Sunday, March 30, 2008


Always Be Standing.

CH doesn't let me NOT stand up on my own. If I want to do assisted dropbacks, I have to stand up. This is an interesting counterpoint to Val's approach, which is not to have me stand up on my own but instead learn it with her assistance until one day I am doing it with no assistance. Each has its benefits, clearly. I am improving. Bit by bit. I wish I could post a graceful, beautiful stand up and drop back. But until I can, let this suffice. Some say that it is harder to stand up from a held backbend (rather than exhale-drop-inhale-stand). So, I appeal to your generous slack-giving.

Oh - and I got a comment today about where the head and neck and eyes should be in UD. Guess what? "LOOK AT THE FEET!" And also: "The efforts you are making to look up in Urdhva Dhanurasana are misplaced." Seriously. I think that was the line. I find this hilarious. And at the same time, it makes me, nay, DEMANDS, that I listen. It's the thing I need right about now.

I cannot believe how difficult doing Parsva D the RIGHT way is. I don't know if I ever ever ever will be able to press my entire foot together and not collapse on the floor in between sides. And I don't know if I will ever be able to collapse on the floor between sides without getting laughed at. I'm doing my best to keep the feet together at the CT Shala as well, and for my efforts on Thursday, I got a "very nice" from Teacher.

YS is quite a formidable place, I must say. There are quite a few - many really - students who are deep into Second Series (it is Sunday, so all students who practice beyond Second practice only UP to Second) and who have lovely lovely Kapotasanas. Yeah, my driste was for shit. It w today. It was a particularly cacaphonous morning in the room. More my issue than anyone else's. My bad.

I think I need to ask for help in Pasasana. I seem to be the only person rolling my mat, whereas EVERYONE rolls their mat at the CT Shala. I can do it flat-footed if I let the wall be my fall-back. But somehow that feels like cheating because it is so much easier to place my arms and hands in the right positions with the wall as my guide. On the other hand, I can't bear to balance on the balls of my feet without support. It seems like a situation that is ripe for serious facial injury. Too much investment there to take it lightly. (Yes, Retard, I have also had rhinoplasty, as I am sure you are aware). Maybe I should talk to CH about this.

LOVING the yoga lately.

I suppose it is clinging to hope the love lasts. But I do.


Dear Retard:

Someone out there contacted me through Elise's Mysore Musings blog to ask me, among other things, if I consider the work that is Ashtanga Yoga to include cosmetic surgery, like, for example, a tummy tuck, such as I had.

I responded in the curt tone that I deemed appropriate that yes, for me, getting past the effects of chemo and early menopause, in whatever way I can afford and can tolerate, is, indeed, part of my work, especially when it includes procedures like tummy tuck which could have been included in my original reconstructive surgery had I had enough tummy to create a breast out of it, which I did not, not that I need to explain myself, but I like to educate the ignorant;I consider it a worthy endeavor). Then, unsurprisingly, the troll proceeded to backtrack, as in "oh, why so defensive, I meant no attack, I too am thinking of enhancing my practice by having a tummy tuck and lipo."

As if.

This person is obviously a retard. I try not to use that word indiscriminately, but clearly, in this case it applies literally. Retard.

Only a retard would express open hostility anonymously on someone else's blog (neither mine nor the retard's) based on my personal post-cancer life-improving decisions. Everything I have done post cancer has been an attempt to bring me back to where I was before I was stricken with this vile, evil disease that in addition to killing thousands and thousands and thousands upon thousands of decent, wonderful women, also takes the beauty, youth, fitness and joie de vivre from those same women as it kills them plus thousands upon thousands of others whom it does not succeed in sending to their graves.

Anyone who is jealous and or threatened by a 42 year old mother of two who has spent the last six years of her life trying to stay alive and also trying to re-capture her life, her mojo, her youthful looks and her fitness back in any way she can....anyone who finds that to be a source of resentment must be a retard.

So, go forth retard, and spread your hate and your stupidity. Better yet, go to a doctor and get a mammogram. Maybe you too will be lucky enough to find a cancer in your breast that will open up your little ignoramus world to the big reality check that is amputation, total hair loss, uncontrollable weight gain around the waistline, steroids moonface, damage to the heart muscle, bone loss and chronic fear.

Go for it, you fucking retard.


Oh, and ps, your retarded hate-venting on elise's blog did not spoil one minute of my delightful practice today. I went into the city and practiced with CH, saw several friends, was asked to adjust a couple of people in Second Series postures, which actually filled me with happiness and joy, and got as much attention from teacher as I love to get at this time...a lot of spoken (hollered/snarked/laughed) advice plus some kickass physical adjustments.

This is a very beautiful moment in my yoga practice to have two such wonderful teachers, teaching two such different but complimentary aspects of the practice...

Joy! (And speaking of Joy, Joy Suzanne, you are too sweet!!)


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Oosh be? Or not oosh be? That, is the question.

Tomorrow, I am going into the city for Mysore with CH. I decided to do that instead of home practice because tomorrow is going to be such a busy day, what with Brian's birthday party and all, and it takes less time for me to take a train into Grand Central and walk to YS than to muddle through a home (read: undisciplined) practice. And the CT is out of the question for me on Sundays because it is led Primary, and I can't see why I would want to do that on a Sunday, let alone at 8 a.m. Also, I am really enjoying the train ride into the city. I love trains. It's like having my own really inexpensive chauffer. Plus, I can stretch and sit in lotus on the train. Can't do that when driving the back roads to Connecticut.

Anyway, I am kind of nervous to practice up to Oosh tomorrow. I know that I am going to have to keep my heels together in Setu B, and my entire foot together all through Parsva D. And that takes a LOT of effort. Then to do a pose that I have only done once before in a Mysore room....I don't want to hear, "Is that how Val told you to do it?" from across the room.

Except that I kind of....DO!


Friday, March 28, 2008

I have an 11 year old!

I am the mother of an 11 year old!

I gave birth to a child 11 years ago today!

11 years ago, I was hugely pregnant with a baby kicking in my belly. And it was Brian.

11 years ago, plus a few days, I brought this tiny, red-haired stranger whose skin was still vaguely yellow from jaundice (my blood type is O Neg, which makes me the universal donor, although I cannot donate blood, and which means that there is a 95% chance that any child I bear will have a blood type that is incompatible with mine, resulting in jaundice shortly after birth), whose eyes were a clear, slate blue, who smelled like a freshly baked loaf of...human, who wriggled out of my arms when I tried to snuggle with him, shocking me with his strength, whose long, slender limbs also shocked me (since I had theretofore believed that all babies came with chubby thighs with little folds), whose personality, and needs, and wants, were all a gigantic question mark to me.

I cannot believe that my 11 year old son has bigger feet than mine. And more freckles. And bigger eyes. And can throw a 53 mph fastball. And plays the flute with grace. And gets perfect scores on his standardized tests (well, the math ones, at least). And no longer wriggles away when I try to snuggle with long as no one else is there.

Happy Birthday, Smooge (pronounced "smoozh")

YC that is why it's called Setu BHANDASANA

The heels must stay bound- must touch all the time in Setu B, even at the expense of not having straight legs.

Primary with CH today. Major, massive whamo hands to the ground in Prasarita Pado C...I had to talk myself out of protesting that I was falling over because I knew he wouldn't let me fall over. No assists then until Supta K.....he pulled my butt back to flatten my torso, and I ten breaths in Kurmasana. Then I reached back and touched my hands together, and he pulled them UP and I almost had the nerve to bind the wrist, but I was so slippery with sweat that I didn't want to risk losing my grip. Feet over head, relatively (for me) graceful exit and onto the next.


Got the huge Bhadda Konasana squish and the instruction NOT to stick my chin out.

Got the instruction in Upavishta Konasana B to look UP. Oh yeah....

Which brings us to Setu B.

"When I work on putting my heels together, I don't feel the stretch across my hips," I whinged.

"Stretch??!!! The stretch is ancillary. It's about the bhanda. It starts in the feet and goes up to the head."

I need this. I do. I need my teacher to pay attention to what I am slacking on. It's the stuff I slack on that I need to know, it's the stuff I slack on that is what transforms it from a physical exercise to actual yoga. CH's approach leaves me feeling that I have not actually practiced yoga in a long, long time...exercised yes, yoga'd? Maybe not so much.

Clearly, I have issues with grounding my feet. It's as if I resist...being grounded. Just call me Nelly Furtado, pre-Promiscuous. "I'll only fly awaaaaaay...."

Val is working with me to help me ground my feet. But it seems lately that her emphasis, the lessons she is teaching, are about gentleness and letting go of effort. That might be a lesson that I can use - I am quite sure that it is. But the lesson I am getting from CH is "Do YOGA" - ujaii breath, connect the bhandas, correct incorrect habits that make it not yoga but just a workout.

He let me take as long as I liked to work on my backbending before coming over to me. I held each backbend for at least ten breaths, and sometimes I need to do that. Why should anyone try to interfere with that?

Then I got lectured about Padmasana, only the most important asana, and one which no teacher has ever seen fit to correct me on. Until today: hello jalandara bhanda. And then, oops, got caught doing less than 25 breaths in Sarvangasana, Halasana and Karna P.

What I need in a teacher:

- someone who reflects my own feeling about myself as someone who CAN DO.

- someone who does not expect me to not be me.

- someone who bothers to notice what I am not doing correctly and tell me what I can do to correct it.

- someone who has the guts to require discipline in their students - and not allow me to take a yard when an inch is already too much.

Right now, the V/C combo seems to fill all my needs. It's like a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Two great teachers that teach great together...although not in the same state...!


Thursday, March 27, 2008

OOsh TRA sahna

Got it today. Or stole it, as it were in Ashtangaville. I asked for it, and got it. HATED doing that. HATED it. But I've been putzing around between Parsva D and Urdhva D, stretching my hip flexors and armpits, so I figured, why not do it in an official capacity. The hip flexors at least. And kind of the armpits, depending on whether I am allowed to wave my arms around a bit before putting my hands on my feet.

Anyway, the Oosh is an easy pose for me. Is it not easy for anyone? I need Laghu and Kapo. I need them. I need them in order to become the merely mediocre backbender that I know that I can truly be, rather than the piss-poor, pathetic backbender that I currently am.

To which CH said (regarding the pathetic backbender comment), "Not true. You just need to breathe." Or something like that. I probably shouldn't be blogging about him at all. He not keen on the blogging theeng. Or so I am told by FOC (Friend of Chris).

Anyway, that was yesterday, before Val let me do Oosh. Now, I am heading toward becoming the moderately bad backbender that I was always meant to be (rather than the horrendously bad backbender that I was and the striving, desperate backbender that I currently am).

That's all. Must cut back on blogging time in order to spend time doing some writing that I might actually get paid for. As it is, I have made exactly 35 bucks in google ads. It's not paying the bills. Well, actually I'm not paying the bills at all, really, unless you count the sweat equity that is the cleaning and the cooking and the gardening and the interior designing and the horticulture and the entertaining and the lunching that I don't really enjoy but must do in order to keep our social life humming and the staying in tip top shape so that I can maintain my place in the food chain as Trophy Wife.

That was meant to be ironic.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

pada bhanda

Who knew? I mean that seriously. Who knew that you were supposed to press your entire foot together in Parsva Dhanurasana, and KEEP them pressed together throughout all three "holds" and every transition. A show of hands please?

It is the little things like having that info called out to me across the room that made practicing with Christopher so, well, for lack of a better word, awesome. My friend and former shala mate, K, was there, and she gave me some great assists, one of which CH had not authorized...oops. But twas all good. CH has a certain kindness in his eyes, even as he is telling you that if you do this yoga, you can't be normal. I like that kindness. I like feeling like someone gets it.

I love Val, and I will continue to practice with her, but I plan to add a day or two each week with Christopher. I need the yang along with the yin. And to think, if it's really all because I had a problem with my nose. The nose led me to Dr. G, who was led (I believe, via David K) to my friend, S, who called me to discuss my experiences with Dr. G, who became her doctor, and with whom I have been following her recovery, in the midst of which she encouraged me to get my lame ass back to CH's Mysore Room, and so I did.

Funny how a little think like a deviated septum can bring people together.

You might say that I am on a yoga high right about now...


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Off my chest

Pun, pathetically intended...I mean, this is what happens after you've seen every single Sex and The City episode, ever. You start to say things like, "It all kind of made me wonder..." And you start to play at wordplay. Except, really, you're just punning.

Anyway, self-criticism aside, getting all of that nasty fear out into the open left me feeling quite relieved. I'm also quite happy that my parents aren't anywhere near a computer to see what I wrote because it would really, really bother them. Thankfully, my parents are quite happily somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle right about now, on some really gigantic cruise ship, probably eating like pigs. Which is fine because that's what makes them happy. Wouldn't make me happy, but I'm not the one on the cruise ship. I prefer more athletic venues which do not revolve around eating and which permit one to move about freely. I also do prefer not to put myself into situations in which I might have to hurl.

Bebe would interject here and remind me that I almost never hurl unintentionally. I even made it from the coast of Ireland to the white cliffs of Dover without nary a stomach churn, even as almost every one of the others on the boat were laid low with nausea. And hurling. It was not a happy boat ride.


I woke up and went to practice, did my whole practice, was once again told to not do Pasasana on my mat since I had already done it three times with my butt leaning against the wall. Something about it being enough that I bound it the way I did, and besides, it's Tuesday. I don't think that's really fair. And I don't quite understand why some people are allowed to do whatever the hell they want in that room. It's as if one day, Val will tear her face off and reveal that she is really Sir. But whatever. Mysore teachers get to run their room the way they like. And that's final.

It was an interesting practice, one which I would like to recall to mind when I wake up stiff and sore because, as stiff and sore as I imagined myself, I still got into every pose with relative ease. So, what is this stiffness and soreness then? Does it really not have all that much to do with how the body will behave?

Oh, there was one exception to this - my backbends were not all that great. Not terrible. They never are really terrible anymore. They just weren't anything to write home about. Later on, after a hot bath, I did some more backbends, and they felt better. What is interesting about this isn't my obsessiveness; that is nothing new. What is interesting about this to me is that I am now CAPABLE of obsessing about backbends.

In the past, once I did my my backbends in class, or my imitation of a backbend in class, that was it for the day. I might be sitting around later, twisting and doing R&D for Mari C or D, or maybe I would be doing all sorts of contortions to try to get my legs behind my head. But rarely, if ever, would I be interested in, or capable of, any more backbending. Now, I am R&Ding the backbends all the time.

And now I am boring myself.

That's all.

P.S. Word to my homie at Eddie's whose email I just received. Will definitely talk soon...:)

Monday, March 24, 2008


I realized just now that I have been dancing with fear lately. And not gracefully either.

It's like each day, fear comes up to me, taps me on the shoulder and asks me to have a go of it. Not as if I have a choice, I stand up and bow. We proceed to tango, and I try to keep up. Eventually, inevitably, the music grows violent, and I'm getting thrown all around. Finally, the music ends, and I've survived. Only I know that my dance partner is waiting for me to catch my breath and have another go at it.

Sometimes the invitation to dance comes to me in my dreams. Sometimes it's so subtle, I hardly even know that I'm spinning and twirling. I wake up, thinking I've had a good dream, except I'm left wondering why I feel so awful. And then I realize that the good dream was merely a mask for a wish to be freed from the fear. When it's an overtly bad dream, at least I know what to call it.

I know what I'm fearing. If I say it outright, there are those out there reading this who will cringe, I am sure. If I say it...well, that's the thing, I don't think I can.

The fear starts building about twice a year, around the time I have to pay a visit to Dr. H, my oncologist. I start having formless anxiety, fueled by odd dreams, like this particularly haunting one in which I was being courted by a man who in reality, lives on in memory alone. He left a wife and three children when he passed away more than two years ago of a virulent form of cancer - one that originated in the bile ducts. I went to college with him and his wife, but I didn't know either of them well.

Why would a married woman dream such a dream about this man? Well, here's a clue: in the dream, he was past his cancer. He had survived it. And he didn't want to talk about it or be reminded of it. After much thought and analysis, I came to realize that this was my wish for him and for me. That cancer would be in the past, and that nothing would remind me of it. The man in my dream was a safe messenger, to whom I gave an alternate ending, one which served my purpose.

Trouble was that the dream haunted me all day, and this was already a week ago, and I am still reminded of it.

Sometimes there is no cancer in my life at all. Sometimes, the wish to have cancer be a thing of the past is realized. But then the oncologist appointment draws closer, and I am reminded. And I cling to the life that I have built for myself post-cancer. I cling to it jealously, all of it: the long, thick hair, the fit yoga body, the tiny clothes I could never wear when I was pumped with steroids, the energy level that would be impossible if I were ill or on chemo, the relatively illness-free life that my children are perceiving is the norm. And I feel incredible RAGE that I have to have that joyous, super-vive, life be interrupted by a visit to a doctor, who holds my fate in her hands.

Not really, of course. But the child in my mind feels that this is so.

So, last night, I had a dream that I was flying to, of all places, Prague. Naturally, Prague is not "of all places", however. It is significant in that it is the home of my former nanny, Tereza, who nursed me and my entire family back to health the year that I was chemotherapized. She was ready to go home to Prague when I was diagnosed, but like a modern day Mary Poppins with a belly ring, Tereza stayed with us until she determined, correctly, that she was no longer integral to my family's survival. We said goodbye to her one spring day in lower Manhattan, near the Hudson River. I could almost see the umbrella which floated her back to her life in Prague. My older son woke up that night crying that he would miss her. We all would. I didn't tell him not to cry. I told him that it was okay to be sad, but that the sadness would pass, and one day he would be able to enjoy remembering her without being so sad.

The idea was that moods are fleeting. Feelings are fleeting. Thus, they are okay. We can ride them. Why can I not take my own advice?

Anyway, back to the dream. I was heading off to the airport, and when it was too late to turn back, I realized that I had left my pills at home. I really do take pills each day still to help prevent the cancer from coming back. Even after 15 months of chemo (six months of which included the "hard stuff', the "red death", as some call it, the stuff that takes away your beauty and your energy and your will to live your life, even as you wish not to die), it has been nearly five years of continuous pill-taking, and there has always been a promise that at the end of five years of pill-taking, I would be invited to stop. At my last visit to Dr. H, however, a terrible betrayal occurred. She told me that studies are beginning to indicate that the pill is helpful even PAST five years. As in, indefinitely. As in, we have no idea how long we might want you to take this pill, but maybe forever.

It's not the worst pill in the world. It does cause bone loss, for which I have had to take yet ANOTHER drug, this one intravenously, in the chemo room, and which drug leaves me loguey for a month. The last time I took it guess? Last year right around now. It also causes joint pain in most women. I seem to have escaped that one, possibly because of the yoga, possibly because I take Advil so regularly that I wouldn't notice the joint pain.

Anyway, I have been quite compliant with regard to this pill, never missing my dose by more than a few hours. But I am starting to get anxious. Do I continue or do I not continue? Isn't five years of taking this pill enough? Or maybe it isn't. This is confusing and feels like an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Or like Odyseus between the Scylla and Charybdis. So, naturally, I have oppositional dreams in which I forget to bring my pills with me on a European vacation but then call my oncologist in near hysterics. Passive agressive much?

In the dream, my doctor tells me, "Anything you need, just say it, and I will get it for you."

Therein lies the rub.

What I really need is to have never met her. But, well, bygones. So, given the impossibility of rewriting the past, what I really need is to never see her again. Of course, that too goes against the impossibility of rewriting the past. So, I am stuck.

And I wake up from these dreams, these vague, indirect dreams, feeling thrashed to bits.

And then I receive a letter in the mail from the New York Presbyterian Mammography Center, reminding me that it is time for my six-month follow-up to my breast ultrasound. Excuse me? My WHAT? I don't even HAVE breasts. Then I remember something I had very very very much wanted to forget, which is that the last time I saw Dr. H, she alarmed me by identifying a lymph node, rubbery and healthy-seeming, that she hadn't noticed before, in the pit of my left arm. Not the cancer side. The cancer side has no lymph nodes left, so she couldn't even compare one armpit to the other.

Breast cancer that recurs usually recurs on the same side on which the cancer first appeared, and it usually involves palpable lymph nodes at the collarbone. Or so I am told. "But let's just look at this on ultrasound to be safe. " I wrote about this when it happened. I don't feel like linking back to it, but feel free to search in October of 2007. The ultrasound revealed, THANK YOU GOD, a normal lymph node, normal in every way, shape, size, consistency, blah blah blah. Goodbye, Lauren, have a nice life, congratulations, this was nothing more than a false alarm for you (for us, there was no alarm, but we understand how it felt for you).

So, then what the FUCK gives with this letter from them? Why the need for a follow-up? Of course, the letter indicates that they also believe that I still have breasts. And I also received a call from my older son's former orthodontist in NYC, telling us that it is time for Brian to get an adjustmnt to his braces. Brian has no braces.

These administrators who send out these letters, they don't know what they're doing from a substantive standpoint, I understand that. But still, it all comes down to this: There is always a chance, there is always a risk, there is always a test that I could take, and there is always a result to be feared. And it's not the fault of the office assistant at New York Presbyterian. And it's not Dr. H's fault. And the end result is not going to be different whether I get a stupid-ass letter or not.

Come April, I am going to have to march myself into see Dr. H and make small talk as she palpates my body and talks in one ear and out my other about aromatase inhibitors taken for an additional five years while I contemplate whether I should ask her if I need to take an infuson of that disgusting bone-building drug, knowing that I will HAVE to if she doesn't mention it to me first, and that all of this is to prevent something even worse happening to me, something that I cannot even mention by name.

And this is why I am more chaotic than Britney Spears right now. Perhaps I should move up the visit to get it over with. If I am already at this high level of angst, I can only imagine what it might be within a few weeks.

Is it possible to let go of fear? Is it? If so, how? I do my yoga. I meditate. But reality can be a slap in the face. Even a relatively delightful reality like mine. It's the clinging. The attachment to the way things are right now. How do I let go of that and of the fear that it will all be taken from me?


Friday, March 21, 2008

Come practice with me in NYC!

In a rare public appearance, I will be teaching a vinyasa class at Yoga Sutra on Sunday morning....and I am actually very excited....I think the edges of winter are finally receding for me, and I am finally coming out of my Northern Westchester hiding hole.

I'm also teaching a six-week series in Armonk called "Power abs?" It will be starting April 15,for any Westchester-ites who long for a taste of what Ashtanga's got. I am not referring to it as Ashtanga because so fewpeople here would even know what that means. And if I have a class of beginners, we will certainly go slowly enough such that we won't get much past Mari C. But we shall see.... would be great to see any of you at class on Sunday, 11 am!


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Pasasana problems

As my backbends get nicer, I am finding Pasasana to be suffering. I can barely get myself into it. So, in honor of this trouble, I have decided to do some research and development on Pasasana, with the goal being to get my heels down and find my bind with the least amount of external assistance (walls, dog-toys, teacher) and drama.

And so, here is my R&D prescription for myself:

First, just settle into a low squat. Then settle into a low squat with a twist, both sides. Then, take Pasasana binding JUST the Mari C other words, the closer leg to the wrapping arm. Doing this, I am able to find my wrist and work towards a deeper wrap that will enable me to put my heels down while leaning my energy forward, so as not to fall onto my back. After doing both sides, I then take Pasasana binding JUST the Mari A other words, the leg that is further from the wrapping arm, such that the wrapping arm comes between my legs. Again, I can catch my other wrist, bind deeply and securely, press my heels down (or damn near close and rock my energy forward so that I don't fall backward). THEN, I am ready for the full pose. Now, I am ready to do the full pose without a rolled up mat and without going the wall for stability. I DO, however, need to use a small, stable object (like a dog ring) to guide my hands into the right angles so as to be able to bind. I assume that this is because I can no longer shift my weight around without falling - because I am no longer supported by a rolled up mat or wall. I also assume that the need for the prop will go away in time.

Incredibly, I actually preferred this R&D method to simply getting an assist, which places the bind so high up on my legs that putting my heels down becomes impossible because there is no wiggle room for me to take my weight and energy forward to keep from falling backward.

Hope that makes sense.

I have never seen anyone do this method of R&D, so I hope this is novel and helps someone!


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

R&D for Backbends, the Housewife with a Hardware Store Problem way...

Some ladies have a little handbag problem. For others it's shoes. For me, it's hardware stores. I find myself drawn in, eyes caressing the rows of drill bits, shelving, plastic boxes, gardening tools...the fireplace supplies, the various paints and painting tools, the kitchen accoutrements. I have from time to time been banned by my husband from shopping at the hardware store in Bedford Village because, well, it's just too tempting for me.

And wouldn't you know it, I have found a way to meld my obsession with hardware stores into my obsession with....what else....YOGA.

In this video, I take a seemingly innocuous Cosco Stepladder and turn it into a rack of back cracking and arm and shoulde articulation. This is lots of fun though. For anyone with a stepladder, and who is too short-torsoed to make use of one of those metal folding chair things that they have in yoga studios, I highly recommend doing it the Bored Housewife with a Hardware Store Problem Way.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Backbend today

Arms are getting closer to straight up and down. The knees are bent more deeply than I'd like today, probably reflecting my inability to take more bend in my upper back, or alternatively, to press my pubic bone forward. I think. Feedback welcome.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Lost is the new Twin Peaks

I think I've had it with Lost. It's like one of those relationships where things are shaky, and then they seem to get better for a while, and then - BLAM - it all falls apart.


I really don't care that Michael is Ben's "man" on the boat. Obviously, Ben can't be trusted. Michael can't be trusted. Michael always would do whatever it took to get Walt to safety, including killing Ana Lucia and Libby, and there is no reason this trend would not continue. Thus, it's pretty useless, and thus, uninteresting, to have Michael, um, excuse me, Kevin Johnson, working for Ben. It's not going to do the Losties one bit of good.

But here's where Lost really finally lost me: Charles Widmore vs. Ben Linus = Losties not being rescued except at great personal sacrifice. WHAT? I'd sooner believe in a smoke monster, in Richard not aging, in black horses appearing in the jungle along with Walt, than believe that with two such powerful people with contacts on the "outside", that the survivors of Flight 815 can't get back to said outside. I mean, how does Charles Widmore's plan, whatever the hell is motivating it, mean that he can't also rescue the Losties by bringing them home on the Freighter? In fact, since he hates Ben Linus and wishes to destroy him, wouldn't proving that the Fake Flight 815 Wreckage was, in fact, fake, and set up by Ben, help Widmore to disarm Ben?

And ultimately, the problem is, even if that line of reasoning were to be proven wrong, and I am sure it will be, it will be so unbelievable that the suspension of disbelief will no longer be possible. Again, the science fictiony stuff is fine with me. Suspension of disbelief intact. But ya start to bring in international espionage and double and triple crossing and secret pacts, and I'm falling asleep on the sofa.

Notwithstanding my sad parting of the ways with my formerly favorite television show, practice today was delicious. DE-LIC-I-OUS. BEST. DROPBACKS. EVER. EVER. EVER.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Kinda loving the backbends

Just like I have been kinda (more than kinda) loving Marichyasana D and Supta Kurmasana. Anything that is that hard won has to be worth it. Even if it isn't. It's Psych 101: Cognitive Dissonance.

Practice is remarkably unremarkable these past two days other than the fact that I look forward to tackling the backbends, knowing that once I get to Salabasana, it's like Primary Series falls away completely. Salabasana, even with its tiny, unleveraged backbend, seems to somehow undo everything that I have done to my spine during Primary and up through Krounchasana. All those twists fall away. The intense forward bending until the legs are behind the shoulders - it just falls away. And it's a new back. A back that is ready to bend backwards.

I do have to say that I am feeling a bit irritable, probably because I haven't been spending enough time on finishing postures these past two days. I will change that tomorrow, seeing as it is Primary Only day.

I will be making a field trip tomorow, into the city. Not sure where. Hopefully taking a friend with. A friend from the CT Shala. Yes, I do have friends at my shala. I just don't giggle with them in class. We chat afterwards and sometimes on the phone.

My Blackberry dropped on the concrete yesterday and broke, taking with it into the ether all of my phone numbers. Non attachment. Non attachment. Working on it. Sigh.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

No Whine Before It's Time

You know that next pose I've been grumpily waiting for as of late? You know, Parsva Dhanurasana? The one where you lie on your belly, grab your ankles, turn yourself into an upside-down parachute (as my kids say) and then tip over onto your side? Yeah, well, I got it today.

See? I know when I am due a new pose. I get all irritated that I don't have it yet. That's when I know it's time. I seriously have never gotten that way when I am deep in the midst of learning how to do a pose. Like, for the entire 15 months I was stuck in Supta Kurmasana, all you ever heard from me about it was, "When am I going to ever bind in this pose?" You never heard, "When am I going to get Garba Pindasana?" Until I bound in Supta K reliably.

That's when the whining commenced.

I assume I will be whining very soon about Ustrasana and Laghu Vaj because Parsva D was like cake for me. I've been doing it for a long time - Greg taught it to me last summer.

Anyway, that's all for now.

Later, I'll be talking about how (if I have the cojones), I am going to start teaching again. Here. in Westchester. On Banksville Road, in Armonk.....(Not my house, no! As I said, I don't even live in Armonk, even though I park like I do)...


Monday, March 10, 2008


At home. It sucked. Except for backbending.

NEVER in a million years did I ever think I would hear myself saying THAT.


Sunday, March 09, 2008

An unexpected detour

I was kind of sort of planning to go to Shala X today. I miss Sir and Lori, and all the folks with whom I used to practice. My little one had a playdate scheduled on the Upper East Side, and it's really just a hop skip and a trip down the FDR Drive to get to Shala X. The trouble is, the onset of Daylight Saving (NO S!) Time made no one (read: me) want to get up at 6:30 a.m. and be out of the house by 7:30 a.m. in order to drop Adam off and get my own ass down to the shala by 9. And 9 was the absolute OUTSIDE time that I could get to the shala and still do my entire practice without rushing or feeling guilty about being (at least in my own mind) a pathologically late arriving slacker. Sir does not take pity on latecomers and leaves the room promptly at the designated time, which is, on Sundays, 10:30 a.m.


What to do, what to do.

I certainly couldn't drive all the way home to practice. And I really don't want to practice at Yoga Sutra because there is a group of practitioners there who hate my guts (only one of them even knows me, the rest just jumped on the bandwagon), and what do I need the drama for? Which is too bad, I might add, because I like Gregg and Christopher as well as a few other delightful students there, one of whom I ran into on the street on Wednesday, just by chance. And of course, David K is the best. But I digress. Eddie's isn't a possibility since I have no idea what his hours are or whether it's even open to drop-ins at this point.

That left...da da dum...Shiva Shala!

That place is f-ing gorgeous. I had no idea. And Patti was incredibly gracious, as was Chuck. I recognized a couple of students, one with whom I practiced at Shala X in the past, and one whom I taught at Yoga Sutra way back when.

I had a really nice practice except for Chuck and I did not see eye to eye (hand to hand?) on how I was gettting into Pasasana. I like to bind way down (up?) near my knees. He had me binding way up (down) near the fleshiest part of my thigh. Granted, my thighs are not very fleshy. But getting my back arm around is difficult as it is for me because, well, how do I explain this? When I bind in Mari C and D, I often use the non-binding hand to help the binding arm into the proper place for optimal wrist-binding, and then I often use a nearby leg to push the non-binding arm up high enough to really bind deeply. What does this mean? It means that my arms do not swing freely enough in my shoulder sockets to find their way by themselves. And I blame this entirely on my multiple breast surgeries and residual scar tissue. Really and truly. Not that it won't "give" over time. In fact, it is. Sometimes, I find myself swinging my arms right into the sweet spot in Mari C. But that is rare. Really rare.

Anyway, the sheer effort of trying to bind around a larger part of my thigh made balance nearly impossible. So, whatever. It wasn't a banner Pasasana day. It WAS, however, a banner Supta Kurmasana and Kapotasana day. Yeah, I went up to Kapotasana today because, well, why the hell not? I was feeling great.

In Supta Kurmasana, Chuck waited for me to take my own bind in Supta K. Then he got my hands really hooked deeply. Then he got my ankles crossed so high up over my head that for once, they did not touch the floor. Yay! And when I lifted up, I was actully IN Dwi Pada. And then I held a really awesome-feeling Tittibhasana for five breaths because, again, why the hell not. It felt great.

As Dhanurasana approached, I debated whether to continue on after that one. I am not accustomed to practicing Kapotasana in front of anyone, and I often use the wall (climbing down it) to keep my chest lifted. But after a really nice Laghu Vajrasana, it felt right, and I got down, didn't touch my toes (did not get an assist either) but then...I got my arms as straight as they ever have been in Kapo B and...I came up without losing my arch. This was a first!

A first!

I went immediately to Urdhva Dhanurasana, and by immediately, I mean, I pressed right up into it. Also a first. Usually, I hem and haw and futz and play in bridge pose. But today, I don't even know why, because it involved no thought at all, I just pressed up. And it actually felt great. I kept thinking - this is all I ever wanted. This is all I ever wanted out of Urdvha D. I just wanted it not to hurt.

Dropbacks were, of course, different from the dropbacks at Shala X and the dropbacks at the CT Shala. This is always something that gives me anxiety when at a different shala. But it went smoothly.

Then I did a nice long finishing, ran into Andrew P on his way in as I was on my way out, and we pretended not to recognize each other. I thought he moved far far away? Guess he's back.

Swung by Liqueteria, picked up some fresh, young coconuts, picked up my child from his playdate, drove home listening to (not my choice) Hannah Montana, I mean, Miley Cyrus, who seems to be phasing out Hannah, not like I care.

Then, not wanting my yoga buzz to end there, I did my Unassisted Assisted Dropbacks, pictured in the video. How could I have not thought of this all last summer? I was really thinking about that. How could I have had these lovely, sturdy posts and not used them? Then it occurred to me - even if I had, I wouldn't have been able to. A year ago, I would not have been able to stand up from a belt-assisted dropback without yanking on the belt with my hand.

So, again, yay!


Saturday, March 08, 2008

Kapotasana today

I'm hoping that if I can get this far myself, without much of a warm-up (I just felt like backbending today...bizarre) and without ever having had any help in Kapotasana at all, then I am probably not going to struggle to to mightily to touch my toes one day. Yeah, I know, soon enough it's not enough to touch the toes, and then there is the lure of the heels, then maybe the ankles. But for me, I'll take the toes. Just the toes. I can touch my toes right now on one hand, but that is not very good alignment, now, is it?

So, here was me dropping back...

then climbing down...

then not being able to get fingers to toes...yet...

then Kapo B.

I am definitely starting to get paranoid about not getting any new poses because I feel ready to work on Kapotasana. But I haven't even gotten Parsva Dhanurasana, which I can totally do. Same with the next two, Ustrasana and Laghu Vajrasana. I'm starting to get distressed about it.
Well, I can still do it at home, which I plan to do tomorrow. My practice, plus second up to Supta Vajrasana. Or maybe up to Bakasana B if I feel like I can let the back simmer down again before doing Urdhva Dhanurasana. Hopefully it will be a sunny day so I can do my self-assisted dropbacks a la Iyengar wall on my back porch.

Oh, and here was me just a few weeks ago:

I should also mention for record-keeping sake that this week, I started laying on top of those Miracle Ball thingies, which has helped loosen up my back immensely.


Friday, March 07, 2008

Bit by bit by bit by bit

I was feeling frustrated today. Burnt out. Bored. Wondering if I can ever make any real improvement in my backbending. Feeling like I am the only student at the CT Shala who never seems to get a new pose, despite that I am one of the only ones who can do all the poses that I've been given.

Then I took some photos. And this is what I saw. No, I'm no Tiff. Never will be. I'm not even close to being as good a backbender as the young girl at my shala who hasn't yet progressed past Supta K but can now stand up from a backbend. I adore her. And hate her just a teeny bit. Kidding. But I've made it a long way from where I was a few years ago. And I've even made progress from a few weeks ago:

I have been working so ridiculously hard on backbending. Yesterday, I discovered a new way to drop myself back using a belt and my back porch. I simply tie myself up and drop back, as if I had my very own Iyengar wall.

I am trying not to get too caught up in extracurrriculars and research. But I could use a little extra time on backbending. I have been neglecting backbends, after all, for about four years.

Here's a question I have. Why does my chest lift higher if after coming up into my back bend (or dropping back into it), I lift my chin as if to touch it to my chest, and then bring it back down? I've seen others do this too. And in the course of taking photos today, I could actually see a difference when I did this, versus when I didn't. Just wondering.

Oh, and just for my own personal record, I did a rather unusual practice today. All of Standing, then Bakasana A and B, then straight to the Marichyasanas, then all of the Leg Behind Head poses (I can ALMOST hold my leg behind my head with no hands in Eka Pada Sirsasana now), then Garba Pindasana, Upavishta Konasana, then straight to Second, through Ustrasana, skipping Laghu and Kapo and then, finally, Supta Vajrasana, knees secured under a sofa. Backbending was light and easy after that. Suprisingly. It is always surprising when backbending is enjoyable.

Well, tomorrow is Saturday, and I get to slack. Yay.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

The fight of his life

I'm worried about Patrick Swayze, and I empathize with his camp's need to make it seem like everything is okay, like he's just going about his business, releasing movies and television pilots, while his body is being assaulted by a disgusting disease and the horribly, borderline medieval, treatment for it.

It's unfortunate that such a deadly cancer as pancreatic gets so little research funding compared with, say, breast cancer, which I am told gets more research funding than all other cancers combined. I assume that the reason for the discrepancy is that so few people get pancreatic cancer compared with breast cancer. Thank God for that, because less than 5% of all pancreatic cancer patients are still alive five years later.

Sorry to bring such gloom and doom here.


Living in the material world, material, oh oh oh

Continuing yesterday's dialogue, I think that the spiritual nature is essentially always, to some extent, at odds with the physical nature. How we are on the inside always wanting to come out and show itself, for better or for worse, and our "outside self" wanting to stick to the program of "this is who I am." Of course, even the layers on the inside are many-layered. There are the actual memories, the memories of which we are not conscious, perhaps, if you are so inclined, memories and impressions of past lives, dreams, wishes, desires, which are all that come to mind at the moment, but I have no doubt that there are more to name, and I should look at the Yoga Sutras to that verse that describes all of that which interferes with seeing the totally stripped down version of ourself.

Of course, as I see it, that version is a tabula rosa, like what I would imagine a baby would be before language, except that a baby comes with 9 months of interactions with the mother and the outside world via the that's not a good example. That version isn't God, I was told by one of my teachers. God is something else. But it's the closest we get to God.

The thing I wonder about the paradox inherent in the notion of this stripping down. If the stripping down is enlightenment, then ultimately, how can one experience enlightenment? In other words, enlightenment is DEVOID of experience. Parusha needs Prakriti, and vice versa. You can't see yourself without a mirror. The mirror is not you. But you need it.

If a tree falls in the forest, and no one hears it, what good is it at all? Who cares if it made a sound?

And one more thing - I HOPE this isn't my last life. And I have no doubt that it is not. But I wouldn't want it to be. I am having way too much fun here. Suffering, schmuffering. It's SPRING! I'm starting on the gardening (albeit from the indoors, with potted plants which I will move outside when the time is right). I just counted the stepping stones I will need to make a path from my side door (which leads from the basement, which we are going to start finishing into a recreation room any time now....contractor...where are you?) to the back porch (50). I decided exactly what I need to fill in the empty spots in the garden beds, realistically, with a full acceptance of the fact that Doe, Roe and Moe, our prodigal deer, will be back in full swing, munching out on all they find tasty as soon as we roll up the deer fencing for the spring. Deer don't like boxwood hedges or spyrea or barberry. And those are just fine by me.

I digress.

Here's the thing that I'm trying to say: if it's wrong to be unenlightened, to leave a little work for the next life...then, hell, I don't wanna be right.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Closer to Spiritual....Bitches.

You could call it derivative. Or you could see it as commentary on what I consider to be highly relevant and thought-provoking blogging. Today, in my internet meanderings, I saw that another yoga blogger (whom I am, sadly, unable to link to due to the fact that my sponsors forbid me to link to sites that are not of a "family" nature) posed the question of whether being "spiritual" requires that one be "nice".

The question piqued my interest.

But as I turned the question over in my mind, I realized that I couldn't quite get my arms around it until I understood what it means to be "spiritual". And according to one dictionary source, "spiritual" is an adjective that describes something or someone "of or pertaining to the spirit or soul, as distinguished from the physical nature".

I am sure that when most of us toss around the term, "spiritual", we do not exactly have that meaning in mind. It seems to me that when most of us talk about someone being "spiritual", we mean that their focus often turns to matters of God, the universe or the metaphysical. Someone who tends to ask, "What would Jesus do?" might be considered to be spiritual. Similarly, someone who learns all of the verses of the Hanuman Chaleesa might be considered to be spiritual. Someone who sits in meditation on a daily basis might be considered spiritual, whether or not their meditation has anything to do with any god or gods.

These examples simply follow the form of the definition.

But we also consider people to be "spiritual" who shrug off that which is considered "material" or "worldly". Thus, we might not know about someone's belief system, but we might infer spirituality if we see them wearing dreadlocks tied up in big batik scarves, birkenstocks on their feet. Or, if someone tends to walk around in the latest J Brand Jeans, those ubiquitous telltale red-soled Louboutins and an LV Speedy bag, we assume that they are not spiritual.

Of course, we can't really know whether someone is "spiritual" just by looking at them. And being spiritual is far more than whether you pray, chant, keep kosher, wear a nun's habit, practice yoga (which definitely does NOT mean that one is spiritual...I mean, who knows if someone is in it just for the workout, although I suspect that even if someone believes that they are, they probably are getting more out of it than they realize), meditate, whatever.

But I am quite convinced that being spiritual has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with being nice.

Now, being "yogic" is another story entirely, and one which, by definition, involves the practice of "ahimsa", also known as the practice of doing no harm. It's a tough thing, walking the balance between doing what you think is right and truthful and energy-conserving (as also required by the principles of being "yogic") and what, in fact, is not harmful.

Anyway, that's enough for now.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

New Leaf

I'm getting to practice by 9 from now on. No more early morning baths. Too enervating. A nice hot shower will do. I had sooooo much more energy left for backbends. And no sense of rushing. And time for a five-minute headstand and a five-minute seated meditation before Uth Pluthi. Yes, this is going to be my new leaf.

Backbends felt good today.


Monday, March 03, 2008

I've decided that I don't need to get a life after all

I felt a bit guilty today practicing for two and a half hours. I came in at the tail end of the Mysore session (9:30, when it ends at 10:30), and got to the end of Half Primary when Val told everyone who was still practicing to move to the left side of the room and take as long as we needed while she began the mixed level led class took over the right side of the room. This is the custom at the CT Shala.

Only lately, however, it seems as if it has become my own custom to always move to that left side of the room and practicing well into the next class time. And I have been feeling guilty about it, knowing full well that I couldn't devote this much energy to practice if I had a full time job. If I had any job, really.

But, ah, how lovely it is to really take the time and do Pasasana three times, the first two setting up the proper trajectory of arms out of shoulder sockets, the final one falling into place on its own. And the joy of setting up for backbending with, well, lots of backbending. And then some more permutations of backbending.

But, ah, the guilt.

I spent a lot of time gazing at my navel this afternoon, considering this guilt. I put in a phone call to the husband - left a voice mail, saying, "I need to polish up my resume and get myself a job. I can't go on like this." Then I got a voice mail in response saying that that really wasn't necessary, that my housewifely duties at home were greatly...APPRECIATED (!!! RED LETTER DAY!!!!! DING DING DING!!!! A HOUSEWIFE IS SHOWN APPRECIATION!!!!). That the economic reality of my getting a job would be such that we would have to hire people to take up the slack where I would no longer be available to do said housewifely duties. Like cleaning. Yes, folks, I clean my house. And I enjoy it. That's why no one ever hears me complaining about it. I keep trying to imagine hiring someone to do the loving cleaning job that I do on my house, but I cannot. I simply cannot imagine anyone using the special products I mix myself - this many parts vinegar to that much water for the floors; lemon oil on this particular microfiber duster for cabinets; this much ammonia to that much water for surfaces which food has touched, etc. And driving the kids places. And that is no small task here in Back Roads Hell. Okay, it's not any kind of hell - I love it. But a lot of my townsfolk complain about how far away everything is from everything else and how it's all backroads from here to there from there to here. And the cellular service is abysmal.

And then there's all the handywork. When something breaks around here, guess who fixes it? Unless it involves electricity, it's usually me.


I have come to the conclusion that I do not need to work. But I DO need to volunteer in my spare time. And I plan to do so. And as my cousin, Debpc wrote today, please hold me accountable. I am looking into Habitat for Humanity. I'd like to build something, if possible, starting when the weather warms up. I don't know how this works, but I hope it is possible. From their web site, I can see that there are two branches nearby, one in Southern Westchester and one in Putnam County. The latter is in a rather depressed city. There must be work to be done there. I even heard through the grapevine that there are two HFH houses going up in a neighboring town. Not sure if it's true. We shall see.

So, I will get strong with my daily yoga binge. And then I will build houses for the needy. And I'll write about it here for the entertainment of approximately 300 people per day.


Sunday, March 02, 2008

How to be enlightened in $45 or less

There's a story that Pema Chodron tells that involves a very ambitious woman who seeks enlightenment. I will paraphrase it for you here. And now.

So, this very ambitious lady goes out into the world, seeking enlightenment. She searches and searches and finally reaches the supposed source of all enlightenment, the one who can point the way for her (the "guru", if you will). I believe she finds the guru in a cave. But that's not really important to the story.

Anyway, the ambitious seeker lady stands before the guru and begs for it. Enlightenment, that is.

"You sure that's what you want?" asks the guru.

"Yes!" cries the ambitious seeker lady.

"Absolutely sure? " queries the guru again.

"Seriously, dude. Enlighten me," says the lady.

"Well, if it's what you really really want..." the guru says.

"Please...please...just...please! Enlighten me!" cries the lady in exasperation.

"Well, alrighty then. Just remember...YOU asked for this," says the guru.

And with that, a terrible, fearsome monster appears before the lady, screeching at the top of its lungs, "NOW!" And in another moment, "NOW!" And then, "NOW!" And the screeching monster follows the lady around forever. Reminding her of the present moment. Every moment. Forever. Now.

But I just discovered...there is a far, far better way. It involves no snarky gurus and no screeching monsters. And the funniest thing is that I discovered it in my own small Northern Westchester town: the NOW watch.

How clever is THAT?


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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