Sunday, May 30, 2010


The more oil that gurgles up from that hole in the Gulf, the less inclined I am to drive the car.

(And the less inclined I am to heat the various yoga rooms to the 80 degrees the students are acostomed to. Greed is part of the problem here: BP's greed for profits, our greed for gas and heat on a hot day and petroleum products like, say, fancy stretchy yoga clothes).

So I've been on the bike every day for the past eight days.

I hope to stay off of it all weekend.

Although it's clunky and slow, I'm hoping to ride it downtown to teach tomorrow morning - for the first time in eons.

It's a loooooong ride.

Here's hoping the weather cooperates.


Click here for That Petrol Emotion I.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Make that Ashtanga Biggies.

Next weekend it's Tim Miller at YogaView. He was the first American certified by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois to teach ashtanga vinyasa yoga.

Among his offerings: Intro to Second Series; The Mysterious and Elusive Bandhas; plus an Adjustment Clinic. Highly recommended (as long as you still attend the Maha Sadhana I'm leading next Saturday from 2-5 at Pipal Tree).

Tim has been doing this for eons, and knows how to deal with every manner of injury and body type (which he will explore in the adjustment clinic). Plus he will explain the bandhas! It's June 4-6. Read my 2001 article about Tim here. More info on the workshop here.

Manju Pattabhi Jois
comes to Chicago Yoga Center the following week, for a weekend intensive plus a teacher training and a daily self-practice. Manju has also been teaching in the US since he first came to Encinitas with his father (the Guru, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois) back in 1975.

His weekend workshop usually goes beyond just primary series and well into intermediate. It also includes pranayama (breathing exercises) and Vedic chanting, which balances a practice that is so heavy on asana. Also - the self-practice classes tend to be tiny! The weekend workshop is June 11-13 and the self-practice classes are June 12-17. Greg Tebb will assist. Read my stories about Manju here and here. More on the workshop here.

In the video, Tim is the one nearest SKPJ in the first part, and nearest the camera in the middle.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Over the past month, I've had the opportunity to sub for a few of the city's finest ashtanga vinyasa yoga instructors: Mary Klonowski, Patricia Hyland and Bill Shapleigh.

From the looks of their students, they are doing a great job in the trenches, day after day, spreading the practice (as are other long-time fortysomething teachers Amy Beth Treciokas, Lisa Hill, and Terri Smith; all but Terri first learned ashtanga from Suddha Weixler and/or his direct students).

The famous teachers may come to town and get all the accolades.

But these are the teachers doing the real work, laying the foundation.

It's wonderful to see the practice flourish....

...especially in a city whose asthanga teachers are all (some proudly) unauthorized.


Photo from YogaSurf.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


"The adhesive force by which all three bodies are held together is desire. The power of unfulfilled desires is the root of all man's slavery."
-Sri Yukteswar Giri, quoted in Autobiography of a Yogi

The Physical Body is the crudest of the three bodies, and is the container that the Atman inhabits in this incarnation. The first three steps of Astanga Yoga - Yama, Niyama, and Asana – strengthen and purify the physical body.

The Astral Body exists within the physical body but is of a more subtle nature and extends out a few inches from it. It cannot be seen or touched (except by those with Siddhis, who may see it as an aura of swirling colors), although it can often be sensed. It includes the Nadis and Chakras as well as the Prana, which links it to the physical body. It is said to carry the soul’s Karma and past impressions into the next life. It is strengthened and purified through the middle three steps of Astanga Yoga – Pranayama, Pratyahara and Dharana.

The Causal Body exists within the physical and astral bodies but is even larger and more subtle and of a higher vibration. It carries the seed state of the individual or Atman from one reincarnation to the next. It is devoid of individuality or personality, and is experienced through the final two steps of Astanga Yoga – Dhyana and Samadhi.

Read more here.


*Not to be confused with the five Koshas or sheaths.

Illustration from this delightful website.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Today I went to give blood at Lifesource.

Beforehand, I did everything I could to ensure that I would be able to donate.

I broke my Monday watermelon fast early in order to eat some protein (rice and high-iron beans, cooked on an iron skillet), so that I'd be strong and healthy.

I slept in today, and did a light practice.

I eschewed my daily mini-cup of chai, because caffeine makes my iron levels plummet.

I had Dharma's Breakfast Blend, a high-fat and high-protein raw smoothie, before teaching class.

I ate again before giving blood.

Yet I failed the test anyway.

Not the iron test.

But the blood pressure test.

Apparently mine's so low it's dangerous for me to give blood.

No wonder I nearly fainted after giving last time.

No wonder I'm always tired.

No wonder I nearly froze to death in the old apartment.

The ladies at LifeSource told me how to increase my blood pressure: Eat salt.

Caffeine also helps.

So.....Apparently when I eat corn chips and drink chai it's not due to a lack of self-control.

Rather, I'm self-medicating.

I also learned that wearing compression stockings is supposed to help.

Using cayenne pepper should also help. And drinking lots of water.

And beet juice.

Now that I can do.

Click here for a list of home remedies.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Sea Salt for Jala Neti
Lemon for morning stomach-cleansing elixer
Epsom salt for aches and pains
Iron for strong blood

Cat for.... companionship

*not to be confused with this.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Who need to go out?

There's an awesome, live Norteño band playing at a family function across the alley from me.

They are LOUD.

And they are AMAZING.

(and so much more lovely than last night's drunken screeching foofaraw in my building. They left all their empties next to the Dumpster this morning. Who do they think is going to collect them -- the recycling fairies?

Me, probably).


Later, when I was taking out the basura, the wonderful drummer - who seemed to be running the show - nodded to me from across the alley, and I waved. A perfect moment.

So wrong it's un-downloadable.

Click here to see it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Date: Fri 5/21/2010
Time: 7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Cost: $20 Pre-pay // $25 Door
Place: YogaNow Gold Coast, 742 N. Lasalle

Do you have lower back or neck pain? In this workshop, Cara will share the yoga poses, stretches and relaxation techniques that have helped alleviate and prevent her own lower back pain and sacroiliac joint issues. We will explore back-friendly variations of common yoga poses, and focus on those that can lessen discomfort or stiffness in the neck and upper back. We will also discuss how small changes lifestyle can help keep your spine healthy.

This workshop is suitable for all levels of student who are currently experiencing mild to moderate back issues. Prior yoga experience is helpful, but not required. This workshop is not intended to be a substitute for therapy or medical treatment, but can serve as a support to current treatment.

This is what a (happily married) student said yesterday. She was blissed out from the practice, of course. She always is. We all always are.

Her equally happily-paired-off fellow students agreed that they, too, wanted to marry yoga.

I feel like I'm already married to it, having inadvertently forsaken all others (and having been told, perhaps more than once, "You love yoga more than you love me").

Well, why not?

Yoga is permanent.

Yoga is all-forgiving.

Yoga is unconditional love.

Yoga is knowing the real Self - which Dharma says is the best friend, the best lover you'll ever have.

It is hard to remember this when, say, you get conked on the head and you live alone and are gushing blood and no one's there to help you.

But it's true nonetheless.

Because somehow, in the end, yoga takes care of you.

Jai yoga!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I just remembered something that Lino said last month.

"Before, Guruji was only in Mysore.

"Now, he is everywhere."

Read Chicago remembrances of Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois here.

Photos (c)2008 by Katy Schaffer

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


.....who passed on this day last year.

We owe him so much.

Om Tryambakam Yajamahe
Sugandhim Pushtivardhanam
Urvarukamiva Bandhanan
Mrityor Mukshiya Maamritat

* * *

Read about the last time he taught - in Florida, in 2008 - here. (Tim Miller was there, too).

Monday, May 17, 2010


On Saturday, I met Little E at Dharma's Maha Sadhana. It's a three-hour class that includes lecture, asana, pranayama, meditation and very powerful mantras (during which people sit in a circle chanting and clapping, while others offer up poses on mats in the middle of the circle. When people think we are in a cult, this is probably what they're imagining).

Dharma's main topic last week was that the greatest impurity (or cause of suffering) is identification with the mind and body (aka; the first of the five Kleshas; ignorance of the true self). He went on to speak of the other kleshas as well. It's helpful to sit back and watch one's own struggles, and then try to categorize them according to which klesha is at work. It gives you a chance to stand back and become a witness to the workings of the mind.

The five Kleshas are:
-Ignorance of the True Self / identification with the body and mind
-Clinging to Life / Fear of Death

While we were offering the poses, I saw some senior members of the Sangha (community) enter the space. Next thing I knew, they were presenting Dharma with a home-made vegan cake and singing "Happy Birthday." He turned 71 on Saturday.

Hugh presented him with football (soccer) jersey for Brazil.

And then it was time for pictures.

* * *

Afterwords, Little E and I ate at the vegan Asian place, which somehow now serves meat, and drove out to Long Island, where we started eating again.

On Mother's Day we went to brunch with her family, and then headed to the beach to "visit" my mother and grandmother and feed the birds.

It was so cold and windy, the beach was empty and the birds were nowhere to be found.

"When one comes, they'll all come," said Little E.

But they didn't come.

One would fly by and I'd make seagull sounds and make a big show of waving the bag of multi-grain bread at it.


Still we kept walking, and pulled out some pieces of bread - just in case.

Sure enough, one finally came.

The others followed.

Soon, it was a feeding frenzy....

made all the more fun by the high winds.

They would try to catch the bread mid-air, and get beaten back by the wind.

Finally, we started throwing it down-wind - which made it easier for everyone.

They came so close you could see that each one had distinct coloring and personality. We were especially fond of a little one with a messed-up leg.

It was awesome.

* * *

On Monday and Tuesday I attended the two-hour noon master class, plus an easier Monday night class with Dharma. It was wonderful... even though the holds were endless and the body was stiff as could be (possibly from the huge amount of Indian food Little E and I consumed on Sunday night. We ended up on the couch, watching Coco Before Chanel (highly recommended), drinking lemon-ginger tea, and passing the hot water bottle back and forth between us. Oy.).

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Last Friday I arrived in Williamsburg - where we found an awesome backdrop for photos.

Too bad the body was so tight... or perhaps it's the jeans!

(Not his - mine!)

Then we walked down to East River State Park.

Yes, there really is such a thing.
(And shiny new high-rises tower over it).

Later we walked on Bedford Avenue a bit, followed by an excellent vegan meal at Chai Thai.

Saturday morning was rainy. We headed to the Blue Bottle Coffee Co, which features overpriced drip coffee that's ground and roasted per order.

I don't really drink coffee, but wanted to see what the all the fuss was about.

We waited and took pictures while the brew-mistresses filled our order, and the coffee dripped.
And dripped.

And dripped.

Then we drank the strong and wonderful brew, while standing at the sole table (no chairs). The head immediately started to feel numb. But I kept drinking anyway. And then started talking much more - and much faster - than usual.

But I was able to sit down for a minute. Just a minute.....

....before it started to rain. Again.

What's offensive about this Billyburg sign is not so much the message, but its misplaced apostrophes.

For those of you who are unclear on the its/it's rule - and many of you write some fine blogs - click here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


My first evening Dharma Mittra vinyasa yoga class in Chicago starts tonight (May 13) and runs every Thursday from 6:30-8pm at The Pipal Tree Yoga and Wellness Center in the North Center neighborhood.

It's a Level I-III class, and is suitable for all levels. I'm expecting some beginners, so I will probably teach the Level I sequence with advanced variations (including some new tricks I just learned from Dharma). If you haven't done Level I, you've been missing out. Like ashtanga's primary series, it's a wonderful, calming sequence you can come home to again and again. And it's perfect for a sluggish new moon day!

The studio is quiet and peaceful, which not a surprise since Pipal Tree is another name for the Bodhi Tree - under which the Buddha became enlightened.

In other words, it's super-shanti (see a photo here).

I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


The long silence was due to a long, stealthy weekend in NYC - where I practiced with Sri Dharma Mittra of course.

(It was stealthy in the sense that I did not tell anyone I was coming, as it was all about the yoga, period; plus I spent most of my free time with Catesey in (ahem) Billyburg and Little E in far-away Long Island. No offense meant!).

Yesterday in class, Dharma said that the way to develop strong willpower is to do the things we find unpleasant. I thought he was talking to me, of course.

So today, I did very little procrastinating.

And it felt darn good.

(The body, however, was a bit - just a bit - sore from the intense poses and long [to me] holds in yesterday's two-hour Master Class).

More details (and photos) are coming - soon!

Friday, May 07, 2010


Thursday, May 06, 2010


The courtyard of the new hovel is lush with life.

It all appeared a week or two ago, out of nowhere.

These serpentine beauties grew a few inches just while I was out teaching this morning.

It's a far cry from last year, when the first sign of spring was the appearance of the paleta-wallah -- in June.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


I keep realizing the same thing, over and over again - that I am still an Astangi....

a Bad Lady Astangi who practices Dharma Yoga* a least twice a week when she's not with Lino....

and every single day when she's with Dharma or Chandra.

It hit me again today; it's the Dharma Yoga that takes away the kinks and aches that can result from Intermediate Series.

Somehow, the Dharma Yoga makes it all disappear - so I can do it again the next day.

Somehow, the two practices complement each other, and keep the container healthy.

As Lino says, the body is the teacher.

* * *

Dharma turns 71 next week! The video above shows him back in 1984, when he was making the Master Chart of 908 Yoga Poses, and again a few years ago. Seventy-one years old! The video below shows him just last year.

How lucky we are to have the chance to study with him.


*Dharma did not name "Dharma Yoga" after himself - someone else did, as a way to define and differentiate the sequences he has put together. A true yogi, Dharma is completely devoid of ego (and when he has come up with new poses, he's named them after others - such as Swami Vishnu-Devananda - and not himself).

Sunday, May 02, 2010


This is the term we used in Madrid, to describe being so exhausted as to feel "half dead."

Perhaps there *is* such a thing as too much yoga.

(Actually there isn't. But there *is* such thing as too much asana - or postures).

I practiced second series last Monday - the day after Lino's full vinyasa primary series class. I waited til late afternoon to do it (after taking two short naps). Boy, was I tired. I did second on Tuesday as well, minus the headstands. Wednesday was the moon day, and Thursday was my usual day off.

On Friday I did primary between my two morning classes. I felt like The 500-Pound Woman. But I slogged through it.

Friday night was Mittra Om's three-hour inversion workshop. I'd expected to assist, but I wasn't needed. So I took the workshop instead. The body still felt like it weighed 500 pounds. Still, I did some forearm stands and got over some of my hangups about adjusting handstand (thank you, T-Lo). We also learned a way to do headstand that makes it feel nearly effortless - by simply placing the weight a little further back on the head. It's amazing what a small adjustment like that will do.

On Saturday morning I took ChowPatti's last primary series class at YogaNow Edgewater, which is closing after seven years (although they're moving many of the classes to Rogers Park, hers isn't one of them). Her holds are much longer than I'm used to, plus she gave me some strong adjustments despite being 8.5 months pregnant. Wow.

Saturday afternoon was Mittra OM's three-hour Maha Sadhana. I'd expected to assist, but ended up taking it instead. Oy. Vey. Among the long holds (anything over eight breaths is interminable to an ashtangi), we did the Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana prep against the wall, which to me is pure torture. And we did things like Vasisthasana with bound half-lotus. Or at least tried to. Flowing from Titibasana A to Ashta Vakrasana actually worked - for the first time ever.

That was followed by two hours of chatting, eating fruit salad (mango, papaya and pineapple) and listening to the Cinco de Maya salsa band across the street. Then we started the two-hour pranayama, meditation and Yoga Nidra (savasana) session, which seemed like it would be a cakewalk. Ha! Doing pranayama for 20 minutes was amazing, and I also felt something during the meditation. But the 45-minute savasana, well, the back of the head hurt like hell, and after some time the mind also began to protest. Next time, a pillow would be a huge help. It was still a wild, intense experience.

Y ya estoy cansaDISima
(exhausted). Today I barely had the energy to teach two classes, let alone get out of bed. Of course there was a nap in between. And a masala dosa. And a day off from asana. After seven hours yesterday, I figured that the container could use a break.

I'll get back on the bus tomorrow.