Tuesday, January 31, 2012

somewhat made from scratch

Due to my crazy schedule this week, I'm cutting some corners on dinners.  Tonight I picked up some lobster cakes from the WF and sweet potato fries.  I wanted to dress them up a little.

To the sweet potato fries, I added a healthy dose of the Korma spice mix from Eat, Taste, Heal and tossed with some olive oil.  I can't say enough about this mix.  We put it on everything.

For the fries and the lobster cakes, I wanted something lighter than mayo.  So, I mixed about 1/2 cup of plain yogurt (full fat - 2012 might be our last year on earth.  are you really going to eat fat free?:)  with about 2 tbs of fresh mint and one clove of garlic minced. 

Adding a few condiments helped make this meal feel a little more special.  Do you have any tricks to enhance quick prepared foods?

Super Subbing Week!

I'm dubbing this week "Super Subbing Week."  G left for Jolly 'Ol England last Wednesday.  I have been subbing his classes since last Thursday and will continue through next Tuesday.  I'm still working my day job most days.  I took off last Friday and today and will take off next Monday and Tuesday (for my birthday!), but that leaves 4 days that I will need to juggle my schedule to accommodate the subbing, my "real" job, and my own practice.

I'm choosing to practice before I teach, because I have a preference for morning practice.  There are just too many excuses and distractions after work (food, husband, stress, fatigue, t.v.). That means that I'll have to wake up at about 4am to get started.  Here are some tactics I plan on using this week to stay sane and healthy:

  • Get enough sleep!  I have to face the facts and get my bum in to bed by 8 or 9 at the very latest so that I'm not dragging come Friday.

  • Eat lighter meals earlier in the evening.  There's a big difference in my quality of sleep on the days that I eat tons before bed and the days that I behave more yogically.

  • Have my day ready before bedtime.  That means that I'll need to lay out my practice clothes, pack my teaching clothes and my work clothes the night before.  I'll also need to pack my lunch and have it ready to go in the morning. Kitchari is going to be a huge help for lunches and evening meals.  (Note:  I've changed my kitchari recipe a bit based on some other recipes that I've found.  I now use a 1:1 rice to lentils ratio) 

  • Hot beverages.  I take a hot lemon tea every morning.  I'll need to get up in time to ensure that I can fit this in, so that I'm feeling ready to practice by the time I get on the mat.

  • More hot beverages.  I'll have a tea at the ready for the end of my practice to get me through teaching.

  • Just say no.  I won't be staying at the day job until 7pm this week.  Whatever isn't done will need to wait until tomorrow.
Wish me luck!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Sorry, I Have Nothing to Sell You

Not infrequently, people will ask me what "my yoga" is like. I give them a pretty straightforward answer.  Then they ask, "Well, is it good for my xxxx (fill in, back, leg, headache, whatever issue this person has)?" Sure, I say.  You just need to let your teacher know about xyz.  "Well, will it improve it?"  Maybe, if you work with the right person and are honest with yourself about your limitations. They will usually ask again what it's like.  I tell them to try it. That's how I found out "what it's like."  They lose interest.

Today I had a similar, if hurried, encounter at the yoga studio itself.  A nice young woman came in at exactly 9:30 (the time my class starts). She was new to the studio (please!  if you do try yoga, arrive early on your first visit!).  The front desk person explained the led full primary class to her. She seemed unsatisfied.  I attempted to step in and answer her questions.  Fast paced. Not geared to beginners, but you're more than welcome to join.  There isn't a ton of instruction, but you have a vinyassa background. Great.  You'll be fine.  Come have some fun with it.

Surprised by the description (had she not read it online?  new people, please read the class descriptions!), she snapped "well if there isn't much instruction, then why is it called a "led" class"?  Well, she did sort of have a point there, but again, had she read the class description, she would've seen that the class was geared towards students with a strong background with the practice (ashtanga or vinyassa).   Again, I reiterated that she was more than welcome to come and check it out.  She replied "that's ok. I'm already kind of 'turned off' of the idea."

I'm not really sure what this person was looking for.  Did she want me to tell her what she wanted to hear so that she could feel comfortable, or more "turned on" by a sexy description?  I felt like I was put on the spot to "sell" her the class.  I do hope that she came back later in the day to try one of the other classes on offer or perhaps she'll come back tomorrow to try Mysore style.

But I truly do believe that the Ashtanga system is "99% practice, 1% theory" and that's what makes it a tough sell.  No one told me what ashtanga was like.  I showed up.  I tried it.  I was hooked, the end.  Even when I started taking yoga, I didn't know anyone else who was doing it.  I tried it, I liked it.  The end.  You can't do the practice justice by trying to "sell it" through a description, no matter how exact your description is.  It's an experience.  Get on your mat (or a rented mat if you're completely new).  Try different styles.  See what you like.  I'm a teacher/student, not a proselytizer.  I have nothing to sell you.  Anything I would describe to you, beyond the basic facts, would simply be a description of my experience of the practice which may not match what you find on the mat. 

Let your experience of the practice convince you.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Hiding the Sausage: On being a vegetarian in a non-vegetarian home

I am a vegetarian, or more accurately, a pescatarian, since I do eat fish.  My husband is not.  He's not by any stretch of the imagination a "meat and potatoes" guy and gets along quite well on my diet.  But he does enjoy a good burger every now and again. 

I do the majority of the grocery shopping in our house.  Sometime in the fall I resolved to stop buying food that I didn't eat (ie. meat products).  Yesterday, I decided to loosen that restriction a little bit.  S had been a very good sport living off of beans and such for the week.  He had a couple of little milestones to celebrate.  So I decided I would pick up some sausage for him to enjoy for breakfast.

Directly following my practice, I stopped at the WF to pick up some groceries and the sausage for my husband.  Just outside the entrance, I spotted J&K, two yoga people from the apprenticeship.  We chatted a bit about which grocery stores we preferred and why. They mentioned that they liked TJ's better because of the larger selection of cheese without rennet. These were hard core vegetarians and they might see me buying the meat!

I felt like a drug addict who runs into her boss just feet from where she is supposed to "score."  How was I going to shake them?  Should I just do this sausage run another day?  But I had already made up my mind about buying it. 

I managed to shake J&K in the produce aisle and made my way to the meat counter.  There were so many choices!  But I didn't want to linger too long.  I went with the one directly in front of me. There was no time!  J&K could round the corner at any second. There would be no mistaking what I was up to.  I was at the meat counter!  I would have to explain "these aren't for me." Would they even buy it?  My reputation would forever be tarnished.  As the butcher wrapped up my purchases, my eyes darted around.  They were no where in sight.  I was pulling this off. 

With the sausages neatly hidden under my other groceries, I made it through checkout without being spotted again.  As the cashier rang up my goods, I glanced at a display and considered a seitan jerky for myself. 

There must be other vege/pesce-tarians out there who go through this.  How do they deal?

Friday, January 27, 2012

My Yoga Journal

This is a little ode to my yoga journal:
My journal adorned with Ganesha, remover of obstacles.
I started keeping this journal in 2007 when I was working on my 200 hour teacher training.  My training notes are all in here.  Shortly after the training began, I was asked to start teaching.  So, I started taking notes on teaching and giving adjustments in the Ashtanga method.  Occasionally, I would go through spurts of journaling about my own practice.  Those notes are also in here.  All of my notes about the cleanses I have done are in these pages. 

Some practice notes from my "accidental" practice with Prem and Heather while on a work trip to California.

I have also kept notes in this journal about my travels, in particular, my the details of my cherished trip to Goa are contained in these pages.

On left: flowers from Goa and card from a friend I met there; on right: birthday card from my landlady in Goa.

When I read the entries in the journal and look at the souvenirs, it takes me back to another place and time.  It reminds me how far I've come in my practice and of all the wonder that is available in the system.  Now I'm tucking away the journal that I've been carrying around for the past five years and starting a new one.  I can't wait to see what the practice brings.

Shiva the destroyer and transformer
Porge is excited about it too.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

I want to go too!

Lately, many of my friends are going to Mysore (www.ashtanga4life.com and ayurvedaboston.blogspot.com to name a few).  Many more people in the blogosphere are also there.  Every day I'm reading about their preparations to go and their experiences there, living vicariously through yogis in cyberspace.

One day, I'd also like to go to Mysore, but I don't know if my job will ever allow it. I work in a university and am always busiest in January (the most convenient time to cobble together the mandatory month stay, if I used vacation and the holiday week off).  Over the past few years, Sharat has not been in Mysore in the summer when I might be able to take all of my vacation and a week unpaid.

I was mulling over the idea of dharma and wondering if it just wasn't in the cards for me to go.  Then, the day after I started drafting this post, I read this.  This year the shala is open in July!  There is hope for me.  I don't know that I'll be able to go this year due to our economic situation, but maybe next year if they open in July again.  And even if they don't open in July next year, I'll be able to hold on to the hope that sometimes, even if it's rare, they do open in the summer! 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Some like to look at their own asses in their yoga pants; Some like to read

After two controversial pieces (one and two) in the New York Times about yoga this week, I started wondering (again) what's with the Times and yoga.   Only about 7% of Americans practice yoga.  And yet the Times, probably our most influential newspaper, writes on the subject on at least a monthly basis, but usually way more.

From a cynical point of view, maybe the answer to their question about narcissism is yes.  Some people who practice yoga are narcissists and that's why it's been so advantageous for the Times to frequently write about the subject.  Figuratively, they like looking at their own asses in our yoga pants.   They enjoy being absorbed in their own reflection in the mirror of the Times.  Some people who practice yoga (I wouldn't necessarily call them all "yogis") will read the article on injuries and say "yes, that's me, yoga did x, y, z to me.  That yoga teacher did this to me."   They will find validation of themselves in an otherwise fluff piece.  They will find validation because that's what they're looking for,  a reflection of themselves and their experience.

I tend to take a different point of view on the attraction of these articles.  One of the niyamas (one of the 8 limbs of yoga) is svadhyaya, study of the yogic texts and of oneself.  We're supposed to go inward and study ourselves, our behavior patterns but also look outward to the ancient yoga texts and any enlightening spiritual texts.  In other words, yogis read stuff.  We read about yoga, our world, other practices, all kinds of things to learn more about our practice and more about ourselves and our world.  So mine is still a somewhat cynical perspective, but I believe that the Times writes about yoga so frequently as a marketing tool.  In the same way that they write about million dollar homes that the vast majority of Americans can't afford and don't care about (the wealthy tend to have higher levels of education and tend to read more), they write about yoga to appeal to an audience that they know reads.  It's that simple.  It doesn't hurt that we let these articles rile us up a bit and share them on our blogs and with all of our yoga friends.  Nor does it hurt that our friends who don't practice yoga come across these articles and share them with us in order to show that they have an interest in our practices.  Imagine the increase in readership related to these articles!

To me, this says something positive about yogis and reinforces something that I love in the study of yoga.  Unlike many religions, the study of yoga as philosophy or as religion is open to inquiry and debate.  As a matter of fact it is part of the tradition of yoga.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ladies' Holiday & Other Lessons I Learned About My Practice in 2011

2011 was a rough year health wise for me.  But it gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about my practice. 

  • Taking Ladies Holiday is essential for me to keep up a 6 day a week practice on non-ladies holiday weeks.  I never used to take ladies holiday.  In the short term, I felt that I felt much better practicing during LH.  This summer, I imposed LH on myself in an effort to try to heal from my miscarriage and help my cycle return (it took 5 full months and 16 additional lbs to happen).  I would simply observe LH when it was supposed to happen.  Magically, I discovered that doing this once a month left me less depleted the rest of the month and able to carry on a regular 6 day practice.  
  • Practicing 6 days a week is important to progress.  I had been stuck at Pinchamayurasana for over a year.  I could never keep the hand bind (even with assistance to get into it) in kurmasana.   I easily gained weight.  When I started practicing 6 days a week, my Pincha changed, I can now keep the bind in kurmasana, and after my cycle returned to normal the 16 lbs dropped off and I am continuing to lose weight.  
  • I am strong enough to keep up my practice through adversity.  A miserable job, cold apartment, no teachers, and two significant health problems did not stop my practice.  These things changed my practice temporarily and challenged my will and ability.  But I emerged from all of it stronger and with a stronger practice.

  • This practice can heal you if you allow it.  I could have given up. I could have even blamed the practice for some of my problems.  I could have become frustrated with the lack of progress and even sometimes the sense of going backwards.  
  • Sometimes you have to go backwards in order to move forward. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

"Rotting sacks of meat"

G sometimes jokes that we are all just "rotting sacks of meat."  On the surface, it's an amusing thought.  But the underlying message is that the body is in a state of decay.  We can slow the decay down, but we can't stop it entirely.  Eventually, we all pass beyond this world.

I can't help but think of this morbid subject tonight as I sit next to my husband and listen to him have a conversation with his dying friend, D.  D was diagnosed with an inoperable and aggressive form of stomach cancer a few years ago.  He was in his 60s and was told that he would only have a few months to live.  He went to see a different doctor with a more encouraging approach.  This doctor taught D how to manage his cancer through an integrative approach using the traditional chemo but also certain herbs and fish oils.  For a few years this method worked very well for D.

Then, a few months ago, he began to start feeling more and more discomfort.  Little by little, he has been able to ingest any food, not even the diet prescribed by his more holistic doctor.  He recently visited a doctor who basically told him that the end was near and he needs to get his affairs in order.

And so, he is now on the phone with my husband making arrangements for his cat, his books, etc. 

I can't imagine what it is like to look your own inevitable demise in the face and begin to tidy up your decades of life.  Many people don't have the opportunity to do this.  And so it is a unique perspective.  The cliche says to "live every day as if it were your last."  I hate cliches, this one in particular.

If you were truly to live every day as if it were your last, you would probably be spending it more like D.  You would be suffering as your body disintegrated, putting your affairs in order, and helping the living to deal with the artifacts of your life.  Living every day as if it were your last would be a horrible state to be in. 

And then you disappear.  That's it, the end.  My guess is that your energy is absorbed back into the universe, that complicated concept of purusa and prikriti.  I have a very pedestrian understanding of the complex idea of string theory.  But to me, relatively speaking, it must be similar to that.  We must all be like little tiny "strings", imperceptible in the grand scheme of things, but also integral and connected in a way that makes the whole universe work. 

So, we practice the yoga, in part, to come more into harmony with the universe, to be more comfortable in and less attached to our rotting sacks of meat for the relatively short time that we inhabit them. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Early to Bed; Early to Rise

One of the great joys of working for a university is having the week between Christmas and New Year off as a free be, no vacation days, still get paid.  Last week I luxuriated in the 7:30 am alarm clock.  This also allowed me to revert to some old Night Owl habits (not quite the 4am bed time of graduate school, but much later than usual - 1am eek!  I'm a wild woman). 

Tomorrow I go back to work and will face a challenge to my resolutions.  I resolved to not be late to work this year.  If you know me, you know that I am seldom at work by nine and consider it a huge accomplishment to get there before 9:30.  In order to achieve my goal, I will have to go to bed earlier and get up earlier, get my butt in gear and to the studio and finish my practice by 8:15.  Wish me luck!