Saturday, December 31, 2011

Home Sweet Home

This morning I was taking my usual walk to the Whole Foods from our apartment.  It's about a 20 minute walk
down Pennsylvania Avenue from near the Museum past a large park with a baseball field and past the Rodin Museum.  The sun was shining brightly and the skyline glimmered beyond the trees at the Rodin Museum.  The weather was unseasonably warm today. 

As I was walking and taking in the beautiful scenery and watching people and their dogs enjoying the weather, a wave of contentment washed over me.  I thought to myself "This is what it feels like to be home."

I wish you and yours such a sense of santosha in the coming year. 

Friday, December 30, 2011

Ringing in 2012!

2011 was a huge year for me with lots of change and challenges.  In the end, it was a good year with a move that brought me closer to my career goals, geographically closer to my family, and to a fantastic Ashtanga teacher.

Despite some health obstacles, which I thankfully overcame, my practice has progressed, especially in the past three months or so.  I've become fully re-committed to a 6 day a week practice which has paid off tremendously.  I have become stronger, leaner, and more present in my practice.  I'm working on Karandavasana with a lot of help from my teacher.  And just in the last week, I have been able to come straight to my heels in Kapotasana without touching the floor first (and on the days where I didn't reach my heels, I still touched my feet instead of the floor first). 

In September, I started an apprenticeship with my yoga teacher.  It turns out that this will be worthy of a 500 hour yoga alliance training.  Initially, I had signed up for the opportunity to deepen my practice, but it's wonderful that I'll also get this certification for the work and study that I'm investing. 

Thanks to some very talented and generous yoga bloggers (Claudia, Megan, and Grimmly) who shared my blog, so many more people are reading it.  That's been a very nice surprise this year. These bloggers and others in the "cyber shala" really kept my practice alive while I was living in Kentucky.  It's a huge honor that their readers are visiting my blog, too. 

In all, it was a very good year.  There are still a few persistent challenges, but I'm optimistic that 2012 will be a good year.

And so here are my resolutions:

Continue the 6 day a week practice!
Get back jumping into bakasana B.
Work on handstands every day.
 I take ankles in backbends every day.

Eat something green every day.
Eat a fruit every day. (I have a real aversion to fruit)
Eliminate fried foods from diet.
Of course, there is a weight goal associated with this. If I reach it, I'll let you know what it was.

Be more social.
Accept more invitations.
Read more.

Meditate at least 3 times a week.  Work up to daily.

Take more pictures...of practice, of life, of everything.

Give thanks more often.

Write at least once a week.

Namaste!  And a beautiful 2012 to you and yours!

 


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Visions of Yoga Teachers of the Past

Like many Ashtangis who have practiced for a few years, I've had quite a few teachers.  One Saturday while enjoying my morning coffee, I attempted to figure out where (and in some cases who) they all are.

By my count, I've had at least 7 regular Ashtanga teachers. That's not counting teachers I've taken classes with when traveling or teachers of other styles whose classes I dropped in on sporadically or teachers who subbed for my teachers on a short-term basis.

9 years (7 Mysore-style) and 7 teachers.  That's pretty...impressive?...confusing?  Actually, I feel like it's quite a blessing. Each of them has contributed something to my practice and understanding of the Ashtanga system.  This post is a kind of virtual bowing to their lotus feet.

Jen Malone  - Jen is now in LA and teaches, I believe at Equinox. I was at the Healthworks in Boston lifting weights and didn't feel like going home to work on my homework (a pattern at the time!  :)  So I looked at the schedule and saw "Power Yoga" on the schedule.  I had been doing "Hatha" yoga up until then and was skeptical of "Power Yoga." Fortunately for me, what Jen was really teaching was Ashtanga. I was so hooked that I took the class every week and then sought it out at Healthworks' other locations.  Finally, I cashed in the gym membership and invested in a Back Bay Yoga Studio membership.  Jen also introduced me to Sigur Ros, a bonus.



David Vendetti - David doesn't teach Ashtanga any more, but like many excellent vinyasa teachers, he used to.  David's Tuesday night BBY classes were packed and sweaty, and...funny!  Over 90 minutes we would laugh and breath and end up in a sweaty pool at the end.  He brought anatomy into his teaching with such fluency that I was later inspired to take his 200 hour teacher training.  Practically everything I know and understand about the way the human body functions I owe to David.  David also has a good grasp of the way that Ashtanga can harm the body if practiced without compassion or incorrectly.

Cary Perkins - When I finally got tired of spending a fortune between the premium gym membership (so that I could stalk Ashtanga classes at all branches of Healthworks) and drop-in classes at the studio, I finally decided to take the plunge and quit the gym and go for Mysore.  There's a bit more to this story, but that's for another post.  Cary was my first Mysore style teacher.  She was fierce and funny.  She made me observe on my first day which infuriated me.  But I came back anyway as if to prove to her that I had memorized the series.  She let me practice up to navasana when I started.  After about 2 months, we were starting drop backs.  I was terrified, but she stayed with me and helped me get through the fear. And then after I was practicing for about 4 months, she left. I think that she teaches in London now.

Michael Hamilton- He's a phenomenal teacher.  The one thing that stood out the most in his teaching was actually during a workshop after he had left Boston and then returned to do a weekend teacher's intensive.  I can't remember which pose it was, but someone said "I'm confused, so and so says that you have to do it this way, but such and such says to do it this other way.  Which one is right?"  Michael replied "It depends on what you're trying to access."  I believe that Michael is somewhere in Europe right now. Germany?  Switzerland?

Scot Hendricks - Scot comes from a dancer's background.  He has an intuitive knowledge of movement.  He really like to push people to their edge.  In particular, I remember a Tuesday night class that he was teaching that fell on a moon day.  He said to the class "Tonight is a full moon. We don't practice Ashtanga on moon days.  So instead we're going to do something different."  We chanted bija mantras and did some restorative poses.  Many of the die-hard (if you can call someone who practices Ashtanga but not Mysore-style "die-hards") yogis left angry. Some even complained to the studio owner.  That took a lot of guts.  Scot also taught me to beware the "yoga mind-fuck."  This would be the phenomenon where people try to guilt you into doing something or for having a certain point of view because you're a yoga teacher.  I think that Scot is somewhere in Asia right now. 

Kate O'Donnell -  Kate was my teacher for the longest period of time (something like 5 years off and on).  She and Scot used to swap. One would teach for a few months while the other was studying in India.  Almost my entire intermediate practice developed under Kate. She emphasizes the moving of energy and healing through the practice.  She offers a lot of "research" poses.  The space for research allowed me to heal my humerus/shoulder injury (or at least work with it).  Kate also introduced me to Ayurveda.  It is under her guidance that I take a twice yearly cleanse.  If you are ever in Boston, I highly recommend that you go to Back Bay Yoga and take practice with Kate. 

Greg Nardi - Greg is my current teacher here in Philadelphia.  I was pretty excited when I was getting ready to come to Philadelphia.  I was coming from a place where there were no Ashtanga teachers to a city that had two (later I learned Philly actually has 4 authorized teachers!).  My initial intention was to take some classes with Greg and some with the other teacher and get a sense of which was better for my learning style.  After a few Sunday led primary practices with Greg, I decided that I didn't need to "shop around."  G has many excellent attributes as a teacher.  He is exceptionally knowledgeable about the spiritual aspects of yoga and about the "scientific" aspects (such as anatomy).  His teaching style is very malleable. He adjusts his instructions according to the individual student.  This is especially helpful for me.  I seldom "get" what I'm supposed to be doing from the first set of instructions.  I need to hear instructions a few different ways. In addition to my daily practice, I'm now engaged in a very challenging and rewarding apprenticeship with Greg. 

I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to practice with such talented individuals whose devotion to the lineage inspires.

Namaste!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hot Bath v. Cold Shower

After 5 days of intermediate, my Friday practice always feels like a hot bath.  The muscles in my back yearn for forward bending.  I feel myself melt into each seated posture.   It's like a delightful treat after a meal of broccoli. 

Then Sundays, after the hot bath of primary and a day off on Saturday, the practice feels like a cold shower.  Everything is seized up.  I practice alone or with my teacher on Sundays before I teach which only adds to the element of feeling cold.  So I take it easy in my Sunday practice.  I move a little more slowly into the postures and allow myself some space, for example only grazing my toes with my fingertips in kapotasana.

The next few weeks are 6 day weeks.  Moon days this month fall on Saturdays.  I look forward to the challenge of maintaining the practice.  The next moon day isn't until 2012!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Dream

Last night I had a dream that this aggressive, loud, antagonistic woman was following me and attempting to start a fight with me.  When she got closer, I turned around and looked into her eyes.  I saw pain and anger and was no longer afraid of her.  I put my hands in anjali mudra and bowed to her and said 'namaste.'  I felt warmth flow over me as I recognized the divine in this woman.  When I looked up she thanked me and turned around. 

Dreams of people pursuing me are not new.  I often have this kind of dream and wake up gritting my teeth, angry, and afraid.  Usually during the dream, I am gearing up for the fight that is about to happen. This is the first time that my dream turned out this way.  It was beautiful.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

frustration

I never finished writing my required "yoga-teacher-writes-about-what-she's-grateful-for" post.  I now realize why.  In light of my present mood, it felt completely false.

There are things to be grateful for to be sure: my practice, the Shanti Yoga Shala, all the wonderful opportunities that have come to me, my family, my husband, etc.

But right now, they all feel so overshadowed by the difficulties that S and I are dealing with. We've been in Philly for over 6 months now and he has yet to find work. He's not being picky. He's applying for anything and everything that he's qualified for. The best that's come through so far is a miserable temp position that pays $10/hour. 

Understandably, he is very unhappy right now.  As the other half of this couple, this also makes me very unhappy. 

Then, I'm also letting several recent political developments get me down.

I'm not feeling entirely hopeful in my personal life or for our national life. 

I know these things are impermanent, but by what measure of time?  Could this be the rest of our lives?  It's a bit overwhelming.

Good friends are certainly a comfort.  In times like these, I can't help but remember one friend's much loved Guruji quote, "Let God worry about the world.  You worry about your anus."  And then I laugh, and things seem a little less depressing.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Do these pants make my ass look like it has a superiority complex?

I'm back from a bit of a blogging hiatus.  The last month had me traveling to France and New Orleans for work.  My practice suffered from it.  I hid in shame.

Now, I'm back!  And the first thing I began reading about on the blogosphere is this nonsense about a certain company, that charges upwards of $98 for a pair of pants, foisting a certain controversial author upon its clientele.  

I've been reading with interest (perhaps too much interest) the commentary on the company's marketing decision.  There are people who hail as being a good move or at least honest and others who are ready to burn their synthetic pants in the streets. 

I happen to fall into the latter camps.  I'll be the first to admit that I've never read AR.  I don't care to. Why?  Because her supporters are so obnoxious, that I'd rather not be associated in any way.  So, this is in fact not a criticism of AR or AR's philosophy.  One day I'll read some of her books, and possibly even be mildly entertained.  In the meantime, I'll steer clear of her cheerleaders.  

Here's what I find particularly obnoxious in the views of her supporters:
  • Money = greatness
  • People who have money have it because they are superior to other people (not for instance, because they happen to be lucky or have means and support to begin with that allow them to take risks that make them rich).
  • Being rich is in and of itself a value.
  • If you are rich, you are a priori contributing to society at a higher level than those who are not.
  • If you disagree with their views, it's because you are mediocre, quite a convenient argument to end any conversation.
  • Eff the little guy.

I was already considering a boycott of the company when I saw that they had again raised their prices.  In light of the recession, I felt this was particularly greedy.  Following this episode, I am definitely going to boycott any new purchases.  I have already thrown out my reusable shopping bags.  Don't be confused.  This is not because I believe that companies shouldn't have a philosophical or political bent.  I don't care. But if I don't agree with their view, I'm sure as hell not going to advertise their product. 

As for the clothing on which I've spent a considerable fortune, I'll continue to wear them because:
  • I don't have the money to buy a new yoga wardrobe.
  • It would be wasteful to get rid of an entire wardrobe.
  • They're good freaking yoga clothes and I need to do some research to find comparable quality (come on Prana, Hard Tail, Inner Waves - can you give a girl some gusset?  I can stand feeling like my pants are slicing me in half!)
  • They make my ass look great.  Just kidding on that last one, a little. 
What do you think?  Am I overreacting?



Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ten Reasons I Love This Practice

I was just reading a blog post with the top ten reasons that Ashtanga is hard.  I don't disagree.  It is a challenging practice.  That's part of what makes it worth it.  Here are some other things that make the challenge worth it:

1.  The practice doesn't lie, no matter how much I would like it to.  Would I like to eat a half a pizza drink 3 beers and roll out my mat and have the same practice as I do on a more balanced diet? Absolutely.  Is that going to happen?  No.  Because my practice never lies to me about what how I'm treating my body and living my life.

2.  It's the same thing every day. It's nice to have one constant in a life riddled with surprises.  A difficult week at work, an argument with a loved one, bad traffic, bad mood, through it all, the practice is there, every single day.

3.  It is challenging.  No doubt about it.  Because of that, it's engaging and interesting.  You never quite know what you might get when you step onto the mat (you might guess if you ate that half pizza in #1).  But you do your absolute best.

4. It's oh so quiet.  The Mysore room is one of the quietest calmest places I can think of.  The mind can't help but clear to the peaceful rhythm of multiple breaths filling the space.

5. The community.  Everyone is doing their own practice at their own pace, starting and ending on their own. And yet, there's this tremendous sense of doing something together.  The breath syncs up and the room buzzes with the flow of collective energy.

6.  It's everywhere.  You can find people practicing Ashtanga on pretty much every corner of the earth if you bother to seek them out.

7.  It gives you something to look forward to.  I don't necessarily jump out of bed thrilled to go to work.  But I do get up thrilled to start my practice.  I have never been a "morning person" and don't think that I ever will be.  But my practice literally gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning (rather than at noon as I'd prefer).

8.  A sense of participating in something larger than myself.  The practice is old.  It's everywhere.  It's not mine to mess around with and change because I don't like a certain pose or because I'm bored.  It's bigger than me and I need to surrender to it.

9.  It makes me a better wife, coworker, daughter, and person all around.  The sense of calm and awareness that I achieve through the practice enables me to engage with my loved ones and those around me in a more compassionate way.

10. The practice makes me strong and flexible and gives me a great yoga butt (ok, just kidding on that last one, kind of sort of).  I'm in better physical shape, better health, and better mental shape than I ever was before I started doing Ashtanga. 


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Delicious Roasted Sweet Potatoes

This is an improvisation on a dish that my mom frequently makes.  It was inspired by the local yellow sweet potatoes I found at WF.

4 medium sweet potatoes cut into 1 in cubes
1/4 cp (or more) chick peas
Large handful of fresh rosemary
~ 1/4 cp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375

Toss all ingredients together.  Throw into a baking dish.  Roast for approximately an hour.  Toss about halfway through.


Real? Fantasy?

It's interesting that many of the blogs that I read are commenting on this article on the "real" cost of yoga only a day after an interesting conversation on discernment in the yoga apprenticeship that I'm participating in and just after my "yoga stuff" post.  I guess we're all thinking a bit about the material these days.

The article would be nice if it were called something like the "The Cost of a Fantasy Yoga Year." I would love to do many of the things listed in this article.  I have not because I cannot afford such things.  That doesn't make my yoga any less "real."  I would say that it makes it more so.

I have had very inexpensive yoga years.  Last year, when I lived in Kentucky, I maybe spent $45 on yoga.  I had a home practice and a yoga journal subscription and would pay for classes only when I traveled.  The year that my husband went to Albania, I was able to practice yoga for free by offering to do work study at the yoga studio.   If yoga costs a lot, it's because people choose to make it expensive.  It doesn't have to be.

It makes me sad when I hear people say that they're uncomfortable practicing because it seems like everyone at a studio wears expensive yoga clothes.  Maybe one of the first steps to freedom through yoga, is to stop worrying about what everyone else is doing.  I like expensive yoga clothes, sure, but I don't need them for my practice.  And, on principle, I like them less these days as they are moving more and more jobs overseas while increasing their prices.  But that's perhaps for another post.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Yoga Stuff

First, I don't want to give the impression that you need anything to practice yoga. You don't.  But here are some things that I like for my practice.

Manduka Mat - yes, they are a little pricier, but shredding the $20 mats every 3 months was also getting pricey.  I've had my Manduka Lite for about 3 years now and you can hardly see any wear.  Plus it's a lovely shade of olive green.  www.manduka.com

A headband - I have curly (some might say frizzy) hair.  I could obsessively push the little tickly hairs off my face through my entire practice, or I can keep them back with a headband.  A rubber band alone doesn't keep the hair back in the humid Mysore room.  Mine are from Lululemon.  However, Prana also makes nice headbands, and they produce things here in the USA www.prana.com

A small hand towel - look at that!  You probably even already have one of these.  It comes in handy for sweat dripping off your face and for binding in pasasana. 

Mysore Rug - It helps you "cheat" in your jump throughs because it keeps your feet from sticking to the mat.  It also gives a little extra cushion for seated postures and traction when you really start to sweat.  www.barefootyoga.com.  Personally, I prefer the feel of the rug to some of the other options such as those mat sized towels that you can use.






Saturday, October 22, 2011

Magic Tasty Delicious Brussels Sprouts

I love Brussels Sprouts!  They are one of my favorite vegetables.  This is one of the easiest and tastiest ways I like to make them.

Heat some olive oil in a pan.  Throw in some crushed garlic and some hot pepper flakes.  Toss halved (not necessary if brussels are tiny) brussels sprouts into the pan.  After a few minutes, pour about 1/4-1/2 cup of cranberry juice into the pan.  Cover with a lid until brussels sprouts are tender and maybe even a little caramelized in the juice.  Yum.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I am the 99%

This is an "off the mat" post.  I feel the need to show my support for this movement.

A friend's video from the Occupy Pittsburgh demonstration:




I support the Occupy Philly and other worlwide Occupy movements, because I am the 99%.

I come from a working class background.  My mom has held positions as a cook, cleaning lady, and most recently works for a florist.  My dad works for a machine shop. He does dangerous electrical work.  In 2001 he lost his job of 30 years because his company moved  the manufacturing positions overseas. He was told to go to school and get tech skills.  They said this is where all the jobs would be. He listened. The jobs in that industry also all moved overseas. He's now back in the machine shop making less with fewer benefits.

I personally was saddled with debt for years (to the tune of $35,000 - not counting student loans), because I believed in the American dream and pursued a Master's degree.  I supported myself and paid my way through my bachelor's and graduate education.  Rent and the cost of living enslaved me to a cycle of credit spending.  Only this year was I able to free myself from that cycle.


My husband also believed in the dream and got his PhD.  He has about 8 years of experience in his field.  We lived in Kentucky for a year where he was earning $13 an hour in his profession, that's less than what a graduate assistant at a Philadelphia university makes.  We moved to take an opportunity for me and hoping to improve his prospects.  Since May, he has sent out over 100 job applications.  He can't even get a phone call for an interview.

We occasionally think about having a kid.  But then we'd have to choose between our sparse, but comfortable life,  or supporting a child and condemning ourselves and it to poverty.  Two people with 5 degrees between them shouldn't have to make that choice.  No one should have to.

I am the 99%.

I found this video particularly poignant:

Sunday, October 9, 2011

great neighborhood coffee shop

I totally forgot to post about this coffee shop that I found by the new studio.  It made my day!  Spruce Street Espresso.  The place was really cute and the staff was super friendly.  Plus, they have teas for your doshas.  What's not to love?!

Day 8 - Some Sunday Thoughts

I'm on day 8 of the cleanse!  Whoo hoo!  The finish line is near.  I drank the penultimate dose of ghee with little drama.  However, I didn't really follow a good meal routine yesterday and it showed in my practice this morning.  Yesterday I had a small bowl of kichari at breakfast and didn't eat again until 7 when I scarfed down a larger bowl. By that point, I was delirious with hunger.

So my practice this morning was pretty rough.  I partially blame the bad eating routine from yesterday and partly blame myself for not heeding my ayurveda teacher's instructions.  She said to practice only primary during a cleanse.  But I thought I knew better.  I was wrong. This morning, by the time I reached kapotasana, I felt like I might just throw up all over my mat at any moment.  So, I dialed it back and took finishing at that point and modified my finishing postures by doing supported bridge and legs up the wall.  It definitely felt better and left me with some energy to teach.

After class, I was asked about regression.  Did I feel like regression was a normal part of the practice?  Heck yeah.  And it is for sure, one of the most difficult parts of the practice.  You're zooming along, adding new postures at a nice pace, and then wham!, something happens in your life that sets your practice back.  It could be a new stress, an illness, or something that you're not even aware of.  I can think of a few examples in my own practice.  A few years ago, I was chugging along in primary. Then suddenly, one day, something weird happened in my left knee.  There was pain where there wasn't before.  Binding and folding in the ardha badhas became impossible.  It was hugely frustrating. But I backed off and listened to my body, and it healed itself.  Other things have gone away and come back. The bind in marichyasana D is one such culprit.

While it may not feel that way in the moment, these are excellent points in one's journey.  When you hit this wall or fall back a bit in the practice, the ego can really assert itself.  It's in these moments that your devotion to the practice are tested.  And it's at this point when many people leave the practice. Rather than face the challenge, they choose a different practice.  In my opinion, seeing the moment for what it is and then opening yourself up to staying with it and learning from it, can be hugely rewarding.  Often, when you stick out these moments, you are able to come to a place where you are then able to move forward.  Sometimes, little step backwards become big steps forwards.

Saturday, October 8, 2011



Spent the day lying around in the sun on an almost empty beach.  I love summer-ish days in the fall.  So lovely.

Nearly fell off the cleanse, when we passed a seafood shack. But we couldn't find our way back to it.  So, I'm still on the cleanse despite my near cave.  Only a few days left.

Day 7

Still cleansing.  Still feeling a little sick.  Stuffy nose, sore throat, the usual fall malady suspects.  It's slightly better than yesterday since I did a double routine of neti and added extra salt to the evening batch.  I also did nasya.  The effect was unclogging if not totally clearing.  

I started taking ghee yesterday.  I added Kate's sweet spice to make it more palatable.  It didn't help too much with today's larger dose. I almost gagged.  Ok.  I did gag a little.  I had some lemon and cayenne tea after to wash it down, but now I have to wait an hour before I can eat anything.  Meantime, that stuff is bubbling around in my belly making me totally nauseous. 

Oh.  This is a rough cleanse!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Day 5 - I'm alive!

Sorry about the weird rhyme.  I couldn't resist .  Yesterday, I was feeling so crappy that my boss suggested that I take today off in addition to tomorrow which I had already planned.  When I woke up this morning with a stuffed up head, sore throat and exhausted after more than 9 hours of sleep, I decided that I probably should stay home. After all, it's not always easy to tell the side effects of cleansing from a real cold or flu.  I'd rather play it safe than get really sick.

So, I "slept in"  all the way to 7am and went in to do my practice.  I have never gotten there as part of the last batch of students.  It was really interesting. The room was packed and warm and humid.  It very much reminded me of a passage I read last night in the "Guruji" book where Annie Pace talked about the practice room feeling like a womb.  I nestled my mat between two people whose practices were well under way and let the energy in the room carry me.  It felt very therapeutic.  The congestion and discomfort of the cleanse melted away quickly after the third sun salutation. 

Unlike previous days, I don't feel the cleansing nasties returning mid-morning.  I'm just going to take care today and maybe enjoy some of this beautiful fall weather and let the cleanse do its work.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Day 4...of the most difficult cleanse I've ever done

Today is day 4 of what has easily been the hardest cleanse I've done. The cleanse is structurally no different than any other that I've undertaken.  But the reaction has been way different.

I have a sore throat, flu-ish feelings, mini-headaches, and am super duper weak and sleepy.  And that's without mentioning the digestive stuff - without going in to too much detail, food is going in...but it's not coming out. 

What the heck is going on?  What is making this so much tougher?  Has this year been so different? Well, yes, when you look back since the last time I did a cleanse, there really has been a lot going on.  I went from having a job where I where I was miserable, to moving to a new city, taking a new job, etc.  I had two major health issues in the last year.  That's a lot of stress for the body to take on. 

My guess would be that I'm cleaning out all of the residue of the stress and the unhealthy eating patterns that came with the stress of the past year, and man, is it ever painful!

Monday, October 3, 2011

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

That's right!  It's time for me to embark on another seasonal cleanse.  This time, I have everything I need: my health, my BBY support page, mung beans, ghee, and rice.  So why am I feeling so resistant to this cleanse? 

As I sat down to my first bowl of kitchari yesterday, I thought to myself "I can't do this. This is going to be awful."  I have never approached a cleanse with this kind of attitude before.  I like kitchari.  What is my problem? Is it because of my past "failed" cleanse, when I had to give it up because of "illness" (though I didn't realize at the time what the reason was)?  Is it because of the sudden onset of blustery cold fall weather? 

Whatever it is, I am struggling...and it's only day 2.  I just want hot coffee, baked potatoes, and broccoli cheddar soup.  Is that too much to include in my cleanse?  :)

Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Practice Update

Crazy things are happening in my practice these days.  I don't know what it's due to, but something seems to have unlocked or something.  I had a little pain in my back a few weeks ago and since adjusted the way that I ride my bike.  Could that little shift be the cause of the crazy practice?

First thing, I'm able to find balance without touching the wall in pincha.  I only turn around to the wall, because if I fall, I don't want to knock someone else over...or crash on their head while they're in sivasana.  That would be unpleasant.  But otherwise, most days now, I'm able to get up without touching.

But the bigger crazier thing is my wheel.  Yesterday, I lifted my left hand with the intention of "helping" my teach help me to bind.  And then, my ankle was just there.  I grabbed my ankle, on my left side, without assistance.  It was wild.  When you practice for as many years as I have been, those surprise-yourself-moments become rarer and rarer.  So, I'm still a little giddy about it!  The right side still needs an assist.  But it's an exciting start.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Spices

Do yourself a favor and start cooking with spices.  Sometimes, you'll screw up and make something inedible.  But most of the time, if you start out with moderation, you'll be educating your palate and enhancing your food options without adding a lot of fat, sodium, and sugar.


First, I would suggest taking a trip to an Indian or ethnic market.  Don't be shy.  Pick up packages and smell them.  Ask the people who work there what they use them for.  Write down the names of the unfamiliar and look it up when you go home. 

And then start trying things out. One of the lasting benefits that I've found to doing a kitchari cleanse is that it's helped me learn more about the characteristics of different spices.   The neutral canvas of the rice and mung beans are excellent for experimenting with spices.  That's how I learned that I love ginger...but I hate Garam Masala (at least in large quantities!). 

For example, this evening, I didn't want to heat up the apartment with the oven, and yet I didn't want plain boiled yams.  I took my yams and diced them and sauteed them in ghee, madras curry, a little chilli powder and a little ginger before simmering.  When they were cooked through, I added coconut milk and ended up with a divine (if a little Kapha agravating) side dish. 



What do you do when you add too much spice to something?  If you have coconut milk on hand, it can definitely add flavor and dilute the spiciness.  If you don't, plain yogurt is also a great compliment to super spicy foods. 



Forbes article

Once again the conversation about "authentic" and "real" yoga rears its ugly head in the mainstream media in this Forbes article: Where is Yoga Headed These Days?

I wonder what the concern is. Are people so desperate for validation or so threatened by alternative practices that we need to continuously ruminate on this question?  

One of the things that I have learned from my practice is to be concerned with what's going on on my mat.  That is the only thing that I have any control over, a small rubber rectangle of space, for about an hour and a half a day.  What people are doing on their rectangles is their concern. The reason they got on their rubber rectangles is their concern.

And yes, this is coming from an Ashtangi.  If you know the Ashtanga practice, you know that it is said to be a "classical" form of yoga.  Does that make it superior to other practices?  It does for me.  But maybe not for you, and that's ok. 

There are many paths to the same destination.  As for the practitioner who isn't interested or looking ahead to the destination, who is maybe just showing up for the workout, aren't they practicing what we've been preaching?  That it's not the destination that matters but the journey.

So let them work through their samskaras (even if they aren't aware that that's what they're doing) to blaring hip hop music while wearing $200 yoga outfits all in the name of a good workout. 

There is enough interest in the "classical" forms of yoga, as evidenced by the constant media scrutiny of the subject, that these off-shoot imaginative styles are hardly a threat. 

If it seems like I let this topic ruffle my feathers, it's true, I do.  Thanks to the wonderful studios where I've practiced (Back Bay Yoga, The Massage Center, and Shanti Yoga Shala), I've been exposed to all kinds of yoga.  And while I've chosen to practice Ashtanga almost exclusively, I have come in to contact with some of the most spiritually aware - if not enlightened - individuals who enjoy all forms of yoga.  It's often those people who are filling the studios in the evenings that support (yes financially, but also emotionally) the space for the morning "classical" practioner.  And then on occasion, the practitioner of the trendier forms of yoga, gets curious about what is going on at 6am in these studios.  They set their alarm, come to the studio, and practice the "classical" form, and then, they decide for themselves.

Excuse the rambling.  This is long hand for "Can't we all just get along?"






Saturday, September 24, 2011

10 Year Anniversary of Yoga

This month marks my 10-year anniversary of doing yoga.  What an amazing milestone!  I can hardly believe that it's been 10 years since I first stepped onto a yoga mat.  So, how did I get to this point?

I had just moved to France for a year-long appointment as the graduate assistant to Boston University's study abroad program in Grenoble.  That in itself was a superb experience but hardly the subject of this post. However, there were two really important aspects of that position that led me to start taking yoga.  First, it gave me some credibility in my field of study (French Language and Literature) which brought to me some translation jobs which paid pretty well.  Second, it gave me a lot of free time.  I was working 20 hours for the program and taking a class, but otherwise, my days were pretty open.

Up until that point in my life, I had always had this idea in the back of my head that I wanted to try yoga.  I don't really know why.  I didn't know anyone who practiced it regularly.  My only exposure to yoga was through the lady (Lilias Folan) on PBS who must have come on right before or after the children's programming.



Maybe it was the leotards, the trippy music, the setting, or Lilias's kind voice, but the idea of yoga stuck with me, even though until I was 25, I never tried it.

Living in another country and spending your days working, thinking, talking in another language does something to embolden you.  It gives you the opportunity to become someone more than your regular self.  So, with all my money and all my free time, I sought out a place that taught yoga in Grenoble. 

I don't remember exactly how I found the place where I ended up practicing.  It was on one of the major boulevards in Grenoble on the second floor of an apartment building.  You had to ring to get in.  I remember hoping that this would be a way for me to meet French people outside of my work and host family circles.  It didn't quite work out that way.  Everyone waiting in the cold damp European hallway was completely silent.   Initially, the teacher was cautious about working with me, excusing himself for not speaking any English.  But I reassured him that I could speak French. 

I don't know what "type" of yoga he taught or even if he would compartmentalize it.  There was definitely a sequence which we built upon every week, but it wasn't Ashtanga.  It was very gentle and slow moving.  The room was always dimly lit and comfortable. 

Instantly, this yoga made a big impact on me.  The breathing, the postures, the drishti, these were all things that teacher worked on.  They fascinated me and I wanted more.  I quickly changed my pass from once a week to twice a week and thus spent two evenings a week practicing yoga and a bit more in my room at my host family's.

And that was the beginning of a beautiful journey.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day visit to a new studio

Ok. Not that bad ;)  My regular shala was closed for Labor Day today.  I was a bit worried about how and where to practice.  In my living room on the thick carpet that my mat bunches up on with the air conditioner blasting was a possibility.  That didn't seem very pleasant. It was tempting to just take the day off.  And yet, I've been on a real roll this summer with not missing any classes and didn't want to lose momentum.  Then, in a serendipitous moment, I was in line at the Whole Foods waiting to use the restroom.  There was a conveniently placed cork board with "community announcements."  Way up in the right corner was a little postcard advertising Yoga Mala Shala.  I was curious about it and remembered to look it up when I got home.  Here, it turns out that there is a an authorized teacher holding Mysore classes right here in my neighborhood.  I considered contacting her to see if she would be open today.

Here's the bad lady part.  About two years ago, I was in a similar situation. The studio where I practiced would be closed or self-practice one day.  I knew the teacher at another studio.  He had actually subbed for my teacher on numerous occasions.  And the studio where he taught was two blocks from my house.  So, I thought, I'll drop in on R.  It will be nice to take a class with him.  When I got there he asked if I was still practicing with K.  I said yes and explained that her studio was closed that morning.  He said that I really shouldn't jump around from school to school but I could stay.  I didn't really consider dropping in to one class after 6 years "jumping around," but the point was well taken.  Then, at some point in my practice, his assistant, also someone I knew from the neighborhood, came to give me an adjustment.  R admonished her, "Don't adjust her.  She doesn't practice here." 

Now, I bring this up, not to bad mouth R.  He's a fantastic teacher and has every right to have rules in his shala.  I actually found the situation more comical than anything else.  However, this was in the back of my mind this weekend as I considered practicing at Yoga Mala Shala while Shanti Yoga was closed. 

First, I wrote to K, the neighborhood teacher to ask permission to drop in for one class and told her that I practice with G.  She welcomed me to come to the class and didn't seem to have an issue that it would be a one time or once in a great while thing. 

At first, I thought this would work out great.  Then, I got really paranoid.  K was going to let me drop in there.  But what if G had an issue with me studying with another teacher.  I wondered if I should keep it a secret, but that thought made me feel guilty.  So, I asked G's permission.  He had no issue with it and said that K was actually lovely person and a great teacher.

K's studio just opened in June.  It's space rented in a converted church on Mt. Vernon and 17th Streets in the Fairmount neighborhood, only a 5 minute bike ride for me.  The old space had a warm and cozy feel with some lit candles and K's little altar adorned with pictures of Guruji and flowers.  Two other students were practicing when I came in (a bit late!).  K warmly welcomed me.  She gave some wonderful adjustments, some which I hadn't experienced before.  After practice we had a lovely conversation about the developing Ashtanga yoga scene in Philadelphia.  



Saturday, August 27, 2011

Bookshelves

I liked this invitation to submit a picture of our yoga bookshelves.  Do we all keep our yoga books on a special shelf?  It would seem that way.

Here's my shelf:




Some of my yoga books aren't on this shelf.  I just bought a Gita translation in New York which is lying on top of my stereo.  The Hatha Yoga Pradipika is upstairs on my nightstand.  And Guruji: A Portrait is on my coffee table. 

Items on the shelf that are not books, are my block and eye pillow, my yoga teacher training binder (stuffed with tt materials and other goodies I've found over the years), homemade mat sanitizer, and a statue I picked up in a consignment shop.  I don't know who she is.  Do you?

Apprenticeship & Guruji: A Portrait

In just a week, I'll start my apprenticeship with G.  I'm very excited about this opportunity to deepen my own practice and refine my teaching.  It's been a while since I've assisted in a Mysore room (since I left Boston), but I'm eager to get back to it.  G definitely has a different style than K.  For one, he never, to my knowledge, adjusts downward facing dog.  I've never gotten that adjustment from him and haven't seen him give it to anyone else.  He also doesn't make newcomers observe.  They start suns on their first visit.  So, even though I've been invited to assist right away, I will likely hang back a bit in the beginning to get a sense of what G would like of me in the room. 


At our introductory meeting several weeks ago, he gave us our reading list.  We are to start with Guruji: A Portrait of Sri K Pattabhi Jois through the Eyes of His Students.  It's a book that I've been wanting to read for a while but had put off because of the cost.  Fortunately, Penn had a copy in its library.  I think I'm the first person to check it out.  I've been reading it since Wednesday.  So far, I've read the interviews with David Williams, Manju Jois, Nancy Gilgoff, Brad Ramsey, and Tim Miller.  These are some of the themes that are repeating that resonate with me:

  • The practice just makes sense.  
  • The practice gives you a sense of quiet and serenity.
  • The practice is about moving energy, not bodies.
  • Sometimes the practice will make you cry.
  • Big egos don't do well in this practice.
  • All kinds of bodies can do this practice.
I have taken workshops with Tim Miller and Nancy Gilgoff in Boston.  Both are wonderful teachers and have their own style and their own gems to offer to students.  When I have the opportunity to practice with senior teachers, I notice how at peace they are with the practice whereas some younger people want to make the practice about striving and fighting.  I wonder if the senior teachers always had that ease about them and that's why they have been able to practice for so long, of if it is something that comes over time.

I'll have a lot of time to read over this weekend.  Hurricane Irene is barreling up the coast towards Philly!  




Saturday, August 20, 2011

saturday - day for resting

It feels good to have a day off from practice.  This month without moon days has been kicking my butt.  Today is for lounging, having some coffee, enjoy the sunshine, and lying about.

I'm spending some surfing around in the cyber shala.  I mentioned before that the cyber shala was an important part of my practice when I lived in Kentucky.  Even though I now have a place to practice, I still like to watch videos of other people's practices.  I find them extremely inspiring.  Lately, I'm watching a lot of Pincha Mayurasana as I struggle with this asana.



This is a good one.  This is not what my pincha looks like...yet!

I also read a lot of other blogs.  This week, I found this one particularly provocative. Personally, I don't understand why yogis engage in this kind of debate.  If you don't like ashtanga, don't practice it.  But if you don't practice it, and practice it regularly,  you really shouldn't make proclamations about who else should or shouldn't be practicing it.  Anyone can practice Ashtanga yoga if they want to.  It is not for a particular body type or age group.    I have seen people with all variety of injuries (shoulders, hamstrings, wrists), physical limitations (overweight, severe arthritis) and ages (a woman in her mid-seventies practices daily at the studio I went to in Boston) with beautiful Ashtanga practices.  Sure, their practices didn't look like something from a professional yoga video.  But they were doing the work day in and day out.  That's what the practice is about.

Personally, I can't comment on Bikram, since I don't practice it regularly.  I took one Bikram class several years ago with a friend.  Guess what!  It didn't resonate with me.  My friend loved it.  Who cares?  The only sad thing about it is that my friend and I, while we both love yoga, wouldn't be practicing together.

One yoga is not superior to another. It's a personal choice.  I would add however, that if you find a particular style upsets you in some way, maybe you should spend more time in that style.  Maybe your aversion to this yoga is something that you need to break through and your aversion to it is something to work on through your practice.  Your aversion might be revealing something about your ego, your attachments, your idea of what your practice should be.  But if it's just a matter of preference, knock yourself out. Practice another style!

In my conversations with people who are curious about yoga, I never recommend Ashtanga or any particular style.  As a matter of fact, I'm very reluctant to tell people very much at all about Ashtanga beyond the basics.  I always tell them that they should try many classes and figure out which one they are most likely to go back to and enjoy and that they shouldn't judge Yoga on one class, one teacher, or even one style. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Philadelphia - Ashtanga Yoga Central?

It seems like Ashtangis are suddenly gravitating to Philadelphia.  I can't explain it.  My teacher and his partner recently came here.  There's another student who left Germany to come here, in part, to practice Ashtanga Yoga.  Of course, I recently moved here as well.  There's another shala in the city with another prominent teacher.  He recently decided to settle here and open a shala.  One of his students has a blog where she talks in her first post about moving here to practice Ashtanga with her teacher. 

This has me wondering about the confluence of Ashtanga yoga on Philadelphia.  In many ways, it seems right.  Philadelphia is the "City of Brotherly Love."  Yoga teaches us how to love ourselves and others.  Philly is also a gritty city.  Everyday, you see poverty and hear of violence.  It's a place where you have to learn to live amongst all kinds of people and in a stressful environment with grace.  Philly is also the historical birthplace of our country and was the home of many who were influence by the Enlightenment.  And it's nestled between two amazing rivers.  You can feel all of this in the energy of the place.  

Whatever the reason, I feel blessed to live in a place so alive with the practice right now.  Riding through Center City at dawn in the quiet and watching the first morning's rays light the sides of historical buildings and new ones is one of the highlights of my day.  My practice allows me to see the city from another perspective, before it really wakes up.  It makes me happy to feel that so many other Ashtangis are feeling and seeing the same thing every morning.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

the Heat!

Generally, I like the heat.  The hotter the better.  And I'm a fan of humidity.  I don't like my skin feeling all dry and itchy. 

But here in Philadelphia, we are coming into our 5th heat wave of the season.  And it hasn't quite been cooling off in between.  It's just been less heat wavish.  Walking around outside, it feels like you're moving in slow motion, through a cup of hot soup. 

This has been great for the practice.  The body has been feeling like a super supple wet noodle.  By the time I get to parsarita padotanasana B, streams of sweat are pouring down my face onto my mat.   But binding the feet in supta vajrasana is a bit tricky and jumping onto slip and slide arms into bakasana B nearly impossible.  Nonetheless, at the end of practice, I feel completely wrung out.

Rather than trying to beat the heat, I'm trying to roll with it.  Here are some things that I'm doing these days:

1.  Taking a clean towel to yoga.  The towel helps the binds, can be used to wipe up the errant pools of sweat that the teacher will otherwise slip on and brain himself, and of course are necessary for the obligatory post-practice shower.

2.  Taking a yoga rug.  I love my yoga rug.  I may be too attached to it.  It's hard for me to imagine practicing past standing postures without it.  In the summer, it keeps my mat from becoming a slip and slide.  Year round, it makes jump-throughs easier.  But you must take your yoga rug home and air it out EVERY DAY in the summer.  No one likes to practice next to a moldy smelling mat.  Putting it in the sun is the best solution, but mine airs out in the cubicle until I get home and put it in the sun for a few hours before sunset.

3.  Smoothies.  They are easy to digest which makes the body work less hard thus keeping it cooler.  I can't get enough of them these days. 

4.  Lassis.  Same as smoothies with less chunks.  Here's my easy lassi recipe, no blender necessary, just a travel bottle with a lid:

3:1 ratio of water to yoghurt.  I get the whole fat stuff.  Life is too short.  Besides, you're already diluting it by three parts water.

A teaspoon or more of honey depending on your taste for the sweets

A teaspoon of freshly grated ginger.  Don't skimp on peeling it with this one or you'll end up with nasty fibers in your lassi.

A dash of Cardamom

Put everything into your bottle and shake vigorously.  I make mine before bed, place in the freezer and take out when I go to practice.  By the time I'm finished, it's thawed out.

4.  Eat less.  Substitute lassis and smoothies for part of or entire meals. 

5.  Eliminate or reduce garlic and onions.  Your teacher will thank you.  Besides, these are medicine.  If you're not sick, you don't need so much.

6.  Stay hydrated.  Add lemon to your water to help absorb it and add electrolytes.  In the morning I cheat and add Emergen-C.  It keeps the heat headaches away.

7.  Coconut oil.  Put it on your feet if they are dry and cracked.  Put it in your hair if it is "voluminous" and frizzy like mine. 

8.  Get outside.  Relax.  Watch the fireflies.  Soak up the sun.  Smile.  Laugh. Walk barefoot in the grass.  Find an outdoor yoga class. 

Some more excellent heat-beating techniques can be found on my teacher's website www.ayurvedaboston.com.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Find Your Correct Posture

This Sunday several people had questions for G during the little conference and chanting we do after led primary. Someone asked about Sharath’s feet in the vinyassas. Apparently, in his video, which I haven’t seen, he scrunches up his toes when he transitions through the vinyassa.  They were asking if this was correct.   G said that it was not correct, and that he had seen many people imitating it because it was Sharath doing it.  In fact, Sharath does it this way because he had some illness as a child and always has issues in his ankles.  He also has trouble in certain asanas like pasasana. 
G said the trick is to find your correct asana through practice without simply falling into your bad habits and patterns.  But your correct asana won’t necessarily be exactly the same as G’s or Sharath’s depending on your body and needs. 
We also did our chanting through the 19th sutra.  I’m surprised how much has stuck from my little chanting practice.  But now we’re getting into sutras that I haven’t worked on as much.  It will be useful to learn the correct pronunciation.
Tomorrow I start my intermediate practice again.  Yesterday I was goofing around in the living room and to my great surprise I stuck pinchamayurasana.  I was so shocked that when I realized what had happened, I immediately fell out of it.  But it was quite exciting for several breaths!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

new community

If it hasn't already been said, I am so grateful for the new Ashtanga community that I've found here in Philly.  They've really welcomed me with open arms.  I did my first 6 consecutive days of practice that I can remember in a very very long time. Each morning this week, I looked forward to getting up and riding my bike downtown to practice with my peers.  It probably doesn't hurt that I can get up at 6 and still have time to do a full unrushed practice before going to work...and actually arrive on time. In Kentucky, I would have to get up at 4:30 to do that.

This week, per G's instructions, I practiced Primary all week.  It felt really wonderful.  The series truly is therapeutic and every day I felt like I was ringing out more and more gunk.  G gives great adjustments and seemed to give me a different one every day.  We also worked on getting my hands to my heals in drop backs. By the end of the week, it was easy!

Also, G said that next week I can practice intermediate again!  Woohoo!  But now, of course I'm scared.  Why?  Well, pincha is not so great.  I can't bind in pasasana without A LOT of help.  I have a hard time keeping my feet in supta vajrasana - it's been almost a year that I've even tried since I didn't have anyone to help me.  Jumping into bakasana B is coming back but it's been gone for almost two years.  So!  There's a ton to work on.

G also asked this week if I'd be interested in assisting.  He's doing an apprenticeship program for 2 or 3 people.  It's very tempting.  I can tell that he has a lot to teach.  But I'm afraid that my own practice will really suffer.  I'll have to talk to him about it some more and see what we can do.  I don't want to miss out on the opportunity, but I also don't want to over extend myself.

And finally, this is what the Schuylkill looked like last night after some quick heavy rainstorms in the area

Sweaty Sunday Mysore Monday

This post was actually from earlier in the week.  The internet was down, so I didn't get to post until just now!  Whoops!


Practice this morning was delightful!  The room was hot and humid and sweaty. I felt after the practice like I had been wrung out. 
We started practice today with a puja mantra to Ganesha: Om gum ganapataya namaha.  We chanted it 108 times.  G says that Guruji recommended doing puja two days after the new and full moons.  I wonder why it was two days after instead of the day after.  He also said that fasting 11 days after the new and full moons was recommended.  However, Guruji didn’t recommend much else in the way of fasting and cleansing.  According to G, he thought those practices were reserved for illness.  Doing them while healthy could make you sick.  That made me think of my vitamin B12 problem last fall.  I suspected that part of it was due to the fact that I was eating kichari even when I wasn’t on a cleanse.  It was probably too extreme. 
Tomorrow I start Mysore practice at the Shala.  I’m very excited to practice alongside other yogis. Besides my Sunday practice in Lexington and the occasional Mysore practice when traveling, I haven’t been in a Mysore room for well over a year.  I’m thrilled to be starting my day this way again. 
G wants me to start by practicing primary so that he can see my practice. Then we’ll start putting back the intermediate poses “after a while.”  This makes me a little nervous.  What’s “a while?”  A week, a month, a year?  I’ve been working hard on my intermediate postures. The ego isn’t nuts about letting them go.  Nonetheless, I’m looking forward to it and can’t wait to see how things go.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

super amazing eggplants!

On Wednesdays there is a small farmers market on campus.  I try to visit it every week to at least see what's on offer.  Today the Amish were selling perfect purple eggplants and fragrant bunches of basil.  I bought both and brought them home. This is what I made:

Super Amazing Eggplant
1 eggplant cubed, salted and let to drain in a strainer for a few minutes
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
two small cloves of garlic
one large handful of fresh basil, juliened
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (less or more to taste)
2 teaspoons ginger powder
3 teaspoons curry powder
3 tablespoons ghee

Heat the spices in a dry pan until fragrant.  When fragrant, add the ghee.  Once the ghee has melted, add the garlic cloves whole and heat a minute or two.  Be careful not to let the spices burn.  Then add the onions.  If the ghee begins to evaporate before the onions are soft and translucent cook with a lid and/or add some water.  When the onions are translucent add the basil and eggplant.  Cover again with a lid for 15-20 minutes and stir occasionally.   Serve with saffron basmati rice.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Muggy

Even with the air conditioner on, every where in Philly feels like it's sopping wet.  That's great for yoga, but not so great for sleep, which makes it hard to get out of bed in the morning, which in turn makes it not so great for yoga after all. 

I finally managed to shove myself out of bed at 6:30 for my practice.  Then I had to turn off the air conditioner - -cold practice = yuck.  In no time, the room was feeling warm and toasty again.  And once I made it to my mat, I had a pretty decent practice.

Highlights:

* Tremendous back popping in Pasasana - love it!
* Heels to my bum in Bhekasana
* Almost grabbed heels in Kapotasana (I probably could have, but didn't want to push it as my body still feels like it's in the healing stages)
* Handstand is back (against the wall - let's not get ahead of ourselves :)


As always, I'm glad that I made it to my mat.

There are a few things that I've "lost" over the past year in Kentucky that I need to get serious about:

*  Coming up from Laghu Vadrasana - I'm dipping back 3-5 times to prep in order to bring this bad boy back
*  Landing in Bakasana B - this disappeared a few years ago when I went careening to the left and hurt my old arm injury (a broken bone high on the upper arm)

and weight related:
*binding in Yoga Nidrasana
* touching fingers in Pasasana with help of a towel (I've NEVER been able to bind on my own in this one - in some shalas, I'd still be stopping at Pasana 8 years after getting it). 

I plan on doing a summer cleanse.  That's not really orthodox.  They're usually done in the spring and the fall.  But I skipped my spring cleanse and could really use some cleansing now to help with the weight problem. I'm also praying that a LH comes this month which may also resolve the issue (Caution TMI ahead: pre-LH I can put on as much as 10 lbs in water weight; thus I believe that missing a LH after the first round of BC following the MC has left me with the water weight I would usually get rid of - or I could be in denial :)


Monday, June 20, 2011

Father's Day

Yesterday was Father's Day.  One of the biggest perks to living in the City of Brotherly Love is that I now live only a 2 hour drive from my parents.  So the husband and I got in the Versa and headed north for the day yesterday.  It was the first Father's Day in at least 15 years that I spent with my dad.  We had a lovely low key day watching baseball on t.v. and eating off the grill.


In many ways, I am grateful to my dad for my yoga practice.  He taught me from a very early age that there are other forms of spirituality besides those that are organized for us by churches and other institutions.  While my mom took us to Sunday school, my dad would go to the creek (as he still does on almost every free occasion) to practice his religion - fly fishing.  Communing with nature is for him the way to get closest to God - whatever that may be. He honors the fish by setting the free after he catches them.  I imagine for him that the hours he spends on the water are as meditative if not more so than the moments that I spend on my mat.  Unfortunately, fly-fishing doesn't appeal to me, but I have learned a lot from it and from my dad's "practice" of it.

So, this week, in honor of father's day, I will dedicate my practice to my dad in gratitude for teaching me to be open to other forms of spiritual devotion. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

moving forward

It has been approximately one month since I learned of my miscarriage and had my surgery. This morning I came across this great blog post on miscarriage that almost brought me to tears.  One of the things that she touches on is how isolating the experience can be.  She offers up some thoughts on things that friends and relatives can say and do to help.

Honestly, I don't think that there is much to be said that can be helpful.  Everyone lives the experience differently.  I think that on my part, for the few friends and family members that do know about my experience, I've tried to be compassionate towards them.  I realize that seems a little backwards, but it's difficult to know what to do about someone else's grief.  Just as we shouldn't tell other people how to grieve, I think it's also difficult to tell other people how to react to our grief. What we need in one minute, we might not in the next.  What may seem insensitive at one moment, may ring true at another.  Grief is an organic, fluid thing. 

For one, I would say that I have wonderful friends and family and haven't really received any reactions that I found particularly hurtful.  The toughest part for me has just been that everyone else has moved on - and why shouldn't they - while I'm still dealing with the physical and emotional repercussions.  This includes even those closest to me.

And then there is the added bonus of living somewhere new and making all of these new contacts, none of whom have any idea of what I've been through in the last month.  I can't figure out if that is a good thing or a bad thing.

So I find myself mostly sorting through my feelings on my own.  At the same time that I struggle with mixed emotions (yes, I said mixed - sadness, guilt, relief, despair), I'm also struggling with physical manifestations, in particular, rapid weight gain.  I don't know if the weight gain is because I haven't had a period yet or because I'm back on birth control until I see a doctor again or maybe a combination of the two.  It could also be from the stress.  In any event, it's certainly not helping me feel better.

But I am seeing some signs of healing.  This has been my first full week of practice, mostly practicing intermediate.  Kapotasana is still a bit stiff - I think I can push myself farther, but am letting fear keep me back.  My handstands came back for the first time on Thursday and drop backs are feeling natural again. 

I'm reading the Hatha Yoga Pradipika in the evenings.  It's really helping me take to my mat in the mornings.  I may start making a list here of my favorite aphorisms...stay tuned for that project.





Wednesday, June 15, 2011

City of Brotherly Love

My year of "study abroad" in Kentucky has officially ended.  I started my new job a week ago and we are well settled in to our new apartment.  Almost everything is unpacked.

Last week I practiced primary.  Between the surgery and the move, I hadn't had much time or energy until this past Sunday to get to my practice.

Primary is excellent for many many reasons, but I had to come back to my regular practice at some point.  Now I'm back to my intermediate postures.  I took one away from myself, one that I gave to myself anyway, until I am back to where I was before.

This week marks the first time that I've done my practice three days in a row since the surgery.  Today is a moonday.  I'm getting a little help from the Cosmos as I move back into my practice.  I've been going to a Sunday led primary practice at a local studio.  I'm really happy with it.  It inspires me to work harder through the week.  The teacher is fabulous and very knowledgeable.  Once things are settled here, I'll start taking Mysore practice with him.

After Sunday practice, we chant and he answers questions.  A few weeks ago, he was talking about the bandhas.  He said that if you practice with correct alignment, the bandhas will come naturally.  I'd never thought of it that way but I can definitely see that happening to me, especially in inversions. It's food for thought.