Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ten Reasons I Love This Practice

I was just reading a blog post with the top ten reasons that Ashtanga is hard.  I don't disagree.  It is a challenging practice.  That's part of what makes it worth it.  Here are some other things that make the challenge worth it:

1.  The practice doesn't lie, no matter how much I would like it to.  Would I like to eat a half a pizza drink 3 beers and roll out my mat and have the same practice as I do on a more balanced diet? Absolutely.  Is that going to happen?  No.  Because my practice never lies to me about what how I'm treating my body and living my life.

2.  It's the same thing every day. It's nice to have one constant in a life riddled with surprises.  A difficult week at work, an argument with a loved one, bad traffic, bad mood, through it all, the practice is there, every single day.

3.  It is challenging.  No doubt about it.  Because of that, it's engaging and interesting.  You never quite know what you might get when you step onto the mat (you might guess if you ate that half pizza in #1).  But you do your absolute best.

4. It's oh so quiet.  The Mysore room is one of the quietest calmest places I can think of.  The mind can't help but clear to the peaceful rhythm of multiple breaths filling the space.

5. The community.  Everyone is doing their own practice at their own pace, starting and ending on their own. And yet, there's this tremendous sense of doing something together.  The breath syncs up and the room buzzes with the flow of collective energy.

6.  It's everywhere.  You can find people practicing Ashtanga on pretty much every corner of the earth if you bother to seek them out.

7.  It gives you something to look forward to.  I don't necessarily jump out of bed thrilled to go to work.  But I do get up thrilled to start my practice.  I have never been a "morning person" and don't think that I ever will be.  But my practice literally gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning (rather than at noon as I'd prefer).

8.  A sense of participating in something larger than myself.  The practice is old.  It's everywhere.  It's not mine to mess around with and change because I don't like a certain pose or because I'm bored.  It's bigger than me and I need to surrender to it.

9.  It makes me a better wife, coworker, daughter, and person all around.  The sense of calm and awareness that I achieve through the practice enables me to engage with my loved ones and those around me in a more compassionate way.

10. The practice makes me strong and flexible and gives me a great yoga butt (ok, just kidding on that last one, kind of sort of).  I'm in better physical shape, better health, and better mental shape than I ever was before I started doing Ashtanga. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Delicious Roasted Sweet Potatoes

This is an improvisation on a dish that my mom frequently makes.  It was inspired by the local yellow sweet potatoes I found at WF.

4 medium sweet potatoes cut into 1 in cubes
1/4 cp (or more) chick peas
Large handful of fresh rosemary
~ 1/4 cp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375

Toss all ingredients together.  Throw into a baking dish.  Roast for approximately an hour.  Toss about halfway through.

Real? Fantasy?

It's interesting that many of the blogs that I read are commenting on this article on the "real" cost of yoga only a day after an interesting conversation on discernment in the yoga apprenticeship that I'm participating in and just after my "yoga stuff" post.  I guess we're all thinking a bit about the material these days.

The article would be nice if it were called something like the "The Cost of a Fantasy Yoga Year." I would love to do many of the things listed in this article.  I have not because I cannot afford such things.  That doesn't make my yoga any less "real."  I would say that it makes it more so.

I have had very inexpensive yoga years.  Last year, when I lived in Kentucky, I maybe spent $45 on yoga.  I had a home practice and a yoga journal subscription and would pay for classes only when I traveled.  The year that my husband went to Albania, I was able to practice yoga for free by offering to do work study at the yoga studio.   If yoga costs a lot, it's because people choose to make it expensive.  It doesn't have to be.

It makes me sad when I hear people say that they're uncomfortable practicing because it seems like everyone at a studio wears expensive yoga clothes.  Maybe one of the first steps to freedom through yoga, is to stop worrying about what everyone else is doing.  I like expensive yoga clothes, sure, but I don't need them for my practice.  And, on principle, I like them less these days as they are moving more and more jobs overseas while increasing their prices.  But that's perhaps for another post.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Yoga Stuff

First, I don't want to give the impression that you need anything to practice yoga. You don't.  But here are some things that I like for my practice.

Manduka Mat - yes, they are a little pricier, but shredding the $20 mats every 3 months was also getting pricey.  I've had my Manduka Lite for about 3 years now and you can hardly see any wear.  Plus it's a lovely shade of olive green.

A headband - I have curly (some might say frizzy) hair.  I could obsessively push the little tickly hairs off my face through my entire practice, or I can keep them back with a headband.  A rubber band alone doesn't keep the hair back in the humid Mysore room.  Mine are from Lululemon.  However, Prana also makes nice headbands, and they produce things here in the USA

A small hand towel - look at that!  You probably even already have one of these.  It comes in handy for sweat dripping off your face and for binding in pasasana. 

Mysore Rug - It helps you "cheat" in your jump throughs because it keeps your feet from sticking to the mat.  It also gives a little extra cushion for seated postures and traction when you really start to sweat.  Personally, I prefer the feel of the rug to some of the other options such as those mat sized towels that you can use.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Magic Tasty Delicious Brussels Sprouts

I love Brussels Sprouts!  They are one of my favorite vegetables.  This is one of the easiest and tastiest ways I like to make them.

Heat some olive oil in a pan.  Throw in some crushed garlic and some hot pepper flakes.  Toss halved (not necessary if brussels are tiny) brussels sprouts into the pan.  After a few minutes, pour about 1/4-1/2 cup of cranberry juice into the pan.  Cover with a lid until brussels sprouts are tender and maybe even a little caramelized in the juice.  Yum.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I am the 99%

This is an "off the mat" post.  I feel the need to show my support for this movement.

A friend's video from the Occupy Pittsburgh demonstration:

I support the Occupy Philly and other worlwide Occupy movements, because I am the 99%.

I come from a working class background.  My mom has held positions as a cook, cleaning lady, and most recently works for a florist.  My dad works for a machine shop. He does dangerous electrical work.  In 2001 he lost his job of 30 years because his company moved  the manufacturing positions overseas. He was told to go to school and get tech skills.  They said this is where all the jobs would be. He listened. The jobs in that industry also all moved overseas. He's now back in the machine shop making less with fewer benefits.

I personally was saddled with debt for years (to the tune of $35,000 - not counting student loans), because I believed in the American dream and pursued a Master's degree.  I supported myself and paid my way through my bachelor's and graduate education.  Rent and the cost of living enslaved me to a cycle of credit spending.  Only this year was I able to free myself from that cycle.

My husband also believed in the dream and got his PhD.  He has about 8 years of experience in his field.  We lived in Kentucky for a year where he was earning $13 an hour in his profession, that's less than what a graduate assistant at a Philadelphia university makes.  We moved to take an opportunity for me and hoping to improve his prospects.  Since May, he has sent out over 100 job applications.  He can't even get a phone call for an interview.

We occasionally think about having a kid.  But then we'd have to choose between our sparse, but comfortable life,  or supporting a child and condemning ourselves and it to poverty.  Two people with 5 degrees between them shouldn't have to make that choice.  No one should have to.

I am the 99%.

I found this video particularly poignant:

Sunday, October 9, 2011

great neighborhood coffee shop

I totally forgot to post about this coffee shop that I found by the new studio.  It made my day!  Spruce Street Espresso.  The place was really cute and the staff was super friendly.  Plus, they have teas for your doshas.  What's not to love?!

Day 8 - Some Sunday Thoughts

I'm on day 8 of the cleanse!  Whoo hoo!  The finish line is near.  I drank the penultimate dose of ghee with little drama.  However, I didn't really follow a good meal routine yesterday and it showed in my practice this morning.  Yesterday I had a small bowl of kichari at breakfast and didn't eat again until 7 when I scarfed down a larger bowl. By that point, I was delirious with hunger.

So my practice this morning was pretty rough.  I partially blame the bad eating routine from yesterday and partly blame myself for not heeding my ayurveda teacher's instructions.  She said to practice only primary during a cleanse.  But I thought I knew better.  I was wrong. This morning, by the time I reached kapotasana, I felt like I might just throw up all over my mat at any moment.  So, I dialed it back and took finishing at that point and modified my finishing postures by doing supported bridge and legs up the wall.  It definitely felt better and left me with some energy to teach.

After class, I was asked about regression.  Did I feel like regression was a normal part of the practice?  Heck yeah.  And it is for sure, one of the most difficult parts of the practice.  You're zooming along, adding new postures at a nice pace, and then wham!, something happens in your life that sets your practice back.  It could be a new stress, an illness, or something that you're not even aware of.  I can think of a few examples in my own practice.  A few years ago, I was chugging along in primary. Then suddenly, one day, something weird happened in my left knee.  There was pain where there wasn't before.  Binding and folding in the ardha badhas became impossible.  It was hugely frustrating. But I backed off and listened to my body, and it healed itself.  Other things have gone away and come back. The bind in marichyasana D is one such culprit.

While it may not feel that way in the moment, these are excellent points in one's journey.  When you hit this wall or fall back a bit in the practice, the ego can really assert itself.  It's in these moments that your devotion to the practice are tested.  And it's at this point when many people leave the practice. Rather than face the challenge, they choose a different practice.  In my opinion, seeing the moment for what it is and then opening yourself up to staying with it and learning from it, can be hugely rewarding.  Often, when you stick out these moments, you are able to come to a place where you are then able to move forward.  Sometimes, little step backwards become big steps forwards.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Spent the day lying around in the sun on an almost empty beach.  I love summer-ish days in the fall.  So lovely.

Nearly fell off the cleanse, when we passed a seafood shack. But we couldn't find our way back to it.  So, I'm still on the cleanse despite my near cave.  Only a few days left.

Day 7

Still cleansing.  Still feeling a little sick.  Stuffy nose, sore throat, the usual fall malady suspects.  It's slightly better than yesterday since I did a double routine of neti and added extra salt to the evening batch.  I also did nasya.  The effect was unclogging if not totally clearing.  

I started taking ghee yesterday.  I added Kate's sweet spice to make it more palatable.  It didn't help too much with today's larger dose. I almost gagged.  Ok.  I did gag a little.  I had some lemon and cayenne tea after to wash it down, but now I have to wait an hour before I can eat anything.  Meantime, that stuff is bubbling around in my belly making me totally nauseous. 

Oh.  This is a rough cleanse!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Day 5 - I'm alive!

Sorry about the weird rhyme.  I couldn't resist .  Yesterday, I was feeling so crappy that my boss suggested that I take today off in addition to tomorrow which I had already planned.  When I woke up this morning with a stuffed up head, sore throat and exhausted after more than 9 hours of sleep, I decided that I probably should stay home. After all, it's not always easy to tell the side effects of cleansing from a real cold or flu.  I'd rather play it safe than get really sick.

So, I "slept in"  all the way to 7am and went in to do my practice.  I have never gotten there as part of the last batch of students.  It was really interesting. The room was packed and warm and humid.  It very much reminded me of a passage I read last night in the "Guruji" book where Annie Pace talked about the practice room feeling like a womb.  I nestled my mat between two people whose practices were well under way and let the energy in the room carry me.  It felt very therapeutic.  The congestion and discomfort of the cleanse melted away quickly after the third sun salutation. 

Unlike previous days, I don't feel the cleansing nasties returning mid-morning.  I'm just going to take care today and maybe enjoy some of this beautiful fall weather and let the cleanse do its work.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Day 4...of the most difficult cleanse I've ever done

Today is day 4 of what has easily been the hardest cleanse I've done. The cleanse is structurally no different than any other that I've undertaken.  But the reaction has been way different.

I have a sore throat, flu-ish feelings, mini-headaches, and am super duper weak and sleepy.  And that's without mentioning the digestive stuff - without going in to too much detail, food is going in...but it's not coming out. 

What the heck is going on?  What is making this so much tougher?  Has this year been so different? Well, yes, when you look back since the last time I did a cleanse, there really has been a lot going on.  I went from having a job where I where I was miserable, to moving to a new city, taking a new job, etc.  I had two major health issues in the last year.  That's a lot of stress for the body to take on. 

My guess would be that I'm cleaning out all of the residue of the stress and the unhealthy eating patterns that came with the stress of the past year, and man, is it ever painful!

Monday, October 3, 2011

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

That's right!  It's time for me to embark on another seasonal cleanse.  This time, I have everything I need: my health, my BBY support page, mung beans, ghee, and rice.  So why am I feeling so resistant to this cleanse? 

As I sat down to my first bowl of kitchari yesterday, I thought to myself "I can't do this. This is going to be awful."  I have never approached a cleanse with this kind of attitude before.  I like kitchari.  What is my problem? Is it because of my past "failed" cleanse, when I had to give it up because of "illness" (though I didn't realize at the time what the reason was)?  Is it because of the sudden onset of blustery cold fall weather? 

Whatever it is, I am struggling...and it's only day 2.  I just want hot coffee, baked potatoes, and broccoli cheddar soup.  Is that too much to include in my cleanse?  :)

Wish me luck!