Monday, March 22, 2010

Baking is like Sequencing

The weather is shifting again, and with it the dust from the thousands of construction sites across Shanghai. Walking to the subway on the way to the studio I felt the stinging of exhaust, pollution and dry wind on my cheeks, and nearly took a shower when I got there. You get the feeling of turning into chalk during China springtimes, I'm learning. Sandstorms in Beijing, I hear, so it could be worse.

With the dry air and hazy pollution comes sore throats and runny noses. The weekend was spent mostly at home, snuggled up in bed or in the bath. The worst of it is over, but I'm still practicing much slower. Lots of just lying down on the mat in "savasana". (does it count as a savasana if you just collapsed onto the floor after crescent lunge and decided to stay?!) Tonight was flow at the studio, and several peeps came who I hadn't seen since Chinese New Year. Seeing them, and the feeling of overwhelming gratitude I felt upon arriving in the clean, welcoming space of the studio, gave me a surge of energy that I needed. Our big pose was coming from Dancer's into Half Moon.

Money's been tight for us lately, and pinching kuai is not super fun. But I'm learning a lot about myself, and budgeting, and that's important. More importantly, though, is the sense of thankfulness I'm cultivating for my job, and for all my private students. I am approaching every class with a deep happiness to be there, and it's making everything so much nicer. It's surprising how stressful everyday life can make someone, and being mindful of having the presence to be grateful for being able to do work at all is so crucial for me. Also, I'm listening to "Don't Worry, Be Happy" on my iPod pretty much constantly.

What I came here to say, though, was not about saving a few kuai by taking the metro, or buying noodles down the street instead of from the fancy schmancy Western place. I wanted to talk about cinnamon rolls. I made some this morning, using a recipe I've used before, but this time I didn't have any cream, so I used milk. This was a mistake! After about a minute of stirring, the dough should have formed a nice ball, so that I could knead it in the bowl a few times without really disturbing it's shape. This was not the case. The dough was goopy, runny and after removing my hands from the bowl, they looked like I was wearing thick, dripping gloves. I suppose the lesson is that milk is too thin to hold the rest of the ingredients together.

At first,  I felt extremely frustrated, mostly the mess I was creating. But also, this recipe was called "Quick Cinnamon Biscuits", and I'd made it before--it should have been so easy! I stayed calm. I forced myself to think creatively. I added more flour and stirred till my arm ached. Still gooey. I added even more flour. Stirred and stirred. I coated my hands with flour and started kneaded and patting until a loose ball took shape. Victory!

Taste wise, they're about the same as I remember. Visually they look a little whiter, and are rather firm to the touch. But otherwise, you'd never know I dumped an extra cup and half of flour in there. My point is, my yoga sequencing is like these biscuits, or rather, like all the recipes I follow that turn out deliciously. I know what I need and where it will end up, how it will look. I've been so afraid to make mistakes that I'm getting into a rut (both with baking and with my practice! i keep making the same vanilla orange cupcakes over and over again because i know they're so good) I know I'm veering into cheeseball territory here, but it really struck me how much I'm afraid of letting my creative brain to any work. When I sequence a class, I stick to the same rotating rolodex of poses, and when I bake, I only use recipes and rarely make substitutions--what if it turns out badly!? Then what will I do?! (usually eat it anyway..)

So tonight was an excersise in getting away from the recipe. I made an outline of flows I wanted to do, like always, and then I relied on my intuition and creativity to lead. It was fine! It was wonderful! We started with a cycle of five lunge salutes, and then moved into the Warrior sequence. After a vinyasa, we repeated the Warrior dance but added Triangle, Knee to Nose, and then Revolved Triangle. I've never approached Revolved Triangle like this, as hard as it is to believe. It felt so natural!

I'm trying to shake myself out of my yoga box. Watching DVDs, youtube videos, reading blogs and old Yoga Journals. I'm not shelving the old poses, though--we still did a prayer twist tonight. That one is like the orange vanilla cupcakes--it's just too good.

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