Monday, December 31, 2007

Food for thought...

Practice at the CT Shala was slooooooooooooow today. Got one adjustment, and it was really just to grip my shin tighter in Mari D, while holding my wrist. Then I was on my own, due to the lateness of the hour. Had to bind Supta K on my own, which is not as much fun as I initially thought it was. Had to drop myself back, which is pretty stupid, to which anyone who has seen my backbends can attest. And yet, strangely, I did stand up on my own without looking like a drunken monkey on the third try. On the first try, I had to push myself up with one hand from behind, although I technically did "stand up" withut assistance. But it was soooo ugly, I can't count that as anything. On the second try, I fell to my knees. It was only when I dropped back and popped right back up that I could do it with one percent more grace than is usual for me.

I did the DonutsZenMom-Elbows-Around-The-Head-a-la-Headstand-at-the-Wall-Research. I felt NOTHING at all. Which is not surprising because as DZM says (and I paraphrase), I have a disconnect between my brain and my armpits. BUT, that said, after three of those, I did the Laksmi-Endorsed-Forearms-To-The-Wall-Research (would love to put my triceps against the wall, but currently, that is not to be), and there was a marked improvement in terms of my general feeling of suffering in backbends.

That's saying a lot, really.

Of course, you get a little, you give a little: My Pasasana sucked badly. My wrapping arm kept slipping off my outside leg on the second side, so that I ended up in a cross between Mari A and Mari C while squatting. Not pretty. And I was squatting with my back to the wall, so there was no excuse, other than impatience, and that's no excuse at all. And come to think of it, I basically phoned in my Salabasana and Bhekasana. I just wanted to get the hell out of there because it felt like the practice that never ended.

Of course, it did end. And I came home and baked two batches of scones, one blueberry and one almond/apricot. Then I cooked up some Moroccan Chicken and Chickpea Stew. It smelled so good, I served myself some chicken along with my chickpeas, surprising myself since I don't normally eat chicken or much of any meat at all these days. Then I tasted it and put it right back. The chickpeas were so much nicer.

I'm going through this phase where I find meat absolutely disgusting. What's strange is that I keep thinking I WANT to eat meat. Then, I taste it, and...yuck. Not really a problem. Actually, in theory, I would prefer to eat no meat at all because of the aftereffects - feeling sluggish, feeling food in my stomach long after I've eaten, feeling toxic the next day at practice, not having lovely vegetarian poops. Sorry, readers, but it's true. When you don't eat meat, your shit don't stink.

If anything, it's that last reason that keeps me off meat more than anything else.

But I digress. Way off the point. I wanted to write about having read Norman Allen's and David Williams's interviews with Guy, which are reprinted on Guy's Ashtanga Yoga Sangha website. Two takes on the Mysore experience with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois during roughly, well more than roughly, the same time period, could not be more different. Fascinatingly different. But I should temper that by saying that I could barely understand Norman Allen's interview. Bits and pieces came through to me, but as a whole, it was difficult to understand and seemingly full of contradictions. Guy seemed interested in getting NA to talk about my own dear-to-my-heart-topic: asana as the means to yoga. NA had explained that he came to Ashtanga as taught by SKPJ because he was impressed by the physical practice:

"A month or two before this conference, two young Indians from Mysore show up at the Ashram with Saris - wanting to sell saris and little sarongs, and one of their names is Basaraju and one of them is Manju, OK? And they hung out there, in their young 20’s and this one boy Manju demonstrates some Yoga postures that he had learned from his father… Oh Man! look at that....

"So, I saw Manju and Basaraju and then a month or two later saw his father and then saw Vishvanath demonstrate and I said: 'OK, this I want to learn'."


NA had already been engaged in all manner of yoga practices ("... we did asanas, pranayamas, we did chakrabrakshalas, we did every clean out there was, we fasted and then after the fast we ate dosa...we ate the masala dosa, we did coffee enemas, we did every kind of thing, we did mainly a lot of the laya yoga kriyas, visualization, levitation"). In what Manju and his friend were doing, NA found something new that he wanted to try, from a physical standpoint.

But then he seems to say that the asana practice will get you "nowhere", without "taking other steps." He talks about the importance of dissolving the ego. Guy asks him if the asana practice might be a means to that and NA says no. But it's confusing as to what one needs to do to dissolve the ego. At first he says that the yamas and niyamas are important. Then a moment later he says to forget the yamas and niyamas, that it is all about prana. Here is what he says about the physical practice, itself:

"But to have a practice that locks you into a format and a discipline that calls you to attention. That will teach you (that) if you get afflicted in the body, what means can you use to un afflict yourself? That’s all there. That’s precise and glorious if you can deal with that. It’s too late to dig the well when the fire is burning and the house is on fire. “Oh, man I gotta go do some yoga…!” No man! You learn it early and practice it and then when you are in trouble you can call on it, because then it’s appropriate.

"That’s why, be established in it. It takes a few years of regular practice, you get to be intimate with your body, you know when it’s out of humors and you can evoke some relief for it."


I have to be honest: I keep reading it over and over again, and I can't understand what he is trying to say, or how it relates to what else he said. If anyone can give me a summary of NA's main points, it would be very helpful.

As for Williams, I have to say, I liked what he had to say, and I liked the way he said it. He tells the story of how he came to practice the entire Ashtanga system, in a clear, linear fashion. He answers Guys questions directly and comprehensibly, including the question of what role the asanas take in the quest for yoga:

"If you do the practice, all will be revealed and to me, that’s the spiritual part of having the revelations by first getting the body in a fit enough position where it won’t interrupt you, so you can get into a state of meditation. The word 'yoga' and 'meditation' are synonyms. I, more and more over the years, work to make my yoga practice a moving meditation and then at the end of my practice, when I get up and walk away, I continue that meditation into my life, all day long, so I consider the practice to be a foundation of a twenty-four hour a day meditation."


DW also makes it clear that he came to Mysore after already having taught the Primary Series as he understood it, and he made clear to SKPJ that he wanted to learn it properly so that he could teach it properly.

When did it become criminal to have a desire to teach Ashtanga and to ask the SKPJ family to ready you to teach it?

Here is how he ends the interview:

"I went to India searching for the best possible yoga practice and I found his system and started learning it with diligence. Since then I have still continued my search of the world for the greatest fitness program; I ask everybody that I meet, “Have you found a better yoga system than this?” I still haven’t found anything better than Guruji’s ashtanga yoga practice. If somebody said to me, "OK, you have fifteen minutes or one hour. Do something good for yourself; you can have all the equipment, no equipment, barbells, bicycles, whatever...

I would get down on the floor and start doing my Salutations to the Sun and start going through the first series. I am entirely indebted to Guruji for all of the hundreds of hours that he put into teaching me the ashtanga yoga."


Now that's food for thought I can digest with ease.

YC

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Well, I still like skiing

Even if, apparently, I hate sex and yoga. Or maybe what I hate is the idea of sex as group recreation, as opposed to an expression of intimacy between individuals, and the notion that yoga has to be a spiritual quest, as opposed to what it is for me, which is a physical exercise that has the effect of wrangling the otherwise wild flailings of mind.

Actually, I don't know if I still like skiing either. I will let you know after today - first day skiing this season. We've gone from Boca to the Borscht Belt. Actually, not the Borscht Belt, but rather the Berkshires. The Borscht Belt is more the Catskills.

Latah.

YC

Saturday, December 29, 2007

For Owl (OvO): Throwing down

I see you one wordy post and raise you one One Taste video. Now, what were you saying? One Taste is a place to explore naked yoga without sexual subtext?



Discuss.

YC

Friday, December 28, 2007

It happens anyway

Whenever I lose my keys, and this is something which occurs on an uncomfortably regular basis, I find them only when I stop looking. Whenever a word is on the tip of my tongue but just out of reach, I know that the word will come out of its hiding place when I cease trying to coax it. Perhaps I am just oppositional in my nature, straight through to my very core. But I hold these truths to be self-evident, that for me, seeking is not the key to finding.

And so it is with the yoga. I have gotten so many wonderful benefits from my yoga practice, despite that I have not always sought those benefits. There is a physiological reality to the calming nature of certain postures, and likewise, to the stimulating nature of others.

When guruji said, practice and all is coming, did he really mean, "practice the postures, go to workshops on the postures, go to workshops on sanskrit and pranayama, read the bhagavad gita, learn to chant the sutras, offer fruit to statues of ganesh, and all is coming?"

I really don't think so. I believe that he meant us to do our physical practice, and the other limbs will become apparent. That there is no need to seek. Samadhi will find us when we practice.

Did Norman Allen go to Guruji in search of Samadhi? Or did he think that the postures he saw being practiced on the beach (by manju I think) were waaaay cool?

Does guruji want us to pray to his photo? Or would it be enough for us to see his face as a source of inspiration?

I feel lucky that I found a vigorous, challenging physical workout that leaves me feeling nourished, enriched and calm, rather than depleted, wasted and frazzled (like the way running fifty miles per week did). I am lucky that I found Bikram first, because it taught me that the yoga happens, even if you're not looking for it, even if no one tells you about it, even if the posture-names are identified in pidgin Sanskrit by teachers trained through memorization of a dialogue that talks solely about the muscles, bones and skin and nothing that exists on any meta level.

Jivamukti yoga was a good next step because it provided answers to the question, "what is it that I am feeling when I do this physical thing called hatha yoga?".

And I am pleased to have found Ashtanga finally because it will provide an infinite physical challenge for me, a never-ending supply of ways to engage myself into stillness.

If you go to the mat, it will come. Even if you don't ask for it. Even if you don't want it. Even if you don't seek it.

It happens anyway.

Don't be telling me I'm not an ashtangi.

YC

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Superbad Lady





















Comic: "So then the rabbi says to the horse..."

Buddha: "Ha, ha, ha! Stop! You're killing me!"

Title of Cartoon: "If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha"

(reprinted from sharonspotbottom.blogspot.com)

********************************************************************************

If there's a blog war going on, no one's told me about it.

But let me see what I can do about that.

It has recently come to my attention that some people practice Ashtanga for the purpose of finding peace or truth or "that place inside all of us that contains the universe entire" (so said a Bikram teacher whose class I recently attended), or in order to accept with equanimity, the "duality in everything, whereby hardness contains softness and ease contains effort and sadness contains happiness" (so said an Anusara teacher whose class I recently happened to overhear, long story, don't ask).

I even remember a time when perhaps, cough, I might have had such lofty ideals, myself. But please do not remind me of this.

At the moment, there is one reason that I practice Ashtanga, and it is because it is the best friggin workout EVER. For me, at least. It is perfectly perfect for me in ever way, except for, perhaps, how long it takes me to get through an entire practice. But physically, it is the BALLS. And nothing has gotten my body in shape like Ashtanga, not running, not biking, not skating. NOTHING. And I want to keep that going. So, I continue to practice, even when I don't feel like it.

I don't maintain a daily practice with the notion of any particula Sutra in mind (steadiness, blah blah blah). I don't seek to keep my mind on one point. It JUST HAPPENS. It's a happy side effect of the physical practice.

But let me tell you: I get into a deeper meditative state when I am sewing (my parents bought me a sewing machine for my birthday, and so far, I have hemmed several pairs of my jeans whose hems had been dragging on the ground, I have tailored my own ski pants to fit my slimmer frame, I have sewn two neck rolls and slip-covered an ottoman) or when I am doing just about any DIY project at home (painting Brian's room the color of Boston College's uniform was incredibly meditative). But I sure as hell wouldn't trade sewing or painting or hanging pictures or organizing my photos or reupholstering chair seats for 10 Surya Namaskars followed by Standing and then Primary (and a little bit of Second).

Someday maybe the chicken will come after egg. But right now, it's all about the egg.

And what's funny is, other than the fact that I have just now outed myself vis a vis my anti-yoga-establishment attitude, I could practice anywhere with anyone til the cows come home, as they say, and no one would EVER know the difference. I could be the MOST "yogic" of people. OR NOT. And no one would know what was going on inside my head.

I don't believe in, worship or care for Hindu "gods". They're not gods to me, and although I enjoy the story of Hanuman, Ram and Sita, it's more about the story, kind of like the way I like the story of Orpheus or Narcissus from Greek mythology). Truthfully, I don't like most Indian food. I have no desire to wear a Sari. I don't want to go to Mysore because I really really really like my Western luxuries. I don't want to paint myself in Henna. I don't want to bathe in the Ganges. I practice when I want with whom I want to practice. I don't do the Invocation unless the entire room is doing it, and then, only once per day. I have ceased to do the Closing Mantra altogether. Because it's a prayer, and I come for the workout, not for the religious experience.

I am what you might call, a SUPERBAD LADY.

But I am comfortable with it. I wonder who else out here is as "superbad" as me.

YC

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Traditional New York Yule Log



It's a time-honored tradition for fireplace-deprived New York City dwellers to have free and constant (at least for three hours) access to a crackling, roaring fireplace blaze (that actually was filmed at Gracie Mansion in time for its debut on December 25, 1966) on Christmas. And so, directly from Boca, where the palm trees smell vaguely of pastrami on rye and where for many, Chinese food is the only sign that it's even Christmas at all, I give you: The Yule Log.

Happy Holidays to all, and to all a good night.

YC

Monday, December 24, 2007

Del Boca Vista: What a difference a little warmth in the atmosphere makes...

Blogging from Boca on Christmas Eve.

What a strange place Boca Raton is. It's as gaudy as Vegas, but spread out over vast six-lane highways with names like "Butts" and "Jog" and "Powerline" and which connect one ostentatiously named (e.g., "Broken Sound") and gated residential development to another, each development really a conglomerate of hundreds of smaller developments, each, again, ostenstatiously ( and quite unimaginatively) named (e.g., Bridgewood), if not gated. Everything here in Boca is an exact replica of something that exists up north, particularly in New York, and more particularly in Long Island. In fact, everyone here really IS from up north, particularly New York, and more particularly Long Island, and they all fly down to escape the winter weather and receive visits from their grandchildren and eat out in the same restaurants they eat out in up north and shop in the same departments stores they shop in up north and hang out with the same friends they hang out with up north. Except it's all transplanted here, amid the palm trees and the golf courses and the plaid pants and the white hair. And the rules.

Ah, the rules.

Those who would migrate Bocaward for the winter must, in their deepest heart of hearts, embrace rules. Particularly rules that remind them how very worthy of rules they truly are. There is a long list of rules at the pool, for example, including, "All flotation devices must be attached to a person. No free floating floatation devices will be toleraed." There is a list of rules regarding who can eat at which restaurant in the development. No children at this place. No women at that place. Women at this place, but only in that room and only on that day. Nothing that unusual, I suppose, if you're accustomed to private country clubs and the like. But that's only the beginning of the rules that serve as the foundation and heart center of what is Boca Raton.

There are, for example, strict dress codes at each restaurant in each residential development. The one which I was reading today stated that jeans are not acceptable "except designer jeans" and that "all shirts must be tucked except for Tommy Bahamas". Is it any surprise that a rabble-rouser such as myself would read these rules and begin to ask such questions as, "Are Levi's designer jeans?" "What if the designer jeans have rips in the knees?" And "What in God's name is a Tommy Bahama?"

However, it is perhaps not the Rules themselves, but the complete lack of irony with which The Rules are set forth, accepted and then passed along to those who are mere visitors that truly define The Rules. And if that makes no sense, then I submit to you this anecdote, a true story, if paraphrased a bit, but true nonetheless in spirit. It is the story of an adult male, who on a visit to his parents' winter home in Boca, broke the 75-lap rule at his parents' residential development's pool.

Said adult male exceeded that 75-lap rule, yes, and he did so with such hubris and righteous indignation that a quick decision by the powers that be was determined to be imperative. Because rules that are important cannot be broken, and when they are broken, there must be consequences, both swift and fearsome.

It was determined that the authorities should be called in.

And so said adult male who swam more than 75 laps and did so with hubris and righteous indignation was arrested. Taken into custody by the Boca Raton sherriff. In handcuffs and wet swim trunks he was taken to the pokey. In the process, he brought disgrace and shame upon his parents, who supported the rules, who believed in the rules, who, Lord knows, may even have assisted in the writing of the rules.

I will stop for a moment to reiterate that this story was told to me as true, as fact. I do not know if it really IS true or even remotely factual. But what is IMPORTANT is that it was told to me as such, and that it was told to me both with pride and as a fearsome warning. Its telling came upon the tail end of this conversation, which I shall now paraphrase:

"If you drive too fast on the roads within the development, we're the ones who will get in trouble for it," we were told.

"You'll get in trouble in a legal sense?" I asked, "or in a social sense?"

"Well, both, I mean, I think. I mean, it doesn't matter. People are responsible for the behavior of their visitors. The rules are for everyone. They put them together for everyone's benefit. They worked hard to create rules that would keep things running smoothly here."

"Who is this they of which you speak?"

"The people who came up with the rules."

Oh. Duh.

"Who would know if we drove too fast?"

"They would know. People are watching."

We decided to stay at a hotel instead, the husband and I. It just felt safer for everyone involved. On the other hand, the kids are happily ensconsed in Ruleville, which makes sense for children, I think. Or for second childhoods. Or for people who don't mind resembling a Seinfeld episode.

I should note at this juncture that I did not break any rules by practicing my yoga at the pool today, although I was asked to practice at a "satellite pool", rather than at the main pool area.

Happily, I got a taste of what my practice might be like in the summer after a winter of hard and thankless work. I bound Pasasana without the assistance of any human or any dog toys. I found the toes of my right foot in Kapotasana. And I stood up easily from three backbends in a row. It's hard for me to understand why it is so much easier to practice in warm weather than in a warm room in cold weather. But it is. It just is. And now if memory serves, I believe that each year I have had this experience, where I work hard all winter, and I get nowhere. Then the winter gives way to spring, and suddenly, all the progress blossoms. It's as if my progress goes into hibernation for the winter and wakes up six weeks after the groundhog sees his shadow. Or so I hope it goes, and so it seems it will, and so I hope it shall.

Yours with complete awareness of an utter absence of gratitude for all of the gifts that have been bestowed upon me, apparently, although things are never exactly as they seem,

YC

Sunday, December 23, 2007

I want to renovate my attic. Please chant for me.

Last night, I dreamt that a former boyfriend came back into my life after being absent for many years. This particular boyfriend was one of those rare people that really burrowed under my skin. Something about him, about me vis a vis him, about us together, was so viscerally powerful that despite that the relationship ended about as badly as imaginable without involving a homicide, I never really and truly, fully, shook him out of my system. And that is saying a lot, because I was always quite adept at purging exes from my lifes. No lingering, festering, on again, off again stuff for me. I was really quite adept at the clean break. Upon the ending of a relationship, I would immediately get busy rationalizing any residual feelings away. I would put the relationship in a box and bury it, dust off my hands and move on.

Not in this case, however. For reasons which have never been clear to me, I was never able to keep the box buried. Despite that he has been out of my life for many many years, he has never been particularly far from my consciousness. He appears in my dreams from time to time, although not in the way you might think. Not in a sexy way. No. Rather, sometimes he appears in my dreams to reject me or to betray me. Sometimes, rarely, he appears in my dreams as someone who offers the promise of romance.

In my dream last night, there was no husband. It was as if I had never been married at all. The former boyfriend came back into my life after many years of being in prison. I don't know what he did to get sent to prison, and it didn't occur to me in the dream to ask. I discovered quite quickly that when he was released from prison, I was not the first person that he contacted. Instead, he contacted another woman. But in the dream, I told myself that this was only because he wasn't sure how I would react to the news that he had been in prison, that he was scared to come directly to me right after being freed.

Anyway, in the dream, nothing had changed between us at all. And nothing about him had changed at all. He was still gorgeous and charming and manipulative. He was still evasive and vague. Things he said still confused me and didn't sit right. He reminded me of Mr. Big from Sex and the City, who never gave Carrie the answers she wanted, although Carrie didn't seem to be able to connect to her own disappointment. Likewise, I wouldn't allow myself to connect wih my own disappointment, both in real life and in the dream. I remember, in the dream, telling him that I was not only okay with his own peculiar brandof unavailable availability, but that this was the way that I was choosing to love now, that I had finally come to terms with the fact that I actually, affirmatively wanted to be with someone who wouldn't overwhelm me with their steadiness and availability.

It was an odd dream, and in a way, it spoiled my day because my mind kept drifting to the dream over the course of the day, as if it had all really happened the night before in a haze of too many cocktails and was now being remembered in the fog of a hangover.

I don't know what it means. I don't know why I dreamt it. And I can barely remember it. Even as I write about it, it's slipping away from me.

Maybe it was just a fever dream - one of those dreams you have when your mind is not quite right because you're not quite right physically. I do have a low fever and an unpleasant head cold. I woke up with a parched throat from breathing through my mouth all night. And then there was the dream to haunt me all day.

Tomorrow I leave for Boca Raton for a few days. May I just say, blech? I wish I could stay here by the fire, practice my yoga, take long hot baths and just be really really relaxed. Instead, I'm off to see the inlaws, and I'm going to be prodded into playing tennis and going to horrible restaurants like The Cheesecake Factory. How ungrateful can I be? There was a time in my life when a trip to Boca seemed exciting. Now, it's like worse than just staying home. I am in serious need of a reality check, I know.

I'm also in serious need of sleep. So, off I go.

YC

Friday, December 21, 2007

Mundane

Today I practiced Primary, straight up and no embellishments, and it was happily, wonderously, astoundingly...mundane. I love mundane. I love the absence of drama in my practice. It's just a delight, and it seems so rare in the winter.

Not much else to say. Or not much else that I feel like saying right now. It's quiet in my house. Both kids are on playdates, I have a fire going, and I have a stack of magazines waiting, from Real Simple to Star, and various permutations of each in between. YUM.

YC

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I had this dream


in which someone told me to stop fretting about my backbends, that they are really, actually, quite good, quite flexible, quite strong. I am not sure that this was a dream, but I can't remember anyone actually telling me these things. I think it was my subconscious doing me a solid. Telling me to stop berating myself. Many 42 year olds would be pleased as punch to be able to do a wheel that looks like mine. Somehow, I have gone and turned something wonderful into something bad for my self esteem. My subconscious is smart enough to know that, which is cool. Thanks, me. You done good.

Now, y'all go back to alternately tearing me a new asshole for my hypocracy in driving an SUV whilst complaining about people who run their SUVs when they're not even in them (because those two things are almost the same thing, right, driving a car, versus wasting the car's gas; same thing, yeah, that's it) and loving my "modest" talent for satire/burlesque/whatever, which some would say that I employ when backed into a corner, but which some others would say I employ as a means of getting my point of view across. I wouldn't be the first one to do that. See: The Onion, South Park. No, I don't get paid what they do to drive a point home. But I love, love, love it while I'm doing it. So, I do it anyway.

And as an aside, I welcome all comments except those from anonymous commentators and except those from would-be commentators who won't allow me to write on, or for that matter, even access, their blogs. The latter group? Off with your quill. No soup for you.

YC

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Life is good.


It's cold outside, a frigid 20 degrees farenheit.

However, I woke up this morning to a sweetly toasty room - always keeping the thermostat set to a cozilicious 78 degrees, such as I do.

After lolling about under my down covers in my sleigh bed that I had custom-built from rainforest trees that were harvested in the Amazon and then shipped to the French countryside for custom carving by children. And I feel okay about this because the children didn't have to miss school for it, seeing as these kids don't go to school anyway. They're too poor to do much of anything besides help their parents pay for food and clothing.

My fluffy Designer Hybrid Poodle-Flat-Coated Retriever Mix that I bought for a bargain price of $2,800 at a nearby breeder (can you imagine adopting a mongrel when you can buy from a breeder, which of course, guarantees the very best possible dog) licked my face and reminded me that it was time to start filling the giant travertine tub for my morning whirlpool. That travertine marble can get awfully cold, so we need to run the hot water for quite some time before even beginning to fill the tub. We had to have an extra water heater tank installed just for his purpose.

Annoying. But so worth it.

Such a lovely hot bath I had today. And after sudsing up with my guilty pleasure, Mr. Bubble, sodium laurel sulfates and all, but damn, if it doesn't make bathtime fun, I toweled off with a few towels that I pre-heated on my convenient sterling plated towel warmer. Then I threw the towels in the wash. Can't use a towel more than once, can you? Am I right or what? Yucky!

My children were getting ready in their rooms, but I couldn't hear them since their rooms are so far away from mine. That is a CLEAR advantage to having a house that is bigger than God's. You never have to see your kids if you don't want to. And you sure don't have to hear them. But if you want, you can have audio and video intercoms wired throughout the house so that you can watch and listen when it suits you to do so. It takes a crapload of electricity to keep those things running all the time, but hell, you have to stay connected to the kids. Do you not? I mean, come on.

Not that I don't use my au pair to feed and clothe my kids and ready them for school. Su is a wonderful au pair. We imported her from Souteast Asia on a win-win kind of thing: we needed work done around here, and she wanted to see the country. Maybe when she is done with her 40 hours per week here she will have some time to see the country before heading back to her part of the world. If not, she can always come back when she has enough money to pay for it herself.

Su always makes the kids these fabulous, giant breakfast buffets. We import all this really cool exotic stuff so that she can make Dim Sum, and Su loves cooking on the giant-assed Viking restaurant-sized stove with our English pots and pans, slicing and dicing with our German and Japanese knives. The catch: poor Su, I don't have the heart to tell her that the kids are never going to eat all that food. Actually, none of it, really. They just like Eggo waffles with chocolate-flavored chips. So, we end up just throwing all that other stuff in the trash. Ah well. Maybe one day I will remember to bring some of our extra food over to the food bank in town. But not today. Too busy.

Yep, too busy, I am. First, I drove 10 miles for the best cup of coffee in the county. It is TOTALLY worth the hassle of driving 10 miles there and 10 miles back. Funny that I never learned to make coffee myself. I can make a Thanksgiving dinner. But I can't make a cup of coffee! Silly girl, that YC.

Then I drove another 20 miles in the other direction for my daily fix of yoga. I love driving in my SUV. It's so status! So money! I'm thinking about getting a Hummer next. LOVE those things. And what an awesome feeling to be the absolute biggest passenger car on the highway! Not that I ever take the highway. I'm usually ambling around on the country roads, rather than taking the (cough) more efficient highways, because the country roads are so pretty. And it's important to fill one's world with pretty things. Am I right, people? Or am I right?

While I was out, I kept the cable box on because I was DVR'ing my favorite shows: Tyra Banks and Judge Judy. I don't trust that DVR to work if I don't leave the tv on. So, on I leave it. Also, it's nice to come home to the sound of familiar, friendly voices in my house. Hi Tyra! Hi Judge!

When I get home, I take another long, hot bath. This time, I don't take it in the travertine behemoth - that would be WASTEFUL! Instead, I take it in the second guest bedroom (the first guest bedroom is Su's. The only problem with that is that afterwards, I have to wash all the towels I use. Again. I mean, how many loads of laundry should Su have to do in a day? Damn. I need to try to get more efficient about my towel usage, or at least about maybe collecting them all before making Su do a whole load.

After bathing, I go sit in my sitting room. This is not to be confused with my living room or my family room or the upstairs den, which my dear husband has coopted as an office, or my dressing room. The sitting room is where I, guess what? I sit. I sit there for a little while, but not for too long, because I can still here Tyra talking in the other room, and I get lonely for a little conversation.

At that point, I decide to take out the SUV and drive over to my friend's house. She lives about a quarter mile down the road in a 10,000 square foot BEHEMOTH of a house. GROSS! But don't tell anyone I said that. Anyway, I have to drive there because no one walks here. Least of all me. The one time I walked from one end of Main Street to the other (about a half mile) to get a cup of coffee, I was practically laughed out of town on a rail. There were all, "Look a YC, she thinks she still lives in The City, hardee har har."

Anyway, when I was about halfway to Chez Bitchface (no, I did NOT say that!), I realized that I was cold, even though the heat was on full blast in the car. So, I turned around, and I slid into my driveway. Since it was only going to take me a moment inside to grab my full-length chinchilla, I left the car idling.

Yep, you heard that right: I idle now. I mean, why not? I do everything else without a thought to the environment, right? So what the hell? It's all-idling all the time now!
Anyway, there I go digressing again. So, the phone rang while I was inside. It was a telephone solicitor. She seemed nice, so I donated a thousand bucks to something. I don't remember what. Then we chatted a bit. Nice lady. Then I remembered I had the car running outside. Didn't want to burn out the battery, so I skeedaddled back, threw the chinchilla into the passenger seat (it turned out it wasn't so cold after all), and drove to my friend's house.

When it was time for the school bus to come, we drove down to the bottom of the driveway and waited for the kids to come off the bus. Isn't it nice that the kids get to get off the bus and into a nice, warm SUV?
This message has been brought to you by the All Or Nothing Coalition, of which I am the proud founder and chief executive. Here is what we stand for at the AONC: If you eat one oreo, might as well eat the whole box. If you miss yoga practice one day, you might as well quit. And most importantly, if you fail to "go green" 100 percent, you might as well just give up and go CARBON WILD! Woohoooooo!
And, hell, I've always wanted to make an impact on this world. So, why not make my impact this way? I'll step deeply and make the MOTHER of all footprints. Yeah.
That's all.

YC

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Pasasana road kill


I got dropped during a Pasasana assist today. It all happened so quickly, I didn't have time to unbind my hands. Hence, I face planted.

Since it was the first side, I landed on the left side of my jaw. Not my nose, thank goodness. For a moment or two I just stayed balled up on the ground, freaked out, angry, scared. Until I realized that just because I saw stars did not mean that I had suffered a concussion. Then I freed a hand and, touching my face, I realized that nothing was broken. Least of all my nose, thank GOD, as I am now quite happy with my nose, both the aesthetics and its functionality - I can breathe quite deeply through my nostrils now, something I had only heard about before.

Val brought me a towel filled with snow. And Oni re-Pasasana-ed me when I was ready. And the rest of my practice, like all that came before it, was fine.

YC

Monday, December 17, 2007

Idle Chatter


Yeah, I drive an SUV. And I have a large screen television. And I live in a house that is arguably at least twice as big as I need and have an acre or two of lawn mowed every week of the summer and another acre or two mowed every other week. Ask me why, however, and I can come up with a logical reason. And while you may not agree with the reason, at least I have reason. At least I have thought about it. At least I have made a choice, mindfully. However much you might call my reasons rationalizations, they are real reasons.

By contrast, there is no reason for leaving a car idling. There just isn't. And the woman whom I accosted in front of the elementary school couldn't come up with one. I really wanted to KNOW the reason because I didn't WANT to judge her without understanding what she might be going through. Like the lovely yogini at the CT Shala, who burns off the cast-off fears and troubles of a group of kids by burning a rock in the flame of a candle each morning after practice. I asked, and she answered, and all was well with the world. I don't necessarily agree that you can burn off anyone's fears of troubles by placing a rock in a candle's flame. But at least I understand what she's thinking, and I wholeheartedly respect her intentions.

The epilogue to the story is really the prologue to another. I decided to channel my annoyance into action. I emailed the president of the PTA and asked her if there is a policy on idling in front of the four buildings that comprise our school district. I told her that I had seen and smelled many instances of idling and wondered what could possibly be the justification.

I received an email reply almost immediately. She told me that he has been thinking about this quite a bit, herself, and she has been trying to get the Superintendent of Schools to come up with a firm policy on it. Until then, she wants to begin to raise awareness. As such, she would like to plan a "No Idling Day" in the district, which would raise the issue among the parents and give them a chance to think about what they are doing and how it might impact the environment (as well as gas prices).

She has asked me to spearhead No Idling Day, and I said yes. We begin our planning this week.

She didn't even ask me if I drove an SUV or live in a house that is bigger than I need or maintain a football-field-sized lawn when woodchips would be just fine. Can you imagine?

YC

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Pet peeve of the day: idling

Why would anyone leave their car running without being IN the car?

WHY?

I am sure I made an enemy in my new town when I rolled down my window and asked a woman that question. But I really wanted to know, like, was she worried her car wouldn't start because of the cold weather? Or was she perhaps ill and in need of a warm car the instant she opened the door? Seriously, I thought that perhaps there could be a good reason, and if only I knew the reason, then I could stop being annoyed by the smell of fuel billowing into my atmosphere for no apparent reason.

She had no answer, however, at least none that made any sense to me. She said she was parked in a fire lane. As if that would explain it. So, did she leave the car on so that if there were a fire someone could go into her car and move it? I asked her that. She scowled at me.

I guess she hate me now.

I hate what she's doing to the environment.

So we're even.

YC

Friday, December 14, 2007

Where Eyez At

I've been rambling about bad Bikram experiences and taking in all of the comments. But that doesn't mean I haven't been doing the Ashtanga too. I practiced every day this week, and today, I actually did the old-fashioned thing and did Primary in the morning (led class at the shala) and then Second in the afternoon (okay, only up to Kapotasana, if that's what you're willing to call it:

I decided to take a photo of myself practicing Kapo because it FELT so good. So, I was at first a bit demoralized to see the relatively flat curve to my spine and also the fact that my hands are not nearly as close to my feet as they FELT.


But then...then I realized that had I not had the camera lying around, I could have gone on feeling like I did quite a nice approximation of Kapotasana, and I would have felt pretty good about my practice, my progress and all of my hard work. And from that thought came this: what it actually LOOKS like matters not nearly as much as what it FEELS like to me. I'm not saying that this is the rule for all asanas and all students of yoga. I'm saying this is how it is for me with regard to backbending. See, for me, backbending is generally uncomfortable, alien and anxiety-provoking. So, for it to FEEL good is a HUGE victory for me. The rest, well, maybe later.


And here is where the Urdhva Dhanurasana is today, again, same rules applying (it felt good, so even if it doesn't LOOK like that much progress is being made, progress is definitely being made in that it didn't hurt, it didn't feel weird, and I wasn't all freaking out):








Acually, I think the angles here are better than they have been in other photos. I think that the my hip flexors have DEFINITELY softened. But the chest and shoulders have far to go still so that the angle of my shins to thighs can become more open.

Standing up unassisted is still not happening. Thank goodness that is not a prerequisite for Second at the CT Shala because otherwise, I would never get to practice Pasasana and Krounchasana, which feel really good and which make me feel competent, and I would never get to work on backbends other than UD. Because trust me, if I couldn't do the backbends of Second Series, I would NEVER stand up unassisted from UD. Never. Not all bodies are the same. And yeah, yeah, whatever, it's not the way some teachers teach it. So what. It's what I need.

YC

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Riddle: Why did the Bikram Teacher cross the road?


BECAUSE I SAID SO. Namaste.

Yeah, I went to another Bikram class on Monday. This time, it was at an authentic Bikram studio. As Eeyore and Cranky commented on my last post, it's nice to get warm in the winter, and the poses feel good on my Western body, but it sure doesn't resemble yoga. No, that's not fair. It does resemble yoga. In the same way that the bastardized pronuciation of "SAH-vasana" resembles the actual Sanskrit pronunciation "SHAH-vasana". In the same way that "Johnny Shirahsana" (you know, that former porn star who now teaches Bikram yoga?) resembles what I have come to know as "Janoo Sheershasana". In the same way that a standing forward bend with hands under the heels resembles its namesake "Padahastasana". Or the way that Padahastasana resembles what the Bikramites out there call "Gorilla". Or the way that being told to "kick the feet up behind you" resembles the instructions for Dhanurasana, but just somehow, is so NOT.


I went for the heat. And I did pretty much what the teacher told me to do. Except when I felt that there was something I wanted to do that was not exactly what the teacher told the class to do. Like, when I wanted to put my palms under my TOES in Padahastasana. Or when I wanted to bind in Standing Half Lotus (which in Bikram is called "tree"). Or when I decided to do the splits instead of the second set of JanOO Sheeershahsana and Kurmasana instead of the second set of PahSHEMOEtahnasana.

The teacher, a musclehead who gloatingly told the class that he also lifts weights at the gym to get his (outsized, unattractively muscle-bound) physique, called me out on it when I was exiting the studio.

"I know that no one likes to be treated like a child and told what to do, but I think it was disrespectful of you to do your own thing in my class." So said the Muscle Head.

"Hmmm. Well. Actually I think that you were disrespectful to me in class when you told me that I can't modify a pose." So said me.

"You weren't modifying poses. You were doing the advanced version of poses. And I didn't tell the class to do them." Said he.

"And?" Said me.

"And so you shouldn't do them. It's like you were just using the room for the heat."

"I was."

"That's wrong."

"Why?"

"Because you ruin it for everyone else."

"How's that?"
"Because the room's energy depends upon everyone doing the same thing."
"But everyone's not doing the same thing. Some people can't wrap their legs in Garudasana. Some people are able to back bend much more deeply in Natarajasana."
"When you do something different, it distracts ME."

"Isn't that YOUR issue?"

"You can't just use the room for the heat."

"Why not? I paid my twenty dollars."

"I'm not certified to teach the advanced postures. So if you practice them, I risk liability if you get injured."

"But you made me sign a waiver."

And so on. And so forth. And ultimately, because the reality is, I plan to keep "using the heat", horrible yoga bitch that I am, I said, "Look, okay, this is how you want it to be in your classroom, so when I take your class, I will try to stay on your page." But damned if I can understand the contradictions within the system.

How glad was I to get back to the CT Shala today? VERY. And I had a lovely practice, but a very hard practice, indeed. Next to me, Prostrates To Photo of Guruji was having a very rough day, apparently. Every jump through of his set off a minor earthquake. And his breath was as ragged as my thoughts became. But when I felt the urge to tell him that his foot was turned the wrong way in Janu Sirsasana B and that he might want to consider NOT jumping straight into the pose because it's more work and technically more correct to jump into Dandasana first, I knew that it was in fact I who had the problem.
And out of that problem, I created a very challenging yoga practice. Driste, driste, driste, I kept telling myself. Don't look. Just keep your driste. And when the noise and earth shaking would seep into my conscsiousness, I corralled them too with very very strong (loud?) ujayi breathing. I seriously felt AWESOME as a result. My hips joints have never felt more supple in Supta Kurmasana than they did today. My backbending felt light (well, that was partially due to the fact that I did three backbends with the strap around my thighs; damn, if that isn't an amazing way to wake up your legs; and it was also partially due to some advice given to me by my adorably wacky shala mate, Unafraid To Speak Her Mind: legs closer together, toes pointing IN...and let me just say WOW, who'da thunk it?). And although I had to work very hard, it was a hard won wonderful practice.

On a side note: that other shala mate with the whole rock-warming/rock-holding routine? I asked her what that was about. Her answer was so heartwarming, I almost cried while almost pummeling myself for being such a judgemental beeyotch. She explained that she teaches children's yoga at the shala, and that she has the kids pass around the rock and blow their fears and problems into it. Then, each day, she burns off the fears and problems and says a little prayer for the kids. That is just so....decent. Sometimes, when you want to understand something, the best thing to do is just ask.

That's all.

YC






Sunday, December 09, 2007

I'm so ashamed


Forgive me, Ashtanga, for I have sinned. I went to a Bikram class today. And God help me, it wasn't even a legitimate Bikram class. It was a mere facsimile of a Bikram class, taught by someone who never trained with Bikram "but knew him during the 70's." My husband led me toward this misstep, but really, I only have myself to blame. I had a Chanukah party at my Place of Worship this morning and so could not get to the CT shala for my regularly scheduled practice, and as the day wore on, I felt increasingly incapable of facing the mat in my own home, with the thermostat reading a mere 68 degrees. And so, I did what I needed to do to eliminate some of the vatta imbalance that, for me, comes with the increasingly cold weather.


And I kind of liked it. And I would do it again.

Winter does strange things to my resolve.
God help me.


YC

Thursday, December 06, 2007

How to have a good practice

if you're me:

  • the night before, right before bed, stretch the tight spots. You know what they are.
  • wake up early enough to take a shower, not a bath. At least this time of year when the temptation to stay in the bath too long is too great.
  • during shower, do the following stretches: standing forward bend, gomukhasana arms, squat and twist. If possible, do kneeling version of Parivritta Parsvakonasana and bind. Take as long as needed for this to warm up the spine. Sit on shower floor (if your shower floor is nice and clean!) and take a "camel ride" (seated cat-cows with hands on shins) and then draw circles in the air with your navel (you need a decent sized shower for this, but I do, and this is about me).
  • drink a cup of chai made with almond milk and two Yogi Tea Black Chai teabags, steeped for at least five minutes.
  • drive to shala with heat at full blast.
  • at shala, just get started without any prep nonsense - you did the prep at home.

I had such a nice practice today. LOTS of pre-practice preparations makes for such a better practice for me. I'm lucky I have the time for it. I wonder what my practice would be like if I didn't. Probably, I would have quit by now because I would always feel tight and horrible, at least in the wintertime. Oni helped me bigtime today in Kurmasana - slowly working my belly to the floor and putting me into Supta K. I always wince as the ankles come together. Once I get over that, progress will have been made. Until then, I have some fears to work out. This is why I am in need of assistance on Supta K. Without assistance, I get into the posture myself with the least amount of depth possible, just lighly crossing the feet or ankles. THIS is what I came to Mysore practice for in the first place- getting deeper and confronting the fears about it.

Also managed to hold a good solid Pasasana on both sides without anyone holding me up. Damn, but it's tough to balance in that one. And in Bhekasana, after the assist, I managed to stay there with chest upright for another couple of breaths.

Backbendng was okay. Nothing to write home about. I used a strap today to try to figure out what it is my arms are supposed to be doing and feeling. There is such a disconnect for me there. My wrists feel horrible most of the time and I really can't feel myself recruiting my nice strong shoulders to press up. Instead, I'm using my puny weak wrists and forearms. When I use the strap, I am able to actively recruit the shoulders and triceps. I just still haven't figured out why, nor have I figured out how to reproduce that work without the strap's silent but incredibly effective coaching.

OK, so here's another place where I am not buying into the system wholeheartedly: I think props are useful for such "coaching" and for passive stretching, as well as for binding in poses that usually require assistance when there is no assistance to be had. I wouldn't make a habit of using a prop, and I would always hope to stay mindful of when a prop has outlived its utility. But I do not see how I could have possibly come this far without my judicial use of props (and prep).

But here's a place where I am rigidly system-biased: My husband asked me today if I had heard of a particular Ashtanga teacher who teaches on Long Island. I said no, but noted that she still might be totally legit even if her name is not on the short list of authorized teachers. Then the husband said that she comes into the city on a regular basis to practice with Dharma Mittra. that's when I said, "Oh. She must not really be an Ashtangi."

Hrmph. A little Ashtanga-snot-ass, I am.

Can one be an Ashtangi but practice on a regular basis with Dharma Mittra?

YC

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I'm annoying. And so can you.

I swear I did not plan for the poll to end right smack on my birthday, but wow, what a delightful gift it is to see that I, Yoga Chickie, am slightly more annoying than YOU!

So, here's how it boils down:

Out of 49 votes on the question of "Am I annoying?", 32 were for "yes" and 17 were for "no". That translates into 65 percent finding me annoying and 17 percent, not.

Out of 40 votes on the question of "Are you annoying", 22 were for "yes" and 18 were for "no". So, 55 percent of you find yourselves annoying, and a whopping 45 percnt do not find yourselves annoying.

Of course, the two polls were separate, and there were more voters in the poll regarding whether I am annoying, nearly 20 percent more, in fact, or so my numbers cruncher (Brian) tells me. And if you factor in the number of times Laksmi voted, well, now that I think about it, it doesn't really matter because multiple votes by Laksmi were likely cast equally in favor of me being annoying and herself being annoying.

I think it is relevant that in both polls, the votes were in favor of being annoying. One might surmise simply that when faced with the question of whether someone, anyone, is annoying, one will be inclined to vote in favor. Or rather disfavor.

In any case, thanks for voting. It's your right, you know.

YC

Anyone else out there a December baby?

Yeah, I turned, gasp, 42 today!! FORTY FRICKIN TWO! It is IMPOSSIBLE, I mean, there must have been some sort of mixup. Problem is that I remember almost every year of those 42 years, except for the like first two or three, so even if there WERE a mixup, that would still make me pretty old. And when I am, God willing, even older, I can have the pleasure of looking back on this and saying, "I thought I was old THEN??!"

Today I asked Oni to adjust me in Supta K. I am really tired of watching myself fall into bad habits with it. And I am really tired of strugglng in front of a room full of people. And I am really tired of not getting my legs behind my shoulders. I miss Sir's adjustment. He really got those legs up there tightly. But Oni gives a good assist too. Nothing will ever take the place of Sir's adjustment. I knew that long before I even was able to DO Supta K. Remember how I never could bear to go to the shala when anyone was subbing for him? It was because I couldn't bear to have anyone else attempt to put me into Supta K. Now, I can do it myself. But I still prefer Sir's assists. Oni does run a close second, thank goodness. But I have to ask her in advance because there are a lot of people with a lot more needs than me at this moment. In the CT Shala's triage, I am not much more than a hypochondriac with a pretend fever. But wait until I get to Kapotasana. That should really do a number on all of my Primary poses. Good times.

I wonder how long Primary backslide lasts during advancement in Second. Hopefully not forever. I feel like it's doing a number on my emotions. I miss doing just Primary, because the world of things I suck at had not yet been opened up to me. When you're just forward bending, you tend to get quite good at forward bending. Add some backbending in, and you're in for some serious reminiscing about le beaux jours before you got thrown into the murky, cranky, ouchy waters of Second.

Not that I am deep into Second. But backbending. Ah, backbending. How do I love thee, backbending, let me count the ways.

...


...


...

Hmmm. Must think of something nice to say. Something nice. Yes. Hmmm. Okay, I love the way backbending gives me something to complain about. I love the way backbending makes me aware of the way what goes on in my shoulder effects the way my wrist feels when my hands press me up into a wheel. I loved falling on my head today in dropbacks because I no longer even believe I have any business dropping back. I love looking at people whose backbends are soft and mushy and wet-noodly. It's so beyond my comprehension, me being all hard and tense and spastic. In backbends, at least. Really, kind of in everything, I think. It's just that being small and working hard has helped me to fake bendiness. I'm really a tension-loaded spring made of high grade steel. But with enough heat, enough practice, enough whittling away of excess flesh, I can approximate all the poses that require forward bending, twistng or balancing.

And then there are backbends. No amount of weigh loss will help. No amount of muscle. No amount of heat (well, heat helps, but it doesn't solve the problem entirely). It's just me, stripped of artifice. It's humbling, at a time when I don't particularly feel like being humbled (when, if ever do I want to feel humbled though?).

And of course, the irony: this is why I do this. Because if it were easy, it would be boring.

YC

Monday, December 03, 2007

Non-negotiable

I started arguing with myself this morning, briefly, about whether or not to go to the CT Shala for practice. It was cold out. I had no time to shower because I had slept late (late meaning 7 a.m, instead of 6:45 a.m.). Then I just told myself to shut up, get dressed and go. It cannot be negotiable, this going to the shala thing. It has to just be something I do. It cannot be something I decide whether or not I want to do on any given day.

And it was really nice to be back. Val told me that I had been missed. I sputtered a bunch of excuses, and made sure to add in that I always practice at home if I miss a day at the shala. Or seven. In any case, I took it slow, did a lot of nice backbending prep before getting going, and I felt pretty good. I struggled a bit in Kurmasana, as I have been lately. Have I mentioned that? Didn't think so. It's not a pose I care very much about these days. And I guess it doesn't care much for me either, because it's withdrawing from me a bit. As I spend more time working on backbending, as opposed to forward bending, Kurmasana becomes less comfortable for me. My hamstrings occasionally feel as if they are siezing up in it. The angle of my legs to my body is no longer as acute. My shoulders are no longer solidly tucked under my legs. And sometimes, I even have to completely come out of it before I can get into Supta K...because Supta K does not require as much openness in the hamstrings, what with the legs being bent and all. So, today, being one of those days, I did my Kurmasana and then bent my legs and wiggled my shoulders under my legs as best I could, got myself bound but found that I couldn't budge my ankles, not even one bit, due to the fact that my Kurmasana was so inadequate as far as putting my shoulders and legs into the right configuration for binding myself into Supta K. And so I came completely out of it, and was just about to go straight into Supta K when Oni told me "Do Kurmasana first."

"But I already did Kurmasana," I whined.

"Go into Kurmasana, and from there, we'll get you into Supta Kurmasna."

As my kids would say, "oh, snap."

Then I got no other adjustments at all until backbending. I had to do Pasasana myself, which meant going to the wall in order to use it to guide my upper arm into the right trajectory for being grabbed by my lower arm. I'm still working on the mechanis of Pasasana. I'm open enough to do it. It's just that my arms need some tutoring regarding their choreography.

Backbending was fine. I'm setting the bar really low these days. As far as I am concerned, if I can do three backbends and hold them for between five and ten breaths, then that's fine. Where am I going anyway? What am I doing this for?

I just have to keep doing it. That's what I'm doing it for. To keep doing it. And if the expectations and demands upon myself are too high, then that is going to subvert my desire, as well as my ability, to keep on doing it.

Something nice about practicing at the shala again: it forces me to practice more efficiently, which leaves me with enough energy to get through the rest of my day.

YC

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Snow in December

Such a novel idea these days. And yet. So nice to be able to open my front door to a fluffy white playground for my kids.

Last night was a Martini Tasting at the Place of Worship. Much fun was had, and I commend the caterer for pouring very watered down drinks in very tiny portions. Well done. Seriously. I mean, how else would a bunch of relative non-drinkers (let's face it; my peeps are eaters, not drinkers, not that every single one of us fits the stereotype, but still, it's a fairly accurate assesment for many) be able to taste more than 10 different types of Martinis in one evening without falling over? My favorite, inexplicably, was the blueberry. I don't even like blueberries.

Thank you, caterer, for a non-hangover day. Practice was as usual. Actually, a bit better than usual because I started with this lovely backbending prep.

I'm starting to really need the pre-practice warmup. I think it's the cold. Someone asked me about practicing in a relatiely cold room (at home). I set the thermostat to 75 while practicing, and I barely break a sweat. It's not ideal. But it's worth it come summer, when it feels like I'm melting, but in a good way.

YC

Friday, November 30, 2007

Just call it, Friendo

Last night I had an odd dream, a dream so real that when I remembered it midafternoon today, I was sure that it hadn't been a dream at all, except for its oddness, which is what led me to search YouTube for a video that might have been tagged with the terms, "No Country For Old Men Bardem Satire" which terms led to nothing at all. Thus, I am left to wonder why it is, and what it meant, that I dreamt that I was watching a video of a comedian, shot in black and sitting at a desk, like a news desk, recapping the entire plot of the Coen brothers' No Country For Old Men by pantomiming Javier Bardem's entire plotline using just his hands: hands strangling, hands shooting a cattle gun, hands on steering wheel driving, hands shooting, hands driving, more shooting, more shooting still, more driving, shooting, driving, driving, shooting, shooting, the end.

Dreams can be so abstruse.

YC

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Oh, the criminality!


But whose practice is it anyway?
YC

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My most favorite-est teacher

At the CT shala, there is one student who lies face down before the photo of Guruji and steeples his hands over his head towards the photo.

There is another student who sits before the altar for a moment before taking a fist-sized rock from the altar, heating it up in the flame of the altar candle and then cupping it in her hand.

There are people who say of the shala, "This is a sacred space", even though it is, essentially, just a rectangular, sage-green room, carpeted with industrial carpeting, in the middle of a strip mall in the middle of a highway in the middle of Fairfield County, Connecticut.

There are those who stand up whenever the invocation is chanted in the room, even if it is chanted for the next class, even if they chanted it themselves 90 minutes earlier before they practiced.

And when it is time to leave the room, everyone, including me, places hands in prayer and bows to Val. This last one, I do because I assume it makes Val feel good, and in my opinion, she earns that big time.

These are practices that I do not understand. These are practices which leave me feeling alienated and confused. These are among the reasons that I find myself wishing to practice alone in my house at times, for weeks at a time. It's nothing against the CT shala. I think Val is a wonderful teacher and uniquely supportive and communicative. I think Sir and Lori are wonderful teachers, brilliant and intuitive, as well. It's not that or them.

Rather, there have been aspects of being a yoga practitioner in general that have confounded me from the very beginning. Chanting the names of Hindu gods, for example. That really has no place in my life. I love the story of Hanuman, Sita and Ram and find aspects of the story to fill me with admiration and awe, but I would no more invoke their names for inspiration, motivation or worship than I would chant the name of Madeleine, of the Ludwig Bemelmans book, who has long inspired me to feel brave even when feeling very very small ("...The smallest one was Madeleine...She was not afraid of mice; she loved winter snow and ice. To the tiger in the zoo, Madeleine just said 'pooh pooh'....And nobody knew so well, how to frighten Miss Clavell").

I don't want to go to a Kirtan because every time I think about going, I realize that what I really need to be doing is singing with my own peeps, the Jews, which is how it came to pass that I joined the choir at my synagogue. I don't want to see Krishna Das in concert (see Tiff? You're not the only one), and I don't want to read the Bhagavad Gita. I want to see Pat Metheny as many times as I can in this life and I want to get through To Kill A Mockingbird, finally, while still having time to read Us and House Beautiful.

I think very highly of all of the teachers who have actually taught me Ashtanga yoga. But I don't know Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. I have never studied with him. Sure, I have taken his led classes. But he is not my teacher. And frankly, I am not sure that I entirely buy into the system as an efficient gestalt. If I did, there would be no need for yin stretches and prep poses, for which I have always felt the need, or strength training, which many others out there feel is important to their practice. I feel no urge to prostrate to SKPJ's photo, and I removed the photo of myself bowing at his feet, which used to grace this blog's sidebar. It felt silly to have it there. I should be boing at the feet of my oncologist, of my children, of my husband for giving me such a comfortable life and such perfect children, of my former nannies, Ella, Norma, Tereza and Sarah, all of whom have taken such incredibly good care of my children and myself.

Until I bow at the feet of the people who matter in my life, I'm not bowing at anyone else's feet. And if I can't make the time to pray to my own God, then I sure as hell am not making the time to pray to anyone else's.

And as much as I love getting a good adjustment in this or that pose, and getting the professional dropbacks from Val, I feel like I need to practice alone for a little bit. Ultimately, I am my most cherished teacher. Ultimately, no one knows my body and what it needs better than I do. And sometimes, I feel this knowledge acutely, as I learn to bind by myself in Pasasana, while balancing with my heels just "thisclose" to the floor, as I learn to bind Supta K with my ankles already crossed, as I touch my own toes in Kapotasana, albeit with my elbows splayed in the wrong direction.

After practicing alone at home for short periods of time, I usually come back to the shala refreshed. And this is where I am at right now. Feeling a bit disconnected, feeling like I need to be teaching myself for now.

I'm just saying.

YC

Monday, November 26, 2007

Incomprehensible ramblings of a tired mom, yogini and DIY-er

Couldn't make it to practice today because....I couldn't find my car keys. That's a first for me. I was stranded for like half the day because I couldn't find my friggin car keys. Not that I mind practicing myself these days. I get that way sometimes. It's like a cocooning time for me, and usually it seems that when the cocooning time is over, I emerge with some new tricks of some sort. For some, Ashtanga comes easily. For me, it takes doing Pasasana four times on each side several times a week before I will be able to self-bind in it reliably. I'm still scooching around a bit more than I'd like in preparation for Supta K. I figure that someday, I will just wrap myself into it without all the hullaballoo. But not today.

When I practice at home, I often find myself going all the way to Ardha Matsyandrasana. Or at least to Kapotasana. For a sucky backbender, I am finding my hands ever closer to my feet in that one. I wonder if by the time I am "given" Kapo, I will actually be able to do it with assistance. That would be nice. It would take a lot of anxiety out of backbending for me.

My eyes are closing. I have had so little time for blogging lately. So many house projects going on. I got a sewing machine for my birthday, and I've been mending and crafting all the things that have been waiting for me all this time - Brian's quilt, for example, which needed to be folded in half and stitched all the way around in order to create a quilt of half its size. And several pairs of my jeans, of which I had cut the bottoms, leaving frayed edges. Time to smooth out those frayed edges. Then there's the end table I stripped and am in the process of refinishing. Soon, I will be painting my boys' rooms. Today, after I finally found my stupid keys, I took the boys to the hardware store in town and picked out some colors and some corresponding paint samples to throw up on the wall to see how they'll look.

Tomorrow, hopefully, nothing will get in the way of me and Georgetown, Connecticut. Because on Wednesday, I have the dishwasher repairman coming (again, Goddamnit, f-ing Fisher and Paykel dish drawer. NEVER again. NEVER again, I tell you. Next time it will be a Maytag or something like that), and we're also getting our basketball hoop installed at the edge of the driveway. And then on Friday, I have a class trip to an art museum, which, if Martha Stewart had her way, would no longer be able to call themselves by their name. That's all I'm sayin'.

YC

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The husband and I renewed our vows on Thanksgiving!!

Well, not really. But since my parents brought my wedding gown to my house along with the cranberry sauce today, of course I had to try it on. Thank heavens to Betsy for everyone who had to deal with me today that it fit.


Phew.


Okay, well, there is one problem: the bust is sort of standing out about two inches away from my skin. But whatever. I consider myself lucky to have started life rather voluptuously and then gotten a second chance as a small B.


And here, the requisite backbending photo, because Val caught onto my blowing off dropbacks and just waiting for her to assist me and now I have to do them myself first. I did try to tell her that Laksmi and Cranky told me to stop. But she just looked at me like, wha?
Kidding.
YC




Monday, November 19, 2007

Every chair does not have to face the TV.

I just needed to say that.

You know who you are, you who needed to hear it.

....................................................

Practice:

These days, by which I mean, since last Monday, each day, I wake up knowing that it will be a struggle between me and me to make myself practice. Some days, I get up, get dressed for practice, and then, after some internal debate decide that I don't feel like driving to the shala after all. On those days, at some point, if I am very persuasive, I am able o force myself to practice at home. I do hope this mood passes soon. Perhaps it will pass when my body is less sore from the backbending work I'm doing. But this is really when I know that I am engaging in a discipline. I tell myself that I have to practice, even if it sucks, even if I hate it, because it's just practice. I tell myself that even if it sucks, tomorrow might not suck, and there's always tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, to paraphrase William Faulkner.

Backbends:

Surprisingly, or maybe not surprisingly to those who have struggled with motivation issues while delving into Second Series, even as my motivation crumbles, my backbends are improving. I mean SERIOUSLY improving. Or at least it seemed that way today. Banner day today, really. Today, two things happened that rocked my backbendng world.

Thing One was that I discovered the internal rotation of my arms in Urdhva Dhanurasana. I know, it's like, duh, hello, that's what you're supposed to be doing. But the thing is, I have never been able to connect with any sort of internal arm rotation while pressing up into UD, unless I have a belt strapped around my triceps. But today, as I pressed up, I pretended the belt was there, and I felt my chest lifting higher, and my wrists not crying out in pain. Muscles engaged. Locked and loaded.

Now, to feel my legs. You can no more force yourself to feel your legs when you can't feel your legs than you can force yourself to relax by saying, "Just relax." But I know that someday I will feel my legs. I think. I told myself today that I am going to give it at least five years before I get frustrated. Hmmm.....wonder if I can stick to that.

Thing Two was that in assisted dropbacks, Val did not really drop me back or lift me up at all. She merely put her hands on my hipbones and pressed my feet into the floor. It was the WILDEST sensation. Apparently, I need to wear cement shoes in order to drop back and stand up. Or, um....feel my legs maybe?

Maybe I will actully wake up wanting to go to practice, just to get that sensation again of having my feet firmly planted on the ground and using them as an anchor to float back and stand up. Maybe.

Other practices:

That would be choir practice. Yes, I have joined the choir at my place of worship. I'd been thinking about going to kirtan, and then I realized that if I can sing in a community, then I really should sing with the Jews. Because I actuallyam a Jew. Whereas, I am not Hindu or Indian. Shit, I mean, if I chant the invocation on a daily basis, shouldn't I be able to sing Mi Chamocha once in a while?

I (secretly) refer to the choir as the Mommy Minion, since all of the members of the choir, pretty much, are moms. It's not like the temple(s) we belonged to in the city, where there was such a wide age range within the congregation. Much of our congregation is under the age of 60, and in fact, much of the congregation is actually under the age of 20. Like my kids, for instance. And everyone else's sets of two, three and four kids.

Isn't it ironic, dontcha think, that my first choir performance is for tomorrow night's Ecumenical Service with the Armonk Methodist Church? We're singing with their choir. They are not a Mommy Minion. They're kind of oldish and blue-hairish. But they have lovely soprano voices. My voice, which I have neglected for the past15 or so years, has dropped to a high alto. That's fine. I don't mind singing the harmony line.

I think my batteries are about to go, and I mean that both literally and figuratively. I'm on my laptop in bed. And it's time to turn out the light.

Night!

YC

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Taking rest

By popular demand, by which I mean by the requiest of one reader, I am posting these photos I took this rainy November morning, of the "creepy graveyard" that overlooks the Village Green pictured in yesterday's post. The oldest grave marker here is from 1700, which means it (probably) holds the remains of someone born in the 1600's. I find that totally cool, not creepy. But some will find it creepy, and I understand that, especially when you consider that more than half of the stones are tiny tiny tiny, bearing only initials, indicative of those who died in infancy, often without having been named.

Even more creepy: When I tried to take a photo facing the Village Green, my camera turned off. I tried again. And again. Finally, I gave up, assuming my camera's battery had died. When I got back to my car, my camera was in perfect working order, battery alive and well.......who did not want their photo taken is the question......















YC

Better practice through not giving a shit

Scuse my language.

I don't swear all that much, so when I do, hopefully it has impact.

I have been pretty miserable with my practice lately. It's longer than I feel is ideal (yes, a necessary evil for moving forward into Second, so I am not feeling like I have a right to complain, but still, I'm complaining, or rather, whining). My updogs hurt. And now, a new soreness has devloped - one that have never experienced: I feel my psoas all the way from front to back (they wrap around from front to back). This makes both Parsvakonasanas and Mari C painful along the sides of the rear of my lower torso. Basically, it's the place alongside the place where your jeans pockets sit. It's tight, and it's sore, and it makes twisting and lengthening sideways feel like hell. Oh, and after a deep squat, like Mari C, if I so much as TOUCH the front of my hips - the groins, if you will - it's like AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! And not in a good way. Oni poked me in my right groin crease to see what I was talking about, and I practicially jumped out of my skin.

So, I have decided to JUST BREATHE.

Just breathe. Just go to class and breathe. Do my practice, try to remain unattached to the soreness and the fact that I am making backward progress (regress) in poses that have been easy for me for a long time as I learn to open my front body. And just breathe.

And it worked today. I did my practice, and now I don't have to regret NOT doing my practice. Or skimping on my practice. Or being miserable through my practice.

This won't work everyday. But it's a good thing to work on for me. To be a bit LESS passionate about my postures. To work on less things at once. To just do my damn practice.

I will say one positive thing: Bhekasana is amazing when assisted. AMAZING. And one more thing: NOT doing my own dropbacks is quite liberating. Thanks guys. I focus on stretching my hip flexors now, straightening my legs, and opening things up, rather than thinking to myself the whole time, "How high is my arch? What does this look like? How close are my hands to my feet?" It's like, who cares? I need to open my front and learn to curve my spine. That's all.

Tomorrow is Primary Only day. I never thought I would be saying....THANK GOD.

YC

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Attention fans of Pokemon Master




The Pokemon Master publishes answers for the patiently waiting fans.

The Pokemon Master would like to know if anyone has a Shaymin? And whom do you prefer: Darkrya (left) or Shaymin (right)?

YC

Quaint, Disturbing, Perturbing



I noticed this sign on the way home from practice, and since I carry my trusty Cybershot with me at all times now (what with my propensity for collecting parking tickets, two at a time, totally unjustly), I had to get out and take a shot. How much I wish that I could have seen the Village Green when there cattle, horses and swine grazing there. 1681 for godssakes!! I mean, that is so long ago that human beings have probably EVOLVED in that time. Not all human beings, of course.


Which reminds me, I couldn't sleep last night because I was so disturbed by this week's episode of Nip/Tuck. I've been watching it on and off for a couple of seasons now because (a) it's about plastic surgery, in which I have a vested interest and intend to for the rest of my proudl superficial life and (b) Christian Troy and Sean McNamara are the most interesting "buddies" I have ever seen in any media. They're one part rivalrous brothers (who does Julia REALLY love?), one part homosexual lovers (Matt has two daddies) and one part business partners (you'd have to have witnessed them clefting the chin of a plastic-sugery addict to understand the synergy they share, which is nothing if not choreographed poetry). Sean's ex-wife, Julia, has children with both Sean and Christian, loves them both, and currently wants neither since she has fallen in love with a woman. Julia has also fallen in love with a dwarf. Not that there's anything wrong with that.


Last night's episode was incredibly entertaining, no doubt. But it was also incredibly disturbing, in a Brazil (the movie) kind of way. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT. SPOILER ALERT.

When the otherwise pristine hot tub begins to bleed brown, it's startling for a moment, and then it is unbearably horrifying. Shit in a hot tub. Shitting in a hot tub. With a new lover. It's too awful. And later, Christian in rivalrous brother/jealous lover mode, pokes fun at Sean for dating a "shitter". It's so cringeworthy, I couldn't stop thinking about it. Then there were the lesser cringeworthy moments, but cringeworthy nonetheless: the hymen-o-plasty patient with the hots for Sean who also happens to be Julia's new lover's daughter, Sean's fantasies about her during sex with "the shitter", after he couldn't get it up sans fantasy. The disturbingly uncomfortable lunch between Sean and Christian's anesthesiologist/close friend and Julia with her new lover. When Roma Maffia pushed her plate away, I understood. I felt like throwing up too. Finally, the strung out Matt, eyeing Sean's wallet. It was so painfuly obvious that he was drugging it up. How could Sean not have seen this? Especially after his speech to Julia's lover about setting better boundaries for her own daughter.


So, I had insomnia last night. Could it have been that I watched this powerfully dramatic show on the GIANT FLAT SCREEN FROM HELL???? I just thought of that! Oh no! No, JLafitte, there will be no pull-down screen. I might have to throw a rock through my flat screen and put an end to my media misery altogether.


Oh, and here, for your poking-fun-of-my-decor pleasure, is the latest change to the Family Room. Why didn't any of you think of THIS?


Not that it solves the myriad of problems with this cavernous, flat-screen-tv-driven space. But that myriad of problems isn't going to be solved so soon anyway, seeing as He Who Shall Not Be Named has cut me off at the knees, I mean, charge card, forbidding me from buying any new furniture, nay, any new anything, for the family room. Apparently, he wants to be in charge of the decor. So, expect much more in the way of black iron from places where you assemble the furniture in this room's future. :(

YC

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Oh, and this room needs help now too.



This is the room where I usually film my glorious backbending. When you've seen it in the past, it has been unpainted, with electrical plates hanging off the walls.
Well, we finally finished the bookshelves and the painting (it's the color of Brie, with white trim, if you can't see from the photos). Yesterday, the sectional arrived, and as you can see, it is contemporary. Also arriving yesterday were the flat screen tv and the curio in the corner. There is no rug yet, and I dread how expensive it is going to be to buy one that is big enough for the sofa-to-tv area - probably at least 9 by 11 feet.
And then there is the entire space between the kitchen ad tv room to fill. I'm thinking two club chairs and a table in between, facing the sliding glass doors that have a really pretty view of the back yard. Soooooooozin? Yoohoo....a little help?
YC

Dear Val,



Please excuse YC's absence from practice today. And yesterday. And, cough, Sunday. On Sunday, she did a home practice. On Monday, there was no school, and she had to take Older Son of YC to the orthodontist, where he got his Palate Expander, and then she spent the rest of the day moving furniture, opening and unpacking boxes of books and other media. Today, she was just really, really tired.
From,
YC's Conscience

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Today's Backbending Entry

So, I think the backbending is improving steadily. But the standup does NOT reflect it. In fact, it sucks badly. But in the interest of time, and humility, I felt that I needed to publish today's outtake. OK, they were all outtakes. So, if I was going to publish anything for your perusal and advice, dear reader(s) (!), it was going to be the best of the worst, or nothing at all. I settled for the former. Here it is. Go ahead, laugh. But nicely. Or I will continue to publish only the stuff that looks good (in my opinion).

YC

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Laksmi, Interior Designer

She was right. Symmetry is better.

YC

Friday, November 09, 2007

Introducing: The Pokemon Master

Well, there's a new blogger in town. And his mom couldn't be more kvelling.

YC

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Living Room, with Mutt




I hung these swags, and I am damn proud of my handiwork. I am thinking of handing the husband a bill for all the work I've done around here. Have I mentioned that before? Pardon me if I am being repetitive, repetitive. I'm showing this in two photos because I couldn't fit all three windows in one frame with the sofa on the other side of the room.

Practice is definitely suffering a bit from all of my exertions. But more about my practice later. Right now I have to call the cable company and get them to take off of my bill about 10 porno movies that no one ordered or watched or would have had time to order or watch. Jeez.

YC

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Salabasana and Bhekasana

Today was a particularly sucky practice. VERY stiff. VERY distracted. I moved very slowly and very laboriously through Half Primary when Val told me to move, just for today, to my Second Series poses. She wanted to teach me Salabasana and Bhekasana before she left early for the day - it was her son's birthday, and the shala was pretty much empty except for those of us who either are not from Connecticut or don't have kids (it was a school holiday in CT, for election day).

Apart from getting two new poses which much, much, much better prepare me for Urdhva Dhanurasana, it was an interesting day at the shala. As I said, it was very empty. And Val spent time talking to several of us about our practices. I've seen her do this before - sit down and talk to students about what's going on with their practice. And she did it with me once before when she asked if it would be okay to teach me Second Series even though Guy hadn't started me on it yet.

Me, she talked to about getting in my own way by trying too hard. She's noticed what I've been doing with holding all of my updogs, and it's making my practice about two hours long, and it's exhausting me. Counterproductive. Pick a few updogs to hold, she advised, and don't pick them in advance. Just let it unfold. It's okay with her to use some R&D where it's needed, but the idea is to be unattached to the R&D - to recognize when it is no longer needed and then let it go. Right now, I need that R&D, just not as much.

Hey, I'm nothing if not intense. I wouldn't be me if I weren't intense about something at all times. I'm not here to change that. My goal is to recognize it and work with it more effectively.

Other than that, I am trying to have no goal. I don't want to say, "I want my knees to be at a whatever whatever angle when I'm in a backbend, by whatever whatever date." I just want to keep practicing and keep enjoying my practice. And not exhaust myself by holding every updog for three to five breaths. It's just TOO MUCH!

I was tempted to come home today and do the postures I missed. But I stopped myself, keeping myself busy hanging drapes in the living room, doing some sewing (I am getting a sewing machine for my birthday! YAY!) and otherwise puttering around the house with my power tools until it was time to pick the kids up from their activities.

I wonder why I was so stiff today. And by stiff, I don't mean unable to do the postures. I mean able to do them but really not feeling any "ease" in them. All effort, no ease = stiff, at least to me. Of course, I never got to even try Supta Kurmasana today, so who knows? Maybe today would have been the day I couldn't bind it. If ever there were a day for that, it would have been today.

Man, I feel scattered. Maybe it's all the backbending. DEFINITELY, I am hyper as all hell. Hence, the house fixer-upping. But scattered too. Hmmmm...maybe it's because I forgot to do finishing. I just forward bended and then the few of us who were left in the room started chatting and showboating. A little Urdvha Kukutasana, a little Bakasana B. And my shala-friend, Mel, was ticking and tocking and tocking and ticking. She had never tried it before. But her boyfriend and I goaded her into it, and she was a natural (no, really, she was a gymnast in her younger days and went to the Junior Olympics at one point, whatever that is). She's like 46, but she looks about 30. She makes me laugh, which is always good.

But no finishing postures. Hmmmm.....not good. Maybe I need to do some quiet yoga before I go to bed tonight.

But first, I have to go the playground and pick up Adam's backpack, which he accidentally on purpose left there. Come on, Adam! If you want to blow off homework, there are ways that are easier on your mom....

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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