Saturday, February 27, 2010



"THE SECRET TO SUCCESS IN YOGA IS CONSTANT PRACTICE"

-Sri Dharma Mittra




"DO YOUR PRACTICE AND ALL IS COMING"
-Sri K. Pattabhi Jois




"SAH TU DIRGHA KALA NAIRANTAIRA SATKARA ASEVIAH DRIDHA BLUMIH"

"When that practice is done for a long time, without a break, and with sincere devotion, then the practice becomes a firmly rooted, stable and solid foundation."

-Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 1.14




I love it when the sages agree, although I remember being skeptical many years ago, when David Swenson told us to measure our practice in decades rather than years.

But after 10 years of regular ashtanga practice, I began to understand what he meant. The physical practice became so much easier. I had some control over the body, which seemed ready to absorb the non-posture yoga practices Dharma Mittra taught us in his trainings.

This week, I realized that practice should be measured in lifetimes (if at all), while reading Edwin Bryant's new translation of the Yoga Sutras (Edwin, a Krishna devotee, is and professor at Rutger's University, led the Gita and Sutra study portions of our 500-hour training with Dharma. He is an amazing scholar and speaker, and this book is a must-have for serious students of yoga). I used to think that once you attained some sort of nirvana or lower samadhi, you were at the goal and no longer needed to practice (and by practice, I mean postures, self-control, Yamas, meditation - the whole nine yards... er, eight limbs). Not true!

Here is Edwin's commentary on the aforementioned sutra:

"First, in order to become unshakable, practice must be performed nairantarya, without interruption. One cannot take breaks from one's practice whenever one feels like it or the mind dictates and expect to attain the goal of yoga, which is to quell such whimsical vrittis [fluctuations]. One cannot attain success in a few months or even after many years of practice unless one is exceptionally dedicated. Indeed, the Gita speaks of the yogi maintaining the yatna, effort, of the last sutra, for many births: 'Through effort and restraint, cleansed of all impurities, the yogi who has cultivated perfection over several lives, eventually attains the supreme destination' (VI.45). Practice is at the very least a lifelong commitment, to be undertaken, Patanjali goes on to say, satkara-asevitah, with respect and devotion. One is, after all, pursuing the ultimate goal of life -- realization of the innermost self - and cannot expect to attain this in a halfhearted or frivolous fashion, or in a random manner.

"Vyasa states that the practice of yoga becomes successful, that is, firmly established, when accompanied by austerity, celibacy, knowledge and faith. Under these conditions, it is not immediately overwhelmed by the ingrained habits of the mind. Vacaspati Misra calls these habits, which are samskaras that impel the mind outward into the sensual realm "highway robbers." He acknowledges that the sattvic nature of the mind -- tranquility and calmness -- is often overcome by rajas [activity] and tamas [inertia], but if one maintains one's practice, then eventually the mind becomes steadfast and concentrated. If one gives up one's practice, however, one's mind immediately becomes overwhelmed again. Hence this verse indicates that the practice of yoga has to be cultivated uninterruptedly and with devotion for a long period of time....

"...Nonetheless, however accomplished a yogi may become, if he or she abandons the practice of yoga under the notion of being enlightened or of having arrived at a point beyond the need of practice, it may be only a matter of time before past samskaras, including those of past sensual indulgences, now unimpeded by practice, begin to surface... There is no flower bed, however perfected, that can counteract the relentless emergence of weeds if left unattended.As Patanjali will discuss later in the text, as long as one is embodied, samskaras remain latent, and therefore potential, in the citta [mind]. Hence one can read this sutra as indicating that since the practices of yoga must be uninterrupted, one would be wise to politely avoid yogis or gurus who claim to have attained a state of enlightenment such that they have transcended the need for the practice and renunciation prescribed by Patanjali here."

Friday, February 26, 2010

VINDICATED




For the past dozen years I've asked students to look at the nose-tip in Uth Pluthi, above.

For the past dozen years, most have looked over me as I said this, and then gazed right back up at the ceiling.

"What do you see up there?" I'd ask.

No one ever laughed. In 12 years.

Now, there is proof that the correct gaze is indeed the nose-tip (for some reason, referring to the primary texts - Pattabhi Jois's Yoga Mala and Lino Miele's Astanga Yoga - and studying directly with the guru umpteen times never seemed to do the trick).

Inside Owl was recently busted by Sharath in Mysore for looking at the Bhroomadhya drishti (space between the eyebrows) in the pose, and writes:

Sharath stood in front of me in uth plu and put his finger to nose-tip (not the first time he’s instructed me to humble it down a notch from ubahya or brow center to nasagrai drsti).


Tee-hee!

Read the rest of her account here.




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BONUS FUN FACT:


*Uth Pluthi is not actually an asana. The "TEE-hee" at the end of the name makes it a command. As in, "SAMASTHITI!"



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Photo from this website.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

THE VIEW FROM THE "L"




Which, along with the rest of the CTA, recently underwent massive service cuts.










































All snapped earlier this month, by CK.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"I'M SICK OF THIS STUPID GAME"



I know how US Olympic Curling Team skip (captain) John Shuster feels.*

(He uttered these words last night, as the US got whomped again in curling - this time by China).

I've been a bit obsessed with curling since watching the US get their asses kicked by Switzerland on CNBC last week. It's so much quieter and sattvic than the popular, more rajasic ski, skate and snowboard contests they show on the regular network.

I wasn't a fan when I saw curing firsthand back in 1988. The then-boyfriend's lawyer brother and his lawyer wife were part of a North Shore club, and we had a huge laugh watching the Yuppies slipping on the ice and getting redfaced while frantically sweeping their asses off.

But now I love to watch the stone gracefully float across the icy curling sheet. I love the graphics of the house (target). I love the strategy, which reminds me of billiards, darts and shuffleboard (which I'm almost old enough to play). I love how the players dress like regular guys rather than athletes. I love how their left shoe is slippery, but the right one isn't. I love how the left knee bends way out to the side when they bowl, but the meniscus never snaps.

I also like how Shuster has a paunch and looks like a guy you'd see at the corner bar. (Last night I did some digging and learned that he actually tends bar and works on a golf course grounds crew in the off-season. Of course. Many people hate him for losing, and he was even benched for a game. But I find something very appealing about a regular guy from Minnesota appearing in the Olympics [kind of like how anyone with certain capabilities can become self-realized, if they really work at it]. More on Shuster, who started curling in 1997 and won a bronze in 2006, here).

I also like that the players wear microphones. Last night the Chinese bowler would remain in the low lunge and yell "Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!" as his team-mates swept like madmen, trying to coax the stone to do their bidding. Regular guy Shuster stood up after bowling, and yelled "Hard! Hard! Hard!"

It didn't always work, and last night we heard him say, under his breath:

"I'm sick of this stupid game."

A regular guy.

And honest, too.


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The US men's team is out of contention (as they should be) but there's more curling on CNBC at this very moment!


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*In my case, it's Maya that I'm sick of. And the mind. But not curling.

Monday, February 22, 2010

BACK FROM ASHEVILLE



I spent the weekend at Chandra Om's workshop in Asheville, NC.

It's always wonderful to absorb Chandra's teaching... and to hold poses for longer than 5, 10, 15, 20.... 50 breaths. And to do a long Yoga Nidra. Even the ankle liked it.

And everyone loves Asheville, where it was warm enough to sit outside and re-read Christopher Isherwood's My Guru and His Disciple. (Although all I saw of this famous hilly city was the shala, the health food store, and the place where I stayed).

But landing in the snow at O'Hare today, I was oddly elated to be back home in cold, f(l)at Chicago.



Thursday, February 18, 2010

INDELIBLE MOMENT





Today I was walking down Michigan Avenue, in the middle of a very long day, lost in reverie when I heard an low, gravelly voice making some odd singsong noises. I turned around expecting to see a homeless person.

Instead, I saw a old-fashioned cat puppet inside a bright and tiny bicycle theater.

The cat puppet was frantically waving at me, trying to get my attention. It was waiting for me to wave back.

It was so incredibly sweet charming and unexpected. I was touched, straight to the heart. But I was too cool to wave back.

Instead I smiled - broadly - at the puppet and its invisible master, and was immediately transported back to some very early, long-gone memory, from before I had language (my brother and I had puppets that looked very much like this cat).

In the blink of an eye, the cat was joined by another puppet, and they began singing a song that was a favorite when I was four.

For a moment I was lost in the joy of the moment. The cat puppet had recognized me (probably because I was wearing a hat with cat ears).

And then I felt incredibly sad, remembering that more innocent time when everyone was still alive and natural reactions didn't have to be hidden, and had to walk away.

But then the smile came back. How I loved to see that little cat!

And the smile stayed on the face for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

YOGA TALENT AGENCY (?)





Those three words look odd next to each other. One of them doesn't seem to belong. (Kind of like the old Butthole Surfers album, "Locust Abortion Technician").

But apparently they do.

Read all about YAMA (yes, Yama) Talent here.


Here's their mission statement:

“YAMA Talent is the world’s premiere yoga management agency. We exclusively represent a diverse portfolio of distinguished instructors from around the globe. We are experts in the yoga space and a catalyst for spreading the practice of yoga by helping teachers to do what they do best: teach. Like other artists, athletes and scholars, we believe that yoga teachers should have the freedom to focus on their craft, to practice, to study and innovate. We accomplish our goal by easing the burden of the business side of being a yoga teacher and offering comprehensive strategy to organize and execute the careers of our clients. We aim to become the hub of the fast growing yoga community, connecting students, teachers, studios and yoga enthusiasts around the world.”



But wait, there's more:

YAMA Talent cultivates and manages a multitude of opportunities for our clients. We seek engagements in the traditional yoga space, such as classes, retreats, festivals, conferences and workshops. We also cultivate opportunities in the burgeoning market for “non-traditional” employment, including product endorsements, modeling, commercial advertisement, corporate events, lectures, music/film, professional sports and academia



* * *


I agree that booking workshops, negotiating contracts, making fliers, updating websites, and doing self-promotion can suck the soul out of someone whose only desire is to practice and teach yoga. Many teachers have spouses who do this for them, and, traditionally, chelas do it for their gurus. So this does seem to fill a need. But, from what I understand, yogis (real yogis) are not interested in product endorsements or modeling opportunities or branding - eschewing the latter in favor of smearing themselves with ashes of course.






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*Thanks to Boodiba for the head's-up!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

NO PąCZKI, NO CRY




I didn't even realize today was Pązcki Day (Fat Tuesday) until I drove past Dinkel's Bakery at 7pm.

By then, it was too late.

By then, I didn't care.

Maybe some bad habits are finally falling away.

Maybe


* * *


Last year Pazcki Day came right after Shiva Ratri, which fell on a Monday.

Last year I fasted all day on Shiva Ratri, but couldn't leave the neighborhood to go to a celebration, because there wouldn't have been a parking space when I got home. (Parking was always difficult in that neighborhood - but even moreso in the winter, when no one shovels the snow, and there are even fewer spaces. Also for some reason it seems to snow more up there. Or perhaps it just never melts because the buildings are so tall. Anyway, when I lived there I always had to be home by 9:30pm or not find a parking space).

So instead of going out and communing with likeminded souls, I sat in the freezing cold apartment, fasting all day and all evening long. No fruit, no nothing.

It was COLD.

All day, I had looked forward to my reward, which was to be a hot bath.

Finally, night fell.

I started the bath and went into the other room.

When I returned the tub was full.

I put my hand in to check the water - and withdrew it quickly.

The water was ice cold.

The apartment was ice cold.

I was ice cold.

And lonely.

And hungry.

And upset with myself to moving to such an awful place.

So I curled into a ball right there on the bathroom floor, and had a good cry.

Yet another lesson in non-attachment.


* * *

The next day, I broke the fast with fresh, wonderful Pązcki from Dinkel's Bakery.

I had a few of them.

They were very good going down.

But a little while later, I felt rather ill.

It was yet more proof of the truth of the Bhagavad-Gita's definition of Rajas*:

What is nectar in the beginning becomes poison in the end.


Indeed.


* * *






This year I celebrated Fat Thursday (the day before Shiva Ratri) by indulging a 25-year-old craving for hot chocolate and churros at Xoco, the new place owned by famous local wonder-chef Rick Bayless.



I had to walk by on my way to class anyway.

So I decided to indulge my craving for the hot, fresh, very wrong breakfast I used to eat at Madrid's Plaza del Sol during the spring of 1985. In those days I was a punk-rock omnivore who lived for bullfights, the Rastro, and dates with batos named Pedro.

I've been passively craving chocolate con churros ever since.

The craving became more active a couple of months ago, when I heard about Xoco - which specializes in freshly-made Mexican street food.

So I went in, joined the short line, and ordered.

And then I sweated and waited and waited some more, since both items are made-to-order.

When I finally got them, I went outside to try them.

Both were steaming hot - a good sign.

But you know what?

They weren't that great.

The hot chocolate seemed a little too thin and tart, and lacked any hint of cinnamon.

And the churros were too sweet.

I ended up tossing most of it out.

And I thought, "Phew! That's one more desire I can finally let go of!"

If only the rest would follow.

Soon.








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*Rajas is a state of energy, action, change and movement. The nature of rajas is of attraction, longing and attachment and rajas strongly binds us to the fruits of our work.

Monday, February 15, 2010

THE FOUR TYPES OF ASPIRANT





I've been reading this edition of The Shiva Samhita - and came across this:





Know aspirants to be of four kinds; weak, middling, good, and outstanding. The latter is the best and can jump across the ocean of existence.

Lazy, very ignorant, sickly, offensive to his guru, greedy, evil-minded, gluttonous, lecherous, fickle, cowardly, diseased, servile, nasty, badly behaved and feeble: the weak man is known to be thus.

He attains perfection after twelve years of striving. A guru should certainly consider him to be entitled to practice Mantra Yoga.

He who is objective, patient, desirous of merit, affable, not too impetuous, confused by worldly existence, of normal valor and strength, level headed, of average diligence, and straight backed is middling on the paths of Yoga, like those who have reached middle age.

He should be known to be of middling keenness, middling health, and middling valor. For those aspirants, yoga becomes established in eight years.

He who is of middling merit and middling valor and who is fair in all he does is assuredly a middling aspirant. Recognizing this, gurus should decide to give him Laya Yoga.

Determined, experienced in laya, self-reliant, strong, high-minded, compassionate, forgiving, resolute, brave, in the prime of life, faithful, worshipful of his guru's lotus feet, and devoted to the practice of Yoga: the good aspirant is known to be thus.

He can achieve perfection in six years by means of his practice. Wise teachers give him Hatha Yoga in its entirety.

Endowed with great strength, energetic, charming, intrepid, learned, diligent, clearheaded, calm, in the bloom of youth, restrained in his diet, his senses subjugated, fearless, pure, talented, generous, a refuge for all, stable, steadfast, wise, content, patient, good-natured, dutiful, discreet, agreeable, having faith in the sacred texts, worshipful of gods and teachers, adverse to company, free from serious illness, and experienced in the observances of the good aspirant: thus is the practitioner of all Yogas.

He is sure to achieve perfection in three years. He is entitled to practice all Yogas. In this there is no doubt.





So... which are you?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

MAHA SHIVARATRI




Maha Shivaratri was an amazing spiritual experience, even for the lightweight celebrant.

I'd planned to fast all day, but was already becoming lightheaded and woozy by 1pm. Perhaps teaching the Mysore class at 6:30am and doing primary series right after - for the first time this week (and with some modifications for the ankle) - had something to do with it.

I found myself on Devon Avenue, downing a couple of coconuts before doing some major food shopping for a workshop and the puja that night, and for a potluck on Saturday. The coconuts made everything better.

Afterwords I went Kamdar Plaza to get khaman dhokla for Saturday night. I told the clerk Happy Maha Shivaratri, which surprised her, and that I was fasting, which suprised her even more. She pointed to two trays of food that they usually don't have.

"For Shivaratri," she said. "You try it." I protested that I was fasting (somehow fruit doesn't count) and she said these two foods were OK, and handed me samples of each. One was too spicy. But the other was excellent; deep-fried, with potatoes and buckwheat flour. She asked if I wanted to take some to go. I said no, and then said yes. She put four into a parcel while I quizzed her about what can and cannot be eaten. Apparent fruit is OK, tea and coffee OK, lassis are OK, and the two food items are OK. Apparently she consumes six or seven of the latter of Shivaratri.



Then I asked her what they're called, expecting something long and complicated.

"Pahtiz," she said.

"What?" I asked. It seemed a little too easy.

"Pahtiz," she repeated, as I stared intently at her mouth. "Pahtiz."

"Pahtiz?" I said.

"Oh! Patties!" I said, repeating it. "Hey! That's English!"


* * *


After completing my errands I took a nap, and ate the Pahtiz when I woke up (and immediately felt a little off. As Dharma says, "When you eat fried food, you feel fried."). Then I had chai, to get me through the rest of day.

After doing a cartoon and leading a workshop on the South Side, I headed to the Sivananda Vedanta Center for the Maha Shivaratri celebration. It was just after 10pm - when I'm usually in bed.

When I arrived, they were in the middle of chanting "Om Nama Shivaya," which they do in the same cadence as Dharma, and which I love. They had a harmonium and tablas and it was quite packed with people sitting on the floor. They had to make room for me. In the center of the room there were prayer shawls spread out, with the deities sitting on them.

I sat down and joined the chanting. Immediately I felt something shift in the heart.

After more mantra, the night's first and longest puja began. It involved invocations (chanted by Swami Narayana while Swami Sivananda joined in via recording) and then bathing the deities. Swami Narayana explained that it is how you would treat guests when they come over; you'd purify the space, offer food and a bath, and give them fresh clothes.

The Sivananda Center is very inclusive, and anyone who wanted could help with the bathing. Swami chanted while one person used a small conch to drip milk onto a deity; then the person next to them did the same with water. When it came time for the Devis (female deities) I was invited to drip the milk. It was wonderful to perform such a simple, repetitive (and holy) task, using such simple methods. It focused the mind and made the junk clear out - even though I noticed at one point that I was pouring like the bartenders do in Madrid (holding the bottle/conch very high at first, then dipping lower, and then going back up with a flourish at the end - which is how I've poured since 1985. Sanskaras die hard).

A short time later, Jiva arrived and sat down next to me (she'd just led a workshop, too). We saw a student from my Thursday morning class in the corner. It was a nice feeling.

Next, the deities were carefully dried and dressed and put back on the altar - except for the Shiva Lingams, which remained in the center (Images of Shiva are not usually worshiped, but, rather, the linga [phallus] is. It's a long, complicated story).




Then incense was offered, and more mantra - including the 108 names of Lord Shiva. Then we stood up for Aarti (the taking of the light), after which we all offered flowers to the deities and bowed. The only thing missing from Aarti was the eating of prasad (blessed food), because we were fasting.

This was followed by more chanting to Lord Shiva. Swami began leading the chants, and then handed it off to different members, each of whom was special and amazing in a different way. It was absolutely wonderful and absorbing and transcendent, to go on and on saying the sacred names. It wasn't just knowing that the spiritual bank account was filling up (because each utterance of the name counts for 1,000 on this special night), but because one's Self was filling up. And to be with likeminded people was such a treat.

After a couple of hours, it was time for the second puja, which was less elaborate and involved only Ganesh (elephant-headed son of Shiva and the remover of obstacles) and the Shiva Lingas. The same ritual followed, including bathing and dressing and Aarti. The difference was that we did 108 repetitions of the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra - which is so powerful I started to have that about-to-explode feeling I get when doing pranayama that's too advanced for me.

Then it was time to chant again. Someone was asked to make tea. By now it was about 1:30, and time for lightheaded lightweights to leave. I did not want to go home. I had to - and regretted it the minute the cold night air hit my face.

On the way home, and all night thereafter, "Om Nama Shivaya" was glued in my head.

And it was amazing.

And next year, I will plan ahead - taking the correct naps and consuming the correct amount of chai - and stay til it ends at 5am.



(Interestingly, I woke up this morning at exactly 4:59.

As we like to say in Chicago:

Wait til Next Year....)




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When I got home I was buzzed, and went online to learn more about Lord Shiva. I also came across a clue as to how some are able to stay up all night in India:

On Maha Shivratri, the night of Shiva worship, devotees, especially the menfolk, prepare an intoxicating drink called 'Thandai' (made from cannabis, almonds, and milk) sing songs in praise of the Lord and dance to the rhythm of the drums.


If only they'd brought out the drums last night!


* * *


*Yes, that is Nina Hagen up top, chanting the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra. How do you think I learned it?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

OM NAMA SHIVAYA!

In yoga, Lord Shiva represents the Supreme Self.

And Friday is Maha Shivaratri, the Great Night of Lord Shiva.

It is said to take place on the day He performed the Tandava or sacred dance, and married the goddess Parvati. It is His favorite day.








Starting Friday morning, devotees of Lord Shiva fast until the following sunrise.

They stay up all night, keeping vigil and chanting His name at the temple. It is said that each "Om Nama Shivaya" chanted with devotion on this sacred night is akin to saying it 1,000 times.

(In Mysore, the AYRI would close on Shivaratri so that Pattahbi Jois - a devotee of Lord Shiva - could stay up all night and chant).

Per scriptural and discipleship traditions, the penances are performed in order to gain boons in the practice of Yoga and meditation, in order to reach the goal more swiftly and avoid rebirth...

All the rituals on the night of Shivratri are meant to cleanse the ignorance and realize the Brahman manifest in you and open the door to bliss. The fasting, rituals and chanting are meant to kill desire, greed, illusion, arrogance, jealousy, and anger.




Here's how it's done in India, according to this website:

* Devotees wake up before sunrise and take bath and wear clean clothes.
* Applying of sacred ash, or vibhuthi, is an important aspect on the day. People also wear a Rudraksha Mala.
* The idols of Ganesh, Shiva and Parvati are cleaned and a lamp is lit.
* Most people then visit a nearby Shiva temple. In most places, Shivratri is largely observed in temples.
* Some people observing fast consume a mid-day meal consisting of non-cereal food such as boiled potatoes which is made into a curry without onion, garlic, adarak or haldi. Another food eaten on the day is pakori or Kutt Singahri ki puri.
* Most devotees go for a fruit diet and drink lots of water.
* No meal is eaten after sunset.
* Next meal is taken on the morning of Amavasi after doing puja and giving alms.
* The entire night is spend in a nearby Shiva temple or by chanting Mantras or listening to stories related to Shiva.
* Some of the important mantras that are chanted on the day include:
* Shiva Panchakshari Mantra – Om Namah Shivaya or chanting the sacred names of Lord Shiva.
* People who have a Shivling at home can bathe the Shivling with water intermittently throughout the night.




Locally, there's an all-night vigil with chanting and kirtan at the Sivananda Vedanta Center, starting at 9:30 on Friday night. Click here for more. It is traditional to bring an offering of fruit and/or flowers. It is also traditional to stay away from the temple while on Ladies Holiday.






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You may wish to stay in on Saturday (although that is the night of the Chicago Yoga Center's potluck and informal 60th birthday party for director Suddha Weixler):The day after Shivratri is Amavasi – the dark night or the no moon night. It symbolizes the evil forces – desire, greed, illusion, arrogance, jealousy, and anger – which dominate the Kaliyuga.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

DON'T BE LAME



from Swami Sivananda's daily reading:



BE NOT DIFFIDENT

I want to place before you another important point. I have no such words as “cannot”, “difficult”, “impossible”, “weakness”, etc., in my dictionary. Those who are attempting to develop their will-force should remove these words from their dictionary also. These are the expressions of a weakling or an effeminate person. These are the expressions of a timid woman.

Become a lion. Become a spiritual Lord. Become a champion in the Adhyatmic [pertaining to the Atman] field. By mere willing or chanting “OM” mountains can be crushed to powder. By mere willing mountains should move. By mere willing oceans should recede. By mere willing, all the waves of the ocean should subside. Lord Jesus did this and you, too, can do that.





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This is why I often tell students who say they can't do a pose, "Not yet," or "Actually you can - you just don't know it yet..." and is perhaps why Dharma tells students to have "angry determination."

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

FOOT FOOT



The hot/alphabet-cold, turmeric, Traumeel regimen seems to have helped the ankle. Today I was able to do 5A, 5B, the standing poses, three backbends and full closing. The ankle especially likes headstand, and savasana while propped on a pillow. It also likes sunsets and romantic dinners, and watching Anthony Bourdain during cold-hot foot baths.

The ankle does not like:

-Upward-facing dog

-Utkatasana

-Triang Mukh Eka Pada Pascmiottanasana

-Stuck-up people

-Romantic strolls on the beach

-Going up and down stairs

-Walking in the snow


The last is too bad, because we're in the middle of a big 'un. (I suspect it won't like shoveling the car out of a snowdrift at 6am, either).




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*One of the few anatomy-related things I remember from the four teacher trainings I've taken is:

How you treat the injury in the first 24-48 hours determines how it will heal.

Monday, February 08, 2010

LAME, LAME, LAME



I had an overly-active weekend and agreed to last-minute sub this morning (the morning when I usually sleep in). On the way downstairs to do laundry at 6:30am, I fell and twisted the ankle. There was a snap that reverberated across the dry, frozen alley. Normally I just get up after fall. But the thing was so painful I almost passed out. Every time I got up, I had to keep lowering the head and waiting, and had to practically crawl back up the stairs. The accident also induced the old fight-or-flight response (ie; upset stomach and immediate need for an evacuation round). No subbing for me.

I went back to bed and elevated it on pillows and iced it for 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off while wondering if I needed to visit the emergency room and trying to figure out who I could get to come with me and watching the documentary about Thirteenth Floor Elevators frontman Roky Erickson. The last was probably not the best choice what with the all-too-familiar hoarding, depression and whatnot (my favorite moment was when Roky's accomplished brother - the one who got out - said his goal was to stay out of the nuthouse and the poorhouse). I fell asleep in the middle of the movie, and when I woke up it was on again. Of course I picked up right where I left off, remembering how I purchased that hard-to-find vinyl Roky solo album at Mill Valley's Village Music long, long ago, at Sgt. Saltpeter's urging. (It has since gone away with the rest of the record collection, although I'm still saving the now-valuable Suburban Nightmare stuff for Pete).

Anyway. I got up, gave the ankle some hot-cold treatment, applied some Traumeel, and drank some home-made turmeric tea with ginger, lemon and honey before heading to teach the evening classes. The ankle started to feel better while I was teaching. Amazing.

Nonetheless, I think the message here is to s l o w down....

....and also a reminder to feel blessed for the things that we have (such as health) rather than focusing on the things we don't (such as health insurance).






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*Today's energy seemed to be particularly conducive to accidents; three students in tonight's late class fell over in poses (ranging from Prasarita P. to Headstand), while another told me she had taken a nasty spill on the way to class.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

THREE THINGS (AGAIN)



Dharma said again last week that three things are needed to succeed in yoga:



-To be quiet

-To fast

-To be patient






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(Please note that there's nothing about getting the leg behind the head)

Saturday, February 06, 2010

WINTER IN THE WINDY CITY



































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all photos by c.k. (c) 2010

Friday, February 05, 2010

RASHOMON


What the stiff new yoga student heard:

"I told my wife what you said - that after six months it's mandatory I'll be doing headstand."










What the graying teacher actually said:

"Headstand is the king of the poses, and requires no flexibility. You can learn it after six months of regular practice."

Thursday, February 04, 2010

ALL THAT SCRATCHIN' IS MAKIN' ME ITCH




Skin Update:

Still (b)itchy.

I did the short, lukewarm shower on Tuesday night and still the skin itched - although it was less.

Yesterday I remembered how effective the oatmeal bath had been in the past. So I put a packet in the lukewarm tub and took a short bath, no soap. Slightly better. I'll try it again tonight.

The bad news is that they recommend pitta dosha drink milk to cool down. I don't drink milk, and must remember that it's not a directive to eat ice cream.



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Who doesn't miss the pre-digital, pre-app, pre-constantly-staring-at-a-screen days when people made their own art/fun in a truly local, face-to-face way? And behind-the-scenes puppeteers like Malcolm McLaren, manager/Svengali of the Sex Pistols, Adam and the Ants and Bow Wow Wow? "Buffalo Gals" was a favorite back in the day (and among the 45s in the given-away record collection... as well as several 33s by the three aforementioned groups). It features break dancing by the Rock Steady Crew, scratching and rapping by The World Famous Supreme Team and graffiti murals by the legendary Dondi White. (You may have heard bits of "Buffalo Gals" in Eminem's "Without Me"). More background here.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

SEVEN WORDS TO LIVE BY




"Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

-Michael Pollan



Read the New York Times article here.



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Some helpful, yoga-related guidelines: Begin each day with a cup of hot water and lemon. At mealtime, avoid drinking too much liquid, and leave 1/4 of the stomach empty. Have your "big" meal at lunchtime. After 6pm, eat only light food (salads or soup or fruit) - or not at all. Eat fruit alone and on an empty stomach. Watermelon should be eaten by itself.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

SKIN FIX





It was ridiculously cold and dry last week, and I've been suffering from the dry, itchy skin ever since.

It's the type of itch that wakes you up at night. And keeps you up.

Yesterday, while flipping through satellite radio channels, I came across an MD fielding a call about this condition.

He did not recommend taking long, hot Epsom salt baths (which is what I do most nights).

He did not recommend using lotion. Or ayurvedic soap.

Instead, he suggested taking a very short shower with lukewarm water, and not using soap at all.

I'm going to try it.... once all the yoga clothes hanging on the shower rod are dry.

Interestingly, the book I'm reading suggests that Pitta Dosha not indulge in hot baths, either. Instead, the water should be lukewarm. And mixed with condensed milk.

(Those with a Pitta imbalance should also take walks in the cooling moonlight - not the heating sunlight - and sniff rose oil [no wonder I've been loving the gulab incense lately]).

Change is in the air.







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CHARACTERISTICS OF PITTA TYPE
(from this excellent website, where you can look up your own dosha or body type).


-Medium physique, strong, well-built
-Sharp mind, good concentration powers
-Orderly, focused
-Assertive, self-confident, and entrepreneurial at their best; aggressive, demanding, pushy when out of balance
-Competitive, enjoy challenges
-Passionate and romantic; sexually have more vigor and endurance than Vatas, but less than Kaphas
-Strong digestion, strong appetite; get irritated if they have to miss or wait for a meal
-Like to be in command
-When under stress, Pittas become irritated and angry
-Skin fair or reddish, often with freckles; sunburns easily
-Hair usually fine and straight, tending toward blond or red, typically turns gray early; tendency toward baldness or thinning hair
-Uncomfortable in sun or hot weather; heat makes them very tired
-Perspire a lot
-Others may find them stubborn, pushy, opinionated
-Good public speakers; also capable of sharp, sarcastic, cutting speech
-Generally good management and leadership ability, but can become authoritarian
-Like to spend money, surround themselves with beautiful objects
-Subject to temper tantrums, impatience, and anger
-Typical physical problems include rashes or inflammations of the skin, acne, boils, skin cancer, ulcers, heartburn, acid stomach, hot sensations in the stomach or intestines, insomnia, bloodshot or burning eyes and other vision problems, anemia, jaundice.




SIGNS OF PITTA AGGRAVATION:

-Angry, Irritable
-Hostile, Enraged, Destructive
-Impatient
-Critical of self and others
-Argumentative, Aggressive
-Bossy, controlling
-Frustrated, Willful, Reckless
-Acidity, heartburn, Stomach ulcer
-Fitful sleep, Disturbing dreams
-Diarrhea, Food allergies
-Bad breath, Sour body odor
-Very sensitive to heat, Hot flashes
-Skin rashes
-Boils
-Bloodshot eyes
-Acne
-Weakness due to low blood sugar
-Fevers, Night sweats
-Gets into fight with bank teller

Monday, February 01, 2010

SHE BLINDED ME WITH SILENCE
(An update on the noisy-neighbor situation. Click here for Part I)




Over the past week, I put together a gift-bag with slippers, cat toys and a note explaining how noise travels through the thin floors of the apartment building. I planned to hang it on the upstairs neighbors' door later today.

But last night their stereo was turned up loud (even the bathtub was vibrating). And I thought of Swami Sivananda's words: "Be bold."

So I decided to go up and knock on their door. I brought the gift bag, sans note.

I knocked on the door, and the stereo was immediately turned down. The neighbor answered the door saying "Sorry!" and explained that she'd been in the kitchen and had forgotten about the stereo.

She was quite sweet. I immediately liked her, and remembered her holding the front door open for me a few weeks ago.

I introduced myself and handed her the bag.

As I did, one of their cats ran out to explore the hallway.

The conversation immediately turned to cats. She'd just rescued the one that ran out (Good thing I put two cat-toys in the bag!).

We also talked about what a decent chap the current landlord is.

She apologized for the moving-in noise, and spoke about the noise she hears from their upstairs neighbors. I laughed, and suggested she buy them some slippers.

I asked her to come down if she ever needed anything.

As I went back downstairs, I thought, we are all the same.

And I slept very well indeed.