it be that simple? And if so, what can I do about it?

Anyway, I think I am really close to binding by myself in Marichi C, which would be so so so cool. I never thought I could. And I think it really might happen soon. I was almost able to do so in the bathtub after my practice today!

Sarah has not given me bujapidasana yet. She doesn't think I am ready - she thinks I need to work out what's going on in Marichi C and D first. That didn't bother me until I saw this other student doing Bujapidasana for the first time today. I had noticed her before - she is a middle aged woman with a slim but completely unathletic body. I have noticed her doing parts of the standing series and thought that perhaps she was very very new to yoga. Then today - she was practicing Bujapidasana for what seemed like the first time. Her hands were really close together, her legs were wobbly. There was no way she was going to even fold over. And that is when I started to wonder - WHY have I not been given this pose yet, since I can TOTALLY do it?

I explained to Sarah that it was weird for me to be stuck in the Marichis (actually, she gave me Navasana, and it's totally fine, uneventful), since I am able to do all of the subsequent poses. She explained that that is often the case. That surprised me, since I often blame everything on my mastectomies, and the resulting tightness in my chest and shoulders.

Anyway, it's all good. I really want to be able to do the Marichis properly, and if I start working on the subsequent poses and their complicated transitions (it is the transitions that are going to be tough for me - the poses themselves present few issues), then it is going to overwhelm me, which is perhaps what is happening at Guy's place. Perhaps I am overwhelmed, and the drama is getting the best of me?

Let's see what happens tomorrow. Maybe I can try to go through the series, right through the Marichis with minimal drama and maximal focus - counting just five breaths in each pose, not repeating Ardha Baddha Padmotanasana, which I have been doing lately. Let's see what happens if I practice at Guy's the way I have been practicing at Eddie's.

There is another possibility of why my focus is a bit off at Guy's, but I don't even want to bring that up here, at least not yet.....

YC

Monday, June 27, 2005

Incidentally...

I have lost three pounds in the past two weeks, since I started Mysore-style practice. I don't believe it is the workout itself, but rather the way the workout motivates me to eat....

I'm just saying...

YC

Moving on to Navasana at Eddie's!!!

As I might have mentioned, I am a pose or two behind at Eddie Stern's Patanjali Yoga Shala. Sarah is quite conservative about moving me forward. I have bound in Marichi C and D with her help, and then she usually stops me. Today, the ease with which I bound in C and the improvement with which I bound in D, perhaps, led her to move me on to Navasana. I ended up doing it 10 times because I knew she wasn't going to let me go any further. And she didn't...which was fine. I had probably my most energetic and efficient Primary Series practice to date today, and why ruin it by bogging me down with another "new" pose with a complicated vinyasa in and out?

I taught the Led Primary Series at New York Yoga today, and it went great. Unfortunately, the program at New York Yoga has taken quite a dive, probably due partially to the fact that it's the summer, and probably due partially to the fact that Orly, though a wonderful teacher, was not able to teach the Primary Series from the heart. I just don't think she believed in the system for the New York Yoga clientele. She said to me that she believed that a system that repeated the same poses each time would not be right for a group of people not practicing it five or six days a week. Right or wrong, I personally believe that the only way to become committed to a daily practice is to dive into it and experience it. And so, I am teaching a very traditional sequence, with sanskrit chanting, sanskrit counting and NO offerred modifications. In my opinion, the only way to learn any given pose is to keep trying to do it. If you try to do Marichichi A, for example, and you can't bind, then keep working to get your ribcage in front of your knee. But to do a totally different pose as a modification...why bother? To me, it's a waste of time.

This is the way Bikram is as well. "If you can't do it, do it anyway" was the mantra. And though Bikram is a bit unintellectual for me, Mr. Choudhary has a point: you have to keep DOING it to become proficient at it. Doing modifications is like speed walking to train for a running race. Instead, just go out and run. Just do the poses. They will come.

YC

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Sunday morning is my favorite time to practice?!

When did this happen? When did I become a morning person? Let's hope it sticks. I love being the first one in the studio, I love being there for the invocation. I love having extra time to stay in poses and not go quickly through them, as if I were leading my own Led Practice.

Speaking of led practice, I will be teaching led primary at New York Yoga for the next three weeks, twice a week, which eats a bit into my Mysore plans at 9:00 a.m., and I am finding myself not really excited about taking the Mysore at Eddie's at those days. But there is always 6:30 a.m. and then there is Jivamukti, which has in which my interest has renewed. Always good to brush up on vinyasa.

My weight seems to be dropping a bit. Let's hope the trend continues. I seem to have lost two pounds for real since I began Mysore two weeks ago (as opposed to simply weight fluctuations and water weight). Let's see what happens this week! I know I feel more lean and buff. I really want to be able to bind reliably in Marichi D and bind myself in Marichi C. I see others doing it and wonder - why not me? I know that is not yogic. I know I am not supposed to envy or covet. But sometimes I do. I guess it is something I am going to have to work with (rather than work to change - instead, work with the feelings, trying to not attach to them or to the feeling of judging those feelings, and then see what evolves).

All I know is that I am kinda glad that I am sort of stuck at Bujapidasana right now. There is so much else to learn and grasp and internalize about the system, even Trikonasana has things to reveal to me at this point. So, I consider myself lucky to even BE at Bujapidasana. Why move on if it just gives me more pressure to learn and internalize even more? I feel as if my head would explode if I were to try to learn the correct way of practicing the next three poses while still working intensely as I am with everything up to Bujapidasana.

It will all come in time. If i keep practicing, I will improve, I do know that. Some things will simply evolve to become easier or more natural.

I am nervous about teaching the series, but no more so than I was when i began teaching the New York Yoga Sequence. Perhaps even less so....

YC

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Resting my Ashtanga, but teaching my Vinyasa today

Last night, I taught a really nice sequence at my Open level class at New York Yoga, which class is to be no more, at least for me. Time to get some new blood in there, stir things up a bit. It's also a particularly difficult time for me now that my kids are in camp all day - it would mean they would be away all day, and then I wouldn't see them until bedtime. Not good. My sequencing last night didn't exactly borrow directly from Ashtanga so much as it borrowed from Narayani's class at Jivamukti. She really inspired me. I think my summer schedule will definitely include Narayani on Wednesdays at noon, which fits in perfectly after I teach my 8 a.m. Express and my 9:15 Led Primary Series.

Yes, you heard that right. Lauren Cahn is teaching a Led Primary Series class, four times this summer. Subbing for the esteemed Mary-Beth Garruti. I cannot possibly fill her yogi shoes. However, I can offer a very traditional, by the book, Led class as I did last Wednesday. We chanted the Invocation and then went straight through the Primary Series, finishing in just under 90 minutes. I know that an ashtangi friend of mine is skeptical - she doesn't see how I can possibly teach the Primary Series, not having trained formally. But I totally can LEAD a class in the Primary Series and even adjust in many poses. What I am not qualified to do, and it's silly to even discuss it, is to lead a Mysore practice. That would be absurd at this point.

But since I have been through the Primary Series many times now, I have a very good ear for mimicry, I am intelligent enough to remember how to count out the breaths in Sanskrit and to remember the sequence and know the names of the poses, and because I already know how to teach each individual part of the Series as a result of my training and experience as a Vinyasa teacher, I know it is going to be GREAT. And what I offer is the chance to experience the entire Series. We will stay in poses for the prescribed five breaths and then move on. It won't be possible to offer a steady stream of modifications or to adjust more than one person per pose. It seems excellently tailored for someone like me.

Do I sound defensive?!

Also, if you read the biography of Sarah Plumer, somewhere on the web (she is my teacher at Eddie Stern's place), it says that she began her Ashtanga teaching by leading her dancer friends in the Primary Series. There really is no magic in leading the LED version of the Primary Series, and in fact, dare I say, for the students, Led Ashtanga takes on the feeling of being more of a "performance" than a practice. Yes, I dare say it. In five breaths, you are not going to LEARN about a pose, so much as perform it.

It is also a perfect opportunity to explain the importance of practicing daily. Five breaths in a pose per week is not enough to learn the pose! Practice every day, and it comes.

So, I guess my schedule looks like it's going to be Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays at Guy's. Wednesdays teaching in the morning and then Eddie's or Jivamukti. Thursdays at Guy's and then Fridays Mary-Beth's or Eddies, or more than likely, both.

Practicing twice in one day? Yes. I know it sounds obsessive. But think about what teacher training was like. We practiced all day long. Two and half hours or so is nothing compared to what I have done.

I am going to take a moment now just to thank GOD and all higher powers looking over me for the sheer energy I possess and for all of the wonderful opportunities that I have been given.

Namaste,

YC

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Size 2 (as in 2 fat to bind)

In a nutshell, Mark gave me the lowdown today - if I want to bind more easily, I have to shed a few pounds, around five. I'm five foot one inch, and I wear a size 2. But I know he's right - there is extra "stuff" that I don't need, and yoga is also about eliminating what we don't need.

To be honest, it didn't bother me much at all. I know in my heart he is right. And for the past week, before he even said something, I have already been eating far less, motivated by a desire to really get proficient at Ashtanga and feel all the benefits, physical as well as spiritual.

I have nothing much more to say than that. It's kind of a lot to take in for me.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Please don't tell PJ....

I have something to confess...something terrible and dark and secret....something that I am incredibly proud of and incredibly afraid to admit.....but here it is....I TAUGHT A LED PRIMARY SERIES CLASS TODAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was teaching an 8 a.m. vinyasa class at New York Yoga, and I was planning on taking the led Ashtanga class at 9:15. At 9:10 the teacher called in sick...and then there was just me. So, I took it on. I was a little scared, but I did it. I actually taught the entire series in 88 minutes. The students LOVED it....I was so psyched. To be honest, I know that this sort of thing would only fly in an upper east side studio - it simply would not be tolerated in a place where the Ashtanga is taught only by those who have completed the Primary Series in a Mysore setting....but honestly, I was able to give a really nice class today, so....

Then I went downtown hoping to catch the 11:00 Mysore at Eddie's. No luck. It must have been their moonday. Why is it that Guy's place observes it on Tuesday but Eddie's observes it on Wednesday? Isn't there only ONE day on which the moon is full or new? Meanwhile, I couldn't possibly have known that Eddie's place was closed because there is no friggin web site. This is a definite problem for me. But it is one that I am willing to tolerate for the sake of really awesome Ashtanga yoga.

Incidentally, I taught four classes today. FOUR. And I took Nicole's class at Jivamukti, which ROCKED. So, basically I spent eight or so hours in a yoga studio.

Nice.

YC

Monday, June 20, 2005

OH NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It's a moonday tomorrow...

At this point, the addiction is so bad that I am feeling lost because tomorrow is a moonday, and I have nowhere to practice Ashtanga, and moreover, I am not even supposed to practice ashtanga....sigh.....

Things are going well at the Ashtanga Yoga Shala on 8th Street. I am really really really making progress in Marichi C, getting closer to being able to do it on my own. What about all those people who get it the first time? How boring! Marichi D is another story - it's like an intermittent thing. Sometimes it's there, sometimes not so much. But Mark gave me Bujapidasana, and I am doing pretty well with it. It's not the pose that presents any problems, it is the transition out of it. I am find with that because at this point, Kurmasana is pretty easy for me, so I would rather stay for a while in Bujapidasana and just keep opening things up. I can always come home and get myself into Kurmasana. It is the transitions that present the issues. And it is the transitions that will really help me grow in my practice.

Of course, other things that help me grow are learning patience, learning not to be goal-oriented but mindful of my intentions and true to those intentions, learning to conserve energy by eliminating chaos and extraneous movements, etc. Each day, I get a little bit deeper in Warrior I. Each day I get a little deeper in Uttita Parsva Konasana. It is a wonderful journey!

But tomorrow is moonday........................................:( So, I will have to deal. It is Solstice. Should I do 108 Sun Salutations to celebrate?

Hmmmmmmmmmmmm

YC

Friday, June 17, 2005

Efficiency is a double edged sword...

Today I practiced at Eddie's place. I missed Mary-Beth's led class at New York Yoga, much to my dismay, as a class party for Adam's kindergarten class did not end until 9:45, a half an hour after M-B's class began. I debated going late, but it didn't feel right, being that it is a led class.

I was one of the first people to arrive at Eddie's for the 11:00 Mysore session. Amie (another Upper East Sider and yoga teacher at New York Yoga) was there. I felt stiff, and my left shoulder feels kind of pinched. But I got started and it went surprisingly smoothly. A little less sweaty than usual, and I finished the standing series in 25 minutes. That left me kind of let down. I like the standing series. How did I get through it so quickly?

The primary series went super-smoothly, probably attributable to my jump throughs being so much more efficient. But of course, the downside is that it all takes far less time. On the upside, I figured that if I worked efficiently, then it would be more likely that I would get another pose today. It was not to be. Despite that it was probably my BEST EVER Marichi C (solidly bound, not falling over!) that is where Sarah told me to stop. However, she did say, "Next week we will work on Marichi D."

When I started the finishing series, beginning with four five-breath backbends (resting on the crown of the head in between), it was only 45 minutes after I had started. I realized that if I was doing the entire primary series, I would probably finish in 80-90 minutes! To me, that means that the system is working - less prana is leaking out, less extraneous everything, more focus, more efficiency. Of course, it ends up being a shorter practice. But perhaps it's like running an 8 minute mile instead of a 9?

I bound in Pindasana (lotus in shoulderstand, knees around the ears, arms around the legs), and I came close to binding in the first of the three finishing padmasana poses (with the help of Sarah).

Progess is fast and furious in a Mysore practice, which is exactly the opposite of what I expected. Sunday, hopefully Eric will let me go to the 8:00 Mysore at Guy's because I am already working past Marichi D there. But if not, no big deal. It will all come in time!

As for eating - it is amazing how my eating habits are changing because of this Mysore practice. I am almost glad that I have so much trouble binding - it reminds me to keep my stomach empty before practice and to eat less at night. I am hoping to take off a bit of weight with this practice - at least six pounds, maybe 10. We shall see. I honestly have no idea if that is even possible for me. I like to be strong, and I get the feeling that I don't really have 10 pounds of fat to lose. But it would be nice to be lighter, to actually lose some of the muscle weight that I carry - I am very muscular. I guess this is a case of setting an intention - my intention is to eat properly and in a manner conducive to my yoga practice. If it results in weight loss, then great. If not, then it doesn't matter, as long as I have been following my intention....

YC

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Did you know....

that in ancient Egypt, when the deceased were embalmed, their organs were removed and preserved OTHER than their brain, as it was believed that their brain was not needed for eternal life? Sounds very yogic to me - the concept that the MIND is extraneous to the SELF. Just a thought....YC

And no breakfast it is.....

OK, so, on the advice of my teachers, I didn't eat breakfast, and I basically stopped eating after 7 p.m. (ok, truth be told, I had a spoonful of peanut butter before bed - very nervous about not having any energy for practice the next day; today, I promise to be better...). I woke up, did an Uddiyana Bhanda kriya, took my kids to school, and got on the Limited down 2nd Ave. And guess what? My practice felt completely bouyant, and my binding was much much improved. I guess not eating breakfast really does matter. I did have a shoulder muscle spasm right in the middle of the Janu Sirsasanas, but I rallied and came back stronger. My jump throughs are really catching air. I feel awesome.

It was hot today - I walked into the studio and felt a blast of hot, humid air....and I felt happy. It was also quite crowded. I could barely find a place to put my mat and had to begin my practice in the back, where most people finish their practice. When a space opened up, Mark told me to move my mat there.

So, like I said, my binding was way way better today, and Marichi C genuinely happened - I was able to hold the bind myself. But could I breathe? Not really. My breath came in short, shallow bursts. As I was gasping for air, I asked Mark when he thought I might be able to breathe in C, and he said, "Next week." REALLY???? We shall see. He also asked me if I could come earlier - I guess, like I said, there isn't enough time in 75 minutes to progress to a new pose, and believe me, that is motivational.

However, at this point, I don't know how to get there any earlier, what with dropping the kids off at school as I have to do each day. Even when they go to camp, the camp bus won't come until 8:15 - I will only have another 15 minutes, may 20-25 at the most, and that is if the bus comes on time and public transportation works out. We shall see....maybe I will try taking the subway next time and see if that gets me there any faster.

Lori came in today at the end of the session - she is very warm. I really like the vibe at the AYS. Did find out to today that Mark is only here in New York until mid July! Wow....that is kind of a bummer, as I really like him and his teachings. But then, he is an assistant to Guy, who is away, so if he's good enough for Guy, then perhaps that is indicative of what Guy will be like as a teacher....it will be intersting to see.

It is funny how I thought I would end up practicing in Soho at Eddies, but here I am in the East Village at Guy's. I guess it is not that surprising - I think Mary-Beth implied that she thought Guy's would be better for me. But I will ask her more about that tomorrow at my led practice - assuming I can even GET there...there is a kindergarten end of the year party tomorrow at 8:45. I will probably miss most of class tomorrow and then get myself down to Eddie's place for the 11:00 Mysore room.

Oh, and to keep them fresh in my mind, here are the mantras:

Invocation to Pantanjali:

Om
vande gurunam caranaravinde
sandarshita svatma sukha va bodhe
nihsreyase jangalika yamane
samsara halahala mohasahantyai

abahu purushakaram
shankacakrasi dharinam
sahasra shirasam svetam
pranamami Patanjalim
Om

(English:
I pray to the lotus feetof the supreme Guru who teaches the good knowledge,
showing the way to knowing the self awakening, great happiness;
who is the doctor of the jungle, able to remove the poison of the ignorance of conditioned existence.

To Patanjali, an incarnation of Adisesa,white in color with 1000 radiant heads(in his form as the divine serpent, Ananta),human in form below the shoulders,
holding a sword (discrimination), a wheel of fire(discus of light, representing infinite time),
and a conch(divine sound) -
to him, I prostrate. )


Closing Mantra for Peace:

Om
Svasti praja bhyaha pari pala yantam
Nya yena margena mahi mahishaha
Go brahmanebhyaha shubamastu nityam
Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu
Om shanti shanti shanti

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Another day, another practice....

I learned so much today. I can understand why you only are "given" poses one at a time - there is so much to know, so much to practice, it's as if your head would explode if you got it all at once.

So, today, due to a verrrrrrrrrry slow local bus, and a coffee stop at an East Village Dunkin Donuts, I got to the studio at 9:35. I asked Mark if I could still practice, he said, "sure....but why don't you do just 3 Surya A's and 3 B's". Well, I did four of each, attached as I am to sweating and calorie burning. Didn't matter - I still made it through the entire Standing Series in record time - less than 30 minutes. I think there is definitely something to be said for plowing through the Standing Series. It takes less out of you, leaves you more energy for the Primary Series. And if the whole system works properly, the Standing Series is basically just a warm-up - an Amuse Bouche for the Primary Series.

I do have to say that Mark adjusted me in Uttita Parsva Konasana - getting the palm of my hand to the floor and my arm pit tucked over my knee. I really really love the strictness of Ashtanga - it is what it is. All that touchy-feeliness of Om and vinyasa practice in general just rings a bit hollow now, as if we were attempting to sugarcoat the truth...it's like, come on, people, let's just do the pose the way it was intended, period.

And my new Ashtanga rug was pure poetry. Long, giving me more space, soft to the touch, and no dripping, slipping, sliding. No chaotic wiping off, no rearranging hand-towels, no using the slipperiness to my advantage in jumping through. In short, less drama, more yoga.

My new jump throughs are great now - controlled, gaining lots more air. Today, Mark showed me how to point my toes and land on the tops of my feet instead of flexing and landing on the sides of my feet. Everything is yoga in a Mysore room. Everything gets worked - your eyeballs, your feet, your fingers, the place where your wrist meets the palm of your hand....

And today Mark shoed me how to press up and jump back more effectively - it's basically inhale into Navasana, cross your shins, press up...then exhale to reach forward into Lolasana and jump back into Chatturanga. So much more effecient. So much more effective. I had so much more energy throughout the practice as a result. I often tell my own students to elimate the extraneous....extraneous thoughts, extraneous fidgeting, extraneous embellishments. And this was the queen of eliminating extraneous movements and effort. So smooth.

I was the last student to finish today. When I finished, I did a couple of handstands and realized that to stay up without the wall, I am going to need to do what one of my teachers from several years ago told me, which I never understood until today...and that is to get one leg up there, and then slowly, with control, float the other leg up to meet it. It's the only way not to let momentum push you over into a backbend.

As I was packing up to leave, I talked to one of the other assistants - I think his name is Jose. He told me that it is best not to eat anything before practicing. That is going to take a HUGE leap of faith for me since I have been stoking my workouts with breakfast and even snacking DURING workouts (during marathon training and marathon runs, for example) for as long as I can remember. But I am a VERY empty cup right now, willing to try anything. So, I can see myself being able to do this not eating thing. Tomorrow I will try it and see. I think the unspoken thing that no one is saying to me (ok, maybe I am projecting) is that what is truly standing between me and Marichi is my tummy. Now, I can't help that I have had two babies and my stomach, though flat and muscular, is draped in enough skin to fit a 9-months pregnant woman. I don't even dare mention that I plan on having a tummy tuck at the end of the summer. Let's not even go there right now. But what I can help is not filling up the organ known as my "stomach" and exacerbating the whole problem. If I can't practice Uddiyana Bhandha kriya, then something is amiss - and that something would be breakfast, I believe. Plus, he also mentioned not eating past 7 p.m. and that the Hatha Yoga Pradipika instructs us to fast for 12 hours each and every day at some point. I can do that!

And the best news of all - I think that if there is time, they are going to let me work through the poses that follow my sage friends (the Marichis). Ah, what are those sages trying to tell me? We shall see. But I think that there will only be time if I am actually practicing the rest of the series properly. I mean, if I make a habit of taking five minutes to get into a pose that should take five breaths to come into and out of, then clearly, I am going to be exhausted and unable to go much further than Navasana, and the time is going to run out besides. So, the system actually makes sense.

On another topic - I really am looking forward to Friday's led class with Mary-Beth. Hearing her teach is so important to my teaching right now.

That's all for today...

YC

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


it's me.......lauren cahn Posted by Hello

Two more sultry Mysore Days....

Yesterday, I took the subway down to Eddie Stern's place and did another Mysore practice. Only made it to Marichi C, and had more trouble binding in it than last time. It was incredibly hot and sweaty there on Monday, not that that should be an excuse. But all of the slipping and sliding and adjusting my towel did make it difficult to focus fully. Really!

I worked really hard though. The usual suspects were there - the girl who can do the entire Intermediate Series, the man I met my first day there, who is still working with the standing series. Then there were these two incredibly agile, strong (but wiry), tattooed men who moved quickly through the entire Primary and Intermediate Series as I worked my way through part of the Primary. I view practioners like that with awe and the tiniest bit of envy....yes, I do...I acknowledge it. But I also know that it's really all about where YOU are on any given day, and on your path in general. It's not a competition. The benefits of the practice accrue to you wherever you are practicing. That is one thing that I love about it.

That being said, I do have to say that Eddie's place is a bit more foreboding that Guy's. I am not sure if it is the level of practitioner, the personality of those who are attracted to Eddie's versus Guy's place, but it does seem to me that the atmosphere is friendlier, more casual, at Guy's shala. It is subtle, but I feel it. Now, don't get me wrong....Eddie's place is incredibly beautiful and inviting. But it seems perhaps a bit elitist. Is it just me projecting? Perhaps. But perhaps there really is something there.....For example, at Eddie's yesterday, I got absolutely no adjustments, no help at all after Marichi C...and I wasn't invited to attempt Marichi D or to take Navasana either...as for backbends, I was on my own. That was kind of a bummer. Then as I was preparing to leave, I chatted a bit with one of the guys who was practicing at the same time as me. When I told him that I teach Vinyasa yoga, he remarked, "Did you know that the yoga you teach comes from THIS yoga." I was like, "no shit." OK, I didn't say that. But I was thinking it...I mean, I told him I was a teacher - did he think I didnt know that the ASHTANGA means Eight Limbs, etc.? I then told him that the yoga school that certified me, Om, actually is not based on Ashtanga but on Iyengar's alignment method. He looked at me like I was soooooooooo stupid and said, "where did you get that, some ancient scripture?"

Well, that was quite the nonsequitor.

So, I asked him what he meant, to which he informed me, "Iyengar is not vinyasa-based." Again, it's like, NO SHIT, but I stayed in a place of equanimity, attempting to clarify that I wasn't saying that Iyengar is based on vinyasa, but rather that the vinyasa yoga that I was taught to teach is based on Iyengar, and midway through, my voice simply trailed off...this was not going to be a conversation that would ever feel good or right. I just gave up.

On the bright side, he did tell me to have a nice day though.... No hard feelings I guess - as long as I came away from the whole thing realizing what an absolute novice I am. Am I right?

Today, I made my way back to Guy's Ashtanga Yoga Shala, and it was so enjoyable to simply ride down Second Ave and walk across Thompkins Square Park to get there. When I got there, it smelled of Chai Tea and basically just felt comfy and unintimidating. Kim Baxter, who also teaches at New York Yoga, was there for her daily practice, and that felt comforting - to see a face I recognized, a smart person, someone with whom I can actually have an intelligent conversation. Kim sometimes takes my classes at New York Yoga...another reason I like her...because she likes my classes....;-)

Mark greeted me and asked me to remind him of my name. He showed me where to place my mat. I stretched a bit, and then I began. I promised myself that I would NOT take too long in the standing series, which always saps my energy. And sure enough, I finished in under 35 minutes. That was nice! I had quite a few problems with my mat again, with the slipperiness and fiddling with my hand towel. And my jump throughs were just not happening, and everything felt a bit stiff.

I wondered when your body gets used to practicing day after day after day, and I tried to simply treat it all with equanimity - it's just another day, it's just another practice, there's always tomorrow - all the stuff I tell my students all the time, over and over again when I encourage them to practice, practice, practice, and all is coming....

I remarked to Mark that I was unusually stiff today, and he said sometimes that happens, and to think about what I had eaten the night before. Cookie Dough. Ha. Not a good thing. One thing I have noticed lately is that my desire for crap has definitely been on a downturn. Is the Ashtanga doing that for me? If it is, yay!

Anyway, we did get to Marichi D, although not particularly auspiciously. I don't think we bound on either side, and to be honest, I was totally relieved when he said to move to Navasana and then to the finishing sequence. I think that is what it is SUPPOSED to feel like - you stop when it is just too much already. And it was feeling like it was getting to be too much already.

Rushed through Navasana so much that Mark noticed and said, "you can't be done...five times???" I said, well, I could have counted fast...and then I laughed, and started again....I like a little humor with my yoga...

Backbends felt good. Mark spotted me, and went through it with me vinyasa style (stopping on the crown of the head between the first two). And I finished up and purchased my three-per-week class-pack.

Oh, and Mark showed me how to jump through more properly, with more control. It was a good practice. But in truth, it did leave me slightly anxious about whether I will ever progress. But I need to let that go.

After I finished practicing, I went to lobby area - and I dig that there IS a lobby area - and met Guy's wife, Lori, a perfectly charming, earthy, thirtysomething with a four year old daughter and a beautiful lotus flower stud in her right nostril. We talked about the slipping and sliding, and she recommended an Ashtanga rug - the thick kind, which I purchased on the spot. She also recommended washing my yoga mat in a non-softening detergent. We shall see how that goes.

The incredible thing is that each day, I look forward to practicing. There is nothing stale. The path is endless in Ashtanga, and the practice is purely for the sake of practicing. It is entirely Sysiphisian, but in a good way. You have to realize the hill is never-ending, the rock is always going to be on its way up, until it's on its way down, and then it's on its way up again anyway. Something about it - it just works for me.

Stressing me out slightly is trying to figure out when I am going to practice at New York Yoga and when, if ever, I will be going to Eddie's place. Since Eddie allows drop-ins, I guess I can go whenever - maybe for LED class on Sunday.

This is very exciting to me, this exploration....

YC

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Where were they today????????????????

So....the plan for today was to take the led ashtanga class at Eddie's at 7:30 a.m. Sarah-the-teacher told me they have it every Sunday morning (remember? no printed schedules....)

So, today, I got up at the crack of 6:20 a.m., showered, practiced some ardha padmasana to prepare for what was to come, and made my way downtown in a cab. But no one was at Eddie's place...no one except for another student, with whom I chatted for about 25 minutes. When another student arrived, and the door was still locked with no teacher in sight, I realized this was not to be. Is this a sign of what is to come? Sudden class cancellations with no explanations? We shall see...

I made my way over to Jivamukti, but alas, no class until 10 a.m., and I was to be teaching a class at New York Yoga at 11 a.m....so, I got up my courage and made my way over to Guy Donahaye's Ashtanga Yoga Shala on East 8th Street.... all the way on the far east side of Thomkins Square Park...for an 8:30 a.m. Mysore session...

So, first thing, I was told that they generally do not permit drop-ins...but I told them I do have a regular Ashtanga practice, and so they let me come in. I was the first one there. Guy was finishing up his own practice. They told me I could begin whenever I was ready.

It was much darker at AYS than at ES's place, but it was warm, and it smelled deliciously of oranges and tea, and I felt inspired. As usual, I needed help with the Marichi series, and to my surprise, I bound on one side in D. The other side didn't happen, and it was quite difficult to do it on the side on which it did (right leg in lotus, left knee up, twisting over the left knee). So, when Mark, the assistant who was helping me, finished with me, I asked him if I needed to stop and finish. Happily, he said, "No need, just continue along in your usual practice..."

And so I did...went through the entire Primary Series, which for me becomes quite accessible after the Marichi's. Even Supta Kurmasana is do-able. I am ALMOST binding, my hands gripping a washcloth, two inches away from each other, behind my back. Most exciting was that Mark crossed my ankles and got them above my head, and in performing the transition out of the pose, he positioned me such that my feet were over my head, and I could plant my hands on the floor to take Tittibasana. It was SO cool.

I admit, I went through the Finishing Sequence in an abbreviated manner. I did have to get up to New York Yoga to teach Jen's Hot Power Flow Class (she is on her honeymoon). No one showed up. I spent about a half hour working on my drop-backs, and since it wasn't even my class (just subbing), I didn't give the lack of attendees a second's thought.

I do wish New York Yoga had the "shakti" of a downtown studio. Maybe someday.....

So the question remains, tomorrow: Guy, Eddie or Led at New York Yoga????????

YC

YC

Friday, June 10, 2005

Ashtanga Yoga: In the Mysore Room Day 1

Today, after much internal debate, I finally began my journey into Ashtanga Yoga, the Mysore way. By which I mean, I spent an hour practicing in a real live Mysore room - for the first time. It was at Eddie Stern's place on Broome Street in Manhattan...I think it's called Ashtanga Yoga New York, but who knows, because it isn't listed in the phone book, it has no web site, and basically it is all about word of mouth. So, how did I finally make my way there? Perseverence.....

First I chased him down via telephone. The name, "Edward Stern" was listed as a residence on directory assistance. When I called him, I think he was sitting down to dinner with his wife and kid, and I lamely said, "Hi my name is Lauren and I want to practice Ashtanga yoga." He said, "Lauren, can I call you back?" I gave him my cell phone number and waited. And waited. A few days later, I called again. He said, "Is this Lauren 917-886-3528", and then he promised that he would call me back for real this time. Eventually he did, but of course, my phone wasn't on. Finally, I found him in person at the Puck Building when Guruji was in town, and I accosted him and implored him to give me his information. On the back of a ripped "Release of Liability" from Guruji's workshop, he wrote the address and class schedule and nothing else. Honestly, it all felt like that episode of Sex and the City, where Charlotte wants to be a Jew and the Rabbi keeps slamming the door in her face, saying, "We're not interested"........

But just as Charlotte became a Jew, I made my way into Eddie Stern Mysore Room fold. And all I can say is WOW. Well, actually, I have more to say than just "wow". I can tell you way more.

Yesterday, I took the subway down to Spring Street, took a left at Balthazar and another left onto Broome. The whole trip from the relative yoga boondocks of the Upper East Side took a mere 25 minutes. Yay! The studio is on the second floor. You open up the door, and save for a transluscent orange dividing curtain, you are pretty much already in the practice space. The windows were open, the air was warm and soft and smelled vaguely of incense and vaguely of sweat. I imagined that this is what it felt to be at the Asthanga Research Institute in Mysore, itself.

At first, it seemed odd that a number of students were laying around on mats in the front area of the room, while other students practiced in the rear. But after a while, it became apparent that the area in which you enter is the room is the area in which the students perform the closing sequence of poses - from shoulderstand to savasana. The rest of the practice is practiced (no thesaurus words for this, sorry) in an adjacent area, I suppose you could call it another room, but it's really the same room, divided by a sort of archway.

The walls are a golden yellow, vivid in the sunlight. At the far end is a huge altar. It appeared that there was not only no lobby but also no cash register, no computer and no props other than some spray bottles (for getting one's arms through one's legs in garba pindasana, I suppose, and apparently, for wetting one's ashtanga rug upon laying it down over one's mat).

It drew me in, and it made me hungry to practice, but I stood there for a moment or two, not knowing what to do. A young woman who was wrapping up her practice told me that I should wait for Barry, the teacher, to greet me.

Barry met me under the aforementioned archway. I introduced myself, and once again, I lamely offered that I wanted to practice Ashtanga yoga in the Mysore style. He explained to me the protocol: meet and talk to Eddie and observe the studio for the first day. I told him I had already met Eddie, so he told me to sit down and watch.

What I saw can only be described as mind boggling - the poses some of the students were getting into, or seemingly floating into - the acrobatics of it all. I felt intimidated. But I remembered that it's not about how much you can do. It's about doing it.

The next day, today, I came to practice (but first I took a led class with Mary-Beth at New York Yoga, my teaching home - where I teach my own classes to a wonderful, inspiring group of students - I was nervous that I would not be allowed to practice, and besides I love Mary-Beth's class...so what's another hour or two of yoga? It's all good....).

Sarah was the teacher. I introduced myself and laid down my mat and began. And it was amazing. That room is like magic. It is peaceful but energizing at the same time. It makes you NEED to practice. You simply are drawn in, and it happens. I stopped after Marichi C, although I was able to bind on both sides with Sarah's help. There was no time left to do anything but sit in Lotus and then Savasana.

I can't wait to go back.

My primary Ashtanga teacher (and yoga teacher idol, to be honest) has been, and remains Mary-Beth Garruti, but this Mysore thing is happening, and I am loving it!

YC

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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