Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Video

I know so many people, including myself, who are going through transition times right now.  Nothing's entirely clear, and we must wait for answers.  Loss and hope mingle together.  This is a mini, you-tube length sequence to help with a sense of grounding down and reaching up at the same time.   The song in the background is Jesca Hoop, "Enemy."  One of my favorite parts goes "Beautiful/Falling fast from a state of grace/And trusting there is a light/In darkest place/My dirty knees/Hold the ground till it's done with me."  






Bejinger Yogi Blahs

Went to the gym today. Haven't been in a few weeks, and I thought I'd be more excited about it. Instead I felt tired, lazy, and kind of creaky. I did a few sun salutations but really couldn't focus. I ended up sitting for about fifteen minutes on the mat in lotus, totally spacing out. No energy at all. I gave up after that and headed for the sauna, where I spaced out again. Couldn't let go of my thoughts, though; it was a weird kind of spaciness that is made from small panic attacks and lots of jittery fingers. I could do nothing but sit still while I was supposed to be moving, and once I was still, I couldn't stop moving.
I felt really small, I think. I was a little bit panicky about where I was in the city. I'd never been to that gym before, and although it was directly next to Sarah's office, I still felt lost. I just got overwhelmed and couldn't deal with being at the gym, so I showered quickly and came back home.
Wish I could have practiced more, though, outside of my house. I need some inspiration. I haven't been attending any actual yoga classes in almost two months; just teaching myself and others. Maybe that's part of my lethargy--I'm just not inspiring myself. Nobody's watching me except me, which certainly makes it a lot easier to poop out and hit up the sauna.
Those of you who read this, what do you do when you're feeling alone and uninspired in your yoga practice? Let's discuss!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Merry Chrismukkah from the Yogery!! I attended a massive holiday dinner party here in Beijing last night, where we feasted upon many delights and drank mulled wine all evening. Sarah and I baked three pies together, from scratch, 'natch. Two pumpkin and one rasberry/blueberry. All three a resounding success! Two we baked off in a toaster oven, but the berry pie had the privilege of baking in a real oven across town. Photos to follow.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Yoga Yard 1 and 2

Well, I’ve arrived semi-permanently in Beijing. That means I’m living in a tiny ping-fong (standard housing apartment) with my friends Sarah and Maggie and pulling what few long sleeved shirts I brought to Singapore out of the bottom of my luggage to wear, one on top of another beneath my jacket.

As many of you know, I don’t speak Chinese. At all. I’ve barely mastered “thank you”, “hello”, and sometimes, after a strong cocktail and in search of another, I work up the guts to say “Hey, Foo-yen!” which means “server”. I point to things on menus, and pull out scraps of paper with addresses in Mandarin to show taxi drivers. My mobility is limited, and looking at maps only seems to confuse me more.

In spite of all this, I’ve managed to find a yoga studio that reminds me a little of home. It’s called the Yoga Yard, and it’s a small, home-y studio on the sixth floor of a building that houses, among other things, a tanning salon and a spa. They offer a variety of classes, including kids yoga, restorative and level 1-3 vinyasa.

The first class I went to was a restorative class, which was billed on the brochure as a time to RELAX!! This should have been a signal it wouldn’t be super relaxing—am I the only one who equates capital letters and exclamation points with yelling? But then again, this is Beijing, a city where conversations compete with cars, cell phones and the bright, distracting scenery of constant movement. So maybe we all need to be told to RELAX!!, or we just wouldn’t.

Unfortunately, even the loudest CD of gentle waterfalls can’t drown out the street below, even six floors above it. The restorative class wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible, either. Most of the classes there are offered both in English and Mandarin so demonstrating is more important then the verbal cues. The restorative class felt a lot like kindergarten naptime—a welcome thing most of the time, but I wanted space and clarity, not a nap. Beijing overwhelms me; I’ve said it here, and I’m sure in any number of emails I write home. I have to remind myself to breath here, and there are times even when I do remember to breathe that I just don’t want to: The smog hangs like dirty curtains in front of buildings and every other street corner smells like sewage, skunks or sweet potatoes. Okay, I don’t mind the smells of the last two, but sometimes I sure miss the true blue dream of Colorado skies.

The instructor wasn’t as focused on breath; in fact, she mentioned it twice in the ninety minutes we were together. But I still relaxed, if not restored. In a supine heart opener, sprawled across a bolster, I actually fell asleep for a few minutes, which was undeniably pleasant. Benjamin took the class with me, and I was getting so sleepy for a minute there it seemed natural to crawl over to his space and snuggle under his blanket with him. That would have been weird, though, I suspect.

The second class I took at Yoga Yard was a level 1-2 hatha class. It’s an hour and a half class offered in English and Mandarin for both beginners and more advanced students. The studio we practiced in was small and oddly shaped, recalling memories of Lulu’s. We started with a similar easy sit side stretch and moved our way slowly—s l o w l y—into Sun A. Vinyasas were offered to “level 2” and level 1 students were directed to downward dog. The vinyasa was plank held for four beats and back to downward dog—only the man next to me and myself ventured into an up dog, and when I realized we didn’t have to do it, I stopped.

For whatever reason I found myself exhausted during the practice. It was slightly boring; maybe, and too slow; we did crescent, warrior II and triangle for standing postures. I couldn’t gather enough momentum to really care about the class, and after each vinyasa I found myself in wide legged child’s pose. The instructor seemed to be taking a few cues from me, and each time I got into child’s pose, she cued the class to do it as well.

Beijing exhausts me, certainly, and even the task of getting to the yoga studio takes a bit of patience and energy. I spent a great deal of time in the class considering how I would get back home—if I even knew how to get back home, so I wonder if once I become more ‘local’, the openness and ease I find in my 'normal' yoga practice will come easier to me.

Anyway, it’s all a lesson for me to let go of what I expect, or even what I want, and accepting what I get. Finding a place to move with and be present with what’s actually happening, on and off the mat.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bad Blogger, Bad Bad!

So admittedly I've been a bad blogger. I've only written a few paragraphs in the other blog, posted a picture of a lizard, and typed only as much as a title in the Bus Pass blog. I suck.

But hey. I'm in Singapore. Today there was a thunderstorm to end all thunderstorms, and Benjamin and I ran outside to the overpass above the interstate and put our faces into the rain. As we raced up the stairs laughing, a small woman scurried down, huddled beneath an umbrella and said something in Chinese with a smile on her face. I guess I could have done some Warriors up there, but instead I lifted my dress and yelled HEY SINGAPORE! to the traffic below.

I have been doing yoga, though. Mostly uninspired mini-practices. I've become one of those people who drive me nuts, the kind of person who says, "I love yoga, but I really need my cardio". Gag me! Yoga is Cardio! I said in response. Ever been to a power class? And yet there I was, day after day, rolling up my mat at the gym so I could hop on the treadmill. I warmed up and warmed down with yoga, but for a few weeks I haven't done a full class.

I did a practice this morning around ten thirty, after a long and early morning waiting in line at the Chinese Embassy. A few lunge salutes, a long sit, two bridges, a wheel, warrior dance. In that order. See? I can't organize my thoughts OR my practice.

Below: the Milo Dinosaur

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Shoulders Back, Belly In, Breathe

I went to Iowa City with my mom for the last two days, and I was lucky enough to find a yoga studio in the same building as our hotel.  

The studio, called Heartland Yoga, was one big practice room on the second floor with lots of windows overlooking the street below.  They had manduka mats for us to borrow, which was a treat I've never experienced.  I was one of only three students.  Abby, the instructor, led a guided meditation to start.  She immediately introduced some of the cues she would continue to give in every pose-shoulders back and down, relax your jaw, stay present in the room, and breathe.

We moved through a couple moon salutations relatively slowly but deliberately and with enough emphasis on the breath and the core that I quickly felt warm and loose.  Abby's way of moving gives her away as a dancer, and sure enough, her biography on the website says that her mother was a ballet dancer, and she's been doing ballet since age 3.  I enjoyed trying to copy her graceful movements.  

It's amazing how the same cues, heard over and over again, continue to be helpful.  You think you're doing everything you can and then you hear "breathe" or "relax your jaw" and the pose morphs from something statuesque into something organic and healing.  Or the moment suddenly takes on new dimension, revealing previously unseen vividness.  During tree pose, the suggestion to "stay present in the room" seemed like the most brilliant new idea.  I balanced, suspended in the skewed position like some ant in amber, softly conscious of the white and red headlights moving, moving, moving below.  

Above: Suspended in time, full of light.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gratitude

Tonight I went to Maggie's class at Firehouse Yoga in Des Moines.  She opened the class with a meditation on gratitude (from Yoga Journal).  As we inhaled we were instructed to think of three things from today that we were grateful for.  As we exhaled, we were to imagine ourselves being the cause of that gratitude for others.  I liked how Maggie emphasized that it didn't have to be big; what mattered was that we were able to find something to be grateful for in any situation.  I went with the first three things that came to me: the taste of my chai, the friendly smile of a stranger, and the sense of arrival when I got to the yoga studio.  

Gratitude is something I've only recently begun to 'believe in.'  It's a little talked-about feeling.  I know you can feel happy or sad.  But grateful?  'Grateful' hasn't ever been in my feelings-vocabulary.  I spend far more time wanting than I do just being content.  I thought maybe gratitude would come to me when I finally had everything I wanted.  

So I was appreciative when Maggie said even when you are feeling anxious or frustrated, you can still always find even something miniscule to be grateful for, and start from there.  During the poses, this practice became very helpful.  This was my first experience of Firehouse's Level II Vinyasa class and it was a lot harder than I expected.  I began to feel wary when I saw that I was the only one in long sleeves (and a scarf, and wool socks) and everyone else brought water bottles.  

I almost felt like I'd never done yoga before.  I thought I'd achieved some high level of yoga by studying in California (in my mind it's the new India when it comes to the study of yoga).  But apparently, Iowans know how to do their vinyasa flows: not just a few here and there, but THREE after what seemed like every pose.  I felt frustration and despair (I will NEVER be a yoga teacher if I can't do this stuff) but I stayed afloat by clinging to the bits of gratitude I could find (she's really allowing us to have a lot of freedom and yay!  i'm sweating!).

I've been interested in gratitude since the Crib, because during the last savasana on the last day of the week, Arturo and Cheri asked us to feel grateful.  And for some reason, I felt it so clearly that I thought, ok, I finally know what that is.  But I haven't been able to get it back until now.  

I don't have to have just spent a week in yoga bliss for gratitude to find me.  In any moment there's always something that is nourishing us.  Right now I'm enjoying the feel of a warm wool coat around my shoulders and the soft sound of my keys clicking in a silent dark room.  My breathing is soft and relaxed.  And that's enough for this moment.  

Friday, November 14, 2008

i have nothing to give you except everything

Above: How to write and do yoga (AND take your own photograph) at the same time.

"i have nothing to give you except everything--all the good and the bad" 
Rilo Kiley

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Erich Schiffmann

Everyone should watch Erich's talk from the Crib.  It's about googling the internet of mind.  And intuition on the highest level.  And love.


I DID HEADSTAND ALL BY MYSELF AND EXITED WITH A SMALL AMOUNT OF CONTROL YAYAYAYAY

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

2 Views of a Yoga Practitioner

I should have done this in two posts......................oh well.

Yesterday and today I rolled out my mat at home in Iowa and practiced along with Kira's Sweet Vinyasa classes in California.  Miraculous.  I did two online classes, both with similar sequencing.  During both classes I took notes on my thoughts.  

Day One (Wed. Nov 5 Sweet Vinyasa):  My first yoga class in a while.  I had a lot of mental and physical toxins to get rid of.  Thank goodness for yoga or I would just stuff all those toxins right into my body/mind.

For some reason warrior II dance inspires me to improvise.  Maybe it's the symbolic language Kira uses to bring us into it.  She says "gather your resources" as you raise your arms and "offer them out" as you lower them to horizontal.  My mind's instant reaction today was "I'm keeping my resources.  I need them."  So I kept my hands in prayer at my heart. 

in general during this class i got cut off from myself every time Kira used the word 'charge' or asked us to feel lines of energy.  so i wrote "skipping plank and 'the lines' thing."  i was tired.

Another modification I did happened during malasana.  I was getting stressed trying to align my spine so I did the karuna, or compassion, move from Jasmine's class at the Crib.  Basically, I gave myself a hug during the squat.  It felt nice.  And my 'i hate yoga' thoughts began to decrease.  

some of the nicest moments are when i can't imagine bending to my journal at all.  this inevitably happens after every chant.  i just stand there and i can see the thought fly through my mind "ashley you should write down how nice this is" but i don't respond to it because for that nanosecond....i'm...connected??  

During savasana my thoughts ranged from "i think i do, but do i really TRULY forgive that guy?" to pondering the depth of justin timberlake's latest lyrics to repeating "already healed, already whole, already well" with my hands on my belly.  i also imagined my inner capacity expanding to be able to hold all my thoughts without being taken over by them.

Day TWO (Mon. Nov. 3 Sweet Vinyasa):

This time I knew what tricks my mind would pull.  I knew when it would call me fat, when it would complain about being forced to go through the whole rigamarole of the poses.  So I played the game too and wrote down my beginning state of mind:
  • fairly content with touch of melancholy about mysteries of finding lasting happiness
  • peaceful from reconnecting with old friends
  • would prefer to listen to recently acquired music
  • would also prefer to clean
  • would also prefer to go on a walk
  • would also prefer to blog about yesterday's practice
I love Kira's recent inclusion of easy side plank in the warmup stage.  Except I can't feel my side ribs.  It's freaky.  It helped a little to really press press press my lower hand into the earth.  

This class I had a lot fewer thoughts.  Instead I wrote down the entire sequence as we did it.  Not sure why.  Except maybe as an excuse to skip some planks...hammock is a good pose for writing.  

Again I did not want to offer my resources during the Warrior II dance.  In fact I sort of pushed the world away.  Like setting my boundaries.

One thing Kira said stuck with me all day.  She said that letting the head go is key to relaxing.  All day I've caught myself with my head jutting slightly forward, trying to control everything.  I feel a huge energetic shift when I pull it back ever so slightly and let the rest of me feel what's happening.   

Monday, November 10, 2008

Does he love me?

A nice answer to a common question:

"Does he love me?"

"You're asking the wrong question.  What you need to know is are you in a position to give him the love he needs.  And whatever happens or doesn't happen will be equally gratifying.  Knowing that you are capable of love is enough.  If it isn't him, it will be someone else.  You've discovered a wellspring; simply allow it to flow and it will fill your world.  Don't try to keep a safe distance so as to see what happens.  Don't wait to be certain before you take a step.  What you give, you will receive, although it might sometimes come from the place you least expect."

from The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Online Yoga

Now that I'm in a new place with a proper internet connection (and an awesome bamboo floor), I can rejoin the Lulu Bandha's community--virtually.  

This morning I did 53 minutes of the October 29 Sweet Vinyasa class, as broadcast on Lulu Vu.  I had to take off early to go to an appointment so it was really convenient to be able to do a shorter class.  I also loved being able to do yoga at home in my pajamas without having to think of the poses myself or redo a video I've practiced with a zillion times.  Fun!!!



Second Singers Class

Yesterday taught a similar class to the same peeps. Spent a little more time geeking out on the sun salutes. I also "made" them sit. There were mixed feelings about that, I could tell, and it was difficult to stay in control. Felt conflicted about wanting them to 'like' the class and wanting to create an experience that would last. Yesterday's class was also a bit softer than the first one, partially based in observation of readiness from the first class. There were mixed feelings about that, as well, and one of my peeps cancelled this afternoon. Gotta go to the gym, he said. Oh, well. It was still a good class, and I was pleased with the way it turned out flow wise. I also am getting my play list just right, which obviously isn't that important, but it makes the class feel more real. And once again, socalled's song "You Are Never Alone" got compliments. Best song ever.

The things I paused to break down were downward facing dog, chatarunga, the half lift and ustrasana, which we only did part way. It's hard because one of them can't straighten her knees at all in downward facing dog--she's basically in puppy dog. I was doing a lot of demonstrating, which I think helped them but was exhausting for me to talk and demonstrate. My homework for myself is to come up with three solid cues for each pose, which was totally a CorePower homework assignment that I only did a little bit. Woops.

We also dialed in to the breath. I cued it quite a bit during the actual class, and again paused for three breaths after each vinyasa, which seemed quite helpful. We also cut out the chatarungs and did baby cobra to rocket cat instead.

We did lots of swamp monster rolling into warrior I. Very popular and fun. I made them do sound effects.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yoga for Obama!

i practiced tonight and dedicated it to Senator Obama.  It must have worked because now he's President-Elect.  He won every state i've ever lived in (colorado, new mexico, california, and of course iowa).  I have felt disillusioned for 8 years and now I already feel more engaged, inspired, and part of my country!  

I'd thought it would be fun to go to a yoga class this election night and be with my fellow yogis, but I got a little lost along the way and didn't make it in time.  Subconsciously, I think I wasn't really wanting to go because I needed to do my own practice and not do what someone else was telling me.  

Instead I practiced mat-free on the deck of my mom's awesome new place in des moines.  Down the street, the Iowa Democratic Party was getting ready for its victory celebration.  I decided I would put together some poses in an order similar to a class, to see what would come out.  In my head I went through the verbal cues I might give if I were teaching the poses.  

I tried to focus on sending good energy into the world, especially to Obama and his family.  That evolved into feeling grateful at how close we are to true change.  I can't call it anything other than praying, praying that things would work out for the highest good for everyone and for the planet.  I don't like the word prayer for me personally--it's just not something i do--, but what else do you call it when your whole being is hoping and asking for something to happen?  I did a gentle lunar wheel pose and as I pushed up I smiled at the thought that my body was forming part of the letter O.  

Monday, November 3, 2008

First Singers Class

So I taught an hour long class yesterday on the INSEAD campus to two people. Basically I used an outline from one of Kira's Stiff White Guy class and combined it with some random bits and pieces. Kira, thank god for your huge TT manual that I have lugged across the world with me. Overall, it was a good class. My two peeps loved it--in fact, we're doing another one this afternoon. Holding the space was a little hard, as we were in a tiny room on campus where students come for prayer or relaxation. During savasasana, a Muslim man came in for afternoon prayer. It was kind of nice to share that space with him, but I was giving little head rubs and it got a little cramped.
Here's the deal:
sit
sitting side stretch both sides
sitting forward fold
down dog
plank
side plank stretch both sides with knees down
plank
down dog for 3 breaths
hop/step to rag doll/roll up to tadasana
1/4 sun salutation
lunge
crescent lunge with three options both sides X 2
vinyasa with baby chat/up dog/down dog
1/4 sun salutation
down dog for 3 breaths
warrior II
extended side angle
peaceful warrior
prasaritta or hammock
warrior II
vinyasa with baby chat/up dog/down dog
same on other side but horse play(horse to five pointed star back to horse) instead of hammock or prasaritta
vinyasa
down dog one breath
pigeon both sides
down dog
hop/walk to standing
1/4 sun salutation
forward fold to malasana
navasana
bridge x 2
seated forward fold
knees to chest with some hip play
supine twist
savasna

ta da!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Random and no Crib stuff yet..

I'm back in Singapore after a weekend sojourn to Malaysia with Benjamin and his friend Babs. Babs is from Ghana and is perhaps one of the most enthusiastic tourists I've ever seen. He took photos of everything. "It's all good man, it's all good in the hood" was his motto. Or, "I don't wanna mess with that" when he was served up a hot pot of fish balls and noodles. The town we were traveling to has roots in Dutch, Malay and Portugese culture, and the food supposedly reflects it. But we ended up eating at a Thai satay place.

It's quite hot here, as one might imagine being on the equator would be. The humidity is triggering a lot of headaches and migraines and I think I'm still adjusting to the timezone because every night around 10 I get so unbelievably tired I can't keep my head up. I've been doing a practice every day, though, just simple stuff to keep my body lose. I'll post the sequence later on. I woke up one morning with a terrible headache and in my daze thought doing inversions would help. In fact, it did not. As soon as I got into down dog I remembered I had it backwards and thought, no no no!

This afternoon I'm teaching a class to two people from INSEAD. It evolved sort of on its own, after chatting briefly in the garden with a woman about what I do. She got totally excited and started telling me about her neck problems and all her stress. So we're doing a class today on campus. Another friend of Benjamin's also will attend--and hopefully Ben, if he doesn't have class. We'll see how it goes. I'm excited about teaching, but nervous they won't show up.

At the gym the other day I recreated Jasmine's class for myself and worked on Bird of Paradise and binding a lot. It was really fun.

More later.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Acupuncture

5 minutes left on my wi-fi time.  I just moved with my mom to her new apartment in Des Moines and the internet's not hooked up yet.  There's so much newness to adjust to.  

Today I went to "Community Acupuncture" at Firehouse Yoga in Des Moines.  It's a cheaper rate than a regular session, and you get the needles inserted right there in the yoga studio while laying in savasana on a mat.  

I knew I'd be asked what my 'chief concern' was and I'd been obsessing about it for a couple days. There's really nothing wrong with me.  But I'm determined to learn more about this chi stuff everyone's talking about.  And to become more familiar with what my own feels like.  

Is there ever anything 'wrong' with anyone?  Is all disease just a result of blocked or improperly flowing chi?  I have so much to learn about this topic.

Still, I had to name a chief concern for him to work on, so I asked for work on the scar on the back of my neck.  Arturo told me I still have anesthesia there from surgery 9 years ago.  And I don't like that idea at all.  So the acupuncturist put needles on my neck, ears, feet, and hands.   I just laid there and tried to get to know my own energy flow.  

To sum it up briefly, I think maybe acupuncture is good for destressing.  I don't know if it was the needles or the savasana but after the session I felt much more relaxed.  I think I'll go back.  

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sugar and Tangerines (aka Ojai Yoga Crib)

Above: Megananda snuggles in during Arturo and Cheri's Restorative Yoga Class. 

There's truly SO much to say about the Crib.  It was my third and most intense Crib yet.  It was such a full, amazing, wonderful experience.  I gave more of myself in some ways and I allowed myself to do more of what I needed to do (like eat french fries on the Ventura pier and leave the dishes in the sink).  This year I had the sense of being a freshman in college; why take the time to sleep when there's so much socializing, studying, and activities to do?   

I took class from Jasmine Tarkeshi, Scott Blossom (twice!), Arturo Peal and Cheri Clampett, and the queen of hearts herself, Kira.  Jasmine invoked Obama as a model of grace in any situation and taught one of the most truly flowing vinyasa classes I've taken.  Scott offered the suggestion that wheel doesn't have to be a fiery pose, but can actually be more lunar and cooling.  He comes from such a subtle, energetic place that I can't always follow, but it's a road I definitely want to go down.  I think I 'got it' during his slow sun saluation, because my down dog felt more grounded than ever.  He helped me with my camel and it felt sooo soft and aligned.  Arturo and Cheri's restorative class left my muscles and my SOUL too relaxed to even fold a blanket at the end.  Cheri told me I had a sensitive aurical feel which I've been feeling proud of ever since, as if I won a prize.  And something just felt right about my class with Kira.  I felt open, safe, peaceful.  I love her.  

I wish I could live the Crib every single day.  5 hours of yoga every day surrounded by sweet, fun friends and nourished by Farmer and the Cook food would be (and was) heaven.  And Ojai was lovely with its trees popping with persimmons and tangerines.  

There's so much more but I think it will come out later, as I process everything and put it into practice.  I wanted to write now, while I'm still feeling a residual Crib high.  Ashley at the Crib is a different person than everyday Ashley looking back.  

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tokyo Banana

Hi from Japan. I just arrived and am waiting for my connection to Singapore. Not going to break down the Yoga Crib weekend just yet, because HOLY moly is there a TON to break down!! What a great week...

I fell asleep in badakonasana on the plane. I had two seats next to each other all to myself and I used them for some seated forward folds, bicycle sit ups (no, just kidding) and knee to shoulder to massage my poor bloated travel belly. Here's a tip: don't board an eleven hour flight after having just had oatmeal and the hugest latte known to man. It doesn't feel good.

I also did some super minor salutations while waiting in line for the bathroom. Tadasana, forward fold, half lift, fold, baby backbend. You know the drill. Some people smiled knowingly at me, some looked alarmed.

Channeled the tender loving spirit of Arturo for some deep belly breathing upon first boarding. Panic, fear, nervous sweating at first. I sat up in lotus and put my hands on my belly to remind the breath where to go. After like twenty minutes of that, I watched Flight of the Conchords on my laptop and tried to let every doubt escape. Now I'm like, Singapore? Ain't no thang. Om.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Say Hello to the Ground

Above: Saying hello to the ground.  Downward Facing Dog on two tree trunks at Saylorville Lake in Iowa.

I'm back where I was a week ago--sitting at Mars Cafe, drinking Puehr Ginger tea.  I came to town to go to Maggie's class at Firehouse again, but less than 3 people showed up so she didn't hold class.  Instead she said I could practice on my own in the studio.  

My first poses were all done lying on my back.  You know, windshield wiper, gentle twisting, padangusthasana, wind-releasing pose, happy baby, and badhokonasana in no particular order.  I can do those poses in 'public,' because they require less commitment.  I can easily pretend that I'm not really doing yoga.  I'm really just casually laying around.  

As the poses grounded me, I committed more.  I pushed up into wheel.  I breathed more purposefully.  Eventually I made the drastic switch to Down Dog.  And then found myself feeling somewhat in the flow and doing a sequence of poses that refreshed my back and hips.  

Back in Ojai, Nadia planted the seeds of Grounding by teaching me to connect to my body even (and especially) when in the presence of others so that I don't take on their emotions.  And last night I read a book about what grounding can do for your health.  The book suggested all sorts of visualizations to help, like imagining you have deep roots like a tree, or even that you are chained down to the earth.  I needed such a dramatic grounding image that I pretended my chain went all the way to China and all of China was pulling on it to keep me down.  The chain image is a little Promethean but I like it for that reason too.  Maybe he wasn't in such a bad situation, being chained to a rock for all eternity.  I wouldn't mind that so much if it had a nice view.   

It's amazing how difficult it is to stay grounded when other people are around, but even more amazing is what a different perspective it gives you on the same exact moment.  And if I'm grounded, I'll lose my cell phone less frequently, which I think everyone would appreciate.  

Disclaimer:  My brain is missing the sequencing gene.  So this is really random, but I'm hoping that attempting to write it out will help me get better at knowing what order things are supposed to go in.  (I'm also missing the up dog gene.  Sis, you should teach me what you learned at corepower cuz mine never feels right.)   

Down Dog
Plank/Chaturanga 
Cobra
Down Dog
Revolved Dog (right leg)
Plank
Side Plank--the cool version I learned from Uschi! (left side)
Down Dog 
Plank-Chaturanga
Cobra
Down Dog
Revolved Dog (left leg)
Plank
Side Plank (right side)
Down Dog
Plank-Chaturanga
Upward Facing Dog (my personal wimpy version)
Child's Pose
Cat/Cow
Down Dog
High Lunge with introduction (left leg)
Vinyasa all the way through Tadasana and back to Down Dog
High Lunge with introduction (right leg)
Down Dog
Long Child's Pose 
Brief  grounding meditation to end



Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Firehouse Yoga

Sometimes no challenges or worries can stop you from doing something you just have to do.  Today I needed my independence; I needed to finally go to Maggie's yoga class; I needed THIS relaxed post-yoga moment.  I am currently sitting in the amazing Mars Cafe in Des Moines drinking Puehr Ginger tea and watching the rain pour down outside and listening to--yay!--Weezer.  Yoga ended 20 minutes ago so I can still feel the slight shakiness in my warmed-up muscles.  

What a full morning it has been to get to this point.  I slept through my 6 am alarm, woke up at 7:15, and rushed to the Ankeny bus stop 5 minutes later.  Completely unprepared for the rain in my scrubby yoga clothes, I got in line behind at least 30 young, polished professionals to take the commuter bus into Des Moines.  Oh how I'm glad I'm not them today.  

Maggie, the young owner of the yoga studio, led us through a 60 minute all-levels vinyasa class.  She strongly emphasized a lulu-esque approach--do your own thing, do your own thing, did i mention, please do your own thing!  A Laughing Lotus poster in the corner made me feel I was in good hands.  The studio values also show in the products in the front of the store.  She sells Boulder's Pangea products, her own used and homemade clothing, and also has a free yoga library with a great book selection.  

The theme was not forcing yourself to be a certain way, but instead opening up to what is.  Still I caught myself thinking things like "I hope I don't look fat," "I am a coward for not doing an inversion," and "I hope I look at least kind of like someone who has done a teacher training."  But opening up to what is means not worrying about those things and just being yourself.  

I suppose the thing that perked my ears up the most was her discussion of how we have good days and bad days emotionally and physically.  Sometimes you'll feel awkward in your body; sometimes glorious.  Sometimes you take the bus in the rain and don't care, and some days it makes you feel sorry for yourself.  In any case it will pass and you don't have to become consumed by it, or take it as the permanent truth.  This is one of those basic life lessons I must have missed in elementary school guidance class.  Or maybe I just didn't believe it.  I thought, things will never be hard for me!  I can handle anything, make any situation 'work.'  SO not true.  

Weezer is giving me my ending now:  

I have many fears about rejection, I have many memories of pain, I have always been a little shy.  So I'll turn and look the other waaaaay.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Reporting My Practice

It's hard for me to do my own practice in the morning, while my mind is full of to-do lists for the day and my stomach is hungry for breakfast.  Settling down and doing nothing is just not usually an option in the mornings.  

Sometimes though, there's a shift in the wind and you do things differently.  So today I practiced when I woke up.  

Music: my itunes "Cleaning" playlist 

Quarter salutations
Half salutation, roll up one vertebra at a time
Half salutation, pause in uttanasana to loosen spine
Vinyasa
Cat/cow
Frog
Cat-tail
Bow pose
Badokonasana
Wide-legged forward fold
got a phone call
Pigeon during the call
No closing.  

Later I test-drove some songs for a savasana playlist. 

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Yin Yoga

While Sarah was checking out Jason Crandell's podcasts, I was doing yin yoga with a Paul Grilley video.  We're doing our homework to prepare for the Crib!  

I love his video because I can do it anytime, no matter what my energy level is.  In fact, I usually do it when I would normally take a nap.  It's a lot like taking a nap, only more refreshing and in weirder positions.  I love how casual it is but yet it offers so much time in each pose that inevitably I come into some consciousness of my own body and how it shifts and responds to the poses like a conversation.  

Discovered the fabulous cat-tail pose, which satisfied the same desire for juicy backbending that wheel does.  Now I don't have to go up into wheel all the time.  

My mom even got down on the floor with me and did part of the video.  So that was neat.    


yoga journal podcasts

just discovered these gems. jason crandell doing 45 minute classes. even if i'm not actually practicing, it's so pleasant to listen to.
today was gentle backbends. how delightful.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Reporting my Practice

All I did yesterday was lay with my legs up the wall while talking on the phone.  The thought of anything else seemed like too much work.  

Today I did a moving tadasana.  While walking at the lake, I experimented with incorporating the principles of tadasana (activate the toes, ears in line with shoulders, tailbone slightly tucked, and of course, the ever challenging shoulders rolled back and down).  It was mostly the toe activation that made a noticeable difference.  My gait felt a little more symmetrical, and less sloppy.  

And finally, I showed my mom the restorative liver-meridian pose from Arturo's workshop.  She was really tired today and has been having issues related to her liver.  So I felt that pose was pretty perfect.  She looked at me like I was insane for suggesting yoga while she was so tired until she saw what 'restorative' meant. 



Thursday, September 25, 2008

Reporting My Practice

I always read or write in my journal before I go to sleep.  Back in Boulder I did yoga before bed, but I'd always fall asleep on the floor with my legs up the wall.  Last night I was feeling an urge to go upside-down so I decided to again put aside my books and try a pre-bedtime practice. 

I love child's pose as a beginning.  It doesn't feel like Yoga, it just feels like curling up and resting.  It always calms me.  So I started in child's pose, for a long time.  Then I just sort of rolled forward and did a headstand with the wall close by as an option in case I wanted a break.  I recalled hearing that headstand was good to do before bed, so I wanted to be up there for a long time to get the full sedative effect.  

Came down not planning to do any other yoga but as usual it pulled me along and I had to do just one more pose.  I figured wheel wasn't a very good nighttime pose but I did it anyway.  Then I still hadn't had enough backbending so I did camel.  And then, a nice long badokonasana to quiet things down again.  I never did quite cross that distinct border between Thinking Too Much and Relaxation.  I got into bed and did my best to pile my pillows into the likeness of a bolster for a restorative heart opener. 

That was the hardest pose of all.  I alternated between relaxation and discomfort.  After that I didn't want any more yoga so I rolled off and tried to sleep but couldn't for the longest time.  I suppose next time I'll do that pose during the day or at least try to follow it with something introspective.  

On another note, earlier in the day I actually managed to get myself into a handstand against the wall for maybe the 4th time ever!    


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

captain's log

another c1 tonight. something weird happening with groin/hamstring muscle. not really sure what it is, it starts right in my groin and runs along the bottom of my hamstring, but it's very short and tense for like four inches. adductor? gracilis? hamstring? anyway it feels hyper extended, esp in poses like warrior two and prasiritta. the latter has been really good to me in the past, but lately it's super painful and i feel as though my inner thighs are going to rip apart. what's the deal? i'm back to biking a ton around boulder, and walking around a lot in general. i need the flexibility pill!

tons of core stuff tonight. it was a good class, but i might have benefited from a deeper, softer class. today was a strange day, and i really wanted to get into some stuff in class. but it felt good to just work out, too. but i can ride my bike for that...i'd do some yin postures but now it's late, i'm in bed and watching star trek. i might start calling all my entries 'captain's log'...i wonder what captain katherine janeway would do with a pulled groin muscle..

Monday, September 22, 2008

See Ones

today i did two c1 classes, one in the morning and one in the evening after i got off work. worked through it with my teacher brain, cueing myself and constantly thinking ahead. the second class i was exhausted, and couldn't stop yawning.
it was good, though. i needed two classes. haven't been sleeping well and i think i needed to physically exhaust myself to feel good about going to bed.
i've got some sort of weird knee thing happening. it feels like a growing pain. as usual all the triangles and warriors caused my groin muscles to hurt. i need to figure that out. i get so many different cues from so many different teachers as they gaze with confusion on my long legged stance and deep lunge. it's not an achey pain, or a burning pain. it feels like a tightness, like a rubber band being pulled too far. but i do feel the power of those asanas in my thighs, hamstrings, quads, etc, so i don't know why my inner thigh won't work along with it.
been feeling anxious, overwhelmed by choices and being back in my regular life, as regular as it can get these days. getting into my body was good. i needed the clarity and the sweat.

Reporting My Practice

A late evening practice.  

Upavista Konasana (wide-legged forward fold)
Badha Konasana (butterfly)
Upavista Konasana (the most comfortable one of my life)
forward splits (at least i tried)
side splits (again, just an attempt)
forward splits other side (got more mileage out of the yin dragon pose)
frog
child's pose
cat-cow
eye of the needle twist
child's pose
ended in crocodile, felt like an upside down savasana

Observations:  I had only planned to do one pose--upavista konasana.  (amber's one-pose-at-a-time theory helped me get started) but the poses themselves often guide me to do more once I'm in them.  I was surprised by how much heat some of these slow but deep poses created; I felt it rising all the way into my face.  

When will blogger add a sanskrit spellchecker?  

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Reporting My Practice

My 'practice' today (while waiting for my mom to get ready to go on a walk): brief headstand against the wall.  Child's pose.  Wished for the ability to do scorpion.  Upper body felt very invigorated from the headstand.  

After the walk, did upavista konasana (wide-legged forward fold) while selecting a packing playlist.  

Friday, September 19, 2008

Teaching Yoga to Mom

I taught some yoga today!  To my mother.  A couple years ago I tried to teach her yoga but it was disastrous because I just launched into sun salutation and it was too much too soon.  At least I didn't scare her so much that she wouldn't try again.  Today (with a new Lulu's training under my belt) I went for a gentler approach.  This is what we did: 

Savasana (with Wah! music to transform the living room into a serene yoga studio)
Eye of the needle 
Supta padangusthasana (i allowed for a moment to 'feel the effects' between each leg and she said 'i feel like i have more length.'  kind of magical to teach that to someone for the first time!)
Cat/Cow
Here we tested out down dog but it was probably too much for both my yoga-speak proficiency and her strength and flexibility.  
Instead- extended childs.
Uttanasana
Roll to tadasana very slowly (she commented that she really enjoyed the rolling up.  i do too.)
Warrior 2 with the dance in and out which seemed to make it less rigid
Childs
Uttanasana/roll to tadasana
Repeat other side
Half lord of the fishes 
Yin badokonasana (she found this one hard)
Hug knees to chest and rock
Savasana

and that's it!  (that's actually what i said after she came back to seated...not the most graceful ending)

 

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Reporting My Practice

Does it count as yoga if you're talking on the phone while doing it?   My body felt good, even if it's probably not the most spiritual approach.  In any case, here's what I did and it did feel good....

Pigeon both sides

Badokonasana

supta padangustana Left side

happy baby

supta padangustana Right side

hug knees to chest and roll

3 bridges (not while talking on phone) 

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Flexible Rules

In accordance with the accountability principle (see kira's blog about the correlation between food-journaling and weight loss), I think I will post every bit of yoga that I do.  To see if it helps me to practice more on my own.  No bit will be left out.  Even if it means that my blog looks like "did wheel while waiting for the iron to get hot."  and that's it.  true story by the way.  

sometimes i hold myself back from doing more intense poses because i have this idea that it's wrong to do them unless i do warm up stuff first.  but i've always had too much impatience for warming up so i'd end up doing nothing.  it was exciting to do that wheel without any warm-up so now i'm going to do whatever pose i want whenever i want.  doesn't that sound spoiled?  oh, and add "however i want."  (i wonder if i ever would have developed this attitude of flexibility around the rules without lulu's)

sometimes my practice is too small to count as yoga in my head.  but this way i get to count everything.  like, i don't give myself credit for constantly sitting around in toe and foot torture.  now i'm going to count that.  and stop feeling bad that i'm not a real yogini just because i don't sweat and work on my core every day while wearing short shorts and a sports bra.  (no offense loweball i'm just jealous)

today i also did a slightly more by the book practice complete with an intention to feel peaceful.  it happened accidentally while i was trying to download a free Yoga Today class.  it didn't work and i got bored waiting so i did sun salutations -first quarter, then half, then full.  i had a minor emotional breakdown during the full salutation and laid down in childs pose.  not sure what happened exactly, but the thoughts were along the lines of "i'm not good enough."  it happens i guess.  i propelled myself back to life with a healthy dose of anger that allowed me to rebel against my own silly thoughts.  i didnt do a symmetrical practice at all.   pigeons were involved.  
ended in meditation.  current favorite seated position is seiza.  i want to use the word 'humble' to describe the effect.  though i had completely forgotten about the original peace intention i artificially set, i was pleasantly surprised to notice that after meditating for a few minutes, i managed to feel some small level of peace.  and what else can i ask for?  

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Research for the "-ery" part of the Yogery




the photos can't express the feeling this lemon meringue pie inspired. also the peach cobbler i ate right before digging into the meringue was pretty inspiring. viva la france.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Barely Yoga

This morning I shuffled from my bed to my yoga mat, and ended up reading a magazine while lying on my mat feeling stiff and hungry.  Then I had the idea to try an online Lulu's class.  But the internet gods were against me and the connection wouldn't work.  As I sat there waiting for my luck to shift, I figured I might as well do a little half cow face.  And that felt good.  

That one pose led to a few other poses too, in a detached, rebellious little sequence mixed in with some very unyogic things, like popping my shoulder and checking my email.  It got me wondering, what should a home practice look like, especially for someone even thinking about being a yoga teacher?  Of course it's different for everyone, but why is it SO HARD for me, and I think for some others, to get one going?  How do I break through the contradictory values of 'going with the flow' (which lets me justify my slacking) and the value that Yoga is Good and beneficial to those who actually practice it?  

Going to a good yoga class is just like getting your hair done at a salon.  It's always better than what you can do at home.  


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Fairfield

Today my mom and I went on a road trip to Fairfield, Iowa, as blogged about in the new surviving Iowa blog.

I googled Yoga in Fairfield before we went thinking that for SURE there would be at least one studio there, what with the hippie presence and the Maharishi school. But no. There are a couple women who give regular classes but no real studio to speak of that I could find, and nothing on Wednesdays. So I was disappointed.

You can buy yoga clothes there, and if the clothes are any indication of the prevalent yoga style, I'm not excited. The clothes are a Maharishi brand that comes in colors worthy of the Lacoste alligator polos. The male catalog model looks like a ralph lauren model doing yoga. he seems to demonstrate the usefulness of half lord of the fishes as a pose for drinking gin and tonic and seducing someone poolside. His warrior 2 looks like a tango move. In the course of one rainy afternoon, I spotted no less than 3 people throughout Fairfield rocking this line--white pants, UCLA-blue polo, and white hat. I guess that's what it looks like when spirituality meets business school.

I haven't done any yoga here yet. Not on my own and certainly not in a studio. I noticed last night as I lay down to sleep how naturally my body fell into a comfortable position without my thinking about it. Like it was doing yoga without me. It felt sort of like being in tune with the shushuma/gracious channel.

It's strange but I sort of enjoy my in-between yoga times. All the kinks that show up in my body louder than ever prove how much yoga does help keep them away. My stomach starts to hurt and I feel that it's connected to my lower back, which just needs some good vinyasa flowing to loosen up. So I suppose I'll get around to a little yoga eventually. Who knows...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Le Yoga, Part II

September in France finds me under prepared physically, aesthetically, emotionally. It brings us rain and grey clouds, and only a few trees have begun turning red. Today I feel a bit blue. Weary of the same loose black sweater and dirty jeans, of the hair falling in my eyes. This feeling of home is fleeting and soon to be far flung—I fly to D.C. on Sunday. Benjamin asked a few times if I would like to put my things in the drawers, but they’ve remained in piles atop my luggage. A metaphor, if you know what I mean.

There are no yoga classes in Fontainebleau. I practice yoga on dusty carpets in the living room and on cold wooden floors at the gym. Yesterday I ran through a C1 class by myself, skipping balancing and about half the chatarungas. The gym on campus has a room for aerobics, weight lifting, etc, a hell with fluorescent lighting and warped mirrors. Staying with my practice demanded special effort; pausing in down dog for four or five breaths, half hearted warriors being judged by the invisible yoga teacher in my ear.

Finding myself in a place of judgment and declaration. Like, I won’t eat baguettes for the next thousand years, and to prove my point I nearly eat an entire loaf, topped with rhubarb and butter. Like, I will do all eighty chatarungas in this series and to prove it I drop to my knees. I couldn’t stay present in the practice yesterday, couldn’t find a place to be practicing in a full and present way so that when I am not practicing, I might also feel that presence and fullness. When I finished, I felt as though it never happened. The same can be said about this relationship with Benjamin. How to be with him in the fullest way possible so that I still can be without him in the fullest way? When I’m alone I can’t understand my being so timorous and, I suspect, neither can he.

What does this have to do with yoga. Is it being wary, nervous, afraid of attempting all eighty chatarungas and collapsing on the sixty seventh? Like, I’m embarrassed someone will see me unable to complete a pushup?

In Paris over the weekend, Benjamin and I ate at least four chocolate ├ęclairs. In one day. Being in the city, and being in the city with him, was perfect, in a less dramatic sense of the word. The city makes me want to meet it with its same pace, sound, life. The desire to dig deeply into the ground where I am walking is nearly overwhelming. What I say next sounds like something Kira would say, and so I attribute it to her: We start journeys because there is a feeling that something could be better. I say the same about why I began practicing yoga, and why I flew to France.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Last Lulu's Class

I'm in Iowa now. I took my last class (for now) at Lulu Bandha's on Saturday: Sweet Vinyasa with Kira. It was like any other class with Kira: fun, fresh, juicy-feeling, relaxed, a good mixture of the familiar and the new things to play with. An oasis.

I liked the lack of instruction during the headstand. Having lower energy and needing something that felt really nourishing, I chose legs up the wall instead. I think if Kira had guided us through it step by step I would have been more tempted to go along and try to experience the pose through her words. So it was interesting to see what I did with the perceived freedom.

Mouse pose, it turns out, is way less effort than I thought. I figured out I can do it if I just put my hands out a little further in front to give my feet room to pop up. It doesn't necessarily feel 'right.' It feels diminutive and mouse-like, unlike other flying, nobler arm balances. You're just barely off the floor like you're sniffing for cheese. It's a pose you can't take too seriously. Everyone giggles when Kira demos this (including Kira).

I feel so far away from this Saturday experience here in suburbia. There's a new housing compound in town, built by a company called "Character Homes." There are endless identical houses that go on and on. I am confused. Where do the people inside go to live their lives? I don't see the grocery stores, the shops, the yoga studios.

Other notes:
-lopsided lunge pose was great.
-the mystery continues, of how and when yoga teachers decide to give the coveted yoga compliment; it's never when i'm thinking i deserve one :)
-warrior one felt really awkward. i felt more like a person standing in a goofy position than a graceful yogini

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Le Yoga

Bonjour Yogery! I write to you from gay Paree. Actually, from gay Fontainebleu, the quaint French city where my Benjamin goes to school.

I admit there has been little to no yoga happening on this trip thus far. A few downward dogs in the mornings to shake off the stiffness and some sun salutations on top of a mountain in the Alps are all I have to report. Instead, I have been eating a lot. Pastries, baguettes, cheese. Even some duck sausage. Bad yogini, bad.

There is a yoga club here with no president. Benjamin refuses to step up, so I begin my studies of Sanskrit-French-English. Le Chatarunga, Les Down Dogs.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Workshop with Arturo

I spent the weekend hanging at Lulu Bandha's! Always a good thing. This weekend was Arturo's workshop on Touching from the Heart.

So many insightful moments. I learned a lot. I wasn't sure what to expect and was decidedly nervous, thinking that maybe we were going to learn massage or something--I was clueless. Turns out, I wasn't asked to DO anything to anyone, but just to BE with them in more effective ways. It was like majoring in Touch with concentrations in Energy and Healing.

Saturday Arturo guided us through the softest, slowest meditation on touching. I was in a group with him and Kira. We slowly felt our way from the outermost energy layers through into skin, squishy layer under skin, connective tissue, muscle, bone (Arturo says the lighter the touch often the more you can feel). It was a beautiful way to just BE with someone and I felt safe and warm and totally in love with Kira.

Getting touched (Arturo on one arm and Kira on the other) was a more difficult experience but a fascinating one. I vacillated between accepting this wonderful feeling of being cared for and an anxiety I often get when touched. But I didn't worry about showing the anxiety since I had already shared (with the entire class) that it might happen. I just felt their presence as something to come back to when I was taken to a scary place.

Sunday was also amazing. The self-meridian massage was a fun way to learn to feel chi. I practiced it this morning to start my day. Molly cracked me up during the laughter yoga exercise, and I didn't think I would ever be able to stop laughing.

We also practiced Grounding and Centering our energy. A partner pushed our shoulders and to resist we had to make our energy larger, wider. This gave me a whole new way to relate to my emotions. Instead of diving into every little blip that comes up on my busy emotional radar, I can change my energetic shape, and grow into something bigger (Arturo discussed ways to respond to attacks, by taking on the energetic shape of square, circle, or triangle). During this exercise Craig called me a grasshopper, which I took as a great compliment. :)

Craig and I were partners again for the final partner exercise, a Healing meditation. Arturo chanted the word HEAL while we did our best to resonate with a Healing Quality while holding our hands over a spot of our partner's choosing. I chose my left knee, and throughout the exercise I felt the slight pain there dissipate and reappear in the bottom of my foot and then disappear completely. Craig said my energy felt "jagged" just over the top of my shin bone, which happens to be a place where I've been feeling a faint tingling for the past couple of weeks. Crazy.

I got chills when Arturo talked about the Tibetan monks' ability to heal the sick just by chanting , "Already healed. Already whole. Already well."

Arturo talked about how you can't just drop your shoulder off at the shop to get fixed--healing is something a person has to be wholly involved in. In fact, he said, he often doesn't have to do anything but hold a safe space in which peoples' own "body-mind intelligence" can do the healing work. So when I had a headache later that night I didn't look for a quick external fix; I held my hands on my head and thought 'heal, heal, heal.' I softened and relaxed myself until the pain dissipated.

How can I ever live without Lulu Bandha's?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Dreams of Orca Whales




Man or fish? Guillame Nery setting a freediving world record in a spectacular demonstration of kumbaka, or breathholding.

I am happy to report that we contain ancient, fishlike abilities. As soon as the face comes into contact with cold water, a state called bradycardia sets in, slowing the heart rate. This is the first step in the activation of our body's underwater survival mechanisms. Scientists call it the mammalian diving reflex, and we share it with animals like dolphins, seals, otters. This water-triggered reflex means that a person can actually survive without breath longer underwater than above.

Like anyone exploring the unknown, freedivers learn that to go deeper, they must relax all resistance (any extraneous effort means depleted oxygen) and accept (their thoracic cavities literally accept the depths, filling with watery plasma to equalize the pressure from without). It's such a perfect analogy for the way yoga seems to work...the further we dive, the more relaxed and accepting we have to be.

I've noticed that often I battle with what I find within myself. I can feel like two Ashleys (two zen muffins?) during yoga. I get confused about which one is real, confused about what yoga is 'supposed' to feel like. If I'm not blissed out and peaceful I think I'm doing it wrong. Sometimes I wonder how to 'use' yoga--as something to CHANGE the way I'm feeling in the moment or as something to help me feel that moment more strongly.

It's funny how easy it is for the mind to find something beautiful, appealing, inviting, like freediving. But to get the rest of the self to go along with it is the trick. Despite my fascination with freediving and my innate piscean nature, I've always lost underwater breathholding contests and feared the ocean. Yoga allows me to ease in gently, safely, and choose whether I float at the top gazing down or dive fully in.


Friday, August 8, 2008

Power Yoga Training Run-down

Well. I graduated from power yoga teacher training.
Highlights include:

leading a class through an hour of power yoga!

thai yoga massage

realizing i actually enjoy core strengthening and don't feel like a tool teaching ab work

feedback from class on my voice and presence

meeting and spending 14 hours a day with some fabulously dedicated yogis and seriously funny ladies

getting really tuned into alignment

sipping coffee in between sun a and sun b series during our early morning practices. yeah, gross, i know. get over it.

staying true to my inner yoga voice and keeping my practice through out the training

wearing my teacher pants and student pants

more deets later, but right now my main concern is reading this guide book to france and sipping on some white wine. here's to me, two yoga teacher trainings in one summer and a trip to france at the end of the week. my life is pretty okay.


tomorrow afternoon someone's coming to the house to do an hour session with me. i said noon because what really sounds nice to me after 100 + hours of yoga is a cup of coffee, the sunday times and a long sit in the morning sun.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

learning to love the chatarunga/updog




high to mid plank with some up dogs. below i'm pushing back from chatarunga to up dog. in class, erin placed her hand on the crown of my head and told me to push into it with my head. my habit is to look down, since that's the direction i'm going, and keep looking down until i'm in updog, and then thrust it forward at the last minute. in class we also did a few rounds of that vinyasa with straps above the elbows during chatarunga to prevent splaying. for those in the group who are already quite accomplished in their chats, this way was harder.






with the pictures i can see the habits i have during this part of sun a. dropping my head, dropping my hips, forgetting about my feet.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Doga




ruby considers the triangle series; offers her own suggestion.

Kira's Sweet Vinyasa

Hedgehog demonstrating the safety-asana.


This morning was my first class with Kira since her "staycation." And it was good to be back! There was a slightly smaller group than normal, which always makes me feel more exposed, which leads to me trying harder. However, at Lulu Bandha's, 'trying harder' doesn't mean sweating more, it means softening.

The most radical thing that happened for me was the slumpy seated meditation. Kira suggested we sit "the way our mothers always told us not to." During the opening meditation I tried this but felt too strange and straightened up. I have accepted the meanings normally assigned to slumpiness-hiding, lethargy and depression. Oh, and office work.

But I have to admit that I don't entirely enjoy the stick-straight posture usually required for seated meditation. I never feel quite right or quite able to breathe.

So during closing meditation Kira offered the slumping idea again and I stayed in it. I rounded my back and let my head hang down. I felt a steady tug on the back of my neck where my scar is and thought 'hey, do-it-yourself scar-releasing bodywork!' The rest of my spine pressed pleasantly out and I felt safe and tucked away like a hedgehog in a ball. My mood was soft and warm. I felt like I was taking care of myself instead of trying to be something I'm not. Hedgehogs definitely know the value of safety.

Other observations:
  • worked on musika or mouse pose, which was adorable but difficult.
  • everything's better when done with the sacral belly

Monday, August 4, 2008

A Macaroni Bowl without Macaroni

from an essay in Sunday's NYT, "Disassembling My Childhood" by Dan Beachy-Quick (his 3-year-old daugher Hana is anticipating a promised gift from her grandpa):



For me, the best part of waiting for the gift is asking Hana what she thinks it might be. "An elephant?" she guessed. "A macaroni bowl without macaroni?"

Nothing else gives me such a sense of how astonishing desire is. Desire gives equal weight to things of radically different worth. Hana cycled through the possibilities at every meal. "A piece of glass?" "Crayons?" "A cloud?"

Desire erases boundaries by easing through them. Desire is wonder in motion. Desire finds that reality's border is loosely guarded; someone-"reason's viceroy"-is always asleep at his post. My 3-year-old girl knows already what many poets would do well to learn: desire pushes through the limit of what is possible; it does not recognize it and retreat.



My practice (with Bjork's Post cd):

start in tadasana

very slow dive forward waiting until the last second to round my back

down dog

  • cat tuck/cow tilt

round to plank

uncurl into side plank following full course of the cow tilt into a drop back

repeat

down dog

  • drop to dolphin
  • walk toes forward for sirsana (headstand)
  • attempt kira's transition rocking from sirsana prep back to crow
  • squat

roll forward padha hastasana

after feeling quite energetic at the beginning i started to get disinterested and couldn't continue with my PLAN for an active practice. wondered what was wrong with me but decided to try a yin pose to while i wrote down what i'd been doing

Frog ---yin turned out to be just what i needed, this pose always feels detoxifying and slowing down allowed me to notice i was tired

hip circles with hands planted and cobra

hanumanasa (splits) attempt each side

supine badakonasana (butterfly)

savasana (corpse)



Friday, August 1, 2008

always in my head

In the interest of keeping the yogery alive, I'm writing even though my yoga practice is lacking...yoga.

A friend was in town recently, from such far away places as my email inbox and Singapore. He stayed with me last week, at my house which is not my house, in my bed which is not my bed. The house sitting is getting to me. I didn't notice until he was here and then I was acutely aware of the sprawl of my life across the town. A little paper trail from house to house. We shuffled from the house with the swamp cooler in east Boulder to Alice's when we stayed in town drinking late. It was interesting having a guest in town with no place to keep him of my own. No way to say this is me in all those normal ways of home ownership; no quirky coffee cups to use or records to play.

He kept asking to take a class with me, and I kept finding reasons not to go. Some legit, some less legit. At the end of the week my body felt manipulated, as if it had believed until then I had been putting it to good use. The same energy that held us together in bed was similar to the energy I use on my yoga mat. There was a weird power struggle there: when I practice yoga I'm responsible for my body, my muscles and bones respond to me. And suddenly I felt my body respond to something else entirely, to someone else. The physical space I've created was shared again, suddenly, surprisingly. And at such close range I could not find the space to share more. Towards the end of his visit I did a small practice at home while he slept, feeling safe enough in the solitude of early morning to even get a little sweaty. A black lab named Ruby observed me from a silent curled position on the couch, a tail wag of approval when I moved into the standing postures.

So the question that remains is the one I hardly know how to pose, let alone answer. What do I think I'm keeping to myself, what do I think I'm letting go of? Would I have preferred someone get to know me by handing him the Boy Scout coffee cup with the broken handle, or letting him peer into my bedroom to see my record collection or the books on my shelf? It is not that I didn't want to share yoga with him; I am notoriously annoying about begging my friends to come take class with me. I don't know what it means that we didn't take class together, and if I did I might not say it here. It's about exposure, about showing your full extent. Chasing after backbends and heart openers with abandon, hurling yourself into handstand like a kid in the grass.

But I have been practicing at home, with the air conditioner and Ruby looking on from the side, chasing after muscle and meaning, meaning which becomes unraveled and lost, the inhales that become the meaning, feeling blessed between each space of movement, the pause and intake of breath, trust and distrust of my map-less body to move toward the place it will inevitably arrive. Back to the beginning, or the end, where it has so lovingly chased towards itself. But I could say all those things about spending a week in bed with a visiting boy, and so I must admit I have not fooled anyone.

Erich Schiffmann:"Yoga is a way of moving into stillness to experience the truth of who you are. It's a matter of listening inwardly for guidance all the time, and then daring enough and trusting enough to do what you are prompted to do."

things I've been working on:

rounding into plank
vasistasana holding leg straight up and hips open
bakasana into sirsasana II and back (complete with the "ee ee" creaky sounds of kira)
eka pada urdhva danurasana (this helps having someone there to tell me how high my leg is. for some reason i have no concept of height or length here. also, i can't seem to lift my leg if my other foot is flat on the ground. on my tip toes it seems much more possible.)
purvottanasana. keeping my neck softened is a giant task. feeling my shoulders round up, trying to keep close to my ears.
finding myself instinctually moving into revolved extended side angle quite a bit. it feels nice to be open in my chest but somehow bound up, too.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

beach practice

i biked to the ocean and did yoga on the beach. kira, yoga on the sand is totally possible!

started with upavistha konasana (the therapeutic benefits were multiplied by the soothing warmth of the sand on my legs and hands!)
  • chest press
  • curl forward

badha konasana

  • hip press

move aside, observe beautiful pattern in sand

down dog (with face towards the ocean of course)

tons of time in uttanasana looking at ocean and enjoying new access to hamstrings

roll to standing, turn to face ocean

sun salute

on each leg:

  • pyramid
  • triangle (played with an idea from uschi's class, to rotate top hip forward--it feels twistier that way)
  • utthita parsvakonasana (extended side angle pose) with bind
  • crescent lunge

vinyasa to finish salute

on each side, standing forward fold with ankle on knee (to get hip stretch)

  • attempt arm-balance (name?)
  • stand and evolve to padangustana

tadasana, turn to face inland and attempt to drop back to urdva dhanurasana (upward facing bow) but to no avail. too scared? self-conscious about falling in public?

malasana to ease low-back

camel instead

short childs with forehead hovering over sand (got a little surprised by a wave here)

casual prasarita padattonasana (wide-legged forward fold) in the water to wash limbs.

savasana-ish experience at the park in the roots of the 136 year old tree.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Teacher Training

just signed up for another training, this one at corepower, starting august 3. it is a week intensive, lots of chatarungas, lots of sweating.
nervous.

home practice

i feel like i've never made any progress in my hamstrings throughout my whole yoga career and i woke up this morning wanting to work on them a little. this week i have put them to extra-special use because for some reason i've been taken over by a sudden love of cycling (it must be my cool fox shorts!).

i read that a reclining hamstring stretch (supta padangustasana) is the best way to get in there without straining the low back at all. it took me a while to find the right spot but finally it was TOTAL bliss. i took each leg up, then out then over. afterwards my legs felt so warm and light and awake. plus this was the easiest possible transition from reclining in bed--just simply lift the leg, you don't even have to open your eyes!

then

happy baby

rocked from happy baby to seated upavistha konasana with legs in the air, fingers around my big toes

landed in a squat

rocked forward to crow

fell out of crow but tried to land gracefully and ended up doing some jumbled stretch that opened my side ribs

ardha matseyendrasana to left

eka pada koundinyasana on left hip

same to right side

childs (first rolling forward onto top of head with fingers interlaced and lifting off back)

then just childs, all tucked away in a cozy little ball. ahhh! felt something a lot like sleepiness

observations--really easy to forget to breathe and go too fast and sort of mechanically. when i noticed i was doing that was after the eka padas. curling into childs brought me back into myself.

amazing how if you just START with one small step it can lead to so much more. the immense good feeling created from just one simple round of supta padangustana pulled me forward into more poses. i've just got to find those doors in--in this case my tight hamstrings were the door that got me to do my own yoga practice today and find a little magical ability to self-heal.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Under Pressure

I've been wearing my yoga shirts, but to bars. It is summertime in Boulder, and that means long bike rides up the canyon, late afternoon dips in the creek and staying up too late drinking wine with friends.

I haven't forgotten you, Yogery. More to come.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

This Time Tomorrow...

yoga summer camp came to an end. i find myself stranded in the los angeles airport for ten hours. i pace the terminal over and over: starbucks and burger king aren't going anywhere, either. i'm hungry. am i unenlightened if i order a cheeseburger? hunger is the price we pay for ..what? responsibility? good taste? in LAX it gets me no where. two flight attendants eyeball my yoga mat, my straw hat. headed for boulder, indeed. where is a rose quartz when i need one? and i'm still hungry.

but now that i'm here and back ordering black coffee at the shop on the corner where everyone i've ever known in boulder orders their coffee, it feels as though i've never left. i see a lot of my friends today, by accident. boulder feels as small as ojai. can i turn a corner without seeing someone i know? but today it is welcomed; i am shocked to write it is a pleasure to be home. they ask what i learned. no, that's not right, they ask did you learn a lot. yes or no. some don't know what questions to ask and i don't know how to say over coffee i've changed and we end up talking about pollution, or LA traffic. i run into a newer friend; we don't know each other well, and our conversations are friendly, toothy, transparent. he is interested in yoga, we talk about a time for him to come take a class with me. yoga is the next natural step for him, he quit drinking a year ago and now he wants to quit smoking. we decide on next wednesday. it's a new moon, he says, grinning. is he coming to yoga so he can quit smoking or kiss me? i don't know, but i decided a few weeks ago both motives are respectable so when i see him scribble in his planner i can't help but grin back at him, merry as christmas. i mean, it's yoga. what can go wrong?

i'm avoiding. yoga summer camp came to an end. i'm back in boulder after two and a half weeks in southern california practicing yoga. learning to teach yoga. i designed two classes this afternoon, in an effort to put off returning to work and real life a little longer. but i grew tired just putting the pen to paper. should i be doing this? do i know my elbow from my ass? completing the training articulated many unnamed fears, wants, needs. the sentence i want to teach yoga sounds much different when you're actually enabled to teach yoga. it's like the beginning of a relationship, when everything is still a bet. doubt, desire. he calls, i call him back, he leaves a message on my answering machine.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Love The World You Find

Day six or seven of yoga summer camp. I don't even know. Today things began making sense for me, in my own body and in the studio. The slowness started to seal in ideas, postures, poems. I think I'm getting it.

Not having the freedom of my time is getting to me, though. My eating routine is off. I'm not really rolling with that as well as I wish I could. Knowing my job will be changing at my studio in Boulder upon my return is bothering me. I find myself at that studio just as much as I'm at Lulu's, with the way it pops into my mind. And boys, I'm thinking about boys.

Just staying present is my big task. Remembering to do little things in the moment I'm in, like looking forward with my head while trying to jump into handstand. Who cares what happens after I'm up? What I'm trying to do is get up.

At one point during our practice today I thought I felt a psychic 'phone call' from a friend. I think that statement sums up a lot of my mental state during this training. This friend and I once sat lotus style in front of one another at a hot springs in New Mexico, trying to communicate silently. It was one of the most pleasant afternoons I've had in a long time, and while a lot of the telepathy business was rooted in shyness and wanting to just look at him, I'm still hoping one day I'll be able blog psychically. Oh, yes.

What does this have to do with yoga? That is the eternal question in my posts. Yoga has to do with everything. I could write an entry about buying beans and it would be about yoga. The deeper I get into my practice the more things become connected.

Kira talked a lot about resistance today. Saying no to say yes. Some of that resistance is in our physical bodies--the way you can trick a muscle into stretching by contracting it first, and some of it in our emotional bodies. We did handstands today--a big anxiety pose for me. I said no a million times in my head, and gave my usual lame attempt at the wall, mostly for posterity. Look, I tried. Happy now? And lo, I was tricked into it.

No, not tricked. Kira pushed her feet into my shoulder blades which gave me the stability to push my legs out to a right angle. But somewhere in there was a moment where I said ok. I stopped sending psychic messages to my legs and arms like DON'T LET ME DIE and I stopped, for a second, thinking about the second that was coming after that one.

And it was great. Of course. I'm getting to be more and more honest with my body, trusting it more, loving the places it lets me get to. Trying to settle into the sensations of whatever world I'm in. Maybe I'm not as ready as I'd like to be to teach, but I'm understanding I could be. Like sending and receiving psychic messages with John--it's probably not going to happen, but thinking it could is pretty sweet.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Here I am, two days into yoga summer camp. Feeling alternately inspired and uninspired. This morning I admit boredom. Kira's teaching at 9 am and although I'm up and dressed for it, a vinyasa class does not sound appealing. I miss my hot yoga practice, but I'm not sure I want to do that, either. If the essense of yoga is focus and attention, as Joel Kramer writes, then I'm screwed. I find my mind wandering during meditation, my breath escaping me without acknowledgement and my body physically resisiting the poses I ask of it. All of it is physical: my back is suddenly a liability again. Sensation comes and goes in my right leg and my upper back and shoulders spasm as if in shock when asked to compensate for the lower back. Tomorrow I visit a chiropracter--my future as a yogi lies in her hands.

It's hard not to feel inspired in Kira's studio. It's a small, light space with open windows and pale blue walls. Almost nothing reminds me of my studio at home; in fact,the windows here open up to big, green trees. No gas station or apartment complexes in sight. The pace of things is different here, which suprises me. Students don't start showing up for class until a minute before it is scheduled to begin. Do I feel somehow threatened by this? A chance exists that I rely on arriving thirty minutes before the class to spread my mat out, roll my neck around, focus. I don't know how to just arrive. This morning (Sunday) Ashley and I woke up only ten minutes before 8, actually driving the three blocks to the studio so we could make Uschi's strong vinyasa class. I tried not to panic, but I did a little anyway. How do they do it, these people who just stroll into class, thunk their mats down and forward fold?

I need to start my yoga homework. Something about sequencing. In the interest of not letting these posts of mine drag on and on for days, I'm pressing "publish post" and just letting what I've said be what I've said. The end.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

omg so nervous

i can't believe the teacher training starts tonight. in forty-five minutes to be precise. i'm so nervous! i love that it starts so late in the evening, it makes it feel sort of mysterious and exciting. i feel so unprepared in some ways and also completely ready and excited.

the only thing keeping me halfway calm is reading erich schiffmann's book. he's working really hard to convince me that yes at my core i am actually goodness, love, peace, calmness. like everyone. i'm trusting that i can stay with that during this training and that whatever shows up for me it will be ok!

i'm working on finding my own voice and that's what i hope to get out of this endeavor--a little more knowledge and peacefulness about who i am, whether i end up being a yoga teacher or not.

i just threw an entire bag of spinach on the stove. warm, calming, sugar free FOOD. that's what i need right now to fortify me for the journey ahead!

Monday, June 9, 2008

How Not Doing a Handstand Still Counts as Practicing Yoga

Handstand is a really important teacher for me. Sometimes I can do it; most of the time I can’t. In a yoga class recently the teacher indicated that we were going to do handstand and I noticed that a primal response of fear took over my whole body. I didn’t do handstand that day. Instead I just paid attention to that feeling. I played with it while everyone did their variation of the pose. I just felt my fear. I felt happy because I had finally noticed what was really holding me back from doing the pose. And because I could finally label that feeling as 'fear' rather than 'inadequacy.'

Sarah’s here from Boulder, the teacher training is only four days away, I finally cracked open the Bhagavad Gita and I actually like it, and my energy and excitement is starting to flow back into my life like a stream of fairy dust.

How are we supposed to relate to our own emotions? I’m noticing that I tend to get completely taken over by them and then I can’t enjoy them, good or bad. That non-handstand was so revolutionary for me because I enjoyed that fear. So my next question is, is it possible to notice the fear and do the pose anyway?

Last night I did manage to kick up and do a handstand against the wall of my apartment, twice. The first time my arms buckled slowly and I landed on my head. Sarah was there and we laughed at the horror and humor of it. The second time I kicked up and stayed up for a couple shocked seconds in which I looked at the upside down room around me and waited for the pose to enlighten me. So I know I can do it, in a carefree environment completely free of things that trigger my self-consciousness and overthinking.

Listening to Fleetwood Mac, “I’ve been afraid of changes…time makes you bolder, even children get older and I'm gettin' older too.”

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Up To Me

Suddenly summer came, without warning or preparation. I slept with the doors and windows open, legs and arms flung to the four corners of the bed. The season hangs above the foothills with deliberation; in the evening the sunset spills across the sky like paint. Every thing and every one seems to be moving closer to the ground with the heat, slower and quieter. There have been a few mountain lions wandering down towards town, one in the alley at 1 in the afternoon across the street from where I'm living. I can't help but feel as though I'm trespassing when I'm hiking, or biking home late at night, thinking of what might be watching me. There is a secret excitement about knowing we are still challenged on the food chain.

I've moved into the apartment above Alice and Bill's house and am feeling out a new routine of early mornings with the boys, late afternoons with the girls and in between practicing yoga and working at the studio. Reading a few books in the transitions, some good and others great (E.B. White essays and Joan Halifax's The Fruitful Darkness), and trying to find my writing voice again. Having the space to live in and call my own for the next few weeks is wonderful. I feel so welcome in their home, and knowing I am needed and wanted there is wonderful, too.

(i've been listening to tons of bob dylan lately, and certain songs i've never really liked have suddenly endeared themselves to me, "up to me" being one, which is where i got the subject for this post.)

I've been taking few yoga classes this week, and when I do take them they feel juicy and delicious. I took HPF with Trista a few days ago, and it was almost perfect. Sweet, strong, moving. She reminded us throughout the class to come back to our breath. She said a few times if we didn't have that deep, cleansing breath in our postures we were missing the point.

I confessed to Richii Jai Jai this morning my fear of going upside down in class. I felt teary just saying it to him. I think of you when I don't want to come to yoga, I said, I think of all the things you'd say to me. I meant this to be a little funny, to poke fun at his exaggerated eye rolls and sugary energy, but instead he stopped what he was doing on the computer, made me stop what I was doing on mine and flipped me over upside down on the couch. We talked like that for a few minutes, the tops of our heads on the floor and legs crisscrossed on the back of the couch. Forget what the studio wants you to do, he told me. Just do what you want.

It seems so stupid when I try to write about it now, like I don't know who I am or what I'm doing. Mostly I don't, mostly I do. Working at the studio seems to have added this extra pressure to my yoga practice that sometimes I like (when I push myself to find new postures like peacock)and sometimes I don't like (the gym-like mentality of needing to 'work-out'). There is a strong possibility I'm just as sensitive and soft as I was as a little girl, that my constitution is something slower and subtler than the yoga I'm practicing. I love the yoga I am doing now--I just don't know how to make it my own.

The thing about the work-out stuff at CP is that I like myself the way I am. I don't come to yoga to re-shape my body or whip into something lean and mean. I feel a little inadequate at the studio sometimes, I worry someone will catch on my resistance. Of course my body responds to what I ask of it during class with increasing strength and I can't help but admire the results. On a superficial level I love it, I love it. My confidence feels bought, though; insured somehow. Like, as long as you're in this studio, you're okay. Like we whisper to one another with enthusiasm on the way to class Let's Get Our Yoga On! And when I miss class for a few days I feel it i my body, and my brain responds in an ugly, demanding way. I'm missing yoga, I'm losing muscle, I need my work-out everyday, so on and so on. And then the same question shows up: Do I practice yoga because I love myself, or because I hope one day I will?