Thursday, July 29, 2004


When Ladies' Holiday arrives mid-practice, do you give it up, or do you *work through it* and skip the inversions at the end? It's not like you can undefile the shala by skulking out the door, Tampax in hand... especially here in the all-defilement, all-the-time West (although we are allegedly "enlightened" this is a de facto patriarchy -- Hello! Women in the US didn't get the vote until 1920! The Equal Rights Amendment, first proposed in 1923, is still not part of the U.S. Constitution! And currently there are just 14 female senators (that we know of) and 63 women in the House of Reps, vs 372 men! -- and there is still so much mystery and fear and stigma surrounding Poor Aunt Rose... which of course there would not be if women really did run more than just their nylons, or if men too were cursed with menses [Imagine the funny underwear they'd have for that! And the practically free, toxin-free products. And the guaranteed days off from work. And the foot rubs. And the special pink pill to make it all go away -- ask for it by name!]), so I chose the latter and am a much better man for it.


....Although it varies by state, Illinoisians or whatever we're called must register to vote 28 days prior to a general election in order to be eligible to run the gauntlet of Fat, Intimidating Precinct Workers in Moustaches and Black Leather, enter a dingy school, stand in a rickety booth and use a small piece of metal to punch out a spot on a dubious-looking butterfly ballet. The presidential election is Nov. 2. You do the math.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004


So last night I took M's primary class, in which we hold poses *way* longer than I normally do. This AM I awakened with a sense of well being (despite being 40) but was so exhausted that adjusting (3) people in morning Mysore was difficult. So I went home, worked a bit (if you could call that working) and then did a practice -- standing plus the intermediate poses I usually do plus fooling around with a few more (up to mayurasana).....very very bad.....and felt so good that I came up from backbend (something I've been avoiding for the past couple of weeks, due to the Bullwinkle feet which seem to cause the knee-tweaking). Then I rode out west to Lawrence/Milwaukee and back to interview an old-timey movie guy who is putting together a flapper revue for the upcoming screening of "It," the fillum that made Clara Bow a star (see After that my pee was a suspiciously dark yellow, so I drank a bunch of water and took a nap (and awakened very anxious indeed, due to no work coming in, being old, doing bb's, having to urinate etc). And now it's time to teach again.....The question is, will I go to Henry's to watch "Rescue Me" or will I do it at home while folding laundry....Will I attend my friend's father's wake 50 miles away tomorrow, or will I teach my class and feel guilty... will the mess in my workspace, and the closet, and the living room, and the bedroom, EVER be dealt with?? And is it even possible to get work when your workspace brings up each and every memory repressed from growing up in a cluttered house that absolutely no one was allowed to enter, lest the city find out, shut it down, put the maternal unit away and send one back to her father and his cattle prod-wielding new wife? Stay tuned.......

Friday, July 23, 2004

(and I ain't even 40 yet)


Dear Ms Cacananda:

Due to your recent birthday, you have moved into a new age and premium category. Please note the new premium amount and effective date."

Blues Cross Blue Shield"

*Surprisingly, it's more expensive to be a member of this Premium New Age Group.

Thursday, July 22, 2004


Earlier this week I did a home practice while wearing a regular top and some black men's underwear I picked up at Something Old / Something New on Belmont (they were in the new section, thank you). They're kind of like the ones Guruji wears in the picture, only not Calvin Kleins (Unlike Brooke Shields, first I pay my rent. THEN I think about getting designer jeans). I always thought it was some weird male conceit to practice in one's panties (like the men who strip down to their knickers in India to frolic in the surf while their fully-covered womenfolk barely stick one toe in the water). But now I kind of get it; they're not too tight (like those shiny pseudo bike shorts we all wear) and they BREATHE (and not just through the manhood-hole, either). I'd wear them in public but that would cause even more trouble than I'm already in, I suspect.....In any case my practice seemed a whole lot lighter. Maybe 'twas the panties. Maybe not.....

Tuesday, July 20, 2004


For those who are wondering what the hell I mean by "Beatlemania flap":
I wrote a piece about Guruji's NYC workshop last year and mentioned running into two locals who signed up for just one day because they had to get back home to attend a weekend workshop with one of Guruji's students (he of the many metaphors). I wrote something to the effect that I practiced ahimsa and kept myself from quipping, Why would you go back home to see Beatlemania when the Beatles were right here? Of course by writing it I was not practicing ahimsa (non-harming) at all, I was being a smart ass and making a point. Apparently this did indeed cause harm, as it sparked some letters pointing out what a vulcan bitch (my words, not theirs) I yam, to divide the "community" like that. This happened at a time when some carpetbaggers were allegedly teaching sequences tailored to individual students and calling it ashtanga (something I was dying to write about but did not). So you tell me who was dividing the "community." (There are going to be traditionalists and non-traditionalists in any type of yoga; I think it's good to say which you are and tell people when you are deviating from tradition so as not to confuse the students. But that's just me).

So now I have caused harm by describing some ashtanga blogs as being mindnumblingly boring (see 6/28) and going on to list the minutae they describe. Apparently this was taken as a personal attack (me and my big keyboard). Which was not my intention at all (and about which I feel pretty awful). But as I wrote on 7/1, when you read several entries in order and start to see a narrative, these blogs *usually* become lot more interesting. It's all about context.... Many such blogs are gathered at, which is a great resource for those who are: A) Struggling with doing a regular practice and living in the real world, B) Want to go to Mysore at some point, or C) Want to put off work a little while longer.

This harming thing has me considering A) writing only nice things (not possible, although I tried it once with my first set of India musings and it turned out to be quite funny), B) moving all entries since my return from India to a secret location, the URL of which would only be given to a handful of people (also cowardly), and C) putting my real name on here (way too much of a coward to do that).

My mouth/keyboard has always gotten me in trouble, going back to that time at the roller rink, when some kid's mom grabbed me by the arm and laid into me about "you and your smart mouth." I thought writing was a good outlet for it and that the yoga had tempered it. Ha. The question is, should I be myself (the not-so-young woman with the sharp tongue inherited directly from her grandmother Betsy) or the perfect I'm OK/You're OK yogini that I'd one day like to be. The fact is that at the moment I'm a combo platter who throws a lot fewer phones than she used to.... and if you don't like watching the process, you probably shouldn't come back for seconds.



It's been brought to my attention that my emails are "negative" and that I "fail to see the wonder" of India.* Fine. Although I think it's impossible to set out to write something "nice" without sounding like a publicist or a wide-eyed idiot, I'll try to accent-u-ate the positive - for one email only.

India is an enchanting land of contrasts; the air is filled with the conflicting aromas of mothballs. cow duty, jasmine, nag champa incense, fresh fruit, auto exhaust and old urine.

Oops. That didn't go very well at all. I'll try again.

The people are a handsome lot with their dark skin, perfect teeth, luscious black hair and sparkling eyes. The sidewalks are a moving sea of saris in every color imaginable. The men wear dress shirts and dress pants or dhotis, and moustaches are popular (to look like the Hindi movie stars, someone told me). There seem to be far more men than woman - some experts put this down to female infanticide and bridal burning, but how could such things happen in this day and age? - and the men are always asking me my name, and inquiring after my well-being. The children also want to know my name and where I'm from, and often seem to be in need of a pen for school. (The girls, by the ways wear Chuck Taylor-type shoes with their white-and-blue school uniform; sort of like the Ramones-meet-Catholic schoolgirl).

And they are a religious people! It seems as though every business and home has at least one colorful member of the pantheon of Hindu gods displayed on their wall. The Kaveri lobby boasts a huge, beautiful Saraswathi (female God, representing education) carved out of sandalwood, and it is the first thing you see when you walk in (it truly is awesome). The boys who work there do regular puja, and often walk through the halls with incense. In the morning, the nearby mosque and temple duel it out in their sonic call for prayer, thus ensuring that we ashtangis don't oversleep and miss class, which, if you include Ladies Holiday and Saturdays and moon days and Guruji's occasional surprise days off, would come to a loss of Rs 1250, or $25 . The widely-read newspaper, "The Hindu," runs a wide variety of local, national and international articles, including one that blamed the low marriage age in Kerala state on "the backwards Muslims."

Obviously I can't do this....

I had a meltdown on Tuesday, what with waiting for the elephants that never came and the tailor problem and the heat and having to pee all the time (looks like I may have nipped a bladder infection in the bud) and being stood up for a long-awaited sunset trip up Chamundi Hill with moto-boy and missing dinner and trying to get into the coconut I'd gotten "to go" and cutting the hell out of both thumbs (Swiss Army knives do not work as ice picks) so that the thing was covered in blood when I finally got it open. (But it was tender and juicy and well worth the struggle. Also my sore thumbs, if you will, made for a great conversation-starter the following day, and were even better in some ways than walking around w/ a small, cute dog). Anyway there I was in my bright and expensive hotel room having to urinate and thinking, "No one in India cares whether I live or die, except for the green-eyed clerk, and he's off today and anyway he's paid to care." Then I started thinking about whether or not anyone back home would notice if I died in my sad little bachelorette pad, and this really opened the faucet: "What a mistake I made coming here." And "I'd be just as miserable at home. I'm miserable wherever I go, and I make other people miserable too. No wonder I'm alone all the time." I think part of this meltdown, which was no fun at all and seemed like it would never end, has to do with a statement by the Vivacious Russian Girl With Men Falling at Her Feet (I actually find her quite charming as well; maybe she's one of those evolved people who did the right things in their past lives). She was at 3 Sisters, where I went after being stood up (but there was no food for me because I did not order ahead). She was telling everyone, "I just love it here! I haven't had one bad experience here! It's the best!" and of course I thought, "I was born on a bad day, that's all there is to it, and I'm doomed to be miserable and spread my misery for as long as I live. It's a good thing I don't have children.....This Russian girl cancels me out." Eventually I pulled myself up off the bed and did some "bits and bobs" as the Brits say, and after awhile M. called, as if on cue, and all was well. For another few hours, anyway.

Next day I took the train to Bangalore, which was fun - especially after a Chivalrous Indian Man with impeccable English gave me his seat next to the window. The C.I.M., who wore Nikes and is Catholic and told me his name is Geoffrey, asked me about my thumbs, and soon we were talking about restaurants and yogis and toast and lodges and business opportunities in Gokalum, where the yoga shala will move this summer, and the 3-plus hour trip took no time at all. Once there he insisted on dropping me off at Lufthansa, where my ticket change went swimmingly well (they even had a western toilet - with paper!). While there I thought about when I first arrived in India, in Bangalore, and how chaotic and dirty I thought it was. Now, after time in busy Trivandrum and sleepy Mysore, Bangalore comes across as a vibrant, hip metropolis (it's the cyber-center of India) that is full of foliage and actually lives up to its name as the Garden City - at least in the parts I saw.

I even found myself in the same shopping area where Devdutt took us to find yoga clothes when we were missing our luggage not-so-long ago, and I felt older and wiser and maybe, just maybe, a little bit less closed to it all. Anyway C.I.M. came back and we had lunch - he'd never dined with a vegetarian before! -- and did some shopping (it was all quite innocent, thank you) and then I went back to the train, where I got a window seat but somehow 9 people squeezed into a compartment for 6. It wasn't that bad tho (Nothing compares to my bus trip to Brindhavan gardens, where the Spaniards and I made the mistake of leaving right after school let out, and it was the fullest bus ever - no such things as No Standees Permitted, Cap 66 here -- and it did not leave the depot until we'd sat there for over a half an hour not moving as more and more people got on and there were elbows and thighs and bad breath and B.O., and I thought I was going to faint or die and they kept passing school-bags back to the girl next to me (3 in our seat for 2) and then they were passing something else, and it was an infant w/ shaved head and earrings and bindi).

Since then I've learned that mango season starts next week, and I'm starting to know people a bit better and I've found the coconut stand where people go after class. Going there, and drinking coconut milk straight (no straw) and talking and watching the schoolgirls walk by (it seems that school starts at 10am) in their pigtails and sitting there baking in the sun and watching the wallah hold the fruit in his bare hand and cut it perfectly with his machete with no fear..... all this, when you know it's February back home and you have no plans all day, other than figuring out what / where to eat, is an experience I feel lucky to have. So I guess that's the positive part of my note. Also the fact that A.L's room-mate J., who was also in Kovalam (only I didn't meet her til we were both at the Kaveri after a 22-hour train ride wondering why they'd given our rooms away), invited me to a most excellent dinner party at their posh apartment (it featured Keralan coconut stew, lemon rice, stuffed chapatti, "jacket potatoes" and many, many beautifully-colored shredded raw vegetables, which are a novelty here). We sat on cushions on the marble floor, and before and after dinner we read aloud from Yoga Mala and thumbed through the current issue of Man's World magazine, which has a story about Pattabhi Jois (from it we learned that Indian students pay Rs 150, or $3, to study with him for a month). The electricity was off again, and so we dined in candlelight, and the conversation was intimate and meandering. That too is right up there w/ my favorite experiences - especially since it happened on what would have been my mother's 73rd birthday.

This morning the electricity was off again and it was pitch-black outside, so I got my torch (flashlight) and made my way to the shala, about a 15-minute walk (the flashlight was mostly to keep cars and rickshaws from hitting me). There were so many stars in the sky! And all of the ponies had food. But on the way, near the brightly-lit chai stand, one of the street mongrels started to bark at me (they do this to westerners, as I think we look and walk differently), and next thing I knew it was at my heels growling and then I felt a pull and the thing had taken a chunk out of my pants! Fortunately they were flare-legs, and he missed the flesh. I turned around and shined my light in its eyes and let loose with a string of epithets worthy of any sailor. And the thing ran off! And now I have to make a trip to tailor, instead of the hospital for rabies shots. For that, too, I am thankful.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Apparently that earlier blog entry seriously offended someone.
Our apologies.


Before you look up the 6/28 entry under discussion, you should thorougly understand second meaning of the term "alter ego":

Main Entry: al·ter ego
Pronunciation: "ol-t&r-'E-(")gO also -'e-(")gO
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin, literally, second I
: a second self: as a : a trusted friend b : the opposite side of a personality

and know that irony is still in style no matter what the magazines say, and that this blogger practiced primary series for five long years before someone saw fit to hand down an intermediate pose from above ......

Thursday, July 15, 2004


I suppose I had a couple of breakthroughs this week, then a step back (of course). On Sunday I actually attended a *class* with a *teacher* (I've been teaching 14 classes a week and practicing by myself; can you say "alienated?") and managed to hold my wrists on both sides in Pasasana. Having a big burly man adjust one is so much more effective than using a wall to push the elbow in and get the heels down. Then during a solo practice on Tuesday I *finally* floated into Bakasana B without touching the floor. Looking at the ceiling helped, just like Miss Y said it would.

But on Tuesday night I could barely walk, having pulled a muscle *or something* in my right quad. The pain was directly connected to the inner knee --- every time I rubbed it the quad would start on fire, so of course I *couldn't stop* rubbing it -- and MK's warnings about the dangers of standing up from BB with feet splayed came to the fore (apparently it wasn't just another lapsed Iyengar student fear-inducing myth). Then my left kneecap started to ache. Now I understand why I've been more loathe than usual (which is really saying something) to stand up from BB over the past few weeks. I'd come up halfway, push off the floor again, and not stand up time and time again. It was like I was stuck. I thought it was a mental block and would talk myself out of it ("It's all in your mind, just go up, what are you afraid of, get your favorite rug and try it again, or move to the other side of the room" -- which worked quite well six months ago in Mysore). But *maybe* it had something to do with the knees being at their limit and about to burst. There's *no way* I want to repeat that 11-month painful, swollen patella thing that medical doctors, chiropractors, accupuncturists and other quacks could not fix last year. And that's exactly what this felt like. So between rubbing the inner knee to see if the quad still hurt I iced and rested them on the way up to and during John Hiatt (the boyfriend's cup of chai but not mine, although I was pleasantly surprised --he's quite a raconteur -- *and* we ran into D's kids and a very likeable former Ed prior to the show) and later that night I did the knee exercises from Pain Free. On Wednesday they (knees) both hurt like hell so I oiled 'em up (some stuff from Pakistan that seems to work a lot like ayurvedic Pinda Thalia oil, and which helped cure my carpal tunnel a couple of years ago), did the exercises again and decided to try some sun salutations as a test. Despite being repeatedly interrupted by a helicopter that touched down on the suddenly roped-off four-lane street and which at first  seemed to be doing some kind of 911 drill but ended up dropping a new air conditioning unit and other strange silver boxlike things onto the roof of a nearby high-rise and removing a bunch of other giant metal junk (from a building that already has *tons* of AC's in the windows) I wound (two meanings to that word, choose one) up doing primary series (modifying Janu C of course); as I went along the knees actually felt better. I followed it up with some very gingerly backbends (hands and feet at the four corners of the mat.... yet the knees twitched slightly).

Today there was no pain so I did a full practice but of course was unable to hold the wrist in Pasasana or float into Bakasana B. I dropped back with help but at least the feet were where they should be and the knee didn't tweak. So we'll see. The plan is to walk up and down the wall with a block between the knees, dropping back lower and lower each time in order to teach the things (feet) to stay parallel. The problem is my achilles tendons / backs of the lower legs are really tight which makes it nigh impossible to stand up with feet flat and parallel. And I am too afraid to lift the heels when I come up to keep the feet straight. Any solutions or suggestions should be sent to Just keep in mind that I'm a tall, stiff girl, and that the best gymnists are all child prodigies the size of lawn jockeys....

Saturday, July 10, 2004


...means "lazy" in Kannada, although I did teach two today (including putting the sweaty legs of stiff men behind their heads and helping them drop back which is quite tiring) and *have* to attend a kirtan tonight (for an article) when all I really want to do is sleep and clean house and sleep and watch a movie and sleep. It's not that bad, really. But I'll pawn you off on someone else anyway:

I've read only the most recent entries in this Mysore blog by a Tim Miller student, but found them to be unusually insightful *and* witty:

Bindi was in class this AM and is making noise about going back in November, so now there's a bee in my bonnet, too. Five thousand rupees says she gets *discovered* by Bollywood at that Mumbai hotel lobby where they like to troll for western extras.....

(Hey, if I go maybe *I'll* get discovered too. Plenty of roles for 36 Chowringhee Lane* spinsters there I'm sure).

*36 CHOWRINGHEE LANE (English audio) 
Jennifer Kendal, Dhritiman Chatterjee, Debashree Roy, Geoffrey Kendal & Soni Razdan - A 1981 Classic 
Produced and Directed by Aparna Sen
Nandita and Samaresh are tired of sneaking kisses in taxis and start using Violet Staneham, an ageing Anglo-Indian schoolteacher's dingy apartment in Calcutta as a meeting place. In the process, a warm and exciting relationship grows up between the young lovers and the old lady. (

Friday, July 09, 2004


Photos of Guruji's recent birthday party, complete with white cake, banana-leaf buffet, extended family, and sweaty western chix in (sometimes mis-wrapped) saris, can be found here (whoever spots Randy first wins a prize):


If you teach (sub) enough yoga classes, say 14 a week for a couple of weeks, you will start to call out poses in a southern accent ("and naow go into dainward da-wog"). And people will like it.

And you will receive notes like this from group exercise directors (for *a class that's not yours*, that you've been trying to sub out since you agreed to sub it three weeks ago, when you realized you had a conflict):

"You agreed to cover for [CENSORED] and are now backing out...."

As this girl did not grow up a member of some guilt-motivated religious endeavor, such tactics are useless.

Yet still she tries....

And after seeing Ed a couple of weeks ago and being introduced to the Neu Uber-Boss as "one of our standby writers" and laying eyes on Your Cute-But-e-Dating Replacement, you hear nothing from said Ed, and suspect you're not just out a high-profile column and rewarding work that allows you to push your political agenda and free tickets to this, that and the other thing and 19K a year -- you're probably not going to be part of The New Redesign, either, are you.

Perhaps it's time to call time out.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004


That bad cold I had does indeed take two full weeks to exit the body. But I had my first full practice *in some time* on Sunday (after half-practice on Sat)and actually felt good/grounded enough to stand up from backbend (couldn't do it today though, could I?). My thighs feel like bricks but I am daydreaming of dropovers. It could happen. In this lifetime. Even if I am turning 40 in, like, two weeks. Value to society ending soon, Madam.

The boyfriend and I went to my nephew's wedding on Saturday. Suffice to say there were wardrobe crises on both ends (I ended up wearing a very mod-yet-conservative dress that had belonged to my mother) followed by a long drive in pouring rain and by the time we got there I at least was ready to go home and take a long nap. I had a kiddie cocktail just like I did when I'd go to the bars with my mom back in the early 70's, and filled up on bread....Many tan women in strapless gowns with tattoos. My people. There were also several of my brother's and nephews' long-time friends -- the former look like they're about ten years younger than their actual ages. It's cool that he has such old friends (two of whom are actually named Freund -- not unusual since everyone from our town [except us] is German/Irish). It was a short, sweet service in an old seems that these days the couple cuts the cake *before* dinner and dancing, which makes things move along. As far as I could tell there was no bouquet-throwing. No glass-clinking either; to get them to kiss nowadays the whole table has to scream a song to them with "love" in the lyrics. (Our table did not participate). After D. and I scrunched our noses and removed the twice-baked potato and stuffed tomato from our plates of steak and shrimp we learned they actually had veggie plates for us (apparently sitting at Table Two with the groom's parents gives one a Certain Status). After dinner there was of course dancing -- D. and I slow-danced like jr. high kids but it was nice as he is tall, handsome and broad-shouldered, takes the lead, etc.

But at some point two midget-like creatures with giant (I mean *giant*) foam heads and moving foam lips came out of nowhere. They were announced as a special treat from the bride's father and dressed as bride and groom. They danced in weird circles in a very disturbing way and lip-synched to songs such as "Love Shack." D. and I were careful not to look at them (lest they come over and harass us). Afterwords we went downtown to pick up D's younger daughter and told her about the nuptial dervishes. She agreed that they were scary and should be avoided at all costs. Then she wanted to know if there's a Bank Two.

Thursday, July 01, 2004


Just read an interview with Devo frontman and film composer Mark Mothersbaugh, in which he discusses what a drag it was to grow up in Ohio in the 1960's/70s's... until he saw a giant shark hologram at the Akron Art Institute and the Cuyahoga River caught fire:

"...What was going on then is that there was no voice. There was no voice in music. There wasn’t a Bob Dylan, and there wasn’t, you know, a Woody Guthrie, or anybody that was a conscience for, for, um, youth. Because after they shot kids, you know, on different campuses in ’70, it’s like the country went into a big sleep. And all the really politically active people - who were protesting, uh, you know, globalization, and America, you know, like, fucking around with the politics of Southeast Asia, and the Cold War and things - they all stopped. They all just became quiet. And by ’73, ’74, the, the music that you were hearing was disco, and, uh... concert rock, yeah. It was like, yeah, and Eagles, Styx…

"So that’s like, part of this whole thing about where DEVO came from and what - it came from a lot of different sources. We were just looking for a way to describe what we saw going on. We saw this incredible technology fucking everything up, you know. But we saw this stuff that looked and seemed amazing. And it should be doing great things. But yet, the quality of life was deteriorating. And so, you know, uh, there was like a bunch of things that came together at once…"

This does not detract from the fact that "Whip It" is being used on the small screen to sell dust mops and "Uncontrollable Urge" is peddling BMW's. (What's next, "Mongoloid" for Kangol hats?).


mothersbaugh's web site:


After 1.5 weeks, the cold/flu that seemed to be gone for good has returned with a vengeance. The (organic, full-fat, maple-flavored) yogurt I slurped up before bed to help me sleep certainly can't be helping. I am a snot factory (apologies to Patti Smith) and suspect that the planned 10 AM practice with the girls is not going to happen.

But the mucous and malaise have not prevented me from catching up with the Ezboard Mysore site and reading a couple of Mysore blogs. Like certain TV shows, most suck when excerpted and/or taken out of context. But when you catch two or three episodes in a row it all starts to fall into place. My favorite at the moment is by a 38-year-old LA-area accountant/massage therapist who's planning a trip to Mysore in a couple of months:
He writes well and often; works way too much and lives a solitary existence that makes our own wretched loneliness and struggles with the practice seem more all the more palatable.

(I couldn't write a word yesterday despite having three deadlines today....this afternoon I must interview a hot children's author whom I could not find in the phonebook -- which means I had to arrange it through a publicist, which means the flak will probably listen in and try to control the interview. I probably won't get the source's phone number for a followup, either [NY publishing houses are the *worst* when it comes to local journalists; they act towards us the same way movie minions with walkie-talkies treat pedestrians who accidently step onto their so-called set]).

Maybe I should put on that Eternal Om CD that Manju plays during savasana....