Monday, July 12, 2010

From Liz: The Limitations of Common Sense.

That clip is unbelievable. Or completely believable in that it all sort of makes sense and holds together seamlessly from a bio-mechanical standpoint. And yeah, what was that process for them? That childlike exploration? Sigh. Oh to have a little more time and a playmate with skills (who lives in-state, my dear).

These days, I'm waist deep in the Kino MacGregor primary series dvd. It's very, very different from the Freeman one. Much faster paced, but also kind of eye-opening because she is well, a woman. Watching a woman power through this relentless series gives me hope and verve. And because the pace is quicker, you don't have time to build a story or drama around what is to come. I've made progress in certain areas. Mostly in the transitions. For instance, chakrasana is starting to just happen. I still feel weird about backwards somersaulting. It is definitely an odd feeling on the neck, though not so alarming that I wouldn't do it. But then Ashtanga has sort of quelled the impulse to run from "odd sensation." Perhaps this practice is killing my common sense along with my hamstring attachments. Frankly, I'm beginning to think that common sense is overrated and that "caution" is just a euphemism for fear. Cowardice often masquerades as "theory" which, I suppose, is why Ashtanga is "99% practice."

And I'm working very hard to limit myself to 3 or 4 days of cardio a week. And somehow, I've lost weight. It may be that my appetite powers down a bit from the lack of physical exertion. It's a subtle exploration to find that balance point where exercise nourishes and enlivens, rather than depletes. I'll never quit entirely, but I am trying to have faith (in so much as one can "try" to have faith) in this system. The yoga should be enough.

Monday, June 28, 2010

From Anna: Variations on Inspiration

I finally had a chance to listen to the Gil Fronsdal meditation this morning and found it to be as illuminating, freeing, and lovely as you suggested it would be. These discoveries you have made and in turn recommended to me, give new meaning to 'guided meditation'.

Stimulating in a very different but equally lovely way is this. I have always been captivated by the many varieties of modern dance and this is no exception. At times, it does get a bit... gymnasticsy.... but you can certainly see the asana inspiration woven throughout the piece. It's enchanting in a 'how did they actually figure out that they could DO that?' sort of way. At times, they look like more like one body with 8 limbs than 2 people dancing together. Lydia Walker was a professional ballerina, Phillip Askew teaches yoga in NY, and adding to the excitement, the accompaniment is improvised by none other than Jonah Rank who sometimes goes by his Jewish Gangsta name - J Rizzle. No, seriously.

Possible weekend activity for you and Humble Husband: Put the little one down for a nap and try some of these moves, particularly the prasarita-esque liftoff at the 4.30 min mark! If I had a nickel for every time I've seen people pull that off, I would have exactly 5 cents.....

Monday, June 14, 2010

From Liz: Meditating Myself Into the Ground.

Sorry for the silence. I've gone soft at the center for a while. Meaning: I've gone off the rails with practice, with discipline, with keeping my shit generally together--the center cannot hold. I'm well, overall. I'm exercising, so am physically strong enough. And I'm happy with the direction that my family is going. Onward and upward, etc. But that happiness has taken the urgency out of practice and mediation, so I've gotten sloppy. I need to start getting up early again. I need to reconnect with that sense of radicalism, because I'm feeling quite average. (I have good friends who have three daughters. The middle child coined the term "middlest" to describe herself. The other girls had "oldest" and "youngest" cornered, so she wanted something as extreme, a word that put her as much at the periphery as the other two. It's a good word, and is how I have been feeling.) Right now, I'm just your average yogini, with my middlest practice. I've been doing a lot of yin yoga, acting like I'm doing myself the service of stillness. Really, I'm just too lackadaisical to focus on flow, to keep light in my extremities and float through an ashtanga practice.

I guess the creative spark is lacking. At least, it was, until I chanced upon this bit of psycho-spiritual gold. In a nutshell, it suggest the when you meditate, you just think of it as the act of sitting and just being yourself. Allow yourself to bubbled up like a hidden spring. Don't try to achieve anything. The soft center seems to firm up when you tap in that way. It makes me feel a little wide-eyed and vibrant. Sitting here, with my breath, just being me. There is something revolutionary in not striving. Incidentally, in all of this, it does occur to me how privileged I am to have the time/space to undertake this radical sitting.

I'm glad that your scalene is teaching you some lessons. Apparently my right knee has decided to be my guru for a while. Lesson: "chill out with all of the lunges, you vain silly thing." My right knee doesn't know about skinny jeans.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

From Anna: An Excuse, a Diagnosis, and a Warning

I have always wanted to be a runner. Everything about it appeals to me. The ritualistic nature, the endurance and athleticism, the moving meditation, connection to the breath, and the revered "zone" that runners all talk about. Not to mention, the bod. I don't care how tight my hip flexors would be, I would love to have a runners body. But frankly, it's just not my thing. At least once a year over the last decade, I've made up my mind to "become a runner." As though it's something one chooses, like a haircut or a sandwich.

But I've never made it past 2 weeks of running before it becomes something that I can easily talk myself out of doing, in favor of... I don't know... legs-up-the-wall, perhaps? I keep reading that it takes 3 weeks to develop a habit so maybe one day I'll make it past the 21 day hump. But until that day, I'm just another runner wanna-be. Except that now I can also use my yoga practice to talk myself out of it. It's like my buddy Krishnamacharya used to say: "Running is for horses."

In totally unrelated news, I just finished nursing a pulled scalene muscle. How does one pull a scalene muscle, you may wonder?... By performing the extremely advanced pose: taking-off-my-shirt-asana. No joke. Laugh it up. Luckily it was short lived, coming on suddenly but healing completely in less than a week. But for those first few days, it was extremely painful. Initially I was a bit baffled, since I felt sharp pains underneath my collarbones but also, all the way up my neck when I turned my head. Separate, but obviously related, I could barely move my shoulder in any direction without feeling pain all the way down my arm. Desperate to self-diagnose, I whipped out the anatomy books and realized that the scalene muscles run down the side of the next but attach to the top 2 ribs. It had to be scalene related, and a trip to the chiropractor confirmed my suspicions.

In the week that followed, it became the perfect example of how an injury can inform and deepen our anatomical understanding. Turns out, these previously unnoticed muscles are active in every deep breath that we take, manage the weight of the head and stabilize the neck, and have trigger points all over the upper torso and cervical spine. I just wish I could have learned these fun facts in a less painful manner.

So take this advice, friend. Being mindful in your practice is a lovely thing, but it turns out that an comparable mindfulness should be practiced when disrobing. Just fyi.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

From Liz: Right Foot, Left Foot.

My parents are practicing Christians. But the religious ritual that has been most deeply etched into my neural pathways is the practice of cardio. Specifically, running. My father has run every day of the year, with a few exceptions, for the past 30 odd years. (The day after he had fairly invasive surgery to remove a skin cancer, my mother had to chase him down with her car to get him to come home, as he staggered up the street, trying to get "just a quick run in.") My siblings and I have practiced with varying levels of devotion throughout our adult lives. But my dad gets up at the crack of dawn (4:30-ish) every single day, pulls on running shoes and faces the weather, the dawn, his own groggy consciousness, and once a rabid dog. (Which, of course, ended with a course of rabies shots.) Surprisingly few of his injuries are related to the actual sport. He has had many scrapes and bruises, but mostly from spacing out and eating pavement. So mindfulness is the name of the game once you reach his level. Keep vigilant, once you are athletically capable.

I run too. I try to keep it to a bare few days a week, for fear of compromising my yoga practice. But it's in me, that need to just get out there are run my brains out. My practice has illuminated my running, clued me in to the way that I can moderate and modulate around the breath, pace myself to pull through to the end. My body aligns more naturally than it used to. His body has figured all of this out after years, without too much analysis. His really is a habit of, "one percent theory, 99 percent practice." After a while, these things simply go without saying. Right foot, left foot... that's all there really is to it.

My dad has a book on his shelf called "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner." That's it in a nutshell, isn't it? Ashtanga yoga, and running. Ultimately, solitary practices. You might "share your breath" if you practice in a Mysore room. But you are really alone on your mat. Maybe this is why they both suit me so well, I'm comfortable here, alone in this space.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

From Anna: Party Girl

I love your image of the self MRI. It is befitting to the idea of the body in layers. Years ago, in one of my very first classes, the teacher said that yoga is a process of shedding, not of adding. That our work is to peel away each sheath to reveal what is already there. At the time, it made about as much sense to me as 'soften your floating ribs' but over time, both concepts have started to fall into place.

Speaking of things that have changed, I am right there next to you on the meditation thing. I used to dread that moment in class when the teacher would say "if you'd prefer, you can remain here in meditation or you can make your way into savasana." I couldn't skidaddle out of that seated position fast enough and would wonder about the people who stayed. Were they just trying to look dedicated or was it possible that they enjoyed this seated repose? Did their feet fall asleep too? When the teacher gave one of those "if you have a tendency to fidget, go back to your breath" speeches, was it directed at me alone? I sort of resigned myself to being someone who 'just wasn't cut out for meditation.'

But at some point along the way, once I had pretty much given up on the possibility altogether, I woke up and had become one of those people. Last night I took class and when given the choice, I stayed seated, gladly and willingly. I only wished that it lasted longer. Occasionally I feel torn between the physical release of savasana and the more delicate renewal of some time spent quietly seated. But it's an excellent problem to have. Two parties I'd love to attend: same night, same time.

Which reminds me, I am really enjoying your recommendation of theses guided meditations. Varied, accessible, and rather lovely on a whole. Seems that you're full of good ideas lately. Guided meditations, self MRI's, and now wardrobe purging. One of these days I'll work up enough inspiration to follow suit... (pun shamelessly intended).

I still have two more classes to teach tonight, but I'd do anything to throw my legs up the wall and call it a day.... now THAT is my idea of a party.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

From Liz: Junk in the Trunk (the Body in 3D)

This will sound super stoner of me, but dude, I just realized that my body is three dimensional. I don't know why I've been living in 2D for so long. I feel like I've been practicing and moving my body as if it were flat. Suddenly, something clicked (maybe this is the mediation practice at work) and I realized that to distribute my breath and awareness fully, I have to breath into my back body, down to the depths of the junk in my trunk. I am embracing the lushness of my entire annamaya kosha. It's like having x-ray vision, the ability to full body scan (self MRI) and hold the whole in awareness. It is tripping me out...

And yes, I'm meditating in the mornings. It is not necessarily getting easier, but more fluid. I used to peep my eyes open after what seemed like an eternity, only to find that 3 minutes had elapsed. Now it's closer to 15 minutes. And where I used to drag my heels and resist this quiet "sitting," I now look forward to it. It's work, but also refuge. I'm curious to see what comes up in those few minutes. Why has it taken me so long to embrace this? And why was Ashtanga the catalyst that brought me here?

I'm off to do a little wardrobe purging. Embracing my body has led me to re-evaluate the contents of my closet. I'm ditching anything that doesn't do justice to my self-loving, emancipated booty.