Saturday, March 31, 2007

This is my brain on OCD

As I went down the slippery slope of finding myself participating in more and more and more of the Ashtanga Intensive at Ashtanga Yoga Shala, until I found that I was participating in every module (other than Anatomy, which I already studied aplenty at Om), it quickly became clear that the object of my obsession would be the Sanskrit counting. I found the alignment explorations interesting to be sure, but ultimately, what has captivated my attention and my energy seemingly endlessly is the Sanskrit counting, specifically:

  • how the vinyasas within each asana are counted
  • which count represents the state of the pose,
  • which count represents the "lift up" before the chatturanga, how many vinyasas comprise the asana (although the answer to this in each case is always three counts past the "lift up"), along with what takes the place of the "lift up" in seated postures that don't include it, for example, Purvatanasana
  • how and why the vinyasa count for each asana is similar or different (or both) to the vinyasa count for each other asana.

Along with my notes from Lori's lectures, I have been poring through Yoga Mala and listening carefully to Sharath's Primary Series DVD. Because I seem to have found myself with some time on my hands, I decided to boil all of my research down to the simplest form, which for me turns out to be a summary of which vinyasa represents the state of each asana, because once you know that, you can pretty much figure out the rest if you realize a few basic things, namely, that:

  • each jump-through-to-sit happens at Sapta (or Catordesha, if it is an asana with a right and a left side).
  • most of the standing poses have five or fewer vinyasas (the exceptions being Uttitha Hasta Padangushtasana, Ardha Badha Padmotannasana and Virabhadrasana)
  • all of the postures from Purvatannasana through Mari B have the same vinyasa count, which is 22, 13 being the downward dog in the middle, 14 being the jump through in the middle
  • Every chatturanga is followed by a downward dog two breaths later
  • Every full-on forward bend (one which involves chest to thighs) is initiated with an inhale-head-up and is followed by an inhale-head up.

With that in mind, the following makes perfect sense to me (and probably leaves you with eyes glazed over):

States of Each Asana:

1. Standing Poses

Padangushtasana - Dwi (total = 3 or trini)
Padahastasana - Dwi (total = 3 or trini)
Trikonasana - Dwi and Chatwari (total = 5 or pancha)
Parsvakonasana - Dwi and Chatwari (total = 5 or pancha)
Prasarita Padottanasana - Trini (always inhale, then Trini Exhale) (total = 5 or pancha)
Parsvakonasana - Dwi and Chatwari (total = 5 or pancha)
Uttitha Hasta Padangushtasana - Dwi, Chatwari, Sapta/Nawa, Ekadesha, Chatordesha) (total is 14 or chatordesha)
Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana - Ekam, Dwi/Shat, Sapta (total is 9 or nawa)
Utkatasana - Sapta (Ashau is a handstand-like liftup, and the total is 11 or ekadesha)
Virabadhrasana - Sapta, Ashtau, Nawa, Desha (Ekadesha is a handstand-like liftup, and the total is 14 or chatordesha)

2. First Half of Primary Series

Paschimattanasana - Sapta (Dandasana), Nawa (head up is Desha, press up is Ekadesha) (total is 14 or chatordesha)
Purvatanasana - Ashtau (press up is Desha) (total is 13 or triodesha)
Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimattanasana - Ashtau, Panchadesha (head up is Nawa,/Shaudesha, press up is Desha/Saptadesha) (total is 20 or vimshathiti)
Tirianga Mukhaikapada Paschimattanasana - (same as Ardha Baddha)
Janu Sirsasana A, B, C - (same as Ardha Baddha)
Marichyasana A and B - (same as Ardha Baddha)
Marichyasana C and D - Sapta, Dwadesha (press up is Ashtau and Triodesha) (total is 16 or shaudesha)
Navasana - Sapta (press up is Ashtau….five times) (total is 11 or ekadesha)

3. Second Half of Primary Series

Bhujapidasana - Sapta (not held), Ashtau (Bakasana is Desha) (total is 13 or triodesha)
Kurmasana/Supta Kurmasana - Sapta, Nawa is Supta K (Bakasana is Ekadesha) (total is 14 or catordesha)
Garba Pindasana/Kukkutasana - Ashtau (rolling clockwise), Nawa is Kukku (Uth Pluthi is Desha) (total is 13 or triodesha)

Baddha Konasana - Ashtau (twice), Nawa (hold the second Nawa only in Mysore practice, not in led class) (press up is Desha) (total is 13 or triodesha)
Upavishta Konasana - Ashtau, Desha (Nawa is inhale head up, press up is Ekadesha) (total is 14 or catordesha)
Supta Konasana - Ashtau (Nawa is inhale ROLL up, exhale calves down; Desha is lift head, Ekadesha is lift up) (total is 14 or catordesha)
Supta Padangushtasana - Nawa, Ekadesha, Saptadesha, Ekaunavimshathiti, (Catwarivimshathiti is chakrasana to chatwari) (total is 26 or shatvimshathiti)
Ubaya Padangushtasana - Nawa (press up is Desha) (total is 13 or triodesha)
Urdhva Mukha Paschimattanasana - Desha (press up is Dwadesha) (total is 15 or panchadesha)
Setu Bhandasana - Nawa (Ashtau is prepare, Desha is down, Ekadesha is Chakrasana) (total is 13 or triodesha)

4. Finishing Poses (including Urdhva Dhanurasana)

Urdhva Dhanurasana - Ashtau (Desha is Chakrasana)
Paschimattanasana - Nawa
Sarvangasana - Ashtau
Halasana - Ashtau
Karna Pidasana - Ashtau
Urdhva Padmasana - Nawa (Ashtau got the practitioner back to Sarvangasana from Karna Pidasana)
Pindasana - Nawa
Mats asana - Ashtau
Uttana Padasana - Ashtau (Nawa is Chakrasana)
Sirsasana - Ashtau (Sapta is bringing the shins to the floor and preparing)

(I haven't gotten around to analyzing Baddha Padmasana/Yoga Mudra, Padmasana and Uth Pluthi, but I have a feeling that there will never be an occasion for me to count those out in Sanskrit anyway.)

Obsessively yours,


Friday, March 30, 2007

You'll have to wait for the book

I am continuing to receive comments about the internet-dating-site-photo-profile-debacle, and while I appreciate the feedback, whether positive or negative, I am no longer publishing it here.

And that's all she wrote...

Nonetheless, I will, of course, be publishing all of it in my book, now that I got my much anticipated, highly lucrative blog-into-book deal.

Or, not?


Thursday, March 29, 2007 how 'bout those Mets?

Practiced at the shala today for the first time since Friday, Monday having been a moonday, Tuesday having been the house inspection, Wednesday having been the Living Statues production at school. Petri is there for the next week and a half while Sir takes a break. The shala feels a little different, maybe a little less intense. I mean, of course, that's what happens when teacher is away.

I got there a half hour later than usual today because I had to pick up medication for an ear infection (mine...ouch), but somehow, I managed to get finished with my entire practice at the same time I usually do, which is to say that I got my Supta K adjustment, and I am once again able to bind my hands without jumping out of it in searing pain. That said, the ankle bind pulled my hands apart. Nothing new under the sun.

I do have to say that I was quite happy with the flow of my practice. In my head, I'm chanting the Sanskrit numbers now, thanks to the teacher training, aided and abetted by Sharath's DVD. It really helps to push my thoughts to the outer corners of my brain. I find that my mind is filled with the counting and the breathing and not much else, or not nearly as much else as would be without the Sanskrit counting.

Backbends have gone to hell lately. I am not sure what the problem is. Is it lack of care and feeding? Or is it something else? Like the fact that I don't much care about backbends at this point? I don't know. I do feel bad about not caring about backbends. I feel like I SHOULD care. I just don't. I'm too wrapped up in my portion of Primary and tying it all together in a unified flow. I think that's okay. Of course it's okay. I mean, what's it all about anyway? It would still be yoga even if I only practiced Sun Salutations every day.

I had a cavity filled today and for the first time in my entire life, I requested Sweet Air, otherwise known as Nitrous Oxide. I never had any anxiety at the dentist before, and then suddenly today, I found myself really mentally uncomfortable sitting in the chair and looking up at the lights. My dentist suggested that it might be the ear infection throwing off my equilibrium, although I didn't feel off balance today at all, and actually had the most solid Uttitha Hasta Padangushtasana that I can ever remember. But whatever. I asked for the drugs. It felt like my head was filled with cotton candy. I liked it. (Of course.)

Now, unfortunately, my mouth tastes like metal. I assume this is related to the filling, not the nitrous. Is that normal? I don't recall every tasting metal after getting a filling. It's quite yucky. And my ear still hurts.

Primary day tomorrow. Heh. It's always Primary day for me.

Rinse, repeat.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

American "I" Tool

Guess what everybody?

I've decided to do a series on yoga teachers, and it's going to be called, "Rate This Yoga Teacher". I am going to find photos of yoga teachers on yoga studio web sites, copy them into this blog and ask you guys to rate them as teachers. Good idea, right? I mean, hell, what kind of expecation can one have when they allow their photo to be put on a yoga studio web site? As far as I am concerned, the fact that no one has done this YET is like a big sucking vacuum in the yoga blog universe.

Oh! That reminds me. While I am at it, I think I am going to take the profile photos from all of your blogs, along with some choice bits of text that I think represent who you are, and I am going to copy it to my blog in a series of posts that I think I might call, "You Should Have Thought of That Before You Put it Out There In The First Place".

Then I am going to ask everyone who reads my blog to rate the bloggers. Hell, I might even go balls out and create a phone number to which you can text your votes, a la American Idol. The one with the most votes gets....lunch with me! Yay!!! I will honor the winner with my presence, and the winner shall be grateful and happy, and it will totally be a win-win, because you get lunch with me, and I get to score a book deal. And, worst case scenario, if the book deal doesn't pan out, then I can always go back to my original plan, which was to get through all of Fourth Series by next February.


Looking back on a decade of motherhood

Brian turned 10 today. It doesn't make me feel old. But it makes him seem old. He is a pre-teen, although only his moodiness betrays it.

So, what is there to say about the first 10 years of childrearing? Surprisingly, not a lot. Motherhood is simply the best thing I could have ever done with my life, and these 10 years have been the most amazing, trippy, joyful, scary, industrious, eye-opening, love-filled years of my entire life. I still look at my children and wonder with awe how it is that they grew in my belly and came out looking like wholly formed, well, actually not really wholly formed, mini-humans and are now these giant, well, actually not really giant, but still, fully human size, people who have their own distinctive personalities and quirks that are entirely separate from mine and each others'. It doesn't hurt that they look like me, especially Brian. I mean, that's just plain old Darwinism. If our cavemen great great great to the 15th power grandparents didn't look like their parents, perhaps said parents wouldn't have taken such good care of them? I don't know. I know some won't agree with that. For heaven's sake, I know one yogi who doesn't believe in evolution at all. As we like to say here in America, "go figure".


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Class Acts

Today, Brian's class did a presentation of life in Colonial times (I am referring to Colonial America, of course), and it was one of the most unique and creative presentations I have ever seen. It was called "Living Statues": each child took on a role, whether a specific person (like in Brian's case, he was Peter Minuit, who bought the island of Manhattan from the Indians for a mere $500, current value, and, yes, that is what they were called back then, when it was widely believed that the colonies were the "West Indies") or a general type of person (for example, blacksmith, wigmaker, schoolgirl, teacher). The children researched their roles, and each came up with a monologue filled with facts and tidbits about their character, inevitably imbuing it with their own quirks and personality.

Today, the kids stood up in a semicircle in the auditorium, each holding one hand up (as if they were making a promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God). Then they stood stock-still, like statues. The audience was invited to move around the statues and push on the hands, as if they were levers, to make the statue talk. It was incredibly impressive.

After that, I went up to Westchester for the House inspection. I LOVE this house. Pond or no pond. Forty-five minute drive into the city and all. The inspection went as well as an inspection can go, and Lewis scared off every goose on the property. The mere sight of him sent the geese flying off to the far end of the front yard, which is far enough for me. Adding his trademark bay to the mix just further made me the proud doggie mama.

When the inspection was finished, the inspector left, the owner of the house left, and finally my broker left. I stayed for a few more minutes to enjoy the tranquil beauty, and then I untied Lewis and loaded him into the car. I dropped my key on the front seat (the doors were unlocked, I made sure of that!) and went back to retrieve the long leash that I had tied to a tree root to bring it back to the car.

When I got back to the car, it was locked.

Lewis must have locked the car with his paw, and locking one door locks all the doors in my annoyingly efficient Swedish vehicle. I guess. I mean, I will never really know what happened. All I know is that suddenly, I was alone on three acres, with no phone (it was in the car) and no wallet (it was in the car). At least Lewis wasn't in any danger. I walked out to the front of the house but realized it could be miles before I reached a pay phone. I sat down on a tree stump and realized that I was going to have to suck it up and be the freak from the city who knocks on someone's door in the country, citing "car troubles".

The nearest house - the one belonging to the neighbor who shares the pond - actually fronts a different street, so I had to make my way through the marshy grass (lots of snow melting still) in order to get to the neighbor's front door, only to find that she wasn't home. That left only one possibility: standing on the street and flagging down a car. Since I was standing on a cul de sac with maybe five houses on it, I wasn't hopeful.

Then lo and behold, Tom the Mailman appeared. Tom the Mailman let me use his cell phone to call the police, my kids' school (I was going to be late for pickup as a result of this brain fart) and my husband, who had the phone number for Volvo Roadside Assistance, which it turns out, we didn't need. The police sent Tom the Cop, who kept me company as we waited for the local mechanic to come and unlock my car. The mechanic arrived only a moment after the owner of the house arrived to see a police car in her driveway. I can imagine what she was thinking, but when all was explained, she was quite nice, bringing a giant bowl of water for Lewis who was panting like nobody's business in the back seat.

And then I drove home. And now, as I watch House, I wait for the Husband to just friggin' return the contract to the owner so that we can buy this house. But then, why would that happen? We're talking about a man who told me a minute ago that he is annoyed at how my getting locked out of my car inconvenienced HIM since my having called him made him thirty seconds later for a meeting than he wanted to be. Whatever.

But back to CLASS acts, House rocks, in general, and not least of all because of the contributions of fellow Ashtangini and way cool girl, Lisa E.

Speaking of television shows, if ONE more person on television says "Seriously?" I am going to throw my t.v. out the window. By which I mean, I will not throw my t.v. out the window. But, look, just STOP IT already. It's not original. And it's not going to catch on outside of Grey's Anatomy.

And speaking of Grey's Anatomy, by which I mean, not speaking of Grey's Anatomy at all, I must use this space now to register my distaste at the notion of copying photos from internet dating sights and using them on one's blog. No one, but no one, on Match or Nerve or JDate or WhateverDate, expects that their photo will be used for anything but for the purpose of meeting potential dates. Certainly, no one on these dating sites would ever expect their photo to be used in a "rate this guy that I might date" series of posts, particularly when it is fairly obvious that the question is not really a serious inquiry at all, but an opportunity for mockery.

I know that a lot of readers think it's funny. But I imagine one of my sons in ten or fifteen years being plastered on the blog of someone who really isn't all that interested in dating them so much as she is interested in earning laughs and hits on SiteMeter. And it upsets me. I don't like it.

I'm sorry if anyone is bothered by this. But it's how I feel.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Thank you, R. Sharath

I had to miss Lori's led class yesterday because we had to get our butts up to Westchester to do an unofficial inspection of the house with the pond (by unofficial, I mean, an engineer was not present), to check out some details about the house. There were lots of geese and lots of goose poop, by the way. But I am not deterred. There must be a way to deal with this. Anyway, it was the first day that the snow had thawed and the geese had just come back, and there had been no landscaper to clean things up.

The house is really special. Sure, it could use new doorknobs that are more my taste. It could use some tiling on the master bathroom's shower (my master bathroom shower in my current digs is really nicely tiled with tumbled marble in a mosaic pattern; it's surprising to see a fairly upscale house with a one-piece shower unit - no tiles at all. The bath is fabulous - a big jacuzzi. But the shower? It's like they forgot about it.) Also, it needs one closet's door to be changed from inside a bedroom closet to a linen closet - it's a simple matter of changing where the door opens. And the third floor, which is an unfinished attic is just begging to be finished - it has beautiful bones, including diagonal and cross beams, a normal staircase and beautiful windows and v360 degree iews of the property. It would make a wonderful "bonus" room (not a bedroom, because a bedroom needs a change in the Certificate of Occupancy as well as the addition of a sprinkler system, I believe) - a playroom for the kids, perhaps. And the basement needs to be finished - with recreational space, including a hardwood floor for's a walkout basement (it opens up to the side yard), so there is a possibility it could be a yoga studio. If not, it still is worth turning into an actual room, since it is on the ground floor with a full door to the outside.

But anyway, so I missed the led practice, which was disappointing, but also good because I needed a rest since on Friday I did not only my practice but also Standing Led Class, led by one of my fellow teacher trainees. It was great. But I was tired yesterday. I think it's going to be a tiring couple of months if I keep up at this pace - my regular practice, plus attending the classes taugh by the other teacher trainees.

Today, I couldn't get to the shala because Brian had had a sleepover playdate, and they needed me to make them breakfast, and the Husband needed to get to the gym, and I knew that I could do my practice at home, so it was an easy decision of who should stay home. I decided to practice with my R. Sharath DVD. My concern, if any, was that it would be too fast for me to get into postures and still have five breaths left. But actually, it was quite slow paced compared to what I have become used to. I so enjoyed it! I admit though, that I did do Supta K twice, turning off the DVD for the second one, which also gave me time to schpritz myself with water for Garba P. Oh, and I turned off the DVD to do extra Surya Namaskaras, since Sharath only leads though three of each. Other than that, I followed the DVD from beginning to end, and I listened to him saying the Sanskrit numbers, and, well, I am too tired to say more than, I LOVED it. Perfect pacing, if a teeny bit slow. Minimal talk. No talk, in fact. Just the meditative breath and the numbers.

Tomorrow, back to Shala X. I think I might be ready to try a Sir adjustment in Supta K again. I feel NOTHING in my back. But if I am thinking about my back at all, I will have to "back" off. No biggie. I have a LOT of work to do in Garba Pindasana with regard to the rolling. Maybe I am having trouble with the rolling because my back is strained though? We shall see.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Pond Scum

Serious question for any homeowners out there who have wetlands on their property....What do you do about the geese that like to light on ponds and lakes and streams, if said ponds, lakes and/or streams happen to be adjacent to your front yard? We are down to one remaining problem, I believe, on the YC Dream House front: what to do about the goose poop? Better yet, how to get the geese to not hang out in the front yard?

Don't get me wrong, I love wildlife. I have pushed the move to the suburbs into a move to the country, two acre zoning and wetlands galore. But I have heard that geese can be a problem wherever there is a pond or stream.

Anyone care to enlighten me?

Oh, and yes, Anon Shala Mate, I was thinking the same thing (re. your comment on the last post. And congrts on Setu B. I am just a teeny bit jealous.)


Dad 2, Cancer ZEE-ROW!!!!

The score is a serious upset for the other team, whose members are known for their tendency to play dirty, unabashedly. Today marks two years of survival for my dad of locally advanced/possibly micrometastatic non-small-cell lung cancer. October will mark nine years of his survival of early state prostate cancer. Yeah, the YC family has been hit hard by the dirty little bastard. But we fight tough. Go Dad!


More negativity coming your way

It's hard to be a shiny happy person when you are overwhelmed by sanskrit numbers and unpronounceable asana names (yeah, I thought I could pronounce them too) dancing around in your head with images of drunken child molesters drowning in your 11-foot deep pond, which you share with your neighbor who doesn't care to pick up the goose poop that sits festering on their side of the property line and who sets out food and toys for the snakes and muskrats that enjoy congretating around the algae-filled horror, alternating with premonitions of not buying the fabulous house on the fabulous property only to drive past it on a daily basis on your way to your much less fabulous home on a much less fabulous property, feeling pangs of regret, intermingled with feelings of helpless anger at Windows for introducing their horrifyingly not-ready-for-computer-consumption Vista operating system and shoving it in every non-Mac laptop on the market such that you have to use the crappy Vista which really doesn't work very well with any software that you own, to wit, Norton Antivirus (it flat-out REJECTS the notion that Norton can even exist, requiring you to use McAfee instead, which is fine, I guess, but jeeeeeez), Palm (why can't I change my HotSynch preferences? or more to the point, why won't it accurately synch my calendar from my handheld to my desktop?), iPod (don't EVEN get me started), SpySweeper (okay, in this case, at least SpySweeper provided a patch, so I will let that one go), Word (WORD!!! It's MADE by Microsoft, right? So, what is so complicated about making it work with the operating system that Microsoft shoved down my throat?)....oh, I could go on...but no one is even reading this because it is patently unreadable, completely ungrammatical, and who wants to read someone's seemingly petty complaints anyway?

At least my erector spinae is/are feeling much better. My jump-throughs are straight-legged again (at least they were after I got myself nicely warmed up), I had my best Parivritta Parsvakonasana ever today (am I the only one who blogs about the Fundamental Asanas?), and I got myself into Supta Kurmasana, albeit without binding my hands. But I told Sir that I wasn't ready to be adjusted yet because I fear that my back will go all spazzy on me again, mainly out of fear. I told him that I would be ready to be adjusted in it when I forget that I was injured. He asked when that might be. I told him, a few days, a week at most. But honestly, I think it could be longer. But I hate to sound like a wuss. And shouldn't I be trusting him to tell me when I am ready to be put into the pose again? I don't know...this is out of my realm. I've been learning to surrender to the teacher, but I've never had to face surrendering to the teacher in the face of an injury that might be exacerbated by tensing up my muscles while being adjusted....

Eh, it's all good. At least the yoga.

For some reason, I am feeling horribly unprepared to teach the Beginners class, which is my first "task" as part of the Teaching Practicum. The Beginners class goes no further than Surya Namaskar B. But it feels so monumental - an introduction to Ashtanga. I have no idea why I feel so ill at ease with this when I've taught Surya Namaskar more than a thousand times. I need to get my head on straight about this, be in the moment, focus on the big picture of what it is I am trying to convey, rather than focusing on the minutia of saying this word or that word or this phrase or that phrase.

Yours in incoherence and insomnia,


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

It's 10 O'Clock (almost), and I need to SCREAM

But as I said, it's 10 o'clock p.m. Thus, my neighbors might not take kindly.

So, I will scream here. ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I found the perfect house.

We bid, we negotiated. Our offer was accepted. And now, as we make our investigation prior to going to contract, the Husband is kicking the tires sooooooo hard. The property is nearly three acres of flat beautiful grass, with a beautiful colonial house. Trouble is, there is a pond on the property - actually owned about 1/3 by the current owner of the house and 2/3 by the next door neighbor. The Husband just called the prospective neighbor, who told him some things about pond ownershp that he just didn't like at all. Funny thing is, the neighbor actually loves he pond.

I am going to watch Lost now and pretend none of this is happening.


Dear People Who Throw Their Pizza Crusts on the Street

When They are Done With Them, and People Who Discard Chicken Bones on the Street in Front of East Side Poultry, And People Who Dump Their Half-Eaten Baked Ziti on the Sidewalk outside of Italian Village After They've Eaten Their Fill, And People Who Discard Muffin-Bottoms in Flower Beds After Eating the Muffin-Tops, And People Who Treat The Sidewalk As Their Own Personal Chewing Gum Spitoon (no, the shiny rounds of squashed gum do not make the sidewalks sparkle like the night sky), And People Who Treat The Sidewalk As Their Own Personal Ashtray (what do you think happens to those butts after you walk away?) and People Who Have the Audacity to Open Their Car Windows and Toss Their Garbage Out Right Onto The street:

I have a bone to pick with you.

Stop being so selfish.

Someone has to either live with your trash or pick it up themselves (or rip it out of their dog's mouth, or their toddler's hands). Is this how you treat your own living room? Probably, so don't bother answering that question.

I am sick and tired of the garbage. When did it get so garbagey here in New York City?


Monday, March 19, 2007

Sex and drugs and rock and roll

Well, one out of three aint bad.

Lots of drugs today. Let's start with the Vicodin I'm taking, which is making me feel so wonderously good that I was inspired to write this post despite feeling so shitty just a few hours ago. Then let's go back in time to the Infusion Room at Columbia, where a mere 15-minute once-yearly drip of Zometa left me feeling vaguely nauseated, more than a little bit loguey and aguey and absolutely, downright grumpy. The side effects of a Zometa drip (it's my third or fourth, depending on whether you count the one that I got in 2002 that might or might not have been a placebo, since I used to take this drug on a clinical trial studying the bone-building and bone-met-inhibiting effects of Zometa on pre-menopausal women on chemotherapy for breast cancer) are said to last approximately 24 hours. However, in 2003, they lasted for approximately 30 days. On the other hand, at the time, I was still taking the drug, Herceptin, whose ick-inducing side-effects may have exacerbated the side effects of the Zometa or otherwise made them harder to tolerate. Dr. H, my trusty oncologist of nearly five years (!!!!) told me to take some Extra Strength Tylenol to combat the side effects. I asked if Vicodin would be an appropriate source of said Extra Strength Tylenol. She laughed. I took that as a yes.

Now rewind to 11 a.m., the time at which I left Shala X...hobbling along like the Hunchback of the East Village. I had thought that my injury from a week ago was all better.

I had thought wrong.

When Sir put my hands together, I felt felt the fingers of one hand graze the palm of the other, providing me with one moment of relief and satisfaction before .... BAM .... I envisioned my Erector Spinae as two steel guitar strings being plucked by a three-year old having a temper tantrum. By which I mean, ouch.

The bright side: the good solid grab was there for the taking.

Now, if only my lower back were not so dead set against Supta Kurmasana happening. I hereby resolve not to even ATTEMPT Supta Kurmasana until I have completely forgotten that I injured myself in the first place. That's how I will know I am all better. Until then, I am fully capable of Kurmasana, and I will just enjoy being in it, and then go straight to Garba P. I wish Sir would let me do Baddha Konasana. When I was sitting in the exam room today, waiting for Dr. H to come in, I did a nice, deep Baddha K, and it felt sooooooooo good to stretch my back that way. Ah well. My new friend and fellow Ashtanga Intensive Participant, G, and I have come to the conclusion that my slow progress is more a function of yamas than in there is a good argument that I have a tendency to be a stealer of poses, which tendency is a failure to observe the yamas of Aparigraha and Asteya. More than a tendency. A quick mental trip down yoga practice memory lane reminds me that I seem to have no shame when it comes to taking poses I haven't been given. I could use the lessons, believe me. So, whether or not Sir intends the pace of my progress as a form of boundary-setting/philosophical lesson in non-stealing/non-coveting, well, I think it's the best thing for me.

But I digress. I was talking about all the drugs I took today. So, yeah, there was Advil before the Zometa before the Vicodin. And there was Lorazepam before the Advil before the Zometa before the Vicodin, because I was pretty wound up this morning having to face my bi-annual oncologist visit. I nearly blew it off, to be honest. But then I still would have had to go eventually, so after a few minutes of internal debate, I just went. Kind of like the way I handle practice nowadays. I just go. The debate is just a waste of time. Sometimes I engage myself in it. But most of the time, I just tell myself to shut up.

And that's all she wrote.


Friday, March 16, 2007

Where did the time go?

All of a sudden, it's Friday, and I realize I haven't written a thing since Monday. This has to be a first for me. So, what's been going on, let's see...

Well, Monday was the day that I injured my lower back in Supta Kurmasana. I saw my chiro, and she helped me out with electric impulses and a few adjustments - hip, lumbar and cervical spine.

Tuesday, I was able to manage a fairly anemic practice. It took me all 10 Surya Namaskaras before I could bring my head to my knees in Uttanasana, and even then, it didn't feel great. It didn't feel terrible either, and so I pushed on. The rest of practice involved not doing any jump-throughs because my lower back felt tender, and I didn't want to jar it when I landed. I managed to get into every posture right up to Navasana. But Sir let me off of Navasana because I had no lower back engagement to help me with my bhandas, so what would be the point. It just would have hurt. Strangely enough, I was able to pull out quite a nice Bujapidhasana, one where I floated my forehead above the ground, rather than bonking to the ground. I can't reconcile that with my sense that half of my core was not operating properly (i.e., the back of my core - my lumbar spine). But whatever. I didn't bother with Kurmasana or Garba. It just didn't feel right. No backbends either. Finishing poses were not comfy at all - particularly Karna Pidasana. What could I expect? It's one of the deepest forward bends there is besides Kurmasana and Supta K.

Later in the afternoon, I had to go to a Parent-Kid Gym Class. Two actually. one at 6:30 and one at 7:30. One with each of my kids. We climbed ropes, we did some aerobics, we played basketball, we rode scooters. My back felt awesome. I was psyched. But...we didn't get home until 9:00, and then we played "Where Is" with Brian, for a change: Where is my homework on Peter Minuit? You know where it was? In the refrigerator. Something's got to change, and I am not sure if it is external or internal...not sure if the losing things is some sort of passive aggressive thing, some sort of rebellion thing. Or whether it is perhaps just a matter of being disorganized, as in, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Woke up sore on Wednesday. I guess I overdid it on Tuesday night. I don't feel bad about it though because I didn't have a choice. It was my parental duty. Nonetheless, sore or not, I practiced. Wednesday was a home practice due to logistical issues. I had an appointment in the morning and couldn't get to the shala until the Teaching Techniques began at 11:30 p.m. I practiced later in the day, slowly, abandoning my vinyasas after Janu C. I did Buja P about five times because it felt so good. But I still had no feeling for getting into Kurmasana. The thought of it filled me with fear and tension. I did a few backbends, and did the entire finishing sequence, and it was quite nice. I took this as a good sign. I figured I was healing.

Thursday no practice at all. I had a party in Adam's classroom - a celebration of ethnicity. We brought Hamentashen. There were also a few Babkas, some Italian cheeses, some Italian cookies, 100 Chinese fortune cookies and a big plate of Chinese dumplings. There was also one plate of stuffed grape leaves. 30 kids; four ethnic groups were represented. So much for an ethnically diverse classroom. After the party, I went directly to the Teaching Techniques class with Lori. We explored Triangle-related postures. I am LOVING these connections she is drawing between postures. On Wednesday, we did all of the Paschimattanasana-related postures (two legs extended straight out, with a forward bend....Padangusthasana, Padahastasana, Ubaya Padangusthasana, Urdvha Mukha Paschimattanasana, Halasana). The triangle-type postures are Trikonasana, Uttitha Hasta Padangusthasana (and cousin-Parsvasahita) and Supta Padangusthasana. Did I miss any? I don't have my notes. But I will tell you, I am LOVING Trikonasana for the first time in my life. I am finally UNDERSTANDING this posture and it's internal rotation of the back LEG but external rotating of the back HIP. It feels like such a nice stretch of that front inner thing. And today I had the most wonderful time in UHP as a result.

But so, yeah, no practice Thurs. I never got around to it. I never really wanted to. I felt kind of blah. I felt kind of depressed about my pain in my back. And I think I really needed some healing time. And then it was Thursday night, Grey's Anatomy night. Now, Grey's was really heading down an annoying road last year when it was delving into the who will McDreamy pick - his wife or his mistress, and when it was manipulating its viewers into rooting for the mistress. But Grey's has been good lately. Much better than Lost, which, shock of shocks, I know, I didn't even watch on Wednesday. No worries though - I have it on iTunes and will get to it sometime this weekend.

So, anyway, Grey's was pretty enjoyable last night. And then right after, before 11 p.m., I passed out in the middle of that stupid, stupid, annoying, insipid new show with the supposedly blue collar family that lives in a gorgeous colonial farmhouse, which family is headed up by Tom Berenger, and whose prodigal son, Nick, who named gave himself the pen-name of Nicholson when he became a famous "Less Than Zero" slash "Bright Lights Big City" author after spending "one long winter" writing a memoiresque novel, is played by a total young cutie named Bryan Greenberg who is, unfortunately for him, not believable as anything but an affluent Ivy League Jew. I'm talking about October Road, and it's lame. It's pretty much a rip-off of a little-seen Ed Burns movie called No Looking Back, which starred Lauren Holly as the hometown honey of the prodigal Ed Burns who comes back to find that the girl he left behind is now with the still-blue collar Jon Bon Jovi. Oh, the awkwardness of the original movie. Oh the horrible discomfort of watching it played out again with lesser actors and with the blond and bland Laura Prepon as the discarded girlfriend whose scarily, and not in a good way, precocious 10-year old son (upon seeing the grownups are about to have a grown-up conversation: "I think I will discretely extricate myself..."....eew!) might be the spawn of Nick slash Nicholson. And that's all I know because after watching the hometown blue collar guys standing around in their denim overalls poking with their pitchforks and shovels at a pile of manure, chatting in that knowing, smarty, glib, television style that was so offputting in television shows that were actually ABOUT knowing, smart, glib characters (e.g. Mad About You, Gilmore Girls), I closed my eyes - just for a moment - and forgot to open them again. So, I missed all the nonsense about the terrible betrayal committed by Nick slash Nicholson in the form of writing about his now-ex-friends from his hometown in his book and making them look like, as one character puts it in the previews for the show, "buffoons".

When I woke up, it was morning. I got up, went to practice and got all the way through, although I skipped Supta Kurmasana. Kurmasana took a couple of attempts to get as flat as I like. But it was fine. My jump-throughs are back, mostly. It only took two Surya Namaskaras to get my Uttanasana in fighting shape.

So, in about a month, I'm going to be practicing teaching Ashtanga classes - both fundamentals classes, which break down the Surya Namaskaras and some of the standing poses, and actual led classes. I am really, really nervous and do not feel ready at all. It's as if I haven't been teaching all this time. When I teach a vinyasa class, I get up there and totally wing it. Each and every time. I rarely have a class planned out. I go into the room, suss out the vibe, feel out the ability and experience levels of the students and go from there. But now - it's like I wish I had a script. I feel woefully unprepared. I didn't really do this in order to teach Ashtanga; I mainly wanted to deepen my own understanding of the practice. But then the slippery slope began slippery sloping...and here I am...what the????!!!

Finished off the week with a trip back to Dr. Jaime, the chiropractor, who had much less to adjust today than on Monday, YAY! Tomorrow, I am taking Lori's led class since I didn't practice on Thursday. And on Sunday, we are going up to Northern Westchester to look at revisit some of the houses we've already seen and consider making a bid on one particular one that we really love but that might be a bit too far from the train for the husband's liking. But it's so perty!!! I want want want want want it. I do. How does one manifest these things? How is "manifest" any different from "I wish" or "I want"? Does calling it "manifest" make it somehow yogic? If so...or even if not....manifest, manifest, manifest.


Monday, March 12, 2007

I wonder...

1. If Supta Konasana feels bad that when ashtangis refer to "Supta K", everyone knows they mean "Supta Kurmasana"?

2. If everyone who blogs would care to admit one way in which they fail at being "yogic" (thanks Tiff for inspiring me with today's post)?

I don't have to tell you how I fail at being yogic - because my posts are full of admissions. But I'll give one to chew on: I nibble on the leftover bones my children leave when they eat Buffalo chicken wings. Bad yogini!!


Everything was juuuuuuuust fine....

and then it happened. My first acute owie in Ashtanga.

I've always prided myself on never having been injured. I always tell people that no one in my shala ever seems to be injured, or if they are, it is always from something that happened outside of the shala. And even what happened to me today may be more a result of a missed appointment with Dr. Jaime Blau, my awesome chiropractor (and by missed, I mean that I forgot to make an appointment even though I was suspecting that I was sorely in need), than a result of the Ashtanga practice or, perish the thought, anything that my teacher did or said.

See, I've had this neck crick for a while. It's been hard to look up on the second side of Uttitha Trikonasana for at least the past month. I chalked it up to ponytailed chakrasana. But I pretty much also knew that it was going to involve a trip to Dr. Jaime. Still, I went about my business, doing my practice, wondering if all of the legs behind the shoulders were further aggravating whatever subloxation was brewing.

Today, practice was one of those super-intense, super-sweaty practices where you suddenly remember just how flexible you can be when the air outside is pushing 60 degrees, rather than lurking around 16 (farenheit, farenheit!!). I jumped through with straight legs every single time, which has never happened before. I pressed up several times in "desha - lift/saptadesha - lift" (I'm using the sanskrit counting method to refer to the point where you inhale and lift up right before jumping back to chatturanga in the seated poses) just barely grazing my feet, which hardly ever happens. Despite serious sweat dripping everywhere, despite practicing in board shorts (really board short-shorts...I didn't realize it was going to be so sweaty...I find that the hotter it is, the MORE I need to wear to control the sweat; when it's cold out, shorts work best), I was binding everything easily, grabbing wrists or close to it. Bujapidasana was kind of ugly though - it was more like the Wicked Witch of the West melting into a puddle of water than a fairly strong arm balancer doing the pose. But as goes Bujapidasana, so the opposite goes Kurmasana, at least in terms of the use or disuse of sweat. I just squished right into Kurmasana....ah.....

Sir bound my hands, and they were going to stay there. I knew it. And to the extent that it was going to be a challenge, I was going to hold on for dear life. Perhaps the error of my ways was that fateful decision though. Because when Sir started to rotate my left ankle into place....YOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have never jumped so high and so fast out of a posture where my stomach is touching the floor while my legs are over my shoulders. At first, Sir thought I just sort of spazzed out, like mentally, because he suggested that it's normal to feel that the sacral area is getting a big stretch. He offered that I jump back and start again. And I really wanted to. But I felt fear mostly, and some blossoming pain and stiffness in my lumbar spine/sacrum.

I looked over at him and mouthed, "I think I'll skip it today."

Then I just sat there not knowing what to do. He came over, and I told him that I felt a twang or a pull in my left sacro-iliac area but that I think it's a good sign - that something might be opening up. He told me that a positive outlook is good for healing and that I should do garba pindasana and keep practicing.

My garba was like the best ever. A mere 13-"month" gestation, with hands almost touching the forehead the whole time - or at least one hand almost touching the forehead and the other hand touching that hand. Backbends were fine. Halasana felt like crap, but my headstand was rock solid, and my baddha padmasana was probably the best it's ever been - an actual grip on each foot and forehad to the floor.

I went home and crawled into bed and stayed there with a heating pad for three hours. Then I picked the kids up from school and went straight to Dr. Jaime who gave me some kind of electroconvulsive therapy. Kidding. But it did involve electrodes. Only they were on my lower back. No brain scrambling to my knowledge. Then she gave me the most popcorn-popping-cracklin' adjustments I've ever had. Damn, I needed that. Why did I not go like six weeks ago!!!!!!!!!

I hope I hope I hope I hope that I don't wake up in pain.

But here's the thing. I had an epiphany about Supta K. Right now, I don't WANT to cross my ankles. I only WANT to bind my hands. It's normal to bind the hands first, and for me, the hand binding came second. I want to go back to the normal progression and stay in hands-bound legs-straight mode for a while and just SAVOR it. Just ENJOY that hand binding feeling and let my chest open and let my shoulders soften, and when I'm good and ready, THEN we can work on ankles.

I already have Garba Pindasana. What more do I need right now? I'm good to go for months. No more ankles for now.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Nothing to say at all

And I'm bothered by it. This past week, I've been consumed by the Fundamental Teaching Techniques with Lori and with my new twice a week teaching gig at Practice Yoga as well as with getting a lot of chores done that involved serious phone time (calling the Insurance Company to sort through the dentist and orthodontist stuff for the kids, for one thing; calling to figure out what I bought and what I returned in the past two months). Just learning to pronounce the Invocation to Patanjali has been sucking up a lot of my energy. And here I was thinking that I was really pretty damn good at it. But all those long vowels and the sch's versus the sh's versus the ch's versus the s's...oh, boy. Today I took out Brian's recorder and tried to compose some version of the chant on it that would help me remember which vowels are long and which are not, using different notes to represent the long ones (there is no prescribed tune to the chant, although we all know that our respective shalas have their own versions that most of us use in our own practices). It was rather ugly, I have to say. No wonder I have never tried my hand at composing. But it did kind of do the trick in terms of acting as a mnemonic device.

The training has gotten me a bit fixated on some issues I have in twisting, which seem to come out in Parvritta Parsvakonasana, but don't seem to be causing me problems in Mari C or D. My upper back just doesn't want to participate in any twisting. In a precarious, unsupported pose like Parvritta Parsvakona, the issue becomes obvious as my hip swings out to compensate for the lack of twist in the upper back. In the seated twists - Mari C and D - I can work around the issue because I'm thin enough to get really really small and tightly wound so that my arms don't have to reach around that much "mass" that I would need to let the twist go all the way up into my Thoracic Spine. And my shoulders are fairly flexible, give or take a little chest opening that still needs to happen.

But this issue has me a bit obsessed at the moment since this teacher training has converted me to the importance of the Fundamental Asanas. I am wondering if I need to do some R&D binding twists to help enourage the Thoracic Spine to join the party.

Speaking of thin enough. I forget if I mentioned this before, but I lost a few pounds since January, mainly due to the fact that I have been practicing regularly again after not practicing for a couple of months while recovering from surgery. But, and I hate hate hate to say this, it has made a huge difference in Supta Kurmasana. And now the truth comes out: there is some discussion amongst some people who are in a position to know, that thigh girth is a factor in Supta Kurmasana, all other things being equal. That's not to say that you have to be teeny tiny to bind in Supta's just that if you're binding around thighs that have some weight on them, then you have to be extra soft and flexible in order to do so. I am not extra soft and flexible. It's not my thang. Right now, I am in a place with Supta K where I can reliably bind the hands, although not necessarily hold the bind for long once the ankles cross. But the pressure! If I gain a pound or two, it will all go away. And the shame! It will become obvious that I have been stuffing my face.

No, none of this sounds particularly yogic. And it's ironic, because it's at a time when I've taken a regular teaching job and have taken on some additional teacher training. And let me tell you, there are folks out there who really really like to criticize me for it. I have some unpublished comments from these folks - they didn't like the commentary on the Westchester Vagina Debacle. They don't like the ass photo. Oh, the comments I have gotten on that one! And the rebel in me keeps the photo up because I liked it until people started criticizing it, so why should I take it down just because some people don't like it? Anonymous people, I might add. And same with the Vagina entry, no pun intended (see? I am just begging to be criticized here). I liked it a lot until someone wrote to me telling me that it's an outrage that I could be a yoga teacher and a mother and be writing stuff like that. Now, I wonder. And I don't want to judge myself based on what others think. Even if they're right. I want to come to my conclusions about myself and what I do based on my own judgement. Not someone else's.

Hence, I find myself a bit stymied and writer's blocked. You wouldn't know it from the sheer volume of words pouring forth tonight. But trust me when I tell you, I have nothing to say at all.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Whatever You Do, Don't Say "Vagina"

A Play in One Act.

Scene I: A high school auditorium in northern Westchester County, New York where the high school literary magazine has staged a dramatic reading of original pieces of literature, a piece written by Shakespeare as well as an excerpt from Eve Ensler's the Vagina Monologues. As the curtain goes up, three 16-year-old high school honor students, Megan, Elan and Hannah stand on stage before a crowded auditorium.

The girls, in unison: My short skirt is a liberation flag in the women's army. I declare these streets, any streets, my vagina's country.

A pregnant pause and then a burst of applause from the audience, followed by a man running onstage tearing the microphone from the hands of the girls and demanding that the curtain come down. The man we will soon learn is the high school's principal, Richard Leprine, known to all as Principal Dick.

Scene 2. Principal Dick's office. Principal Dick sits at his desk, a game of Solitaire on his computer screen, a stack of six Playboys and one Jugs at his feet where no one can see. The parents of the three honor students are sitting before him, wrinkling their noses at the stench of stale cigar smoke and McDonald's Big Mac's wafting from Principal Dick's general direction. Principal Dick is fiddling with his toupe.

Principle Dick: Your girls said "vagina". Vagina! Vagina for Christ's sake!!! Do you know what it means to say vagina at a school-sponsored event? To say vagina in the high school auditorium? They said vagina! What do you have to say for your girls, these girls who said vagina?

Mother 1: I'm not sure what the problem is, Principal Dick.

Mother 2: I'm not sure I understand the problem either, Principal Dick.

Mother 3: I concur. Vagina schmagina, what's the big deal?

Principal Dick: Vagina? Big deal? Vagina should not be said. Period. Vagina makes people uncomfortable. Vagina is off limits.

Father 1: I don't understand. How do you have health class without using the word?

Principal Dick: There is no rule against saying vagina in science class or saying vagina in health class or saying vagina any time when you aren't referring to an actual vagina.

Father 2: I'm sorry, Dick, but I'm not following your line of reasoning.

Principal Dick: By actual vagina, I am referring to an actual vagina. As in "your wife's vagina." Or "I don't have a vagina". Or "My wife's vagina is not your property." All of these sentences are inappopriate uses of the word vagina. But that last sentence, now, that was an appropriate use of the word vagina. It's all in our School's Handbook, under the heading, "Vaginas and The Ban on The Use of the Word Vagina and Exceptions to the Ban on the Use of the Word Vagina for References to the Word Vagina that are Not References to Actual Vaginas."

The parents look at each other and continue to appear perplexed. A red-faced and flustered Principal Dick comes out from behind his desk, overweight and wearing a terrible suit. He points to Mother 1's lap.

Principal Dick: Here's an inappropriate use of vagina. If I point to YOUR vagina and call it a vagina, that's a use of the word vagina that violates the Vagina Usage policy. But I can say vagina all I want in explaining that to you. Vagina as a vagina is bad. Vagina as talking about vagina as an offensive word is fine.

The parents shake their heads in disbelief. Principal Dick slams his hand on the desk.

Principal Dick: That's IT. I'm recommending suspension for your girls.

Father 3: But, Principal Dick! Our girls are honor students!

Principal Dick: Yes, but they said vagina.

Scene III - Board of Education Meeting. The three honor students stand before The Vagina Clause Committee, the committee responsible for putting into place the "Vaginas and The Ban on The Use of the Word Vagina and Exceptions to the Ban on the Use of the Word Vagina for References to the Word Vagina that are Not References to Actual Vaginas" clause in the School Handbook.

Girl 1: The word in question is one which I am comfortable saying. Why shouldn't I help others to feel comfortable saying it?

Girl 2: At the risk of getting myself even deeper into trouble, I have to say that I am offended that you regard the word as problematic. It is a part of my body. Like my head. Or my hands. Why should it not have a name?

Girl 3: Why is talking about any part of the body an act of insubordination?

Principal Dick: You can't yell fire in a crowded theater, and you can't say vagina in your high school auditorium. I'd like to remind you girls that the right to say vagina is not unfettered.

The Superintendent of the school system which has jurisdiction over the high school where the vagina debacle occurred, Bob Lichtenfeld, also known as Super Lick, stands up and points to the girls.

Super Lick: If you wanted to talk about your vagina in a public place, you should have said that you were putting on a production of The Vagina Monologues, and that way, everyone with or without a vagina would have been on notice that you would be saying vagina and talking about your vaginas and people who don't like to hear about vaginas could avoid the whole vagina production so as not to be offended by repeated usage of the word vagina. But as it was, you were part of a larger performance that was to have included only an excerpt from the Vagina Monologues, and not one which used the word vagina, I might add, and no one should have expected that vaginas would be talked about or that the word vagina would be referenced, whether as a body part - as in your vagina, my vagina, her vagina, their vaginas - or as a reference to the reference to the word vagina - as in "we think we have the right to say vagina" or "we believe that vagina is not an offensive word" or "vaginas are not to be censored", all of which is impermissible except under specific circumstances delineated in the Vagina Clause, to which I refer to as Exhibit A.

Super Lick pats a huge tome that sits in front of him on the table. Just then a cell phone rings. It's Super Lick's. He takes it out of his jacket pocket and answers it.

Super Lick: Hello? Lick here. Hmmm. Well, we're in the middle of a hearing here. Well. Yes. Alright then. I'll get him.

Super Lick turns to Principal Dick.

Super Lick: Dick, it's for you.

Dick: For me? Couldn't this wait?

Lick: Says it's important.

Dick: Who?

Lick: Mike Hunt.

Dick: Mike Hunt?

Lick: No, Mike Hunt.

Dick: That's what I said, Lick, Mike Hunt.

The curtain closes on Lick and Dick dickering, the girls snickering, and stage left, a spotlight flickering on Vagina Monologues playwright, Eve Ensler, telephone in hand.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

So jaded so quickly

All it takes is one really really good hand bind in Supta K to ruin me for all other even marginally lesser "performances". I know, I know, it's not a performance, whatever, who can claim to be blissfully unattached to progress made in a posture that has been difficult for so long?

Today my hands came together nicely, but I couldn't keep them from slipping away from each other when it came time to cross the ankles. And even when Sir gave up on the traditional time-honored, Yoga Mala-sanctioned route, and allowed me to cross my ankles first, my hands would not, could not, did not stay together. They gripped. Yes, they most definitely overlapped and hooked together, exactly as they should. Except it just didn't feel quite right. It's like something didn't "catch". It may have been a millimeter of difference from yesterday that made all the difference today. But that millimeter left me feeling vaguely disappointed.

It didn't ruin my practice though. I left it behind and pulled together for Garba Pindasana, which took, I don't know, 10 or 12 rolls to get around and one "re-threading" in the middle when I klonked over to one side and stayed there like a dead turtle (haha) until I had to pull my arms back out, rethread and start again, midway through.

Hey, I never carried a child for a mere nine months either. If you count it by the lunar calendar, my due date was 10 months after conception, and if you count how late I went before I felt a single actual contraction in each pregnancy, and if you add them up, well, we are WELL into 12 months. And if you add up the two pregnancies, we are well OVER 24 months. Isn't that kind of like an elephant's gestational period? Elephant Fetus in the Womb Posture. How do you say "elephant" in Sanskrit, anyway?

I am really savoring my closing sequence now that I know exactly what I'm supposed to be doing in it. Five minutes in shoulderstand. Five minutes in headstand balanced on the front of the forehead - the Setu Bandhasana touchpoint. Yep, that's right...I've been doing this for two years and never knew that I wasn't supposed to be balancing on the tippy top of my head. Then five breaths in Ardha Sirsasana. And another five to 10 breaths holding my head completely off the floor, a sort of modified forearm stand/pincha mayurasana, only with hands lightly clasped. And that's another thing: the hands lightly clasped. It's odd for me to release that death grip, palms together, that I worked so hard to perfect following my training at Om. They were such sticklers for that too, while my instinct was to have my hands softly interlocked and cradling my head. I guess I was always an Ashtangini - I just didn't know it at that time.

Yesterday, it felt so odd to me to have my hands lightly interlocked that with all my rootching around, my elbows kind of slid out to the sides creating a very open triangle among the three points of my head and my elbows. I kept touching one foot back down on the floor because balance was elusive for like the first time ever (I may be challenged when it comes to binding easily, but balancing, and especially balancing upside down, has always been a rather effortless blessing bestowed upon me - we all have our gifts, you know). Sir was like - bring your elbows in. It was the first time I've ever heard a peep about my headstand, or for that matter, just about any posture in the finishing sequence. It's good to feel, finally, like the closing sequence matters.

Child's pose is apparently meant to be held with the hands still in the Sirsasana mudra - not that child's pose is even part of the sequence, officially...but still. So then why am I the only one who doesn't have my arms alongside my body?

Later on, we began the Teaching Techniques portion of the training, and let me tell you, it is not easy to go back to square one and learn to give the verbal cues all over again in a different way from the way I have been doing it for the past three years. Interestingly, at Om, we were trained to teach an Advanced class. Here, the focus is on teaching beginners. This makes SOOO much more sense to me. And is SOOOO much harder.

I'm quite scattered today. So much trashy tabloid stuff to read, so little time what with my rejuvenated Yoga Mala studies and my analysis of Sanskrit counting. I can't wait for tomorrow. But first, there's Lost.


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Bound hands appear solid in Supta K

Practice felt really good today. This training I'm doing with Lori has really given my practice a kick in the butt, in a good way. It's as if my practice before the training was a boat that had some leaks. It was going to get me across the river, but it was taking a LOT of effort to row that boat with the water leaking in. The training has patched the boat up. No more leaks, or at least less leaks. The rowing is easier. The trip much more fun.

Specifically, and hopefully without jinxing myself, it was pretty much a drama-free moment when Sir put me into Supta K, solidly, hand to hand grasp, hands first, then ankles crossed, the way it was meant to be. And for that matter, Garba P was pretty smooth as well: the heels of my hands form a "v" at my chin and my hands run alongside my face, with my fingers ending up by my ears. Then when it's time to roll, I easily move my hands to my forehead/crown. The only catch is that in keeping my hands up by my forehead, it takes me about 15 rolls to get around, rather than the prescribed 9. Kukku is fine. It's the rolling that is going to be the task for me to surmount, I think. But it seems to be a bandha thing.

Oh, and jump backs WILL happen. They are simmering nicely now that I've taken them off the back burner.

I heart Ashtanga!


Monday, March 05, 2007

Racism revisited

I keep thinking about the scenario that I described a few of posts ago in National Brotherhood of Skiiers and about some of the comments I've gotten, and as a result, I've drawn an entirely new conclusion about the scenario and what it meant.

(if you don't feel like linking back and you're not sure what the NBS post was about, I'll sum it up: In Steamboat, Colorado, a highish-end ski resort, I was riding on a shuttle bus populated primarily by well-dressed people of color when a well-dressed black man struck up a conversation with me that ended with me telling him that I live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and him cracking, "You mean the part of the city where all the rich white folks live?")

What I wrote about this experience was that it felt as if I was experiencing what it was like to be a target of racism - by which I mean, to be treated as a stereotype, to have assumptions made about me based on the color of my skin. Some commentators accused me of, at best, being thin-skinned, at worst, being painfully naive.

I now wish to revise my thoughts on the experience.

I can't really say that what the man said constituted racism targeted at me. It would be more accurate to say that what the man said was an acknowledgement of the racism that exists against black people in general. And THAT is what made me uncomfortable. Allow me to explain what I mean....

I am making an assumption that the reason the man was able to say what he said to me without my reacting angrily was that he made the assumption that most people who look like me and talk like me would not perceive anything insulting about being referred to as "rich white folk". Which is to say that there is no negative stigma with being white and affluent. On the other hand, at the very moment that the man spoke to me, I too was making an assumption, and that assumption was that I would have no right to refer to his skin color without making both of us uncomfortable. For example, it would have seemed to me to be crass and to break some sort of social code of right and wrong if I were to say something to him about "rich black skiiers".

In order for these assumptions to operate, there has to be a deeper underlying assumption that being white carries no stigma, but that being black might, and both of us have to be aware of that assumption. Both of us had to have made that assumption and to have acknowledged that the other made it as well. For me to feel that I had no right to refer to his skin color, and for him to feel that he had a right to refer to mine, for me to feel that I had to accept his reference to my skin color and for him to feel insulated against any possibility that I might refer to his (again, I am assuming that we are both intelligent, socially aware people), well, there has to be an awareness of racism existing if not within us individually than within our society as a whole.

Thus, what the man on the bus said to me was not a statement that belied his racism toward whites, but rather his acknowledgement of society's racism (past or present) toward blacks.

Now, as Stan Marsh said in the classic "Out of the Closet" episode of South Park: Sue me.


You say "sophomoric" like it's a bad thing

It's PashiMAtannasana. No more calling it Pashimo. I'm only going to say it this one time. If I hear (see?) you calling it Paschimo, I am going to cringe and cover my ears (eyes?). But I promise to refrain from correcting you.


Rotation Consternation

Seems so simple, and for some of you out there, it probably actually IS simple. But for me, and for some others who were not blessed by the Godess of Arms Rotating in Shoulder Sockets with a good innate sense of direction, the following discoveries, which I have made in the past few weeks (thanks to Lori Brungard, sometimes known on here as "Madam", seeing as she is the wife of "Sir", who has been downloading her (extraordinarily immense) knowledge of the Primary Series to me and a few others in the past few weeks (in no particular order):

1. Purvatanasana (yes, it's PurvA if you want to say it the way Guruji says it): The arms INTERNALLY rotate before the palms plant 12 inches behind you, fingers facing toward you. Yes, I know some of you know this already, or instinctively sense it. But if you're like me, you feel your chest poking up and wonder - should I be externally rotating these arms to let my chest poke up further? The answer is: no.

2. Parshvotanasana: If you're rotator-cuff challenged like me, you would probably imagine that it will be easier to get your hands into Reverse Namasakar by first broadening across your chest and externally rotating your arms as you bring them back behind you. But, sadly, you would be wrong, like me. Instead, INTERALLY rotate your arms in your shoulder sockets before bringing your arms behind you. Your palms will almost effortlessly find each other and your wrists will thank you to the ends of the earth.

3. Urdhva Dhanurasana: How many times have I heard, have I even SAID, "Lie on your back, bring your arms up overhead and plant your palms beside your ears"? It's not wrong. But it leaves way too much room for interpretation in the mind of someone like me who has no innate sense of direction when it comes to the ole rotator cuffs. If you're like me, and you merely throw your arms up overhead while lying on your back, you are very likely INTERALLY rotating your arms as you do so. Sure, you begin to externally rotate them a moment later as you bend your elbow and turn your palms down so that your fingers slide toward your shoulders. But to someone with a tendency towards tight shoulders and a chest that resists opening, this is tantamount to driving up down the West Side Highway in order to get to the Upper East Side. If you follow the West Side Highway downtown all the way to the tip of Manhattan, you will end eventually find yourself heading UP the East Drive (aka the FDR Drive) towards the Upper East Side. But BOY, did you take yourself out of your way. Instead, consciously rotate your arms externally, as if you were swan diving up into Ekam in Surya Namaskar A and maintain the external rotating even as you turn your wrists inward and plant your palms. If you have no idea what I am talking about, then take a belt, loop it around your triceps and press up into UD.

Now THAT's what I'm talkin' about.

Other pearls to come as I process them.


A Week of Power and Powder....

It's my dream, and I think I'll try the ole manifest method of making it come true. Either that, or I'm gonna set about doing some research and see if I can put together a retreat week next March at The Canyons in Park City Utah which will play the delicious synergy of skiing and yoga, yoga and skiing. Saluting the sun in the morning, standing poses to wake up the legs and keep the body warm. Skiing all day, lessons if needed, meeting at lunchtime for mid-day flexibility enhancers using skis, boots and poles as props right out there under the mountain sunshine. Followed by hot tub and then a full practice. Healthy meals geared toward acclimating to high altitudes and maximizing athletic performance in the thinly oxygenated air.

It's my only excuse to get to Utah next year since another trip to Steamboat is practically in the can, as it should be, since it really is the ultimate family ski resort. The Canyons, on the other hand, is really the perfect place for a yoga/ski retreat. The folks there have a different, more adventurous, less suburban vibe.

So, what do we think? Does anyone have any feedback on the initial idea? Anyone with an interest, even remote, in joining?


Saturday, March 03, 2007

The National Brotherhood of Skiiers

I forgot to mention that after all of the lily white skiiers from Westchester, Fairfield County and Manhattan left Steamboat (except for us and the other stragglers who had originally planned to leave for the East Coast on Sunday, when the airports decided that there would be no flights to the East Coast on Sunday), Steamboat became the site of the 2007 Summit of the National Brotherhood of Skiiers.

I have to be honest, it never occurred to me until Sunday, that as a general matter, I never see anyone of color on the slopes. And I mean, literally, never. As in, not a single person who doesn't look like me, albeit taller. So, I was quite taken aback when starting on Saturday, I began to see, here and there, a number of extremely well-dressed (think Spyder, rather than Columbia, if you are a skiier) skiiers with skin the color of coffee. By Sunday, the mountain had, I believe (or so I was told) fourteen-hundred (1400) NBS'ers from all over the country, and I believe, a good number of members of related and partner-clubs from other countries. Or so the backpacks and jacket logos would indicate.

Since Presidents Week was over, Steamboat was relatively quiet. Thus, it was an interesting reversal for me and my friends. We found ourselves, in most instances, among a racial minority (albeit temporary and circumstantial). Quite possibly, we were also among an economic minority as well, being possibly among the least monied people on the mountain. On a shuttle bus back from Steamboat's downtown, we found ourselves in the midst of a boisterous crowd of NBS members. The loudest of all was a very well-dressed man with very large lips and a very thick London accent. He turned to me and asked me where I was from. When I got around to telling him that I lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, he raised an eyebrow and cracked, "Oh, you mean where all the rich white folks live!"

I pondered it. I had no sparkly comeback. I fumbled about and said that some poor white folks live here too. Then I felt vaguely embarassed.

Why was I trying to smooth over a racial slur made against myself?

That was the question to which I still have no answer.


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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