Rocky start, just the way I like it

December 31, 2006

If it was smooth and easy, and I came here burbling on and on about how awesome my practice felt and how incredible it is to be back at the shala, you could be sure that tomorrow I would either (a) sleep through my alarm, (b) come down with a brand new cold or (c) make it to practice and be sorely disappointed. A cannonball shot out on the first practice back is just asking for a letdown. It’s like a really insanely amazing first date, after which you never hear from the guy again.

Instead, I had a good practice. A fine practice. A bit of trouble in Mari D, which I could have predicted since (a) I ate a banana, had 16 oz of coffee and a Diet Raspeberry Snapple before practice, (b) I was sweaty and slippery and it’s been a month since I’ve had to contend with the slippery factor in Mari D and (c) being back at the Shala, I can’t really add in my R&D poses that make Mari D flow soooo much easier. Sir didn’t help me either. Which I was relieved about, actually. I really didn’t care much about whether I could bind easily in Mari D today. My focus was on just doing the practice and making it to Supta K without hestitation, fear, dread or sheer exhaustion.

And so it was. Probably my best Supta K ever, even better than it has been at home. What the sweat taketh away from Mari D, the sweat giveth freely in Supta K: shoulders slipping juicily beneath knees, ankles sliding freely upward, creating a horizontal energy from tailbone to toes, rather than a pounding compression of thighs mashing down on upper arms. What was particularly lovely was that it took me about half the time today that it has been taking me at home lately to get settled into my “I’m ready for my adjust, Mr. DeMille” position. It took me so little time and effort, in fact, that I found myself hanging out for a long, long time…so long in fact that I found myself drumming my fingers on the floor after a while as I waited for my assist. I heard a chortle or two, not sure from whom. And then Sir put my hands together. Unfortunately, my left-hand ring-finger is still tender from the sprain, and I couldn’t really do any aggressive grabbing. But I visualized it. And in the past, I couldn’t even manage that.

Backbends were easier than at home, and I almost stood up on my own today. Probably because without all of the R&D, I had energy to spare. I didn’t want to go down what might be an uncomfortable road of asking Sir to assist me in drop-backs. I want him to tell me when it’s time. So, for now, I just did my backbends and then Sir smooshed me in Paschimo.

Nothing like being back at the shala to motivate me to not simply phone in my closing sequence. Thank goodness. My phone bills were getting awfully high this month. Time to keep it real again.

Came home, ate some sesame and sunflower seed crunch (I bought it at 7-11 of all places, but it gave me the idea of making my own at home), and now Adam and I are going to see a movie. Later on, the YC family will be ringing in the new year at a quintessentially New York City party just because we still can, seeing as we are still living here. I’ll explain tomorrow. The Husband seems to think that if I tell people where I am going, some crazy-ass stalker type out there might go there too. And he hasn’t even read the comments from Zee on Linda’s and Susan’s blogs! Whatev.


Reasons to Leave New York Right Now

December 30, 2006

This week’s New York Magazine gives us a media slam-book of reasons to leave New York right now. At least I think that’s what they’re doing.

The highlights:

Reason Number Seven: Because of the Lack of Privacy (So says the magazine: “We live in the voyeurism capital of the world where we can catch our neighbors in the act practically any time we want.”)

Reason Number Eight: Trump (Apparently, his vulgarity and predictability make him the most entertaining entertainer outside of entertainment, and who doesn’t adore the proliferation of sterile-looking, behemoth Trump buildings along the Hudson River in the 60’s?)

Reason Number 12: “Because, Well, Just Get Up Tomorrow at Dawn and Walk Around.” (I did that, and I saw garbage under pink smoggy skies. On the other hand, there was AMPLE parking, just like in South Park!)

Other reasons:

Because We Love to eat PORK! (Now, that’s a reason if I ever heard one, although it strikes a particularly tasteless note in the month Charlotte’s Web comes out.)

Because Our Water Tastes Terrible And We Think People Believe Us When We Tell Them It’s Yummy. (I really can’t respond to this, not having the stomach to even think about drinking out of my building’s pipes).

Because of the Socialites. (Because who doesn’t love to be constantly reminded of the fact that even in a supposedly high-minded, intellectual place like NYC, you can still make it on wealth and the ability to throw it around, alone).

Maggie Gyllenhaal. (It seems that some feel that we should be happy that some people who are famous for actually doing something live here too.)

Because Your Doorman Notices When You’ve Had Your Hair and Makeup Done and SAYS SO!(What woman doesn’t love being surveyed and critiqued by uniformed men standing between her and her front door?)

Because the Mob is FUNNY! (Actually, ALL crime is funny.)

Because of all the Pretty But Unemployed Actresses Slinging Hash. (The magazine points out that it’s really great to be served food by beautiful waiters. Because it sure never makes me think about the broken dreams of a generation of kids who came here seeking, well, not to be waiters.)

Because We Give Good Alienation. (When NOT having to say hello to your neighbor in the elevator or the deli down the street is a special treat and when avoiding eye contact with the throngs who are invading your personal space is your gift to humanity, you know that you’ve made it in Manhattan)

Because The Emotional Fallout From 9/11 Feels SOOO Good. (Every time I look at that big gaping hole, I think not about the loss but of our strength! Of our will to go on! And I also think about when the next attack will be, and whether this time, I will be in the wrong place at the wrong time).

Not to be a whiner, even as I whine, not to be down on a city that I am sure that plenty of you love, not to do a total about face on a city that I used to love, let me just add a dousing of my own fuel to the fire:

The other day I saw a guy walking down East 80th Street drop a razor blade out of his shirt pocket. A razor blade. My kids just walked on by like nothing strange had happened at all.

Last week, I came out of a deli and found am older woman in dirty clothing standing beside Lewis, whom I had tied up to a parking meter. In a voice gravelly with cigarette smoke and liquor, she said to me “You know, a lady walked by here and was going to steal your dog. To teach you a lesson about leaving your dog like that. But I stopped her.” I felt afraid. But not so afraid that I didn’t feel my rage. “Was that lady…perhaps YOU?” I asked indignantly. The older woman started yelling at me about dog thieves and leaving dogs tied up and blah blah blah.

“Mind your own business,” I said, turning my back and walking away.

“Merry Christmas!” she yelled after me.

“Happy Hanukah” I yelled back.

“I don’t celebrate Hanukah” she actually replied.

I shook my head and walked on.

And finally, I give you this: Recently, there have been murmurings in New York City of a privatization deal that would grant exclusive use of the prime playing fields in Randall’s Island to a consortium of elite private schools. Actually, it’s more than murmuring. This really could happen, and it really embarasses me to think that this could be permitted in this city or any city in this century.

I guess it really is time for me to ship out. All of that which I loved about living here in the past (first, the convenience to partying, then the convenience to work, then the convenience of popping out of the elevator with a baby buggy and walking wherever; the promise of Broadway shows, taxi rides to Lincoln Center, the exciting mix of people, the feeling of never being alone and loving it) have become either inapplicable to me in my life as it is now, or worse: reasons to leave. It’s like all those cute things you adore in your new lover slowly becoming annoying and eventually despicable as time goes on until you just. can’t. take. it. anymore.

My New Year’s Resolution is to move to a place with lots of space to move about – both indoors and outdoors, to force myself into a situation where human interaction is a treat and not devalued by virtue of its excessive supply, to walk on streets where people don’t throw their chicken bones and pizza crusts on the ground when no one’s looking, or worse, shamelessly while someone IS looking. I know there are crazy people everywhere (and who knows…maybe to some, I am one of them). But do they have to be in my face all the time?


The "Po" in Ohio

December 30, 2006

Last night, I checked out The Oh in Ohio, and it was not only hiLARious but clever and “gratifying” (heh), in its non-Hollywood happy ending (heh, again). I’ve always been a big fan of Parker Posey, and not just because I happened to have practiced alongside of her once or twice at a Bikram Yoga studio in Union Square and at Shala X. And it wasn’t just the fact that Parker’s character opens the movie on a yoga mat practicing Ardha Baddha Padmotanasana, Toe Stand and Garudasana that won me over either, although that was a much better start than the “alternative opening scene” shown in the DVD’s extras. It’s just that there’s something about Parker that I really enjoy watching onscreen -an intelligence that comes through no matter whom she plays, but which comes through especially when she embodies uptight, borderline OCD, career women. There’s something in the way she is able to modulate her voice from high-pitched and girlish to deeply husky that I find fascinating. Perhaps there’s also an element of how highly I think of the films she chooses as vehicles. I’m pretty much on the side of Cecil B. Demented, but without all the homicide.

Happy Saturday ya’all! And don’t my body know it.


Fingertips in Supta K, Take 3

December 30, 2006

I just thought I would mention it, in case things go horribly awry in my practice once I am back at Shala X. This way I can look back and know that I did it and I will do it again.


Yes, yes, everything and uh, speak for yourself

December 28, 2006

Through a variety of circuitous routes, I came across this entry from Jason’s Leaping Lanka blog, and found myself not sure whether to laugh or to laugh again and even harder.

I do not know Jason, but sometimes it seems to me as if I do, having tussled with him on the EZBoard and having heard his praises sung by Encinitas ashtangis and others. Apparently Jason is every bit as clever and knowledgeable as his writing would indicate, plus he is a well-respected teacher and a practitioner whose strength, flexibility and focus inspire awe amongst those who would admit to watching.

From time to time, I check out the Leaping Lanka blog to see what is on Jason’s mind. Recently, there was the oft-cited entry about ashtanga blogging and what Jason wishes we would blog about (farts, vaginal farts, sex, sex amongst shala mates, breakups amongst shala mates who used to be having sex, and I’m sorry but that is all I can remember at the moment). I wanted to comment. I wanted to say, “What about your blog? Why not start there?” But each time I typed it out, or something like it, I couldn’t bring myself to hit “publish” because I knew that if I did, the joke would be on me. Or maybe it wouldn’t. I couldn’t tell.

See, I couldn’t figure out if Jason was seriously envisioning himself as standing on the outside looking in on ashtanga blogging. To my mind, he seems to be too intelligent for that. He would have to know that he can’t blog about blogging and not become his own subject matter. Wouldn’t he?

And so, I left it alone. Until today, when I found myself reading the following questions, posed by Jason on December 2, 2006:

“Can ashtanga vinyasa yogis cop to looking at pictures of Britney Spears’ vagina?”

“Can ashtanga vinyasa yogis admit to being more intrigued by Britney Spears’ C-section scar than her vagina?”

What does Britney Spears’ vagina have to do with yoga?

My eyes widened. Was this a direct hit…on me? On my own blog? On my decision to publicize my interest in Britney Spears’s failure to wear panties? On my decision to veer so far off the topic at hand: yoga?

Who knew? But then I laughed. A big hearty laugh that made my older son, playing with his XBox, turn to me and demand to know “WHAT”. What? What, indeed. An entire blog entry about blogging about Britney. You can’t write about blogging about Britney without writing about Britney. You can’t write about Britney without some interest in the topic. Some. I said “some”. Not an all-encompassing obsession. But an awareness of popular culture. An awareness that even a focused yoga practice will not fully eliminate.

“Oh, if only we could live in a cave in the jungle, wear a loincloth, grow our hair and beards, practice the asanas, the pranayama, the meditation, chant the Gita and the Sutras, and know nothing of Britney Spears’ vagina,” Jason goes on to say.

If only?! Uh, not. I like my plush digs, I like to drape my body in flattering cuts of luxurious fabrics, I believe in good grooming, and I like to know which celebrities are engaging in which crass acts in order to get attention. I respect the desire to not be entirely of this world. But it is my particular desire to be of this world. And to practice yoga. To blend them as seamlessly as possible, like a finely emulsified balsamic vinaigrette.

But that’s just me. And this is where I tell the tale.

Oh, and to answer the initial three questions posed above: yes, yes and if it is in my experience, then it goes into my yoga.


The Body and the Mind: A Chicken-Egg Thing

December 27, 2006

Most of us are familiar with the concept that blockages in the flow of emotional energy are associated with problems found within the body. We learn the notion in yoga (hips don’t lie), at the chiropracter or on the massage table (“you seem tense”), in rolfing sessions (never had one, but I’ve heard….). Sometimes we hear anecdotes from friends that suggest the connection – a story about a woman who hated her legs and then got bone cancer in one of them, a story about how learning forgiveness led to improved backbends.

But as I was thinking about this just now, it occurred to me: which comes first, the body or the mind? Does having tight hips reveal that we are angry about something…OR…does having tight hips make us feel angry? If we have trouble opening up the front body – the heart center – does it mean we are closed off emotionally? OR does having tight pecs make us close off emotionally?

This is not a joke.

Back in college, I remember reading in Social Psychology textbook that forcing a smile can alter the mood favorably. Does cracking open the ribcage (so to speak) alter our ability to love favorably? Does it allow us to forgive more fully? Does releasing the tension in the hips make us feel less angry?

Meanwhile, today, my practice consisted of 5 A’s and 5 B’s. I just felt spent and didn’t want to continue. This is a rare occurrence. Usually, once I get started, I am happy to continue. I think I still need to build up my stamina after my seven-week lay-off. Tomorrow, I will come back to it refreshed, hopefully, and then practice straight through to the moonday (next Wed).


I’m struggling right now. The cooped up-ness of the past month’s non-stop sickness in this house, the cooped up-ness of having the kids home for vacation this week (they are loving staying pajamas all day, and in this day and age of go-go-go schedules for kids, who can blame them? And who would want to force activity on them when they would rather sack out?), the bad cold I just got over, the disappointment of realizing that my breasts will always be kind of dented and maybe even a bit lumpy at the corner where they meet my armpits and that my nose is not the perfect ski-slope that I feared ending up with but must have fantasized having. I’m tired. It’s winter but it’s not snowy. It’s just dark and chilly. My dog has some serious behavior problems, which I am just now attending to (dominating behavior towards other dogs when he is on the leash) thanks to The Dog Whisperer, but it takes energy. Found out today that Brian needs braces, and Adam has yet another cavity (Brian inherited my big, healthy teeth that are too big for the mouth of their owner; Adam inherited the Husband’s weak enamel but at least they are sized perfectly for his mouth). I feel irritable. I feel raw.

I want to do something with my life.

And I don’t mean law. And I don’t think that I really have the energy to teach yoga all day long.

I think they call this mid-life crisis.


Ask a stupid question….

December 27, 2006

…well, you know the rest.

And yet, I can’t help myself. Perhaps I might stress that this next one is rhetorical: Is it really true that if I want the next pose, then my teacher will withhold it from me to teach me a lesson about ego, attachment, what yoga about, whatever?

And by rhetorical, I mean, I don’t care what the answer is.

You see, it really doesn’t matter what the answer is because if any teacher of mine ever tried to pull that crap on me, I would be out of there as fast as you can say “self-respect” or, faster still, “ego”.

I’m not a big fan of the tough love approach to learning. Perhaps it has its place sometimes. But I have never in my life, as a lawyer training junior lawyers, as a mother teaching her younguns, as a yoga teacher teaching her students, or otherwise, found that the ego-busting, humble-pie-eating model of teaching does much of anything besides turn the student off.

Nor do I believe that my own teacher withholds poses for the purpose of breaking the ego or teaching about patience. Whenever I have mastered a pose, I have promptly been moved on to the next. My failure to move through the Primary Series faster is purely a function of my lack of joint mobility. It is not due to a failure to practice, or an excess of practice. It is not due to an overblown ego, nor is it due to a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. It is a function of where my body is at due to where my body has been. No one is holding me back. And no one is pushing me. I am simply learning the poses, one at a time until I master them, and then, I will receive the next. Or so my experience shows.

My own experience is my only evidence, but heck, that’s good enough for me. Frankly, it doesn’t much matter to me if Sir withheld a pose from you or kept you from practicing Second or Third. And by you, I mean, not me.

I am a human in the year 2006 in a country where “I want” is often followed by “so I will get”, in a city where “I want” seems to know no bounds. I am an adult who was raised by parents who taught me that I could do just about anything I wanted to do as long as I worked at it. And I learned to be proud of my accomplishments and to long for accomplishment. If anyone tried to impede my progress in yoga just to teach me to feel less attached to accomplishment, just to stomp on my ego, just to teach me some kind of a yoga lesson, that would be tantamount to a betrayal. My assumption is that I am in the shala to learn yoga, not to be beaten to an emotional pulp.

I signed up for Ashtanga, not E.S.T.

I look forward to experiencing some hardwon pride over my physical improvements in yoga and to putting them in perspective in my own head through my study of yoga, not through the sadistic countertransference of some yoga teacher, who I imagine doesn’t really exist except in the transference of some angry, paranoid, disgruntled former student.