Wednesday, April 24, 2013

backbending makes me feel like this...

to j.s., 1977, philip guston

 (full moon over my neighborhood)

happy moon day!

Monday, April 15, 2013

there is no time

I was going to write about my adventures with trying to de-stress my life, and my decision to give up a friendship that was not serving me at all. Maybe another post, maybe not. Seems a bit irrelevant today..though I am lucky that I live here, and don't have to worry about bombings on a daily basis, as is the case in other parts of the world.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

in which my head does not explode, but my heart goes ka-boom

Well, I survived led primary, and more importantly, the unnecessary but unavoidable (at present) worrying about it.

I wish I had taken photos from the cabride down the FDR..along the east river..seems so quintessentially New York..and a view you never get when you live here- both looking back the Manhattan buildings which face the water..old apartments, Stuyvesant high school (math and science h.s.), housing projects, hospitals...and also seeing across the river,,and the view of highbridge park, probably the worst park in manhattan, as far as safety goes.

Did I need to go to a class of 275 for led primary? In retrospect, probably not. It was good, but not great..I mean how can it be? Plus, I am still in the throes of a lot of panic attack reactions during practice, and during this class was no different. Practicing in very close quarters is not what I want right now. At the first heart was pounding. What did I get myself into? Will this chug along too fast for me? The room, a basketball court gym, has terrible acoustics, and the sound of people breathing just disappeared into the ether. I swear it is louder at my shala some days.

Oddly, I found this easier in many ways than when I practice at my shala. Everything is held for less time, but there was a longer break between sides, time to sneak in an extra breath (as I couldn't slow my breath down that much, perhaps Sharath was waiting for everyone to jump back each time? After all those vinyasas, I still was not exactly sure what he meant for us to do).  Some asanas couldn't happen in their full expression-- I was afraid of head butting a well known Jivamukti teacher if I tried to roll around in garbha, for example. I didn't exactly have all the staggering on the mat skills for led class down either, or a good sense always of where I was in space (only 1 foot to foot collision in tiryam, even though I tried very hard to stay completely on my normal length mat-impossible for seated unless you are under 5ft tall I think).

In a way, this class snuck up on me, standing and seated were not that bad..but, after backbending, however, I was done for, and started to cry, but as the series moves on..I moved on to the next posture. This was the only place where the practice started to feel relentless, since at the shala, after backbending, I usually go to the other room to finish..and that means a minute or more of rearranging my a nice fat break! Almost no "rest" at the end too. WTF with that? I didn't know about the -chant before you take rest, so I jumped to seated instead of forward.

There were various differences between the mysore practice and this counted practice. 10 breaths (I think) in shoulderstand, then 8 in everything else til headstand..which went on for a very loooooooong count of 15 (at least 20 breaths by my count). Oh, and when Sharath says "last one", that does not necessarily mean "last one" could also mean second to last one...

In the led class, however, there was no time to think about taking too much of a break anywhere or to worry about the next pose. Sharath counts, the group moves and you move with them, more or less. I was surprised that some difficult poses- my nemisis UHP- were easier-no little pep talk required to do the pose needed. It comes, it!  Overall, .mysore practice is much tougher that way. While, I have the group energy there as support, I have to face the resistance, obstacles, etc, in my head that I create, by myself. Maybe that is the point of led see what practice is like with less of those that maybe next time I have my mysore practice, I can take some of that feeling with me. I actually felt pretty energized afterwards, though that didn't last the morning.

After class was over, Sharath gave a short talk. I had a feeling he's been giving a version of this talk for the past 2 weeks. No awkward Q & A this time. Calm and steady your mind via the asanas, the yamas and niyamas, so that you can later experience the other limbs. Don't bother trying to meditate can't make that happen until your mind is calm..and sitting there won't do it. As I practice without my glasses, I couldn't really see how tired Sharath looked (Saraswati did seem tired) until I saw photos posted on facebook. Oh, I do wish they had more rest.

The emotional tempest that practice has been stirring up didn't appear until an hour after practice, which is also when the exhaustion kicked in. (note to self, do not discuss practice with other shala-mates, but I will save that for another post) I guess I did get more energy practicing with that large group, though it didn't seem that way at the time.

No practice report is complete without food. I found a lovely coffeeshop nearby- Bowery Coffee. When I opened the door, I could hear great salsa music- fania all stars - playing. Wish I could have tried their coffee. It was my favorite sort of place, with just a few tables and a little counter, and the people working there were super friendly.

rishi jasmine tea and a peanut butter and jelly doughnut from the doughnut plant - yummmmmmm

before and after

people setting up at the chinatown ymca..730am (i am not in the photo, fyi)

camera shy even while taking rest at the end of practice. i am in the 3rd row,
using my rug as a blanket and a purple towel on my head.

i will write more on this soon, but have to do other things first, like my taxes.

i did not, as i feared i would, explode like the monty python guy, from led primary. would i do it again..not in this sort of 300 person circumstance.

Friday, April 12, 2013

what was i so worried about?

I at least won't have to go into work this weekend. Felt like I finally caught up a little, and I can only do so much. Working on the weekend (hmm. I honestly can't remember the last time I had to do this) would just exhaust me further, and I really need a break this weekend. I almost look forward to when my boss returns, just to be free of random interruptions by the new coworker to be shown cool things on the computer.

Going to cab it to the chinatown Y tomorrow for led primary. Better than worrying about the long trek by subway.

Continued panic attack feeling during practice today. Even in backbending. OY. That was HARD. I have to work on changing my routine (goodbye ginger and coffee and things like that, though I still had decaf at work..which didn't help me feel awake and made me jittery). I could barely feel anything today during practice, except panic and sadness, and afterwards I was so sore and tired. In the finishing room, I set my rug next to my mat, to create a little space for myself, because I was feeling emotional, and don't want to cry with someone a foot away from me. The room wasn't full at all, and there is plenty of space for people to set up. So, someone sets up near my mat and below my rug...grrr. I was feeling the need for space! This same person set up 2 inches away from me the day before when I was in standing, and I fell out of my pose, and freaked out. Really, they had to be that close? I'm not always like that about space, but in my present state of mind, I seem to need more personal space.

Drinking lemon zinger tea (hope that won't keep me up..) and finishing a late post dinner snack of kale with miso and brown rice.

Anyway, for all my worrying about it, led primary can't be too much worse than how practice felt today. What will be will be. Even a half primary would be good with that big group.

Can't get this song out of my head today..seems apt too.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

backbending side effects

more sensitive to everything..smells, places, people, food...

more anxiety and emotional ups and downs. i didn't know it was possible to have panic attacks during practice..not during backbending, but earlier on.

harder to sleep and to focus at times

bandhas definitely have gone on vacation..though they only visited occasionally before

tired back muscles and leg muscles..though the back thing is more noticeable.

hopefully these will lessen with time..some of these started even before the dropping back started..

and it is not helping that I have started on dropping back right in the middle of the most busy and stressful time I have had at my job in years. My boss went on vacation and left me with too much work, a new coworker (nice, but chatty, and it is just new energy to deal with), and a new computer system that is not yet working (every day it is different, programs work one day, and don't work the next...remote i.t. company is not that much help either). i know this is just more opportunity for practice..but, have to say..not doing so well with it. mostly irritated and stressed out. when I finally get downtime, I don't want to see anyone or answer my phone or email. vacation. i. need. one.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

when did ecover sell out?

Re-soaking my clothes in vinegar and lavendar castille soap, in what will likely be a futile attempt to get the stink of Ecover's Natural Delicate wash out of them! There was nothing natural in the ingredients...totally different product. Sodium laurel sulfate and other nasty ingredients in it now...and a really gnarly fragrance. Why do people need fragrances added to everything? And why is it so damn hard to find fragrance free delicate wash in this city?

Hoping lavender castille soap and vinegar will be enough for hand washing yoga clothes this week. I am actually going to return the nasty "delicate wash" to the store and complain.

And if that's not enough, discovered that the subway is not running on my it will be shuttle bus and 2 subways at 6am, or cab (40-50 bucks including tip) at 620am, in order to get to led primary by 7am. Not going to chance getting there late.

Rant out.

Monday, April 8, 2013

sharath in conference at ayny, in short

Sorry, this will not be conference "notes". I am not good at that sort of thing, and though I appreciate them when I read them from other people's blogs, I don't feel like it is right somehow to take notes or report what was said. That said, I am glad I went, not so much for the talk or Q and A, but for the feeling in the room when Sharath, Saraswati and Sriddha (spelling?) arrived. I don't know if it was the spirit of Guruji, who I never met, coming through them, or Sharath and Saraswati's own spirits, or just the general sense of the people in the room coming together to be present at this talk, or all three. For me, it was moving.

I would have taken a photo of the packed room before the talk (again, I feel weird about taking photos during a talk..) but as luck would have it, I left my phone at work yesterday. This is my new absentmindedness caused from too much to do at work, a new not quite functioning computer system, and a new coworker. Clearly my brain has yet to adjust. Better to forget my phone than lose my metrocard, like I did repeatedly last year.

Other highlights included the little girl behind me who, every so often, came back to her parents to say, I love you mommy. So sweet. As also was seeing Sriddha offering light (holding a tray of candles and flowers) to everyone, including the little kids in back, at the end of the "short" (are there any short pujas?) naming ceremony for the siva temple at the shala. The naming ceremony itself reminded me of attending synagogue on major jewish holidays..lot of chanting in a language I don't really know, but some familiar words here and there.

I really like it when parents bring their kids to these events. It reminds me that yoga is not just what we practice on the mat, that family is just as important a lineage to maintain.

I got to spy over someone's shoulder to see Sharath's book. Looks like a modernized and streamlined yoga mala, without the religion, and with new photos. The theraputic section covered poses like cat/cow and maybe alternate nostril breathing. Doubt there will be books left by Saturday when I go to the led primary here. Jois yoga in Greenwich won't ship the book either.

Lastly, I really need to learn to edit when I write these, egads, embarrassing.

Friday, April 5, 2013

nine lives

Last week, I started reading Nine Lives, the Search for the Sacred in Modern India, by William Dalrymple. Highly recommended. He re-tells the life stories of nine different people he has met and interviewed in India, each of whom follows a different religious practice. Some of the stories are quite poignant if not outright moving. Two stories really stand out for me thus far. The first chapter relates the story of a wandering Jain nun, Mataji, who is ritually starving herself to death, after the death of her friend and travelling companion, because she was still too attached to her. Her story gave a poignant view of the austerity and beauty of the Jain religion.

The other story that I found quite moving was that of a Tibetan monk, Passang, who gave up his vows for 30 years or so, first to fight the Chinese in Tibet, and then as a member of the Indian army. His story is so complicated emotionally and philisophically, apparently there is a history of monks renouncing vows to fight to defend the faith, a type of Tibetan warrior deity/protectors (like what you see in their art)..although the dali lama focuses on the ahimsa inherent to Buddhism. The monk questions whether once a monk, he ever really could have renounced his vows, and what the effects of his participating in the army, in war, and in killing other people, and now his constant repentance of those acts, will have on the rest of his life, his chances at forgiveness, his death and his rebirth. Furthermore, he was one of the monks who escorted the dali lama out of Tibet.

yamantaka, slayer of death, image taken from here

The stories that I have most enjoyed are of people who have a compelling tale to tell..the author's writing about the places and history is decent, but I am not as interested in that sort of writing as a rule.

Best book on religion that I have read this year.

click here

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

dropping back, day 2

Maybe dropping back is a bit of a's more of an arching back with arms crossed and inhaling back up. I can't remember if I saw the floor today. Very weird disorienting feeling, as I have no idea where my body is in space. Prasarita C invokes a similar feeling for me, as I cannot judge where my hands are in relationship to the floor (closer than I think, though the floor could still be as far as the moon for all I can tell) while touching the floor (assisted) with my hands can feel super disorienting. First time gave me thoughts that I was touching the ceiling not the floor. With dropping back, it feels falling back. Except that my quads are already getting sore after 2 days. I could feel the connection (and more often, the lack of connection) of my feet to the floor.

In my feldenkrais training, much of what we do is work on the floor trying to feel where stuff is happening in our bodies, in space, and how the skeleton is affected by movement. What I have learned is that my brain likes to play tricks on me - movement of my shoulder blade downwards towards my feet can feel like it is the opposite direction or the leg that should feel longer actually feels shorter (this is apparently a common thing to feel). Learning to sit with the confusion about what you are sensing and feeling in your body (believe me, it's not obvious at all...) is a practice. My teachers say that confusion and anxiety feel similar to the nervous system, and that it is easy to replace confusion with anxiety, something I have definitely done over and over in this training and in my life.

Monday, April 1, 2013

stand up

Yes, the dreaded (wink) dropbacks have started. I thought I was safe from starting this til summer, perhaps, having gotten setu only a couple weeks ago. Ah, what do I know. So far, it is more odd than scary. Just learning to exhale back and inhale up and forward, no going to the floor (whew!) with my teacher to support me. Really hard to breathe, even doing just this, and hard to give some of my weight to my teacher..this is a real exercise in trust..I found I didn't dread or hate this at all. (we'll see about tomorrow, as today the element of surprise definitely helped) In the past, I have had very emotional reactions to backbends on my own, and to upward dogs in the opening suryas. Since getting setu, they seem to be on the wane. One other positive- I get the paschimattanasana squish now! I can't really believe yet that I can learn to drop back and come back up on my own, but who knows. There are a whole lot of other things I can do now that I would not have imagined.

I am also working on what I call the sideways bellyflop. It is the vinyasa out of marichasana A. On the right side, I can lift up, get stuck (and drop my foot) at the point where I am supposed to hook my foot behind my arm, then sort of scoot/jump/plop back in a completely tilted fashion, landing on my stomach. After this, I am pretty much done for, so the other side is worse, even though it is my stronger side. I know somehow my free elbow is supposed to support my torso for the jump back..but it seems to be a bit of a puzzle getting it there at all, let alone not running out of steam in the process. Plus I have a lot of fear because early asymmetrical jumpbacks from bakasana did not do nice things to my shoulders. This promises months and months (minimum) of  flopping around. To be honest, I sort of dread working on mind goes..oh no, it's the "bellyflop" coming up when I am in janu C.

I am also recovering from a really fried brain from too much feldenkrais the past 3 weekends. The first 2 weekends were part of my training, which had the usual ups and downs. Last weekend, I tried to listen to as much of the audio for a few days that I missed, as I could manage. Turned out to be all about turning and lengthening the leg in the hip socket (and turning the pelvis about the femur). Very challenging, as most of the lower body lessons are for me. Somehow, something in my feet and legs does not connect well to my brain. Three ATM lessons later, I could begin to feel how my entire spine is affected when I turn my leg to lengthen it. One of the things I really enjoy about feldenkrais method is how you come to realize that your whole body is involved in every action, even a simple one - say lying on your back and raising your arms overhead. Too much of a good thing, leads to partial brain shutdown, however. By Saturday, I was so fried, that I tried to cook sesame seeds for breakfast, thinking they were steel cut oats (and wondering for over an hour why on earth they would not cook right..egads).