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

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

b. per week

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? 

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


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?
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

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

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

Directly after

Textual study

22. Do you study carefully any 'Yogic' texts?
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?

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

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.


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.

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?

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)

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

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


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. 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
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.