Saturday, October 15, 2005


This week I stood up from backbend for the first time since throwing out my back and falling down those stairs last March. This was after doing primary series followed by intermediate series up to my rendition of Karandavasana (see plate).

I did three -- three! -- dropbacks and was even able to walk upright afterwards, which made for a very lovely day indeed -- especially since I thought it was something I'd never do again. That yoga. You just never know. That's why teachers who tell students they'll never be able to do this or that pose because of their anatomy irk me to no end. Why, if I'd listened to all the naysayers along the way (particularly the internal ones), why, I'd still be waiting tables, sleeping til noon, throwing phones and halfheartedly searching for that one elusive thing that would give shape and meaning to my life.

Speaking of negative teachers......Later that day a private student of mine, who had gotten herself up into backbend for the first time the previous week (she actually screamed with delight), did it again -- three times in a row. She was as surprised as I: "I didn't expect to do it again for awhile," she told me. "Because of what you said last week." Oops. What I'd said was that sometimes, when you have a breakthrough, you shouldn't be surprised if it goes away and comes back again (which I've seen happen many, many times). Apparently my little speech made her think she wouldn't be able to go up into BB again for awhile. So perhaps I should keep my mouth shut next time; I'm not sure. Is it reassuring to know that the pose will come back? Or does it just instill doubt? In any case, it didn't stop her.

That very same day I witnessed a Perfect Yoga Moment during Mysore class. Miss Y had been hovering near a student who had recently been given some intermediate poses and was finishing up her backbend sequence. "I just can't stand up today," she said, with frustration in her voice. Without missing a beat, Miss Y replied, "Sa tu dirghakala nairantarya...." "Huh?" said the student, dumbfounded. "You want to practice for a long time without a break and without attachment to the results," replied Miss Y. It was the first part of Yoga Sutra 1.14 she'd rattled off so effortlessly: "sa tu dirghakala nairantarya satkara asevitah drdhabhumik." Mr Iyengar's translation of the full sutra is "Long, uninterrupted, alert practice is the firm foundation for restraining the fluctuations [of the mind]."

What a day: I also learnt that the AYRI in Mysore may be closed while the family goes on a world tour in March and April. So the plans for going January to March are on hold. Apparently they're not planning to go to NYC on the tour, which is a shame. The official schedule should come out in the next week or so. Or so they say.

I also learnt that designer yogaho Donna Karan is "hosting" BKS Iyengar's current trip to NYC. If I'm not mistaken, that would be the same Donna Karan who waxes on about what a great teacher Pattabhi Jois* is in the Ashtanga, NY documentary, and complains about how badly she wants to go to India but just doesn't have the time. Hey, even Mike D. cleared off a month to go India and study with Pattabhi Jois.

Later that night a student told me she read in Men's Health that the new yoga sensation sweeping Hollywood is (drumroll).............. Disco Ashtanga. Not Salsa or Charleston or Meringue or Minuet or Bhangra or even Jazz. Nope -- DISCO. One wonders what Sri T Krishnamacharya would have to say about that.

At the end of the week I brought the New Orleans evacugees some Louisiana red velvet cake** made by a New Orleans native named Dallas who lives in Chicago and works at a Filipino bakery. They told me that the evacugee husband was able to go back to their house last week, and found that their cat had survived a month alone in their flooded Big Easy home. A month. He was eating well, etc. but last night the Crescent City equivalent of our evil 24 hour emergency vet (the meanest and most expensive vet in the world) told them he is jaundiced and needs a $1,000 kidney ultrasound. If only they'd brought him up here and showed their NOLA ID, everything would be free.....


*BKS Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois are elderly master teachers with different takes on the same yoga poses. At some point, serious yogis usually choose a school, or type of yoga, or teacher, and stick with it. (Of course some have the hubris to cherrypick and make up their own hybrid form of yoga).

**While eating breakfast after yoga with The Most Charming Couple in the Midwest (now that the Kellers are in LA) at said Filipino bakery, I learnt from the Philippines-born wife about Ube, a bright purple Filipino yam that's made into cake and a dense, addictive sort of pudding called halaya (I took some home since Dorian Black is a huge yam fan -- although I'm not sure about his take on Karen Finley's yam slam, since I'm not comfortable using the word "vagina" around him just yet). While we were eating, the cook brought out a sheet cake with a dark brown figure on top and set it on a table across the room. "Why would you put a solider on top of a birthday cake?" said I. "I think it's a dinosaur," said the husband, squinting. "It looks like Zorro to me," said the wife. Later, we looked closer and saw that we were all wrong -- it was a cowboy. Cue Yoga Sutra IV-15: "Vastusamye cittabhedattayorvibhaktah panthah," or "The characteristics of an object apear differently, depending on the different mental states of the observer." (from TKV Desikachar's 1987 translation of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras).


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  2. Anonymous10:13 PM

    .."i'd still be waiting tables, sleeping til noon..and half heartedly searching for that one elusive thing that would give shape and meaning to my life"
    *sigh* unfortunately this is my life..and we're the same age.
    i saw mr. iyengar on charlie rose last week. he said he still does yoga for 5 hours every day.(he has the best eyebrows!))

  3. Anonymous11:08 PM

    Mabuhay - Where's the Filipno Bakery that Dallas works at in Chicago? Salamat, Mike in Chicago