Monthly Archives: April 2012

Sharath and Saraswati: Day Three

In my experience Day 3 of any ridiculous putting my body through the wringer is always the turning point.  Something kicks in and I get just a bit used to it and am able to push myself just a bit further when the day before I was struggling just to get through it.  Today started out well.  We had the routine down.  The nanny showed up very close to 6 a.m. so we were able to arrive at the studio in plenty of time to get a spot that wasn’t shoved into a wall nor on top of the person beside you.  It was also quite nice that the room was slightly less packed than it had been the preceding two days.  Sharath helped me bind in marichyasana b which I have only done a handful of times before.  I finally figured out how to get into padmasana from  sarvangasana.  I felt calm and peaceful at the end.  It was just really nice.  Mentally, I wanted to do this and feel somewhat comfortable with it before I made the final decision to go to India next year.  Now, I am really looking forward to it.  It will be a trip to learn lots more about the practice I love.  I think we will try to go in March of next year to hopefully get back before Walter turns 2 and requires his own plane ticket!

After practice, we packed up the hotel room and got on the road back home.  We made a stop for a tasty lunch of homemade dosas at Ami and Manu’s and to see Maya and Shaan!  They have both gotten so big and Walter and Shaan looked so cute eating side by side. It was so nice to see them.  Then we got to brave LA traffic.  Ohmygoodness, it just goes on forever!  We left Irvine at 2 p.m. and there was still traffic!  It is crazy.  I don’t know how people manage to deal with that on a day to day basis.

Car trips with Walter take a bit longer than normal as we learned.  We really need to stop every couple of hours to let him get out and run around and just generally stretch his legs.  Then there was the question of dinner.  Alex really loves Wendy’s and we rarely eat there, but we thought we might stop on the way home because the cooler was out of sandwich and salad makings.  However, we couldn’t find a Wendy’s for miles so Alex got on Yelp and starting looking for something else.  We ended up at a place called the Wool Growers Restaurant in Los Banos.  It got great reviews on Yelp and Walter needed a break from the car so off we went.  Where exactly do I begin to describe it?  It was quite a place, it was located in what looked to be an old Kiwanis hall.  The clientele was definitely the farming community, I felt like I was right back in rural Texas.  There was a table of 20 men discussing politics with a bit of a conservative bent to our right to complete the scene.  The place claimed to be “basque” which in my mind is the northern province of Spain that wants nothing to do with Spain, but there seemed to be a lot French posters on the wall too so I am not sure exactly what they were aiming for.  We sat down and the waitress brought us bread and butter with red wine which was quickly followed by a large metal mixing bowl full of chicken soup and bowl of pinto beans.  We were hungry so we started in on it.  Then the waitress came to take our order.  There were only a couple of main dishes on the menu.  Alex ordered the roasted lamb (afterall this is the Wool Growers!) and I ordered the pork chops.  Then the waitress brought out another large bowl of salad which consisted of iceberg lettuce dowsed in salad dressing.  At this point Alex and weren’t quite sure when the food was going to end and it didn’t.  Next came a bowl of lamb stew (which Yelp spoke highly of and it was tasty).  I assumed that the stew was Alex’s main dish, but I was wrong.  Next came out a big plate of sliced lamb and two large pork chops for me.  At this point, we were totally overwhelmed.  For the past couple of days we had been eating very healthy at a lovely place in Encinitas called the Lotus Cafe.  Our digestive systems just weren’t up for the challenge.  I tried to get through one pork chop and Alex ate a bit of the lamb before we bagged it up in plastic bags to bring home for Sophie.  The waitress tried to give us ice cream (the table next to us had seconds) or cheese for dessert, but we were just too stuffed!  Oh boy, it was quite an experience.  My intestines are still protesting!

Sharath and Saraswati: Day two

This morning went off much more smoothly.  We ate a bit of protein bar and drank some water so we didn’t feel like our bodies were consuming themselves by the end of practice.  The nanny was still a bit late – evidently traffic around here is just really awful, even at 6 a.m.  Regardless we got there a wee bit earlier than yesterday and I managed to snag an extra large spot and convince the people next to it move over a bit so Alex and I could practice next to each other (this time our mats were literally touching).  There seemed to be even more people today than yesterday.  We had mat towels today too so we didn’t slip around nearly as much, although our towels could practically be rung out by the end (at one point Alex took off his headband and literally squeezed out his sweat onto the mat).  Once, toward the end, I looked up and there was mist swirling around in the room it was so humid.  Oh the fun of being so close to everyone sweating profusely – something only an Ashatangi would find amusing!

My practice felt stronger today.  I didn’t feel quite as weak.  I got an adjustment from Saraswati in padangusthasana where she just comes and pushes me down.  Then in headstand, I was merrily playing with it just a bit doing a bit of prepping for it, with no intention of actually going up, when Saraswati came around and said to me “you go up.”  Oh dear, there must have been a look of sheer terror on my face as I kicked up.  I don’t practice headstand and am rather petrified of it as I have had a couple of bad instances where I tweaked my neck trying to go up.  However, up I went and she caught my legs and held them up for Sharath’s last three counts of headstand.  I felt slightly off balance and was worried about her being able to hold me up (she is a small woman and I am not in any way small!), but I somehow found my abs again and held myself up until she said to me to come down.  Then she was on to get Alex to go up again.

Afterwards, Alex and I went to get coffee at the the lofty bean, which was near our hotel.  They actually did their own chai which Alex and I had (there was no chai after practice, which I consider a major failing of the studio!). It was decent, but I like my chai a bit meatier.  This afternoon, I am headed to San Diego to see my sister and then tonight Alex and I have a date planned.

Sharath and Saraswati: Day One

As I write this, I am exhausted.  We have had quite a day that ended with watching the sun set at Moonlight Beach.  Yesterday we made the long drive down to Encinitas as Walter’s first extended car trip.  He did remarkably well and we didn’t even hit too much traffic in LA so all was good!  We got here and quickly started to crash so we put us all to bed.  Then the fun started….it turned out that Walter wasn’t all that happy with the hotel provided crib so he woke up practically every hour last night crying.  Luckily he also put himself back to sleep in a short amount of time.  Fingers crossed for a nice night tonight!

We woke up in a bit of a panic, nothing went quite the way we had planned and it seemed that we were moving much slower than the clock.  The nanny was late and we finally got out the door and to the studio about 5 minutes before we were supposed to start.  Wherein, we discovered that Alex had no headband (to catch sweat) nor a mat towel.  No good.  It meant that one of us was going to be slipping and sliding around on our mats shortly.  However, we had grabbed two hand towels from the hotel so I gave my mat towel to Alex and used the hotel towel to stem the sweat.

The studio is quite lovely.  They did a very nice job of putting it together.  There are nice high ceiling and lots of photos around of Guruji, Sharath and Saraswati.  It was packed.  It was almost mat to mat.  I was a bit afraid that we weren’t going to be able to find a place.  However, we did and we put our mats down.  Wherein we also discovered that in such a tight configuration, our extra long mats kinda don’t fit so we overlapped them and every time I went down in chateronga, I was practically kissing Alex’s heels.  It amused me.  Once I actually did kiss his heel just for fun.  Then Sharath and Saraswati came out and we began.  I got a couple of adjustments, Saraswati seemed to like to come around and just push me down in poses where my tight hamstrings were impeding my pose.  Boy did we sweat, by the time I hit floor poses, I was sliding all over my mat.  I normally can’t do jump throughs, but my mat was so wet that my feet were just sliding right through!  It was interesting, I felt like I was working hard, but didn’t realize exactly how hard that was until we were in wheel and my arms just gave out (I am just starting wheel so I am pretty weak in it yet).  Sharath did have us hold chateronga once for a bit, but I was expecting more of that.  Oh boy did we hold headstand forever!  I don’t do headstand and it felt like forever to me so I can only imagine what it felt like to actually be doing it.  Needless to say, it was a sweet Shavasana.

Notes for tomorrow: get there earlier to stake out a spot and bring both mat towels and our hand towels!!

Mysore and Babies

Isn’t this the cutest little boy ever?  Ok, I am biased, I am his mother so of course I think he is the best.  However, from time to he is a pain in the butt.  Once you have a little one it is really hard to stick to the things that were very important to you in pre-baby life.  Yoga was/is one of those such things to me.  Exercise in general, but over the last couple of years the peace and freedom from the anxiety that is my brain have caused me to really cherish yoga in my life.  However, I struggle to get to it every day.  Recently, I have started practicing 6 days a week which requires that every other day I get up at 5:30 a.m. in order to get through my practice before Walter wakes up (the other days I get to go to the studio and practice while Alex and Walter hang out).  The other day my alarm didn’t go off.  Alarms have caused me untold anxiety and nightmares in my life by not going off at key points for ridiculous reasons.  So instead of waking up at 5:30 a.m., I woke up at 6:30 .m. and realized that it was waaaay too light out for me to still be in bed so I vaulted out of bed (I like to imagine in these circumstances that I gain superhero powers and am able to do a sommersault off my bed and land in a crouched position ready to deal with whatever comes my way), checked my clock and determined that it was 6:30 a.m. Crap!  That meant I had about a half an hour before Walter woke up and my practice takes about an hour and a half.  I am the kind of person that doesn’t blink an eye about moving cross country, but you fuck with my routine in the morning and all goes to hell.  I could just see my day going to pot before my very eyes.

So I got up, got dressed quickly and got on my mat.  I started barreling through the primary series, I was going to finish as much as I could before Walter woke up.  I just barely made it through the standing postures before Walter woke up and wanted a rescue from his crib.  As I put the bottle on for him, I thought to myself, “I am going to finish today, regardless of their being a baby.” So I got Walter up, changed his diaper and brought him back to our spare room where my mat was.  I set him down on the floor with his bottle and attempted to keep going.  It worked to some degree.  I had to keep stopping for Walter to crawl on me (otherwise known as Mommy check-ins, he likes to know I am there, get a hug and go about his business).  However, my mind was all over the place and I couldn’t concentrate or even just go with the flow.  I was fighting having Walter there and wanting desperately for him not to be there.  I finished my practice, but it wasn’t a good practice, it was rushed and my mind felt much less calm and peaceful than before I started.  I feel like I really struggle with this with having a baby.  I love him very much and when he smiles or laughs, I just melt, but at other times, I just wish to be able to do the things I did before he was born.  I miss that quality of life where my every minute wasn’t consumed by baby needs.  At times, I desperately don’t want to be the parent whose life is consumed by the child and she is incapable of doing anything else.  I want to have a child that we can take out to dinner and take to do the things that we used to do.  However, sometimes doing those things that “we used to do” takes extraordinary effort on my part, which seems to (at least in the case of this practice) override the pleasure and peaceful I get from the practice.  I feel like this “new normal” of life with baby must constantly be redefined as to what is possible and what I am going to stubbornly do anyway.  Perhaps, part of it is that I need to somehow accept what this new normal is and not force myself to continue doing the things I did before, but instead try to relax and enjoy this new phase of life for what it offers and not punish myself for not living up to what I think “should” be done.  That is the crux of it, isn’t it -we always have expectations of ourselves and others and most of time, they are unreasonable at best and just plain mean at worst.  Time to let go.

Let the grilling begin: Beer Can Chicken

I am ready for summer!  As I write this it is cold and rainy outside, but we have actually had several nice balmy days lately.  Add to the balmy days a mostly re-done patio and the outside just beckons to be enjoyed.  Alex and I re-did the patio over Christmas and have been steadily finishing it up since then (my family has a tradition of starting large projects over the holidays).  The one big thing the patio is currently missing is a built in grill with prep counter space.  However, over the holidays our sewer line to the city went and so we got to replace that instead of paying the contractors to build our grill.  Oh the joys of the being homeowners!  But, I think it might have actually worked out ok because I didn’t really know what we wanted as far as grilling goes.  So, my dear readers, this summer is going to be dedicated to me researching and doing lots of grilling to figure out exactly what we want (and hopefully by the fall we will have saved up some more money for a new grill).  My skills with the grill are severely lacking and from my brief research foray yesterday there seem to be lots of options for a new grill along with tons of “must have” accessories.  Our current grill is the very basic Weber with absolutely no frills to it at all.  It is a charcoal grill and we use a chimney to get the charcoal going.  I intend to grill as much as possible without buying anything extra for it (since it will be hopefully up on Craigslist in the fall).

So my first project was beer can chicken.  I had heard of it in passing and the reviews were fantastic and it seemed like something that required no serious grilling ability or accessories, just a chicken and a beer can.  So first rule of grilling: it seems to take about 45 minutes to get the charcoal going.  So start it about an hour before you need it (just to allow for it being windy and hard to light).  The chimney is pretty self-explanatory.  You put newspaper bunched up in the bottom (but not too tight: the fire needs air!) and then fill up the top with charcoal.

Use a lighter to light the paper and let it go for a bit.  Check on it every 15 minutes or so to make sure the fire is still going and to check on the coals.  The charcoal is ready to use when it is light gray on top.

While your charcoal is getting going, you can work on prepping the chicken.  Take the chicken out of its wrapper and wash it thoroughly with cold water.  Then dry it off with paper towels or an old dish towel (I keep my old dish towels around for this specific purpose.  The towel does much better than paper and it is one less paper towel in the trash.)  Rub olive oil all over the chicken and then rub it down with this mixture of spices which I varied from here:

1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2teaspoon ground coriander
1/2teaspoon ground cumin
1/2teaspoon ground black pepper

Then take a can (I used an empty soda can) and fill it half way with your liquid of choice.  You can use beer, wine, soda even.  I used white wine because I had an open bottle in the fridge and no cans of beer.  Insert the can into the cavity of chicken (basically up it’s butt, I know, I know, insert crass joke here).  Place the chicken and can on a small cookie sheet and it is ready for the grill.

Hopefully now your coals are nice and gray-colored and ready to go.  Take them and pour them out on each side of the grill leaving  the middle section open.  The chicken cooks by indirect heat so you don’t wan the coals directly underneath the chicken.  The place the chicken on its cookie sheet in the middle of the grill.  Place the lid on and open the air flow.  Set the timer for 45 minutes (my chicken was about 3 pounds).  Then check it to see what temperature it is by placing the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast.  My research varied as to whether it needed to be at 160 degrees or 180 degrees.  I aimed for somewhere in the middle.  The other clue that the chicken is done is that the juices that run out when you stick in the thermometer will be clear.  It turned out quite well especially since the chicken had been in the freezer for several months!

Full Lotus

Almost two weeks ago, Alex said to me,”I think we should try a six day a week practice next week.”

I replied,”Well, why not do it this week?”

“Ok,” he answered.

Traditionally Ashtanga yoga in the mysore style is a six day a week practice (no Saturdays and no new or full moon days).  When I started practicing Ashtanga, I remember looking at the people in the room that did it six days a week and thinking, “I have no idea where they get the energy to do it.”  I should point out that I am not a sloth.  I have always been a 5-6 day a week worker outer. However, I have never done 6 days a week of just one thing.  I always switched off between running and the gym or yoga.  For me that provided a mental break.  Since Walter was nicely asked not to come to mysore, Alex and I have traded days that we go to mysore (I go one day and he the next, etc.) while the other person takes Walter and Sophie for a run.  Running has always been important to me too, it is something that I have done consistently in my life since middle school.  I like consistency and the small routines that make up everyday life and I don’t like them to change.  So the decision to give up the running and just focus on yoga was one I felt comfortable with, but it marked one of those big changes in life that have been a long time coming, but still big and different.  Oh and did I mention that a six day a week practice meant that I had to get up at 6 a.m. every day instead of sleeping in until about 7:30 a.m. when Walter woke up on the days I stayed home to run with him.

Now we are finishing up the second week and I had been a bit down about the whole thing.  Usually when I am able to practice six days in a row, I have some sort of break through – something happens.  Last time I did it, I could finally reach my toes in prasarita padottanasana D.  I was most of the way through the second week and absolutely nothing.  I was happy I had done it, but no break through (I know, I know, there is this yogic principle (or yama) of Aparigraha which means that you should do your best and not be attached to the outcome of your actions, but stilllllll).  Then there was a Thursday lead class to prepare us for a workshop in Encinitas with Sharath and Saraswati (so excited!!) and my teacher reached a pose where full lotus was necessary.  I thought to myself, I probably can’t do this, but let’s play anyway.  I pulled my right foot in to my hip and then picked up my left foot to bring it over on top and it went right over my right leg.  I reached over and hit Alex and motioned for him to look, I was so excited!  I am generally pretty tight and not flexible at all, but I did it anyway, it felt really good.  So the morale of this story is that a six day a week practice is a hard mental block to get over, but it kinda rocks once you do something you really never thought you would!

Sharath and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in full lotus