Monday, August 21, 2006

Coming up for ether


This is the first time I've been online since Friday evening, which is when we left for Fire Island ("we" being me, the Husband and the boys). I brought my laptop with me, but when I arrived at the house (which we borrowed from one of the Husband's business partners), I discovered that there was no internet connection and no wireless access. Fire Island, for those of you who missed last summer's musings about this (approximately) 22 mile strip of land off the south shore of Long Island, is as close to rural as many New Yorkers will ever get. It's all about the beach, the bamboo, the little red wagons that people cart their stuff around in, the old Schwinn bicycles that people use to get from one place to another and the total absense of cars. The "streets" range from sidewalks to boardwalks to nothing but stretches of sand that homeowners carve between their houses and their neigbors' houses. Families of deer wander around the neighborhoods, as do children of all ages, no parents in sight. I've never let my children run around by themselves there, but people who spend more time there than I do tell me that it's the way of life out there, and if I spent more time there, I would get used to the notion.

Anyway, long story short, I had some enforced unplugged time this weekend. And I felt disconnected. I felt out of it. What was I missing in the online world? My friend Stacey did manage to call me from Kripalu today, where she is at a retreat with David Swenson, David Williams and Danny Paradise. Stacey's a non-blogger, and she doesn't do Mysore style. Yet. But she has been practicing Ashtanga for longer than I have been practicing any kind of yoga. From what I hear, the retreat is all about how these guys were almost literally torn apart by their practices, and how they have come to a new understanding of how Ashtanga should be presented to students: as something to be enjoyed, rather than something to be achieved; as something to be experienced, rather than something to have done to you. I say this with no agenda. I am just repeating what little I heard today. I will try to get more details as they come in from Stacey.

But it does remind me of something I read on Carl Horowitz's blog, which I thought was incredibly brilliant: "When you are being adjusted while performing a yoga pose, the adjustment itself is not the yoga pose, and what your body is brought into, since it is brought into a position by external means, is not necessarily a yoga pose either. It might be, but it might not be. And if someone else is bringing you into a posture then it is not exactly YOU doing yoga."

It gets even better:

"[Regarding the difference between active and passive range of motion,] I like using movements of the thumb to explain this. The thumb has a variety of movements available to it. It is the only finger that has as free a range of motion in what is anatomically referred to as circumduction. You can get your thumb to create a circular movement that combines abduction, adduction, flexion and extension with very small amounts of rotation occurring. These movements could be called part of your thumb’s active range of motion.

"Now if you took your thumb and it was straight and you took your other hand and rotated the thumb, twisting it gently, you could get your thumb to rotate on its axis. This is a movement that your thumb will never be able to do of its own volition. It needs external aid to create this movement. This would be an example of a passive range of movement. The movement is possible. There is nothing wrong with your body being brought through a certain amount of this passive range of movement but it is not something that the muscles of the hand and thumb could create without help from an outside fource to generate the movement.

"You can take this information and apply it to almost any joint in the body."
All weekend long as I practiced, even before I spoke with Stacey, I found myself considering the difference between active and passive range of motion and trying to push to the edge of my active range of motion with minimal use of the passive range. For example, in Marichyasana C and D, I usually use my "other" arm to guide my "wrapping" arm into the proper place for grabbing of the other hand (or wrist, if I am feeling really agile). But this weekend, I attempted to let go of that crutch and let the wrapping arm do the work - thus using only the active range of motion of the wrapping arm. It was quite instructive. Obviously, Mari C was far less deep using only my active range. And Mari D could not even happen. At which point I found myself reaching the edge of my ability to accept the limits of my active range....and I went back to "doing" the postures using both active and passive ranges of motion. But since I am self-practicing these days, at least it is only my OWN body adjusting myself, rather than an external body. Not that there would be anything wrong with that. It's just that right now, I'm really into doing it myself.

And Supta K, ah, Supta K. (Apparently, I must always mention Supta K, or else it just wouldn't be a Yoga Chickie post.) I am totally loving Supta K sans adjustment. It may be just a temporary thang between me and the K. But right now, I feel the weight of my legs pressing down on the edges of my shoulders, where they meet my back muscles, and I feel as if there are possibilities. For such a long time, I felt nothing in Supta K. And now, there are possibilities. If nothing else, I am learning to be self-sufficient in it. Not for nothing, I always looked at the people sprawled out on their mats, their legs pressing down on their arms, waiting to be pretzeled into Supta K with a sense of bemused bewilderment. Like, why suddenly are these incredibly bendy and strong people just lying there like road kill, waiting to be put back together into one piece? And then I became one of those people, and it never felt quite right. I try to imagine myself coming back to Shala X soon with this newfound ability to put myself into some semblance of the posture on my own (albeit with towel in hand), and I wonder: will it fly? Am I ALLOWED to put myself into Supta K? What are the rules with regard to going from Kurmasana to Supta K, exactly?

Wow...I must have been nearly asphyxiated from the lack of ether on Fire Island. My writing feels choppy and disjointed now. I can't come up with a single sentence without backspacing and rewriting. It all feels so self-conscious. And it's only going to get worse, for tomorrow afternoon, I go back to Fire Island. I go back to being ether-less. Internet-free. A pseudo-luddite.

I did see some people tapping away on laptops in front of the Verizon station in Ocean Beach. Perhaps there is some wireless access there? Perhaps I will become desperate for connection and find myself drawn there as well?

If not, I am back in the city again on Thursday.

Don't get any new poses while I am gone.



boodiba said...

I was wondering where you were! I'm so addicted to blogging that in Mysore, if I went a day without it I'd feel "completely incomplete".

Thank god I don't have a Blackberry!!!

Adjustments: I still love 'em. They expand possibilities. Greg makes me do a lot of stuff on my own though. He doesn't over assist.


Stacey said...

Hey....I'm honored to have been mentioned on your blog. I'm back and the Ashtanga Mela Gathering exceeded any expectations I had. Not that I had any. People from all over the world came to this and there is no way to fit the experience into a blog comment....we'll get together soon for that in the hood. The whole vibe of it was basically, do your practice so that it's right for you, that you love it and will love doing it again tomorrow. Don't hurt yourself, don't hurt others as a teacher. There was no judgement on how they learned, however, the underlining feeling was that no one can tell you how to practice or that something you're doing is right or wrong, that wisdom can only come from you. No amount of reading, knowledge or adjustments will be able to tell you that, your body is your best and greatest listen to it. I did my first Mysore practice this morning at home, and it was technically speaking just okay. But it was mine. Lots to share with you my friend, In a nutshell the week rocked!!! We laughed our tushes off the entire week, hearing stories from the three of them as well as attendees. The three of them were so available and open with us it was quite amazing.

Blah, blah, blah....happy to share more of my experience on your blog, but can't wait to talk to you live.

I don't even know how this blogging works, do you read comments from old blogs? Hopefully you'll get this, just happen to check in and read this one entry.


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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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