Back at the CT Shala

October 13, 2011

Just in case anyone in my dwindling readership cares to know.

And I am LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVING it. I know I was back for part of the summer, and it was great then too. But then I had to take time off from the shala because the kids came home from camp and I started getting major pressure from The Husband to NOT pay for yoga when it comes free with my Gym membership (bleh – ANUSARA – not bad, just not for me, not now, not after years of Ashtanga’s silence and meditative constant movement into stilness).

Well, my Gym membership ended, finally! And I celebrated by rejoining the The Yoga Shala – CT in Georgetown, which has moved to a new space just down the road and a bit closer to the NY border. The new space is beautiful – sunshine streams in on the dark wood floors. I find a little nook near the window to place my mat and off I go. It’s delightful.

My relationship with Teacher is nice too. She’s a grownup, and she knows I am too. After four years on and off with her, we are able to dialogue about my practice. She is respectful, and she receives my respect in return. She encourages me to spread my wings and return to my more advanced practice (half of Second Series tacked onto half of Primary or all of Primary) when I am ready. Currently, I do not feel ready and am not anxious to be ready. What I am anxious for, if anything, is to be right in the middle of the sweet spot of routine.

Today, I am practicing at home, but I will do it in my home studio, not in front of the television. That will be today’s equivalent of getting into the routine. And I will be practicing shortly. Not waiting until I do this, that and the other thing.

Follow me on Twitter please for more quick-drive-by updates, and that way you can easily send me links to your blogs or tweets. It’s @yogachickie. If you don’t have Twitter, get it. It’s the wave….


Yoga and Meditation Empower Cancer Patients

October 9, 2011

This week…a guest poster has written an insightful and informative piece over at my long-neglected but not-forgotten blog, Pink Lotus Yoga. Please give it a read in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.


Updated: Bye Bye Bikram

August 1, 2011

On August 1, 2011, I posted about Bikram Yoga Ridgefield, Ridgefield Connecticut. It was one of the last posts I made on this blog before I pretty much abandoned it and all but forgot about it. I didn’t know that it still came up in Google searches. I didn’t know that there were 18 comments on it.

I’ve deleted it now because it was harsh and ugly and causing pain to people. It turns out that this post, which I had put out of my mind, was not out of the minds of the students, teachers and proprietors of Bikram Yoga Ridgefield. I discovered this yesterday in a most painful, embarrassing and humbling way. I will be writing about it further, but I thought it important now to delete the post before it did further damage.

I’m sorry.


What Yoga Can Do For Casey Anthony

July 18, 2011

Now that she’s out of jail, what will Casey Anthony do? Apparently, her parents have not welcomed her back into their home, and she’s not particularly well-liked in her home state of Florida. She’s got little hope of finding a job or getting into college because, well, is it even necessary to explain why that would be? Appealing her four-count conviction of lying to the police can keep her busy for only so long, especially considering that her defense attorneys opened with an admission that Casey had been lying to law enforcement from day one of the investigation into the disappearance of her daughter, Caylee Marie Anthony.

Talking to the media can’t be particularly time consuming, especially when she will not be able to tell her “real story” of how Caylee drowned because that would involve an implicit admission that she had lied to law enforcement officers whom she led on a wild goose chase in search of a child whom she knew was already dead and disposed of in a swamp.

Casey may be able to go back to a life of “partying”, although it is unlikely that she will have much success in finding more than a handful (at best) of people who are willing to be friends with her. And she could go to Ireland seeking that adoption she spoke of, but that won’t likely occupy her for long, since it is unlikely that any individual on this planet would willingly put a baby in Casey Anthony’s hands.

So, what should Casey do?

Well, the answer seems obvious: Casey should devote her life to studying yoga. And by “studying yoga”, I do not mean procuring a membership at Pure Yoga or Jivamukti or taking random Vinyasa classes for the purpose of shaping a “hot body”-worthy yoga butt. No. What I mean by “studying yoga” is going to India, or really anywhere in Asia, finding a teacher who has followed the yogic path of nonjudgement and nonattachment and prostrating herself to that teacher, surrendering herself to everything that teacher has to offer.

It is possible that Casey will not be so easily recognized in an Asian country, particularly one which is heavily populated and heavily visited by Caucasian tourists. More importantly, albeit theoretically, a yoga teacher who has truly walked the path toward enlightenment will not judge Casey for what she has done in her past. That teacher will accept Casey for who she is RIGHT NOW, at this very moment, the bad parts and whatever good parts there are.

That teacher (again, theoretically) would set Casey upon the “Eight Limbed Path” to yoga, teaching her the “Yamas” and the “Niyamas” (the things we should and should not do in our human life), the “Asanas” (what everyone comes to think of as “yoga” – the physical practice), “Pranayama” (breathing exercises which help control the mind), “Pratayahara”, “Dharana” and “Dhyana” (practices aimed toward concentration), and finally “Samadhi” (the ultimate union with the divine within oneself).

From my own experience as a yogi, I believe that the Asanas would likely be the first thing Casey would learn. But in the course of learning to do the physical yoga poses, Casey would also be taught aspects of the other limbs. In fact, Asana practice is rich with metaphors that help teach a yoga student to understanding the Yamas, which include “Ahimsa” (the practice of not doing harm to any living being), “Satya” (the practice of committing to being truthful) and “Asteya” (the practice of not stealing, whether material things or time and other non-material resources).

For example, if Casey found it painful to stand on her head, the teacher might instruct Casey to treat her body with “Ahimsa” and not push herself to the point of pain. If Casey fell on the teacher while attempting to stand in Tree Pose, the teacher might point out to Casey that it is best not to harm others or to put oneself in a situation where harm of others might be possible. Satyah, or truthfulness, comes through the practice at times that we try to fool ourselves into thinking we can do what we cannot do, or vice versa. Casey might benefit from seeing Satya in action. And Casey could certainly benefit from learning to not waste her teacher’s time and energy by going out drinking the night before and arriving at class with a raging hangover. This is a teaching that comes square within the practice of Asteya.

The other Yamas are “Brahmacharya” (abstinence, or at least abstinence in the absence of a healthy relationship) and “Aparigraha” (non-greediness, such as not seeking to make millions of dollars out of your daughter’s death that you may have caused or covered up). Clearly, Casey could benefit from immersion in these teachings.

Or at least theoretically. If Casey Anthony were to go to Asia to practice yoga in earnest. If only.


Dear Future Lauren,

June 14, 2011

I’m writing to warn you. At some point, you will begin to find Ashtanga (and by “Ashtanga”, I mean the Mysore style of it, practiced with a teacher’s guidance) “annoying”. You will begin to rebel against your teacher’s instructions. You will being to resent getting out of the house by 8:15 in the morning, when you could stay home and go back to sleep. This could happen in the summer when your kids are at camp. Or it could happen in the winter when your light-sensitivity kicks in and you start to go all morose and lethargic. I don’t know when it will happen, but I can assure you IT WILL HAPPEN.

And so you must resist. You will have many reasons not to resist. You will say that you can do the poses in the comfort of your own home, you will say that you don’t need to pay shala fees for poses you can do yourself. You will say that you resent having to pay to be taught poses you already know. You will say that you don’t like the paternalistic nature of it all. You may have a disagreement with your teacher. You may find your teacher to be disappointing in some way. You may find your teacher is just a human being like yourself, and that may come as a disappointment to you, Future Lauren.

But I’m here to tell you that all of those arguments are the disease, not the cure. If you think Ashtanga is your addiction, I will tell you without a doubt that your running from it is your true addiction. You have done it countless times. You have left one teacher for another. You have left the practice entirely. And what good has come from it? You have gained weight, you have gotten sloppy and unfocused, you have become lazy.

From where I sit, you are back on track. You have had a month of being back in the warm Ashtanga fold. Every ounce of weight that you gained from your countless surgeries last year is gone, and for the most part, it all fell off in the last month while you were practicing Ashtanga diligently with a teacher. You get up every morning with your kids and you get your day started. After you are done practicing, you still have so much of the day left that you don’t feel stressed. You get things done on your to-do list. You are organized. You managed to clean your own house last week when your housekeeper called in sick. And even though it was stressful, you managed to do it. Your garden has never looked better.

When you are feeling that urge to run from Ashtanga, remember how good you were feeling when this letter got written. Sure, you think your reasons are justified. Sure, you think that I just can’t see what you’re going through, Future Lauren. But it’s a mirage. It won’t lead to anything better than what you’ve got going on right now.

So, Future Lauren, whenever this letter finds you, I implore you to resist the urge to run. Stay with the program. It works, or as you told a newbie the other day, “It’s like magic, except it’s real.”


On the Ashtanga Express

June 8, 2011

I intended to go slowly today. I ended up finishing Primary in less than an hour. I even asked Stan – did I skip something??? He was like no, you’re just cruising along. He seemed okay with it. I am pretty much okay with it, but I don’t want it to get any faster.

Wrist bind in Mari D today and full bind with ankles crossed behind head in Supta K. Still no hope of doing it MYSELF though. I suppose that Stan’s way of assisting will help pave the way for me to get into it someday via Dwi Pada, instead of that ugly, squiggly way I used to get into it myself. At the moment though, it’s a challenge holding the bind, especially when I am instructed to flex my feet while my ankles are crossed…that’s when the whole thing falls apart. No worries though. I feel so so so so damn good.

I have no idea when and if I will ever be re-taught Second Series. And I really don’t care at all. I feel as if Primary is what saves me in every way. It’s like a religion for me. I can count on it to bring me peace, to create structure and inspire discipline. That’s what religion does, and that’s what Primary does for me. It gives me a stronger constitution, spiritually, emotionally, and yeah, of course, physically.

No practice yesterday due to a long-ass, exhausting class trip to Groton, Connecticut where this landlubber had to spend an hour on a fishing boat, an hour in a marine life lab and an hour at the beach watching kids conduct experiments in the (smelly) shallow estuary. I came home and realized why I can’t seem to cook in the summer, or to put it more accurately, why I can only seem to cook in the winter: energy depletion. In the winter, I have so much energy to burn, and hardly any activities with which to burn it. So, I cook, and I clean up after myself, and by the time I’m done, I’m in balance again. But in the summer, all that energy goes into gardening and walking places, even just walking around my property to see what gardening tasks need to be done. And the sun depletes me. So, by the time it’s time to cook, I have no mojo left at all.

Hamburgers on the grill last night ws about all I could muster, and even that was too much for me. I had to have the husband flip them, and I couldn’t even clean up afterward (nor should I have had to, since I don’t even EAT hamburgers! I made and cleaned my own non-red-meat-centric meal separately, as often is the case.).

Being tired sucks. I was just so friggin tired last night. Now I know how babies and toddlers feel when they miss their nap. I was just cranky as all getout.

Took a couple of Benadryl before bed to help me fall asleep (it’s hard to fall asleep when you’re overtired!), and woke up refreshed and ready to practice.

It occurs to me that I am really really done recovering from my surgery, which took place a year ago next week. I LOOK recovered. I feel recovered. I am back in the swing of the yoga practice, for real now, the way I like it. As everyone knows, life must be lived forwards but can only be understood backwards, but, well, hell yeah…I spent the better part of this past 12 months thinking that I was done with Ashtanga, done with Mysore, that I was back to the gym grind. But it was really that my body wasn’t ready for the rigors of the Mysore practice until…well, until sometime last month. And then it all kind of came together again.

And now I’m just enjoying the ride and trying not to get too attached, which I already am, trying not to think thoughts like, “when is the love affair going to end?” and “what if I injure myself like I seem to do every summer?” Because THAT is attachment. And you can love something and enjoy the moment without clinging to it. Right?



Such a nice practice today

June 6, 2011

From the first inhale to the last exhale before Savasana, it was 64 minutes. While certain aspects of my practice are in recovery mode (e.g., I used to be able to self-bind in Supta K; now I need the assist), one aspect of my practice is better than ever: my focus. I don’t fiddle, I don’t dawdle. I don’t do research poses. I just whip through the whole thing, trying to stay synchronized between movement and breath. And it’s working.

Had a strong bind in Supta K, so strong that I kind of expected that I wouldn’t lose it when my ankles crossed behind my head. Well, not immediately, at least. The behind-the-head action is so intense, that I just automatically let my hands spring apart. Gotta work on that. Then Stan brought them back together and he helped me hold them together as I took my five breaths. Then for the first time, ever, I think, I pressed up with the ankles still crossed. Dwi Pada!

Tomorrow I have to skip because it’s an all-day class trip with my Sixth Grader. Something with Connecticut and a boat, and, I suppose, marine life. I will try to get to the gym after we return – but that will be around 5 p.m., and I don’t know what I am going to want to do at that point. I tend to feel exhausted after having to be in one place, sort of against my will, for such a long time. It’s a great mental effort.

After practice today, Gina and I went over to Home Depot and purchased, between the two of us nearly 60 cubic feet of beautiful brown mulch. I raced home and got my portion all spread out. I’ve already put 48 cubic feet down, and I probably still need about 50 more. This is the first time I’ve ever mulched my garden beds. It looks so neat and pretty! And my hope is to avoid the intense weeds I’ve been dealing with for the past four summers. Also, I feel as if the plants that have been mulched are healthier and happier – they don’t seem to be as wilty in the afternoon. The mulch seems to keep the ground cooler and moister…a plus when you have heavy clay soil like we do up here in northern Westchester.

I also spent a bit of time doing my ritual smackdown of Bittersweet vine. That stuff is evil. It’s like garden cancer. It spreads underground in long, ropy underground vines. The underground vines choke off any plant roots in their way. And then each vine then sends up shoots that if allowed to grow unchecked, will wrap around trees and become woody and thick, eventually melding with the trees around which they are wrapped, killing them dead. Like I said, it’s like garden cancer. You can tell Bittersweet by its orange root. And the vines have orange bark. And they’re ropy and almost elastic before they turn into wood. Oh yeah, and Bittersweet also bears fruit. And when the fruit is finished, it spills all over the place, releasing seeds which can survive all winter long, bringing thousands of new bittersweet seedlings in the spring.

Last year, before I had my surgery, I made it my fulltime job to rid my garden of as much bittersweet as I could with the goal being to never ever ever allow another bittersweet vine to ripen into the fruit stage. I dug up every seedling, and I chopped down every climber. Then I dug up as many vines as I could. In some areas, this required me to dig up an entire flower bed or section of lawn. It was a vast, overwhelming job. And at the end of the summer, I thought I was done with Bittersweet forever.

Nope. There will always be more. It’s like a chronic illness, like a cancer that has become systemic in the garden. You hope to contain it. That’s what I’m hoping at least. Today, I dug up two wheelbarrows full of shoots and vines. But that is a HUGE improvement from where I was at this time last year, with bag after bag after bag (big, garbage can size paper gardening bags) of the evil, vile stuff.

Sometimes I have fantasies of just bulldozing my entire property to get rid of every last bit of Bittersweet. But then what would I do with all of my hydrangeas??