Tits and Ass: My Story

June 5, 2011

This might help fill in some of the blanks of what I did on my yearlong vacation from blogging: CLICK HERE



After practice, before beautification…

June 3, 2011

Stan, BBB and Gina


Beryl Bender Birch in the House!

June 3, 2011

Led Primary this morning, and BBB was there. She was super nice and friendly and approachable, and we chatted and took some photos, which I will post later, when Gina gets them emailed to me. Tina was there too, but she had to leave as soon as class was over (it was two Spice girls and one Ginger today, as Amy had parent-teacher conferences).

After having eaten like 15 Oreos after dinner, for some inexplicable reason (I don’t even love Oreos), I woke up with a weird and wonky tummy. It was growling for food and looked kind of bloated. I knew class would be a challenge today. And it was. And Stan went super super super slow, which should have made it easier. But instead, I was just kind of desperate to get out of each pose well before the fifth breath.

Of course, it’s all relative. I mean, I think back to my early Ashtanga days and the way I would not really feel like I could touch the floor in Utanasana until well after the fifth Sun Salutation, and the way I would be leaking my prana (i.e., life force/energy) all over the place by the time I got to Marychiasana A, in anticipation of Mari C and Mari D. I’d be panting and palpitating, which did me no favors at all. Now, I’m smooth all the way through, generally speaking. And I qualify that only because I was shaking by my fifth super-long-hold Navasana. SHAKING.

When I practice Mysore style, I’m done with Primary in an hour flat. And that includes Backbends AND dropbacks. Add another five minutes, and I’m done with the Closing Sequence. When we do led at Stan’s, it’s 90 minutes, including a 7 or 8 minute (by my estimate) Savasana. So…yeah…it’s a LOT of long holds. Holding my leg straight out in front of me and bending over to touch my knee while balancing on the other for five long breaths: challenging.

Anyway, yada yada yada, I couldn’t even get my legs straight in Kurmasana, let alone even attempt to get into Supta K. Whatever. Do I care? Kinda. But mostly, no. I really don’t. If I can’t even straighten out my legs in Kurmasana, I know (a) it’s a FLUKE because my hamstrings are very flexy, even if they weren’t today and (b) there’s no point in even thinking about Supta K, at least for me…I need my legs to be straight and my toes pointed and my legs lifted off of my shoulders. And thankfully, Stan didn’t even bother trying to assist me…it would have been a lost cause anyway. And I don’t really care. Except I kinda do. But I mostly don’t. Really mostly don’t.

On the other hand, I felt the flow in backbending. On the third one, I decided to really press my feet down – heels AND toes – while pressing up…and…BOING! I turned my toes in (it probably looked like parallel, but it “feels” like turned in) and … SPROING! I felt great. Couldn’t bear to be in a 10-breath paschimotannasana afterwards, as my yoga pants were brand new and they had that new clothing smell that I hate. I tried sticking my nose between my knees to bypass the pants, but nothing worked.

Imagine 10 breaths… a mere 10 breaths…being so unbearable? Had nothing to do with the physical yoga…but I suppose it speaks volumes about my chitta vrittis.

Anyway….for the first time in … maybe ever? I didn’t want to come out of Savasana when it was time. I consider that to be my biggest achievement today.

Tomorrow, no Ashtanga for me…instead, I will be doing what I’ve been doing every Saturday for the past few weeks: dragging myself to a painfully boring All Levels Anus-ara class at the Gym in Armonk. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the teacher. It’s just that I find Anus-ara not only horribly boring but horrible pretentious. I sit outside the classroom while the teacher sits upon her self-appointed pulpit and preaches about whatever it is that vinyasa teachers preach about these days, and I don’t come in until after the teacher leads the class in the prayer to Shiva. I’m simply not willing to sing a prayer to a Hindu god anymore. I used to put up with that crap. Now it just seems like crap.

What follows is about 75 minutes of lunging, peaceful warriors, half moon posses and workshopping of either backbends, inversions or arm balances. I’m making it sound better than it is. But I go. I go because what else am I going to use the (paid up) Gym membership for? Spin class? OVER it. Weights? OVER it. And Saturday is a non-yoga day on the “Ashtanga Calendar”. Finally, I consider it an exercise in discipline and self-control to be gracious and well-mannered while feeling vaguely annoyed by the unstoppable ego of the teacher.

Here’s an example of the kind of vague annoyance I experience in this particular class: Last Saturday, there was a 22 year old girl in the class, and when we were doing backbends, it became apparent that she was born without a spine. And I was instantly enamoured with her spine-free existence. I was literally droolng over her gorgeous, perfectly formed backbends. Unfortunately for her, teacher did not feel that she could allow this girl to enjoy her beautiful backbends without receiving a lashing for it.

Teacher pointed at this girl and said, “See how nicely her lower back bends? But she really needs to put some backbend into her upper back”.

I’m thinking, “Really? That’s how you’re going to play this, teacher? Down damned ego!!!” There was NOTHING wrong with that girl’s backbend – in fact, her back was perfectly rounded, top to bottom. Her arms were perfectly vertical, her elbows strong and straight, her shoulders like waterfalls, pouring her arms down to the mat. But the teacher felt the need to take the girl down a notch.

That’s what I’m talking about. That’s what’s wrong with vinyasa classes – not all of them, mind you. But too many of them. SO many of them, that you never know what you’re going to get when you walk into a vinyasa classroom. ESPECIALLY an anusara classroom, since those seem to be taught by particularly ego-driven teachers. Not sure why.

If anyone has a theory on why that would be, I would be grateful to hear it.

Anyway, wish me luck and pray that I (a) keep my damn mouth shut and (b) enjoy some Anusara Yoga tomorrow notwithstanding that it is, in my opinion, “Yoga-Lite” with a side order of Pretention.


Ashtanga is like crack.

June 2, 2011

And I’m on the pipe again. At least it’s a healthy obsession. But my monkey is nothing like the one sitting on Gina’s back.

Gina is sitting right next to me. We’re supposed to be watching a concert at the Middle School. But we’re whispering about our practice today. And Gina is confessing that after she got home, she was all over YouTube, researching leg-behind-the-head, and reading Matthew Sweeney – bhandas and breath.

Thankfully, I think my days of incessant reading and watching and researching are behind me. I just do my practice. And some of it is coming.

Today, Stan taught me that thing I always saw the other “kids” do in Sir’s room but that Sir never taught me: after UHP, the leg goes to (nearly) vertical and is held for five breaths. I don’t remember the breath sequence, but I won’t have to do it again until next week, since tomorrow is led Primary. And I’m not going to look it up, nope, not gonna.

Supta K was a bit of a breakthrough today. I managed to hold the bind even when the legs went behind the…neck was it? Who can tell. They did slip after a moment, but I managed to press up with the legs still Dwi Pada-ed.

But here’s the rub: right before Stan came up to me to give me the assist, I told myself to let go of the result. Why do things always happen when I let go of the result?

I hope I keep enjoying this. And I hope I don’t get all crazed and obsessed for real. Right now, I still have some control over this addiction. Famous last words?

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

So, what was I saying?

June 1, 2011

The lapsed ashtangi has lapsed in lapsing.

I’m writing this without even having checked to see what I last said when I last said it. Was it a year ago? More? Less? All I know is that for a very very long time, my passion for blogging was as absent as my passion for practicing Mysore-style Ashtanga. In the intervening time, and maybe you know this already, I had a crazy 9-hour surgery in Charleston, South Carolina, to re-re-reconstruct my breasts, this time out of butt flesh. My own butt flesh. That was followed by a shorter second-stage surgery (in New York City) that tweaked the results of the first (it was always planned that way; the first surgery is so focused on the microvascular issues of dissecting and removing the Superior Gluteal Artery along with the butt flesh and reconnecting it to the upstairs vascular system, that it is not expected to resolve every cosmetic issue involved with making boobs out of butt, although it came pretty damn close to being perfect from the getgo, thank you Dr. Maria Lotempio). And that, in turn, was followed by an even shorter final-stage surgery.

All in all, as a result of my surgeries, I was out of commission for nearly 12 weeks of 2010. Then, just as I was getting back into the swing of regaining my fitness, I fell while figure-skating the day after Thanksgiving and smashed my left knee but GOOD. That left me essentially unable to work out for another six weeks, but I am thankful that it healed completely, with no leftover soft-tissue damage (unlike my right thumb, which two years after breaking it, still aches when I wrist bind and is still significantly weaker than the other).

And all of that inactivity led to some really tight jeans come spring as well as, insult to injury, a significant loss of flexibility in my shoulders, spine and hips. Basically everything. My lotus was no longer tight. My Marichyasanas were back to fingertip binds. And sadly, oh so so sadly, my Supta Kurmasana was lost. Not even an assist could help me bind.

And in that sorry state, I had no desire to get back to the yoga on any regular basis. Instead, I did what had heretofore seemed unthinkable: I joined a gym – The Gym in Armonk – where everyone, and I swear, I mean EVERYONE (in Armonk, at least) works out. I took Spin classes. I took Zumba. I even took a body sculpting class. Yes, hell froze over. I did bicep curls and lateral deltoid raises. I familiarized myself with all of the leg-weight equipment. I had fun with it, and I practiced yoga maybe twice a week with a group of women whom I had been practicing yoga with for the past year or so. Two Asians and two redheads, we call ourselves Ginger and Spice.

And then one day one of the Spice girls (Gina) tried a Mysore session at Yoga Sutra in NYC. And she fell so in love that she bought a two week membership. When she tired of going into the city for Mysore, she searched for a place to practice Mysore style around here. The well, as we all know, is fairly dry, but for Val’s place in Ridgefield, which is about a half an hour from my house, but a bit further from Gina’s house. I tried to convince Gina to go there, but for some reason, she was dead set on trying out Stan Woodman’s place in Westport. WESTPORT!

Anyway, Gina was hooked. I, of course, bristled at some of what she told me about Stan’s room…you know, what I normally bristle about with regard to Mysore rooms: the control-freak nature of the whole thing, the frustrating waiting for the next pose, the being held back at “chicken pose”, as Gina calls it (Kukutasana), because she can’t hold her hands together while her ankles are crossed in Supta Kurmasana. Argh. But as my jeans got looser and my limbs got flexier, I began to find the courage to even desire to be back in a Mysore room.

Yes, ego. I was unwilling to “be where I was”, to just go and do the yoga and suck at it because that’s where I was, to go and feel fat (fat, for me, yes, I get that it’s all relative) and know that it’s all ephemeral and shifting and changing. Blah blah blah. I wasn’t there. I wasn’t in that place of handling my present moment with equanimity. So be it. That’s where I was.

And that’s where I still am, I suppose, except that because my body responded to the yoga and the better eating and getting outside to garden again, I am once again comfortable in my body and willing to do my yoga in public. And so, two weeks ago, I ventured to Westport.

I did my Primary, I got assists in many poses, I got dropped back. And I failed to hold the bind in Supta Kurmasana when Stan put my legs behind my head…and lived to tell about it…and went back again despite the failure.

Interesting, that. Not that I can’t hold the bind. But that Stan’s method of assisting in Supta Kurmasana is like nothing I have ever experienced, and I have experienced a LOT of Ashtanga teachers. Every other teacher I have ever received a Supta K assist from has done it as follows:

1. With the student in Kurmasana, teacher has the student bend her legs, and teacher proceeds to rearrange the legs so that the legs are aimed directly (or as directly as possible) over the shoulder, creating the smallest possible angle between the legs, ideally, the legs being close to parallel and skimming right over the shoulders.

2. THEN the teacher holds the student’s wrists and yanks the arms out and UP to vertical so that the shoulders REALLY clear those heavy heavy legs.

3. With room now between the shoulders and the legs, the teacher can then bring the student’s hands behind the student’s back and the student then is able (hopefully) to clasp the hands.

4. THEN, and only then, the teacher crosses the student’s ankles in FRONT of the CROWN of the student’s head.

I would characterize that sort of assist as focused on the binding of the hands primarily, with the legs not being “behind” the head at all. Stan’s assist is much more focused on crossing those ankles behind the head…or really, beind the NECK. And that is really cool, actually, if you (and by “you”, I mean me) are willing to let go of the attachment to a really deep binding of the hands…because there is simply no way that someone who is working solely on Primary is going to be able to keep their hands bound while having their ankles crossed behind their neck. I was always told that that was the goal of the pose once you were already practicing Second Series up to Dwi Pada.

But anyway…as I am sure you can imagine, this is my current struggle. Letting go of the Supta K of the past. Not being all bitchy about it, which I was on Tuesday when I groused at Stan for not pulling my arms out from beneath my shoulders. And learning to accept that my body is tighter right now than it was and that it will all come in time…just like it did before. And even enjoying the fact that when it finally does come, I will be like, “DUDE!! I have my ankles behind my head AND my hands are bound!!” And happily accepting that for whatever weird reason, my surgery resulted in my backbends being deeper and my chest being more open, while it tightened up my back-body (having a chunk removed from each butt cheek might play a role in that, ya think?).

Anyway, I’m back. Not sure why Ashtanga inevitably leads to blogging by me. I guess there is a lot for me to digest. And it’s the kind of stuff I need to digest obsessively here, rather than making all of my friends hate me for being so boring.

So, yeah. Hi. Remember me?


From Booty to Boobies…a new HuffPo

June 8, 2010

Read it here….YC

The Huffington Post blurb/link to my Lifetime interview…

April 20, 2010

Read it/watch it by clicking here

Oh, and btw, just found out that I am a candidate for the surgery I have been hoping to have (see last post)…you know, the “ass transplant” surgery…