Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Trikonasana Loves Me and Yoga Teacher Training

Life is getting in the way of yoga. Isabelle's been in the hospital, and my free time is spent trying to get her to use her nebulizer/dragon mask/fog machine. None of these names make her feel any better about it, and I don't blame her. I renewed my pass at CorePower. Since I started this particular post I've been to three classes, two hot and one fusion. Last night's hot class was great. Talked to Heidi for awhile after class about poses, about projecting. She worried she was creating anxiety in the class. I told her my fear of trikonasana, how lame I feel. I think I was hoping she'd be all, "oh, of course it's okay to quit during trikonasana! do what feels good!" but instead she verified it's a master pose, it's hard, it hurts but "if you're not falling on the ground from dizziness, stay in it". I guess I need to hear that. I was thinking about a remark John made one night after I told him I hated trikonasana. But it loves you, he said.

This post has been started and stopped about four times. I'm finding lately there is a lot I want to say. Something that is happening here, in my life, in my head. Something maybe becoming. I do what to talk about this, but first,this just in: Kira agrees with the payment plan, so I'll see Z-Muffin in June for yoga teacher training at LuluBhandas! Fuck yes.

Monday, February 25, 2008

And the winner for best yoga class goes to...

I went to Kira’s “Tuning” workshop yesterday, which was billed as a way to “focus on sinking into our underbellies.” It was the best experience my belly has ever had. I was a little afraid we’d have to do a lot of ‘core’ strengthening muscular work. Thank god we didn’t; instead we started laying on our backs while doing all this stuff to our stomachs, like poking, kneading and uddiyana bandha.

The reason for “sinking into our underbellies,” Kira explained, is that we store our subconscious fears, desires, and other demons there. It was revolutionary for me to gain even just a little sensitivity in such a powerful area. And it was fun to be in that room with other people also trying out the same new awareness. I don’t think I was the only one who was a little nervous but excited when Kira said how deep we’d be trying to go.

She warned us that we might feel a little crazy later that night. I went to a bar to watch the Oscars and almost teared up every single time someone won an award, for some reason especially during the montages. I was only drinking tea! Every image touched me more personally than usual. I was ecstatically happy when Once got the best song and when my favorite stripper-novelist won best screenplay. I was overwhelmed with love for the 98 year old honorary Oscar winner when he was helped to the podium by Nicole Kidman.

Maybe I was high on all the stirred-up toxins in my body, or maybe softening in my belly, that dark cave of fears, allowed me to feel more open and receptive to my own feelings.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Up and Down

I had a wonderful time in the mountains last weekend but I’ve felt unsettled this week since coming back. I’ve had pj Harvey stuck in my head: “Shame is the shadow of love.” I’ve forgotten to do simple things like unplug the tea kettle, I’ve been late to meet people. I haven’t slept well. I even got into a parking lot car accident the very night we got back. I’ve eaten poorly. I didn’t do any yoga because I didn’t feel like it. So there. (says my inner child to my dictatorial brain)

Cardamom (an awesome spice) wrote that he’s been thinking of yoga poses as a physical expression of energy. My energy was a little mechanical today in class. I tried to follow the instructions properly instead of listening to what I wanted to do. I wanted to, but I couldn’t feel my inhale moving down and my exhale moving up as Kira suggested.

I guess that mechanicalness comes from scrambling to figure everything out intellectually. Am I afraid of something? Am I clinging desperately onto a static vision of myself and my life? I think I’m pretty happy on the outside—cool job, cool boyfriend, cool apartment, lots of yoga, living in California. Sweet! But yet I have this worry and sometimes insomnia, this disconnection between my heart, head, and body. This voice telling me I’m not yet myself. Or that who I think I am is changing. How? Is? This? Possible?

Maybe I’ve just always thought that with enough yoga I would eventually just be happy all the time. But like that song, maybe love is just a package that comes with shame/sadness. Love/god isn’t shiny-sunshiny ojai, but the ojai that also rains like hell sometimes or cooks you til you can’t sleep at night. To quote Kira quoting her sutra class, “God is what you can bear.” I think for me the shame comes from being afraid of offering myself and then not being wanted.

The best moment in my practice today was when we did this seated twist and Kira asked us to curl our tailbones under and then back out and, on our own, find some place in between that felt good. Since I had no idea what pose we were ‘supposed’ to be in, I really was able to find what felt good. And I felt like I was some sort of artist, trying out different paint colors until I found the right one to express my idea. And it was beautiful. I do NOT know how she could tell but Kira could, because at that moment she gave me my one yoga compliment for the day.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

"home" practice

Ok so first this computer doesn't have commas. Second my name is technically not a baked good but a spice. an awesome spice. Third and perhaps most important I don't feel exactly like I belong here with the whole blog heading and everything. But with all those things aside, hello. Frenchtoast good to see you last night. Zen Mufin your presence has been sorely missed at corepower the last couple of years.

I am involved with a pile of transitions and have been trying to maintain a yoga practice these past couple of weeks in the midst of swirling chaos. So it was a few days ago I found myself practicing yoga at work doing my "home" practice if you will. Lucky lucky am I being able to do yoga while getting paid to be an EMT. The problems with this scenario: The quarters are deeply dirty from residual ambulance germs of countless sick people. No matter how much they're cleaned the carpets are dirty. I lay a blanket on the carpet upon which I lay my mat. The air-it seems better not to breathe too deep. But I do anyway. Also there is the high probability that at any moment in a given series from the first child's pose all the way up to the last savasana there could be a call and at that point I have to get dressed lightning fast pants shirt jacket hat big black steel tipped bootlaces and rush to who knows where. That frequently happens during this "home" practice. But I've definitely practiced yoga four hours in a day while at work. Almost always using David Swenson's phenomenal resource of a book that I've owned five years and bought four or five times for other people-I forget the name right now. But it truly is a phenomenal resource.

That's what I was using on Sunday in Kremmling Colorado "sportsman's paradise" is what the town sign says. The least busy of all the stations I made it through the entire series. I practice ashtanga not because of a particular affinity for the series even though it's a great series of postures but because it's a ton of yoga postures. The primary series is probably 70 or 80 postures with beginning and ending sequences. The very best part of practicing yoga alone is pace. I'm learning to go slow and think of each posture as a full body mudra. An expression of energy through a physical manifestation. When I think of yoga postures this way I don't get tired but instead I look forward to the next "mudra" allowing myself as much time to break in between. In a class the primary series takes 90 minutes. It usually takes me two and a half hours. I used to push myself through and feel fatigued but I'm learning that's not what the yoga gods and goddesses want me to do.

Anyway in the next five months I won't have much access to yoga studios so I'll be doing a lot of solo practice...Frenchtoast and I were talking about taking Jeanie Manchester's tigress class but decided against it because 1. I'm not man enough to be a tigress and 2. it's a yoga free for all.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

moving toward stillness

Three yoga classes to address. One: Hot Power Fusion! and two: Hot Yoga with Amber and three: Hot yoga with Laura K.

Mid morning on Thursday, cold, clear, blue. There is a lot I want to say. Friendships shifting, flings becoming far flung, fabric unfolding. Baffled by pleasure, how little it counts. Not admitting I am changing is cheapening, saps me of words. Laura led a strong, beautiful class yesterday, and told me as much about my practice. She said several times during the standing series, Sarah, you're there. I remember what I'm capable of. Trikonasana finally came together, by way of pulling the muscles of my straight leg tight against the bone, strengthening, supporting. What am I capable of? In the fusion class I moved my limbs the way I do in water, attempting to push the stagnant away. I removed my shirt; underneath, I wore another. In Amber's class I focused on stillness. Do not touch my hair, do not wipe sweat. Just eyed my reflection in the mirror, lithe and glossy. In a few posts, I've talked about crying, or wanting to cry, in yoga class. The triggers of moving my body in such a way to bring about profound stillness. Can I say I've been a little lonely? I am. In Laura's class I cried, uncontrollably, unexpectedly. Ashley and I talked about it later. After tree pose we lied down for savasana. The sweat trickled a path down the nape of my neck, the same sensation as a hand, or a finger. And then I just started crying, lying there. The great part was I did cobra, locust, bow pulling(maybe boat? i can't remember). In Laura's one hour class, she lets you choose the last back bend. Instead I retreated to child's pose, but that was worse. There my sniffles became sobs, breath shredded across the tiny space between my head on the mat and my heart above it. Ashley and I talked about this, bizarre that the pose we thought would provide safety was overwhelming. Had I just kept going with the poses, kept moving into stillness instead of just stopping, I don't think I would have cried like that. This is pretty common in my practice. Retreat. Losing the form, giving my muscles a place to confess instead letting it become a conscience. Does this make sense? Maybe none of this does. Dear diary...

Some are saying snow. Since I started writing this the sky has grown grey, I can see the Flatirons from my bed, blueish and weary. I hope to get up there tomorrow, feel the sun on my face.

Loweball, the Erich Schiffmann reference is for you, YAY!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Friday, February 15, 2008

Short and Sweet Home Practice

So somehow I missed both the 6 am and 9 am class yesterday. My heart was set on doing yoga, though, so I unrolled my mats on the kitchen floor and did a sequence from David Swenson. I am pretty sure this is the same guy Yoga John was telling me about. I found the sequence in Yoga Journal--ten poses from Ashtanga primary series. Taking a cue from Zen Muffin, I flipped on some tunes: a mix Ravi made me last year entitled Blizzard of 06. One of two discs, this one is mostly quiet, pretty songs on it: Sparklehorse, Joanna Newsome, Wolf Parade, Devendra Banheart etc. Rav also knew of my great affection for David Bowie, and fixed me with some treats at the end. It ended up being a really nice practice, short and sweet and concentrated. I felt very quivery in the beginning--when I folded forward into Padangusthasana, I nearly fell over. Richard Freeman was saying in class the other day how it takes 'billions' of years to get the breathing 'right'. I feel like I just never will---even in my own kitchen on my own time I struggle. So after a few sets of shakiness, I committed to at least trying to always inhale/exhale my way into the poses.

In the middle of Urdha Dhanurasana The Rapture's song "House of Jealous Lovers" came on, which pretty much describes Ravi and I's entire relationship. It is kind of a punk disco romp of a song, and I found myself bouncing ever so slightly. This actually helped maintain the presence of the pose, since I'm not able to hold the backbend for very long without wanting to collapse.

Ok time to put my waitress shoes on. I'll post the sequence later tonight. Yoga John is teaching his for-real last class tonight, and I'm missing it so I can serve drinks to the masses. Damn it!

Here's the sequence:
1. Padangusthasana/Big Toe Pose
2. Trikonasana/Triangle/Dreaded Place of Pain
3. Parsvakonasana/Side Angle
4. Tired of typing Sanskrit/Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe. This one was hard. Found a new tight spot in my big toe.
5. Seated Forward Bend
6. Marichyasana C
7. Boat Pose. This one is great fun, but also difficult. Having hard time keeping my arms parallel.
8. Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend
9. Upward Bow Pose
10. Shoulder stand/Halasana/half shoulder stand

It would have been pretty awesome if I could have timed the whole series to end exactly when "Under Pressure" finished playing. Talk about building up to something. When I become a yoga instructor, all my classes will be accompanied by David Bowie tunes and I'll probably wear tear-away pants to most classes.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Laura's Noon Hot Yoga

Sister, I made myself a soy latte this morning with that contraption you got me from Holland. I was planning on going to Hot Yoga fusion this morning at 6 am, but I woke up at exactly 6 am. I think that is what the class is called-or maybe Hot Power Fusion. Something goofy. So now I'm drinking my latte, watching the dumb snow and thinking about buying yoga pants.

Laura's class is one hour from noon to one. It is usually packed; tons of thirty something soccer moms and college girls wanting to work out between classes. I use the phrase work out because that is what her class feels like. She really clips along through the poses. When I started back at Corepower studios last month, it was her class I went back to. I thought it was just me feeling overworked, overheated and overtired when I felt dizzy before camel, or weak during triangle, and the more I went the better I'd be. So I've been mostly going to the 90 minute classes since those early, sweaty days, and getting stronger. I'm even doing camel, yay!

For some reason the hour classes are harder for me. Yesterday I felt lightheaded before camel, and could only kneel on my mat. Laura kept the class moving right along, telling us to take deep breaths to lower our heart rates if needed. I totally did. I felt like I had been running laps. It was difficult to find my 'best pose' when i couldn't even find my breath. In comparison, during the 90 minute classes I am able to breathe through my nose, softly, and when the second set rolls around I can actually work on getting my best pose. Not to say its not work--it totally is. I feel like falling over equally during both time frames.

I don't know what this means. Do I need to raise my general level of fitness for the one hour class? Esp Laura's.

New hated/feared pose: the first back bend in ardha chandhrasana. Ouch.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Uschi's 8:00 A.M. Strong Vinyasa

We did this patchwork vinyasa sequence involving pyramid, horse, warrior 3, wide-legged forward fold, one of those backbends I can only think to call upside-down-down- dog, pigeon, etc…all in the same sequence. It was crazy and I could never recreate it but it felt smooth and natural.

Uschi leads a passionate, fiery class. She talks about things I can never imagine myself saying, like “honor the mother” but yet they make sense when she says them. And I’m curious enough about these ideas to listen, and that’s safe right? I’m not crazy just for listening…

I almost always end up with a slightly sore lower back after wheel but I do it anyway because it’s so exhilarating. Uschi put her hands on my back as if telling me to soften it AND lift it higher, which is the opposite of what I had been doing. I had been trying to keep it in a safe, low spot to prevent ‘crunching’ but maybe what I really need to do is just relax both my back and belly and open up.

I found a new tight spot. Darn. In my left thumb. Uschi just got back from India where they told her that the flexibility of your thumbs is a measure of how flexible YOU are inside.

Ojai is so freakishly perfect on Sunday mornings. It felt like spring with the bees, the sun, and the blossoming trees. After yoga I walked to the farmers market then got coffee with friends. So friendly, so safe, so wholesome.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Touched by Richard Freeman

Yes, yes, yes. Twice, actually, and once by his assistant. John and I made it to the Yoga Workshop this morning for his Level 1 Foundation/Formation class. We were, perhaps, a little geeky and got there way too early. Brown nosers.

Before the class started we sat next to one another, adjusting our spaces for all the people that came on time and giggling about spotting Richard around town. John: I saw him in the grocery store once-it was like seeing Frank Sinatra. Well, John might not have been giggling, but I was. I was feeling really nervous about the class, about having this incredible yoga man see me gangle around on the floor, all arms and legs and awkwardness. And when I say incredible yoga man I might be referring to Richard Freeman, or to John. Both make me nervous.

As a teacher, he was light, informative, attentive. He led us through sun salutation, pose by pose. I accidently just typed 'boys' instead of 'pose'. What? Hello, brain. A fine example of where my mind is at these days. During down dog I found my focus drifting to the smell in my armpits, the non-stickiness of my mat (i was actually considering consumerism--where can i find a great yoga mat?) and, worst of all, was Yoga John noticing my bad form? Did Richard Freeman notice that my yoga pants were too big, did he see my underwear? Wait, did I wear underwear today? I can't remember, shit! Shit! Shit! And then, inhale, exhale, head up, re-focus.

Something I've been working on in classes lately is foundation. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. Part of what leads me astray, down that annoying neurotic path, is how different the poses feel each time I do them. Sometimes half-moon is the best thing that's ever happened to my spine, and sometimes it makes me want to die. And then I start taking it personally, like there is something about me that is just inconsistent, and will always be inconsistent. In John's class the other night a little phrase popped into my head, like a song: you do lose what you don't hold. Only I was directing that sentiment at myself, judging where I was on my mat, in the mirror, in my pose. Each yoga class is different, and the instructors all have different perspectives on the poses. I'm trying so hard to find the place where I know how to feel it. Of course all this is in direct contradiction with what I wrote in my post Trigger Happy Yoga, about just letting go. And in one of my first posts I said "don't be afraid, it's only yoga". So obviously I'm not really in charge of anything that happens.

The class was two hours of modified primary poses. Bridge was great. I wiggled around in it before finding my sweet spot, and it was pretty sweet. Triangle was interesting; I still struggled, but Richard described the rotations in a way that probably will make sense to me with practice. Listening to him talk about yoga was incredible--his voice was soft and light, and a lot of things made sense almost immediatly. Loweball, remember when we were talking about Downward Facing Dog, and complaining that we can never be real yoginis because we still feel weird in the primary series poses, like Down/Up dog and triangle, etc? Well, Richard talked about Down dog and set it up in such a way that I began to feel everything he said I would feel. I think he said something about feeling as though everything but your bones are moving forward, and your bones go back. Envisioning it this way actually gave me that fiery sense in the backs of my legs, a melting, resting feeling. Glorious. Then I remembered about the whole underwear thing, and lost my focus.

So, anyway. During Richard's class this morning, I considered all of this, in between sneaking glances around the room and worrying about my pants. I considered my body, my core, my balance. The places I felt strong, and the places I felt like a soggy pile. My little song came back. Making little interior swirls in my brain, marking the places where questions are asked, where things are felt, before moving on.

I'm sad John is leaving town. It was so great to go to a class with someone who, I think, likes to talk about yoga as much as we do. He suggested we try and go to Jeannie Manchester's class this week. I think she's an Om Time person, or at least her name sounds sort of familiar. He said she does workshops at different studios. The whirlwind yoga team tour of Boulder begins!

Saturday, February 9, 2008


I decided to practice at the other Ojai yoga studio, Sacred Space, today, because it's right next to the humane society, where I get my animal fix on Saturdays. This was the first time I've practiced at Sacred Space!

My favorite part was definitely the two dogs she had roaming around, a black cocker spaniel named Baby and a 20-year old beagle. Ingrid said they would "come around and check on your downward facing dog." The other unusual presence in the class was a little girl of maybe 9 or 10 years. Those three more innocent creatures helped me take the class a little lighter than I would when surrounded by a bunch of serious adult students. I got a surprise puppy kiss during bridge.

Ingrid is a graceful, calm, lovely birdlike person. She had us use the wall to push against during several poses (triangle, warrior II, bridge, handstand, and even savasana). One pose I LOVED was putting a block under my upper back, laying down on top of it and pressing my arms into the wall behind me. That gave me some feeling in a lot of new places. She has that miraculous yoga teacher ability to see when a pose feels good or bad because she commented that I had it right, which I knew by the way it felt.

That's the place, right behind my heart, that I don't feel I have full access to, physically or energetically/emotionally. If I'm able to practice yoga in such a way that I can physically loosen my upper back and relax my shoulders etc, like really change my anatomy a bit, will emotional awareness follow?

She ended with a quote I liked, "Happiness is not the path, it is the way."

Hot Yoga with Yoga John

Yoga John's last class at Corepower was last night, 90 minute hot yoga class at 5. The class was packed, three entire rows of people. I got there early and planted myself right up front. Kate and Rob came later. I didn't realize last night it was John's last class teaching, but I'm so glad I went. It was an awesome class. John was so attentive to the class, light hearted and encouraging. The standing series was difficult--I've actually been to hot yoga every day this week, and by Friday my body and muscles were feeling the burn, so to speak.

I also noticed last night during the pranayama breathing I was in tune with it, for maybe the first time ever. The breathing is always awkward for me; the instructor says 'inhale' and i'm exhaling, or they say 'inhale your belly out' and I just stand there doing the opposite. In the class last night, though, it felt really natural, and actually really revitalizing. I focused on exhaling down and inhaling up, tightening my core, and taking deep breaths through my nose when I was about to fall over. John gave me some love during cobra pose, pulling lightly on the backs of my shoulders as I breathed into the pose, lifting my heart first. It was the first time I felt like I was doing it right. He stood on the backs of my feet first, but then stepped away, saying 'you're pretty much grounded', which gave me this nice fuzzy yoga feeling. During the past week I've noticed I'm getting more relaxed during class and it is reflecting in my yoga.

Ok. Not feeling articulate, and noticing I smell a little. Time to shower and enjoy my day. I'm sure I'll edit this later and add some like, deep thoughts or something. Tomorrow going to Richard Freeman's class with John. I feel nervous about it, even though it's a level one class. I'm sure nobody will care, or even pay attention to me, but I can't help feeling self conscious, esp going with John, who is great and a great yoga teacher, to a class taught by another great yoga teacher. Arg.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Most Adorable Yoga Teacher Ever

I did yoga with the tweens today. My plan was to start them in child’s pose to literally create a physical hideaway where they could ideally calm down and forget about everyone else’s presence. But no WAY. It was too sudden a transition from the chatty casual teen center atmosphere and no one would keep their heads down. So I switched gears and got them on their feet and doing something loud and silly-looking—sen channel stimulation (patting up and down the arms, Kira’s latest thing). It also happens to be a nice, untechnical thing to do and they didn’t have to be so STILL which helped.

Then they seemed to really want to show off the yoga poses and stupid human tricks they thought were yoga. They were excited and suitably impressed at each other’s talents so we played a little while at that. Even I showed off a headstand and I think that gave me some cred.

One of the girls, Savanna, said she knew a sun salutation so I had her come up to lead it. Savanna taught us her magical sun salutation and she, through her laconic instructions and sweet smile that gave no hint of how long she was keeping us in each position, set a nice quiet atmosphere. I have to say she is the most adorable yoga teacher I have ever had.

I took over again and did cat/cow by popular demand because the girls love anything where they can stick their butts out, then I showed them pigeon (they were all utterly inflexible at this so I put a couple of them in seated hip-openers instead), wide-angled forward bend, and bridge. I also gave into the temptation to do wheel just because I knew they’d be impressed.

And of course, we ended with corpse. A universal favorite.

I saw somewhere that when teaching yoga to kids you have to give them a reason to do it besides fitness. So I talked about what’s been alive for me lately in my practice, which is the attempt to find my own heart and express it in the poses and in life. I couldn’t tell if they were connecting with that idea but they certainly listened at least. And I was strangely thrilled to be sharing something so personal and true with them.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Kira's 8:30 AM Sweet Vinyasa

We did my most dreaded pose, the handstand (adho mukha vrksasana), today. Trying to get into handstand has always been the most humiliating experience, whether I approach it from a standing position or from down dog. The thing about doing yoga is, I tend to interpret my inability to do certain poses as a reflection of my unenlightened soul. I can come up with any number of explanations for why I can’t do handstand. To name a few, “I’m afraid of the unknown,” “I mistrust my heart and prefer to let my head lead,” “I’m unaware of my own ability/strength,” and “I’m unaware of the universe’s ability to support me.”

I can’t quite see how to escape from all those thoughts. They are certainly not helpful in getting me up into handstand. What's more, I don't even really believe those things about myself. Yet I let them get to me.

We did one bridge (setu bandha sarvangasana), followed by a second bridge with the option to do wheel (urdhva dhanurasana) instead. I’ve noticed lately that I’ve really been getting a lot of juice out of bridge pose, so much that to choose wheel instead seems like self-torture in comparison. Bridge has been feeling so natural. It also feels super good on my shoulders. This was probably the peak moment of the class for me. Probably cuz I was so happy to be out of handstand. And at yogajournal.com/poses, they say that bridge "calms the brain."

The funny thing is, I can do handstand. I know this because I’ve done it. I just can’t always do it, and when I have done it, I haven’t thought it was solid enough. So saying I can’t is just a “story” in Byron Katie language. But “I can’t do handstand” is a story that I’m currently addicted to.

Maybe the real question is, why should anyone want to do handstand this badly?

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Trigger Happy Yoga

Late Saturday night I posted excitedly about attending a Richard Freeman class with Yoga John. Unfortunately, we misread the schedule and there was a sub for Richard's class. John and I decided not to go, and I deleted the post. That's basically all you missed, loweball. lots of yoga john! richard freeman!

A few nights ago I went to a hot yoga class with my friend Kate. There is nothing unusual about this; we go together often, and I've been feeling confident and strong in my yoga practice. But before I get into that, can I just say how difficult it is to write about yoga? It is difficult to write about yoga. And Z-Muffin and I are still testing the waters here, trying to find our groove. How 'journal' is this yoga journal going to be? Should we list our practice, pose by pose? Where is the balance between the sincerity of yoga practice and the slightly narcisstic desires we both have to dissect those practices? Can we talk about our boyfriends here? Bear all this in mind, or don't. Suit yourselves.

The class was horrible. Within the first ten minutes I was sweating through my bra, exhausted and dizzy. By the time we got to the second set of Eagle pose, I'd already put my forehead to the floor once. Something interesting happened during half moon/ardha chandrasana: I got the pose. That is, I got deeper and stronger on both sides than ever; I felt my body, myself, moving in two directions. It was there that my troubles began.

Everything hurt. And the weaker I felt physically, the weaker I felt emotionally. What is wrong with me? kept running through my head, except it was more like this: What the fucking shit balls is wrong with me?! I was mad. Practicing yoga in a room heated to 105 degrees when you're mad is not a good idea. But I had no expectation of feeling angry, and worst of all was how profoundly the anger directed itself at me. I felt utterly helpless, trapped inside my little hotbox of anger and fusteration.

so then I asked myself, why am I here? and unexpectedly, another question arose in my head: what am I afraid of? At this point, I was in supta-vajrasana/fixed firm pose. This pose is really easy for me to get all the way into, but lately I've been noticing I don't feel a whole lot while in it--it's almost relaxing. There are certain poses in Bikram/hot yoga that are like that; I rely too often on my freakish flexibility to get me in them, and skip the actual work, eliminate the process. Being mindful of this, I asked Heidi, the teacher, for help. I said loudly, I don't feel anything.

She essentially did a downward facing dog on top of me, while quietly saying things like "sometimes we get so deep into our practices we don't feel anything, and have to do more work" and "it is totally okay to cry", which was probably just for me. And I did cry, later. But first, with Heidi's weight on top of me, I felt myself again go in two directions. My lower back and stomach experienced the most beautiful stretch, and my thighs and hips seemed to unlock themselves and go forward, out, beyond. And it hurt. A lot.

I managed to sludge through it and dropped Kate off at home. When I got home, I walked upstairs, pulled a photograph off the mirror and cut someone out of it. Weird? Maybe. I thought of the picture when I was in half-tortoise pose, face on the ground, crumpled like paper, snot pouring out my nose. Crying. Or trying to cry. It occurred to me I hadn't really cried since Austin died. I thought of this picture, tucked inside a corner at the bottom of my mirror. I thought of myself, sitting there sweating, in all this pain and frusteration, thinking of him. I thought of why I'm afraid of camel pose. The drop, the letting go. It hurts. I looked last night in some old notebooks for something written a few months back, wishing I could return to the days right after he died, when I cried every day. Wanting to back to the magnitude of pain. And yet I reject it at every turn. What am I doing here? Looking for the real. What am I afraid of? Finding the real.

Everyone always says your body is different every day. And it's true. Fucking wacky, but true. Tomorrow I'll go back to hot yoga, and most likely won't have a meltdown. How portent our muscles are. Here's something else I found:
the pure air of saints is achieved by abandonment: Jesus in the garden alone, cold moon disappearing, Buddha at the morning star, mind emptied of its snarl of ignorance. Neither to harden against loss, nor to welcome it. To let it be who you are.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Kira's 9:00 A.M. Soft Vinyasa

There were 30 people in class today—5 men.

Self-consciousness reigned during my yoga practice today. Perhaps it's because I was needing acceptance from myself instead of judgment-- (you're too fat, you don't practice often enough, you're insensitive, blah blah blah). It’s nearly impossible for me to keep my eyes open and still relax. But the physical act of closing the eyes may shut out the other people in the room but unfortunately it doesn't shut out myself, the loudest critic of all...

Today as I walked home from yoga I thought about the appropriateness of my post-college transition from the sweaty studios of Boulder to the muscularly easier but more energetically subtle practice here at Lulubandha’s in Ojai. Some scientists say adolescence doesn’t really end until you’re 25 and the frontal cortex of your brain ‘solidifies.’ In just a month, I’ll be there. In other words, I’m finally growing up, and it’s time that I managed to make my own choices about my postures and my life.

For me, life got much less obvious after college, just as yoga is less obvious at lulubandha’s. Suddenly, there are far fewer external sources telling me what I should be doing. In fact, the external sources are mostly telling me, “You have the answers; you won’t get any more advice from me.” And that’s the last thing I want to hear because going within and finding the truth requires so much bravery and sensitivity. Neither of which I feel I have enough of.

It’s a lot more calming for me if I have a few restraints to work within, like, “Go to college now” or “Do downward facing dog now.” The one restraint that sensitivity does impose seems to be time. Take your time take your time take your time. And that’s the one restraint that I do resent. I want to figure everything out now! Before my 24-year-old softness disappears

Friday, February 1, 2008

8 pm Hot Yoga with Paul

Last night found me running frantically to hot yoga at Corepower, with minutes to spare before the first breathing exercises began. I was feeling scattered and, as Z-Muffin would say, took those feelings to my mat. It was my first class with Paul, and his opening breathing sequences were different then what I'm used to with other instructors. He had the class begin with bending our knees, holding our arms and hands close in front of the heart and chest space, and then with an exhale, extending the arms out and straightening the legs. I felt, honestly, uncoordinated and embarrassed. It took me a few tries to synch my breath with the movements, and my reflection in the front mirror drove me to distraction: I looked sloppy, haphazard and exhausted. Paul used the phrase 'holding your potential' when we were crouched in the inhale position, and my first reaction was 'shut up'. But as we moved into the half moon/ardha chandrasana/hands to feet poses, I noticed the tense look on my face in contrast with the shape my body was taking. My arms were straight and behind my ears, my abs and stomach were firm and I was bending further and with more power than I have before. This is a little silly, but I actually smiled at myself in the mirror. The anxiety and scattered thoughts I was hanging onto seemed to soften, and I made a small dedication then to 'hold onto my potential'. If you can believe that. I also made a promise to always remember deodorant before class--a promise I should keep on and off the mat.

The rest of the practice was great. I found my breath during eagle pose and felt mostly relaxed and strong throughout the class. Triangle pose/trikanasana continues to make me want to die. It's beginning to create anxiety; I know it's coming and lose my concentration, feeling resentment toward my long gangly legs that serve me so well in other poses. The insecurity of the pose was alleviated a little by Paul's attitude and the high number of dude-bro types in the class--no one seemed to be judging my quiverey legs and pained face. Paul helped me get to the floor in toe stand, which was the highlight of class. I've been feeling like I'm ready to execute the full extension of that pose, but just didn't know how to do it properly.

Kate, my friend who has been yoga-ing with me, and I ended our practice with some vodka and orange juice at her house. I mention this because I feel a little punchy talking about yoga this way, finding my breath, fighting the urge to say things like 'my chakras were burning up!'. Don't be afraid, it is only yoga.