Sunday, May 31, 2009

Second Series Today

Not because it's Sunday. To "certain days being associated with certain Series", I say, "Meh". I practiced Second Series today because my body was kind of achey from a night of dancing last night, and maybe a little too much Pinot Noir over too many hours, and Second Series has less Vinyasas overall - and more to the point, less chaturangas. I also practiced Second Series today because give a choice, I will always focus more on forward bending than backbending, to the detriment of the backbending. And Second Series does not give me that ability, if I do it in order. It starts with backbends, after the first two poses, that is.

It went rather nicely, I have to say. There were moments when I was like, jeez, is this ever going to end? That was when I was doing Kapotasana, which sucked as badly as it ever has, maybe moreso and then a rather painful, crampy, cranky Supta Vajrasana. The Eka Padas were pretty rough too since I had zero opportunity to warm up for leg-behind-head. But Dwi Pada through Tittibhasana was fine, and then it all progressed so quickly once I was past my two Pincha Mayurasanas (since I have zero desire to even approximate any aspect of Karandavasana, other than the Pincha part),

I found it interesting that Tittibhasana C was not problematic, given that Eka Pada was so stiff and unyielding. I also found it interesting that Mayurasana was so easy, given its placement in the Series. Most pleasant suprise: I did every one of the Seven Headstands coming up in a pike. I have never been able to do that before. Perhaps this is a function of doing them after just Second, instead of after Primary and THEN Second. Perhaps the same goes for Mayurasana. Less is definitely more, I am finding. Over and over and over again in my life, as well as in yoga.

Also pleased that Pasasana was fine without the Maryichyasanas. I don't know if I have ever even attempted that before. Or if I have, I doubt I have ever been able to do that before. Then again, I am rolling my mat under my heels now. MUCH better. And why shouldn't I? I am a Westerner. A short Westerner who wears heels every single day. How can I be expected to squat like an Indian?

Final comment about it, reinforcing the bit of wisdom imparted to me at some point during my Om teacher training, that there is no yoga adjustment or alignment advice that does not have an expiration date: I decided to try stepping up to Virabhadrasana in the Surya Namaskar B's straight from Down Dog, rather than putting my heel down first, as the Good Doc had demanded of me. At the time that the Good Doc gave me this instruction, it made sense. It helped me, I remember. Not sure I remember exactly what it helped me with, but I know I remember thinking that it was helpful. But lately, I have been noticing that it kind of messes up my rhythm. So, today, I exhaled into downdog and boom, just stepped forward...and it was nice. Nice and smooth.

Maybe someday I will go back to the heel down/step forward method. But right now, my teacher is telling me to do it the other way. And by my teacher, I mean, ME.

All in all, backbends sucked today, as bad as ever. Yet, here is the oddness: my dropbacks and standups were quite nice.

Go figure.

Haven't walked Lewis today. I did rake all of the goddamned Oriental Bittersweet out of my shade garden paths. That stuff is horribly invasive, and I don't even know where it came from. Last year, I don't rememer there being any Bittersweet at all. This year, it is threatening to take over. It's a pretty chartreuse color, but don't let that fool you. It vines and climbs and tangles and gets woody, and ultimately, it will kill everything it can overpower. So, I did what I had to do. But Lewis still needs a walk. He is already losing weight on his new fitness program. I guess, after supper.

As for tomorrow...who knows? Primary? No practice at all? I love the flexibility of my new program...


Practice Record

I practiced yesterday. Forgot to mention. That was day 4 in a row. Today, going for day 5. It's gorgeous out, so really no excuses are available except for minor post-party dolldrums.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Fun in Fundamentalism

I was just reading Grimmly's blog entry in which there is a revisiting of the well-worn debate between those who fully buy into the traditional one-pose-at-a-time method of Ashtanga yoga teaching versus those who don't. Of the latter, it seems that there are two schools: those who tried it in earnest and found it wanting and those who never even thought to try and and found that life was good without it.

I am of the former school. And I thought it might be fun (for me, at least) to revisit how my change of heart came to pass.

I started my Ashtanga practice with the goal of completing Primary Series because I believed, as I still do, that the deep forward bends and twists are therapeutic, if only for the muscles and joints of the body, and possibly for the metabolic system as well (it is impossible to deny the effects on my own digestive system of the deep twists...if things aren't moving along, so to speak, all it takes is Mari D, we're in business, you Ashtangis know what I'm talking about...). When I started, my body was stiff. Not my mind, folks. My body. I had run marathons but had never bothered to stretch. Even though I had done my share of handsprings as a youth and had continued throughout adulthood to now and then pull one out when I found myself on a wide, green expanse of grass, after my double mastectomy, there were no more handsprings. No more back walkovers. Not my mind, my body. Very real, very stiff.

I took "led" classes (Western style, your typical yoga classes where the instructor calls out the poses and the class follows suit), but I found that I was gaining little flexibility in the more difficult poses. Plus, very few led classes actually got past the halfway point of Primary. Even Govinda Kai's Led Primary class at New York Yoga back in the early 2000's was really Led Half Primary (that was when he was known as Russell Kai Yamaguchi, for those who don't recognize the name).

I decided to give Mysore-style classes a go because I felt that the one-on-one attention in the difficult poses would provide the intensity and repetition I needed. I was afraid to try Mysore-style at first because I was resistent to the idea of being "stopped" at a pose that I had not yet perfected (which I assumed would be Marichyasana C, but I feared could be sooner, depending on how exacting a teacher might be...after all, my Marichyasana A wasn't pretty either; even though I could link fingers, a wrist bind was a far-off dream, and I wasn't sure what a teacher would expect of me). Anyway, I finally gave in and decided that I would accept the "being stopped" because I really really really wanted to make progress in Marichyasana C and D and Kurmasana.

I tried Eddie Stern's shala and really enjoyed Sarah's midmorning session. She stopped me at Marichyasana D, if I am remembering correctly. I also tried Guy Donahaye's shala, and found myself gravitating toward Mark Robberds's light-hearted, sunshiney style (he was the guest teacher that first summer while Guy was away). Mark let me go all the way to Supta Kurmasana, but he told me that Guy probably would cut me back to Marichyasana C or D, since I needed assistance to bind them. By then, I was fine with all of that because very single day that I went to practice, I actually got to DO those poses that had seemed impossible before, even if it was with help. And I liked it. I not only liked it, I was addicted to it and completely dependent on GOING to the shala in order to get my assists. If I didn't go to the shala, then those poses eluded me. So, naturally, I wanted to go. Every single day.

As time wore on, and I am talking a lot of time - a year or more - I became able to do Marichyasana C and D on my own, and then Supta Kurmasana became the challenge, the addiction, the pose that made me dependent on my teacher and a visit to the shala for help. And then came drop-backs.

By the midsummer of 2007, I found myself able to do every pose of Primary Series on my own and to drop back and stand up on my own. But I became interested in more-deeply backbending, and I knew that I was going to need at least some of Second Series in order to do that. Not that I couldn't do that on my own - except for Pasasana, we're talking very very elementary backbending prior to Kapotasana.

Anyway, long story short, over the period of a little more than a year, except for a brief interlude with Christopher Hildebrandt, which I will get to in a moment, I found my interest in shala practice significantly diminished. I think that what had happened was that nothing had ever really changed for me: I still really wanted to practice Primary Series. I didn't want to give up any of Primary Series because I still firmly believed in it. It made me fit. It made me feel good. And I could DO Primary Series without any help at all.

Now, there was that time with Christopher, in the summer of 2008 where I began to really long for more more more. And I attribute that to Christopher's enthusiasm and his seeming belief that any pose is possible for any person. He gave me all of Second Series up to Eka Pada Sirsasana with the promise of more just as soon as I could keep my legs behind my head without assistance. But that is when it all started to backfire for me. I don't think I really WANTED all those poses. I wanted to learn to backbend. And doing leg-behind-head poses wasn't helping my backbends.

And this is when the doubt began to creep in. My teacher believed that I could do these poses, that I should do these poses. But I didn't. Much as my ego wanted to believe my teacher, reality was telling me that this was not the proper course for me. I struggled with the reality testing all throughout this past winter. I practiced at home, trying to keep up the prescribed practice - all of Primary then Second up to Eka Pada. But it was arduously long, and I felt overtrained. I was making no progress in Kapotasana, or not nearly enough for the amount of time I had put in. I sensed that the work in Eka Pada was undoing my work in Kapotasana.

In short: I began to distrust outside teaching and to trust my inner teacher above all else.

Getting back to the original seed that started this post - the question of whether the traditional one-pose-at-a-time style is the right style for everyone - I think that the answer is that nothing is one-size-fits-all. It's simply not black and white.

Show me a 30-year-old former dance instructor who steadily moves through Primary and Second, and I will show you two or three or 10 45-year-old former runners who are much better off doing it all piecemeal, at least after they learn Primary. I still believe that Primary should be learned in its entirety before moving on to Second Series. But I also believe that Primary might best be practiced as a gestalt, rather than one-pose-at-a-time. Or maybe not. Maybe it depends on the student. Maybe it depends on what the student WANTS. Maybe all students would be best served by having a teacher who is willing to tailor the practice to what the student wants from their practice, maybe with some limits set: no Pasasana until Mari D is self-bound, for example. No Eka Pada unless Supta Kurmasana is bound (with or without assistance). And Second Series backbends should be available to students who need them.

I don't know. I fully admit that I don't know. All I know is what worked for me and what didn't. What worked for me WAS being taught one Primary Series pose at a time. But "worked" is a tricky notion. It "worked" in that it made me proficient at Primary Series, which I can breeze through in under an hour now. But it did not work as far as making me fit and healthy exactly. The weight that I put on when I was being treated for breast cancer did not come off until I was practicing ALL of Primary. And once I was practicing all of Primary, the weight SLID off. I don't even understand how it came off so quickly. Before that, when I was practicing half of Primary and/or maybe a bit more, my weight was lower than it was before I was practicing Ashtanga diligently and daily. But I did not find my "comfortable" weight until after I was "allowed" to practice all of Primary (and by "allowed", I mean in a shala; of course, I could have done whatever I wanted at home, and sometimes I did. But during this period, I was still of the mindset that I was doing something "criminal", which seems laughable now, but that was my mindset at the time...I was "all in" when it came to the Ashtanga game).

Perhaps if I had been allowed to practice ALL of Primary but was told that I would not be taught any of Second Series, with the exception of the Second Series backbends up to but not including Kapotasana, until I could do all of Primary on my own, I might have taken a lot longer to learn all of Primary. On the other hand, perhaps I would have lost a lot of weight, making it easy for me to bind in Marichyasana D and Supta Kurmasana.

Of course, for ME, weight seems to be a relevant factor in my ability to bind certain poses. Actually, the more flexible I get, the more years of practice I have under my belt, the fewer poses there are that seem to be effected by weight. Right now, it seems to only be Supta Kurmasana in which I can feel a difference if I put on or take off a pound or two. Maybe someday, I will be flexible enough so that it doesn't matter at all if my weight is up or down, with respect to Supta Kurmasana. However, for other people, no amount of skinniness is going to matter in certain poses. I have seen skinny people struggle in Marichyasana D. I have seen skinny people who are unable to bind in Supta Kurmasana without help (some are unable to bind WITH help). So, for me, the rigors of practicing all of Primary might have made a difference in my ability to DO all of Primary, whereas for others, the rigors of practice might make no difference at all.

Chalk another one up to one size does not fit all, to black and white being a bit greyer than traditionalists might wish to believe.

I certainly do not regret trusting Guy and learning the Primary Series the way he was taught - one pose at a time, proficiency required. But I wonder if it might have been just as good for me the way, say, Val or Tim Miller teaches it: all of Primary at once.

There is no answer. The only way to "test" the two opposing theories are to have the same person try it both ways, but of course that isn't possible. Because once you've learned it one way, you can't undo it and then learn it the other way. So anyone who claims that they KNOW that one way is better than the other really can't know it at all. They can have FAITH in the way they were taught. They can have faith in their guru, or their guru's guru. But they can't know.

Grimmly, who inspired this post, is perhaps my favorite yogi of all right now, and I will tell you why. Grimmly is innocent. Grimmly has not ventured into the shala and then rejected it as you might say that I have. Grimmly has simply stumbled onto an amazing style of yoga, teaching it to himself with great success. It is a pleasure to see it in action. He defies every Ashtanga Traditionalist's expectations. He throws it on the ground and Karandavasanas right over it. It is awesome.


Some saw fit to try to stomp on his buzz. Based on my experiences, I would expect that someday those buzz-stompers will either abandon the Ashtanga fold altogether - when they get to a pose for which the Ashtanga system suddenly disappoints them, suddenly no longer works. Or....

Wait. I really don't see any other possibility for the buzz-stompers. In my heart of hearts, I believe that it can only end one way. Disappointment.

But not for Grimmly. Grimmly will keep on keeping least I hope so.

This is probably one of the most rushed and disjointed posts I've ever vomited out. But there you go. I had to say it.


Friday, May 29, 2009

Did it.

Practiced. Walked Lewis. Backbends still hurt the hell out of my wrists. They don't feel super good on my back either. I have to just hope that when the weather is nice again, this wrist stiffness will be gone, and maybe the rest of it will fall into place. Other than that, my practice feels awesome and everything works like a charm, even Pasasana and Supta Kurmasana, which were coming and going this winter (probably a function of the winter pudgies, which for me is never much, but it does seem to have a significant effect on my binding in those tight-tight poses).


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Day Whatever

Is it Day 8? Or Day 1 again? Or Day None because the deal was I was supposed to practice outside every single day that the weather permits. And today, the weather did not permit. Far from it. Rather, I practiced in my


As you can see, it's not quite finished, but the walls are up, the floors, the moldings, even the French doors. It needs a paint job (sky blue, I'm thinking at the moment, to go in a French country way with the lemon yellow of the walls outside the yoga room), door knobs, the closet needs shelves and a hanging bar. I'd also like to add a mirror and maybe a ballet bar to the back wall (opposite the french doors).

This is one part of the "basement" level of my house, which is really only half underground. As you can see from the pic, there is a picture window and a door to the garden on the side of my house, where I planted Wisteria and am growing a cutting garden of Zinnias. So, the French doors allow light in from the window and door and afford a view of the greenery outside.

The rest of the basement is going to be a rec room for the kids. There will be a large-screen television, a big comfy couch, a couple of toy closets and some game tables (ping pong, for one). I'll move my sewing machine down there, and the futon/couch that used to be in the kids' playroom in our apartment in the city. There is also a full bath that has all the fixtures in, but none of them have been hooked up yet. So, theoretically, I could do my yoga and shower and emerge fully ready for whatever!

But the important thing for me is that I can close those French doors and still see the light from the outside but not hear whatever is going on in the rest of the house. And the space can be heated to delightfully sweaty levels with just a single space heater.


I did my practice there this afternoon. It was great, except for my backbends, which are stiff and uncomfortable. Could it be the damn weather? My wrists feel like they cannot hold my arms up. It's quite distressing. It comes and goes. I hate when it comes though.

Backing up a bit, I did take Lewis on his fitness walk this morning. Thirty minutes in the nature preserve in Greenwich (we HAVE to drive to take a leash walk...insane, I know, but really, it is the only way that works due to a combination of factors, including the electric fence and the fact that there are no sidewalks here). Then I had to go biannual appointment with Dr. H. This makes seven years.

All is well. Praise science.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I couldn't practice today...


I didn't want to.

But tomorrow is another day.

My yoga practice is quite bipolar. Some weeks are up up up all the time, and then suddenly, I crash.

Today, anyway, I had other priorities that could not include a trip into the city. Among those: I decided to put Lewis the Bagle on a new fitness program, which means that he has to go on a walk with me once a day, rain or shine. Getting out for that first walk, knowing it would be the first of many, many, many...that was tough. But, one day at a time, right?

Our walk was nice. I did it for him, not for me, so I let go of the annoyance of him stopping every fifteen seconds to pee.

Another thing: today the workmen were finishing the floor and moldings on our ground level, which contains my room! Wood floor, French doors through which you can see the side garden and the pond, and when I close those French doors, it's a cozy warm space after about five minutes with the space heater.

It's all still unpainted, and the bathroom fixtures need to be hooked up, but basically, it's good enough for me to take a trial run tomorrow. Believe me, if the weather was promising, I would be outside. But we are back to grey and gloomy again. Pfft.

And so, tomorrow, after a bright and early cup of coffee and a bit of yogurt, I will get the kids off to school, walk the dog and then do my yoga practice in my new yoga room...

I hope.

Hold me to it. Please. I need accountability...


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

On the 8th day...

there was rest. I felt rather like shit today, actually. Wasn't even up for gardening although I did a bit. Moved a few flowering shrubs that seemed to want to be somewhere else, moved a line of Daylillies that definitely wanted a new home. And then I lost my mojo. Still have some moving of flowering shrubs to do, but it can wait. Maybe later tomorrow.

There is no question that this crappy weather effects me, makes me sluggish and loguey. It also doesn't help that my tooth problem from three months ago is STILL not fully resolved. I am noticing it today again. Sensitivity in the tooth followed by a radiating ache. Nothing that a couple of Advil can't fix, but it is distressing nontheless, especially for someone like me who is so sensitive to every little ache and pain (I was always that wasn't the cancer that made me that's probably why I discovered my cancer!).

Anyway, so tomorrow I have my weekly shrinking, and it's one of those weeks when I promised to come in, instead of literally phoning it in. So, just like those weeks when my computer lab ended early or didn't happen for one reason or another, I could actually go in and practice midmorning with...that teacher who I really don't much enjoy practicing with.

Except for one thing: she is not on the schedule. What gives? Is she GONE??!!!

I thoroughly enjoy practicing with YS's go-to-subs. But I don't want to get attached to the scenario in case it doesn't last...

Does anyone know?


Monday, May 25, 2009

Day 7!

That's all I wanted to say...shocking as it is (both that I practiced seven days in a row and that I have nothing else to say).

OK, and this: sooooo delightful!!!!!! I'll take a day off when I am tired and sore. Tomorrow? Or whenever it rains next, I am guessing...


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Day 6: The Husband ROCKS as an Ashtangi assist-er

Sixth day in a row today. I practiced because it was hot and muggy out. I could have (should have?) rested. But whatever. It felt AWESOME.

Husband was hanging around for the second side of Pasasana, so I asked him - could you give me a hand here? And he promptly knocked me over. Second time was the charm. I am telling you: no yoga teacher has ever given me a better Pasasana assist. He simply brought my hands together firmly and then backed off. I was like, "noooo, I'm going to fall...." but I totally did NOT fall.

How is it that my husband,the real estate lawyer, the total non-yogi except for the occasional hot yoga class, is my best Supta K and Pasasana assist-er? Tied for second best are my sons. OK, well, maybe they are tied for third after the Good Doc and Val, who are tied for Second, due to their assertive pulling of arms from under the legs using the wrists as leverage and their crossing ankles over neck in a way that no one else can really do (except for the Husband, who may have a desire to hurt me, which pays off when it comes to Ashtanga assists...).

Speaking of Supta K, after holding it for a delicious 10 breaths, I came up and then rolled over on my back and bound in Yoga Nidrasana. YUM.

I was a bit disappointed that after all that juice in the forward bends and twists, and even some really nice Second Series backbending, my Urdhva Dhanurasana was still painful in my wrists, and Kapotasana wasn't even close. Whatever. Other than that, it's all good. The practice keeps me fit and happy.

Had some friends over today, late afternoon through early evening. We were talking about how you adjust to a "new normal" when things happen that you never could have foreseen. Specifically, we had been talking about the fact that if one gets prostate cancer, the surgery could leave one impotent. I suggested that perhaps this would not be as tragic as it seems at this moment, standing in this place, at this time. Like, perhaps if your life is at stake, you eventually adjust to a new normal, where impotence is not a major issue. I cited myself as an example. If I were 20 years old, and you told me that as a 36 year old, I would have to have one or both breasts removed to battle an aggressive form of breast cancer, I would have been pretty damn upset. Not able to get out of bed upset. But at 36, when it was my life at stake, I was borderline cavalier about it, about everything I had to give up in order to survive - the loss of the breasts, the loss of hair, the loss of eyelashes and eyebrows, the weight gain, the loss of the illusion that I was too good for cancer.

I bring this up because the issue of my reconstruction came up. My reconstruction was a failure. The first time and the second. And by failure, I mean that I do not like the way it turned out. And I am not picky. I WANTED to like it. I would have dug deep into the depths of denial to like it. But there is not much to like except for the fact that I can manage to look okay in clothing. Last year, I sought out a third opinion, a horrible doctor who I wrote about somewhere on this blog, who was dismissive of me and told me, essentially, that I could have another go at it - using fat from my butt - which I would have to grow by gaining weight! - if I was willing to never ever do yoga again.

Never. Do. Yoga. Again.

Sorry, but no.

New normal. Me wanting function more than form. It's mildly mind-blowing to me that I would rather live with what I've got, which is far from what I had when I liked what I had, than give up the activity that makes me truly content.

Time to put down the wine. When I read this tomorrow, will I delete? Time shall tell...


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Yesterday was Day 4

Sultry and sunny it was, and it was the first time in a long time that I had to ask my body to gear up for the fourth day in a row of practice. (It's been a long winter of on-and-off slacking.)

I told myself, just 10 Sun Salutations, but even so, I knew that on such a deliriously perfect-for-practice-al-fresco-day, once I started, I would have to do the whole thing, which is exactly what happened. In fact, I had just finished Primary when it was time to take Adam to baseball practice. When I came home, I did five Surya A's and launched into Second.

I wonder if my shoulders will ever soften sufficiently for me to take both my toes in Kapotasana. Or if not my shoulders, then perhaps my back will bend enough so that it doesn't matter about my shoulders. Or if not my back, then perhaps my hip flexors or quads will release enough to make up for any lack of mobility in my shoulders or back. That's how it works, after all. That's why I believe that I have to be a certain level of thin in order to bind without assistance in Supta Kurmasana: what I lack in shoulder-rotation flexibility and openness of the hips, I make up for by having less girth to get around. And conversely, it's why no level of thinness will help me back bend better. In fact, for some odd reason, the thinner I am, the more difficult backbending seems to be. But I don't know if that is purely correlational as opposed to causal.

I think I'm in a space, currently, where I don't much care, where I have nothing really invested in, how much progress I make in my backbends. I do wish that I could eliminate all wrist discomfort in the pressing-up, and I do wish that I didn't feel dread about Kapotasana. And I do wish that Ustrasana - a proper, thighs perpendicular to the floor version - came without angst and ouch. But it's not about wanting to DO the poses so much as it is about wanting to feel good when practicing. I think.

Yesterday, as I easily caught my toes in baddha padmasana< I realized that I never "worked" on going from not touching my toes to touching my toes to fingernail bind on my toes to really gripping my toes. And I wondered if someday, Kapotasana, maybe all backbending, would come to me in the same way. Slowly, gradually, eventually. Using the analogy, the key would be not engaging in posture-angst: just doing the backbending practice and letting the changes happen, or not, as the case may be.

All this talk about it makes it sound like I am, in fact, QUITE invested. But I'm just naval gazing. Because it's a lazy Saturday, and I'm in between All Star baseball games and Home Run Derbies and hot dogs and cotton candy runs at the Armonk Memorial Day Baseball Classic (which puts me in the mindset of small-town America. Reminds me of the sweet little town to which Julia Roberts' character fled in While You Were Sleeping, when I'm not putting myself in the mindset of yoga and thinking about yoga and thinking about thinking about yoga).

Today would be Day 5 except (1) it is Saturday and aren't I supposed to have Saturdays off? and (2) it's under 70 degrees outside. So, maybe I won't practice? Or maybe I will. More likely, I will. But indoors, blech. No expectations, just getting to the mat.

What I would like to do this summer, starting when my kids leave for camp on June 26 is do my own version of a yoga boot camp. Me, my back porch and the sun. Wake up in the morning, have a yogurt and a coffee, walk around my property and putter a bit, maybe water the containers, maybe water the woodland garden, since the sprinkler system doesn't reach back there, then take a bath, do my practice. Shower, maybe see a friend, relax. Then later on, maybe in the heat of the day, go back to do some backbending. Then either gardening or a walk in the woods. I guess I'm planning on a very quiet, mellow summer, unlike last summer, when I awoke at the crack of freakin' dawn, got my ass to the city and practiced with the Good Doctor. It was exhausting. Fun but exhausting. This summer, I want a more mellow, relaxed experience.

OK, back to the ballparks.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Amazing and Joyful Day 3 of the Solar Powered Chickie

Man, do I love practicing outside in the sunshine. It just fills me with happiness in a way that indoor practice does not.

A commentator mentioned that Guruji had written in Yoga Mala that we should not practice outside. There was a time, not even that long ago, when I would have been shamed by such a comment. I would have rethought my own happiness and considered taking my practice back indoors again. Now, such thinking is inconceivable. I am sure that Guruji had good reason for requiring that practice take place indoors. Perhaps the sun is a factor. Well, in my case, my back porch is a "half and half": half open pergola, and half closed, meaning that the slats have planks ABOVE them that keep the sun from peeking through. It's not an indoor space by any means. But it is protected from sun.

Not that I owe anyone an explanation. But there you have it. There is some logic to Guruji's prescreptions, no doubt. And there is some method to Yoga Chickie's madness. No doubt. At least none in Yoga Chickie's mind.

I had thought about going to Val's today, because I do enjoy practicing with her. And I do plan on visiting Sir again, as well as Lori in the summer, made actual plans to do so today, in fact (to see, Sir, that is). But as I considered taking the half hour drive to Georgetown, CT today, it occurred to me that I would RATHER practice alone on my back porch, listening to my own music, with the greenery and the newly blooming hydrangeas, foxglove, coreopsis and yarrow as a backdrop. Not that I won't at some point enjoy a trip to a shala. But today, I decided that what I would rather do was practice alone. And so I did.

Sometimes when I practice alone, I force myself to do it exactly as I was taught. No additions. No variations. No binding in the standing poses. No hanumanasana (splits). No arm balances thrown in.

Today was not one of those days.

Here's a perfect example of the way I turned my Ashtanga template into my own practice today:

5 Surya A
5 Surya B
Trikonasana to Ardha Chandrasana
Revolved Triangle to Parvritta Ardha Chandrasana
Full Vinyasa in between
Parsvakonasana, touch head to the ground next to foot, then take the bind, then standard pose.
Parvritta Parsvakonasana, take the bind, then standard pose.
Prasarita Padotanasana A, B and C, then instead of D, Gomukhasana arms on each side with the top elbow to the ground.
Parsvotanasana to Full Vinyasa to bending down to pick up the toe and stand up for...
Uttitha Hasta Padangustasana - front, side and then take the leg behind for Natarajasana (Bikram style)
Full Vinyasa to Ardha Badha Padmotannasana, then bend the knee and touch down for Vatayanasana
Then Full Vinyasa to Utkatasana to Bakasana A, then Bakasana B then Full Vinyasa to...
a deep lunge with the toenails on the mat, then Warrior I then Warrior II.

Then the Primary Series "as written" until Janu Sirasana C, which I jump into Eka Pada Sirsasana style and do Compass Pose before.

After each Marichyasana, I jump out of it exactly as I am when I finish the pose, creating an arm balance in each case.

After Marichyasana D, straight to Pasasana, then Krounchasana, then back to Navasana. Then...
Bujapidasana, Kurmasana, Supta Kurmasana. Then...
Eka Pada Sirsasana and Yogi Nidrasana.
Then skipping Garba Pindasana going straight to Badha Konasana and going right through the end of Primary, except skipping Setu Bandhasana.

Back to another Pasasana (yes, putting it in twice because (a) I LIKE it and (b) I am FINALLY getting really really consistent with it, even pressing my heels down), Krounchasana and then while I'm in the Krounchasana position, what a perfect set up for Parighasana and then Bharadvajasana.

Finally the backbending poses. I do them in order until Ustrasana. Then all bets are off. I do Ustrasana a couple of times and I spend some time just hanging back while standing on my shins, not putting my hands on my heels. Skipped Laghu Vajrasana and instead did Kapotasana twice. Once holding A, and once holding B.

From there, put head down and wrapped elbows around head, a la Viparata Dandasana, but pressed chest toward wall. From there, pressed up into Urdhva Dhanurasana. Stood up and then dropped back without lifting the heels by walking the hands down the wall: really really really wakes up my legs and stretches my groins.

Then Utttanasana. Then the closing sequence. Oh, and somewhere in there, not sure where, I did a 10-breath Pincha Mayurasana. I don't remember where.

I am sure that I will never repeat this exact sequence again. Because it will never be TODAY again. And my body will never be exactly the same as it was today again. And that is the beauty of a home self-practice.

Money saved not going to class: $20
Gas saved not going to class: 3/4 gallon
Feeling like my body got EXACTLY what it needed: priceless.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Day 2 of the Solar Powered Chickie

I think I am going to try to keep track of my practices for a bit, hold myself accountable.

So, today, Full Primary, then Second to Kapotasana. Skipped Laghu Vaj because, well, because I really can't stand that pose, even though I can do it. Besides, Ustrasana is so much more important, and I do that like three times.

Practiced outside after a lunch of swiss cheese, fake bacon and avocado on a flour tortilla, so there were some kind of pukey moments. But it's still good. Thank you, sun.

Oh, did some interesting backbend research that I think might be worth doing again: I dropped back with my feet planted a couple of feet away from the wall, and as I went back, I would not let my heels come up. That meant that I had to crawl my hands down the wall instead of dropping directly to the floor. But wow, what a stretch of my front body.

That's all.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Yoga Chickie: Now Using Solar Power

Seriously. I'm greening my yoga practice. I'm going to take what was a horrendous uninspired cold-assed winter and turn it into a concept. From here on in, when the weather is cold and my joints ache, I am not going to try to do my practice at all, BUT every day that the sun is shining and the temperature hits 70 degrees farenheit, I will get on my mat...outside.

All through this dismal winter and spring, I dragged my achey, arthritic joints through agonizing practices by turning on the space heater and upping the thermostat to upwards of 80 degrees. Sometimes I used the wood fireplace. None of those methods is helpful to my home's carbon footprint. In fact, they all suck pretty much. And I'm just talking about impact on the environment. As far as yoga practice goes, they pretty much suck too. Wood burning fire sends ashes out to greet the lungs. The space heater is cacophonous and smells sort of weird. And turning the thermostat up doesn't make it feel the "right" kind of warm. It just feels kind of like the walls are closing in.

Sure, not all my winter practices were awful. Some were even quite nice. But for the most part, it reminded me of trying to jog while pregnant. It just didn't feel right. And I knew that if I tried to keep it up, it would only spoil it for me afterwards. I figured that if I gave myself a break while the circumstances were less than decent, then I would return with that gung ho fervor that relish. And so it came to pass.

Now, way late into the spring season, the sun may actually be doing what we expect it to do, which is to say, warming the earth. The mushrooms growing all over my woodlands will be a bit miffed, I am sure. But whatever. They're poisonous anyway. Not that there's anything wrong with being poisonous, in and of itself, to wit, Foxglove (also known as Digitalis, also known as the source of a highly toxic substance used to make a highly potent heart medication).

But I digress.

And it's a beautiful thing. Me, jabbering away on my blog. Sure, you may not think so. But I feel good again, thanks to a delightful two hour practice in the sun on my back porch, and I might as well say it here.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Sri K. Pattabhi Jois 1915-2009

May his memory be a blessing to all whose lives were touched by his.


Saturday, May 02, 2009

Rock Star Yoga

Is this how the world is to perceive R. Sharath? A rock star gazing impenetrably at the world, wearing nothing but a black diaper and a smirk?


I am, shall we say, non-plussed.

Nice pose, by the way, if you like the look of broken limbs.


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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