"D" stands for Drama

June 30, 2005

Ah, Marichi D….what is it about you that makes me so anxious, so keyed up, so poised on the brink of disintegration? And I mean that literally – my practice is feeling so “integrated” right now, each breath defined, controlled, meditative, each spread of the arms, each lunge feeling lengthier, more expansive. And then I find myself nearing the end of the Janu Sirsasanas…and I begin to float away from the present moment. I begin to worry. Will I bind? Will I need help in Marichi B, and if so, what will that do to my confidence in C? And ultimately in D?

I realize so much more than I ever have how each pose leading up to D helps D to happen. And while it is totally cool to see how it all works together, it begins to stress me out as early as Ardha Baddha Padmottanasana. If I can’t bind and fold over and hold the bind, then what does that say about what is to come? The sweat begins to pour off me. I see the drama. I acknowledge the drama. I try not to hate the drama. But I really don’t want the drama.

This is not to say that I am not loving loving loving my Ashtanga practice. I do. And today, it was really a breakthrough day for me at Guy’s. I got there before 9 a.m., I stretched a bit (which actually is NOT a good thing – what I need to do is have the courage to just begin; I mean, at what point is stretching really practicing out of order? At what point is stretching really just nothing more than procrastination?), and I began.

I can tell a lot about my practice from my second and third Surya Namaskar A. If my jump forward is light, I am off to a good start. And then in my Surya Namaskar B’s, I know that things are going well if my Virabadrasana I’s are long-legged and steady. I look forward to Padangusthasana and Padahastasana and am trying not to overdramatize Trikonasana and Parvritta Parsvakonasana. I finished the Standing Series in less than a half hour today, and that also tells me something about my focus – that it is there, that I am on, that I am not leaking energy, leaking prana.

I still need help binding the left side of Marichi B, but A is 95% under control now – it is just a question of binding lower and lower on my shin. Marichi C is really starting to happen for me too. I can ALMOSt do it myself. I really really want to. Mark said that my Marichi D was the best he has ever seen it today. I wasn’t so sure about that, but at least I was more aware of WHAT was making it difficult for me to hold the bind without slipping my arm off my top leg – uddiyana bandha needs some work.

And then….it was time for Bujapidasana. And I nailed it twice, including the transition. I thought perhaps Mark would give me Kurmasana, but he said not yet, although he acknowledged that I was on a roll. That was cool. I had energy to spare, and my finishing sequence was really tight and integrated. My uttpluthi is almost unshakeable. And this is quite a surprise given that two weeks ago, I could barely stay up for two seconds with my palms flat (I was cheating, using my fingers, holding my hands out to the sides…all the tricks). Now, my palms are flat, I am squeezing my padmasana tighter with each breath…and it feels really great.

But back to this whole thing of getting poses and progressing. Some observations I made today helped me to formulate some thoughts about it all. First the observations:

– The large-bodied black woman who binds super-easily in Marichi C isn’t even close to binding in Marichi D. I had even asked Mark – why can she bind so easily when she is carrying more weight than me? Now I see that we all have our challenges and our so-called “blessings” (is it really a “blessing” to be able to “do” a pose without having had to practice it a lot thought? hmmmmm…)

– The incredibly long legged, skinny woman in front of me, who plowed through every bound pose with the same ease with which I plow through anything involving a simple hamstring stretch, snuck a really, really fast and weak Bujapidasana in before moving onto Kurmasana and the delicious bound version, Supta Kurmasana, which, of course, she nailed. Mark came over to her and asked her to repeat her Bujapidasana for him, which is when I saw that her current level in Buja is nowhere near her level in any of the bound poses. For me, Buja is pretty easy-breezy. Makes sense, of course – Buja would favor a short-limbed, strongly muscled person more than it would a long and lanky “binder”. So, she is basically in Buja where I am in the Marichis. She can do it with help, but it is not really “stopping” her from moving on.

– The really handsome, tall guy who practices at the same time as me every day had a really challenging day today. He kept stopping and resting and sitting and breathing heavily. We all have bad days.

All of these observations made me realize that it is best for me not to move on so so quickly, because each pose has SO MUCH to it. If I am busy trying to learn Kurmasana and Supta Kurmasana, what is going to happen to my progress in Marichi D? So, despite that my Navasana is totally good, and my Buja is really nice, I can see why my teachers wouldn’t want me to move on so quickly to the next pose (Kurma), which really leads right into the NEXT next pose (Supta Kurma), which is counterposed by the next next next pose (Garba Pinda). I mean, these three all go together, so it really is not a simple matter of getting one. They all run together, and it is a LOT to absorb.

I will miss Mark a lot when he leaves. I will have to get used to an entirely new teacher. This scares me a bit. But it will be a good challenge.



Splitting my time….

June 30, 2005

Because of my teaching schedule, I have been forced to split my time between Guy’s place and Eddie’s place (it’s funny – throughout all of this Mysore stuff, I have yet to practice with either one of them due to their travels). And actually, it has been going really well as a result. So, yesterday, I was at Guy’s place, practicing under Mark’s tutelage, and today, I was at Eddie’s place, practicing with Sarah as my teacher. They are very very different. But they are both so incredibly amazing. For some reason, I am finding that I am a bit more focused and contained at Eddie’s. Things go pretty smoothly, and I have energy to spare at the end. At Guy’s place, I have been quite scattered the last two times. I am hoping tomorrow goes better. I think the difference is probably primarily the time at which I am practicing – I am NOT a morning person, and at Guy’s place, I am forced to get my act together much earlier (9 a.m.). At Eddie’s place, I don’t need to get my act together until 11 or even later. Could it be that simple? And if so, what can I do about it?

Anyway, I think I am really close to binding by myself in Marichi C, which would be so so so cool. I never thought I could. And I think it really might happen soon. I was almost able to do so in the bathtub after my practice today!

Sarah has not given me bujapidasana yet. She doesn’t think I am ready – she thinks I need to work out what’s going on in Marichi C and D first. That didn’t bother me until I saw this other student doing Bujapidasana for the first time today. I had noticed her before – she is a middle aged woman with a slim but completely unathletic body. I have noticed her doing parts of the standing series and thought that perhaps she was very very new to yoga. Then today – she was practicing Bujapidasana for what seemed like the first time. Her hands were really close together, her legs were wobbly. There was no way she was going to even fold over. And that is when I started to wonder – WHY have I not been given this pose yet, since I can TOTALLY do it?

I explained to Sarah that it was weird for me to be stuck in the Marichis (actually, she gave me Navasana, and it’s totally fine, uneventful), since I am able to do all of the subsequent poses. She explained that that is often the case. That surprised me, since I often blame everything on my mastectomies, and the resulting tightness in my chest and shoulders.

Anyway, it’s all good. I really want to be able to do the Marichis properly, and if I start working on the subsequent poses and their complicated transitions (it is the transitions that are going to be tough for me – the poses themselves present few issues), then it is going to overwhelm me, which is perhaps what is happening at Guy’s place. Perhaps I am overwhelmed, and the drama is getting the best of me?

Let’s see what happens tomorrow. Maybe I can try to go through the series, right through the Marichis with minimal drama and maximal focus – counting just five breaths in each pose, not repeating Ardha Baddha Padmotanasana, which I have been doing lately. Let’s see what happens if I practice at Guy’s the way I have been practicing at Eddie’s.

There is another possibility of why my focus is a bit off at Guy’s, but I don’t even want to bring that up here, at least not yet…..



June 27, 2005

I have lost three pounds in the past two weeks, since I started Mysore-style practice. I don’t believe it is the workout itself, but rather the way the workout motivates me to eat….

I’m just saying…


Moving on to Navasana at Eddie’s!!!

June 27, 2005

As I might have mentioned, I am a pose or two behind at Eddie Stern’s Patanjali Yoga Shala. Sarah is quite conservative about moving me forward. I have bound in Marichi C and D with her help, and then she usually stops me. Today, the ease with which I bound in C and the improvement with which I bound in D, perhaps, led her to move me on to Navasana. I ended up doing it 10 times because I knew she wasn’t going to let me go any further. And she didn’t…which was fine. I had probably my most energetic and efficient Primary Series practice to date today, and why ruin it by bogging me down with another “new” pose with a complicated vinyasa in and out?

I taught the Led Primary Series at New York Yoga today, and it went great. Unfortunately, the program at New York Yoga has taken quite a dive, probably due partially to the fact that it’s the summer, and probably due partially to the fact that Orly, though a wonderful teacher, was not able to teach the Primary Series from the heart. I just don’t think she believed in the system for the New York Yoga clientele. She said to me that she believed that a system that repeated the same poses each time would not be right for a group of people not practicing it five or six days a week. Right or wrong, I personally believe that the only way to become committed to a daily practice is to dive into it and experience it. And so, I am teaching a very traditional sequence, with sanskrit chanting, sanskrit counting and NO offerred modifications. In my opinion, the only way to learn any given pose is to keep trying to do it. If you try to do Marichichi A, for example, and you can’t bind, then keep working to get your ribcage in front of your knee. But to do a totally different pose as a modification…why bother? To me, it’s a waste of time.

This is the way Bikram is as well. “If you can’t do it, do it anyway” was the mantra. And though Bikram is a bit unintellectual for me, Mr. Choudhary has a point: you have to keep DOING it to become proficient at it. Doing modifications is like speed walking to train for a running race. Instead, just go out and run. Just do the poses. They will come.


Sunday morning is my favorite time to practice?!

June 26, 2005

When did this happen? When did I become a morning person? Let’s hope it sticks. I love being the first one in the studio, I love being there for the invocation. I love having extra time to stay in poses and not go quickly through them, as if I were leading my own Led Practice.

Speaking of led practice, I will be teaching led primary at New York Yoga for the next three weeks, twice a week, which eats a bit into my Mysore plans at 9:00 a.m., and I am finding myself not really excited about taking the Mysore at Eddie’s at those days. But there is always 6:30 a.m. and then there is Jivamukti, which has in which my interest has renewed. Always good to brush up on vinyasa.

My weight seems to be dropping a bit. Let’s hope the trend continues. I seem to have lost two pounds for real since I began Mysore two weeks ago (as opposed to simply weight fluctuations and water weight). Let’s see what happens this week! I know I feel more lean and buff. I really want to be able to bind reliably in Marichi D and bind myself in Marichi C. I see others doing it and wonder – why not me? I know that is not yogic. I know I am not supposed to envy or covet. But sometimes I do. I guess it is something I am going to have to work with (rather than work to change – instead, work with the feelings, trying to not attach to them or to the feeling of judging those feelings, and then see what evolves).

All I know is that I am kinda glad that I am sort of stuck at Bujapidasana right now. There is so much else to learn and grasp and internalize about the system, even Trikonasana has things to reveal to me at this point. So, I consider myself lucky to even BE at Bujapidasana. Why move on if it just gives me more pressure to learn and internalize even more? I feel as if my head would explode if I were to try to learn the correct way of practicing the next three poses while still working intensely as I am with everything up to Bujapidasana.

It will all come in time. If i keep practicing, I will improve, I do know that. Some things will simply evolve to become easier or more natural.

I am nervous about teaching the series, but no more so than I was when i began teaching the New York Yoga Sequence. Perhaps even less so….


Resting my Ashtanga, but teaching my Vinyasa today

June 25, 2005

Last night, I taught a really nice sequence at my Open level class at New York Yoga, which class is to be no more, at least for me. Time to get some new blood in there, stir things up a bit. It’s also a particularly difficult time for me now that my kids are in camp all day – it would mean they would be away all day, and then I wouldn’t see them until bedtime. Not good. My sequencing last night didn’t exactly borrow directly from Ashtanga so much as it borrowed from Narayani’s class at Jivamukti. She really inspired me. I think my summer schedule will definitely include Narayani on Wednesdays at noon, which fits in perfectly after I teach my 8 a.m. Express and my 9:15 Led Primary Series.

Yes, you heard that right. Lauren Cahn is teaching a Led Primary Series class, four times this summer. Subbing for the esteemed Mary-Beth Garruti. I cannot possibly fill her yogi shoes. However, I can offer a very traditional, by the book, Led class as I did last Wednesday. We chanted the Invocation and then went straight through the Primary Series, finishing in just under 90 minutes. I know that an ashtangi friend of mine is skeptical – she doesn’t see how I can possibly teach the Primary Series, not having trained formally. But I totally can LEAD a class in the Primary Series and even adjust in many poses. What I am not qualified to do, and it’s silly to even discuss it, is to lead a Mysore practice. That would be absurd at this point.

But since I have been through the Primary Series many times now, I have a very good ear for mimicry, I am intelligent enough to remember how to count out the breaths in Sanskrit and to remember the sequence and know the names of the poses, and because I already know how to teach each individual part of the Series as a result of my training and experience as a Vinyasa teacher, I know it is going to be GREAT. And what I offer is the chance to experience the entire Series. We will stay in poses for the prescribed five breaths and then move on. It won’t be possible to offer a steady stream of modifications or to adjust more than one person per pose. It seems excellently tailored for someone like me.

Do I sound defensive?!

Also, if you read the biography of Sarah Plumer, somewhere on the web (she is my teacher at Eddie Stern’s place), it says that she began her Ashtanga teaching by leading her dancer friends in the Primary Series. There really is no magic in leading the LED version of the Primary Series, and in fact, dare I say, for the students, Led Ashtanga takes on the feeling of being more of a “performance” than a practice. Yes, I dare say it. In five breaths, you are not going to LEARN about a pose, so much as perform it.

It is also a perfect opportunity to explain the importance of practicing daily. Five breaths in a pose per week is not enough to learn the pose! Practice every day, and it comes.

So, I guess my schedule looks like it’s going to be Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays at Guy’s. Wednesdays teaching in the morning and then Eddie’s or Jivamukti. Thursdays at Guy’s and then Fridays Mary-Beth’s or Eddies, or more than likely, both.

Practicing twice in one day? Yes. I know it sounds obsessive. But think about what teacher training was like. We practiced all day long. Two and half hours or so is nothing compared to what I have done.

I am going to take a moment now just to thank GOD and all higher powers looking over me for the sheer energy I possess and for all of the wonderful opportunities that I have been given.



Size 2 (as in 2 fat to bind)

June 23, 2005

In a nutshell, Mark gave me the lowdown today – if I want to bind more easily, I have to shed a few pounds, around five. I’m five foot one inch, and I wear a size 2. But I know he’s right – there is extra “stuff” that I don’t need, and yoga is also about eliminating what we don’t need.

To be honest, it didn’t bother me much at all. I know in my heart he is right. And for the past week, before he even said something, I have already been eating far less, motivated by a desire to really get proficient at Ashtanga and feel all the benefits, physical as well as spiritual.

I have nothing much more to say than that. It’s kind of a lot to take in for me.