Thursday, December 31, 2009

Late New Year's Eve With a Paper Hat On Your Head

I have been implored, nagged, hassled, and downright demanded to write in this old thing. Zen Muffin, the prosecutor, rests all her cases on the idea that I'm teaching all this yoga. But for the defense, I offer the holidays, laziness, my mother. Yes, she was here and in the past two weeks the only class I taught was one to her, and it lasted all of thirty minutes. My other peeps, the ones who pay me, are either on vacation or just chilling with their families in Shanghai. So there's been little to no yoga happening. In fact, just yesterday I rolled my mat out and did a few rounds of sun salutations, and only because tonight's New Year's Eve and I planned on shimmying my ass into a tiny black number. (I know, I know--a few sun salutes won't do anything after two weeks of Chinese food and umbrella sized bottles of Tsing Tsaos..but Toast must try.)

So it's now New Year's Eve, I'm in my tiny black number, sipping (gulping) red wine and researching places for sushi. Before slipping into said black number, I did a few chatarungas because I'm painfully aware of my armpit fat getting the full squeeze from the top of this dress (EDIT i totally typed the word 'TRAP' instead of 'dress'!! Subconscious mind, as always, speaking the truth.) and a few push ups seemed to appease the languid muscles of my arms and shoulders.

But truthfully, dear Readers, I have not been doing any yoga because I've not been inspired to do any yoga. No great teacher pushing me, no amazing classes to attend, no students to prep. I've learned not a few things in my life, but one of the big ones that keeps coming back is that I do not know how to rely on myself for inspiration. I am the very definition of inertia at times; and furthermore, like the Sinead O'Connor song says, I could sleep all day and go out all night. So without any students to teach this holiday, with no classes to attend, I found myself floundering on my mat and watching too many episodes of Fringe instead.

I'm not one for new year's resolutions; two years ago, I vowed to my now boyfriend in a cheeky email my resolutions were to "get buff, play more Halo(a super violent video game) and eat doughnuts". Three years ago, I resolved to stop kissing so many boys, and boy, did that not last long. (ha, ha!) So this year I'll break tradition and actually make a resolution I can stand behind: to practice more yoga.

Tell me, dear Readers, what are your resolutions? What keeps you inspired to practice? To the comments we go! Happy 2010!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Reporting My Practice: Update

After I wrote the most recent post, I closed the computer, scooched over five feet, sat on a couple of pillows, and meditated for 30 minutes, shikantaza (just sitting) style. It was like jumping into a pool of cold water at first. Difficult to push myself into jumping, but refreshing and pleasant once the leap is made.

Reporting My Practice

I had a couple hours to myself this morning. I told myself I would meditate. I thought meditating might help me make the right decisions and prioritize my day correctly. Here's what I actually ended up doing:
  • Talked to my mom on the phone
  • Read a bunch of stuff on
  • Gave in to facebook mindlessness
  • Listened to Neko Case
  • Watched an episode and a half of Arrested Development
  • Took my vitamins (well, only the one that's supposed to make my hair and nails grow stronger)
  • Made my bed
  • Paid my credit card bill
  • Ate some popcorn
  • Drank some ginger tea with extra honey
  • Wrote this blog entry
Perceived Mental Obstacles that Kept Me from Meditating:
  • Don't have my nice Zen Alarm Clock here
  • Don't have a zafu
  • Don't know what to wear
  • Too thirsty. So I drank water. And then I was afraid I'd have to pee partway through.
  • Felt too crappy about mindless snacking. Thought maybe I should exercise instead of just sitting.
  • Don't want to turn off music
  • Don't want to be caught meditating
  • Won't be able to quiet my mind unless my credit card bill is paid
  • Couldn't stand the thought of just sitting there with my thoughts
  • Don't really want to be peaceful. Until my problems are fixed.
Ok now I'm going to go meditate. At least that's the plan. Maybe I'll let you know if it really happens.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Yoga in Philosophy

Yet it will appear that...those who stood considerably nearer than we do to the beginning of the human race and the source of organic nature, had also both greater energy of the faculty of knowledge, and a truer disposition of mind, so that they were capable of a purer, more direct comprehension of the inner being of nature, and were thus in a position to satisfy the metaphysical need in a more worthy manner. Thus originated in the primitive ancestors of the Brahmans, the Rishis, the almost superhuman conceptions which were afterwards set down in the Upanishads of the Vedas.

-Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Yoga is like Cake

I can't embed this video, so here's the link.

Show me a little corner of the world covered in flour, sugar, and butter, and I think of yoga. Since this blog's guiding theme and title is The Yogery (Yoga + Bakery), I can't help but see the relationship between yoga and baking all around me. The video linked above, for example, about a New York Times food reporter learning to bake a 15 layer cake, seems to me the perfect inspirational allegory for a yoga student on the path to becoming a teacher.

In the video, the writer goes to a grandmother in the deep South to learn the baking techniques that have been passed from generation to generation. The grandma in question whips together a perfect cake, making it look easy as, well, pie. But when we see the reporter alone in her kitchen, trying to repeat the process and messing up every step on the way, we realize how much more there is to it. What is inspiring about the video is the way even though the reporter's cake is a mess, it's a charming mess, and she doesn't seem discouraged, saying, "it's not so bad." The mess of the learning process is its own kind of beauty.

With judgment released, there is room for the joy and fascination of exploration. A process that seems pat and simple opens to reveal scientific-artistic dimensions. Sometimes, with tasty results--despite its aesthetic flaws, I'm certain that the resulting mishmash of a cake tastes delicious.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Jam Session I, Day 3

It's a bit overdue, but as promised, here's some of what I learned at the Jam Sessions, which were chock-full of inspiration and learning.

Understanding follows attention: The subtle energies are accessible to me when I am really focused and attentive. When I'm trying but not trying. Sounds like a description of how people were able to see those Magic Eye pictures in the 90's (I never could). Or, if you've read the Golden Compass trilogy, the way Lyra trains her mind to decode the alethiometer (don't watch the movie though). The point is, I TOO CAN FEEL PRANA. It's not always obvious, or loud, but it's there. It's just a feeling of aliveness sometimes. Thank god, this means I can maybe teach yoga.

And whenever she was alone, Lyra took out the alethiometer and pored over it like a lover with a picture of the beloved...If she held the alethiometer just so in her palms and gazed at it in a particular lazy way, as she thought of it, the long needle would begin to move more purposefully...Although she understood nothing of it, she gained a deep calm enjoyment from it, unlike anything she'd known. Pantalaimon would crouch over the dial...and once or twice the two of them shared a glimpse of meaning that felt as if a shaft of sunlight had struck through the clouds to light up a majestic line of great hills in the distance--something far beyond, and never suspected. (p. 99)
Be just as diligently aware when relaxing: We often focus-focus-focus in the midst of our poses, and then we relax our muscles and our mind when the poses are over, tuning out. I love Kira's suggestion to stay aware of our bodies between the poses as well, so we can be just as alive and present with the feeling of relaxation as we are with the feeling of effort.

Best headstand ever: Kira helped me get into headstand by making sure my base was strong and lifting one leg at a time so that my spine was loooooonnnnnnng and my tailbone much more tucked. I felt so much more ease and balance than normal. When I came down and curled into child's pose, she put her hands on my neck and low back and I felt so happy and relieved that headstand could be so drastically better. Ever since then, I've felt extra interested in tucking my tailbone in all poses because I like the sense of simultaneous invincibility and ease it creates.

HelLO impressing the heart pose! Glorious to feel so supported in the heart and so open in the shoulders and neck. Laying on those blocks, I felt like I was floating; all the usual effort of lifting the arms overhead was gone.

Ujayyi (Ocean-sounding) Breath: All I will say is, ujayyi breath is pretty useful stuff.

Yoga allows us to DETOX: The word detox is so popular right now. Sometimes I feel so much compassion for us all and our deep desire to feel pure and light again. Last year, while working at the health food store, I helped dozens of people select bottles of Detox Pills every day. When probably most of those people just needed to make their exhales a little longer.

Trust, trust, trust, and be authentic: It's out of our hands. "Yoga wants to happen."

Practice: The practice will guide you to what you need to do.

Two Homework Assignments: One, to "choose to relax more often." Kira clarified that she didn't mean go numb, but instead, relax as you feel whatever you're feeling (homework hint: the ujayyi breath will help! :). Two, create a 90 minute yoga class that builds up to a pose by teaching its component actions and sensations in baby steps. I didn't know what pose I wanted to use until just now in the library bathroom. I remembered how much I love Dancer's pose. And it's got so many components. So maybe I'll use that. We'll see...

Yoga in Literature

Quotes from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

When it came to girls, the brother had a mind like a yogi. He latched on and stayed latched. p. 282

Me and Lola were living up in the Heights, separate apartments--this was before the whitekids started their invasion, when you could walk the entire length of Upper Manhattan and see not a single yoga mat. p. 311

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Yogery's First Annual Gift Guide!

$35 for all ten precious little poses.
Finally, Christmas decided to include Yogis. They're so cute we just want to EAT them. Oh wait, we can! You could also just print out the picture and use it as a yoga christmas card.

massage certificate
in shanghai, $7 an hour. in ojai, $120 an hour
Never underestimate the delight yogis take in getting our precious muscles pampered. We love to relax.

custom-made yoga pants
$30 plus shipping
from the fabric market in shanghai. choose your own colors and styles! yay!

$42 locally made and sold at Sassy Sally's
We don't know if actual men would go for this sweatshirt, but we feel they should consider it.

altar bling
Go to your local health food store and follow your nose to some nice beeswax or soy candles, incense, and/or sage bundles.

$150 or $175 for a set of 6 FABULOUS illy cups and plates designed by the director, with images inspired by 6 of his films. For the film-buff yogi.

$2000 plus airfare
Practice Yoga with Uschi. Tour Varanasi, famous for its silk-weavers, with a local. Meet the women who are part of Lucky Uschi's empowerment project.

hot cocoa kits

Mug + Hot Cocoa Packets + Marshmallows (try to find vegan/natural 'mallows if you can!) + Cookies

I stole this idea from the Coffee Connection in Ojai. You could either buy theirs or make your own. The Coffee Connection sells 3 packets of the divine Mayan Cocoa mix for $3.50.

chocolate chile roasted nuts

This easy recipe will literally warm the hearts of the lucky recipients.

2 C Pecans
1 C Walnuts
1 Large Egg White
1/4 C Brown Sugar, Firmly packed
2 tsp. natural cocoa powder (has a milder flavor than dutch-processed)
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Ancho Chile Powder (optional)
1/3 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1/4 tsp. Sea Salt

Oven 350 degrees. In a heavy saucepan, whisk egg white until foamy. Over medium-low heat, whisk until egg white is liquid (1 minute). Then, whisk in the sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, chile powder, and cayenne until it looks like a grainy chocolate sauce. Take care not to cook the egg. Scoop the chocolate mixture over the nuts until thoroughly coated (about 3 minutes) and lift the nuts from the bowl with a slotted spoon to drain the excess liquid. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Turn each nut right-side-up. Bake 20 minutes until they look shiny, and feel dry. They will be slightly soft. When cool and crisp, you can take them apart if stuck together and store in an airtight container. The flavors become most fully developed after they sit overnight. Keeps 2 weeks. From the cookbook "Twelve Best Foods Cookbook."

coupon for one free yoga class from you! aw.
zen muffin and french toast's mother will especially will love this one.

delightful stay at The Yogery B&B in Shanghai, CHINA
Donation-based. Minimum five thousand bones.
We saved the best gift for last. Includes unlimited special pastries and daily yoga classes.

Jam Session I, Day 2

Didn't have time to blog last night because I went to see The Nutcracker, where I sat half-wishing I could have been a sugar plum fairy or a ballerina so some of this yoga stuff would be a lot easier.

Yesterday we spent most of our 3 hours practicing while Kira led the class and explained some of the reasoning behind the sequencing. It felt GREAT. It's interesting to practice with the thought of eventually teaching in the back of my mind. Suddenly there's more motivation to get things clearer so that I can explain them.


Prana and breath: What is the difference? I blurted out "Is our prana *actually* moving or is it just our imagination?" Sometimes I feel like I get prana; most of the time I feel highly skeptical and confused about it. When I DO think I feel it, I wonder if it's just my imagination. Kira is really great and patient about teaching it; the area where I most feel it's 'real' is in my leg lines, thanks to all the gross muscle action we've been doing there.

Mula Bandha: Again, I don't think I'm exactly getting it. The strength exercise didn't work for me this time. I've done it a few times and it always worked, but unfortunately I started wondering whether it worked due to my expectation that it would. And now I've got the opposite situation. I'm stronger when I'm not engaging mula bandha. I engage it, and my doubt makes my fingers actually weaker than before. Likely, I'm just not engaging it quite right.

Breathing technique: Wow, it is really hard to remember to engage (or attempt to engage) mula bandha AND direct my inhales towards it, but it does feel like a really effective way to protect my low back in poses like low lunge where I tend to crunch it. And then, in standing poses especially, I'm trying to feel energy traveling UP my leg lines and breath traveling DOWN my spine. It takes a lot of focus, which seems good for me.

L & R: For some reason, my brain is not wired to remember the steps of a vinyasa or a salutation. By writing down the entire sequence we did yesterday and then checking it against Kira's posted sequence, I was able to bake the flow more into my head but still. I can just imagine standing in front of a bunch of people and panicking and forgetting a vinyasa or a side. Question: Do you alternate which leg leads in stepping back to the lunge? How long should a sequence be at most?

Planning: Is it ok to completely plan a class out ahead of time? I think I would get so nervous that I would forget everything I know about yoga. What's downward-facing dog again?

Meridians: I've never bothered to try and remember what meridian connects to what organ but maybe I should. I keep meaning to ask, why do we massage those two particular leg lines in class and not the others? I've started to love doing that. I'm one of the slow ones.

Languaging: Committing a word to a feeling, especially when I'm so resistant to feeling most of the time, is hard. Like trying to describe a smell. The words and images I do come up with don't seem appropriate for a yoga class. Like, one time, I felt like a chia seed that had been soaked in water and had that gelatinous substance all around it. Wha? Gross! The words have to not only be accurate to the feeling but they need to be sort of poetic, like when Alana said her muscles felt like they were breathing. Yes! So nice. Unfortunately, my legs felt like juicy chicken drumsticks. Yoga fail! And why do I always feel like food? I need to practice this.

*tomorrow I will post some of what I am learning and what is getting clarified for me.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Jam Session I, Day 1

Kicked off the first Yoga Jam Sessions tonight with a yin practice and a discussion afterwards. It's a small, cozy group of 7 friends. Couldn't have thought of a better way to spend this chilly night than nestled in blankets in a softly-lit room cradled by majestic, cloud-covered mountains. The act of gathering felt powerful, activating.

topics of interest that I remember:

Winifred's perspective on seeing anxiety at its most extreme in her mentally ill students, then seeing some of the same manifestations of anxiety/depression etc. in others, but more subtle (raises the question for me of how do you read students?)

Broga: Yoga for men who would never normally go to yoga.

Demystification: Of the potentially kooky-sounding stuff. Of Kira's methods (that was my question--how does she manage to make class feel so good? I think I may be able to feel safe behind the most concrete tips possible, like, use an iPhone timer!)

Personal practice: what should this look like, especially if you're gonna try and teach yoga? I was struck by how different everyone's was. Everything from baths to working out to laying in bed with legs up the wall. Mine is just wacky, erratic in every way.

The science of emotions according to Peter Marchand's The Yoga of the Nine Emotions

How to deal with questions of insecurity like, when have we mastered a technique enough to be able to teach it properly?

Touch/Adjustments: Both Amber and Robert brought this up I think. Robert made a brilliant request for a few key gestures that he could use to enhance his students' postures without making them either rely on him or feel like they're doing something wrong

We all want to create a perfect, feel-good class. But we have to be willing to make mistakes.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Love at First Sight

For Kira:

When I saw this 88-year-old yoga teacher, it was love at first sight because, DAMN she looks good for her age. And because she rhymes in her class. And because she is teaching these brave grandpas and grandmas to stay healthy and even to give to charity. Inez Russo holds her head high and gently whips this retirement home into shape. My favorite thing about her though, the moment when I knew for SURE this was love I was feeling, was when I saw the way she scoffs at that silly question of money. Next time I'm in Buffalo, I'm going to Inez's class to bask in the spunkiness.

Falling into Eternity and Yoga Jazz

I fell in class the other day. We were working on transitioning from sirsana 2 (tripod headstand) to crow and back and somehow I tipped backwards from headstand and--boom!--landed on the floor. I felt strangely calm about it, other than feeling concern about startling the ladies I nearly landed on. Kira was right there to check on me, and I didn't really mind the fall. At least I was trying. And falling is a tiny high, a split second that expands into an eternity as you lose control. I still don't quite know what happened; I've been careful enough not to fall backwards for several years, since I first determinedly learned to do headstand on the soft lawn of our Boulder backyard with Chewbacca the cat grumpily stalking past me.

Preparing for the first YOGA JAM SESSIONS tomorrow by googling yoga extensively to learn at the last minute everything I feel I should already know. Found this funny list of new 'brands' of yoga. Here's one of my favorites:


“…Hum..Yea..all right now…”

For the jazz crowd. This is where you sit on your mat and watch the teacher do the moves. You bob you head a bit, give a slight applause after the teacher completes an asana and you never, never sweat. YoZzz is too cool for that.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The -Ery Part of the Yogery Gift Guide

Woo hoo for holiday consumerism! Check out this sweet toother's dream list for gifting.

Also, Zen Muffin and I will be composing The Yogery's first ever Annual Gift Guide in the coming days. Look out for must have items such as cold green and pink cash (now accepting both Chinese RMB and USD)!!

Yoga Shaky Dance!! Yoga Shaky Dance!!

I was googling Kundalini yoga videos and found this guy, who (or whom?) I am in love with now. Just go to 8:42 and you'll see why:

Sunday, December 6, 2009

ButtaScotch Baby

In a happier turn of events, I made butterscotch pudding this afternoon and it turned out looking and tasting exactly like butterscotch pudding! I've never seen corn starch thicken up so quickly in a pot, and stirring it up was a most satisfying experience.

I've also been busy with a few different tapioca pudding recipes, and one with coconut milk really turned out well. Sweet, creamy, rich and gooey. The butterscotch recipe came from this great book my mom sent me called "The Joy of Vegan Baking" by Colleen Patrick-Goodreau.

2 cups soy milk, divided
3 tablespoons nondairy butter ( i used margerine )
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

On medium to low heat, mellt the butter down in a sauce pan and add the brown sugar, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved. Add a half cup of the milk and stir some more! Eventually add the rest of the milk and the salt, stirring all the while. Turn the heat off and let the milk mixture cool.

While it cools, stir together the corn starch and the water in a small bowl, mixing until it's totally smooth. Return the milk mixture to medium heat and pour in the starch mixture, stirring until it thickens. Stir in the vanilla for about a minute and then remove from heat .

To cool, pour into bowl and cover with saran wrap, pressing down onto the top of the pudding (if you want a skin on your pudding, don't use the saran wrap) and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before eating. Serves four.


It Is What It Is

I'm drinking a Coke right now! It's a little gross, and I wish it was a cup of hot, strong coffee instead, but I'm too lazy to run down to the Starbucks and for some reason we had a Coke in our fridge. It is what it is.

Just received word from my boss lady at the Bakery that due to financial problems she can no longer afford to pay me and thusly I no longer have a job. Great! I suppose it was only a matter of time. Dreams of actualizing Yogery now minus a phase. Sometimes I get way too excited about things and the disappointment is so crushing when those things aren't fully realized or fall apart. The job with CPY was another example of this. Blerg! I'm sure it's my duty as a yoga blogger to dispense some form of wisdom related to "leading with the heart" and the pursuit of joy and happiness regardless of risk, but I'm in no mood.

In any case today was my day off anyway and I plan on spending it upstairs practicing yoga. I somehow managed to pinch a nerve or twist up a muscle in my right shoulder and the pain has been, at times, intense. Doing the Compassion of Kira, as I like to call it, seems to help. I've been noticing how slumpy my shoulders get just walking around the house. Sometimes I'll just be standing in the kitchen nibbling on bread and realize my shoulders are practically touching my ear lobes. I remember a few summers back, after returning to Boulder from Lulu's teacher training, a friend saw me at a party and remarked she could tell I'd been practicing loads of yoga because my posture was great and my clothes were stretchy and comfortable. How much as changed since that summer. My life lately has me physically braced against it, instead of softening toward what comes my way. There's no flow here, and if there was I'd probably be too grumpy to go with it, anyway.

This Coke has officially grossed me out.

YogaDork Holiday Gift Guide

YogaDork, a great blog I keep meaning to read more of, just published a gift guide for the yoga lover in your life. There are a few items on the list I wouldn't say no to, like the Manduka mat or the tye dye yoga pants.

I can't believe it's almost Christmastime. I have a few yoga inspired ideas for Christmas gifts, but they're still under wraps for now! This morning I think I'll make some coffee and do a practice upstairs in our newly minted 'yoga and tv watching' room.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Hinging from the Hips

Aunt Becky from Full House mid Sun Salute on the set of the new 90210 show she's on.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


This clip is of one of my favorite scenes from the movie Happy Go Lucky. I love both the filmmaker's use of the body to illustrate character and his particular choice of flamenco, a dance that uses the body to transmute hardships into pride. I think it's interesting to see the commonalities between dance and yoga--but the differences as well. You will never hear, "Where is the revenge?!" from your yoga teacher, and probably rightly so. This flamenco instructor does embody the energy of Kali wonderfully. Maybe I should start flamenco lessons and stake out "my space!"

Monday, November 23, 2009

showing off the crotch chakra

I'm not that huge of a fan of American Apparel, but I admit that two of my favorite dresses came from their stores, once upon a time, before I was well informed on their founder's sexism and creepiness. Here they are showing off their new yoga outfits, and ignoring the posture malfunctions, can we talk about all the wardrobe malfunctions that poor girl is going to have? I would be arrested if I showed up to do downward dog in that bra.

Check it for yo'self.

Mula Bandha Monday

I just wanted to throw the Yogery a bone here and post something, anything. It's been so long and so much YOGA has happened, including the Crib, but I'll just start by talking about class this morning.

I went to Kira's Sweet Vinyasa this morning. I resisted, a lot, feeling too stressed for yoga. I can't even believe I still have that thought. I can think of only one yoga class ever that was truly a bad idea, and that was after contracting some third world disease from eating bad cookie dough.

My Rob Brezsny horoscope said that if I surrounded myself in purple, I would be able to manifest all my spiritual desires. Or something. So I grabbed a purple mat and a purple blanket and set to work. Kira officially designated today "Mula Bandha Monday." I'm not normally that motivated to find my mula bandha, but apparently I've been an ignorant fool to not care about it.

Kira said that we leak a lot of Prana out of that bandha, located on the pelvic floor. That caught my attention, because I recently watched a Caroline Myss video in which she talks about how we can leak Prana through our emotions and our thoughts. Caroline says that most of us leak gallons (tons? watts? what would be the appropriate measurement for something invisible?) of prana every day on thoughts of past injuries and wounds. We literally become drained.

The first Google search result for mula bandha is great-- an article by David Life. He explains the details of the mula bandha's physical and spiritual effects, and he actually draws a spiritual lesson from the homophone Your Anus and Uranus. Impressive and bawdy.

All I can say is that I did feel less 'drained' when I engaged the mula bandha. Last Wednesday Kira led a meditation that allowed me to feel my higher chakras. I remembered that feeling today as I stirred mula bandha into the pot, imagining everything aligning and connecting. I felt the power of my awareness bringing me into a safer space with my energy concentrated in my body instead of floating around being spent on useless worries and thoughts.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


(ed note: i wrote this maybe four weeks ago in shanghai in preparation for a trip to the land of internet freedom where it could be published. i am now in that land. )

I’m not going to lie to you, dear Reader of the Yogery. It’s five o’clock in the evening, and my boyfriend has a cocktail business function and won’t be home until late. I'm on my own. What I want to do is go down to the Family Mart on the corner, buy a big Suntory beer, watch the rest of Happy-Go-Lucky and troll around the interwebs for pictures of celebrities in bad outfits. (ed note: yes! i did it! i went there! it was awesome!)

But NO. NO! I must practice yoga. MUST DO IT. I’ve been so lazy lately, and by lazy I mean sick, and by sick I mean, lazy.

Full disclosure: I just baked banana nut muffins. Not even from scratch. Betty Crocker, reader, BETTY CROCKER! Fuller disclosure: I’ve been craving banana nut bread/muffin/pancakes. The cost of the ingredients for said baked goods in China greatly outweighs the cost of one packet of “just add water” B. Crocker mix. So, not entirely lazy. But I sure do want to eat them RIGHT NOW. With butter.

I’m unemployed here in Shanghai. No private classes, no studio classes. There’ve been a few false alarms and false starts, but nothing substantial. And I guess it’s a good thing, because my yoga practice has been…struggly. Ben and I have a little joke where he says, Why don’t you do some yoga? And I respond, pouting my lips and wrinkling my brow, I hate yoga!

Funny, right? Sometimes a little true. Lately I’ve been going out with the few friends we’ve made in Shanghai, watching movies and basically flat out refusing to practice. I didn’t even know where my mat was for a few days. And I’m looking for a job as a yoga teacher? Yeah, right.

But like most things, it’s all a phase. I guess. I’m trying to look at my emotions as simply pieces of information, and not law. Like, I feel a little sad today. Maybe I’ll stay in and bake muffins and watch episodes of the new 90210 on the internet. I think because I feel sad, I must be sad and therefore must do things that I do when I feel sad: eat, watch tv, lounge, eat, eat, eat. You get it. But if my emotions are just little clues of information, there’s no real reason I have to make them fact.

Well, this just in: it’s six fifteen, and give or take a few minutes where I just kind of sat on my mat, I practiced for nearly an hour! I even had savasana with my handy dandy Cookie Monster Eye Mask. Not only a savasana, but a sit and a closing meditation and offerng! I NEVER do that! Usually at the end of a home practice, I roll of my mat, check my emails and get back to either coffee drinking or beer drinking (depending on time of day, of course).

I didn’t do anything special, yoga wise. Lunge salutes, focused on back bending as per usual. I will never have Zen Muffin’s back bending prowess.

But I do have muffins. Yummm.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

All You Can Eat

Dear Readers. I'm in Hong Kong, existing on the delightful warm air, ocean breeze, and of course the delicious taste of sweet internet freedom. Oh, and maybe some all you can eat dessert buffets.

Yes, my manfriend did me good and bad by taking me to this little place in the Pacific Place mall called the Cuvo Cafe, where on Sat, Sun and public holidays from 3-5pm, they do an All You Can Eat Tea and Cake Buffet. It's kind of a fancy place, this cafe, the kind of place you go with grandparents or partners from your law firm and sit for hours, muching on tiramisu and tiny crossiant sandwhiches--white table clothes, starched napkins, wait staff in tuxedos, the whole shebang. Well, we arrived at 3pm, shoveled three plates of various desserts in our faces, inhaled a coffee, and hightailed it out of there at 3:45, giggling and clutching our bellies. It also cost about as much as the yoga workshop I was supposed to attend that day.


Benjamin justified the cost and the calories by pointing out eating desserts is simply market research for me. I immediately agreed, and it was on. We didn't think of taking any before pictures, unfortunately, but the after photos illustrate the chaos of tiramisu/oatmealcheesecake/marmeladeshortbread/doublechocolatemousscake/raspberrybeignets/whippedcreamwithfruitinside/fruittartswithchocolatelinedpastryshells. And more.

Basically, we made a mess.

And, in fact, dear Reader, was a mess.

I swore to Benjamin that we would erase Cuvo Cafe from our memories, ensuring I could never again return on a wayward Saturday and stuff my piehole with treats. Except for that, oh man, I didn't even get to try the truffles!

And, yes, you heard me right: I was supposed to attend a yoga workshop this afternoon at a studio here in HK. I've not been a good yogini lately, foregoing my practice for long nights out and big cups of coffee in the mornings. In Shanghai I was cultivating a fairly regular personal practice, and documenting in a journal what I worked on, but there is something very different about playing around in my apartment alone and going to a big ole workshop at a studio. Maybe I chickened out. I don't really know. I don't feel particularly guilty, but maybe I should. In any case, the studio also offers two free weeks of yoga to new students, so I'll take advantage of that to get my yoga on while I'm here. Right now, my coffee is hot and the kitties want to play!

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Two SF's

above: doing cactus-inspired mudras in santa fe

We didn't post anything for all of September. Oh, the laziness.

In September, I moved to Santa Fe, had both a wonderful and a difficult time, and moved out of Santa Fe to San Francisco. There wasn't a lot of time for yoga. Yet I was always doing yoga-on the train, at the bar, while making breakfast. I breathed and stayed aware. I forgot to be aware, and, noticing that, brought myself back to the moment. What else is that if not yoga?

So far I'm 4 days into living here and I'm inspired. I step out the door and I become giddy looking at the hills, the cable cars, the flower shops.

In this mood I sat down for coffee on my first day here, and a man asked me what I did. For a split second I panicked, not wanting to explain that I was unemployed and even angry that he would bring up that painful topic and ruin my buoyancy. Emotions move so quickly. But I decided to try out an identity on this stranger, so the words I chose were, "I teach yoga." I repeated it, tasting them and letting them expand and become truer on their own, "I'm here to become a yoga teacher."

Who knows if it will become true? Who cares? I'm in San Francisco.

Monday, August 31, 2009

French Toast, live from the French Concession

Well I've snuck onto Blogger despite the Chinese government's best efforts and now I realize I have nothing much to say. But, hi, anyway.
My attempts at teaching yoga in Shanghai have thus far been thwarted by some pretty serious sickness that kept me in bed or on the couch for at least two weeks with a high fever and gnarly cough. Gross. As is the way of the universe, the day that I reached the highest fever was the day I had scheduled to teach a trial class at a studio in Pudong. Alas, alas.

Much more of a 'scene' here in than in Beijing. More foreigners, more yoga studios, more Starbucks. Shanghai is a more economically developed city, and is way more Western. I am lucky here to have options with yoga studios, but even on the days when I've felt well enough to practice, I don't. Why is that?

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Crib Is Coming

I've been doing a few of Kira's online classes, in the comfort of my own home.  The dog lays his big head on the mat while I catapult over him from lunge into warrior 3 and back again.  

I'm so excited because now you can watch a lot of fantastic clips from the Ojai Yoga Crib online.  Now we can all enjoy inspiration from the Crib year-round.  The Crib has a way of making me want to live on the yoga mat 24/7.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Yogini as Muse

How can you not love this lovely song if you are a girl who does yoga?  "Dogs" by Damien Rice.

The lyrics:

She lives with an orange tree
The girl that does yoga
She picks the dead ones from the ground
When we come over

And she gives
I get
Without giving anything to me

Like a morning sun
Like a morning
Like a morning sun
Good good morning sun

The girl that does yoga

He lives in a little house
On the side of a little hill
Picks the litter from the ground
Litter little brother spills

He gives
I get
Without giving anything to me

And the dogs they run
And the dogs they
And the dogs they run
In the good good morning sun

Side of a little hill
The litter little brother spills
The side of a little hill

Oh and she's always dressed in white
She's like an angel and she burns my eyes
Oh and she turns she pulls a smile
We drive her round and she drives us wild
Oh and she moves like a little girl
I become a child and she moves my world
And she gets splashed in pain and turns away and leaves me standing

She lives with an orange tree
The girl that does yoga
Got a wolf to keep her warm
When he comes over

She gives
He gets
Without giving anything to see

And the day ends
And the day it
And the day ends
And there's no need for me

The girls that does yoga
When we come over
The girls that does yoga

Friday, August 14, 2009

Music After Meditation

You end up looking at your feet a lot when you do yoga so they might as well be as gorgeous as possible (which is difficult for my summer-weary, chaco-sportin' toes).  Oh, and that's my hand and foot in half-moon (ardha chandrasana) with their new "dress to empress" coat of paint.

I sat for a long time.  I think sitting is what was missing from my practice yesterday.  I get so addicted to listening to my music that I can't turn it off.  Yesterday I was listening to Radiohead's concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl from last fall and it wasn't very easy to really focus on my practice.  Today I was more disciplined about shutting off the music, and as soon as it got quiet, I got quiet (relatively).  From now on, no music until after meditation!  Just like no dessert until after dinner (not that I follow that rule either).  

I like a very simple sitting practice.  I was taught to meditate at a zen center, and the instructions were simple.  Count your breath.  When you get to 10, start over.  I can never forget that, and I never get stressed trying to do it 'right.'  

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Savasana and Cuddling

I should have known better than to state how strong my practice was getting.  It changes too much.  Today I could barely do anything.  I kept changing my pace and approach because I didn't know what I wanted.  I thought maybe I could force myself into a fast vinyasa type sequence, but it was impossible today.  I got lightheaded then I kept yawning.  There's also a weird shoulder thing that takes lots of creativity to get to.  Ended up on floor a lot.  

Having the dog around makes me feel better about a lazy practice.  He watches me warily out of the corner of his eye while I do my more active practice but as soon as I get into savasana he trots over and lays next to me.  All he wants to do is either savasana or cuddle.  Preferably both at the same time.  So we did.  For him.  

Above: Benny checking on me before going into his savasana.

Above: Yoga first, then dinner!  Benny presses on alone long after I've returned to the physical realm.  

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Leaving my lazy ways behind

I'm embracing the vinyasa.  It helps realign and unkink my whole body between poses, and it keeps my practice a little more challenging.  My tendency towards yoga laziness (read: yin) has been replaced with a slightly faster-moving practice that burns away everything I don't need--all that worry, frustration, and anxiety stuff.  The sanskrit for the burning off of these feelings is tejas, from what I understand.  

Don't be too impressed: my chosen version of the vinyasa is a push-up with my knees down, cobra instead of upward-facing dog, and then I don't lower down after cobra, saving myself some muscular effort when I then push back into downward-facing dog.  

I'm still proud.  And it is nice to just keep moving...anytime there's less room for thinking and more reason for the breath and body to connect, that's a good thing.

Monday, August 10, 2009


I'm still practicing.  There's my mat--proof that space for yoga can be found anywhere.  

Saturday, June 27, 2009


what up, yogery. it's been awhile. blogger is blocked in china now, so i'm writing to you from des moines, iowa. land of the corn.

today i feel unsettled. there's a lot going on here. i spread out the mat and did a few sun salutes, but it didn't mean anything to me. so i dropped to my belly and rested my head on my hands for a while.

pigeon with back leg
revolved dog
supine twist

and that's about it. i don't feel any more grounded than before, but being alone with my thoughts doesn't feel good, either.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Studio Om Again

I haven't done ANY yoga since my last post, a week ago!  Tonight I returned to Studio Om, stiff, tired, and desperate for yoga.  

It never ceases to amaze and delight me how many new things there are to discover in yoga.  I'd never tried a King Cobra.  I'd never walked my hands closer to my feet before pushing into urdvha danurasana (upward facing bow).  I'd never known that the pose that last week I didn't know the name of is called lizard and the direction it's heading is to put the crown of your head on the floor.  

I felt so grateful for Stephie and all the yoga teachers of the world who have created a space where we can go and actually have a chance at forgetting the things that are stressing us.  She opened class with a restorative matsyasana (fish), and I could feel my heart rising up and opening as the rest of my body at last sank heavy into gravity's pull, freed from the dramas of the week.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Studio Om

Went to a great class by Stephie last night at Studio Om.  I requested shoulder work and got lots of strengthening and stretching.  The pace felt just vigorous enough; it was challenging and cleansing.

Here's what I can remember: 

Sit, 3 part-breath
3 series A 
Series B with crow
Series B with crow, warrior I (she teaches it with the back foot flipped up on the toes, heel pressing back, like a lunge and she made an awesome adjustment that helped me feel a nice juicy backbend.  she told me to draw my low back backwards and strongly pull my shoulder blades down)
We also did low lunge where we had the top of our back foot to the earth and straightened our leg, which was a fun challenge.
parsvottonasana (pyramid)
Balancing poses (by talking afterwards I found out both my friend Neena and I got frustrated with ourselves during this section and now I add being able to hold my straight leg out in front of me parallel to the earth without help from my hand to the list of poses I need to do in order to qualify to be a yoga teacher:)  
Uttitha hasta padangustasana (extended hand to big toe)
Dandayamana janushirasana (standing head to knee). 
Don't know the name of this one, where your legs are in Warrior I position and you clasp your hands behind your back and lower your torso to the side of your thigh and lift your hands and stretch your shoulders.  it's surprisingly hard for me to balance on my left side)
sirsana II (tripod headstand) (here, thankfully, we both recovered our confidence in ourselves)
sasangasana (rabbit)
supported twist with bolster
savasana with option of bolster supporting spine

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

home practice

Poses I can't help but feel I should be able to do in order to qualify to teach anyone yoga: 

full king pigeon
handstand without wall help and without ungracefully throwing myself into it

that's all i can think of right now.  full splits and titibasana would be nice too i guess.  oh, and a drop-back from standing to upward bow. 

anyway for now i'm just diving in deeper into the poses that make me feel amazing...this morning i did:

started to work on handstand then realized i needed to warm up first
few half sun salutes
On the left side: dancer, eka pada galavasana (flying eagle? crow?)
down dog
side plank
down dog--uttanasana---roll up
Repeat right side
spent like 20 minutes in supine pada gustasana 
my legs felt soooo good after this that they felt like they belonged to a different body than my torso and shoulders. i almost just finished in savasana right there but i wanted to get that good feeling in my torso and shoulders too!
couple of upward facing bows but they felt a little stiff today
worked on my full pigeon using a strap.  even though i can't touch my foot to my head yet i'm getting closer and it still feels amazing.
left side pigeon--then cow-face legs then childs?
repeat other side
boat again?
roll to squat then uttanasana then standing.  odd ending.  for savasana i did legs up the wall outside on the balcony.  

Monday, June 1, 2009

The water is wide

My wandering led me to the bank of the Des Moines River last night.  I just sat there watching it for what felt like the longest time.  Then I laid and looked at it upside down.  River.  Breeze.  Lightning.  Darkness.  Silence.

I took off my shoes and practiced on the cement stage of the amphitheater right by the river.  Only 5 people walked by on the street above.  I love practicing, at least occasionally, without the constraints of a mat.  I don't like practicing in public but it was quiet enough here, and dark enough that I felt reasonably anonymous.

I did something like this though I can't remember very well because there wasn't much logic to it...I did not follow a more traditional order.   I just tried to let my body lead.  

lay upside down on the staircase
legs up the wall 
move to stage: ardha chandrasana (half-moon)
down dog
very soft, melty half sun salutations
thread the needle twist
(here a group of 3 kids came by so i morphed into something more 'normal' and contained-looking)
cow face (just the legs part)
urdhva dhanurasana (upward bow) this was one of my juiciest upward bows ever.  if there's a place you need to find space in, just make that your priority.  in this case i needed to feel space behind my heart and so i zeroed in on that and made the subtlest adjustments until i found it.  i almost could have stayed in bow all night.  played with doing it one-armed
happy baby
seated prasarita padottanasana (wide-legged forward fold)  did this one forEVer, first with a rounded back then with straight back and felt like i had new legs afterwards. 
uttanasana (forward fold)
squat to crow
finish salutation
supine twist

slow, content walk back to the car.  as soon as i got in, the sky let loose with a refreshing spring downpour.  i've got good timing.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Sat for 10 minutes this morning, instead of straightening my hair.  Timed myself with Neko Case's recording of chirping crickets.  When it ended, I stopped.  Just thought I would share.   

Sunday, May 17, 2009

home practice

I worked overtime this week and didn't have the time or energy for yoga.  One morning I did a brief child's pose before getting out of bed but other than that the last time I practiced was probably over a week ago when my neighbor and I did one of Kira's online classes together.  

I had a little bit of time alone today.  I took advantage and did a practice that included:

thread the needle twist
child's pose
down dog
bikram style ardha chandrasana (half/moon) series
bikram style natarajasana (lord of the dance)
regular style, straight-legged trikonasana (triangle)
low lunge with prayer twist
wide-legged forward fold
low lunge with prayer twist other side
trikonasana other side
prasarita padottanasana (wide-legged forward fold)
drop to frog
yin saddle
happy baby
supine twist

Margaret Atwood, 'Guest Blogger' on the Yogery

Essay called "Faster" from the book The Tent by Margaret Atwood:

Walking was not fast enough, so we ran.  Running was not fast enough, so we galloped.  Galloping was not fast enough, so we sailed.  Sailing was not fast enough, so we rolled merrily along on long metal tracks.  Long metal tracks were not fast enough, so we drove.  Driving was not fast enough, so we flew.

Flying isn't fast enough, not fast enough for us.  We want to get there faster.  Get where?  Wherever we are not.  But a human soul can only go as fast as a man can walk, they used to say.  In that case, where are all the souls?  Left behind.  They wander here and there, slowly, dim lights flickering in the marshes at night, looking for us.  But they're not nearly fast enough, not for us, we're way ahead of them, they'll never catch up.  That's why we can go so fast: our souls don't weigh us down.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

French Toast Eating French Toast, and Thai Yoga Massage

Homemade by manfriend Benjamin.

Headed to Chiang Mai, Thailand this weekend in pursuit of a long term visa for China and research of Thai massage schools. Any one out there have any recommendations? I've heard good things about Sunshine, Loh Kroi and Pulse..

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Live Your Life on the Tightrope

If you haven't already, watch the movie Man on Wire.  As a yoga practitioner, I felt inspired by watching someone follow a force he could not resist onto the tightrope.  There, concentration, passion, and awareness make simple motions meaningful again.  Philippe Petit kneels, lays down, salutes, simply lifts a foot, and we are breathless watching.  

The movie offered an answer to a question I sometimes ask myself about yoga- WHY?  Why obsess over these strange positions that have questionable practical function in everyday life?  All you have to do is sit there and you can become enlightened.  Or if you're in it to get in shape, why don't you just go for a hike or hit the treadmill?

But I realized watching this movie that yoga is about learning to live on the tightrope.  The phrase yoga teachers so often repeat, "find your edge," sort of means step out on the tightrope! Follow the pull of that force telling you to shift your weight from the edge of the World Trade Center's roof to the rope (resistance is futile...haha sorry).  Find the place in you where you feel alive and let that rule you and nothing else.  Maybe you're just sitting there in zazen, maybe you're in urdhva dhanurasana, but Why has nothing to do with it; you do it just Because.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Share Your Practice!

Making a yoga video is the least scary way I've found to practice being a yoga teacher.  I get to teach AND I get to edit out my mistakes!  Kira asked those of us teacher training grads who've already made videos to help inspire the others to do the same.  In case you haven't seen them, here are links to Casey's and Lisa's really awesome videos:

Ok, everyone else, it's your turn! 

P.S. For some reason blogger cuts off the edge of the screen.  You don't miss out on much but you can see the whole screen if you click on the video and watch it from the YouTube site.  

Saturday, April 25, 2009

yogini in bikini

wheel and post wheel at cafe del mar in singapore.

lost a client the other day. said i was too expensive for her. doesn't feel very good, but i've already determined i can't lower my prices anymore and continue to teach in shunyi, so trying to let it go.

i have not been feeling well lately. homesick, upset stomach, headache. usually this means a lot of drawing my chin into my chest, child's pose, etc. but surprisingly i've been running on the treadmill and practicing a fairly strong private vinyasa set. it feels good while i'm in it, but afterwords nothing. don't want to get into now.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

useful yoga pose #1: extended child's pose to recover from post rock show ear buzziness.  

Friday, April 17, 2009

yogis--they're just like us!

so i'm sitting outside on this little patio of a burrito bar in beijing's western hipster area, waiting on benjamin and some friends for dinner. i sat down and immediately after setting my bag down, there's a blond woman in front of me, sitting at my table. SARAH! she exclaims. wait, that's me. i don't know anyone here. how does she know me?!

and then it dawns on me. i teach her and a friend of hers at 630am thursday and friday mornings. we just spoke this afternoon about me coming tomorrow at 730 for a saturday morning class. of course i know her. but she's wearing make up, and a beautiful jacket! i'm about to order a beer! the shock of being noticed out of the element makes me an awkward chatter.

but then the best part: she tells me, loudly, so the whole patio can here, how great i am! you're fabulous! she says. we loved your class! and i'm all like, oh, yeah, oh great, oh yeah i know, right., playing it cool. like i just live and breath the power yoga at 630 in the mornings, ain't no thang, babies! i flip my hair, newly shorn i might add, and smile peacefully. yes. i rocked you, didn't i?

i know, i know. it's not about me. it's not about me! it's not about me!

but can it be a little bit about me? just for tonight?

ok fine. i'm over it.

oddly i bumped into another yoga client in salitun a few hours before. i feel so famous.

but yeah. yoga is going well out here. slowly but surely racking up more clients and building my business. saving my money. i'm beginning to invent my own sequences now, relaxing into my own flow. teaching is feeling more intuitive, as is my own practice at home.

stuff we've been working lately are the following:

warrior I
wheel and/or camel depending on the client and day. i've been borrowing from scott blossom's wheel debuted at the crib. everybody digs it and we all feel badass dropping back.
lots of chair and chair variations. i don't know why. i'm into the thunder thighs feeling lately.
and weirdly, triangle. i used to hate triangle, and now i'm teaching like three different variations. also been dealing in the bound side angle business, which is a crowd pleaser.

what else. breathing. keeping it fresh. dealing with my own shit and doing my best to keep it out of yoga classes. it's amazing the intimacy that's created by a one on one session. the things we feel inspired to share. working on listening.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Home Practice

Why do I always crave tea after doing yoga?  I'm sitting here at home, post yoga, drinking some yummy Mediterranean chamomile tea, still listening to my savasana playlist (Tracy Chapman at the moment).  This morning I got up early, but just a few minutes too late to catch my bus to Stephie's 7 am class.  I was up, though, so after bumming out about it for a few minutes, I decided to do some yoga on my own.  For motivation I downloaded a couple new dance tunes as suggested at elephant.  Music is soooo helpful for getting out of my head.  

My tailbone area has been hurting so I decided to address that immediately with a yin baddha konasana (my sanskrit spelling is a little rusty right now, sorry).  This is probably my favorite pose because I can always do it no matter my energy level.  Hanging your head down and shutting out the world while opening up your hips is always therapeutic.  I could feel my tailbone and pelvis spreading and opening into a new state of spaciousness I desperately needed.  

I eventually rolled forward into malasana (squat) and settled my weight into my pelvis and hips and felt my low back start to soften.  From there I immediately jumped to down dog but the pain in my sacrum area was still a bit too much to straighten my legs and tilt my tailbone to the sky so I dropped to all fours and and did a few delicious rounds of cat/cow tilts.  Next I did a frog and finally my hips and low back started feeling more open.  I did cat/cow again for good measure just because it felt good.  I don't know what came over me (it was probably the dance music) but I was in the mood for strengthening so I did some core strengthening work from all fours, which really heated up my body and let me release a lot of physical and emotional tension.  

I had thought maybe I'd take notes on what I did and try to design a yoga lesson I could teach to others.  Or come up with an idea for another YouTube video.  I got out the Lulu Bandha's Teacher Training Manual for ideas.  I started doing the very simple Lunge Salute Sans Vinyasa on page 93 and I kept repeating it.  

Lunge has become one of those formerly simple poses that now I feel like I don't know how to do.  There's so much to think about.  I can't quite get all the things I know about it to line up.  I hang out there in lunge, thinking through the instructions one thing at a time: shoulders down, check.  Tailbone tucked, check.  Don't sink into the front hip, check.  Heart open---wait, now my low back is compressing!  It's such a beautiful pose but I feel so stiff and awkward in it right now. 

Anyway I moved at a fairly fast pace through a few rounds of lunge salutes, throwing in a vinyasa here and there.  As I got out of my head and into my body, my yoga no longer needed a purpose, whether to get me in shape, to enlighten me, or to serve as fodder for teaching others.  All that mattered was that it felt great!  Eventually I dropped down for another frog, cat/cow, side plank, child's, and pigeon.  I had planned to get back up  but pigeon grounded and quieted me so much that I simply did a supine twist, switched on the savasana playlist, laid back and let go.  

Monday, April 13, 2009

yoga snores and supine twists in singapore

Back in Singapore for a few days. We're staying in a cute hostel with a rooftop garden, where the photo was taken. I've been enjoying Singapore more than I thought I did or would. But I guess the grass is always greener in Singapore.

Last night Ben and I had dinner with some friends here, and the night ended with midnight dip in our unders in the pool and a few rides on a segue. Yes, I felt just like Job from Arrested Development. There was some port drinking at the end of the night, and maybe it was that, I don't know, but last night I woke up thinking I was teaching a yoga class, and I had fallen asleep while my students were in savasana. Panic! So I cued something like, bring your legs into your chest, straighten the left leg and draw the right knee across for a supine twist. And I was doing the twist. I was like, supine twist, always a good fall back. Phew! And then Ben was like, uh...

I woke up with my arms in a tee shape, a perfect supine twist. In bed. Ben told me this morning I was like, talking through the cues so deliberately he didn't know if he should wake me up.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sci Fi Yoga

Tonight I went to Stephie's Studio Om "vigorous" class.  Stephie is a bad ass chick disguised as a sweetie pie.  She is quiet, super sweet, and unassuming.  But when she takes off her long-sleeve shirt at yoga class, you see the lovely tattoos and the strong muscles, and you start to think, uh-oh.  She keeps smiling at you at the same time as she's asking you to do push-ups and core strengtheners and get your alignment right.  She won't let you slack off and let your shoulders crawl up.  She won't let you arch your low back, even if you can't go into the pose as deeply.  

Not that she's all business.  She just believes in getting the alignment right so that you can start to play.  I still feel free to do just about all the wiggling I want!

After class I caught my bus back home along with another student, Victor.  Victor is a trip.  He just got into yoga a month ago and loves it.  He has to bus it even further than me, so in total, one yoga class takes up approximately 3 hours, including class and travel time.  He must use his travel time to write, I'm guessing, because he has completed his own science fiction novel.  As we rode, he pulled out his laptop and started playing the latest Wah! music.  On the bus!  For all to hear!  I swayed in my seat the whole way home.  Even the bus driver said she liked it.  When I got off she bade me farewell with a very sincere "God bless you baby" and Victor waved and called out "Namaste!"  

Monday, April 6, 2009

Private Practice

The weather is warm now. In Boulder I'd be on my bike, or hiking up Green Mountain. In Beijing, I walk three blocks to the subway and practice yoga in the sunniest spot in my gym studio.

Watched parts of Paul Grilley's Anatomy for Yoga. Amazing! Kind of in this weird place where I feel like everything I learned about, specifically, downward dog is wrong. Marley called me a flexy bendy, and I got reprimanded for 'hanging out' in downward dog. Paul Grilley makes the point that as long as there is no pain felt, it's okay. So today at the gym I did some sun salutes and warrior dances with awareness on where I felt compression, specifically in downward dog. I mean, I could bring my head to the floor easily. I can feel where my joints are meeting and can't stretch any further, and depending on how I want my hamstrings to feel, I move my legs accordingly. But I was told not to do that for a long time and down dog has become this pose that stresses me out, as I try to keep my arms active and my elbows bent and blah blah, keeping my face from the floor. I don't know. Is it bad? Here's an old photo, from August, during my CPY TT:

I'll try to get another one of me in the down dog that feels the flexiest, bendiest, and bestest.

Anyhow, it's something to think about. Still working with shoulder stuff.

warrior 2
side angle
reverse warrior
warrior 2
side angle
bound triangle
bound side angle
(my chatarungas and updogs getting better every time i practice..yay!)

then i've been hitting the pool or the treadmill. Swimming is hard, yo! It wears me out. Taking my savasana in the steam room...

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Deep Thoughts.

No, I'm joking you. No deep thoughts. Just deep knots.

I have these epic, amazing knots in my shoulders, neck and back. I don't know, but it seems like Beijing stresses me out. I find myself hunched over quite often, sitting slumped in taxis, standing with one hip cocked on the subway. Bad. After a particularly bad experience in Hong Kong with one arm losing some feeling when I raised it above my shoulder, I sought the help of one of BJ's famous blind masseurs. And holy God, did she bring the pain. She actually wasn't blind. The massage place is this sort of grimy but clinical room off a busy street with a rough n'ready approach to massage. You walk in and they get to work. Most of their doctors are actually blind. And some are quite skilled. Ben had one doctor there tell him while working his back muscles that he's been dreaming a lot. They can tell how much caffeine I drink by this spot on my foot. Basically, it's magic. But it's definitely not a fancy pants massage in the States. The doctors and masseurs yell and talk with one another while pushing you face down into the table with half their body weight. Occasionally from the corner of your eye you might see flames on the floor after a cupping session. Physically, it feels amazing. Emotionally, it's kind of traumatic. Anyway, she worked and worked on my shoulders and neck, telling Ben, who was lying next to me getting worked on by an actual blind masseur, that I had some problems and needed to swim more. Do the crawl, she instructed. Ben and I both pointed out that I don't really know how to swim. Both my masseur and Ben's said: He will teach you.(referring to ben) And then she got to my big knot. The one that I keep all my Beijing stress wrapped inside. The one beneath my right shoulder blade that cuts, tingles, pinches, throbs. You know. Everyone's got one like it. And I started crying. Literally crying during the massage. That muscle was like, WAM! Exquisitely painful. I couldn't help but cry. She kept kneading. I kept crying. Oh! She exclaimed in English. You are crying! I think you are crying!

I had to take a pain reliever the next day. But since then I've been slowly melting my knots away and letting go of my tension. There's still a pinching sensation back there, and taking deep breaths hurts. But I'm getting there. And in light of all this shoulder stuff, I've begun teaching a lot of shoulder openers in my classes.

Remember my very first workshop at Lulu's? I do. It was a tuning workshop and we did cigarette girl arms for like, fifteen minutes. I was dying. It was my first time doing yoga for more than an hour and I was like, OMG! When are we going to lie on the floor!?!?! I remember vividly standing in tadasana and scooping my arms in and carrying my imaginary cigarette case. Working the shoulder blades down. So I've been working with that lately and at the beginning of class doing this:

cactus arms (sometimes i pretend to be a cactus who needs a hug)
upward bow arms (introducing wheel to almost all my clients later in the class)
and then the sweet relief of a forward fold with arms clasped behind tailbone. Holy shoulder joy!

and then again

cactus arms
cigarette girl arms
chatarunga arms (getting the awareness of all the work the body does during chatarunga by doing it standing. done this three times with two clients and the first time with ben and a friend, and both clients are like, oh! i get it!)
and sweet relief forward fold with arms.

roll to standing with some swamp monster action in the shoulders to create space.

These are all borrowed directly or slightly adapted from one of Kira's sequences. I love the idea of introducing postures in the standing variation first. And then referencing the feeling later. It made so much sense to me when Kira did it, and it seems to be making sense to my peeps. So the shoulder stuff is good. Trying to get myself and my practice back to the place it was in last year, when I just discovered how amazing it felt to stand up straight and lead with my heart. Emotionally, too. Leading with zee heart. I'm getting all, muhhh lately, and what I'm trying to be, in my classes and on my own, is yeeeeaaaaa!

Otherwise, still working on triangle. One of my clients needs a strap, and I accidentally said 'strap-on'. Woops. Hey, we practice at 6:45 am! That's before-coffee-time! Luckily her sense of humor is like mine and we both laughed maybe too hard.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Filling In

Hey. I gotta a whopper of a yoga post coming soon. Until then, I've been working on triangle, side triangle, via side angle. Attention on the legs. Triangle has become kind of a whopper pose for me. My groin tendons and hamstrings are overly stretchy--in triangle I often risk pulling muscles so I've been backing off. Using my core as a cue. Anyone have any major tips for triangle? I also have some hyper mobility in my rib cage and often feel like I open too much and end up with a pinchy feeling in my heart.

More soon, I promise. In the meantime feel free to peruse my other blog, migrations ( There are more pictures over there. :)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Inchworm

Radical revelation this afternoon whilst practicing solo at the gym: The Inchworm! I remember Marley from CPY TT offering it as an option when we all were sore and tired from chatarunga, but for some reason I just could not figure it out. Drop my knees, lower my chest, what? It just did not make sense. And then today I just sort of did it. And it felt great! Definitely my new cue for peeps who don't want to do full chatarunga/updog.

Also: one of my clients this afternoon had about five too many glasses of wine at lunch and came to practice anyway. I tried to imagine what Laura Kupperman would do in that situation, and I made her sit down a lot. Had a hard time being stern with her. She was like, but we had book club!at an italian place! She is already kind of a spazz, and it took me a few cycles of sun salutes to figure out something was off with her. Extra wobbly.

She seemed in good spirits, though. The other two women and I worked on tripod headstands for a while as she chilled out on the mat giggling to herself.

All for now.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Adjusting My Pants

More yoga to report. Oh, the yog. It just gets better and better. Today met with H, my early bird, and we rocked out with lots of up dogs and chatarungas. I've been backing off those with her because she often has pilates the night before we practice and seems quite sore. But we tried it out, and it seemed to fit. I got an email from her this afternoon saying the class was great and she feels a lot stronger. Now that I'm onto her secret upper body strength, I plan on working her a bit harder. She loves the opening and softening so finding a nice balance of sweat and soft is key.

What else. Due to a misunderstanding with clubhouse scheduling, my three ladies class at 2 today was held in the bathroom of one of the ladies. Weird. We focused on breath and and lots of core stuff. One woman mentioned a hysterectomy I did not know she had, which explained a lot about her core work. Need to research further.

I'm not really planning the classes out. Winging it, really. I've been taking cues from Kira on meeting people where they are, and for me that means just showing up with an outline and usually, letting it all go. It feels good, though, because I trust myself to work it all out. No panicky moments yet. I even made a joke, about warrior two and tadasana being the universal 'adjust your pants' time for women in yoga classes. (personally, i've always been more of a 'check your cleavage' kind of yogini. never know when the sports bra failed you in headstand. kept that one to myself, though...)

So I was thinking about when I first taught my two peeps one-on-one, way back in Singapore. I was so nervous about the intimate setting, about what to teach, what I would possibly have to say with them just sitting there in front of me! I wrote the sequences down step by step, created some talking points I was too nervous to use and basically practiced with them so I wouldn't just be standing there awkwardly. Now I'm making jokes! Cuing left and right without actually doing anything to the left or right! Adjusting my pants, symbolically speaking, about what I think a yoga teacher is, and what kind of yoga teacher I am. I don't want to show up with a rigid plan. I kind of like talking for a minute, seeing how they feel, hearing about how pilates sucks, or how they really want a lot of hip stuff, and then easing into the practice, like, what, I do this all the time, right?

Also: I had a banana muffin just now. Burnt brown sugar on top, delicious. Not so delicious was the middle part, which was a bit dry. Really feeling the need to bake. Gotta get an oven, first. And a mixer. And an apron. Been really feeling the whole food is nourishment thing recently. Stress is eating away at me, and Benjamin. I have overwhelming desire to cook him a hot, healthy meal, but so far I've just come up with over cooked, over buttered spinach noodles. I'm no barefoot contessa in the savory department, so this weekend I gotta bust out the skills I have: making sweet, sweet treats.

But before the weekend, one more yoga class. Tonight at 7:30. She's a studious, focused one. Takes it very seriously but has been opening up more the past few weeks. Recently mentioned she hugs a big pillow every night to fall asleep, and we've worked it into her savasana, a big heart opener to melt over. She loves it. It's awesome.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

testing out the yoga/pastry combination

it was my birthday on sunday.  i told my mom that i wanted two things: for her to go to a yoga class with me, and a pastry.  (i wasn't even thinking about the yogery, i guess i just really love yoga and pastries)

we found a level 1 yoga class at an oddly formal studio called Fitness by Design.  they have a waiting room with Family Circle magazines and a bowl of those hard peppermint candies you get at restaurants.  later, they sent us an email thanking us for our business: "we know you have other fitness options."  

despite the formalities, the class felt warm and soft and yoga-like.  unknowingly we had stumbled upon the first session of an eight-week intro to yoga class, so it was full of people who knew nothing about yoga.  there were about 10 of us, all slightly older, some overweight, all  open-minded.  they asked eager questions like "now mary, what do you mean by sit bones?" and when she gave the instruction to let your heart light shine, a woman smiled and said out loud, apparently in appreciation of the poetry of it, "so good!"  

we did extremely gentle joint warm-ups for a good 45 minutes, then a variation of a half-salutation on our own, then tree pose.  the group was full of surprisingly solid trees, even though one of the two men called out "i think i'm a tree in a windstorm!"

we finished with restorative childs, restorative heart opener, and of course savasana.  afterwards my mom signed us up for the whole 8 week course and we went and celebrated with a chocolate croissant and a pear puff pastry.  

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Close Encounters (of the cake and yoga kind)

Today has been a good day. I've been productive both physically and emotionally, clearing out the rickety spaces in my mind and joints. I taught early this morning to H, and her son crawled out of bed to join us for some flashy down dogs and giggly breath work. Then I took the subway to the gym--although I admit I mostly wanted to have a steam and a nice relaxing shower rather than work out--and was flipping through Erich Schiffmann's book on the way, looking for little hints and tidbits. A tallish Chinese woman was standing next to me, crowded close as always on the subway. She got my eye because she was about my height--rare to find a woman, or man, my height here--and we smiled at one another. A few moments later she interrupted me and said, Are you a teacher of yuja? And because I'm really smart, I knew she meant YOGA and i said YES! We proceeded to talk very awkwardly about yoga and where we practice. I gave her my name card and she seemed thrilled a)to be speaking in English and b)to be speaking in English about yoga, as of course, was I! I nearly missed my stop because we both had our nose in Erich's book searching for a certain posture she was trying to describe.

Then I left the gym and headed for Shunyi to teach my three afternoon ladies. These three are a trip. They are all in it for 'core' but all end up asleep as soon as they hit the mat and constantly chat with me and each other through out the class. They also almost always end up requesting a "relaxing class". One in particular often will diminish her abilities and make generalizing diagnoses of ailments she thinks she might have. I have the shallow breath, she told me firmly on the first day. The other two have more experience with yoga and move through the class with what appears to be a greater sense of comfort and strength. She has a lot of trouble just being still and finally this afternoon I addressed it.

I've been nervous to talk to her about it because it feels personal. I can sense she feels uneasy in class at times, or embarrassed. And of course I get that. I'm still kind of embarrassed to be in yoga classes--it can feel so vulnerable, wearing tight clothes and twisting your body into weird positions. And there always the students who do it all with grace and beauty and perfect ponytails and not a single pant uttered from between their relaxed lips.

So we talked, the three of us. About breath. I used something I heard once said in a class at Yoga Soup in Santa Barbara, I think, about the breath sending the body into the asanas. It was the most yoga-teacher like moment I've had, facing them on the mats, hearing myself say, Your breath won't send you to a place your body can't sustain. You have to trust your breath to take you into the asana when you're ready--when your breath feels constricted, or tight, or difficult, you've come too far.

We talked about the core, abs, stomach muscles. Feeling light, bandha's, lifting up and out. The whole kitten and caboodle. Is that the phrase?
Anyway, the reason I'm writing about it all now is that after the class was over, this woman was still sitting on her mat, staring at me. Oh, great, I thought. I said too much. So I asked for feedback. Does all that make sense? Do you understand what I'm saying? Her eyes looked a little wet and her voice was quiet. Yes, she said. I need to learn how to breath. I need to be still.

It was the first time I felt like she and I connected, and it was such a pleasant feeling. I know logically it has nothing to do with me and I didn't invent the glory of yoga and breath, but sheesh! It made me feel like a real yoga teacher!

Now of course killing time before evening class. Eating cake. This is the Yogery, after all. And yes, Zen Muffin, I did wear those glasses to teach.