For the record,

October 30, 2009

I went to my first led primary class in….I don’t even know how long. Maybe a year? Maybe longer? It was fine. Easy. Way easier than when I do it myself and half to propel myself forward despite what I can only describe as “motivational gravity”. And this despite the myriad annoyances of group practice (“Saaavin, yaaaate” and “let the heart guide the mind” and “move through your vinyasa and exhale chatturanga, inhale updog, beeeeee here a while….[pause]….exhale downdog”)…grrrrrrr….I enjoyed myself and got my practice finished when on most days I would either be just waking up from my morning nap or just thinking about gettting my ass into a bath for a pre-practice soak.

Why do teachers have to talk in “Fake Teacher Voice” though when they teach?



Forgive me, father, for I have failed to hit send.

October 29, 2009

It’s been three weeks since my last confession post. And I still have nothing of any use or interest at all to say. But I know that there are people who “follow” this blog, and for want of anything better to do, when I google myself, I can see that there are people who have blogrolled me. And so, I feel it is my duty to say something, anything. Because maybe that’s enough. To just say something. Anything. Because maybe that something/anything that I say will touch someone in a way that I can’t begin to perceive. Probably not. But you never know. I mean, some of my most linked-to and commented-on pieces have been ones which I wrote while sitting on the toilet. Or wrote while half asleep at 4 o’clock in the morning when the Ambien stopped working.

Lady Gaga has said (and I am attempting to paraphrase here) that if a song doesn’t flow out of her, if it’s a struggle to get it down and complete it in one go, then usually, she’ll just toss it. That makes sense to me. I’ve found that anything I’ve written that is worth reading has literally written itself. Almost no pause between the impulse to write and the fingers. Thought interrupts only long enough to grasp at grammar.

Unfortunately, this means that I do quite the bit of writing-and-deleting. If I start to write something, and it becomes a struggle, I hit delete and shut the laptop. The Lady Gaga Process. If only I had her grasp of the commercial. If only I had her guts.


Yoga: what is there to say? I’ve been doing it, and quite a lot lately. I know, because I have been keeping a record of such things, not on the internet as I did starting in 2005, but on paper. Blasphemy to the Ashtanga Blogging world order, I know. In order to keep the chaos in my house to a minimum, I have been keeping a daily chart of “Stuff We Gotta Do” (that’s what is at the top of the chart). See, my kids’ daily homework is the easy part; things get complicated by their long-term school projects, their musical instruments, Brian’s bar mitzvah preparation, my dog’s need for actual walks, my own need for regular exercise. None of this stuff seems to ever really lodge firmly in my brain, and things that aren’t checked daily by an outside person, say a teacher, have a way of falling off of the radar screen. Basically, if I don’t see it on paper, it ceases to exist.

So, on the “Stuff We Gotta Do” chart, there’s a space each day of the week for “Mom’s Work Out”. That’s what I call it, yes, indeed. My “work out”. On many days, I will scrawl in the space, “yoga, 60 minutes, LBH plus BB” [meaning that I did leg-behind-head work as well as backbends] and 45 minute walk in Babcock with Lewis”. Yes, I consider walking my dog a “work-out”. I’ll be 44 in a month. It IS a work-out to walk briskly with my hound in the woods. Some days, it’s, “teach yoga 60 minutes, walk Lewis 60 minutes Mianus River), and on those days, I will have done yoga – since I have a couple of private students now who wish for me to practice along with them rather than talking them through it – but not as vigorously as I would if I were simply practicing myself. Once in a while, perhaps even today, I will scribble “5 mile hike with Lewis at MR Gorge” and make no mention of yoga. And only very rarely is there nothing in the space.

I can tell from looking back at the last few weeks (I’ve been saving each week’s page) that I’ve been doing a LOT of yoga. In that yoga, I have been doing a lot of lunges and a lot of hip-openers, and I can tell that my leg-behind-head poses are slowly, slowly softening up. Right now, I am still essentially where I was in the summer of 2008 – I can get the legs behind the head, but I can’t really keep them there without using the other hand. But what has changed is that the sensation in my soft tissues is less rubber-band-springy, and more soft and spongy.

Recently, I have gotten the full use of my Urdhva Dhanurasana back. I’ve begun dropping back and standing up again. And it feels no different from how it felt…ever. One of my students asked me, “WHY? WHY must I do this?” I told her that it is good for the spine to bend it in both directions, that it will add years of youthfulness to her perception of her life, that it will theoretically open up some emotions for her as she opens up her front body, although frankly, I am not sure that this is true, even though a lot of people claim it to be so, and even though in the first two years or so of practicing yoga, I sometimes experienced anger and/or anxiety after doing a lot of backbends.

But, honestly, why DO we have to do backbends?

And now, before I change my mind, I will hit “send”. Or Publish, actually.


What Yoga Can Do For Breast Cancer Survivors…

October 9, 2009

[I decided to include this one in its entirety, as it was published on the Huffington Post:]

When I first came to yoga, it was as a breast cancer survivor.

Technically speaking, it was as a breast cancer patient, since I had already had my double mastectomy with reconstruction and was then smack in the middle of six months of chemotherapy and hadn’t even started my six weeks of radiation or the year of Herceptin (the targeted therapy specifically approved for my particular disease) that was scheduled into the next year or so of my life (assuming there would be a next year or so of my life, which crazily enough, I always assumed).

Why call myself a survivor when I had so much more left of “being a patient”? Because I knew that I was going to have to survive in order to get to the end of that ambitious treatment plan. Ha. That was supposed to be funny. But I sense it fell flat. Well, no worries, cancer jokes often do fall flat. Just like my reconstruction. Badumpbum. Sorry.

Anyway, in those first few months of practicing yoga in between infusions in the chemo room and not being able to drag myself off the couch due to bone pain (caused by the drugs) and exhaustion (caused by the anemia caused by the drugs) and depression (caused by the fact that I had cancer) and projectile vomiting the one Fresca that I thought I could keep down, I felt pure joy whenever I stepped on the mat. And this was despite the fact that the yoga I practiced involved staring at yourself in a mirror as you attempted to do the poses. What stared back at me was a bald, bloated, blown-up, facsimile of me. But I liked her moxy. I liked the fact that that hideous doppleganger in the mirror stared straight back at me and dared me to move my body in ways that I hadn’t thought possible since I was a cheerleader in high school. And when I sneered at her and looked away in disgust, she still caught my eye and dared me to look back at her.

Only for yoga would I drag my anemic, depressive, bloated ass off the couch and make the journey from east side to west side via crosstown bus. Not even for my kids would I do that. For them, I would just send the nanny. But for the yoga, it was me or no one. So, I went. Because I knew that if I could just get through the many confrontations I would surely have with that bloated, bald bitch in the mirror, I would roll up my mat feeling strong and powerful, as if every ounce of chemical toxin had been wrung from my body while I was too busy fighting with my image in the mirror to pay attention.

After I finished with all the treatments, the love for yoga continued. As it often happens with yoga, the love for it is so intense that it transforms into a desire to spend as much time as possible doing it, learning about it, meeting others who do it, and ultimately…bringing others into it. Like a missionary. Or a Shake-lee representative. The logical next step then is to attend a “teacher training” where you can spend hours practicing yoga each day and learning about the history of yoga, the future of yoga, and “find your voice as a yoga teacher”, as is often said. By yoga teachers.

And that is what I did. And although I taught at mainstream yoga studios and gyms, my primary focus, at least at the outset, was teaching breast cancer patients/survivors. I found most of my students through theYoung Survival Coalition, which is a reflection of the fact that my particular interest was breast cancer patients who were like myself at the time of my own diagnosis: under 40, dealing with a life-threatening, life-altering illness at a time in our lives when we were supposed to be getting married, having babies, raising children, going great-guns in our careers. With breast cancer taking center stage in our lives, none of that could take center stage. It was all about hoping to survive, dealing with the way surgery made us feel bad about our bodies, the way chemo took away our beloved hair (I don’t care who you are or what your hair looked like before chemo; if you lose your hair to chemo, it’s the loss of your “beloved hair”) or made us gain weight when we should have been thin, or took away our ability to have children, perhaps, or to have children without high tech interventions, or to take care of your children the way you want to because you’re took sick and too tired and too depressed to do anything but hand them off to your nanny, your husband, your friends.

We started out as a small group and remained a cohesive group for nearly three years. During that time, we would meet once a week and do pretty much what I did with all of my students who were not dealing with breast cancer. We made shapes with our bodies and used our hands and our arms to lift our bodies and our core strength to stay balanced. We bent pretzel-like and not-so-pretzel-like. We complained about backbends and struggled to do them anyway. We burned a lot of calories, we sweat buckets. We laughed at ourselves and we began to make peace with our bodies. Maybe they weren’t pristine and teflon-like, able to shrug off illness with nary a mark upon us. But they still worked. They still did pretty much of what we asked them to do, and usually more. Maybe we couldn’t totally trust them anymore, now that we had experienced the betrayal that was breast cancer. But we found that we could, nevertheless, enjoy some good times with them.

Technically, our group disbanded because I left New York City for a life in the country. But in truth, I sensed that my girls were ready to move on, that they had already graduated out of our little club. None of us were really “living with breast cancer” anymore. All of us, in all other ways, had gone back to our regularly scheduled lives, our husbands, our lovers, our friends, our kids or our dreams of kids. All of us had thick, beautiful hair once again. None of us were fat and bloated anymore. All of us had made some level of peace with our bodies – with the changes that breast cancer brought and with the notion that never again would we feel entirely safe against a possible upheaval wrought by a rogue cell. Sometimes it is a more uneasy peace than others. But that puts us all at about the same level of peace with our bodies as, well, most women of our age. What made our group lucky, in the end, was that we were now experts at the negotiation. And we knew it.

Although every single one of my students is alive and well today, yoga cannot guarantee breast cancer survival. But what I learned, and what I believe my students learned, from our “Yoga For Breast Cancer” class is that yoga can reacquaint and reconnect you with your body, no matter what that body has been through.


What yoga can do for breast cancer survivors

October 8, 2009

What Yoga Can Do For Breast Cancer Survivors as featured on The Huffington Post.


Nicole Eggert is not really in her top form

October 8, 2009

but she is definitely not “fat”, although I suspect that if I looked in the mirror and saw what she sees, I would probably be saying all sorts of mean things to myself about my butt, tummy and thighs. Sad, really, because most women of her age (late 30’s) in this country would pay BIG bucks to look exactly the way she looks now because it is such a GIANT improvement over the way THEY look now. Not that this is something to be proud of, being obese, but it is a reality in our country. But it is not a reality for Nicole Eggert, who is most definitely NOT obese and CAN pull off a red bikini, just not with the level of Hollywood perfection with which she pulled it off back in “the day”. Clearly, she eased up on the stringent eating and exercising that is absolutely necessary for anyone who wants to have a Baywatch-worthy body. And I assume that she will go on Celebrity Fit Club and get it back in no time at all. Which makes me suspect that this weight gain is every bit as authentically driven as Renee Zellweger’s for her roles in the Bridget Jones movies. But I am sure we will never know.

See for yourself, HERE


One more Gossip Girl note…

October 8, 2009

It’s pronounced “did-nt” not “ditint”. Yes, Serena AND Lily, I am talking to you, you supposedly highbrow-living, elite-school-attending, Emily Post-reading, ettiquette-following Park Avenue lifers.

What’s with the all the “ditints”? I cringe whenever Serena or Lily uses this lowbrow slang for the already contracted (and thus, inherently slangy) “didn’t”.

OK, back to more highbrow discussions, such as books that use the 99,000 names of God in the title and that tell me how the mere act of singing will turn my entire body into a receptacle for god’s luuuuuuuuurve.


SOMEBODY’S reading them

October 7, 2009

and by “them”, I mean books that aren’t written by Austen or Dostoevsky or Coehlo, or that don’t have Hindu words or one of 99,000 names of God in the title.

So, if no one’s admitting on their “What’s On My Nightstand” widgets or their “25 books I’ve read and loved” memes, then who’s buying all those books by Nicholas Sparks and James Patterson and Anita Shreve (oh, how I love to read her and then make fun of her, but yes, I still read her) and Mary Higgins Clark (another not-guilty pleasure)?

I call “bullshit”.