First early morning practice since, I think, last summer…

March 27, 2009

Got up at 6:30 this morning, got the kids off to school, got into a hot hot bath and emerged a half hour later and got directly on the mat, still dripping wet. OK, I did put on shorts and a top first. But I was Surya Namaskar-ing by 8:45 a.m., and THAT is nothing short of miraculous.

Got finished with Full Primary through Kapotasana, three backbends and an abbreviated finishing sequence by 10:10 and then got myself to Stats Class….twenty minutes late. But how lucky am I? Teacher was just going over the exam, on which I scored a 96. So, I missed nothing that I needed to know. I am slightly annoyed that I lost two points for failing to write a “-” on a negative number that I was required to turn into an absolute value anyway. But whatever. And the other two points were lost when I failed to read through the following double negative properly: “A researcher who rejects the null hypothesis when it is actually true is making a _________ error.” The answer was Type I, which means that the researcher found an effect where none existed. I wrote that. And then I crossed it out in favor of Type II, which means that the researcher failed to find an effect when there actually WAS one. TOOO many negatives. I KNOW what a Type I Error is, for goddsakes.

Eh. Who cares?

Now I am off and runnng again. Heading to run errands for the big Partay tonight in honor of Brian turning…12!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

How can I have a 12-year old? I’m only 12 myself!


Finally…a decent practice

March 26, 2009

Yesterday, I went to a Mysore session that shall remain nameless (EXCEPT to say that it was not the Good Doc), and it was so bad, so so so bad, so horrifically bad that I just wanted to SCREAM. But I kept my counsel. Let me just say that the teacher in question is a very angry and hostile person at this point, and really needs to not be teaching (now, how could that be the Good Doc, who is a master at getting students to do the practice exactly the way he wants it done without ever making it unfun?)

TODAY, however…ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. I went to Val’s and it was EXACTLY what I needed and wanted. Friendly faces, a nice warm room, no buzz-kill mentality, no hostility coming off teacher’s skin like a stench, and wonderfully delightfully superior assists in Marichyasana D, Supta Kurmasana and Kapotasan. Then, 15 minutes of meditation. Heaven.

Looks like I am going to be checking in weekly for now at Val’s and mixing up my Ashtanga with a bit of whatever…my goal is to get four Ashtanga practices in per week, and on the other three days to just stay active and get at least 40-50 minutes of movement in, which will be really easy now that gardening season is upon me. Yesteray, I spent two and a half hours digging a new path from our basement (which is almost finished…with wood floor for yoga – yay!) walk-out to the front yard. I will post pics, but when I finished working at it yesterday, the light was no longer good. And today, it’s rainy and grey out. I think the pics will be fun because they are very very much “before” pics and will hopefully, eventually be followed by some much nicer “after” pics.


Backbends are working right now

March 20, 2009

Not sure why, but they seem to be improving. Really improving. I may never be a “backbendy” kind of yogi, but I might sort out a serviceable backbending practice after all. We shall see.

I’m also learning to own my not wanting to go to a shala to practice. I mean, I kinda sorta wanta practice with a teacher. But I would RATHER practice myself. Right now. Things change. They always change. Especially for me.


Back to business

March 19, 2009

I want to take my knees in this photo and puuuuush them toward my chest…and make my chest go splat against the wall.
Not gonna happen today, I guess.
But this is at least the closest I have ever gotten my feet to my hands in a full wheel.
My backbend must be fairly open today or something…my shoulders…my hip flexors…my chest…dunno..because I got my right hand to my right toes easily in Kapotasana today. Not even close on the left.
Oh, and depressingly, I am losing the abilityto bind by myself in Supta Kurmasana. But maybe my stomach is kind of bloated right now from all the antibiotics I’ve been on (tooth infection/root canal yesterday)? That seems to be what happens when I go on antibiotics. Or maybe I need to take off a couple? Eek. No. I reject that.

Answer me this: Why NOT wear a helmet???

March 18, 2009

Seriously. I mean SERIOUSLY. Friggin seriously.

What’s NOT to like about a helmet?
Honestly, I look down on people who don’t wear helmets. Sorry. But it’s true.

What happened to Natasha Richardson is definitely some kind of freak accident, the details of which we may never fully understand. But one thing is clear from every news source: it wouldn’t have been nearly so bad if she had just been wearing a helmet.

Well, at least she looked “cool”. I hope her kids remember her that way, instead of as a selfish ASS who was too vain to properly secure her head in a dangerous sport, bunny hill or no bunny hill. And anyone who skis or rides double blacks without a helmet is just way too stupid to be allowed to comment here.


Oh – and P.S. – this rocky passage is the bunny slope on which Richardson met her fate.

Hot as hell and happy

March 17, 2009

Yoga tourist that I am becoming, I took a Bikram class today in Norwalk, and it was heavenly. Sure, I tuned out the teacher, who rambled incoherently as Bikram teachers tend to do,, saying at one moment, “Look in the mirror at your leg and make sure it is straight, like a lamppost, you have no knee” and following it minutes later with “The way your pose looks on the outside is not important”. But, oh, the heat. The heat….
It was delicious.
Within minutes, my flesh was melting off the bone. Sweat was dripping from the cuffs of my yoga pants as if I had just emerged from the bathtub fully clothed.
Funny thing about all that sweating though: it doesn’t make it easier to get into certain poses, and in particular, it can make binding incredibly unwieldy. When my fingers get all pruney, it’s hard to get a grip in Supta Kurmasana. And yeah, I went there after “Shavasana”, as they call the resting pose in Bikram. And although I got my bind easily in Marichyasana A, which I also did after “Shavasana”, I felt like my shin was sliding down away from my armpit, messing up my “alignment”, if such a thing actually exists (and arguably, it does, in the sense that the pose is a lot more useful in terms of opening the chest and in softening the front hip joint if your shin bone is tucked neatly behind your armpit, as opposed to sliding down your bicep).
If you don’t practice these poses – Supta Kurmasana and Marichyasana A – then you have no idea what I’m talking about right about now, if you’re still here at all. But you should. Because they feel so damn good.
Since I was too pruney and spent to do any backbending immediately after class, I went home and did my backbends. I got so enthusiastic that I took some photos to see my progress. Alas, there was none. At least none that I could see. But here, for posterity’s sake, are two photos from today…the first inside, the second outside (obviously). Looking forward to more al fresco yoga soon!


The love continues…

March 15, 2009

I had to leave a hot vinyasa yoga class yesterday because it was neither hot, nor vinyasa. As far as the yoga goes, I suppose that was my responsibility, and although I could have yoga-ed it up by letting feelings of equanimity flood over me in place of the annoyance and rage I was feeling, I did not. I chose, instead, to leave after 60 minutes, 30 to go. I just rolled up my mat and said, “I gotta go. Thanks.”

I would have hated it if someone left my class in the middle, when I was teaching. I thought about that and debated what to do, pretty much from the first time the teacher came over to me and lifted my thigh away from parallel to the ground in one of the Warrior poses (“Too deep! Think of your knees!” she admonished me…as if she knows my knees.) And that was within the first 10 minutes of class. After 50 minutes of arguing with myself and not knowing whose side to take, I decided that it would be better and kinder to myself to simply put myself out of my misery and leave.

And so I did.

Here is what bugged be about the class though, what made it intolerable for me. And I point this out only because it makes me realize how totally awesome Ashtanga really is, even if only as a jumping off point for a well-thought-out self-practice to last a lifetime:

1. All that talking.

All that incessant talking. “Blah blah blah, I am so spiritually aware, let me tell you how much I know about spirituality. Sure, I am just a housewife living in Northern Westchester, just like you. But I am OH SO enlightened. And you are my captive audience. So listen up.”

Well…maybe I am not there to get spiritually incentivized by you. Maybe I am there to practice asana and go into my own head. Or out of my own head. Whichever it needs to be for me to go to that peaceful place that asana (or gardening, or running, for that matter) can get me to. But either way, listening to you blathering on is certainly not helping.

Ashtanga gets it right. It is either totally silent, except for the murmers of the teacher talking one-on-one to students in the room, or it is simply the sound of the vinyasas being counted out in Sanksrit.

Oh, how I cherish the silence of Asthanga practice.

2. The talking, part deux: the contents of the talk is inevitably inane.

OK, so, first you blather on about how the yoga poses don’t matter. Then you proceed to tell us exactly how to get into them and how doing the poses properly is going to massage our thyroid glands or get our digestion going. Then you act like a cheerleader when you see someone trying to do an arm balance. But I thought it doesn’t matter? Then you try to stop the more advanced students from going deeper into the poses because that is not what YOU are teaching today…but if the poses don’t matter, then why do you care?

Silence is golden in yoga. The Ashtanga practice teaches you to teach yourself. It is the most awesome gift a yogi can give to him or herself.

3. The inconsistency of the sequencing…or, you win some you lose some.

Sometimes, and particularly when a teacher has been taught by Baron Baptiste or Jivamukti, or is an Ashtangi in her own practice, the sequencing of poses makes beautiful sense. It starts with warming up, it moves through various permutations of standing poses, gradually adding twists and hip openers and moving through to backbends, then forward bends then a finishing sequence.

But sometimes, the teacher’s “creativity” gets in the way. And that’s when it all goes to shit.

Take yesterday’s class, for example. It started off fine, if a bit slow, but then the sequence seemed to focus almost exclusively on standing balances. And standing balances are nice, but they should not be the meat and potatoes of a practice because they focus too much on strength and not enough on flexibility. Too many balancing poses lead to an unbalanced practice, as I see it. Besides, ALL standing poses require balance anyway. So, why keep repeating Warrior III ad nauseum? At some point, I think it was a Warrior III that was the final straw for me. I just didn’t want to spend my precious yoga time standing on one leg anymore.

It wasn’t fun. It didn’t feel good. It left me cold. Literally. Which brings me to…

4. If you call it a Hot Yoga class, then keep the heat on.

There shouldn’t be cool breezes in the classroom. I shouldn’t sweat my way through the first 10 minutes of Sun Salutations only to start shivering as the sequence gets slower and the heat starts to go down. It is uncomfortable and disconcerting. At least with Asthanga, there is no outside source of heat, generally speaking. You’re expected to bring the tapas with you, and you’re expected to really bring it. And when I say tapas, I don’t mean small dishes of Spanish food.

5. The Control-Freaking Buzz-Killing Assists

There is one thing that NEVER happens in an Ashtanga class, never ever ever, and that is a teacher communicating to a student that she should pull back and not go as deep. It is absolutely unheard of in Ashtanga, where alignment takes a back seat to “completion” of the “energy circle” that is the pose. LET your knee come out in front of your ankle in Warrior II. Let your thigh sink beyond parallel in Extended Side Angle. Twist your spine until you’re all Linda-Blair-Excorsist-esque. Bind at the forearm, if the wrist isn’t enough for you!

But outside of the Ashtanga world, it’s all about the buzz kill. Where did this notion come from that we shouldn’t go as deep as we can into a pose? And even if it’s somehow “wrong” to do so, if you don’t KNOW me and my body and its strengths and weaknesses, then how can you know if it is wrong for me? For example, when I go deeply into a lunging pose like Warrior II, my knee is not an issue at all. What IS an issue is my hips, which feel fairly tight, and deepening the lunge relieves the tightness. My knee? Not even part of the equation.

6. All the pauses, the resting, the breathing while doing NOTHING.

In Ashtanga, the breaths are counted out. Inhale and bring your arms up, exhale and fold over. In this class I took yesterday, you know what the teacher counted out? The breaths. Just standing there and breathing. After we finished standing and balancing on one leg, this is what we were told to do: “Stand and inhale. Exhale. Okay, inhale. Okay, exhale. Third one, inhale, exhale.”

REALLY? I need instructions on standing and breathing???

In Ashtanga, every inhale and every exhale are tied to a movement except when you are holding a pose. Standing is not a pose. OK, it technically IS a pose, but in this class, it wasn’t. She just had us standing and breathing.

I’m not saying that I will never go to a non-Ashtanga class again. But this experience made me realize that the best yoga that I do is the yoga that is the best yoga for me. A tautology? Perhaps. But it works for me.