Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In honor of my day off yesterday, full practice today.

And by full practice, I mean Full Primary plus all of my Second Series poses (that means, at this point, up to Eka Pada).

Yoga Sutra today. Yep. I went today because I had an appointment in the city with a breast cancer survivor from Virginia, who had contacted me via email to ask me to teach her some yoga. She was going to be in the city for Thanksgiving, and these plans went way back - months actually - so by GOD, I was going to make sure to be in the city at the designated time and place. That meant that if I intended to practice, it was going to have to be in the city.

My original intention was to go to Bikram. But as I was on the train, I thought...hmmm...Ashtanga...I want to do some of that...maybe I don't want to go stand on one leg for 60 seconds at a time in a 100 degree Sutra?

And so I went.

And it was a good practice. Not particularly hot in the room. Val's shala takes the award for the juiciest environment. And zero assists until Supta Kurmasana, and even then, I had to beg. I literally had to BEG.

She-C was like, "You can do this yourself." I was like, "I know, but I do that EVERY day. Today, I want a treat...please? Pretty please???"

Then nothing til Pasasana, where I was torn a new asshole for not putting my heels down. I gotta love She-C. Such a tough cookie, that one. I NEVER put my heels down at home, so how would I be able to suddenly do it on command? Still, one can hope, I suppose.

Then no Bhekasana assist. I have to say, it's a very strong pose for me, and if ever there were someone who didn't need that assist, it would definitely be me. My toes are practically flat on the ground - I guess my knees are pretty supple, because it can't be my hip flexors. My upper body is not up like an up-dog, but I can hold myself up to some extent. Anyway. Nothing at all until Ustrasana, and THAT assist came in the form of, "Do that at home. NOT HERE."

I still don't know how she saw me at the wall.

She got my fingers to my toes in Kapotasana, with a minimum of drama, but she wasn't happy with my breathing.

It's ROUGH in the city. CT is much more lalala. Both have their place. It's all good.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

How to Hang Over The Bed Using Weights

You just hang. Over the bed. Holding weights.

Okay, maybe that isn't so intuitive for everyone. So, here is what you should bear in mind;

Your lower back probably bends pretty well already. But nor so much your upper back. How do you know this? Well, if you look in the mirror or take a photo of yourself in a backbend, you might notice that you literally fold at your lower back, while your upper back is flat.

The bed hang can change that.
Lie on the bed, with your shoulders just off the bed. Hang. Raise your arms overhead. Notice whether your shoulders tend to hunch in as you do so. If so, focus on externally rotating your arms in your shoulder sockets to broaden across the collar bones. Let the arms hang down. Heavy. Allow gravity to do its work.

If you want to up the intensity, add weights. Have the weights handy on the bed - five or eight pound dumbells to start. Set up for a bed-hang, and take hold of the weights. Gently lower your hands, weights in hand, overhead. Gently. Maintain the open collarbones. Allow gravity to do its work. Feel your chest crack open.

I use ten-pound weights - I am strong, and it feels good. Use your judgement. You want a stretching feeling in your chest and shoulders, not a ripping sensation. Start with a low weight and work your way up only to the point where you feel the gravitational pull.

You can also do this work with a block standing vertically under your upper back - between the shoulderblades. For this, a lower weight is probably sufficient - it is for me. With bent elbows, take the weights overhead and gradually let the arms straighten and hang towards the floor.

For the thoracic spine to bend, the chest has to be willing to open. This allows that to happen, at least for me, in a dramatic way.

Be careful. Use the lowest weights needed to create that gravitational stretch. Maybe you just need to hold soup cans to start. No need to get injured. No need to rush or push.

If it doesn't feel really good, then stop! Maybe you're not ready yet. Maybe you need to lie on a ball or just hang over the bed without weights. Remember: if it doesn't feel good, don't do it.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Kapotasana...Now, with TWO feet!!

Yes, today, I easily touched my toes in Kapotasana (with assistance from Val). If you've been reading this blog for a while, then you know it's not the first time I got hands to feet. is the first time that they got there without the searing feeling of skin, tendons and muscles tearing, and without the numbness that followed. It was AWESOME!!

And it's all because of the bed-hang-with-weights. Which is all because of my friend, Melissa, who practices at Val's, and Val, who told me that what I needed to do was to open my UPPER back, because my lower back is open enough (for now), but my upper back was barely bending.

So, today, I told Val that I had gotten my right toe on my own yesterday. So, she came over to me and put my left hand on my left foot....and then my right. Made perfect sense. And I breathed. And I breathed!


Not that any of this matters. But it kinda does. Not that it should. But it kinda does just the same.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My Right Foot

I can touch it! In Kapotasana. Myself!! Not my left. Not yet. But someday? YES!!! Someday!!!

I took some video footage but ran out of space before I could come back up from Kapo B. But still, this is a huge improvement from where I was at a year ago....

Gotta love those bed hangs...


Monday, November 17, 2008

I'm going to grad school!!!

YAY!!! I mean, I THINK I am. I have to get in first. And I have to work out my schedule. And I have to get student loans to pay for it. But other than that, I am SOOOO going to grad school!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And when I am done, I will actually be able to do something with my life that doesn't require working long hours behind a desk for people who just push money around!!!

I am soooooo motivated now!


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Really nice kapotasana today

Right hand touched toes (with assistance from Val), left hand almost. The main thing: no pain, no fear. I've been hanging over the edge of my bed with weights in my hands, and this seems to really be cracking me open. Who knew?


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Coloring outside the lines

The new program continues:

Second Series with Richard today. Tomorrow Primary. Tuesday 1/2 and 1/2. Wednesday Bikram or a Kundalini DVD, depending on my mood, and largely depending on how cold it is (the colder it is, the more I want Bikram, and vice versa). Thursday 1/2 and 1/2 with Val. Friday, Primary.

When I say Primary, I should note that I always include Pasasana, usually after Mari D.

And whenever I am practicing at home, I always include the Samakonasana and Hanumanasana cycle that Tim Miller taught us at the workshop. It really really helps me. Someday, perhaps, I will get rid of it, when I am more open in the hip flexors. But that could be a very very very long time from now. And even as I write this, I think, perhaps I wouldn't want to get rid of two really awesome poses that I won't ever have as part of any "series" (because lord knows, I am never going to practice up to Samakonasana in any Ashtanga series, unless at some point they add it into Primary or Second Series).

And I usually warm my spine up with some Kundalini "stomach grinds" and "camel rides".

Oh, and I have taken to hanging over my bed with weights in my hands too as a pre-yoga warmup.

I am definitely going way off the page here. And I am LOVING it. It's still Ashtanga, but I'm coloring WAY outside the lines.

ALSO, I have made a promise to myself to walk every day, minimum of 30 minutes. I have so much time on my hands. It is insane not to be outside in the fresh air for some of it. When I lived in the city, I used to walk Lewis-the-Bagle three times a day, so I think I can handle adding a little nature-walking to my life. Until summer, when the gardening kicks in again.


Saturday, November 08, 2008

Thank you Kundalini.

I did Ana and Ravi's Warrior Workout today, and afterwords, I was so pumped and spinally flexy that I WANTED to do some backbends.

And so, I did.

Felt great, so I took some film.

Saturdays are Kundalini days around here from now on. What a painless and fun way to keep the spine flexy while resting from Ashtanga!


Friday, November 07, 2008

I HATE Grey's Anatomy

The only reason I was even watching at all this season was to see the relationship between Callie and Erica develop. It was adorable. Sure, like everything else on that show it was exaggerated. But I loved it.

But NOoooooooooooooooo!

They had to kill it. And while they were at it they had to fire the talented Brooke Smith, without even the courtesy of two weeks notice.

Bye, bye, Mer and Der and all your bullshit.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008


Saw it today. LOVED it. Jeremy Piven was entertaining, although his role was the least interesting. Elisabeth Moss, well, what can I say? I adore her, and I adore her Mad Men character, Peggy, and she was playing a variation on Peggy, although with a crucial element missing (as it was written, not as she played it). But DAMN do I love that Raul Esparza! Who IS this guy? He is amazing. And hot.

And the title seems so incredibly appropriate to the plight of the Ashtanga we speed the plow through the same damn furrow, every single day.

But the past two days, it's been like a brand new furrow. A brand new plow even. Today, I woke up and looked forward to pulling out the mat and doing Primary. So, yesterday full Second, today full Primary, tomorrow half and half. No longer the same ole same ole.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Money-rexia: Do you know anyone with this disorder?

I might. But I'm not saying...


Me and Richard Freeman

Looks like we might be spending some time together this winter, me and Richard. I got up this morning, did my morning chores, and then at 9:30 a.m., I did the unthinkable...I got out my mat. I am hardly every motivated to practice at home so early, but I think a few days of non-practice had finally gotten to me (I had a ragingly awful UTI this weekend that sent me to the emergency room at 3 a.m. on Saturday night. I got my antibiotics and felt gradually better over the course of Sunday and Monday. But I wasn't feeling well enough to practice. The thought of stretching my abdomen gave me nausea. And just the thought of jumping in and out of poses made me exhausted. I did end up taking a walk in the woods late yesterday afternoon, which kind of marked my crossing over into feeling well again. But I digress....)

I really enjoy my Kundalini DVDs lately, but I kind of wanted some Ashtanga. And I knew that I would be much better served by following the vinyasas, rather than allowing myself to do research whereever I wanted. In short, I needed discipline. And then I saw my Richard DVD. Last year, I bought his Second Series DVD, and I think I watched it once, maybe even tried to practice along once. But it was so out of my grasp, I just couldn't really feel it.

Happily, today, I did the whole thing. I had to stop it at Pasasana because that was essentially the first time I ever Pasas'ed without having done ANY twisting first. And so, I needed to take time to get into it. I also had to stop at Yoga Nidrasana because I looooove that pose, and for some reason, I just wasn't getting into it as deeply as I normally do. I suspect it has to do with side effects of the antibiotics (a bit of nausea and stomach bloating, plus a bit of water retention) because it can't have anything to do with my diet, which has been remarkably clean for the past few week or so (I guess I wasn't feeling well but didn't realize it until the infection became acute).

Then no more stopping at all. Of course, I don't even bother to try to Karandavasana myself up. I just stay in Pincha Mayurasana. My assumption, for better or for worse, for righter or for wronger, is that if I make a habit of doing this DVD, I will eventually get better at everything, and will even be able to attempt the Karanda.

See, all this time, I've been drinking the Ashtanga Kool-Aid. You know, the stuff that makes you think you don't "deserve" a pose because you can't do some other pose. The stuff that makes you think that there are no "spirals" and "loops" involved in the practice - just place your hand and all is coming. The stuff that makes you think that you need a teacher to babysit your practice every friggin day. The stuff that makes you think that you dare not mix types of yoga. The stuff that makes you think that only Ashtanga is real yoga and the rest is some pathetic approximation. The stuff that makes you think that Ashtanga is all you need to stay healthy and fit. The stuff that makes you think that Ashtanga is appropriate for every body at every age, no matter what the individual has been through physicaly, no matter how long an individuals arms, legs, fingers, torso, no matter what the individual does for a living, no matter what the individual's life circumstances. The stuff that makes you think that the word "criminal" isn't an oxymoron when used in the context of discussing yoga. The stuff that makes you believe that you don't have the right to do whatever poses you want whenever you want.

But it's not working for me. I'm being present, and I'm being mindful. And one of the first things I learned as a newbie yogi was that the reason we suffer is that we try to peg ourselves. We try to create an identity, and when we don't live up to that identity, we suffer. The identifier,
"I am an Ashtangi" has the potential to make me suffer because it won't allow me to practice poses that make me feel good, that make me feel accomplished, that make sense to my body on any given day. I can practice Ashtanga without identifying with all of that though, and that is what I set out to do, henceforth.

I am going to stop practicing Primary and Second on the same day. It is just too fucking much. TOO MUCH. And if and when it isn't too much, I will do it again. Mindful. Present. Reality testing. For the forseeable future, or until it no longer makes sense, I am going to practice Primary, plus maybe Pasasana after Marichyasana D - because it feels so damn good to do so RIGHT NOW on some days - and feel really FUCKING good about myself on those days. And on other days, I will practice Second with the Richard DVD unless and until I no longer feel that I need the rhythm of his teaching to get me through it without a lot of research and bullshit thrown in.

No one is paying me to practice a certain way. There is no prize for following the rules of some Indian men who will never know me and the people who follow their teachings. I respect that they believe in the teachings. But I am not much of a joiner - never have been. I try to be a joiner, but it never sticks for very long.

I won't say I'm a maverick because that's too gross. But I definitely find my own way when I find that the other way no longer makes sense. And something clearly isn't making sense here for me. So, I'm over it. And I'm proud.

From here on in, when it comes to yoga, and particularly, Ashtanga, I am opening up my world to allow other possibilities in. And right now, that means practicing all of Primary sometimes, and all of Second sometimes, even if....shock upon shock, I can't bind in Kapotasana without being painfully physically wrenched into it....and even if....oh dear god, say it isn't so...I have to hold my leg behind my head with one hand in Eka Pada. Because you know what? THAT will change. In time. And in the meantime, I loooooove those Seven Headstands. And everything that goes before them. Whether I can do them skillfully or not.

And I won't be ashamed to go to the occasional Bikram class. Or to pop in my Mantra Girl or Ana Brett DVDs. Because those are damned good fun and really really hard work too.

Bottom line: I am smart enough to not need to be boxed in by some set of rules that don't really have anything to do with me.

And I know, absolutely, as an absolute matter of fact, that this method of practice WILL be to my benefit. Physically, spiritually, emotionally, even monetarily.

So, yeah.


Monday, November 03, 2008

New and Improved Election 2008! Now, with more sex toys!

If you're in NYC (and I have just learned - L.A. and Seattle) make sure that you don't leave your voting venue without "proof of voting"...lest you miss out on "Sextoys for Votes", courtesy of Toys in Babeland. The toy pictured to the left is the one that registered Democrats get. Kidding, although the other toy is the "Maverick Sleeve" (pictured below), which might come in "handy" if you have a thing for Sarah Palin.

Unlike politicians, sex toys really do transcend party lines.

How come no one in Westchester thinks of these things?


Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Bill Clinton Omen (?), the Worst Movie EVER and Hallowhine

Yesterday, Brian saw Bill Clinton walking along the road in Mt. Kisco (sister town to Chappaqua, where Clinton lives). It was kind of in the middle of nowhere, across the street from a Friendly's and around the corner from cemetery. Brian was with his friend D and D's dad. Apparently D's dad called out, "Hey Bill!". I asked Brian, "Do you think it's an omen, you running into the last Democratic president right before the election?" Brian asked me, "What's an 'omen'?"

Next topic.

I just sat through the worst movie ever: "Gerry". Nothing happens in it. Well, two things happen, really, and neither of them are particularly interesting, although theoretically the second one should have been. I think what is supposed to be interesting is the way that the shots mirror what must be the emotions of the characters, or what you might figure to be the emotions of the characters if they weren't severely handicapped by utter stupidity. Come to think of it, "Gerry" is kind of like "Beavis and Butthead Get Lost In The Desert", minus almost all dialogue and minus all comedy. I just read that there are only 100 shots in this 100 minute movie, which means that each shot is averages 60 seconds. Can you imagine? Try.

And then there was Halloween. Which I hate, like all redblooded American parents do after their kids grow out of their pumpkin-onesies. And for me, someone who feels anxious in large crowds, it is particularly unpleasant.

Since I live in the middle of nowhere, no one ever rings my doorbell. I guess that makes things easy for me, since I don't have to worry about staying home to man the door. On the other hand, it means that I have to drive my kids elsewhere for trick-or-treating. On the other other hand, most people of my town are in the same boat, so it has evolved over the years (I am told) that 90 percent of all trick-or-treating happens in just three small neighborhoods.

Neighorhood Number One is famous for its Halloween Pyrotechnics. The houses are on 1/8 acres, and so there's a LOT of theatrics per square foot: smoke machines in makeshift front lawn graveyards, adults in costume as they give out candy, strobe lights, noise machines, fire pits, trampolines filled with ghouls, scary movies projected onto the sides of houses. HUGE HUGE crowds. If you want to "see and be seen", this is the place. Of course, it's really dark, and everyone is wearing black. And I think people come to Neighborhood Number One from other towns as well. To me, the drawback is the chaos. To the kids, the drawback is that each house gives out only one piece of candy (and I'm told that they still run through 30 bags apiece).

Neighborhood Number Two is famous for its generosity. They give out giant candy bars and dump bowls of candy into your bag. Also, the older kids hang out there, so there's the cool factor. The neighborhood is one-acre zoning, and quite hilly in parts, so it takes a bit longer to get around, but apparently, it's worth it if you do. Rating: Highest Wow Factor.

Neighborhood Number Three is a development right off of the Old Post Road, which itself is right off of Main Street. In other words, centrally located, which is a big selling point for me. Another The decor is nothing compared to Neighborhood Number 1, but everyone in this particular neighborhood gives out handfuls of candy, or leaves the candy on the stoop and lets you just grab what you want. Plus, it's a condo development, where half of the houses are attached in twos, and the other half are stand-alone but with almost no space between. So, you can get a lot of candy really quickly. Rating: Highest Efficiency.

Both of my kids were invited to Halloween parties, and then Brian ended up in the Neighborhood Number 3. I met Adam at Neighborhood Number 1, after which he expressed frustration because of how little candy he felt he had scored (only 103 pieces). So, we drove over to Neighborhood Number 2 and filled his bag to the brim in record time.

I feel sort of exhausted today. Did Bikram yesterday plus all of my Ashtanga poses from Mari A on. Man, was I loose after that Bikram class. It's funny - I complained halfway through the class that the fans were blowing on me, but ultimately, the fact that I didn't get insanely sweaty the way I do when I take Bikram in Manhattan, meant that I had some juice left for my Ashtanga poses afterwards. Sometimes less IS more.

Did I just say 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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