Friday, December 3, 2010

But I don't know the secret handshake!

My studio's owners are hosting Diane Ducharme tomorrow for a teachers-only posture clinic at their Bronx studio. I asked the owner if she needed any help setting things up, taking them down, signing people in, whatever. I just wanted to be humbled in the presence of greatness (not just Diane, but *all* of the awesome teachers that'll be there). She said she'd get back to me, I think. That was well over a month ago.

So last Sunday, during my regular work-study shift, the owner's husband asks if I can work Saturday instead this week, so the teacher can go straight to the seminar after the morning classes.

And then he said when I finished cleaning, I could come down to the other studio and join the teachers-only posture clinic.

May tomorrow evening's class with Diane be better than my last class with Diane, aka "The class where I almost died." (That class, by the way, has since been surpassed as worst class ever. Gonna have to write about that one of these days.)

I'm so excited (and I may even pull a double tomorrow)!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The perils of a desk job, and long commute, and sleeping in a ball, and not practicing yoga enough:

I still don't know which one it is that hurts.
(Upper-leg graphic via via

Well, one of the perils, anyway, is that your hip flexors will shorten. Sorta like wearing spike heels all the time can shorten the Achilles tendon.

I practiced yoga at the studio on Sunday and went to the chiropractor Monday, where she worked on my left hip a little bit. My left shoulder was achy, like usual, after I left and on into Tuesday. What surprised me Tuesday was an ache in my upper left leg, near the [insert technical/anatomical name here] crease. (It's true; all of the issues in my tissues are on the left side.)

I figured I'd slept funny. Meh. I did some lunge-type stretching at my desk when I got to work. It was still bugging me Wednesday morning, and I figured I might have aggravated it with the previous stretching. Smart girl that I am, I walked 1.66 miles while running errands on my lunch. Wake up this morning (Thursday) and it hurts so badly that I briefly consider calling in sick.

But who calls in sick with a hurt hip?? I popped a bunch (OK, just 800 mg) of Advil and came on my merry way to work. It took the edge off, for a while. I took 600 mg about two hours ago. And I've had a heating pad on it most of the day.

(It occurs to me that the heating pad is doing exactly what I took the Advil to prevent - increasing blood flow to the area. Ice probably would have been a better bet. But it's coooooold!)

So I'm debating whether to take class tonight or not. I mean, it hurts to walk (but only because my default stride is a long stride, I think). I've been trying to take these goofy, short little steps while walking around the office today, and it doesn't hurt too bad. But how does one take class in a way that doesn't stretch the hip and front of the thigh? There's definitely a pulled muscle, and it's not at the "Just give it a gentle stretch and see how it feels" stage, not yet.

Guess I'll work on my shoulders, and forward bends. YAY. (Can you hear the sarcasm, people?)

So far, my only real experience taking class while injured has been with back problems. I've never had a front problem... How do you take class with an injury?


Monday, November 29, 2010

apologies for being out of touch

I'm cross-posting this from Facebook, because it applies to my blog buddies, too:

Howdy all,
This is for anyone who's messaged me, posted on my wall, sent me a text or email, or called over the past six (at least) months, and hasn't gotten a response... It's important to me to be a good friend; unfortunately I haven't acted accordingly.

I have no excuse, but here's an attempt to explain:

My friends mean the world to me, so when it comes to correspondence, I want to write something thoughtful. But then I wait until I have enough time to write something thoughtful. And it's like that saying goes: If you wait until you feel you have enough X (in my case, time), you'll never do Y. (And although I have time on my commute, my thumbs lack the fortitude to type anything of consequence on my Blackberry.)

So - I am so incredibly sorry for what may have seemed like a blow-off. I'm going to catch up on correspondence over the coming week. If I don't, feel free to hassle me about being lame and not being in touch - that should elicit a response. :)

Hope you'll hear from me soon!


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Just a link, but a good one.

How to Know When Yoga is Working for You, via Elephant Journal.

My favorite from the list:
9. You no longer think about what you're cooking for dinner while in Savasana.

What's your favorite way to know the yoga is working for you? It doesn't have to be from this list, either. :)


Friday, November 5, 2010

in which i decide to never blog from a blackberry ever again (oohhh, my achin' thumbs!)

A little follow-up to yesterday's livid post:

So I felt like I was in a pretty good place, after thinking lots about Dorothy's comment and having strategies to deal (or not deal, really) with M.

I even started a book today by Jack Kornfield about Buddhist psychology. Have you ever heard the expression, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear"? Well, I've had this book (The Wise Heart) for well over two years; I snagged it from the religion writer at the SLTrib. So I'm on a crazy long flight this morning, learning about nonattachment and science of mind and sensory perception and all kinds of good stuff, all set to attempt to practice lovingkindness toward M when I walk in the house tonight...

So I've been around going on six hours now, and he very deliberately hasn't said a word to me, avoiding any kind of contact at all. He did slam a door in my face, but my honest reaction was a "whatever." Seriously. I heard him telling my mom (I guess she said something, which is so totally not their dynamic!) that we're not friends, which is obviously true. I'm still game to attempt politeness, if he says hi.

Progress? I think so.

Tonight: dinner at home with the folks (I even got to help cook!) and a long walk with my dad that included gelato, noisy bars, and looking at the beach.
Tomorrow: breakfast at 976 with mom and gramma betsy, then beachbeachbeach, then yoga at the teacher training tent with E!!! This trip is shaping up *quite* nicely. :)

Hope you all are doing well, and finding peace with whatever life is throwing at you.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Just a simmer, so far, but I'm not there yet. (edited w/ photo)

As mentioned yesterday, I'm visiting "home" starting tomorrow.

I'm thrilled, really, to have a break: after a few insane months at work, after some too-chilly-for-me weather, after too much feeling like I've been running around, not as present as I aspire to be.

There are ways San Diego, and PB in particular, will always be home. There, at the foot of the rickety Diamond Street stairs, I learned to walk on that sand. There, below Chalcedony Street's curving concrete ramp, I learned to swim in that often-rough water. There, just south of where Reed meets the hostel, I learned not just algebra and Spanish and history, but who I am, fundamentally. And how many times, and with how many boys — and the occasional man, sigh — did I fall in love at the end of PB Drive?

More momentous family occasions than I'd care to remember took place in those couple of square miles: births, deaths, marriages, divorces, more than a few screaming matches, and even a psychotic break (luckily, not mine). Sometimes it seems as though those are what keep me away, now.

But no. New York has an amazing "pull" factor, sucking me in and engaging me in ways that I never thought I'd care about. I think I wrote last year about being surprised by whom I'm identifying with. I'm not a city girl, which is so bizarre to me. I'm not a country girl, either (I don't even know who/what that'd be). But during election cycles, I'm more concerned with "upstate issues," including farming, transportation and education, than I ever thought I'd be. I'm pretty much a bleeding heart liberal. Even in Utah — god, especially when I lived in Utah — that's when the ball got rolling...

Which is a problem when I visit San Diego. My little brother, who at 28 is only 15 months my junior, fancies himself quite the dapper, moneyed, young Alex P. Keaton, just with fewer reasoned positions. My brother, M, just wants to argue and spew invectives about how much he hates liberals, how they (we) destroy everything, and ohyeah, down with the gays and brown people, too. If you so much as attempt to step in with a slight question of his position, he goes off, spouting big words he learned in private university (that he didn't lift a finger to pay for) economics classes and may have read on a conservative's blog. He might even throw some Catholic catechism in there too, for good measure. I have yet to hear an original thought from this kid, seriously. No, seriously.

I'm a firm believer that the life I have lived has shaped my politics. I mean, that's just common sense, to me. There's an inevitable difference between what I have lived, and what he has lived — we're different people. But to me, what he has lived doesn't support what he endorses. Everything about him is aspirational, with no life experience (or wealth) to back it up. And he is so caught up in this current of hatred and superiority that he can't (or won't) see the value of breadth of experiences. This fundamental disconnect in values blows my mind, and I don't know how to deal with it.

When I walk in to my parents' house and see that M has taken over much of it with car paraphernalia and electronics and other accoutrements of a swanky lifestyle, my blood boils. When I learn that my dad has to postpone retirement longer than he'd planned, in order to pay off M's tuition bills, my blood boils. When I catch the occasional Facebook glimpse of an M status update, that reads, "fukkin bitches and thier issues ... oh well beautiful day to enjoy a [insert expensive brand name] cigar and bourbon," my blood boils. (He unfriended me. which had me laughing for days, but my BF is still "friends" with him and sometimes I can't resist checking in... )

(Obviously my parents have some culpability in this, but it's less than it'd seem and like anything family-related, it's complicated. Rawr.)

I went back for Thanksgiving last year and other than making inappropriate plate art at the adults-only-kids'-table with olives, pickles and mini-carrots time spent with family was a downright disaster. M is the power-starved tyrant king of this little world. People do what he wants because it's easier than saying, "No, you're a tool. Go make your own luck." It seems that only people outside the county lines (my sister and other brother and I) recognize this going on. So it is with some trepidation that I head back.

I'd stay at a friend's place, but I really want to spend time with my dad, and he'll be home grading papers. I *will* have a rental car...

Anyway. This post has absolutely nothing to do with yoga at all, but I needed to get my absolute fury with M out of my system (for now). Does anyone have any advice for dealing with the situation, demonstrating the ease and grace that shines in all of your writings? Please?

xoxo :)

Wisdom from Dorothy's comment, written out and Post-It-ed to my boarding pass:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I'm visiting San Diego this weekend. Besides my immediate family, only a yoga blog–buddy or two knows.

Here's hoping that the warm sand underfoot, and a steamy class at teacher training, and awesome Gramma Betsy, balance me out in ways that I feel I need, but can't quite put into words.

My solar-powered batteries are due for some recharging.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Think I'm gonna do a home practice tonight. Crank up the space heater and bundle up, and see (remind myself, really) what a third consecutive day of practice can do for my body and soul.

Thursday night, my left hip finally got itself figured out. A huge pop during Eagle, which was slightly, briefly painful, and then I was feeling loose, flexible, easy, comfortable... It's funny, though: I'd just been getting to a point where I could balance in various postures, and all of a sudden — POOF! — my body makes a major shift and I'm starting from scratch all over, once again.

It's never too late, right? That's what I hear, anyway. ;)

(Inothernews: Ticket bought for a quick visit to San Diego Nov. 4 [Thursday afternoon] to Nov. 7 [Sunday night]! I so hope to visit BKTT, and meet some of my blogger amigas. :) )

Monday, October 11, 2010

Awesome blog meets awesomer yoga

One of my favorite blogs/bloggers, Ryan over at Pacing the Panic Room, hooked himself up with The Gap to make a "Do What You Love" mashup ad campaign of amazing people doing what they love, while wearing Gap's new jeans line.

via Pacing the Panic Room. I can't figure out how to make this picture a link, so click right there, right below this, and check out Afton.

His first installation features a Bikram yogini rock star! My outdated work computer won't play the video, so you should check it out and then tell me all about it.

OK? OK. Go.

No, go NOW.

Friday, October 8, 2010

speaking up

Good class last night. I was dizzy every so often, but I stood and breathed and it passed. I stood in a new spot, too. (Lucky for me, I am not wedded to any particular spot. I am usually one of the last people into the studio so I stand wherever there's space, which usually happens to be the front right side. Whatever.)

I didn't want to be in the front row because I wasn't sure I'd be a good, strong example for the couple new students we had. I stood in the back right corner, and it was almost chilly! What a weird sensation, to *not* want fans blowing on me. Can't imagine feeling that way again. Usually I am trying frantically to send telepathic messages to the instructor, offering bribes in exchange for turning on the fans. (It hasn't worked, yet, but I'll let you know.)

I realized sometime between class last night and right now, that most of the time, I forget that the studio is hot (with rare exceptions; see previous post). That sounds crazy, but I'm dead serious. I think I just identify the yoga as hard. Heat has become less of a factor. Weird, eh?

Just got back from the chiropractor's office, after postponing Wednesday's appointment until today because I was just so dang sore. Figured that my body might be more receptive to manipulation if I had just taken class. It was, but I was also geared up to speak with her about the pain. It was empowering, in a small way. She did less-intense (I can't go so far as to say gentle) work, and so far I don't feel too bad. And she scheduled my next appointment 10 days out, which is nice, too. It's good to work on things, but it's good to know when to back off, too. This is the first time I feel like she's actually heard what I'm saying regarding pain.

Got back to work and I saw this article about Rolfing in the NY Times. I thought it was interesting, and share-worthy because it mentions yoga's benefits (woot!) but also something near and dear to my heart (and back): fascia.

One line at the end made me chuckle a little bit, and reminded me of my extreme gratitude for yoga:
"It's almost as if your body locks up emotions," he said.

You think? ;)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

frustration and discomfort (and things I actually do like about fall)

The thing about winter, and why it doesn't get my wrath, is because it's supposed to be cold. I'm simply resigned to that.

Well, it's been a little while since I've posted. I'm hardly on the computer at home, and this is the crazy-busy time of year at work.

First things first, I suppose:
While I did not come close to finishing 30 classes in 30 days, I think I did between 15 and 20, which is a far more regular practice than I've had in a long time. I think it really helped in getting better results with the chiropractor, too. On the 26th, I did my first class without water — I think it was the first, anyway. I didn't plan on it, but I got to the studio late and didn't have time to fill my bottle nor grab a bottle from the cooler.

I didn't die. Actually, it wasn't even that bad. I wouldn't want to make it a regular thing, as I like having the option of taking a sip when I (think I) need it. But water-free class went fine. Class on the 30th was cancelled because of flooding and a power outage in the area, and I was crushed that there was no class. I know, it surprised me, too.

These days... ohhhhhh, these days.
Like I've written before, the initial problems that got me in the door to the chiropractor's office are pretty much resolved, which is fabulous. But my muscles are quite, very, surprisingly, unbelievably sore in the hours and day after my appointments. Then my weird skin pain kicked back up into high gear. I scratched an itch on my shoulder one night, and it felt like I was digging into a deep bruise. Awesome.

The BF and I took the dogs for a hike this past Saturday afternoon, and although the scenery was stunning, the hike was really physically challenging for me. Within a few minutes, I was out of breath, and my muscles (HELLO, HAMSTRINGS!!!) were screaming at me. I kept up, and threw sticks for the dogs while he climbed, but on the trip back to the car, my legs felt like Jell-O. By the time we got home, it was all I could do to take a shower and pass out. This hike wasn't exceptionally long, either. Gahhhh... Couldn't help but think, What is wrong with me???

And over the past two weeks, it has felt like my back muscles have been slowly developing the texture of beef jerky. Everything in spasm, all of the time, especially between my shoulderblades and spine. And the exhaustion, oh mannnn. Normally, when I get on the train in the morning and evening, I get a little something done before I sleep for about 20 minutes, whether it's knitting, editing, reading, or playing stupid games on my phone. Now, it's hard to stay awake for a few minutes until the conductor checks tickets. Then, my head drops and I probably drool all the way to work (or home).

Something funny:
All last week, I felt bombarded by "I love fall" sentiments. I love that everyone else loves fall, and some people write about it just beautifully.

Me, on the other hand, well, I do not love fall. Not even pumpkin spice lattes. After about a week of glorious 60ish-degree days, I've had enough, thanks. It portends only colder things to come, and cold makes my body very, very uncomfortable. (I once read a piece called "You Know You're From San Diego If..." and it included "...if it's below 60 degrees, you're freezing, and if it's above 85, you're dyyyying it's so hot." It's pathetisad, but mostly true, for me.) So BF's mom was waxing poetic Saturday about how lovely fall is, and made the mistake of asking if I didn't love it. I'd had it. I said something to the effect of, No, I don't. It gets cold, and I don't like being cold. It makes my body hurt. I'm ready to move to Southeast Asia where I can love hot-and-wet and hot-and-dry year-round. (And the food!)

Well, my little friends, I've learned to be careful what I wish for.
I went to yoga Sunday, and the room felt extra-hot. Maybe it's me, I thought, as I took a knee for the umpteenth time (the HAMSTRINGS!!! from the hike, 'member?). But then I noticed my neighbor R, who I've never seen sit, was sitting. And he's usually on the hot side of the room, anyway! The teacher temporarily opened the door between the studio and the lobby, and put the fans on full blast, and generally tried to cool us down even a smidge. In the first, long, savasana, it felt like the bottoms of my feet were actually on fire. Which I've experienced before (the feeling, not actual combustion), but never at this studio. Thank goodness this was not an accidentally-water-free class: My lips were cracking.

Turns out it was 116 degrees.

OK, UNIVERSE! I get it. I will not express my disdain for chill any longer. I will accept the temperature as it is every day, and rock the heating pad as often as I need to in an attempt to stay reasonably pliable. I will invest in SmartWool and live another several months wearing their long-janes under my jeans (I heart SmartWool).

Stay Positive:
In an effort to be positive, the BF and I are going to come up with one thing every day that is good about fall. (He loves autumn because it is prime rock-climbing season here, and prime surfing season at home [amazing that I still call it that, but that's another post for another day].) This is an easy list for him.

Through the fog of my crankiness and crybabyness and general wahh, wahhh of the past few weeks, and which you've just read through, I've come up with a few things I like:
Fewer tourists in the way at Grand Central and hindering passage along the sidewalks on my walk to work.
The smell of wood-burning fires.
No mosquitos!!! (This is a big LIKE.)
Wearing beanies.
The crunchy noise leaves make underfoot.
Rain. (Which I realize isn't limited to fall, but it reminds me of my very favoritestest season "at home": winter at the beach.)
Rooting for the little guys in the baseball playoffs. (Go Twins! Go Rays!)

Another positive: After one particularly chilly train ride home, it occurred to me that as hot yoga has helped me learn to love the heat, perhaps cold yoga would help me better deal with chills. My plan: Start a worldwide empire of yoga studios, renting out old meat lockers wherein we can practice a predetermined sequence of postures to a dialogue delivered by someone wearing a snowsuit. Class temperatures will not exceed 40 degrees (Fahrenheit, to clarify for any non-U.S. readers I might have) — mind over the matter, right? Instead of coconut-water coolers, we'll have hot chocolate and soup ready to serve up after class.

I think it could work... you?


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day 20: Not two-thirds done.

I so wish I'd been able to practice this yoga on each of 30 days. (That brings to mind the saying, "If wishes were fishes..." — what does that even mean?) But this month, it wasn't to be... It did, however, get me into the chiropractor's office, and on a path to minimizing daily pain. If the primary goal of every endeavor is to learn even one little thing, then I've met that, as I've learned a bunch by trying to complete this challenge.

Last night, the BF was out hiking with the dogs when I got home, so I did two sets of each posture in the standing series, and a single set of the remaining postures before they got home. The dogs needed baths IMMEDIATELY, smelling vile after rolling in who-knows-what. Once they were clean and fluffy, I went back to my mat and goofed around with more postures. I did a few sets of standing head to knee on both sides, a couple standing bow pulling poses, and some other random postures. Anything involving toes touching your head is a hell of a lot easier in a warm studio, you know?

Something possessed me to work on headstands. They, like my living room's floor, are HARD!

One thing I really appreciate about a home practice is the flexibility to do an extra set of postures, or hold something just a little bit longer than we would in class. I'm not sure anyone really likes standing head to knee, but I am enjoying it for now because I've been feeling a progression in it, especially as my hips start to even out. On my 30 Before 30 list, I have "Do 29 backbends." I love backbends, I really do, but I'm thinking of editing that to-do, changing it to "Do 29 standing head to knees." So much more of a challenge. We'll see...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Days 17/18: Disappointed | Day 19: Bittersweet

I ended up taking off all of last week. After my surprisingly awesome double on Sunday (9/12), I didn't practice again until yesterday (9/19). It was a strong class, and fairly flexible, but the goodness of it was bittersweet. I would rather have had a mediocre class with daily practice leading up to it, but (to use an expression I really dislike) it is what it is. I am ridiculously sore today, and my hamstrings feel loose and floppy like shoelaces. But it's all good.

I read Mei's post, and made a phone call about the competition. Apparently advanced classes are available to people training (is that even the right word?) for the competition. They are during my work days, but maybe I could get to at least one. I still have no idea what my two optional postures would will be.

I noticed some tiny alignment changes in the mirror yesterday. It's nice to see some results from the S&M beatdowns from the chiropractor. :) And, in a sign of progress on that front, I'm down to one day a week with her.

Looking forward to doing my — our, really — yoga tonight. I love practicing with mirrors, but I learn a lot by practicing without them, too. Especially in my left hip, I'm getting to really feel the alignment from the inside, out.

The outdated browsers on my work computer are incompatible with Facebook working in more than a cursory way, so I've stopped wasting time there. (Which is good, because this is a busy time of year here at the mag.) I have, however, filled all that time with reading blogs by Bikram yogis and yoginis. Congratulations to those just starting teacher training! I hope they have an incredible experience in my old hometown.

And I hope you all had a stellar weekend. :)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Days 14/15/16: "Do What You Can Today, And Do Not Judge Yourself."

The title of this post is from a piece over at this blog, which I found through another blog.

And it's something I know that I know, but definitely needed a reminder about.

I don't know if it's because of looming chilly weather, or work stress, or life stress — or catalyzed by the yoga and the bodywork — but my body is hurting... Beyond the unbelieveable stiffness, beyond the for-no-reason muscle soreness, beyond all sorts of other symptoms that can be explained away. It feels like the fibromyalgia is back from its slumber. I know that it's back when my skin starts to hurt.

Basically my nerves freak out over normal sensations (god forbid I get goosebumps) and minimal stimulus (please don't pat my arm, thanks). Maybe I have written about this here, before? It's theorized that the nervous system doesn't know what to do with this input. You know what is really good at calming down the nervous system?


So after a four-so-far-day hiatus (it was only supposed to be three, but a train breakdown kept me from the hot room last night. *shakes fist!!*), my goal tonight is to simply move. I'll just do a single set (maybe [poutyface]), slowly and deliberately. I'd like to do that every day, from now until whenever.

The chiropractor got insurance to authorize this:

Ostensibly, electrical impulses sent via the little gel pads have a pain-relieving effect. Thus far, that hasn't really happened for me. I do feel like the muscle spasms are breaking up, a little bit, and maybe that's the first step to the pain relief. We'll see. It isn't hurting anything and it didn't cost me a dime, so I might as well give it a go. Even though it reminds me of an old-school garage-door opener.

A few hours later:
Well, just got back from a productive visit with the chiropractor, Dr. E. I mentioned my concerns, she sounded surprised by them, but then she kind of switched gears and was really nice. She recommended a homeopathic treatment specifically for nerve pain, which is kind of cool. I am not totally convinced that homeopathic treatments work, but if it does, it only costs $6.99. And if it doesn't, I'm only out $6.99. Also, I'm only seeing her once next week. (YAY!!$$$!)

She said that stiffness is often an intermediate step between pain and not-pain, as more blood flows to the area. She said to keep moving, keep using the garage-door opener, keep doing what I'm doing because my spine is moving.

My thought: Yeah, but to "keep doing what I'm doing" will make things hurt. ??? That is counterintuitive, at best. So, as I wrote above, I'm just going to go slow and steady, gently. And I'll try the sugar pills.

Love love, and happy Friday, ladies. :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day 13: Getting frustrated

First things first: No yoga last night. I'm now two classes down, again. My goal wasn't just to do 30 classes in 30 days (which I'm fairly optimistic I can still do). I'd wanted to do at least one class every day for at least 30 days. So: Grrrrrr.

The midback pain that I initially went to the chiropractor for seems to be resolving quite well. My spine feels straighter, and now that the initial insane muscle soreness has passed (despite Dr. E's continued efforts to leave me black and blue), my back-back is feeling pretty good. My lower back, on the other hand...

Dr. E has been working on moving my left hip around, trying to get it to want to become unstuck. Not forcing anything, but gradually opening things up in there.

My, how they are opening.

The shooting, stabbing pains in my sciatic area started a few hours after yesterday's appointment. The long-compacted SI joint seems like a creaky door that has been shut tightly for years, and is going to need some coaxing to stay open. That groan the door makes when you open it? I think my joint is making that noise. I took ibuprofen (Advil), then naproxen (Aleve) later on. Left a heating pad on it while sitting at my desk. Seemed to help.

Then I stood up and tried to walk, and the joint screamed at me. Two hours later, sitting at home, after more ibuprofen, I had an ice pack on the joint. The pain was so bad that I felt like I was going to vomit. So, no yoga last night either, causing me to be pretty frustrated.

Last night, I went upstairs to find feathers everywhere and two holes in my not-new-but-until-now-awesome down comforter. Lucy, the 7-month-old puppy, had a guilty look on her face.

She is cute, but she is sneaky.

It was the last straw for me. She had already chewed through the only decent pairs of shoes I had. (I'm not a shoe whore, but now I think I should be. It would have been nice to have backup shoes.) My car is falling apart. My computer is falling apart. Because of my weight gain since moving to NY, a lot of my clothes don't fit. I am flat broke, and I can't seem to catch up on basic things in life outside of utilities, train passes, and credit card payments (and believe me, I am incredibly grateful that I mostly have those under control, but this is my freakout). I'd wanted to visit San D in November, visit my friends and some family and my old beaches and Bikram teacher training, but I have no idea where money for airfare is going to come from. I'm not a materialistic person by any means, but is it so much to just ask for one thing, just one, to be in reasonably good shape? Normally, in the face of such destruction/dilapidation, I can say, "Well, at least I've got my health." Not this time.

That's right. I went from superkilling back pain to total freakout just like that. I spent the next 20 minutes or so wailing in the bathroom — didn't want to wake the BF — torturing myself with questions like, Is it (this nebulous "it") karma? Is it fibro, which I recently thought I'd been so good at appeasing, rearing its ugly head? Do I deserve this pain and this instability (inside and out, I guess) because of something I've done (or didn't do)? On and on and on it went, verging on self-pity but (I hope) not totally giving in. It's more frustration, I promise.

And then I remembered all the times that people have told me we store emotions in our bodies. So hopefully that is all this is. I'm a control freak about very few things, but I think maybe some of those tendencies are coming out, as maybe all of the bodywork I've been having has accelerated the process.

But it'd sure be nice to not be frustrated. And it'd be nice to be able to walk/sit/breathe without my nerves screaming at me.

Gahhh, this is quite the unfocused rant, but that's what blogs are for, right? If you've read this far, well, I apologize. At least you got to see my cute dogs. :)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Days 10, 11 and 12: The picture I wanted to post before

That's pitcher Jered Weaver, one of my favorite players on my favorite team, practicing crow pose before a game on April 21, 2009.

Day 11 was good. Would you believe I took class from Bikram himself? It's true: he taught in my living room! The CD is cool like that. For a long time I really didn't like the CD. It aggravated me in ways that are hard to pin down now.

But now, I giggle at most of the Bikram-isms and really find a kind of comfort in the rest of his dialogue. The man is funny. His accent and pidgin English are also kind of funny (except "much more higher." That is not funny. It just hurts my ears.) He segues into singing at times, from silly ("Don't look so sad/Don't look so lonely/Long way from home/To kill yourself...") to more somber tunes (he intones something during a savasana in the floor series, and he could be singing Britney Spears for all I know, but it just seems less jokey).

I went rock climbing later in the day, finally some "easy" stuff (the routes my BF finds are not usually easy enough for me, and it's never truly easy). I climbed the strongest and fastest I have in a long time, and with less hesitation/freak-out about moves. Yes, it was an easyish route, but I wasn't scared. Pretty sure that's the yoga effect, my friends. :)

Since I'd missed Friday night again (it's not even like I'm going out and partying, I just cook longer and relax longer and start drinking wine earlier...), I had to do a double Sunday and make up for at least one of my two missed classes.

Previous experiences with doubles had not been good: I had done one class early and one class later, and the later class was usually really hard. So of course I was realllllly intimidated by the idea of doing back-to-back classes, followed by my usual hours of cleaning. I'd carefully planned out that in the half-hour between classes, I would chug a coconut water, shower quickly, change clothes, and help as needed at the desk. Well, the desk was chaos from the start, and I didn't have a chance to shower or change. (Importantly, I got the coconut water!)

I ran into the room for the second class just as the teacher was about to start pranayama, and I had a good, strong class. It was small, and nearly half of the students were brand-newbies. I think I decided that since I had to be an example, I *couldn't* have a weak or unfocused class. And I didn't. (And the new kids did so great! I was so proud of them.)

The first class was really aggravating on a personal-space level, and the work-study cleaning after class was really frustrating, and I could go on and on and on here about the specifics, but I'm mostly going to just try to let it go.

One funny thing, though:
I thoroughly cleaned the mirrors during the long gap between the second morning class and the (usually very small) afternoon class. They looked awesome. They were perfectly clean. The later-class's teacher and I had been discussing various cleaning issues/dramas. Usually after class, the mirrors just need to be spot-cleaned. I told D that I'd done everything possible to make her post-class duties easy, and she'd just have to spot-clean the mirrors before leaving. ... ... ... ...

And then The Flinger walked in. As soon as he was safely in the studio, we just smacked our palms to our foreheads. The best-laid plans...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Day 9: A public service announcement

via dialaview /

This public service announcement sponsored by your local friendly work-study student:

PLEASE, for the love of all that is good, PLEASE, do not be an overzealous sweat-flinger!

As part of my work-study duties, I clean up around the studio after classes. Emptying trash cans, spraying down mats and showers, vacuuming, laundry, etc. No problem. On weeknights, I typically spot-clean the mirrors from the incidental and inevitable sweat splotches. We are, after all, touching that mirror in Standing Bow Pulling Pose, aren't we? ;) Of course we are.

But man, oh man. There's one guy who always stands in the front-left corner of the studio, sequestered waaaaay into the corner in a way that isn't necessary when there are only 10 people in class, and he throws sweat everywhere.

(Now, I understand this sweat business: Unfortunately, I consider myself a super-sweater, and have soaked my fair share of towels. But I try, at least, to keep my splish-sploshing confined to my mat and towels. I get that it's 105° and we're dripping. I do.)

After classes that The Flinger is in, I have to bust out the squeegee and Windex and many towels, just to clean this one corner. I understand that this is part of my job, but there are many, many other things to tend to and it's already after 9 p.m. when I start cleaning, and I have a 45-minute drive home. For the same reason that we don't leave our sweaty clothes laying around the dressing rooms, we should try to be considerate about cleanliness in the rest of the studio and other people's time.


(Inspired in part by Cristina's awesome post here.)

It would have been nice to get home before 11. Otherwise, last night's class was pretty good.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Days 7 and 8: Multitasker

Tuesday was a full day, crazy and hectic at work, but I knew I could power through it. Dinner at home ran long and the dogs demanded attention. I was really looking forward to my yoga class at 10:05 p.m. It's an unusual time, I know, kind of late, but totally worth it. Why? Because I can put on the Angels game (7:05 Pacific) and practice while I listen!

(There's another picture I want to put here, but I can't find it now.)

Oh sure, it kind of defeats the whole meditative purpose, but once in a while I just want to feel back in touch with my favorite team. Even if they are having a miserable year. Listening to the announcers cracks me up, too, because they are awesomely badentertaining. Occasionally I'll find myself holding a posture extra-long, caught up in listening to an interview, for example. I rarely stay up for the late game times, so when I do, practicing yoga is a way to multitask and avoid feeling like I'm staying up crazy late for no good reason. And there's that whole challenge thing, too. I sure love this home practice! :D

EDITED TO ADD: After I finished my 26+2, I ran through the series of postures required for competition a few times, making sure to keep a smile on my face. I have no idea what my optional postures will be. Has anyone here (that's you, readers) competed? Advice? Insight? I still don't know if I will, but... but...

Yesterday: chiropractor again, where I (nerd alert, E!) learned that because of the scoliosis, my left-side ribs and my right-side ribs grew differently. Yep, the torsion caused the left ones to grow in more flat, and the right ones to be more rounded. She beat me up again (damned if it's not productive, though), and I actually left work early because of the soreness (a heating pad seems to be helping today). I had agreed to fill in at the yoga studio for another worker-studier, so got to take the 5:45 class.

"Taking it easy" in class is actually really hard, but always a good lesson. Be kind to yourselves, people. Show a little compassion when you look in that mirror. Give yourself credit for being there, challenging yourself to just be there.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Days 4, 5 and 6: Learning not to panic

photo via / raichinger

"To stay with that shakiness—to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge—that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic—this is the spiritual path." ~ Pema Chodron

Bikram says it's fine if you can meditate in a pretty, quiet room, perfectly appointed with items designed to aid relaxation (I'm paraphrasing A LOT). What's more challenging, and more worthwhile, is to find a quiet mental space when you're stuck in freeway traffic in Los Angeles (I like to think he's referring to the 405), when it's 90 degrees and your car's AC is broken. If you can meditate there, you can meditate anywhere. If you can learn to meditate upside-down in a hot room, with sweat running up your nose, you can meditate anywhere.

I tried to keep this in mind Monday as sweat was indeed running up my nose during Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose. I'd driven up to Saratoga Springs to take class from a friend whom I hadn't seen in far, far too long. My back was stiff and sore because, well, it's my back, and my body was creaky from the two hours in the car headed to a morning class, where everything is always stiffer.

During class, the "traffic/hot/stuck" metaphor translated to my body. If I can learn to work to the edge of the pain, and find/make peace with my spine where it is at that moment, it's possible to learn to breathe and calm down those pain sensations while walking around in day-to-day life.

(My 30-day challenge update: Saturday, morning home practice; Sunday, morning class at BYY; Monday, morning class at Hot Yoga Saratoga. Five classes in six days is probably the most consistently I've practiced since moving to New York. Yay! I might even be looking forward to doing a double one of these studio Sundays...)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Day 3: A haiku

photo via / konr4d

Chiropractic lunch
Brutal spine-shifting session
No yoga tonight

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Day 2: What if I don't want to trust the process?

little duck key bridge
photo via flickr/andy z

Trust the process.

I've (of course) never been, but apparently teachers-to-be hear this nonstop while at Bikram Yoga Teacher Training. But does it apply to us regular ol' students, too?

Right now, I hope not, because I really don't want to trust the process. My body hurts, and I'm frustrated, and I am cranky, dammit!

Some weird stuff has coincided with the onset of this mid-back pain. My digestion has been off. I realized that nerves branch out from everywhere in our spine, so I wouldn't be surprised if some of the nerves in my mid-back feed my guts (no pun intended). If the nerves are pinched or otherwise compromised, that affects my guts. Instead of sitting funny and having my leg fall asleep, my back is situated oddly and my intestines fell asleep.

Visits to the chiropractor seem to have helped with my back's structure, if not its pain.

Thursday night in class, I had a total meltdown once we hit the floor series. I was frustrated at the continuing back pain. I was frustrated with being frustrated. I was frustrated at having so much fear that the pain would continue. I've often heard in Bikramland the saying, "This is the pain that kills the pain." There's no harm in trusting that, for now.

I feel like I'm at one end of the bridge in the picture above. I know that the other end is out there, somewhere. I know it's there. I just have to believe that I can get there.

Come on, I know you sometimes feel like this too.

Especially in those early-morning classes.

video via tumblr / fuckyeahyoga

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Day 1: Done and done!

Sweat Zucchini
photo via Flickr/Johannes-Konrad

It's really hot here. Again. At the for-all-intents-and-purposes-if-not-technical-end of summer. It hit 96 today, September 1.

Which was perfect for a home practice to kick off my 30-day challenge! It's great/awful not starting until 10 p.m., but it gives me a chance to enjoy dinner with my man and a little walk with the dogs. Then they sleep, and I practice, and we're all happy.

It was a good class, if small. Leo the dog didn't even join - he ran upstairs to the air-conditioning as soon as he was allowed to. I, on the other hand, was dripping sweat not 10 minutes into my practice. I didn't use the CD or anything tonight, and it was cool and peaceful to hear the pitter-patter of sweat drops on my mat. (I just realized how disgusting that might sound to people who aren't fans of Bikram yoga.)

I didn't push my back toooo far, though it did take a few tries before I could get past the fear of doing a backbend while "cold" - at 90 degrees instead of 105. But I did it. Classes for the next five days should be no-brainers as far as scheduling, so (knock on wood) I think I'm in good shape to keep this challenge going!

That's all I got for now, folks, as I have to be out the door in six or so hours. Happy September, everyone! Any plans for the long weekend?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Just in time for National Yoga Month! (with a long aside)

I'm planning on doing a 30-day challenge in September. Not just because it's on my 30 Before 30 list. There are a couple of answers to "Why do this now?"

1. September actually has only 30 days. Just four months can claim that! For some reason, it works better in my mind this way. I think I'd be inclined to excuse myself for one day if I were to challenge in a 31-day month. This may make no sense, at all, but it's how my brain works... Also, it isn't cold yet, so I can get a good sweat on even in a mostly-home practice.

2. My life finally has a semblance of routine: I work at the yoga studio one night and one day a week. I go to work and I come home and I play with dogs. Sometimes I cook, sometimes the boyfriend does. It's all very boring, but I wouldn't have it any other way. (Well, that's not entirely true. I wish I could magically transport myself to work in an instant, but it's not going to happen, and I love where I live and I love where I work, so. That's that.)

3. The New York asana competition is in October, and participating is also on my 30 Before 30 list. Doing this challenge will help me prepare for that in a couple ways. Getting stronger with postures. Getting stronger in general. Losing a couple of pounds (maybe). Developing Bikram's five aspects of the mind (that's a great link; you should click it!): faith, determination, self-control, concentration and patience. Taking part in the competition might not happen, however, because 1) My emails to Bikram Yoga NYC have gone unanswered; 2) I can't seem to find anything about this year's competition, including a date, and 3) My back is kind of angry.

Aside/explanation about the back; feel free to skip this:

I've had lower back pain on and off for years now, and I'm used to it, and it's a dull-ache kinda thing. Yoga helps, etc, etc. I love, LOVE backbending. However, over the past three weeks to a month, I've developed pretty bad pain and stiffness in my midback. Well, the muscles have always been tight, but now my spine really feels stiff. Backbending HURTS. Feels like a metal rod is in my spine.

In a trip to the chiropractor Wednesday (the first such visit in over two years), I learned that the apex of my pain is right at the apex of my spine's scoliotic curve, like the point on the left side of this character: < . OK, maybe it's not quite that severe, but it feels like it! I also learned that my spine is more of a wreck than I had assumed/accepted. The doc actually asked me, "What happened to you?" as though she thought I'd been in a car accident, or something. Maybe she was hoping to keep steady any business from me. Not to worry, doc.

It was interesting to hear her rundown of my structural issues, as her observations actually validated a lot of perceptions (proprioceptions?) I'd had. For example, even when my feet are together, toes and heels touching, I feel like my left hip is waaay forward of the right one. And I feel like my head is constantly tilted to the right. And like my right shoulder is trying to reach forward to touch my wacky left hip. (This explains why my half-moon to the right comes extremely naturally — I'm already halfway there.) And on and on. And I was right!!!

Well, she did some work on my neck (my chin goes straight down now! Yay!) and my wonky lower back, and although I was sore yesterday, it was a good sore. Just like I've heard at yoga, my body didn't get into so much pain overnight; it's unreasonable to expect it to get awesome overnight.

That doesn't, however, keep me from wanting it to be awesome overnight. In Thursday's class, I still had the midback pain, and in the first backbend I just tried to breathe through the pain/fear (about which a post is started and sitting in draft version). The second one I did OK, though nowhere near its usual depth. The last thing I wanted to do was jam everything up. Which brings me back to...

End aside/explanation. Sheesh, that was long.

4. My back is kind of angry. A challenge, undertaken with care and concern and compassion, can work wonders for my spine, especially in concert with chiropractic.

What I hope to learn from you, lovelies, is why you do challenges. And what are some of the biggest obstacles to completing them? How do you address those obstacles? I won't be able to use the "I don't have enough time" excuse most days. My time commitment will be exactly 90 minutes (or however long the CD really is), since at least three days a week I'll be practicing at home. It's nice to have dealt with that excuse (my favorite, by the way) up front. Let's see if I don't talk myself out of it. :)

It's good to blog again. If you're a blogger, yoga-related or otherwise, know that I am always inspired (or at least entertained!) by what you've been writing. I so look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

So much to say, so much to say...

But where has my time gone? Been wondering if I should think about looking into modes of internet access for my laptop while I do the commuting thing every day. That's two whole hours a day I could be relating my yogic summer adventures (or lack thereof, honestly)... I could get caught up, at least.

But today... Today calls for a note to self.

For several days now, but especially today, I've been itching to stretch out these tight muscles and creaky bones. I was once again compelled to bust out a triangle in the bathroom stall. My left hip wanted more, more of that tinglyburnygetdeepinthere sensation. The lower back demanded it, too. It felt good to move into the posture for just a quick couple of seconds, to shush those clamoring voices for a while.

It'll be hard to keep this in mind, of course, in just over three hours, when the ABSOLUTE LAST thing I want to do is two sets of triangle.

The stoke, the motivation, the itch to do our yoga often comes easily outside the studio.

How do you honor that fire while in the studio, in the heat of the moment?

(Can't wait to post pics and a roundup soon. Very soon. Just as soon as I find a new mini-USB cable. Puppy chewed the old one...)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

I really, really, don't wanna go to the studio/class tonight. There is so much to catch up on at home: dishes, laundry, blah, blah, blah.

Over the years, it has become super-obvious to me that days when my (dirty) plate is too full are the days I most need to go. No doubt it'll be a good class. :)

As the saying goes, the only classes I regret are the ones I don't go to.

Happy Thursday, y'all! As one coworker said today, Thursday is like a prequel to Friday. Let's rock it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

On the outside, looking ... around.

Every Second Saturday of the month, all the art galleries and many businesses on Main Street stay open late, serving wine and cheese (and tiramisu!) and celebrate new openings. One of me and B's favorite storefronts, School of Jellyfish, was hosting a multimedia presentation/installation/poetry reading/dance performance. I'd met the artist a while back, just hanging out one night outside the shop, and didn't get a very good vibe from her; she seemed like another city person marveling shallowly at the "cuteness" of our town.

So cut to this past Saturday night. When I got to the shop around 7, it was packed with people dressed quite fashionably and air-kissing one another's cheeks. (Those things are, of course, fine, but they rub me the wrong way in certain settings when innumerable other, nameless things are rubbing me the wrong way, too.) I said hi to B (who was volunteering) and got my plastic cup of Prosecco, then wandered toward the back to look over the crowd.

Out of the blue, tears welled in my eyes. Not from the magic of the performance (which was more engaging than I'd expected). No, it was from thoughts of how I don't fit in here, and I don't fit in anywhere, and why, oh why, is it bothering me? I so often feel like I'm just too frumpy, too boring, too vanilla, too soccer mom-style, for anywhere I go. I *so* long to be this fashionable, elegant, interesting, avant-garde-y woman. But I'm just me — which is really ok, most of the time.

The crowd shape-shifted as the artiste introduced her dancer and explained her concepts (check out ekphrasis and kinetochore). Taller-than-me people pushed back to make room, spilling into the space where I'd been standing. I went outside, where I could see the dancer better through the wall of windows on two sides of the building. She was ravishing. Though neither the poetry nor the eventual music were audible outside, I wouldn't have noticed either even if I had been inside. She was that great (and I usually have a hard time watching modern dance). So many people walking by had been headed for the next gallery, only to surprise themselves by stopping in the drizzle, taking in a bit of the performance. Those huge windows really are spectacular. As the rain intensified, I headed back in.

Last week, while writing a long-overdue email (Hi, E!), I spent too many words trying to explain my feelings about where I've lived, how the various places have affected me, and how I am sometimes frustrated by some things about some residents of my little city (some have never left, and hate NYC, and think it has no redeeming qualities, while others have moved up from NYC to the town, and have patronizing attitudes about it, e.g. having a backyard garden is somehow both quaint and exotic). When I lived in the Bay Area, I was so different because of this. When I moved to Utah, I was so outsider because of that.

So it shouldn't have been such a surprise to me, when a little later on Saturday night, after two more cups of wine, it occurred to me that I apparently reinforce this "I don't fit in" feeling. It got me asking: Why am I so invested in identifying as an outsider? So far, I think the answer is that I'm not "invested," really; I just don't know what my niche is (yet).

Except, except, except — at the yoga studio. There, I'm just me. I fold the laundry, sign people in, try to reassure new students that they won't die in the hot room, breathe. Right after class on Saturday, I was goofing around in the studio, trying some arm balances (note to self: bring a dry towel next time; they are much harder when you are sweaty). The teacher, W, was walking past the door to the hot room and saw me, then ran in and did a couple of postures with me! It was fun, a kind of playful challenging...

I guess that around the yoga studio (this one as well as my last one in UT), just about everyone is stripped of the outward affectations that I see as separating us. To be sure, there are women with the swankiest lululemon tops and perfect hair — this is Westchester, after all. But there, I don't feel less-than, or not something enough. It's enough to just show up for a common purpose, a common 90-minute moving meditation, where we attempt to drop our baggage, our drama, at the door, and just sweat out the issues in our tissues (as my old teacher Alex says).

As with so many things I've learned and practiced at the studio, I need to figure out how to internalize this feeling and carry it with me into the real world. It's enough to just show up somewhere, be me, and have a good time. Even if I'm standing in the back, in just a T-shirt and jeans.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

He'll be fine, right?



The crunch of gravel under his tires.

The clinking-gurgling-car-winding-down noises once he kills the ignition.

The heel-toe, heel-toe, of exhausted steps — just one set — up to the house.

The jingling of keys while he fumbles in the dark for the door.

The usually-barely-audible-but-suddenly-deafening whirr of microscopic fans in household electronics.



* * *

Bryan stayed home sick Tuesday while I was here at work. We were talking on the phone, when suddenly the dogs (ohbtw, we got another one) started barking like crazy and I heard sirens. He said, "I have to go."

The two of us are, by 20 years or so, the youngest residents on the eastern end of our long block. Most others are in various stages of retirement, or have crazy 12-hour/3-day schedules. And Bry was home, battling a cold.

So I was the only one not around when the fire trucks and ambulances came for Bonnie, our next-door neighbor who, days after we moved in, brought over a tray of brownies. Then a little while after that, Girl Scout cookies (she's been a troop leader for almost 30 years, you know). Then just last week she and I spent an hour talking through the fence about camping, baseball and my hated (HATED) maple seedlings.

Don't worry: Bonnie's fine, or will be soon. Apparently, she had some kind of scary episode related to her diabetes (and probably not helped by the heat, now that I think about it), and was taken to a hospital. According to Bry, the crazily-scheduled-chemical-plant-worker-neighbors along our other fence drove Bonnie's husband, Jim, to the hospital.

I got home around 7, and Jim's car was gone. When I walked the dogs sometime well after midnight, it was back in its spot in front of their house. A desk lamp was on in the living room, but the house was otherwise dark.

With startling immediacy and emotion, that scene brought me back to October 2004. My husband of five weeks was in a coma after a car accident that killed his three friends. I knew he was in great hands at the hospital — not that there's a whole lot you can do for someone in a coma, most of the time, other than wait. His sister, whom I adore to this day, had flown in from Connecticut. His mom and aunt, too. After the first day or two, time spent at the hospital was actually not so painful — tons of friends brought food, the nurses and doctors were exceptionally brilliant and kind, and his corner ICU room had a killer view of the Salt Lake Valley and southern Wasatch Front. And a former coworker was running the 24-hour Starbucks in the hospital lobby — there were substantial discounts. Honestly, time at the hospital was OK.

Then I'd go home.

I only lost it one time, around 2 a.m. while waiting for the light at Foothill Drive and Sunnyside. That was the only time I wondered why... And the tough-girl side of me is inclined to chalk up that instance to sleep deprivation, nothing more.

But going home night after late night — alone — was truly awful. I hadn't reflected on it much over the years, not until I saw the little lamp glowing next door. The silence was the worst. The incidental noises and rustlings that I'd not noticed through two years of daily life with M — they were gone. It was like stepping into a place where time had stopped. M wasn't at work. He wasn't traveling. There would be no greeting, welcoming, door-opening. Not for a while, anyway.

Like Bonnie, M is pretty much fine these days. We talk a couple of times a month; he just got a full-time job (essentially, one identical to the one he had planned to start a week after the accident). He's dated a few people, but mostly hangs out with ourhis dog.

But walking in the door to silence... I think that fundamentally altered me, on some microcellular-subconscious-something level.

So I couldn't help but feel for my neighbor, Jim, knowing that he came home — alone — Tuesday night. I guess I'm a little worried about the guy: She has always seemed to be the sturdy one, the one who deals with people well. Oh, he and Bonnie aren't frail or anything, and they have lots of family and friends that will help with anything they need. But I couldn't ignore my visceral reaction to the scene. And it has stuck with me for days.

So I ask those reading this to keep Jim (and Bonnie too, I suppose, though I'm less worried about her) in their thoughts or prayers or good vibes sent into the ether as teeth are brushed in the morning. Because I really want him to be fine.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Things that make you go "Ommm..."

The image above popped up in my Facebook feed today. I captured it because I love learning the origins of the yoga terminology we use so often. I think most of us have heard that yoga, the word, comes from the Sanskrit word for yoke, bound together. And hatha comes from ha, sun, and tha, moon (incredibly oversimplified).

But guru's definition was new to me. I love it because I began my yoga practice in earnest during a period of such darkness, and as I've written before (I'm pretty sure), it brought me to a place of light.

There's so much to write, so many ideas to explore, but my head has been spinning a little bit lately. It's like my mind is an overstocked refrigerator, and I'm having a hard time figuring out what to make from all of this abundance... It's been so difficult to output cohesive bits of anything over the past month or so. Instead of going on a climbing trip over Memorial Day weekend with the boyfriend and his friends, I am considering staying put, slowing down, and catching up on the things I haven't foundmade time to do.

Much love. ♥

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Interview with a champ; posture clinic (I guess?)

A former teacher of mine won the big yoga competition (yeah, yeah, save it) in February. I wasn't as close with her as I was with most of the other teachers, but I was always inspired by her "kill them with kindness" approach to teaching classes. On the occasions I was lucky enough to practice next to her in class, I'd sneak glances over and usually think one of two things:
1) How can you practice while wearing a tube top?

So, here's a funny, but telling, interview with Brandy Winfield (thanks to Anna for the tweet).

Interview here
"I got done with [my first] class and I called [my mom] and asked, 'Are you mad at me? Why would you make me do something as terrible as that. That was the worst thing. Do you know it smells in there?' "

(In which I use "I" more than ever, possibly:)
So, last weekend I went to a posture clinic at my studio. I'd never been to one before. It wasn't what I expected. I know, I know, no expectations, but the whole reason I went was because I was expecting to have a particular experience. It had been my understanding that in a posture clinic, experienced teachers talk through the series of postures with a group of students. People can ask questions and get individualized help. And my experience included all of that, but it also felt like something was missing.

The seminar was scheduled from 1 to 3, which didn't allow for much time. The studio owner picked about 10 postures to focus on, the most-often misunderstood ones, which seemed to make sense to me. We got as far as standing head to knee (after skipping the planned review of awkward pose because of time constraints) before things kind of went off-track, I think. At that point, all the students stood up to work on it. Each of the six teachers there helped groups of two or three students.

And then, very quickly, it was 2:45 and students for the 3 o'clock class were getting restless in the lobby. I was slightly bummed out, as I expected (there's that word again) to learn "tricks," I guess; to learn ways to go more deeply into my postures. Specifically, I wanted to learn what I can do in several postures (pranayama, eagle, floor bow, anything really) to open up my shoulders and upper back. I didn't get that... When I did ask about my misaligned hips, I was basically told, "Yep, they're off. Don't worry about it. Just keep practicing."

So. I guess I need to learn to just trust the process, as they say incessantly at teacher training? That's great and all, but I am a do-something-about-it-oriented person. If we're all just supposed to trust the process, why bother with a posture clinic? I look forward, though, to the next one. It would be nice if it were several hours longer.

So: Have you participated in posture clinics or seminars (not just Bikram-style yoga, any kind)? How were they structured? What did you hope to learn? What did you actually learn? More thoughts?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Forehead to the knee

I did it. I actually touched my exactly forehead to my exactly knee during the second (shorter) set of Standing Head to Knee pose during the 10:30 a.m. class on Saturday, April 17. Both sides. Coming out of the second side, I was a little weebly-wobbly, but I did not fall down...

This post is the anti-insight, but I wanted to record this achievement somewhere, in case 1) it never happens again, and 2) I forget that it is possible. Both of which are pretty likely. :)

Inothernews — I spent much of my Sunday out in the yard, hoeing and raking and weeding. Classic rock blared from a neighbor's place. Between hourslong rounds of throwing the ball to the dog, I got some pea seeds (did you know that they are just, well, ummm, dried peas?) in the ground. In the afternoon, I went to Target and Lowe's. Today, I am whining about being sore from the yardwork. When did I become a caricature of a suburban 45-year-old yuppie?

(But seriously, I am amazed at what a good core workout I got.)

Hope that everyone had a swell weekend. How's the weather in your neck of the woods?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Well, helloooo there!

Hi all. It's been a while, eh?

Since I last posted something other than a quote or a picture, I have:

Started a work-study yoga program (March 18). I was so nervous while I drove to the studio after work; my stomach was in some crazy knots and my heart was racing. "What if they hate me?" They didn't. They are cool.

Bought a house (March 19). Just like I said in that last post from 3/18, things were turning around—no, really. They did. Life has become really good, especially in the past week. It's nice to check off boxes on to-do lists. It's even nicer to unpack boxes, but I'm working on that.

Went back to yoga (March 21, 25, 28; April 6, 8). Despite scrubbing mirrors and vacuuming studios and cleaning showers and stocking fridges and spraying/hanging/rolling mats and emptying trashes and washing loads of towels, which is like an entire workout unto itself after I've already done the yoga, I love being around the studio. My goal is to be there at least four days a week, but I have to be there at least two to do my work-study. And that's two more days than I was practicing in a studio before. So I'll take it. :) It has been an interesting ride already. Didn't take long to have a breakdown (the 25th?), but the teacher was so compassionate about it... Felt like home.

Had a regular checkup with a fabulous doctor (March 30). Got an unfortunate wake-up call, however, with the reading on the scale—a full 25 pounds more than the weight at which I feel really, really good. It threw me for a loop. I knew my clothes weren't fitting, but daaaayyyyummmm. Ouch. I can make excuses all day about stress and eating and moving and whatever, but really. Really. For me, it has always come down to just doing the yoga. Which I haven't done on a regular basis since moving to NY. I feel good about getting this on track, if only in a less-in-depth-than-I'd-like way, for now. (On a good note, my blood pressure was fine and my cholesterol was fabulous! Go me!)

Cleaned out an apartment and moved into the house (March 30). Thank Sweet Baby Jesus we are done with the apartment!!! Now, if only I could be home for more than 10 minutes, it'd be awful nice to start to unpack and find places for things. And maybe cook those root vegetables I bought (three+ weeks ago) and start those lettuce seeds.

Took a fabulous, long, road trip (March 31-April 5). Went to boyfriend's mother's family reunion in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We took the dog and drove the "long" way (12 hours compared to 14 hours), but it was nice because we kept the interstate/freeway driving to a minimum and enjoyed the coast. I wore a bikini in front of not-strangers, despite the weight insecurity. The South (the little that I saw) is a strange place, but with pockets of stunning beauty, such as the massive, unrelenting groves of wisteria. Pollen killed me. I love camping. Theirs is a huge family. I got to swim in the ocean... Felt like home (right down to the 58-degree water).

Returned home with a new appreciation for my little town (April 5). Beacon is truly amazing, combining everything I love about small, Main Street-y towns with convenience to nature and BIG CITY. It's all about the balance.

Had another yoga-studio breakdown (April 8). This time, the (same) instructor had a strange reaction. But I think that experience will be its own post.

Planned a manicure (April 9). One of my 30-day challenges for March worked out, anyway! I'm in a good habit of not biting my nails now. So it's kind of cool to have a little bit of a reward.

Back to the editing...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Quote: Let yourself be found

{what my ride in this morning looked like; photo by the boyfriend}

"Ever since happiness heard your name, it has been
running through the streets trying to find you.
- hafiz

Lot of good changes going on 'round these parts, just super busy. Hope to update soon, right after work slows down a little bit. Keep it rockin', 101ers!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Day 17/30: Ch-ch-ch-changes

Didn't practice yesterday (Wednesday) either. I spent several hours at work yesterday on the phone with various real estate folks, alternately bursting into tears and hollering. It boils down to this: If I did my job the way some of these people have performed theirs, my boss would quickly be showing me the door.

So by the time I got home last night, I was emotionally (which, for me anyway, is the same as physically) spent. Drained. Didn't help that on my walk back to the train station I somehow developed blisters on each foot. Random, right? I couldn't stand even when I wanted to. I've been dizzy, then woke up this morning with swollen glands by my ears and under my jaw. Rad.

This is one of those rare times in my life, going on a couple weeks now, when it's hard to avoid feeling like the universe is plotting against me.

Gawwwd I'm so dramatic.

But things are turning around today. The combination of my breakdown into a crying jag and being very assertive yesterday (to different people) seems to have really lubricated the wheels of the real estate people. Today, I was informed that we will now be closing on a lovely little house at 1 p.m. tomorrow, only a week later than we'd been planning (for months) on. *eyeroll*

And tonight I start my work-study at the yoga studio. I realized this morning that I've really missed sharing in a studio atmosphere. So, I am so excited to have this chance to rejoin that kind of community. It's not that I hope it's just like my old studio, because it can't possibly be. And it shouldn't be. I'm soooo looking forward to finding my place in a new place. :)

Apologies for my whine whine whine.

101-day challengers, you are getting so close!!! It's inspiring to read how people are feeling at this point in their practice. If you aren't sure about what to do on Day 102, why don't you... wait until at least Day 101 to figure it out? Hope you're all well. :)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Day 16: Simple. Good.

After continued real estate infuriation and lots of time wasted last night, I went home and rolled out the mat. Maybe it was because I wasn't as warm as possible, but I really felt every tweak and twinge of my body, particularly my left shoulder/spine/ribcage. I know I'm not the only one with that issue, too.

I've been aware of that torsion (twisting) in my spine for as long as I've been practicing Bikram yoga. From the first "Arms up over your head," when it feels like my torso is twisted to about 11 o'clock on a clock face, and as though my right arm is well forward of my left arm. And then when I try to stay aware of where my body is in space, and keep my arms in the same plane, it feels really exaggerated. Bah. I want to try practicing that motion with my back against a wall.

Lately, though, something has been shifting when I bend to the left in Half-Moon. It's almost like my left shoulderblade is moving toward my shoulder (Wait, is my shoulderblade my shoulder? Maybe I should try to draw this), and forward. It's been a little easier (I use that term extremely loosely) to keep my chin up, and it feels like my left shoulder and armpit are moving not down toward my hips, but instead out and over toward the left side of my mat. The shifting is uncomfortable, but I'm pretty sure it'll be good in the long run. (That last sentence could sum up my life, btw.)

* * *

This post got me thinking about ways to do an inexpensive yoga "retreat." The method I'm planning: Find out, through word of mouth or however, about a good studio with lots of classes, as far away from home as I care to go. Maybe find out where a posture clinic is happening, and attend that studio for several days or a week beforehand. Buy a ten-class pass, maybe.

It could be in a new city, if I feel like exploring or being completely anonymous, or a familiar one, if I'd rather have a sense of where things are and how to get from Point A to Point B (and maybe a friend's couch to crash on?). Accommodations could also be in an inexpensive hotel, or maybe in a tent set up in a beautiful place (as is more my budget). It may not be as consuming, yoga-wise, as an official "retreat" with massages and food and everything taken care of, but I'd like to think that the intention is there. Setting aside real life, and time, and money of course, isn't easy. But I'd like to think I could make this a reality.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Day 15: You win some, you lose some.

Didn't practice last night. I don't even have a good excuse, like I felt sick again or the world was blowing up. I just, didn't do it. Which bothers me. (Five classes shy of my 30 classes in 30 days goal, for what it's worth.)

Instead of practicing, I:
• argued with my boyfriend about our looming house purchase and how ridiculously lame the people responsible for it are acting.
• made lasagna!
• watched "The Hangover" with said boyfriend while we sort of made up over ice cream.
• stared at a census form for longer than it would have taken to fill it out, trying to decide whether to fill it out at all if I'm not going to be living there on April 1 (if the !%$%^$% mortgage folks can get their act together).

I have had this general sense of restless dissatisfaction the past few days. I don't know if it's just stress over the house thing, and lacking control over that process. But I was frustrated in my practice on Saturday (my eyes were really bothering me and it was hard to focus), I cut my finger open on Sunday, then last night I almost came to tears while spreading a cheese mixture over lasagna noodles. It wouldn't spread right and the noodles were not staying in line!!!

Seriously. Fifteen hours later and I'm still irritated about the damn lasagna (which turned out great, despite the deviant noodles).

On the plus side, though, I haven't bitten my fingernails in about two weeks, and I'm loving the pink sparkly polish. So there's that.

I have to run over the the real estate office tonight to turn in some papers (gripe grumble gripe), but after that, it is YOGA TIME. I may not eat dinner. There may be dirty laundry piled higher than my head. My dog might whine and whimper for attention. The lettuce seeds will stay unstarted. But I neeeeeeed to exorcise this aggravation. Or, at the very least, go through motions that will center me, and distract me temporarily from this...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Day 14/30 (part 2): I accomplished what I needed to.

Practice last night (3/14, Pi Day!) was good. The boyfriend got home from an attempted run through mud just as I was starting Awkward Posture. His "run" was less than fulfilling, so he rolled out his mat next to mine, we skipped the iTunes back a few tracks, and he practiced with me. Then he took me out to a kickass dinner.

I'd had grand plans to cook a lot over the weekend. Assuming the next few weeks will be crazy with last-minute new house stuff, I wanted to have healthy, hearty food ready to pop in the oven at night, or ready to grab while we're running out the door in the morning. I stocked up on lots of veggies at the store Saturday, planning to make a soup or two, scones, bread, lasagna, and roasted root vegetables. I also wanted to start seeds for my garden-to-be at the new place...

I made the bread, anyway. (It's good.)

So I didn't get done what I wanted to. But I got in two solid yoga practices, and met with a studio owner to start a work-study program. That's what I needed to do.

Maybe I'll get to the lasagna tonight?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Days 12, 13, 14/30: Ending on a high note

Day 12: Friday. I didn't practice Thursday night because I was headache-y and barfy when I got home from work. Friday, more of the same, plus sore throat. I was in bed at 8:30. Four classes down; this is not good...

Day 13: Saturday. I slept til 10:30 on Saturday morning! I never sleep that much. Crazy. Woke up with the same sore throat, but it went away after a few hours. Thought about going to the $10 karma/donation class at the studio 45 minutes away, but decided to save myself lots of time and do a hot-as-possible class at home. how did I accomplish this? I baked bread and squash all day, so the apartment was warm; it was humid because it's rained for three days; boyfriend built a fire and I ran the space heater; and I left my fleece on over my thermal long-sleeved shirt the whole 90 minutes. Sweaty!

It was probably one of my "worst" home practices. My contact lenses were really bothering me, so it was hard to focus on whichever spot on the wall was representing my eyes or knees at any given time. The lenses just kept moving around. To add to my list of good things about practicing at home: Cursing is less frowned upon. Again, Leo the dog assisted:

(This picture is from a few weeks ago, but this is what he does. Here, his head is tucked under my arm. He was making sure my "exactly forehead" was on my knee.)

Despite the challenging practice, I didn't sleep that well. High winds have accompanied the rain, and we're living in fear that tree branches will come flying through the window at any time. But particularly in the middle of the night.

Day 14: Sunday (today). The real estate office was showing our apartment this afternoon, so we tried to go for a hike. Alas, the place we wanted to go was closed. So we wandered around down by the Hudson instead. (Here's a picture, not by me, of what it looked like.) Walking back to the car, my phone rang with a weird number, so I almost didn't answer it. But then I did, and it was the owner of the 45-minutes-away studio!!! She was calling about work-study, and asked when I could meet her to talk about it. She had a class getting out at 4:30 could I come then?

I raced down there, walked in at 4:33, and walked out at 4:39 with a job! Woooohoooo!!! I start Thursday night, vacuuming and cleaning mirrors (she didn't mention washing towels, but I imagine that'd be part of it, too). I'm so, so, so excited. I have absolutely no idea why she is letting me do this (she doesn't know me at all!), but I am so humbled and honored. Weekend morning doubles, here I come!

Now it's time for me to fire up the heater and roll out the mat. I want to get a good practice in before continuing to cook. I hope you all had a great weekend!


Friday, March 12, 2010

11/30: Sick and Tired

Felt barfy and headachy last night on the train ride home. Maybe something in my lunch didn't sit well? So I didn't practice last night. Feel pretty lame about being down three classes again, but there will be doubles this (rainy, therefore climbing-free) weekend. Regardless of how this 30-day challenge looks on March 30, I am stoked that I have already gotten into a habit of practicing more, and being really excited again about this yoga of ours...

We also found out yesterday that the closing on our house, which was supposed to be today, is going to be pushed back at least a week because of mistakes made on the financial folks' end. Ugh. We needed as many weekends as possible to get it ready to move in. Now, we're hoping to have two. I suppose that means I will have extra time to yoga it up, since I won't be shuttling boxes between Home A and Home B. Woohoo!

We're getting my favorite weather here this weekend, a little chilly with rain. Besides the yoga, I hope to start some seeds for a garden — even though I don't yet know where I'm going to put the trays. I have seeds for basil and mixed lettuces. A friend sent kohlrabi seeds from Germany, but I don't know much about that vegetable. It was so fun being a wannabe gardener last year; I hope to grow much more produce this summer!

Happy Friday to each and every one of you. :)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Day 10/30: Yoga to the People

The boyfriend had a meeting "upstate" at 7:30 last night, so wouldn't be able to pick me up from the train station. So I made an after-work date with David's Bridal to try on bridesmaid dresses for my friend's October wedding. Hey, I thought, I could get out of there in time to do some yoga! So I brought my yoga clothes with me to work.

And I'm so glad I did! There is nothing like bridesmaid-dress-trying-on to motivate one to work out. It's irrelevant that most of those dresses are universally unflattering. The yoga studio had a 6:30 class just three blocks from the store, so after trying on four dresses and taking the requisite pictures for my friend, I made a beeline for the studio.

I had looked into going to another studio near work where one of the Bikram 101 challengers often practices, but HOLY SMOKES! Their single-class price is up to $30! Zoinks. Maybe that's to give students an incentive to buy a many-class package, but I can't afford one of those right now. So off I went to Yoga to the People, where classes are just 10 bucks. The only other time I've been there (in November I think?), I was worried about the quality of the instruction, and was so, so pleasantly surprised. They may not be an affiliated Bikram studio, but that teacher had clearly been to training and was A.W.E.S.O.M.E.

The studio was packed as usual when I got there. I didn't have any cash with me, and they don't take cards. Yikes! Awk-ward. But the girl working the desk and the woman who was to teach just told me not to worry about it; I could hit an ATM in the neighborhood after class and pay then. That was such a nice surprise. I set up my rented mat ($2) in the back (third) row, in one of the few remaining spaces. It felt really cool to not have an attachment to needing to be near the mirror.

A funny thing I noticed the first time at this studio, and this may be true of many classes in New York, was that students are really, umm, vocal with their breath. In the first breathing exercise, there was the slight hissing/snoring sound that I've heard at a couple studios, same as the noise sometimes demonstrated by teachers for new students. But the exhale, oh man, the exhale. It's like an actual vocal exercise. I really don't know how to describe it. You know the noise some people make when they see a cute baby (or baby animal, in my case)? That Awwwwwwww? Well, the exhale noise is like that, but breathier. It's not quite a moan, but certainly approximates it.

It's so foreign to me, but I have on more than one occasion felt like I am really restrained in producing noise with my body. (That sounds bizarre.) I guess I've just never really found that place in myself that experiences anything other than awkwardness when deliberately trying to create some kind of primal sound. For me, for me, there is nothing authentic about it and so it feels like a waste of time and for me, dignity.


I realized last night that many of the students there are likely actors, singers, or other kinds of performers. So many of them have practiced working with their breath, and have exercises that mimic pranayama breathing, but with that additional step of warming up the vocal cords. Once I figured that out, the breathing didn't seem melodramatic. It just seemed like an extension of their other passions. Which, to me, is pretty awesome.

The instructor was fabulous. The woman (I think her name was Kati, like kah-tee) has been teaching for 25 years (not sure if it's been Bikram the whole time) and she was amazing. Super, super strong, very deliberate with instructions for anatomy, good energy, good with the new students. I don't know this woman at all, and she never called me by name (students write their names on a sticker that goes by the mat), but just by her presence, I was pushed to go deeper into some postures. It's possible that was my deepest floor bow since moving to New York — it felt like my stuck shoulders were finally, finally, opening up. (I would give anything to have a photo of the time three years ago that my old studio owner picked me up by the wrists while I was in this posture. I wish I could see where my shoulders were then, because they actually feel better now.)

Today, I'm not too sore. I feel it most in my feet, and in my left knee, which had another rough/tight class. It's really interesting to feel something happening there. I imagine I must have developed a bad biomechanical habit when I busted my ankle in November, and now (despite post-activity tenderness in the ankle) I'm working through the mechanics. It's good. :) With the exception of some unfortunate loose short-shorts slippage on a guy in front of me during the spine-strengthening series (really, I was overdue for some kind of sighting like this), and some aching guts due to eating fabulous tacos for lunch, it was a great, great class. That studio packs people in, but people are respectful despite being mat to mat.

Another note: I really like my peace and quiet in savasana. On Sunday I got all snippy about people slamming the door at that studio. Well, here, after class, people were whispering (but 50 people whispering adds up, noisewise) and the studio doors are opened to the lobby (I don't know if this was just last night, or is always the case) where people are arriving for the 8:30 class. It was LOUD!

Then I remembered something in Bikram's orange book. It's nice if you can meditate in a soothing place that smells good, with an altar and whatever else you need to achieve total serenity and oneness with the universe. But one point of his yoga is to help us get to the point where we can meditate under any circumstances, whether we're upside down in a hot room or sitting in traffic in Los Angeles when it's 90 degrees and the car's air conditioner doesn't work.

This is my challenge, my opportunity. To be able to go inward to find that quiet, still place. I wonder if this is linked in any way to my difficulties with rabbit posture, if it is truly the opposite of camel (which I usually find fun, without the difficult physical and emotional experiences so many others have). Rabbit brings up in me the same things I often hear mentioned with camel. So, time to look inward.

Namaste, kids!