Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A& E's 'Flight 93

A& E's 'Flight 93': From Tragedy to Tripe, Nonstop

The movie was truly riveting. The review, brutally honest. I started craving knowing more about what happened on September 11, 2001 in my own city, to some people I knew personally and to thousands of people I didn't know at all. There are the firemen's stories, the stories of the regular, untrained corporate office workers who had been designated as "floor captains" or "fire wardens" who tried, successfully or unsuccessfully, as it were, to get their people out. There are the stories of those in the North Tower, and those in the South Tower: very different stories with very different timelines. There are stories of those who were above the crash-line and those who, luckily, were below.

But I can't imagine anyone making a movie about the Twin Towers without coming up against incredibly harsh criticism. And I wonder why the movie-making focus has been on Flight 93? So MUCH focus on Flight 93, in fact, that there have been two television movies about it, and one theatrical movie in the works. What is it about the doomed flight that makes it appropriate fodder for dramatization, but not so much the other flights and the decimation of buildings and the perishing of their inhabitants?

I don't mean to be on a soapbox here. I really just am not clear on the distinction.

YC

A different Park City, Utah

Not long after all the celebrities have packed up their Bogner skiwear, their Sundance goody-bags and their Indie-spirit and taken off in their private jets, a new crop of snow-loving thrill-seekers arrive via commercial flights in Park City, Utah, many of them under four feet tall:



Welcome to Midwinter Recess, USA (western chapter).

In 17 days, which adds up to approximately 15 more days of Ashtanga practice, the Yoga Chickie Family will be flying Jet Blue direct to Salt Lake City (with all the other families who love the nicely priced Blue for its child-friendly planes, complete with TV screens at each seat) and then driving the mere 35 minutes to The Canyons, where we will have eight days to do nothing but ski, ski, ski!

Type A's that we are, when the Yoga Chickie Family goes skiing, we are intense. We lay out our clothing at night, layer by layer, in reverse order so that when we wake up in the early morning darkness, we can practically sleep-walk into our ski-clothes. We then scurry to whatever breakfast place serves the best coffee, and we load up on healthy grub and steaming black coffee (hot chocolate for the kids).


Before the lifts are even open, the boys are nestled in Ski School, or, as they call it Ski Camp, where they perfect their turns and ski in orderly little lines, like baby birds following their mother.

When the lifts open, it's like the starting gun, and off we go. And go. We never take breaks, except maybe for a quick bite for lunch, because the lifts close by 4, and it actually strarts to get dark and cold(er) by then anyway.

If we get hungry, we have power bars in our pockets.

If we get tired, well, there's always seven
minutes or so on the lift, our skis swinging under us, stretching our thighs. And every run doesn't have to be a challenge.

Some can just be scenic, or confidence-building.

Of course, the Husband is going to need some serious powder, so we are going to take a day or two at nearby Snowbird, where the skiing looks like this:



and this....

But since the kids and I have never skiied deep powder (it's different from the regular powder you find at most western ski mountains under usual conditions), we're going to be workshopping it there, which is going to be a huge challenge for me. I always feel a bit "off" when skiing with an instructor and other students. The Husband suggested that at the "ski-off", where they ask you to carve a few turns in order to place you in the appropriate class, that I "ski suckily" so that I can be placed in a group where I can feel like I am the best in the class (old samskaras die hard).

I am so so so lucky to get to go on a vacation like this! In so many ways, so lucky...

YC

Monday, January 30, 2006

Oh, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY BEBE!!!!

love, lau-lau

Come as you are

Because Sunday was a moonday, and there was a workshop going on in Shala X instead of the regular Mysore practice, the Philosophy and Pranayama class with Sir started at 1 p.m., which is smack in the middle of the day for many, including me. Nevertheless, I made my arrangements and went anyway. I really enjoy it - it gives me a reason to sit and breathe quietly, it gives me a reason to re-read the Sutras, it gives me something to think about analytically (because I never do that, right?) because Sir really likes us to DISCUSS the Sutras, rather than just listen to him ramble.

I love that aspect of learning from Sir. It is the polar opposite from my experience as a teacher trainee at Om Yoga, where we were offered up the analogy of the "empty cup" for how we were to model ourselves as students. An "empty cup" is exactly what it sounds like: pure receptivity, nothing to offer, nothing to mix, nothing to bounce back. By contrast, the "full cup" is also what it sounds like: no room to receive anything. Anything that goes in, just pours right back out. There was also the "turned over" cup, which was the cup that had no capacity to give or receive or hold. Frankly, I never quite understood that one. I mean, why would a "turned over" cup be in teacher training anyway?

There were a couple of us in my teacher training class that vehemently (but privately) disagreed with the notion that students should be "empty cups" (particularly in yoga teacher training, where the students came into the training with a good bit of knowledge and "point of view" about the topics at hand). We wondered: why no mention of a "half-full cup", one that has something IN it to begin with but which can comfortably receive what the teachers were pouring forth? A half-full cup can create a wonderful mixture, of what was there before plus what is being added. Why not love the "half-fill cup"?

The one time my friend, Pam, asked our teachers to discuss what a "half-full" cup would be in the "cups" analogy, the answer was simply, "there IS no half-full cup". This is one of the reasons that I never returned to Om after I graduated. It just wasn't my style.


so...which one would YOU rather have in class? which one would you rather BE in class? which one would you rather TEACH in class?









But I digress....back to the present, Shala X, where having something in your glass is respected and where you are encouraged to mingle your thoughts with those of your teacher and your fellow students. I was surprised that only three of us showed up on Sunday. We had a really interesting and lively discussion anyway, along with going over Nauli Kriya and Nadi Shodana Pranayama.

Sir read us a really interesting passage from TKV Desikachar's Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Yoga Practice regarding Ishvara Pranidhana, which has been described in numerous ways, depending on who is doing the describing. For those who believe in God, it can be described as "surrender" or "prostration" to God. I suppose one might substituted "a higher power" for God, as well as "the Universe" or "that which cannot be seen, felt or touched but which must be there" or some such. But for those who do not have a strong belief in God, the concept can be more ambiguous. Sir's reading from Desikachar (who can be said to be more closely connected to Krishnamacharya than either Iyengar or SKPJ in that Krishnamacharya was his father) discussed Ishvara Pranidhana as recognizing that there is something out there that is crystalline in its flawnessness, something that we can aspire to be more like. Since I am a believer in God, I don't particularly need to stretch in order to understand that to "live and let God" is a more peaceful way to exist, but I like the idea of an alternative way of looking at Ishvara Pranidhana.

Later, we found ourselves talking about the process of "nirodha", the process of quieting the mind, of coralling the "vrittis" (the mind's thoughts, which are completely separate from the "self") so that the self can emerge. All of us could point to ways in which we had come to Ashtanga believing that we were far more "settled" than we realized later on that we had been at the outset, and ways in which we had become more settled as time went on. And it made me wonder...is anyone TOO steeped in their vrittis to even practice yoga at all?

I have to admit that one reason that I thought of this is that on EZBoard (linked in my sidebar), interspersed with the informative slash witty slash supportively ego-busting posts, there are posts that condemn certain "aspirants" for being SO totally unenlightened slash unyogic slash type-A slash neurotic slash ambitious slash impatient etc., etc., etc. that they "should not even bother" practicing Ashtanga. I've always been bothered by these condemning pronouncements from those who believe themselves in a position to judge others' ability or right to practice Ashtanga.

So, I asked Sir the question: Is anyone SO identified with their thoughts that practicing Ashtanga is pointless? Useless? A total waste of everyone's time?

Like me, he took "Ashtanga" to mean not just the physical practice, but all of the eight limbs (Ashtanga translates from Sanskrit as "eight angles" or "eight limbs"), including meditation, sensory withdrawal, the ethical precepts, and so on. And his answer?

NO.

So, there you have it, right from the mouth of a senior Ashtanga teacher. ANYONE can practice Ashtanga, no matter how neurotic, no matter how agressive, no matter how ambitious, no matter how annoying, no matter how caught up in his or her own thoughts. (The one caveat: those who refuse to practice on a daily basis - those are the students that are troublesome). It is the practice of the yoga - not just the asana practice either - that helps students to overcome the chaos of those swirling vrittis, to slowly get to know the "self" that watches the thoughts swirling, that isn't the thoughts themselves.

As Pema Chodron wrote in The Wisdom of No Escape:

"People often say to me, 'I wanted to come...but I wanted to wait until I was more together.' And I think, 'Well, if you're anything like me, you could wait forever!' So come as you are."

Come as you are.

YC

Practicing by Numbers

12 breaths Utt Pluthi

11 minutes to finish my Surya Namaskaras

10 breaths in Prasarita Padotannasana C (waiting for that delicious hand-push to the floor from Sir, but alas, I was on my own)

9 Surya Namaskaras before my nose touched my knees in Uttanasana

8 breaths in each finishing pose other than Sarvangasana and Sirsasana (25 each) and Utt Pluthi (see number 1 above)

7 minutes in Savasana, including two on my side

6 Urdhva Dhanurasanas (full wheel) (after three versions of bridge..trying to get my backbending on)

5 Uddiyana Kriyas performed pre-practice (SUCH a good way to get warm fast)

4 adjustments from Sir (Uttitha Hasta Padangustasana - left side only, Tiriangamukhaipada Paschimo - such a great opener of the sacro-iliac joint), Mari C - twist twist twist, Mari D - breath, twist, twist, twist)

3 Urdhva Dhanurasanas that felt open and expansive in the chest (the last three)

2 months more, I estimate, before my bottom palm is flat on the floor in Parvritta Parsvakonasana (and 2 months after that, I will not remember why it was so hard for me to get to that point)

1 forgotten pose (Navasana)!! How could I have forgotten to do my last pose?! I guess I was anxious to get to my backbends, which I am recognizing are becoming something of a mental block to me the deeper I get into my Primary practice.

0 moments of internal debate about getting myself to practice today. And THAT is progress.

YC

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Dear Yoga Chickie

Dear Yoga Chickie,

I have a "friend" who has a problem she is too embarassed to write about herself. You see, this "friend" practices ashtanga in a quiet shala, and this "problem" involves noise emanating from her lady parts. This tends to happen towards the end of her practice. My "friend" seems to have pretty good bhanda control, and she suspects that it could be a result of her using her bhandas (she believes that in pulling her abdominals in and up, she draws air up into said parts). Is that possible? Or is she not using her bhandas properly in the first place?

Any advice for my "friend"?

Signed,

NYC in NYC



Dear NYC/NYC,

Beats me. I have seen a similar question posed on EZBoard, and a lot of the answers seem to point to the yogini's moon cycle as the culprit (i.e., at certain times of the month, the cervix is more open than others). But to be honest, that doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense to me because I would think that the openness of the cervix is miniscule - maybe a centimeter at MOST, and anyway, if the cervix is the culprit, that would presume that the air that is being expelled is drawn up past the cervix and into the uterus. I doubt that is actually happening. I would think that the air that gets expelled is being pulled in only as far as the vaginal canal, and no further.

Of course, that doesn't answer your question, and it doesn't solve your "friend"'s problem.

But if any of my readers have any thoughts, it would be great to hear.

YC

Happy Birthday to the Sister-in-Law!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Sarah Lord Sasso 1966-2006

While I was teaching my class at Yoga Sutra yesterday, on the mantle/altar, I noticed a a card with Sarah's photo on it. It was about the same size as the cards Yoga Sutra prints up for workshops and kirtan events. Sarah was a Jivamukti-trained yoga teacher, and I remember her from my days as a student at Jivamukti.

My immediate reaction was to assume that Yoga Sutra was hosting Sarah in a workshop. Then my eyes drifted below the photo of the smiling, pretty blonde-haired young woman....there was her full name...and some numbers...no, not numbers, but dates...her birth date...followed by.......her date of death....?

I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. I turned the card over, a lame attempt to keep myself from thinking bout it, and I continued to teach the class. But I couldn't stop my mind from spinning.

"Inhale your arms up over your head," I said as I turned the card over once again. "Exhale to fold forward into Uttanasana," I said as I let my eyes settle on the card once again. Sarah, who was a native of England, had died at her home in New York. She was only 39.

The card was an invitation to a celebration of Sarah's life, which was, held at the Beacon Hotel in NYC on January 21. It asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the National Brain Tumor Foundation and the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, Hospice Care. So much information in so few words.

I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. I turned the card over again.

"Inhale, look up. Lengthen your spine from the tailbone to the crown of your head."

But turning the card over didn't, couldn't, take away my shock and my confusion. A beautiful young person became ill. And now her life was over.

"Exhale, step or jump back into chatturanga...keep the gaze forward."

It just seemed so wrong.

It just seems so wrong.

YC

SO very.

WEIRD dream last night...about aging...about not realizing how old I really am...it seems that I think of myself as about 25 years old, and it is surprising to me when others see me as what I really am: a 40 year old mom. In the dream, I was back at NYU law school, auditioning for The Law Revue, the musical revue written and performed by the students that lampoons the law school and its professors.

(I was in the Law Revue all three years, and in my last year, I helped write and produce it, and I had quite the plum role: I played a "Heather", and with my other two "Heathers" as backup, I sang a hystericlly funny song to the tune the 1964 girl-group song, "Remember (Walking in the Sand)" by the Shangri-Las. At the end of the song, I dropped dead, poisoned, just like in the Heathers movie.... Anyway, I digress....)

So, in the dream, I was me at my current age, but I was in law school for some reason, auditioning for the Law Revue. I had this GREAT audition, and I figured I was a shoo-in for a great big part, with a great solo. Turns out, not only did I not get a big part, I was barely included in the show at all. In fact, I walked by the auditorium on a Saturday and was shocked and dismayed to find that the cast was rehearsing....without me.

I stormed down to the orchestra pit, and demanded a word with the director. The director emerged - a scrawny 22-year old in baggy jeans, flannel shirt and long, scraggly hair peaking out under his baseball cap. I asked him what happened, why was I not told about the rehearsal? Boy Director leafed through his copy of the script and pulled out a single page with a single paragraph circled on it. That was my part. He pointed to it and said, "I didn't think you needed to come all the way down here to rehearse when this is the only part you have to learn. You'll be fine."

I was outraged. I had had such a great audition! Why was I relegated to a token part?

"The thing is," Boy Director said, "I just didn't see you playing a law student. You're old enough to be the mom of a law student. And the real professors are playing themselves. So, it was hard to find a part for you."

I was horrified. I ran to the mirror. I saw that I was wearing my Heathers costume: mini skirt, tights and penny loafers, topped with a fuschia double breasted blazer, my hair worn in loose spirals and pulled into a low pony tail with a silver scrunchi. I looked alright to me. Why couldn't Boy Director see me as a law student when I could see myself as one? Why was he thinking of me as middle-aged when I saw myself as young...?

And that's when I woke up....

Meanwhile, back at the Shala, lovely surprise: Sir was teaching today. Usually Sir does not teach on Fridays. I got some nice adjustments from him in Mari A and B, although I was on my own for C and D. And that always has its upside: I get to go into them on my own and stay in as long as I want, repeating them if I want, with no one waiting. There's something to be said for a nice, muscular adjustment. There's also something to be said for DIY.

YC

Thursday, January 26, 2006

This doesn't make him a metrosexual

Or so he says.

Tonight the Husband came home with shiny nails.

Me: "Are you wearing nail polish?"

Him: "No, it's just some kind of oil or something that the manicurist used."

After I come to, the Husband explains that he had decided to venture into the world of John Allan's, a salon that caters exclusively to guys: "It's a barbershop. It's for real men. There's a cigar room, they're playing pool, they're drinking beer."

"And getting manicures," I remind him.

The Husband continues to insist that "it's not what it sounds like". In fact, while he was there, he ran into a friend of ours, P, with whom I went to college and with whom we both went to law school. P is nothing if not macho.

And P got a mani too. So there.

Oh, and that's not a photo of the Husband.

YC

The World's Healthiest Foods

After a delicious lunch of cottage cheese and jasmine rice, I found this: The World's Healthiest Foods: Feeling Great. I am DEFINITELY believing that what we eat on one day effects the way our bodies feel the next day. Yesterday started out well enough, but somehow it got way off track. Dinner consisted of shell steak (over arugula...which did not cancel out the steak by any means). But things went really off course when I hit the Hershey's Kissables. A, they don't compare to M&M's. B, I felt like CRAP this morning.

I taught a nice Ashtanga-based vinyasa class (at the request of my students), and then I sat there and tried to figure out if I could/should take Erika's Half Primary Led class.

If my life were a comic strip, here is the thought bubble you would see:

"Hmmm....this would be my sixth day of practice in a row....hmmmm.....thinking....tomorrow I would really like to practice because I don't want to get into the habit of practicing on Saturdays, and Sunday is a moonday....hmmmm...and what are the odds that I will be able to get my ass to practice tomorrow if I practice today?....could do a Bikram class...yeah....I COULD...but I won't....Lewis needs some attention....but I love Erika's class...but I can't even touch my toes....but I could do Sun Sals and then stop...STOP!!!!....I'm going home and eating lunch...."

























And there you have it. I am going to take Lewis to Central Park now.

YC

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I feel good

Really, really good. No aches. No pains. Practice is good. My relationships are good. Even the weather is good.

Hence, peace of mind.

No anxiety.

I realize it is all transient.

All the more reason to acknowledge the perfect moment in time and be thankful. Gracious. Awed.

YC

This is a true story

Yesterday afternoon, while Brian was at Hebrew school and Adam was at Tae Kwon Do, I got myself a nice hour-long massage at one of those little Chinese "Qui Gong Tui Na" places in the neighborhood.

And what a treat it was.




I was really in need of some body work.

Made it to practice today at exactly 9:30 a.m. The shala was quiet, at least it was by that time. I had a great practice today, perhaps one of the best ones I have ever had. So I'd like to make some notations here about what I think was working for me:

1. I began with some arm swings (both internally rotating and externally rotation, fast) - a great way to loosen up the shoulders and quickly raise the heat. Then I did three rounds of Uddiyana Kriya:as per Sir's instructions. And let me tell you, as far as connecting with uddiyana bhanda, this is one hell of a way to get things going. I have never felt so light in my vinyasas as I did today.

2. I've been working on keeping my palms flat on my mat as I bring my foot forward for Vira I in Surya B, and then keeping my palms flat on the way back down to chatturanga. It's really a great way to lengthen the lower back, which is becoming my focus lately, now that my hips are wide open and my shoulders have finally released (more about that later). Lengthening the lower back is crucial to effectively twisting the spine, sans injuring the spine and the muscles supporting the spine.

3. I've been working on conserving energy in every pose and every vinyasa - eliminating extraneous movements and "flourishes". I'm not dancing. I'm practicing yoga. Arms up, fold forward. No huge sweeping arm movements. When it comes to vinyasa-ing in and out of the seated poses, I am, wherever possible, jumping right into the pose (this works best in tiriangmukhaipada paschimo) and lifting back up into chatturanga right from the pose (this works best in the half-lotus seated poses).

4. I'm dawdling less in each pose. I get in and get out. One exception: Parivritta Parsvakonasana. That is my one chance early on in the practice to really warm up my twisting. I am ALMOST getting my palm to the floor. But after I test that out, I bring my hands back into prayer and press the back of my upper arm against my front shin and gaze up at where my top arm would be reaching, IF I were reaching it up overhead. At this point, something about the posture is still not open enough to enable me to bring my bottom hand to the floor AND reach my top arm overhead AND maintain a deep twist. Since my focus is on twisting and lengthening my spine right now, I forego the upper arm reach and use my driste in that direction instead. Seems to be working. Slowly, steadily. Patience.

5. Reach for the wrist. Reach for the wrist. Reach for the wrist.

6. Chin to shin. Chin to shin. Chin to shin. Or forehead to the floor, as applicable.

7. I have been using the backbending "interlude" to work on shoulder openers. I got some great ideas from Andrey Lappa in February's Yoga Journal. A reprint of his article, "Open Arms" can be found here. But I also have been reaching my arms back into gomukhasana and lying on them for five to eight breaths. The idea is to passively stretch the shoulders in all directings. And it seems to be helping me immensely. After these, I am ready for backbending.

8. Speaking of backbending, this one could be a bit controversial. Up until Saturday, I had been having a great deal of trouble with Upward Facing Dog. I never thought such a thing was possible - that Chatturanga could be easy and Updog could cause me problems. But there it was. About halfway through my practice, it would inevitably become increasingly difficult to go from forward bends to Upward Dogging. In reaction, I would hold my Dog Dogs for longer and longer, thus draining myself of energy, losing momentum, interrupting the flow. Well, on Saturday, in led class (which I NEVER usually go to), Aliza noticed what was going on and suggested that....I press into my big toes.

WHAT? NO YOU DIT-INT?!

All this time, I have been trying to press evenly onto all ten toes and at the same time, lift my inner thighs up, rolling my outer thighs down (all very subtly). The idea is that I would thereby open up some space in my sacro-illiac joint(s), allowing for a deeper lumbar bend. Well, guess what? According to Aliza, apparently, for someone like me - the go-go-go-pitta type, this is going to be cause discomfort. Uh, yeah!

She told me to try it with my big toes taking the weight. And you know what? It felt GREAT. I guess my lower spine doesn't get as much movement, but my thoracic spine gets more. I asked her if Sir would approve. She told me that he finally gave her this same advice two years into her practice, and it made a huge, huge difference. So, I only had to wait eight months.

So, now, I can practice Updog with the same integrity from my first Surya A through my last vinyasa into Savasana.

Anyway, that's all for now on yoga....

Now, just a note regarding James Frey's A Million Little Pieces. I know that this book has raised a fair amount of controversy for its author's having taken liberties with "reality". But here is my take on it: Even if one were attempt to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, one would still be incapable of ever even coming CLOSE to "reality". The moment you put pen to paper, you begin to fictionalize. It is impossible to write "non-fiction" without fictionalizing at least to some extent, even if entirely unintentionally. Yes, it seems that Frey's book does so with some level of "intent" to fictionalize without letting the reader in on the plan. But remember: this is the work of a user (former) of hallucinogenic drugs. The intentional fictionalization of details in a book that concerns addiction strikes me as part of the artistic process.

Remember the movie, Fargo? Jt opens with a screen that reads:

"This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred."

This is, of course, completely UNtrue.

How come no one had a problem with that?

YC

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Maple Spelt Muffins

YUM!!! And oh so saatvic (other than the two eggs per 12 servings. Can they still be saatvic if they contain 1/6 of an egg per muffin?)

Here is the recipe, tested in Yoga Chickie's very own kitchen:




MAPLE SPELT MUFFINS

Makes 12 muffins

1 cup dried fruit (I used organic dried cherries and blueberries; next time I think I will use almonds and dried apricots)
2 1/2 cups spelt flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (I skipped this, as I don't like the combination of cinnamon plus maple)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup maple syrup (needless to say, use REAL maple syrup, not Log Cabin etc., which is basically maple flavored corn syrup)
1 1/2 cups milk (I used a 1% organic milk from Amish Farms, which has a rich taste despite being low in fat)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine all dry ingredients. Add eggs, oil, syrup and milk. Mix. Fill muffin cups most of the way, greased or papered.
Bake for about 17 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Transfer to rack and allow to cool.

Thanks to whomever it was that suggested I stop eating the Dunkin Donuts raisin bran muffins, which are pure crap. I think it was Sonya. Thanks Sonya!

YC

I love Tuesdays


I just love the freedom of not having to race down to Shala X. I still get there at about the same time, but without all the drama. And I get my adjustments from Mrs. Sir, aka Madam, which is always a pleasure.

Well, not exactly "pleasure". How can it be pleasurable to have your nose pushed into your left shinbone while your arms are binding your right knee to your chest by clasping behind your back?

Ah, Mari A, how I fear thee these days. I know it is somehow related to knowing that all of the poses in which the shoulder needs to find its way out in front of the knee are coming up sometime, if not soon, then, well sometime in the future. Have others noticed the relationship between Mari A and Kurmasana? Both seem to be driven by a similar action/energy.

Anyway, I am feeling energized and thrilled that I am feeling no pain in my back or anywhere else for that matter, so I am going to bake some righteous maple spelt muffins now. Later, my friend K is coming over for lunch - a vegetarian stir-fry with steamed jasmine rice. Yum.

YC

Monday, January 23, 2006

Pink Lotus Yoga is up and running....

For those interested in my Yoga For Breast Cancer Survivors schedule, you can now check out: Pink Lotus Yoga.

The next series at The Arch begins next Tuesday evening (I am out on injured reserve this week).

YC

Downtown Dog

I've been curious about the Dog Yoga class ("Doga") offered at East Yoga and finally got myself down to the East Village (what else is new?) to try the class.

It's taught by Kari, the owner of the studio, who has also worked as a vet technician and who continues some work as a dog trainer ("animal behaviorist"). Not one to shy away from the limelight, Kari has been starring with her five-year old Husky mix, Charlie on K9 Karma on Animal Planet, which I've discussed in the past. Apparently, Kari has quite the publicity machine going, or else I never would have been aware of Doga's existence. Yesterday was no exception: there were members of the press observing and filiming the class.

I came with Brian, Adam and Lewis, sort of, kind of against my better judgement. You see, Lewis is incredibly tolerant of Brian and Adam - extending even higher levels of tolerance towards Adam who mushes him and crowds him and wakes him from comfy naps. But tolerance isn't the same thing as deep, abiding love, and frankly, I don't know what I was thinking in bringing my human puppies with me to Doga. It seems to me that in Lewis's mind, I am the Alpha, whereas the "huppies" (human puppies), as I imagine he thinks of them, are just a minor annoyance on the road to having the Alpha's attention, love and lots of good food and sleep.

We laid out our mats, and all was well, Lewis was sniffing around, but fairly calm. Then Kari walked in with Charlie. WITHOUT A LEASH. Poor Lewis, wearing his leash, promptly began barking and howling at Charlie. Charlie showed his teeth, but a quick word from Kari calmed him. I just sat there, apologizing, saying that I had never seen Lewis react that way before. But I knew it was because of the leash. You put a dog with a leash in a dog run, all the other dogs are going to pick on the leashed dog. Well, the converse is true too: you introduce an unleashed dog to a dog that is leashed, there's going to be tension. The leashed dog is going to feel as if he has been unwillingly put into a subsmissive position. The natural reaction is to show how Alpha he really is. Hence all the noise coming from my hound.

I asked Kari if I could unleash Lewis. She said no. It suprised me that she would put the dogs (and owners) in this position, having her dog off leash, but requiring the rest of us to have our dogs leashed. But whatever, it's her studio, so I wanted to do things her way and make no waves.

As for the yoga - well, Lewis couldn't really focus. There was no music - another surprise for me. I was sure there would be yoga music, to which Lewis blisses out reliably. Without the yoga music, we had to rely upon sheer luck to get Lewis, a hound with a great deal of energy and a huge desire to socialize with other dogs, to chill on his mat. And then there were the huppies, competing with each other and me to be doing the "doga", all with a dog that wasn't really cooperating anyway. The closest we got to actually doing some "doga" together was in half-seated spinal twist. Lewis and I (inadvertently) twisted in opposite directions.

Kari said it made for a really good picture.

I suppose it might be worth it to try Doga again, WITHOUT the huppies, and after having taken Lewis to the Tompkins Squrare dog run FIRST, so that Lewis can jump his jiggles out first.

Afterwards, the press interviewed us. The question was, "What were you hoping to get out Doga?" I said something really boring - I wanted to bond with my dog and my kids and maybe introduce him to a bit of informal training. What I should have said, and what would have been more true, is that I yoga is a really huge part of my life, and I wanted to share it with my kids and my dog. I overheard another girl in the class saying that she felt that she shared a "spiritual connection" with her chihuahua and that the class reinforced that spiritual connection.

See Yoga Chickie's eyes roll.

Good practice today. Yesterday, I was suffering some really uncomfortable back spasms. During P&P class, Sir told me that I needed to practice, injured or not. And voila, my spasms are vastly reduced today, and all seems copacetic.

Sir suggested today that perhaps some of yesterday's "injury" was located in my head. I KNOW he is right. I have so much anxiety and fear whenever I feel a new ache or pain. The only thing to really DO is practice.

YC

Saturday, January 21, 2006

But I'm 40

And at one time, I knew how to program in Fortran. Does anyone else even know what that is? I am sure that computer savviness is generally inversely proportional to age.

Thanks, Vanessa, for the link to the Geek Test.

YC

Lost notes

I finally finished my Lost marathon, having watched the entire first season and every episode thus far of the second season, all in a matter of a week. And to answer the question that may well be on your mind, yes, I have better things to do. But that doesn't stop me from making time for my latest obsession.

Lost is everything that Twin Peaks was not. Twin Peaks had so much promise early on. But it led nowhere, meandering into unimaginative, juvenile territory until answers were finally revealed that seemed more like a punch line thana resolution. But on Lost, there is some measure of method to the madness; of that much I am convinced. Slowly, very slowly, the disparate pieces come together. But as in life, some answers only bring further questions, and ultimately, there just are no answers.

So, here in no particular order, are Yoga Chickie's notes on Lost, thus far:

1. The mysterious "hatch", with its psycho-scientic experiment that involves inputting a series of numbers into an outdated PC every 108 minutes has some definite and obvious Eastern philosophy connections: To wit, the number 108, which is a meaningful number in many relegions and cultures, but particularly eastern cultures. Also, the "instruction video" ends with "Namaste". The organization behind the experiment is the "Dharma Initiative".

2. I am waiting for the clinical psychologist character, Libby, to watch that instructional video, which makes references to B.F. Skinner, who was a behavioral psychologist who was famous for his "Skinner Box", and make the realization that the joke is on those who keep pressing the button.

3. The scary/crazy French woman on the island, Danielle Rousseau's daughter, Alex, was taken by The Others on the first day of her life. In the most recent Lost episode, it is quietly revealed that Alex is now an "Other". She was the one holding Kate captive: "Bring her out, Alex," says the grizzled leader. I have not read one reference to this anywhere, on any of the message boards or fan sites (I did a google search). Am I the only one that heard the name "Alex" spoken?

4. I am beginnning to wonder if the surviving passengers of Oceanic Flight 815 survive on the island UNTIL such time as they fulfill some destiny/complete some task that they need to complete. Most of the passengers we have met are traumatized in some way, some BIG way. Boone met his death after he proved himself to be a hero, which he had always been trying to prove to Shannon, to no avail. Shannon died after finding self-sufficiency and then love with a decent man. I am waiting to see who is next to go and if it fits into my theory.

5. IF my theory is correct, then what does that make the island? And what do the Others have to do with that? And why do the others take "the good" people? And what about the surviving Flight 815 passengers is NOT good (aside from the obvious ones - the criminals, the fugitives, the sell-outs, etc.)? Like, why is Rose not being "taken"? Why were most of the "good" ones concentrated in the tail section of the plane?

More to come...off to Led class.

YC

Friday, January 20, 2006

"Pink Lotus Yoga"

I am thrilled to have found studio space at The Arch, a not-for-profit organization in midtown that is committed to creativity-based and multicultural education, for a Tuesday evening ongoing Yoga For Breast Cancer Survivors class (to read about what Yoga can do for breast cancer survivors, please click on the following article that I wrote: A Garden From a Battlefield, which was published this past fall in My Guru Guide).

Thanks to the non-profit nature of The Arch (and of Yoga Chickie), classes will be offered in 4-packs costing $50 - nice price, right? Because the room will be intimate, I would like to keep the class to no more than five students. I have three already for the first four weeks. If you're reading this and you're someone who thinks this class could be beneficial for you, then please let me know as soon as possible...

We do plan to continue the Thursday evening classes at Yoga Sutra until March 1, but we have to face the fact that there are getting to be some space constraints vis a vis an evening class that is neither Asthanga, Vinyasa or Iyengar. You see, Yoga Sutra has three wonderful rooms, each dedicated to one of the three major lineages of Krishnamacharya's yoga teachings. And happily for Yoga Sutra, all three of the rooms are now in continuous use from 6:00 p.m. on.

(There was a time, many months ago, when it was easy for my Breast Cancer Survivors class to share the Ashtanga room with the evening led class. It's been getting to be a bit more challenging as the number of students in the led class grows exponentially week by week (big shout-out to my colleague Alystyre Julian for being such a wonderful teacher and such a soothing presence).)

Even better news though is that the Yoga For Breast Cancer Survivors class will move to DAYTIME! YAY!!! As of March 1, the class will be 1:15-2:15 on Thursday afternoons at Yoga Sutra. Hopefully, I will be able to reach more people by having one class in the evening and one during the day.

I am very excited!

YC

Why is it so hard

to practice on Fridays? Thursdays are usually amazing. But by Friday morning, I can't motivate. Not only can I not motivate, I feel genuinely exhausted. I wonder if it is that my Thursdays are too packed with activity...wake up, walk dog, take kids to school, spend first hour of school day helping out in Addy's classroom, run off to Yoga Sutra to teach a 10-11:30 yoga class, change from my "teaching" clothes to my "practicing" clothes and take Erika's led half primary, shower, grab a bite to eat, take Lewis out for a long walk, pick kids up from school and then get back down to Yoga Sutra for 7:30 Yoga For Breast Cancer Survivors class....it was there that my lovely and amazing students asked me to teach them how to have a "yoga butt". A common request, I suppose.

I laughed and told them I would let them know as soon as I figured it out.

Nevertheless, we proceeded to hold numerous variations on Utkatasana, to hold our Virabadhrasanas for eight long breaths and to transition from Vira I to Garudasana (eagle - all twisted up but standing) and then hold that for over a minute. Now my butt is aching. ACHING.
As a general rule, I try not to demonstrate too much in class. But I am forced to as things stand right now with the YBC since I am constrained to use my voice as little as possible, seeing as we share the space with the Ashtanga Led class, which happily for Yoga Sutra is getting bigger by the week.

(**More about that later...exciting new developments....!!!!!**)

But I digress....is that a lot for one day? I honestly can't really say for sure. It feels like a lot. But maybe I am just not as spry as I would like to be.

So anyway, "bottom" line (no pun intended), I did not practice today. I barely left my house today. Now I am going to pick up my kids and take the dog out for a long walk with them and then go...to the dreaded supermarket....ah, the days of Fresh Direct are already a thing of the past now...

Perhaps I will take a led class at Shala X tomorrow? I have been meaning to check that out. But the entire primary series!?? Can I? Should I?? Is it criminal? What happens in Mysore on days where there is led class? Do the students stop at their "last" pose and go straight to backbends?

YC

Thursday, January 19, 2006

BARF is the best

Biologically Appropriate Raw Food...for dogs. It is amazing how Lewis has taken to it. For anyone who has dog, I highly recommend it.

As for me, eating more saatvic foods has definitely helped me already. Feeling much much much better.

Led half primary today with Erika rocked. I can't believe we get the entire half primary plus the entire finishing sequence in (including savasana) in 60 minutes. LOTS of heat. Lots of bend. It was awesome.

YC

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Four Poems, by Adam

The Park

When you're playing in the park
It is really fun. Sometimes,
I go to he dogrun. Boom!
My dog starts running around
in circles.

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks died.
She tried
to change the law.
We are
Lucky she did.


Sleeping

I hate sleeping. It is the
Worst part of life,
Because I don't get to play.


My Head

When I hit my head it hurts
A whole lot.
Sometimes,
My brother hits my head.

YC

Fresh Direct - You done me wrong


Fresh Direct, Oh Fresh Direct
(to be sung to the tune of Love Oh Love, Oh Careless Love)

Fresh Direct, I loved you so
I thought you were the one...but no.
Oh Fresh Direct, you done me wrong.
The problems done gone on too long.

I used to walk to D'Agastino
But the prices there were just insane, oh!
So then I learned to drive to Stews
in Yonkers town, and Fairway too.



It all took so much time and then
I learned of Fresh Direct from friends.
I thought it all would turn out fine,
But hey, I also loved Priceline.

Now you won't return my calls,
Customer Support just drops the ball.
You use to take good care of me,
So Fresh Direct, where's my Skippy?

Fresh Direct, you were so good.
You brought fresh food straight to my hood.
But Fresh Direct, you done me wrong.
These problems done gone on too long.

It wasn't long ago that I thought that Fresh Direct was the cats pajamas. Fresh, delicious food, lots of organic choices, lots of ready-to-cook dinners, not terribly expensive, all of it delivered to my doorstep. No, actually, delivered directly into my kitchen. All I had to do was put the groceries away.

But lately there have been glitches. MANY glitches. It took me a while to recognize it. It started seeping into by subconscious when I noticed several orders ago that although I had ordered four pints of lowfat cottage cheese, I received only three pints of lowfat cottage cheese; one pint was the full fat stuff. When this happened a few weeks running, I thought that perhaps there was a policy that there was a three-pint limit on the lowfat cottage cheese (like the way there is a three-box limit on cases of Diet Peach Snapple).

It was only when for the second time in a row, I received LOWFAT peanut butter (EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEW!!!!!!!!!!!!) instead of the FULL-fat kind that I had ordered (and which, I might add is the ONLY kind worth eating...I mean, the fat in peanut butter isn't even bad for you, and the lowfat kind has just as many calories, so what on earth is the point, especially when the lowfat kind is disgustingly sweet and tar-like?) that I realized something was going wrong over at the warehouse.

And then the problems began to extend BEYOND the warehouse. Twice in the past month, my deliveries have been missing large quantities of what I had ordered and paid for...it was as if (and this is what I believe to have happened) some of my groceries had been packed up and loaded onto the truck but then delivered to someone else. Or else not delivered at all. I picture a lone box sitting in the Fresh Direct delivery truck at the end of a shift, and inside the box is a carton of eggs, a pint of fresh (no longer) coleslaw, a pint of crabmeat salad, a 1/2 gallon of milk, a wedge of roquefort cheese, and two boxes of Yoplait Go-gurt.

Sad little box. Sad little Yoga Chickie, who can't get Customer Service to answer her calls or respond to her emails....looks like I might have to start trekking to the supermarket once again, just when I thought that I had finally left those days behind....

YC

just the mat

I had the pleasure of not having to do battle with that familiar demon, Resistance, today. Insead, I woke up fully alert, not too achy and not at all ambivalent about heading down to practice. Took a bit longer than usual to get to Shala X due to the stormy weather around hese parts. But getting there by 9:30 allows me to get most of my usual adjustments from Sir.

Practice was deliciously sweaty. I'm noticing a change in my Surya Namaskar B in the way I transition up to Warrior I and back down. It is smoother now. The leg that I bring forward is beginning to come through straight forward, instead of veering off to the side, and on the way back, it goes straight back, with my hands flat on the floor. It feels good.

Left to my own devices in Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana, I can never get as deep AND stay balanced. But I still managed pretty well. Adjustments in Prasarita Pado C and Tiriangamukaipada Paschimo are really helping me later on in the Marichyasanas.

Strange though...I am really not liking A and B these days. Kind of dreading them, wishing to get through them so I can get to C and D. I am not loving how in A and B, my arms pulling behind my back resists my forward bend...whereas in C and D the arms deepen the twist, rather than resist it. I can totally get into C and D on my own now. I think I kind of LIKE finishing my practice after Sir leaves the room because if he's there, and there's no one dropping back or doing Supta K, then he always puts me in C and D. I much prefer getting into them on my own and then having him move my hand closer to my wrist. But I suppose that if I continue to do the tail end of my practice without him in the room, I will never get another pose....

Well, come February, I will have more time at the shala, what with school starting earlier and all. That's a good thing. And come summer, I have WAY more time with the kids in camp. And it may very well take that long for me to be given any more poses.

Which, as I said, is okay.

Savored my backbends and the R&D stuff I throw in there (lately, it's been gomukhasana arms, with me lying down over my hands, and then a bridge that I transition into a "tiptoe fish" to stretch out my quads). And then I enjoyed a nice long finishing sequence.

And now I am home, trying to motivate to make some calls, do some household stuff, when I would much rather crawl back into bed for a little while...

YC

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Chuck E. Cheese: 9th Circle of Hell

After about a year of begging, my little ones convinced me to take them to Chuck E. Cheese (you really must click on this link...it is a witty, subtitled photo montage of Chuck E. Hell...it will give you the true picture of what the Cheese is like). It was worse than I ever could have imagined it. You wait on line for about 20 minutes to get in. Then you wait on line to order your overpriced food - $40 for pizza, french fries, salad and drinks. Then you wait at your table for the swill to be delivered, as music blares, screens show dissonant kiddie images in every angle of your peripheral vision, and your children are jumping up and down, anxiously waiting for you to let them run around in the mayhem. After you eat your crappy food, you get to follow your kids all over the arcade portion of the joint, where they beg you for tokens to play the games and they fight over who won more tickets. THEN, just when you think it's over, they want to go into the "Supertube" or something like that - a giant plastic tube that winds around and around and around, like innards only much more colorful, and empties into a slide where your sweaty children tumble out and then race up into the tube once more. Luckily, there is only one exit to the tube, or else my anxiety level would have been REALLY skyrocketing. As it was, they took an insanely long time to come through the tube and out the bottom - Bri told me that Addy was doing anything he could to avoid the slide because that was the end.

But just when you think you're done, you have to feed all the tickets your kids won into a "ticket muncher" which counts the tickets. And of course there's a long line for that. And then when you conquer that battle, you have to go to the front of the whole place so that the kids can exchange the ticket-muncher receipt for the junkiest little toys you have ever seen. I begged my kids to give their receipt to some children they thought might not have as many toys as them at home....no such luck.

More line waiting. And then, the line to get out the door, which was actually a good thing: there was a security guard checking to make sure that each parent left with only their own children.

After exiting the 9th Circle, we went to Dunkin Donuts so that I could indulge in a warm cup of caffeine for the ride home, which I promptly spilled all over the ground as soon as we left. Ah well. I survived.

Then, just in a bid to enjoy some peace and quiet, I ended up staying up a bit too late, watching more of my Lost marathon....loving it.

Which brings me to this morning.

I don't know how it got so late, but I ended up arriving at Shala X at around 9:45. And then I don't know how it ended up taking me so long, but I didn't finish my seated poses until 9:55. It wasn't my most enjoyable practice ever - how could it be, after such a wonderful practice yesterday? But it wasn't my worst practice either. And to clarify - using subjective qualifications to describe my practice, I am not in any way referring to the outer manifestation of the practice. That, as usual, is the same, as usual, perhaps even a bit deeper in my twisty poses, which I am beginning to really love, perhaps even more than forward bending. Rather, I am referring to my internal aspect.

After practice, I decided to go back to where I had been last night - not Chuck E. Cheese, but the same shopping center in Long Island City (really, part of Queens) to the National Wholesale Liquidators store, otherwise known (by me) as the Small Impulse Purchases Store. The main draw, however, was that Dunkin Donuts and the promise of a quiet cup of Marshmallow coffee.

What a wonderful way to transition from my practice to mindless shopping: a honey raisin bran muffin and that nice cuppa Marshmallow flavored joe. As I sat sipping my coffee and dipping my muffin top (the actual muffin top, not the flesh poking out over my track pants), I mulled over my practice with a small smile. How can it be that Mari D is really happening for me? This summer, I honestly thought that for the rest of my life, I would be yanked into it and negotiating with my teacher to let me move on in spite my failure to master the twisting and the shoulder-stretching, which is so crucial to so much of the rest of the practice. I didn't know much this summer. I was a newbie. Still am. But I know a little more now. And what I now know is that practicing the same things every day, day after day, week after week, month after month, something gives.

My press-ups are starting to last beyond a nano-second, which also feels nice. I expected that to take a couple of months. I'm kinda sorta contemplating what Buhja Pidasana is all about, but honestly, I am really not physically ready to add any new poses. I really want my practice to tighten up, to get shorter, before I add on. I don't want to be adding new poses when I am currently feeling spent by the time I get to Mari D, when my upward facing dogs are still starting to fall apart towards the end of practice (this is a side effect from my abdominal surgery this summer), when I am still working so HARD to get into Mari D (I can finally say that I am not working so hard to get into C anymore...never thought I would be saying that either...in fact, I am beginning to find Mari A to be more of an effort than Mari C, which is probably reflects how hard I am working my lower back in this time of learning to twist)....So, I am not in any way jonesing for the word from Sir.

I look forward to the time when I AM though. It's a kind of nice feeling when practice starts to feel monotonous, and you get to coast for a bit, until the next pose(s) are added...

I have to say that I really enjoy working with Madam on Tuesdays after almost everyone else has left the shala. She gives quite a bit of verbal instruction in addition to her hands on adjustments, and I "get" what she says - her verbal adjustments have been incredibly helpful. She's really quite a good teacher...I wonder if others realize this as well?

It's probably why I ended up coming later than usual today...I think I really wanted to work with Madam. It's the only chance I get to all week.

It's funny to me that I need to analyze my behavior in order to realize my feelings. One would think that the feelings would come first and the behavior would follow. But then, if that were true, no one would need a shrink, I guess.

YC

Monday, January 16, 2006

Well, at least I can get to the shala earlier

Somehow, I think it must be Young Bush's fault, at least indirectly, that starting on February 1, 2006 and going forward into oblivion, the school day at my children's public school will now be 10 minutes shorter for most of the kids. Those children who are deemed to have fallen behind will henceforth have an extended day.

Those children who are deemed to be average or better will go home 20 minutes earlier than usual, the school day having begun 10 minutes earlier. It's a nice thought. But very flawed. When you examine it a little more deeply, you find that the emphasis is on getting these kids ready for the statewide exams they take in third and fourth grade. And you find that the teachers are being required to work longer hours (they are getting paid more, but this was in response to having requested a pay raise that did not involve having to work longer hours). And then there are the other kids, the ones who are not in such desperate need of extra attention. Lucky for them, yes. But is it fair to place so much emphasis on bringing the level up to the median, as opposed to raising the level at the top? By which I mean, what about the kids who vastly exceed their grade level standards? Why is it not important that their minds be stimulated appropriately for their level of giftedness with extra classes at the end of the school day?

On the bright side, school starts 10 minutes earlier, which makes a huge difference in my getting to the shala in time to have Sir's assistance at the tail end of my practice.

And so in the spirit of combining my annoyance with current public policy and the joys of yoga, I give you Bush Yoga. It's quite a trip.

YC

Yoga Chickie's Attachments, January 2006

I am attached to, in no particular order (as evidenced by the placement of Diet Peach Snapple and my children well below the top five):

  1. Flavored coffee, black, no sugar
  2. Having what feels like "a good practice" each day (notice my desperation when one day it is not such a good practice)
  3. Blogging
  4. Email
  5. My children's continuing health, happiness and prosperity
  6. My continuing to feel well and happy
  7. The notion of finishing Primary Series
  8. Cadbury Dairy Milk
  9. Diet Peach Snapple
  10. Buying nice things when I want to
  11. The good behavior of Lewis the Bagle
  12. Fitting into a size __
  13. Feeling attractive
  14. The good behavior of my children
That's all I can think of at the moment. Are any of these worth detaching from? Sure. Probably number one on the list is everything that is outside of my control. Oh wait...I believe that would be eveything on the list. Even that which relates to my health and to my children.

There is a difference between detachment and not giving a shit, between attachment and enjoyment.

YC

Rogue Yogini

MUCH BETTER today. MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH better. OH JOY!!

Read parts of SKPJ's Yoga Mala last night while in the bath.

An interesting read...for a number of reasons...

First, because it does not include several asanas (I assume this is because the Primary Series did not contain these asanas at the time Yoga Mala was first published):

And it gives instructions for certain asanas that do not correspond to instructions I have received in every class, Mysore and led, that I have ever taken:
  • InPrasarita Padotannasana A, the first inhale (as written in Yoga Mala) takes the feet out as far as five feet wide and the hands to the WAIST. The exhale takes the hands to the floor with the head up. The next "vinyasa" consitst of another inhale AND another exhale that takes the head down between the hands, the gaze remaining at the nose as the pose is held for an unspecified number of breaths. (As I have been taught, it is inhale the legs and arms wide, exhale the hands to the floor, inhale look up, exhale into the full posture).
  • In Prasarita Padotannasana C, after the inhale back up from B, it's exhale to interlock the fingers behind the back and the inhale to lift the chest and exhale down to the floor. (As I have been taught, it is inhale up from B, exhale hands to the waist, inhale arms out to the sides, exhale to interlock the fingers....)
  • In Marichyasana C and D, the wrapper arm is not the one doing the grabbing. (In class I am always encouraged to grab my back wrist with my wrapping arm's hand).
In addition, he boils down the dristes to eyebrows and nose, inhales corresponding with eyebrows and odd numbered vinyasas, and exhales corresponding with nose and even numbered vinyasasas, this pattern carrying throughout the entire primary series.

And here is something that actually almost inspired me to start a "secret" blog that I fantasized about calling "The Rogue Yogi, but what the hell, I'll take a chance here:

In his introduction to the chapter on Surya Namaskara, SKP states that "The practice of Surya Namaskara, or sun salutations...is capable of rendering human life heavenly and blissful. By means of it, people can become joyous, experience happiness and contentment, and avoid succumbing to old age and death." [emphasis added] I find this incredibly interesting since the fear of death is one of five causes of human suffering enumerated in the Yoga Sutras. I prefer to see it as all five of the causes of human suffering falling under the umbrella of "attachment", because I think they all do. But that is a discussion for another day. In any event, to be attached to our health, to be attached to our life, to hold out a promise to onesself that if one practices a certain kind of yoga, one can control the uncontrollable (the passage of time, the aging of the body, the demise of the body into death), is to invite suffering. When we become identified with ourselves as strong, virile, youthful, bendy, healthy, whatever, there will inevitably be a clash between our identifications and external events that challenge those identifications (and often, if not always, win).

So, it interests me that SKPJ would hold out this promise. I mean no disrespect. But it interests me.

On a far less "rogue yogi" note, I adore the photos in Yoga Mala for their lack of perfection. In Upward Facing Dog, the shoulders are farther forward than one might hope. In Downward Facing Dog, there is a distinct bend in the spine, which one would hope might be a straight and unbroken line. The photos tell me, implicitly, that yoga is NOT about the perfect external form. Rather, it is about the process. The DOING it. Not the end result.

Similarly, SKPJ gives precious little in the way of alignment instructions, aside from requiring the body to "tight and straight" during all of the vinyasas of Surya Namaskara. There is nothing about rolling the ribcage upward in Uttitha Trikonasana or Uttitha Parsvakonasana. There is nothing about pressing the elbows apart but the hands together in Parsvotanasana. This is just to name a few postures that are largely left unexplained. What is my theory on why this is? Because SKPJ would like us to be under the instruction of a teacher. That's my theory, at least. He mentions it several times, that it is best (not crucial, but BEST) to learn his yoga under the guidance of a satguru (true teacher/true dispeller of darkness) or a guru (teacher/dispeller of darkness).

Funny. I was reading the book last night in the hopes of learning something I could "use" with regard to Mari D. Well, that didn't happen. But I did follow the simple driste instructions, described above, and practice was sweet. It could have been sweet because of my more saatvic eating yesterday. Or it could have been sweet because I was inspired by what I read in Yoga Mala. Who knows?

I just know that I am happily back in a groove. For now. Like everything, that could change in a moment.

YC

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

MUCH BETTER today. MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH better. OH JOY!!

Read parts of SKPJ's Yoga Mala last night while in the bath. Interesting...because it leaves out several asanas:

  • Parivritta Trikonasana
  • Parivritta Parsvakonasana
  • Dandasana
And it gives instructions for certain asanas that do not correspond to instructions I have received in every class, Mysore and led, that I have ever taken:
  • In Prasarita Padotannasana A, the first inhale (as written in Yoga Mala) takes the feet out as far as five feet wide and the hands to the WAIST. The exhale takes the hands to the floor with the head up. The next "vinyasa" consitst of another inhale AND another exhale that takes the head down between the hands, the gaze remaining at the nose as the pose is held for an unspecified number of breaths. (As I have been taught, it is inhale the legs and arms wide, exhale the hands to the floor, inhale look up, exhale into the full posture).
  • In Prasarita Padotannasana C, after the inhale back up from B, it's exhale to interlock the fingers behind the back and the inhale to lift the chest and exhale down to the floor. (As I have been taught, it is inhale up from B, exhale hands to the waist, inhale arms out to the sides, exhale to interlock the fingers....)
  • In Marichyasana C and D, the wrapper arm is not the one doing the grabbing. (In class I am always encouraged to grab my back wrist with my wrapping arm's hand).
In addition, he boils down the dristes to eyebrows and nose, inhales corresponding with eyebrows and odd numbered vinyasas, and exhales corresponding with nose and even numbered vinyasasas, this pattern carrying throughout the entire primary series.

And here is something that actually almost inspired me to start a "secret" blog that I fantasized about calling "The Rogue Yogi":

In his introduction to the chapter on Surya Namaskara, SKP states that "The practice of Surya Namaskara, or sun salutations...is capable of rendering human life heavenly and blissful. By means of it, people can become joyous, experience happiness and contentment, and avoid succumbing to old age and death." [emphasis added] I find this incredibly interesting since the fear of death is one of five causes of human suffering enumerated in the Yoga Sutras. I prefer to see it as all five of the causes of human suffering falling under the umbrella of "attachment", because I think they all do. But that is a discussion for another day. In any event, to be attached to our health, to be attached to our life, to hold out a promise to onesself that if one practices a certain kind of yoga, one can control the uncontrollable (the passage of time, the aging of the body, the demise of the body into death), is to invite suffering. When we become identified with ourselves as strong, virile, youthful, bendy, healthy, whatever, there will inevitably be a clash between our identifications and external events that challenge those identifications (and often, if not always, win).

So, it interests me that SKPJ would hold out this promise. I mean no disrespect. But it interests me.

On a far less "rogue yogi" note, I adore the photos in Yoga Mala for their lack of perfection. In Upward Facing Dog, the shoulders are farther forward than one might hope. In Downward Facing Dog, there is a distinct bend in the spine, which one would hope might be a straight and unbroken line. The photos tell me, implicitly, that yoga is NOT about the perfect external form. Rather, it is about the process. The DOING it. Not the end result.

Similarly, SKPJ gives precious little in the way of alignment instructions, aside from requiring the body to "tight and straight" during all of the vinyasas of Surya Namaskara. There is nothing about rolling the ribcage upward in Uttitha Trikonasana or Uttitha Parsvakonasana. There is nothing about pressing the elbows apart but the hands together in Parsvotanasana. This is just to name a few postures that are largely left unexplained. What is my theory on why this is? Because SKPJ would like us to be under the instruction of a teacher. That's my theory, at least. He mentions it several times, that it is best (not crucial, but BEST) to learn his yoga under the guidance of a satguru (true teacher/true dispeller of darkness) or a guru (teacher/dispeller of darkness).

Funny. I was reading the book last night in the hopes of learning something I could "use" with regard to Mari D. Well, that didn't happen. But I did follow the simple driste instructions, described above, and practice was sweet. It could have been sweet because of my more saatvic eating yesterday. Or it could have been sweet because I was inspired by what I read in Yoga Mala. Who knows?

I just know that I am happily back in a groove. For now. Like everything, that could change in a moment.

YC

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Conditions: stiff and crunchy

I wasn't even supposed to be at practice today. But my plans to go skiing upstate today and tomorrow were trashed by the weather's insane mood swings. First it's practically tropical (for New York City in January, at least). Then it freezes up overnight. Not a recipe for good ski conditions in the East.

So perhaps, my practice today was simply not meant to be. Nevertheless, it was...and it mimicked the conditions of the Catskill Mountains that I was supposed to be making my way down.

It's not that I couldn't get myself into the postures today. It's just that getting into them took so long and involved so much effort. I wasn't expecting to be so uncomfortable today - I got enough sleep last night, and I have not been eating at night. It's not that anything was particularly on my mind. Yet practice felt really bad just the same. I am just happy to have gotten through it, since the entire time, I was debating whether to stop early. Perhaps after standing? Perhaps before Mari A? Perhaps through Mari D and just skip Navasana? Skip backbends? As it turns out, I skipped nothing, but it took me 90 minutes to do my entire Half Primary practice, and I spent a lot of time between the seated postures laying on my back and staring at the ceiling feeling sorry for myself.

Nonetheless, some stuff was good:

  • I pressed up into Lolasana and held it. I have no idea how. And I could only do it one time, very early on during seated.
  • My jump-throughs are getting better - I find that the stiffer my lower back is, the better they are (I guess when my lower back feels stiff, I unconsciously protect it with uddiyana bandha)
  • My Mari A and B binds were deep without assistance
  • I bound Mari D without assistance.
  • Backbends felt fine.
After class, Philosophy and Pranayama class, which I could have savored all day long (other than the icy temperatures in the room). LOVE it.

Highlight of the day was a conversation I had with Sir after P&P. It went something like this:

Me: Sir, why is it that some days practice is just so difficult? I mean, some days it feels great, and then some days it is so hard...why is that?

Sir: Are you really asking me a question?

Me: Well, I guess not. I mean, yes. I mean, no. I don't know. Practice just felt so awful today. I could DO everything. But it just FELT bad. And I hate when that happens.

This led to a discussion of the factors that could lead to an uncomfortable practice. Sir's first guess was that my mind was unfocused. Perhaps it looked that way, since I probably spent my 90 minutes in the room grimacing and even breathing out of my mouth. But really, I had little on my mind. The room was so crowded, and I don't remember registering much about any one individual, although now that I am thinking about it, the gorgeous Mom and Daughter Team was practicing in unison, and it did catch my eye a few times...and also there was a new girl in front of me whose mat felt too close to mine, which is of course, all about me, not about where her mat was...but other than that, I don't remember a lot of thinking.

Sir went on to state that more than half of what goes on in our practice is a reflection of what we eat. That led to a discussion about the ayurvedic properties of foods. And man, do I ever NOT know anything about that. But here's what I know now:

Must eat saatvic. Fish is not saatvic. Coffee is not saatvic (I think I knew that already). Eggs are not saatvic. Red meat is not saatvic (duh). Organic vegetables are saatvic, but NOT when they are frozen or stored or leftover. Dairy products (other than eggs) are generally saatvic, but again, only when they are organic and fresh and....my head is spinning....what am I going to eat?

I do like spelt pancakes and steel-cut oatmeal. I also love cottage cheese, but only the non-organic brand with pineapple in it. Peanut butter is another saatvic food that I like, but only the kind that is organic and not overly processed. Oh well. I do like Almond Butter. So, I guess I can eat spelt pancakes, oatmeal and almond butter along with some freshly cooked organic produce.

Sir did note that one has to live in the real world, and if you're taking your kids around, walking your dog, working (whether I actually am doing that is somewhat debatable, but whatever), you have to sustain yourself.

I hope that is a tacit license to eat sushi. But I'm kinda thinking...no.

YC

Saturday, January 14, 2006

"Music has charms that soothe the savage (?) beast"

I noticed on Friday while I was working with a student in my living room that Lewis the Bagle seemed unusually blissed out. This was the third time I've worked with the student privately in my home, and the first few times, Lewis was kind of hyper, competing for mat space, walking under her during downward dog, generally trying to get in on the action. But THIS time...it was completely different.


What we worked on was a bit different - lots of trance-dance/Kundalini inspired moves to enliven the extremities and soften the shoulder and hip sockets, before we ever got to anything classically "hatha" (this student is very very new to yoga and is learning body awareness as well as gaining a new mindset about yoga as a way to bring the body into more perfect health than the gym ever could hope to). But I think that what was really and truly the difference for Lewis was the music.

I had recently created a new playlist that seems particularly juicy to me, and my students have been telling me how much they are loving it. It is a realy "gellin'"mixture of:



lots of flutes and recorder and other tribal-sounding wind instruments



soft, pulsing, hypnotic drumbeats, sounds of the rainforest




otherworldly vocals, if there are vocals at all....




And Lewis just went into this trance....


and this evening, wanting to plod on with my Lost Weekend Marathon (I'm halfway through season one now, and I am still completely intrigued) without interruption, I decided to plug the ole iPod Video into its dock and play the Lewis Trance Playlist....

As you can see, the results were superb. Now, I must go back to deciphering what is ultimately going to be undecipherable (I DID see Twin Peaks, so I won't be fooled again).

YC

Yoga na do what??

I was reading Susan's blog, about how her friend would like her to teach her some yoga....it made me think about the tradition of passing knowledge down from one "generation" to the other. I believe that Susan should teach her friend and do so without guilt or fear of being taken to task by the "Yoga Police". My hope for Susan is that she teaches her friend and does so proudly, without the need to say, "I admit I know nothing about this, but...." Confidence is VERY important in teaching, and Susan SHOULD feel confident. From her blog, from my discussions with her via both of our blogs and via email, I know that she will be a wonderful teacher. And if, by chance, I am dead wrong, then I can say this with authority: at least Susan knows more about yoga than her friend.

And THAT is the key to imparting knowledge: having knowledge to impart. My eight-year old son teaches my six year old son spelling, reading and math skills. My six-year old son teaches my eight-year old son social skills. We can all be "teachers". And this is the way that lineages of learning are created and continued: One person learns something and then that person imparts the knowledge to someone else. And so on.

In my son's First Grade class, the teacher wants parents in the classroom, helping out where help is needed. In my case, she asked me to help out a boy who is at the bottom of the class in terms of reading and writing skills. She gave me a short lesson in "scaffolding"-style teaching (where one asks some questions and leads the student to make some conclusions and then builds on the conclusions), and then off I went. I am in no way now ready to be a First Grade Teacher. But certainly having me as a teacher for a few minutes a week is better than having NO TEACHER for those few minutes. And even if I am a really SUCKY teacher, it is still better than him being ignored and learning nothing, just sitting around feeling alienated from those other kids who are learning faster and accelerating past him.

Certifications, authorizations - they have their place, no doubt. As I said, learning to help a first grade student in writer's workshop is not going to make me an an appropriate first grade teacher. Obtaining a teacher's certificate from a teacher's college would help ensure that I had the proper traning and experience needed to be an appropriate first grade teacher.

As for yoga, a 200 hour teacher training program can be quite effective in imparting knowledge AND confidence in teaching, even if it only unlocks the existing knowledge and instinct within, bolstering it with confidence and validation. On the other hand, some certification programs are not worth the paper on which they are written.

But in any event, with OR without a yoga certification, one can still "teach" yoga. Someone like Susan, who has studied the Sutras, who is dedicated to practicing yoga not just on the mat but in life, and who has the confidence to say "yeah" when a potential student asks her to be her teacher, can certainly teach yoga. And she could teach it well.

But will she be teaching "Ashtanga" in the traditional method? If she teaches it exactly the way that it is taught in Mysore, then yes....but for one very crucial exception that might annihilate that "yes", turning it into an emphatic "no": she hasn't been authorized by SKPJ. And that automatically takes her teaching out of the realm of the way it is taught in Mysore (or to be more specific, the way the lineage is passed down from Mysore). The same would be true if she were teaching Bikram Yoga without having received certification from Bikram Choudhury's Yoga College of India in California. She might be teaching it exactly the way the teachers at Bikram Yoga NYC teach it (which is to say, by the book, to the letter). But without having taken her 9-week course and received her certification from "the man", her teaching is automatically flawed by definition.

Now, if you're Bikram Choudhury, you might sue her for teaching Bikram without his blessing. From all that I have read and heard, I don't believe that it is part of SKPJ's "plan" to go around suing those who teach "Ashtanga" without met his requirements and having received his blessing. However, the so-called "Ashtanga Police" would surely disapprove of one extending the lineage to another generation of student without having met those requirements and having received that blessing.

I am visualizing the Ashtanga family tree as follows: At the top is Krishnamacharya. His branch leads to three others just below, and these are SKPJ, Iyengar and Desikachar. From SKPJ, you have a direct line down to Sharath, Manju and Sarasawati. And you also have a direct line down from SKPJ, Sharath, Manju and Saraswati to the teachers who have been certified and authorized by the AYRI, in accordance with their requirements. And that's it. There is nothing below the level of AYRI-certified and authorized teachers that carries any weight in the eyes of the AYRI. Indeed, as many of us know, the AYRI prohibits the use of the words "teacher training" to describe any teachings other than those at the AYRI. "Ashtanga Intensive" is okay, but not "Teacher Training"...for there IS no such thing as Ashtanga teacher training...if one wants to teach, one must become a proficient, consistent and repeat student of the AYRI in the eyes of the AYRI.

That is the way that SKPJ wants it. And that is his prerogative.

There is definitely something to be said for seeking to preserve this tradition of direct lineage. To add new teachers that descend from authorized and certified teachers, as opposed to directly from AYRI, would dilute the lineage and would, ultimately, create new lineages. The creation of new lineages does not appear to be the intention of the AYRI.

Again, it's SKPJ's prerogative. SKPJ created the system, after all. He should have the ultimate say in how it is passed down ("it" being "Ashtanga Yoga as taught in Mysore, India").

So, with all of that said, let's analyze the following hypothetical:

After years of studying with a Certified Teacher Smith, Diligent Student Jones has become competent at the physical poses and the breathing exercises and also understands the philosophy that underlies it. In addition, Diligent Student Jones has come to understand the magic of the various Series, how one pose leads to others, how they are all inextricably linked (not just that they ARE, but HOW they are). Let's say that Diligent Student Jones has also come to understand not just how his body gets into the postures but how other bodies might need help getting into the postures. And let's say that Jones moves to another part of the country, let's say Wyoming, where there aren't any certified or authorized teachers. And Jones continues to practice on his own. And one day Jones' best friend asks Jones to teach him this wonderful yoga that has changed Jones's life.

Now, Diligent Student Jones feels confident in his ability to impart the joy of this practice, and he feels confident in his ability to teach the sequence, breath by breath, and he knows that his adjustments will be safe, etc....

Should Jones say no to his friend? Or should Jones teach his friend yoga, giving the gift that is yoga to his friend, as best he can? If Jones is honest about how the lineage is intended to work, and where Jones fits into that lineage (basically, he doesn't - he is merely teaching a yoga that is based on Ashtanga yoga as taught in Mysore India), then how can this be bad, as long as Jones gives credit where credit is due (i.e.,"This method is based on Ashtanga yoga. I learned it from ny teacher, Certified Smith, who learned it directly from SKPJ")?

Certainly, it isn't Ashtanga Yoga as taught in Mysore, India. But it might have value nevertheless. And as long as it is not presented as something which it is not, then all other things being equal, I can see no reason why this sort of teaching cannot be passed along with the utmost of integrity.

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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