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.


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


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.