Thursday, January 28, 2010

From Anna: No Words

There really are no words in times like these. My heart goes out to you, your brother A, to D and his family, and everyone else affected by this tragedy. It's unspeakably horrific and incomprehensibly sad.

You are right that despite all efforts, your yoga practice cannot beam enough healing across the world to save D... But it can support and sustain you in dark, difficult times. Your post, written through a sheath of grief, reminds me of the words of B.K.S. Iyengar:

"Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured."

or, at the very least - try.

Monday, January 25, 2010

From Liz: on the Limited Utility of Siddhis

I can stick both of my feet behind my head. I can stand on my hands. I can meditate for eons, and breath with deliberate focus and purpose. Thanks to yoga I am more sensitive, intuitive and even handed in my responses to the world. But it turns out that I still cannot beam healing energy across the world to save someone's life.

My brother, A, has just gotten out of the Marines. He served a tour in Iraq and came back physically unscathed. In fact, his whole unit did. I think that we all thought we had gotten away with something. Like maybe we sneaked one by the Universe. I held my breath (bad yogini!) the whole time he was gone, but in the end, I guess I still believed he was invincible.

He got married this year, and is expecting a baby with his wife. This prompted him to gracefully exit the Marines, as soon as his commitment was up. I may have different politics from him, but I have always been so proud of his strength and commitment to this thing that is so much greater than him. I understand and value his dedication. And I think he's a bit of a badass.

His former unit is now in Afghanistan. On Friday, a group of his best friends were hit by a suicide bomber. Two of them were killed instantly, another was terribly wounded. We thought he might pull through. But he will probably not. They managed to get him as far as Germany, but are soon going to pull him off of life support. They are just waiting for his parents to arrive from the U.S.

When I heard about this, I took it more personally than I could have anticipated. And I told A that I was going to dedicate my practice to his wounded friend. I stood in samasthiti and visualized him, and said, "this is for you, D, get better." I exhaled headfirst into magical thinking.

Afterward, I scanned the guy's facebook wall, watching message after message pop up from his friends (how fast news travels, these days). The refain was, "we love you, get better, see you soon." As a group, we were willing him alive and well, and back home. But I suppose that Facebook prayers and yoga magic aren't always enough.

I am sad. For A, for D, for all of his friends who are still there and carrying this imagery. And for D's parents, who have to take the longest plane ride of their lives to say goodbye to their child.

My practice sustains me physically and emotionally. I guess I need to work harder at the supernatural stuff though. "Do your practice, all is coming," right?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

From Anna: It's All Yoga, Any Way You Slice It...

I'm so glad you mentioned finding inspiration in books! I just read something that was engaging and inspiring on every level and I must, must, must recommend to you and our readers: "The Brain That Changes Itself" by Norman Doidge. The book discusses neuroplasticity, which is essentially the brain's ability to change and grow. For instance, we see someone relearn how to move and speak after a devastating stroke, people who are able to overcome severe emotional disorders, even a woman who has only half a brain but is able to rewire it to function as a whole. Although the information is presented through a scientific (but readable) lens, the overlap between these concepts and and yogic principles will blow your mind.
It's all about breaking samskaras, using abyhasa and svadyhaha as the building blocks to cultivate change. Tapas - particularly in it's definition as 'the willingness to endure intensity for thesakself transformation' - has never been as evident as it is here. Pratipaksha Bhavanam is peeking out from behind every corner, and it all comes with a healthy side order of santosha. Except that the brilliant Dr. Doidge doesn't use any of those words. This is yoga without our yoga vocabulary - stories about the intricate link between our brain and our bodies, and how awareness must be the first step to any type of re-education.

It isn't preachy in the way these books can sometimes be - it's just plain fascinating. I was curious if anyone else noticed the obvious overlap between this book and yoga and the magical world of google yielded numerous results, my favorite being this. It also seems that Yoga Journal knows what's up.

Now I need to cultivate the diligence to wade through the Sutras again. But before I do, those design blogs you mentioned sound like an awfully good time...

Also, I've been meaning to ask - did you ever receive your light therapy device and how has it been working been so far?

Friday, January 15, 2010

From Liz: If Practice Makes Perfect, Then What's the Harm in Props?

What did I learn from a rug burn on my butt? Well, that there must be easier ways to practice svadyaya. But I faced reality: I am simply not clearing the floor on my own. So, I'm investigating the meaning of "do your practice, all is coming." If I'm nowhere near accomplishing the jump-through on my own, then I'm not really "practicing" it at all, right? In order to at least get through the actions, I started using blocks again. I told my ego to shut it and admitted I needed help.

I'm not just using the blocks for the sake of checking the vinyasas off my to-do list. I'm working on jumping back and through, as SLOWLY, and in as controlled a fashion as possible. One of my favorite Iyengar influenced teachers once told me that the slower you move, the stronger you get. So that's my focus for now: almost motionless motion. Quiet, orderly, civilized movement. In service of kick-ass delts. Haha.

The prop talk leads me back around to your prenatal class. Of all classes to not have props in....! :( I've only taught a little prenatal myself. (It's not my thing really. But it's really some people's calling, in fact, I'd bet it's yours.)

But I have taught in some pretty grotty gyms. I'm looking at you, Bally's. It makes you develop a really thick skin, doesn't it? You become MacGyver Yogini. You get really creative with walls and chairs, and learn to ignore the creepy weirdos leering through the glass. (Nothing makes you butch up like having to chase away a couple of 'roid heads who are harrassing your students.) Or, in your case, you learn to ignore the unflattering lighting.

By the way. Where you get inspiration from? I've been really pushing myself to seek out and plumb new resources. Not just yoga stuff either. I've gotten back to reading a lot of fiction. And a lot of just really good writing (M.F.K Fisher for starters, the woman could write about a garbage pail and make it elegant and concise). Also, design blogs: clothing, interior design, etc. There is something about seeing people practicing their craft well that really drives me out of bed and onto the mat in the morning. And of course, the cyber-shala. Maybe I'll put together a list of my current faves for next post.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

From Anna: Baby Bumps and Broken Butts

In response to your prenatal inquiry - yes, it's been rather fascinating as someone who has never been with child. I am constantly surprised by what feels wonderful and not-so-wonderful in their bodies. Adding to the equation are these factors:

1) None of these women ever tried yoga before their pregnancy. They are absolute beginners with everything ranging from hesitancy to full out skepticism.

2) Our room has zero props, minimal wall space, and is not a yoga studio but rather - a hospital conference room in which I am not even able to dim the painfully florescent lights.

3) Class is super short - only 55 minutes, several of which are spent going around the room talking about how they feel that week.

Teaching prenatal (or beginners for that matter) with the availability of props, walls, and more time, would be an entirely different situation. I know that when you were pregnant with Terrible Toddler, your practice was quite similar to pre-pregnancy, but these women didn't have a practice that came before. It's all brand new, complete with low back pain, upper rib cage compression, and a big belly that gets in the way. This class has forced me to put on my make-believe baby bump, as well as my thinking cap, and just get creative. It's also helped me remember that I must stay open-minded and not overplan.

As for the rug burn on your booty-bone, oh my! I'm sorry this happened but it's kind of hysterical. Maybe the knowledge of it being painful as it grazes the mat, will help you scoop up through your mid-section even more as you jump! This could be the momentum you need to clear the floor each time!

I am unfortunately all too familiar with tailbone injuries. I'm sure you remember when I took a fall on the concrete last year and cracked mine. That thing took ages to heal and still flares up on occasion. My injury brought an almost problematically intense awareness to the base of my spine. Ultimately, that awareness was rather illuminating in my understanding of the body. For instance, long after I was able to rock back into Navasana, I was still in pain in Vira 2 or other externally rotated standing poses, particularly when I really drew the buttocks flesh of my front leg underneath me. Go figure.

Has your rug-burned-booty injury led to any revealing anatomical investigations other than an avoidance of couch-asana?....

Thursday, January 7, 2010

From Liz: Early Mornings and Butt Burns.

It's been two weeks since I started this morning practice gig. Last night, Humble Husband asked how long this fugue is going to last, and I told him: forever. Every day the alarm goes off, and every day I think, "ugg, this again." But by the time I've gotten through the suryas, I'm recommitted.

It is reorganizing me. Thoroughly. I'm more positive throughout the day, more hopeful as I glide into the evening hours. The practice itself is different, more work-a-day, in a sense. I just chug along, not aspiring to too much. Maybe even holding back a little, as I let my body wake up. I'm not slamming into the forward bends. I guess just getting to the mat at this hour (6 am, not epic, but early enough) is a start, and the asana will work themselves out as long as I keep showing up.

Btw, the Dahn yoga trip was funny. It is a very umm, "energetic" practice. Is that how we refer to woo-woo practices with low impact/low alignment asana components? Sort of kundalini-esque, but with a heavy dose of love-bombing. When I called in to see about the class schedule, the teacher (who was very sweet, let me be clear) convinced me to come in for a consultation before-hand. She just wanted to know a little bit about me, chat about the practice, give me a taste of what was to come. She also kept trying to get me to buy a class card for the week that I was going to be home. I think she honestly thought it was going to work. When the class ended and she was all, "so, will we see you tomorrow?" I just said, "I loved it, but no thanks, gotta Christmas shop!"

She seemed disappointed. I thought she just needed the business, but now I find out that it must be that her overlords were going to be angry. Check out Yoga Dork on the subject.
Haha. Anyhoo. That koolaid just ain't for me.

Btw, I have my first real ashtanga-injury. And it's a funny one: A rug burn on my butt from jumping through and landing with a skid. You'd think this wouldn't be a big deal, but it makes a lot of the seated poses and navasana kind of sensitive/touchy. It doesn't help that I have a long tailbone, so I guess it's prone to, shall we say, "snags."

Oh, I've meant to ask: How's the pre-natal teaching going for you? Anything that you are learning that you think could help you along the line when you get pregnant?

Monday, January 4, 2010

From Anna: Morning Glory-fication

I think your resolution to practice in the morning is an excellent one. You are right on the money that a commitment to the wee hours is frequently a hallmark of the advanced yogi. I have no excuse to keep me from practicing in the morning and when I can drag myself to the mat in the AM hours, I always find it to be advantageous and particularly fruitful. I also find that my entire day is more effective and my eating habits more mindful, after a morning practice.

I hadn't intended to set any specific resolutions but you have inspired me to follow suit and commit to mornings as well. I know that it is important for resolutions to be realistic and that 7 days a week will never happen, so I'm thinking more along the lines of a weekday first-thing-in-the-morning home practice. I can always bump it up to include the weekends as well if my discipline surprises me!

Did your resolutions kick into gear on the 1st or today? I find it remarkably easier to establish new habits on a Monday... perhaps you are of the same mind.

As for Dahn Yoga, I sure have heard of it and don't quite know what to make of the whole thing. I was briefly acquainted with someone who came from Dahn Yoga but was participating in a TT and was ultimately given some sort of ultimatum that they either drop out of the TT or return to their country of origin. I never heard from or saw them again. Granted, I wasn't privy to all of the details but the whole thing happened suddenly and smelled fishy at best. Your article is fascinating but not the least bit shocking. How was the actual class experience of Dahn yoga and what inspired you to check it out in the first place?