Friday, March 31, 2006

Lead me



(image provided with permission of Yoga Circle Studio (http://www.yogacirclestudio.com) via Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison...thank you!)

Ahsah-Toma Saht Gahma-ya
Tahma Soma Jyoh-tir Gahma-ya Mriti-Oma Amri-tam Gahma-ya

________________
English translation:

Lead me from the unreal to the Real
Lead me from the darkness to the Light
Lead me from the temporary to the Eternal

_____________________________________________

Thursday, March 30, 2006

What to do about the Bloggerazzi....

How about....THANK THEM PROFUSELY!

I can't believe how giddy I am over this photo. Thank you so much Jody!!! Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!!!

YC

photo, by Jody Martinez, (c) 2006

Another Day of Ny-in

Somehow, and by somehow, I mean that I do not know how, I woke up at 4:30 in the morning today, wide awake and restless. So, what to do, what to do?

Guruji.

World Tour, that is.

The Husband gave up his morning workout (that he allegedly was going to partake in, allegedly being the key word here) so that I could go. One phone call to Stacey, one hot bath, and one cup of chai later, off I went. Only to discover that I was the very first person in line for the 8 a.m. class. Apparently, the 6 a.m. class had completely filled up. But then again, not really, as it turned out. At the last moment, there was enough space for little me and my mat. And we had a jolly good time.

Met Jody in person finally!, saw Gregg, REW, HC, Chris, Christopher, Sharon, several mates from Shala X and many others (ok, this is feeling a bit like an Oscar speech; hope I didn't leave anyone out...oh shoot, here comes the music....OH YEAH AND MY HUSBAND!!!!!). Kissed the feet of the guru who gave the modern world, and me, the yoga that makes me feel like practicing yoga every day of my life. Went home, ate French toast.

And now I am quite tired.

YC

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Aristocrats, or Humor as Yoga

Sometime around Nicole Richie, I decided instead to bag 101 Celebrity Slimdowns and check out something even more offensive but decidedly less tragic: The Aristocrats. For those who aren't familiar, The Aristocrats is a 90 minute documentary homage to a joke that dates back to vaudeville days and which is essentially a private joke amongst comedians, one which can send even the most jaded of comedians into paroxysms of laughter, even to the extent of bordering on the apoplectic.

But here's the rub: The joke, itself, is not funny at all, at least in its template form, which goes something like this: A man goes into a talent agent's office and says, "Let me tell you about this act you might be interested in." He proceeds to describe the act to the talent agent. The act involves a family - husband, wife and at least two kids, perhaps a grandma. Maybe a dog, maybe a cat, maybe a monkey. Maybe a bison. Basically the act involves various forms of incest, rape, bestiality, defacation, vomiting, extreme violence and/or any other taboo that may or may not need tweaking and breaking at any given moment. The talent agent wants to know what the name of the act is (one can only assume that he is at least mildly impressed). "The Aristocrats", answers the man.

Badum-bum-bum.

Like I said, this joke is not funny at all. At least not in its template form. But as told by the individual comedian, the joke becomes infused with the comedian's own personality and style. Sometimes the joke isn't told as a joke at all. Sometimes it is told as a dark confession: "My family WAS the Aristocrats," Sarah Silverman begins...and then ambles onto a story that quickly veers from plain old sick humor (she tells us that it was quite the coup that her brother with Down Syndrome was part of the act) to flat-out deadpan irony. Sometimes the joke gets told through the vehicle of talking about the joke, as when Phyllis Diller talks about passing out after first hearing of the joke or when Paul Reiser talks about the joke and how he would tell it IF he were telling it and then proceeds to gets all neurotic about how he could have done it bigger, better. Sometimes what's funny is simply WHO is telling it. Gilbert Gottfried doing obscenity? Carrot Top? Penn and Teller? A mime? Judy Gold telling it as she sits there nine-months pregnant adding her unborn baby into the disgusting mix? A bunch of Onion editors sitting around breaking down the elements of the joke in order to try to come up with the ultimate, the perfect, the apex of Aristocrats joke (one which involves not only incest, anal sex, bestiality, rape and grandmothers playing Begin the Beguine out of their asses on harmonica, but which also involves Jesus Christ and Republicans, because as they say, "that's what people find funny today.")? It's all funny. And it's all thought provoking.

Then there are the backwards tellings of the joke that catch you off base, like one comic's description of a "family act", one in which the mother and father sit primly in their drawing room, and in walk their little boy and their little girl, dressed in their private school uniforms. The four of them exhange polite greetings and sit down to tea. Just then there is a knock on the door and it's their neighbor who has found their lost puppy wandering among the hedges. (Or something like that.) And what is the name of this family act? The "Cocksucking Motherfuckers".

The movie includes dissections of the joke, right down to the choice of the word "Aristocrats" as the punchline. Several comics offer other words in its place, such as the "Sophisticates" and the "Debonaires". Thus the joke becomes a totally different kind of humor; scatology aside, the humor can then be found in the one word punchline. Or imagine the joke being told by a comedian to his toddler, as if he were telling a bedtime story, with all of the obscenity and vulgarity intact but with toddler terminology substituted for what would otherwise be, well, let's just say George Carlin's list of words you never (used to) hear on television, and leave it at that.

Since this movie came out, I have been curious about it. I thought it might answer the question: What's the use of a joke that isn't funny? As the movie gets into full swing, it becomes apparent not only that the joke can actually be incredibly funny but also that the joke is a metaphor for humor, itself.

How so? The Aristocrats tells us that in order to be funny, a joke must press our buttons. Often, in order to do so, it must break boundaries, go straight to the edge of comfort. What often makes the title-joke funny is the way its boundary breaking is big and ugly and yet completely nonchalant. Sometimes the nonchalance is in the description of the "act" (such that "The son puts his ass in his sister's face" is spoken with no more emotion than "The mechanic puts the carbeurator into the hood") . Sometimes it is in the nonchalance of the "talent agent"'s reaction to it ("Yeah, no, I think I've already seen that one.").

The Aristocrats tells us that what is boundary breaking changes as the mores of the day change. Thus, Gilbert Gottfried got booed for making a joke about the events of 9/11 at a roast for Hugh Heffner that took place later that same year, but within minutes, had his audience in hysterics with a telling of The Aristocrats. What is boundary breaking also changes depending on who is doing the telling and to whom it is being told. Thus Whoopi Goldberg can tell the joke using more cursewords than, say, Rita Rudner (who primly talks about the joke...while fondling stuffed animals), but she dare not do it in whiteface.

The Aristocrats also tells us that in order to tell a joke, one must not be attached to the resuls. If you are attached to getting a laugh, you will fail miserably. Instead, you have to simply set your intention to be funny and tell your joke in a way that is true to you, using your delivery, your words, your inflections. And there is the yoga in joke-telling. Be who you are, where you are, when you are...and all is coming.

Badum-bum.

YC

Blech

Still not 100%. Thought I was when I woke up. But after walking the kids to school, I felt winded and on the verge of collapsing. Now: Home watching 101 Celebrity Slimdowns. Really need to bend a little (sans vinyasa). Really need to color my hair. Really need to make my bed. Really need to get to Dunkin Donuts to purchase 39 original glazed and one Boston creme for Brian's class to celebrate his birthday. Really need to figure out how to use the Dr. Dreadful Freaky Food Lab so that I can do some Freaky Food Lab experiments with the kids. But it all seems soooooo insurmountable. I can barely manage a full sentence on here. What does that tell you?

YC

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

I feel like someone threw up PAIN all over my body.

I seem to have caught the stomach bug my kids had over the weekend. Everything hurts. And that's only the beginning. But I am not going to get into the rest of it here because, well, trust me, you don't want to know.

It's Brian's 9th birthday today, and this really sucks....albeit, not as much as pushing out a rather average-sized baby out of an extra-small-sized pelvis after 18 hours of labor. So, what am I complaining about - your children's birthdays are supposed to be about pain, right?

More to file under the heading of "ray-ya-yain on your wedding day", I am supposed to go on a class trip with Brian's class today. Not just any class trip, this is a biggie - to a major museum, an all-day affair, including a death march, I mean walk, across Central Park. In spite of my discomfort, I feel that I still must go. I went ice-skating when I was on chemo, after all. This can't be worse than that. Why, it's merely a black fly in my chardonnay - a death row pardon two minutes too late (speaking of which, in my fevered state last night, I dreamt that Jessica Simpson was part of my extended family, as was the entire Soprano clan, and that I witnessed a murder in pre-WWII Germany that somehow involved Miss Simpson as well as Silvio - the hitman played by Steven Van Zandt, a/k/a Little Steven of the E Street Band, not to mention, the cute young guy who played Gabe on Six Feet Under, and that as a result, I went on the run to New Jersey so that I wouldn't be offed in an attempt to get me not to sing like a canary...).

No, it isn't ironic. It just sucks.

YC

Monday, March 27, 2006

Public gatherings

Yoga Mala is very clear about warning students of yoga to avoid public gatherings. I wonder about this in light of the World Tour.

But anyway, since tomorrow is a class trip that keeps me from practicing at Shala X and Wednesday is a moonday and Friday I am going to be joining the public gathering at the Midtown Loft, that left Tuesday and Thursday for me to go to Shala X to practice. And somehow, not knowing for sure if Sir would be there and not wanting to call and find out and not wanting to start and stop and kind of being into this self-practice mode that I am in, I decided to, well, be definitive and not waffle about where and when I am practicing this week. As such, I have decided to make this week all about self-practice, self-discipline, self-study (svadyaya) and then go back to Guruji on Friday.

It is good to make decisions. It is good to let go of ambivalence. Practice today was stellar. I woke up so sore that I considered trying to make up a new definition for sore. But I was too sore to even think. So I blogged. And then I made it down to Yoga Sutra to teach my lunchtime classes. SO much fun. Then I plunked down my mat, and soreness aside, I practiced. The funny thing about my soreness: I was sore, but not stiff. I enjoyed much in the way of ease and flexibility today, notwithstanding a certain achiness and fatigue in my muscles. It is days like this when I remember and reaffirm for myself that stiffness is, indeed, in the mind.

Somehow, and I am honestly not quite sure how, I made it all the way through the Marichyasana poses before 40 minutes had passed. That made my practice way more enjoyable. I think there is something to be said for holding certain poses extra long and taking looooong breaths. But everything in moderation. Not all practices can be like that. And if they are, well, I hear "rut" echoing in the distance. By not holding any one pose excessively long, I felt balanced, grounded, focused, energized as opposed to enervated.

When I got to backbends, Kelman and John-the-Ashtanga-teacher-turned-med-students both dropped me back. And all I can say is: I need to do dropbacks more often. The chest breath control alone is enough for me to say it. But the leg strength! Oh! And the addressing my fears, allowing my head to come up last! Oh my! I do hope that Sir will add this to my repertoire soon. I don't care if he ever gives me Kurmasana (well, maybe that is an exaggeration...) - as long as I can get to savor dropbacks and the way they help open me up.

It's a beautiful spring day in NYC, by the way, I thought I might add. Hope Gregg and Christi and all of our other visitors are enjoying!

YC

P.S. I just heard from SuzieC that El Senor and Miss Bud may be in town. Is it true? Could it be? Please Miss Bud, if you are in town, and provided you can get through the throngs of admirers from my international blogger fan base, would you consider coming over to my mat and saying "namaste", or as we say in NYC, "hey"? I promise, I won't out you...and I would even let you take a photo of Gary giving me a rough adjustment....

A frightening thought occured to me

And it was this: If I were someone who had to work for a living, there is no way that I could be practicing Ashtanga.

The thought slowly seeped into my mind as I dragged myself around the apartment yesterday, alternately dropping things and bumping into furniture and generally acting like a big bitch. At some point, the Husband suggested that perhaps I should not go to "any more of these 6 a.m. classes because...well, look at you! You're a wreck!" That's when the there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I thought began to gel: I could never get up this early every day and still function as a mother, a wife, a friend or simply someone who doesn't drop dishes on the floor for no apparent reason and walk into walls because she didn't see it there.

Ah, but because of my schedule, I smiled, I am lucky enought to not have to get up at the crack of friggin dawn to practice Ashtanga. I can wake up at 7:30 a.m., around the time many of my fellow Ashtangis are already in Savasana, and mosey on down to practice at 9:15 or so. And then I still have several hours to rest and recover before the second half of my day begins: the half where I walk my kids to and from their afternoon sports and chess and playdates and make them dinner and help them with their homework (which these days is WAY more interactive than the homework of the days of yore)..

And then the chilling thought: If I had to work, let's say, in an office, where you're expected to be at your desk at say, the reasonable hour of 9 a.m., I would have to practice at the crack of dawn. Rather than sleeping, I would be saluting the sun before the sun comes up. And then I would be non-functional for the rest of the day. Oh, sure, perhaps I could work at my desk, putting my head down between tasks, or climbing under my desk and napping as I did when I was pregnant (yeah, no, I'm not kidding about that). But what about when I came home? Could I function as a parent? Could I make actual food for my family? Could I actually get Adam to do his writing homework without exploding into a fit of absolute bitchdom?

I realize that chemo has long-term effects and that part of my inability to wake up early and then function later may be at least partly blamed on these long-term effects. But everyone has their stuff. So, I have to hand it to all of you out there who get up early and do this physically demanding practice and then manage to stay awake all day and do what you have to do and do it without breaking a lightbulb in your bare hands or accumulating a body full of klutz-bruises or making your kids cry.

(I rub my eyes and crack my neck now for effect.)

I must rest now.

YC

Sunday, March 26, 2006

An infusion of LOVE

is exactly the shot in the arm that my practice needed.

I went this morning to the first practice of the New York leg of Guruji's World Tour 2006. I was quite nervous beforehand that I would sleep through it or that I would wake up stiff and cranky and unable to get into any poses (Yeah, and so what if that happened, right? Right? No, I mean seriously...right?). So, ever the neurotic New Yorker, I set four different alarms - one at 4:45 a.m., one at 4:50 a.m., one at 4:55 a.m. and then I had my friends Beth (friend and student - I was her very first yoga teacher!) and Stacey (friend and fellow teacher-trainee from the Om days) call me at 5 a.m. to "confirm" that they were each walking down to my building to catch a lift with me to the (surprisingly swanky) Midtown Loft.

Turned out to be no sweat, because I woke up at 4:30 a.m. on my own anyway. And that was despite being woken up twice in the middle of the night by my two delightful, albeit puking, children (unfortunately, my house is currently doubling as a vomitorium). I guess I was kind of excited...

With all that time to spare, I took a luxurious hot bath (turned out to be my last for the day, as the boiler has since gone haywire and there is nothing but lukewarm, slightly brownish water!), stretched a bit, made some chai, drank some chai, stumbled down to the lobby of my building and picked up my much-more-morning-people friends and headed down to my building's garage. We found the attendant fast asleep, as most sane people are at 5:00 a.m., but once he (very dramatically) rubbed the sleep from his eyes, he pulled the SUV around. Out on the streets of the Upper East Side, it felt like we were the only ones awake for miles. That is, until we got to the corner of 29th Street and Fifth Avenue, where the sight of hordes of lanky people carrying yoga mats in the darkness made it immediately apparent that we had come to the right place.

Greeting us at the front-door check-in were the lovely and charming REW and Hockey Chick. When we got upstairs to the fourth floor, we were greeted by more familiar faces - several Shala X-mates who very kindly found Stacey and me nearby spots for our mats (Beth preferred to lay her mat nearer to the rear of the room).

Behind me were Christi from Colorado and her husband (Christi has given me, on behalf of my cousin, some tips on where to practice in Colorado Springs - um, at home!). Sir was there too, as was one of the Shala X-summer-subs, Gary. It was nice to see my once-teachers, Sarah and Jeffrey (who was a favorite teacher of mine at Jivamukti, and who now owns a studio somewhere down south) and Amie', one of the trainees from Shala X, whom I also knew from my days as a manager at Bikram. It was cool to see David Life and Matthew Darling and other "famous" yoga faces. Later on, I met Gregg and Chris and got some of the best chai I have ever tasted from the "chai walla" (a/k/a Spiros). I didn't see any Yoga Sutra folks (at least none whom I recognized) in the 6.a.m. session. But on my way out, I did see Christopher, Zoe and Kathy, as well as the Horse Trainer on their way into the 8.a.m session. Also ran into Joe, who used to take Mary-Beth's classes at New York Yoga and who now teaches a led class at the Martha Graham Dance Company on East 63rd, and Lisa, who used to take my classes at Some Like It Hot Yoga and is now a Baron Baptiste teacher.

OK, this is getting to sound a bit like the yoga version of Gawker Stalker, so I think it's time now to shift gears....

I have to say that I was a bit apprehensive about going today. I may seem like a sociable kind of girl, but in truth, large crowds can feel a bit intimidating to me, at least in an anticipatory-angst sort of way. But once I got there, the atmosphere was simply too warm and friendly for me to not get right into the swing of things. There was lots of chatting, lots of laughter, lots of wondering where the bikini girl was (if she WAS there, she was not wearing a bikini, but there WAS someone wearing what appeared to be opera length gloves...).

The practice, itself, was nice, if sort of beside the point.

We began with only four A's and four B's, and we were treated to only two versions of Paschimottanasana (A and D, skipping B and C). We did get treated to, count them, seven ("SAPTA!") Navasanas, however, as well as a couple of extra long "CHATWARI"'s and a couple of extra-extra long chatwari's. Uth-pluti was so long that I had to let go around the second time Guruji called out "seven" (strangely, he didn't harp on the number nine today), but I did pick myself back up again for the last little bit of it.

I was surprised and pleased to find that despite quick entries and exits, I was able to bind in all of the Marichyasanas (although only by the fingers in D). Unfortunately, because of the tight space, it was nearly impossible for me to bring my legs back into the Bakasana-transition out of Bhujapidasana or to get myself into a good position in Kurmasana. Not that that mattered. I knew it would be like that going in. Although I couldn't bind my hands in Supta K, I felt GREAT in garbha pindasana (no trouble getting my arms through! YAY!). On the other hand, again due to the space constraints, there was NO WAY that I could even consider doing the roll-arounds since to my immediate left was a wall with some spiky electrical stuff sticking out and to my right was one of my shala mates, her mat and mine touching (every mat was touching). For that matter, there was no way that I was going to even consider trying to bring my leg over to either side in Supta Hasta Padangusthasana (see: spiky electrical stuff and my shala mate's body, slender as it is). Nevertheless, I managed to do every Chakrasana, which I attribute to my being newly able to press up to clear my head from under me, rather than needing to find the room to execute a momentum-driven backward roll.

As for adjustments, I got one: Saraswati pushed my chest back in Padmasana - the second to last pose. I guess I was sitting with it lifted too high? To be honest, I didn't quite understand the adjustment. But that was fine. It was all good.

On the way out, we met Graeme Montgomery, the photographer and author of the incredibly gorgeous and heartfelt book, Mysore Style. He had been practicing next to Beth, who, it turned out, had planned on stopping at Navasana but was urged to continue by Sharath, who spent a great deal of one-on-one time with her, adjusting her, helping her modify, and simply teaching her the poses in the second half of the series. I almost cried to hear it told. Another near-damp-eye moment: when Beth kissed knelt and kissed Guruji's feet, he reached out and gave her a huge hug.

When I came home, I was hungry for more asana practice, so I practiced a bunch of inversions, delving into Pincha Mayurasana (forearm stand), partly because I wanted to see for myself if it is, in fact, a shoulder and chest "opener", as was discussed on the Ashtanga EZ Board. I still don't see it as an "opener" so much as REQUIRING openness. But hell, I just love being upside down, so who cares? Then, for a treat, The Husband helped me with backbending.

Then I fell fast asleep.

And now, here I sit...in love...with yoga...

YC

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Ashamed of what's not shameful

Ashamed of what's not shameful,
not ashamed of what is,
beings adopting wrong views
go to a bad destination.

Seeing danger where there is none,
and no danger where there is,
beings adopting wrong views,
go to a bad destination.

-Dhammapada, 22, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, published today on Beliefnet.com, Daily Buddhist Wisdom

Friday, March 24, 2006

Another home practice

I just couldn't motivate to drive downtown today. Or rather, to put a, more positive spin on it: I preferred to self-practice in the privacy of my own home today. Instead of beating myself up for not getting to Shala X and labeling it a "lack of motivation", I think it is better for me to think of it as what it really is: a desire to just do it myself.

I go through these phases sometimes...times when I don't really need any adjustments to make my practice feel right. Sure, it might be good for me to be given my wrist to grab in Mari D. But I think there is great value in getting into Mari D all by myself and owning the pose as it is, in its current form, unenhanced by an adjustment. I tend to get like this when I feel ready to learn a new posture, but Sir hasn't given me one yet. I start to want to just do my practice on my own because going to the Shala becomes all about, "Will he or won't he? Will I get the next posture or not?" I know myself, I know my desire for approval. And to go there and hope for that nod of approval in the form of, say, "Take Kurmasana", well, it just feeds into something within myself that undermines my yoga.

Of course, T is there today, not Sir, and these particular issues don't come into play. However, I think to myself, well, if I KNOW that I am not going to get a new posture, and I know I am not going to get adjusted (T gives me very few adjustments), then why waste the gas? Why waste the half hour of driving time? Why not just do my practice, by myself, just me, my body and my mat? Why not take the opportunity to practice naked while I'm at it?

So, there you have it.

Guruji arrives this weekend in NYC. I will be there on Sunday at 6, the first class on the NYC leg of the tour, and I am so psyched to hear him counting and to feel the practice timed as Guruji intends it. I am also hoping to meet some of my fellow bloggers and to feel the energy of the Ashtanga Sangha.

It was last year right around the time of the world tour that I started making my plans to become a Mysore-style student. I am almost no further in the Primary Series than I was then (give or take about a million adjustments and modifications!), but my practice is completely different now, and soooo much better.

Oh, and for anyone who might be interested, this is Open House weekend at Ashtanga Yoga Shala in NYC, 8th Street and Avenue B. There are free beginner classes and 12:45 p.m. led classes on both Saturday and Sunday. There's some other stuff going on, like a movie screening. So, if you are interested, check out the website.

In any event, see ya'all on Sunday!!!

YC

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Oh boy! Home practice is FUN!

Especially when your camera-happy 9-year old is hanging around. I have to be honest: when I started practicing, the kids were in the playroom on the other side of the apartment, and when I got to the Marichyasanas, I took off my shirt to make binding easier. Suddenly, right as I'm vinyasa-ing out of Mari D, second side, I see Brian out of the corner of my eye with his camera. Hurrying to put my shirt back on, I'm like, "Brian!! Don't you dare take a picture of me naked!" Brian's like, "You're not naked. You're wearing pants."

Argh.

Anyway, I figured, if he's going to insist on becoming Yoga Chickie's (sole) papparazi, I might as well tell him when to shoot. My practice became something like this: Inhale the legs around the arms, cross the feet, "Brian shoot!", Exhale to slowly lower the head, "Brian shoot!", five quick breaths, bhandas held, lift up and extend legs out into Tittibasana, "Brian, now!" Jump back, "Brian shoot!" He missed that one. But admittedly, it's a tough shot. Otherwise, I think he did a really great job....


Bhujapidasana: vinyasa in....










the state of the asana....










vinyasa out...












Kurmasana...












Doga....

Lewis initiated this, and I just went for it. Tabletop (a variation on Purvotanasana ensued)...











Tomorrow, Shala X. I promise. I swear. I will get my ass there. I will. I will. IwillIwillIwillIwillIwill.

YC

Jivamukti? Or Home Practice?

I just found out that Jivamukti re-opened up here on the East Side - Lexington in the mid 60's. And speaking of yoga coming to the East Side, Bikram Yoga NYC is opening a branch on 83rd and 3rd this summer! Too cool! Although I am way deep in Ashtanga, it's nice to know there are some diversions out there. Yoga boy-toys of sorts.

So, the question is, should I self-practice today? Or should I check out the newly re-opened Jivamukti?

First one to answer gets a special prize.

YC

"Do you read me?"

Ever wonder why some blogs are easier to read than others? Ever wonder whether you're getting your message across effectively? Ever wonder whether your blog requires a post-graduate education in order to understand it? Or if a first-grade reading level will suffice?

Well, I discovered this Readability Test, and it is pretty interesting. You plug in a URL and it spits out the "readability" of the writing using several different "algorhythms". It even tells you the average number of syllables in the words you use and your average "words per sentence" (mine is a mere 7! I thought I used much longer sentences...).

In case you're interested, my blog requires somewhere between a fourth-grade and a seventh-grade reading level for an understanding of the content, depending on which index you're judging it on. And in terms of "ease of readability", on a scale of 1 to 100, where the higher the score, the easier it is to understand the document, and "authors are encouraged to aim for a score of approximately 60 to 70," I scored over 76. So, based on these indices, my blog is easy to read, but requires at least a pre-teen's level of maturity. Ha.

Have fun!

YC

Ski bootkatasana

OK, what to do to procrastinate from my home practice today (since I slept late today, having the luxury of the Husband taking the kids to school for once...yay!)...

Well, I could talk about these AWESOME new ski boots I now have in my possession!

In all the years I have been skiing, I have never bought myself my own pair of boots, choosing instead to test out the better rentals (they call them "demos") in the hopes that maybe I will like them enough to buy them. But up until now, I have never motivated to actually try on a variety of boots and commit to a pair for the long term. Finally, I did it. I've been walking around in these at home to make sure they don't pinch or give me "shin bang" (the shin is pressed forward in a good-fitting ski boot, much like in Uttkatasana, which I sometimes refer to as "Ski-Bootkatasana" when my mind is on skiing). It's harder to be sure about the shin bang unless I'm actually carving. But walking around in them, cooking in them, that all works to a certain extent.

I had gone into the store with the intention of buying a pair of Rossignols, since those always seem to fit me well. But there were no Rossi's in my size. I reluctantly tried on these Salomons, and lo and behold...an even better fit than Rossi.

It's really important for a woman, especially a small woman (one who is fairly light-weight), to have a boot that provides "flex" in the shin, and these flex oh so nicely! With too "hard" of a boot, a small woman (or child) can't build up enough pressure to carve decent turns; the shin presses forward, but the boot doesn't respond in kind. The shins end up bruised, and you can't carve your turns. This is a particularly big issue for me, since I have nice, wide feet, but (thankfully), I don't weigh so much. I can't tell you how many times I have rented a pair of boots only to have to unbuckle them halfway down my first run of the day, ski the rest of the way with unbuckled boots (basically with my ski's pointed into a wedge) and then trade in the boots for something softer and more responsive. For kids, it's the same issue, generally. They need a softer boot in order to actually get the boot to respond when the shin presses forward. But kids tend not to whine and whinge as much as a 40-year old. So, I never seem to hear about it from them. Bless their happy little hearts!

YC

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Tzippy & Ric

The gorgeous tangerine-colored cashmere sweater I am wearing in this photo was designed by the fabulous brand new designing team, "Tzippy & Ric"...(the skirt is Blue Cult, another Yoga Chickie fave, along with True Religion, Hudson and Citizens).

Tzippy (Wendy) and Ric (Erica) are friends of mine from the nursery school days of our now-9-year-olds. "Ric" is a former editor-in-chief of a fashion mag and "Tzippy" used to manufacture clothes for...none other than...J Lo. With their kids in school all day, what were they to do?

Why, start their own line, of course.

I think I have a pretty good eye for fashion (if I do say so myself, or as Carrie Bradshaw would say, and I am paraphrasing, Ashtanga I may not know, but fashion...that I know), and am predicting that T & R is going to be big. BIG big. Can't wait to see it in Bendels!

And I can honestly say, I wore it first.

YC

Personal Moon Day

Since I didn't take a moon day last week, I am taking one today. Addy is home sick. I am feeling achy. And I mean really really achy. Last night, did a demonstration a couple of backbending deepeners - one with blocks under the hands, one with a folding chair under the feet (in each case, at the wall for safety). That latter one was awesome - absolute backbending nirvana. It kind of mimics handstand-scorpion (vrichikasana) and it allows the hands to be right under the shoulders (the feet are pretty far up off the ground). But I'm all spent today. Teaching takes a lot out of me. How do teachers who teach 10 or more classes a week DO it?

Sitting on the sofa, curled up with Lewis. Addy is resting in the playroom. Watching some cheesy Bette Midler movie. Yawning. Achy. Kind of nauseous. Definitely a down day.

How am I going to get up at 5 a.m. on Sunday? How???

And another question: Why do I have NO trouble jumping my legs straight through when I am home but I can NEVER do this at the shala? And that reminds me of another question: Why is Lolasana (pressing up with knees bent and feet crossed) easy for me outside the context of my practice but so challenging in between Navasanas and as an entrance to jumping back?

YC

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Asteya

First the boring practice notes (which I feel I must memorialize on a fairly regular basis in order to honor the original purpose of this blog, which was to track my progress in the asanas; yeah, yeah, I know that seems silly now, given that progress in the asanas isn't important at all to the practice of Ashtanga yoga; it doesn't matter if we NEVER progress in the asanas, as long as we keep practicing...but hey, it's nice to set an intention):

First: regarding practicing slowly. Like generating heat, practicing too slowly isn't so good. At least not for me. It sucks all of the energy out of me. I should not be taking more than 90 minutes to do my practice. And when I do, it starts to show...the the form of flagging energy. I am much better off when I practice briskly. Must try that tomorrow.

Second: regarding twisting. I am >this< close to getting my palm to the floor on each side of Parivritta Parsvakona.

Third: regarding Mari. And think it is now safe to say that I can pretty reliably grab wrists by myself in Mari A (although my form was horrible today, and when C came over to adjust me, I practically fell over onto my side!). Mari C is servicable. Mari D, eh, it's going to be a long while before I can just exhale into that one. And yet I get adjusted less and less and to a lesser extent. Ah well. It is, after all, my own practice. Must try to remember that tomorrow.

I didn't mention Mari B because I really have nothing to say about it. But that just seems wrong. I mean, here is a posture that I could really not get myself into on a consistent basis when I started practicing a year ago in led classes. And now, I can stretch my arms way way back and go for the wrist. I don't get the wrist, but I can go for it. So, I shouldn't leave out Mari B. She has done nothing wrong.

Regarding my current apex pose: Bringing my head up from Bhuja without cheating by touching my toes on the floor is one hell of a challenge. I feel like I am trying to levitate. Only unlike the practice of levitation, I can actually manage to do it. It just feels like I am lifting myself up with some sort of internal crane. A big ole awkward internal crane.

Now, on to the analytical: In thinking about my practice just now, the word "Asteya"came to mind. Asteya is one of the "Yamas", which is one of the eight limbs ("asht"-"angas") of Ashtanga yoga. Asteya is the observance or practice of "non-stealing". Asteya has also been tranlsated as "non-coveting".

I started to think about Asteya because I'm feeling a bit in a rut with my Ashtanga practice at the moment. I am not seeing much progress. Or rather, to be more accurate, there is no dramatic progress. I need to get used to that. I guess at my heart, I am a drama junkie. But there is no drama now. Which is good, but also kind of boring. I suppose Supta K will be good for the drama fix. But there's no telling when Sir will see fit to take on THAT with me.

Interesting - that this is how I see it: that whether or not I get another pose will have more to do with whether or not my teacher feels like venturing down that rabbit hole with me, than with whether or not I am physically capable of working toward the pose. I have no idea if that is really the way it is. To think that it is like that could be viewed as cynical. Playing devil's advocate to that way of thinking, I would have to say, "It has nothing to do with your teacher's state of mind, but rather how your teacher views your progression in the asanas and the practice in general." But logic, as well as experience, dictates that a teacher in a Mysore-style setting must take into account what he/she is getting into when he/she decides to teach a student a new pose.

Me, I was quite a handful when I first showed up at Shala X. I wanted to cover all of Primary as quickly as possible. When Mark got me bound in Mari C and Mari D through what might be described as sheer force, I wanted to know when I was going to get the next pose. And the next. And the next. I didn't just want to know, I would actually ask. "Can I take Bhujapidasana today?" I would ask. Until one day he let me. And that is how I got Kurmasana and Supta Kurmasana.

I think that not only was I being covetous, but I was also stealing. From my teacher. I was stealing his time and his energy. My Mari A and B were pretty rough around the edges, to say the least. So, basically, I was being adjusted in nearly every posture, from Mari A through Supta K. First degree theft in a shala. I only realize this now.

And it takes a lot of courage for me to even write it. And even more courage for me to put it out there on here. So, please don't skewer me. I know better now. And I have never ever asked Sir for a pose. And I never will.

YC

Monday, March 20, 2006

Learning the Ropes

This is an Iyengar wall.

These are just a few of the fun things you can do with an Iyengar wall.

But the funnest thing you can do with an Iyengar wall involves not the ropes hanging from up high, but the the mid-level rope (see them, pictured at knee level?) Back to that in a moment.

Today, I taught my two Vinyasa classes at Yoga Sutra. Exhilerating! Lots of energy. Ten people in the 12:15 class, mostly level I/II. Five people in the 1:15 class, all level II/III. So, essentially the same class plan, but it played out so so differently from one class to the other.

After teaching, I expanded on a tip I received via email from DK, who sometimes comments on this blog (and when she does, always has something incredibly useful to say), combining it with stuff I've been reading on First Trip To Mysore (regarding Vekatesh's backbending intensive, which uses the "hanging from ropes" methodology, among other things) and went in to explore the Yoga Sutra Iyengar Room...



...with it's gorgeous yellow walls, green ropes, big ole phonebooks, Iyengar rugs (much thicker and squishier than Mysore rugs), bolsters and some strange balance-beam-type contraption designed and built by the Dmitri Shapira. Anyway, based on what I read in First Trip To Mysore
, I pretty much knew exactly what I wanted to do with those ropes. I started out by taking two low ropes and threading them around groins (a/k/a hip creases), kind of like a makeshift "thong", stood firm, and then slowly dropped back. It was sooooo cool. This worked my legs for a while, and then I decided that I could accomplish something similar and yet different by threading one low rope around my waist (padded with an Iyengar rug) and dropping back from there. By putting the one rope around my waist, I was able to use my leg strength AND really deeply contract my spine. Finally, I decided that I wanted to use the ropes to open up my armpits in the context of backbending. So, I used the low ropes again around my groins, knelt on the floor and dropped back to reach my hands (or rather, as I discovered to my dismay, my fingers) to the floor behind me, as in Kapotasana B.

It was awesome. AWESOME. I so so so want one of the Iyengar teachers at Yoga Sutra to give a backbending workshop using the ropes. I asked Kelman if that would be possible. Need to email him on that to remind him...

Anyone else interested in that? If so, let me know...much easier to make things happen in numbers...

My practice this morning was very very good. I have nothing more to say than that. I wish I did. But I don't. I'm all gabbed out on the backbending stuff.

YC

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Mi Khamokha

Last night was the annual Auction for the kids' elementary school. It's a very exciting night because it is so so so so important that we bring in lots of money...seeing as we are a public school in a city with serious budget constraints on the education front (I have no doubt that many cities have serious budget constraings when it comes to education, but New York City is particularly "interesting" in this respect because much of the city's "big money", a/k/a political influence, sends their children to private school; thus there is somewhat less impetus here to fund public education through tax money).

In the past few years, the Auction has brought in upwards of $100,000! Last year, Judy Gold, the comedienne and MNS mom, was our Mistress of Ceremonies. This year, her Show's run was extended, so we were sans celebrity, but one of the dads did served as auctioneer, and he was actually quite funny, without all the vulgarity (Judy to a raucous crowd: "SHUT THE FUCK UP!" Judy trying to get people to bid higher, "You CHEAP BASTARDS!! Your kids are getting a free education! What the fuck is the matter with you people?").

I don't know what the Auction brought in this year, as the numbers aren't up yet on the school's website. But I do know that one of the class projects (each class works on its own project, like a quilt or a decoupaged bench, or a mosaic, which gets auctioned off in a silent auction) went for over $1,500. And five 60-minute yoga classes with me went for nearly $500 via silent auction. The Live Auction portion of the night is always exciting, with packages that this year , among other things, a trip to Aruba, a private cruise around Manhattan and a night as guest-bartender at a nightclub. These packages bring in thousands of dollars each, which is pretty wild when you think about it.

But the most amazing part of the night was something that I had never seen before: a Reverse Auction to raise $10,000 for a new basketball court in one of the recess yards behind the school. In past years, the "Basketball Yard" was the highlight of many a boy's school day. After school, boys from all different grades would gather for a pick-up game on all but the rainiest of days (snow didn't seem to stop them). It was great for the boys, and great for the moms, who got to hang out on the bleachers and chat and relax while the boys played like mad, all in the safety of the enclosed schoolyard. Then this year, the basketball court was dismantled. It was just too old to be safe. A bunch of us thought that we could pool together a couple hundred dollars and replace the hoops. No. Turns out that to do it right, it costs ten thousand bucks. So, at the end of the Auction, they offered up the Reverse Auction.

Instead of asking for increasingly high bids, the Reverse Auction asked for bids of $1,000, then $750, then $500, all the way down to $25. Instead of offering a prize package, the Reverse Auction offered the possibility of doing something good for the school, directly. Right from the very beginning, from the first, "Do I hear a thousand?" paddles were waving. Ten thousand dollars was racked up in less than five minutes. I felt like crying. When we came home, we woke Brian up to tell him the amazing news.

Practice was uneventful other than running into T, who teaches at Om and who was in the very first yoga class I ever taught. She had come with a friend, but Sir wasn't allowing drop-ins today, so she ended up observing instead of practicing. I always seem to run into T in the context of, as one of my shalamates calls it, "yoga tourism". Last time I ran into her was at Universal Force Healing Center, a primarily Kundalini studio. Now that I think about it, that was nearly two years ago. Jeez, time flies.

Only six backbends today. I just didn't have "khai" in me today.

Good news: I'm noticing that I'm less tired by the end of my practice though. I am floored when I think back to the first half led primary class i took with Govinda Kai, when I thought I was going to die if I had to do one more chatturanga, and that was probably sometime around "Johnny" A, when I thought it was INSANE that people were reaching their hands beyond their feet and grabbing their wrists and when GK kept urging me to lift up in Uthpluti, and I was like, "Dude, it's just not gonna happen in this lifetime." I guess that really was another lifetime.

The endless refrain: The Asthanga asana system really works, it's an utterly ingenious design.

Made a yummy chai today when I came home. Still haven't eat breakfast. What to eat, what to eat....

Mi Khamokha!

YC

The state of the yuj on March 17, 2006

Or, at least the state of my backbend.

So, after khai (18) backbends a day for a week or two, give or take, this is where I am at right now. It is definitely better than it's been, but hopefully not as good as it gets.

Any suggestions?

YC

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Yoga Chickie

I believe my blog is back...if you are still having trouble reading it, try clicking here, and then save the URL to your bookmarks....Yoga Chickie

And may I just say......AAARRRGGGHHHHH, it has been a rough couple of days at blogger...

YC

Friday, March 17, 2006

ARGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My blog is being held hostage by blogger!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am so frustrated. Attachment attachment attachment.

Must stop being attached to my blog!

YC

Lewis!!!!!


Here I come, Mommy!, originally uploaded by Yoga Chickie.

If my blog ever comes back from way out wherever it is in the ether, well, heeeeere's Lewis!

YC

Thursday, March 16, 2006

When Mari met Johnny

I read in Glamour last night as I was trying (an act of futility) to fall asleep (didn't pass out until sometime past 3 a.m....it was a sleep disaster of yogic proportions) that women have an average of something like three "down days" per month. It's to be expected, and it's no big deal (it only becomes a big deal if it lasts like two weeks or something like that...I apologize for the impreciseness here; I was purposely trying to zone out). Today was definitely one of those days. A down day for Yoga Chickie.

First of all, I woke up exhausted, after having racked up less than four hours of sleep, and fitfull ones at that. Second of all...well, nothing. It was just one of those down days. The sun was shining brightly. The air felt early spring-like. I saw buds on the trees. And yet I was completely out of synch with the beautiful day surrounding me. Amazingly enough, I didn't experience any back and forth debate with my usually vociferous mind about whether or not to get to practice. I just kind of sleepwalked to my car and there I was.

But I was morose, in both mind and body. I wasn't exactly stiff. But there was no joy. I found myself a little slip of floor right next to a window and I did practiced. Sure, there were moments of floating, when my purakas (inhale breaths) flowed right into my rechakas (exhale breaths). But they were few and far between. And I had a nice moment when I got an assist from our our newest assistant, recently back from Mysore and world travels, in Prasarita Pado C. This was the third day in a row (not counting the moonday on Tuesday) when she assisted my hands to the floor in this posture, and I have to admit, the first day, I wasn't sure that I liked it. She is incredibly gentle. I almost don't realize she's there. In fact, it takes a few moments for me to actually realize that she is there. I am accustomed to very muscular adjustments, so this was a new experience. I kind of wanted to tell her, "You can really press my hands down," but of course, I held my tongue. But the next day, I found myself really enjoying the seemingly effortless - and painless - way that she got me into the pose. And by today, I was hoping she would come around when I got to the pose. And she did. So that was good. She also (again, very very gently) got my leg up super high in Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana. I felt like a Rockette!

There are actually a lot of assistants around Shala X these days. It is the end of Shala X's Ashtanga Intensive, which has been going on for the past month or so, and some of the AI students have been giving hands-on adjustments in class these past few days. Next weekend it all culminates in a big open-house, where the AI students will be giving free classes all weekend for anyone who wants to come. I should note that the Gentle One is not from the AI program. I think she may have done a prior program - not necessarily called "Ashtanga Intensive". But I can't be sure because that's just what someone told me.

Anyway, so, it was a down day. And the down-day included a period of feeling quite despairing over my practice. Mari D has become challenging again, at least this week. I want so much to blame all the sweat. I am sweating BUCKETS at practice this week. And it's somehow different from my usual sweating...it's somehow wetter. I know that sounds strange. Usually, my sweat makes me somewhat sticky when it dries. But this week, it feels like I'm taking a hot shower - from the inside out.

The result of this super-wet-sweat is that my arm wants to slip off my leg as I bind in ALL of the Mari poses. This is true even wearing my thinnest cotton yoga pants (American Apparel): the pant leg merely slips around under my arm and over the skin on my leg. It won't STICK. Also, it is impossible to keep my hand from slipping off my wrist in the binds. In Mari A, B and C, this is an annoyance. In Mari D, it is ruining it for me. I can't get deep enough, and on one side today, I slipped out of the posture before I wanted to.

ATTENTION READERS, MY BLOG HAS BEEN CAPTURED BY AN ERRANT SERVER AT BLOGGER. PLEASE BE PATIENT. IN THE MEANTIME, TRY Alternative Yoga Chickie. AND MAY I JUST SAY.......ARGGHGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I am sure that the sweat has to do with releasing the toxins from last week's Zometa infusion. Or rather, I am sure that I want to think so, because that will mean that there is an end in sight (to the excessive excessively wet sweating).

This contributed to my blues. And it made me feel uninspired to do Bhujapidasana more than once. And that made me feel uninspired to do more than six backbends. Or maybe nine. I don't remember. I just didn't care enough to remember.

And another whine: my right knee has been hurting. I know it is from Janu Sirsasana C, and I have to just BACK the hell off. Fortunately, this hasn't had a major effect on my practice, although possibly, it could be enough to throw off my Mari D. I suppose.

In any event, I came home, took a hot bath and decided to stretch. And once I got going, I really got going. Lots of research poses for Mari D (including bound Ardha Matsyandrasana). And then I started to do some research poses for the shoulders-tucked-behind-the-knee poses. Amazingly enough, my knee pain completely disappeared. I guess I needed to open my hips to counteract whatever the hell I've been doing to my knee in "Johnny C".

Oh my GOD! I am boring myself! I can't imagine what this is doing to you, if you're even still reading. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

YC

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Chair Yoga at Hadassah 2005


Yoga at Hadassah 2005, originally uploaded by Yoga Chickie.

Me and the ladies at Hadassah on their "mats"...

We had such a great time, and I finally got this photo from them. What a wonderful group of women!

YC

Yoga Chickie in Exile

So, today when I arrived at Shala X, I was met at the front door by several students, all wearing masks to hide their identity. One by one, they told me all of the problems they have with me.

Said the first: "Your eyes dart around while you practice, and I can only surmise that you are observing the practices of your fellow students, judging us, judging me."

"But how would you know that," I asked, "if you weren't looking at ME? At my EYES, no less? How would you know what I am thinking anyway? How could you possibly be focused on your own practice if you're busying yourself with observing my eyes and imagining what my mind is thinking?"

Said the second: "Not only that, but sometimes when you're in the front of the room, you literally turn your HEAD to look at us. Last time, I saw you turn your head and take a good long look at...me."

"But you were practicing under the clock!" I explained, bringing to my mind that 80's classic, "About Last Night". "I sometimes turn around to see the clock to see how much time I have left before Sir leaves the room, and I'm fairly nearsighted, so I have to squint and really concentrate to see the hands of the clock."

Said the third: "You were talking about me on your blog. You said that my practice is "kind of sloppy." I resent that, Yoga Chickie."

"But I've never seen you before in my LIFE!" I exclaimed. And it was true. "I have no idea whose practice I thought was sloppy. I saw a body practicing yoga. I made no connection to who it was. I was busy practicing my own yoga."

This third one, though, she was relentless: "I saw you staring at me as I was rolling around in Garba Pindasana, and I saw your disgust because I didn't end up facing front at the end of 9 turns, and then I saw how you put yourself EXTRA precisely into Janusirsasana A, as if you were sending me a message of how yoga is supposed to be practiced, but it seemed to me that all you were doing was muscling into the pose, pulling your spine straight over your straight leg."

Oooookay.

No, none of this really happened. But take away the "anonymous posting" feature on this blog, and the above scene is what my day would have shaped up to be yesterday. Today in practice, I made a serious effort to keep my blinders on. I have no idea who was practicing Primary, Second or Third, even on the mats next to me. I have no idea who even adusted me in Prasarita Pado C or Mari A (NICE work on Mari A, whoever you are). I was in the zooone.

YC

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Guest Gig at Yoga Sutra

Starting March 20, through April 24, I am teaching the Monday Lunchtime and Late Lunch Vinyasa Classes at Yoga Sutra.

For anyone who wants to give vinyasa a try, the Lunchtime class is low commitment: only 45 minutes. It starts at 12:15, ends at 1. It's fast-paced, but appropriate for all levels. A great way to break a sweat at lunchtime. My Vinyasa teaching style is based in large part on what I learned at Jivamukti - incorporating ambient music, lots of flow from pose to pose, creative sequencing - and also what I learned in my training at Om - alignment, clarity and compassion.

The 1:15 class is 90 minutes and gives us more of an opportunity to explore pranayama, meditation and Sutra studies while still allowing time for a nice, juicy flow.

I am psyched to be back at Yoga Sutra and look forward to seeing some of you there!

YC

Monday, March 13, 2006

Dear Doggie



Dear Doggie,

The name's Lewis. I live in Manhttan, and I need some advice ya'all. Here's the quick and dirty, yo, I come from a mixed marriage. My father was a Bassett. I'm told he left my mom right after he knocked her up. My mom, a Beagle, was left to raise the whole litter of us. For three long weeks, she slaved away, feeding us, licking us, trying to keep us on the straight and narrow, yo. Then I got adopted. I don't know what happened to my brothers and sisters. There were six of us. We're what you call a broken home.

My adoptive dad was cool. He took me to live in a small house in Da Bronx, up a small flight of steps. He wasn't rich. But he got by. He went to work every day to put food in my dish. He let me play out in the backyard a lot. I got to poop whenever, wherever. I won't lie to you: it was a good life.

But I was young. I wanted to see the world. I wanted to chase squirrels. I wanted to find my brothers and sisters. But more than anything, I wanted to meet a bitch. And there was no way my old man was going to let that happen.

So one day I ran away. At first, it was cool. I spent time with a pack of hounds living down by the river. We'd keep to ourselves during the day and then we'd go out all night. We'd run around in circles, howling the way only we hounds know how to do. I met a real bitch. Her butt smelled just the way a dog butt should smell: like shit.

But in truth, by then I was already jonesing for pizza crusts. And let me tell you, it was a big jones. Bigger than I ever could have imagined. It took me around corners, through dark alleyways, across a park, and suddenly, I realize: I'm all by myself. Not in an existential sense either. I was all by myself, literally. Standing by a dumpster in front of a pizza joint I had never seen before. I didn't even know how I got there.

That's when, out of nowhere, I got nabbed. I'm thinking that this guy in the blue uniform is going to give me some pizza, but then wham, a leash gets looped over my head. And the next thing you know, I'm in the system.

At first I didn't know where they'd taken me. But I knew it wasn't good. It smelled like dog, but not in a good way. I was behind bars, with a pizza jones the size of Queens County. And I missed my bitch. I missed my compadres. But more than that, I missed my human. How had I fallen on such hard times? I heard the other guys on the cell block talking about foster homes and adoptions. What no one talked about is the guys that just disappear. Usually they were old guys. Sometimes they were kind of mean. But one day they were there on the block. Next day, no one wants to talk about it.

I was depressed. It didn't take being in the system long for me to realize I needed to get the hell out of there. So I took to tail-wagging and face-licking. And when this small lady came up to me and picked me up - all 40 pounds of me, I pretended like I was a baby, and I grabbed on for dear life. Somehow, I got lucky, and the lady took me home. Somehow, I manged to get adopted.

But here's where the problems begin. See, this small lady who adopted me, she calls herself Mommy, she really needs my protection, but she doesn't realize it. I do my best. I sit at her feet while she's on her computer or watching tv, and I make sure no one can attack her. When she's cooking or eating, I stand guard to make sure no one's gonna steal her food. Trouble is, Mommy doesn't like it. She thinks like she's all big and powerful and could fight off one of those small humans who also call her Mommy. But I think when she lets them reach up to put their mouths on her face, she's just asking for rabies. Or worse! Especially that older one. He's always trying to strangle her. I refuse to lose another human. That's why I gotta do what I gotta do. So, I growl. But then Mommy gets all in a huff. She pushes my neck down like she's trying to be the Alpha. Ha. It's kind of endearing. But, mainly, it's funny.

Today, when we were walking down the street, I saw some dude in a uniform, like the kind of uniform the guy who picked me up off the streets was wearing. A cop, I think the humans call them. I'm sure he was up to no good. Then I saw him walking up the stairs of a house, just like the house I used to live in. And that was enough for me. I started barking, trying to scare the cop away, trying to scare everyone away. There was no way I was going to let anyone get tossed into the system like I was, for no reason, out of nowhere, apropos of nothing. And I sure wasn't going to let Mommy get nabbed like I did.

Trouble was, like I said, Mommy doesn't get it. She nearly blew a gasket - pulled my collar really hard and made me sit. And there was no treat at the end of the sit either.

So, Dear Doggie, what can I do to make Mommy understand that she needs me as a guard dog? That I am needed to keep the streets safe from cops? That the little humans who call her Mom might eat her if she's not careful?

Signed,

Lewis from the Block

Individualized Ashtanga practice ...NOT an oxymoron

Ho hum. Practiced today. It went fine. Vinyasas still a bit weak, and jump throughs a bit lame. I have to say, I don't quite understand what's up with my vinyasas right now. When I am alone in the privacy of my own home, I can jump my legs straight through. I can jump straight into tirianga mukha pada. I float. I fly. And then I come to class. And I klunk. I flop. At best, I scootch and slide. I talk to my legs, I tell them, "Engage, damn you!" And then I feel kind of bad because I know that my legs would respond much better to positive reinforcement. And besides, it isn't all their fault anyway. It's those shifty, mischievous bhandas not doing their fair share of the work. There they are. And then there they're not.

Where do they go, so furtively, taking with me my jump throughs?

Mari C and Mari D are just poses that I do now. Nothing major going on there. I don't see a lot more depth happening any time soon. Right now, I am dealing with sweat issues, which is slightly interfering with my poses. It's not quite hot and sweaty enough for me to break out my Mysore rug (even though I now have it at the read, just in case). But it's way too hot and sweaty for me to get through my entire practice without wiping and adjusting my yoga pants - either higher up on my tummy so that my lotus foot doesn't slide around on my bare skin, or lower down so that my back arm doesn't slide directly across my bare, sweaty back, making my wrist slick with sweat so that it becomes impossible for me to grab my wrist with my wrapping arm...or adjusting my tank top - either pulling it up so that I can use the slipperiness of my sweaty back to help me slide my hands up my back into reverse prayer for Parsvotannasana or to help me slide my wrapping arm around me in the Ardha Badhas, or pulling it back down so that I can grip my waist in Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana.

I love the heat, don't get me wrong. But all that sweat is just overkill for my practice. But summer's coming, and this is just the beginning, so I better get used to it. You take the good with the bad. And the fact that it's light in the mornings, and it's easier to get out of the house without the many layers of clothing, and I can wear flip-flops again...well, that's all good.

Bhuja Pidasana is pretty much about as good as it is going to get, I think, save for the tweaking that years of practice adds to any pose. I wonder when it will be time for Kurmasana. That is the one pose (by Kurmasana, I am referring to both Kurmasana and Supta K) that I fear and dread. There is something about the way people look in it, with their backs all curled up like a mushroom and their legs behind their heads....it looks scary to me. I feel that way about no other poses. So this should be interesting. If, and when.

Speaking of Kurmasana and Supta K, there was a girl practicing in my peripheral vision today who did all of Primary, but whose form was really quite sloppy. She could barely straighten her arms in Kurmasana. And it made me wonder: why is it that some people are expected to really perfect and finesse their asanas before they are given new ones (and by some people, I am pretty sure I mean me), and some people just plow through Primary with little adherence to the finer details that I am more or lessed forced to adhere to (for example, Mari A: if there is someone available, I always get an adjustment such that my UNDERSIDE of my chin is pressed into my shin and my back is stretched so far, it feels like I'm on a rack, but in a good way)? I bet that if I was seen doing Mari A with my back rounded, and I moved onto Mari B, someone would come over and tell me to do Mari A again with their help. And yet all around me, people have their backs curved and their foreheads on their knees.

I am in no way upset about any of this. I just find it interesting. I wonder if it is because forward bending is a huge strength of mine. Just as some of you bendy gumby people out there can touch your hands to your ankles in Urdhva Dhanurasana, or even walk your hands up towards your knees, I, myself, am forward-bending savant. My hamstrings simply feel no pain. They just stretch and stretch, like a worn-out rubber band. I consider this a happy little gift. We all have our gifts. This is mine. So, perhaps no one will ever give a hoot about my ability to bend 360 degrees in Urdvha Dhaurasana, but I'll always be kept to a high standard in poses that require loose hammies?

Or, as we were discussing yesterday at brunch, perhaps it is a reflection of the notion that my "yoga practice" is in the slowing down. Given a choice between taking the slow road or plowing ahead, my challenge is always to be willing to stay on the slow road. It's a major factor in why I gravitated toward Sir and Shala X. They "got" me. He "got" me. I'm an athletic, strong little person, and I can do what you throw at me. But that doesn't make it yoga. What makes it yoga for me is learning patience, learning to take instruction, learning to acknowledge when the ego is obscuring my view, like dirt on a windshield (and by "my" I am referring to my "self", the untouched, unconfused, unsubjective, pure truth, the observer of the mind; thus if the mind is all identified with the ego, the self is obscured, at least to some extent).

A real turning point in my practice came in September 2005 when Sir took everything after Mari C taken away, saying, "Let's finally get you to do this correctly, on your own, before we move past it." That was where the rubber could have met the road. That was the day that if I was not ready for what was about to be taught, I would have to have left Shala X and gone and found a teacher who would continue to feed my ego (Ego: "I'm so fit! I teach yoga! I can DO all the poses, I just need some help, but I can really DO them!"). If I had done so, however, I wonder what my practice would look like today? Would I even know how to bind Mari C? Would I be chomping at the bit for Second, which I am so not ready for (yet)?

The taking away of Mari D and everything past it was the greatest gift Sir could have given me as a teacher. My sticking around in spite of the blow to my ego was the greatest gift I could have given myself as a student.

Anyone else out there feel like their teacher teaches them a very individualized yoga practice, even within the sameness of the Asthanga series?

YC

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Why my practice sucked today


Just Yoga Chickie, please, originally uploaded by Yoga Chickie.

...It started with the ABS dress shown above (unfortunately, the floaty taupe chiffon handkerchief bottom isn't in the photo) , a pair of Prada strappy sandals (similar to the ones pictured, but in brown leather) and the amazing Hose Without Toes. It continued with a single Beefeater Martini with three olives.

And before I knew it, it was midnight, I had consumed an entire crabmeat salad with a taste of Chardonnay, some Chilean Sea Bass with a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon and enough bites of New York cheesecake to make me feel, well, not well. I collapsed into bed and was asleep almost before my head hit the pillow, thus managing to squeeze in somewhere between six and seven hours of sleep. Nevertheless, I woke up feeling as if my calves had been cranked way up to my knees. When I stepped out of bed, the stiffness moved up through my hips and into my lower back. Even my shoulders took some of the brunt.

I got to practice, and it was so packed that if I hadn't claimed the spot immediately next to the door, I would have had to wait for a spot. I have never seen that happen at Shala X. I was the second to last person to get to practice this morning. Yet I found myself moving so slowly and laboriously that as I was finishing my last Surya B, the last guy in was already bending forward into one of the Prasarita Pados (don't know which one).

All of that said, and despite a really awkward, and out of alignment Arhda Badha Padmottanasana on the first side, I still managed to get into every pose. On the other hand, Jose had to push my interlocked fingers further down than usual in order to get my hands to the floor behind my head in PP C, my vinyasas were weak, I felt kind of nauseated by the heat and the odors, and one side of Mari D was particularly wacky - the first side - the same side in which I had trouble in Ardha Badha Padmo. I think my hips were in spasm today from a night in high heels, and the right is always more spazzy than the left. So, notwithstanding a pretty deep bind in Mari D on the right, my right knee was miles from the floor, and I have no idea how I didn't simply fall over. But I didn't. And then...ahhhhh...Navasana. Such a relief to get there. Navasana is so totally no big deal for me. Some pose should be, right?

Did I mention my vinyasas were weak? And by weak, I mean, pathetic. And by pathetic, I wish to elaborate. For the first time in Yoga Chickie ashtanga history, I did not vinyasa between sides after Tirianga Mukhapada Paschimo.

After Navasana, I squeezed out three Bhujas, partly because this pose is just so much fun for me now, and partly because I felt the need to do a couple of extra vinyasas to make up for the ones I missed in the Janu Sirsasanas and Marichyasanas. None was particularly stellar, but I must say, I have finally met Mula Bhanda, without which Bhuja cannot happen.

By the time I got to backbends, I was totally not into doing backbends. Mainly a psychological thing. For the longest time, backbends contained my biggest dread - opening the armpits. So, it is easy to forget that right now, finally, I am at a point where I can press right up to my first Urdhva Dhanurasana without much discomfort at all. Thus, after the first one today, I realized I was perfectly capable of pressing on and doing my usual 18. Or, rather, in this case, 15, one of which I held for 15 breaths...).

Later is was brunch with some shala mates. Always great fun. Not something I am able to do often enough, because usually I have to run up to the gym to pick up the kids from the Husband (who brings them to Family Time, just like on the Sex and the City Episode) and take them to Hebrew School so that the Husband can catch a led primary class (his only ashtanga practice of the week). Today the Husband didn't feel like practicing.

Wonder why?!

On other fronts, yesterday was the second time Addy had a tooth pulled on an emergency basis. That boy really knows how to smack himself in the mouth. The weird thing was that the injury that:
led to the abscess
that led to the gum swelling of elephantine proportions
that led to a frantic call to the pede,
that led to a Saturday morning visit with the pede,
that led to a quickie referral to a pediatric dentist with Saturday hours,
that led to an x-ray that showed that more than half of Addy's tooth had disintegrated and was now filled with a mixture of pus and gum (eeeeew!!!)
happened more than three years ago (on the playground, where else?).

Last spring, he developed an abscess in the gum above one of his front teeth and had to have it pulled that day. And now, almost a year later, the other front tooth went south as well. Addy handled it super bravely, and all is well.

After that, we went to a random diner on the Upper East Side and ran into an ex-boyfriend of mine, his wife and some of their friends, who I had known back in the day. It was good to see G because the last time we spoke was nearly four years ago, when I was in the midst of chemo, and I couldn't muster up the strength to even meet him for coffee. No, wait, I think I ran into him on the street at some point after that. I don't know. It was fun to chat with them. They asked me if I was going to write about it here. They knew about my blog from a friend of mine who is a brother in law of a friend of theirs...who might be less than six degrees from Kevin Bacon ;).

I think I said, "nah". But here I am, writing about it. I hope that's cool....no deep dark secrets of the Diner Interlude will be revealed...I swear.

Oh yeah, and speaking of re-connecting with old connections, we got a ;etter from our former nanny, Tereze, who now lives in Prague with her husband. We love Tereze, and she basically saved my family from going down the toilet when I wasn't well, and she only left when I was finally on my feet again. Like Mary Poppins, with a student visa instead of an umbrella, and cargo pants and a belly ring instead of a proper little dress and blouse. The big news is that there's going to be a baby! And if it's a boy, his name will be......Adam.

YC

Friday, March 10, 2006

Almost missed the boat

But I caught it before it had gotten to far away from me.

Caught it right after Bhujapidasana, in fact.

Today I got to practice 15 minutes later than my new and improved usual time. It was not a matter of procrastination. It was a matter of just moving reeeeeaaaaally slowly and kind of not caring because I kind of sort of didn't want to get any adjustments today, and I figured that if I got there later, I would finish later, which would mean that T would leave the room before I got to Mari C and D.

So, why did I feel ambivalent about getting adjusted today? Basically because today was my sixth day in a row of practicing. That is a LOT of days of practice in a row, and I have gotten deep adjustments in Mari C and/or D in every single one of the them. And my understanding is that Fridays are traditionally supposed to be "easy" days. That means that if you practice beyond Primary, you only do Primary on Fridays. But what about those of us who practice only some of Primary? What is an easy day for us? I figured that an easy day for me would be a day where I just get myself into poses and not worry so much about the depth of my twists and the wrist-grabbing.

Then I got to Shala X. As I walked in, I could see that the class was packed. Hmmm....that's strange, I thought...usually it is pretty quiet at the shala on Fridays. Fridays are usually a day off for Sir, and although T is great, people do get attached to their teacher. And by people, I guess I would mean, well, me. Fancy that. So, when I realized that Sir was teaching, my whole motivation changed. Fancy that!

On the other hand, I was still a bit ambivalent about being adjusted in Mari C and D today, so I didn't plan on rushing through my practice just to make sure that I got to Mari C before Sir left the room at 10:15. On the other other hand, I thought it would be a good day to try treating my Mysore practice like a led practice and getting into and out of my asanas with a minimum of drama and flourish and holding my asanas for five breaths each, period. As a result, I made it through all of the standing poses and was sitting in Dandasana within 25 minutes (okay, I only did four Surya Namaskar B's...but I DID hold Parivritta Parsvakonasana and Prasarita Pado C for an extra five breaths each). That left 20 minutes to get through the first half of Primary, which I did easily, and ended up getting great adjustments in C and D in just the nick of time.

The amazing thing was that it felt so good to move through the postures and the vinyasas at a brisk (read: non-proscrastinated) pace. I built up an incredible amount of heat, and my vinyasas were really smooth without all of the drama and anticipation with which I often imbue them. So happy was I to have made it from my first Surya A to Mari D in a respectable 45 minutes, without having felt like I had sacrificed anything, including my breath and my form, and so excited was I to dive into my still-new asana, Bhujapidasana, that I just went right to it after Mari D. I did a nice Bhujapidasana, although my exit was sloppy because I experimented with taking one leg into bhakasana at a time, which made me fall over to one side. And just as I was about to try again, without the one-leg-at-a-time thing, I realized that something was missing.

I had missed Navasana, "boat pose". Back to Navasana I went. And then back to Bhuja. And then Bhuja again. Like a kid with a new trick. "Again! Again!" It is so much fun! She said, clapping her hands with glee...

So what happened to my "easy" day? In a word: backbends. I bagged on my 18 backbends, and just kept it to three, eight breaths each. And only 10 breaths in headstand, although I still took five breaths in Ardha Sirsasana (half-headstand, which for the non-Ashtangi's out there, is harder than headstand...the legs are at a 90 degree angle to the body and just dangling there, held up by nothing more than the strength of the core and an energetic lifting of the inner thighs).

Later, I met my friend E for lunch (Go Ladies Who Lunch!). She's designing cashmere sweaters with another woman we know, and she gave me a gorgeous tangerine, v-necked, long-sleeved one. Then E and I took Lewis on an hour-long walk by the river, went to pick up our kids at school. On the way, E stopped to pick up an iced coffee NOT at Starbucks, but at the "lowbrow" place, as it is known in New York (but we don't care, we like it anyway), and we ran into K there, also picking up an iced coffee before heading off to pick up her younger son at school - a different school from the school E's and my kids go to.

That's the cool thing about New York City in the warm weather. Everyone's out and about, and you run into people you know everywhere, and when the school day is over, you go to pick your kids up in the schoolyard. So there is a lot of socializing, lots of interaction. It's very friendly and social. Whoever said that New York is an impersonal place?

And well, that brings me to right now. Home on the sofa, feet up, Lewis by my side, kids playing.

Shabbat Shalom!

YC

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Blogaholics Anonymous?

Or simply blogger boredom?

Sometimes I get bored of blogging, but I keep going because basically, more or less, I kinda like it. I like having the outlet. I like being about to organize and analyze my thoughts in this manner. And I like having the record, especially of my yoga practice. I suppose I could write in a journal, the old-fashioned way. Or I could type on this here laptop and save my entries to my hard drive. But whenever I write without an audience (whether real or imagined) in mind, my writing is sloppy - utterly lacking in grammar, flow, even capital letters. So I keep blogging.

Seems like a number of my favorite bloggers have stopped blogging or have seriously curtailed their blogging. And I am just wondering....why? What's so bad about the blog? Have those who have stopped blogging simply lost interest in blogging? Or are they quitting the blog the way someone quits smoking or drinking...maybe they still like it, but they realize that it would just be better not to...?

YC

Konkasana

Today I got a new pose: Konkasana.

"That's third series!" Madame called out as I rubbed my forehead and laughed.

So, I clonked my noggin. But then, who hasn't done so at least once or twice upon coming up from bhujapidasana and stretching the legs back into bakasana?

Sir let me try it twice on my own and then he finally held me up so that neither my humungous candy apple head nor my big fat butt would come crashing down, like the heavy end of a see-saw (yeah...no, I don't really have a candy apple head or a big fat butt, but when trying to balance on my hands while see-sawing up and down, as Bhuja requires, it just feels that way...) At least I immediately got the hang of taking my legs through, forward and back, without touching the ground. Turns out that's not the hard part for me. The hard part is the gear-shift right after that...where you STOP extending your butt backwards and start centering your weight over your hands, slightly shifting forward in order to balance while you bakasana out of the pose.

Here I was thinking Bhuja was an arm balance, when in fact, it is really quite dynamic, not to mention the first no-bones-about-it, engage-your-bhandas-and-don't-let-go exploration in the Primary Series.

Anyway, it's terribly fun. Good times. Lots of laughs.

After class, hung for a few minutes with the a couple of shala mates: the improbably young looking mom of three grown kids and Shala X's current resident celebrity. Sir was there too, and we were talking about the things our moms imbibed and inhaled while pregnant with us. Then Sir and I got into a discussion of Ayurveda. See, it turns out that many Ashtangis are quite fond of coffee, Guruji included. No, Guruji, especially. So, what's the deal with my no-coffee epiphany? Well, every body is different. And apparently, it seems that my body is so "hot" (as in "pitta" hot, not as in "hottie" hot), that the coffee blows the ceiling off. I also have a bit of Vata in me, apparently. But what I have almost nothing of is Kapha. Did you know that predominant Kapha is the most healthy way to be? That Kaphas live longer? Who knew?

YC

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Bhujapidasana

"Lauren, take Bhujapidasana."

"Thank you!"

"OK, drop your head now, get your feet through without touching them to the foor....now come back up without touching the feet down....fold back the legs and jump back."

Check. Um, not quite check. And surprisingly, check.

"So, there's no tittibasana before jumping back?"

"That's right."

I also got helped to a demonstration from Sir on how to come up without letting the feet touch. This is the touchpoint I need to make before getting my next pose, Sir told me, "And I am sure you will be able to do that in no time," he predicted.

Not to take away my triumph over the Marichyasanas and the press-ups between Navasanas, nevertheless, I do feel obliged to disclose that today seemed to be a veritable Clearance Sale on asanas at Shala X: Sir was giving them away wherever I looked. The dancer in the front row was already in her first backbend when Sir told her to stand back up and vinyasa into her very first Pasasana. The actress next to me seemed a bit stunned when after she finished her Bjujapidasana, Sir told her to do it again, only this time, sit down and thread her arms under her legs....Kurmasana. And the several beginners in the room seemed to be given pose after pose in of the Standing Series.

What a wonderful way to punctuate a week in which I spent a good part of my Monday in a chemo infusion room and in which I have woken up slighty nauseous every morning. The nausea passes, but food doesn't taste quite right. I can't seem to stomach any animal protein at all because it doesn't digest quickly enough and leaves my stomach tasting sour for many hours after. And even my chai tastes a bit, I don't know, oddly bland this week. Dr. H says the side effects should last only a week. I remember last year, they lasted a month. But they were different side effects then: debilitating fatigue and bloating. This year, it's the stomach stuff and at night, a bit of restless legs. Ever have restless legs? Ah, the joy of legs that want to stretch and move when you want to sleep. It's quite bizarre, and unfortunately, quite unpleasant. I find that ibuprofin helps though.

Anyway, not to throw a wet blanket over a wonderful morning....instead, I will leave you with an anecdote that starts with utter despair and self-loathing and ends with triumph: Last night, as I was leaving my Yahoo! Hot Jobs vinyasa class, I made a HUGE effort to remember to take my iPod Video with me. I try never to bring it out of the house in the first place, but yesterday I had forgotten to charge my Shuffle. Anyway, of course, despite my efforts to remember, I forgot. I left that darn thing in the vinyasa room. I only remembered about three hours later: 10:00 p.m. I immediately gave myself a big ole metaphorical beating, telling myself what a jackass I am, asking myself why I can't have anything valuable without losing it (my last Shuffle, my Cartier Panthere watch...which thank goodness was insured...., just to name a few).

I put in a frantic call to Tiffany, my boss, who was probably sleeping by then, but who in her infinite kindness immediately made phone calls to make sure that I would be able to get into the offices in the morning, despite not being a Yahoo! Hot Jobs employee and all. Ultimately, in the nearly wee hours, racked with self-loathing and guilt (the iPod was a birthday gift from my parents and even has my name engraved on the back), and not being able to take the suspence a moment longer, I jumped in my trusty Volvo and booked on down to 18th between Fifth and Sixth and found a parking spot right in front of the building. So far so good.

Then it hit me: the doors at Yahoo! Hot Jobs are locked and require a swipe of a card against a little box to open them. I asked the security guard in the lobby of the building if he had a master key. Of course, he said no. Hmmm. Then I went upstairs and prayed that a cleaning person would be passing by. No such luck.

Then, just for the hell of it, I took out my Volvo Keyless Remote and wiggled it in front of the little box where you're supposed to swipe your card key. Click. The door unlocked. In I went, retreived my iPod, and out I went. Only as I waited for the elevator to take me back down to my car did it occur to me how absolutely INSANE it was that my Volvo Keyless Remote was able to open the Yahoo! Hot Jobs door. I started to think that I had dreamt the whole thing. So, as a way of "pinching" myself, I went back to the door and checked to make sure that it was, in fact, locked. It was. Tight as a drum. Then I waved my Keyless Remote in front of the black box, waiting for the click. No click. I tried again. Still nothing. I checked the door. Still locked.

How I got into Yahoo! Hot Jobs is an absolute mystery to me. An act of divine intervention perhaps? A total fluke? You be the judge.

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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