A& E’s ‘Flight 93

January 31, 2006

A& E’s ‘Flight 93’: From Tragedy to Tripe, Nonstop

The movie was truly riveting. The review, brutally honest. I started craving knowing more about what happened on September 11, 2001 in my own city, to some people I knew personally and to thousands of people I didn’t know at all. There are the firemen’s stories, the stories of the regular, untrained corporate office workers who had been designated as “floor captains” or “fire wardens” who tried, successfully or unsuccessfully, as it were, to get their people out. There are the stories of those in the North Tower, and those in the South Tower: very different stories with very different timelines. There are stories of those who were above the crash-line and those who, luckily, were below.

But I can’t imagine anyone making a movie about the Twin Towers without coming up against incredibly harsh criticism. And I wonder why the movie-making focus has been on Flight 93? So MUCH focus on Flight 93, in fact, that there have been two television movies about it, and one theatrical movie in the works. What is it about the doomed flight that makes it appropriate fodder for dramatization, but not so much the other flights and the decimation of buildings and the perishing of their inhabitants?

I don’t mean to be on a soapbox here. I really just am not clear on the distinction.


A different Park City, Utah

January 31, 2006

Not long after all the celebrities have packed up their Bogner skiwear, their Sundance goody-bags and their Indie-spirit and taken off in their private jets, a new crop of snow-loving thrill-seekers arrive via commercial flights in Park City, Utah, many of them under four feet tall:

Welcome to Midwinter Recess, USA (western chapter).

In 17 days, which adds up to approximately 15 more days of Ashtanga practice, the Yoga Chickie Family will be flying Jet Blue direct to Salt Lake City (with all the other families who love the nicely priced Blue for its child-friendly planes, complete with TV screens at each seat) and then driving the mere 35 minutes to The Canyons, where we will have eight days to do nothing but ski, ski, ski!

Type A’s that we are, when the Yoga Chickie Family goes skiing, we are intense. We lay out our clothing at night, layer by layer, in reverse order so that when we wake up in the early morning darkness, we can practically sleep-walk into our ski-clothes. We then scurry to whatever breakfast place serves the best coffee, and we load up on healthy grub and steaming black coffee (hot chocolate for the kids).

Before the lifts are even open, the boys are nestled in Ski School, or, as they call it Ski Camp, where they perfect their turns and ski in orderly little lines, like baby birds following their mother.

When the lifts open, it’s like the starting gun, and off we go. And go. We never take breaks, except maybe for a quick bite for lunch, because the lifts close by 4, and it actually strarts to get dark and cold(er) by then anyway.

If we get hungry, we have power bars in our pockets.

If we get tired, well, there’s always seven
minutes or so on the lift, our skis swinging under us, stretching our thighs. And every run doesn’t have to be a challenge.

Some can just be scenic, or confidence-building.

Of course, the Husband is going to need some serious powder, so we are going to take a day or two at nearby Snowbird, where the skiing looks like this:

and this….

But since the kids and I have never skiied deep powder (it’s different from the regular powder you find at most western ski mountains under usual conditions), we’re going to be workshopping it there, which is going to be a huge challenge for me. I always feel a bit “off” when skiing with an instructor and other students. The Husband suggested that at the “ski-off”, where they ask you to carve a few turns in order to place you in the appropriate class, that I “ski suckily” so that I can be placed in a group where I can feel like I am the best in the class (old samskaras die hard).

I am so so so lucky to get to go on a vacation like this! In so many ways, so lucky…



January 30, 2006

love, lau-lau

Come as you are

January 30, 2006

Because Sunday was a moonday, and there was a workshop going on in Shala X instead of the regular Mysore practice, the Philosophy and Pranayama class with Sir started at 1 p.m., which is smack in the middle of the day for many, including me. Nevertheless, I made my arrangements and went anyway. I really enjoy it – it gives me a reason to sit and breathe quietly, it gives me a reason to re-read the Sutras, it gives me something to think about analytically (because I never do that, right?) because Sir really likes us to DISCUSS the Sutras, rather than just listen to him ramble.

I love that aspect of learning from Sir. It is the polar opposite from my experience as a teacher trainee at Om Yoga, where we were offered up the analogy of the “empty cup” for how we were to model ourselves as students. An “empty cup” is exactly what it sounds like: pure receptivity, nothing to offer, nothing to mix, nothing to bounce back. By contrast, the “full cup” is also what it sounds like: no room to receive anything. Anything that goes in, just pours right back out. There was also the “turned over” cup, which was the cup that had no capacity to give or receive or hold. Frankly, I never quite understood that one. I mean, why would a “turned over” cup be in teacher training anyway?

There were a couple of us in my teacher training class that vehemently (but privately) disagreed with the notion that students should be “empty cups” (particularly in yoga teacher training, where the students came into the training with a good bit of knowledge and “point of view” about the topics at hand). We wondered: why no mention of a “half-full cup”, one that has something IN it to begin with but which can comfortably receive what the teachers were pouring forth? A half-full cup can create a wonderful mixture, of what was there before plus what is being added. Why not love the “half-fill cup”?

The one time my friend, Pam, asked our teachers to discuss what a “half-full” cup would be in the “cups” analogy, the answer was simply, “there IS no half-full cup”. This is one of the reasons that I never returned to Om after I graduated. It just wasn’t my style.

so…which one would YOU rather have in class? which one would you rather BE in class? which one would you rather TEACH in class?

But I digress….back to the present, Shala X, where having something in your glass is respected and where you are encouraged to mingle your thoughts with those of your teacher and your fellow students. I was surprised that only three of us showed up on Sunday. We had a really interesting and lively discussion anyway, along with going over Nauli Kriya and Nadi Shodana Pranayama.

Sir read us a really interesting passage from TKV Desikachar’s Heart of Yoga: Developing a Personal Yoga Practice regarding Ishvara Pranidhana, which has been described in numerous ways, depending on who is doing the describing. For those who believe in God, it can be described as “surrender” or “prostration” to God. I suppose one might substituted “a higher power” for God, as well as “the Universe” or “that which cannot be seen, felt or touched but which must be there” or some such. But for those who do not have a strong belief in God, the concept can be more ambiguous. Sir’s reading from Desikachar (who can be said to be more closely connected to Krishnamacharya than either Iyengar or SKPJ in that Krishnamacharya was his father) discussed Ishvara Pranidhana as recognizing that there is something out there that is crystalline in its flawnessness, something that we can aspire to be more like. Since I am a believer in God, I don’t particularly need to stretch in order to understand that to “live and let God” is a more peaceful way to exist, but I like the idea of an alternative way of looking at Ishvara Pranidhana.

Later, we found ourselves talking about the process of “nirodha”, the process of quieting the mind, of coralling the “vrittis” (the mind’s thoughts, which are completely separate from the “self”) so that the self can emerge. All of us could point to ways in which we had come to Ashtanga believing that we were far more “settled” than we realized later on that we had been at the outset, and ways in which we had become more settled as time went on. And it made me wonder…is anyone TOO steeped in their vrittis to even practice yoga at all?

I have to admit that one reason that I thought of this is that on EZBoard (linked in my sidebar), interspersed with the informative slash witty slash supportively ego-busting posts, there are posts that condemn certain “aspirants” for being SO totally unenlightened slash unyogic slash type-A slash neurotic slash ambitious slash impatient etc., etc., etc. that they “should not even bother” practicing Ashtanga. I’ve always been bothered by these condemning pronouncements from those who believe themselves in a position to judge others’ ability or right to practice Ashtanga.

So, I asked Sir the question: Is anyone SO identified with their thoughts that practicing Ashtanga is pointless? Useless? A total waste of everyone’s time?

Like me, he took “Ashtanga” to mean not just the physical practice, but all of the eight limbs (Ashtanga translates from Sanskrit as “eight angles” or “eight limbs”), including meditation, sensory withdrawal, the ethical precepts, and so on. And his answer?


So, there you have it, right from the mouth of a senior Ashtanga teacher. ANYONE can practice Ashtanga, no matter how neurotic, no matter how agressive, no matter how ambitious, no matter how annoying, no matter how caught up in his or her own thoughts. (The one caveat: those who refuse to practice on a daily basis – those are the students that are troublesome). It is the practice of the yoga – not just the asana practice either – that helps students to overcome the chaos of those swirling vrittis, to slowly get to know the “self” that watches the thoughts swirling, that isn’t the thoughts themselves.

As Pema Chodron wrote in The Wisdom of No Escape:

“People often say to me, ‘I wanted to come…but I wanted to wait until I was more together.’ And I think, ‘Well, if you’re anything like me, you could wait forever!’ So come as you are.”

Come as you are.


Practicing by Numbers

January 30, 2006

12 breaths Utt Pluthi

11 minutes to finish my Surya Namaskaras

10 breaths in Prasarita Padotannasana C (waiting for that delicious hand-push to the floor from Sir, but alas, I was on my own)

9 Surya Namaskaras before my nose touched my knees in Uttanasana

8 breaths in each finishing pose other than Sarvangasana and Sirsasana (25 each) and Utt Pluthi (see number 1 above)

7 minutes in Savasana, including two on my side

6 Urdhva Dhanurasanas (full wheel) (after three versions of bridge..trying to get my backbending on)

5 Uddiyana Kriyas performed pre-practice (SUCH a good way to get warm fast)

4 adjustments from Sir (Uttitha Hasta Padangustasana – left side only, Tiriangamukhaipada Paschimo – such a great opener of the sacro-iliac joint), Mari C – twist twist twist, Mari D – breath, twist, twist, twist)

3 Urdhva Dhanurasanas that felt open and expansive in the chest (the last three)

2 months more, I estimate, before my bottom palm is flat on the floor in Parvritta Parsvakonasana (and 2 months after that, I will not remember why it was so hard for me to get to that point)

1 forgotten pose (Navasana)!! How could I have forgotten to do my last pose?! I guess I was anxious to get to my backbends, which I am recognizing are becoming something of a mental block to me the deeper I get into my Primary practice.

0 moments of internal debate about getting myself to practice today. And THAT is progress.


Dear Yoga Chickie

January 28, 2006

Dear Yoga Chickie,

I have a “friend” who has a problem she is too embarassed to write about herself. You see, this “friend” practices ashtanga in a quiet shala, and this “problem” involves noise emanating from her lady parts. This tends to happen towards the end of her practice. My “friend” seems to have pretty good bhanda control, and she suspects that it could be a result of her using her bhandas (she believes that in pulling her abdominals in and up, she draws air up into said parts). Is that possible? Or is she not using her bhandas properly in the first place?

Any advice for my “friend”?




Beats me. I have seen a similar question posed on EZBoard, and a lot of the answers seem to point to the yogini’s moon cycle as the culprit (i.e., at certain times of the month, the cervix is more open than others). But to be honest, that doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense to me because I would think that the openness of the cervix is miniscule – maybe a centimeter at MOST, and anyway, if the cervix is the culprit, that would presume that the air that is being expelled is drawn up past the cervix and into the uterus. I doubt that is actually happening. I would think that the air that gets expelled is being pulled in only as far as the vaginal canal, and no further.

Of course, that doesn’t answer your question, and it doesn’t solve your “friend”‘s problem.

But if any of my readers have any thoughts, it would be great to hear.


Happy Birthday to the Sister-in-Law!

January 28, 2006