Thought Byte on Thinking

April 30, 2007

Still having some trouble holding my hands together when my legs start to move in Supta K. Wondering if it wouldn’t be better for me to wiggle my shoulders under my knees a bit more before Sir starts wrapping me all up. I never have time to do this because he comes over to me as soon as I go flat in Kurmasana, which I know is the right way to do it, it follows the vinyasa, after all. But I really think I need more wiggle time. I think that he doesn’t think that the wiggle time is relevant if a student is surrendering to the adjustment. Well, maybe that is true in 99 percent of the cases. But I just am starting to believe that I am a lot better off in Supta K, all things being equal (i.e., a good diet, enough sleep, a good focus, a nice, sweaty practice leading up to Kurmasana), when I manage to spend a few (like 10) extra breaths wiggling around to get those shoulders squarely under the knees. I am fairly sure that when I held my hands together that one time, that I had had enough time to do that.

But this is not something that I can discuss with my teacher. It’s just another example of too much thinking. And if I discuss it, I will have to think about our discussions, and it will lead to an endless vicious cycle of thinking. I will spin myself into even further Supta K insanity.

I know that the alternative to the squishing the arms under the legs before Sir starts adjustig me method is…practice…and all is coming. I know that. I do. But I can’t help but feel that there could be this satisfying work-around…


Wait, what was I going to say again?

April 30, 2007

At long last, someone is finally willing to admit that chemo can make a smart person act kind of dumb. Here I was thinking that I might have a vata imbalance – you know, airy, spacey, flighty, forgetful – or maybe even a touch of Adult A.D.D., when really, it’s just the lingering effects of chemo, also known as “Chemo Brain”. According to this article in the New York Times, some 15 percent of patients who had been treated for cancer with chemotherapy never fully regain all of their faculties, even years later.

See, now that barely even made sense. Let me back up a moment. Many chemo patients experience some level of cognitive dysfunction while they are ON chemo. This cognitive dysfunction can feel a bit like senility – cracking an egg onto a plate instead of into a frying pan, driving away from a parking garage with the rear door open, looking for your cell phone while in the middle of talking on it. I did all of those things. And it was embarassing, and it was disconcerting. At no time did I think that it was anything serious like a brain tumor/metastasis, even though the airy/spacey/forgetful stuff was accompanied by other even more potentially scary neurological symptoms, like the unexplained and uncontrollable shuddering that I used to experience at times, or the full-body jerking I used to experience right before falling asleep (akin to what many people experience right before falling asleep, except that it would happen 10 or more times in a period of five minutes). I guess it was some pretty hefty AND healthy denial that kept me from worrying about it.

And it was a slippery slope of getting used to the symptoms that kept me from worrying over time that my chemo brain wasn’t significantly improving. I’ve shied away from going back to work in the law not only because I find the notion of working as a lawyer so distasteful now, but also, and quite significantly because I don’t think my brain could handle the multitasking that being a lawyer requires, and I KNOW that my brain couldn’t handle being required to concentrate for such long periods of time as being a lawyer requires.

Back in the summer of 2006, I was called upon by my insurance company to defend my chemo brain. How could I still be experiencing chemo brain three years after completing chemo? How was it possible, they wondered. WAS it possible, they wondered. And so, they put me through a battery of tests, two days’ worth of tests, I think, although, haha, I can’t exactly remember. No, seriously, I really can’t remember. I do remember crying to the psychologist who made me sit through these tests that I couldn’t take anymore testing and begging her to let me walk around the block for a few minutes. And I do remember suggesting to her that perhaps there just aren’t enough clinical studies out there on the cognitive effects of chemo on YOUNG women who survive their cancer, or particularly, YOUNG women who not only did a course of chemo but also were put through sudden and irreversible menopause, thus depriving their bodies of estrogen, which is a hormone associatd with cognitive function (think of the image of the doddering old woman, frail, bent over from osteoporosis; what you’re seeing is the effects of estrogen deprivation, and yes, men have estrogen in their bodies, unless, of course they have had hormonal treatment for, say prostate cancer, in which case, they too might experience cognitive problems…as described in another article I read recently in the New York Times…unfortunately, I cannot remember what section it was in or even in which month the article appeared…I rest my case).

But anyway, FINALLY!!! FINALLY it’s there in black and white:

“About 15 percent, or roughly 360,000 of the nation’s 2.4 million female breast cancer survivors, the group that has dominated research on cognitive side effects, remain distracted years later, according to some experts. And nobody knows what distinguishes this 15 percent.

Most oncologists agree that the culprits include very high doses of chemotherapy, like those in anticipation of a bone marrow transplant; the combination of chemotherapy and supplementary hormonal treatments, like tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors that lower the amount of estrogen in women who have cancers fueled by female hormones; and early-onset cancer that catapults women in their 30s and 40s into menopause.”

Incidentally, I never heard from insurance company again about my cognitive issues after they received the report from the psychologist who tested me. And anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I can NEVER purposely perform poorly on any test. I really tried to repeat those number sequences. I really tried to remember what I saw in the little drawings. I really tried to answer whatever other questions the test posed, questions which, predictably, I cannot friggin remember. But I guess I didn’t do such a good job. I try not to beat myself up about it. It is what it is.

And I try to look on the bright side. Apart from the obvious, there is this: a bad memory can do wonders to help you forget bad memories. I have become an incredibly forgiving person, and I am sure it’s not just the yoga. A large part of it is that I often tend to simply forget things that I don’t try really hard to remember.

And on that note, um…..


Double Team

April 29, 2007

I got another double-team adjust in Supta K today, with Lori at the hands, and Sir at the feet, and it was even better than the last time…I felt as if I could have gotten my hands more tightly bound but for the fact that I was willing myself to surrender (oxymoron, no?)…and I actually managed to unwedge my ankles further apart as Sir held them apart. I love when I really feel a pose like that.

The shala was super packed today, and the weather is warm. It may be that spring is finally here. I have been told again and again how the warm weather makes such a difference, but I really never really understood that. Today, I think I did.

On the other hand, it could be the righteous poultry-free and red-meat-free diet that I have been following lately as an attempt to de-muscle-ize myself. Yes, I know that might sound crazy. But break it down: I am already built in a compact, muscular way; now, add to that that I no longer have estrogen coursing through my body to soften things up and impede muscular development (not that you can’t menstruate AND build muscle, but the female hormones do tend to block the body from bulking up, not that I am bulky, but my muscles are dense and rounded, way moreso than pre-pause); add to that the daily prescription of fifty-something catturangas, plus up until lately, a protein-packed diet…well, it’s a set-up for the building of muscle. During the adjustments workshop we were talking about how body proportion impqcts Supta K, and it became clear to me that having shoulders what are broader than my hips is doing me no favors. I mean, it can’t make it easier to slide those legs up over the shoulders. It’s like I’m already starting off at the wrong leg to pelvis angle before I even get going.

Bad problem to have, I know, right. If I were into the gym rat thing, I would be happy with it. It’s good for looking good in a strappy dress too. But for supta k? Not so much.

I also think my practice might feel particularly nice going forward simply because it will only be once a day again…that adjustments workshop really took it out of me.

Could also be…time….things get easier with time. Practice and all is coming, and all that.

And of course, there could be no reason at all…simply one of those mysteries of life, yoga practice and everything else that we wish to control that we ultimately find out, we can’t. The good days in yoga roll in like the tides. It’s nice to catch the crest of a tasty wave and just glide with it. But sometimes you get dragged under. It can’t be helped. The key is to get back up to the surface and to be there for the next swell.


Private blogging, not all it’s cracked up to be,

April 29, 2007

at least on Blogger. I’m hearing that there is no way to log in unless you have or open a gmail account, and I can see how that might be annoying. So, well, yeah, I am going to give it a try again, out there in public. A little bit cautiously. A little bit jadedly. A little bit of the wind out of my sails about the whole putting it out there thing. But we shall see.


Good Morning!

April 27, 2007

When I wake up in the morning in my new house, this is what I will see!! I can’t wait!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is actually my front yard, believe it or not. The back yard has a more manicured look. I love how the front yard is so natural, so wild.

Below is a photo of another part of the front yard – it’s off to the right of the view from the master bedroom window. There’s a lovely little flat-topped stone that you can see in the photo that I look forward to sitting on to meditate.

I spent a lot of time up in Bedford today – which is where the new casa is. And if it is possible to be in love with a place, then I am, indeed, in love. It’s like New England, without the bother of driving up past New York. Well, actually, you do drive through a teeny little corner of Connecticut to get there – the “back-country” area of Greenwich (that’s what it’s known as, although I don’t know why), but only for like about a minute before you come back into Northern Westchester.

When you drive down the long and windy country roads, you see odd little signs like, “Welcome to Middle Patent” even though there’s no such place, well, not now anyway. A couple of miles down the road from the casa is a centuries old cemetary, with crumbling headstones and a sign that says something like “Established 1743, Banksville, New York”, even though it sits in a place that is no longer Banksville. Banksville, itself, on the northern border of Greenwich, Conneticut looks like it was plucked out of 1963 and plopped on a country highway. There’s a country store that is open only from breakfast until about 3 in the afternoon. I found an article in the New York Times from 1993 that says of Banksville: “[T]he Uptown Deli and Finch’s serve breakfast and lunch to people who work on the estates, and an IGA market, dry cleaner, pharmacy and hardware store are patronized by area residents.” And what’s kind of odd and spooky and exciting all at the same time is that all of those places are still there, AND there’s NOTHING else there. Of course, that was, what, 14 years ago? It will be really interesting to see if everything that’s there right now is still there in another 14 years.

I don’t feel as if I can accurately convey the historic gorgeousness of this place (not my house, which is only 10 years old, but the town and it’s component hamlets) here in my writing. It’s the age old dilemna of authors – how to use words (music/art/etc.) to reproduce the “thing”. It’s an impossible task, although some are better at it than others (and most are better at it than me, apparently, from this post at least).

Maybe I am in such a good mood because practice today was sooooo delicious. The sweat poured off me in sheets, and it felt so cleansing. Every posture felt “unlocked” today. Of course I savored it, because that doesn’t happen so often. Supta K is still stumbling along. There is no answer, try as I might to find one. I need to stop trying to find one. One day it will be a lot easier for me than it is today. I think. I hope. It would be nice….


Tenacious YC

April 26, 2007

I guess that would be my Hip Hop name. Tenacious YC. Slamming repeatedly into a brick wall and still, she keeps going. Is there any question as to what I am talking about?

Apparently, there IS a reason that I don’t see many people struggling with Supta Kurmasana. And it isn’t that it is an easy pose. And it isn’t that I’m just too retarded to be able to do it properly, even when my teacher and an assistant (actually a fellow Adjustments Workshop trainee) double-team me, as they did yesterday and today during the Adjustments Workshop. And it isn’t ALL in my head.

Today, after yet another failed attempt to keep my hands firmly clasped while having my feet hoisted over the back of my head, I said to Sir, “I must be in the minority on this one. There just don’t seem to be a lot of people who have so much trouble with this pose, right?”

His answer surprised me.

“Most people who get to your point in the practice who struggle with Supta Kurmasana stop coming. They just give up and move onto something else.”

I can think of at least a couple of Ashtangi(ni)s who struggled mightily with Supta K – hi, V. But for the most part, it does sound quite feasible…that those who find themselves struggling with Supta K simply lose interest. I suppose it could happen at any point in the practice. I would think Marichyasana D would be a place that would be ripe for quittin’. Yet I have seen with my own two eyes a number of Ashtanga students struggle with Mari D, and some even with Mari C, and keep coming back and coming back and coming back. And they’re still there.

I wonder what it is about Supta K that makes drives people who struggle with it to quit the practice altogether. Is it just SOOO damn complicated? Mind bogglingly so? Is it the lack of control, the surrender, that is inherent in the adjustment for it? And by adjustment, what I really mean is, well, for many people, there IS no pose without being put right into it. That notion has been very hard for me, even historically, even before I ever was given the pose. I used to see Sir tying people up like little packages and think to myself, “NO WAY. That will NEVER be me. I will learn to do it myself.”

Well, that has not come to pass.

And as a result of this Adjustments workshop, I have learned exactly how much surrender is necessary for the pose to happen: 100 percent. I saw one of my fellow trainees get put into it today, sighing exquisitely the whole time. If I didn’t see herwith my own two eyes, getting tied up like a bow, my ears would have told me she was getting a neck massage. I was like, heh???

Notwithstanding the “above the neck” discussions I have had with Sir, he did note today that he believes that my muscularity is an issue. But what does one do about that exactly? I mean, I was born this way. I’m a naturally muscular person, and all of this yoga is just making me more muscular. Not bigger, mind you. I hear some people saying, “My arms are getting so muscular, my shirts are getting tight.” That has not been the case for me. As I have grown more muscular, I have gotten smaller, more compact. My shirts are looser. Significantly so, in fact. But apparently, the hard, rounded muscles of my shoulders to present a challenge for my legs to slide over said shoulders. And then there’s the issue of the heaviness of the muscles. Having put my fellow trainees into Supta Kurmasana repeatedly over the past week, I have come to appreciate exactly how much heavy lifting is involved in putting someone in Supta K. And in my case, it must be even more heavy.

I am tempted to try to lose five pounds, on the assumption that I will lose muscle. I mean, you have to feed muscle to keep it. Feed the muscle less, the muscle has to shrink. It seems elementary. But am I even capable of losing five pounds? Do I even WANT to lose five pounds? If I lost five pounds, I would be at or below the very bottom edge of being able to fit into adult clothing. Is that something I want to deal with just so I can bind in Supta K?

Is it really even necessary to think this way? At some point, with practice, shouldn’t my arms slide nicely up and over my shoulders? Sure, losing muscle mass could potentially speed up the process. But then I’m not really gaining any flexibility. I’m just doing the pose better because of logistics.

Well, it’s all moot anyway. I have no idea how to lose five pounds of muscle, and I don’t feel like finding out. I’ll just keep plugging away, Tenacious YC, embracing the rock each time it falls back down the hill and then pushing it back up again.


No more pesky word verification on comments!

April 26, 2007

Such a delightful benefit of private blogging!

Oh, how I hate deciphering those weird letters that Blogger employs for purposes of weeding out the automated comments. And I usually have to do it three to five times before my comment can post.

Off to practice I go!