Saturday, December 18, 2010

The new way of eating

OK. So this isn't a totally new way of eating.  It's not even a new way of eating for me.  I sort of accidentally ate this way while I was in Goa but never really got the hang of it here.

I've stopped eating dinner.  WHOA.  This is a big shift for me as someone who truly believes in three square meals a day.  I do take a small bowl of soup and maybe some fruit, but not the two giant servings of pasta that I used to.

Why?  Because my teacher told me to almost two years ago (maybe more) and now I'm finally ready.  I have a tendency towards heaviness, slowness, and lethargy.  I have VERY slow digestion (probably TMI, but I literally have gone an entire week without a bowl movement).

I'm not entirely sure what has finally shifted that I'm now in a place where I feel I can do this.  For one, it may be our new great big apartment where we actually have a dining room where we can sit down and take our meals mindfully.  In Beantown, we always ate in front of the TV because there was no where else to go.  Without the distraction of the big electric box, it's easier to really enjoy a nice bowl of soup and become satisfied by it.

I was also very inspired by my practice most recently at Yoga Pearl in Portland.  Being in vacation mode, really had me at my heaviest (not necessarily weight, but energetically).  That made me think that maybe I'm always much heavier than I need to be in the morning and my practice could be significantly changed if I change my eating patterns.

So far, I do feel a huge difference.  Not only is my practice lighter and smoother, but I'm also sleeping better and not waking up as tired.  I have not yet seen tangible effects in any of my problem poses (pasasana! and pinchamayurasana) but I feel if I make this a permanent change, I will.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Easy Greens and Quinoa Soup

This is something delicious that I threw together the other night as we were heading out to the supermarket.

One bunch of chard - cleaned, cut into bite sized pieces
one bunch of kale - cleaned, cut into bite sized pieces
a half cup of quinoa
one quart of homemade veggie stock
water to cover veggies and quinoa
2 cloves garlic minced

Throw all of the ingredients into the slow cooker. Cook on high for 3 hours or low for longer.  Your soup is ready.  Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, miso, hot pepper flakes, or nutritional yeast or any combo of the above.

snow delay!

This morning we're on a 2 hour snow delay.  It makes me laugh having lived in Boston for 10 years that we're delayed for about an inch of snow.  But I'll take it!

I took advantage this morning to do a longer practice: full primary and my intermediate poses combined.  Usually, I only practice intermediate during the week due to a lack of time.  When I do a combined practice it takes me about 2 1/2 hours.  I could probably go faster and cut out my intermediate research poses.  But I like my slower pace. 

I've also been experimenting with eating only soup for dinner and a larger lunch.  I definitely felt much lighter this morning during my practice and I didn't lose any steam.  I was able to sustain all the way to the end.  It felt really great.

The second space heater is also helping a great deal.  Good morning, good practice!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

everything is sore

Did I mention the butt-kicking I got from Portland?  I don't think so.  For one, we did a lot of walking throughout the beautiful city and straight up its hills to the Japanese zen garden. 

Butt-kicking number 2 - I took a vinyasa class.  I don't think I've taken a non-ashtanga yang style class in about 2 years. We did some stuff that I hadn't done in quite some time like side plank. 

Number 3 - I took a led intermediate ashtanga class. There's one word to sum up the experience: humbling.  There were poses in there, as a matter of fact most of those after karandavasana, that I had never done before.  And I totally flubbed karandavasana.  I had a little bit of stage fright because the teacher was assisting each of us in it while everyone else watched/waited.

Number 4 - I took Mysore with a new teacher. Every teacher will have something different that they will see in your practice.  Several years ago, I was told not to lower so far in chaturanga so as to keep my shoulders from sagging in.  This teacher saw this and asked me to lower as far as I could go and keep the elbows slightly out.  This definitely accessed muscles that I hadn't been using.  I'm feeling it in the shoulders today, but I think it's a good sore. 

These kinds of challenges are just what I needed to bring some new life into my practice.  Since I don't have a teacher here, I feel like when I do get to practice under a teacher, I soak everything up like a dry sponge. 

Portland, Oregon

There's so much to say about my trip this weekend to Portland, OR with Shawn.  But I'm exhausted.

So, I'll sum up.  Vinyasa, led intermediate, mysore style, yin all at Yoga Pearl. All amazing.  Beautiful studio. Amazing teachers. 

yoga pearl

Also, I read the Life of Pi during my various long flights.  I loved it.  A truly magical book.

Monday, December 6, 2010


From Yoga Journal's sanskrit glossary:

Moksha ("release"): the condition of freedom from ignorance (avidya) and the binding effect of karma; also called mukti, kaivalya

It's a term I've been rolling around in my mind now for about a year and using it to inform a lot of big decisions in my life.  It's been serving me so well, that I got it tattooed on my wrist lest I forget.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Aging and Yoga

This morning while eating my breakfast and flipping through the channels I stumbled on a show on our local PBS channel called "Easy Yoga for Arthritis with Peggy Clappy."  More than an instructional video, it was a documentary of sorts where several people talked about the benefits that they received from yoga.  Amongst them were ease of pain and anxiety, and greater balance.  Here's a YouTube video by the same person:

And then this morning, coincidentally, the owner of the yoga studio where I used to teach posted her prom pictures.  I didn't know her then.  But I would say from the photos that she hasn't changed very much from 22 years ago.

Can yoga keep us from aging?  Of course not.  But does it make the process much more graceful and less violent then the alternative. Absolutely.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

what's up with alignment?

Ashtanga occasionally gets a bad rap for not paying attention to alignment.  It moves really fast, only five breaths per posture, so there isn't a ton of time for adjustments and detailed description.  You are literally supposed to enter and leave the posture on one breath.  The Primary Series also contains many challenging postures that require open hips and shoulder.  When practiced without awareness to alignment, the knees, wrists and shoulders take a beating.  Then there are also the folks who let their egos get the best of them and push too far in order to reach what they believe is the ideal posture.  They ignore their whining knees and shoulders and eventually get really hurt.

Then there's the different approaches to alignment.  The senior teachers will teach a posture with attention to one thing.  Then Mysore changed the approach to the posture and their successors teach with attention to something else.  Confused students receive contradictory instructions from different teachers.  That's not even to speak of the people who approach Ashtanga informed by other styles of yoga - Iyengar, Forrest, etc.

In my personal practice, I enjoy exploring alignment especially when I learn something new from a teacher I hadn't practiced with before.  Doing this has made me stronger. For instance in Urdva Dhanurasana I could easily take my heels with assistance from the second month I was doing Mysore practice.  However, when a teacher demonstrated to me that I was doing that by allowing my feet to go way out to the sides duck style and that my legs and core were actually quite weak in the pose, I began to explore ways to strengthen those areas, keep the feet parallel, and build a better posture.

When teaching, I give basic alignment cues - which direction should the toes point, where should your hands go, how much should the knees bend, etc.  But my philosophy is that the student should be comfortable and challenged and moving energy.  If they look like they might hurt themselves, I'll give alignment corrections.  If an alignment correction can help the student become more aware, I'll also give it.  After all, this is a practice based on the connection of movement and breath.  That's where I prefer to focus my attention.

When asked about which way was the "right" way to perform a certain posture, one of my teachers said, "well what do you want to feel?"  If you perform the posture with attention to one thing - for example, catching your toe in uttita triconasana, you receive the benefit of the bind, but you might not receive the opening in the hip.  So be aware of the difference and even practice the pose differently on different days depending on what you want to receive from the posture.

Teachers teach from their own experience.  I've been very fortunate to only get injured once by the practice.  I slipped a rib when I was first learning supta kurmasana.  As I was healing, I began to pay particular attention to the bandhas during my vinyasas.  I discovered that when I was aware of them and actively using them the pain in my ribs would subside. I continued to practice in this way and have remained injury free.  I use this information in my teaching.  In the end, I think that this is the same way that most teachers choose the points they focus on in class.

I guess what I'm getting to is that yes, alignment is important.  But not everyone will agree on it.  It can be a great tool to inform your practice and prevent injury. But it is not the only tool to use nor is it the most important one.

winter wonderland

We woke up this morning to a winter wonderland.  About an inch of snow fell overnight and everything is white and beautiful.

That means it's about time to bust out the puffy purpler Lululemon down coat and my Uggs.  I wasn't sure that either would come out of the closet here in the south. 

Tomorrow is a moonday which means that I have two days off from practice.  Instead of my usual Ashtanga practice, I'll practice Yin today and tomorrow.  I hope I'm not too creaky on Monday.  But maybe the rest is what I need to get my Kapotasana back.