Sunday, July 31, 2005

The burdens we carry...

Today in the New York Times Sunday Styles section, there was an article in the Modern Romance column about a man who battle alcohol addiction and found love. At the end of the article, he says something incredibly wise, which I wish I could have said first, myself. He says, "Sometimes I can't help but wonder if the burdens we carry don't end up carrying us."

I am certainly not happy about the struggles I have had with my health and my body, but I know that if it were not for those struggles, I would never have found Ashtanga. So, instead of saying "Breast cancer was a blessing because it brought me to the mat", I prefer, "Breast cancer was a burden that carried me toward my blessings."

Thanks Kevin Cahillane for a beautiful article and a wonderful thought!

Today's Ashtanga practice is discussed immediately below...see "Psoas I was saying...."

YC

Psoas I was saying...

When I was in the dating scene in college and in law school, I could pretty much tell how a relationship was going by the amount about which I talked about the relationship to my friends. If things were confusing, if the guy was sending mixed signals, if I was ambivalent, then there was lots of talk. But if things were smooth and easy, nice and cozy, then I found I just didn't have a lot to say about it. I find that my Asthanga practice is like a romantic relationship in that same way: when it is going well, there simply is not that much to say about it.

I practiced today with Gary again, although I went through most of the entire practice without any assists (got one in Trikonasana - one of these days I am going to figure out once and for all what is going on in Ashtanga's version of that pose; every single teacher seems to have his or her own take on it!), right up until Marichi Awesome and Marichi Beautiful. Nothing major in the way of an assist - more of an adjustment to get my forward bend even deeper and to help me to really grab my wrists instead of my fingers. But the work really was all mine.

Right up until the Marichis, I noticed that I was practicing completely in synch with the girl whose mat was right in front of me - I will call her Rachael Leigh Cook, as that is who she looks exactly like. Then, she plowed ahead, as I slowed down and held A and B for 8-10 breaths each. And of course, I had to have some help in Caution - Jose helped me to join my hands and he gave me the most AWESOME twist. Just what I needed. Then I held it all by myself for ANOTHER 8-10 breaths. As I was waiting for Gary to assist me into D, Rachael Leigh C. was already Bujapidasaning. This is a supreme example, in my opinion, of how you know you are not ready to move on...the stoppages, the needing assists to get through, the leakage of prana. Someday, I assume that I will glide through the Marichis like Rachael Leigh C does (although she did fall over in D - after having bound it herself - it was cute - she just toppled over) and that is when I will be ready to add more poses.

Marichi Drama was nothing more and nothing less than it usually is for me. I did feel elation when I realized I was done with the hard part (yay)! and could get my dessert...Navasana through Supta Kurmasana.

I ha no help at all in Kurmasana or Supta K. And the most awesome thing happened - I really got deep into them anyway. I always do in Kurmasana, but to transition to Supta K, I lifted my knees, made room to bring my hands behind my back and then walked my feet together, crossing my right ankle over my left. And then I stayed there and breathed for a while, wondering if Gary was going to come over and lift me up. No such luck, so it was all up to me. And guess what? I pressed my hamstrings deeply into my triceps and got the palms of my hands to the floor with my legs still in the air (although no longer with ankles cross). Without any thinking or preparations, I simply pressed my palms down, lifted my butt and got mysef into Tittibasana! Nice! Swung back into a sort of Bakasana and then yelled at myself to jump back. I might have caught a bit of air, but not much.

I then did three backbends. Then waiting for Gary, I was told by Jose to do more and more and more backbends. Can't do too many, I guess. Then Gary came over and we did our dropbacks, and then I was done! (Well, I had to do the finishing poses, which I did, in kind of a rushed, abbreviated manner - it's a Sunday, after all, and I still have my family plus two classes to teach....)

All in all, nice!

But I do have to admit that I did spend quite a bit of time lying on the floor watching other people practice when I should have been in Savasana. Rachael Leigh went all the way through Kapotasana, and maybe even further. Pretty cool. And this tall, slim woman with a very young, pretty face but sort of greying hair had the most beautiful Second Series Tittibasanas (the ones where you walk up five steps an walk back five steps and then stand with your ankles bound and your head is right between your shins....). I can't help it - I learn so much from watching others, and from watching the teachers teach. Savasana was over for me - it's just that I stayed there even when it was over. Not too criminal, right?

I will be teaching a Basics class today - those make me very nervous. I feel comfortable with my Intro to Yoga workshops because I get to know my students, and I know why they are all there. In a Basics class, you never really know what you are going to get. I was thinking of focusing on the Psoas muscles today. Thus, the title of this post: "Psoas I was saying...."

Oh - almost forgot to mention: I didn't need any warmup or prep for any of the Ardha Baddhas today!

So, all in all, it WAS a very good day...

YC

Something that is actually not about Ashtanga....

...although it is still about yoga, specifically teaching a mixed-levels, mixed-interest class...

Carl Horowitz is one of my teachers, and a colleague of mine at New York Yoga. He has a really interesting blog that is a veritable "kaleidascope" of yoga; hence, it is "Yogascope". Anyway, before I was bitten by the Ashtanga bug, I used to take Carl's class at New York Yoga every Thursday morning, and afterwards, we would chat and debate and theorize about some esoteric yoga topic right up until either one or both of us had to literally run out the door to get to our next class or other obligation. When he got his (long awaited) blog up and running, I eagerly devoured his discussion of structuring the teaching of vinyasa yoga to suit the individual student. Nevertheless, I felt like something was missing for me...what about those mixed level classes, especially the crowded ones like my Monday 6:30 p.m. class? How do we teach to the individual when there is a room crowded with individuals? And individuals with widely varying physical skills levels and widely varying spiritual interests at that. An interesting (at least in my opinion) discussion ensued....so I am linking to it here. Enjoy! YC

Saturday, July 30, 2005

"Got to get back to the land, set my soul free..."

"Well I came across a child of God, he was walking along the road
And I asked him tell where are you going, this he told me:
Well, I'm going down to Yasgur's farm, going to join in a rock and roll band.
Got to get back to the land, set my soul free.
We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

Well, then can I walk beside you? I have come to lose the smog.
And I feel like I'm a cog in something turning.
And maybe it's the time of year, yes, and maybe it's the time of man.
And I don't know who I am but life is for learning.
We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

By the time we got to Woodstock, we were half a million strong,
And everywhere there was song and celebration.
And I dreamed I saw the bombers jet planes riding shotgun in the sky,
Turning into butterflies above our nation.

We are stardust, we are golden, we caught in the devil's bargain,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden."
- -Joni Mitchell, 1969-70 (not CSN&Y, as many believe)

Just got back from Woodstock, New York, not too far from the site of the original Woodstock concert in 1969. We were there because it was not far from the sleep-away camp we were visiting in anticipation of my two boys MAYBE going to sleep-away camp next summer (and if they do, I am MYSORE BOUND!!! not that I want them to go, but if they do, gotta make use of my time, you know....)

Anyway, I just found Woodstock (the town) to be completely NOT what I expected. I expected cute and artsy and quaint. Instead, it was crowded and somewhat skanky and commercial. I was disillusioned.

Ok, it can't all be negative right? I did meander into a store called Dharmaware, and I learned to make a Tibetan bowl sing, which was pretty cool. And the guy at the cash register (he could have been the owner, for all I know) was playing Bhagavan Das (don't know the name of the CD offhand, but it features his "wife" (?) Uma on backup vocals on Rhagupati as well as on two other tracks), which made me happy. (By the way, if you click on the Bhagavan Das link, and you have your volume turned on, you can hear part of a wonderful chant to the various "gurus" that guide us - it's the third one down on the linked page...more on that another day). We chatted a bit, and he told me that Sharon and David (of Jivamukti) have a house nearby, which I actually already knew, but it was interesting to hear them being talked about like local celebrities.

Speaking of which, my husband kept insisting that Woodstock is going to be the next Rhinebeck, the next Easthampton, you know, attracting celebrities and all. I just don't see it, what with all the tattoo-wearers, goths and renaissance-garb-wearing foks wandering around. NOT that there is anything wrong with tattoos or people who choose to go goth or rennaisance. It's just that I don't see Spielberg, Seinfeld and all the not-so-famous people who hang out with Denise Rich, hanging out amongst these folks. But then you never know. And as I am finding more and more, the more I know, the more I realize I don't know.

So, yoga, where was the yoga today? I did try to work on a cool partner exercise for my Breast Cancer Survivors class - something along the lines of two people standing back to back, one forward bending, one back bending. I tried it with my older son, who is almost my height, but he is weighs so little that we were ill-matched. Then I tried it with my husband, who pulled me so hard into a backbend that I saw stars. Guess it's not a great thing to do with people who are not experienced in yoga. Ah well, live and learn.

Oh yeah, and the song - I have been humming it all day, and thinking about the words and the concept of music setting the soul free. Does that make playing/listening to music a form of yoga? I read an interview with John Scott where he said that his first "yoga" was golf - the focus, the "being the ball" (he really said that!). And for me, I believe my first "yoga" was long-distance running, but that my best "yoga" before actually getting on the mat was figure skating, which I took up as an adult and practiced as much as four times a week before my bilateral mastectomies sidelined me: it truly did feel as if I became one with what my body was doing, such that there was nothing but the movement, no mind at all, only the carefully focused process of sending messages to the various parts of my body. I think that it is important not to forget that yoga is not just asana - it is whatever you do that corrals the mind and brings focus to the exclusion of the vrittis. The Ashtanga system is a wonderful MEANS toward yoga.

Anyway....tomorrow begins a new week of Ashtanga....must get sleep!

YC

Friday, July 29, 2005

I was invited to DROP-BACK!

Drop-backs...the gateway to advanced backbending! Me! I don't know how, and I don't know why, but the substitute teacher at AYS (Gary) came up to me after my third Urdhva Dhanurasana and pulled me up to stand. When I told him I had never done that before, at least not at AYS (I have done it before, assisted at OM and at Jivamukti, and UN-assisted quite unexpectedly at New York Yoga when practicing one day with MaryBeth), he simply told me the lowdown: Exhale on the way down, Inhale on the way up. Land on the hands the first three times, and then cross arms over the chest and go back and forth four or five more times, the last one reaching the hands down and holding for five deep breaths. It was AWESOME!!

Now, how weird is it that just YESTERDAY, I was posting here about a psoas-lengthening, quad-softening R&D pose that would help pave the way to better backbending? Is it pure coincidence? Psychic ability? Or perhaps somehow my body told my mind that it was time to start working toward deeper backbends?

Anyway, I had no idea what to expect from drop-backs - I have heard students giggling and acting terrified in drop-backs, especially the first time, but it was like buttah for me. Hooray! Something I can do without all the tsuris! I don't think I will ever forget that exhilerating feeling of the first time I ever got dropped-back....

I came in a little early for me today, since I think some of the root of my tsuris is starting so late that I don't have time to get a proper warm-up (I am not even talking about R&D here) and and not rush, when certainly, rushing and getting anxiety about "falling behind" is really counterproductive. I was nice and slow and methodical with each of my Five-and-Fives, rolling over my toes like Mark taught me and stepping nice and long and straight through to between my hands for each Warrior I of Surya B. Gary gave me a great assist in Uttita Hasta Padangusthasana, getting my front leg higher than I have ever gotten it before and making sure that my standing leg was straight. I was patient and took eight breaths once in each side of Ardha Baddha Padmotannasana. Same with Ardha Baddha Padmo Paschimo.

At one point, I felt like I was going to "wok" as my eight-year old calls it - vomit - so I went to the bathroom and came back. Don't know what peeing did to relieve that up-chuck feeling, but maybe it just made some space in my torso. OK, I will admit it - I did have coffee this morning. I LIKE to begin my practice with some artificially enhanced tapas...is that really so wrong?

Lauren, you really have a lot to learn, I know, I know....

Anyway, Mari the Awesome and Mari the Beautiful went very nicely. But Caution and Dead-in-the-Water, not so much. Gary's adjustments didn't really get at the heart of what needs to be done in those poses, which isn't his fault - it's just that he doesn't know my body. I need help TWISTING!!! My arms will bind just fine when I can stop my back shoulder from collapsing down into my chest. But still, we got through them with a minimum of drama (except for my confession that "C is my nemesis", which actually is no longer so true, to which Gary replied, "I don't know what that means". For one split second, I was all awe-filled, thinking, ah...what a profound notion - to not have "nemesis" in one's Ashtanga vocabulary. But then Gary broke the spell, saying that he was just kidding, "I actually do have a pretty good vocabulary." To which, I laughed, not at Gary's bit of self-deprecating humor, but at myself, for assuming that everything that drops out of someone's mouth in a yoga class must be, of course, a profound pearl of yoga wisdom. Ha!)...

I slipped off my arms a little in my exit out of Buja Pidasana but redeemed myself (at least in my own eyes) with a very nicely executed Supta Kurmasana and lovely Tittibasana exit out therefrom. And I didn't even forget Navasana today.

All in all - a nice practice.

On another quick little detour topic, you know how Andy Warhol once said that everyone could expect to at some point have their own fifteen minutes of fame? And then in the 90's that little aphorism was modified by popular culture such that "everyone can expect to at some point have their own talk show"? And then in the past several years, it has seemed more like everyone can at some point expect to appear on a reality TV show? (And certainly, it is feasible that everyone at some point will be publishing a blog...but I digress) Well, the thought first struck me when I was part of Om Yoga Center's Teacher Training Program, that my yoga teacher training program would make a really interesting and borderline CRAZY (crazy in a good way) reality show. There were 10 of us students, all women, and two primary teachers (with two other teachers rotating in and out, and then, of course, there was Cyndi Lee), and we were together for nearly 28 days straight, anywhere from 10-14 hours a day. There was drama and bitching and yes, gossip and backbiting, and if a clever tv producer wanted to add a "game" element to it, he could make it all about "And only ONE of you will get to teach at Om" or something like that.

Anyway, I always thought it was a clever idea. Similarly, wouldn't "The Shala: The Show" make an interesting reality tv series? The personalities, the drama, the big moments of triumph. No, none of this is "yogic". But is would make some fine entertainment.

Keep those comments coming...tomorrow is Saturday, no practice....so we can ONLY talk about it....

YC

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Addressing Your Comments on Warmups....

So, I took my kids to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tonight (if you haven't seen it, you have to go, if only just to see what they've done with the Indian actor, Deep Roy as all 165 of the Oompa Loompas) and came home to a bunch of really delightful comments regarding "warming up" before practicing. Since there were a few, I figured I would address them here in a new post. (Hi IVDP, btw...hadn't seen you around "here" in the past day or so....good to "see" you again!)

First, I want to say that I really enjoyed that someone pointed out that my "warmup" is something worth thinking about letting go of. After all, Ashtanga is NOT a performance. Right? Right? Right! It is a practice.

But the reality is, in my rather unenlightened Western hemisphere, Type-A mind, I can't help but think about what I look like to my teacher....and I would rather not have my teacher look at me and think, "Oh Geeeez...look at Lauren today....How am I going to get her into Marichi D if she can't even take Ardha Baddha Padmotannasana?" OK, I know that is just me projecting - I am sure that my teachers view me with a bit more equanimity and a bit less self-interest than that! Or I hope they do! I know I do, with regard to my students....

But still...it feels good to "get" the poses and not have to struggle with them, and warming up definitely addresses that...Now, I do realize, as was pointed out, that Surya A and B were intended to warm up the body sufficiently to practice the rest of whatever it is you are practicing. However, where are the twists in Surya A and B? Where are the hip openers (Warrior I just doesnt' cut it...)? By the time I am done with my five-and-five, I am sweating like it's my job, but I still can't take Ardha Baddha Padmotannasana unless I spend about 10 breaths standing there in a pretty inadequate half-lotus before pulling my foot high enough to get a good bind. By the time I fold over, I've already been there for more than a minute....

And here is the rub: it never changes. It never has. Even when I practiced Bikram - and you do a variation on this pose in Bikram - every time I went to take the standing half lotus pose, it was like my hips had never heard of it before. OK, maybe I am exagerrating. It IS getting better. Very slowly. But it is really frustrating to me that day after day - six days a week except for moonday weeks - I end my practice in a really nice, parallel-thighs lotus, and yet the next morning I come to the mat feeling as if I had never taken lotus before in my entire life.

So, as one would expect, warming up does tend to make things smoother for me at the outset...and then I know if I have a "good" Ardha Baddha Padmotannasana, I will then have an even better Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimotannasana. And then all of my Marichis will be easier.

LOL...I know, I know...I hear myself...it is all very "attached to results". I get it. But how can we not be "attached to results" when the Ashtanga system requires that we "accomplish" certain things before moving on to the next thing? Oooo, ooooo, I am raising my hand...I know the answer, even as I ask the question. It is not "supposed" to matter what pose we are working on - wherever we practice, we are supposed to be practicing to our own personal edge. So maybe that edge is soemwhere in the Primary Series. Maybe that edge is in Fifth. But it isn't supposed to matter -by practicing, we get the benefits, if we are open to the benefits.

And yet it does matter, doesn't it....

OK, so all of that being said, I cannot begin to tell you how awesome my hips feel after I take Supported Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Salamba Supta Baddha Konasana) with a strap around my waist and ankles and ablock under my spine and just hang out there watching TV.

And now, I am going to tempt all of you tight psoas/tight quads people with a really delicious R&D (research and development) pose to work on at home (certainly not at the shala!). It's basically a variation on "Tiptoe Fish", which I am sure doesn't even EXIST as far as Ashtanga is concerned, but it sure will do wonders for your Urdhva Dhanurasana:

You lie down with a block set down on the skinny side and running vertically down your spine. Then one at a time, you bend your knees, and then one at a time, you tuck your toes under. Then you slowly lower your knees to the floor and reach your arms up overhead in prayer to touch the floor behind you. Try to bring your thighs to touch. YUM. If I ever find a photo of this I will link to it.

YC

Distractions

Practiced this morning at AYS, but didn't get there until 9:10, which meant that I was going to have to avoid any procrastination. I had taken my hot shower earlier, but I didn't do any pre-practice stretching, which worried me a bit. So, when I set down my mat, I got into Supta Baddha Konasana and massaged my hip flexors a bit for less than five minutes and then got to it.

I moved very quickly and smoothly through my practice, although I have to admit I did feel distracted by a couple of things. First, Julie K was near me, and her practice is so breathtakingly gorgeous, it was difficult not to stare. She taught the jump-backs workshop, she studied with Chuck and Maty in California and she is a YogaWorks teacher, so she and MB know each other. I took the jumping-back workshop on Saturday, and it was wonderful. My jumpbacks haven't improved at all...BUT...I know what I need to do, what I need to work on outside of the jumpbacks themselves: I need to make sure that I am letting my psoas muscles do the work when I step forward into Warrior I, instead of cheating my leg to the outside of my shoulder and then back between my hands. I need to be work on my press-ups - a LOT, and not be lazy about them. And, here is the best part, I need to NOT go so low in my Chatturangas (a/k/a catvari in Ashtanga - the "fourth" vinyasa of Surya Namaskar A), instead, keeping my shoulder girdle from collapsing below my hip girdle. Who knew that it would be all about the girdle?

Anyway, Julie K's jumpbacks are enchanting to watch, but they are nothing compared to her Handstands-into-Backbends. I am not sure if she goes the other way as well, from backbend into handstand, which I believe is called "Viparita Chakrasana", but regardless, it was quite a sight to behold. Breathtaking. Inspiring.

Then there was something else - and this is awful, and upsetting, but I am going to just say it: my mind kept drifting to thoughts of: "Who has read this blog and hates me for what I have written?" Now that is NOT good, and it made me question the wisdom of even HAVING a blog at all, which some of you know, I have questioned at other times as well.

I have heard that the risk of keeping a practice blog is that during your practice, your mind will drift off to things like, "Ah, nice adjustment, gotta remember to put that in my blog", etc. But that's not the problem for me. For me the big problem is that by keeping my blog, I believe I am risking offending people, particularly the people who practice alongside me at the shala. And not only is that a bad thing, in and of itself, but it also negatively impacts on my ability to focus during my practice at the shala. Now, I know I could keep my blog private. But I don't like that choice either. Anyway, I'm tired of thinking about this for the moment. Perhaps I will feel better about things (i.e., less paranoid) tomorrow...

Speaking of tomorrow, I was surprised to hear that Guy and Lori are going to be gone for two weeks (again) starting tomorrow. So, a new teacher is coming in. I don't remember his name. But his bio (as posted on the bulletin board at AYS) says that he assisted Eddie at AYNY for a time. I wonder how having yet another teacher will impact my practice. Will he let me keep doing what I am doing? Will he help me with Mari C and D? And if so, how? Will he help me to twist, or will he focus on the bind?

To all those in favor of NOT working with different teachers - what does one do when one's teacher goes out of town...seemingly regularly?

For me, for now, I will have to see how it goes. I have only two weeks left to practice before my surgery, and then I will have to take a break for anywhere from two to six weeks, depending on how my recovery goes. I've decided that if I like this temporary teacher, then great, but if not, I am just going to spend as much time as I can with Sarah instead (time constraints/teaching schedule permitting). I really love my practice when I am with her - isn't that funny, given that I am not even doing the poses I love best - Buja through Supta Kurmasana?! I know I can always do them anyway in led classes and at home, and I know they will be there for me when she thinks I am ready for them. Guy says he thinks they are good for me now despite my continuing struggles with Mari D (Mari C is almost no longer a problem - I even enjoy it! I even look forward to it!) because of the way Kurmasana and Supta Kurmasana open up the chest. So, obviously reasonable minds CAN differ...

About Buja, Kurmasana and Supta K, all I can say about them today is: JOY! Floaty, seemingly magical joy....

YC

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

My Led, Mysore...

Happy day! After spending all day obsessing about all the little thingies I can do to this blog, which no one will probably ever be interested in anyway (the thingies, not the blog, itself, which may actually have a few people reading it, I am now beginning to understand)...I am finally writing about my practice. Not much to write. Taught a class today, then took MB's class, but it wasn't led after all. She did it as a Mysore style class. My practice was nice - smooth and even and energetic. I bound in C, but she didn't even come over to me in D, so I was left to my strap and my own devices. Buja went great, and even better was Supta Kurmasana, probably my most bindy ever. Since it seems to have been up to us, the students, to decide when to stop, I got myself into Garba Pindasana quite easily, I might add. My palms were covering my cheeks and eyes, but not my ears, oh well. MB helped me to roll around the requisite 9 times, representing the embryo's journey through the womb. And after rolling, I managed to press up, somewhat messily, into kukkutasana. Then I took my deepest baddha konasana ever (!) and moved right onto backbends and the Finishing Sequence. MB helped me to bind both feet in baddha padmasana, which was cool. I really think that some of the "restorative"/"research" posing I have been doing lately, like Salamba Supta Baddha Konasana, with a strap around my waist and ankles and a block between my shoulderblades (see the second photo in this link to get an idea of how to place the strap), is softening me up. This is something we did last night in the Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors Workship, since it seems to be working so well for me...

Also, I am now working on Urdhva Mukkha Vrksasana, a/k/a Upward Facing Tree, a/k/a Handstand, but not the pose itself, which lucky for me is a total no-brainer for some reason, but rather the coming up into it. I have been coming up by kicking up since, well, since forever. And now, I need to start coming up with both legs at the same time. Since I can do this easily in Sirsasana (headstand), I have been thinking about the mechanics of piking up, and trying to figure out what is so different in Handstand. So....I decided that I am just really friggin scared with my head hanging between my arms, dangling from my shoulders as I try to go up with what amounts to one very large leg. To deal with this, I placed two blocks, one on top of the other, near the wall, and let my hea rest on the top block as I otherwise took handstand preparation. Then, I used my banddhas to bring my legs up to the wall, together. I did it several times, albeit with bent legs an quite a bit of momentum. Still...two legs together...and I came down piked each time...yay!

P.S. I cannot get Madonna's Shanti/Ashtangi song out of my head...it is seriously disturbing...

YC

"Polling" feature...is open! Check Sidebar for the Current Poll

The question is as to whether we have mixed yoga and romance/dating/sex, call it what you will. All responses are ABSOLUTELY CONFIDENTIAL. Let's have some fun with this....YC

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Inspiring Women

Five beautiful, inspiring women came to my Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors class tonight at Yoga Sutra. And when I say beautiful, I mean, I really mean physical beauty: five women with beautiful faces and beautiful figures. I don't want to sound shallow, but even as a breast cancer survivor, it still surprises me to see young, attractive women battling this disease. I think somehow in my mind, I still believe that it only happens to the old, the fat, the ugly, the evil...even though I know I am none of those things, myself.

I think that many of us want to believe that cancer can only happen to those who are somehow deserving of it, whether by virtue of a family history (the inevitable question, "did it run in your family" often comes from those people for whom breast cancer does NOT run in the family, and who would like to identify family history as a distinguishing factor) or by virtue of not taking proper care of onesself or some other reason by which the person with cancer can be blamed or set apart (with a cough and a sideways glance, I will now admit that before breast cancer happened to me, when I heard of a woman with breast cancer, I would want to know - was she in good shape? did she work out? did she smoke? did she have kids by the time she was 30? did she breastfeed?).

These women are not only beautiful but smart and just downright inspiring. One is still in the middle of treatment - she wore a wig to the studio and a bandanna in class. The rest are just starting to grow back their hair. One had a lumpectomy and lymph node dissection. The rest had mastectomies - one had double mastectomy and is also the survivor of a cancer she had in childhood. But life goes on for these women. Cancer is just another pothole.

I am about two years past where these women are, and being with them, watching them gain mobility back in their chests and shoulders and get strong again, it just lifts me up.

Once again, I have to give a big shout out to David Kelman and the rest of the folks at Yoga Sutra for letting us take over their community space for close to two hours each week. It means a lot to us girls.

YC

An apology...

Boy, do I have a lot to learn...about, among other things, the effects of my words on others. I never really thought anyone would be reading this blog at all, and the idea that ANYONE is reading it surprises (and flatters) me. Since I started out blogging with the belief that no one (other than myself, and perhaps my mom, and maybe not even her) would have any interest in reading my blog, I got into the habit of just letting my thoughts flow from brain to keyboard, without much of a review process in between.

Today, I was deeply effected when a commentator of this blog pointed out the error of my ways. I read the commentator's words with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach and was left with a hangover of regret. As a result, I immediately deleted the blog entry identified as offending (and its related comments). To that commentator and to anyone else reading this, I am offering my apology and a promise: to be more discreet in my observations going forward. Please know that I do see your place of practice as a sacred place and I will be mindful of treating it as such.

Namaste,

Lauren

Yummy Practice

So, I started today soooo sooo stiff. I felt like my joints had been glued together with cement, and I felt like my muscles were comprised of lead. I taught a 9:15 class, and I didn't demonstrate anything, which actually is good for my teaching - learning to communicate with words and with adjustments only. After class, I took Supta Baddha Konasana with a strap and then after a few minutes, I placed a block between my shoulder blades. I chatted with one of my students, and just let my body soften. After the last student left, and I did a couple of handstands, which always helps to get my blood flowing, which is an absolute necessity for me to have a nice soft, smooth practice. Then I took Marichi A on each side, then B, then C and D, using my strap method, just focusing on the spinal/torso mechanics, more than turning my arms into rubber bands. I was sweating, and I felt great.

But I still needed to do my full practice. So off to see Sarah, I went. I am really really really loving my Sarah days. I love the fact that she lets me do my standing series without a million adjustments and comments and changes. And once again, as always seems to happen when I am there, I finished my Surya Namaskars and Standing poses in less than 25 minutes. Everything just felt "right". Even my Prasarita Pado C felt good (and no adjustment! even so, I had my head on the floor and got very close to getting my hands to the floor).

Sarah did give me an adjustment in Paschimo C, such that I was able to hold my left wrist with my right hand. That was nice. I have been so close up until now, it was nice to actually really feel that bind. And my practice pretty much floated to Marichi A. In A, Sarah stayed with me, not helping me bind, but pressing my chin to my shin. In B, same thing, only it was forehead to floor (well, not quite).

And here is what I really loved: she waited for me to get as far into C as I could, and only then did she help me. Basically, she just helped me to put my fingers together and then held my knee and my upper arm together so that I could twist deeper. It felt really nice that she had the confidence in me to let me try it myself. I think I need that kind of confidence boost - for the teacher not to assume that I can't do it without being pulled into it.

Same thing with D, only she had to help me a little bit more on the right side. The left side, I can pretty much get my arms in the right place and get the twist going without help now - just need to have the bind completed for me, and then I need leverage for further twisting. Afterward, she commented that I have made a LOT of progress and that obviously my body is now ready for C and D. That felt so awesome!

After D, Navasana, then three really nice, open backbends. My finishing sequence was absolutely lovely. I wanted to stretch it out as long as I could, savoring each breath, but alas, I finished the entire practice in a mere 55 minutes. I suppose that is a good sign though! 20 breaths in Uttplutthi, although in all honesty, it was kind of like this, "fourteeeeeeeen, fiiiiiiifteeeeeen, sixteenseventeeneighteennighteen....twenty!"

Is this entry as boring as it seems to me??

OK, here's something for a little controversy: I couldn't help but notice this middle aged woman practicing in the room (we were the only two people left at 1 o'clock, after all). I've seen her before - I've even mentioned her before. She is rather unathletic looking, and her practice is pretty messy. But she is on Bujapidasana. How did she get there? Her Ardha Baddha Padmotannasana is not Baddha. Her Janu Sirsasana C is really more like B. And the only things she is lifting between her Navasanas appears to be her intention. Now, shouldn't I have been focused on my own practice? I totally was, or almost totally. But I have to admit, I was really curious about her practice. Plus before it was just the two of us left in the room there were two OTHER middle aged women who were also practicing most, if not all, of the Primary Series (at least way beyond Navasana), and yet neither of them could do Sirsasana (headstand) without Sarah's help.

And none of them could enter Buja with their feet off the ground. Of course, that can be learned in time, so maybe Middle Aged Woman Number 1 will soon be learning to lift her banddhas in order to make that happen. I just wonder why I am being kept at Navasana?

NOT that it really matters. I swear, I am basically relieved that I don't have to do more than what I am doing at Eddie's. It is less pressure on me. One day, I will bind myself in C and D, and then the rest of the Primary Series is pretty easy for me. So I can totally wait. I don't WANT to go so fast. I know it sounds like I want to, but it's just more like curiosity as to how the teacher decides whether to move a student on or not at any given time.

Perhaps binding in C and D are really a threshold, whereas proper form in Janu C is expected to just develop in time?

Funny thing about referring to these women as middle aged....as I too am middle aged, being almost 40. It just doesn't feel like that to me. I suppose no one ever really "feels" middle aged.

Sarah and I were chatting after class about long bodies versus short bodies and which body type had an easier time in which poses, and I noted that I felt that my Bujapidasana was nice and smooth because my legs aren't that long, so there isn't that much to lift, and then I realized - I don't even practice Buja with Sarah...so I laughed, "not that I practice Bujapidasana...but maybe someday soon..." and then I totally CRINGED at myself. Didn't I promise myself that I would NEVER ask for a pose? Wasn't I basically doing exactly that, albeit in a coquettish, indirect way? So, catching myself, I immediately backtracked: "No, I didn't say that...I swore I would NEVER say anything like that to you! You didn't hear me say that!" It was kind of funny.

Then I went home and drank all the water in my building. Well, not quite. But damn, it's hot out there.

Breast Cancer Survivors class tonight! Looking forward to it....

YC

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Obsessive Yoga-Blogger Continues Her Pursuit...

I just bound C and D at home!!!!!!!!!!!!

Albeit, D with a strap - but the thing is: I GET it now. It is all about the twist. If you get the twist, the arms join. I have been focusing so much on the arms that I have forgotten to focus on the twist. Goal oriented = bad.

Here is what I did - I took a hot bath and warmed up with A and B in the bath (I do that a lot...it feels GREAT). Then I came out and sat in C position and just twisted, aiming to get my left ribs to clear my left thigh. THEN I wrapped my arms. Now, binding, I still noticed that my right shoulder was sagging down into my chest. So I took a strap, and I tried the whole thing again, this time not worry about the bind at all, just using the strap for leverage to open my right shoulder away from my chest. Then I repeated on the other side. And again and again until I realized - enough.

For D, I employed much the same concept - twisting as the method, means and end, such that the arms just naturally find a way to meet. But I also placed my lotus knee under the front edge of my living room sofa (the way one would wedge their feed underneath it to do crunches). That way, my lotus knee was grounded as I twisted. Employing this trick, it ALMOST felt easier to do D than C (not surprising, since I felt that B seemed a bit easier than A at the outset).

This is very exciting. It is making me want to self-practice. But is that just "escapism" - in other words, am I feeling discouraged at the shala and needing my own encouragement at home? Moot point for tomorrow, as I am teaching at New York Yoga at 9:15 (don't worry...NOT ashtanga). So, it will either be self-practice or make my way down to see Sarah.

I have to admit though, all this talk about "one teacher" makes me feel really odd about going down to see Sarah tomorrow. I am quite impressionable. I shouldn't feel this way - I only have 14 more days left to practice before I go in for my major-league surgery (breast re-reconstruction, diastasis repair and tummy tuck), and then I am going to be sidelined for as much as six weeks, during which I am going to be observing in Mary-Beth's class, and after which I can regroup and MAYBE decide it is time to commit to one shala.

YC

The Fish-Snooting Kriya...Real? Or Yoga Urban Legend?

I can't stop posting!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I got this in my inbox today:

"Ananova - England,UK

An Indian yoga teacher is hoping to get in the record books by swallowing fish and blowing them out of his nose.

G P Vijaya Kumar swallowed 509 small fish through his mouth and blew them out of his nose within one hour, reports The Asian Age. He was inspired by American Kevin Cole who holds the record for the longest spaghetti strand blown out of a nostril in a single blow.

Mr Kumar, of Gunduppalavadi in Tamil Nadu, started experimenting with live fish after successfully ejecting peas and corn through his nose.

He said: "This is a kriya (method) in yoga where the nostrils are purified by swallowing fishes and bringing them out of the nose.

"I swallow the fish and take deep breaths to guide it through my nose. There are times the fish might glide back to the mouth, but by inhaling hard it can be brought up quickly.""

Christopher Hildebrandt and Yoga Sutra

I can see that I need to clear up a seeming miscommunication on an earlier Blog entry from last Tuesday - July 19. What I am about to write shall be the gospel of Lauren on this topic, superceding all prior statements by Lauren regarding the topic. In the event of any conflict between prior statements and the following, the following shall be controlling (a little lawyer-talk there from the Yoga Chickie...):

I think Yoga Sutra ROCKS. It is one of the single most beautiful yoga studios I have ever seen - it even has a beautiful golden elevator door. When you enter, you feel like you are leaving this world and entering another one - a very special, peaceful, community-oriented one. Yoga Sutra has kindly provided me and my fellow breast cancer survivors with space and too much kindness to even quantify so that we can be comfortable and practice yoga in a safe and cozy environment. Christopher Hildebrandt is one of the most highly-regarded Ashtanga teachers that I know of around NYC. I have never had the pleasure of being in his class, but what I noticed was that his students were all practicing calmly and smoothly, even when practicing difficult, advanced poses. I did note that he has a different way of speaking to his students than what I am accustomed to from my Ashtanga teachers. That being said, his style appears to be quite motivating to his students(you could interpret that as a judgement, but a positive one), and his students all appear to like him very much. As my eyes sometimes drifted toward his classroom, I thought of how tempting it might be to practice with Christopher and be pulled into poses that I might not otherwise ever be able to do on my own (this notion of "pulling students into poses" comes from someone RAVING about how WONDERFUL Christopher is. What this person said was, "Christopher is incredibly strong; he can pull ABSOLUTELY ANYONE into ABSOLUTELY ANY pose.").

So, there you have it. I bow to you Christopher, David Kelman and Bess Abrahams and all the folks at Yoga Sutra NYC for making the Yoga For Breast Cancer Survivors Workshop possible and wonderful. Much love and success to you....Lauren Cahn (YC)

Some days really are "yoga"...and it's not the days that it all just flows....

I think that the "yoga" really is practiced on the days we resist it most. Yesterday a student from my Intro to Yoga class at New York Yoga asked me, "How do we establish a committed practice and then stick with it?" That led to a discussion of how we inevitably feel really great after a yoga class, and yet somehow there is a decent chance that we will have trouble getting ourselves to the mat the next day. At least this has been true for me. The only answer would seem to be: practice anyway. I guess Nike was really onto something when they coined the phrase, "just do it." Just do it really says it all.

And today, I had to do just that. I woke up after a horrible night's sleep with last night's dinner still seemingly in my tummy. I couldn't imagine practicing yoga. But I did. I started debating, but I quickly shut myself down. I got myself to Guy's and I did it. It was actually a fairly focused and disciplined practice. Prasarita Pado C is getting less frightening, and I touched the floor again, with Guy's help. I got into C pretty much by myself, other than a bit of help with getting the fingers to hook around each other. D though was another story. I spent a lot of time preparing myself for it - stretching out in half lotus, twisting around, hooking my back hand onto my lotus thigh. But my adjustment never came. No, that's not true. Guy did come over and help me - but instead of pulling my hands together, he focused on my back shoulder opening. I know that is where the work really is for me. But there was no bind today. Afterwards, I went on and continued up through Supta Kurmasana - as much as I could without benefit of being turned upright, since it was already past 10:15 by the time I arrived in the pose.

To be honest, I felt adrift. I wasn't sure if I had done something wrong by continuing my practice after not binding in D. And although I felt totally relieved to get a break from binding in D today, I also felt a bit abandoned - isn't it weird how Ashtanga practice can bring up such child-parent feelings?

I did have a WONDERFUL finishing series - did everything in carefully counted breaths, held Uth Pluthi for 15 breaths (KJS has got me thinking about trying to keep increasing the number of breaths...I never had thought of that before) and a peaceful Savasana.

But after class, I asked Guy - am I not supposed to continue if I don't get the bind in D? He told me that traditionally, unless you can bind without assistance, you don't really get the next pose, but that Mark had given me the subsequent poses, and I was "pretty good" at them (yay!), and he could see that they were helping me to open up my shoulders. I guess I didn't really ask the real question that was on my mind: why did we not bind today in D?

Funny thing about that is that if I could have made a wishlist for my practice today, it would have included adjustments in Prasarita Pado C and Mari C, but NOT Mari D - yesterday, I just felt so on the verge of panicking there, that I was feeling a sense of dread about having to do it all again today. So, it all worked out, and I wonder if Guy intuited that D was just too much for me day after day. Or is he just sick and tired of pulling me into D? LOL....but feeling the sting of a grain of truth in there....I know I sure am sick and tired of NEEDING to be pulled into D....and that, my friend, is what's known as "projection".

I wish it didn't feel so much like psychotherapy! Been there done that, got the t-shirt.

Should I just be practicing and not thinking so much? Should I resign myself to maybe binding in D in about a year or two or maybe never? It's not that I want to progress to Intermediate or anything like that. I couldn't care less about that at this point. I just don't want to dread D because of all the HELPLESS feelings it brings out in me. You know? That's what it is. I feel helpless. Like a child. I want to be a BIG GIRL in Mari D! I don't want to keep having to ask "Daddy" for help!

Sigh. Anyone?

YC

Quick Note to my Intro To Yoga Grads:

Congratulations! It was a pleasure teaching you, and I can't wait to see you guys in my classes and around the studio(s) in general! Always feel free to contact me here or via email....Namaste, Lauren

P.S. Next Workshop with me begins on Sept. 11. If you want to repeat the class, it will, of course, not be exactly the same, so you will pick up new ideas things and deepen your understanding of what you already know. (There are also workshops during the weekday evenings, if that works for you, and the teachers - Jennifer, April and Molly, are really wonderful).

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Rubber Girl

That's what I felt like today. My hands hit the floor in Prasarita Pado C. I grabbed my wrists in Mari A and ha my chin to my shin. In Mari D, I felt like my entire torso was going to spin around and face backwards, like a scene out of the Exorcist. In Supta Kurmasana, my head was dangling UNDER my crossed ankles!!!

But here is the amazing thing: Guy did not have to pull me into Mari C. He simply helped me bring my hands together! And then, that is when the work really began. From there, with my hands bound, he began twisting my torso from my hip-points up through my shoulders. Wow.

But I have to be honest - I was very very very very very resistent to my practice today. I was internally whining throughout. I don't think I ever counted my breaths - I just pretended to. Who was I kidding though? Only myself. I was patient in Ardha Baddha Padmotannasana, staying in it until I did it properly. But the rest of my standing series was a big fake. I am outing myself here. Then my entire Primary Series right up to the Marichis was just me phoning it in. Hello, 1-900-Johnny-Sharasana? But then...it did get real. Very real. I am almost terrified to practice tomorrow. How much more can I take? All this progress is terrifying.

Now why should that BE?

YC

What?! No privacy on the Internet???!

"You mean...the stuff I write on a site like EZBoard's Ashtanga Forum could get quoted elsewhere on the web? You mean...the stuff I write on this Blog might get quoted on someone else's Blog? You mean...the stuff I write on this Blog might get quoted by someone, say...in REAL LIFE??!!!! ARGH!!! Why didn't they tell me that in the brochure? What, was it hidden in the fine print somewhere? Grumble, grumble..."

"Well, Lauren, I do have some good news for you.... "

"REALLY??? " she says excitedly, "WHAT??"

"I just saved a BUNCHA money on my car insurance."

OK, feeling a bit snarky today, I'll admit it. It's just that someone (not going to mention names here because this person specified that he does not want his name mentioned here) posted on EZBoard that he was unhappy about my making a reference on this Blog to a discussion being held on the EZBoard....ABOUT MY BLOG!

In my opinion, there are simply too many things wrong with that sentence for me to even begin to dispute its logic. Suffice it to say that I don't have any illusions that the internet is a private place, a haven for the posting of private thoughts. I have no illusions that this Blog is private, and for that reason, I try to maintain a balance between what I feel is my obligation to write honestly and without pandering to a particular audience, on the one hand, and what I feel is also my obligation to not be irresponsible with my words, on the other. Thus, for example, although I met IVDP in person and know her real name, I would NEVER post it here, because her continued use of her "IVDP" moniker when she comments here tells me that she wishes to remain anonymous. On the other hand, things that happen to me in real life, adjustments that are made on my body in the shala, non-personal, non-confidential conversations, cute things my kids do...these things might turn up on this blog, although I will try hard not to "break" stories here that are not already known to the public, and generally to be careful of going beyond the bounds of "decency"...a highly subjective notion, but still....

But to anyone who is sensitive about being mentioned on my blog: if you want to avoid being mentioned on my blog, then you probably should not comment on or link to my blog.

YC (a/k/a )

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Blog on the Beach

So, I was writing this comment to Kathy (KJS), but then it got so longwinded, I decided to just post it on the front of the Blog. So, anyone who is reading this, for context, take a look at the comments on the July 22 Blog entry.....

Reading these comments, I couldn't help but think of the "Four Sons" that are described in the Jewish Passover seder.

Quick backstory: Every year, Jews are required by Jewish law to tell the story of the exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. Within the story is a consistent thread of "HOW do you tell the story to ensure that it will be understood and its importance absorbed? HOW do you keep repeating the story over and over, year after year, such that everyone stays interested in listening and repeating the story year after year....?

Is this starting to remind you of anything? LOL...

Anyway, the Passover Story that is told each year includes a discussion about the Four Sons - archetypes of the "children" who will be listening to the story.

The first son is the Wise Son. He puts himself right into the thick of things and wants to know "How did we Jews escape slavery?" He is an easy student to teach, and we teach the story to him in the traditional way.

The second son is the the Simple Son - we try to have patience with him; his motives are good even if he does not "get it" yet.

The third son is the Wicked Son. Uh oh. The wicked son likes to say, "What does any of this have to do with me?" To that son, we basically say, "Well, son, nothing, actually, but the exodus of the Jews from Egypt DOES mean a lot to the rest of us." We hope on some level that the Wicked Son will come around and start to care, but we understand that maybe he never will.

The fourth son is the Son Who Has No Capacity to Ask the Question at All. That son is a blank slate, and we can begin telling the story, brick by brick and watch as the the son begins to understand.

As a teacher of yoga, I have each of these types of students in my classes at various times. As a student of yoga, I am sure that I have BEEN each of those types of students at some point or another. As a teacher, I can tell you that I have no interest in trying to convince someone of something they are simply not willing or ready to hear. As a student, I can tell you that I have no ability to BE convinced of something I am not ready or willing to hear. THAT being said, I have to emphasize that the Four Sons are simply archetypes, and hopefully NO ONE is any one "son" all the time.

As a student, I am grateful that my teachers have been patient with me when I have been simple, wicked or simple completely clueless. I know that when I took my first led primary class three years ago with Govinda, I was the Clueless "son", and he patiently gave me what I needed at the time. That being said, I didn't go to another Ashtanga class for a year! But when I went, I was ready, and Govinda was never far from my mind.

Mary-Beth was my next teacher - and she met me when I had a shoulder injury (pole planting accident whilst skiing in Utah in February) but an open attitude about whatever it was that she had to teach me. Nevertheless, she witnessed me being (1) attached to the heat of the room, (2) frustrated at my difficulties binding and (c) chomping at the bit to get to Garba Pindasana and beyond. She never lost faith in my ability to learn, even as I moved onto Mysore classes at two different shalas, led classes on an only occasional basis.

I really don't believe that Mary-Beth ever wrote me off for that or felt that my commitment to Ashtanga was lacking in any way. I can't speak for her, of course, but I do know that I have a very nice relationship with her, teacher to student.

Wow, this has gotten very long and rambling for a "comment", and I am not sure if I have even addressed what you wrote about, at least not specifically.

I guess what I am trying to say, in a nutshell, is that I believe that my teachers are willing to invest their time in me, even if they see me as something other than the "Wise Son," at least on some topics, at least some of the time. And I know that sometimes I can BE the Wise Son, and maybe going forward, I will be that Wise Son more and more. Maybe. If I am very very lucky and work very very hard.

Stepping away from the theoretical, I do want to answer some of the specifics that you brought up:

First - I don't hope to get anything form one teacher that I can't get from another. I just really want to practice every day, and that means I have to move around a bit right now. It would be nice if that changes, and I can settle down with one.

Second - regarding the SKPJ analogy of teachers to spouses and your analogy of widowers vs. serial monogomists or polygamists: If we are to follow through with the analogy, then the question becomes: should it be appropriate for a student "date" around a bit before "settling" down in a committed relationship (not that that is what I am doing exactly - as I have said, it's really about getting to practice with a teacher each day)?

Third: I totally agree with you on the not teaching for financial reasons. I am so so so so so so so lucky that I am able to teach yoga and not have to worry about making money. I make no compensation for teaching my breast cancer survivors, and I will be getting expenses only for teaching a group of octegenarians in the fall. I never even asked New York Yoga what they paid before I started teaching there - it just didn't matter to me at all. I really just want to teach. But I do know that other people really NEED to make money from teaching yoga. And I know it is hard for them. It is a very very physically and emotionally demanding job. And owning a studio? Lordy. I can't even imagine how difficult that is.

Finally: I completely agree with you on the "once you discover Ashtanga, how do you do anything else - practice or teach?" It is very very hard for me to feel the "vinyasa class" thing in my heart when all I practice now is Ashtanga. But right now, that is the only teaching I am doing on a regular basis (vinyasa), and CAN be incredibly rewarding, especially my Intro to Yoga workshops, and my Breast Cancer Survivors workshop, and basically, any time that my students really begin to "feel" the yoga.

I gotta run now - thanks to ALL of you for all of your thought-provoking comments!

Namaste,

YC

Friday, July 22, 2005

Quiet after the storm....

Well, I've taken some bashing for my cheatin' ways, and I've also heard some really genuinely nice things from some of you, who basically are just telling me to practice, practice, practice, and all will be coming (or at least I think that's what you are saying). I've also gotten some really sage advice, starting with everything IVDP has ever written all the way through KJS, my ashtanga-blogging inspiration. I promise you guys, I have read carefully and listened carefully and I am basically just marinating for a while.

In the meantime, I hope you don't mind if I quote a little email on which I was copied that means more to me than ANYTHING relating to ANY of what was discussed yesterday, as it pertains to my Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors workshop at Yoga Sutra, which is what I learned to teach yoga in order to do (i.e., to bring yoga to other breast cancer survivors):


"Your Organizer, Camille, sent the following message to the members of The New York City Breast Cancer Survivors Meetup Group: I highly encourge everyone to consider attending Tuesday's yoga class. Lauren is very helpful, positive, and uplifting. You may walk out at the end of class more relaxed and refreshed-- I certainly did! See you soon, Camille"

Mich from EZBoard gave me props for humble responses to a certain not-so-Yogalisa's barbs, so I hope I haven't spoiled that with this little shout-out to myself....

ANYWAYS....

I have to say, after everything that went down yesterday, I was downright shaking as I walked into Guy's this morning. Had he read everything? Does he know the whole debate? Was he going to read me the riot act? I sheepishly put my mat down in the first spot I saw and stood up to recite the invocation. Then, before I even had the chance to savor the "mmmm" in my "om"....there it was....a sharp tap on my shoulder....OH GOD NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"Lauren, or, perhaps I should call you, YogaChickie," said Guy Donahaye with a sneer as he pointed a long finger toward the door to the shala, "the door is that way, you polygamous, cheating, disloyal yoga slut."

Er, uh, NOT.

"Lauren, why don't you move your mat over here where there will be less people walking all around you," said Sri Guy Donahaye with a gentle smile.

Nice practice today. Got a fabulous adjustment in Prasarita Pado C from Katie and Guy got me very deeply into Janu A and Mari A and B. We worked slowly and carefully in Mari C and D, and I got deeper into D than ever before. We talked about it afterward, and he said that my mastectomies are what is likely causing my front shoulder to cave inward when I try to twist....

wait...more later...my kiddies are demanding that I "be a horsie"....

OK, well done with horsing around for now. Anyway, Guy suggested that I try laying on a block - as in supported fish pose. I can do that. He also suggested that all would be easier if I could start the day with a really good...shit.

Yes, that's right. I knew that already though. Unfortunately, that has not been so easy for me of late, as I have been eating less (and losing weight). When I used to be a little piggie, my late night Teddy Grahams (damn kiddie food!) binges would help get things moving along in the morning....

arghh....husband needs me now....more later....

OK, back again, but not for long. I seem to have lost my train of thought with all the male neediness around these parts. Which somehow brings to mind a thought that actually KJS had already put into my head on her blog tonight - the concept of needing approval from the teacher, or wanting approval from the teacher, and what that means in terms of our progress in our practice. Is wanting to be told we are making progress proof that we are not making progress, at least on the spiritual front? Have we finally made "progress" when we no longer notice whether we have made progress?

Ashtanga is such an interesting system in that its progression tempts us constantly to be forward-looking, to step out of the here and now, and yet practicing Ashtanga helps us to be in the here and now somehow. But how? I suppose, the system draws our attention to our being progress-oriented (if we are, in fact progress-oriented), creates a mindfulness regarding our "samsara" (i.e., ignorance of the true self, a/k/a "conditioned existence", but you can think of them as "some scar-a", or the stuff that makes our mind twist and turn away from the stillness of the true self that lies within) and being mindful is a step in the right direction.

We are taught not to be competitive, and yet the practice tempts us to compare our bodies and what we can do with them to other bodies and what can be done with them. And again, we come to an awareness about it. There are those who would say that awareness and acceptance of who we are is, itself, the practice. But I don't know if those people would be Ashtangis, as opposed to Buddhist writers like Pema Chodron who believe that our journey is to discover our own "spiciness" and to revel in exactly who we are, as ugly, untalented and contemptuous as that may be.

And then there is the question: how does progress in the physical practice even correspond to our progress in the spiritual practice - which is the real journey, after all?

Lots and lots to think about....

And here's something else to think about...something I have been turning around in my mind, wanting to talk about it, not wanting to talk about it....but it keeps tempting me to open up my big mouth and talk about it in light of all of this talk (which is, as we know, officially over, right?)of "being shown the door" ................ Yoga studios need to stay afloat, or else the teachings will not be efficiently transmitted to future generations. The Ashtanga system cannot survive if there is no place for teachers to teach. The notion of a teacher kicking out a student for practicing with another teacher begs the question: is money really no object (and by object, I guess I really mean "obstacle")? Logic simply dictates: money is always a concern. I would have to assume that profit is not a major motivating factor for most people who open yoga studios. But breaking even - perhaps putting some money aside to pay for one's housing, clothing and children's food and schooling - has to figure in somewhere. It simply has to. Assuming that money must be made in order to keep the shala alive, then would it be wise for a teacher to make a regular practice of accepting into the shala only those students who do not practice elsewhere?

One might say that yes, it would be wise for the teacher to do so because the student who practices elsewhere is not a true student of Ashtanga and does not belong at the shala. But looking at it from THAT perspective, then isn't said student the student who needs the practice the MOST? And if that is the case, then wouldn't the teacher WANT to teach that student and hope to help bring Ashtanga to that student in its truest and purest form, ultimately helping to transform that student into a true student of Ashtanga?

Come on, guys, you have to admit...these are NOT easy questions.

And I have to wonder - when SKPJ wrote or said that statement about having two teachers being like having two wives - did he mean that one who practices Ashtanga CANNOT under any circumstances have more than one teacher?

Thinking....

YC

YC

Thursday, July 21, 2005

OK, now I have been outed on the ez board as a "bad lady"

I''m laughing, but I am also ready to put this debate to bed. So, here is my "closing argument" (I did practice as an attorney for 12 years, you know....):

If I didn't split my time between the two shalas, I wouldn't be able to practice on a six-day-a-week basis. Since I want to practice six days a week, then split my time, I must. Period.

Please, please, please, please...

So, Grumpy Lady has left the building, and I would like to offer an anecdote that will hopefully give you a giggle....

I was just reading KJS Ashtanga Journal (http://www.katstan.net) (which, by the way is a GREAT read), and today's entry (July 21) is a list of the top 10 things you wish you could ask your teacher. One of them was something along the lines of "when can I have the next pose"...and that made me remember that on Tuesday at Eddie's, the girl practicing next to me was literally BEGGING Sarah for the next pose. "Just one more? Please? Please???" I was laughing hysterically (in my own head). It was so, I don't know...unseemly...it made me vow to myself to never ever ever ask for a pose. EVER. I swear.

Namaste, YC

Warning: A Grumpy Lady Has Taken Over My Keyboard

Went to Eddie's today for Puja but missed it because I was so late - stayed on the sofa all morning because I wasn't feeling well today - very very sore in my lats and generally fatigued and loguey. I finally met IVDP, which was really fun. She was very sweet to me. Other than that, no one else much seemed to notice that I was there, except Chris, who gave me a nice cup of sweet milk, which I quickly and cloddishly spilled half of. Spaz.

I introduced myself to a couple of people, including Jenny Meyer, from Yoga Sutra, but mostly I felt kind of out of it...like a real wallflower. I didn't even get to say hello to Sarah or to Lori, Guy's wife. From a social standpoint, it is a bit easier for me at Guy's because Jose (one of the assistants), consistently makes a huge effort to introduce everyone to everyone else and to get people together socially - for brunch or whatever.

I payed my respects to Ganesha, tasted a vegan cupcake, chatted with IVDP and then walked around Soho, got myself a manicure and a back-rub, walked around Soho some more and then ambled over to the Lower East Side, all in an effort to try to get the blood circulating so that I will feel better for practicing tomorrow.

Then I checked my email, and I saw two comments were logged into this Blog regarding my "splitting my time" between the two shalas. The first one seemed innocuous enough (asking me to clarify - do I really practice at both), yet there was an edge of aggression. The second one was (is) overtly aggressive - telling me that if either Guy or Eddie knew I was practicing at both places, I would be "shown the door" or something like that.

Since I invite and welcome comments to this Blog, I can't much complain about getting a comment that is critical of what I wrote (or even how I wrote it). However, I do feel sad and a bit misunderstood, and a part of me feels persecuted for having a family and other obligations that make it impossible for me to stick to one practice time and one practice space.

See, it all boils down to this: I wish to have a six-day-a-week-practice. However, I have children and other obligations that circumscribe my ability to practice at one particular time that fits into one particular shala's schedule. Thus, in order to maintain a six-day-a-week practice, I practice where I can and when I can.

And that should be enough of an explanation. But since I am feeling cranky and tired, I feel like going into a bit of detail about what it is like to structure a six-day-a-week Ashtanga practice when you are ME, Lauren Cahn, breast cancer survivor, mother of two and yoga teacher who lives on the Upper East Side.

1. I AM THE MOTHER OF TWO SCHOOL-AGE BOYS, WHO ARE VERY NEEDY AFTER ALMOST LOSING ME THREE YEARS AGO TO BREAST CANCER:

Even without brandishing the Breast Cancer Card, it would be enough for me to say that I have two school-age little boys and all of the obligations that go along with having two school-age boys. On an every-single-weekday basis, I am solely responsible for getting my boys up in the morning and dressed and ready for school/camp and getting them TO school or the camp bus, which cannot happen before 8:30 or so. On many days, there are the parties at school, show and tell, visiting days at camp and obligations to help out at a bake sale or a school trip, etc. I suppose I could throw all of that on my husband so that I could get to 6:00 a.m. Mysore practice at one shala every day, but then my husband would not be able to get to his office on time, and my kids would be miffed to never have me around in the mornings.

As a result, I am 100 percent NOT able to go anywhere until 8:30 a.m. at the earliest, and then since I live on the Upper East Side, I need to add a half an hour of travel time. Thus, I am unable to begin my practice until 9 a.m. at the earliest, any day of the week, ever. Period. Thus, the choice is 9 at Guy's or 11 at Eddie's. Seems easy enough, right? But then....

2. I TEACH YOGA CLASSES WHENEVER I GET THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO SO:

Besides my children, my teaching of yoga is my biggest priority. I adore teaching yoga. I adore bringing yoga to as many people as possible. I am well-trained, and I am a compassionate and intelligent teacher. I have several regular gigs, but often, I am called upon to fill in for other teachers, particularly in the mornings. When I teach a class that begins at 9:15, I obviously cannot practice at Guy's that day at 9 (and I cannot practice at either Guy's OR Eddie's at 6:30 a.m. for the reasons outlined in "1. I AM THE MOTHER OF TWO SCHOOL-AGE BOYS:".

So, what should I do? Not practice? Or go to the 11:00 a.m. at Eddie's? Conversely, on the days when I cannot practice at 11:00 a.m. because of my other obligations, should I not practice at Guy's?

I would love to choose ONE shala and stay there with ONE teacher, as Ashtanga die-hards seem to believe is of paramount importance. Which begs the question...what happens when or Guy or Eddie goes out of town for extended periods? Do you stop practicing? Or do you practice with whatever teacher is at the shala? It looked like a LOT of people were perfectly fine with having Mark be their teacher when Guy was away. Is that wrong?

Finally, I should mention that Sarah knows that I practice at Guy's when I am not at Eddie's. And on Tuesday, when I commented to her that I hoped that I could spend more time practicing with her going forward, she said, "Seems like you've been coming here more regularly as it is." Guy knows I practice at Eddie's when I am not at Guy's; in fact, my first time at Guy's, I told him specifically that I was there because I was unable to practice at Eddie's that day. He didn't exactly kick me out; rather he welcomed me in.

And p.s...I also practice with Mary-Beth Garutti at New York Yoga because she is a wonderful, compassionate, all-inclusive, insightful teacher. Should I deprive myself of that experience, of her teachings, in order to be "monogamous" with one teacher (one of my commentators tells me that SKJP likens splitting one's time to having multiple spouses; but I ask, how can anyone have Guruji as a teacher for a month or two months or three, and also have a teacher in the states without violating this anti-splitting rule?)?

So, there you have it. If you are lucky enough to have a schedule that allows you to practice at the same time every day, then you can practice with one teacher all the time. If you're me, then that's just not in the cards at the moment.

Namaste,

YC

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A Namaste Shout-Out to my Commentators....

First, I want to just say thank you to you IVDP, Grace, Beryl and Beth (who commented privately) for giving me some wonderful ideas and input. One of the things I love about the Ashtanga practice is that it does make you think. It makes you mindful. It's a tool for self-study (well, duh).

With that in mind, I took M-B's led class today, and she actually taught it as a Mysore practice today. I was probably the only student in the class who was truly happy about that, as I really wanted to go at my own pace and go deeply into certain poses, more than others. She change the format right after we did our first Surya Namaskar B, and I was thrilled, because now I was free to float at my own pace, my own breath, my own physical openness. I am really enjoying Surya B lately - I have found an openness in my groins that wasn't there in all the years I have practiced, and it makes the transitions up feel really cool and expansive.

I smoothly made my way all the way through Mari B (on both sides - new name: Mari Both!) when the students around me started asking me, "What comes next?" One of them is my good friend Paula, who was my very first student. I used to lead her through two hour sessions when I was first a teacher - practicing my teaching techniques. The quid pro quo is she would give me an honest assessment of how she liked what we did that day. This went on for many months, and then my studio-teaching schedule got too busy, combined with Paula's work schedule (she's an executive at L'Oreal). Anyway, I digress. So, Paula asked me what came after Paschimotannasa C, and I told her it was Purvotanasana, but that Mary-Beth would have to "give it" to her. M-B over heard this exchange, and asked me if I would mind assisting the rest of the class. I was more than happy to do so.

So, I kind of abandoned my practice for a while and walked Paula through Purvo and then Mikoho through Janu A, B and C, and then I gently helped Paula to bind in Mari C (I was so happy when she remarked that she felt how I was helping her to internally rotate her front arm in order to more deeply bind - so many students don't realize it as an INTERNAL rotation that you need in order to get your arm behind you) and another student to go deep into Mari B.

Then I went back to my own practice, and ALMOST bound in Mari C by myself - fingers touching on both sides. I am still in another zip code in Mari D, without a teacher assisting me. Then I quickly Navasana-ed, Bujapidasana-ed and Kurmasana-ed and went to backbends because Mary-Beth really wanted us to have time to do Headstand after backbends.

Anyway, I totally lost my train of thought....where was I going with this? Oh yeah, after class, M-B had to help the students understand why trying it Mysore-style will ultimately help their practice (I think I saw the manager cringing behind the desk...), and I supported her, but for the sake of the cringing manager, I felt obligated to say, "And it will help us in our LED practice, which we are doing most of the time...right???!!!" Truth is, I don't want the Ashtanga classes to lose their students - because then we lose the Ashtanga classes. So, the Upper East Side is a very tricky place to teach. You have to give the students what they NEED but with GENEROUS portions of what they want.

Still not the point I was going for though...here it is: After the other students left, M-B and I talked about this feeling of dread that has been building in me lately about my practice and the latter poses in my practice, and my confusion over which shala to practice at, and what teacher is right for me. She confirmed what I suspected - there are as many different styles of teaching Ashtanga as there are personalities. It seems that I enjoy a more feminine energy, and that although I THOUGHT, INITIALLY, that I wanted a teacher that would let me just whip through the Primary Series, it seems that now I would be more comfortable standing still for a while, absorbing what I already am working with, not thinking about "what comes next" and when I will be "given it". I think the best way for me to enjoy my practice now is to learn all I can from the poses up to Mari C and D and wring them for all the knowledge an philosophy they can offer until my body and mind begin craving something more, something else. I don't know if I want to give up Buja and Kurmasana, but I do know that I don't want to even contemplate Garba Pindasana until my body and mind are literally CRAVING it. I'll know.

It's like - Surya A five times feels like NOTHNG for me. But there was a time when it was a LOT. So, it's changed. Surya B feels like a little something more than nothing, but not nearly as much work as it used to be, not nearly as much thought as I needed to put into it in the past. I want all of the poses up through Navasana to be like that for me (Navasana is like that already, which is why I keep mentioning C and D) before I have to think about another pose.

I don't want to be like that legendary frog who wanted to see the ocean, who begged to see the ocean, who finally got to see the ocean. And then his head exploded.

See you tomorrow IVDP (even if I don't know who you are!) And maybe you too Beryl and Grace. Beth, I hope you are ready for your bon-voyage-newbie class on Sunday!

YC

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Karma Yoga begins....

Tonight is my first Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors class at Yoga Sutra...and I am totally excited and nervous. All of the women who signed up are either just out of chemo or are actually IN the middle of chemo...it is such an important time for them....and I want them to love yoga....

Practiced at Eddie's today, by the way, since I taught this morning, and I had a wonderful, wonderful practice. I really love it there....but I do have some reservations...mainly because I feel like such an outsider looking in. I mean, they didn't even have me sign a waiver there. I just show up, drop $15 in the little cup, practice and go off on my way into the vast abyss of NYC. It almost feels like maybe I wasn't there at all....although I know I was. Not sure if I am being clear.

I will try to write more later.

YC

Monday, July 18, 2005

Laughing Yoga...

If you want to laugh good and hard, check out the following little video clip (which thanks to a generous commentator, no longer includes porn, or, for that matter, any evil cookies, at least none that I know of): Laughing Yoga

El Mariachi...Si!!!!

Today was weird. Ever since I have been practicing Ashtanga six days a week, I have been feeling totally psyched and energized upon waking up in the morning. But not today. I could barely get my eyes open, and I didn't have time to shower or bathe before getting the kids to the camp bus stop across the street. Even the route I took to the shala was different - I stopped on First Ave at Anneliese's Bake Shoppe for a cuppa caffeine and a (yuck) Poland Spring before heading down the FDR Drive.

I got to the Shala and did NOT feel like practicing. It was kind of quiet there, and I didn't see Guy right away - only Katie, who I met on Friday at the Bye-Bye-Mark lunch, who was there to assist. But I placed my mat down in the spot nearest to the door where you first walk into the studio, next to that tall good-looking actor/waiter, the one who now seems to be replacing his Marichi D's with Ardha Matsyandrasanas, and I got to it without much stretching. I told myself that if I can just get through the Standing Series, then that is something, then I will still have practiced.

Oh, also, I have a VICIOUS looking broken blister on the top of my left foot - from walking around in sandals. Who would think that it would amount to a practice-altering injury? But you try doing Upward-Facing Dog when you have a mess of mascerated skin oozing on top of your instep! I told Katie I didn't know what was going to happen with my practice because of the blister, and I did my best, but I couldn't roll over my toes at all.

Nevertheless things went fairly smoothly right up through Prasarita Paddotanasana C, which is where Guy came over to me, and I knew he was going to press down on my arms, and I felt my heartbeat quickening. "I am really terrified of this pose," I told him as he walked over to me, as I was reaching my arms behind my back and trying to clasp my slippery hands together, "I feel like I am going to pass out. I feel like my arms are going to break." "I can usually tell that," he said, and we smiled, and over my hip creases I went. And guess what? It was like the POWER OF CONFESSION...having told him I was scared, I lost much of my fear. I emphasized my exhales (for surrender and to avoid gripping), an over my head my arms went...

See? I knew there was something to that Group Hugs Website (see sidebar). I am going to have to confess more often.

As I came up from PPC, I felt this feeling of, "Ah...I can probably stop for the day and feel really good about this practice." But I went on. Again, things were pretty smooth, even Ardha Baddha Padmotanasana.

But I started to really lose steam once I hit the floor. My Paschimotannasanas were great, but then after C, I realize, "I have to get up now?!" That is when things started to go downhill....I guess when you go in without the INTENTION of doing the Primary Series, you aren't going to get very far.

Even so, I managed to pick up some enthusiasm at Marichi A (all by myself) and Marichi B (with Jose's awesome assist). Guy helped me get into it C on the right side, and it was really awkward and tight. My fingers were slipping, and I wasn't feeling it. Then....miracle of miracles....I almost got the left side all by myself. I mean REALLY REALLY almost all by myself. He just had to click my fingers together and I did the rest.

When I got home, I did it like 10 more times just to remember what it feels like. No, this is not totally crazy and obsessive and diminishing returns. There really is this sweet-spot that you find...and when you do find it, you know you are going to get the pose. On the left side (binding around my left bent leg, that is), the sweet spot is when I can get my right breast implant to clear my left thigh. See, my right implant is rock hard because of radiation, and there is utterly no give at all, so if I cant clear my thigh, the implant is going to push me at least an inch or two out of the pose. So, when I clear the thigh, my right arm is able to tuck neatly around my left leg, and BINGO!!! El Mariachi Si!!!!!

I stopped at C today. There was no way I wanted to do D, and I was the last one practicing as it was. So, Guy told me to finish there. And I felt deflated but relieved. My finishing series was delicious, I have to say. Smooth and even and bendy.

I just love how you never know WHAT is going to happen in an Ashtanga class, and yet you know EXACTLY what is going to happen, pose-wise. It is this very simplistic universe, and yet so much is projected onto it, so many lessons, so much to learn. Do I need to do this in my life? Of course not. I could go to the gym, and then meet friends for lunch. I could stay home and watch Dawson's Creek. I could go biking or running. I could take up cooking. But imposing this Ashtanga practice on my life is this amazing opportunity to study myself, my reactions, my fears. I don't have to put myself out there into poses that scare me. I don't have to subject myself to poses that annoy me and upset me and make me feel frustrated. But I do. And I will learn from this. And I will take that learning and use it in the world outside the shala....

YC

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Uttita Hasta Luego....WHAT???? The Dreaded Mariachi Band ..... WHO???? Excuse me...you want me to Grab My Own Ass-ana?

And who is this, "Johnny Sharasana" fellow that everyone keeps talking about?

Well....it was pointed out to me today, by one of my "yoga newbies"(I'm referring of course to my Intro to Yoga students at New York Yoga, and I am doing so with great fondness and affection, Beth, and anyone else who is reading this....)....that those who are not familiar with Ashtanga, may not know of what I speak when I refer to the dreaded Marichis (the dreaded Mariachi Bands?) or Kurmasana (Kermit the what?) or Garba Pindasana (Grab Your Own Ass-ana?) . So, if you would like to see all of the Ashtanga asanas (poses) illustrated one by one....check out the following site: Ashtanga Yoga Info Site - Germany

If you are curious about other poses that may or may not have anything to do with Ashtanga, then check out: Yoga Dancer: Asana Index

And while we are at it, I might as well just give you the lowdown on why we call them "asanas" in the first place...in case you don't already know....and yes, of course, I know that some of you DO - some of you probably taught it to me in the first place! Anyhoo...:

Asana means "seat"....(get it?...you sit on your ASSana?), which is how we refer to a "pose" in yoga. We take our "seat" in a pose by rooting with some part of our body (and lifting with some other part) and we find ourselves "sitting with it", much the way you might want to "sit with it" when you need to absorb some knowledge or you need to work through a problem in order to find some clarity.

Every name for every "pose" rhymes in yoga...simply because every "pose" is an "asana" and the word "asana" is used at the end of every word used to describe a pose....Thus, Sukkhasana
Sukkhasana means "Easy Pose" because "sukkha" means easy and "asana" means...well, you know. In Sanskrit, the last letter of sukkha gets blended into the first letter of asana. But the Sanskrit language is a whole 'nother story.

And Uttittha Hasta Padangusthasana means "Extended Hand to the Big Toe of the Foot Pose" because: Uttita="extended", Hasta= "hand", Pada= "foot", Angustha= "big toe" and Asana....well, you know....You put it all together and there you go....

The Marichiyasanas are the poses that are dedicated to the Sage Marichi....Thus, Marichi-asana.

Paschimo - means Western. So any pose beginning with "paschimo" will have something to do with the back of the body - the west side of the body, the body that is opposite to the rising sun when we wake up first thing in the morning and practice our sun salutations facing toward the east.....Thus, Paschimottanasana means Western Side of the Body Extended Stretch Pose because Paschimo=Western side of the body, Uttana= Extended (the "u" is dropped in favor of the "o" sound from Paschimo, in this case) and Asana, well, you know....

Vrtti means twisting or turning. Parsvo means side. So "Parivritti" means "twisting to the side", and any pose that is described as "Parivritti" or "Parivritta" (e.g. "Parivritta Parsva Konasana)means the version of that pose that includes a twist to one side. As such, Parivritta Parsva Konasana means Side Angle Pose Twisted to the Side (Kona means "angle"), or simply "Twisting side angle pose".

Ardha means "half". So anything with an "ardha" means half of something...Thus, Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana means Half Bound Lotus Western Side of the Body Extended Stretch Pose (Baddha means "bound"and Padma means "lotus")

And then there's always Tri-Anga-Mukkha-Eka-Pada- Paschimottanasana....Tri=three, Anga=limb, Mukkhai=facing as in Urdhva Mukkha Svanasana, or Upward FACING D0g), Eka=One...and by now you know the rest.....Thus we have: Three limbs (two arms one leg, and a leg that is folded back), Facing One Leg (your upper body folds over your outstretched leg) Stretch of the Western Side of the Body Pose.

NOW...do you have any doubt that it is just sooooooooooooooooooooo much easier to use the Sanskrit than to try to describe or even name the poses in English?

YC

P.S. That fellow, "Johnny Sharasana" is actually "Janu Sirsasana", which means "Knee-Head Pose" (Janu meaning Knee and Sirsa meaning Head).

:)

Ashtanga A.M.: Vive Le Difference!

Well, today was the first day of the post-Mark era at Ashtanga Yoga Shala: Ashtanga After Mark. For most people there, I suppose it was "back to the way it used to be". For me, who came to the shala on the first day Mark was teaching classes, it was a strange new feeling, but enjoyable nevertheless. Mark is an awesome teacher, but Guy...well, he takes awesome to a new level, at least from what I can tell today. And Jose...well, Jose's adjustments of me in Marichi A
took my practice to a new level. What happened there Jose??? All of a sudden, you totally rock!

I was one of the first students to arrive. It was just me, the teachers, two moms (partners) and their baby girl. You heard that right. I walked into the practice room, and there was this baby - nursing on her mom's breast! Right there in the room. Her other mom was on the mat next to her, practicing serenely. Occasionally, during practice, Baby Girl cried out, and one of the moms comforted her. Even so, at least one of the moms was practicing at least part of Second Series.

Since I had to be uptown to teach my Intro class at New York Yoga by 10:20, I really had to to cook today. I went through my Suryas pretty quickly and nicely, and I felt smooth in the standing series - even Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana. What I did was hold the Ardha Padma part for a count of eight before even getting to the Baddha-tanasana part. I think I should rename the pose at this point to Ardha Padma Baddhatanasana because that is what it really is for me lately --- half lotus standing up, then bind and fold. Whatever. I am getting it. It is coming along, consistently, slowly but surely.

My jump backs and jump throughs were a bit tired. But that happens. Sunday mornings are tough.

So, my first Guy moment was Uttita Hasta Padangustasana, but that was your basic get the leg up high adjustment, although for the first time since I have been practicing Mysore style, my leg wasn't so high in the part where you take your leg off to the side (officially it is called Utthita Parsvasahita) that my hip started rolling up, and I think that is very very cool. My first Guy epiphany moment was in Prasarita Paddotanasana C. He gave me an adjustment that I have never gotten before - I can't even describe it because I have no idea what he did - he had at least one hand on my bound hands and some body part of his on my back. We got my head to the floor, and he was really pressing my hands lower and loser...I thought I was going to pass out. I was scared of my arms breaking, which seems kind of silly. That couldn't happen. That pose is going to teach me a LOT of lessons, I just know it - about trusting my body and trusting my teacher and letting go and surrendering..and who knows what else.

The girl next to me was getting loads and loads of teaching regarding the Surya Namaskars, and I was glad to note that I didn't. It's nice to move on....The girl on the OTHER side of me was....Mary-Beth!!! I was shocked to see her. And I was so shocked that I interrupted her invoking Patanjali to stage whisper her name. I felt so stupid. But I was happy to see her.

I already mentioned Jose's Marichi A adjustments. Wow. He just got me so so deep into Marichi A! I had a moment there of wishing that I didn't HAVE to be adjusted, but then I let that go. I can do Marichi A without help. B too. But when he puts me in it, it is so much better.

Guy's Marichi C and Marichi D adjustments made me want to cry....and to cry uncle. He totally focused on the twist, and not on the pulling my arms around me like wet spagetti. I love Mark's adjustments - but wow.....I think that what Guy is doing is going to really take me to the next level in these poses. At the same time, I felt like crying and screaming, "NO!!!!!!!! STOP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" Just like in Prasarita Paddotanasana C. I had this urge to just say, "let's just call this whole thing off." But I kept going. And then it was done. And Guy walked away. Carry on.

Onto the beauty and relief of Navasana(am I one of the only people who feels this way???) And then the lightness of Bujapidasana and the openness of Kurmasana and Supta Kurmasana.

Well....I have to say, I just went a little hog-wild on the linking there in the previous paragraph, and as a result, I lost some of what came next in this blog entry. I think what I had said at the end was that I definitely see a difference in vibe at the shala, without Mark there, or rather, with Guy there. It is quiet and focused and not so jovial. But that's not a bad thing. Much as I enjoyed working with Mark, I think perhaps this is a good thing. Sometimes what we think we "like" or "enjoy" or just get a kick out of, is not always the best thing for us and will not bring us the most satisfaction in the long run....

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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