Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Practiced at home, watched The 40 Year Old Virgin...

bent, breathed, laughed, sang,
Mari D is so my thang,
cuddled with my warm, delicious hound,
picked up freckle-face from three blocks uptown,
drank vanilla soy chai from a lovely china cup,
noticed my chapped lips are finally healing up,
less than four weeks left of winter they say,
This is turning out to be a fine day.


Yogi Tea Black Chai

Well, a new chai tea discovery, and this may be even better than the Bigelow Vanilla Chai...it's Yogi Tea Black Chai, and when you empty two bags of it into a cup of non-fat vanilla soy milk, it is YUMMY!!!!! Spicy and warm and sweet and only 80 calories (the vanilla soy adds the calories). I tried Tazo's chai yesterday afternoon at a local coffee bar, at Susan's suggestion. But, Susan, I have to say, it wasn't my fave. Have you tried the Yogi Tea version? It is absolutely delish!!


Help! I'm tired and I can't get up!

It's been two days so far of absolute a-motivational exhaustion. This is the girl who skiied for seven days straight, went out to dinner three times and still managed to practice at least some yoga every day? Yesterday was a moonday, fine. But today? What's my excuse for dropping the kids off at school, dragging myself home and falling into a deep sleep on the sofa for three hours instead of going to practice?

Up and attem. I gotta get up and do something. MUST practice. MUST practice. MUST practice.


Monday, February 27, 2006

The truth is out there

There are three sides to every story, and only one is the truth. For better or for worse, we can never really tell the truth, even if we try. We never really even see the truth. Or rarely can we. I suppose that those rare glimpses of truth can be viewed as moments of enlightenment, if you are so inclined to believe that enlightenment can come in glimpses (I happen to be one who is so inclined). But then I wonder if we can ever really know we are experiencing one of those rare moments of enlightenment. Is becoming conscious of our consciousness akin to looking down while walking a tightrope?

But this thought I was having, it didn't start out as a thought about enlightenment at all. It started out as a thought about the Husband. I was re-reading yesterday's blog entry, where I talk about his issues with my practicing ashtanga downtown, and it occurred to me that my story is not the only story. Of course, since this is my blog, my story is pretty much all you get. You won't get the Husband's, unless I tell it, in which case, it still is my story. But to be fair, I ought to say that I am pretty lucky that I can even go to the places that I go and do the things that I do without worrying about how I am going to pay my rent or afford a visit to the doctor.

When the Husband and I were dating, we would sometimes have philosophical debates about women in the workplace. I was always the one insisting that women can have it all, that having children changes nothing, that only lazy and weak women stop working once they become mothers. These were my more argumentative days. My young ideals were fairly rigid and very unemotional, despite my belief that they were very liberal and highly emotional. Or perhaps, it is just that they were, in fact, liberal and emotional, for me as I was then: a young, highly educated, highly ambitious woman in a still-male-dominated workforce, a woman who was a long time from being anywhere near ready to have children.

Yet another instance of the truth being out there, but being utterly beyond anyone's grasp. There was a time for me when the "truth" was something different than it is for me now. As it stands for now, the truth is colored by my love for my children, my fears regarding health (yes, there, I said it), my compulsion to stay healthy and balanced (yoga) and my fiscal ability to steer clear of an office job (or any job, really), which is really a function of having picked the right guy and being lucky to have had him pick me. I am talking about the Husband.

Yeah, he busts my chops about how time-consuming my yoga practice is. But if he were writing on this blog (and for all you know, he is), he would say that it's not about the yoga at all. He would say that it's about expectations, namely his. Namely his, which are based on my expectations, as transmitted to him. Back in May, when I first set out to practice at a shala, I told the Husband that this was my plan for the summer. It never occurred to me that it would continue. And continue. And as a result, he thought that come the fall, I would still be teaching at New York Yoga, and I would be practicing there, for free. Things changed, but I never really discussed it with him, and if he were writing this blog, he would probably be saying that it's not that he cares about the money or the time, but rather the fact that I didn't discuss my plans with him.

There is a part of me, a big part, that would never think to discuss such things with anyone. This big part of me, this forever single career girl, this non-mom, she would simply do what she wanted when she wanted and not have to discuss it with anyone. And she would be unable to even imagine that anyone would be upset about it. To be honest, even with all this rambling thought, I still find it hard to understand why the Husband would care about my discussing my plans with him. But it's how he feels. And that makes it valid. If not exactly "true", it is at least valid.


It is true that one thing I I like about "chai"

is that it sounds like "chai" (or "khai"), you know, the Hebrew word for the number "18", which is very good luck and auspicious and all that, in the Jewish religion.

But one thing I don't like about chai is all the calories from the milk and honey. So, imagine my total psyched-ness when I discovered Bigelow's Vanilla Chai Tea, which tastes and smells exactly like the deliciously sweet and creamy concoction they used to make at Shala X last summer (what happened to that anyway???) but which has nothing but tea and spices in it! YUM. And I mean seriously. YUM.

I discovered the stuff at the Salt Lake City airport hotel we stayed at, of all places - I think it was a Marriot, but it was so non-descript that I can't even remember, although they were thoughtful enough to have tea and biscotti out in the lobby when we arrived lin the middle of the night from NYC. Parched, and with no Snapple and no Hazlenut coffee to drink, I reluctantly picked up a bag of the Vanilla Chai, added hot water and....whoa. Immediate transportation back to Shala X, circa June 2005. And it tasted every bit as good as it smelled. I tucked a couple of bags into my pockets and enjoyed my Vanilla Chai two more times in Utah before running out.

Then began my quest for good chai. I was hooked. Unfortunately, all there was was "Oregon Chai", which basically sucks and requires equal parts chai and milk to taste like anything other than sickly sweet artificial cinnamon. When I came home, one of the first things I did was order a case of my new addiction. The Yoga Chickie Snapple Era (10 long years!) may be coming to a close....


Old stockbrokers never die...

They just play Online Poker. The Husband (who has since come around, kind of, at least momentarily, on the whole "downtown yoga thing", as he calls it) and I are proud of our friend, Johnny Bax, and not just a little envious that he can make big bucks (and support his family of five) playing games on the internet.

Go Bax!


Sunday, February 26, 2006

First Day Back at Shala X

So nice to be back!!! And boy was it crowded today. I got a spot in the last row and then I kept moving up, row by row. It reminded me of being a tile in one of those sliding tile puzzles (like the one at left).

I was suprised to find that I was the first one up in the Yoga Chickie household today (I have to admit, Brian would have been, had he not been on a sleepover at his best friend's place). I immediately climbed into a steaming hot bathtub, heated up the muscles and joints, got dressed, walked Lewis and drove downtown. Still ended up getting there at 9:25, which was later than I intended, but early enough to get plenty of adjustments and assists (Uttitha Parsva Konasana, Prasarita Pado C, Tirianga Mukha Pada Paschimo, all of the Mari's).

As I suspected, I wasn't as bendy here in NYC as I was in Utah. However, Jose gave me an amazing door-opening, code-cracking tip regarding Mari D: elbow to the outside of the knee, other hand to the floor and TWIST FIRST. THEN reach around and bind. Voila. Mari D.

It seems so obvious now. Twist first, bind later.

Many backbends today. Three sets of three.

I can't write any more right now because I am actually mid-fight with the Husband. He is agitated that I am going downtown for yoga (too time consuming?) and spending $200 a month on yoga (instead of $125 for a membership at Sports Club/LA). This really irks me because what else should I spend my time doing? Lunching with the ladies? And I SAW what goes on at the Sports Club/LA in their yoga program. It's basically glorified calisthenics. Even the Ashtanga class.

The Husband would rather that I run on the treadmill and pump iron and take the occasional yoga class. Because he doesn't get yoga. His loss.

Seems to me that I should be able to practice yoga where I want to, and $200 isn't all that much to spend for our family.

Whatever. Equanimity. Calm. Peace.


Saturday, February 25, 2006

Sheryl Crow joins the ranks

It was announced yesterday that Sheryl Crow recently underwent breast cancer surgery and will be cancelling upcoming tour dates while she undergoes radiation treatment. I am not sure why there seems to be an emphasis on the "minimally invasive" nature of her surgery (the type of surgery one has to remove a breast tumor does not really indicate much about the tumor, itself; what is important is whether the TUMOR is invasive, not the surgery). Nor do I understand why there seems to be an emphasis on the "precaution"-ary nature of her radiation treatment (all chemotherapy for non-metastatic cancer is precautionary). But I am glad that, at the very least, Crow went public with her battle.

Crow has been a breast cancer activist in the past (performing a benefit concert, for example, with a pre-cancer-diagnosis Melissa Etheridge), and a cancer activist, in general (her ex's name is almost synonymous with cancer activism). But I can't say there's any irony in her diagnosis at age 44. Unfortunately, breast cancer is THAT common.


Family resemblance

Brian and Mommy, originally uploaded by Yoga Chickie.

No question who his mama is...


The Definitive 2006 Yoga Chickie Family Ski Photo (The Canyons)

We are home now.

Took the redeye from Salt Lake City, arrived at 5:45 this morning.

Today, I rest.


Friday, February 24, 2006

Park City Rocks!

Another boring post to bore ya'all.

Skiied the Park City Mountain today, and I have to say, Adam and I really rocked it out, especially on the Thaynes run (see photo at left). Bumps, bumps and more bumps. Black diamond. Brian didn't have the best day. He was a bit mentally psyched out. It would be too boring to compare skiing to yoga, the way you can psych yourself out of a good run or a solid pose. So I will skip that.

Came back to the hotel, did 5 A's and 5 B's, half of standing, Mari C and Mari D, backbends and a modified closing sequence. Blah blah blah. Yes, this is very boring. Maybe it's the altitude?

I am looking forward to coming home. I am sad about Sasha Cohen, even though I thought she had some very peculiar affectations in her short program, as well as in the moments before she went out on the ice. I didn't see her long program tonight, but the babysitter told me that Sasha fell twice. I wasn't surprised, but I feel a bit deflated for her.

Looking forward to being in my own bed again, to seeing Lewis the Bagle, to relieving him of his anxiety that we are never coming home (I hear he is quite depressed this week...).

Must go pack.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Me Write Book

It Bigfoot Memoir.

I found this book in a little bookstore in Park City. It had me laughing hysterically. The introduction is by The Loch Ness Monster. Both Nessie and Bigfoot have fallen on hard times, apparently, what with MTV and the internet and so are trying their hands at memoir-ing. Perhaps Oprah will pick this one up for her Book Club?

As BF say, no do what I no do.

Speaking of what I no do, I no ski The Canyons today. Skied Deer Valley with E, as I mentioned yesterday ( E is P's wife. P and the Husband went to college together, and E and P started dating around the same time I started dating the Husband). It's nice to see longtime friends who you don't get to see all the time. It's even nicer when you find that you share some of the same passions. Five sons between the two families, and we all love skiing. P and the Husband skiied around The Canyons with the boys, and E and I skiied at Deer Valley. Pics to be uploaded tomorrow.

Deer Valley is quite chi chi. Lots of fancy ski outfits (boy did I feel like a schlep in my 15-year-old-boy-style baggies). Lots of private instructors going around with children. Lots of incredibly lush facilities. For lunch, I enjoyed seaweed salad instead of the usual chili and pizza. Everywhere you wanted to go, there was a lift for it, unlike most mountains I've skiied, where you have to do a lot of planning and mapping and traversing to get to wherever it is you want to go. Every lift leads to beginner terrain as well as the harder stuff. It is truly a place to go when you don't want to have to think too much (and you don't mind paying seventy five bucks for a lift ticket and twenty bucks for lunch...sheesh!).

Most importantly, the snow was incredibly soft (that has nothing to do with the resort and everything to do with the weather, which was sunshiney and warm-ish), we found lots of great runs, and the vistas were breathtaking.

Tomorrow: Park City Mountain Resort.


(p.s. no formal practice today, although after skiing and taking a nice hot bath, I did all of the seated poses up through Mari A. Hopefully, I'll squeeze in a practice tomorrow morning before breakfast.....hopefully....I am TIRED. This is a tiring vacation....)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A petty gripe

Silly, silly woman...why would you wear all white to go skiing?


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Snowbird, midmountain...

Snowbird, midmountain..., originally uploaded by Yoga Chickie.

I wish I could have done Snowbird justice with my camera. This was the best I could do. It is unbelievably breathtaking....

Hi Ya'all

Still skiing. Today we got up really early and took the 45 minute drive to Snowbirdin Little Cottonwood Canyons, Utah. Somehow I managed to squeeze in a full set (five and five) of Sun Salutations and the final three seated postures before the alarm even went off at 6:50 a.m. I felt that it helped my skiing immensely. I felt comfortable, loose and relaxed all day. In fact, I managed to follow The Husband onto some pretty steep and bumpy double diamonds. I was just in the zone and I went with it.

Snowbird is without a doubt my favorite ski mountain. It is totally low key. There is no night life at all, and who cares, really? I mean, every time we get ourselves out for dinner, it's like the hugest effort. Like last night, we went to Wasatch Brew Pub with the kids. We waited an hour for a table, and since it's Utah, my kids couldn't come into the bar, and in any event, the bar only sold beer. If you want a cocktail, you have to either visit a "private club" or be sitting down and ordering dinner. Thus, there is no such thing as killing the hour wait for a table with a nice cocktail. We did enjoy a nice glass of water though.

Our waiter at Wasatch recognized our accents immediately. He asked us what part of New York we were from (I was horrified...I don't think I have an accent!!). We said, "Manhattan", and he said, "What part?" What part? Um, "Upper East Side," I said, thinking that he would have no idea what I was talking about. Turned out that he spent a whole bunch of years living in the West Village. He grew to hate it and headed west. And west. And he ended up in Utah and stayed.

Tonight we finished the dinner we started at Wasatch. The portions there were astonishing. Before dinner, I hot-tubbed it a bit and did all of my seated postures, backbends and finishing poses. Yes, criminal, I know, to split it up that way, but it feels sooooo good to stretch like that after skiing. And I am shockingly flexible out here. Perhaps it's something in the air. Or perhaps it's that I am more relaxed, being away from home.

Tomorrow, we're doing a spouse swap, sort of, with some friends from home. They're staying at Deer Valley, which is another of the big three resorts here in Park City. The husband, P, wants to check out the Canyons, but the wife, E, needs to stay back at Deer Valley because their youngest kid is in ski school there. So, P and his older boys (ages 10 and 12, if I am remembering correctly) are coming to ski with the Husband at the Canyons, and they're bringing with them some guy they hired to take them all over the mountain. Nice, right? My kids will remain in Ski School at The Canyons. I'm comfortable with that since The Husband will be on hand at the mountain (as long as the mountain guide doesn't take them into some insane back country territory, which The Canyons "neither encourages nor discourages". Hmmm. Meanwhile, I will be going to Deer Valley to ski with E. We've all known each other since we were in our early twenties. It's kind of cozy and nice.

Later on, we'll be heading over to Zoom, which is part of the Robert Redford Sundance empire. This time, without the kids.

Damn, this is boring. I am just too tired to write anything that is even remotely (a) witty, (b) intellectual, (c) philosophical, or (d) analytical. And I missed Lost tonight. I just realized.

Oh, and Susan, if you're reading this...I have not TOUCHED a Snapple all week. But I have had MUCH chai. Not Chai Latte. REAL chai. YUM!!!


Monday, February 20, 2006

Heading up high

Heading up high, originally uploaded by Yoga Chickie.

Isn't this pretty?

Sunday, February 19, 2006


I didn’t blog yesterday because there wasn’t much to blog about. It was a typical first day on the slopes, which means that you haven’t yet figured out how best to configure your ski boots so that they feel just right, you have no idea how to read the trail map, and you haven’t got your ski legs yet. It usually takes me the entire first day to really feel those ski legs. And I inevitably walk off the slopes wondering if this is going to be the very first ski vacation where I just totally suck.

Add to that, my camera battery went dead before I could even take my first photo on the mountain. So, I couldn’t even offer up any pics. Turns out that the batteries freeze in cold weather. A local told me that on a chairlift today when he saw me fiddling with my camera. He even gave me a little hand-warmer to stick in my pocket to keep my camera warm.

That’s just the way people are around here. It’s a really nice crowd. Here’s another example: some guy from Texas who works for Cisco just spent the past 20 minutes trying to help me hook into the wireless service here in the lobby (it’s not available in my room for some reason). He and his girlfriend and a buddy of his were hanging around the fireplace waiting for their taxi to downtown Park City, sipping some Jack Daniel’s and Coke (the girlfriend was sipping JD and Diet), when I came downstairs with my laptop in hand. They saw me struggling and jumped in to help. In the end, I had to connect via Ethernet cord. So here I sit, mainlining my blog addiction.

As for today, things turned around quite nicely. Tthere was a huge blizzard last night here in Park City. We must have gotten two feet of snow overnight, and we woke up this morning to blue skies and soft powder. And off we went. I found my legs. And I even got my mogul on, at least a little bit.

I have to say that Ashtanga really helps with the skiing. It’s really important to square your torso down the mountain even as you turn your lower body to carve your turns. If you have a nice twisty spine, it definitely helps. It also helps to have a nice open chest so that you don’t hunch forward and throw off your balance when things get steep. It’s also nice to be able to squat down really really low in order to pick up speed when you’re going over flats.

But that’s just the physical stuff. There’s the mental stuff too. Being willing to ski within your ability. Not needing to feed the ego by tackling terrain you’re not really ready for. Because, really...why? What is the benefit of that? It’s just like asana practice - not letting the ego drive you to rush into poses you’re not really ready for. Also, as with asana practice, there is the realization and the acceptance that the body is different each day. Even each hour. You can really fly down a trail in the morning, and in the afternoon, the same trail is a struggle. You can feel stiff one day. The next day, you find you’re in the zone. You have to regard it with equanimity. Or else you find yourself suffering.

I did manage to practice today. I did my entire practice after we came in from skiing. It was a bit of a struggle to focus since Brian was with me in the Fitness Center, and he was trying to use the treadmill and, quite frankly, freaking me out. It looked like he was going to go flying off the back, like Fred Flintstone. Then he was trying to use the weight machines. You can imagine. Somehow, I managed. But it wasn’t my most focused practice. On the other hand, Mari D was sweet.

So, the crack of dawn does not seem necessary as there appears to be some window of time after skiing in which to practice. On the other hand, I don’t know if the family is going to tolerate my practice every single day this week. We shall see….


Friday, February 17, 2006


Tabagauche, originally uploaded by Yoga Chickie.

We drove out to Park City today, from the Salt Lake City valley, where the Wasatch Mountains are visible, incredibly enough, on all sides. Everything was blanketed in snow, which is not always the case in the valley, but there‘s been a lot of precipitation lately. As we got closer to Park City, the road began to wind up and through the mountains, passing by the Utah Olympic Park, which was the site of the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, some of which took place here at The Canyons (ski jumping, bobsled, luge and, my all-time favorite, skeleton).

Having spent time at some of this country’s more low-key ski locales (I have never set foot in Vail), as we approached the entrance of The Canyons, I was taken aback by its sheer “resort-ishnes“, with its long, winding, picturesque drive up to the "lodge" where we're staying here. And by lodge, I mean "giant hotel". I am not used to this sort of place on ski vacations. But The Canyons is less than 10 years old, so it’s pretty glitzy as far as ski resorts go. And by “glitzy”, I mean that there’s maid service (unheard of anywhere else I have ever stayed while skiing), and it’s smack in the middle of a pretty little village with a smattering of cute little stores, a “Java Jane’s” and a couple of restaurants and sundries stores.

On the downside, when we got to our room, it didn’t take long for it to sink in that there were no drawers and no closets! It didn’t sink in immediately because the room, aside from the storage problem, is quite nice, with a breathtaking view of the mountain, which is so close, you feel like you can shout out to the people skiing on it. I guess most people are okay with living out of their suitcases, all other things being equal, but I have to be honest: it would be hard for me to regard that with equanimity. On the upside, a quick call to the concierge produced a five-foot tall pine chest of drawers. I can work with that.

We spent most of the day walking around the little village, where the theme seems to be Native American art, and specifically, what they refer to as “Petroglyphs”. All around The Canyons, you see these little petroglyphs, each representing one of the four elements of Earth, Wind, Fire and Water. They look like a cross between astrological signs and cave drawings. And then there is “Tabagauche”, a gigantic statue in the center of the village (pictured above), which holds a burning torch that lights up the village at night. “Tabaguache” is named from an Ute word meaning “place where the heart stays warm through the seasons” and it is intended to be a symbol of renewal, reaffirmation and the promise of uniting family and friends. It’s actually very powerful.

The rest of the day was spent…you guessed it: practicing. Well, I mean, I practiced. The Husband and the boys were with me in the Fitness Center, but they weren’t practicing. I’m not sure what they were doing exactly, despite that they were right there with me. And I’m not quite sure how I managed to fit in an entire practice either, and an outstanding one at that. I was pleasantly surprised.

Maybe it was the view of the mountains out the windows. Maybe it was how toasty warm the room was. Maybe it was just a fluke. But here is the really big news: I honestly and truly bound Mari D, by myself, first try, both sides, by the hands, not just the fingers (it would have been nice if I could have bound by the wrist, but it’s a tall order for me to hold onto my wrist even in the easiest of poses, since my hands are small compared with the size of my wrists. I think I’ve mentioned that here before. You know what they say about girls with big wrists, right?………Big watch bands.) I think what helped was that as I got into it, I sort of channeled Christopher H., who I couldn’t help but watch a little bit during his sister’s led half primary class. He reached back and held his palm open for what seemed like quite a long time before reaching back with his other arm to take the bind. I did the same, and when I reached back, it was like, “Oh! There’s my hand!”

Tomorrow is our first day on the mountain. No practice, as it is Saturday. Sort of dreading getting up at the crack of dawn on Sunday. Perhaps I can practice in the late afternoon? Somehow, I think not. I need to look at this as an exciting challenge. Early morning practice. Something so many people do as a matter of course. So then why not me?


Quick break from photoblogging

to address my thoughts about the most recent episode of Lost. In said episode, the French woman, Danielle, brings Sayid to a man she has captured. The man had been wandering around on Lostaway Island, and Danielle believes him to be an "Other". In Lostaway lingo, an "Other" is one of a group of evil, heartless people who live on Lostaway Island and have been known to kidnap Lostaways, especially those who they believe to be "special".

It is pointed out in this episode that (colloquial usage of the term aside), anyone and everyone can be an "other". It just depends upon your perspective. And so, we get to see how even the amiable and seemingly trustworthy Hurley manages to maintain his huge girth: he steals and hordes food. After seeing that, I couldn't help but realize that it doesn't matter if you're one of the original forty-something from the front of the plane or a Tailie; it doesn't matter if you were shipwrecked 16 years earlier. On the island, it truly is every man/woman for himself. Everyone is an other.

The notion is reinforced by Sawyer's seemingly sadistically crushing a tree frog in his bare hands. To Sawyer, the frog is a disrespectful, possibly dangerou enemy. To anyone else, it's a cruelly tortured tree frog. To Sawyer, it is an "other". All of this sets the scene for Sayid's interrogation of the man Danielle captured. The interrogation take the form of a brutal beating. And after it is over, Sayid tells Charlie, basically, "You know how I know he is an Other? Because I felt no guilt in beating the shit out of him."

You might call it the tail wagging the dog. You might call it rationalization. Or you could view it as what happens when you get confused between the Self and the Non-Self. Sayid believed that his feelings about his actions pointed to objective truth, confusing the actions of his mind (his vrittis) with reality.

I am interested to see where Lost goes with this.

And now, I am off to see what is taking the Husband so long to come back with coffee!


Photoblogging begins

Mr. and Mrs. Yoga Chickie, originally uploaded by Yoga Chickie.

Here is the Husband and me, checking in at JFK. We are now in Salt Lake City. We'll drive to Park City in the a.m. They got around a foot of snow in the past few days in Salt Lake City. That means that the mountains are probably totally dumped on!

Practice related: ended up practicing for like three hours today - had a blast at Yoga Sutra with David K. (him practicing third, me practicing half primary, and mainly watching him practice third) and then took Erika's led class with CH and the Horse Trainer. Lots of good stuff. Tomorrow, I would like to get a practice in in the afternoon, since we won't be skiing at all, just getting our equipment and getting used to the altitude.

Teaching relate: a new job dropped into my lap today, or rather into my email inbox - one that I can actually take! Yay. Teaching Seventh Graders at noon on Mondays. The universe does have a way of doing that sort of thing, doesn't it?

Speaking of which, kinahura, Yoga Chickie's Dad's scans were all clear. It's been a year now. Kinahura. Puh puh puh.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Reports of the demise of my teaching career

are not exactly exaggerated.

My cousin from far away emailed me and asked me about my teaching schedule so that she might be able to take one of my classes when she comes into town in April. I told her that I am barely teaching anything these days due to a mixture of burnout and an inability to find classes that fit my very specialized scheduling needs (those needs reflect my burnout - lately, I don't want teaching to interfere with ANYTHING - not my practice, not my time with my family, not my time for relaxing, etc.). But I did tell her that I would be THRILLED to be able to work with her on making some sense out of the David Swenson practice manual she purchased at my suggestion.

It seems that my joy in teaching, of late, comes almost exclusively from teaching my friends, or people who have come to be my friends after having started out as my students. I have gone from loving teaching big crowds (say, 22 people) to really enjoying the one-on-one vibe. I have gone from wanting to be all over the schedule of a place like New York Yoga, to wanting to teach one or two goup classes, period.

The thing that hasn't changed is my desire to practice yoga. Well, actually, that's not exactly true. My desire to practice consistently has increased. Increased, in fact, to the point where I don't want my teaching to interfere with it. Back when I first started teaching, if someone called and asked, "can you sub this class," I'd be all over it. It didn't matter what time it was. It didn't matter if it was the fourth class I was teaching that day, leaving me with neither time nor energy to practice, myself. But that has fallen away.

A part of me longs for that hunger to teach. That excitement. But those were the days before I realized how much of a performance teaching a Vinyasa class really is. And much as I love to perform, it is DRAINING to do 90 minutes of improv several times a day.

But another part of me is just accepting the change and seeing what comes next. I feel that it will involve yoga. But I am not exactly sure how.

Meanwhile, I am contemplating how to fit my beloved passion into a family ski trip. It looks like I am going to be waking at the crack of dawn and gettin' jiggy wid it. Wid Asthanga, that is.

So...about that...what exactly is the crack of dawn, anyway? How does one go about waking themselves up and moving about at that hour?

Necessity is the mother of invention, they say....

There I go, answering my own questions...

Time for beddie bye. One more class to teach, one more led class to take, one more appointment with my chiropracter, and off we go, into the clear Jet Blue Sky....


Gone skiing

Today was my last practice at Shala X before flying off to The Canyons in Park City, Utah for the annual family ski vacay. Happily, I got there bright and early, right after the invocation. As always, I used Surya A and B as a place to really surfed my breath. And since I had some extra time, I was able to mine the depths of the "Twisted Sisters": Parivritta Parsvakonasana, Ardha Badha Padma Paschimo, Mari C and Mari D. Oh yeah, and I also worked it in Prasarita Pado C, waiting patiently for Sir to come over and press the hands to the floor. When will they stop popping back up after he lets go, I wonder?

Mari D was brilliant today, even Sir told me it was good. I knew that would be the case after my chiropractic appointment. Big shout out to Dr. Jamie Blau. She rocks.

After practice, I knocked on Sir's door to ask him a coupla things. First, what to do about my yoga practice while I am in Utah.

"Skiing is very demanding," I explained, "So then what do I do about practicing yoga?"

"What you need to do," he began, "is skip the skiing."

I laughed. But I got the point. It is important to keep the practice up. So, here is what he prescribed. As best I can, I should really be doing my full practice (it should really help my skiing anyway, and not just because of the physical, in fact, more for the benefits to the mind and the breath). But if all I have is 15 minutes, then Sun A, Sun B and the Final Three Seated Poses. If I have more time than that, add the shoulder stand sequence. If I have more time than that, add the standing sequence. If I have more time than that, add the Primary Series up to Navasana. No skipping though within those sequences.

We talked briefly about my new resolve to hold Parv Parsvakona for extended periods of time. He said he really likes that pose as well. Did I say I like it? Ha. But I guess in my own way, I must.

I also asked about the speed of my practice. I noted that lately I have seen people come in after me and finish before me. "Have I started to move TOO slowly?" I asked.

"No, you're fine," he told me.

Now those are some of the best words I think I have ever heard at Shala X!

Finally, the question on the minds of many a yogi and yogini here in NYC (well, maybe on the minds of one yogi...you know who I am talking about, friend...): What the hell is going to happen at our shala during the World Tour in March?

Answer: Sir is still going to be teaching! YEA!!! He said he will probably join in the early led class with Guruji and then teach at the second session at Shala X. He suggested that I make my appearance at the Puck, not because of the value to my practice so much, but because of the sangha aspect. And the fun. And then he kind of reversed himself - he noted that practicing in that environment might give me a chance to go deeper in some poses that I might otherwise breeze through in my self-practice, or find things to enjoy about poses that I don't particularly like.

(Yeah, I thought, like Savasana...I am NOT a very good savasan-er, not that that is probably news to anyone reading this. And for the non-yogis reading this, Savasana is Corpse Pose. And it is supposedly VERY important as a way of pulling together all of the benefits of the practice that came before it and of quieting the nervous system before moving on with the rest of the day. But the thing is - I hate it. I hate lying there. I don't mind seated meditation - I quite enjoy it actually....and yet I really don't like Corpse Pose. I guess in my mind, it's kind of like when people say, "I'll sleep when I'm dead." In my case, I'll play dead when I'm dead. Or when I have a few more years of yoga under my belt perhaps).

Sir jokingly (I think) told me that Guruji knows who each of his teachers' students are, so to be on my best behavior! Ha. In that case, I asked Sir if during the led primary, I should stop at Navasana and wait for the finishing poses. He said that in the case of the World Tour, it would be nice to experience the whole Primary practice and to just go for it. If there were a problem, I would get "tapped" by Sharath anyway.

I had no idea they were doing that in Primary! Last year they did it to people in Second Series. This year, there IS no Second Series. And the AYRI site instructs us to stop at the pose we cannot do. So....maybe they are stricting-up.

My, I am on a babble roll today.

FYI, that photo is of me three winters ago in Breckenridge, Colorado. I look HUGE, but I thought it was a nice action photo, so I let go of the vanity and posted it anyway. SUCH a fun mountain for families, with their awesome ski school and their skiing muppets and their mini-tree-ski trails with haunted ski shacks and ski-pirates and such. But toooooooooooooooo cold. And the altitude was tooooooooooooooooo high. Crazy high. One margarita at dinner the first night, and I was up every single hour drinking water. We're not quite as high above sea level in Utah, and besides, a cocktail in Utah is its own unique variation on what we New Yorkers think of as cocktails. It smells like a cocktail. It tastes like a cocktail. But in truth, it's a mere essence of cocktail. Drinking laws and all. It's an interesting place, Utah is.

I am bringing my laptop with me to photoblog while I am away. And to keep me honest about my practice, perhaps?



Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Battle of the Vrittis

Another stiff morning. Another morning of waking up famished. Another Battle of the Vrittis...you know... the raging internal debate of whether or not to practice, which is basically a huge waste of mental energy, since we all know that there is only one acceptable resolution to that debate. Be that as it may, the vrittis did their best to thwart my practice today:

As I walked toward my garage after dropping the kids off at school, the grumpy little vrittis sitting on my left shoulder began to whisper insidiously: "You know, you don't have to practice this morning...you can always practice later…practice late afternoon….stay home and cocoon on the sofa with Lewis…or don‘t even practice at all…you will get plenty of exercise in Utah anyway…so take the day off….come on, you know you wanna….”

But a quieter voice, a single voice, an insistent voice spoke slowly and clearly: “Not practicing is not an option.”

Heeding that voice, off I went. No coffee. No Snapple. No food in my stomach. Unfortunately, lots of traffic on the FDR meant that I was going to be terribly late, however.

“It is getting really really late,” the vrittis taunted, “and you know that getting to the Shala late is embarrassing…you will look like an ass…do you want to look like an ass….nah….go have breakfast instead….…if you get there too late, just go have breakfast….Veselka beckons with kasha, hot coffee and scrambled eggs….mmmmmmm….”

The quiet voice reminded me that Tuesdays is an extended day at Shala X and that if I got there by 10:00, I could have a nice practice, a long practice even…finishing as late as 11:30 as long as I got a parking space on the correct side of the street (alternate side of the street parking…).

“Veselka…coffeee…kasha…a celebrity gossip rag….”


And somehow I found a parking spot on the side of the street where alternate side of the street parking is not in effect today. And I was at Shala X by 9:55 a.m. But all was not quiet with the vrittis, which remained intent on getting me to stop practicing after only five Surya Namaskar A’s. Then we went through the whole rigamarole after only three Surya Namaskar B’s.

And then they finally shut up.

It was actually kind of fun at Shala X today. There was a new student, and it was just her and me and Madam. Madam is a very verbal teacher. She explains everything, and it was fascinating to listen. I ended up slowing my practice down so that I could get the benefit of what Madam was saying to the new student, who was practicing just the standing series today. For each pose, Madam very carefully broke down the vinyasas and explained how the pose related to the poses before and after. And I learned a nifty way to transition from Uttkatasana to the Virabadrasanas...a little crow action. Very cool.

When we finished the standing series, the new student did all of the standing poses again, and I went on to Primary. It was fine. Stiff. But fine. I am a bit disappointed that Mari D has become newly challenging again. But this too shall pass.

Then it was off to the Chiropracter, who cracked me good and noted (as one of you suggested) that my lumbar spine was partly immobilized. She fixed me up though, and I walked out of there feeling an inch taller and a bhanda lighter. Perhaps tomorrow, I will notice the difference in Mari D and my backbends. I can hope...


Monday, February 13, 2006

Damned Bikram

I woke up with sore legs and stiff shoulders today. This was most likely as a result of a self-imposed challenge to dwell with equanimity within the "play of opposites" ... which is to say that after two hours of playing in the snow with Adam and Lewis, I took my frozen butt and trudged my way, three layers of ski performance-wear and all, over to a Bikram class.

Now, for those who have not ventured into the non-vinyasa hot box, Bikram involves 50 minutes of about 10 standing poses, each held for 30 seconds to a minute, twice. As I was telling Tiff recently, usually, I don't feel any soreness after a Bikram class. But last night, the room wasn't as insanely hot as usual - just really, really freakin' hot. As a result, I was able to hold my poses more energetically, rather than flopping into them, which inevitably means some leg soreness. On a bright note, at the end of class, there are some "advanced" poses thrown in for Bikram veterans, me being one of them (going on four years of Bikram practice now): Hanumanasana, which I refrained from, simply because I don't see what it adds for me right now, and Kurmasana, which was fabuloso. Santiago, the teacher, was like, point your toes! lift your legs! And I did. And I did!

I also woke up unusually hungry, most likely a result of not eating after dinner, a habit I hope to develop (re-develop) because it is the only thing standing between me at 108 pounds and me at 103, which is what I weighed on my wedding day. Not that there is any magic to what I weighed on my wedding day. But I do know that it is better to grow thinner as we age than to grow, shall we say, larger. Granted, I was a runner then, and running breaks down the muscles, rather than builds them, as opposed to yoga, which builds muscle, at least on my mesomorphic body. So, I may have less fat on me and more muscle, even if I weigh a few pounds more. But still. In any event, as I walked back from dropping of the kids at school, I found my empty belly drawing me, like a magnet, to Agata and Valentina, where I had a scone and a coffee and decided that maybe I could get away with not practicing Ashtanga today after all...


And then miraculously, I came to my senses. No matter that I had just polluted my body with a five ounce scone and a 16 ounce full-caf coffee (at least I drink it black). I still had to practice. So off I went to pick up my car from my garage, right on schedule, amazingly enough, despite the face-stuffing detour.

To my annoyance, I discovered upon arrival that my car was buried behind about 15 other cars, despite that I had called for it an hour earlier. I had no choice but to just let it go though. Ten minutes later I was on my way. And to my great surprise, the FDR Drive was pretty much traffic-free, so I made up the garage-time on my drive. I arrived at the shala just before 9:30, and got right to it. No showers, no gomukhasana (cow-face) arms. Okay, a couple of arm swings on each side, I will admit it...

Scone or no scone, crampy legs or no crampy legs, like I trudged through the snow yesterday, I trudged through my practice today, resolving NOT to share with Sir ANY of my excuses for why my practice was going to surely suck today.

Well, it didn't exactly suck. At least my uttanasanas were nice and loose. At least my jumps were fairly stealth (at least in the standing portion of my practice). And I managed to get done with my practice in time to get my big-deal adjustment in Mari D from Sir (p.s...why do I get NO adjustments other than that anymore? No Prasarita Pado C? No Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana?!) .

Before I reached for the bind, I asked Sir - where does the lotus foot go?

"Along the hip-crease," he said.

"Oh," I said, looking down and seeing that that is where my foot already was.

"That's not your problem," he noted.

"Well then, what IS my problem?" I asked.

"Shoulders," he said, and then corrected himself, "No, that's not it. It's your mind."

"Right," I smiled. "Of course it's my mind."

And then I bound pretty tightly and deeply on the first side.

"That was good," Sir said.

The other side, not nearly as good.

Pointing to my right side, Sir noted that there is still some restriction in my spinal twisting.


Seven full wheels. I decided that it's okay if the last one really goes to the edge.

And the loveliest development...I was able to jump back with my legs in full lotus - and by jump back, I mean with my knees balanced in the air, a la padma mayurasana, but with fingers facing forward (wouldn't that be padma hamsasana or something like that?) It was awesome. My legs must really be getting accustomed to the "play of opposites".

Three more days of Ashtanga in the shala, and then off to Utah I go. I will probably do self-practice on Friday - but I will probably improvise it so that I focus on shoulder flexibility (for the pole planting-asanas) and core strength (for the facing straight down the mountain even as your legs turn quickly first in one direction then the other-asanas) and squatting (for the mogul-asanas).

I have a call into my chiropracter to see if it is worth it for me to come in for a re-adjustment before going out West. I seem to need to visit my chiro about once every six months to work out a structural thing going on at C-7 (in the link, the arrow points to C-7). Sadly, it sticks out more than it should - a genetic thing. After a few sessions of chiropractic, it sticks out less, making me look taller, more long-necked and allowing me to hold Pindasana without rolling from side to side. Also wondering if she can do anything to help release my lumbar spine to make backbending and twisting less "drama-filled".

Meanwhile, off I am to put away my Fresh Direct (yes, I caved and went back to them, only now I VERY carefully count the boxes before the delivery guy leaves). Small delivery today, as we are OUTTA HERE on Thursday...and all the snow should be melted around here by then...


Sunday, February 12, 2006

NYC gets dumped

East 79th Street Buried, originally uploaded by Yoga Chickie.

So far, we've got a foot of snow. The above photo is a close-up taken from my living room window. That is not my SUV out there, just in case you were wondering.

More photos taken on this fine Sunday morning from my sunroom window:

If and when it ever stops snowing, we'll bundle the kids up in their snow pants and ski jackets and head over either to the big hill behind Gracie Mansion or over to Cedar Hill in Central Park. That's how we sleigh ride round these parts. I just wish the Husband would stop harping on me to "use the day" to pack and boring stuff like that.


Saturday, February 11, 2006

A series of Lundfortunate events

Going bald must suck (I have a vague idea of what that is like). But being banned from the US Olympic Skeleton Team for using a hair-regrowth product? That just seems wrong.

The Seattle Times reports that Zach Lund had always disclosed his use of an anti-baldness pill that includes "finasteride", a compound that has the ability to mask steroid use in drug tests. But one year (2005), finasteride quietly was added to the "banned drug" list. Lund failed to take note, however, continuing to use his meds to attempt to reverse his male pattern baldness, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he was now in violation of applicable anti-doping laws.

Lund was judged "not a cheat" by the Court of Arbitration for Sport and given a warning. But this was not punishment enough for the The World Anti-Doping Agency, which appealed the decision, requesting a two-year ban, and ultimately settling for a one-year suspension.

I understand that rules are rules. Yes. However, since the relevant anti-doping agencies bothered to hold a hearing about this at all, as opposed to a "summary judgement, case closed" scenario (meaning, for all you non-legalites that given the facts, the law requires a stated result, and there is no need for a trial), I would have thought that the facts would have borne out a less disasterous result for what appears to be a case of a guy who simply wanted to enhance his appearance, not his performance.


P.S. I have been trying to google-up a list of the members of the U.S. Olympic Skeleton team to see if somehow my arch nemesis, Skeletor, benefited from these Lundfortunate circumstances...because THAT would really raise my eyebrows. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find such a list. Any help out there?

The Yoga Chickies

Forget the Oscars.

Best Picture doesn't get awarded until way after our bedtime anyway.

Instead, I offer you the Yoga Chickie Ashtanga Awards, right here, right now:

Actually, now that I think about it, I really don't have any awards to give other than one, and that is the Best Ashtanga Home Movies, which goes to Nilaf. Not only is the practice awe-inspiringly, heart-achingly beautiful to watch, but Olaf (thanks, anon) and Nina, his wife, are quite possibly the cutest couple I have ever seen on a yoga mat, giggling and making goo-goo eyes at each other as they come face to face while twisting into Mari C and D....not to mention, the moments of intrigue and suspense, fpr example, in "bendy", the file in which Olaf backbends himself into Chakra Bhandasana (backbend with hands to the ankles), and Nina helps him bring his hands to his THIGHS...

Thanks to okrgr for linking to it.


Friday, February 10, 2006

Rubber bhand

As, turns out, I rocked my self-practice today, thus proving:

  • I am capable of the discipline needed to practice Ashtanga (and by Ashtanga, I mean the actual Primary Series, without deviations) when no one is looking.
  • You never know what your body is capable of until you try.
  • Mari C is way easier when you hold Parivritta Parsvakonasana for 25 breaths.
  • Mari D is way easier when you hold Mari C for 25 breaths (still having trouble rotating my arms and wrists into the necessary position for a good grip, but at least I know it is not my spinal twisting that is to blame, but rather my mental twisting...vrittis).
  • Baddha Padmasana is way easier when you hold Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimotannasana for 25 breaths.
  • I actually might be able to pull of some self-practice in the mornings out in Utah, especially since I think it will help my performance up there on the mountain and also help to avoid injury - flexi knees and hips can only be a boon in the soft powder.
  • Linking breath to movement rocks.
  • Bhandas are like the total secret to defying gravity.
Off to see The Pink Panther. Blech.


11 days, maybe 12?

I just looked at my calendar and realized that I have practiced yoga for 11 days straight. I had to skip practice at Shala X today because of a series of mishaps involving a Yu-Gi-Oh card, a homework folder, an anxious assistant teacher and a mom/dog-lover who caught me up in conversation about the joys of hound ownership (her dog is a dachsund, or as Adam says, a "wiener dog"). So now, what to do, what to do.

Bikram at 12:30? Or home Ashtanga practice? Or rest. Other factors:

  • Tomorrow is Saturday - no Ashtanga practice.
  • Sunday is a moonday - no Ashtanga practice.
  • From Thursday night until the following Saturday, I will be skiing in Utah. The only option apparently will be self-practice. But if prior history is an indication of future results, then I will likely have no energy to practice yoga at all while out there. It is just too damn exhausting. That said, I would like to try to fit in some Sun Salutations in the morning and seated poses at night.
So...must decide....must decide...must decide...

Oh, and did I mention I am running a bit low on energy this morning due to being woken up at 4 a.m. by a crazed hound howling at some invisible threat in the front hall? This howling went on for 20 minutes or so, until I managed to calm my crazy four-legged child down.

What to do...what to do...


Thursday, February 09, 2006

I still suck

but less than yesterday. Or maybe I don't suck at all. Maybe it's just a momentary Mari D thang going on. Everything that was good about my practice yesterday was good about my practice today - and that was despite the fact that it was a led class. For now, Thursdays are my led days. I say "for now" because this will be true for as long as I am still teaching my 10:00 a.m. vinyasa class at Yoga Sutra. Sadly, all the 10 a.m. classes are being taken off schedule as of March as there just aren't reliably enough people there at that time on the weekday to justify a 90 minute class. They're looking for another time slot for me. But in the meantime, we may move my Yoga For Breast Cancer class to 10 a.m. and see what happens...stay tuned...

All of which reminds me: I had an interesting teaching/practicing breakthrough today. I had only one student in my class, and she wanted me to help her to open up her lower back and to work with her on her binds. So we agreed to do a modified half led primary, and what was so cool about it is that although it was basically half of the Primary Series, I also tailored it very much to suit my student's needs, holding certain poses for longer than others, working on building up heat in a very specific way in the Sun Salutations - by gradually eliminating the rests in downward facing dog and eventually eliminating everything other than the jump backs and jump forwards. Sounds radical, I know, but this particular student had major fear issues in jumping forward from downward facing dog, as reflected in her rather unbalanced landings. By eliminating the time in which she was able to think and plan, she simply jumped forward, landing softly and evenly on both feet.

Anyway, after class, I was asked if I could sub a led Primary Series class.

I said no.


Yeah, me too. The more I know about the Primary Series, the more I realize I have to learn about it. While I feel comfortable teaching the first half in a vinyasa setting, such as today's, teaching a led class to a group of students who expect a traditional class given by a Mysore-educated teacher...well, that just aint me. Not for now. At least not at Yoga Sutra, where I feel like there is such a high level of integrity, and I would not want to compromise it. At New York Yoga, it was a different story. There was no expectation from anyone of anything truly traditional. And that's pretty much why there IS no Ashtanga at New York Yoga anymore.

But I digress.

My teaching situation is in a very weird place now. I teach vinyasa, but I don't practice it. And as for teaching it, I am barely doing so at this point. I am very picky about when and where I will teach these days, since I know that teaching can be very enervating for me - 90 minutes of improvisational sequencing and extemporaneous talking, very physical adjustments. I won't teach nighttime classes anymore, so I had to say no to an offer (from a gym, which pays nicely) for a Thursday evening class. I won't teach on weekends anymore, so I had to tell Yoga Sutra I can't take on a new Saturday class they are planning. I don't mind subbing evenings and weekends, but at this point, I need to prioritize...Adam has a LOT of homework, and it is very interactive. My kids are in sports leagues 10 months of the year, and the other two months we are often out and about on the weekends. So, how exactly do working moms DO IT???? (the endless refrain....)

As for weekday daytime classes, well, they can't interfere with my Ashtanga practice on any regular basis. And the ones I have taught never seem to have any shakti to them on any consistent basis. I have fantasized about opening my own teeny little studio up here on the Upper East Side, but I wouldn't want to teach except during the day, and not first thing in the morning because of my own practice. Any vinyasa teachers out there who want to teach at night who would consider a partnership? I say that only half-jokingly.

Anyway, I know I am blessed because I don't have to make a living from this. Thank you, God.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Days of whine and poses

I suck. I suck. I suck.

I am losing Mari D. Or maybe I never had it Maybe I always bound by my fingertips, and I am just dreaming that I used to actually bind in this pose? In any event, for the past week, I am not getting into this pose without help. My lotus is fine. I can get my up-knee wedged in toward the midline and tucked into my armpit. I can reach my binding arm around and grab my lotus thigh. Then I take my non-binding hand and use it to bring my ribcage further around. It all seems so good. And that's when it all goes to pot. For some reason, when I try to reach my non-binding arm around, it doesn't make it. And my binding hand feels stuck - I can't rotate the arm to make the "grab" possible.

I really can't figure it out. Mari C is great. It feels almost easy now. But D is going to hell in a non-rotating handbasket.

So much of my practice was great today, so I don't know why I am fixated on my Mari D problems. My bandhas were really strong. I noticed this as I jumped back from Uttkatasana. I had my hands flat on the floor and felt that split-second of floating on air. I also had the "floating" sensation jumping back from Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana. I placed my lotus leg on my chatturanga arm, and floated my other leg back. Both sides. And I had a revalation in Surya B even...I realized that by lifting Uddiyana Bandha as I step my foot forward for Vira I, I can step my foot straight forward without veering my knee to the side AND without picking up my hands. It really smoothes it out. It's a split second of neither exhale nor inhale, and it really feels great.

I even came closer to placing my hand on the floor on both sides of Parivritta Parsvakonasana. So then why is Mari D becoming such a problem? A mental block perhaps? A true ego-buster. I know I just need to be patient and this too shall pass. But it feels so emotionally charged for me. Like, what if it means that I am losing flexibility in my chest? Or worse...what if it means that I am putting on fat around my middle? Actually, there COULD be something to this last point - not fat, but fluid retention around the upper abdomen relating to the enormous amount of backbending I am doing lately, the most backbending I have done since my abdominoplasty in August. And back then, I had a LOT of fluid retention in my upper abodomen - I even had a seroma that took months to resolve. So, perhaps all the backbending is traumatizing my abdominal muscles enough so that I am actually experiencing a protective swelling there?

And speaking of backbending, I am comfortably pressing up to Urdhva Dhanurasana six times daily now....and thinking that my backbends are getting to be "all that". So, I go home, and just out of curiosity, I press up into a backbend right next to my bedroom mirror so that I can see how far I have to go before my arms are vertical. I figured I was just about there.


And even worse: it's not the fault of my chest or shoulders. For once, I cannot blame this on my mastectomy or anything else other than the fact that my thoracic spine is as straight as, well, as straight as my ARMS should be if and when I can ever backbend properly.

Hence, I suck.


Monday, February 06, 2006

Memoirs of a Geisha

This is the reality....pre-pubescent girls sold into slavery and child abuse at the age of anywhere from three to six. They are sent to special "schools" (think Ichiguro's "Never Let Me Go") not to learn to read and write, but to learn to create a fantasy of perfect feminity, as imagined by the men of their culutre: they learn to dress as little silk brocade-clad dolls, to wear their hair in waxy updos that do not allow them to lie down when they sleep and to wear makeup that obliterates their own unique faces, substituting them for white masks that accentuate perfect red rosebud lips.

They learn to play guitar-like instruments and Japanese drums as well as to sing and dance as a way of beguiling men, for it is only men who ever see their performances.

At school and through their mentors, they also learn to speak seductively and to tweak hints of sexuality out of repression during conversation, with sly references to their hot morning baths, their male dressers and tailors who see them without their clothing. They learn to manipulate men, but more often end up on the receiving end of the manipulation. They seldom marry, and their best hope is to become the lifelong mistress of a wealthy man who has his own wife and kids, and perhaps to bear said man's illegitimate children.

They are not prostitutes, and yet their virginity is sold to the highest bidder somewhere between the ages of 13 and 15, and their livelihood is derived from being paid to appear at parties attended solely by men, and to entertain those men with titillating conversation and the orchestration of a variety of means for the men to get shit-faced drunk on sake and beer, including drinking games that often involved the telling of ribald stories. Although they may become "kept" women if they are lucky, they are not prostitutes. Fair enough.

And that is what I gleaned from reading Memoirs of a Geisha, a novel by Arthur Golden.

And then there is the movie, Memoirs of Geisha, based on the novel, but well, so much more romanticized:

The most notable departure from the book is that the movie's pivotal "mizuage" - the selling of the Sayuri's (the Geisha's) virginity to the highest bidder - did not happen in her early teens, as it did in the book, as it would in real life. Rather,in the movie version, it happened sometime in her twenties. I can only surmise that the producers determined that Western audiences would be horrified at the reality of the situation, which amounts to something like statutory rape, with the emphasis on rape.

But then, who knows what the producers were thinking? The movie is a glorious fairy tale. The book is as well, except that unlike the movie, the book exists on two levels. One is the narration of events, which in every way add up to a beautiful fairy tale of love and redemption. The other is the verbal painting of the cultural backdrop: pre WWII Kyoto tea-house culture, with its males-only clubbing, the excessive drinking, the treatment of women as chattel, the almost total disregard for marital vows. Certainly, the Geishas were charming, made beautiful music, danced expressively and created impressive tea ceremonies. But basically, the Geishas of the book were not much more than paid party girls. Kind of like Paris Hilton. But without all the choices.


Wheat berries...they're not just for dinner

Today, after dropping Doctor Mom (a Shala X-mate) off in the West Village, I decided to take a leisurely drive and listen in to Tyler Florence's Show on WOR, the talk radio station that also featuers Joan Hamburg, whom, I am pretty sure, every tri-state Jewish woman past the age of 50 listens to religiously for tips on where to eat, what shows to see and random opinions about, well, just about everything - even really personal stuff. Tyler Florence is "Your Personal Chef", and each day he answers callers' questions about how to prepare this or that, rattling off recipes that I have to doubt anyone can every really remember once they got off the phone/turn off the radio. But I think the idea that the preparation of food can become intuitive and, thus, fairly uncomplicated, is what sticks in the mind.

As I was listening to Tyler today, it occured to me that I had been doing a lot of googling over the past few days about wheat berries and coming up with precious little. Since I am trying to work towards a more saatvic diet, I have been searching for interesting grains to incorporate into the mix. Yesterday, while shopping at Agata and Valentina, I decided to pick up a package of dry wheat berries (as well as a package of Israeli "bubble" couscous) to see what I could whip up. I have fond memories of a delicious brunch at Sarabeth's eons ago that included wheat berries as a side dish to pancakes. Since then, I have always kind of wondered exactly what wheat berries are and how those particular wheat berries had been prepared.

But as I said, my googling efforts have been to no avail. And the dried wheat berries were just sitting there in my pantry, offering me no insights, not even an instruction on how to cook them. So I found myself dialing into Tyler. I kind of never expected that anyone would actually pick up. But next thing you know, they were patching me through.

"We've got Lauren from Manhattan on the line. Hey Lauren, what's going on?

Suddenly I found myself feeling shy and nervous. But I pulled it together and managed to say, "Hi Tyler, I bought some dried wheat berries but I don't really know what to do with them. Do you have any ideas?" Which wasn't exactly what I wanted to ask, since I had a feeling that this would lead to Tyler ticking off the ingredients for a savory side dish, rather than instructions on how to just cook the little wheat kernels and turn my Sarabeth's memory into a dish I could eat. And sure enough, I was given a delightful-sounding recipe for an Italian-inspired dish involving olive oil, sweet tomatoes and capers. Delicious as it sounded, it wasn't what I was looking for.

By then, I was warmed up and ready to talk, so I told Tyler about the dish I had had at Sarabeth's and told him that I was really looking for something sweet rather than savory, like what I had gotten for brunch that day. Bingo. What I got was instructions on how to cook the wheat berries in milk (whole milk, 2-3:1 ratio of milk to wheat berries, cooked extra long to really soften them up and create a creaminess, approximately 15-20 minutes) and serve them with brown sugar and maple syrup, in place of steel-cut oatmeal. He also suggested, for satisfying the wheat berry sweet-tooth, a dish made with wheat berries and ricotta cheese.

"Does that sound good to you?" he asked.

I told him I was on my way home and would make the cereal-like dish for a late breakfast. He told me to call back and let him know how it went. I haven't, of course, since I'm pretty sure he says that to everyone who calls...



I feel pretty relaxed about the general mediocrity of my practice these past several days.

I find myself realizing that I am not progressing as quickly as I had thought I would, as I had hoped I would, in my twisting poses, and that I am still not "effortlessly" floating my arms back into my first two Marichyasanas, as I had thought I would be doing by now. Perhaps I never will. I find myself facing the fact that my jump-throughs are inconsistent, and my jump-backs are, well, pure improv.

I suppose there are times when I might suffer from the dissonance between what I envision myself doing at practice and what I am, in fact, doing. This is one way in which the "vrittis" can cause suffering. But I suppose that I am not suffering because I am not identifying so much with anything about my practice, at least not in a static way. Things change. Practice changes. This too shall pass.

Same goes for the stuff that I can feel content and at ease about in my practice. I appreciate the fact that my hips have cracked wide open, that I have good balance, strong legs and shoulders, and I know that my chest is slowly expanding across the collarbones, making space for better twists and better binds. But this all could change too, for better or for worse. Pleasure is a seed of discontent, ultimately, if it causes desire for more pleasure.

But staying somewhat dispassionate about the ups and downs of my practice has done wonders for me in terms of getting myself to the mat. My expectations are falling away, at least for now. And I just get myself to the mat and think, "whatever, at least I'm here."

For some students, that might not be enough. But those are the students who are not quite as "pitta" as me - the students whose challenge is to generate tapas. For me, tapas is my starting point. My yoga is cranking it down a notch...surrendering to where I am at, how I am feeling, to the temporary circumstances of each day. As Sir said to me today, my challenge in adjustments is to do nothing other than to breathe; for other students, maybe it's a different challenge.

Svadyaya is study of the self. Tapas is heat, or passion. Isvara Pranidhana is surrender to the higher power (God, or some notion of that which we cannot control). That is the yoga of action: Kriya Yoga.


Sunday, February 05, 2006

"Our little monster"

Hummer ad: Must See TV.


You gonna eat that?

Ah, the 40th Super Bowl (thanks SusieC!)... Uniquely American. And especially so this year, what with the "XL" designation.

But for anyone who doesn't care much about a game involving big guys wearing shoulder pads and tight pants, with dark eye-makeup smudged under their eyes, moving a ball down a 100 yard field approximately three or four yards at a time, where the plays usually end in a large pile-up of said big guys...for anyone who is planning on watching the last few minutes of the game solely for the purpose of ensuring that they don't miss the beginning of Grey's Anatomy..........the real entertainment is the ads.

At $2.5 million per 30-second slot (or so the Husband says), they better be pretty entertaining. Right? One would think.

And then there was Burger King. Watching their G-rated version of Vegas Showgirls dressed as beef patties, buns and condiments leap into a pile to create some sort of giant, human burger sandwich fell somewhat short of entertaining, stopping somewhere between strange and vulgar.

The Husband and I couldn't figure out if the top of the sandwich was Brooke Burke or Eva Longoria. In any event, it struck us as a sort of sad commentary on the career of whomever had taken the job as the top of the sandwich, regardless of the fat paycheck we can only assume was involved.

But what struck me as even sadder was the fate of the poor meat patty-girl, stuck as she was under a pile of condiment girls and Brooke/Eva/whoever.

And it just may have put me off of meat (now if we could only work on the Diet Peach Snapple).


The mystery of the disappearing blogs

Twice this week, blog entries of mine have disappeared into the ether, AFTER having been published. It's one thing to have them disappear as you attempt to publish them. That's bad enough. But after they've been published? I don't understand what happened. Any computer geeks have any ideas?

One of my blog entries that disappeared was a long rambling post about silence as ahimsa. That makes me kind of sad. And it makes me feel unmotivated to write anything meaningful to myself until I can figure out what is happening to my posts....

Where do they go when they disappear?


Friday, February 03, 2006

Reverse Psycho-ology

All week long, the plan was to play hookie from Ashtanga today, Friday, you know, easy day? You see, for someone who practices up to Navasana and doesn't do drop-backs yet, what is an easy day anyway? A non-Ashtanga day. A Bikram day, perhaps? And so I was to practice Bikram today.

And yet when I woke up this morning, nothing could keep me away from Shala X, not even knowing that Sir does not teach on Fridays. Not even knowing that about 1/3 of the usual suspects would be there (which we all know has the potential to upset the delicate balance of energy in the room). Not only did I get my butt to practice, but I got there in time for the 9:00 invocation. I don't think I have EVER gotten there in time for that before.

I had some trouble getting myself as deep into Mari D as I wanted to. After Wednesday's "Adventures in Twisting" with Sir, nothing but a deep, deep twist with a wrist-grab seems to satisfy. So, after I finished backbending, I stretched my shoulders with my new R&D program, and then I revisited Mari D. About three more times on each side. I was SO Mari D'd out by the time I was ready to do three more backbends and my finishing poses that when I came out into the vestibule to chitchat with Tania and the Tall Guy, and the Tall Guy wanted to know what Mari D was, I was able to SHOW HIM!! Tania was like, "Yeah, that's Mari D alright." (as an aside, I have to say I truly admire the Tall Guy for his diligent practice; he always shows up, even when injured, as he is currently, even when he seems to have just rolled out of bed).

I asked Tania if it's okay to explore Mari D a few more times after finishing my other poses. She noted that many students seem to be OBSESSED with Mari D (ha!! that's an understatement!), and that as long as I don't blow off my finishing poses, that it seems alright. (I remember Mark this summer saying that it's totally fine to practice poses outside of "practice" and the more, the better.)

Anyway, glad that I "tricked" myself into Ashtanga today. Maybe Bikram tomorrow?



Is this thing on?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Another 108

The lostaways over on Lost Island believe, based on the instructional video from the Dharma Initiative, that every 108 minutes, they must input into a computer the series of numbers: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 , which add up to 108...

And I just remembered...I weigh 108. And I started binding in Mari D only when I reached that weight...



Wednesday, February 01, 2006

108...a new meaning to add to the list

108 is the sum of the numbers that keep repeating and reappearing on Lost: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42.

And if you add them up numerologically (4+8+1+5+1+6+2+3+4+2), you get 36, which numerologically boils down to 9 (the number of vinyasas in a sun salutation; multiply it by 12 and you get 108).

I have a feeling that this was not unintentional. After all, the numbers appear on a hatch placed on Lostaway Island by a group that goes by the name of the "Dharma Initiative". And the Dharma representative who appears on the instructional video found in the hatch, concludes his statement with, "Namaste".


Yoga and Breast Cancer

This article says that yoga can actually have a medical benefit for breast cancer patients, so I figured it was worth a "clip" here: Yoga and Breast Cancer.

Speaking of which, last night's first Yoga For Breast Cancer Survivors at the Arch was a total, unequivocal success. We are thrilled to have a beautiful space to call our own, to be able to control the heat, the light, scents, the candles, the music (we have music!!! and great accoustics to boot!!!), and I am personally thrilled to be able to dispense with talking in hushed whispers. The Arch is very low-key, not new and shiny. It has a palpable positive energy that we could all feel. The practice space feels like many years' worth of good stuff has been going on there even before we got there.

Thanks to my girls for being such incredible good sports about having to move around so much. Hopefully, we've found our (evening) home!


Evolution of a backbend

I'm somewhere in the middle, but it is so easy for me to fall back into the first couple of stages of the process. I mean, every day at practice, I fantasize about plunking my mat over by the wall and, if not using blocks, then at least pressing my wrists flat against the wall for leverage to crank my armpits open.

Damn armpits.

Several factors have contributed to my renewed interest in backbends. One is that my twists have gotten really really twisty, and I am no longer at the edge of my edge in any of the Marichyasanas, even D (yay!). The second is the practice-altering advice Aliza gave me to now begin to press my big toes into the floor in Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Updog). Advice I had previously been given to press into the outside edges of my feet and lift my inner thighs up is now woefully out of date (most alignment tips have expiration dates), now that my lumbar spine is nice and juicy. My thoracic spine remains practically immobile. Aliza's advice somewhat quiets the bend in my lumbar spine, requiring me to lift my sternum and bring some of the bend into my upper back).....I am now able to give some attention to backbends. Finally, I think that I am pretty much 100 percent healed from my abdominoplasty. That was in August, and it has taken me all this time to be able to stretch my abdomen vertically without discomfort.

But hey, it was...

...sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo worth it. And my bhandas are thanking me for pulling those rectus abdominii back together.

So, I am no longer regarding the backbending interlude within my practice as an annoying interruption of flow. It feels like it belongs in my practice once again.

Today Sir gave me the MOST INTENSE Mari C and D adjustments I have ever ever experienced. At one point I became frightened that I my spine would splinter into "a million little pieces" (ha), or unravel like the cardboard center of a paper-towel roll, but I told myself that if I tensed up, it would only make it MORE likely to happen. "Breathe," he had to remind me. "BREATHE." Well, that was an understatement. It seems that I take a nice deep breath to begin, I let it all out to wrap myself into the pose, and then that's that. All done with breathing. Sir pointed this out to me. "You seem to regard your breath as a unit that begins with an inhale and ends with an exhale. Well, there's an inhale at the end of the exhale, and so on."

I realize that if you are someone who does not practice yoga, your eyes have either glazed over by now, or you are long gone (bye!) or you are continuing to read while shaking your head in disbelief, thinking, "Is THIS what you do in yoga class...obsess about whether the breath begins with an inhale and ends with an exhale or begins with an exhale and ends with an inhale or keeps going and going or whatever.........??!!!! Pardon me while I rip my hair out strand by strand."

But crazily enough, yes, this is what we do, and it seems to matter how you breathe. And it seems to matter, not just on the mat, but whatever you're doing, whether it's driving your car, feeding your kids, listening to your boss or talking to one of the crazy moms at school who yells at you for no apparent reason about an incident that you don't even remember involving your child and her child, who you couldn't pick out of a lineup...but I digress.

As I sat in Mari D and just breathed, I felt like I was curled up in the tiniest little ball, and I liked it. Is that what we're trying to do in yoga? Get really really compact? It sometimes seems like it. Perhaps by getting really compact, we are expanding the space around us. I'll have to think about that.

I wonder if I am ever going to move onto the knees behind the shoulders poses. I didn't say that. I did NOT say that. Did not.


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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