A visit to real life…

April 30, 2009

Last night I went to a party, and apparently, whenever I am in a room with people, inevitably, the conversation meanders to yoga at some point. Not surprisingly, given that the party was in Westchester, where there are exactly zero Asthanga shalas, no one had a clue what Ashtanga is.

Try explaining Ashtanga to people who don’t practice it. Try explaining Mysore style to people who have practiced only led classes of any kind. Try explaining the notion of being “given” poses. Try explaining the linear progression of Ashtanga from Primary to Intermediate to the Advanced Series. Try explaining that there is no “talk” and no “breathing work”. Try explaining that there is no “camel pose” until after you’re able to put your legs over your head and clasp your hands behind your back. Try explaining that there is no “shoulder stand” until after you’re able to do “Marichyasana D” (what the hell is that to someone who doesn’t practice Ashtanga?). No crow pose until you can bend over backwards and, at a minimum, touch your toes with your fingertips. No backbends except full wheel until you can twist and wrap your arms around your legs while in a deep squat.

“That doesn’t seem fun.”

“But you paid for class, so why are you not allowed to do things?”

“But the poses you’re talking about in Primary Series are way more advanced than anything I do in Level II/III class…”

Try explaining why you do it then. And you hear yourself sounding really snobby. And kind of…ego driven. And perhaps even…competitive?

But the thing is, not one of these people who you’re talking to at this party gives a rat’s ass that you can put your legs over your head and clasp your hands behind your back. Or that you were “given” up to the one-leg-behind-the head pose that you see Madonna doing in some movie stills of that movie that no one saw, where she played a yoga teacher.

In the world outside of the shala, the standards are different. None of this shit matters. Sometimes it’s really quite refreshing to take a dip in that pool.


Growing Up, Letting Go

April 29, 2009

It’s been said that the greatest gift a parent can give a child is the ability to separate from the parent. It follows then that a child who is able to separate from the parent is a child who has been given a great gift from her parent.

I believe that the same holds true in the teacher/student relationship, that the greatest gift a teacher can give his student is the ability to separate from the teacher, to be independent from the teacher, to take what she has learned from the teacher and to put it to good use, separate and apart from the teacher.

A parent should not require that his child “twin” him, emulate him, be the same as him. Similarly, a teacher should not require that his student “twin” him, emulate him, be the same as him.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but I do know where it comes from. And no, Mom, it has nothing to do with you.


Yoga to the People on the one hand, Yoga at the Bedford Post Inn on the other

April 20, 2009

Well, never let it be said that I hate every yoga class I go to and that the only teacher I can tolerate is myself. Bri had a birthday dinner in the city last evening, and I needed to kill some time. Since the dinner was at Le Gamin for crepes (very refined friends my son has, at least the ones who he left behind in NYC), I found myself at Yoga to the People on St. Marks. I hadn’t been there since Sir (remember him?) did a week-long trial stint there. Well, since then, the place has grown exponentially, and at 5:00 p.m., two huge classrooms were filled with students.

Backing up to explain: there is no set schedule of who is teaching what class at YTTP. It’s kind of like the Delta Shuttle. There’s a scheduled classtime, and if one classroom fills up, they open up another and bring in another teacher. Classes are vinyasa, but they seem to be Baptiste-based, which is to say, the room is heated to about 80 at the start, and class begins with the childs pose to down dog to uttanasana sequence. VERY nice. I don’t mind at ALL not starting immediately into the Sun Salutations.

Did I mention that classes are By Donation only? You pay after class, what you think you should pay. I paid $20, because I felt it was worth every penny. The class was nonstop movement, but most importantly, the teacher had no bones to pick, no agendas to push. It was all about, “Do this, but do it in a way that feels good. Do as much or as little as suits you. Take a variation if you want to, or don’t.” The music was like the Garden State soundtrack or something – Zero 7, Thievery, which I could have mixed myself, and often do. If I were not an Ashtanga junkie who lives in Northern Westchester, I would be there often.

If you live nearby, you MUST try it. It is exactly what I am looking for when I venture out of my self-practice. Therefore, it must be exactly what you are looking for. Ha. Kidding. But go. It’s good. And Mary Kate Olsen practices there, I think, since I ran into her on my way out, and then again at Liquiteria where I went for my first Young Coconut of the season. YUM!!!!!!!!!! And no, she is not an anorexy waif. She is pretty and healthy-looking, and for a second, I thought that I knew her from somewhere, as opposed to from reading about her in Star Mag.


I haven’t been teaching much yoga since I moved away from the city and became a professional child-chauffeur, got obsessively into gardening and enrolled in college again. And frankly, with all of the really mediocre to shitty teaching around, I haven’t wanted to associate with BEING a yoga teacher at all lately.

But of course, like Don Corleone, I keep trying to get out, but they pull me back in. And as I would imagine it was with Don Corleone, it must be that I really don’t WANT to get out fully, or I wouldn’t be pulled back in. I could always say no…no?

What’s been going on is that lately, I have been running into this woman that I know from the two yoga shalas I’ve been frequenting…make that “in-frequenting”. Every time I show up at one, there she is. And this is in two different states, mind you. So…fate….whatever. Anyway, she has been teaching at Richard Gere’s yoga studio about four miles down the road from me, where I have eaten lunch and talked ice-cream with Richard, but where I have never unrolled my mat. Turns out she’s taking a couple of trips, including one to Mysore, and she needs a sub. That’s where I fit in. Relief-teacher that I am.

I think I’m teaching there this Tuesday and Thursday evenings, assuming all of my chauffeuring duties are covered. And then probably in the late spring for a month or so when she is in Mysore. Yay, I think? It’s something to do. And it’s short-term. So I can enjoy it while it lasts.

A couple who lives nearby also asked me if I could teach them. Not sure if that will come to fruition. Don’t much care. If it does, great. If not, I’m still doing my things.

Have my bi-annual oncologist visit next Monday, and I am surprisingly calm. It might be because I feel healthier than I have in like …. ever. I hope that how I feel is how I am.


I can be very opinionated, but I can also change my mind.

April 15, 2009

Today, due to scheduling issues and a desire to keep up my practicing mojo, which I have been re-cultivating of late, I found myself with a need to practice and not many choices. In fact, I really had no choice except to go back to that very same teacher whom I dissed on this blog several weeks back. Who shall go nameless, people. (You sneaky little commenting people, you. And you wonder why I moderate comments? Naming names and shit like that. Not gonna happen on my watch. Not gonna.)

I ruminated for a while, polled my facebook friends, and finally determined that the only way to practice with said teacher without exuding a potent mixture of anxiety and rage in every drop of perspiration, was to ask said teacher, very nicely, not to teach me. Notice, I said “not to teach me”. Some suggested that I ask said teacher not to “adjust” me. But that wouldn’t really help, since it is not so much the adjustments but the constant interruptions – to reteach me the vinyasas and ujaii breathing and to tell me that I need to use my bhandas and that my “fancy armbalance jumpbacks” might be fun but are not acceptable – that made my practice so unbearable the last time I was in this teacher’s presence.

Full of determination, I walked into the room, ran into a CT Shala friend, chitchatted for a moment and then went and hid in the back. Arthur, who was assisting, came to me after my first Surya Namaskar and told me that this was not acceptable to the teacher. I needed to come up front where I could be….taught. I scoffed and said, “I’ve been through that before, and I want to not.”

“You’ll have to explain that yourself…” he said, and justifiably so.

And so I did, but nicely: “I was hoping to just do some self-practice today, since I am limited on time and kind of out of sorts today.” The response was gracious. And I felt glorious. I practiced my heart out.

Until Marichyasana B, when I got assisted.

What the???

Then Supta Kurmasana. Since Val usually crosses my right ankle over my left over the back of my neck, I was a bit dismayed to have my left foot crossed over my right over my head. But I strived to not take it as an insult to my leg-behind-head prowess, and I moved on.

To the next pose, Garba Pindasana, which got heckled. “Too much neck and head, not enough bhandas”. And then assisted! I was praying it wouldn’t come to that, but it did. I got rolled. And then I got propped in Kukkutasana. Humbling. But why? Why???? These are the salad poses for me. Heckle my Kapotasana. My Parsva Dhanurasana. But Garba P???

And the heckling continued. Heckling. Hectoring. Whatever. Until it was time for backbends. And then I just collapsed in a heap on the floor and said, “My arthritis is acting up, and I can’t straighten my wrists today.”

Strangely, or not so strangely when I think about it, that was the moment when it all turned aroun 180 degrees. Suddenly, I was being given incredibly solid advice to which I could totally relate. Suddenly, the heckler was gone, and a teacher was there.

Together, we pieced together the fact that my diet has been high in tomatoes and mangoes lately, which are high in acid, which may be contributing to inflammation.

So, long story short, I still do not enjoy practicing with this teacher. No how. But I do believe that this teacher has something to teach, nevertheless.