Tuesday, May 31, 2005

IS ALL COMING?

After all that complaining of The Headache I had one of the best practices in memory yesterday (ie it did not hurt and I was not tired, and even dropped back....once). I've been doing up thru Kapo every day just as Sharath prescribed but my hands are no closer to the feet. Not that that's the goal or anything.

Afterwords we had lunch at the Ethiopian place next door and I stopped by my friend TamTam's alley; she was there with the moving truck and her gf's parents, about to leave for Cali. Very sad. So of course a nap was in order. Then waking up disgruntled and anxious and debating whether to go to The Bestselling Writer's BBQ.

I had gone to the very same BBQ the previous day. It started at 4, I arrived at 7. Cased the place; no one around. I rang the buzzer, gave myname. "Who?" she asked. Gave it again. "WHO?" Gave it again. She came down. Turns out the thing was on Monday. A day early and four hours late. Oops. So much for trying to impress her....

Monday, May 30, 2005

JASTI NOWOO*

Bad bad bad *bad* headache today and I'm meeting Henry the Punk for Mysore practice at 10:30. The question is, is it allergies or lack of water or all the salty/sweet snacks consumed at MK's fabulous BBQ last night? A huge concetration of yoga teachers at that event (plus the husband's restaurant friends). Apparently the superbendy teacher Ph. has been telling students that if they stop doing yoga they will "get sick and die." A new take on what it says on Miss Y's website: "Life takes life out of you; yoga puts it back in." And now, hopefully, this yoga will cure my dolor de cabeza increible.

FLASHBACK
I keep forgetting to mention this about Guruji's NYC workshop.... It's the first day and I'm half awake after practice, walking around in more of a stupor than usual and saying hello to people I know. But one familiar person seemed puzzled when I greeted her -- as if she didn't know me. How rude, I thought. Much, much later it dawned on me that she's one of the people they interview in the Ashtanga Yoga NY video, and that we've never actually met. Except through my TV.

And at the birthday party, in between the eating and chatting and tabla playing, I kept looking at one really familiar-looking man, and scrolling through the memory banks trying to recall the connection. Was it a workshop? Was he in Mysore? Is he a friend of a friend? It was only at the end of the party that I realized his face is on a flyer for an upcoming workshop at Chicago Yoga Center. Now *that's* scary.

OK, I'm off for yoga followed by breakfast with Michael Chiklis, Denis Leary and Daniel Dae Kim (aka the Daniel Day Lewis of Korea).















*Kannada for "lots of pain."

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

ASAMSAKTI [usumsh^ukti] or NON-ATTACHMENT

is explored yet again, when Blogger experieces a glitch that lasts two hours for most, eternities for others.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

INNONDU = ONE MORE*

I forgot to mention I saw a note posted at Eddie Stern's studio; if I remember correctly it said they are doing primary-only on Fridays and led primary and intermediate on Sundays. Just like in Mysore itself.

They're also offering breakfast and chai every Sunday after practice, as well as a puja each Thursday afternoon....

You can view a few snaps from the workshop (including Sharath pouring chai) here. Just scroll down (go lower and learn more about donating to Guruji's new foundation).
The pix are by (and, in one case, of) the same folks who bring you Sri Ganesha Tea Stall Radio.


----------------------

*In Kannada

Monday, May 23, 2005

RECAP, RETREAD, RECYCLE

On Friday M and I did indeed make it to the Brooklyn Museum of Art for the Basquiat retrospective, and my friend Kai's name was indeed scrawled on a piece called "Tuxedo." Such colors in that exhibit! And so many field trips in da house I was compelled to cover my nose and mouth with my scarf ($10 at St. Mark's Place) and take an Airborne afterwords. M's friend PSG couldn't be bothered coming to Brooklyn to see it: "I like his life, not his art" (said in a thick Glasgow accent).

Later I visited my friend G. on the Upper West Side and saw her dog with the fused vertabrae and $3K vet bill and ate grapes and kvetched and took a stroll through Joan of Arc Island. Then I walked down to Strawberry Fields (72nd and Central Park West, in front of the Dakota) for some peace gathering that turned out to be an ethereal peacenik woman's birthday party with votives, hipsters and blankets. Of course it started an hour late; it was hard to sneak away but it was frigid in the park and we eventually skulked off to have dinner at vegetarian Madras in the East Village, which has been spruced up a bit (the restaurant, not the Village). The vegan yogi thali was *all that* and then some, although the service was a little surley. Then a walk past Swatch, Coach, Mac, and every other high end chain store that has invaded SoHo of late (well Swatch has been there for awhile) to visit to PSG and family for some conversation outside on the Thompson Street benches and then tea and bundt cake (not a euphemism) inside; the kids are becoming like their adult selves. On the way we walked past the Puck Building and looked up at the seventh floor ballroom where there were colored strobe lights bouncing off the ceiling. Bottom chakra dwellers are there, Madam.

Then to the subway for the interminable ride that makes you understand to your core the term No Sleep til Brooklyn. But as the C-train pulled up we noticed a writhing brown arm sticking out from in between two of the doors; from the elbow to the fingertips it moved like a worm when it's cut in half. We couldn't take our eyes off of it. It was attached to a large large man with an Afro, wearing a black tank top and shorts like some kind of uniform. When the doors opened he got out, rubbing the arm and muttering, and walked onto the platform. We crept into the next car and hoped he wouldn't join us. We watched him walk directly to the garbage can in the middle of the platform and open the side door like a pro (he did it so effortlessly I looked to see if he was wearing some sort of MTA badge but he was not). He pulled out the interior garbage can, and fished out the the brown plastic bag inside (half full) and spun it closed and tossed it off to the side. Then he grabbed the silver can (now empty), and hoisted it above his head, arms straight, and started yelling (prior to this he was merely muttering). He was marching up the stairs with it high over his head, still screaming, when we finally started moving.

Nothing like this ever happens on the eFfing train.

Or in Chicago, for that matter.

Friday, May 20, 2005

PUCKIN' A*

Where to begin with the description of Guruji's (first) 90th birthday party?
There were plants and tatami mats with centerpieces of floating candles and flowers and Indian bananas and paypayas and grapes all over the Puck's 7th floor ballroom where we usually practice, there was a tribute slide show of Guruji highlights from over the years, there was a bar with organic juice and natural soda (no chai) and two food lines where you could get exquisite South Indian food. It was done up. The stage was at the other end; no Anoushka but a Karnatic singer and tabla player who've performed for Guruji in Mysore itself. ALmost everyone looked better than usual (ie nice clothes, not sweaty, hair in array). After talking to Z. (in a stunning maroon sari) for some time -- she's going to Mysore June 1 and now I'm itching to join her -- we saw the family come in. Then we sat down on cushions and were eating some food (always a priority) when I saw an apparition: Lino in white. I jumped up and ran over -- he was with the Danish Baldies with the designer yoga shorts -- and I said, "Now both of my teachers are here." How good it was to see him. I miss that man. Of course I took it as a sign that yes, it was indeed a good idea to change my ticket and attend the party. Guruji sat at a front table for some time, and people went to get their picture taken with him and/or kiss the feet or, in the case of many women, to get a hug and a kiss. I did too of course. He looked resplendent. Saraswati was in a beautiful green sari, Sharath in a very cool shirt with a Swastika design and of course the rest of the family was there too (Shruti is looking extra beautiful these days, and their daughter is getting very big!). Sharath made a speech before the ensemble started to play, beginning it with "Yekum, Inhale," which got a good laugh. He said that NYC is their favorite place -- their second home. Take that, coastal towns. Anyway the music was good; they did a special new guru song for Pattabhi Jois and had us chant Om Nama Narayanaya with them (the many children near the stage did the best job) and also did a Ganesha song. Afterwords Guruji gave a brief talk, something about "Do not waste your life. Do not have bad thoughts. Do not waste your life. Yogayogayogayoga. Yesterday is gone. Do not waste your life. Tomorrow do yogayogayogayoga..." It was very inspiring and hopefully I will remember all of this on those days when I practice at home, by myself, in that yoga teacher void where you feel completely disconnected from the rest of the world.... Then Ubbaya (Abaya?) talked about the new Pattabhi Jois Foundation and presented him with a check for $23,000, collected for his birthday (instead of giving chocolate and flowers, etc. this year they asked us to contribute to the foundation which help fund Mysore charities of Guruji's choice, the idea being that the community is so good to us, we should give something back. And besides, Guruji has everything he needs). Then Guruji said a few words, thankyouverymuch. At some point a (vegan chocolate) cake with many candles came out and everyone sang happy birthday. Then we ate some cupcakes and left. It was a lovely end to an amazing week. And now I am fired up to get back to Mysore. In line yesterday Saraswati asked me when I was coming and I said "within the year." So now I must make good on my word. If only I could find a way to go this summer *and* work on that book-thing. Then I could go to the "other" 90th birthday. But how lucky I was to attend this one....








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*phrase coined by M., who also wore Indian dress (or do you say Muslimwear) to the fete.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

FLAVA FLAV, REVISITED

Apparently staying up late (10:30) last night to blog was not such a good idea. Today I awakened over a half hour late, at 5:05AM. I was frantic of course. But I'm familiar enough with the MTA from my last trip here to know that a train comes around 5:15/20, and that if I made it I could still get to the Puck Building in time to get a decent spot. I threw on my contacts and clothes (set out the night before), grabbed my mat and made it to the tracks just as the train came. When I got to the shala it was a madhouse as predicted, and there were a few spaces left in back and on the side near the viewing area. Then I saw LL, fourth row center -- and she had saved a spot for me. Despite the beginnings of a pounding headache, I was grateful/relieved. Then I went in back to change clothes (one always stakes out a spot before changing clothes). When it came time to take off my jeans I realized oops! I'd forgotten to put on my yoga shorts. Although my thong matched my top, I'm not buffed and waxed in such a way that it would look anywhere near as good as it probably does on Bikini Girl. So I went back to my mat, rolled up my jeans and tested them in Garbha Pindasana (a pretezelike position in which you sit in lotus and put your arm through your legs behind the knees and hold your ears). It wasn't bad. But MK took pity on me, and very nicely went in back to ask Jammu if she had an extra pair of shorts. I was on my back warming up when a something fell unceremoniously onto my head and scared the crap out of me; I looked up to see MK beaming. Turns out Jammu didn't have any shorts shorts, but AKR did. And they fit, too. Later she said she never carries an extra pair, and didn't know why she had them. Hmmm.

Today Guruji's count seemed slower. As usual I was stiff and in some pain (although less so in backbend) and felt heavy and slow. Eventually there was a lot of sweat but that didn't seem to help (in fact some fat drops of condensation fell onto us while we were in savasana; very disconcerting). We did who knows how many sun salutations and seven -- SEVEN! -- Navasanas, ouch. We almost skipped janu C (difficult toe-crusher pose) on the left (oh, well) but everyone automatically went into it anyway when Guruji accidentally called Mari A (the pose that comes after). He was unphased of course. What a great, booming voice....Did I mention how well he looks?

Most days I can hold utpluthith (lifting yourself up while in lotus pose) until at least the first "nine" (we hold that pose for a count of ten, which often ends up being around 50 of my regular breaths; when Guruji sees people fall like dominoes from lifting their own weight for such a long time, he backs up a few numerals or keeps calling nine until more people lift up. In India and in previous years I've been able to hold it the whole time; not anymore). Today though I had to come down a few breaths after 7. It's all that holding of Caturanga (pushup pose); during vinyasa, if someone races forward to upward facing dog before they're told to, he yells, "Catuari" and we holdholdhold Caturanga until he's satisfied. It's not easy to hold up your weight when you've got more of it than usual....

Today was the last day of class, which was bittersweet of course. Can I say how much more mellow, and how much less competitive the atmosphere is this year? It seems like there's a whole lot less attitude all around. And it can't just be due to the stunningly good weather....Or maybe it's *my* attitude that's changed. Or both.

After Guruji finally called "10" in Utpluthith, everyone started spontaneously clapping, and it wasn't just because we were glad it was over. It was in appreciation for Guruji, and didn't stop for awhile. Then, after the Mangala (closing) mantra, we did it again (as is customary). We clapped for a long, long time and then everyone stood up and continued for awhile. MK says she saw Guruji wipe away a tear. He wasn't the only one....

DETAILS

I didn't realize until yesterday that Sharath is sitting there, greeting people, during the Guruji feet-kissing, and that it's possible to ask him conference-type questions. So today I settled it once and for all:
The correct dristi (gaze) in utpluthith is the nose.
The correct dristi in yoginidrasana is the third eye.


ASIDE:

Today breakfast was again at Orlin, which was lovely. Seven people today. Later LL and I met at the door to Eddie's, and went up to the puja at his "Ganesha Temple." It *really* looks like a temple, plus there was a Brahmin priest. Lots of pouring of milk, water, other liquids (coconut water?) onto the Ganesha figure; later when we were chanting for what seemed like forever, he closed the curtain and annointed him (Ganesha) with flowers, etc. Suffice to say it was beautiful and afterwords there was again that exquiste food made by the same guy who did breakfast (and who wears a sacred thread, hmmm). food! It was exquisite.

Afterwords I went to 27th and Lex to look for an Indian dress to wear to the birthday party tonight, because everything I brought with looks tarty. The dress is not very dressy but at least it won't show the dirt I'm sure to absorb from the subway on they way there. Nor will it make me look like a western hoo-ah.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

NO SLEEP TIL SAVASANA

LL got a spot for us second row center today, so we could hear Guruji and see Guruji and, occasionally, watch his feet walk by. He seems to look younger and better than he did last time I saw him. He glows. Anyway there we were, warming up or whatever just minutes before 6 and a mat in the front row disappeared and everyone was going to spread out a bit and then it was decided that no, they should leave it. Seconds later a well known recording artist put his mat down, front and center. But it seemed as though he was looking for a space, any space, and *that* was the one that opened up. People were practicing in the hall again today. And Saraswati was out there adjusting them!

Seconds later a woman who was not Tatum O'Neal (Little Darlings era) pushed her way into a sweet spot in the center of the second row. She did this unapologetically, with that brazen sense of entitlement I've had such a hard time cultivating when it comes to my career. Maybe I could learn something from that woman.

I was even stiffer than usual today, and my pascimattasana (intense sitting forward bend) sucked. I felt Guruji's eyes on me, then heard the feet and sho' nuff, there he was pressing on my back. Then he went down the row to LL and M (also from Chicago). Later on he came over and gave that exquisite sarvangasana (shoulderstand) adjustment. He still does not seem to recognize me though.

Although my physical practice continues to be a struggle, my mind seemed to cal

How funny it was when Guruji came by the front and center celebrity area during some pose or other and told that area in general, "Lift your head!"

It's also interesting to hear people not getting it when he says, "Lose your feet!" in halasana (plow pose).

The stiff woman in front of us in the running shorts got the majority of the adjustmentes. She was a Moaner, and was letting rip with a bunch of loud and regular ones during a baddhakonasana adjustment. So many in fact that Guruji started giggling.

A couple of us went again for the veggie breakfast at the shala today, and it was just as good. We went back to watch the rest of intermediate, since tomorrow it'll be primary at 6 and half primary at 8. It should be a madhouse.



DETAILS

Today was one of the best savasanasa (corpse pose) I've had in ages. I was floating underwater and having visions of Amitabh Bachchan. Then I opened my eyes to see scores of people lined up at the foot of my mat, waiting to kiss feet.

David Swenson is in da house. Looking very sweet/humble, and doing primary.

In Nakrasana the feet should be together.

Apparently a certain celeb was doing intermediate earlier this week and went back to primary, too. So I'm in good company. I think.

ASIDE

It looks like I can extend my stay til Saturday, and will be able to attend the birthday party for Guruji. (Instead of people bringing him endless flowers and chocolate, they've asked people to make donations to a new Mysore charity fund in his name; it'll help the poor, retarded and wild animals, from what I can tell. Details to come).

Today the big trip was to Pier 54 to see the Ashes and Snow exibit, which is basically many exquisite sepia toned photos (and one hourlong film) depicting Southeast Asian people interacting with several types of animals. Very moving, even though occasionaly the negative thoughts would come: "This is a little precious" and "The narration is cloying" and "I have to urinate."

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

UH... HOW DO I KNOW YOU?

Back to primary in the second row, far left. I managed to catch the 5am eF-ing train, and got a spot in the second row, far left. Little did I know that this would put me out of the paths of all three teachers yet directly in front of Hanuman and The Bikini Girl. This is the same platinum blonde woman I saw begin practice on Sunday wearing a bikini top that set off her tan-tan torso nicely. Partway through practice the pants came off to reveal a string bikini bottom and well-waxed high-voltage areas. Each day she has worn a different bikini (Hanuman's is green). So today I am directly in front, and get to see her bounce, quickly and crazily, in downward facing dog and prasarita padatonnasana.

Guruji was less testy today, less a stickler for getting everything just-so. But my body feels stiff and fat and heavy -- and doesn't feel all that much better by the end of practice.

But today after class we went to Eddie's shala, which is also called the Sri Ganesha Temple, for breakfast. A Hari Krishna-looking man sat there on the floor, ladeling out the most delicious Indian breakfast for just $6. Many Chicagoans were present, and all seemed well-pleased. These days the shala does indeed look like a temple -- and smells like one, too (camphor). Which reminds me. A bunch of intermediate people were headed down on the elevator around 10am and it stopped partway down and the doors opened and the man looked at us and stepped back a bit and did not get on. Apparently we didn't smell so good.

I keep seeing people I met in Mysore in 2002, the last year of the old shala that fit just 12 people. These are people I spent over an hour with each day on the cold hard stairs waiting to practice, and more time afterwords sitting down -- yes, you could sit down in those days and in the shade no less -- over coconuts. Isa from Portugal, Michael from Colorada, Jennifer from Canada, etc (who has drastically changed her hair color). Anyway they are *so* nice -- even the ones I thought weren't -- and it's been lovely to catch up. Of course nearly all of them have since finished intermediate / married / had kids / all three. But it *is* really good to see them. At the same time, I've recognized no one from the 2004 trip to the giant shala. I am lucky to have gone to the olde one.


DETAILS


Chai is not ready before the 6am class, and usually runs out right near the beginning of the intermediate practice.

I heard tell that Guruji and family went shopping at Century 21 (big designer malld owntown) today.

My memory is very selective when it comes to running into people I met in Mysore. The rule seems to be this: I recognize only people that don't remember me, and I don't remember any of the people who recognize me. Standard Exchange:

S-David! How are you?
(David looks at her uncomprehendingly)
S-Satya from Chicago, Mysore 2002
D-Oh! How are you!
S-Good. You?
D-Pretty good, pretty good. Are you here for the whole week?
S-Yeah, you?
D-Yup
S-How's your practice been?
D-Good, good.
S-You going to Mysore anytime soon?
D-I can't I have a kid / got married / just went.
etc.


ASIDE
After breakfast I went back to Brooklyn, cleaned up, had a half-hour nap, warmed up some chai and headed to Union Square for my lunch meeting with the editors. The uber editor couldn't make it so it was me and the assitant down by the schoolyard. Turns out she's been there 1.5 years, and part of that as an intern. *Almost* young enough to be my daughter. Apparently I am in -- they want me to do the book. This still has not sunk in. Afterwords I waited in the sun for M and we headed up to the Met for the Diane Arbus exhibit. Can I just say -- we would have killed for a cup of coffee while waiting on the steps for our Chicago friends. Someone could pull a capaccino cart up there and make a fortune.

Afterwords we ate at Temple in the Village, one of my favorite places to eat in the city, period. A long Asain vegetarian cafeteria line of superhealty food sold by the pound, and which includes the largest selections of greens I've ever seen. I remember eating there on 9/12, and how happy I was to see that they were open. They still play Vivaldi's Four Seasons, too.

Monday, May 16, 2005

BACK A GRADE. MAKE THAT SEVERAL GRADES

Today I tried intermediate after warming up first at M’s – both with chai and with stretching. Suffice to say I awakened to pain in the lower back and shooting down the top half of my right buttock, and easily could have spent the day walking around doubled-over like the man who lives next door. But the stretches helped (and the chai, which is not so good when you try to make it away from home; somehow the cardamom got damp). I was in the subway by 7:15. The Puck ballroom was steamy/stinky when I got there; plenty of places to put the shoes and bags today, but the line to kiss the feet from the previous group was still quite long. I chose a spot in the far corner in the last row, farthest from the entrance. Hiding in back.

Everything went OK – Despite yesterday’s Italian ice and corn chips I was able to bind on both sides in Pasasana (noose pose)… though we held the second side so long my toes cramped up and stayed that way for the next few poses. I came up from Lagu, which is better than my last performance at the Puck back in the fall of 2003. And then came Kapotasana. Of course my hands did not touch my feet – Kovalam magic does not happen in NYC, and the pain reallly started shooting at that point – although I seemed do OK in B. But apparently not good enough. While I was in B, sweating bullets and breathing fast (maybe the chai wasn’t such a good idea after all) and wondering how I could come up without blowing out my knees, I saw Sharath bust the people next to me for coming up after A. He then got on someone else for having their fingers pointing the wrong way. But the only person he tapped out was me. (He touches you and says, "done" or "out" much like couples getting the tap from the judge telling them they’re no longer contenders in the big Charleston contest). Relieved, I sat there (usually you drag your mat to the back of the room, but I was already way in back) and watched the rest of the series. At one point Guruji became so annoyed by people’s in ability to "lift up" on their way to jumping back from certain poses, he stopped everything and had Sharath demonstrate. Everyone was surprised (including Sharath) and stood up to watch. Apparently after many of the poses you lift up into a bakasanalike position or half-handstand without actually putting the knees on the arms. No small feat. Later he walked around asking people if they’d done Karandavasana. Not believing them, he’d have ‘em do it again. I saw Zoe with her knees on her elbows, chin hovering above the floor, for what seemed like an eternity, waiting to get helped back up. Eventually she was.

In addition to seeing how they adjust close-up it was interesting to see how people’s practices have progressed over the years: There’s one guy I met in Mysore in 2002, who was sitting at Three Sisters one day beaming (while waiting the usual eternity for his lassi) because he’d finally officially gotten Pasanasa. Today I saw him do the entire intermediate series. And here I am going backwards by the day. But it isn’t about the poses, right? I mean, I’m lucky to be doing ANY yoga at all when you think about it. And you should never, ever compare yourself to others.

DETAILS:

Lift up on an inhale between the two sides of Parsva Danurasana

Five sloooow steps forward, five equally slow steps back in Titibasana C

Five slooooow jumps forward, five equally excruciating jumps back in Nakrasana

Hold Urvha Dandasana for an eternity

Hold Utpluthith for even longer.

Guruji did not seem to recognize me today but he did answer my question, "Oota Aita?" with a long stream of Kannada, which of course I didn’t understand. I did get that he hadn’t eaten breakfast yet. That’s amazing, to do all that on an empty stomach at 90.

I asked Sharath if I should do primary, since I’m getting stopped so soon in intermediate. He said yes (other than the part about getting up at 4:30, I'm relieved). He also said that back at home I should do primary followed by intermediate up to Kapotasana. "Stop at Kapotasana."

ASIDE

Afterwards a few of us went to breakfast and then I met Kai for an iced tea (he’s one of the instigators behind brink.com). Apparently the door at the beginning of the Basquiat exhibit, which now belongs to Johnny Depp, was once his (long story). His name is on a couple of the pieces in the exhibit.
Anyway while he was at a meeting I did some halfhearted shopping (nothing appeals to me, hmmmm); then he picked me up and we drove back to Brooklyn. Now that’s a luxury – driving in Manhattan and over that bridge.

There is now a Best Buy at the corner of Broadway/Houston.

The bathroom at the nearby Starbucks is not locked and you can use it without buying a thing.

Apparently the WC at the SoHo Mac store is even better.

Today M wrote a note to his co-op mates, comparing himself to Groundskeeper Willy, and imploring them to keep the front gate shut so the teens don’t take over the stoop.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

PERSISTENT VEGETATIVE STATE

Saturday night we ate at Pepe Verde in the old neighborhood and met Dexter the Director for the play Orson’s Shadow. On the way we ran into the producer and scores of other people that DD knows. Hugs and kisses for all....those theater people. The play was good and still boasted some of the original Chicago cast (it was Tracy Letts’ second-to-last night; he has to get back home to do three Steppenwolf shows in a row). It was well done if a bit loud, and at half-time we were able to go next door for a quick ice cream. I always want sugar after garlic. Bad lady.

Today it was up at 4:30 AM for the wretched crawl out of bed and long wait for the eF-ing train and ride down to the Puck building. Seemed like 3:30.

There was a line to get in and the shoe area was wall to wall crazy (ie, full). There were far more people than I’d ever seen at the second week of practice; mat space was at a premium, even at 5:30AM. (In past years you could waltz in at 5:30 and get a spot in the second or third row, no problem). The vending area has expanded; in addition to chai there were more t-shirts, DVD’s books, etc for sale than ever before. Also apparently we're all invited to a big 90th birthday party for Guruji on Thurs at the Puck Building, featuring a performance by Anoushka Shankar (Ravi’s *other* daughter). Of course one finds out about it long after booking a ticket that has one leaving on Thursday afternoon. Of course the party is from 6 to 9. Of course the last plane to fly NYC-Chicago is at 8PM. Of course one has two private lessons and a class to teach first thing Friday morning. Of course one is constantly calculating the financial, professional and interpersonal costs of staying an extra day.

Practice was sweaty and difficult (I suspect even people with healthy spines are stiff and weak at 6am). I also had very little balance. But it was delightful to be led through the poses by Guruji, and to see Sharath and Saraswati walking by. But my mind was all over the place.

Afterwords I said hello and waited to kiss Guruji’s feet. I waited a long time; it seemed as though everyone in the world had to have their photo taken with him, from several angles, before they could say goodbye. Sharath actually remembered my name, which was nice. Guruji smiled and hugged me without seeming to recognize me and asked, "What thinking?"

Afterwords I was not happy to learn that chai is now $3. The first year there was no chai, the second year it was $1, the next time it was $2 and now it is $3. It is still the best chai in the world, though. It’s sad when it’s gone.


HIGHLIGHTS


Apparently for full primary the previous week (it was at 6, half primary was at 8) the mats were thisclose and people had to practice in the entryway.

Savasana officially lasted about 30 seconds. Then Guruji was like, "Thankyouverymuch."

Today we did 7 surya namaskar A and 3 B


ASIDES

After class a bunch of us (six Chicagoans) went to breakfast at CafĂ© Orlin. We ate outside, lovely, then split up. I came back to Brookyn, had a nap and watched the rest of HumTum. Then I accompanied M to the park with the dogs he’s looking after. There we saw some strutting men (and nurturing women) preparing to rehearse an outdoor mini-musical about the American Revolution. They were in full dress; the men had lines while the women occasionally sang backup and flitted and tittered. The dogs would have none of it.

Later on M. chased not one but two sets of rotten teenagers off the stoop. Apparently he washes it each morning, and there they were putting out their cigarettes and spilling their cokes and spitting. It’s kind of fun being old when you’re in company like that (just not when it makes your back hurt and your practice suck).

I’m so out-of-it, who knows if we’ll ever see the Diane Arbus exhibit at the Met or the Basquiat one in Brooklyn or a TKTS half-price Broadway show or the Ashes and Snow thing at Chelsea Piers or anything. It’s so much easier to just sit on the stoop….

Saturday, May 14, 2005

A STOOP SITS IN BROOKLYN

Sitting on M's stoop in the sun, typing on this giant heavy new laptop, waiting to see if someone will buy M's weird-colored leather jackets hanging on the railing. One guy fondled one and M asked if he wanted to try 'em on and he was surprised: "Are these for sale?" and then fled. Getting hotter, a litle humid, lots of Brooklnites going past in a casual parade; semihipsters and oldscoolers with accents and puffy ortho-shoes and people in hatwear coming home from shul. We took a photo-movie of me modeling a jacket the color of babypoop. Nice to have a day off but of course Natalie Peckingbird sent an email wanting more more more info for yet another previously undisclosed task for which I won't be paid. . I cannot possibly have gotten it as I am officially *on vacation.* Yoga with Pattabhi Jois starts (2nd week for them, first for me) tomorrow.

3 dilemmas:

ONE
Dharma Mittra has a 3-hour workshop ths eve from 3:30 to 8:30. I was gonna go. $40 and it's Dharma. But then MDC got tix for Orson's Shadow with Tracy Letts tonight; Dexter's going too. It's the olde W. Village 'hood at Chrstopher Street and 7th Avenue or whatever, and there's Magnolia Bakery afterwords and the show starts at 8. I could leave Dharma's at 7:15. but it'd be wrong to leave early. If I didn't go, I could hang out and watch the rest of Hum Tum for which I'm doing a capsule for for the Backwards R (I saw part of it yesterday on the plane, on the scary PC which has a *really* nice screen). I could go to D's class regular class during the week; I think it's from 11 to 2 or 12 to 2. But it is wrong to study with two teachers, yes. That is bad, very bad, unthinkable. Nononono. I think perhaps I'll pass on class tonight. Or perhaps I'll call and see what the schedule is. Maybe 7:15 falls between mantra and pranayama or something.

TWO
Do I go to the 6am primary class or 8am intermediate? All of my friends are doing primary. And they plan to junp off the Brooklyn Bridge afterwards. So no, groupthink not a good reason to go, esp. in the age of cell phones. But I've barely been practicing (due to all the work, knock wood that it keeps coming) this past week, let alone BB's. The back has been out / not good for about two months... very stuck according to the chiro who keeps trying to crack it on the one side and failing. Lots of pain, esp. in twists and urdvha danurasana (upward facing bow). So not sure about that. But primaryseries requires getting up at 4:30 and catching the eF-ing train on a *Sunday*, ugh.

THREE
India.
Do I go next month? In December/Jan? Some other time? At all?

Getting very hot out here now.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

JUMPIN' JACK FLASH

I am in the middle of a two-day Dharma Mittra workshop. He's the Brazilian-born 66 year old teacher on the giant poster of the 900 yoga poses. The first time I ever did yoganidrasana (reclining w/ legs behind the head) was in his class, in NYC, in 1999. He's the type of teacher who leads you through a sequence (that includes his challenging and invigorating Shiva Surya Namaskar [sun saluation] series -- lots of intense lunges and a million Vasisthasanas, among other things, and ends with a seemingly effortless dropback at the front of the mat) which is followed by a sequence of poses that has you doing things you've never even *seen* before, let alone tried to do. Some of them of course I could not do ("Try this if you are under 60," he would say, and we'd give it a shot). But it was fun to go from Sarvangasana to Navasana and use breath of fire in that pose (it doesn't seem to last as long when you're focused on the breath) and stand up from revolved Parsvakonasana with my arm wrapped around my leg. We also paused for a moment to watch him as he explained in a very serious tone our next asana. It turned out to be jumping jacks with Kapalabhati breathing. Doing it made me feel like I was five years old, and I actually laughed out loud. Laughter is a new one, when it comes to yoga.

I am feeling intense guilt now for subbing out my Sunday class so I can stick around for both sessions of today's workshop. But it *will* supposedly make me a better teacher.. especially because he goes into mantra (chanting), pranayama (breathing) and philosophy quite a bit and uses a lot of hilarious, real-life examples (like the butcher who meditated for 30 years but couldn't figure out why it wasn't working). He also editorializes about ahimsa and not eating meat, which is refreshing to hear (also it was amusing to hear some people say, afterwords, "I understand what he's saying but I can't give up fish. I mean, I've been a VEGETARIAN for ten years because of yoga BUT.") In addition to the knowledge and having actually lived the stuff, he also appears to have that true compassionate nature that only a handful yoga teachers seem to posses. None of that ego or tough-love shit.

Also after lunch yesterday Dharma Mittra discussed what happens when the mind is full of stuff and we act too quickly. He used the example of a person who buys a PC without doing the research, and not only finds it cheaper at another store but comes home with the thing and realizes that what he really wanted was a Mac. Which was *exactly* what I had been discussing with Jack a half hour earlier, several blocks away, over lunch. EXACTLY the same thing. Now *that* was weird.