Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Ku ku kukku-tasana

While I wait for my late, 2nd dinner..or is it just a late night snack? cook, I will post away. I went out for a light Korean dinner with my friend A, and after that we walked all the way from the financial district to 14th st where I caught the train home. It was a beautiful, slightly foggy feeling night for walking. So lovely to walk without feeling cold at all. We stopped at Forbidden Fruit, a little shop which sold chocolate covered fruit slices. I had chocolate and coconut covered pineapple slices. YUM!!!! Now I am home, and of course, hungry. So what does 4 meals a day make me??? How do people manage to eat so little and practice?
Pinapple Dipped In Dark Chocolate with Coconut
image from here

Oh yes, practice.

I recently discovered that in the garbha rolling, I was not rolling backward on the exhale and forward on the inhale. There was pretty much no relationship between the breath and the movement. Often, by the time I made it around to the front, I would be exhaling up/forward and inhaling down/backward. No wonder I could not manage to roll up and lift (though I never thought this was the reason..I just figured this would take a long time to do, sort of like lifting back up after bhuja, which still requires a good push from my feet as I can't yet make use of my inhale to come back up) This week, I have been focusing more on this movement breath relationship, and it makes quite a difference coming up into kukkutasana. This morning, I managed to roll up into kukkutasana and stay up for all 5 breaths. Not even a knee touching the ground briefly for balance. I was shocked. Previously, I have sometimes rolled forward and lifted up, but then plopped back down, mostly feeling surprised by being up in the pose.

Who knows if I will repeat this miraculous (ha!) feat tomorrow. But now I know, something that I thought was pretty much impossible, is possible.

On another note, I am experimenting with not showering after practice, but just sort of rinsing off a bit (still can't fathom not washing at all); so far so good. My muscles don't feel more sore, like I thought they would. I   need to find something for my hair to counteract the effect/smell of sweat, as I don't wash it daily in the winter, and I do sweat a lot during practice. Not sure I will do this every day, but it is nice to save time some mornings too.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

fait accompli!

I reserved a place for Sharath's led primary in New York City on April 13. Seriously, why on earth are Sharath and Saraswati in Greenwich for 2 weeks and New York City for 1 day? Seriously unfair, and who on earth can go to CT in the morning before work? Ridiculous. My teacher as well encouraged me to go to the NYC class.

Only 2+ days of wondering about going to it. Not too horrible, for indecisive me.

Now to figure out how to get myself to India in December, as I am the sole employee at my job...maybe offer to do some work remotely? I hate to do that, but it might least to get the time "off" down to a manageable amount, both psychologically, for my employer, and financially, for me. I want 6wks off, ideally..but doubt I will get that. We got one new project starting up now..and perhaps another in the who knows.

Practice was decent this morning, considering I never get enough sleep beforehand (I really must start going to bed earlier). Made about 10 attempts today in my nemesis pose (just kidding), urdhva mukha paschimottansana, before my teacher came over to assist me. I can feel it getting closer, though, as with praserita C, that remaining distance could take a long time to cover. I am learning to engage my legs throughout the pose/vinyasa, and it is helping. Still have yet to feel myself really push off the ground with my feet. At least now, I don't feel demoralized by my inability to get all the way up. I think that is also a sign that the pose is close. When I stop fretting about it beforehand, then I am much more likely to do the damn thing.

Monday, January 28, 2013

snow, sleet and obstacles

I can hear the sleet falling; making a crackling sound as it hits the windows and the air conditioner at the office. I really wish we would have a proper snow here, as I love the way it makes the city look (well, at least for 12 hours or so), all clean and light and bright.

I watched Kino's mysore video again. I really love what she has to say about what goes on in your mind when you practice. Sometimes I wonder if it is her openness to admit that those sorts of thoughts can come up which is what leads to people not liking her teaching. Who wants to admit to unpleasant thoughts, let alone a certified teacher. Whatever. Listening to a lot of her recorded talks on her website, especially ones about strength, inspired me to start this practice. I hope I will get a chance to study with her at some point.

Today was definitely an obstacle heavy practice. Two days off did not do either my body or mind any good this time. Spent most of the suryas wanting to tell a woman near me to move her mat into a row rather than between them (really). It took all my mental effort not to say something as I knew the teacher would tell her to move..but the thoughts lingered festered on long past. Falling out of UHP (mental block, tired too, but it is totally mental as I can feel myself just wanting to give up) was the next. By the maris, I really was wishing myself elsewhere, and wanted bag practice and to cry too. Lifting up to scoot back seems to have steadily gotten worse (did I gain weight? not enough sleep? ). Squeaky breathing sounds too throughout practice. oy vey. 

I managed to stay put and practice. Ah the sweet relief of getting to kurmasana today, where things sort of evened out emotionally. I did stay in the main room for finishing since I wanted to take advantage of the emotional stability in the room. My teacher left me alone today, mostly, with good reason. So much of what I have to deal with is trying to find some sense of stability on the mat (and off it too), especially when I have any additional stress in my life.

Sleet seems to have stopped, or maybe it is just the wind that has shifted.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


I started sorting and tossing out stuff this weekend, to prepare for moving and packing. This makes me seem much more organized and in control than I really am. What normally happens, is that I open a box of stuff I haven't looked at in years, and although I can't really say why I need it...I can't really toss the items either. Granted some of this is tough stuff to toss out- art supplies I don't use anymore, or even small preparatory sketches all wrapped up. Don't even get me started on the books. I had a friend help me take some books to goodwill yesterday. Drop in the bucket. How is this stuff that I don't use read look at still such a part of my life?

If I let these items go out of my possession, will my attachment to other things change..the stories I tell myself, inadvertently, every day? Yeah, those could definitely GO.

Thinking about taking Sharath's led primary in April. Sad that he is only in new york city for one day, now that the jois yoga in greenwich is open. I have never taken a led primary series class. Will my head explode (I keep picturing that poor fat man in the monty python movie) if I get too overheated? Will I freak out being in  huge room of students practicing after over a year at my small shala? Is it worth going to, for one class? It's also a trial run for thinking about going to India..something I would like to do, but can't figure out how I could make it work with my present job.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

the injured mindset

I have been reading a lot of posts on injury and ashtanga, or injury and yoga. I think part of the issue is the word and idea of being injured. When you see yourself as affects your mind, and your "recovery". This I got from reading Ellen Langer's excellent book Counterclockwise. How we frame these things in our minds, the language we use, influences the outcome, namely medical outcomes. In the book, she cites studies on people with cancer, and she does a study with older folks that makes them feel, look and act younger again (note, no yoga or exercise program was involved in this either).

That said, I do admit to past (and present) drama queen behavior when something hurts. My mind wants to give's the end, the absolute end of practice, etc. What I have learned through the practice is to just show up, pay attention, and do what I can when that happens. Often I am surprised at what I can do (my entire ashtanga journey has been full of such surprises).

Consistent time on the mat helps, much more than taking time off when something is sore, bruised, swollen, overstretched, although it might seem counter-intuitive. Taking time off often leads to a pattern of re-stressing the area when you return to practice, because you have not learned what to do instead. I had to learn to be kind to myself, and believe me, I am still learning this lesson.

One thing my teacher does which I really like, is to not buy into the "injured" mindset. She just suggests find a way to work so that you don't overstress anything that needs some tlc. This also dovetails with my feldenkrais experience, where you don't look at people as having things "wrong" with them. You look at, and improve, the whole person, and whatever hurts..tends to feel better too. I am also blessed to have teachers that don't believe in giving strong adjustments, so I don't have to worry about that sort of stress on my body (those have been some of my most pernicious issues to deal with).

You might think I am splitting hairs, but before some of my more pesky hurts really healed - my much impaled toes on my right foot for example- I noticed that I stopped thinking about the area as "injured". A flexible mind helps to heal the body.

Rant out.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

replace that thought!

As if it were so easy.

Savasana Addict had a great post this week about how we react when things get practice, both on and off the mat. I have been noticing my tendency to want to do anything..anything other than do what needs to be done when things get difficult, especially when something feels UN-doable. Like my last pose, you roll up, or you don't. In my case, I get 1/2 way up and bang, back down again. Rinse and repeat. It is the first time in practice where I am confronted with something that feels impossible..and there is no -easier way- to do the pose (as bent legs are not allowed, not that that might even help). Once up, I can do the rest of the pose..but that doesn't seem to register in my mind. Once I jump through and am sitting in dandasana, the first thought that pops into my mind is "oh, I can't do this pose". Not a very auspicious beginning. I noticed it more than once this week. My teacher said I should replace that thought with "I can do this pose". Easier said than done.

It is interesting because, there are so many other things I can't do (yet) in the practice - jump back, lower and lift in bhuja without using my feet to help, straight legs in the lift into kurmasana, not make funny breathing/squeaking (egads!) noises on most days. What I notice about these things, is that I don't spend a lot of energy telling myself I can't do them. I try and move on, but the last pose, it pushes my buttons every time. I need an assist to get up into it, and that is the first time (other than with UHP) that I have needed an assist every day in a pose, in order to do it at all.

It is the energy of telling myself to give up, that I can't do something that is such a drain on me. When other things get tough, as I have to find a new apartment next month, that is both cheaper and closer to work and, more importantly, the shala, I just want to stick my head in the sand about it. Same with my feldenkrais training program; I spend so much energy wondering, will I be able to learn to do this, or will I be sucessful as a practitioner. I want to know the outcome will be good before I put the energy in to learn it. Doubt is a big big energy sink.

No idea, really, on how to replace these thoughts..but I am just noticing them, and hopefully I will learn not to be too hard on myself for thinking them in the first place.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

1 year of practice...summing up?

Nah, not going to go in that direction. Not in this post. I am a bit tired of writing about asana practice right now.

It has been a year since I started on this specific path of ashtanga practice.

At a get together last night with some shala-mates, one man put it really beautifully - even though we don't normally talk to each other at the shala, due to our schedules and the nature of mysore practice (so much easier to catch up with friends before or after led classes, back when I took led classes), we actually know each other really well, on a certain basic level. We have seen each others' dedication to and perserverance with the practice. (that is as much as I remember now, evening outings during the week don't really mix with getting up at 530am and a 2 hour practice) I thought about this on the way home, and it really seemed like one of the main things I have gotten from practicing at the shala in the past year. Community, shared interest, and shared energy for the practice.

Happy one year of practice to me...

Monday, January 14, 2013

when conditions are right

Looking on the bright side. Didn't smash, smoosh or scrunch my nose today in bhuja. Didn't quite land on my chin either, but I did manage to let my feet support some of my weight, unlike in yesterday's physically and emotionally ouchy landings. Wanted to cry on my mat after falling on my face the second time yesterday. That fragile feeling in my life right now is definitely showing up in my practice. Going back up seems a little easier..still quite a ways away from no feet touching the ground..but I didn't feel quite as stuck to the ground. Also got to start working on jumping back (ie. scooting) from Mari A position. I have the initial lift..but I seem to have too many legs to get through my arms! Eventually, maybe..and then again..maybe not.

Indoor clouds..I would love to experience that. Artist Berndhaut Smilde creates ephemeral clouds in spaces and photographs them. My apartment has felt like it could support clouds this weekend. I have become such wimp about the heat since moving to nyc.

photo by berndnaut smilde - image taken from here

And this article  has a video that shows a cloud being made.

 happy monday.

Friday, January 11, 2013

rewards and yoga body

On Wednesday, my reward, so to speak, for looking like I was having an easier time with some things was to get to do more. No, thankfully, no new poses. Just deepening and fuller poses. I am the sort of person who (usually) doesn't want to ask my teacher too many questions on the stuff I can't do during practice..because questions usually require several extra attempts at said difficult pose! Ironically, I worked extra hard at the beginning of the week, thinking I would have at least 1 day's break during the week for LH, which was annoyingly late..arriving today, when it won't be of any use as a practice break.

So this will be a very practice heavy post, but there was a lot for me to absorb this week. Unlike the many strong adjustments and changes to get me to increase my flexibility in forward bending and hip openers (with the annoyingly predictable results- give almost all gains back as my body is not strong enough yet to support going that deep), these are all aimed at increasing strength, and bandha strength, which I will need for better backbending.

No more forehead plopping in bhuja; I am learning to place my chin on the ground. At this stage, this might be good for making my nose shorter! Thursday, I tried on my own- 1st attempt- fall on butt, afraid to lower down into impending neck and chin doom, 2nd attempt - lower down, more of an uncomfortable face plant than a chin touch, quickly shifted onto my forehead to take the weight off my face and neck. Made my usual struggle to come up (gravity won), then my teacher sees me, and has me repeat, since I didn't manage on my own (how do they always notice when you don't do something?). Attempt #3 with assist, successful, seems like it will be easier to go down and up this way, especially once I remember that I can use my feet a bit to keep the weight from being taken by my neck! My teacher assures me that this way is a lot easier for the vinyasa, and that it is really really hard to come up from having my forehead on the ground (yes, pretty much impossible for me).

Also got to start doing UHP by extending the leg up and catching my big toe (no more nice bring bent leg up and extend)..whoa this feels so weird right now. I can just manage it, but it is hard! This is supposed to help with my last pose, so I can learn to roll up on my own (right).

Lots of attempts at urdhva mukha paschimottanasan, too many perhaps. No rolling up with bent legs allowed, even after I fell over while she assisted me. I received this zen koan: pull with the legs to roll up. Hopefully, this instruction will make sense in time. My teacher finally gave me the -bowl the yoga student assist- and I magically managed to stop and balance on my bum - feet pointed and chest slightly arched. First time I did it, so at least my brain has figured that part out, from doing the pose before. As for the rolling up, when my teacher put me in the full lying down holding and holding my feet position, I felt like I was stuck in glue...there was no way I could imagine rolling up at all, or even moving. I think I will be at this pose for a while, but that's ok.

Oh, and lest I forget, the intense mari C assist so that I start to learn to lift up when I twist. Mari C is still my least favorite pose...just when it wasn't seeming so awful anymore, this new twist on it...

After my run of feeling hungry all the time, the famished thing seems to have gone away for a couple be replaced by a feeling like a bloated whale that cannot lift herself up. Was quite relieved when I finished on Thurdsay. Much earned moonday.

I started reading Yoga Body by Mark Singleton. I am not too far into it yet, and I wandered over to Claudia's excellent review of the book. What strikes me as curious is why as westerners, we have to try to own a practice that doesn't come from the west, by finding western influences. I am not saying that they are not there, but maybe that this is an incomplete or one sided approach. I am, however, not at that part of the book yet, this is just my reaction to reading reviews of the book. The book is interesting reading, though a little jargony at times for me.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

j'ai faim! j'ai faim!

That was one of my favorite scenes in Truffaut's Small Change. After being left home alone by her family as punishment, the little girl yells out into the courtyard that she is hungry..and her neighbors deliver a marvelous basket of food to her, via rope and makeshift pulley. (in the video, it starts at around 10:25). Love love love the little boy who tries to give her a bottle of wine with the lunch!

This has been how I have been feeling lately. Hungry all the time. Late night snacks, check. Hungry when I start practice (despite no real change in my morning routine), check.  Hungry after I eat my lunch at work and all my assorted snacks...yeah, this is no fun at all. I am sick of cooking, and want heaping plates of french fries. I finally indulged last night in some roasted potatoes in addition to my dinner. 

So apparently primary alone can make me really hungry. I am not doing second, or any work on  the dreaded dropbacks (thank goodness!), but the second half of primary is apparently changing my metabolism...again. I thought it was just working on the lift/scoot/etc vinyasas, but my teacher says it is because the second half of primary starts to lengthen your torso and prep you for backbending. Greater bandhas = faster metabolism.  I certainly feel a difference in my upward dog, especially during the suryas.  I oh so do not look forward to more backbending..I don't think I can handle being more food obsessed than I already am!

Monday, January 7, 2013

resolutions and epiphany

Yesterday, I saw my first ever Epiphany parade, at 945am, as I was on my way to the subway to go to the shala. Though there was no traffic, and almost no one on the street, they still had a single police car as escort. The parade comprised of: a high school marching band, a group of adults, 3 men dressed as kings, though I thought they were supposed to be wise men, 4 sheep, and finally 2 camels! yes, camels walking down Dyckman Street in New York City. I wonder if they felt cold. The only onlookers were people who happened to be passing by, as I was. Wish I had had my camera for that one.

dromedary camel, image from here

Camels are pretty impressive, they have cool humps, which were once thought to store water (really!) and, as we all learned as children, they can go a really long time without drinking water. Seems like the not needing much water would be useful for me when practicing in the summer.

I am not the sort of person who usually makes New Years' resolutions. I thought I would try it this year, as this winter will be a period of transition for me. There is really only one resolution I want to make: I will strive to put my energy into people and activities that create a supportive experience for me and others. Seems obvious, but amazing how many dramas, detours, diversions get in the way of this simple idea. Some of the more concrete results I hope to move toward from this: less internet, less stuff, more yoga, feldenkrais and self care, more reading, better living situation, and, most importantly, get to know more people, while choosing my friends wisely.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

6 days a week...though it felt more like 8

Whoa, I forgot what a regular 6 day week feels like at the shala. Somehow, ladies holiday always happens on one of the long weeks, so I only get one 6 day week each month (can't say I am too sad about this).

Every muscle in my back, and also my upper abs, seems to be sore. New poses from the last month, probably. I didn't help matters much by walking around a lot after practice, first for coffee with a shala-mate, then running errands downtown. Amazing too what a little bit of sun will do for my energy level. I made it to the farmers' market at union square, and bought a beautiful dark green pucker-y cabbage. Start practicing yoga, and you will end up admiring cabbages. hmm. My favorite asian veggie stand was not there, so no chinese broccoli this week.

Practice this week has been characterized by the unlikely phrase- oh, good, it's navasana. Yes, you heard right. Now it is not that I find navasana easy or enjoy it (no on both accounts), but that it happens with no futzing (ok, maybe an extra breath or two in downward dog before I jump through, thankfully, still to dandasana first). 5 breaths, lift, 5 breaths, lift, you get the picture. The lift gets smaller and shorter each time, but it is there. I feel like I can't or don't really pause and think in navasana, I just do it straight through, and as a result, it resets or clears my mind. Then comes the slower slog of the next few poses, before I can breathe a sigh of relief or remember with a bit of anxiety..oh, yes, will I be able to do the 2 poses at the end. And so it goes. Navasana seems to be the respite from all of this. The maris are done, standing is done, and the poses directly afterwards, while super challenging and needing much work, do not inspire fear, worry or anxiety anymore, they are more like slightly difficult friends.

                       watching (and photographing) the sunset, another way to clear my mind

Thursday, January 3, 2013

additions and subtractions

Back to almost full primary. Frankly, I'm relieved. My teacher returned Sunday, and saw me doing new postures..and decided to have me stop at urdhva-mukha pascimattanasana, as I was having enough difficulty with this pose. I offered to stop at the pose before that, as these new asanas were sort of exhausting to learn all at once. I told her I had been given the next pose too...what was that other teacher thinking, anyway. Yes, I am capable of doing the next pose, but it would mean 3 poses where I did not understand the vinyasas involved. I don't need to prove to myself that  I can do full primary right now. It will come, soon enough, and sooner than I wish, most likely. Then, I received the correct vinyasa for that one and the one before. I had been taking extra breaths holding my feet to prepare rather than inhale feet over head, exhale hold feet, inhale roll up....

One day, she gave me an assist for UMP that was sort of like bowl the yoga student! She pushed my feet up so I would have enough of a roll to actually get to the balance point. Whoa! How I will eventually do that on my own, that will be interesting. It is also interesting how in these rolling up poses there is quite a bit going remember to point my feet and arch my chest slightly so that I can balance on my butt. My feet have definitely been missing the point the toes memo. Meanwhile, I am sort of enjoying not being able to do this pose. Why rush, anyway.

Today I got to try the transition into tiryam mukha, to jump through with the legs in position. (I suspect this is the easiest posture to do a no-touch jumpback from..because one leg is already almost behind you) I wasn't expecting this, but as I can sometimes briefly lift up in position after Mari A, this wasn't a huge surprise. I didn't whack any toes today..which is all I am worried about. I can now lift up after supta with the feet crossed (thankfully, since my teachers have gotten back, they have not put me as deeply into supta..nice to have that break) and then jump back. The practice reward for this is that the lift into kukkutasana has become pretty questionable again. When I add something new, another disappears for a time, as if there was some sort of conservation of success in practice law. I am also noticing that in the second half of primary, there is more of an emphasis on the having the back rounded/flat and then arched slightly in succession in the postures. Bhuja and supta exits, garbha to kukkutasana, urdhva mukha pasci, and ubhaya padangushthasana come to mind.

The next challenge of the year will be how to get to the shala BEFORE 7am. Sigh, that is how long practice takes me. 2 hours minimum. Thank god tomorrow is Friday.