Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Eye for an eye

I don't customarily give much thought to organ donation. I signed over my organs via the little signature box on my driver's license, I'm proud to say, not that anyone would probably want them (no seriously, I really don't think that I am even eligible to give blood now that I have had a cancer diagnosis). And I in no way buy into that rubbish about doctors in emergency rooms putting less effort into saving those who have signed their organ donor cards (because theoretically, their deaths can save more lives...).

But that's about the extent of it....until I read these letters to the editor of the New York Times Science Section. The third letter down, the one from David J. Undis of Nashville, really made me stop and think. "About 70 percent of organs transplanted in the United States go to people who haven't agreed to donate their own organs when they die," he writes.

Jeeeez. That just seems wrong.

Mr. Undis, who is the executive director of LifeSharers, a network of organ donors, suggests prioritizing organ donors when deciding whom to give desperately needed donor organs. This idea totally appealed to the child in me...if you won't share, I won't share with you...if you want me to share, then you have to share first....that sort of thing. It also echoes the "golden rule": treat others as you would have them treat you. But with a twist: if you DON'T, then they won't either.

In my opinion, a more sound idea is presented by Lisa Badner of Brooklyn (fourth letter down): presumed consent. Under presumed consent, everyone is an organ donor in the absence of explicit instructions to the contrary.

This just makes good sense. Why hold onto your organs when you're dead? You can't take them with you.

I wonder if my blog-friend, Claudette, who writes, He's Dead, Jim would like to weigh in on this....Claudette?

YC

Light on Life, the Audiobook

I got it for my new iPod Video, which was a gift from my generous parents for my, er, ah .... cough... 40th birthday.... cough.... or, rather, my 16th 25th birthday, which will be this weekend (God willing, right?)...Perhaps Sir will give me Mari D for my birthday? HAHAHAHAHAHA. As if. He seemed downright irritated with me today, chiding me for my speed-yoga session (three beaths in each asana), and then further censuring me for "too much talk".

Well, I was only replying to him.......which he acknowledged.

But is it really so bad to go quickly through the practice once in a while? I am moving really, really, really slowly in my practice these days (other than today). But this morning, MORE subway problems caused me to arrive 15 minutes later than I had planned (this time, the 6 was running on the 4 and 5 track, causing excessive delays for the purpose of essentially incoherent announcements from the MTA and confusing riders, which caused further delays...subway doors being held open as riders debated what to do....). I remained calm, but I also remained determined to get my full practice in, as long as I had 45 minutes, which I did.

Anyway, they say that when you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And right now, it's looking like the universe is putting forth many challenges to my commitment to get downtown without wasting gas, tempting policeman who love issuing parking tickets without any rhyme or reason or inciting the anger and tire-slashing aggression of mentally unbalanced owners of rusted out, ding-ed up sedans. Of course, in reality, it's just the day to day fun of living in a large metropolitan city, and everyone around me is effected just as much as me. I guess it's what you do with it that counts.

I will not feel guilty. It was still yoga. It was still me breathing, slowly, linking breath to movement. So I didn't take five breaths in each pose. Five breaths, schmive breaths. What the hell is the difference really?

YC

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Apparently, somebody did one too many bong hits

This is not a joke. This is an actual set sequence of poses, called the Atmananda Sequence, and it's offered as a 90 minute class at the Atmananda Studio in NYC. If I ever get tired of getting stopped at Mari C, I suppose I can just mosey on over to Atmananda and go hog wild. The only oversight seems to be that it doesn't contain Astavakrasana, which could easily have been slipped in right after Compass Pose (Pose Number 56). I love the way they slip Yoga Nidrasana in at the end as Pose Number 66. But what I REALLY love is that there don't seem to be ANY poses where the arm wraps around the FRONT of the leg (like, as in the Marichyasanas), as opposed to UNDER the thigh (which is WELL represented here in a number of bound poses).

A 90 minute sequence that emphasizes strength and hip flexibility. I am SO there.

YC

Resistance/Reward Ratio

I have found that generally speaking, the higher my resistance to getting to the mat on a given day, the more rewarding the practice on said day.

This morning was the first morning I was going to use the subway to get to Shala X. Had some issues with the little ones before getting to school, namely that Son Number 1 would not stop working on his math homework and leave the house (why was he working on his homework in the morning anyway?), which could have made both him AND his brother late to school, which (a) is unfair to his brother and (b) pressed the "play" button on my "I suck as a mom" tape loop. Finally got them to school, about one minute before the "Mark 'Em Late Lady" appeared at the door, only to realize that after all that, Brian had left his math homework at home.

Brought Brian's math homework to school, and walked to the subway, only to find that it had not been running for some time. There were MOBS of people flowing out of the 86th Street station, crowding onto busses heading down Lex and down Second Avenue. Someone who looked official said that the trains were running again, notwithstanding the outflow of people, so I went downstairs to get myself downtown.

The MTA reps and the cops all SAID the trains were running. And yet, the train in the station stood there. And stood there. And I had no desire to spend a half hour in a subway car, smashed against six other people in suits with their briefcases and backpacks smacking my legs. I did accomplish something while I stood there and waited for the train to leave so that another, less crowded one, could arrive...I arranged a playdate with a mom I recognized from the boys' school. Good work, Yoga Chickie!

I'm pretty good at knowing when it's time to cut my losses and not getting caught in a proverbial "Chinese Finger Game", continuing to press on, when doing so only gets me in deeper....and so I decided it was time to give up on the subway and take a bus. When I got out into the daylight, the Lexington busses were still ridiculously crowded. So, I walked over to Second Avenue.

Unfortunately, by the time I got to Second, I had lost all motivation. This was becoming an inauspicious day to practice, it seemed. Instead of waiting on line for the bus, I went into The Little Red Hen for a scone and a coffee. Ahhhhh. Now that was good.

But what of my practice? For about twenty minutes there, there was to BE no practice. And then the clouds of resistance parted, and I found myself moving toward the Second Avenue bus....and on my way to Shala X, where I arrived 15 minutes late for the last Mysore session and somehow still managed to squeeze in my entire practice (alright, I did take only three breaths in each downward facing dog, and Madam did seem to rush me through Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana, after confirming what NYC bloggers have been saying of late, which is that we start with the leg STRAIGHT, if possible, and for me, it actually IS possible....)

At the end of Mari C, she asked me if I was practicing Mari D. I said no. And then I gave into my urge to ask..."so do you think...soon...maybe?" She said it was up to Sir. But of course.

Later, as I was leaving, I was chatting with a shala mate, who told me that Petri gave her Chakra Bandasana only to have Sir take it back the next day, saying, "Not until you're in Second Series."

Alrighty then!

YC

Monday, November 28, 2005

Currency

Adrianna is what you might call a "bum". Most days, you can find her sitting on a stoop outside the D'Agastino on York Avenue near East 79th Street, screaming at passersby, seemingly incoherently. But if you allow yourself to actually listen to her, you start to understand that she is simply shouting out greetings to the people she recognizes - the people who walk by her every day. Some people walk a little faster when they see Adrianna huddled on her stoop. Some will hand her a dollar or two. Occasionally, someone will bring her a sandwich, a box of doughnuts, a loaf of bread. Often, Adrianna throws these gifts of food to the pigeons, but not without first profusely blessing her benefactors.

Adrianna isn't always on her stoop because she actually has a home of sorts. Somewhere in the neighborhood, a kindly elderly gentleman takes care of Adrianna - gives her a place to sleep, tries to get her to eat her food (rather than throwing it to the birds), and helps her to walk to her favorite stoop each morning. Adrianna has a cane ("I'm a cripple," she'll tell you), but a cane is not enough if she needs to walk more than a block or two. Bill stays with Adrianna until he is certain that she is settled in comfortably on her stoop. On Thanksgiving, he escorted her to a local soup-kitchen for a Thanksgiving meal. He's not her boyfriend, her brother or her son. He doesn't ask her for anything in return. Some people take stray animals into their homes. Bill has taken in Adrianna.

To Adrianna, the greatest pleasure in life is smoking. Not Marlboros, she says, because "they have marijuana in them." Adrianna acknowledges that smoking has ravaged her looks and has ruined her voice. Her teeth are blackened, and her skin is wrinkled. She speaks of having been young and attractive once, having lived in Los Angeles, having been desired by men. "I used to have eyes that changed color in the light," she says in a gravelly voice.

"Do you have eyes that change color too?" she asks me.

I have given her a can of Ensure, which I know she cannot give to the fat pigeons that crowd around her, waiting to be fed. She tells me that she can see my soul and that it is good. She asks me if I or my dog would like a cigarette. I tell her that both my dog and I are trying to quit. She tells me that life is too short to deprive onesself of smoking.

"You can't smoke after you're dead," she admonishes me, waving her pack of cigarettes in front of me, ready to give me one for the asking.

"Not today," I tell her, tugging on Lewis' leash, "but thanks." I begin making my way down the sidewalk. A young woman stops me and demands to know why I have been talking to "the crazy lady". "She's not so crazy...she's just a little confused," I explain, realizing that what I am saying may make me sound a bit crazy myself. "She really does mean well," I say. With a furtive glance back at Adrianna, the young woman whispers to me, "You don't understand...she's scary. She always screams at me...she HATES me...I have no idea why....I can't understand what she's saying, other than that she hates me."

As if on cue, Adrianna suddenly screams to me, "Noooooooooo!!! Don't talk to that woman. I hate that woman!"

Later on, I'm walking Lewis around the block with just my coat on. No handbag, no wallet. Adrianna asks me if I might spare a dollar. I show her my empty pockets. A look of alarm mixed with pity transforms Adrianna's face.

"Please," she urges, producing a thick roll of dollar bills from the pile of belongings sitting beside her, "Please take this money! You need it more than I do!" She peels off several dollar bills and waves them at me. I hold up a hand and shake my head, no.

"I'm sorry, I can't take that from you," I tell her.

"But you are PENNILESS!" she protests, as I start to back away, "Penniless, with a dog to feed and kids at home!"

"No, really, that's okay, but seriously, thanks."

"Then at least take a cigarette," she begs me, "take two, one for you and one for your dog...no, here, take four: one for you and one for your dog and one for each of your kids." She is already pulling the cigarettes out of her pack.

"I really can't do that..you keep them. You enjoy them," I tell her.

But she insists. I take four cigarettes from Adrianna. I walk away, thanking her profusely. Of course, I don't smoke. I contemplate saving the cigarettes for my next walk around the block with Lewis, and giving the cigarettes back to Adrianna, pretending like this never happened. Then I realize that she would know. And that would be worse.

I arrive back at my building, cigarettes clutched in my gloved hand. My doorman holds the door open for me, and I offer him the cigarettes that Adrianna gave me. But he doesn't smoke either. Lewis sits patiently at my feet, waiting for the doorman to hand him a treat - a ritual that Lewis has come to count on like a promise. Graciously, Lewis licks the doorman's hand.

I open my own hand, and for a moment, I contemplate the cigarettes. Then I toss them into the garbage can in the mailroom of my lobby. It's not that Adrianna's form of currency has no value. It's just that being foreign currency, it can't be used where I am going.

The elevator doors close behind me.

YC

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Yoga Chickie's Best Work


November2005a 006, originally uploaded by Yoga Chickie.



THIS is good stuff

I have nothing to say about my on practice or my own life today that Vanessa didn't say already (and better and more honestly than I am prepared to do at this point)...

I want to be honest and real here, but I am feeling constrained these days by my detractors. I guess that means I have let them get to me. Ah well. I enjoy writing, have enjoyed publishing here and dialoguing with the good people who enjoy dialoguing in good spirit. For the past few days, however, I have been failing to press the "publish" button. My thoughts and work remain in draft because I just don't feel like putting it out there as fodder for those who can't or don't resist their aggressive urges to vent their anger here.

I hope to be as fearlessly honest as Vanessa when I once again get the guts to dive in and hit "publish" again.

YC

Friday, November 25, 2005

Gratitude toward your enemies

"Now, there are many, many people in the world, but relatively few with whom we interact, and even fewer who cause us problems. So, when you come across such a chance for practicing patience and tolerance, you should treat it with gratitude. It is rare. Just as having unexpectedly found a treasure in your own house, you should be happy and grateful to your enemy for providing that precious opportunity."

-His Holiness the Dalai Lama (From "The Pocket Dalai Lama," edited by Mary Craig, 2002. Reprinted at Beliefnet.com, by arrangement with Shambhala Publications)

Attachment, doggie style

We took Lewis to my in-laws for Thanksgiving, and it was like having a new baby all over again. I had to keep his leash attached to my belt the entire time, for fear that he would wander off and have an accident in the house, and he spent most of the night begging for table food and whining about something inexplicable (well, inexplicable to humans). I took him out for a walk as soon as we arrived (and let me tell you, dog walking in the burbs is a singularly boring experience...in the city, no matter what time I take Lewis out, there are always people to chat with, dogs to coo over, stores for window shopping, delis for snacks...not so in the quiet suburbs, especially when the houses are set far apart on two-acre lots....), and another walk after dinner. The Husband took him for a final walk right before we left for home.

The thing was, notwithstanding how much Lewis ate for dinner, and how many opportunities we gave him, there was no, um, return on the investment. I suspected that Lewis had no idea what to make of all of that quiet pavement and all of those grassy yards that were off limits to him. Or perhaps he simply didn't like walking in the quiet of the burbs any more than I did. In any event, almost as soon as we got into the car, Lewis was whining, and as we drove, the whining only got louder. Finally, when we were more than halfway home, I persuaded the Husband to pull off at the nearest exit and find someplace, anyplace to take Lewis for yet another walk.

After 15 minutes of walking around the parking lot of a corporate center in Lake Success in the bitter cold...nothing.

We got back in the car, and Lewis was literally shaking. Something was bothering him. But it couldn't have been that we hadn't given him a chance to relieve himself. So, then what?

Well...when we stopped at a red light around the corner from our building, I got out of the car with Lewis, and within 10 seconds, he had dragged me down the sidewalk to the place he always goes...his favorite spot...and voila.

Apparently, doggies can be quite particular about where they do their business. Who knew?

YC

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Gratitude:

Just as Yom Kippur is a chance to think about where we went wrong in the year gone by, Thanksgiving is a chance to think about where the universe did right by us, and to contemplate our gratitude for the goodness that makes our lives worth living. So, in no consciously intentional order, Yoga Chickie would like to say, "Baruch atah Adonai, thank you God"...for:

1. My kids (healthy, happy, brilliant, warm, loving, kind, adorable, not necessarily in any particular order)

2. My home (so lucky I am to have a nice, warm place to live that looks the way I want it to look, that is big enough to house my family and all of our stuff, from which I can see a body of water, provided I look really hard, and the phases of the moon, and which is in close proximity to two wonderful parks and one of the best public schools in the city, with some of the best teachers in the country)

3. My family (all of 'em...even the ones who bug the crap out of me...they're my home)

4. My friends (and in particular, but in no particular order: Kim who took me to chemo every single time, and who dragged me out of my apartment more than once when I had no other way of getting myself up off my sofa; Heidi, who found 90 people in three different states to cook for my family when it was too much of an effort for me to even call in a delivery order , Abby and Erica, who never judged me in spite of some bad judgements on my part and Paula, Lynn and Lesley, who inspire me as a human being and prove to me that I can be more than just a housewife)

5. My dog (who crawls under the covers at night and sleeps on my feet)

6. High heels (at least I can look tall...ish)

7. Stretch jeans (hallelujah! now THAT's comfort!), the low-rise cut (finally, something flattering for the short-waisted), and Hudson Jeans and True Religion Brand in particular (which somehow manage to be low-rise without butt-crack, and which flatter like no other jeans I have ever worn)

8. Bikram Yoga NYC (for detoxing me through the last three months of chemo and pointing me solidly heading down the yoga road)

9. Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (for Ashtanga Yoga, of course, and for inspiring my inspired teachers)

10. Yola of Some Like It Hot Yoga (for giving me my very first regular yoga teaching gig)

11. Cadbury chocolate and Double Bubble Bubble Gum

12. Steaming cups of hazelnut-flavored coffee

13. Dr. H (my oncologist, who gave me all the options known to the medical community and then allowed me to chart my course, who continues to support my wellness and who has always had compassion for the young woman in the cancer patient).

14. The NYC real estate market (for giving the Husband so much work)

15. Marisa Schwartzman, Paula Rogovin and Tereza Slezakova (Brian's Kindergarten teacher in 2002-03, Brian and Adam's First Grade Teacher, and our nanny 2001-03, respectively, for filling in the gaps for me)

16. David Kelman, Christopher Hildebrandt and the Yoga Sutra family (for giving a home to my Yoga For Breast Cancer Survivors program and for their friendliness, kindness, respect and professionalism, which qualities are not as easy to come by as one might think on planet yoga)

17. Everyone who has disagreed with me or in some way challenged me to examine my views more closely or from a different perspective

18. Rabbi Ken Stern from Park Avenue Synagogue (for his continuing kindness towards my family during my dad's treatment for lung cancer).

19. Cantor Daniel Singer from Temple Shaaray Tefila (for inspiring Adam to pursue his passion for music).

20. The Husband (for helping Brian to throw a baseball, dribble a basketball and be a good teammate).

That's all that pops into my mind at the moment. But I know there is much more to be thankful for, so consider this a mere sampling...

YC

Stiffness in the mind

A week or two ago, I was telling Sir that I felt stiff that day, and he replied that stiffness is mainly in the mind. Well, I thought, he's never been inside my shoulders. But the seed was planted in my mind, and I have been mulling it over of late. Is the stiffness I feel a physical thing? Or is it mainly something I am perceiving in my monkey mind? Does it even matter in my practice whether or not I "feel" stiff?

Today I came to class "feeling" stiff. The resistance to practice was there, but I didn't listen to the noise. I just got on the bus and went downtown. As I was walking over to the shala, I felt anxiety about how stiff I was feeling, and I was wondering how sucky my practice would be as a result.

Once I got onto my mat though, I decided to explore Sir's suggestion, that stiffness is a mindset, not a physical fact. And by "explore", what I mean is that I simply ignored the "stiffness" and practiced.

A couple of times I felt a fear of discomfort, like the first time I put my hands on the floor in Uttanasana, and the first half-lotus of Ardha Baddha. But acknowledging the fear, I just went on with my practice.

Notwithstanding my "perception" of stiffness, my practice was loose and easy. And I realized that stiffness, for me at least, is a fear of discomfort. It has nothing to do with, and it is not a reflection of, what's really going on in my joints, in my muscles, in my tendons.

Sure, there will be times when it will be more difficult to get into certain poses. But THINKING about it beforehand - that's not stiffness. That's fear.

YC

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Updates

1. It wasn't an ordinary flat...someone slashed my tire. And by someone, I guess I have to assume it was the lovely lady I met this morning on East 7th Street. Guess it wasn't enough to guilt me out of $25.

2. Tonight's Interfaith Thanksgiving Service was amazing and beautiful and brought tears to my eyes. It started with a candlelit processional of all of the clergy from our synagogue plus clergy from a number of neighborhood churches. Then the achingly adorable "Mini Minyan Musicale" performed "Baruch Ata Adonai, Thank You God" and "The Rainbow Connection". There were short sermons by a Catholic priest, a Methodist minister, the Lord's Prayer, the singing of "We Gather Together" and "America the Beautiful" by the entire congregation, a blessing given in 12 different languages by 12 different people, including a nun, and finally, an incredible performance by the Young Men's division of the Young People's Chorus of New York City.

3. To answer a question posed by several commentators and emailers: I know that a lot of people know the identify of "Shala X"...but I bet a lot of people don't. Since I have been asked to be mindful of privacy issues, I figured I would be "safe" and just stop referring to it by name on this blog.

YC

Car Karma

As I was parking my car today near Shala X, a woman came out of, seemingly nowhere, and told me that I had broken the lefthand headlight of her car. I was flustered. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before. I didn't hear any noise. I didn't feel any impact. But she was insisting. I got out of my car and took a look. Her car was pretty poorly maintained. Rust spots everywhere, dings galore. And there was the cracked headlight. Had it beeen me that did that? Did it even matter? I let the conversation go back and forth for a couple of moments, and then I said, "Look, what is that you want me to do?" She said, "give me twenty five dollars, and I'll go away."

Hooboy.

Twenty-five dollars poorer, I walked into the Shala. I have no idea what to make of this entire scenario. But I don't feel like thinking about it either. Giving her the money enabled me not to think about it much further. If she cheated me, well, her bad. If I damaged her headlight, then now she can pocket the money or get it fixed...whatever.

Practice was fine. Patrick was there. And he is strong. Both he and Jose gave me some really precise but gentle adjustments. Me likey.

And then the bad car karma continued....I made the fateful decision to take the 96th Street exit instead of the 61st Street exit off of the FDR Drive, and waiting for me was some hideous something or other that impaled my front left tire. BOOM. Yoga Chickie gets her first flat tire.

I am still waiting for Volvo Roadside Assistance to show. At least I get to do so in the comfort of my own home.

My private client rescheduled, thankfully, as she herself had some bad karma going on with her new apartment. So that was kind of good karma for me.

Hopefully the rest of the day will go a bit more smoothly. Adam has Tae Kwon Do, Brian has Hebrew School, I teach at Yahoo Hot Jobs, and then I race back uptown to see Adam, the little musician, perform in the "Mini Minyan Musicale" in the annual Jewish/Christian Fellowship concert at our temple. I like this fellowship idea - more reason to like being a member of a Reform Synagogue.

YC

Monday, November 21, 2005

Haiku 3: Moving Through Resistance

I practiced today.
Not because I wanted to;
It's just what I do.

YC

Beyond Pooped: More Haiku

Having recognized
My limits without judgement,
I may go beyond.

YC

Pooped: a Haiku

Realization:
Too achy, stiff and burnt out
For yoga today.

YC

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The obsession with the Ramble continues...


November2005 023, originally uploaded by Yoga Chickie.

Adam and I spent about three hours in Central Park today, some of it on Cedar Hill, most of it hiking through the Ramble. Adam counted 35 "secret passageways". Pictured is the bench made of raw logs that Adam and I love. The tourists seem to love it too. This photo was taken by a group of Italian twentysomethings, on a "quid pro photo" basis....

YC

In 100 years, will it matter?

I believe it will. Even if only on a micro-nano-level, every action we take in this life will create ripples of consequences in other lives, now and/or in the future. And conversely, every such action is essentially a consequence of an action taking previously, by ourselves or by others.

Call someone an idiot, and you reveal something about yourself: you deserve sympathy. Someone or something made you feel hostile, and you felt the need to vent. Who knows what led to the action that led to that hostility? But by the same token, who can say what consequences will spring therefrom? Who knows where it started? How many lives ago? Who knows where it will end.

The Sutras tell us that suffering yet to come may be averted (Chapter II, Verse 16: Hayam Dukham Anagatam). But this can only happen through the avoidance of contact with pain. We can't keep bad things from happening to us. But we can learn to view those things with equanimity. Suffering is merely our perception of aversion to experiences that don't meet our expectations, or our attachment to experiences that give us pleasure. We can practice non-attachment and non-aversion. We can recognize that a well-placed insult can have far-reaching consequences. And then we can take it a step further and view others with equanimity and compassion and an understanding that we all have one basic thing in common: to feel okay. And then maybe the well-placed insult doesn't ever reach our fingertips or our lips.

YC

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Great Hill

Another great find right under my nose:
Central Park's Great Hill. I have run up the North End of the Park oh, about, 1,000 times in my life, and I always noticed that there were paths leading "somewhere" bucolic. I had NO idea that there was an actual park within the Park up there though.

Today, after dropping Brian and the Husband off at a soccer game on in Riverside Park, Adam and I took Lewis the Bagle (found out that the proper name for a Beagle/Bassett mix is "Bagle") in the car, headed toward the Park and parked wherever we found the first spot. The first spot was at 108th Street and Central Park West. We walked in right at the midpoint of what is known to the Central Park runners as Harlem Hill. After a bit of wandering on the periphery of the Loop, we decided to follow one of those northern paths.

What we found was a huge oval, surrounded by grassy fields and patches of woods. On the oval, there were people playing Ultimate Frisbee, and there was what appeared to be a children's birthday party in full swing, complete with balloons, picnic tables and organized outdoor games. Lewis, Adam and I had a blast, walking around the Great Hill, as it is called.

And once again, I am amazed to discover that my city has so much to offer about which I never knew. All that time I spent running around the Park on the paved loops, I could have been exploring interesting places, taking it off road...if it weren't for Lewis the Bagle, I would still think that Central Park is basically a six-mile running track surrounded by some trees.

YC

Friday, November 18, 2005

Excitement at Shala X!!

I am guessing that I am probably in the minority of folks who enjoy it when a guest teacher comes aboard at the shala. To me, it kind of shakes up the energy. It gives me a chance to have someone see my practice anew - not with ideas of what my practice is, based on where it started. I love having Sir as my teacher, don't get me wrong. But it was fun to meet his new assistant today. Ah, what shall I call him? Perhaps his name will do?

Patrick has an accent that I cannot identify. At first, it seems English or Welsh, perhaps. Then it seems to veer off into something vaguely Eastern. He has dark skin, almost Indian looking skin. But his hair is lighter brown than mine. He wears it in a smooth little bun. Patrick is, in a word, adorable. When I came into the shala today, I was actually...ON TIME. A first for me, in a long while. It's easy to be on time on Fridays, since there is Philosophy and Pranayama until just past 9:30 a.m. So, if I come in at 9:30, then the shala isn't even really ready for anyone to begin their practice. But I digress.

Patrick was standing in the vestibule, grinning and welcoming people into the shala. When he saw my cuppa (joe, not chai), his grin lit up a bit slyly, and without a word, I was dropping the rest of it into the garbage bin. "I'm only drinking it because it's so cold out, and I need to get my organs warmed up," I protested, kind of embarassed, kind of laughing at myself. Patrick went and turned up the thermostat. I LIKE a yoga teacher who makes friends with the radiator!

So, for once, I began my practice at the same time as most everyone else, give or take a Surya Namaskar or two. I was even present for the invocation, which Patrick led in a huge booming voice and a tune that I neither recognized nor could carry. Oh well. It's just chanting...it's not a concert. For my sixth day of practice in a row (yes, sixth...Yoga Chickie did not observe the moonday this time around because she had observed her own private moonday last Friday, out of sheer exhaustion and just wanted to really kick it up this week and took Erika Hildebrandt's Half Led Primary on Tuesday, which ROCKED....sorry all you traditionalists....), I was surprisingly energetic and agile. I smoothly progressed from posture to posture, occasionally sliding my feet through at the end of a vinyasa here, a vinyasa there (as I have been doing lately...I would say my rate is 20% at this point).

By the time I got to the Marichyasanas, Patrick was helping out a bunch of other people who were in the middle of their Marichyasanas as well. So, I got no assists at all in Mari A or Mari B.

When it came time for Mari C, I figured that any minute now Patrick would be all over my binding-impaired ass. But I bound on the first side....and I held it for a looooooong time, figuring, "Any minute now...he'll be here any minute now...."

Patrick looked over. And then he went on to assist someone else in another pose. So, I vinyasa-ed my way to the other side, bound that and held it. Again, I figured any minute he would be coming round, saying, "OK, let's do the first side again...."

But it never happened. A minute later, I was on my back, preparing for backbends. Patrick came over to my mat and asked me, "Is that all for today?"

IS THAT ALL FOR TODAY?!!!!

And to that I say, "WOOOOHOOO!!!" By which I mean, I must have looked as if I COULD have been further along in the Primary Series....by which I mean, my Mari C must not look mangled and tortured anymore, or to paraphrase the Yoga Sutras, I must not have looked all bothered by the "play of opposites". At the very least, there must have been a lack of prana leak...

But since I often note that students tend to guess what their teachers are thinking, perhaps guessing wrong, I decided to get some clarity. After savasana, I asked Patrick if my Mari C looked alright. "See, usually, someone runs right up to me and adjusts me into it," I offered by way of explanation, "And since you didn't, I was hoping that it looked like I could handle it on my own...."

"Your Mari C looked fine to me," Patrick responded nicely, if not a bit bemused.

And now, happily, I get a day off. I made it through six days of practice in a row, probably for the first time since my surgery (and by practice, I mean at a shala, as opposed to putzing around at home in and after a bath), I feel good, and I am ready to take a one-day break.

I wonder when I will begin work on Mari D at Shala X, not that it MATTERS. I am binding in it with Erika during led class, sometimes with help, sometimes not. But frankly, it would be nice to REALLY be ready for the next pose by having all of the prior poses mastered. And in order for that to happen, my Parivritta Parsvakonasana still needs work. I think that when I really can get my palm comfortably to the ground in that twist, Mari D will be right around the bend (assuming my healthy happy hips continue to be as such).

YC

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

K-9 Karma

Has anyone seen this show? It's on Animal Planet, of which heretofore, I was kind of subliminally aware, but which I would never have been able to locate on my remote. Now that my current obsession has turned to animals, and in particular, dogs, and in even more particular, rescued dogs, I have finally located the channel on my remote and tuned in. And what I have found is, for the most part, compelling and quality programming - Rescue Vets, Miami Animal Police, North Shore Animal Rescue....

And in particular, I have found myself addicted to one show in particular...I'm almost embarassed to admit this....but since fellow-Ashtanga-blogger, Jody (Chatvari) recently offered up a sampling of his guilty pleasures, I feel "safe" offering up mine....

So here goes: Guilty Pleasure, thy name is K-9 Karma.

Let me just say that I wanted to hate this show. It stars a young, blonde yoga teacher cum dog trainer named Kari, who happens to be married to an ex (of sorts) of mine from college, an ex whom my college girlfriends and I often referred to as "Satan". Now, I've long since moved on from my dalliance with Satan, but this show presents other challenges to Yoga Chickie's generosity and practice of aparigraha (non-coveting), such as the fact that Kari is pregnant in most, if not all, of the episodes I have seen, and yet she looks slim and beautiful (unlike Yoga Chickie, whose pregnancies made her look like a Volkswagen turned over on its side). Also, Kari is the founder of East Yoga (right around the corner from Shala X), and which features a kitchy class on Sunday evenings called "Doga"....DOG YOGA. Utter silliness, but, apparently, it has its followers, and Kari has become a bit of a local celeb, at least in dog-owner circles....another challenge to the aparigraha practice of Yoga Chickie. who never saw an attention of which she didn't desire to be the center.

The show starts and ends at East Yoga and is "narrated" by Charlie, Kari's five-year-old rescue dog. More kitsch. But honestly, it's a damn good show. Each episode features Kari and Charlie on some sort of outing, whether to a soccer game, a doggie spa, a doggie psychic or to Kari and Satan's country house (aparigraha, YC, aparigraha). It's fun to watch. And truthfully, Kari is adorable and engaging. And Charlie is like the best dog ever, other than Lewis, of course.

So, there. I admitted it. My guilty pleasure and my jealous streak.

Om shanti.

YC

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Excerpt from Jiva Wellness's Weekly Newsletter....

As some of you know, I teach in the wellness program at Yahoo Hot Jobs, which is brought to them by Jiva Wellness. Tiffany and Mark of Jiva asked me to write something to inspire the yogis and yoginis of Yahoo Hot Jobs, for inclusion in their weekly wellness letter. I figured I would reprint it here:

By now you may have already joined in on one of Jiva's yoga classes. If so, I hope to see you again this Tuesday! If not, I hope to meet you soon. In either case, I wanted to address a question that comes up often after class: "So....how can I get good at yoga?"

The answer is really quite simple: If you want to get "good" at yoga, you have to be willing and able to be "bad" at yoga. Which is to say...that you have to let go of results altogether and simply practice. Yoga is a practice, not a performance. Of course it always feels great to feel competent at whatever it is you are doing. And in yoga, we often connect "feeling competent" with mastering particular poses. But there are so many other ways to be "competent" at yoga. To name a few:

1. Just showing up!

Getting to the mat is the hardest challenge of yoga, and anyone who practices yoga on a regular basis will tell you that. No matter how good we feel at the end of a yoga practice, the next time we consider getting back to the mat, there is resistence. We begin an internal debate. Should I? Maybe not? But there is only one right answer: Get to the mat and practice. It doesn't have to be your best practice ever. You don't have to acheive anything in particular, from a physical standpoint. You just have to overcome the resistence. THAT is practicing yoga.

2. Staying in the "here and now".

A HUGE challenge to practicing yoga is the tendency of the mind to wander outside the four corners of your mat. But once you start looking at your neigbors, comparing your practice to theirs, once you start thinking about what's on your "to-do" list for afer work, once you start thinking about the email you need to send to the boyfriend/girlfriend who just broke up with you...you've lost the "here and now". And when you break out of the "hear and now", you start to undermine your own yoga practice. You experience feelings like boredom, anxiety, envy...even anger. You feel the urge to take a bathroom break, to swig water, to lie down. But yoga tells us that all of that is merely the restless mind talking, and there's something you can do about it: You acknowledge that your mind has wandered, and without judgement, you simply let it go and return to the here and now.

3. Extending compassion to ourselves.

All of us (and that includes me) will sometimes speak to ourselves in a sharp tone, with words that we wouldn't use with our worst enemies. Particularly in a setting where you are asking your body to do things it does not do on a regular basis (i.e., yoga poses), we all have a tendency to say mean things to ourselves about ourselves. "Man, do I suck at backbends" or "Damnit, why can't I reach my hand to the floor in this pose!?"

Would we talk to our friends like that? Didn't think so. One way that we can demonstrate our competence in yoga is by learning to extend the same friendliness to ourselves that we would extend to our friends.

So, be "bad" at a pose every day! Challenge yourself to be really "bad", and then extend that friendliness, that compassion, to yourself, for simply being there on the mat, for simply trying something that is at the edge of your ability. Give yourself props for simply learning to accept who you are, where you are, what you are doing in this particular "here and now".

And when all else fails, consider this: as long as you keep practicing yoga, one thing is for certain, and that is that you will not get any worse! Or, as the guru of gurus, Sri K Pattabhi Jois likes to say, "Practice, and all is coming....."

Namaste,

Lauren

YC

Monday, November 14, 2005

Lung Cancer Awareness Month

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. Sadly, this disease, which kills more Americans than ANY other cancer (source: Lung Cancer Alliance) gets proportionately WAY less press and WAY less funding than other far less deadly cancers...such as breast and prostate cancers. It also has a hefty portion of ugly stigma attached to it, notwithstanding that 60 percent of those who are diagnosed have never smoked or quit smoking decades before their diagnosis.

Any regular reader of this blog knows by now that my dad, Jeffrey, was diagnosed with lung cancer in March of this year. Jeff is a non-smoker and had already survived prostate cancer seven years earlier. As a cancer survivor, myself, this hit me fairly hard, since it forced me to confront the fact that having survived one cancer does not mean that you won't get another. More globally, I had to face what I am always talking to my students about in yoga class: that things happen, and there's not much we can do about any of it. We can accept the waves as they crash over us, for better or for worse, or we can suffer. That's about it as far as choices go.

But I digress.

My dad has been doing really well (cue all the various cultural anti-jinx sound effects). His cancer, which was diagnosed at a late stage at a routine physical, with no symptoms other than a cold that hadn't seemed to go away for about two months, is now in remission. Which is to say that he responded UNUSUALLY well to his chemotherapy, which caused all of his hair to fall out and which left him with angry red welts all over his face during the first couple of months. I am guessing that his excellent response to his treatment is due in large part to the fact that my dad is a non-smoker.

It has been theorized that non-smokers do better with chemo for lung cancer, that their survival rate is higher. Yes, I know, this only feeds the stigma. BUT, it also sends an important message. Don't smoke. And if you do, quit.

I was at a 40th birthday party out in the burbs last Friday night. The crowd was very stylish, very fashionable, very affluent and for the most part, very brainy. Yet every few minutes the front door kept opening. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was noticing this, but nothing really clicked until one of the "girls" came in from the cold, carrying with her not the smell of the fresh outdoors, but a cloud of cigarette smoke. The "girls", it turned out, liked to have a cigarette with their cocktails. Smoking in the girls room has grown up, apparently, and now it's outside of the bar, fueled by alcohol.

I won't say I never enjoyed a smoke with a drink, and if you've read my memoir, Beauty and the Beast, you'll know that I spent a couple of self-destructive months right after my breast cancer diagnosis at Lenox doing just that (it was pre-smoking ban, 2002). But the reality is: it's just plain dumb.

Don't do it. I know you Ashtangis out there don't need to be told this. But the rest of you out there...please don't smoke.

YC

An amble through the Ramble


After 15 years of living in New York City, I finally discovered the Ramble.
OK, maybe that's just a bit of an exaggeration: last year, I went bird watching in the Ramble with Brian's second grade class (there are something like 230 species of bird populating the Ramble). But for the most part, I have pretty much stayed far far away from anything remotely "offroad" in Central Park (remembering the stories from the 1970's about the Ramble being home to gay men cruising and occasitionally getting murdered...silly of me really, given that our fine city has long since been Giuliani-ized and has now become a regular Bloom-burgh). Instead, I kept mainly to Central Park's main six-mile loop for runs, long bike and in-line skate rides and even for strolling with the many strollers and "Baby Joggers" I have owned over the years.

But the addition to Lewis the Beagle to the Yoga Chickie clan has created a need for off-road adventure. In the past month, I've been feeling the pull of the "wilderness", or at least the "wilderness" as distilled down for consumption by a city girl like myself. It's either that, or the endlessly monotonous sidewalks or, even worse, the dreaded Carl Schurz Park dog run, where Lewis has already been mauled by a alpha Pit Bull named Beta (!!!), and where the stench of urine wafts softly over the dank, dusty pebbles and where everyone needs a bath immediately upon returning home. And so, borne out of need, I have begun to explore the off-road adventures with which New York City so subtly beckons.

Last week, I began by exploring the woodsy areas of Carl Schurz Park, which for many years I have associated solely with its large, elaborate playground. Now, I am seeing it in a whole new light, what with its two (smelly, dirty) dog runs, and Gracie Mansion's HUGE backyard, which in the past my children have used for sleighriding, but which now serves as a wonderful place for Lewis to romp on grass and fallen leaves and pine needles (and the occasional stinky female ginko fruit, blech; thanks, Japan!). In addition, there are plenty of hidden grottos, including the one that houses the Peter Pan Statue.

This weekend, Adam and I decided to venture further...to Central Park and beyond to visit the dog run at the Musem of Natural History, all the way on West 79th Street, between Columbus and Central Park West. It was a lovely walk through mostly the main roads of Central Park, but the dog run was, alas, just another dog run. And, in fact, it was a bit worse than the dog run at Carl Schurz Park because of the people whose dogs were there. Nasty people. Right before my very eyes, some bitch woman started smacking Lewis over the head with a rope leash.

When I asked her what the hell she was doing, she told me that Lewis was "attacking" her dog, "And I spent way too much money on this dog to have your aggressive mutt attacking her for no reason."

Excuse me?

"My dog doesn't have an aggressive bone in his body," I explained calmly. I was watching and listening to the whole thing. They were wrestling. No teeth. No barking even!"

"Your dog was attacking my dog!" was her reply.

"Actually, your dog is a Chow Chow, right?" I asked.

"Yes, and I paid a LOT for her."

"Well, Chow Chows have a tendency toward aggression. Not beagles or bassetts, which my dog is."

She harumphed her way out of the dog run. I guess she really didn't want her expensively bred fighting dog to be fraternizing with the riff raff pound puppies like mine. OK, Buh bye!

Dog runs kinda suck.

Thus Adam and I were happy to venture back through Central Park, seeking the quiet of the not-so-beaten path. We entered the Ramble somwhere south of the Puppet Theater on the West Drive and somewhere north of where the "Guitar Guy" has always played his James Taylor songs. And as soon as we did, we knew we were not in "Kansas" anymore.

The paths, when visible at all, are a mere yardstick wide.


Lots of them are covered with a light dusting of leaves, pine needles and woodchips.



The trees surrounding the paths grow so tall that the Ramble feels like a dark forest. Adam and I kept calling it the "Enchanted Forest".

And everywhere you look, there is some sort of visual treasure...



...a bench made completely out of tree trunks hewn together with rope and wooden nails, a skinny set of stairs made out of slabs of rock that lead from one clearing to another...



...a huge clearing in the middle of it all where a lone three-legged dog ran free of his leash while his people looked on with pride, a skinny brook with a narrow winding path snaking up its side, leading to another clearing...



a really cool rock formation/sculpture...



and one of the coolest bridges I have ever seen - the tunnel beneath it is a mere five feet across...



(another view of the bridge)



It is really awe-inspiring, especially when you consider it is right there in the middle of Central Park, right there in the middle of Manhattan, a cement island in the middle of New York City. Of course, in truth, "the 38-acre Ramble is an artificially created wild part of Central Park featuring rocks, trees, and a stream which can be turned on or off with a water tap. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the Ramble was one of the first parts of Central Park to be built in New York City." (source: Vacation Ideas.com) Thus, the Ramble is in actuality,a highly developed, carefully architected "wilderness".

Nevertheless, the Ramble is a wonderful place to go on a gentle hike, to take an imaginative hound (e.g. Lewis) on a long imaginary squirrel hunt, to bond with your kids (or, I suppose, a lover...we saw some of those too). If it weren't for Lewis, I never would have bothered. So glad I did!

YC

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Grey's Anatomy Post Script

I was just about to close my laptop for the evening when I remembered...there was yet another male hero on tonight's epidode....a tiny little male hero...the teeny weeny male fetus growing in Dr. Taskmaster's tummy. I can't remember this doctor's name, but she's the chunky black alpha female doctor who barks orders at the interns all day long. And her teeny little spawn is here to tell us that some women who try for a really long time to get pregnant actually DO get pregnant, notwithstanding what happened to the sexy blond who opted for "castration" rather than getting in the family way. One woman experiences the tragedy of castration. One woman experiences the miracle of the creation of life. It's all a wash in the end.

YC

Grey's Anatomy Part II

OK, so the hero is a guy...Alex, the jerky guy who turns out not to be so jerky when he tells his ample-bosomed victoria's secret model slash intern girlfriend that he likes her "rack" but would like her with or without it. Awwwwwwwwwwwwww.

And then she slaps him. Inexplicably. But hell, it's prime time television. And then she kisses him. Awwwwwwwwwww.

And then more male heroes materialize: Dr. McDreamy turns down Intern Meredith's elevator overture, making it clear that he would like to but he simply cannot...he is married after all...to the surgeon who is, even as they speak, preparing to castrate the beautiful BRCA-positive woman who is waiting on the operating room table for her mean-ole-unsympathetic husband to show up to provide moral support. Will he? Or won't he? He spent the night before in a drunken stupor complaining that he wants his wife to have her breasts and her sex drive. And now he is nowhere to be found.

And then...he shows up....awwwwwwwwwwwww.

Ya gotta love the men of Grey's Anatomy. They make the women look like a gaggle of neanderthals.

YC

Grey's Anatomy

I'm watching it right now, and I just want to SCREAM! There's an attractive woman, about my age, who bursts into the hospital like a tornado on speed and demands a prophylactic total hysterectomy and double mastectomy, STAT! Like, TOMORROW!! Now start cutting!!!

And guess what? The doctors at this hospital are willing to do just that. Even worse, the doctor who is going to do the cutting is the best friend of the woman. And that doctor's husband is also a doctor in the hospital, and he happens to be the best friend of the woman's husband. This couple had been trying to have a baby when the woman's mother passed away from ovarian cancer. All of a sudden, boom, plans change. No baby. No ovaries. No uterus. No breasts.

Now, I believe there was some discussion that this woman tested positive for the breast cancer gene, which is also responsible for an increased risk of ovarian cancer. But when someone is gene positive, there is NO rush. Decisions can be made calmly, quietly, mindfully. I mean, shit, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was told that I could wait up to six weeks to have my surgery. This woman didn't even have a diagnosis.

Now, I am all for genetic testing and then taking action if the results are positive. But this is a bit overboard.

Then get this: one of the interns in the hospital is offended by the woman's decision, stating that there IS an acceptable option of waiting to GET cancer and then fighting it hard. Yeah. That was fun. I can tell you, having had a double mastectomy and a bilateral oophorectomy - the surgery was WAY better than a lifetime of wondering whether cancer will come back. Oh, yeah, and who could forget chemo? That was fun too. So, you can imagine...I am a far bigger fan of prophylactic surgery than of waiting and seeing and fighting like mad.

There is also discussion of "instant menopause" (true) and loss of sex drive (sadly, true as well). But shit happens. Menopause hits all of us eventually. And loss of sex drive is part of that, unfortunately. As is weight gain. But weight gain CAN be reversed - I am living proof of that at 105 pounds, down from 123 - with a healthy, fairly spartan, but by no means anorexic diet and plenty of exercise. And sex drive, schmex drive. It doesn't disappear altogether. It just needs to be coaxed out of hiding. A decade of marriage is probably much worse for the sex drive than the removal of the ovaries.

Oh wow! Now one of the interns is calling the surgery "castration" and saying that the woman is having the parts of her that "make her a woman" removed. OK, now I totally object to that, and it infuriates me that a WOMAN is saying that, that the writers scripted it that way. A woman is not the sum total of her ovaries and breasts. I really don't feel that my "womanhood" was removed along with those parts of me. And I really don't believe that many women who feel that their lives were saved with these surgeries would ever cop to feeling like something less than a "woman".

Honestly, this is the first time I have ever heard such a thing - that what makes a woman a woman is her ovaries. I thought that what made me a woman was the fact that I was born with a vagina. After all, one look at me, and my mother's obstetrician knew exactly what I was. It didn't take a pelvic ultrasound.

OK, back to the show.

YC

Saturday, November 12, 2005

music for self practice

To answer Sammy's question, regarding what kind of music I recommend for self-practice, I would start out by saying that ANY music that gets you in the mood to move expansively and with breath is the right music. But if you want some recommendations, I personally enjoy to create mixes using iTunes so that I can use the music to bring the level of class higher and then lower again at the end.

Thus, a typical mix for a 90 minute practice would be:

1. Lokah Samasta, by The Dum Dum Project (Album: World Chill)
2. Dimdanana, by Jasmon (Album: Putumayo's World Lounge)
3. Foto Viva, by Mo' Horizons (Album: Putumayo's World Lounge)
4. Jaja Ganesha by The Dum Dum Project (Album: Yoga Chill)
5. Prayer to Rudra, by Krishna Das (Album: Planet Yoga)
6. Hey Diwani, Hey Diwana, by The Dum Dum Project (Album: Export Quality)
7. Desert Road, by Justin Adams (Album: Putumayo's Sahara Lounge)
8. Cleopatra In New York, by Nickodemus Album: Sahara Lounge)
9. Desert Dancer, by Nickodemus (Album: Buddha Bar IV
10. Dub4me, by Soap Kills (Album: Sahara Lounge)
11. Dirty Trip, by Air (Albun: The Virgin Suicides (Soundtrack))
12. Playground Love, by Air (Album: The Virgin Suicides (Soundtrack))
13. Over Our Heads, by Zero 7 (Album: When It Falls)
14. Breathe Me, by Sia (Album: Six Feet Under: Everything Ends (Soundtrack))
15. Mercy Street, by Peter Gabriel (Album: So)
16. Guitar Flute And String, by Moby (Album: Play)

I would warm up a little, do some light stretches before putting on the music. Then I would turn the music on as I began my Sun Salutations, doing five of each kind (A and B, that is). As Desert Road began, the music would become more middle eastern and snaky and would inspire me to do a lot of twists and balances and twisting balances. By the time Air came on, I would be ready to slow things down a bit, perhaps even work on some arm balances. Over our Heads would tell me it was time for back bending. Breathe Me would be a clear clue to me to begin neutralizing my spine with Happy Baby and maybe Supta Hasta Padangusthasana. From there through Mercy Street, I would be forward bending, culminating in shoulderstand and headstand. The tuneful and wordless Guitar Flute and String would accompany a three minute Savasana. And then I would roll up and finish my practice.

If you don't have a self-practice in mind, feel free to pull out my Sample Class on my Downtown Uptown Yoga Website. Give it a try.

Other ideas for good music to accompany a yoga practice: Anything by Zero 7, Thievery Corporation, Air, Honeyroot, Enigma, Dum Dum Project, Genetic Drugs/Jasom, Jazzanova, all of the Buddha Bar and Buddha Cafe compilations, the Putumayo world music collections, but particularly Sahara Lounge, Euro Lounge and World Lounge, Planet Yoga (another compilation of well-known yoga accompaniments, Yoga Rhythm (excellent if you get distracted by songs with words and songs you know), almost anything by Moby, most anything by Frou Frou, most songs on the soundtracks for Magnolia, Donnie Darko and Garden State. You're going to have to listen to these albums and judge what makes sense in terms of your own taste and assemble accordingly. For the parts of my vinyasa practice that are not so structured, like forward bending (we can hold these for a LONG time), I sometimes put on some unexpected music like Neil Young's After the Gold Rush or KD Lang's remake of Hallelujah (Rufus Wainwright does a great rendition too from the Shrek Soundtrack).

Hope this helps!

YC

Friday, November 11, 2005

Happy Hip Hoppin' Yoga!!

On Sunday the 13th, I'll be subbing in for the esteemed Karri Jinkins, who usually teaches the Sunday morning Happy Hip Hoppin' Yoga class at Yoga Sutra. It's a 90 minute intermediate/advanced practice, where happy, uplifting and highly eclectic music is used as an integral part of the moving meditation.

Those who have taken my vinyasa classes will know that music is very important in my teaching, and I try to carefully time my mixes so that the right tempo and feel is surrounding the right portion of class (e.g., soft, downtempo, emotionally releasing music for post-backbending spine-neutralizing forward bends). So I am psyched to teach this class on Sunday.

The time is 11:00 a.m. until 12:30, and I expect that it will be a lot of fun (last Saturday's morning class was - it seems to be a good crowd on the weekend mornings...). Hope to see some of you there!!

YC

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I guess....

that this blogging thing gets kind of boring after a while. I mean, what can I say about my practice? I do it almost every day. I go to the mat, whether I want to or not. I practice poses that sometimes excite me and sometimes bore me. I teach a handful of classes each week. Each one may be different from the next, but essentially, it's always the same teaching, right? I have my two amazing kiddies, but how much is there to say each and every day? The Husband remains a royal pain, but a good guy (more or less) nevertheless. And then there's Lewis: did he pee on the carpet today, or not?

Nothing new under the sun. When I stir up some controversy, it's always fun. But that gets emotionally exhausting. When I write academically, no one comments. Boring.

And yet free from drama. That's kinda nice too.

Ah, ennui...

YC

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

They said "You have a blue guitar, you do not play things as they are"...

Chapter 1, Verse 2 of the Yoga Sutras: Yogas citta vrtti nirodha. Translation: Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind.

Four Sanskrit words, with all of the meaning of yoga contained therein (they aren't called "Sutras" for nothing; sutra means "thread" - think "suture" - in this case the barest thread of a narrative, completely unadorned by interpretation, which is left entirely to the reader/student).... Yoga is the stilling of mental activity. The next sutra tells us WHY we wish to quiet the chatter running through our minds: Only then do we abide in our "true nature".

Our "true nature" can be viewed as who each of us is underneath all of the layers of experience, knowledge, memories, even dreams that pile upon us as we live our lives. To those who believe in God, our "true nature" can be viewed as the part within us that is Godlike, divine, untouched by the subjective or the relative. Thus, by definition, "our true nature", also known as "the self", is the same in each of us. Underneath all of the layers of experience, knowledge, memories and dreams, each of us is essentially the same.

The poet, Wallace Stevens, often wrote of the transformation of "reality" into "something else" simply by virtue of the mind's perceiving that reality. In "The Man with the Blue Guitar," he wrote:

They said, "You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are."

The man replied, "Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar."

And they said then, "But play, you must,
A tune beyond us, yet ourselves,

A tune upon the blue guitar
Of things exactly as they are."
If somehow we could manage to quiet the guitar, perhaps we could play a tune not "beyond ourselves" but OF ourselves.

One could think of a newborn baby in his first nanosecond of life as the "pure self" of the person he will be (although that would not address the possibility of the experiences, knowledge, memories and dreams of that person's prior lives). Each moment of his life, even before he possesses the power of language, he has experiences. Those experiences create waves of thought in his mind. Those waves of thought color future experiences. The blue guitar is already playing. The latent impressions, assumptions and tendencies that comprise the "blue guitar" are known in yoga philosophy as "samaskaras". Easy to remember, because it sounds so much like "some scars of ours".

The state of "yoga" is the quieting of that blue guitar. It is not the process of creating a "numb" mind or eliminating all of our acquired knowledge. Rather, it is the process of untying ourselves from the blue guitar, of not identifying with our thoughts, our emotions, our experiences, of not confusing those things with "reality", which is a constant. Thoughts, emotions, experiences all are transient. They come and they go and they come again and then there they go....poof. Through the practice of yoga, we can come to break our identification with that which is external, recognizing it as external, entirely outside of our control and entirely separate from the our true nature, the "self".

In thinking about what is "the self" versus what is "the mind" it might be helpful to consider this: When you talk to yourself, who is listening?

YC

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

To an old friend who has recently suffered a loss

I recently happened to hear that an old friend of mine, someone I have not spoken to in a couple of years now, suffered a loss...his father passed away last month. Although we parted not on the best of terms, hearing of my old friend's loss struck a sympathetic chord in me...my father is still alive, thank God, but who knows how long we have with our loved ones?

I would have liked to have extended an expression of sympathy, but I no longer have my friend's contact info, so I figured I would just send it out right from here, into the universe.

Please accept my heartfelt condolences on your loss, and may you find peace in your memories of your father.

YC

Paging "East Side Yogi"?

Yesterday afternoon, I'm walking Lewis the Beagle in Central Park (gotta love living uptown for that little perk), when I hear my name. I turn around, and who does it turn out to be... but...Skelator, the U.S. Skelaton Olympic Team Alternate cum Yoga Studio Manager slash Thug. I said a pleasant "hello", barely registering a negative emotion for the human being (Yoga Chickie must pause here to remind herself of that fact) who sabotaged my ability to teach yoga without taking a subway. "How's the Olympic team," I asked? "Good, just got back from training," he said, pausing for less than a beat before he followed up with:

"Hey, do you know anything about this person, this 'East Side Yogi' person, who is sending me nasty emails about the fact that you're no longer on the New York Yoga schedule?"

Heh?

All I have to say, Skelator, if you are reading this, is....AS IF.

And to you, "East Side Yogi" at whatever dot com, thanks for the support, but.....now...it is time to let it go...I am much happier with my teaching schedule now that it centers on the New York City Public Schools, Yoga Sutra and Yahoo Hot Jobs. Even if it means I had to re-acquaint myself with the subway system I somehow managed to eschew for the past 15 years. And again, I do appreciate the fact that you miss my being on the schedule. I can only imagine that you are someone who decided to purchase a long-term membership (a yearly perhaps! egads!) on the basis of a few classes and a few teachers that you liked, only to be disappointed when all of those classes were dropped, and all of those teachers were replaced with newbie-freshly-minteds who likely are teaching a distilled and fairly upper-east-side-downed version of the yoga you crave...but that's just my imagining of you and your reason for harassing Skelator. Maybe you simply don't like the guy. Hard to imagine why....Anyway...if you're reading this, I want you to know that notwithstanding my desire to let the past stay in the past, you certainly gave me cause for a giggle today. Now take a deep inhale breath and exhale it all away....

YC

Monday, November 07, 2005

And now, the teaching on yoga begins

Instead of delving into an In Touch or People weekly while waiting for Adam at Tae Kwon Do today, I decided to delve into Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. I do this now and then, and like the Torah in the Jewish religion, the Sutras are meant to be read over and over again, in order, and preferably out loud (think chanting). While chanting wasn't an option the Dojo, reading certainly was, and so I lotused my legs, took a deep breath and delved away.

About halfway through the commentary on Chapter 1, Verse 2 (Yoga Chitta Vrtti Nirodha, i.e. Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind), I realized that this "delving" I'm doing is not something that can be done in the typical rush-rush, all or nothing Yoga Chickie fashion...which is to say that the Yoga Sutras just beg to be savored and taken no more than one at a time, maybe two or three at the most (depending on which of the sutras you're reading).

And so, since I seem to be running out of things to say about Mari C (finally! like a relationship with a lover, you know it's good when you don't really have anything to decipher, analyze or pick apart)...I figure that I might as well record my thoughts on the Sutras I'm reading. Hopefully, I can get into the habit of doing this on a regular basis, lest I find myself slipping into BADD mode (Blogger ADD).

So, to begin....

Chapter 1, Verse 1: At-ha Yoganushasanam....And now the teaching on yoga begins.

What has always struck me most about Chapter 1, Verse 1 is the way it is phrased: AND now the teaching on yoga begins. It seems to suggest that we are not starting from the beginning, but from a place in an endless circle. That is the way we are taught to read the Sutras, that is the way yoga is to be taught, and that is the way yoga is to be practiced. And that is the nature of the Eight Limbs....rather than being a liner progression, the eight limbs together comprise a gestalt, each one a puzzle piece in a whole picture.

Although in Ashtanga, we are taught Asana first and before we are taught any of the other eight limbs, in truth, each limb is necessary for each other limb of the yoga tree. Basic pranayama (think: ujayii) is necessary for asana practice. Asana leads to a meditative state when done properly. The Yamas and the Niyamas (the ethical principles and rules for living) provide a roadmap for a calmer, more peaceful life, which makes it easier to get to the mat and to commit to a practice. The three meditative limbs require a certain level of adeptness, they build on all of the other limbs and they enhance our experience of all of the other limbs.

In other (non-Ashtanga) yoga traditions, all eight limbs are taught together. For example, all classes at Om Yoga, from basics through "super advanced" (yes, they do have a "super advanced" class, called "Advanced 2") are supposed to include pranayama and meditation, along with asana. And many Om classes will bring in the Yamas and the Niyamas into the day's theme (for example, "Ahimsa and Satya in Asana Practice, which ends up meaning "how not to harm your body and how not to lie to yourself about your body's abilities vis a vis your asana practice").

Jivamukti also includes pranayama (usually in the form of kappalabhati breathing), as does, dare I say it, Bikram (I am sure there are those who will object to Jivamukti and Bikram being uttered in the same sentence, but whatever, it's just words). Bikram calls itself a "moving meditation", and many Jivamukti classes end with a formal meditation (Inhale "Let", Exhale "Go"). Jivamukti includes teachings of Ahimsa ("Cats are people too") and Tapas (heat), as I recall from the days that I used to practice there all the time, if not most of the other Yamas and Niyamas.

And thus, out of the barest thread of one sutra, "At-ha Yoganushasanam", is woven what can only be a very incomplete tapestry. As always, your thoughts are welcome additions...

YC

Practicing with a cold

I saw on Jody's blog that David Swenson apparently practices Sun Salutations with a cold. The thing I am wondering...how does one breathe through their nose when the nose is all stuffed up? Any advice out there for those practicing with colds or allergies?

YC

No More Procrastination

One of the things I really enjoy about Sir is that he sets limits with me. If I get started late, there's no exceptions. The adjustments stop at 10:30, and that's that. At that point, I am on my own. No exceptions.

Today, I got to the shala on time, but I was tired and my stomach was growling, and the Chai smelled sooooo good, so I helped myself to a half a cup. Then I ran into Kim, and we chatted about teaching and about her philosophy studies. And then Sir appeared, smiling but slightly stern (not The Stern One). Without a word, it was obvious what was being said. It was time to start my practice. And so I did. Slowly, my mind full of my breath. Damn, do I love my slow Sun Salutations!!!

I got to Mari C RIGHT before 10:30, but since Sir was talking to what seemed to be a new student, I just did it myself on the first side. For the second side, Sir came over and gave my spine a good, slow twist, and then he had me do the first side again so that he could give me the same adjustment on that side. As we finished up, he clarified that he just wanted to make sure that I got in my whole practice, although he knows that I was needing to make my transition between life outside and practicing in the shala.

"Actually, I really needed the push...I was pretty much just procrastinating," I admitted.

"So tomorrow, no sympathy," he laughed.

I am really enjoying Shala X these days...

YC

P.S. Ran into He's Dead Jim (Dr. Claudette) at Yoga Sutra the other day! We instantly recognized each other. It was such a joy to meet her!! Claudette ran the marathon yesterday...let's hope she had a wonderful run!!!!

Mari C

Mari C is happening every day now, reliably, even when I am feeling tight and tired, like today. I never thought it would happen. But it did. It is. Practice and all is coming.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Interview with TKV Desikachar

Yesteray I got an email from my friend and fellow yoga teacher, Kim, who also practices at Shala X. In addition to teaching and practicing yoga, Kim is studying for her PhD in Philosopy, and it just so happens that she is taking a class on Hinduism this semester and is currently writing a paper on how yoga and Hinduism fit together. When Kim saw my recent post on yoga and religion, she emailed me a link to an article posted on E-Sutra, in which Leslie Kaminoff interviews TKV Desikachar, and in the course of which some of these yoga/religion issues come up.

I have to admit, I have not yet read the entire article, so I will be reading it right along with you...hope it sheds some light...

YC

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Questions that are on my mind...

  1. In order to practice yoga, does one have to believe in God (or, at the very least, some sort of "higher power" that is in some way responsible for the fact of our existence)
  2. If one does not believe in some sort of higher power, such as "God", then how does one read and apply Patanjali's Yoga Sutras?
  3. If one DOES believe in "God", then where does religion fit into Yoga?
  4. If one's religion is "monotheistic" (for example, Judaism), then where does worshipping idols of Hindu Gods fit in?
  5. Is the worship of Hindu Gods the practice of religion?
  6. Can one practice more than one religion?
I have NO idea what the answers are to any of these questions. I would imagine that some might touch a nerve amongst some people reading this, and I will say right up front that no offense is intended. I am simply looking for enlightenment.

Enlighten me...

YC

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Who amongst us hasn't faked it?

...............a yoga practice, that is.............

Come on...seriously...who here has never "faked" their yoga practice? You know what I'm talking about...you're "doing the postures", but you might as well be doing calisthenics. Up, down, up down, the breath is there, but it really has nothing whatsoever to do with the postures. You've got prana, of course, but it's doing nothing more than keeping you alive and supporting your gymnastics. Even if you can somehow manage to tie some of your inhales to upward lifting movements and exhales to forward bending and twisting, it's all quite mechanical. In essence, you're faking your yoga. You might even be doing a really good job of making it look like yoga. But your body knows the difference.

And so might your teacher.

I have seen it in some of my students...make that many of my students...signs of "faking it" are seen in their jumping ahead to what they think I'm going to call out next, in their gasping their inhales through their mouths and exhaling through o-shaped lips (it's a LOT more common than you think, no matter how much the idea of "in and out through the nose" is ingrained in all of us), in chatturangas that slide into urdvha mukha svanasanas just a hair too quickly given the pace of the rest of the vinyasa....

But I never realized that my teacher could see it in me. I mentioned in a recent post that Sir and I had had a little talk about my practice. Whereas I have been feeling proud of how well-executed my asanas and my vinyasas are becoming ever since I landed on "Go back to Mari C, do not pass GO, do not collect $200", it turns out that Sir has been onto me for a while now...Yoga Chickie's been fakin' it. He could hear it in my breath, he could see it in my speed.

And here I was thinking that it's a GOOD thing to get the practice done quickly. I guess I started thinking that because in the summer, when I was doing quite a bit of procrastinating (due to my dread of all of the Marichi's, which, happily, I no longer experience), I decided to intentionally move myself through my practice more quickly. And, as Yoga Chickie has a tendency to do, I went a bit overboard.

Non-procrastination soon evolved into speed-yoga. Speed-yoga soon evolved into arriving at Shala X with just EXACTLY enough time to get my entire practice "done"...and not a second more...which ultimately DEvolved into frustrating battles with the FDR Drive and alternate side of the street parking. Speed-yoga became non-yoga...Yoga Chickie began faking it.

And we all know that once you begin faking it, it's hard to stop. You create these expectations (within yourself), and you feel the need to keep following through. But if you're very lucky, someone calls you on it. And if you're even luckier, the person who calls you on it has a way of doing so that doesn't threaten you and allows you to integrate this notion - this notion that you haven't been fooling anyone, including yourself -in your own time and in your own way.

In the days following my tet-a-tet with Sir, I didn't come to practice. It wasn't that I was avoiding Sir or Shala X, it's just that things never seemed to work out so that I could get down there. But I know in my heart of hearts that I probably COULD have gotten down there if I really really wanted to. Something was stopping me. I needed some space. Some distance. I needed to practice on my own, focus on my breath, remember what it was like to actually practice yoga, rather than just looking like I was practicing yoga.

And when I finally came back, the change was apparent, first and foremost to me. But Sir has noticed as well, which, of course, makes me feel happy. Today, in fact, he was giving me an assist in Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana, and he commented that my practice is completely different now. Well, sure, because it's actually yoga now. I was actually BREATHING in UHP, rather than simply counting theoretical breaths and anxiously waiting for it to be over.

It's like a second honeymoon for me and Ashtanga. Now, if I can get to the Shala earlier (still tweaking the public transport thing...so embarassing to be a New Yorker for 15 years and still not know the ins and outs of the MTA), I can actually get my entire practice in before all of the teachers leave...

(and yes, I bound in Mari C today, and it felt GOOD).

YC

Tweaked my code

for easier reading. Blogger is a pain in the butt in that respect - no style sheets, no flexibility to create three columns. But after a few months, I have learned to work a bit with the HTML coding, and hopefully the result is larger print, a wider view and all in all an easier read...enjoy!

Now, could someone teach me to make my links on the sidebar into bullet points?

YC

First day of using public transport to get to Shala X...

Wish me luck...off I go...

It worked great to get me to and from my class at Yahoo Hot Jobs (via Jiva Wellness) yesterday evening...so, let's see what it does for me this morning...come on NYC Transit Subway System...I am counting on you...

YC

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

I got FLICKR!!!

Courtesy of the moonday, Yoga Chickie's photos are now up and running! See sidebar if interested....

YC

How do I love thee moonday?

Shall I count the ways? Yesterday, after practice, there was some discussion in the anteroom about how we feel about moondays. My party line was that moondays always seem to come at the wrong time for me - just when I am getting into a groove with my schedule, there's that moonday, interrupting my flow. But when woke up this morning and saw the sunlight streaming in and thought about the nice, warm , sunny day stretching before me, I realized how nice it is to have one day, every two weeks, where the shala is closed....Thus, even though I am not practicing, I'm not "skipping" a practice....how nice it is to not to be rushing off somewhere, to simply walk around the neigborhood without any particular destination, without anywhere I have to be anytime soon.

So, after dropping the boys off at school, I took Lewis on a nice long walk, first stopping for a large French Vanilla coffee at Rohrs. Rohrs is such a cool place...it is the only coffee cafe that I know of that shares its space with an insurance agency. Weird, I know. But the weirdness gives it a great vibe, as do its chess boards, quirky antiques and selection of Putumayo world music.

Outside of Rohrs, I ran into "Beth's Husband", who gave me some great advice about my wireless connection (or rather "re-gave" me that advice for the second time...I am pretty hopeless with this stuff, unfortunately, so I thank you, Beth's Husband, for your patience). As I turned the corner onto First Avenue, I ran into Caitlin, one of the Dog Moms whom I have gotten to know since I became one myself, outside of Starbucks. Caitlin went inside to get some latte (or whatever they call it at Starbucks...not being a Starbucks fan, I wouldn't know), while I watched Lady and Lewis bark greetings at one another. Meanwhile, Gary, a guy I knew from my old building, which is right across the street from Starbucks, walked into the little plaza...possibly for the last time, since he is moving to the West Village...today! I thought that was quite a fortuitous coincidence, since Gary happens to be a handsome guy in his mid-forties, which is EXACTLY the type of guy my sister-in-law prefers. Business cards were exchanged, and perhaps Jill and Gary will end up meeting...and hitting it off...a last chance type thing because after today, I would never run into Gary because I am NEVER in the WEST Village...and it would all be because of a moonday....

Next stop, the new manicure place right down the block from Starbucks...I wasn't planning on getting a manicure, and in fact, I had taken to biting my nails and picking my cuticles (ICK!!!!) pretty badly in the past few months (a lifelong habit that I thought I had broken once and for all, since the summer of 2004), but I looked down at my hands and noticed that some of my nails were actually NOT bitten to the quick. Could it be time to get started on a nice-hands-campaign? Yes, I think it could. So, I walked in and lo and behold, there was Lisa, my favorite mani-pedi-massage-wax lady from Mimi nails, where I used to get all of that stuff done when I used to have time (i.e., before Ashtanga) and when I used to have a nanny...

"Is it okay if my dog sits here while I get a manicure?"

Affirmative. I am now the proud owner of ten manicured fingers. Let's hope I can keep them out of my mouth once and for all.

Next stop, Calling All Pets, for some Oatmeal Shampoo (who seems to need a bath about every eight days...I had no idea a dog could have such smelly feet) and a nice bag of doggie treats for Lewis.

Finally, home, where I could take a leisurely stab at writing something COHERENT (I think) on my blog for a change....

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

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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