I scooped Slate! I scooped Slate!

July 25, 2006

Cuz I thought of it first, na na nana na.

(Okay, now, I am neither egotistical enough nor insane enough to assume that Seth Stevenson and his Slate editors actually READ Yoga Chickie…nevertheless, chronologically speaking, I did, in fact, tackle it “head on” one day earlier than they).

Apply directly to the head!



Yo ho ho

July 25, 2006

I am positively bleary-eyed as I write this. And I need to warn you beforehand, I am only writing to kill time as I wait for the neighborhood pet store to open so that I can buy some of that PetTastic stuff that takes the poop smell out of the carpet. So, you may not find anything worthwhile here, assuming that is, indeed, what you came here for.

Yesterday was Adam’s visiting evening at day camp. By the time the evening was over, it was 10:00 p.m., and I had enjoyed a Vodka Collins straight up (this is my new summer cocktail of choice as it incorporates vodka, lemonade and a bit of fizz, which is as close to heaven for me as a summer cocktail can get), a salad topped with freshly sauteed fungus, I mean mushrooms (NOT a yoga-practice-supporting meal) and a slice of thin-crust extruded-dead-animal pizza, or rather, sausage pizza (again, such carnage is NOT yoga-practice-supporting). Yet I smirked through my non-vegetarian guilt, knowing that although my karma might be very very bad, at least my yoga practice won’t suffer for it, seeing as today is a MOON DAY! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Famous last words..as I woke up and realized that today I am teaching not one, but TWO vinyasa classes at Yoga Sutra, which means that I had better do at least some self-practice before I set about to teach (I always like to do some practice before teaching as it settles my mind and brings clarity to my spoken words, not to mention I am warm enough to demonstrate a posture here and there if called upon to do so).

Furthermore, when we arrived home from our dead-flesh and fungus eating fest, we discovered that the karma delivery truck had arrived early: Lewis had a stomach bug and had soiled himself, his crate, his beloved stuffed monkey and even his water dish. I fed him an Immodium only to have THAT backfire as well: when I woke up this morning, I discovered that I had given poor Lewis a case of constipation-induced doggie hemorrhoids. I won’t go further into a description of what that meant to my wood floors and living room carpet. But it wasn’t pretty. Isn’t pretty. Thus, I wait for the pet supply shop to open.

Oh, yeah, the yo ho ho thing: I saw Pirates of the Carribean this weekend. It was disgustingly gross and not even remotely interesting. Moreover, Orlando Bloom is a girly man, Johnny Depp desperately needs to bathe, Keira Knightley looked FAT (not really) and all of the other characters were so interchangeable that I found it nearly impossible to figure out what was going on. My kids loved it.

So there you have it. Nine a.m. Off I go.


Rice – it’s not just for dinner anymore

July 24, 2006

And by rice, I mean brown rice or any whole grain rice. Otherwise, why bother? I mean, you might as well eat Wonder Bread rather than going to the bother of preparing constipation-inducing, bland-tasting white rice.

After our Saturday morning led practice (I’m talking about Yoga Shala Summer Camp again), we helped ourselves to a bountiful buffet of diced fruit, granola, yogurt and brown rice, and possibly some other goodies I may be forgetting (possibly leftover dal?). I was positively psyched to have the opportunity to eat brown rice for breakfast. You see, I have had this idea brewing on the backburner of my brain for quite some time that rice could, in fact, be used as a cereal for the morning meal. I have gone so far as to make brown rice and then stir in some milk and maple syrup. Of course, the looks I have gotten from my boys (and by boys, I am including the Husband as well as the Sons) have given me pause to consider that perhaps this is not normal. Perhaps it even amounts, somehow, to some sort of disordered eating.

But now I know (and this is, I guess, Lesson Number Three that I learned from Yoga Shala Summer Camp – or are we up to Four? In any event….):

Good eating knows not what time it is.

Brown rice in the morning for breakfast? Bring it on. Chai in the evening as a sort of yogic apertif? Ladle it up.

But a few caveats: the later into the evening that you eat, the more you feel it in your morning practice.

And eating BEFORE practice is a recipe for binding difficulties as well as excessive belching and even, at times (as I have observed), the alarming feeling of suddenly needing to (as my boys say) “wahk”. If you don’t know what I mean, then say it out loud.

As for eating AFTER practice, my understanding is that there is some window of time immediately after practice asana during which your body should have the opportunity to settle into its asana-induced calm. Coffee during this time period would be counter-productive to such calm. (Sir told me that he does not drink coffee right after practice….as I lifted my mug to my lips….) I believe that Yoga Mala advises waiting half an hour between the end of practice and the beginning of the morning meal.

Just now, at 1:00 p.m., more than two hours after I finished my morning practice, I had a delicious bowl of steel cut oats. And I have to say, I feel damn good. But what I ate after practice is only one part of the why-I-feel-so-good equation. Add to the steel cut oats a few additional factors:

  • Mark is back!!!
  • I had a super-calm and focused practice today and had no trouble binding in any bound poses, including Mari C and D and even including Badha Padmasana.
  • Did I mention Mark is back?
  • Head on! Apply directly to your forehead! (wait…how did that get in there?)
  • Mark and Xtina two-on-oned me in Supta K and had my hands thiiiis close even WITH my ankles totally crossed over my head. Afterwards, they said, “your hands were thiiiis close”, so that’s how I know.
  • I got 8 hours of sleep last night.
  • I ate my own homemade dal for dinner last night (hoping to reproduce a recipe here soon)
  • I’m having a good hair day.
  • I’m seeing my friend L today. She’s taking me on a tour of her adopted hometown of Scahhhsdale…just in case we ever decide to leave the city and eschew my dream of a white picket fence in Westport. This is not going to happen. I repeat. Not. Gonna.
  • I am finding that I am calmly dealing with the fact that my parents’ 16-year old Yorkshire Terrier (Terrorist?), who is crashing with the Yoga Chickie family while my parents take a cruise to Eastern Europe (that’s right…a cruise….I know…I don’t understand it either), is peeing all over my home with utter impunity. She is very spoiled, this little dog, she is.

Off I must go to walk the now famous Lewis the Bagle before heading up to the burbs.


Head On! Apply Directly To the Forehead!

July 24, 2006

Head On! Apply directly to the forehead!

I was just minding my own business, watching CNN, and THIS comes on.

Head on! Apply directly to the forehead! Head on! Apply directly to the forehead! Head on! Apply directly to the forehead! Head on! Apply directly to the forehead! Head on! Apply directly to the forehead!

It’s not at all clear from the commercial that Head On is a migraine medication, although it is clear that you apply it directly to the forehead. Apply directly to the forehead. Apply it where? Apply directly to the forehead. And just in case it isn’t clear, or in case you are, perhaps, hearing impaired, there is an arresting visual of an attractive woman applying it directly to her forehead. It kind of looks like she’s rubbing a glue stick on her brow. Or maybe a solid deodorant stick. What is it? Who knows. But you apply it directly to the forehead.

And it’s available without a prescription!

Which just might come in handy after you watch this ad.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


The Ego has Landed

July 23, 2006

Alright. So, I have regrounded myself and am prepared for another day of struggle with my practice.

If it isn’t a struggle, great.

If it is, well then, thank you very much.


Lesson Number 2: Taking a led class with your teacher does not mean you have been given the entire Primary Series

July 23, 2006

Now, I mean no disprespect when I write this. So, let’s just clear that up right now. And for that matter, let’s clear something else up: Lesson Number 2, as aforementioned, falls into the category of “mundane” and “silly , as opposed to the category of “sacred” or “solemn”. Nevertheless, it is a lesson that is worth mentioning, at least in my mind.

It was a joy to delve into the entire Primary Series, yes. And a nudging, winking joke was made by me to my teacher to the effect of, “Hey, thanks for giving me all those poses. It will be great to be practicing the full primary from now on…” But here is the truth: it matters not whether you are practicing Surya Namaskar A and then lying down in Savasana or whether you are practicing Advanced C (if that actually exists). And here is the (hopefully) non-mundane , non-silly Summer Camp lesson note that goes with this truism:

Yoga is what you do while you’re practicing Asana (the physical practice). Not the other way around. Every body is in need of something different. The asana practice provides a framework for playing out the dramas we experience courtesy of our constantly vritti-ing minds. The structure of the Mysore style teaches us surrender – to things as they are, to that which we can’t control, to an understanding that there is something to be learned by those who have treaded the path before us.

There was some discussion after class about the usefulness of discussing asanas ad nauseum as some of us have been known to do (guilty as charged). I suggested in my infinite (oh, wait, I think I meant to say “infantile”) wisdom that perhaps “if one, hypothetically speaking, were to obsess over what it takes to get into certain postures, perhaps such obsession would actually help that hypothetical person to calm her hypothetical mind…by giving her something else to think about…hypothetically.” Sir didn’t exactly agree. Instead, he likened this obsession-transference to something akin to what happens when the kids in The Cat in The Hat Comes Back try to clean up the “pink mess” left by the Cat in the bathtub:

The water ran out
And then I SAW THE RING!
A ring in the tub!
And, oh boy! What a thing!
A big long pink cat ring!
It looked like pink ink!
And I said, “Will this ever
Come off? I don’t think!”

First, the Cat uses “Mother’s white dress”, but that left the tub all clean, while the dress was a mess. So, the Cat smacks the dress against the wall, moving the pink mess to the wall. The wall spots get removed by Dad’s shoes, the shoe spots get removed by the rug, from the rug to the bed, from the bed to the snow. The more the Cat tried to clean the pink off of the snow, the more the pink mess spread all over the snow until everything was blanketed in pink. Ultimately, and kind of sadly now that I think about it, the only thing that worked to remove the pink mess, which was now EVERYWHERE, was “VOOM!” A massive, apocolyptic explosion set forth by the Cat’s little helper, “Little Cat Z”.

From a yogic standpoint (as well as from a psychotherapy/Freudian anlysis standpoint), you can see that moving the “mess” accomplishes, at best, simply moving the mess to some other place, and, at worst, messing everything else up. (On a whole other level, you can look at The Cat in The Hat Comes Back as a nihilistic allegory of politics as an insane and sartorially challenged feline that will continue to spread evil throughout the world until there is no choice but to blow it all up.

But I digress.

The point is: we practice to practice, not to get the next pose. And if we’re practicing to get the next pose, then we are either missing out on an important aspect of yoga, although said “missing out” could be merely part of the journey.

And to this, I feel the need to add: My Marichiasana D sucked big-time today. It was nothing like my Mari D nirvana from last week. And worse, I felt doubly awful as I struggled to hook my slippery fingers together because it was Mark’s first day back at the shala since last summer, and it felt as if I had made no progress whatsoever since he had last seen me. I know it doesn’t matter. I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know I know.

But DAMN. Why couldn’t I have had a good Mari D day today???


Playing "Yoga Shala Summer Camp" on my Blue Guitar

July 23, 2006

“They said, “You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are.”

The man replied, “Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar.”

And they said then, “But play, you must,
A tune beyond us, yet ourselves,

A tune upon the blue guitar
Of things exactly as they are.”

I cannot bring a world quite round,
Although I patch it as I can.

I sing a hero’s head, large eye,
And bearded bronze, but not a man,

Altough I patch him as I can
And reach through him almost to man.

If to serenade almost to man
Is to miss by that, things as they are,

Say that it is the serenade
Of a man that plays a blue guitar.

– Wallace Stevens “The Man With The Blue Guitar

Yeah, I know, this is coming in a bit past deadline (!). But, damn, I have been suffering some severe writer’s block when it comes to depicting the weekend at Fireplace Farm, also known (by me) as” Eco-Hampton”, also known (to Shala X’ers and readers of this blog) as “Yoga Shala Summer Camp”.

As I alluded to in another post, and as has probably been apparent from my as-yet-unmet promises of a full report on the weekend, I have been struggling with how to “sing” my weekend of living yoga when all I can really do with this here “blue guitar” is strum “an extraordinary setting”, “my teacher’s wise words taken out of context” and “harmonious community”. As those who regularly read this blog know, my “blue guitar” has its own peculiar timbre, resonating the sacred with the mundane, or perhaps less presumptuously, the solemn with the silly (hence, to answer a question someone asked me long ago, wherefor the name “Yoga Chickie: “yoga” juxtaposed with “chickie”).

And while I know that “Yoga Chickie” is enjoyed by many readers, I also know that there are some of you who feel that my blog is the living example of “yoga blogging gone wrong” (despite the fact that you continue to read it). And I can feel you people. I can. How do you write about something that simply “is”, that we simply “do”, without changing it? How can writing about yoga EVER convey yoga? At best, all I can do is to recognize (and to at times remind you, my readers) that what I write is my translation, perhaps even my imaginings, of it all.

“[S]he was the maker of the song she sang.
The ever-hooded, tragic-gestured sea
Was merely a place by which she walked to sing.
Whose spirit is this? we said, because we knew
It was the spirit that we sought and knew
That we should ask this often as she sang. “

-Wallace Stevens “The Idea of Order in Key West

So, yeah, I know that try as I might, to “sing beyond the genius of the sea,” the water will never truly form “to mind or voice” (to paraphrase Stevens in “Key West“), and I give you the caveat that it will always be my voice and not “the sea” you hear. Nevertheless, this internal inconsistency of trying to write about yoga yogically causes me to be concerned with not only sullying the experience of that which I am trying to write, but also with offending the hand that adjusts me.

If I weren’t quoting so much 20th Century American poetry, I would say I was sounding a bit like a lawyer, with all my caveats and exceptions. So, enough already, and onto the song, which begins like this:

I knew that I had arrived at Sara and Max Gillingham-Ryan‘s sprawling East Hampton property when I saw the small white sign, handlettered in red paint, hanging from a tree branch near the front gate that said, “We ‘heart’ yogis”. It was not yet 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, but I had already been up since 4:30, had already cabbed it up to East 86th Street and Third Avenue (duffel bag and pup tent in tow), to catch the 5:30 a.m. Eastern Long Island Jitney, had already had an Otis Spunkmeyer corporate blueberry muffin and a high-fructose corn syrup concoction passing for apple juice pressed into my hands by a bus attendant (kind of like a flight attendant, but without all of the cool in-case-of-emergency arm-vogueing), had already slept my way (literally) from the “inner city” to the chic hamlet of East Hampton, and had already taken my second taxi of the day from the carnivorous urbanesque Palm at the Huntting Inn to its polar opposite: Fireplace Farm, 18 acres of thickly wooded enclaves surrounded by wide open grassy fields overlooking the quiet, rocky beach of Gardiner’s Bay, where the 19th century barn that serves as the social gathering space, yoga studio, professional grade kitchen and, essentially, the beating heart center of Fireplace Farm, is a harmonious marriage of form, function and eco-conciousness.

When the taxi let me out in front of the Farm’s vegetable garden (and informal dining room, pictured here), I was greated by a beautiful and currently pregnant Sara, who then introduced me to Nell, and pointed towards the barn where our Sir and Madam were practicing. Their daughter, the ridiculously adorable “Jewel” (and I am not saying that to win any points with anyone – this child is truly precious) was being tended to by one of my shala mates and introduced herself to me as follows: “I am a cat named Marmalade…I am the color of marmalade and zero years old.”

Immediately to the left of the vegetable garden, I could see two small tents, much like the one I would be putting up at some point that day. I dropped by bags, including said tent (all wrapped up in its own carrying bag), by the front of the barn (shown here). The group was beginning to gather in the barn’s kitchen area for pre-practice coffee and conversation. Some of our group was busy chopping fresh fruit into bite sized pieces and taking out the previous night’s brown rice and dal to warm up naturally to room temperature (i.e., not on the stove, and heaven forbid, not by microwave) before breakfast.

Note: There is a lesson here in eating to support a yoga practice: food should be freshly made, and you should know who has made it; however, leftovers are okay, as long as they are not spoiled, and as long as you do not reheat them.

The atmosphere was very warm and friendly. I believe there were about 12 of us altogether gathered in the barn. Sir and Madam finished their practice and joined us on patio behind the barn as some of our group readied the rear of the barn for practice (moving the buffet/dining table and chairs out the way, sweeping the wide-plank wood floors). And then it was time to start our led practice.

I was excited because it was the first time I was going to be led by Sir, and it was the first time he was going to let me finish the entire Primary Series. He had us standing in two rows, facing each other. We began with uddiyana pranayama and some variations thereof (not Nauli though), none of which was new to me since I had taken Sir’s Philosophy and Pranayama course. And then we were off and running. I was pleasantly surprised that Sir led us in English (other than the Sanskrit pose names) and in his own voice. So often, I hear teachers lead the Primary Series in what I can only describe as “Guruji-voice”, counting the vinyasas, and doing so in Sanskrit and more or less shrugging off their own accents and inflections in favor of a sort of pseudo-Indian, pseudo-Guruji timbre. Instead of counting the vinyasas of Surya Namaskar A in Sanskrit, Sir gave us the simplest of instructions: “Inhale, raise your arms and look up past your hands.” And when it came time to hold downward facing dog, he simply let us breath in silence, at our own pace. It was quite the breath of fresh air.

Practice, itself, was non-eventful. I quite enjoy doing all of Primary, but I also understand why I don’t most of the time.

(to be continued….)