And so I did. And did. And did. It was quite awesome. And exhausting.
The husband was quite intimidated.
Damn, I'm handy with a power tool.
Posted at 10:00 PM
As I was finishing up my practice today, and willfully skipping Uth Pluthi because, well, I have been Uth Pluthi-ing in about EVERY vinyasa lately, and I'm jut tired of it already (well, not Uth Pluthi, but more like Lolasana, you know, pressing down hard on my palms to lift my little tuchas up), I noticed that Val was watching. Guilty, I said, "Yeah, I skipped Uth Pluthi...." But she wasn't thinking about that. She sat down next to me and said that she wanted to talk.
I have to admit, I felt a bit clammy. I must have a guilty conscience. I was thinking she mightwant to talk to me about my blog, you know, ask me not to, or to think twice before blogging about my practie there. Like a certain teacher had in the past. I even for a moment thought that she might suggest that I go back to NYC. I have no idea why I think such awful things.
Instead she told me that she wants to get me started on Second Series. She didn't want to cause any kind of conflict with Guy, and she didn't want to teach it to me if I didn't want to move past Primary yet, but she thinks I am ready and that it will be good for me.
Posted at 4:53 PM
New grass is finally growing in the bald patches...
From a few tiny pumpkin seeds, a tiny pumpkin patch grows...(pumpkins will arrive next month, hopefully in time for Halloween, if not then in time for Thanksgiving and pumpkin pie)
But for now, I have harvested my first EVER cucumber. Here is my little pride and joy....
When this little plot is good and spent, I'll be turning it over and planting perennial shrubbery and moving my vegetable and herb gardening to a different venue on the property. But hopefully the roots will have added some nice conditioning to the soil for my boxwoods and barberries.
And that's all she wrote about gardening.
Posted at 2:42 PM
Barry Manilow has already signed on as Boodiba's "MGxBF".
Posted at 10:12 AM
I was doing my second practice of the day. I mean, after I escaped from the Jew Zoo in Iran, that is. Think of everything you could have accomplished today if you weren't talking about Carl's piercing!
I had a belly button piercing once. I got it after my second pregnancy to hide the fact that my belly button had stretched to the size of a small mouth. It worked because my tummy was pretty flat, and the glittery little jewel in the curved barbell was like an optical illusion, focusing the eyes in on itself, instead of the gaping disaster that was my navel. Then a few years later, I got a tummy tuck, during which my belly button was pulled down to nearly the level of my c-section scar. A new perfectly innie belly button was carved out by my surgeon in the proper place, and now I can't imagine sullying his work by putting a hole in it.
I also had my nose pierced for a brief time about three years ago. I had a teeny little diamond in my nostril. But I kept catching colds, and I couldn't help but think that it was because the little bugger was intoducing germs into my nasal passage.
For what it's worth, I was a bit baffled by Columbia's president's behavior; he wasn't a very nice host. But his guest was much less nice.
On a totally unrelated topic, inspired by Mrs. Laksmi, I decided to try getting myself into Urdhva Kukkutasana, and I was surprised to find that it was rather simple, once I realized that I had to place knees directly on elbows. Also, and this is much more pertinent to my practice now: I figured out how to jump right into Bakasana B. It involves holding my breath after the inhale and softly landing my bent legs around the outside of my upper arms, which almost feel like they're catching my legs the way a mitt catches a softball. After I landed it, unexpectedly, I did it again about 10 more times, or maybe 20. Now I hope that I can someday do it again. Meanwhile, I have yet to stand up from a backbend without assistance.
Posted at 9:46 PM
And I think I like this blog thing. I am a scholar, after all. To answer Carl, yes, young man, I do use the word "retard", as in:
“If you have created the fifth generation of atomic bombs and are testing them already, who are you to question other people who just want nuclear power. I think the politicians who are after atomic bombs, politically, they’re backwards. Retarded.”[empahsis added]
I have as much right to be here as YC (who is bound and gagged and in a cage, er, I mean being kept under security with the other three Jews who are currently, um, living, yes, living, that's the word I was looking for, living in Iran. As I said in my speech, "We love all nations. We love the Jewish people. There are many Jews living in Iran, with peace and security.”), and I believe that I will stay here. I like it. It is a holy blog. And I will not be made to leave it just because of something that theoretically might have happened somewhere else to other people by other people.
Besides, YC should be doing better things with her time. In Iran, she can live out her time in the way that the holiest one intended. "Women in Iran enjoy the highest levels of freedom,” I said yesterday in my speech, without offering specifics. But I will now add that one of those freedoms is to marry at age nine, a freedom that you Americans do not bestow upon your women.
Now, who is this Britney Spears of which YC sometimes writes? And who is Lakmsi? Her name puts fear into my scholarly heart, although it is true that I love all people. Especially those living in my country with peace and security.
As YC would say, that is all.
Posted at 4:14 PM
My dear friends,
Some of you were unable to attend my speech at Columbia University yesterday, so i have taken the liberty of hacking YC's blogger account to reprint a transcript of the highlights my act, er, no, my speech! Yes, my speech, i mean, my speech. Enjoy, retards! Er, I meanm enjoy, my friends! Yes, that's right, I mean, friends.
"Even though I was deeply hurt at being asked to speak at Columbia University only after it turned out that Osama Bin Laden had a conflicting engagement, and even though I was for reasons unbeknownst to me, excluded, nay, banned from visiting what you people call ground zero, or as I like to call it, A Good Start, I still will try to make my fans on the Upper West Side feel as if they got what they paid for.
Cough, americans, cough, retards, cough cough.
Allergies. So, where was I? Ah, yes, here is a, what you say, joke, to get things started on a light note: What do you call a homo in Iran? You don't! Because we don't have any! Not even one!!! Bad dum dum.
Which reminds me, what's the deal with that thing you people refer to as the holocaust? It's not like there's any proof that the Nazi's slaughtered six million Jews, not that there's anything wrong with that.
Until someone can show me some proof, why not call it the "hypotheticaust"? Theory, people! Not fact! Am i right? Am i right or what, retards? I mean, people. Er, yes, people, my friends, my delightful american friends who believe in freedom of speech, cough, retards, cough, on the Upper Jew Side of Manhattan! Sheee-ite!!! Did i say that? Oh no I di-int!!"
Thank you, thank you very much.
Posted at 8:48 AM
(fingers in ears, eyes closed, shaking head) I'm not listening. NOT listening. Not talking, not responding.
I am happy that everyone who's commenting has found a place to express their passionate views about such a passionate topic. But I have nothing to add beyond what I wrote in the first place, which is that I question all violence, all force, all fundamentalism, and all violence and force applied in the name of fundamentalism. And that I can see why it might be prudent not to do so publicly. OK, wait, I have a couple of random bytes to add in response to some comments made:
1. In the past I have asked why Israel cannot share the land, and I have been told that this was not acceptable to the Palestinians. I don't know if that is true; I haven't brushed up on my history.
2. I HAVE read novels by Phillip Roth, who makes the case that Israel is the perfect place to be a Jew because with everyone Jewish, your Jewishness is no longer so Jewishy. Or something like that.
3. Kibutzers sounds like "kibbitzers" (which means "jokers" in Yiddish). I believe the word is Kibbutzim.
4. No one that I know, including Bebe, justifies Israeli violence against Palestinians by saying, "Because of the Holocaust! So there!" Or anything like that. Various diasporas over the course of centuries brought Jews to Israel, and one of those diasporas took place after WWII. Jews may be in Israel because of the Holocaust, but Jewish defense of the zionist state is not motivated by revenge.
Posted at 8:44 PM
Here's a hypothetical.
Let's say you're not crazy about your best friend's boyfriend. He has done some things of which you don't approve. And let's say that your friend breaks up with her boyfriend, and proceeds to complain about him to you. You might be tempted to open the floodgates and tell her what an asshole you have always thought he was. After all, she started it. And if she started it, then it must be okay.
Trouble with that is that the next thing you know, she's back together with him, and now you've been heard talking trash about your friend's boyfriend.
Maybe it's your fault for seeing a crevice and turning it into a cravasse. Or maybe, just maybe, your friend shouldn't have opened the door in the first place.
I should have thought about that before talking trash about my own "boyfriend". Well not exactly talking trash. But raising questions. Questions that can be seen as an invitation to open those floodgates.
So, chalk it up to a learning experience. Now I know why Jews are not "allowed" to question Israel's actions with respect to the ongoing dispute with those who would lay claim to the land which was theirs from the beginning of recorded time, without incurring the wrath of fellow Jews. Now I know why the support of Israel must be an all or nothing proposition. Now I know why the rabbi at my temple is so widely criticized for encouraging debate on the topic of Israel's use of violence to defend their turf.
There simply is no room for a Jew to open up that debate. The market is cornered by those who would put words in our mouths about blah blah blah the Holocaust, as if any Jew ever offered the Holocaust as a reason for any military action by Israel, as if Israel were motivated by nothing more than vengeance against an absent third party.
We never said that. And really, it just obscures the real issues.
Give an inch, some will take a yard. Leave the door open a crack, let the looters pillage. It's sad really. I will stick to yoga and housewife talk from now on, lest I see anymore ugliness for which I am ill prepared.
Happy New Year!
Posted at 10:07 PM
I don't think you love me
Confusion settling in
I don't think I'll be staying
Around here, anymore
There's no question that I love you
But I'm living in my own time
And here I am debating
Whether I'm wrong, or right
Who am I
To make a judgement of
All the promises I gave you
Helped me to survive
And all the times I wished you'd save me
You were the love of my life
Who am I
To make a judgement of
Who am I
To make a judgement of
Who am I
To make a judgement of
I'm only passing by ...
Posted at 2:18 PM
At least for me, the "holy grail" with regard to an asana is doing it right proper in a led class. And today, it happened. As per usual, it was led primary on friday, which is something - need to get used to, but something that is great for my internal discipline, as in, not spending too much time perfecting poses at the expense of the vinyasas. And today, I did each pose, including supta kurmasana, without assistance, binding them all. I even managed to keep my hands glued to the floor in every vinyasa. It was a gold star day for me, for my discipline, for my practice in general.
Yesterday, I went to Sir's new class at the Atmananda place. It was quiet, but not empty. Some new faces. I got assists up to Supta K, and then Sir sets his limits: he eaves the room promptly at 10:30 am. I find that a bit upsetting, especially when he's lounging out in the lobby, chatting. What would be the big deal about a few dropbacks for someone who drove over an hour and paid over twenty bucks to park, just to practice with him? I understand the need to set limits, but this time it felt a bit arbitrary and capricious. It made me feel rebellious too - so after karna pidasana, I wrapped my ankles around my neck and took yoga nidrasana. Na na nana na.
It felt good too.
I like practicing with Sir, but it is going to be pretty unmotivating if a bit of traffic on the FDR drive is the sole difference between assisted dropbacks and me floundering around doing monkey-standups. And no, i cankt leave earlier enough to ensure my timely arrival. I have kids i have to see onto the schoolbus.
Well, we shall see how this all turns out. Meanwhile, i can never forget what an embarassment of riches i have when it comes to places to practice and teachers with whom to practice.
Yom Kippur is tonight. I anxiously await my rabbi's speech because last week he tweaked my brain in a way that it has never been tweaked before. Apart from the summer of love stuff, which was like blah blah blah to me.
Background: i have never been interested in politics. I am not particularly interested in hearing about wars, current or past. Caveat: I do not consider the Holocaust to be within that category. What happened to the Jews back then was a barbaric, almost medieval purge. I do think that any part of wwii that was fought in the name of protecting the world from such horrendous, vicious, senseless hatred and violence was fully justified. More justified than stopping similar holocausts in third world countries? Nnnno, i say haltingly, not fully understanding the implications of what i am saying....the question ultimately being "where do you draw the line with getting involved in the business of other countries?"
Now, the rabbi spoke of our culture's obsession with violence. And i agree with the notion that violence is far too pervasive, as entertainment, particularly. Then the rabbi spoke of war and violence, and what he said was that the vietnam war was violence without justification, but the ongoing violence commited by israeli's for the purpose of defending israel as their homeland IS justified.
My brain just went wild with that. First of all, my impulse was to vehemently disagree with him because i feel that all violence is unjustified. Then i remembered the Holocaust and modified my thinking. Then i thought about the notion that as a Jew, i am virtually NOT ALLOWED to take a view that is not "do whatever it takes to defend israel". But in truth, i ask myself - is it all worth it? Is it all justified? Is all violence used by israel in defending their hold on their land justified? Or is some more justifiable than others? When does a justifiable defense become a less justifiable act of aggression?
Israel was given to the jews by britain after wwii. But it's not like jews weren't there before that. The land is where our entire history took place. And jews were always drawn back. My own grandfather went to live there as a child for a time before it was "israel". The palestinians were always there too. But my understanding is that they made no fuss about their claim to their holy land until britain, with its big powerful military and well-organized presence, left the land to the jews. Then hell broke loose. It strikes me as the class bully waiting until the teacher leaves the room before smacking on the seemingly defenseless smart kid. Of course, the bully doesn't realice that the smart kid is trained in the art of self defense, is shrewdly intelligent and also has very strong friends who are willing to go to the mat for him.
So, yada yada, israel was under attack and remains so to this day. I am hardly sympathetic to suggestions that israel should capitulate because of the above history, primarily, and because also, i believe that the inch and the yard rule has proven to be the actual rule in this case. But mainly, again, i just don't buy the whole "it was mine first" claim against israel. My understanding, as written above, is that it was NOT.
But i digress. The topic is violence by israel, justified or not, discuss. I am at a loss here because i simply do not believe that one can make such a broad statement and expect it to be right all down the line. Sometimes a use of force is necessary. But sometimes it is not. Sometimes, a third party friend has to step in to help defend the small kid. Sometimes, they need to not. Call me a bad jew if you will, but the notion that all violence by israel is justified in the name of defending zion is just not any kool aid that i plan to be drinking any time soon.
Let the slings and arrows fly.
Posted at 1:04 PM
Looks like I caught that wave, you know, that wave of happiness with the yoga practice that sometimes rushes up and catches you, taking you with it, and there you are, astride your board, your feet firmly planted, your knees bent just so, your balance and your gaze locked and steady, and you don't bother to wish that it could always be like this because you already know that if it were, you wouldn't be able to appreciate the magic. So instead, you ride it, enjoy every second and feel a tinge of longing as you pack up and head into the rest of your day, knowing that you can't capture what you've just felt or make it happen tomorrow, although maybe it will.
Okay, so, enough with the metaphor. I had a wonderful practice today, despite sleeping poorly last night. It was sooooo cold in my house. It's only September. But I think Northern Westchester must be a completely different weather zone from NYC. It is COLD here. And the leaves are already starting to turn. And the plant nurseries are all about the mums. And my white hydrangeas are starting to turn kind of orangey. The good news is that the new grass we planted is starting to grow.
Okay, back to practice. So, what I've noticed is that I am one of the ONLY students practicing full Primary, nothing more nothing less. Maybe I AM the only one. I'm not sure. But I am also one of the only ones who does the full version of every Primary asana. Some students can backbend all the way into Kapotasana, but can't bind in Mari D, even with help. Some students can bind at the wrist in Marichyasana A and C, but can't do any pose involving a half lotus. Some students can bind all of the Marichyasanas and float gorgeously through their vinyasas, but can't reach their hands together in Supta Kurmasana. Nevertheless, all of them do at least some of Second Series. And most who go past Supta Vajrasana are not even able to bind in Baddha Padamasana.
Um...but I do. And I can... And all of this is TOTALLY FINE.
The AYS Kool-Aid is still having its effect, and I don't WANNA add anything new while I am learning to backbend.
And frankly, I am going to bet that Val doesn't teach me any new poses until I can stand up properly from a backbend. Her website professes a traditional approach. I think that the students who are exploring Second Series are doing so because it makes them feel good, and if they feel good, they want to keep practicing. There is something to be said for that too. Not everyone WANTS to take the ego-busting-patience-is-a-virtue approach. For me, with my obsessive mind and my intense desire to learn everything I can about whatever it is I am learning, the latter approach keeps my head from exploding into a million tiny little pieces. If I had to learn backbends while exploring getting my heels down in Pasasana, well, then I would have TWO obsessions to feed, or three, if you count Supta Kurmasana, which remains an obsession to this day. A little deeper, I think, a little more indepenently, I ruminate, a little leg behind the head in the bathtub, how about, or perhaps a yoga nidrasana thrown in for good measure. Yeah, I can't afford another obsession.
I don't now how Third Series I Want More does it. I need to feel like I can do every pose with precision, which would be impossible, at least for me, if I were learning 10 or 20 poses in a several month period. I like to count out the vinyasas in my head in Sanskrit, which would be impossible, at least for me, if I had to learn 10 or 20 poses and their related vinyasas in such a short timespan. Plus, my brain wouldn't be able to focus on that sort of precision if my body was being challenged to the point of trembling, as TSIWM says hers is.
I wonder what that is like, to work to the point of trembling. I don't believe I have ever put myself through that. Not that there is anything wrong with it. I just have no desire. It's enough that my clothing is soaked through to the point where I can wring it out. What more is there I could possibly give?
Who would have ever thunk that I would ever espouse moderation? I don't even think that my approach IS about moderation. That's what's even funnier to me. I am obsessive about my poses, to the point where I will do Mari D twice if I can't put my non-binding hand on my calf while my wrist is caught with my binding hand. On the other hand, perhaps I simply wouldn't CARE about all that if I were busy working on getting into Astavakrasana from headstand (isn't it handstand though? and if it is handstand, then I definitely wouldn't be satisfied with doing it from headstand, which seems much easier and almost doable). Tangent: ah, I remember the days when I used to dread when Andrew P (TSIWM's exboyfriend, also known as "the GxBF") would make us do Astavakrasana in his Jivamukti class, and that was from a seated position, after practicing Sundial pose (the fakey version of Eka Pada Sirasana, where you get your leg behind your shoulder and hold the up foot with the opposite hand...it is way easier than EPS because you don't have to catch your ankle behind your neck and keep it there, but rather, the foot sticks straight up). I am proud of how much more I can do now, because, well, I practiced, practiced, practiced.
But the double edged sword: there is always more, more is never enough, and it never ever ever ends. At least not for folks like myself, for whom Third Series is the perfection and practice of about a hundred poses that come first.
This is not a dis. It just is me savoring the AYS Kool-Aid.
Posted at 12:49 PM
It's good to know that Jessica Biel perfoms her monthly breast self exams.
Thanks Jessica, for getting the awareness out there!
Posted at 8:41 PM
But it's my nod to those who would embed videos thereof:
This chick can move!
Posted at 8:25 PM
So spoketh Yoga Chickie.
And so it was done.
Five years ago tomorrow, I was wheeled into surgery with all of my parts intact and then wheeled out of surgery some six hours later with little bags of salt water where my boobies used to be.
Don't feel all bad about it. Don't feel sorry for me. Don't excuse my sometimes bad behavior because of it, not that you do. It just is something I had to do, something I always knew I would be willing to do if the circumstances arose that gave rise to the choice.
Such circumstances arose on August 3, 2002, when la dee da, I was showering in the luxurious master bathroom of the charming Victorian house not far from the beach in Westport, which the husband and I had rented for the second half of that summer, and my soapy left hand stopped cold on a thickened area deep under the skin of my right breast. At that moment, it was as if a door in my mind had opened, and I was peering in at a dream I had had the night before, a dream which I had completely forgotten until that very moment. In the dream, I found a lump in my breast. And then another. And then another. That day in the shower, I found only the one lump. But every doctor whom I met with after that felt the second one. The third lump was detected only upon a full dissection of the breast by a pathologist in a cold, brightly lit lab. It was two and a half centimeters. And yet it somehow managed to hide from view and from palpability. They called it "occult".
I have never been one to wait on any health worry. Found a freckle I had never seen befoe? Call the dermatologist and get seen that day. A little breakthrough bleeding? Go to the gyno and get a pap. But this time was different. I knew. I just knew. I knew that a trip to the doctor would not alleviate my worries. This time, I knew that a visit to the doctor would be the beginning of a long and terrible journey, one with which I just could not get myself on board just yet. I still had a couple of weeks left of my wonderful summer. I had friends to entertain. I had towns along the shoreline to explore on my bike. For the first time in my adult life, I decided to put the health worry on the back burner, if just for a couple of weeks.
The day I got back to the city, I was on my doctor's doorstep. She laughed at me. I wasn't sure why then, but now I think it is because she knew too. And it upset her. And so she laughed. I don't forgive her for it. But I understand it. I took her referall to a radiologist, and then I never saw her again. The first radiologist I met with was stern. She found two lumps and had no comment to make as to what they looked like to her. Looking back, and knowing what I know about the way cancer appears on scans, versus the way benign masses look, I guess this meant that she knew that they looked bad and she did not have the people skills to talk candidly with me. Instead, she called me in to meet with a different radiologist a day or two later for another ultrasound and a fine needle aspiration.
The second radiologist was kind. He knew what he was dealing with, but he hoped it would turn out otherwise. When he came in with the results of the FNA (the results are almost instantaneous - a smear of tissue on a piece of glass, a quick look at it under the microscope, done), he looked stricken. The word he used was "suspicious".
"Does that mean it's cancer?" I asked, not knowing where the words were coming from.
"Yes," he answered.
I cried. My mother was with me, and she cried. We were told that a lot more tests had to be run on my tissue before we would know how to proceed, but in the meantime, here was a list of breast surgeons that they recommended. Mom and I went to a nearby diner on the Upper West Side, ate pancakes that tasted like sawdust and went down the list of surgeons.
The fact that all of their offices treated me like a celebrity in front of a velvet rope did nothing to ease my anxiety. I would rather have been given the cold shoulder. Instead, I was told that special spots were reserved on the schedule for patients like me, and when did I think I could get the biopsy results to their office?
I saw a breast surgeon that very afternoon, but only because my sister had a connection. He was her colleague (she is a hospital administrator), and he did not want to believe that I had cancer. He insisted on having his favorite pathologist read the results of my biopsy, and until then, he instructed me not to assume the worst.
Nevertheless, when he called me a day later, catching me in the croissant shop around the corner from my apartment, his first words after, "Lauren, are you somewhere where we can talk?" were, "Well, it's what I was afraid of." None of it is the kind of stuff you want to hear from any doctor calling you from Fire Island on the Friday before Labor Day. This doctor had compassion and a wonderful reputation, but for my surgery, I chose a doctor at a hospital with which I was most comfortable: Columbia Presbyterian.
All of the cancers in my family have been decimated at good ole Columbia. Of course, at the time, there was only my dad's first cancer (prostate) and now, mine. The husband's testicular cancer and my dad's second cancer (non-smoker's lung cancer) came later. I have the rather dubious distinction of being the first member of my family to have chemo. But I was the second to have radiation. The husband beat me to that punch by a few months.
So, where was I?
Oh yeah. So, yada yada yada, I had a double mastectomy five years ago tomorrow. Compared to the chemo, the chemo-induced and surgery-enhanced menopause, the Herceptin (life saving drug, but man, those side effects really suck), the surgery was a walk in the park, or more aptly, a stay at a spa. I had a room for a week in the VIP wing of Columbia, down the hall from Sunny von Bulow, or where she used to be. There was afternoon tea each day, and carpeted walkways on which to stroll for exercise and to see the panoramic views of the Hudson River. Yeah, it cost a pretty penny. But for all we knew, well, let's not go there, alright? I was lucky to be able to afford to heal in style; let's just leave it at that.
I was visited by friends, given candy and trophies (for bravery, of course!) and books and Diet Peach Snapple. I was visited by Rabbi Lincoln from Park Avenue Synagogue, a high honor, that. I played on my computer, and I stretched my arms, which I had been doing since I woke up from the anesthesia, much to the chagrin on my plastic surgeon. He wanted me to have range of motion, but he didn't mean for me to get it back that day.
Anyway, I don't think I ever allowed myself to think about what might happen if the surgery was not a success. I just kept on. As I slogged through the months of chemo, I don't think I ever allowed myself to think about all of the awful possibilities, such as the disease reappearing DURING chemo, or right after chemo, or a year after chemo, and so on, until one year turned into two, which turned into three, etc. There were moments, when I heard something terrible about someone else, a woman whose surgery was never really successful because the cancer was too close to her chest wall, and the surgeon could never get adequate margins (she passed away within a year of diagnosis), or a woman whose cancer spread to her lung and bones while she was still on chemo (she also passed away within a year of diagnosis). These stories took my beath away. I felt the fear course through my body until it felt as if my teeth were trembling. But I tended to push the thoughts away as soon as the initial shock wore off. And so time went on, and that's how I got here, to this day, without ever really internalizing that I might not have made it to here, to this day, and likewise, without ever really internalizing that there was no other option EXCEPT to make it to here, to this day.
And so it is that I am here and full of gratitude and awe because the truth is, I don't know why it is. I am just really really happy that it is as it is.
Posted at 10:16 PM
After Led Primary today, Valerie led us in some pranayama. First, Nadi Shodanam (alternate nostril breathing), then she added Kumbakha on the exhale, then she changed that to Kumbakha on the inhale. Finally, we did a seated Uddiyana Bandha kriya (exhaling all the air out and then pulling the abdominal muscles in to hug the spine) followed by Sitali (a cooling breath acheived by inhaling over the tongue). I enjoyed it. I especially enjoyed the extended seated practice. But I did not "feel" it. I felt nothing intense, and from what I have read, these are INTENSE forms of pranayama, not for the uninitiated.
I guess this is yet another sign that I am not enlightened.
Posted at 9:22 PM
Biking is without a doubt the BEST way to get to know a geographica area. Walking is nice, but it takes too long. Running is too much effort, and likewise, takes too long to cover much ground. But on a bike, at a leisurely-looking-at-the-real-estate clip, you can cover 12 miles in an hour, without breaking much of a sweat. And if you want to break a sweat, then simply go faster.
On my bike today, I covered the dastardly hill just outside my front gate, the one that is 2 miles of uphill, the one that I bailed out on the first time I tried it. Then I rode the rolling hills beside the Mianus River into the Greenwich Back Country, past horse farms called "Lionshare" and "White Birch", past estates with names like "Windy Hill" and "Spruce Ridge", where you might think that the small house near the road is the house itself until little details like an open upstairs window with a sheet tacked up as a shade inform you that this is merely where the caretaker sleeps.
To see a New England stone fence in the midst of being built, to catch a not-entirely-unpleasant whiff of manure as you ride past a horse clomping around in a meadow, to see houses so old that their windows bear shutters that actually open and close to let in (or keep out) light and air...well, it is transporting. The mind has nowhere to go. Try as I might to think about things I have to do, to think about yoga even. My mind can't or won't engage at all. That's yoga. Without the bending.
What else is yoga if not that?
Posted at 8:53 PM
From the AYS website:
Starting September 17th, Guy's 8:45 am Mysore class will move to:
Centerpoint Studios, 324 Lafayette
(7th Floor) at Houston St.
In addition to the 8:45 class, there will now be a new 9:30 am class at this location. Practice finishes at 11 am.
A new 10:30 am class taught by Lori and Tanja will start at our existing East Village location (8th Street and Avenue B). These classes will run Monday - Friday
Christina will teach an 8:45 am Mysore class on Sunday, but these will not start until Sept 30.
Until then, there will be open practice on Sundays at 8:45 am.
Evening Mysore classes will remain the same
Posted at 11:47 AM
What I wouldn't have given to have a led Primary Series class to go to regularly back before all of Primary was part of my everyday practice! Well, now it's part of the weekly curriculum at the CT Shala. Every Friday morning at the blessed hour of 9:10 a.m. Today was my first time. It began with a few minutes of talk, mainly about Ganesha. Then we chanted, "Gung ganapatayai namo namaha." It made me antsy to get to the physical practice, which is kind of good. It puts an end to the desire to proscratinate. When we finally stood up and recited the Invocation (which we do in unison, rather than call and response), I was filled with anticipation and excitement. Like, when this is over, I get to bend! Yay!
It was fun, and FAST. But surprisingly easy. I'm not counting how sucky my vinyasas are now that I am no longer allowing myself to move my hands once I put them down in Dwe, let alone peel the heels of my hands off my mat. Ha. Those days are OVAH. Watching Oni out of the corner of my eye...wow. If this is how she learned to do what she does, and we're talking floating on air, or rather on bandhas, then I'll have what she's having.
Val has a soothing voice but a very clear presence. Except for the occasional peak at Oni, and maybe one glance at Sharon, my mat-door neighbor today, who seems to be pretty much at the same place in her practice as me, except that she's regressed to it, rather than progressed to it, due to an ACL injury that has nothing to do with yoga at all, I don't remember noticing anything going on around me. It was just me, my breath, my sweat and the sound of Val's voice. There were some really good cues going on, particularly with respect to bandhas and driste.
I have never been a full believer in teacher monogamy. I've dabbled in it. But right now, I am loving the fact that I learn certain things from Val and will continue to learn certain things from Guy. For one thing, there is NO ONE on this EARTH who can adjust me in Supta K like Guy. Maybe I'm exaggerating, but I've tried many teachers, what with all the traveling teachers who've made their way through Shala X and my sporadic visits to Yoga Sutra, and no one, but no one can make me feel like a perfectly tied up little person package the way Guy can. On the other hand, I have never had backbending assists like those that Valerie gives. She really seems to "get it". She says it's because she's not a natural backbender. I can understand that logic. I have always felt that the best assists I give are on the poses that I had to work extra hard to learn.
Now that every updog is a chest-puffing extravaganza, by the time I get to UD, I am pretty much ready without any fanfare. What also helps is not doing excessive leg-behind head stuff on my off hours. I think that the month of practicing alone here really did a number on my backbendability. Some days I would go from Prasarita Pado D to Tittibasana C (fingers touching) and then follow Supta K with Yoga Nidrasana and then another Supta K. Sometimes a few more times, seeing how much deeper I could bind each time. Of course, backbending became increasingly painful and difficult as the month went on. As did walking upright. It appeared that I was devolving from a woman who walked erect to a woman who could cross her feet behind her head but at the expense of dragging her knuckles across the floor as she walked.
Well, shala discipline is back on the agenda, and it's good for my not being mistaken for a neanderthal.
Not sure where to practice Sunday. I don't relish the idea of led primary on Sunday, as it is in CT. On the other hand, I don't relish the idea of driving to NYC and back to Westchester only to drive back towards the city later on for some social plans. Of course, there is Greenwich, with Stan, but that will involve being awake before six a.m. On a Sunday! I've done it before. But it is a herculean effort.
I do know how I will be fitting Guy into my schedule again though...which is a big relief. I really miss the shala and Guy, despite how much I am enjoying the CT shala and Val. Anyway, they really ARE starting up a late practice in a centralized location in the village, right near the 6 line. I have one day a week when I do all of my NYC errands - doctors appointments, see the shrink, pick up coconuts (kidding on that one...I can get them ANYWHERE in Westchester, more easily than in NYC!), stuff like that. That's the day I will be going to Shala AnneX. For some reason, I don't feel like saying what day that is. Because the husband has been putting the fear of God in me that if I'm not careful, I'm going to end up getting stalked by a psycho. I keep telling him that all the psychos are on that OTHER blog.
There's no psychos here, right?
Coming soon: photos of Tashlich at Wampus Pond, where a group of Jews from my new synagogue gathered to throw bread crumbs into the water, representing their past sins. It was a beautiful ceremony in a beautiful locale. Much more beautiful than the East River, which is where my NYC synagogue held Tashlich. I LOVE my new temple, by the way. They are really into connecting with the earth, getting involved in organic co-ops, watching the trees and flowers grow (because no one does this anymore, he says), maybe raising some chickens, which if you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I've been itching to do, myself. I talked to the Rabbi about it, and I might get involved with this. He's very cool. A refugee from THE SUMMER OF LOVE, which I put in all caps because he mentioned it in his sermon about 85 times.
Yep, I'm back to boring again.
Posted at 10:08 PM
Or, a beautiful year! Which is to say, happy new year to all the Jews out there in blogville!
It's 5768, I believe, correct me if I am wrong, and to honor such an auspicious number, I am initiating some new traditions 'round here. First, we will no longer have chicken, but Rock Cornish Game Hens. Second, I will only be buying three of them, since I no longer partake. Third, no more groty bread stuffing. Instead, wild rice, cranberry and pecan stuffing. Takes the pain out of not having anything to eat besides green beans. For dessert, instead of honey cake or teiglach, we are having Dunkin Munchkins.
Traditions are nice. But they don't always work, particularly where the tradition involves heavy slabs of meat and where some of those who partake are fledgling vegetarians.
Tomorrow is my personal moon day, which is why I practiced on Tuesday. Backbending is getting less painful, but my practice takes FOREVER due to the extra time I am spending rooting the tops of my feet to the ground and opening my chest from the top own in Updog. I feel as if now my updog is moving through my body from feet to waist and then from chin to waist and meeting in the middle. It's an interesting approach, suggested to me by Valerie.
Today, before I left, I asked Oni, Val's assistant, how in God's name she can float the way she does (from Trini to Chatwari, she presses her hands down, bends her knees and up her feet float...and stay there until she sees fit to float them back.) We all three of us had a little chat about floating, and Val humbly offered that she cannot consistently float, but that Oni can. I was shocked because I have heard that Val can float like she's rigged with hydraulics. It's nice when you talk to people who are so incredibly advanced in their practice that they don't even consider it advanced, that they don't even see it in that light, and/or that they intentionally play it down. It's rare. It's not for everyone. But it sure is nice.
Anyways...now, in addition to focusing my practice on backbending, I am now going to be focusing my practice on the connection between the hands and the floor throughout each vinyasa. No lifting. No sliding. Put them down, and don't pick them up til the vinyasa's done.
Posted at 5:53 PM
Apparently this is so. Because whatever I have, Ashtanga Voices don't want it!
Today, I received an email from their fearless leader notifying me that they have "postponed" their acceptance of me as a co-blogger based on the concern "a few" of their participants (what, are there like 5 participants altogether?) had about, well, me posting on their blog. The fear is that if my posts could be construed in even a sliver of negative light, then it would stir up unwanted controversy. Well, hell, you know differing opinions will tend to do that. And if having a differing opinion from someone who disses my teacher without permitting a counterpoint view is wrong, then you know I have no plans to be right.
I expected nothing different when I sent my inquiry to the leader of Asana-obsessed Voices dot blogspot dot com.
My motivation? I thought it would be nice to say something positive about Guy and Lori and Ashtanga Yoga Shala, without saying anything negative about any other teachers. In other words, I hoped to offer to balance the views already presented on there.
Now, no cries of free speech please. A private forum, such as theirs is, is fully entitled to present only that point of view to which they themselves subscribe, which is to say that they are fully entitled to censor. And they did.
Course I knew they would.
And that's okay by me. I feel better having asked.
Look, if you want the news that spins toward the left, don't watch the Fox News Network. If you want a balanced view of Guy Donahaye's teaching, don't read that other blog. Or make sure you read this one too. Or read Elise's blog. She's in Mysore now, but is a longtime student of Guy.
Posted at 4:27 PM
I can't seem to stir things up anymore.
It's not that no one reads this drivel; my stats are still quite impressive for a personal yoga blog (not as impressive as "Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magic, Yoga" or whatever it's called, but WAY more impressive than, say, a certain
schoolmarm's blog). It's more that no matter what I say, no one seems to want to call me out on it anymore. Either that, or everyone just rolls their eyes and says to themselves, "Yeah, well, that's just YC."
Or, possibly, the worst case scenario: I've simply lost my edge. I mean, I've thought about ways to piss ya'all off in order to inspire some debate, even some flame-throwing. I even requested the right to post on that bastion of dizzying asana obsession and Hildebrandt/Tebb worship - the Ashtanga Voices blog, to which I shall not provide a link, because I have still not received my posting privileges and am not holding my breath either. I figured that even if I wrote nicely balanced, fairly unbiased entries, I would by my very presence there, incite debate, or at least witty repartee, since I am not quaffing from the same Kool Aid as the other bloggers over there. Let's just leave it at that.
See? There, I did it again. I could have written something really really incisive just now, and instead, I chose to cloak my feelings in ambiguous terms that won't be likely to set off any alarm bells amongst those who don't already know what I am talking about.
Has the country life really turned me into a butter knife? Or perhaps finishing Primary has truly enlightened me, like I always knew it would? Or perhaps it's because I'm not yet practicing Second Series, so I haven't acquired that hypo-manic quality that sometimes seems to accompany those first brushes with XTreme Backbending?
Speaking of which, Valerie, came up to me today sometime in the middle of my practice and told me that every Updog is another opporunity to backbend. And that she's not a natural backbender...either. Either. Is it that obvious? I kind of sort of hate the fact that I am so obviously backbending challenged. On the other hand, I more than kind of sort of LOVE the fact that I have something really really ridiculously challenging to work on now. After Supta Kurmasana, I didn't know what would occupy me anymore. For whatever reason, I didn't really think of Urdhva Danurasana, Full Wheel, as an asana at all. I have always thought of it more as some stupid filler task that I have to phone in between my last pose and the finishing sequence.
Sometime over the weekend it dawned on me that UD is actually a pose that I have to master in order to get the next one. And that even if I can perform a reasonable facsimile of dropping back and even standing up from dropping back, I still can't really backbend properly. It still hurts. It's still something to dread. It's still awkward and quite unpredictable. And so I finally succumbed to the notion that I need to learn how to backbend, finally. That now it is time. And the beautiful thing is: I get to do it between six and nine times every day, not just once a day, like when I was learning Mari C, Mari D or Supta K.
Maybe some of this acceptance comes from the fact that Valerie's shala is so steaming hot that by the time I get to the end of Primary, I'm so drenched that I can't bear to think about lengthening my practice, or worse, having someone come near enough to me to help me not fall over in Pasasana. I just want to get down to business - do my backbends and finishing poses and change into something dry. I'm not complaining. It is what it is, and besides, it's a welcome respite from the (by comparison) non-sweaty home practices.
Since every teacher seems to have their own version of dropbacks, I thought I would put a note here in about the way Valerie has me do them. It's three on my own, and then she sometimes comes over and helps me in the third, pulling my shoulderblades into the proper angle, encouraging my thighs to rotate inward. Then she drops me back with my hands up, rather than with my hands in prayer under my chin, to encourage the chest opening, three times quickly. Next is three half-backs, followed by a full-back to the head, although I think she re-thought having me do that half-back, full-back part since I almost brought both of us down the first (and now last) time we did it. Sobering experience, that. Another reminder of how badly my backbends need some rehab .
"They tried to make me go to rehab, I said no, no, no...." - famous last words from Amy Winehouse.
Yep, still lobotomized. Sorry ya'all.
Oh, wait...I have something! Those British people who killed their adorable (what child is not adorable though?) four-year old daugher, Madeleine, stashed the body and then disposed of it some three weeks later, leaving the blood in a rental car? Totally guilty.
Posted at 9:07 PM
I did a lot of bike riding today. Throughout the month of September, Westchester County closes the scenic Bronx River Drive from White Plains through Scarsdale, Hartsdale and Tuckahoe, for four hours of bike riding. It's totally family-friendly, with very few "serious" bikers spoiling the fun for people with young kids who have no gears and no sense of personal space. My kids were itching to go today, so that meant no yoga practice this morning. I had a really really looooong practice at home yesterday (swapped Saturday practice for Friday rest), with some really well-placed R&D (basically, I did all of my off-series poses before practicing and then whipped out a really clean Primary Series), even standing up three times from a backbend (still like a monkey though...), so I was really happy to rest this morning.
Well, not rest, exactly. I did bike ride with the kids. Then we went to the Reptile Expo. What a bunch of scary-looking creatures. And you should have seen the reptiles! Badum-bum bum.
Came home, oiled my gears and decided to test my mettle on one of the biggest hills I've seen in this here neighborhood, one which I am embarassed (but fully willing) to admit, I was unable to tackle on my bike a mere two months ago. But I should add the caveat that on that particular day, I was quite ill-prepared. My bike had just come out of storage and needed a little TLC. My tires were a bit flat. I was stressed from the move. And halfway up, as much as I hated to do it, I had to hop off of my bike that day and push it up the hill lest I roll all the way back down the hill, backwards. I should add, it's LONG hill we're talking about here. The street is about two miles long and completely uphill (unless, of course, you're going the other way, in which case it is completely downhill).
Today, I am happy to report, I had no problem. It was challenging, but totally doable. In my excitement, I decided to continue riding. My plan was to head into the Greenwich back country and take in the horsey sights. But somehow, I made a wrong turn and ended up back in New York. And I didn't have the motivation to head back up the hills (did I mention it is VERY hilly here?). And so I just let the roads take me home.
The good news is, this left time for practice! Yay. No seriously, yay. It was a GREAT practice. One of those unexpected pleasures. As I did yesterday, I did my prep poses first, which makes sense, since they ARE prep poses. And it helps immensely. Yeah, yeah, I know, the Ashtanga system is designed so that you don't need to stretch first. You just need your Sun Salutations, and maybe the standing poses, right? But I'm old. And I'm on medication that makes my joints ache. And whatever. The thing is, I LIKE to do the bound version of Ardha Matsyandrasana, and I like to practice my Gomukhasana arms. And a nice bound Parsvakonsana never hurts either. Nor does a little leg behind the head action. And when I lie with a block under my thoracic spine for a while, my updogs are way way better. So, call 911.
Tomorrow, I'm Georgetown bound. And here's the coolest thing: Valerie keeps the shala open on moondays because, as she put it, some of her students need the extra practice day because they can't get to the shala every day of the week. Um, that would be...ME! Yay for Valerie! I will definitely be moondaying it this new moon week because later in the week, we Jews have other plans that do not include chanting in Sanskrit or bending like a 17-year old.
Posted at 10:49 PM
I felt inspired by Laksmi and decided to write about fleas today. Except my dog doesn't have any, thank you God, kinehura, puh puh puh, touch wood, etc. So, please read Laksmi's blog on fleas. Oh, and for the original, very first ever, Yoga Journal/Cyndi Lee/Rodney Yee bashing, also check out the Laksblog. My reality-tv version of my own experiences at Om are merely derivative.
Mwwwwwah! (that's a kiss for Laksmi)
Posted at 7:04 AM
Cyndi Lee, in cooperation with Donald Trump, are excited to announce the premier of television's newest and BY FAR THE VERY BEST AND AWESOMEST reality show: SO YOU THINK YOU CAN TEACH YOGA?
Watch as 10 women, ranging in age from 21 to 45, all of them fit and attractive, are pitted against each other in the race to become Om Yoga Studio's newest monthly class-card holder and occasional substitute teacher! The contestants spend an entire month together with two Om yoga teachers (neither of which is Cyndi Lee, who is off traveling that month), learning how to teach Om's style of Iyengar-aligned vinyasa yoga.
The show will feature exciting "Challenges" in which each contestant will be required to participate. The Challenges will include the following:
The competition promises to be EXTREMELY competitive, with contestants being encouraged to speak up loudly about the flaws and faults of their fellow contestants, particularly wth as many people present a possible. Secret communications between individual contestants and the producers will take place regularly.
At the close of the competition, the winning contestants will be invited to purchase a series of one-month class cards that will permit them the honor of continuing to take classes at Om, which will be their gateway to the possibility of the potential for the future negotiations regarding the probability of an inquiry for the potentiality of being paid to substitute for a teacher who puts the contestant on their emailing list of possibile potential substitute teachers.
All contestants, including the winners and the losers, will be treated to the stinging and self-esteem damaging criticism of their physical appearance, voice and yoga practice at the close of the final episode.
Please note: Cyndi Lee is a VERY FUNNY LADY. And she choreographed Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!! Because she is so creative and fun!
So, you think YOU can teach yoga???!!!!
Posted at 12:44 PM
I am not very pleased with the gifts they have bestowed upon me. That's all I'm sayin'.
Pasasana looks fun. And that's all I'm sayin' about that because that's the extent of my interest in ever being "given" it. It just looks like fun. And I like to do fun things sometimes.
Course, what's the sense in running hard into the wall that is Kapotasana? I'm not a big believer in the notion that Primary Series has a lifetime of lessons for the practitioner, as astute and experienced as those espousing that notion to me are (hi, Julie and Vanessa!). On the other hand, I do not disbelieve it! It's just that Pasasana, no, make that all of Second Series, other than what appears to be the hell of Kapotasana, looks like fun. And like I said, I like to have fun.
Is that so wrong?
When I was training for the marathon, nobody told me I couldn't run it just because I hadn't been a long-distance runner for long enough, or because I ought to enjoy the lifetime of lessons contained in 10K races. I just decided to take it on, and I did what it took, and I did it pretty well (finished in under four hours the second time I did it, which put me well ahead of the pack and in something like the top 15 percent of all women running it). And I had fun doing it.
THAT said, I was at Val Schneiderman's The Yoga Shala in Georgetown Connecticut today, where practice begins at 8 and extends until 11 (another big yay for me while I wait for Shala X to extend its hours so that I can make it there after my kids get picked up by the school bus), and she had a great quote upon her white board by none other than Eddie Stern. I can't recall the exact wording, but the gist of it was something like this:
Practicing to exhaustion is counterproductive. It is better for the student to practice at no more than 75 or 80 percent of effort. To do otherwise will lead to burnout.
Posted at 5:17 PM
Sir and Lori are back from India, yay!
They are going to be offering late morning classes, yay!
I am less kvetchy now that I had the chance to practice at my home shala with my homies and with my own long-time teacher, yay!
Who knew that would make all the difference?
I think that the problem with extended periods of home practice is that I have a little known, and I believe, rare, disorder called Inverse Discipline Insane Overdoing Disorder, also known as "IDIOD", but pronounced like "idiot". See, the longer I practice alone and without the guidance of a teacher, the longer my practices become, due to the increasing injection of prep poses and embellishment poses as well as the repetition of poses that I like, sometimes to exhaustion (like weight lifting to exhaustion: I keep repeating the asana until I simply can't anymore). And I end up feeling overtrained and tired and grumpy and very negative about the practice of yoga.
As you could see (see, e.g., Saturday).
This, I suppose, is why the ashtanga system is designed the way it is. Of course, in the throes of IDIOD, one cannot see this.
There is no known cure for IDIOD. It will happen again, but it can be brought under control by getting one's ass back to one's shala.
Please help in the fight against IDIOD.
Posted at 2:44 PM
Well, like I said, it's been a looooooong week, and it is still going. Spent four hours in Mt Kisco today, the nearest town that can boast a Stapes, a Target and a Dunkin Donuts, trying out a martial arts dojo with Addy, sorting through school supplies, while the husband and Brian stayed home entertaining yet another horde of service providers, including the outgoing gardener who showed up today and started reseeding patches of my lawn and then, inexpocably, at least insofar as I am concerned, covering them up with thatch, a potential incoming gardener who specializes (as do all gardeners I am interviewing now) in organic and habitat-driven landscaping (meaning planting only what grows indigenously, only what the deer won't eat and only what is highly drought resistant), our floors guy (since we decided, suddenly, without advance planning, to re-redo our floors because they weren't shiny enough....
Blah blah blah.
And I wonder why I can't stand blogging anymore. I bore myself to tears. I know why I like that show Mad Men: I AM a 1950's housewife. I get excited by the discovery of distilled white vinegar as an all-purpose cleaner. I get agitated if my plans make it impossible for me to do my whites on Thursday, which is the day I designated for that.
But here is the dirty little secret that I can't even stand admitting to myself: I am finding yoga to be incredibly annoying.
Not the physical aspect of it. No. That part is fine, although a bit boring because there is literally nothing that challenges me in Primary Series anymore, yet my backbends are so sucky that even if I ever succeed in properly standing up from a backbend, it seems almost ridiculous to imagine ever getting past Kapotasana. Feet to hands! Hahaha! I just can't see it.
Pasasana is easy. Much easier than mari c was when I was learning it. That is not to say that I can do it myself without the help of a wall or a strap or another human, as it were. But I am just way more in the vicinity of it than I was when I was learning the Primary Series twists.
A little ennui aside, like I said, it is not the physical aspect of the yoga that is annoying me. Rather, I feel alienated from just about every other aspect. So many blogs have popped up on ashtangi.net, so many discussions of chakras and inner light and feeling overflowing love for strangers because we're all in search of the same thing, blah blah blah, no offense....seriously, no offense...it is just that I am not feeling it.
I have zero desire to squat over a hole in india and call it a toilet. Nor do I have any intention of taking a nice warm bucket shower. All for the privilege of practicing the exact same yoga that I practice here, where I can soak in my jacuzzi beforehand and pee in a toilet that features running water?
More blasphemy: When it comes to the First Family of Ashtanga, I can't say that I feel the love. It's not that I feel anything negative; rather, blasphemous yoga chickie that I am, I feel...nothing. Like the girl in A Chorus Line who couldn't "be an ice cream cone", I'm digging right down to the bottom of my soul and feeling, well, nothing.
Maybe this is just temporary. I hope so, because I don't want to feel nothing. I want to feel the love. I want to think of a backbend as a heart opener, and not just as gymnastics. I want to feel my blocked chakras, and not just my blocked nasal passages. As it is, I feel adrift, rootless. Maybe it's because I have no shala at the moment. Maybe I'm just tired. Maybe I need some new meds. Or some more plastic surgery. Kidding about that last one.
Maybe I just need a swift kick in the asana.
Posted at 9:25 PM