Sarah Lord Sasso 1966-2006

January 27, 2006

While I was teaching my class at Yoga Sutra yesterday, on the mantle/altar, I noticed a a card with Sarah’s photo on it. It was about the same size as the cards Yoga Sutra prints up for workshops and kirtan events. Sarah was a Jivamukti-trained yoga teacher, and I remember her from my days as a student at Jivamukti.

My immediate reaction was to assume that Yoga Sutra was hosting Sarah in a workshop. Then my eyes drifted below the photo of the smiling, pretty blonde-haired young woman….there was her full name…and some numbers…no, not numbers, but dates…her birth date…followed by…….her date of death….?

I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. I turned the card over, a lame attempt to keep myself from thinking bout it, and I continued to teach the class. But I couldn’t stop my mind from spinning.

“Inhale your arms up over your head,” I said as I turned the card over once again. “Exhale to fold forward into Uttanasana,” I said as I let my eyes settle on the card once again. Sarah, who was a native of England, had died at her home in New York. She was only 39.

The card was an invitation to a celebration of Sarah’s life, which was, held at the Beacon Hotel in NYC on January 21. It asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the National Brain Tumor Foundation and the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, Hospice Care. So much information in so few words.

I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. I turned the card over again.

“Inhale, look up. Lengthen your spine from the tailbone to the crown of your head.”

But turning the card over didn’t, couldn’t, take away my shock and my confusion. A beautiful young person became ill. And now her life was over.

“Exhale, step or jump back into chatturanga…keep the gaze forward.”

It just seemed so wrong.

It just seems so wrong.



SO very.

January 27, 2006

WEIRD dream last night…about aging…about not realizing how old I really am…it seems that I think of myself as about 25 years old, and it is surprising to me when others see me as what I really am: a 40 year old mom. In the dream, I was back at NYU law school, auditioning for The Law Revue, the musical revue written and performed by the students that lampoons the law school and its professors.

(I was in the Law Revue all three years, and in my last year, I helped write and produce it, and I had quite the plum role: I played a “Heather“, and with my other two “Heathers” as backup, I sang a hystericlly funny song to the tune the 1964 girl-group song, “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” by the Shangri-Las. At the end of the song, I dropped dead, poisoned, just like in the Heathers movie…. Anyway, I digress….)

So, in the dream, I was me at my current age, but I was in law school for some reason, auditioning for the Law Revue. I had this GREAT audition, and I figured I was a shoo-in for a great big part, with a great solo. Turns out, not only did I not get a big part, I was barely included in the show at all. In fact, I walked by the auditorium on a Saturday and was shocked and dismayed to find that the cast was rehearsing….without me.

I stormed down to the orchestra pit, and demanded a word with the director. The director emerged – a scrawny 22-year old in baggy jeans, flannel shirt and long, scraggly hair peaking out under his baseball cap. I asked him what happened, why was I not told about the rehearsal? Boy Director leafed through his copy of the script and pulled out a single page with a single paragraph circled on it. That was my part. He pointed to it and said, “I didn’t think you needed to come all the way down here to rehearse when this is the only part you have to learn. You’ll be fine.”

I was outraged. I had had such a great audition! Why was I relegated to a token part?

“The thing is,” Boy Director said, “I just didn’t see you playing a law student. You’re old enough to be the mom of a law student. And the real professors are playing themselves. So, it was hard to find a part for you.”

I was horrified. I ran to the mirror. I saw that I was wearing my Heathers costume: mini skirt, tights and penny loafers, topped with a fuschia double breasted blazer, my hair worn in loose spirals and pulled into a low pony tail with a silver scrunchi. I looked alright to me. Why couldn’t Boy Director see me as a law student when I could see myself as one? Why was he thinking of me as middle-aged when I saw myself as young…?

And that’s when I woke up….

Meanwhile, back at the Shala, lovely surprise: Sir was teaching today. Usually Sir does not teach on Fridays. I got some nice adjustments from him in Mari A and B, although I was on my own for C and D. And that always has its upside: I get to go into them on my own and stay in as long as I want, repeating them if I want, with no one waiting. There’s something to be said for a nice, muscular adjustment. There’s also something to be said for DIY.


This doesn’t make him a metrosexual

January 27, 2006

Or so he says.

Tonight the Husband came home with shiny nails.

Me: “Are you wearing nail polish?”

Him: “No, it’s just some kind of oil or something that the manicurist used.”

After I come to, the Husband explains that he had decided to venture into the world of John Allan’s, a salon that caters exclusively to guys: “It’s a barbershop. It’s for real men. There’s a cigar room, they’re playing pool, they’re drinking beer.”

“And getting manicures,” I remind him.

The Husband continues to insist that “it’s not what it sounds like”. In fact, while he was there, he ran into a friend of ours, P, with whom I went to college and with whom we both went to law school. P is nothing if not macho.

And P got a mani too. So there.

Oh, and that’s not a photo of the Husband.


The World’s Healthiest Foods

January 26, 2006

After a delicious lunch of cottage cheese and jasmine rice, I found this: The World’s Healthiest Foods: Feeling Great. I am DEFINITELY believing that what we eat on one day effects the way our bodies feel the next day. Yesterday started out well enough, but somehow it got way off track. Dinner consisted of shell steak (over arugula…which did not cancel out the steak by any means). But things went really off course when I hit the Hershey’s Kissables. A, they don’t compare to M&M’s. B, I felt like CRAP this morning.

I taught a nice Ashtanga-based vinyasa class (at the request of my students), and then I sat there and tried to figure out if I could/should take Erika’s Half Primary Led class.

If my life were a comic strip, here is the thought bubble you would see:

“Hmmm….this would be my sixth day of practice in a row….hmmmm…..thinking….tomorrow I would really like to practice because I don’t want to get into the habit of practicing on Saturdays, and Sunday is a moonday….hmmmm…and what are the odds that I will be able to get my ass to practice tomorrow if I practice today?….could do a Bikram class…yeah….I COULD…but I won’t….Lewis needs some attention….but I love Erika’s class…but I can’t even touch my toes….but I could do Sun Sals and then stop…STOP!!!!….I’m going home and eating lunch….”

And there you have it. I am going to take Lewis to Central Park now.


I feel good

January 26, 2006

Really, really good. No aches. No pains. Practice is good. My relationships are good. Even the weather is good.

Hence, peace of mind.

No anxiety.

I realize it is all transient.

All the more reason to acknowledge the perfect moment in time and be thankful. Gracious. Awed.


This is a true story

January 25, 2006

Yesterday afternoon, while Brian was at Hebrew school and Adam was at Tae Kwon Do, I got myself a nice hour-long massage at one of those little Chinese “Qui Gong Tui Na” places in the neighborhood.

And what a treat it was.

I was really in need of some body work.

Made it to practice today at exactly 9:30 a.m. The shala was quiet, at least it was by that time. I had a great practice today, perhaps one of the best ones I have ever had. So I’d like to make some notations here about what I think was working for me:

1. I began with some arm swings (both internally rotating and externally rotation, fast) – a great way to loosen up the shoulders and quickly raise the heat. Then I did three rounds of Uddiyana Kriya:as per Sir’s instructions. And let me tell you, as far as connecting with uddiyana bhanda, this is one hell of a way to get things going. I have never felt so light in my vinyasas as I did today.

2. I’ve been working on keeping my palms flat on my mat as I bring my foot forward for Vira I in Surya B, and then keeping my palms flat on the way back down to chatturanga. It’s really a great way to lengthen the lower back, which is becoming my focus lately, now that my hips are wide open and my shoulders have finally released (more about that later). Lengthening the lower back is crucial to effectively twisting the spine, sans injuring the spine and the muscles supporting the spine.

3. I’ve been working on conserving energy in every pose and every vinyasa – eliminating extraneous movements and “flourishes”. I’m not dancing. I’m practicing yoga. Arms up, fold forward. No huge sweeping arm movements. When it comes to vinyasa-ing in and out of the seated poses, I am, wherever possible, jumping right into the pose (this works best in tiriangmukhaipada paschimo) and lifting back up into chatturanga right from the pose (this works best in the half-lotus seated poses).

4. I’m dawdling less in each pose. I get in and get out. One exception: Parivritta Parsvakonasana. That is my one chance early on in the practice to really warm up my twisting. I am ALMOST getting my palm to the floor. But after I test that out, I bring my hands back into prayer and press the back of my upper arm against my front shin and gaze up at where my top arm would be reaching, IF I were reaching it up overhead. At this point, something about the posture is still not open enough to enable me to bring my bottom hand to the floor AND reach my top arm overhead AND maintain a deep twist. Since my focus is on twisting and lengthening my spine right now, I forego the upper arm reach and use my driste in that direction instead. Seems to be working. Slowly, steadily. Patience.

5. Reach for the wrist. Reach for the wrist. Reach for the wrist.

6. Chin to shin. Chin to shin. Chin to shin. Or forehead to the floor, as applicable.

7. I have been using the backbending “interlude” to work on shoulder openers. I got some great ideas from Andrey Lappa in February’s Yoga Journal. A reprint of his article, “Open Arms” can be found here. But I also have been reaching my arms back into gomukhasana and lying on them for five to eight breaths. The idea is to passively stretch the shoulders in all directings. And it seems to be helping me immensely. After these, I am ready for backbending.

8. Speaking of backbending, this one could be a bit controversial. Up until Saturday, I had been having a great deal of trouble with Upward Facing Dog. I never thought such a thing was possible – that Chatturanga could be easy and Updog could cause me problems. But there it was. About halfway through my practice, it would inevitably become increasingly difficult to go from forward bends to Upward Dogging. In reaction, I would hold my Dog Dogs for longer and longer, thus draining myself of energy, losing momentum, interrupting the flow. Well, on Saturday, in led class (which I NEVER usually go to), Aliza noticed what was going on and suggested that….I press into my big toes.


All this time, I have been trying to press evenly onto all ten toes and at the same time, lift my inner thighs up, rolling my outer thighs down (all very subtly). The idea is that I would thereby open up some space in my sacro-illiac joint(s), allowing for a deeper lumbar bend. Well, guess what? According to Aliza, apparently, for someone like me – the go-go-go-pitta type, this is going to be cause discomfort. Uh, yeah!

She told me to try it with my big toes taking the weight. And you know what? It felt GREAT. I guess my lower spine doesn’t get as much movement, but my thoracic spine gets more. I asked her if Sir would approve. She told me that he finally gave her this same advice two years into her practice, and it made a huge, huge difference. So, I only had to wait eight months.

So, now, I can practice Updog with the same integrity from my first Surya A through my last vinyasa into Savasana.

Anyway, that’s all for now on yoga….

Now, just a note regarding James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces. I know that this book has raised a fair amount of controversy for its author’s having taken liberties with “reality”. But here is my take on it: Even if one were attempt to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, one would still be incapable of ever even coming CLOSE to “reality”. The moment you put pen to paper, you begin to fictionalize. It is impossible to write “non-fiction” without fictionalizing at least to some extent, even if entirely unintentionally. Yes, it seems that Frey’s book does so with some level of “intent” to fictionalize without letting the reader in on the plan. But remember: this is the work of a user (former) of hallucinogenic drugs. The intentional fictionalization of details in a book that concerns addiction strikes me as part of the artistic process.

Remember the movie, Fargo? Jt opens with a screen that reads:

“This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.”

This is, of course, completely UNtrue.

How come no one had a problem with that?


Maple Spelt Muffins

January 24, 2006

YUM!!! And oh so saatvic (other than the two eggs per 12 servings. Can they still be saatvic if they contain 1/6 of an egg per muffin?)

Here is the recipe, tested in Yoga Chickie’s very own kitchen:


Makes 12 muffins

1 cup dried fruit (I used organic dried cherries and blueberries; next time I think I will use almonds and dried apricots)
2 1/2 cups spelt flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (I skipped this, as I don’t like the combination of cinnamon plus maple)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup maple syrup (needless to say, use REAL maple syrup, not Log Cabin etc., which is basically maple flavored corn syrup)
1 1/2 cups milk (I used a 1% organic milk from Amish Farms, which has a rich taste despite being low in fat)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine all dry ingredients. Add eggs, oil, syrup and milk. Mix. Fill muffin cups most of the way, greased or papered.
Bake for about 17 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Transfer to rack and allow to cool.

Thanks to whomever it was that suggested I stop eating the Dunkin Donuts raisin bran muffins, which are pure crap. I think it was Sonya. Thanks Sonya!