Category Archives: Yoga

A Traveling Practice

Our family recently spent the month traveling to see family. It was a wonderful trip. It was also a change in pace for my daily yoga practice. I practice 6 days a week and I am one of those people that does moderation badly. In order to maintain my practice I really enjoy doing it all the way. That means I get up and practice every morning at 5 a.m. pretty much regardless of what is going on in my life at that moment. I really enjoy the continuity of the practice and the chance to greet the day on my own terms. It is a chance for me to center and achieve a sense of calm before the chaos of the day descends on me.

This daily practice becomes particularly tricky when I travel. Throw in the current requirement that I pump before I practice so my breasts aren’t uncomfortable and you have quite a bit of a quandry.

First things first – you have to pack properly in order to practice. I always pack three changes of yoga clothes, any less and you are constantly worrying about doing laundry, a travel mat (Manduka makes one that fits nicely in a suitcase even if it is a bit thin) and my super special rug from Mysore that has KPJAYI on it so if I drop into a studio people know that I am for super serious! ūüėČ

We were gone for a month and stayed in 4 different places while we were gone. This meant that I needed to develop 4 different morning routines to ensure that my practice happened in the morning. The basic requirements were: a place to pump that was not in the same room as where people were sleeping (waking up Ella or Walter would just be bad), a place to put out my mat where I had enough room to move about it and extend my arms outside the perimeter of the mat, additionally this room needed to be hopefully somewhere I could turn on music on my phone because solo practice is more fun to the tunes of MC Yogi, bonus points can be won if the room has an adjustable termastat that I can change to make it warm, and finally I tend to prefer wood floors to concrete because my travel mat is rather thin.

First stop was Berekely Springs, WV. We were meeting up with some friends at a cabin in the woods. I scouted out the cabin and there was an extra room that I could pump in the mornings. However, the room was carpeted and carpet is a no go for practicing on. Luckily there was a huge living room with floor to ceiling windows and hardwood floors. The drawbacks were that the room was cold and it was close to other bedrooms so no music. The pluses were the beautiful trees outside those big windows that I was able to watch the sun rise through. Gives actual meaning to sun salutations.

Second stop was my in-laws just outside of Washington DC. They have a lovely huge house there with a basement which seemed the natural place to practice. The furnance was downstairs so it was nice and toasty in the morning. The drawback was that it was concrete flooring so it was a bit hard, but it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. One day my sister even came down and did some of her practice with me which was wonderful!

Third stop was my parents place in Blanco, Texas which is about an hour outside of Austin. They have 10 acres out in the Hill Country there and impressively live in a very small one bedroom cabin. They have built another structure that has two rooms on top of each other and an overhang to park their travel trailer. We stayed in the bottom room so the top room was a natural place for me to pump and practice. It had concrete floors, but a thermostat I could control myself! I had my most ridiculous practice there of the trip. We arrive quite late and so I didn’t have anything unpacked when I woke up the next morning to practice. So I just grabbed my mat and practiced in the bathroom in my underwear and a long sleeve shirt. It was a bit close quarters! Also bras are nice.

Our fourth stop was a hotel in Houston, Texas to visit one of my best friends from college and her family. I hadn’t seen her in forever so I was quite excited to see them! I have to say that I was pretty impressed with my sheer determination and ability to find a place here. The first day we were there, Walter went down for a nap and Alex fell asleep too. However, Ella had no intention of sleeping. So I took her and decided to scout out practice places. The most obvious place would be the workout room or by the pool. However, the workout room didn’t have enough clear floor for a mat to go down and the pool had very bumpy looking tile around it. So I resigned myself to a not very comfortable practice by the pool and took Ella to find a place to lay her down so she could kick. I found a nice empty hallway by some conference rooms, laid out a blanket and put her down. As I played with her, I began to wonder if maybe the conference rooms might serve as a practice space. I wandered in and low and behold there was one of those movable dance floors set up for a wedding Рbingo! I was set. I ended up pumping on the floor of the bathroom in our room and then going down to practice. It was a bit cold and I think I freaked out the kitchen staff, but it worked!

After all that, it was so lovely to come home and walk into the studio lay down my nice cushy mat and practice in a warm room with a teacher who would help me with my difficult poses.

Tim Miller and Encinitas

We spent a lovely Labor Day weekend in San Diego with my two sisters and my fantastic brother-in-law (read 5 adults to one toddler makes for a fantastic ratio for all involved. Walter gets someone to constantly play with and no adult gets too tired. I just realized that it takes the energy of 5 adults to keep up with one toddler comfortably, oh my goooooodness).  Then we headed slightly north to Encinitas to hang out at the beach and practice with Tim Miller.  Did you know that the beach has a fantastic playground?  Walter was stoked!

Continue reading Tim Miller and Encinitas

My continuing obsessions with food: both eating and not eating it

I have been trying to start a new way of eating. ¬†The problem is that every time I try to change my eating patterns, it forces me to examine all my past choices and then deal with how I am going to go forward. ¬†I have two parts of me: the part that wants to eat and cook every delicious thing out there to the point of being quite a larger person (it is very hard for me to moderate) and then there is the person that wants to stay healthy and active and likes to look good in a pair of skinny jeans. ¬†I should add that there is a third food personality in there too: the Ashtangi. ¬†I didn’t realize it when I started doing Ashtanga, but you can very easily become obsessed with food in Ashtanga. ¬†There are all these rules as to how a proper yogi/Ahstangi behaves and they seem to involve a lot of “no.” ¬†No meat, no booze, no eating after 5 p.m. or if you are really good, no dinner at all. ¬†Yogis are supposed to eat lightly. There is a saying that goes something like this, “A yogi eats once a day, a bogi (non-yogi) eat twice a day, and if you eat three times a day you need to find yourself a¬†cemetery¬†plot.” ¬†I make fun, but it is all in the quest for a better practice in the morning. ¬†I have never really bought into the Ashtangi side of it too much, until we were in India and it was so hot that eating too much was just uncomfortable. ¬†Not to mention that when it is 90¬į, the electricity goes out and your fan stops working eating just sounds like a bad idea. ¬†I did notice by eating less the night before, my practice was better in the morning. ¬†I just felt lighter and not as heavy. ¬†This led to some of my favorite type of practices; the ones where it just feels all sparkly and magical. ¬†Those practices are a bit of a drug and they lead you to want to create more of them.

I came back from Mysore with the idea that I would try to impliment some of the ways of eating, that had served us so well in India, here.  Did I mention Alex lost something ridiculous like 12 pounds while we were there? He was the thinest he had been since high school or something crazy like that.  The first main idea is that we would eat a larger lunch and start to scale back dinner.  This is significantly harder to do than I thought.  You see, this smaller lunch, larger dinner is rather ingrained in our culture and in my stomach.  My stomach is perfectly happy to eat that larger lunch, but then it is not happy when I attempt to give it a smoothie or salad for dinner.  It protests loudly that it would like some proper dinner thank you very much!

The second part is that when we were in Mysore, I went to a lovely woman named Angelika. ¬†She is an intuitive¬†nutritionist amongst other things. ¬†She did a reading of sorts where she went through almost every food that she could think of and a couple of other things that I eat regularly and asked the universe if it was in my best interest to continue eating it. The large overarching themes were that I needed more protein (animal and vegetable), more raw or lightly cooked veggies, less fruit and then to cut out dairy, soy, white flour, sugar and avocado oil. ¬†Oh and no chai, to drink coffee instead. ¬†I came out of meeting with her a bit crushed. ¬†It seemed like an impossible task to give up so many things that I really loved. ¬†When we got back I tried to follow the instructions when I could, but didn’t work at it too hard. ¬†I had my sister’s wedding coming up and the prep that went with that, then my parents were here for two wonderful weeks after that and my father loves to put tasty things in the fridge that I just don’t want to not eat. ¬†Surprisingly, I was able to give up most of the dairy rather easily and I have felt a marked change with that. ¬†So that brings us to last week when I had promised myself I would start and I did kinda, but I just got all cranky and was having a devil of a time getting myself to buckle down and behave. ¬†Which led to my current state of trying to figure out if this is one of those things that I need to apply strong will to and DO or if perhaps I am just asking too much of myself right (for whatever reason). ¬†I am¬†fairly¬†strong willed and have perfectionist tendencies. ¬†This causes me often to push on something to the point where it blows up in my face and causes me a lot of anxiety and insecurity. ¬†I am much more aware of this now, but I still don’t have a good idea generally what is good enough so I tend to push myself too much. ¬†In this particular situation, I don’t have a good answer to it and so I think I will just have to sit with it over the next couple of days and see how things go. ¬†Somehow I need to find the moderation.

Highlights from Conference (3.10.13)

Alex wanted to cover some interesting things Sharath talked about in conference last week. ūüôā So here we go….

I asked, how much should we encourage friends and family in their yoga practice? Practical answer: let them observe your practice, answer their questions, and then let their curiosity and inclinations lead them. Sharath talked about how Guruji never advertised, and that was critical to his success. Like the honey in a flower, the bees just came to find him. He laughed a bit about Guruji being honey. It’s interesting that there are Sharath and Saraswathi posters in California and I’m sure New York as well. But Sharath doesn’t claim to be the guru.

Asked ‚Äúis it okay while here to practice extra postures in the changing room‚ÄĚ he replied with a nicely stated ‚Äúabsolutely not.‚ÄĚ If you already know the postures, why come study with a teacher? There was then a sizeable lecture about the relationship with the teacher. This brought another Guruji reference: how he had an aura of light coming from him due to his accumulated amrita bindu [http://suzanneelsafty.com/2011/12/23/conference-the-true-purpose-of-asana-4th-december-2011/]. You can‚Äôt get an aura along with your certificate at yoga teacher training, he added.

He also talked about Guruji when asked, how do you continue to learn after the master has left? He answers that though the teacher is gone, the teachings remain, and that he has observed the large June full moon and thought that as the moon follows you wherever you go, but you cannot reach it, so it is now for him with Guruji.

Very interesting answer to an obsure question about beginning vs. advanced series. First, he clarifies that they’re essentially the same, it’s just that for a sadhaka who is more flexible or strong or has better balance, they take more challenging asanas. Even those doing half-primary are doing real Yoga. But also a more personal illumination: when Sharath practices Kapotasana, it’s not the same as when one of the students practices it. It’s not that he’s egoistic about it, rather, he has a different experience while in the pose than others have. He becomes fully absorbed in the posture, and doesn’t know where he is. I suppose as a result of incredible focus. He told the story of his first demo in the US, where he was to perform some asanas for a crowd of 500. A friend asked if he was nervous, but he laughed that no, he wouldn’t have any idea the audience was there.

Last question: should one practice at a shala [presumably with an authorized teacher] or at home? Sharath gives no guidance, it’s totally at your discretion.

Smiling

One of the first things I noticed at the shala was the seriousness. ¬†Then I noticed that no one smiled. ¬†Everyone is very wrapped up in the their own practice and their own morning. ¬†A few tentative smiles on my part were returned by scowls. ¬†I didn’t realize how much I generally smiled in the course of a day or even a few hours, but I found myself stopping and not smiling for fear of that smile not being returned. ¬†Then one morning something wonderful happened. ¬†I went into the women’s changing room and was waiting for a spot to do my finishing poses. ¬†One woman finished her savasana and rolled up her mat and then she smiled at me! ¬†It lifted up my whole morning! ¬†I decided right then and there that people in the shala needed more smiling at and I was going to smile at them and perhaps even venture a “good morning” from time to time in the hopes that someone else who¬†desperately¬†needed that smile would get one too. ¬†I have to say that the first couple of times I ventured a smile, it still got returned with a frown, but as time has gone on, I am getting more and more smiles returned. ¬†Today, I even got a returned smile and a “hello” from one of my most persistant frowners. ¬†That makes me feel good! ūüôā

Looking Up

I am not sure exactly what has happened in the last couple of days (oh yeah – I have actually started sleeping a decent amount!), but I feel like things are looking up a bit. ¬†I feel like we can mostly get through the day without any major mishaps and Alex and I don’t completely crash until about 6 p.m.! ¬†There was even a major episode at the shala with Sharat condensing all the led classes to two and I somehow managed to still find a spot and then once the next class started coming in guard it with my life til Alex got there with Walter. ¬†We are starting to settle into a bit of routine here and we even managed a date last night. ¬†We went to the Green Hotel and found out that they didn’t serve dinner until 7:30 pm. (we needed to be home by 8 p.m.) so I ordered a glass of wine and Alex a beer and some munchies and we just sat out on the lawn and attempted to relax and chat. ¬†We were both toasty on one drink! ¬†It felt oddly normal which is funny to say because I am still not entirely sure what normal is anymore. ¬†We have been here long enough that it will be a bit bizarre to go home to the land of comfy beds and no coconuts.

A lovely lady named Ratna has been taking care of Walter for a couple of hours every other day or so when Alex and I go to Sutra class or conference or just out for some errand running which helps take some of the edge off of 24 hour/7 day a week toddler care.  Walter still has his meltdowns and temper tantrums, but he is also having a good time seeing all the cows in the road and he and Alex went to the zoo this morning while I got my massage at 3 sisters.  His favorite animal was the marmots.

My practice is still very squeaky and I would like to just disown my knees (or probably the blame should be laid on my hips!), but I have been promised by Hirini (I think that is her name) at 3 sisters that I should be a bit more open this week so we will see what comes. ¬†I had an expectation that my practice would suddenly and miraculously get better. ¬†It hasn’t, but my body is definitely working harder than I do at home so something is happening! I am really enjoying chanting class. ¬†There is just something soothing about it. Walter is even willing to just sit still and play and with his trucks and when we paused between things we are chanting, he says “yeah!” which is Walter for “please do more!”

We are even figuring out how to feed ourselves and decided that we would go vegetarian for the month (not that hard to here).  For some reason feeding ourselves is harder than it sounds.  Breakfast is usually easy: we just end up going downstairs at Anokhi.  They serve tasty things and Walter loves the eggs with cheese.  For some reason lunch is the hard one. We have been napping with Walter mid-day and then when we get up it is hot and/or too late to find lunch.  However, we discovered that Ratna will deliver food to us which has been a fantastic discovery and we seem to be skipping it more and more in favor of just eating an early dinner.  It really is so hot here that eating too much just sounds like a really bad idea.

Walter insisted on climbing this ladder and about gave me a heart attack. Even Appu (our rickshaw driver) was visibly nervous!

Mysore Sutra

Alex has been feeling poetic lately so here is another gem of his. ūüôā ¬†He would also like me to add that despite my negativity lately, that we have had some good times too!

Withdraw the sense organs from
the sound of beeping rickshaw’s lawnmower engine: putt putt,
the sight of pink and lime green house’s sidewalk chalk mandala,
the smell of incense, flowers, and many species’ dung,
the taste of coconut water rushing down the throat,
the feeling of slipping on sandals after saying goodbye.

Rather, be still in asana,
in the tight scrum on the shala’s steps,
in passing the hot idle afternoon or the endless pre-dawn.

The mind is fit for concentration (on a toddler).

Don’t

Oh India, I want to love you. ¬†I have heard so many wonderful things about you and I¬†desperately¬†want to experience all the wonders that you have to offer, but I am just not there at the moment. ¬†You are making things very hard for me lately. ¬†I can’t establish a routine (which is key for me) and no part of my day feels at all easy. ¬†Last night I struggled to sleep, my body just isn’t adjusting well to the time change, and I woke up feeling like someone had taken a baseball bat to most of my body. ¬†I was convinced I was getting sick and just felt like crap. ¬†I couldn’t find a comfortable place to lay down and it reminded me of being 9 months pregnant with Walter when I just slept sitting up in our arm chair because my hips just hurt to lay on. ¬†I dragged myself to practice, actually grateful that the alarm finally went off and I could stop forcing myself to sleep. ¬†My practice was crap and I barely made it to the end. ¬†Today I was¬†incredibly¬†grateful that I was only allowed to go to Marichyasana D and grateful that the finishing poses occurred in the women’s changing room where I could flub them and quickly make my way to shavasana. ¬†Sharat left me alone today and I was grateful for that. ¬†I made my way outside to see Alex and Walter waiting for me at the coconut stand. ¬†I was so happy to see them that I felt tears well up in my eyes. ¬†After downing two coconuts, I felt a bit better to take Walter in his backpack and start to make my way back home.

Walter and made our way back home as he pointed out the second coconut stand and touched each of the buses on our way. ¬†We got home and the power promptly went out so there we sat watching Curious George in the dark in my soaking yoga clothes. ¬†After about an hour of fits and starts the power went back on so that I could flip the switch to heat the water to take a shower. ¬†The shower felt so good to wash all the sweat and grime off me. ¬†I got dressed as Alex got home from practice. ¬†I still felt like crap and he suggested I lay down for a bit of a nap while he took Walter out for some groceries. ¬†That nap made all the difference. ¬†He came home and we ate some breakfast and then went to sleep again. ¬†We made our way to Sandia’s for lunch. ¬†It was wonderful food, but Walter ate two bites and then started running around. ¬†Appu, our rickshaw driver, entertained him for a bit, but neither Alex nor I got to enjoy the wonderful food she prepared and it just made me sad. ¬†Then Walter took off for a ladder to the roof, where another little girl had climbed. ¬†The ladder was tall and had very slender rungs with lots of room in between for a toddler to fall through. ¬†However, Walter insisted on climbing it so up I went to trying to protect him from falling. ¬†He made it up and down without incident and I am sure that I have several more gray hairs after that. ¬†The day continued on in this fashion. ¬†We were able to run a couple of errands and do a couple of things, but everything is just hard and exhausting. ¬†However, it doesn’t seem exhausting enough for me to sleep through the night. ¬†So tonight I wish and pray to whatever gods are listening that I can sleep through til 4:30 a.m. when my alarm goes off. ¬†Then please, perhaps, just have one part of the day be just a bit easier.

In our fit of listing everything that was going wrong today, Alex wrote a short poem that I thought I would share.

Don’t drink the water.
Don’t eat dinner.
Don’t raise arms to the side in surya namaskar.
Don’t brush teeth with tap water.
Don’t put your stuff up until your mat is rolled out.
Don’t wear shoes inside.
Don’t come down from utplutihih.
Don’t pay until you leave the coconut stand.
Don’t move your hands in the last vinyasa of parsarita a/d.
Don’t show up late to conference.
Don’t toss your pacifier out the window.
Do try to let it all go and do make sure to drink a coconut every time you pass the stand.

My first practice in Mysore

I was a nervous wreck! ¬†I pride myself on not being one of¬†those people…you know the ones that are constantly trying to talk to famous people or be very showy and always saying “look at me” ¬†They are in all walks of life and that is just not my style. ¬†I really like to be able slip in unnoticed and find a place in the back and study the scene until I have some sense of what it is all about. ¬†Only then I will start to insert myself into things. ¬†So I was nervous about practicing with Sharat. ¬†I had heard so many things about what practice would be like and I just didn’t know what to expect. ¬†I didn’t sleep so well last night because we are still working on our jet lag and I woke up at 4:09 a.m. with a ton of nervous energy. ¬†I knew that the alarm would be going off at 4:30 am. anyway so that I could make my 5:30 a.m. start shala time (the shala, unlike everything else in India, runs about 20 minutes ahead so it was more like 5:10 a.m. start time). ¬†Alex and Walter awoke shortly thereafter so we got dressed and headed out for the shala. ¬†I got more and more nervous on the walk there with all my thoughts swirling around in my head.

We got there and Alex and Walter walked in with for moral support. ¬†I noticed right away that the energy in that foyer was electric and extremely intimidating all at the same time. ¬†I knew that we all waited until Sharat called out “one more,” but I also knew that as a parent whose spouse was also practicing I got to go to the front of the line somehow. ¬†But as Sharat called out “one more” a couple of times, people squeezed in towards that door and seemed almost¬†menacing.¬† My put myself outtheredness was pretty low at the moment so I didn’t feel like pushing through that circle even though I thought I could. ¬†I finally broke down and asked someone what usually happened with parents. ¬†It turned out they were newbies too and didn’t really know. ¬†Finally, after my hemming and hawing for a bit, Kino MacGregor finally said to me, “Just go.” With all the hoopla around her lately it seemed rather funny that it was her that said it. ¬†So I did. ¬†I went to the changing room left my stuff and came back out, but I had no idea what to do next. ¬†I didn’t see any open spots so I just stood there. ¬†In a few minutes, Sharat said to me, “you wait.” ¬†So I went back the foyer and stood there like an idiot until I finally got “one more.” ¬†I was shaking at this point and almost to the point of crying, but I kept telling myself just to start my practice and all would be fine. ¬†So I raised my arms up and dived into the first sun salutation. ¬†The physicality of the practice and sweat running down my body was a welcome relief to the emotionalness of the whole morning. ¬†It took me most of my practice to calm myself down. ¬†On the flip side, the warmness of the room really does make your practice so much more fluid and bendy. It felt really good. ¬†By the time, I reached Marichyasana D, I was begining to think that I might actually make it get through to badakonasa before I got stopped. However, my teacher Anne was right. ¬†As I started to reach around to attempt a bind looking thing, I looked to the front of the room where Sharat was and he said, “you stop here and do backbends.” ¬†I nodded and he replied, “I will come help with other side.” ¬†So he did and I actually bound in Marichyasana D on the second side for the first time ever! ¬†So goods and bads.

I thought that my big problems with going to my first practice was going to be worrying about whether I was thin enough or whether or not I was going far enough in my practice, but it turned out that the single things of trying to get in to practice completely unwound me. ¬†It got to me with a viciousness that I wasn’t prepared for. ¬†The upside was a really good practice because I had so much nervous energy to burn and it was so nice and warm in the shala. ¬†Backbends were happy things and my binds were easier. ¬†That coconut afterwards was absolutely delicious though!

Practice on the Road

This has nothing to do with yoga. I just love roses and my mother put this lovely one in my bathroom while we were visiting.

Trying to get my practice in while while traveling is hard. ¬†I have always struggled with trying to achieve some sort of balance between putting effort into get my practice in and letting go of the attachment to practice every day when it just isn’t feasible. ¬†I take the idea that I am supposed (me and “supposed to” are old enemies so it with some trepidation that I use this word, but I think this is an instance where it actually works) to practice 6 days a week pretty seriously and find that if I can practice while traveling it keeps me grounded and makes the trip more enjoyable. ¬†Alex gets quite cranky with me, but I always haul my yoga mat with me. ¬†Yes, it is big and bulky (manduka mats are fantastic, but weigh something ridiculous!) but if I have my mat with me, then I am much more likely to find a place, roll it out and get my butt going.

Continue reading Practice on the Road