Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sunday Inspiration 12/2/12

Today was a great day for birds.  You'd be surprised a the number of birds that live in a city like Philadelphia.  At the yoga studio, I spied a woodpecker on a tree directly in front of the shala windows.  And in the courtyard of our apartment, a little bluebird was flitting from tree to tree.  I'm inspired by the beauty of nature in unexpected places.   What inspired you today?


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Courbet - a sad post

During my first year in Boston (1999), I adopted a kitten from friends of my neighbors.  I named him Courbet after the French painter.  He was a fluffy black and white cat who always remained just a little bit feral.  For example, one night he was startled by a noise outside.  He cornered my other cat (Baudelaire) on the top of the refrigerator for 3 days after.  When I moved in with S, Courbet would literally climb the walls.

In 2001, I moved to France to accept a year-long graduate assistantship.  S agreed to watch Baudelaire.  My grandmother took in Courbet.

My grandmother fell in love with Courbet.  I didn't ask to bring him back home when I returned to France. She lived alone and Courbet seemed important to her.  But then, my grandmother got cancer and died shortly after.  While she was sick, my aunt watched Courbet.  She became quite attached to him, I think in part, because of his connection to my grandmother.

I once joked that it was time for me to take him back to Boston.  She said there was no way in hell.  And so, Courbet lived for the past 10 years in Nazareth, Pa with my aunt. He probably lived a much richer life than Baudelaire who has always been confined to our tiny apartments.  To the contrary, Courbet accompanied my aunt every morning when she left the house to go on her morning walks.  He would wait for her in her beautiful garden, sometimes watching butterflies.

My mom just informed me that Courbet passed away this week.  He had a quick cancer and was dying quickly even at the moment they just discovered he was sick.  I'm so grateful to my aunt for caring for Courbet all of these years and for the wonderful little cat-life she provided to him.  It's amazing how we were all touched by that fluffy semi-feral cat.  

 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday Inspiration - 11/11 - Sandy Relief and Election Results

The biggest source of inspiration this week is the work that Eddie Stern is doing to help the victims of Sandy in the Rockaways.  He's organizing volunteers and donations to help a neighborhood that was deeply affected by the storm.  Folks in the projects continue to be without power.  Eddie and his volunteers are getting much needed supplies to them. 

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I can't help but add my second source of inspiration this week: the outcome of the presidential elections.  Obama for four more years!


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Sunday Inspiration 11/4/2012

This week the mid-Atlantic was hit the super-storm, Sandy.  Fortunately, most of Philadelphia was largely untouched.  But surrounding areas and New York City were devastated. 

Our friend Molly came down from NYC last weekend for a short visit.  She left on the last train out of Philly and probably made one of the last subways back to Queens for a while.  Thankfully, she's fine.

I have a lot of friends in NYC and businesses that I follow on Twitter and Facebook.  I'm amazed to read about what they're doing to help those in need.  One yoga studio is opening its doors for people to come in and get a hot shower.  A friend is volunteering at Food Not Bombs to make hot food for those who need it.  Of course, we've all seen the photo of the home where people put out power strips to share their power so that people without could charge their phones. 

We subscribe to an organic delivery service that delivers once a week out of Ottsville, PA.  On Thursday, we were notified that we would not be getting our delivery.  All food from the week was being rerouted to shelters that need it. 

This week I'm inspired by the outpouring of human kindness in the face of tragedy.  Namaste to each and everyone who is helping.  Shanti to all who are suffering and need help. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Splits and Pincha

It took me a loooonnnnggggg time to learn pinchamayurasana.  Finding balance in the pose felt nearly impossible.  After watching many, many videos, it seemed to me that one of my issues was a tight groin.  I have open hamstrings, and fairly open shoulders.  However, I noticed that people who were able to do the pose successfully, would nearly bring their legs into a vertical split when kicking up.

So, I added splits into my yin practice and over time found the opening I needed.  By time, I mean over about a year and a half!

Kino just posted a great video on working splits.  Check it out:


Monday, October 29, 2012

Sandy

Sandy is here!  I certainly feel for everyone who has had to evacuate and may experience property damage.  I also hope that no one is hurt.

But I have to say, I love sitting at home with the wind and rain whipping around our apartment.  We live in the perfect place to ride out a disaster.  It's an old converted wagon factory that was turned into apartments in the 80s.   We share an interior courtyard with our neighbors.  All of the windows face the courtyard.  The exterior of the building is like a fortress.  To give an idea of how solid the building is, last year when Irene went through, we had no idea that it hit us until we left the house and saw the Schuykill flooded.

We had an overnight guest over the weekend, so I was unable to practice yesterday.  Today I had the ultimate bad lady practice.  It was on a moonday and...with music!  I did full primary and intermediate up to my stopping point (mayurasana).  The moon energy was definitely moving through me.  I had to remind myself several times to slow down and breath.  But it was fun.

The payoff was listening to the rain pound our skylight while I was in savasana.

I hope everyone is safe and sound. 

Namaste!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

By the Numbers

My workplace offered us $75 in our next paycheck to get a health screening.  I jumped at the opportunity.  I love seeing the various numbers associated with my health. 

So here they are, and I think very much to the credit of my flexetarian yoga lifestyle:

Non-fasting blood glucose   77
Blood pressure 99/66
Cholesterol 169
HDL (good Cholesterol)  65
Resting Heart Rate  64 (web MD says that under 60 is usually that of "well-conditioned" athletes)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday Inspiration - 10/20/2012

This video has been making the rounds.  It's definitely my Sunday inspiration this week. There is an especially moving point where Yuko says that she realized she didn't need a body to do Ashtanga.

It's just more evidence that if you are willing to meet the practice where you are, it can be a healing, liberating and transformational tool.


Friday, October 19, 2012

The body is weird

A few weeks ago, Angelique gave me am adjustment in trikonasana. Apparently, I'd developed the habit of tilting the pelvis toward the floor. She worked with me on drawing the top hip back and bottom hip under. The next few days, I played with that rotation. On one of those days, there was a weird sliding and pop in my left hip. That's where I have some leftover sciatic pain following the B12 issues 2 years ago.

Now, magically, the sciatic pain is gradually disappearing. I go entire days without experiencing it and am never awoken by it.

This is another demonstration of how the practice heals and how important the fundamental standing postures are. If something is going on in your body, dig around in those standing postures. You might find a solution.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

mini vacation

I don't understand the people who feel that they need to have a plan to take a vacation.  Personally, I love to take a few days off and have absolutely nothing to do, to see my neighborhood and city as it is when I'm tucked away in a grey cubicle, to get things done around the house and relax.  These past few months have been crazy at work.  On top of my normal activities, I had to manage the building of our new website.  It's done and launched, and now I'm taking a much deserved break. 

This morning I celebrated my vacation by practicing with my teacher, Angelique, after assisting.  It's fun to practice side by side with your teacher.  I especially like the opportunity to give her assists and "repay" her for all of the excellent attention I've received in class.

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On another note, I'm making some big changes to my diet.  Philly is a great food town.  Too great!  It's way to easy to go overboard and frequently.  I'm reining it in and going on a diet.  I'm not normally a fan of diets, but certain poses are only just out of reach (the bind in pasasana), and as the Einstein quote sort of goes "to do the same thing over and over and expect different results is insanity." So, I'm making a full on attempt to get rid of some "adipose tissue," a nice term for fat that I came across in Gregor Maehle's books.

I'm supporting my diet with a popular online weight loss program.  So far, it's going well.  I'm actually having a lot of fun nerding out on the calculations.  Wish me luck.    




Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Remember "no bending"? No listening

In May I had a mole removed from my low back and was told "no bending for 14 days.". I listened for 2 or 3. Sure I felt the tugging of the stitches, but it felt better than being sedentary and missing my practice. Anyway, here is the resulting scar complete with tug lines. It's about 1.5 inches and somewhat lumpy. Do I regret not listening? Nope. It's just a scar.

the Blank Slate

Kino uploaded this great video in response to her viewers who ask if she was ever a gymnast or dancer:






I love this viewpoint.  When I started yoga, I had never had any physical ability.  I was a naturally good swimmer, but didn't compete.  Otherwise, I would do whatever I could to avoid sports.  It's a joke in my extended family how my brother and I are so unathletic whereas my dad, his brother, and his brother's kids are all natural multi-sport athletes.

I think that a lot of us can get stuck in that trap of comparing our practice and feeling like some more advanced practitioners got some kind of head start on us.  Kino's metaphor of the blank slate is awesome.  Yes, I came to yoga with zero awareness of my body, but I also have the advantage of not having so much to unlearn and to be able to learn my body through the practice.  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday morning inspiration - 9/16/12

This morning was the rock-n-roll half marathon in Philadelphia.   On my bike ride into the yoga shala, I saw what must have been thousands of people pouring into my neighborhood to race.  Running is not my thing.  It has never appealed to me.  However, I have many friends who are runners.  Many of them describe the same sense of focus and peace that attracts me to yoga.

So, this morning I am inspired by the rhythmic footsteps and breath of the athletes who have been training for this day. 


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday Inspiration 9/9/2012

Today I am inspired by the sentiment that "We're all in this together" expressed by President Clinton earlier in the week.  I felt it all around Philly on this gorgeous fall day, the anonymous joggers running in sync on the bike trail, the sweaty practitioners in the yoga studio, the person in the SUV who actually stopped to let me and another cyclist cross the street by the museum.  It simply feels better to be in it together and acknowledge our interconnectedness. 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

And then there was that snap...

In my day job, I am the Assistant Director of a study abroad program at a local university.  Part of my job entails advising and preparing students to go to France. The other part of my job consists of welcoming exchange students to the university. 

The exchange student welcome program is an intense two day affair which I organize.  It causes me a certain amount of stress as I have no affinity for event planning (my husband and I eloped for this reason).  Nonetheless, I like to put my best foot forward and look like a competent professional.  I actually allowed myself plenty of time to get to work from yoga.  I applied make-up.  I changed out of my birkies and into the adorable heels that are usually tucked into a drawer of my desk.

And that last piece may prove to be a rather grave mistake.  After the last of the students filed into the auditorium for our little welcome speech, I was going to the back of the auditorium to close the doors.   In order to only have to take one step per landing, I was using a longer than usual stride.  As I reached the top landing, I distinctly felt a pop and a snap in my left hamstring.  I'm not yet sure if it was just a tendon sliding over something, or if it was something worse.  I guess we'll see on Friday when I take on primary again.  I don't feel anything weird now, so maybe it's not as bad as it sounded/felt at the time.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Scrumptious Shrimp Tacos with "Pesto" Guacamole

Tonight I had basil from our little herb garden and some juicy fat shrimp from WF on hand.  I decided to make these tacos...for short "cholesterol tacos."  :)  But who's counting.  They were delicious.

Shrimp:

Toss 1 pound of shrimp in about 1.5 tbs of olive oil, about a teaspoon each of cumin, chili, and garlic powders, salt and pepper to taste.  Marinate for up to an hour.

Guacamole:

In food processor combine a great big bunch of fresh basil (about 1.5 cups packed), four cloves of garlic, some olive oil (enough to get the processor going) and juice of half a lemon (lime would've worked better).  In a separate bowl, mash two avocados.  Add basil mixture to the avocados.

Serve shrimp and guacamole with tortilla shells and any other tortilla toppings you like.

Sunday Inspiration

There are lots of wonderful yogis doing work to rehabilitate people on the fringes of our society.  The Prison Yoga Project is inspiring.  If you don't know about it, you should check this out:


Saturday, August 25, 2012

What's a Bad Lady to Do?

I overslept on Wednesday and didn't wake up in time to make it to practice before work.  And thus, the gnawing off teeth and the pulling of hair begins.  What to do?  Do we just pretend this didn't happen, say "fuck it" and move on?  Or do we try to get the sixth practice of the week in at all costs?  I've struggled with this in the past, even more so now that I'm back to a regular 6-day-a-week routine.  

Yesterday, I consulted with my teacher. The outcome was that I did intermediate yesterday and will do primary today.  It was as if my body knew we were doing intermediate on the wrong day.  A weird spasm occurred in the lower right back, a strange pop in pasasana and then the feeling of grinding in the sacrum.  No pain, strange discomforts. 

The sacrum seems to be at peace again and hopefully primary will be the warm bath it usually is this afternoon. 

But now, here's the real challenge when you try to do a make up practice.  If you don't do it Friday night, you will have an extended period of back-to-back practices with no rest day.  This coming week the moon day is on Friday.  After missing Wednesday but making up for it today, I will have practiced then 9 days with no rest.  Humph.  But I'll have two days off to look forward to. 


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Guruji Leads an Intermediate Class

I stumbled on this gem on youtube the other day.  It's great.  I don't know that I'd heard the vinyassa count for intermediate before, so it's a great reference for that.  I'm huge on counting the vinyassa while I practice, but have found it difficult to do in Intermediate since I'd never taken an intermediate led class.  You can bet, I'll be studying this with some frequency.

There aren't many surprises with the exception of supta vajrasana.  There's no assistance.  Everyone just sort of crashes back onto their noggins (at about 33:40).  I had considered trying that myself this morning, but chickened out.  Maybe next week ;)

Enjoy!


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Exciting Development!

I am super excited to be offering my first ever workshop this fall with my yoga and ayurveda pal Larry.  Two Saturdays in October, we're going to be offering...you guessed it, a cleanse workshop.  Time to hit the notes and books and start planning.   I can't wait!


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Philly Phlowers!

Sunday morning attendance at the shala would give the impression that everyone vacates Philly on summer weekends.  That is probably pretty close to accurate.  But those of us who stick around get to see a beautiful side to the city.  This morning on my bike ride to SYS, I saw light little clouds hovering around the tops of the skyscrapers on our skyline.  The sun was already getting strong enough at 7am to begin to burn them off.  And an afternoon walk around the Azalea Garden and the museum revealed many gorgeous blooms. 



The above is the Lines in Four Directions exhibit.  



I'm not sure what these are, but I like the way the flowers that are dead or dying sort of drip off the plant.



Saturday, August 4, 2012

The White Whale


I took a workshop or two with Bhavani Maki when she was in Boston.  She said that everyone has a pose that will break them.  I think of this as the literary White Whale (not to be confused with the Sad Mammoth :). That elusive beast that we just can't seem to get a hold of.  My White Whale is pasasana.  I've had it for about 6.5 years.  Once I managed to gently graze my own fingers on one side.  Otherwise, it is a constant struggle.  Much of this has to do with my physique. I have long muscular legs, a short torso, large boobs, and short arms.  I also have a kaphatic tendency to carry excess weight and retain water.  It is a constant and humiliating battle.  But I know it is possible!

Here are a few videos on how to get into the pose.  I'll let you know if any of these end up helping me!





I think it was her tip in this second one to let the arm gently drop down, that helped me graze finger tips on that one joyous occasion.






And here's a longer explanation from my Philly neighbor.


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

les mots et les choses

When I'm not practicing yoga or advising students on their study abroad options, I'm usually reading about yoga.  I was thrilled today to read this post by the Ecstatic Adventures of the Exuberant Bodhisattva.  Why was I thrilled?  She put a name to a thing, a part of my yoga and general experience for which I had no name: the sad Mammoth.

 Now that I know what the sad Mammoth is, perhaps I will be able to conquer it!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Inspired by...Batman?

Pincha Mayurasana has been a very tough pose for me.  Kate O gave it to me in Boston, so at least 2.5 years ago, and maybe longer.  She told me that I had to start trying without the wall.  I moved to Kentucky and had no teacher and ignored her.  This went on for a year until I started practicing with Greg in Philly.  He started working the pose with me.  We did finally get to the point where I could practice the pose without the wall.  But it took a long time.

At SYS we practice in rows. The room is cozy.  So we're packed in pretty tight.  I discovered that if I got in early enough, I could get in the front row and always have the wall in front of me.  G was on to me, but didn't make me move. 

This allowed me to practice pincha with the comfort of the wall, but without actually using the wall.  Tricky!  But then something started to happen.  On Sundays and early mornings when I practiced by myself, I still wanted to be right next to that wall.  I had developed an attachment to the wall.  I knew that I needed to take a leap and break the habit, but it was getting more and more difficult.

Then, we saw the Dark Knight Rises.  I won't get too into it and spoil it for those who haven't seen it.  But there is a scene where they address fear as a tool rather than a hindrance.  This inspired me to use my fear rather than caving into it.  My fear of falling over could keep me in balance in pincha.  Inspired by Batman, I practiced Pincha in the middle of the room for the first time in several months.  It felt fantastic. 

Here's a video of my current teacher Angelique in pincha and karandavasana:




An odd thing happened on the way to enlightment



Yoga changes the body and mind in many subtle and more obvious ways.  Take for example my relationship to creepy crawlies.  I grew up in Pennsylvania and am now back after a nearly 11 year departure via Boston (10 years - very few creepy crawlies - must be too cold) and Kentucky (1 year - lots of creepy crawlies, some I've never seen before and hope to never see again). 

One thing that we have a lot of here in Eastern Pennsylvania are these guys:


If you are unfamiliar with this, it is as creepy as it looks here and it's fast.  They seem to come out most when it has just rained.  They apparently take care of other pests, but that doesn't make them any more endearing.

So what does this have to do with yoga?  My reaction to these friends used to be to grab a rolled up magazine and smash it's disgusting little guts all over the place. 

A few months ago, I encountered one in the yoga studio.  This was a conundrum.  It felt really wrong to kill in the sacred space where I practice.  So, I kept an eye on it and then alerted the studio owner to him when he came in.  Larry picked the little creeper up and took it outside unscathed.  He did the same yesterday when one crawled across another student's mat.

And here in my home, I've seen two that I decided to let go.  The cats could get them if that was in the cards.  Otherwise, non-violence ruled the day.  Don't get me wrong, I'm no angel.  Another one was uncomfortably close to my bed and was not so lucky.  But I'm letting 2/3 creepies live side by side with me. 

When during my 10 year practice did this shift from screaming and squashing to watching and releasing occur?  It's just one of many strange things that happen to the yogi. 







Thursday, July 26, 2012

Working It

My practice is getting kicked up a notch and not entirely voluntarily!  The new SYS teacher has a fine eye for the details. All those little nuances that either fell away innocently over the years because I forgot about them, or that I never learned correctly, or that I maybe started to ignore in my year of practice without a teacher are now being called out, one by one, week by week.  The result: I'm sore and tired, but my practice is becoming more focused and refined.

It's funny to me that a daily practice of a set sequence can change even after 8 years.  It's one of the wonders of Ashtanga. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

response to grimmly's questionnaire

Grimmly recently posted a fun questionnaire that was inspired by a reader's comment/questions.  Here are my answers (I cut some questions that didn't apply to me):

Your Practice

Asana
1. What approach to/style(s) of asana do you currently practice?
Ashtanga yoga with the occasional Yin practice to supplement

2. What time do you practice?
6:30am - 8:30 am give or take 15 minutes

3. Where do you practice?
4. How long do you practice for?
Anywhere from 1.5-2 hours depending on how slow I'm practicing and if I'm throwing in "research" poses.

5. How many times do you practice 
a. per day
once

b. per week
6

Pranayama
6. Do you practice pranayama?
not regularly, though I would argue that the breathing technique of ashtanga is at least a gateway to pranayama.  

7. Which pranayamas do you practice?
When I do practice pranayama, I do it as part of the "4 purifications" -   Alternate nostril breathing and kapalabhati 

8. How long do you practice pranayama?
20 minutes

9. When do you practice pranayama? 
evenings/weekends

10. How long have you practiced pranayama?
off and on for several years 

Pratyahara

11. Do you include pratyahara in your practice?
Not specifically, though some Ashtanga poses do introduce this

12. what approach to pratyahara do you take?
Meditation
13. Do you practice meditation?
Not as much as I'd like to seated, though my ashtanga practice is a moving meditation

14. What approach to/style of meditation do you practice?
focus on the breathe

15. Where do you meditate?
in my bedroom in front of my altar
16. How many times do you meditate
a. per day?
b. per week?
once, maybe 

17. How long do you meditate for?
20-30 minutes

Reflection
18. Do you take time to formally reflect on your asana, pranayama, pratyahra, meditation practice? 
occasionally

19. When do you reflect asana, pranayama, pratyahra, meditation?

Directly after

Textual study

22. Do you study carefully any 'Yogic' texts?
Yes
23. Which texts do you study?
The Gita, the Sutras, Hatha Yoga Pradipika - and modern biographies/writings on the practice
24. When do you study?
At night

Yamas and Niyamas
25. How familiar are you with the yamas and niyamas?
very

26. Do you make a particular effort to practice them?
Yes.  

27. Do you reflect at the end of the day on how well you have practiced them?
Yes.  I am more often than not disappointed.  But that's why I try to bring myself back to them day after day.

General

28. How long have you been practicing Yoga?
11 years - 8 years of Mysore style Ashtanga Yoga

29. Have you ever attended a teacher training or teaching intensive course
Yes,  I have completed a 200 hour teacher training in Vinyassa with David Vendetti and most recently a 500 hour teacher training with Greg Nardi - I've also done a 40 hour training with David Swenson.


30. Have you attended a retreat or workshop and if so how many?
Oof.  A lot :)  I've done workshops with my own teachers, as well as visiting teachers (Gilgoff, Swenson, Miller, Feldmann, MacGregor, Doane, Bhavani Maki (sp?))  I hope I'm not missing anyone, but I probably am.

Chanting
31. Do you practice chanting?
Yes!  I love it.  I am tone deaf (no exaggeration) and this gives me a good excuse to belt it out!

32. When do you chant?
Every morning before practice - opening invocation - occasionally during my home seated practice.

33. How long do you chant?
depends 

34. Where do you chant?
At home - at the shala

35. Which chants do you practice?
opening and closing invocations - the sutras (I'm working on memorizing the first chapter - so far, up to 16)

Dates
36. When did you begin your asana practice?
2001 in France
39. When did you begin to pay particular attention to the yamas and niyamas?
Probably when I began chanting the sutras, which was with my teacher Scot Hendricks in maybe 2005?

40. When did you begin to formally reflect on your practice?
Very early on.  It has always been a subject of curiosity and interest to me. 

Lunacy and the BG

The new moon is on Tuesday.  I was definitely feeling it this morning.  Everything was sore and heavy, so very very heavy.  Though I made a promise to myself to not move near the wall for pincha, the hips were just not going to go over the shoulders without that little reassurance.  Oof. 

The urge was there to just throw in the towel after pasasana. But I decided to go with the sentiment of the day and move into the postures slowly and with awareness. The result was a rather juicy and satisfying practice. 

I have always been affected by the moon even before I knew about "moon days."  I'm glad that this practice makes room to honor the effects of the moon's energy on the body.  It's one more way to honor our connection to the greater universe.  Tim Miller has an excellent explanation here http://www.ashtangayogacenter.com/moon.html.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Saturday Oil Bath

The Saturday oil bath is probably one of the most indulgent aspects of the Ashtanga tradition.  Saturday is rest day, but that doesn't mean it is devoid of ritual.  It is the day of the castor oil bath.  I realized that I have referenced the oil bath before, but a brief search of my posts surprised me.  I don't think I ever told you what I do.

I started doing oil baths before I found out it was an ashtanga tradition.  It was a part of the seasonal ayurveda cleanse I began doing a few years ago.  Then I learned that it was traditional to take a castor oil bath on Saturdays.  One of the benefits is the removal of excess heat that builds up from a week of practice.

Here's what you need for the oil bath (castor oil baths are not recommended if you are pregnant):

Castor oil - beginners might start with a lighter oil.  My first oil baths were with grapeseed oil, which is very light, to help balance out my Kapha nature.  Then I began incorporating sesame which is a bit heavier.

Coconut oil - traditionally castor oil is also used for the hair.  But my hair is thick, curly, and tangly.  One battle with castor oil told me it wasn't the right choice for my head.  Some would argue that I'm missing out on the best part since the body releases a lot of heat through the head.

A dry brush - you can get one at WF or other health stores.  It's a good investment.

Essential oils (optional) - castor oil has a very mineral odor.  I add some of my favorite essential oils.

An old towel or two - Do NOT put this in the dryer after use.  There is a risk of fire.  Machine wash and air dry.  Eventually discard.

Some nice music (I use my savasana mix) - maybe some inspirational reading (Meditations from the Mat) - candles and or incense to set a relaxing mood

Baking soda for clean-up

How-to:

1.  Fill the sink with hot water and put your oil bottles in to warm the oil. This will make applying castor oil much easier.

2.  Lay out your towels where you'll be applying the oil, get the rest of your set-up ready and then get naked.

3.  Use the dry brush to gently work away dry skin.  Use circular motions on the joints and long strokes on the arms, legs and torso.

4.  Starting with the head and working towards the feet (switching oils if that is your preference), gently massage the oil into your skin, paying particular attention to areas that are achy, stiff or have pain.  I have always been astonished at how much more oil can be applied to areas where I have problems.  It's like the injury just sucks it all in.

You can do this sitting or standing, but I find standing is easier to do a more thorough job.  

5.  Sit or lie down.  They say that you should start with 5 minutes and work your way up to an hour. The castor oil experience can be pretty intense.  You may feel tingling or heat in the body.  Meditate or read while you wait.

6.  Rinse it all off in the shower.  Shampoo the hair before adding water to thoroughly remove oil from hair.  Be careful in the shower of slippery feet - you may want to towel them off before you get in.  You can continue to rub the oil in with the pores opening in the hot shower.  Then soap up and rinse.

7.  Use an old towel to towel off and put on some older pjs or other clothes that you don't mind getting some residual oil on.  Sprinkle baking soda on the shower floor to soak up any oil and eliminate slippery surprises for others in your house - my husband definitely appreciates this.

For the rest of the day, you may notice that you feel a little tired as you would after exercising.  Take it easy and drink lots of water.

For more on this, Claudia has a few nice posts here and here.  Also, my friend Kate, who originally taught this method to me in the Ayurveda seasonal cleanse, has more info here, see her pdf on abyanga, the ayurveda name for this method.   






Friday, June 15, 2012

11 days of practice; some Kino thoughts; two recipes

All right.  I'm squatting the husband's computer for a few minutes to get some thoughts out there.

Today was my 11th straight day of practice!  I didn't realize it until I felt an overwhelming gratitude this morning to do primary.  With the workshop, I have practiced 8 intermediates and 3 primaries since the last moon day.  It definitely felt good to fold forward a lot today.  Tomorrow: oil bath and rest!

Kino takeaways:
*  Using the bandhas we are constructing an internal hearth in which we burn (tapas).  We can use that hearth to burn the things that are harming us, not helpful, in our way, etc.  But that's not all.  Eventually everything goes into the hearth.  Even things you can least imagine throwing in there.

*  Hanging back in backbends with the arms overhead for a few breaths is an excellent way to move into deep backbends and open the shoulders without bearing weight on them.  I hung like this in kapotasana this week for five breaths before bringing my hands to the floor and definitely felt more open in the shoulders and stronger in the legs. 

And...in case you didn't know...the shala asked me to assist Kino in the Sunday morning mysore style segment of the workshop.  It was a tremendous honor for me to work in the room with her and definitely gave me a different perspective on her from a teaching angle. 

I would definitely recommend practicing with her to anyone serious about Ashtanga or even Vinyassa.  It has been a yoga-lifelong dream of mine to practice with this amazingly talented teacher and I was not disappointed.

Finally, I was inspired this week by foods I saw in the store and received in my organic delivery box to make these two super simple recipes:

Asian style slaw with radicchio
one head of radicchio - chopped
1:1:3 ratio of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil
some flax seeds for garnish and crunch

Mix it all together.  This was great as a side dish and also awesome the next day on baguettes with other goodies for a banh mi style sandwich.


Carmelized Onion, Brie and Mushroom "Flatbread"
3-4 tortillas
one large onion - sliced
1/4 stick (or more) of butter
sliced mushrooms
brie
anchovies (optional)

Melt butter in pan.  Add onions and let cook down low and slow until carmelized.  In another pan or on a griddle, heat tortillas.  Add slices of brie, some sliced mushrooms, and 3 anchovies.  Cover with carmelized onions.   Serve with a salad.  Now.  If I had more time and energy tonight, I would have used naan instead of tortillas.  I'm sure you can use lots of things.

Oh, and the juicing!  I almost forgot about the juicing.   We bought an inexpensive juicer.  It's noisy, but it gets the job done.  So far, my favorite combo has been small nub of ginger, cucumber, carrot, celery, and apple.  I've been following my friend's recommendation of 3 veggies to one fruit. 






Happy Friday!

Monday, June 11, 2012

what I have...what I don't have

This is so frustrating.  I have notes and fun to share from this weekend's workshop with Kino at SYS and an awesome summer recipe that I concocted. What I don't have is a computer or the patience to type out a blog post from my iPhone.  Tomorrow I'll be back at work.  I'll try to carve out a few minutes at the end or beginning of the day to get typing. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Separation Anxiety

Today was my last practice with Greg Nardi before he sets off on his world travels.  His teaching has made a huge impact on me through daily practice and the 500 hour training I completed with him.  I don't really know how to express the sadness I feel at his leaving.  I began practicing with him at a very challenging time in my life.  So, I will always associate his teaching with helping me through this rough year. 

However, I know that unlike other forms of yoga that are so dependent on the teacher, the Ashtanga practice exists above and beyond any individual teacher.  It is a constant even as its interpretations vary from person to person. 

There's probably more to say about this, but I've never been particularly good at expressing my emotions or talking about my learning/teaching process.  It would probably be a good exercise for me to sort this out a bit more. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Shaking off the Kapha

Kapha is usually associated with cool damp weather, lethargy, and heaviness.  I tend towards an imbalance in Kapha.  Spring is an especially sensitive time for me, when the tendency is to want to hide out and sleep.  This spring in Philadelphia has been very pleasant and warm, so I haven't been hit too hard with a Kapha build up. 

But I am feeling it a bit.  There's been some celebrating.  The husband is getting a paycheck.  I just graduated from my 500 teacher training (woo hoo!).  And thus there have been some poor choices in food and...ahem...beverages.   These choices have led to some mental and physical heaviness.  There have also been some grasping behaviors typical of a Kapha imbalance, particularly, the accumulation of items that I don't need. 

What's the best way to shake off the Kapha? In my experience, move!  Accept invitations!  Do new things!  This weekend was full of that.  Yesterday I attended Tim Miller's led primary.  I don't know the last time I sweat so much.  The husband helped me carry my bag afterwards and couldn't believe the weight.  It was 80% due to my wet yoga clothes!  Then we went to see the Avengers.  And this morning we had friends over for brunch for the first time since moving in last year. 

Of course, there was a good amount of eating involved in all of this (popcorn, dinner at an Indian restaurant, divine 100% butter pastries). So tonight I cooked up a nice batch of kitchari with the Kapha spice mix that I use.  I'll take it for the next few days to try to get a little more balanced.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tim Miller this Weekend!

In 2004 (I only remember because the Red Sox won the World Series that year), just before Columbus Day, I took my first Mysore style class.  The teacher was traditional and had students watch the first time they came.  I was mad, because for the previous year, I had learned the practice by heart up to Marichyasana D and was doing it at home (as a grad student, I had been too poor to take classes with a teacher).  I was ready to show off my moves.

But I didn't let that first day deter me.  She told me to come back after the holiday (there was some kind of moon day and maybe something about not giving poses on Tuesdays).  I wasn't going to quit.  I was going to show this woman that I was telling the truth.  I knew the practice!  And dammit, I did.  She let me go up to Mari D. I screwed up the arms in parsarita padotanasana.  But otherwise, I did ok.  I was thrilled.  To practice in a room with other people, carried by the sound of their breath was an unbelievable sensation.  I came back again and again that week.

Then at the end of the week, the teacher said to me that there was this really important teacher coming in for a weekend workshop.  I should sign up.  High as I was on the thrill of a regular practice with an actual qualified teacher, I did as I was told.

Until then, I had never heard of Tim Miller.  Showing up at the center in Cambridge where space was being rented for the event was so impressive. There were maybe 100 yogis there. Maybe more.  And this guy, so sweet, so accessible, so funny, was talking about asana and sutras and things that I had never heard of.  I was physically, spiritually, and mentally challenged that weekend in an intense way. 

Since then, I've been to Tim's shala and practiced next to him (another teacher was teaching - that was a totally different intensity of experience) but not with him.  I had to make some choices this year about where to spend my yoga dollar, so I won't be participating in the full weekend workshop.  But 8 years later, my practice has evolved so much.  I am eager to see how much more I take from the Saturday morning session now that I have a more profound understanding of the practice. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

experiences are better than things

I struggled for a long time with buying things.  I would amass things to hide my insecurities.  The rush of going to the mall and acquiring a bunch of stuff was always followed by remorse. Eventually, this led to a serious debt problem.

I still like things.  I still enjoy window shopping. And occasionally, I obsess over an object not purchased.  So I started to make my mantra "experiences are better than things."

Using this mantra, I'm able to forgo buying a new pair of shoes because I remember that I will want that money later for travel, yoga workshops, and dinners out with friends.

I'm looking forward to these upcoming experiences:  Saturday primary at Dhyana yoga with Tim Miller, Kino MacGregor weekend workshop in June, and Dark Shadows next week with work buddies.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Is there an alternative?

This is a sort of personal question.  I have a lot of clothes from "corporate yoga," you know, that company based out of Vancouver that sells its pants for $98.

I don't agree with their business practices or general philosophy. And yet, I continue to buy the clothes because I can't find an alternative that lives up to the quality (gussets!  I need the pants gusset!). 

I know that I'm not alone in this.  So, I'm open to suggestions.  Where do you get your yoga duds, would you recommend them for Ashtanga, and why? 


Happy Mother's Day!

While we should celebrate mothers every day of the year, this is the one day specifically dedicated to it.  I am so fortunate to have such a wonderful caring mom.  People often remark how much we look alike.  I am essentially her clone.  From my mom, I get my sense of humor. She is sharp and witty.  The best part of my day as a child was coming home from school, sitting in the kitchen and watching her cook and sharing my day.  If I can cook today, it's because of my mom.  She also taught me patience and unconditional love.

Happy Mother's Day to you, mom, and to all the moms out there. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Confessions of a Bad Lady!

After approximately two days without practice, I was already going a bit stir crazy. 

Confession #1:  Not once during the time that I was off from my practice did I take a meditation practice.  Why do I struggle so much with seated meditation?  I enjoy it once I get started.  It's just so hard to take a seat and do "nothing." 

Confession #2:  I did not wait 11 days to take asana up again.  I got on my mat yesterday (only 4 days resting!) and took primary practice.  It went pretty well.  The forward bending was fine, but even micro twisting (as in the janu sirsanas) caused some tugging in the stitches.  I also eliminated ubiya padangustasana, urdva muka paschimatonasana (for the rolling on the spine), and setu bandasana.  I didn't roll in garba pindasana.

Hi, my name is Rochelle, and I am an incorrigible asana junky. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

No Bending for 14 Days - 11 if I'm "Good"

There is a sad Buddhist story about a father who believes his son to be dead. The son comes to the house and knocks on the door.  He says "It's me father."  The father doesn't believe him and sends him away.  He never sees his son again.  The moral of the story is that we should not be so stuck in our own beliefs as to refuse the truth when it is in our face.

I had such a moment several weeks ago.  A woman came to my class that I had never met before.  After class, she asked to look at the bottom of my foot.  I thought this was strange but obliged.  She noticed an unusual mole when I was demonstrating a posture.  She had some medical (and maybe personal) connection with melanoma.  She said that I needed to have this mole looked at.

I had never previously seen a dermatologist for my moles.  Maybe I should have.  I am fair skinned and have had a few serious sunburns (not because I love tanning so much, but because I love the sun).  I made an appointment with Center City Dermatology.

The doctor was extremely nice.  She saw nothing wrong with the mole on my foot but did a full body scan and discovered an abnormal mole on my low back.  She had it biopsied.  It was in the mid-range of abnormal moles and she wanted to remove it before it moved into the serious/melanoma range.

That's where I was this morning.  The excision itself was very easy and painless.  The painful part were the instructions for recovery:  No bending for 14 days.  But my yoga!!  Ok, 11 days if you're good.  But if you're not, it could take longer. 

It looks like I have an "opportunity" to work on my seated practice for the next few days.  I'm very attached to my practice and have a deep fear of losing ground - whatever that means- especially after my health set backs from last year.

Have you ever had to take a break from your asana practice?  How did you deal with it? 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

What Are You Ready to Burn Down (not literally!!)

In the apprenticeship meeting a few weeks ago we had an interesting discussion about non-attachment.  Someone mentioned a quote by a Swami somebody along the lines of "When you are ready to burn down your house, then you are ready for (non-attachment)".

This really gave me pause.  I don't actually own a house, or anything else for that matter. But I began to substitute other things in my life: certain relationships, certain "needs", etc.    And I began to realize that I'm not as un-attached as I like to believe myself to be. 

What would be most difficult for you to "burn down"?  If you're not sure, try this.  When we do our cleanse, we are to take one day to "fast."  It doesn't have to be from food.  It can be from t.v., internet, phone, gossip.  A good way to determine what you need to fast from is to consider it. The first thing to pop into your mind is probably the thing that you would best be served fasting from.  But you'll likely continue to look for other things.

The same applies to this larger question.  So what's your biggest obstacle to practice non-attachment?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Happy 60th Birthday to My Dad!

Today is my dad's 60th birthday.  While he does not do yoga, his "yogic" values inspired my love of the practice: his connection and dedication to the environment, his selfless commitment to stand up for what is true and right, his ability to forgive and love with an open heart, to name just a few.

Happy Birthday, Dad!  I love you.  When I grow up I still want to be just like you.

Monday, April 9, 2012

I can't be trusted...I love my yoga practice!

Steve over at the Confluence Countdown postulates that one who loves her practice can't be trusted or they have "disturbing relationships to their bodies."

First, I'd like to say that I know Steve is being somewhat facetious and probably trusts a few people who do love the practice.  I'm only responding to his post in the spirit of good fun.

But his post gave me pause.  After reading it I thought, "Can I really call what I feel for my practice love?"

Unequivocally, the answer is yes.  Yes, I definitely do love my practice.  I experience my challenging moments, sure.  There are days when I don't want to get on my mat and once I'm there, I'm just going through the motions.  There are days when after 5 sun A's and 5 sun B's, my back still feels like it's gunked up, and the hamstrings feel hard and dead.  There are days when I can't bind in supta kurmasana on my own (every day since I got the posture come to think of it) and days when I'm internally cursing at my inability to jump into a pose after attempt after attempt after attempt.

And those days far out number the smooth sailing graceful days that maybe come once a year on that perfect hot July morning.  And yet...I still show up and do the practice every single day.

I give it my all because I know what it gives to back to me in my life off the mat.  So I show up through thick and thin, stick through the rough times, and savor the good moments.  And if that isn't love, then I don't know what is. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

For Posterity

Today Shawn took some pictures of me in two of my favorite poses.






In Order to Move Forward, Go Backward

I'm stuck at karandavasana.  This should come as no surprise since I spent almost two years trying to figure out its more accessible cousin, pinchamayurasana, and still am not even entirely consistent on that one.

My teacher helps me in karandavasana every day.  It can't be easy for him to support my 150 pound frame, but he does and I am grateful. I can't put my legs into lotus from pincha on my own. Also, I'm having a difficult time figuring out how to curl my pelvis in without tipping out to far beyond my elbows. Once I am curled in, I'm having a hard time finding the roundness required.

So I'm working on two key elements earlier in the practice in order to reduce/eliminate research poses at karandavasana.  One of the things that seems to need work is opening in the groin in order to be able to get the legs in lotus and maintain balance.  I was going from parsvotanasana to second.  Now, I brought back the rest of standing through warrior two. The focus is on getting the femur parallel. 

The other element that seems to need work is tight pecs and weak trapesius and lats.  I'm working on this by cleaning up my chaturanga.  After all these years, I still have a tendency to round the shoulders in as I lower to my mat.  In part, this is because I don't really have access to the upper back.  I tell it what to do and nothing happens. This is changing a lot since bringing handstands back, taking calves in urdvadanurasana and getting pincha. 

I'm definitely feeling the difference from all the extra work in these fundamental poses. 


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Squeeze it!

I always am a little hesitant to talk too much about what I've learned in a workshop (or from my teachers in any other capacity for that matter).  1.  I can't necessarily do the teachings justice out of context.  2.  I don't think it's necessarily fair to the teacher.  If you want to know what they are teaching, you too should take their workshop.

With that disclaimer out there, I will say just a few things about Tim Feldmann's workshop this weekend at Shanti Yoga Shala.

1.  Tim Feldmann is extremely funny and an excellent teacher.
2.  We aren't squeezing our anuses enough.  We should be squeezing them all the time except when going to the bathroom, giving birth, and when we're in savasana. 
3.  We don't need to do jump throughs. But if we want to, there are ways to build up to them that are very accessible.
4.  Backbends feel better when number 2 is applied.

If he comes through your area, I would recommend taking practice with him.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sutra 1:33, the Commuter's Sutra

I made a promise to myself to start devoting more space in my blog to thoughts on things yogic other than asana in order to compliment an effort to do the same in my teaching.

It is appropriate then to start with my favorite sutra (1:33):

maitri karuna mudito pekshanam sukha duhkha punya apunya vishayanam bhavanatah chitta prasadanam ||33||
मैत्री करुणा मुदितोपेक्षाणांसुखदुःख पुण्यापुण्यविषयाणां भावनातः चित्तप्रसादनम् ॥३३॥

All that is mutable in human beings (chitta) is harmonized through the cultivation of love (maitri), helpfulness (karuna), conviviality (mudita) and imperturbability (upeksha) in situations that are happy, painful, successful or unfortunate. ||33||  (taken from ashtanga.info)


Elsewhere, I've seen this translation in pairs:  approach happiness with love; pain with compassion; success with conviviality; and the unvirtuous with indifference. 

In a nutshell, approach each type of person or situation with the appropriate response.  If you are happy, love yourself.  If someone else is happy, love them too.  If you feel pain, be compassionate towards yourself.  Be compassionate towards others who may be in pain.  If you become successful, be friendly.  If someone else is successful be friendly towards them (instead of competitive or jealous).  And finally, if someone is being a jerk, be indifferent toward that person.  Don't get wrapped up in their stuff.  If you feel jerky feelings, don't entertain them.  Let them go.


A lot of this is about cultivating the right kinds of relationships in your life.  Rather than getting jealous or wishing ill on someone who is experiencing more success or happiness, you should be happy for them and love them for that which will in turn let some of that maybe rub off on to you.  On the contrary, if someone is negative and treating you negatively, you should ignore them. 

I think about this sutra on a daily basis when I bike around the city.  It is very easy to get caught up in the honking and aggressiveness out on the road.  I have to make a very conscious effort to not react to the negativity out there with more negativity.  Instead, I try to ignore the negativity and focus my energy on the positive aspects of the commute.  I smile at other bikers and people walking their dogs.  I practice compassion by slowing down for the elderly and allowing them to to cross rather than running lights.  

This sutra applies to many aspects of life.  But for me, it is very much the Commuter's Sutra. 


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring Breakthrough

If you have been reading my posts for a while, you may have caught on that I have a kind of white whale relationship with pasasana.  I would never say that I hate the pose.  Once in it, I very much enjoy the opening it gives the in chest and shoulders.  On the right side, I get the delicious "pop" in the hip. 

But getting into it would be the issue.  I once described my problem to a non-yoga friend: long muscular legs (especially muscular thighs) and abnormally short arms (I know everyone says that, but it's true) coupled with an old biking injury in the left shoulder-ish area.  He said "oh, you're like a tyrannosaurus!"

image from National Geographic


 One of these days I'll post a photo of me in the pose to see if you agree.

My teacher is very good at stepping in and squeezing the arms towards each other for the bind.  On occasion, I have been able to walk my hands down a towel and touch my own fingertips.  But in the six years since I received the pose, I have never touched my own fingertips without a towel or an assist...until Wednesday!

Oh the joyful shock of feeling my fingertips graze each other!

I can think of several things that may have helped with this opening:

Pinchamayurasana and Karandavasana are building awareness in the shoulders
Binding in backbending is opening the shoulders and chest
Weekly assist in Kurmasana (I've only recently been able to hold the bind)
Frequent assist in tititbasana C to bind
The seasonal cleanse cleared out a lot of gunk

Bhakasana B is also returning at irregular intervals after a three year hiatus.

In all, it's been a great week for the asana practice.

I'm making it a goal to start writing more about the other aspects of the practice.  They are as important to me, if not more so, but I find it difficult to articulate my thoughts on more esoteric subjects.   Be on the lookout for these posts over the coming weeks.



Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Cleanse is Over - Long Live the Cleanse!

I ended my spring cleanse this week.  It was overall a fairly intense experience this time around.  Here are some of the lessons that I learned:

It is hard to turn inward when so much is demanded of you from the outside.  The first week was fairly smooth going.  In part, I chalk that up to an easy week at work.  It was spring break and our students were away.  The second week was much tougher as my workload increased significantly.

Allow flexibility.  Spring arrived early in Philadelphia this year (Did winter even show up this year?).  With the warm weather, I mixed in some salads instead of kitchari.  It just felt like the right thing to do.  I dressed them with a squeeze of fresh lemon. 

Come off a cleanse gradually for more sustained results.  This is the first cleanse that I didn't end with complete dietary sabotage.  I'm making healthier choices because of it. 

Cleansing is not just physical.  In theory, I knew this.  In practice, I have a tendency to focus on the physical level.  This week I felt more empathetic towards people who usually cause me to lose my patience.  I felt kinder and generally more satvic in my practice on and off my mat. 


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Kanjee - Not the Japanese Letter Things - It's What's for Everything

Kanjee is taken when one is feeling ill or just needs a break on the digestive track.   I'm taking it today because I'm in a "purging" stage of my cleanse and need something gentle to eat.  I'm kind of proud of myself (BEWARE! Ego alert!) because this is actually the first time I'm finishing the purging appropriately.  That might be because I've never been a huge fan of kanjee (well, never, as is since I learned about it maybe 3 years ago).  I've changed up my teacher's recipe a bit but the base amounts of rice and water remain the same.  Here it is:

1 cup rice (soaked over night - I learned today that this step makes a big difference!)
10 cups water
1 tbs coconut oil
1 nub of ginger grated
1 tbs sweet spice mix from Kate's page

Combine the rice and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Turn down to simmer for one hour and stir occasionally.  In a small pan, combine coconut oil ginger and spice mix and heat until fragrant (careful not to burn).  Add the oil/spice combo to the rice.  Eat hot with maybe a drizzle of raw honey (unorthodox!). 

No picture accompanies this because it's just a bland looking white porridge.  But in this case, bland is the desired effect. 

Day 7 & 8 - Last Day of Phase One

Today is the last day of phase 1 of the cleanse.  I took the last dose of ghee yesterday.  It is getting harder to take on each cleanse.  I had to have it with a bit of soy milk.  You would think that it would get easier each time.  Not so.

I enjoyed an afternoon mantra meditation with this mantra to Lakshmi and an early bedtime (despite a new SNL) which helped me conquer the springing forward.

Practice this morning was quick and light.  Again the hands walked past the heels without assistance in backbending.  Maybe this summer I'm taking ankles on my own.

Today is purging day.  Again, details are omitted, because I firmly believe that if you want to do this yourself, you should be working with an Ayurvedic practitioner at least on the first go.  Suffice it to say that in a few hours my intestines and colon will be empty.  Woohoo! 

While waiting for that to kick in, I made kanjee, my food for today (I'll post on my own version later),  and finished making my home made veggie broth (more on that later as well).

Happy Sunday to all!


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Kitchari - It's What's for Dinner

I think I have finally perfected my recipe for kitchari.  Here's what it looks like these days:

1 tbs ghee
1 tbs Kapha spice mix (from Eat, Taste, Heal)  or appropriate spice for your type
some salt
1 cup rice
1 cup lentils or mung dahl
1 cup veg (my favorite is sweet potato, though as a kapha dominant type, I should really steer clear and go for greens!)


Soak the rice and lentils together over night.  Heat the ghee and spices until fragrant, but be careful it doesn't burn.  Drain the lentils and rice and add to the ghee and spices.  Give it a stir.  Add 3 cups or more (depending on how soupy you like it) water.  Bring to boil and turn down to simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Stir frequently to prevent sticking.  Serve warm. 

_________________

Bonus (a not really a recipe recipe)!

It was warm here a few days ago which put me in the mood for raw food (cooked is usually a strong preference for me).  I made a lovely salad with the following:

Radish Sprouts
Avocado
Tomato
Sliced Baby Bella Mushrooms

Dressed with lemon juice.  

Day 6 - A little off and Yoga Stops Traffick

Yesterday will not go down in history as the most glorious day in Ayurvedic cleansing.  I lost my iPhone and then discovered through the miracle of technology that someone had taken advantage of me losing it and was enjoying it in Baltimore. Fantastic.  I hope you enjoy your new iPhone.  I wasn't quite upset by this.  I probably make and receive a total of 5 phone calls a week.  I probably don't even need a phone.  And I have an old one that I'll be able to have reactivated.  I was just exhausted by it; exhausted first from looking for it all over my house, exhausted from trying to figure out online how to track it, and exhausted by the thought of what I'd need to do to reactivate the old phone.  Though it seems trivial now, staying on the cleanse was going to be one more exhausting thing that I would need to do last night.

So, I fell off.  I won't go into the gory details.  My falling off was not quite as egregious as eating an entire pizza but not quite as "innocent" as eating a tiny square of chocolate.  I went to bed thinking that that would be it for this season.

When I woke up, my mind had changed. This too could be an experiment!  I had never had such a trial with the cleanse.  What would do this do to my body and my state of mind?  And so, I'm picking back up where I left off.  I took my last dose of ghee this morning and am gearing up for castor oil tomorrow.

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On an unrelated note, I participated in Yoga Stops Traffick this morning at Yoga Mala Shala.  My teacher and another local teacher organized this event in Philly as part of the global Yoga Stops Traffick event to raise awareness about human trafficking in India and to raise funds for Odanadi, an organization in Mysore that supports the healing process of women and children who have been removed from the grips of sex trafficking.  My role was to teach a round of 18 (of the 108) sun salutations.  A few people came out from the community, but volunteers far outnumbered the participants. It could have been a disaster. But my teacher handled it in such a beautiful way.  2 people or 200 wouldn't make a difference.  The spirit of the event was really moving. All the volunteers, none of whom really planned on practicing, rolled out their mats in solidarity with the few participants who showed up. Instead of adjusting between our turns teaching, we took turns participating in the sun salutations.  It was moving to think of the analogy of the mala necklace.  Each of the participants was one little bead. Each sun salutation represented a larger community bead. Our collective 108 suns represented still another larger bead on the necklace with all the other studios participating.  And so on into infinity.  Every day I am grateful for this practice and what it has brought into my life.  To share in that with others in such an interconnected way is such a gift.  Namaste to everyone participating today and everyone who is benefiting from our efforts.   

Friday, March 9, 2012

Day 5 - And...

I woke up feeling better after a bout with a flu yesterday.  I took practice this morning.  It was lovely practicing by myself in the upstairs room at the shala with warm sunlight pouring in and the bright green and gold Buddha painting on the wall behind me.

Feeling better, I was able to take more notice of what was happening inside me and not just on my plate.  That is one of the great things about cleansing.  It reveals a lot that we don't often like to face.  The lack of calories leads to a lack of energy, which causes you to slow down.  In slowing down, we begin to perceive things more clearly.  For me, this time around, this is bringing up a lot of sadness. 

Two examples of this came up yesterday.   We were at a meeting to organize for the Yoga Stops Traffick event coming up on Sunday.  There were several people at the meeting whom I'd never met before.  There was also a person there who I see quite infrequently.  I always feel awkward when meeting new people.  I'm not sure what to say.  I'm uncomfortable starting conversations.  I feel alienated and want to hide in my turtle shell.  This I already knew.  It was easier for me when I was a big drinker and could play the role of the "life of the party" but now that I'm not that any more, I'm not sure what role to play.  I feel very unnatural.  None of this is news to me.  Then, something revealing happened.  A woman showed up late with her dog.  I felt every fiber of my being change from scared and reserved to excited and engaged.  I wanted the dog to be near me and to pet him and cuddle with him.  And then I realized how my attitude towards people also makes me a little bit sad.  I had never really thought about that sadness before last night.  It was interesting to see it so clearly as though the statement was always "I'm shy and reserved..." and was never quite complete. Last night I was able to complete that sentence with "...and sometimes that makes me sad."

The other example was more intimate.  My best friend was going in to have her baby.  She and I both left Boston around the same time two years ago.  Since, I have seen her once in Pittsburgh. Both of our busy lives make it difficult for us to connect sometimes.  When I read on Facebook that she was going in, I realized that's how I would learn about her baby, too.  I wouldn't get a phone call.  It wasn't like with her first baby where I was able to go see them in the hospital after work.  There is a distance there now that's both physical and emotional.  Again, it was something that I realized for a while now.  But the event really chrystalized for me that sadness which I had been avoiding.

So, at this moment anyway, in this cleanse, that's what's coming up for me.  It's interesting to see what happens when you have the clarity to complete your own thoughts.

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I'll end with a less narcissistic story.  I was on the phone today with a colleague.  She just came back from a ski trip.  Rushing in to work yesterday, she tried to pass someone coming up the stairs from the subway.  She slipped and broke her pinky finger.  When telling me about it, she said, "I learned an important lesson here.  That extra minute I would have gained is just not worth it."

I have several athletic acquaintances who have had similar accidents.  Nothing happens to them when they are focused and absorbed by their sport.  Then, they injure themselves doing the mundane.  It's interesting to me how similar other athletic activities can be to yoga when they are done in that way, almost meditative.  Also, interesting how it's important to carry that state of being into your day to day life.