Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A clarification regarding my teacher

There seems to be at least one person out there who thinks that I tried to paint my teacher as an awful person in my "The Opposite of Not Demoralizing" post. Let me just say: Nothing could be further from the truth.

If I didn't feel like I needed the sort of wake-up call that I got the other day from my teacher, I would just practice in the comfort of my own home instead of hauling myself to a remote (for me) part of the city where I have had to endure parking tickets (my bad), having my tire slashed by some psycho, and today, having my rear headlight bashed in by a really bad parallel park-er.

I am honored that my teacher thinks I am worth the effort and I am flattered that he thinks I am capable of more than I have been doing with my 90-minute meandering stroll down the first three-quarters of Primary. It's almost as good as being given a new pose.

I would hope that anyone who reads this blog has the ability to understand that my questioning of my teacher and my resistance to surrendering to the system, as given to me by him, is just part of my process.

A long time ago, at a meditation weekend, the instructor tried to help our class to understand what it meant to be "mindful". "Whatever I say, assume it's not true," he instructed us, "If you meet the Buddha on the street, kill the Buddha." This was not a problem for me, as it is in my nature to question everything and in this way, to come to believe whatever I come to believe, all the more firmly.

I mean no offense to anyone or anything that I question, least of all my teacher. It is the questioning that ultimately makes me a more loyal student.

And, GO AMERICA! We may be fat, we may be all about the id, we may have some really sorry-assed politicians and some really horrid media. But if it were really so bad here, then why would so many people want to leave where they are to come here?


12 Things I Know (so you don't have to tell me):

1. My ass looks big in that new photo (it's just the camera adding 10 pounds, albeit all in my ass).

2. My yoga pants appear to have gone translucent in that new photo (it's just the flash playing tricks).

3. I have too much time on my hands (and yet I don't have enough time to get the things done that I am supposed to get done).

4. I have issues surrounding authority.

5. At this point, there is absolutely nothing (no thing. nada.) that I can do that will control whether or not I can bind in Supta Kurmasana; no amount of leg behind the head prep, no amount of stretching my arms out of their sockets; at this point, it will happen when I actually allow my teacher to put me into it (okay, confession: I didn't know this until today when Sir told me so, and even then, I can't say that I actually internalized it exactly, although I am trying...and having about as much success as I would be having if you told me that all I need to do to bind in Supta Kurmasana is to wiggle my left nostril....but it's a process....all is coming...?...!)

6. There will always be "a pose".

7. There will always be "the next pose".

8. Everyone's got issues. Not just me. (The only reason that I think that my issues somehow make me exceptional, and by "exceptional", I mean "qualifying for an exception", as in, to an exception to whatever rule we're talking about at any given moment, is because they are, in fact, mine.

9. I need a job (If you know of any, please let me know, bearing in mind that I can't sit still for more than 20 minutes, I have difficulty concentrating for much longer than it takes to read an article in a magazine or write a blog post, my short-term memory retention is shot thanks to a mixture of chemo and hormone deficiencies, and I need to practice yoga every morning for about 90 minutes and still have enough energy to help my kids with their homework and stay awake long enough to put them to bed).

10. I'm a total asshole.

11. I am so totally NOT an asshole.

12. Everything's impermanent.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Online Auction of the Day

Pasasana/Krounchasana: Set of First Two Intermediate Ashtanga Series Poses
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Starting bid: All of Primary, Drop-back to, and Stand-up from, Urdhva Dhanurasana (and bear in mind, that's just for starters)
Buy It Now: N/A (Practice and all is coming)
End time: When you're ready and not a moment sooner.
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Meet the seller: Anonymous YC Commentator (ivdp)

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Item Description:

Insanely deep spinal twist requiring the pressing of both heels to the floor while squatting and simultaneously wrapping the arms around the knees and binding one wrist with one hand, like Marichyasana C, but with BOTH knees within the bind, followed by a moderately deep one-legged forward bend, where one leg is raised to at least a 45 degree angle from the mat, with the sole of the foot caught between the backs of the wrists and the other leg is tucked behind a la Tirianga Mukha Pada Paschimotannasana. The latter posture is thought by many to be more accessible than the former; however, mastery of both is required for the practitioner to acquire the next set of postures. In this way, the Item is seen as a "gateway" to the rest of the asanas in the Intermediate Series of the Ashtanga Yoga System. Acquisition of Item may cause deep obsession with spinal twisting and feelings of desperation for backbending postures. Item is NOT RETURNABLE under any circumstance, Buyer's remorse be damned. Accordingly....BIDDER BEWARE.


P.S. Thanks ivdp!

This is my mind.

And THIS is my mind on YOGA*:

*And by "yoga", I mean yoga done the way Sir has demanded of me. I finished up THROUGH Garba Pindasana in 40, that's right FORTY, minutes today. I didn't rush. I just DID it. I just did the practice. I added nothing. And every once in a while, or more often than that even, I would notice a place where I eliminated a "tick" or a "flourish". There was even time for me to get smooshed in Paschimotannasana after SIX backbends. And I wasn't the last person to get into Savasana or the last one to leave. It was a wonderful feeling. And this, despite heavy traffic and getting to Shala X after the Invocation.

Now, to somehow not get attached to how good my practice felt today....


Monday, January 29, 2007

I will not let my ego ruin my practice.

I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.I will not let my ego ruin my practice.

Wow. That was way easier than I remember it from childhood - writing something fifty times on a blackboard is WAY more grueling than typing something once and then hitting paste 49 times.



Accentuating the Positive

So, after much deliberation, resistance, back and forthing, self-flagellation, self-pitying, a long and very hot bath, I got back on the mat and did what I love the most: my Marichyasanas and all the way through Supta K. And I did them OVER AND OVER again, using a camera on self-timer for structure and to keep myself interested.

No, it wasn't exactly a yoga practice. It wasn't exactly Ashtanga. I was posing. But I was moving my body in ways that make me feel GOOD and that remind me that when it all comes down to it, it's still my body, it's still my practice, and I can still do with both what I want when I am in the privacy of my own home.

Thanks for all the wonderfully supportive comments, and thanks V for the email. You hit that nail. But what to do.

As Pink would say, "I'm a hazard to myself...don't let me get me"....

But let me play at it a bit...


The Opposite of Not Demoralizing

Today began like any other day. I got my kids to school relatively painlessly, took Lewis on a walk and got him into his doggie den rather painlessly and got my car from the garage. Unfortunately, someone who had driven down the FDR Drive before me did not do so painlessly. One of three Southbound lanes was completely closed to traffic, and what with the rubbernecking, my ride down to Shala X took more than 40 minutes, where it should take no more than 20. By the time I walked into the Shala, I realized that the gluteal stiffness from two hours of ice skating yesterday was starting to set in.

No matter. I set my mat down and set out to practice nice and slowly, nice and smoothly, since I knew I had no hope of any adjustments, save for maybe Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana, which I could have really used, and which I didn't end up getting. There was no point in rushing. It was going to be the same as a home practice, only I was borrowing (paying for, really) the energy of the shala and the hope of maybe an adjustment or two before Sir left the room.

Practice wasn't bad, really. It wasn't the bendiest or the strongest. But it was fine. I took as long as I needed to get into each and every posture, and I like it that way.

It's my practice, after all.

Can you guess where this is heading?

I should stress that I didn't add any prep or R&D postures into the mix until Janu Sirsasana C - I just did my practice, albeit slowly. Then, the clock struck 10 a.m., and Sir was preparing to leave the room. I knew I had my work cut out for me in Supta Kurmasana, so I figured that it would be a good idea to get really deep into Janu Sirasana C - a nice Sacrum-opener. As such, I saw fit to take my leg up behind my shoulder in order to super-externally rotate my hip.

It's my practice, after all, and I was about to face my hardest postures on my own, without assistance from a teacher, and knowing that everyone else in the room was settling into their finishing postures or already in savasana. That alone is a recipe for tossing in the towel. But I wasn't going to toss in the towel. The plan was to plug along.

That is, until Sir came up to me and mocked me: "You think that putting your leg behind your head is going to make Supta Kuramasana easier?"

I was mortified.

I stammered something about the knee in Janu Sirasana, but I managed to censor myelf from making the excuse that the medications I am taking (Arimidex, in particular) can make me arthritically stiff, and so sometimes I need that extra stretch. I've been thinking about that all day too. Is my body simply not cut out for Ashtanga, with its rigid requirements of NO PREP poses and strict adherance to a specific sequence that does not leave room for the possibility that maybe, just MAYBE, someone in the room is on a lifelong prescription for medication that is KNOWN TO CAUSE JOINT PAIN, and oh, by the way, it was like 11 degrees Farenheit today with no humidity?

Sounds like I am making a big deal out of a little dig, right? Sounds like a chord was hit, and I vibrated to it. Right? Well, no, actually, because it didn't stop there. Sir went on to say that I should be able to get through Supta Kuramasana in 45 minutes (which was all I had today after the traffic debacle, which he knows nothing about, and which isn't his problem, and which I had no intention of making his problem; hence, my relaxed approach to practice today, with no expectation of assistance in the tough poses).

Forty-five minutes to Supta Kurmasana?!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Not this body. Not at this point, at least. Not in the dead of winter, with a bottle of Arimidex on my dresser, turning my joints into concrete since the summer of 2003. That's nearly four years of joint damage at this point, damage that I have been trying to alleviate through yoga. Maybe the young, or the middle aged with no health issues or even the elderly with no health issues can plow through Primary with nary a hesitation. But not me. My body is not the same as the 41-year old next to me, even if it LOOKS the same.

"You need to go to your backbends now," I was told.

And so, I wasn't even permitted (permitted?! whose body is it anyway? whose practice?) to finish my practice in the remaining half hour. I resisted the urge to give all of my reasons for my difficulties in practicing "quickly" enough - the meds, the cold, the ice skating - because Sir had already made up his mind that I spend too much time "playing".


And so, I did three awful, painful backbends, one horrible forward bend, a pathetic set of finishing poses and high-tailed it out of there.

I went home, curled up on the sofa, shoes and jacket still on, and passed out for the rest of the morning.

This isn't supposed to happen. It isn't supposed to be this way. My practice was not only ruined, but so was my day.

I have no insights about this. I don't know how to go back to the shala tomorrow. I don't know how to practice with any teacher if this is what it is going to be like for me - with my body being different INSIDE than it LOOKS on the outside, with a practice that seems to require adherence to a set of rules that my body does not adhere to exactly according to plan. I've been a good student. I've been diligent in my practice. I don't want to turn to Viniyoga, or the disciples of Desikachar for a "personalized practice" because it's never athletic or vigorous enough for me.

Like I said, I'm the opposite of not demoralized.

Advice, gently given, is welcome.


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Happy Birthday Jill!! Thanks for making my practice suck today. why was my practice kind of stiff and fairly anemic today? Could it have been the birthday party last night for my sister (in law) Jill (center, flanked by me and her other sister, Robin)? It's not like I had more than a glass of Riesling. It's not like I ate any meat. It's not like I was even tired today. After practice, I ice skated for two hours with Adam at Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers. Totally fun. I had totally forgotten how much I love to ice skate. And it's a great way to practice simply ski the ice instead of skating it, keeping both skates on the ice at all times, simply shifting your weight into one set of edges and then the other. It actually feels quite good, and I bet my butt muscles are tired tomorrow.

Oh, yeah, I'm pretty sure that I held my hands together in Supta K long enough for Sir to attempt to cross my ankles. Sometimes, after crossing my ankles, he'll come back to my hands and put them back together, having to hold them together lest I lose my grip. Not today. Alas. But it was just as well. As I said, my practice had no oomph. Even my bujapidasana was sloppy (now, why did I have to go and jinx it yesterday with that effusive buja-bragging post?).

One other thing before I go off to order groceries from Fresh Direct: I have gotten down to brass tacks with Lewis the Bagle. I met with an animal behaviorist on Friday night, and we've got a plan. I will discuss it when I have more energy, and in fact, I should probably keep a log of our progress. The animal behaviorist has his own blog, so it will be interesting to see if he writes about us (he said he probably would, well, not about me, but about Lewis, although, truth be told, the one who needed the training was me, not Lewis...more about that in days to come). A link to said blog will be forthcoming. I think it might prove interesting to some of the dog-owners out there. And yes, I said "dog owner", not "dog parent", and let that be a foreshadowing of what the crux of the problem is with me, vis a vis Lewis, who I should add, is taking to my newly revamped attitude like a yogini takes to a brand new Lululemon tank top.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

The ramblings of a woman obsessed

Now that I've said that I have little to say about my practice, I suddenly am irresistably compelled to say something about my practice, on a topic that has heretofore bored me to tears. Really two topics that have bored me to tears in the past. Those topics would be Bujapidasana and Navasana.

Neither posture has been particularly interesting to me in the past two years, and Navasana has never been interesting to me, as I have always been able to hold it for like, forever, without any effort at all. For those of you who would envy me that, well, just think about my struggles in Supta K, which are mighty. Not mightier than what some others have gone through, but mighty nevertheless.

Anyway, I have recently been called out by my teacher for slacking in Navasana, as I mentioned in a post earlier this week. And knowing my teacher as my teacher, I am pretty sure that he wouldn't have called me out on it the first time he saw it either. He would let it go a few times, maybe even more than a few times, essentially cutting me slack, until he saw that the more rope he gave me, the more I would continue to hang myself. So, let's just say it's been months, or possibly even the better part of a year that I have been phoning in my Navasana, seeing it as nothing more than an annoying time-suck before I get to the shoulders-behind-the-knees poses that come next (Bujapidasana, Kuramasana and Supta Kurmasana). Yes, hello, I'm leaving a message for Navasana, call me back whenever.

Having been made conscious of my slacking, I have since turned to working Navasana with the same gusto with which I work just about everything else in my practice. And whaddayaknow? Suddenly, my Bujapidasana has gone from "jump, scootch, cross, THUD goes the top of the head to the floor, grunt my way back up to a pathetically low-flying Tittibasana and haul the legs back into Bakasana whereupon I jump back and land on my belly" to "jump, cross, FLOAT my FRIGGING CHIN TO THE FLOOR, all the while thinking how the hell am I even doing this?, breathe, float back up, float out, land in chatturanga". If that makes sense.

I have to say, I have always thought that the chin-to-the-floor version of Bujapidasana is incredibly and almost mysteriously graceful. Yet I have never aspired to it. I only have begun doing it because, well, because it has begun to seem like the logical place to land.

I would assume that the change in my Bujapidasana is the result of my Bandha work in Navasana. But then it occurs to me that I have been doing some other Bandha-working work in my vinyasas - lotusing up legs after half lotus asanas and lifting up to jump back, half-lotusing up my legs after Tirianga Mukha Pada and sometimes after the first two Janu Sirsasanas. I wonder if Sir is going to stop me from doing this soon. I hope not because I am really enjoying the feeling of floating up, and I feel like I am building a lot of core strength without overworking my shoulders, which would be counterproductive to binding.

Now, if I can just crack the code to holding the bind in Supta Kurmasana....although I do suspect that I will never crack the code as a result of trying to do so. It is only when I stop looking for the answers that I ever seem to find them in this practice.


The dog ate my homework

I've been very absorbed in this project for the 2007 Manhattan New School Auction, which is why it's been challenging for me to write as prolifically as is usual for me. There are still two kids missing from the can see where there is space for them on the green "rug". And I'd like to enlarge some of the elements that are already there, for a trippy kind of effect: the rubber ducky sitting on top of the computer on the right (if you look at the computer screen, you'll see the portrait of a girl who recently moved away to Australia...I wanted to include her too), enlarging some of the smaller faces of the kids for more impact. I also want to add a bright, shiny, red apple somewhere in the composition, to symbolize knowledge. Finally, even though you can't really see it in this two dimensional photo, this is a three-dimensional work, inspired by the work of Red Grooms. I'd like to add some additional "levels". But the project isn't due until March, so I can take a big, deep breath now and start to get back to my normal routine, and just do my tweaks slowly over the next two months...


P.S. This has not adversely affected my practice in any way. In fact, I wonder if all of the hip opening I've been doing has enhanced my creativity somewhat, enabling me to do this project. As for my practice, there just is not much to say. I was thinking of generally NOT talking about it unless I have something BAD to say. But I hate rules. So, I'll just keep winging it here on the blog.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Cranky New York Minute: a series of verbal snapshots illustrating exactly HOW life is harder here in NYC

In this, the inaugural "Cranky New York Minute", I will enlighten my non-New Yorker City readers on the suckiness of living day to day, every day, every single m.f.-ing day of your life, as a slave to elevators.....

Fun With Elevator Buttons

In NYC, the absolute limits on space elevate the seemingly mundane act of "waiting" into a sport, often a contact sport. There is ample opportunity to practice waiting skills here because in point of fact, people are always waiting: waiting for the subway, waiting for a taxicab, waiting to get into clubs, waiting for a table at a neighborhood restaurant, waiting for a seat on the bus, waiting for a space to put down their mat at the yoga studio, waiting for a treadmill at the gym, and on and on and on.

But nothing that I can think of inspires the ire and irrationality of seasoned wait-ers like waiting for an elevator. I've learned not to feel irritated when standing in front of a lit elevator button and someone comes over and presses it again, as if to "remind" the elevator that it's being called, or worse, to press it "better" (more effectively?) than I did. I've learned to accept that some people will pretend to hold the "DOOR OPEN" button, while actually pressing "DOOR CLOSE". I've come to terms with people taking the elevator to the second floor of my building, as is their right.

However, the final frontier - the proverbial Eighth Series - of Elevator Waiting is when your building's elevators are being repaired or refurbished such that only one, lone elevator is doing the entire work of what had been two or three.

When your building is left with only one elevator to serve a small community of people who do a lot of coming up and going down, and who don't like to use the stairs when doing so, and who are used to the luxurious convenience of two or even three elevators gliding up and down the building at the touch of a button, you're going to have to marshall up all of your patience and your tolerance. When that one, lone, elevator door opens on your floor, and you see the woman holding a laundry basket filled with fresh and folded clothes (she is obviously coming from the basement) and the man holding his briefcase with his tie loosened away from his neck (he's certainly not heading TO the office), you will have to accept that that the one, lone elevator is heading upwards, when you wanted to go down. You'll have to accept that no other elevator will be coming. It's only this one, and you'll just have to wait for it to come back down, however long it takes. It's a moment where you can truly savor the way you handle the feel of dismay.

But the dismay of your lone elevator heading UP when you wanted DOWN, or vice versa, is nothing compared to my personal irritation at the people who push the UP and the DOWN elevator buttons in a futile, and I repeat with emphasis, UTTERLY FUTILE attempt to make the elevator come faster. Rather than make the elevator come faster, what this has the effect of doing is to cause the elevator to stop on each and every floor where some clown has gone and pressed BOTH the UP and the DOWN buttons. Stopping on multiple floors where no one gets on and no one gets off would tend to slow down an already over-burdened lone elevator, dontcha think?

To wit, on your way UP in the elevator, you are forced to stop two or three times on the way to your floor, each time, looking out at some clown who is waiting for a DOWN elevator. Your eyes attempt to bore a hole through his numb skull, but he refuses to make eye contact, instead, looking sheepishly down at his shoes, knowing that you're onto him, knowing the utter uselessness of his attempt at elevator manipulation, but knowing full well that he will do it again tomorrow.

And tomorrow.

And tomorrow...until the refurbishing/repair project is over, and you have all of your elevators back in service.

Aye, it is something worth waiting for, that.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Doggie Depends

Yep, I bought 'em. Diapers for Lewis the Bagle. He seems to want to mark everything in my home as his territory, and I'm not liking it. Not one bit. This is my big news of the day. Everything else, status quo. My creativity is all tapped out because I've been working on this big art project - creating the "class project" for sale at the elementary school's annual auction. The project needs to somehow involve the kids, but it also needs to generate big bucks. Projects from past years have brought in anywhere from $500 to several thousand dollars (that was the year that we had a mosaic artist come in and create a mosaic of the New York City Skyline, with help from the kids). I'm doing a mixed media three-dimensional collage of cut paper and digital photos. It's a re-creation of the classroom, but it's kind of intentionally trippy and not-to-scale. I think it's turning out quite nicely. And I am totally not attached to the result, i.e., how much money it brings in at the Auction (easy, because my kids won't be at the school next year - God willing, we'll be somewhere in Westchester county near the Connecticut border, and when I figure out where, I'll let you know!).


You can read yesterday's post if you want to know how my practice is going. You can read Egotastic if you want the celebrity gossip. If you want the answer to my question, "What is a yoga therapist?", you can check out Yoga Journal because they decided to answer the question this month. If you want a laugh, go to the blog formerly known as Catvari (like Prince, Jody has gone from a pronouncable name to a symbol, albeit in Sanskrit; nevertheless, I have no idea what said symbol means).

And now, I think I'll go wash the glue off my hands.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I love my practice.

I just thought I would mention that.

The upside to taking so long to really master Supta K is that I have so so so much time to master ALL of Primary. I've watched my proficiency level go steadily up in all the postures, one by one, and my ability to keep vinyasa-ing without falling to the ground with each chatturanga has steadily improved until I am pretty much caught up to my asanas (in other words, I can do every vinyasa up through Garba Pindasana, fairly competently). My sweating has greatly diminished, thanks to giving up my morning cup of coffee. My Mari D is feeling all cozy and squishy again, just like I like it, thanks primarily to not eating at night, and limiting my fluid intake after midnight. Good advice from Sir, all of it.

Today Sir caught me slacking off in Navasana. I laughed out loud. I have NEVER been caught slacking in Navasana. NEVER! And yet, I must slack off in Navasana on a consistent, daily basis. Well, turns out, of course, that holding Navasana for the full five inhales and the full five exhales makes the press-ups in between feel much easier and I ended up feeling far more ready for Buja and Kurmasana. I guess Navasana is a palate cleanser. Never thought of it as the sorbet of Ashtanga practice. But it seems that it is.

I practiced at home yesterday in the late afternoon due to spending most of the day on a class field trip to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. We were supposed to have gone to Katz's Deli beforehand, but the school bus that was taking us there did not arrive until forty minutes late. As such, we skipped it. Instead, I volunteered to pick up knishes and knockwurst this morning after my practice, which I did, and BOY do I wish I had a camera with me. Katz's is the ORIGINAL, and perhaps the ONLY delicatessen in NYC that is truly a "delicatessen" of the old school ilk. I don't think that ANYTHING in there has been changed in the last 100 years, not the decor, not the menus, not the signs on the wall ("Send a Salami to Your Kid in The Army"), although the prices have changed, and it's no longer Jews at the counter, but rather other relatively new immigrants from countries I couldn't readily identify.

I enjoyed a post-practice turkey on rye with coleslaw with half-sour pickles on the side, washed down with a half liter of Dr. Brown's Diet Black Raspberry. I finished about an eighth of the sandwich before I felt full. I put it back together (I tend to pick sandwiches apart, picking out the choicest bits and leaving the rest), packed it up and took it home with me.

I am pretty sure that the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld, as well as from real life, took his cue from the counter at Katz's. The moment you walk in, you're handed a ticket stub and directed to hand it to whomever gives you food and then return it to the cashier at the front of the room when you're done. Then you make your way to the block-long counter, which is actually a combination of several smaller counters, only you wouldn't know that if you hadn't been there before. Sandwiches are at one part of the counter. Take-away-style food such as knishes, hotdogs, sausages and the like are at another part of the counter. I am not sure where the hamburgers and eggs part of the counter was, but it was there somewhere, as was a counter devoted to large orders and beverages. It was mind bogglingly confusing, and the counters are peppered with signs that are rather assertive in their tone, but are intended to help you figure out where to go and what to do ("Go to the shortest line," one directs). Luckily, the lunch crowd had not yet arrived, and so the counter guys were able to help me out and point me in the right direction(s). The lack of surliness is where it diverges from the Soup Nazi, I suppose. That and the fabulousness of the deli fare. I'm not a big fan of the Soup Nazi's soups. Rather pedestrian, in my opinion, which of course, everything that you'll read here is, in some way, shape or form.

As Miranda Priestly would say, That's all.


Monday, January 22, 2007

Six Degrees of Discrimination

Controversial (and, in my opinion, not in a good way) screen actor and director, Mel Gibson spewed some really nasty shit about Jews (closing his tirade with, "Are you a Jew?").

Michael Richards, who is not a Jew, but who has been thought to be a Jew, by Jews, and whose Seinfeld character, Cosmo Kramer, may have been a Jew, according to some Jews, went on his own discriminatory rant, in this case about black people. He has since apologized and acknowledged that he needs some help.

Isaiah Washington, one of the stars of Disney-owned ABC Television's Grey's Anatomy, verbally insulted his co-star, T.R. Knight, by describing him in a term commonly used to disparage homosexuals. Among the ironies at play in this scenario is the fact that Isaiah Washington is a direct beneficiary of Disney's iron-clad, zero-tolerance anti-discrimination workplace policy. Also ironic is that Isaiah was heard to say to his wife that he "wishes he were gay". I'll bet he does, since, as I have learned from watching the first episode of Season Five of South Park ("It Hits The Fan"), that you CAN use the word in question if you are, in fact, gay.

Isaiah has since apologized, once in a manner which borrowed from the above-referenced South Park episode, by utilizing the offending word repeatedly ad nauseum in doing so, and for a second time, in a manner which borrowed from Richards: I know I need help, and I've already asked for it. Help me Goddamnit! Why isn't anyone helping me? really ISN'T my fault....

Rosie O'Donnell had some choice and toxic words regarding substance-abusing, promiscuous-seeming, insincere-girl-on-girl-actioning beauty queens and the middle-aged comb-over-wearing pagaent owners who pardon them.

Substance-abusing, promiscuous-seeming, insincere-girl-on-girl-actioning beauty queen, Tara Rees is considering suing the owner of the Miss U.S.A. pagaent, Mr. Donald Trump, whose tolerance for substance-abusing, promiscuous-seeming, insincere-girl-on-girl-actioning beauty queens seemed to have reached its limit at one (Current, reigning Miss U.S.A., Tara Connor), to get the her Miss Nevada crown back after her icky photos went public.

  • Cheesy (in my opinion, and since this is my blog, it's all my opinion), REAL ESTATE TYCOON!!, television reality show host, discarder of wives who have reach their freshness date, Donald Trump is on the other side of Ree's hissy fit, which means, dear reader, that Trump and Gibson are separated by only six degrees of discrimination.
  • However, if you take a look at the impressive cross-section of targets of Trump's offensive comments, and add to it those who have found themselves on the other side of a "versus" vis a vis Trump, another pattern emerges, a pattern that could shake the very core of popular culture:

  • gay, overweight lesbian talk show hosts
  • aging, speech-impaired talking heads
  • aging, stock-market-challenged, ex-convict home economics teachers
  • aging, foreign-born ex-wives
  • aging ex-wives who failed to produce a male heir
  • formerly goth, (once, and possibly future?) bi-sexual, black-baby-adopting, asian-baby-adopting, home-wrecking, limousine liberal actresses
  • formerly punk-ISH, Ashtanga practicing, (once, and possibly future?) bi-sexual, black-baby-adopting, Catholic-skewering, birth mother of a lily-white boy and a half-latino girl (this one is via one degree, having publicly defended a gay, overweight lesbian talk show host in which Trump found himself embattled
  • forty-something male who was rejected from the Apprentice, allegedly by virtue of of age discrimination.
  • a wide variety, in terms of ethnicity, socio-economics and intelligence of young, hopeful Trump Organization wannabees with a ready-for-prime-time knack for telegenics, who found themselves on the business end of a "You're Fired" attack.

See what's happening here? Donald Trump is the de facto epicenter of discrimination!

As such, with only six degrees, everyone discriminates against everyone.

Step aside, Kevin Bacon, there's a new game in town.


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Ardha Badha Padmottanasana Epiphany

I've come a long way in this posture since two years ago when I first started working on it, even before I discovered Mysore style practice.

At first, it was impossible for me to reach behind my back and grab my lotus foot. I guess my chest was too tight, my shoulders didn't rotate much, and my lotus was kind of shaky. In order for me to even play at binding the foot, I had to lean my butt against a wall, thus eliminating the balance aspect of the posture so that I could focus on the stretching aspect.

Eventually, I was able to make the bind, but only when I was already completely folded over. And by completely folded over, I mean that my chest was still miles away from my legs, my nose or chin nowhere near my shin. Oh, and let's not forget that standing leg, which was bent at the knee for support and out of fear of hyperextending it backward.

As I grew more flexible and strong, around the time I took up my daily Mysore style practice, I found that I was able to approximate Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana, and by approximate, I mean I could basically do the posture, but the vinyasa went something like this:

Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale while putting the right leg into lotus, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, while struggling to wind my right arm behind my back to take my big toe or maybe, if I was lucky, my first two toes.

Inhale again, from a semi-folded-over stance, and then exhale to fold over a bit more, to the point where I could gingerly feel for the floor with my left hand, which was way out to the left side and way far in front of the tips of my left toes.

Five inhale-exhales in this precarious position, and then look up and attempt to lengthen my back on the next inhale, staying there on the next exhale, although already steeling myself for the intense work that was about to come...

Then inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, with a bent standing leg to bring my torso back to semi-upright.

Exhale into Samasthiti.

It wasn't pretty. But it was adequate in the shala to get me to the next posture and finish the standing postures, as well as to prepare me for the seated version: Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana, which was MUCH easier by virtue of its elimination of the balancing element.

Anyway, over time, like man evolving from the apes (hahahahaha, Sir if you are reading this, I believe that I did, in fact, evolve from a monkey of sorts...ASM, I hope YOU are reading this as well), I eventually came to stand erect (even while taking the bind). Eventually, my free hand no longer dragged on the ground (but rather, supported me, firmly planted to the left of my left foot, fingertips in line with toe tips). Eventually, and quite recently, in fact, I came to place my face on my shin and to come up at the end without falling over.

But what I hadn't figured out until today was how to come up without bending my standing leg. At least when my right leg was the standing leg. With the left, I seemed to work it out, using that leg's strength, my bhandas and a nice sense of balance, which I am thankful for. With the right, well, one of those elements was missing. I wasn't sure which, and I was starting to blame it on a weaker right knee. A "trick" knee, or something like that.

And then there was today: (cue a swelling symphony and an operatic soprano rocking high E) I PRESSED my lotused left leg back, awakening the muscles of the entire leg, as I stood up. And voila.

So, it turned out it was all my left leg's fault, not pulling it's weight, generally playing dead in Ardha Badha. I had no idea it was such a slacker.

And then I kept my hands together in Supta K LONG enough for Sir to make an actual attempt to put my ankles together (I really am much better off STARTING with my ankles crossed...note to self: find out why I'm not being encouraged to do this), strong enough for him to wedge a towel between my hands BEFORE the bind fully broke (my index fingers were still hooked even as I held the towel. YAY!

Then I begged and pleaded with Sir to let me do Garba Pindasana to relieve the wonky back feelings. And (a) he said yes, (b) I executed it without a hitch other than not making much of a rotation between breaths four and five, although I quickly made up for it and made it all the way around in nine breaths, which I never thought I would be able to pull off while being observed and (c) it REALLY helped by back and I was able to go right from there into backbends, of which I did six.

No shala for me tomorrow as I have a class trip. I suppose I will self-practice later. Must decide whether to do a classic shala-type practice or to go balls out and do my whole (rather insane), full-on, all-inclusive practice (which includes binds in Uttita Parsvakonasana and Parivritta Parsvakonasana, Bakasana after Utkatasana, Compass Pose before Janu Sirsasana C...etc....


Friday, January 19, 2007

Note to self: Call Oprah

I know that if, God FORBID, kinehura, puh puh puh, my child went missing for four years and then miraculously turned up, one of the first things I would make sure to do would be to go on Oprah, and while I was at it, I would be sure to make sure that the kid came with.

"Honey, can you get the phone? I'm in the middle of Guiding Light, and I think that Savannah is just about to confess to Byron that she married Tyrance while Byron was in a coma."

"Goshdangit, alright then.....heeeeello?.........what's that? You say you've got Shawn? SHAWN? Good lord......hang on....hon, the police say they've found Shawn! After all these years!"

"OH MY GOD! It's a miracle!!!!!! We're going to get to go on Oprah!"

"No kidding, that was her on the phone."


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Knock, knock

"Who's there?"

"Control freak."

"CONTROL freak? who?"

"NO! You didn't say that right. Try it again, Control freak WHO?"

I heard this little ditty on a chairlift at Okemo this past weekend, and it popped into my mind as I read the first few lines of this blog entry from Leslie (it's a guy named Leslie) Kaminoff's Apparently, dude is passionate about this topic. But I have to say, I don't get it. I just don't get it at all. I have tried and tried to understand his point of view. I have gone so far as to research the topic online (actually, that's not going very far, but hey, I really did want to know what constitutes "yoga therapy", and by the way, I still don't know, so if you could enlighten me....?). And I cannot for the life of me understand what the big deal is.

The issue at hand is state-licensing of yoga teachers. Or "yoga therapists", as Kaminoff calls himself. Again, not sure what that means. And I'm not sure why anything involving "therapy" shouldn't require licensure...but let me not get ahead of myself. So...licensing. We're talking about the same kind of licensing that is required of school teachers. Or psychologists. Or social workers. Or hair stylists. Or manicurists. Or masseuses. Or attorneys. Or doctors. Or electricians. Or elevator repairmen. I could go on...

I had a Constitutional Law professor at NYU law school, Professor Bernard Schwartz, God rest his soul (he was hit by a bus some years after I graduated), who liked to intone in class (often), "The power to tax is the power to destroy." I get that. I do. If you tax cigarettes at a high enough rate, eventually, you're going to destroy the economics of the tobacco industry. Or hopefully you are. But is the power to license, likewise, the power to destroy a profession?

Kaminoff objects to third-party interference in the yoga teacher-yoga student relationship. I say, bring it on.

See, I believe that there is a serious problem with the notion that yoga teachers are NOT required to obtain a license to teach. If you want to teach yoga, you can. Without having taken a single yoga class, without having ever unrolled a yoga mat, you can call yourself a yoga teacher. Sure, you might have a hard time finding students who are willing to be taught by you, having no credentials.

But then again, you might not. Scary.

As a student, if you want to take a yoga class, you have to put your trust in the teacher. You hope that they're going to be teaching you actual "yoga", as opposed to pure calisthenics or pure stretching. You hope that if they touch you, they are not only trained to do so, but understand what is and is not appropriate (e.g., it is appropriate to point to where a student's hip flexors are; it is NOT appropriate to stick your finger INTO the student's hip flexor to demonstrate how it attaches to some other muscle, and yes, I am talking to you, former yoga teacher of mine who shall go nameless).

You hope that the teachings your receive are not only authentic but trustworthy, useful and safe on every level (I, for one, would be perfectly happy if state licensure prohibited partner exercises in non-workshop settings). You hope that your teacher isn't going to say things in class like, "If you have a healthy spine, you will never get cancer", or, "If you practice this posture, it's the equivalent of eight hours of sleep". And that's only the minor stuff, the stuff that doesn't perpetuate cult-like irrational behavior (see, e.g., Dahn yoga and the death of one of their students participating in some teacher-mandated quest).

But how do you know what you're getting when you unroll your mat in front of someone who calls him or herself "teacher"? If you're taking a yoga class at a reputable yoga center, then most likely, your teacher has graduated from a teacher training course that lasted at least 200 hours and has spent some time apprenticing for an experienced teacher. Nevertheless, teacher training courses can vary widely in their quality. And even those teacher training courses that offer a comprehensive foundation in teaching may allow students to graduate who can't give a decent adjustment, who don't really grasp the philosophical concepts, who haven't even practiced yoga for more than a few months. In fact, I would venture to guess that close to 100 percent of all students who attend a teacher training in 2007 WILL graduate, regardless of whether you would want them standing in front of you teaching a class. Thus, even having graduated from a seemingly reputable teacher training course, your teacher might be utterly worthless or even dangerous, physically or emotionally.

On the flip side, some teachers aren't graduates of formal teacher training courses, but are more than fit to teach, after having spent extensive periods of time studying with senior teachers, as well as engaging in self-directed coursework on physical adjustments, anatomy, ethics and the Yoga Sutras.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of less-than reputable yoga centers and plenty of fitness centers where you can take a yoga class with a teacher who has no idea what he or she is doing, or worse, a teacher who has no idea but thinks he/she does. In my opinion, this reflects rather poorly on yoga and leaves the general public with, for the most part, no idea of what yoga actually is.

I would love for yoga to be taken seriously enough as a physical and spiritual practice and as a healing and complementary medical modality that its teachers are required to obtain licensing from the state and to maintain their licensing on an annual or bi-annual basis (as is the case in New York with regard to lawyers) with proof of continuing education, continuing teaching or some combination of both. I would be happy to submit to a written test or a practicum. I would be happy to show evidence of my teaching-related studies (in my case, it began with a teacher training course and has continued from there, but for others, it would be extended periods of study with Guruji or apprenticeships with disciples of Iyengar or Yogibhavan, etc.) and of my continuing education.

Why shouldn't yoga teachers be licensed? If lawyers have to be licensed to so much as write a letter on law-firm letterhead, if manicurists have to be licensed to polish your nails, then why not yoga teachers? After all, it's not just your legal problems or your fingernails at issue here: we have your physical, spiritual and emotional well-being literally in the palms of our hands.


Your real age is 54

Or so they tell me.

I have this self-deprecating tick, where I tell people that I may look young, but I have the body of a 60-year old, thanks to the effects of chemo (which gave me early onset osteoporosis) and surgically-induced menopause (which makes my skin crepier and flabbier than it should be at this point, and which makes me forgetful, or that might be caused by the chemo...either way!). Now, I have just found out that I'm off by only about six years in my assesment.

According to, this:

is the body of a 54 year old.

Oh, yeah. And this 54-year old body also BOUND FULLY IN SUPTA KURMASANA TODAY. The FULL pose. BOUND. IN. SUPTA. K. TODAY. Ankles crossed, hands clasped (Sir held them together, but it TOTALLY still counts!!!!!! Up until today, even THAT much wasn't possible).

It took two tries, but so what. I'm nothing if not determined. And you know something? I wouldn't have even bothered to do it the second time since I went into the shala today with the intention of totally not attaching to the results of my efforts. Except the first attempt at Supta K just didn't feel right. It wasn't right. I wasn't ready. It takes me a bit of time to warm things up at this early stage of my Supta K "journey" (I hate that word, but I am too lazy to think of another at the moment), and so be it. When Sir brought my hands together, they came together, but I knew that I wasn't even close to my edge. After coming out of it, I asked him if I could try it again. He gave me the affirmative as he went to give someone else dropbacks. Meantime, I got myself back into Kurmasana, squished down, wriggled my shoulders under my knees and crossed my ankles. And waited. And waited. I got out of it, and immediately got myself back in, at which point Sir came over and put drew my hands together. Done!

Yay! Yay!

I am far far far from mastering this posture, but at least now, I am where I was when I began Mari C, which is now one of my most favorite-est postures of all: I could be put into it with the teacher's help. And THAT makes all the difference to me.

So, I have a real age of 54. At least I can put my ankles behind my head and clasp my hands behind my back!


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A minor breakthrough

Yeah, I'm going to go with the boring practice report today.

So, I got my butt to the shala despite that I woke up not feeling particularly bendy and despite that I didn't have time to soak in a hot bath like I usually do before taking the kids to school in the morning. Yeah, it's an addiction. But today, I got to practice non-attachment to it. I went in cold. Literally.

And it didn't suck any more than usual.

In fact, after the first creaky Surya Namaskar A, I was in business pretty much. And by the time I finished the Prasarita Padotanasanas, I was was actually enjoying it.

I got through all of Primary up to Navasana without really dawdling or sinking into my mat in the midst of vinyasa-ing, which is kind of a break-through (even though it's not the breakthrough I intended to write about) in that the aftermath of taking seven weeks off to recover from surgery took my stamina down in a big way. I guess it is coming back. Yay.

Note: You can tell I'm tired. And my typing muscles are sore too, which is kind of weird. I hope that doesn't foretell a flu coming on.

As for the asanas, gradually, it seems that Mari A, B and C are becoming as much of a non-event as any of the poses that come before. Mari D is still a bit of a novelty and takes a major marshalling up of my concentration, which is probably not a good thing, since it kind of defeats the purpose of the yoga by breaking the "spell". But what can you do.

After Navasana, the spell is completely broken, as I scootch and scootch and scootch my shoulders back behind my knees, to the point where Bujapidasana is no longer working too well for me. Buja is much easier for me when my legs are halfway between my shoulders and my elbows, as opposed to scrunched up at shoulder level.

Whatever. It's all about Supta K anyway, isn't it? Like Jean Valjean and that other dude in Les Miserables. Like Lewis the Bagle and just about any old squirrel he sees or smells. Like Madonna and world domination. I stalk it. I'm like a major Supta K stalker.

So, here's the payoff, the moment you've all been waiting for: the minor breakthrough. Today, when Sir got my hands to bind in Supta K (I like the way that sounds!! I can't believe I can say it so off the cuff like that!), they stayed together just a teeny bit longer than usual, but that's not the breakthrough. The breakthrough is that when my hands slid away from each other, as they inevitably do at this juncture, they did not do so violently. They just kind of slowly slid, and when Sir put a towel into my hands, I was STILL TOUCHING MY FINGERTIPS TOGETHER!!!! Even with ankles crossed.

Minor breakthrough.

And, oh yeah, I was able to go almost immediately into backbends afterwards. No collapsing into a puddle of sweat and praying that my back would still be in one piece upon standing.

One quandry: Sir told me that I need to relax everything other than my hands, but how can I do that without losing uddiyana bhanda? Without that bhanda, my legs start to spring outward, which pulls my hands apart. But with the bhanda, Sir is working against tightly sprung muscles, making it harder for him to get me into the pose.

Can you say Catch 22?


Monday, January 15, 2007

Okemo Mountain, Vermont

Friday night, the YC family drove up to Ludlow, Vermont to spend a couple of days "skiing" at Okemo Mountain.

I put quotes around the word, skiing, to pre-empt all of you out there chuckling at the fact that a goodly part of the Northeast, including the normally snowiest of ski mountains, look, for the most part, like this:

As Brian would say, it's enough to leave one "disconsolate". Word.

And if you are someone who has spent some time skiing in Vermont, you can imagine how disconcerting it is to drive down Route 100 (Route 100 is the road that runs through all of the Vermont ski resorts; it is said that Route 100 is always plowed...well, this year, it's kind of llike, who cares?) and see not a bit snow, not even a single flake, to arrive at your hotel and park your four-wheel drive in a nearly empty lot that should be punctuated by snowdrifts but isn't, and to get out of said four-wheel drive with your jacket off and look up towards the mountains and see nothing but the dull green and brown of a snowless wintry landscape - nary a snow covered peak in sight.

But we have friends who have a house in nearby Plymouth, and they told us that there is actually some decent skiing at Okemo, even when it rains, as it did on Saturday. Apparently, they do a lot of snowmaking up at Okemo, as long as the temperature hovers at around freezing. This weekend, the cold was off and on. The first day, the only snow to be seen was on a few specified trails on which they had made snow, and for the most part the only trails they could make snow on were the beginner and intermediate trails, as the expert trails tend to be too steep to hold the manmade snow without the benefit of a decent natural snow base.

Saturday night, as we drove to the house of our friends in Plymouth for a nice, hearty post-skiing (no, really!) meal, there was a light snowfall. And when I say light, I mean light. In NYC, it would be the kind of snowfall you might not even notice because it was the sort of fluffy snow that doesn't typically stick to the sidewalk. But in Vermont, even a light blanketing of powder can change the whole picture (literally):

With or without that light dusting, on both days that we skiied, the conditions were, well, odd, at best. On trails that began midway up the mountain, you'd start out coasting on a thin cover of powder over packed powder, but as you schussed down the trail, you'd hit patches of visible ice that you just had to point your skis down and wait (and hope) for a softer patch to make a speed-controlling turn. As you went further down the trail, the visible ice would actually become a bit softer in consistency so that you could actually make turns on it. Closer to the base of the mountain, much of what we were skiing on was sort of brownish-beige from being mixed up with dirt and grass.

Up at the top of the mountain, the climate was completely different. The air was freezing and foggy - so foggy that you couldn't see more than a few feet in front of you - and the snow had the consistency of sand. Seriously. It was some of the oddest snow I've ever seen or felt - coarse granules, dry as dust. I would have taken a photo if there were any visibility at all up there. And skiing on sand isn't easy. You never quite feel like you can bite the edge of your skis into it. But then, just as you'd get used to making your turns in it, it would change to something else - depending on whether the trail was thin or wide, depending on how many skiiers had been there already, it might have been any combination of softer, harder, colder, wetter...until ultimately, you'd come to the archetypal "Loose Granular", which looks something like this:

Now, does that really look like snow to you?

But really, it was all good, and I'm not just saying that so that I can play at sounding all yogic and philosophical. If you can ski in those conditions, then you can ski any conditions. I spent quite a bit of time on green (easy) runs because I spent a lot of time skiing with Adam, who was learning to ride a snowboard...

...and let me just say, there were no "green" runs this weekend. Everything was challenging, everything was a lesson in not getting too attached to the conditions that you like, to the conditions that you're on at a given moment. It was a lesson in going with the flow.

One of the things I most enjoy about skiing is that it gives me a reason to be outside and active in the coldest of weather and yet not feel particularly cold. My favorite runs are the ones where you can't see the chairlifts going by and for the most part, you don't have to see other skiiers or hear the sound of their edges going by. I love to feel as if I'm all alone in the wilderness. I like to hear the sound of my skis alternately sliding and biting into the snow. Some people like to ski with their iPods. To me, apart from how completely unsafe that is, it just seems to defeat my purpose - connecting with nature.

It turned out to be a really nice weekend with some really great skiiing, and now I feel ready to go out west in February. Plus, my new ski boots are a fantastic fit, apart from a couple of bruises ve on my shins from tightening the buckles a bit overzealously.

Skiing feels like a perfect compliment to yoga - looseness, calm and the ability to twist the hips while keeping the torso quite all are enhanced by yoga. The flexibility gained in yoga minimizes injuries from falls and keeps soreness at bay (the husband is wearing a heating pad on his sore calves today, whereas I have already been to the shala this morning and had a fabulous practice - other than the fact that I had to do the three seated finishing postures right after Supta K and take a 30 second savasana because I was needed at home).

About Supta K - My Anonymous Shala Mate witnessed me gripping my hands tightly today in Supta K (as well as my losing my grip as my ankles were moved together). But she knows this quandry well, having lived to tell about it as she now nears completion of Primary. I feel very pleased that progress is there, progress continues, and I shall continue to do my individual study outside of the shala to keep the progress happening.


Friday, January 12, 2007

Dear me,

No one has to read this. It's a letter to myself. I don't have a diary, so this is where I will record these thoughts.

I had an epiphany today where I truly understood what it means when they say that 99 percent is practice. Sir gives me the best adjustment in Supta K - he's gotten me farther than anyone else has. But it's never going to really happen without the extracurricular work that I have been and will continue to do.

Maybe this is just the way I am. Maybe it's just in keeping with my personality - a loner at heart, someone who needs to do the reading but not necessarily sit in the classroom to get the grades. Maybe this is all just reiterating, or reflecting, my nature.

Whatev. Reality is, I never would have gotten Mari C or Mari D without working it on my own time. Many days, I would go to the shala and then do the poses again at home later. That's just the way it is for me. That's just how it is going to continue to be.

I need to be at the shala for a variety of reasons - not the least of which is structure and the assists. But I will "get" Supta K when my body is ready for it, and it's not going to be ready for it without some R&D (research and development) on my own time.



Friday download

1. Is there anyone out there who actually believes that Lindsay Lohan had her appendix removed when she checked into the hospital a few days ago and is now running around with her scarless tummy exposed? Post-op? Sheeeeyeaaaahright. It is my opinion that Miss Lohan's pants are on fire. And the death watch continues.

2. Does anyone else think that perhaps Rosie and Donald protesteth too much? Well, methinks. I am starting to wonder if there isn't just a bit of sexual tension there. The Sam and Diane kind. The Luke and Laura kind. The Cybill Shepherd/Bruce Willis on Moonlighting kind. The kind where "I hate your guts" is followed by "I hate your guts more", which is in turn followed by a cut to the bedroom where our protagonists are dazed and unclothed. Note to Melania Trump and Kelly Carpenter: keep your spouses close, keep their sworn enemies closer.

3. My back is all outta wack - the lower back, right about here:

(where the dimples are). I hate Supta Kurmasana. And it hates my guts more. And so a love affair begins.

4. I can get each of my shins behind my neck, albeit not securely, when I am lying on my back. I can bind easily in Padmasana now (lotus, hands bound from behind the back). I intertwined hands go straight to the floor in Prasarita Pado C. I am wrist binding in Mari A and (most of the time) in Mari B. So why the hell can't I just hold my freeeeeeakin hands together in Supta K. I have seen yogis all over the room who can't (or don't?) do any of the above, all of which I consider to be crucial to Supta K. And yet they are gripping their hands, no problem, in Supta K. It's my GODDAMNED legs. They are pressing down with incredible force, trying to pry my arms apart and succeeding brilliantly. MUST INTERNALLY SPIRAL LEGS. MUST. So then why is the conventional adjustment wisdom in Supta K to EXTERNALLY rotate the legs so that the soles of the feet meet on the floor over the head before the bind is made. What I personally need is for my legs to be shooting straight out over my shoulders. I KNOW the bind can happen then. I am too cowed right now to bring this up with Sir though. I wish someone out there who understands what I just wrote would walk me through why I might be wrong (or even better - agree with what I wrote).

5. Did anyone know that South Harlem is now being gentrified and given the name "SOHA"!? Is anything sacred anymore? Must every part of Manhattan be blemished with skyscraping condominium buildings? It won't be long before we look something like:

and that's not pretty.

6. The YC family will be in Vermont this weekend, with the intention of skiing. We shall set that intention, and then we shall let go of results. Last I heard, the conditions are Loose Granular, which means "Loose granules similar to rock salt, usually formed after powder snow thaws, refreezes and crystallizes; or an accumulation of sleet. Loose granular also may characterize surface conditions produced by machine conditioning of frozen granular or icy surfaces." Or as they say in the Rocky Mountains, "Hahaha. Eastern skiing sucks."

7. Check out The Luxury Guru, where I will soon be guest blogging perhaps as much as weekly (if I can generate that much content, and you know that I have so much trouble generating content) on yoga and cancer.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Ballad of Rosie and Trump

No. I can't do it. It's too boring. Gaudy billionaire real estate mogul with a really bad combover and an increasingly tacky reality television show. Strident, opinionated comedian with a Long Island accent who is suppoed to be funny but whose promotions for her "gay cruise" do not even hint at irony. Sloppy drunk winner of a really tacky beauty pagaent run by the gaudy billionaire who the opinionated comedian didn't think should "get off" so easily by virtue of the gaudy billionaire's moment of magnanimousness. Television personality who propelled her own fall from legitimate news grace by helming a daytime television talk show and botoxing her face into a parody of her lateral lisping self.

It's just too uninteresting.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Box in a Box

Did anyone see Justin Timberlake on SNL? Or the uncensored YouTube version of Dick in a Box? You kind of have to have seen that to appreciate this.

"I put my box in a box for you...."

"...Christmas, New Years, Flag Day, Cinco de box in a box for you...."

Yes, it's raunchy. But it's funny. And if you don't like funny (raunchy) things then definitely do not click on the link.


Same shit different day

Got the good adjust in Mari D, which puts me less on edge than muscling my way through it myself, and then rushed through Navasana to get to my meat and potatoes: Bujapidasana, Kurmasana and Supta K, which are now a three-part medley of "wriggle the legs behind the shoulders."

Bound the hands (or rather, the hands were bound, passive tense being more appropriate here), long enough for Sir to say, "It's all you have to do. Just bind the hands. Don't do anything else. Forget everything else."

In my head: inhale, exhale, hands...slipping....inhale, exhale, INHALE, EXHALE, goddamnit, my HANDS!".

I'd really like to be one of those limby people that just wrap the arms around and clasp them, minus the drama. But in the immortal words of Gwen Stefani, "Few times I been round that track, but it's not gonna happen like that."

Uh-huh, this my shit. I aint no bendy-ass girl.

At least there is progress.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Dear Yoga Chickie,

Rodney and I would like to transmit to you big, and beautiful and golden and goddess-worthy pranams for linking to the New York Times article that generously provided coverage of our Vegas nuptials (big shout-out to my PR team!).

As you may or may not know, the Colleen Saidman -heart- Rodney Yee union was manifested beneath the watchful eyes of the spirits of all that is loving before we made our loving pilgrimage of love to that fertile desert city of golden dreams. Rod and I became soulmates at the exact moment that I reached over in the jacuzzi at that Yoga Journal conference and touched Rodney's third eye. It was at that moment that Rodney and I died a thousand deaths and rebirthed ourselves a thousand plus one lives.

Well, not exactly at that moment because Baron Baptiste was in the jacuzzi too, as was John Friend, and even though his earthly mind was at that moment fully engaged in bestowing upon some young Johnettes the secrets of anusara's spirally language and connection to the word "anus", and it felt inappropriate to begin making love to my newly discovered soulmate at that exact moment.

Besides which, there was the problem of our marriages to other people that despite the fact that Rod and I are soulmates forever and ever and into eternity for all time, we had entered into somehow, it's not like we could just publicly make love to one another because then our spouses would find out before we had even decided that we wanted to continue to taste of one another's love for all of eternity (and by eternity, I mean for as long as we can maintain that infinite spark that makes us soulmates forever and ever).

See, usually when Rodney or I cheated on our spouses, it didn't amount to much of anything. Usually it would be at the Yoga Journal conferences, but sometimes it would be at a private retreat. Sometimes it would be with a student. Once in a crazy while, it would be with a fellow teacher. One time, Rodney even did it with some girl he met at a Starbucks (Oh, and how I love to shower Rod with my evervescent bubbles of silliness about that ...but I digress).

This time though, when we climbed into that jacuzzi - me in my golden bikini that I most certainly did not purchase at Eileen Fisher (I am a model. Did I mention that? I model for Eileen Fisher, even though the ladies who buy her clothes are old and fat or, sometimes even pregnant! But being a model is a noble profession in which one must put aside her earthly ego and transform what might appear to the material world's eye as a ghastly tent-like thing into something as diaphenously gorgeous and goldenly imbued with love and light as, well, as myself), and Rodney in a custom Speedo that bears the sanskrit symbol for "Om" - we each sensed in the other a vibe that we were about to die a thousand deaths and emerge a thousand lives plus one later, with lotus petals peeling away and the souls of a thousand man-breasted weeping sages burning with shimmering light upon us.

Know what I mean?

And it proved to be true, as we knew that we would, since we are both intuitive people, although sometimes I do wonder how if we are so intuitive, we would have married other people when our respective soulmates were out there walking the earth, waiting, just waiting...oh! The humanity. So tragic to even imagine having denied ourselves each other and our golden, shimmering, blessed love.

Some of my former students have asked me:

"Sri Acharya Colleen-ji, if you believe in karma and past lives, then why did you not just wait for another lifetime to be with Rodney?"

Other students have asked, "Oh, Great Goldenhaired Modelly Knowledgable Guru, Bestower of Light upon the Darkness of Long Island's East End, how is it that as a yogi you are able to justify putting the satisfaction of the earthly impulses rising up from your loins above the happiness and security of the two former spouses and all of the vulnerable and malleable children involved?"

To those students, I just say..."Don't do as I do, do as I say, just like in class! And don't try this at home. Only people as intuitive and spiritually minded as Rodney and I are capable of making the judgement of when it's truly love versus when it's lust, of when it's a spiritual connection versus when it's a connection of two sets of heated loins. Rodney and I are alone in our ability to make fine distinctions between benefitting the greater good by finding a higher love and letting it lead wherever it leads and simply whoring around and hoping for the best. Rod and I KNOW the difference as we transcend our earthly lives in blessed spirit for ever and ever in a golden cast of shimmering light upon the gods and goddesses of eternity, past and present, in many dimensions, on many planes, in the swirling vastness of forever and eternity until such point as we begin to desire other lovahs. Rod and I alone are able to see the distinction because of our unique spiritual powers that make the rules not apply to us. "

And also, I am a model. Have I mentioned that? It helps to be a model because people tend to forgive your transgressions more easily when you're not only good-looking but proving it by picking up modeling work from New York fashion houses (Okay, right, we're talking about Eileen Fisher, which is only a fashion house in the sense that they sell fashion out of a house, or rather a storefront. But the fact that the real women who wear Eileen Fisher are old and fat, and usually ugly and sometimes pregnant does NOT indicate that I am OLD, fat or ugly or pregnant. I am just very good at modelling. I am sure I would be equally good at modelling Lululemon clothes if they ever asked me or Juicy Couture if they ever asked me or Seven jeans if they ever asked me or Victoria's Secret when they ask me...just to clarify).

So, if you could get my message out there, I bless you a thousand plus five hundred million pranams, I wish you the happiness of the stars in the sky and the golden plumage of the swan and the devotion of Hanuman to his master Ram and the good love of Ram and Sita and the namastes of the world at large.

With love, light and all of the salt that the Gods have bestowed upon the Long Island Sound,


Supta Kurmasana!

Hands, and I mean REALLY hands...palm to palm....bound. Ankles crossed, comfortably too. One problem. I cannot bear to hold the posture, and I have no idea why. It doesn't hurt. It doesn't feel uncomfortable. My stomach wasn't rumbling, I wasn't covered in flop-sweat (per Sir's recommendation, I abstained from coffee and from my usual 16 ounces of water, I mean, Diet Raspberry Snapple, this morning). But my hands refuse to hold the grip.

Sir even came over to me afterwards and said, "It's not that you can't do the pose. Your hands are firmly bound. Your hips aren't a problem - your legs seem like they want to be where they are." He suggested some kind of mental resistance, which was echoed by a shala mate in the dressing room later on. Then he suggested I do more housework - to make me stronger. Could be. But, ah, no. I don't think so.

I am very excited. THRILLED. Much more thrilled than I am fully comfortable admitting, since that would be a blatant admission of being attached to the pose, to the physical practice, and no one who practices Ashtanga should be attached to a pose or the physical practice, right? I mean, no one really IS, right?



Monday, January 08, 2007

Before American Idol, Simon Cowell Was a Miserable Failure as a Yoga Teacher

"I don't care what Paula told you. Your practice is RUBBISH. You might as well just leave now."

The worst practice ever, and DAMN was it good.

Along the same lines of what I said yesterday regarding commitments not being challenging until you are tempted to break them, I believe that the best yoga practices are the ones to which you can barely drag yourself. And the second best yoga practices are the ones which suck so majorly that it's an effort not to simply roll the mat back up and make for the door.

Until you get to the "wall" of the marathon, you don't know what you're made of as a marathoner. Until you hit that familiar mental resistence to your practice, you don't know if you're really disciplined enough to keep a steady, consistent practice going. Until you get to class and realize that (a) you have nothing to hold your 18 inches of damp hair back from your face and can expect to spend the next 75 to 90 minutes peeling sticky strands off your face every time you exit an asana, (b) somehow, during the night, someone beat you about the limbs with a billy club and poured cement into your spinal colum and (c) you're already on the borderline of too late to get the assist that you came for, without rushing through some or all of your postures...your yoga practice may be physically challenging, but you haven't really reached your edge.

I mean, how hard is it to calm the chatter when there is, relatively speaking, no chatter? How hard is it to find steadiness and ease in your asanas when your body feels good and strong and full of joy and energy? Where is the yoga work in that? Physical work, yes. But the yoga is in the quieting of those boisterously loud and abusive missives being fired at your decent, beautiful self by your mercurial, and at times, malicious, mind. The yoga isn't in the putting of the leg behind the head. It's in the putting of the leg behind the head when the head is screaming "I don't wanna" and the body is begging to be put out of its misery.

I know some will disagree. Some will say that it doesn't matter if you find a task difficult or difficult to motivate to do in the first place. If you do the task, you've accomplished something positive. And yeah, when you put it like that, I can see it. But you haven't faced your edge. You may have accomplished something good, but if it was easy for you, well, then maybe you need to try something else next time. In yoga, that "next time" is built into the system. It's a given. Flexy today, leaden tomorrow. Leaden today, hopefully flexy tomorrow. But no guarantees. And you still have to get to the mat. That's the yoga.


Sunday, January 07, 2007

Actual words

I've been feeling very silly tonight, giggling at things that wouldn't normally strike me as funny and doing things like belching the ABC's to make my kids laugh (to the husband's consternation). I like how it feels, but belching the ABC's for laughs isn't normal behavior for a 41 year old woman. Mainly I attribute my unusually good spirits to an unusually good practice today and the fact that Sir got my hands to clasp again today in Supta K, which has led me to conclude that I WILL really and truly get past Supta K someday, for real. Joy! But for a split second, it occurred to me that perhaps something is wrong with me - with my brain. Inappropriate affect can be a symptom of that sort of thing, right?

Then I realized I was just reacting to the power of suggestion - an essay in the Modern Love column in the Style Section of the New York Times today about about a woman whose marriage was cut short by her husband's gliobastoma. Disturbing essay. Later, at Adam's indoor baseball practice, I ran into a woman with whom I went to Tufts, and we ended up rattling off a (unfortunately rather long) list of people with whom we had attended Tufts who had later died of cancer. Three lymphomas, one colon cancer and one liver cancer. All but one had moved in the same crowd. Disturbing indeed.

And that's how the conversation came around to the fact that I had had my own cancer diagnosis four and a half years ago.

Of course, the inevitable question: "Are you okay now?"

The carefully sculpted rote answer: "Yes. I feel fine."

The probing response: "But you're healthy now, right?"

Followed by the slightly more defensive, slightly less vague, "Yes, I am fine now. Thank God."

Then an interesting question came my way, one which I realized later on that I have never heard before today: "So, when you get to the five year point, you're cured, right?"

How to answer such a question? The reality: Of COURSE not. How could one be considered "cured" just for having passed a certain number of days since the initial diagnosis? I suppose that I have to concede that every day that goes by in good health racks up evidence in favor of the disease not recurring. But the truth is that breast cancer can recur any time. In fact, breast cancer recurrance peaks in the first two years after diagnosis and then peaks AGAIN at twenty years post diagnosis. Crazy shit.

I try to avoid being didactic, and I dislike being "contrary" with people outside of my immediate family. But it is hard to answer a question like the one posed to me today, without doing so, without simultaneously lying and perpetuating a misconception. And so, I ended up telling her that yeah, getting to five years without the disease returning is a really good sign, although they never really use the word "cure" with breast cancer since it has been known to come back in women long after five years has passed.

The woman looked stricken. I know that look. I've seen that look many times, particularly in the first few months after I was diagnosed. It's the look that has the power to reduce my stoic demeanor into a puddle of stammering and backpedaling: "Actually," I said brightly, "with the stuff that they gave me, you know, treatment I got, they say that getting past the first two years is the golden ticket. I mean, it's powerful stuff they have now. Have you heard of Herceptin? It's great great stuff. If it doesn't work, they can tell sooner now. And everything seems fine, knock wood, knock wood, kinehura, heh, heh..."

Well, she seemed convinced, which meant that I felt convinced too.

Or vice versa. I couldn't be sure which came first - my own sense of vulnerability? Or her concern?

It made me wonder though, whether telling people my "story" is actually impolite in some way. I mean, am I putting something on them that they didn't really need to hear? What is this need to confess? Just because we were talking about other people we knew who had had cancer, did I have an obligation to disclose my own?

Well, I guess I don't have to worry about giggling any more tonight. Nothing like mentioning cancer 25 times in 250 words to bring the level of mirth down to zilch. I think I'll go pour myself a Pernod now and read me some Dickens.


Britney Konasana

Honeymoon in Vegas

Two thoughts come to mind regarding the marriage of Colleen Saidman and Rodney Yee:

1. Yee tries to justify the seemingly non-yogic, failure-of-ahimsa, ultimate betrayal of a spouse with: "[W]hen love hits you, it just devestates everything. Everything was blown down." Well, isn't that exactly what someone who cheats on a spouse would say? More importantly, in my opinion (and since this is my blog, it's always my opinion), a good rule of thumb in matters of the heart is that when it involves devestation and blowing everything down, it's best to step away.

But what's good sense and logic when you're of the mindset that you're not the master and mapmaker of your own actions? "There was something between us that was unavoidable," Yee elaborates. Unavoidable? I can think of ways that that "something" might have been avoided.

I'm trying not to judge, but I can't help but make the observation that in spite of our urges and desires, as human beings, our essential nature is to be able to control our urges and desires in order to honor commitments. Or else why make them? A commitment is easy right up to the point that you are tempted to break it. Then the work begins.

As I see it, you don't become a "warrior" until you've hit your edge.

2. Why is it always, inevitably, the story of the Model and the Rock Star?


Saturday, January 06, 2007

Existential Ashtangi

"I'm telling you - she's not anorexic, she's in training."

"Training? For what?"

"For Sunday. Duh."

Happy Saturday!


Friday, January 05, 2007


Drawing Posh in this asana is the closest I will get to "doing" Pasasana in a long long long long long time...if ever!

(although I DID bind in Supta Kurmasana today!! For more than a second too! For long enough for Sir to put my ankles together, at which point, bye bye bind. But does keep me coming back for more...)


Thursday, January 04, 2007

By now you've seen those ads for pills that help you lose weight?

Well, this one is so powerful that it's not for you unless you have a significant amount of weight to lose. So, you should only plan on using our pill if you want to lose a LOT of weight, and only if you want to lose a LOT of weight practically overnight. Hw does 10 pounds in two weeks sound? How does 20 pounds in a month sound? And that's just for starters. So, if you have only 10 pounds to lose, then this pill is not for you because it's THAT powerful, and it works, and it's only for people who have a LOT of weight to lose, and FAST.

We here at the Lose Weight Without Diet Or Exercise Simply By Taking a Pill Corp. want to make sure that you understand that this pill is so powerful, it's for you only if you want to lose a lOT of weight SUPER FAST. If you don't want to succeed in losing a LOT of weight, SUPER FAST, then don't try this pill. Because this pill will peel off that excess weight SO fast that it's only for people who have a LOT of weight to lose, and SUPER FAST.

What makes our pill so effective is that it targets the weight in all the places that you don't want to be fat, like your belly. By targeting belly fat, this pill will trim belly fat and make you lose weight in your belly. Our specially targeted pill needs no special diet to work. You just take the pill, and you lose the weight.

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We call our pill "CortiSlim SpaTrim" because all of you out there have heard of the hormone, Cortisol, and how an excess of it will make your belly fat. Well, Cortispa Trim trims the belly fat and more! It literally makes you lose a LOT of weight SUPER FAST without dieting or exercise.

So, if you want to lose a LOT of weight, SUPER FAST without the need for diet or exercise, then CortiSlim SpaTrim rim is for you. Please send lots and lots and lots of cash and we'll ship out your case of CortiSlim SpaTrim SUPER FAST so that you can lose LOTS of weight SUPER FAST (and so that we can afford to pay the FTC millions of dollars in fines as our cost of continuing to do business...and our business of helping you lose LOTS of weight SUPER FAST is an important business which we take very seriously).


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Hello goodbye

Eddie the doorman is retiring after 27 years. I find that kind of shocking, since I would have guessed his age to be around 55. He must be quite a bit older. More importantly, I find myself feeling kind of sad that I won't be seeing him every evening when I walk Lewis. And even more importantly, I find myself feeling kind of embarassed that I find myself feeling kind of nostalgic for someone I hardly know. The exchanging of greetings and twenty seconds of banter two or three times a week hardly qualifies for a sad goodbye. And yet. I know that his last day is sometime later this week, and I find myself dreading it, the dread muffled by a vague feeling of shame. I find myself avoiding his eyes, not wanting to ask about his plans. I wouldn't know what to say at the end of the conversation.

I think I have a problem with goodbyes.

It's like the hating on New York City thing. I don't really hate New York City. I just hate leaving. And so I have to tear it down to make the leaving palatable.

When I was a counselor at a day camp, I used to see this kind of dynamic at the end of the first four-week session. The kids who were staying on for another four weeks would turn their backs on the kids who were leaving. I remember comforting a little boy whose best friend told him he wasn't his best friend anymore. "It's only because he's afraid he's going to miss you," I explained.

I think this is something I need to address in myself. Usually, the things I seek to change in myself are actually ouside of myself. The nose. The tummy. The breasts. New shoes. Hair products that promise (falsely) a lifetime of better hair days. But it's only because the outside is easy. And I don't have to look at it if I don't really want to. I don't think I looked at my breasts for the four-year period between September of 2002 and October of 2006. But when the problem is inside, there's not much you can do to look away. And when it causes discomfort - when you slump into your elevator after not looking your doorman in the eye just because he's leaving his job at the end of the week, and feel a profound sense of emptiness - that's when you know it's something I might think about confronting. And by you, I mean I.


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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